December 15-31, 2008 - Cruising Log for S/V Freedom - a Gemini 105 - Jim and Deb Faughn

Previous Log - The most recent past log

All Logs - This takes you to the list of all of our logs

Dec 19 - We've been traveling since Tuesday after filling up with fuel at Ft. Myers. Of course all the plans of making this a sailing trip didn't materialize because you just don't sail in 3-5 knots of apparent wind if you want to go anywhere. Although this is about 8-10 knots of wind, unless you have an asymmetrical spinnaker you really aren't going to make much progress. Do you see a new sail in our future? Does anyone have one they want to get rid of????

To the right you can see Ft. Walton Beach as we left. We were motorsailing south and feeling pretty good about it. Off of Naples I started noticing the splashes of fish feeding on smaller fish. I had just changed the line on my rod so I headed for the splashes and pulled off the engine. On the second cast the little jig was history. Fish On! This one was a good sized fish because the rod was bent double and it took about five minutes to land it. I recognized it as a bonito which isn't the best in eating but it sure is fun to catch.

After getting it to the boat and getting the jig's hook out of its mouth, it was back to the gulf so it could live in peace or until it gets fooled again and has a pain in the mouth.

The wind forecast for Tuesday night was practically nothing and in the morning was to be out of the east at about 5 knots. Therefore, we decided to just anchor off of Marco Island and behind where the old Coconut Island previously existed. This made it simple for leaving on Wednesday morning while the sun was getting ready to rise up (in the dark.)

Since we had some time on our hands, those fishing rods came out again and Deb had a fish on in no time. She was using a Gulp lure that looked like a shrimp. It seems the sea catfish like shrimp. Who doesn't? Of course it had to slime the line and Deb always uses her guide service guy, me, to take the fish off the line. Sea catfish are good eating but this one just wasn't big enough to break out the old filet knife so it lived another day too.

We were off of Marco Island as the sun came up and trying to see and dodge the crab traps. You know there are traps below when you see a floating ball like the one below. The problem happens when they have a line so long that it drifts sideways making an obstacle. The other problem is when you run below to go to the bathroom and Deb is still in bed. Yep, that is a problem because if you hit one just right it will wrap up behind the prop and the engine and outdrive just don't like that. Ours said I quit! I said, @#$% or something like that.



You get real lucky if you can just unwrap the line. Of course on a morning like this you also may have to resort to removing the propeller while hoping you don't drop anything into the water.

I didn't loose anything and when I was done, the crab trap went back into the water and the propeller went back on the shaft. Ah, the joys of cruising.

On Tuesday evening we anchored very close to the Little Shark River. Again, the winds were forecast to be light during the night so we didn't have to go up the river. We were once again leaving just before daybreak so we could make Key West before evening.

Another beautiful sunset.

We left Thursday morning and the sun came up before we were a mile and a half offshore. We had anchored in an area of the everglades where you can't put crab traps close to the land. So, I could see them as the sun came up.

Then as we were about 15 miles offshore I encountered this area on the chart that is outlined in red. According to the note on the GPS, this was a Danger Area. Here I thought the danger area was in the crab trap fields.

Of particular interest is the part of "residual danger from mines" at the end of the message. I began to wonder when they were dumped out here. Where were the environmentalist then?

Around 12:30 P.M. we saw land again and finally we could make out Key West in the distance.

I had decided to cut an hour off of our trip by using the channel entering from the north which winds around and is really a stretch to call it a channel. They do have it marked but there are spots where if you get out of the "channel" by a few feet you will be in a half foot of water at low tide. We did extensive planning and calculated our entrance at a high tide. You should really read that lucked out, although I did check the tides a couple days before.

As you can see at the marker to the lower left, you don't want to be wondering outside the channel on that side. Of course the other side looked the same. There is this turn that is a hard right and if you don't make it, you are aground. We were still floating as we passed the spot where the kite surfers were in class. This is a great place for people to learn the sport since they can stand up in quite a few places here.

Then we turned the last corner and Key West is on our bow. The ship without the mast to the left is the Legacy, Key West is in the background and of course the obligatory cruise ship is at the dock. This would have been a good day to be in Key West with only one cruise ship at the dock. Of course the best is when there are none and if you really want a zoo, go when there are three. For Deb and I, three cruise ships usually means a boat day or time to go sailing.

We had already contacted my friend about a mooring and the situation changed and the one which was supposed to be open, wasn't. We took our time and put in two anchors so we would be in place for the tide shift and in a good position for the next front to come through. Lee told me when he got in from fishing he would put in a mooring for me since we will be using Key West as our base again this winter. I've been asked why not just use my own anchors? Down here the bottom is mucky and it really makes a mess when it comes time to clean up the anchor chain and rode's. Typically you will have to throw away your rode (nylon rope) after anchoring for a season here in Key West. Also, there seem to be more electrical currents which love to eat at the chain. So, I'd rather pay a local fisherman which really saves me some money in the long run.

After spell checking this entry, I'll be putting on the dinghy engine and getting ready to make the first run into Key West to get our dinghy dock permit, get rid of some trash, and pick up some water. We will be heading in with our bikes this afternoon and should be finding some of the people we know too.

Dec 21 - We headed into Key West to track down some friends we've made over the last couple of years. We found a number of them but also found out that a number of them have changed positions or have left Key West. It is amazing how fast things have changed down here. Bottom line is the economy is really hurting the shops and more importantly the employees. I'm sure this is true in every tourist economy in the united states. I guess it is a sign of the times but it still hurts.

We stopped by on Friday for lunch at Caroline's and met a new person who knew several of the people we mentioned that were there in May before we left. However, almost everyone there is new. Then it was off for a walk about and on the way, we captured this picture to the right of one of the hens that is raising three chicks. In this picture, the hen is scratching the soil and showing the little chicks how to look for bugs or anything else that might turn up. Appetizing isn't it!

Then on Friday night I went back to town to here my friend George play. I also wanted to hear some bluegrass performers that were playing for the bight before Christmas. A takeoff on the fact they were playing at the Key West Bight. They were good but quickly I was moving on to hear George. My information was he was supposed to start at "about" nine. I arrived at quarter till nine and stayed until nine fifteen. Then I found out that it was really ten. This happens everytime I as people. I guess this is the last time I try to surprise him, I'll just call him in the future.


 On Saturday, we were heading in and I saw Arno on Magic Penny in the process of raising a sunken sailboat. I don't know who paid for this but I had been avoiding the wreck for the last few days on the dinghy. I was actually hoping to catch some fish here. I guess the only place to catch fish now is in the bilge.

We went on in and rode our bikes up to the workout facility Deb had found. We found a Christmas special and spent too much money but got a membership for two and a half months for less than the cost of two months. Since we seen almost everything in Key West, we figured it was time to get our bodies in shape this winter. We've had too much fun and it is time to give that fat back to the universe in some astro projectoral way.

In addition, I made a few calls so we could volunteer someplace this Christmas. Since we aren't going to be with our family this year, why not give something back to the human race? I vote for giving back, it is better than giving something to each other. But here in lies a story.

  It isn't easy when you are in a new town to find a place to volunteer. You would think that all you have to do is talk to a few people and they would tell you where to go. The reality is that nobody knew and I'm talking about everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to workers at the restaurants. My answer was to pick up the yellow pages and start calling social services agencies. I went through five of them and started to actually get frustrated because they just didn't have anything planned. Here we are in a terrible economy with everyone we talk to saying things are tough and there is nothing planned? Ok, I then find a place that is called Volunteers Of America Of Florida. Now I've got the real place to call. Wouldn't you think so? Of course you would, I mean this is an organization that is holding themselves out as the organization for volunteers in the entire state of Florida. This should be a one phone call thing. The good news is that they actually picked up the phone on a Saturday and said hello. I, enthusiastically said "Hi, my name is Jim and I just arrived by sailboat into Key West. My wife and I are looking for some place to volunteer this Christmas to help the needy." He said, "We don't have anything." I said, "I'm not applying for a job, I'm looking to give away my wife and my labor to help out this Christmas." Here I am thinking now the state volunteer agency will help me out and give me something to help with on Christmas day. What a mistake! His next words were - "We don't need any volunteers." Wow, don't you think that is amazing? I just shook my head.

Next I called the Catholic Church and left a message saying we were looking to volunteer on Christmas and we just arrived in Key West cruising on our sailboat. I left my name and phone number and simply asked they call back if there was anything we might help with. I really expected a return call on Monday and perhaps something or not. What I received instead was a phone call from a priest about two hours later. By the way, these guys work seven days a week I think. He gave me a phone number to call along with the lady that is in charge of the Christmas dinner for people in need. I immediately called the lady who said, yes, we would love to have some more help. So the bottom line is that Deb and I are supposed to arrive at the soup kitchen at nine thirty on Christmas day and we will be able to help cook and then serve the Christmas dinner at one p.m. Doesn't that sound like fun? I do and I'm thinking we may end up with a few more volunteer projects while we are here. Perhaps I'll learn a bit more about cooking in a soup kitchen.

Today, Sunday, was a boat day. I've been needing to put in a solar panel charge controller and rewire the wiring for the solar panels. After about five hours, I had the new wiring run, terminated and the solar charger wired and working. Then we just had clean-up of tools and putting all the things back in place on the boat. Tonight we are going in to Mallory Square for new pictures of the sunset celebration. No clouds in the sky so it should be a good one. New update in a few days.

 Dec 22 - I went in a couple of nights ago and Deb stayed on the boat. I'll bet you are happy you don't receive this greeting when you arrive home late - 9:30. I'm no expert but I would say when your woman has a butcher knife in one hand and a bottle of mace in another you should reconsider your actions....

Ok, the truth is she was worried that someone might see her here alone and decided to have some protection available. I would have thought showing the intruder her long johns that we call Sponge Bob's would have scared them away.


Each time we get to Key West, we just have to head down to Mallory Square and see the sunset celebration. This time we arrived almost too late so I'm figuring we will head down again after the holidays and some of the other tourists are gone. The street performers have their own spaces and the crowds always seem to put their money in the tip buckets to pay for the performances.

As you can see to the lower left, we were joined by a few people when we were at the celebration. You can see everything from trained cats, people juggling knives and just about anything else along with fire eaters. Are you hungry?

Of course the reason people come to this pier is to celebrate the sunset. They are beautiful in Key West and when the sun sets completely, everyone breaks out in applause. It is a pretty cool thing when people are celebrating mother nature. I do admit that I would rather celebrate good old mother nature here rather than up north right now. After all, we are in shorts and tee shirts while all of you up north are bundled up and digging out of snow storms. Sorry but I do think we have more to celebrate.

We walked past Island Dogs again just in case the sign was wrong again and George was actually playing early on Sunday the way he did back in the spring. I saw he had his back turned and was finishing up setting up so I walked up and said, "Is there anywhere in this town where you can hear some good music?" George turned around smiling and said, "Jim and Deb, great to see you!" We talked for awhile and he then went up to play. I know I go on about this but George is just a phenomenal guitar player. If you are ever in Key West, you have to take the time to hear him.

Yesterday I spent most of the day running new wiring for my solar panel on the back of the boat along with another run of wire for my flexible panel that is put away when we start moving. In addition, I mounted my charge controller and ultimately tied the output into the battery system. The end result was a clean installation and a system that I can now just leave in place without worrying about the batteries being overcharged. Very cool.

This morning, after our showers, I removed our water heater. I've had a problem with our Excel water heater and thanks to ExcelAmerica because of their very good customer service. They said they discovered the turbine had a problem with the internal battery in a few of the units. I guess I got one. They asked me to send mine back so they could fix it. Today I took the unit up to the UPS store and shipped it back. Deb is really hoping they return it quickly so we can get back to hot showers on the boat. I already told you about joining the gym to get our bodies back but another reason was in anticipation of the heater being removed. Now our showers will be at the gym after working out. Deb will keep me going just so I don't stink.

After our ride up to the UPS store, we went back down to our favorite lunch place in Key West, Caroline's. After splitting a sandwich, I just had to take this picture of the Conch Republic Homeland Security car. I think they are right that they are pretending in paradise even if they can't spell pretending.

We headed out to the boat again because the wind is supposed to increase to 25-35 mph. It shouldn't be a big deal because it is supposed to be from the east and we are anchored behind Fleming Key which runs north and south. So we shouldn't have any real wave issues.

I'm hoping everyone has their shopping finished and are just in the final stages of getting ready to celebrate the holidays. I also hope you remember to have fun too while you are running between all of the places you will visit. Deb and I wish you the best this holiday season and hope you have the best holidays ever.

 Dec 26 - On Christmas Eve we had endured fairly strong winds for several days. You can always figure out that the waves are such that snorkeling boats passengers will get very GREEN  when they bring them up to our anchorage to snorkel. Yes, they are only 75 yards from our boat and they are out snorkeling on a wreck that is just off of shore. In addition, they will also launch some one passenger kyack so they can paddle around and see the shoreline.

Sometimes I really wonder if they know that only 150 yards from their little boats are bunkers that contain the shells which are loaded on the naval and Coast Guard ships. Don't you just want to be anchored where we are?

Below you can see a bag of switches that was delivered to a doorstep as we walked towards Duval for Christmas Eve. Don't you just wonder what they did to receive them?????


 Deb and I continued our walk along Caroline on the way to Duval looking at all of the Christmas lights. Some of the displays are very well done and we didn't sample them all.

Below left you can see that this year the great swami has actually found a customer. I'm sure he has a word of wisdom that must be considered this year. However, this is truly the first time I've ever seen him here with a customer. Don't you wonder, as my friend Garry and Shirline wonder, why he hangs out without a customer? Wouldn't he know when the next person is coming if he can see the future? Of course, perhaps the real thing is his duty is to simply wait until a customer arrives so he doesn't inconvenience them....... Right......

Below right, meet LuLu. She is WONDERFUL. LuLu is a waitress at Caroline's and once she gets to know you will hug you everytime you come from the street. She is wonderful.

We are hoping you have had as great of a Christmas as LuLu is projecting.

More lights and wonderful sights. Sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment.

Deb and I always have a problem at the holidays. It seems we really enjoy, no I should say, we love the relationship we have with our family and friends. Please consider that we truly miss those relationships during this holiday season.

Following a quick dinner, we walked the streets of Key Wes. As we made our way back to the boat, it brought back memories of our wonderful Christmas past.

Today, since we couldn't have Christmas with our wonderful friends or our family, we had decided to volunteer to help feed the homeless. What a wonderful experience. If you have ever considered but haven't volunteered, you might want to consider volunteering next year. The people that receive the most from this aren't the people getting the best dinner of the year, it is the people who came to volunteer to prepare and serve the dinner.

I met people who are totally committed to organizing the event to those that are on vacation and decided that today they would help out instead of just partaking. It was very cool. We arrived at about 9:15 and spent about 2 hours making fresh fruit salad. This meant to cut two thousand or so cherry's, cantaloupe, marsh mellows, oranges, pomegranate's, plus a bunch of other fresh fruit to fill two huge vats. This along with the other stuff such as potatoes, turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. As the morning went on, people were coming and going and volunteers were coming through the door right and left. I particularly enjoyed the part where we added more broth to the turkey and dressing since they were drying out and we came out with a wonderful result. On top of that, we threw together a new pot of potatoes that would feed another 50 people in about 20 minutes.

What you really appreciate is the fact that the food is all donated. Many of the items were almost ready to go bad so you have to trim around the bad places and then you can add the good stuff to your mix. It really was a delicious meal for about 200 people.

Now here is what really impressed me. I'm talking about really impressing me. There were people volunteering who were here on a one week vacation and volunteered at other soup kitchens. In addition, there were people who were of many religions volunteering. Of interest to me was a young Jewish couple who were helping out and they said that their religion says that they should do as many good deeds as possible during the holidays. There was a father there with his two children who were helping out to serve. I wished the young daughter Merry Christmas and she said she was Jewish and I simply complemented her on a giving spirit. This was truly a wonderful ecumenical Christmas celebration.

Below are a couple of pictures of some of the volunteers that came to help today. Everyone is paying attention to the next directions because we are about done preparing and ready to serve.

By the way we had 4 big tubs of turkey, dressing, potatoes, 3 tubs of green beans, 2 bigger tubs of fresh fruit salad, pumpkin pie for everyone plus lots of rolls for everyone.

On top of that, they had also made about 2-300 turkey sandwiches so the people who came for dinner could take them home after this wonderful Christmas lunch. And make a good thing even better, the children from the schools filled socks with items that could also be taken back. These "stockings" of two were filled with not just food items but also cleansing items.

Here is something that filled my heart with warmth. Once the Christmas dinner, which was served to each person in their seat, was finished, they all applauded in thanks. Then the seconds were served and the stockings handed out with care buy young and old who cared. It was one of if not the best things we have done for Christmas.

To the left is one of if not the hardest working guy at the "party." He washed every pan, and I think we used every one of them at least once if not twice. Thank you for a thankless job!

Below you can see a picture of a serving line. In the beginning there were two lines and people were running from the line getting food to the people who were seated waiting for the dinner. It was truly a wonderful event.

I simply hope you had a wonderful Christmas with the people you love. In addition, next year think about helping out those with more needs than you have. We had people dropping off food and that was their contribution, there were people who came to serve and that was their contribution, there were those who had been there cooking several days prior to ensure there would be turkeys all around and that was their contribution, and of course there were those who helped clean up. Everyone contributed something and I know they all had a warm heart as a result.

Merry Christmas and I truly hope everyone has a more fortunate New Year!

 Dec 28 - Life in Key West is different but good. People we knew have changed positions and we've found most of them. At the same time, we aren't spending as much time doing the "fun stuff" we've done in years past. Been there and done that as they say. Of course, that doesn't mean we won't spend at least part of New Years down on Duval!

For the last few days, we've been doing such mundane things as working out, remember we joined a gym for Christmas, putting my own mooring in, yes Lee didn't put one in so I did, and of course we've also just ridden around and gone to a few happy hours. We are starting to get a routine together of when the best happy hours are along with the best music. Friday at Dante's there is a great guy playing and of course on Sunday night 6-9 George plays at Island Dog. These are just don't miss events. Now that we have the mooring in, we can just drop lines and go sailing after about 15 minutes of work putting things away. So, once these 20 - 25 knot winds die down at the end of this next week, we are planning on doing some fun sailing with just the two of us and then take some people we know from shore sailing and fishing too.

Yesterday was actually a very cool day. We went walking around and met up with five different people we knew. Two of them were people we volunteered with on Christmas, one was the past shop owner of Last Flight Out, and finally there was Frank and Vinie who we went sailing with last year. There will be another trip in the near future with them. I think we are starting to really get into this local thing and also we have been doing a decent job at holding the budget well in check. The Gym and our stay at St. Petersburg should have thrown us out of budget however we are still doing good for the third month.

Sorry about no pictures. I'm sure we will have some in the next update. Afterall, I am supposed to help a local lobster guy fix his engine tomorrow. Imagine that, an electrical problem that I can probably figure out. Have voltmeter will travel.

Dec 30 -  I forgot I took a few pictures when we went in to see George on Sunday night. To the right is the scene you see every night just before dark. On each ship, there is a Coast Guard person at attention awaiting official sunset when they will take down the flag. Of course the next morning it goes up too. They have a great place to stand watch looking out over the inlet to the ocean.

Below is another picture of George playing on Sunday night. To the right is a guy by the name of Mathew Watson who has recorded with a number of bands and at times plays drums with George. Tonight Mathew was on his way back from playing at sunset pier and just stopped in. After we talked for awhile, I talked him into sitting in for set. He is pretty good and they sounded great together. Of course with George, anyone will sound good.

By the way, the problem with that lobster boat turned out to be one of the batteries. We charged it all night on a generator but in the end, it must have a bad cell because it would only read 10.8 volts after 12 hours of charging on a 20 amp charger. So I helped Lee move another 8D battery on-board and then he took the boat to the dock to change it out.


I was finishing up help Lee move the batteries when I got a call from one of our friends on shore. Joe called and asked what we were up to today. We had nothing planned and several people we knew and one of their friends were off. So we got the boat ready and went in to pick them up at 1:00 p.m. for an afternoon sail and potential snorkel. Everyone was on time and we left the dock with our friends.

To the left meet Lauren, you know Deb, and you met Joe last year. To the lower left is Jimmy and to the right is Kip. Lauren, Joe, and Jimmy all work at Dante's while Kip is down for a week visiting Jimmy. From the sounds of it he is also getting a tour of almost every bar in Key West once Jimmy gets off work each night.

As it always goes in these situations, I don't have to do too much. Kip helped raise the sails and Jimmy took over the helm sharing duties with Lauren. In the end, everyone agreed the autohelm did a pretty good job so that we just had to take a look forward every now and then. We had a nice 4 knot sail in about 8 knots of wind arriving back to the Key West Channel in time to play chicken with the Caravel cruise ship you see to the right.

To the right is a view of Fort Zachary Taylor on the way back towards the docks. At one time, there was another level on the Fort. It isn't too impressive today especially when you've seen the fort out at the Dry Tortugas.

We went back to our mooring for some possible snorkeling but in the end, the food and conversation won out. Joe had brought a bunch of food along so we all had a great time eating and having a couple of drinks.

Of course one of the highlights of being out at anchor is the sunsets. After cleaning up the table, we went outside to watch and celebrate another sunset. As you can see, it was a beautiful one again. It seems when there are clouds above the horizon, the sunset really takes on more color and is very beautiful. Such was the case tonight.

Jimmy and Kip were taking pictures too and we got this picture of them with the sun setting. The sun goes down very quickly once it starts to dip into the water. I remember a story of a cruise ship operator telling us about the passenger that asked why there wasn't steam when the sun went into the ocean. Thank goodness I've never had someone like that on our boat.

When the sun was completely down we all celebrated and then headed back to the dock. The moon is only starting to be revealed again so it is pretty dark at the anchorage at this time. I pretty much parallel parked the boat behind a mega yacht while all the people on board watched and I was guessing it was so they had a good view to be witnesses for the upcoming crash which didn't happen. We squeezed it in and unloaded after a wonderful afternoon on the ocean. There is nothing like being on the water with friends on a beautiful day.

 Previous Log - The most recent past log
 All Logs - This takes you to the list of all of our logs

Web Page by Jim Faughn

Jim and Deb's Adventures