Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back in the USS A - What a Slog

We finally made Key West. A slog of trip. Must have been payback for the nice Panama to Cayman passage. We did an easy and pleasant checkout of the Caymans (pronounced Kay-Mon) in Georgetown. Bill ran off to find new sunglasses, as Neptune ate his sunglasses, and my prescription sunglasses, on the last passage.  The Caymans is an easy cruising destination, great diving, free moorings, good food shopping and easy and free check-in check-out.
After the Caymans, it was light winds and took us two slow days to make the first 120 miles. This is when we found out that our intermittent engine overheating issue was not so intermittent. It overheated and we had to sail… even in very light winds, think doldrums. The next day and a bit was nice downwind sailing to the western tip of Cuba. We rounded it about 6 miles off in the big ship traffic separation lanes. It was clearly rush hour when we exited the lanes and in the end we had to call a small container ship, Expandsa, and make sure they actually saw us, before running us over.
After this it was close hauled the entire 200 miles to Dry Torutgas (located 60 miles from Key West). As the evening closed in the wind picked up. It was now 25 kts on the nose. We double reefed the main and rolled up most of the headsail for a bouncy, laid over on our side, a hull slamming night ride.  It lightened up again the next day a bit and we pushed on toward the Dry Tortugas, slowly. Fort Jefferson is the Civil War era fort located in the national park in the Dry Tortugas. As a kid growing up in Florida I always wanted to take my own boat and visit here. It just had an allure for my teenage eye. After throwing in a few extra tacks as we approached the entrance to the Dry Tortugas we sailed past the markers to the park in the dark. The plan was to drop the dinghy in the water and side tie to Jeorgia. Then to push us into a location among the reefs that we could  anchor for the night, to hopefully get the engine running the next day. The winds were up, the seas were bouncy and the tidal current was just too strong for us to move the boat with the dinghy. So back up on deck with the outboard and the dink. Its now midnight and there were signs of potential crew mutiny. To put a stop to this, I ordered the rum rations cut to zero till morale improved.
We sailed overnight to near the entrance to the main shipping channel in Key West. Where, without hesitation the wind began to not cooperate. By about 4pm we had worked our way up the SW Channel entrance. We dropped the dink back in the water and started pushing us down the channel at 2.3kts. We had about 9 miles to go.  By about 7:30pm the tide looked like it was starting to turn on us and the mutiny was looking more evident. The local SeaTow was engaged and we got a tow into the marina, Nice place, ONLY $130 a night. Highest priced marina I’ve ever been in.
Got Mark, the diesel mechanic down this morning. What a treat. He really knows these Volvo 2003 engines – the good, the bad and the ugly. In about an hour he figured out what had been causing the deteriorating cooling issue. We will test the theory this afternoon or tomorrow and then hopefully report glowing and cool success.
Looks like my childhood bucket-list trip to Fort Jefferson is just going to have to wait.
To Jim on Sound Effect: If this sounds eerily familiar, let me point out that I have not been offered a job yet.


  1. So... I see you went the other direction! You would have loved New Zealand.

    Anon Y Mouse
    (Mike & Liz)

  2. Wow you are right it does sound eerily similar to us. Hope yours is as easy to fix as ours.
    Difference is they gave us the first three nights free! Enjoy your trip up the east coast I am looking forward to doing that through your blog.
    SV Sound Effect