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Do Wishes Come True? December 16, 2012

Posted by Katherine Harms in Cruising.
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You can study the weather and analyze the weather and memorize the weather forecasts all you want. You get what you get.

After we assured ourselves that our steering was good to go, we began studying weather in earnest. It was Monday. Things looked promising for a departure on Tuesday, but we would arrive on Wednesday in St. Augustine during a driving rain. That would not be good. Those little red markers would be hard to see in those conditions, and it would not be fun to stand on deck peering through the raindrops. Later, we would have reason to ponder this prognostication.

A front would pass through Charleston on Wednesday bringing strong winds and big waves at sea Wednesday night and Thursday. Still not good.

On Friday a high pressure system would begin settling things down along the Atlantic coast, and on Saturday at St. Augustine, winds from the east at 5-10 with clear skies and 10-mile visibility were predicted. We made a baseline calculation of an arrival in early afternoon, unfortunately ebb tide. The contours of the St. Augustine inlet don’t bottle up the current the way we see it in many places in the Bahamas, so we felt we could navigate safely despite the ebb. Normally, we would not want to go in with wind against the tidal current, but such a light wind is really not a problem. We knew that we would contend with a northeast swell most of the way along the coast, too, but we chose to hope that it wouldn’t be too miserable. We were tired of waiting.

We departed Charleston around 9AM on Friday morning. The early morning fog was thinning. Although we could see the wall of cloud out to sea ahead of us, it was actually a quite beautiful morning. When we turned south, we began to wallow as expected in the combination of northeast swell and waves shaped by light breezes that varied from northwest to northeast. At first it was reasonably comfortable, but over the course of the day and through the night, the wallowing intensified.

This sort of ride is not something to write home about. It is exhausting. The long-period swells merged with shorter-period waves to create movement that could never be predicted. We have ridden big, slow swells in the past that were quite magical. We have ridden following seas that had a rhythm we could almost predict. This time, there was no predictability and certainly no magic. The motion was almost syrupy. It was easy to be fooled by a short interval of smooth riding. More than once I thought I could step forward safely only to find that as I stepped down, the floor moved away from my foot and I nearly lost my balance. Or vice versa. We seldom feel queasy on the water, but we had a few episodes this time. We happily ate chicken soup for supper, because it was soothing for our tummies.

This time of year, night is twelve hours of real darkness. This time of the month, the tiny crescent moon sets a couple of hours after the sun. With some clouds developing, it can be very dark. Fortunately, it is also pretty lonely, with few other boats around. A seaway that is crowded and also dark is extremely uncomfortable. We had the company of another sailboat behind us for a while, but he either made a course change or slowed down and even that fellow-traveler was gone.

When the sun rose, we observed another big wall of fog far out to sea. Through the morning hours as we approached St. Augustine, the cloud drew near, and by the time we were six miles out from the St. Augustine sea buoy, we were engulfed in thick fog. Fog! None of the weather predictions had mentioned fog. The Passage Weather graphics showed visibility at 10 miles all day along the northern coast of Florida. We were in a pickle. We needed good visibility to find our way into St. Augustine. That narrow channel is bounded on both sides by serious breakers that could pound a boat to bits. We had last year’s track for a guide, but we didn’t know if shoaling might have changed the path. The markers might not even be in the same place as last year.

What to do? If we could not go to St. Augustine should we turn back to Jacksonville or proceed around Cape Canaveral? Neither option sounded desirable.

We first called TowBoat US to ask about the channel. The Jacksonville Towboat site answered, but as soon as we asked if the channel to St. Augustine had changed since last year, the Sea Tow captain in St. Augustine interrupted. (TowBoatUS and Sea Tow are competing towboat companies. However, in this situation, they chose not to try to compete.) That’s how it is on VHF. You never know who is listening. In this case it was all to the good. The Sea Tow captain in St. Augustine told us that the channel had not changed since last year. The markers were all in the same place, but there was one new marker. This meant that our track from last year should be the right path to enter this year. He also shared his local knowledge of the behavior of the tidal current, telling us that by 3PM it should begin to slow down. When we asked him if the fog extended all the way into St. Augustine, he said it had been patchy all day.

With that information, we decided to verify first if we could find the sea buoy. Larry turned toward the buoy and I went out on deck. The fog seemed to be getting thicker and thicker, and we were almost upon the buoy before we could see it. This did not seem very promising. That buoy is huge. The channel markers are little red nuns and little green cans. Very small by comparison to that buoy. We headed back out to sea and discussed our options.

Then we decided to test the concept of navigating by steering on the track. We turned around and while Larry steered on the track we had made to the sea buoy, I stood on deck and watched for the buoy to appear. The sun seemed brighter in the sky as we made this run, and the buoy appeared in the mist sooner than I expected. That was encouraging. We followed the track and saw the buoy. That worked. However, at this point the fog began to thicken and close in around us. I was reminded of being in Maine. It really didn’t feel like the Sunshine State at all.

We turned out to sea again. We talked about Jacksonville and Cape Canaveral again. We even talked about trying to go all the way to Lake Worth, another 50 hours away. But we wanted to go to St. Augustine! About that time, I realized that the sun was glaring in my eyes. I looked up and saw a sun streak on the water. Above, there was a tiny hole in the fog and the sun was in the midst of a tiny patch of blue. The fog was thinning around us, and we probably had a quarter of a mile of visibility. I said to Larry, “If it could be like this the whole way, I think I could be okay.” That was all he needed.

We turned around and followed our track to the sea buoy. This time we had a good sighting in plenty of time to feel comfortable about things. We rounded the buoy, and Larry steered to the track. I stood on deck watching. Suddenly I saw the first red marker. I screamed out, “Marker! Marker!” We both got very excited. If we could find this one, then surely we could find the rest.

At this point, the track turned west toward St. Augustine, and we began to get a good view of the breakers to the north. The wind picked up, too, from the west, of all things! This wasn’t the prediction, either. A west wind on the ebb tide was the best thing we could hope for, of course, because the water would be smoother. A west wind against the breakers roaring in on the northeast swell, however, was ferocious. The breakers roiled up and broke at the cap of each wave, and the west wind caught the spray. The view was terrifying and entrancing at the same time. The sound was like the roar of Niagara Falls.

I turned forward again to look for my marker, but out of the corner of my eye, something moved. I turned back toward the breakers and there was another sailboat. He was only a short distance behind and northeast of us, and he was headed right for the breakers! Larry got on the radio and called to him to come over behind us. It was a terrible fight for that boat to cross the very spot where waves were beginning to shape up as the water shallowed, but he made it. Whew! Later in the day we would hear a boat call TowBoatUS from a similar location, because they had grounded. We weren’t able to hear how they got free, but any boat caught in that melee for long would be toothpicks.

Now it’s time to tell you. The entrance to St. Augustine is not charted on NOAA charts. NOAA takes no responsibility for telling anyone that it is easy to get into St. Augustine. The inlet is drawn on those charts, but no depths are recorded and no markers are shown. They say they can’t chart it because of frequent shoaling.

The boat behind us almost certainly was trying to use what little information the NOAA chart has, and it isn’t enough. When we first looked at the NOAA chart and saw how inadequate it was, we despaired of visiting St. Augustine. When we came last year, we used a privately annotated chart and notes from a captain who had transited this entrance many times. We entered on an optimal day – clear sky, bright overhead sun, and flat water. Local knowledge is essential. In our saved track, we had it. Apparently the boat following us did not. Nor was he very interested in learning. Larry called out to him when he was in danger, and he did make the move, but he only briefly acknowledged the call. He never spoke again to say anything or ask any questions. At one point he actually turned around and went back toward the sea, but soon he changed his mind again and turned back toward St. Augustine. I looked back from time to time, but we simply could not take responsibility for him.

Our next marker appeared right on time. Shortly after that, I asked Larry if he were having problems with the current, because it appeared we were moving southward. Indeed, the current was making it difficult to hold our course. Then to my amazement, I saw a sailboat coming toward us, north of us. His course seemed to me to be perilously close to the breakers, but he called out to us and told us we were drifting too far south. He said we needed to move north in order to pass between the next red and green. Larry increased power and forced our way northward. To make things more interesting, the fog thickened again at this point. Due to the reduced visibility, it was hard to make out the next marker, but as soon as I saw it, I saw that we appeared to be perfectly on track, which Larry confirmed.

This marker put us near the jetty at the inlet. That could have meant a serious increase in the current, but we arrived there after the strongest part of the ebb. The wind, the current and the waves all simmered down at this point, and with thankful hearts, we watched the fog thin out enough that we could see land and distant boats. We were safely inside.

We made a call to the marina and soon were moored south of the Bridge of Lions. We were glad to turn off the engine and look around at calm water. We hadn’t been there a half hour when we noticed the fog thickening again. It grew so thick that we could only see the boats immediately adjacent to us. We could not see the bridge or the land in any direction, even though it couldn’t be more than a hundred yards, and there are lights everywhere! We were well and truly socked in. If we had not grabbed our one moment to come in, we would never have had another.

The way things have gone, we might stay here right through Christmas. When we left Baltimore on November 4, we had our hearts set on being in Lake Worth at Christmas, but one thing simply has not led to another as we hoped. It is starting to look as if St. Augustine at Christmas might be exactly what we always wanted.



Where Did the Summer Go? October 26, 2012

Posted by Katherine Harms in Cruising.
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Two weeks ago, the coots arrived at Henderson’s Wharf Marina in Fells Point. It was a sign we should have paid attention to. When the coots arrive, it isn’t summer any more. When the coots come into the marina, it is time for cruisers to depart. We dawdled.

We arrived here at Tidewater Boatyard this past Monday. The coots had been swimming around the marina for two weeks, and we ignored them. One thing seemed to lead to another, and we simply did not get over to the boatyard to clean and paint the bottom.

Did you wonder what happened to summer? It was a quiet summer, just like Lake Woebegone. We had wind on June 29 that threatened to lift us up and blow us off to kingdom come. Daughter Laura came to visit at the end of July, and what fun that was! It was hot and suffocating and we didn’t do any of the big projects we thought we would do this summer. When temperatures stay above 100 day after day, nobody wants to go outside and work, including us. The summer was an endurance test, and we survived. I learned that strategies that keep food safe and ready to eat for long periods when the temperature is in the 70’s and 80’s, do not work when the temperature climbs above 90, and even 100. When it is that hot, we just buy food when we need food, and eat it quickly before the heat simply destroys it.

So here it is autumn and we are in the boatyard. The boat is up on jacks. We have painted the bottom. It looks really good. When we pulled it out, it was easy to see exactly where we had grounded  in Florida on two occasions, because the barnacles were in residence in high numbers at those scrapes on the keel. Now all signs of those misadventures are painted over and invisible. Time to set out with a clean slate and a clear mind.

But alas, along comes Sandy. We have been watching the weather every day, twice a day actually. I love weather. I give thanks for the laws of nature that produce both hurricanes and cold fronts. God’s laws are magnificent. In a hurricane those laws produce a phenomenon that is visually thrilling, even though it is quite dangerous. I give thanks for the laws of nature on which we can rely, even when their natural function produces something scary.

Some people think events like this are signs. Ominous signs. Signs which we should interpret prophetically. I’m not so sure. I think God puts us where he puts us because he has a purpose for us in that time and space locus. We are where we are, and we are learning a few things. Maybe by Thursday we will know a few new things.

Anyway. We have made a decision. The statistical record for damage to boats during hurricanes teaches us that the safe choice is to pull the boat out of the water and put it up on jacks. We came to Tidewater on Monday, and they put us up on jacks so we could paint the bottom. Consequently, we are already on jacks, and we have decided to stay there until Sandy has gone wherever she needs to go.

I study several websites for weather. I go to the Ocean Prediction Center every day. During hurricane season, I regularly view the National Hurricane Center to determine if I need to worry. My all-time favorite site for passage planning is Passage Weather where I can study wind, wave, precipitation, visibility, and numerous other issues for cruisers in the weather. When we are planning a passage or if we are under way, I go at least twice daily to the NOAA Marine Text Forecasts, which break all that information down to some very specific small regions. When my internet access fails, as long as I am within five miles of the coast, I can get the marine forecasts on Kindle. Even all these options are not enough to satisfy my craving for good weather information. I listen to Chris Parker on SSB and I listen to NOAA’s darling little man on VHF. He is the guy who warned us in Maine that “foggett was reported.” We have many options for weather, and we try to use all of them.

I love to view and study the weather, but I have learned an important lesson: No matter what the forecast is, you get what you get. When I talk about weather, I say, “The prediction is ….” I may slip once in a while and say, “It will do this … tomorrow,” but that is rare. I have learned the difference between prediction and reality. There may be a prediction for winds 20-25 knots, but that does not prevent my experience from including 35-knot winds. There may be a prediction for a sunny day, but that does not mean I won’t be rained on.

We are studying weather. We are praying for wisdom and trying to get the right facts for a good decision. So far, it seems that we are in the right place for this storm.

Which reminds me: we pray for you to have wisdom, too. We pray that everyone who reads our blog, and every adult who claims citizenship in this country, will be registered and will vote on Tuesday, November 6. We might not agree with your vote, but we advocate that every eligible voter exercise that important right. After the election, you have no right to complain about what happens to the country if you failed to vote when you had the chance.

Here is our campaign. Vote your conscience, but vote! !!! Vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. If you ask us how to cast your vote, we recommend you vote for Mitt Romney. But if you don’t ask us, vote your conscience. Just vote!!!!!!!!

We love you, and we hope we will hear from all of you as we travel. More news as soon as Sandy moves out of the way so we can cruise and explore and discover new horizons. Thank you for joining us on our travels.



Where the Wind Blows April 29, 2012

Posted by Katherine Harms in Cruising.
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We live and cruise on a sailboat. We make jokes sometimes about how “The wind is free.” Sadly, we don’t get to cruise via the wind as often as you might think, because we are too prone to find ourselves seeking a specific destination at the end of the day. That changes everything. When we cruise under sail, we accept the consequences. Sometimes, we don’t want those consequences and we cruise with the sails up, for stability, but we rely on the power of the engine to get us to our chosen destination before dark.

Last Saturday we did exactly that. We had psyched out the weather, and we knew that big winds, up to 25 knots sustained and gusty were predicted overnight and through Sunday. Our plan was to anchor at Newfound Harbor on Big Pine Key, where the holding was good and the protection was good from all directions. The wind was predicted to clock around as a cold front passed through. We thought we knew what we were preparing for, and we thought it was nothing extraordinary.

Saturday morning, we departed the City Marina at Marathon. No big deal. Let go the lines from the mooring. Turn around. Go out to sea, or more precisely, go out to the Hawk Channel. The Hawk Channel is on the Atlantic Side of the Keys. The other side is commonly referred to as the Bayside. Most of that water is shallow and a bit treacherous for us, because we require 6.5 feet just to float. So out we went to the Hawk Channel, which is a lovely deepwater channel between the Keys and the reef. The reef breaks up the motion of water from the outside and the Hawk Channel is seldom really turbulent. However, this weekend the prediction was for the waters of the channel to be rough. That was a hint.

We moved smoothly toward Big Pine Key. As we turned toward the channel into Newfound Harbor, we recalled our experience here in 1996, when we came here for 10 days of sailing instruction. We spent 3 days in Marathon learning basic keelboat skills, and then set sail on a Saturday morning for Big Pine Key, the first segment of our week of Bareboat Cruising. During that week, we entered the channel to Newfound Harbor with our instructor, Mike, who was teaching us skills for bareboat cruising. He taught us to watch our depth and pick our way into the harbor even though the entrance was a maze of evermoving shoals. The advantage back then was that our boat was shoal draft, not more than 5 feet as I recall. We went far into the harbor and anchored for the night without incident.

On this occasion, as Larry steered, I sat looking over his shoulder at the depth gauge, reading the depths aloud at 9 feet or less. We had a moment of trepidation when the depth read “6.4” but with a little bit of assertive steering, we moved past it. Eventually we found our way to a location near where we anchored in 1996, but it just wasn’t the same. We could not find any place that suited us with adequate swing room for our boat. We made a decision to leave that harbor and continue to Key West. We examined the cruise guide for Key West and concluded that it would be a fine alternative. The time was about 2PM when we turned around.

At this point I need to make it known that we were towing our dinghy. Ordinarily we would have had it up on the foredeck. It is a softbottom inflatable, and it really does not tow gracefully. However, at the time we left Marathon, the wind was about 15 knots, and Larry thought it might be unpleasant to drag it up on deck against that much wind. Little did we know what that decision would cost.

We turned around and headed back down the harbor channel toward the Hawk Channel. We had passed through a very shallow spot on the way in, and when we reached that spot again, I again called out depths as Larry picked his way carefully through the shallows. The wind was rising by this point, beginning to be sustained at 18-20 knots. We were so completely focused on our depth issues that neither of us thought about the dinghy. Suddenly there was a “whoosh” or a “poof” or something like that. I was still looking over Larry’s shoulder at the depth gauge, and I turned to see what had happened. I looked to port, then toward the stern, and I saw the dinghy at the side of the boat, not where it ought to be, behind us. I said, “Oh, look, the dinghy.” Then I screamed, “The dinghy! The dinghy! It is under the boat.” We had turned to a direction that put the wind behind us. The dinghy, light as it is, had been picked up by a ferocious gust and blown forward where its bow slipped just below the deck. I am not sure now that it was actually under the boat, but it was stuck somehow, and filling with water. I screamed again. “The dinghy! It’s under the boat!”

Larry shouted, “You steer!” I took the wheel, and he ran out on deck to see what was going on. “Stop! Stop!” he shouted. “Stop now!” I took the engine out of gear, tried to stay in control of the boat without any power, and waited for Larry to say something. I soon observed that I could no longer control the direction of the boat, because without power I was drifting. I put the boat in gear so I could turn back into the center of the channel, but Larry was shouting. “Stop! Stop! Hold it!”

It was quite challenging. The dinghy was stuck under the waterline of the boat. It was pouring down rain. The wind was pushing the dinghy toward the boat. The channel was barely as wide as a highway. On either side of the channel, depths decreased so rapidly that a careless move would ground us for sure. The dinghy was full of water and Larry could hardly move it. We were in a mess.

For almost two hours we fought with the dinghy. It was a huge struggle to move the dinghy out from under the hull to a location behind the boat, because of all the water inside. After Larry secured it, he climbed down the boarding ladder and deflated the floor. That move allowed him to get into the dinghy and bail it out, all in a drenching downpour. All while I tried to retain control of the boat, remain in the channel, hit nothing, watch Larry, try to hear his shouted commands, take the engine out of gear to reduce the drag on the dinghy and  put it back in gear when I needed to take control and steer. Several times I positioned the boat where its drift would allow me to run and help Larry with something before we were in danger again.

Once the dinghy had been bailed out, Larry began to try to pull it forward to the bow. This was no trivial task in the wind and wave, and the wind speed was increasing rapidly. The prediction had been up to 20 daytime, and 20-25 overnight, Ha! I had seen 30+ knots in gusts already, and the sustained winds were certainly more than 20. Larry’s work was also complicated by the fact that he had to maneuver around the outboard mounted on the stern rail, then weave past our stern arch, and the port backstay. The port backstay is where we installed our SSB antenna. The antenna wire was led down the side of the backstay through insulators that held it away from the stay. As Larry struggled to drag the dinghy and keep his balance and tap-dance around all the obstacles, he brushed against something or tugged at something or who knows what. The wire tie at the top connection of the antenna split. All the tidy little insulators went straight into the water. Later the wind whipped the antenna wire so viciously that it broke, and Larry had to drag it up out of the water.

We were not done. On one of my runs from the cockpit to the deck to unsnarl a line, I forgot that I had on my glasses and they were knocked loose, falling gracefully out of sight toward the bottom. I had thought I would not leave the cockpit that morning when I failed to attach my eyeglass leash. Boy, did I pay for that careless decision.

Eventually Larry secured the dinghy alongside of the bow. Then I had to be ready to grab the halyard and help to haul that dinghy up over the lifelines onto the deck. Talk about main force and awkwardness. We got the job done, but both of us were exhausted, and it took a couple of trips back and forth across a wider spot at the end of the channel. We have a method that works pretty well in the right conditions, but a torrential rain and winds near 30 knots is not the right condition. In the process, one of the connectors for the painter harness completely broke off, which made it very tough to position the dinghy vertically. At the end, we pulled and tugged and dragged the thing over the lifelines, tumbling with the dinghy onto the deck. Whew!

I jumped up and ran back to the cockpit to take control of the boat while Larry positioned the dinghy and tied it down.

By the time that was all over, I had turned around and started back up the channel for the third time since we first arrived. We puttered along trying to catch our breath and figure out what to do. It was after 4PM, but we still thought we could get to Key West before dark so we turned once more to head into Hawk Channel.

I went below to get a drink of water and wash my face and recompose myself. I was standing at the sink washing my hands when I heard a soft thump. The boat rocked drunkenly, but I attributed it to the wind and hurried back up to the cockpit. “We’re aground,” Larry said. “Oh,” I said, and sat down.

Larry tried revving up and going forward. He tried backing up. He tried turning this way and that. Nothing worked. The red marker he had passed never moved, and neither did we. He had passed it on the correct side, but in the endless, shifting shoals of the entrance to Newfound Harbor it didn’t matter. We were completely grounded and no two ways about it.

When there seemed to be no other choice, Larry called TowBoatUS. He tried calling on the VHF radio, but there was no answer. I attempted a radio check on the automated radio check at channel 26 to no avail. Despite all that had happened to us, we could not imagine what might have happened to the radio. As it turned out, nothing was wrong. For some reason at that moment our signal was not reaching the TowBoat dispatcher. We later used the radio with no problem. Yet in the context of that day, it was just one more negative.

Fortunately, in a day of unfortunate coincidences, our phone service still worked. Larry was able to call TowBoatUS and get a boat dispatched to help us. We have needed this service only a couple of other times, but we have found the service to be prompt and professional every time. It is well worth the cost of the insurance. The man who needed to help us lived right on Big Pine Key, so we didn’t have a terribly long wait. He had to get to his boat, and he had to get the boat to our location. As you might guess, about the time he arrived, our boat floated free. We were glad of it, and he was happy, because he would be paid the same whether he worked or not.

By this time it was after 6PM. Needless to say, we had no intention of trying to go to Key West in the furious rising winds. The TowBoat captain told us that it was common for boats to anchor behind the little island at the entrance to the Newfound Harbor Channel. They basically have to anchor in the channel itself, because the deep water is so tightly constrained by the shallow banks. We followed him back into the channel, anchored in the location he showed us, and thanked God we were safe.

We took a little time to decompress before we ate a simple meal and went to bed. Outside the winds roared ferociously, but we didn’t much want to look to see the speed. During the night we were awakened by shuddering and a loud crunching noise. We both jumped out of bed and ran to the cockpit. It was very, very dark. The furious wind and wave made it difficult to keep our balance. We worried that something had happened with the anchor or the chain or the windlass, but we hesitated to charge out onto that heaving deck. 

Our anchor alarm showed that we had not moved except normal swinging. We sat there for a while, and nothing changed.The wind speed had maxed in the low 40’s and was sustained in the high thirties. I had had a hard time sleeping because of the boat motion and the roaring of the wind, which I could hear more easily in the aft cabin than in the center of the boat. I finally resorted to lying down in the main salon, and I actually slept a little.

The next morning at 0645 I woke up and checked the max wind speed. The max recorded wind speed overnight was 50.8 knots. Larry eventually braved the forward deck and observed a gouge in the shank of our secondary anchor. He concluded that the violent motion of the waves had yanked the boat severely back and forth, causing the primary chain to move enough that it “rested” temporarily on the secondary anchor and scraped it down to raw metal as it moved back.

It was an interesting day. When I checked the Ocean Prediction Center’s surface diagram, it showed a trough, a cold front and another trough headed our way. We enjoyed all three before the day was over. In the early morning, winds stayed in the 20’s. The max climbed throughout the day along with the sustained winds. We saw sustained winds in the high 20’s and a max at 34.3 around 1030. After lunch, sustained winds topped 30 and the max was 43.1. Forty-five minutes later, the max had hit 44.6, and the sustained winds were high 30’s to low 40’s. By 1505 we had recorded a max speed of 58.6, and we know very well when that hit. What a ride! This speed is the highest we have ever recorded, and we both agree that it is as high as we ever need to record. This on a day predicted to be 20-25 knots and gusty.

Around 1600 our max had not changed, so I recycled the indicator. At 1733 our max was 33.6, and I recycled again. It was apparent that the sustained winds were subsiding, if you call 30 knots “subsiding.” At 1936, the max was 33.4, so I recycled again. At 2053, the max was 22.3, and we thought things might be good for the night, but that third little trough was yet to come. At 2146, our max was 31.4 and things appeared to be calming a little. I recycled for the last time that day. The next morning, after a much more peaceful night’s sleep, our max recorded wind speed was 28.2.

We still wanted to go to Key West. After a leisurely breakfast we headed out on the high tide following the guidance of the towboat captain to take a slightly more westerly route through the shallows. On that route, at high tide, we didn’t even bump. In fact, our depth decreased to 8.5 at one point, but never lower. The wind was NW at 15 knots. The sky was clear with puffy cumulus clouds here and there. The water was gorgeous. It was a perfect cruising day. We could put yet another adventure to bed.