Marathon to Tampa Bay

February 19

Our day of rest in Marathon was amazingly recuperative.  Despite the marked lack of anchorages on the ocean side of the Keys, we managed to find a tiny little place we could tuck into and enjoy a couple nights of peace.  Our standards for anchorages are also much lower than they used to be.  Basically, if the waves are less than 2 feet and the boat lays into them, we’re good with it.

We gave very little notice that we were coming.  Well, as little as possible for people with a satellite tracker posting their position to a website every 20 minutes.  When we knew there would be a stop in Marathon, we called friends and made plans for breakfast.   They’re the custodians of our truck, so we had the use of that for the day, and they very graciously allowed us use of their laundry machines, for all of which we are immensely grateful.

There were two other coincidental reunions with Marathon friends.  For one of them, we were driving down the Overseas Highway when the backseat suddenly exploded with shouts of “Cameron!” as the kids spotted a good friend riding his bike.  Grownups and kids each got to chat and play for a few hours and had a thoroughly good time.  Then it was lunch at The Hurricane with pizza and beer, something I’d been thinking about for months.

Tanya took a therapeutic trip to Publix (something she’d been thinking about for months) and did herself proud.  She restocked us on Belgian beer and even got a little Kalik, just because she could and it was cheaper than in the Bahamas.

Getting it all home was another matter, though.  The boat was 2 miles upwind from the dock.  It was the longest, wettest, most miserable dinghy ride to date.  We were so loaded with groceries and clean laundry that we couldn’t even get on a plane to end the misery sooner.  Sam expressed it for all of us when about halfway he just started to cry.  Despite being cold and wet, we got our goodies home with minimal loss.

February 20

Not much happened as we moved from Marathon to Key West.  We sailed for awhile and then motored when we couldn’t do that anymore.  We wanted to arrive before sunset since we weren’t all that confident about finding a place to anchor.  All my previous trips to Key West have been to a marina.

We did our fuel calculations in earnest since Key West was our last planned stop, we had 180 miles left to Tampa, and the forecast was looking very light.  I think we have 30 gallons left in the tanks and another 8 in jugs.  That would allow us to motor about 50 hours and we should be able to make the trip in less than 40 on one engine.  So I’m declaring us good on fuel.

There are no fish between Marathon and Key West.

February 21

It is indeed light today.  The forecasted 10-15 is looking more like 6-8 from where I’m sitting.  We’re under spinnaker only and it is so flat we can actually carry it, though we’re only moving at less than 3 knots.  This is the first time we haven’t fired up an engine in light air on this trip.

We’re resigned to one night underway on this leg.  It would be nice to avoid a second, but it is so peaceful we’re content for the moment.  We’ll have plenty of time to motor later.  

Tanya didn’t handle our last overnight as well as she expected to and usually does.  Between getting kicked all night and having to get up several times, she doesn’t rest very well even on a good night.  Having to stand the 3-6am watch just kills her for the next day.

A while later…

Our enjoyment of sailing wore off quickly as the breeze got softer, the day got hotter, and our ETA stretched out farther.  We don't motor well in the best conditions, which these were.  Yet we could barely make 4 knots on one engine at RPMs where we usually get 5.  

I dove under the boat to make sure we weren’t dragging anything and the props were reasonably clean.  We weren’t, and they were, though I did find a small bit of poly rope on the port propeller from that float we hit in the Keys.  The hulls, however, have a pretty uniform coating of slime, which must be our problem.  I’m not willing to do anything about that.  For starters, the water temp is somewhere in the 60’s.  That’s too cold for me, even with a wetsuit primed with warm water.  Secondly, I’m a chicken about getting in the water when I can’t see the bottom.  Getting that knot back would shave 8 hours off of the trip, but spending 2 hours in the water to clean the bottom is just not going to happen.

I can’t push the boat harder because the fuel calculations are based on a fixed RPM.  Today was supposed to be a sailing day, but we started motoring much sooner than expected.  We’re going to be on fumes when we arrive, but I still expect to make it.  I have enough in reserve to get us to a fuel dock if I’m wrong.

February 22

It was a long boring day of motoring.  We put a sail up for awhile, but it didn’t help much.

We arrived at Tampa Bay after midnight and in fog.  The channel itself wasn’t a concern, but the crab pots were impossible to see.  I just had to risk it and got lucky.  

We’re not heading to our normal anchorage in the river since I don’t feel confident maneuvering around other boats with only radar.  We’re heading to a spot outside the river that should be empty, and hopefully where nobody will run us down in the fog.  We’ll move to the marina in the morning.

Feels good to be here.