February 15-28, 2010 - Cruising Log for S/V Freedom - a Gemini 105 - Jim and Deb Faughn

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 Feb 17 - Do you remember the trip to Haiti I talked about wanting to do? Well, they are now loading boats to head that way. To the right you can see some of the beans and rice that are headed south. The picture below also shows some of the bottled water too. There was a bit more but I was told that the stacks weighed a ton and a half. We saw the boat that this was being loaded on and I'm not sure I would make the trip on that boat anyway. When I called to volunteer, I knew they were taking a schooner and of course I was trying to volunteer on the schooner. They were also looking for other boats to go and who knows what the deal was but I admire anyone who is making the trip for the purpose involved.

The picture to the lower right shows that Gilligan and the Skipper are still aground on Fleming Key. They are probably making a radio out of a coconut right now but can't figure out how to get the boat refloated.


 We had another front come through on Monday night which left us on the boat all day yesterday again. Not a problem because I rebuilt our head thus making me the "head mechanic" on Freedom. I also blew out the vent line with a tire pump and a cut up tube so I didn't have to blow on it myself. With the head fixed, I then headed over to Fred's boat to help him transfer charts between his computers. Overall, Fred has done a great job learning more about his computer and he has everything now ready on his computer he will only use for navigation.

Then we had dinner back on our boat with a great pork loin. Life is good on the hook.

To the left and lower left, you can see the Army Special Forces were out "playing" or should I say training today. They had three jumps of three 6 man teams over in Garrison Bight.

Below right you can see the birds were out walking in the shallows of the low tide.

Another beautiful sunset as we contemplated what to do with the information we've learned. What information you ask?

We've learned that all of the mooring balls are full at Marathon and there are 27 boats on the waiting list. Why so many? Because the weather this winter has been so bad that nobody has headed over to the Bahamas from the Keys in over a month. Too many fronts have passed through to allow enough time and in the foreseeable future there doesn't appear to be a window either. So what should we do?

We've decided that we will provision with most of the canned and dried goods here in Key West by bicycling to and from the grocery store about a mile away hauling the stuff back in trips here rather than doing it via taxi in Marathon. So we start that process today and will continue it for the next 3 or 4 days. I figure about 2 or 3 trips a day will do it. Then we will get all the fresh stuff including meats in Miami where we know of a great place to dinghy in and pick up food at a Publix. Of course the picking up of all the fresh food will depend on a weather window and we really don't have to get the extra meats if no window develops.

So that is the overall plan and we are hoping to pull our anchors, chain, and rode on Saturday to clean them all up, reanchor and get out of here on Sunday working our way up the Key's to anywhere we haven't been in the past. Our trip up to Miami should take about a week or so while we add new anchorages to our logs. Then hopefully we will see a weather window to head to the Bahamas. However, if we don't see one coming up, we will always have the option to either hang out in Miami for a week to see what happens or jump around in that area finding more spots we haven't visited. We are keeping our plans very open or as they say cruising "made in jello." You will just have to stay tuned to see what happens. Do we take the southern route or the northern route to the Abacos or do we even get to cross? So many questions.

 Feb 19 - Quick update. Yesterday I made three trips to town and back in the dinghy along with one on Freedom. We've picked up more canned goods along with wine and probably have an extra 300 pounds of stuff aboard at this point. We will make another two trips today to the grocery store and that will be it until Miami. We also pumped out the boat, picked up water and also filled up on gas for the generator. Other than waiting for weather and cleaning up the anchors then we are ready to start moving up the keys. We are looking forward to the shift in the winds so we can get started. 

 Feb 21 - The army special forces were out jumping out of perfectly good airplanes again a few days ago. This time I got this sequence of pictures for your enjoyment. I thought they came out pretty good and besides I was having fun with the multiple exposure setting on my camera.


Yesterday I started the day by pulling out my mooring. That meant to pull out the three anchors along with the associated chain and line plus the mooring chain, swivel, ball and the line for the bridle. Of course they were covered in junk after being underwater for the last 9 weeks. This project ended up taking 4 hours before I got everything pulled, moved to a different anchorage to swing on one anchor and then finish cleaning up all the ground tackle. Then I went in and picked up 30 gallons of water in my bladder which I used a pump to supply to my pressure washer so I could wash the boat at anchor. It had been months and months since I was able to wash the boat and it needed it especially after putting all that filth on the deck from the ground tackle. When I finished, it looked better.

We got cleaned up and headed into Key West and Caroline's for one last late lunch before we leave Key West. We had one of Deb's favorite menu items which is lettuce wraps - messy but really good. After saying so long for now to Lisa, we were off to say a few more so-longs. We stopped by Dante's and saw a bunch of other people we knew and everyone always says the same thing - Why are you leaving so soon? As it turns out, they understand but it does emphasize that time fly's when you are having fun.
As we left in the dinghy, the Key West Shuttle was leaving for Fort Myers and I thought I would get a few pictures of Key West Bight. Once again, we've enjoyed our time here but this winter was the coldest we've experienced in 4 years. On top of that, it is just time to move on. I've fixed everything I need to fix on the boat and we are ready to get back to cruising again. Hopefully the weather is ready to allow us to move.

One last sunset and we spent the entire time on the aft deck enjoying it.

Today we leave at 8 a.m. with Fred and will be heading up around Big Pine Key to anchor. Monday we are going on up to Channel 5 where we will anchor in a bay which will provide protection from the front which is supposed to move through on Monday afternoon.

We'll keep you updated as we move up the Keys.

 Feb 24 - We are currently on a free mooring ball at Indian Key which is almost to Islamorada. Now the story of how we got here.

We left Key West at 8 a.m. Sunday morning as planned. We motored out the small marked channel at the north end of Fleming Key and it was just past low tide. Normally I don't like to use this channel unless we are at half or more towards full tide but Fred and I both have shallow draft boats and the winds were down so you could see the edges just like in the Bahamas.

You can see the Legacy still anchored in the right side of the picture and Fred's Nordic Tug in the left side of the picture with Key West in the background. As we got to the end of the channel you could see where they dug out the Legacy which had drug all the way up here in a hurricane about 5 years ago. For more on that story you have to go back to my January and February logs of 2007. After we cleared the last shallow water area, we were off for an anchorage on the north side of Big Pine Key.


These are some of the islands as we were coming off of the "inside route" which is really the north side of the keys. We had chosen an anchorage based on the protection it should provide from the winds that were supposed to come up on Monday night. The only problem was that it was hard and I mean hard to get our anchors to set. It took me 4 times, a record, to get a "good" set in very little sand over coral. I won't use that anchorage again.

Also the weather changed and the next front decided it wanted to be early and stronger. So that meant we weren't going to stay here though Monday because we both didn't think the anchors would hold. So it was off to Channel 5 and another anchorage that "looked good."

We left at about 7:45 and started motoring past Bahia Honda and then the 7 mile bridge. This area is open and we were only making about 4.2 knots against the wind. It was blowing 20 to 25 knots and right on our nose. The waves were close and if I said this was rough, it would be an understatement. Just then my engine quit.

I figured that since I was running on a low tank that I was getting air in the system from the pickup tube being uncovered by the rough seas. We were going up then slamming down and I could just picture the fuel sloshing around in the tank. I switched tanks and got everything running again and we were off for the bronco ride again. We continued this past Marathon and up into what we had hoped to be better water and protection. Problem was that the wind continued to build and my wind meter recorded 40.9 knots as the high gust. We continued on and at one point headed over by the island in 7 feet of water just to escape the 1-3 foot waves. That helped for about an hour then we had to go back to the channel to get around some shallow water. By the way, the engine started acting up again like it was starving for fuel. This continued and the worst of it was when we were half way through the Channel 5 bridge and it almost quit. We were going through at a 30 degree angle because of the high winds just to go straight through the bridge. Lets just say my "pucker factor" was up but I kept the engine running and we got to what was supposed to be a good anchorage.

The reason for the picture of our anchor above is to show you luck. If you want to know what it looks like, it is that sand hill. My anchor set here on the 6th try to get an anchor to set in this grass. I tried the Rocna and the Delta to no luck until just out of chance I dropped the anchor and it held. I have pretty good anchoring technique and a really good anchor but if the bottom won't hold, then the bottom just won't hold. In this area, the anchor can't get through the grass and into the bottom so it just wouldn't hold until we hit this lucky mound. Fred got his to set on either the 2nd or 3rd try and with the winds still blowing at 25 knots, we were on anchor watch.

On Tuesday morning I got up and went to work on the engine. I found I needed to change one filter but it wasn't clogged enough to really be the problem. What I found is the ground for the fuel pump was loose because a bolt was backing out. After tightening the bolts again, along with changing fuel filters, the engine seemed to run smoother.

We left at 11:30 for Indian Key which you will see below and the engine ran just fine for the hour and a half to get to the mooring ball provided as a courtesy by the park service.

Indian Key was purchased by Captain Jacob Housman and colonized in the 1830's. You see Captain Housman was a Wrecker and this island is just west of Alligator Reef which was a good place for ships to run aground and thus the opportunity for a Wrecker to salvage the cargo.

I'm sure this sounds stupid but I was on this island thinking why would you settle here and then remembered that in the 1830's there weren't bridges connecting all of these islands. So that meant the reason to settle and island was really the opportunity to make some money. Another would have been the presence of water but there wasn't water on Indian Key thus the need for cisterns as you see to the left.

The pictures below are of the Century Plant which evidently grows for a hundred years then blooms and dies. Looks like asparagus to me.

When the Key was colonized, they left some of the indigenous species of plants and also planted some other varieties too. Since this is now a state park, they have left all to grow to their hearts content and you are only allowed to walk on the paths which they have set up along what were once the streets of the island.

On one end they have constructed a lookout tower which gives you an overview of the island and a look to the sea. Evidently this tower is about as high as the warehouse building was. My bet is they posted a lookout on top of the warehouse building watching the sea for wreck on Alligator Reef. Then it would be the sounding of the bell to indicate all hands should run for the boat and race out to the reef to be first and claim their prize not to mention save the people on the ship.

The park service has done a very nice job maintaining the paths and also they have built a new dock so landing a dinghy or other tour boats is very easy now.

All the rubble to the lower left is what is left of one of the homes.

You can also see the tombstone of Captain Jacob Housman. As it turns out, the indians didn't really like Captain Jacob too much and raided this settlement and burned the buildings back in the middle 1800's. Perhaps it is a bit of a "get back" for Captain Jacob trying to go into the indian killing business when he proposed he should get $200 a head for each indian killed. I guess that would cause a bit of resentment.

Captain Jacob ended up having to go to work back in Key West for other Wreckers and on one salvage operation he was crushed between the wrecked boat and the boat he was working on.

I don't know if you can read this or not but towards the end it says "This monument is erected by his most disconsolate, though affectionate wife. I had to look up disconsolate and found it meant - "feeling unhappiness." Sounded to me like they were having a few problems.

Evidently Captain Housman was pretty good in politics because he was successful in his quest to establish a separate county and the Florida Legislature did so naming it Dade County which was independent from Key West. Along with that, they made Indian Key the county seat. I guess it is an example of who you know. Today, of course, Miami seems to be the cornerstone of Dade county.

The foundation below was for the warehouse.

In the picture to the left you can see the Alligator Reef Lighthouse. According to one of the placards, they had a steam hammer that could apply a 2000 pound blow to a piling and this blow would only drive a piling 1 inch into the reef.

The tree below left seemed to be very old and on the path was a hermit crab out looking for a meal.

These pine trees line the town square which is maintained by the park service.

Overall, we had a good tour of the island and it is something we hadn't done on our other trips down the keys.

We headed back out to our boats and I got a picture of Freedom on the mooring ball. We have decided to stick around on this ball for a day or even two because of the weather coming in. You can see the weather forecast below and it gives you an idea of the endless fronts that seem to be marching through. On this mooring ball, It will be fairly rough when the winds go southwest but as they clock around to the northwest we should be somewhat protected.

We are hoping the winds actually drop on Thursday but right now that seems like just a distant hope. We have friends who are coming through the area in a car headed for their boat in Marathon and would like to get together for lunch. If this weather forecast holds out, we will probably miss that opportunity.

Then we have another front coming through on Saturday. It is pretty obvious things still need to settle down before we can get a window to head over to the Bahamas.

Wednesday: SE wind 6 to 13 kt becoming SW in the afternoon. Partly sunny. Seas 1 to 2 ft.

Wednesday Night: SW wind 13 to 18 kt becoming NNW 19 to 24 kt after midnight. Mostly cloudy. Seas 2 to 3 ft.

Thursday: NNW wind 14 to 24 kt. Partly sunny. Seas 3 to 4 ft.

Thursday Night: N wind 14 to 16 kt. Partly cloudy. Seas 3 ft subsiding to 1 ft or less.

Friday: N wind 10 to 16 kt becoming NE in the afternoon. Mostly sunny. Seas around 2 ft.

Friday Night: NE wind 7 to 10 kt becoming WNW after midnight. Partly cloudy. Seas around 1 ft.

Saturday: WNW wind 7 to 12 kt becoming SW 20 to 25 kt in the morning. Mostly sunny. Seas around 1 ft.

 Feb 25 - Our plans were all made and then after I posted the update, Iistened to the updated forecast and it changed. I had pulled down the one above the night before but now it was different. The winds weren't going around to the north as fast and they were going to be higher longer. So, new plan. I went south towards Channel 5 and stopped into a marina to pick up fuel, water, and get rid of trash. Following our fill-up, we went on down to Channel 5 and headed north. We had selected an anchorage that wasn't perfect but as good as you can get on this side of the keys. We headed for Cotton Key which is about 2 1/2 miles west of Islamorada across a large bay. It is exposed to the east, south but as the wind moves to the west it starts to be protected by a shoal that extends from the island Cotton Key. We planned on tucking up as close as we could to Cotton Key in what could be described loosely as a cove. We would be very well protected from the North.

On the way up we passed this area to the right where someone missed the channel and now they have the sticks in place for birds to land on and take their poop so that it will fertilize the sea grass that has been replaced. VERY expensive mistake if you are a boater - buy a GPS instead.



 I was avoiding crab traps and simply enjoying the day when I heard "Captain, Captain." I turned around and there were guys dressed in black just off my port stern and I never heard them because we were motoring. I said, "You scared me to death." I called for Deb to come up and she did a double take seeing these guys ready to board our boat. These guys were from Customs and Boarder Protection so they aren't Coast Guard and have a different responsibility. I think they were off checking to ensure we weren't bringing in a bunch of Cuban's or other people into the states. They checked our documentation papers and our I.D.'s then were ready to leave. Of course that wasn't it for us, I needed pictures for the website.

You can see their boat in the background and they guy on the aft deck with the gun in his holster. They evidently always board a boat with two people so one can cover the other persons back. Pretty good procedure if you ask me since you never know what you might be getting into.

Deb on the other hand, thought this guy was cute and decided she would thank him for his service by giving him a hug. I thought I guess that is what Linda would do too and about all the rest of the women I know so why not. The officer got a kick out of it and I'll bet they don't get this reception on all their boarding's!

They got back on their boat and were off for the next boat.


 We were trying to get them to stop Fred in front of us but they said if he is as "bad of a character as you two we probably don't have to check him." Too bad.

We had fun with that one.

By the way, with 4 - 225 HP engines I guess they can make some time if it is necessary.

We got anchored before the winds arrived and I found that the bolt I put in that morning had fallen out. It seems that the threads are stripped inside the block. Great, now what. Oh well, it is always something. Now I have to figure out how to support the heat exchanger and also the plate for the start solenoid and fuel pump. I did find where the ground was loose and it fixed our problem with the engine and what became a problem with our gauges. Now to fix the other problem. Once the front passes, I'll take off the plate completely and see if there is another place we can bolt the plate to. I'll explain it all better later but something for us to think about.

The winds came and were blowing higher than predicted but the anchorage has proven to be pretty good. This morning it is excellent although winds are still blowing about 18 and it doesn't look like we will be going anywhere today in the dinghy. We would have to cross 2.5 miles of totally exposed bay and it is white capping out there. Looks like a good boat day and I'll finish up my taxes.


 Feb 27 - We had a great dinner on Thursday evening. Fred came over and I cooked up a pot roast in the pressure cooker. We then added to it the potatoes, carrots, corn and green beans. This has become a wonderful addition to our dinner arsenal simply because it is easy and given the right amount of food, we can feed up to six people. It is always fun to add whatever veggies people bring too. I typically have to depressurize the pot twice to properly time out the right cooking times.

Looks good doesn't it even though it is all mixed together. The juices mix into the flour from browning the meat and make a great sauce.

Then yesterday the winds were down so we made our first trip to town since we left Key West. The picture to the lower right is of the launch ramp where you can tie up a dinghy to the mangrove trees and either head up the road for town or in my case I dropped off trash at the dumpster and then we left to go to World Wide Sportsman.

You head down the cannel which is closest to the shore and emerge in a larger pond like area. On the left side you can see the Bass Pro Shop saltwater store show up and all you have to do is dinghy in and ask the dockmaster if you can tie up and walk around. They were very nice and we headed into the store.
This fits the Bass Pro Shop philosophy in setting up a store. Really cool and worth a stop even if you aren't into buying lots of tackle. They have other items too and I'm sure enough to interest everyone. Besides, it is a cool place as you will see below.

Before we got into the store we saw this bird sitting on one of the bait tanks. I guess he thought the fishing was better or at least easier right here.

Pictures below are of the inside of the store

One of the feature items is a "sister ship" of Hemingway's boat which was named Pilar. As the stories go, Hemingway loved fishing on this boat and during WWII he actually got the government to "commission" his boat as a sub hunter. The stories I've read say that this may have really been a way for boys to go out and play with their toys.

You can see a number of pictures of the inside of the boat below. This is spartan by today's standards but they say he loved fishing on this boat.

We also happened to be there in time for the fish feeding. They guy with the food was pretty diligent to try and distribute the food to all of the fish. Water splashes and fish get happy.

One of the things I always enjoy in a Bass Pro Shop is looking at the items such as the elevator shown lower right. Johnny Morris is known for buying such items, restoring/upgrading them, and then installing them for usage in the stores so everyone has the opportunity to see these historic things.

The lady below was painting original art on the backs of shirts and then selling them.

Speaking of art, they have a place upstairs where bronze art is displayed and sold.

You can pay just about anything you would like for some of these items.

This world globe would be nice in any large space. It turned continuously.

We just had to pick up some Deb pictures. Besides the globe, little did I know that Deb has been busy here in Islamorada. Evidently she is in office but I can guarantee you that she has been negligent in her duties. Regardless, her followers are still campaigning for her to be re-elected. Deb's only comment is "You betcha."

Next we were off to mail my Kentucky Taxes along with a couple of letters that needed to go out. We walked a little over a mile up to the post office and also found the hardware store to pick up some parts to fix my motor. Then on the way back we stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few items then it was back to get the dinghy's and off to Lo relies.

You can see a picture of this restaurant/bar to the right. They advertise a sunset celebration and the live music started today at 5 p.m. The band was good and we enjoyed the happy hour special too for dinner.

They have a small dock and we pulled our dinghy's up, tied them up and had a very nice time.

After we decided to leave, we looked down this channel which is actually a marina and saw a beautifully restored or perhaps maintained boat. You can see a couple of pictures below. We talked to a lady on board and she said they charter the boat for anything from a 3 hour cruise up to 10 days aboard while they do the intercoastal going back up north for the summer.
 Then came one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen recently. Mother nature decided to paint a beautiful scene on the sky as the sun set behind a number of layers of clouds. These pictures don't even start to do this justice but I can say that views like this are exactly why we went cruising.  

 Today we are off to Lignumvite before the next front starts moving in. We haul the anchors at 8:30 and then motor back to the island we skipped on the way up the keys. You can bet you will see some pictures of that in a day or so.

The next front is to start arriving this afternoon so we will come back here and anchor protected from the 30+ knot winds from the west to northwest. Another fun night.

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