May 29, 2015

A Day In The Life

“One morning I woke up and was plunged into psychological shock. 
I had forgotten I was free.”

John Henry Abbott

Aerial view of Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
The following is a story about one single day, Tuesday, May 19, 2015.

 "I really should be leaving by now

.... but the Keys will do that to you.  They'll keep you here and force you to defy logic sometimes.  

It's a hard place to leave, especially Marathon's Boot Key Harbor.  It's a great little place on the map  here with hundreds of like minded cruisers as your neighbors.  It's hard to leave when there's a beach just up the way via Sisters Creek.  And there's an awesome reef for snorkeling just a short trip from Boot Key Harbor.  There's mangrove canals for fishing or kayaking. There's live music most every night on a waterfront deck somewhere.  You can keep to yourself here or you can mingle in a wide social network of fellow sailors.... It hardly ever rains this time of year,  the sun shines a lot, and the steady wind almost always blows from the east.

For today's blog post I will focus on one single day,  Tuesday, May 19.  It was a day of what I call sensory overload... During my lifetime, I've had about a hundred or so days that I would truly classify  as "Sensory Overload" days...  You probably know what I mean... just killer days where all the goodness and excitement you ever could image just aligned up perfectly....

 I'm really quite fond of them, as they always flirt with intense emotional sensations, vast geographic vistas, and long lasting memories of  feeling so free ... it's all about a fond emotional connection typically in a most unique place that can never be reproduced or re-experienced in quite the same way again. 

So back to leaving... or trying to leave... Yes, I fully realize it's getting into late May and a tropical storm could brew up and douse my little sunshine party in a heartbeat ... And the longer I stay here, the longer I tease  mother weather. Hurricane season officially begins June 1, and I should be more cautious I suppose... But these things take time, and I have officially set my departure date for Wed., June 3, after making some final boat repairs to my rigging.

But in the meantime, days like this are to be treasured ....  and so I linger just a bit longer with an odd assortment of tasks before me like smiling at glassy seas, humming an old tune, and lots of long term staring at the wind as it kisses my brow.  For me, it just doesn't get old.

So enough of this rambling preface.... here's how it all went on one Tuesday, May 19, 2015. Just one particular day I choose to highlight."

It was almost 11 am before I untied Glory Days from the mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor for what was to be a day of buddy boating with my sailor friend John Adams aboard his Morgan 38, called Turn Some Pages... or Pages for short.

The dinghy dock at the Marathon City Marina was extremely empty compared to the not too distance days ago when finding a place to tie up your dink was like finding a parking spot at the mall during the holidays ... people have left in droves seeking higher latitudes and returning back to their northern homes.  Only the locals and die-hards remain for now.

 ... oh the choices a sailor must make.

Dazy leaves the dinghy dock and  gets a tow job.

Our goal was to sail the easy 14 miles going under the 7 mile bridge and on to an anchorage between Big Pine Key and No Name Key via the Big Spanish Channel... Easy enough.
In no time at all, Glory Days was on a sweet wing and wing heading toward the 7 mile brige.

However, once we got outside of Boot Key Harbor, the seas were relative calm and that old familiar tower marking Sombrero Reef was calling my name to the north.

After chatting with John on the radio about the reef, we decided to alter our course and head for the reef, a 5 mile detour...

These boat pics are the Morgan 383, "Turn Some Pages" piloted by my buddy, John Adams here while on our detour to Sombrero Reef

The morning continued with a good steady breeze from the east that delivered us to the reef in almost no time...

Snagging a mooring ball while single handling a sailboat can be a delicate feat... John demonstrates here... He caught the ball on the first grab.

After grabbing two mooring balls at the Sombrero tower, we discovered it was a pretty good day for snorkeling... ahhh, its like a walk in nature, only wetter.

... preparing for our dive.

You can't rush these things...
Glory Days bobbed on the mooring ball as we donned our snorkeling gear and entered the water from the stern of Pages.
 Just like I remembered it... an aquarium...

We met this young girl, Joanne, who just couldn't get enough of it... She was here on a chartered dive boat moored next to us.   I promised to send her some of my photos from this dive... (more of the dive photos can be seen on the YouTube video when you scroll down to the bottom of this page.)
After our dive at Sombrero Reef, it was time to move on... so at 3 pm we began our trip back and on to our original destination at No Name Key... We made our way back to the 7 mile bring and battled a rather strong outgoing tidal current to get though the bridge to carry onward... it was a tough current and I could only make 2.5 knots working against it.  Once we got to the other side we were home free.

 As fate would have it, I underestimated the time involved to get there, and suddenly a two hour trip turned into a 5 hour trip...

Thankfully, our hulls were gliding over calm prismic waters, side by side ....  It was quite calm now, like glass, with no flicker of wind daring to kiss our sails ... with waters smooth as satin, we glided  onward across the sea... By crossing under the bridge, we had now left the Atlantic Ocean and dipped our keels into the Gulf Of Mexico. 

I thank God for dependable diesels... it's not actually "sailing" I suppose,  but it's still time on the sea in a world of suspense, imagination and discovery... 
b  r  i  n  g       i  t       o   n.

We cruised side by side as John did his motorcycle imitation here. 
(Contrary to popular belief, we really are grown men... retired grown men, in fact.)

Destination finally in view... 
Anchorage, finally.  Just as the sun was setting my anchor locked into the grassy bottom of the sea... 

    It was another lovely sunset, but these boys were hungry so we wasted no time going ashore.
Time to turn off all the instruments and get onto the land.  Our goal was to seek out the world famous No Name Pub... 
I think we found it.
Built in 1936, this pub was "eat up" with atmosphere... it's located out in the middle of nowhere, but worth seeking out if you ever come this way.

Excellent pizza and local beer was our reward.

And there you have it.

And that, my friend, is what I call another day of "Sensory Overload"... it turned out well, no one got hurt, and everyone lived happily ever after...

The water was clear so I  spent the following morning at anchor cleaning the hull of Glory Days before making my way back to the safety and comfort of Boot Key Harbor... 

Here's a little music video I wrote called Sitting On Sand.  It summarizes a lot of what this day was all about... 
click below to play it.

Stay tuned!  There's still a 400 mile journey ahead of me as I part company with Boot Key harbor!  As always, TO BE CONTINUED!!! 

May 28, 2015

Sitting On Sand

Here's a peppy little tune I wrote to capture this island feel I can't resist.

Turn it up!

Lyrics are below.

Sitting on Sand

by joe c. green, all rights reserved –revised 2014

Sitting on Sand with a blue sky above me,
Sitting on Sand with a blue sky here
Glare on the water and a Southerly breeze.
Sun on the water is setting me free
Sitting on Sand with a blue sky above me,
Sitting on sand with a blue sky here
 There is no place that I would rather be.

Trees in the distance will bend with the wind,

While the pelicans land on the pilings and grin,
The castle we built will be washed to the sea,
But that's alright by me.

Sitting on sand with a blue sky above me,
A ship on the water is calling my name,
Sitting on sand with a blue sky above me,
Dolphins cavorting and playing their games,

Sitting on sand with a blue sky above me,
A full moon is rising with a following tide,
Could it be you in the full moon above me,
A sandpiper sizes me up as he glides,
A sandpiper sizes me up as he glides.

Trees in the distance will bend with the wind,

While the pelicans land on the pilings and grin,
The castle we built will be washed to the sea,
But that's alright by me.

May 13, 2015

Wrapping Up Thee Keys

It’s a Key West moment when you realize
that you are in for a big surprise.
The wind blows from the east today
and every sunset has its day
for the fishermen and the tourists
the locals and the purists
It’s a Key West point of view and it’s smiling at you.

jcg  4-19-15

( Pardon me, but I got a little long winded in this month's post… thanks again for visiting my blog… What a long strange trip it's been. The site here has now recorded over 20,000 hits from people like you… I appreciate your visit and your comments… onward! jcg)

Glory Days rested on a mooring ball in Marathon while I took a short trip back home to Georgia for 3 weeks as a landlubber …. but it's time to get this boat moving once again… Being back on land only serves to remind me how much I miss the life as a cruiser… 

It's time for sails to be raised ... new waters await me as I depart the Keys and head up the east coast of Florida very soon. 

Returning to Marathon, Florida this week is a welcome feeling although the heat is starting to build now… It's sort of like coming home.  Many boats have already departed for more northern locations chasing sunsets at new latitudes… soon I will join their ranks… giddy again.

On April 23, I managed to take a little break from cruising and come back to Georgia to see family and make some extra income to support my cruising kitty.  

I like being near family and home but I sure miss the daily motion of the boat, the endless skies, and the daily connection with the whole outside world and the sweet smell of salt air and suntan lotion.

In case you missed it, here's a little video about my first two months in the Keys… It's hard to sum it up in just 5 minutes, but if you have a spare moment I hope you view it!  YouTube link below: (see video clip below - may not play on all portable devices)

Sailing The Keys In 5 Minutes

This is the dry season for the Florida Keys… (winter/spring).  Long sunny days and gentle breezes seem to never end, and sometimes you wonder if it will ever rain again…  

The only thing raining from these skies over the past month has been sunshine… and lots of it…. The winds have been steady like clockwork out of the east with the occasional southeast flavor.  Soon the summer showers will begin, and in September, I am told it rains about 79% of the month. 
Glory Days

I came up with a general formula for sailboat travel that seems to hold true for the most part…. here's the way it works.

If someone says it's about a one hour drive to someplace, I figure that will be about a one DAY trip by sail.  If its a 3 hour drive from here to Miami, I figure it's about a 3 day sail, stopping each day for a night anchorage… you get the idea…. 

So far my little formula has held generally true.  If a car averages 60 mph and my boat average 6 mph (on a good day), the numbers seem to align. It sort of puts in all into perspective regarding the journey/destination thing. So a 10 hour drive back to Jacksonville, will take me about 10 days minimum… I'll probably stretch it into 15 because I like to stop and stare a lot.

This is me doing my "big man" look on the bow. "Hoist that mains'l you dirty wench!"
My burgee flag line broke… and since I'm such a lover of flags I just HAD to fix it.  Thanks Zach for hoisting me up! Plus I have new flags ordered on the way!  (They do wear out!)

After two years, I final took the time out to grease all my winches… it turned out to be much easier than I thought it would be… now they glide like greased lightening… yum… they have had plenty of use over the past two years.

Here I am with Pete and Shenoa… They are dive instructors in Marathon and just a great couple.  I know her dad as a fellow teacher who retired the same year I did in 2012… small world… good times were had this evening with dinner and laughs…  
Clare and Zach are a favorite couple of mine… we met in the Bahamas last year and are now neighbors in the mooring field at Marathon… Thanks Zach for watching my boat while I'm away in GA! Their new boat, Champagne, will eventually take them to Clare's homeland, Australia.

A Sunday sail aboard their boat, "Champagne" turned out to be a lovely cruise… plus I got some great snorkeling it at Sombrero Reef.

Allison and CJ (Clare)…. enjoying a laugh on the bow of Champagne
It's a bit ominous to approach the tower that marks Sombrero Reef…. the reef is awesome, but it's quite shallow there mind you… be careful on which mooring ball you choose due to the shallow water.  Fiberglass hulls and coral reefs do not play well together… the coral will win every time.

Sombrero Reef is marked by this tall tower.. the water is only a couple feet deep here at the base of the tower… it was some of the best snorkeling I've had since the Bahamas last year...

 I swear, these guys sure look like they were smiling at me… I smiled back.
Doing my "big man" thing again… aarg. (I wonder if I can see the Atlanta traffic back home from up here… hehe.)
A group of dolphins led the way as we approached the tower… such playful creatures cavorting makes me want to dance along with them… I never get tired of watching these guys play.(see video clip below - may not play on all portable devices)

Once back home from our daysail on Champagne, Zach's sister Allison enjoyed a quiet moment on the bow.

Daily reflections like this are an integral and frequent treat of the cruising lifestyle.  My primary reflection and meditation always focuses on two things gratitude and gratitude.

Then came Sherry!
This woman rocks and has been a true natural on a sailboat… so nice to have a great sailor companion even if it  was for only 10 days… more to come, I'm sure.

God's pallet knows no bounds.

Champagne under sail as we enjoyed some buddy boating this afternoon.

It doesn't get any better than this… peaceful still sunset at the end of another day of sensory overload. Anchorage at Key West seen below at the blue dot.

I had heard some horrible stories about anchoring in Key West due to the exposed nature of the anchorages.  I'm sure there are times when the wind wails out of the north or west making for an unpleasant and rocky roll anchorage.  Thankfully, I did not experience any of that and can only sing praises for a calm anchorage near town and a gorgeous view of the sunset each evening. 

Sherry took this shot of an usual boat anchored near us in Key West

Just a little more picking' and grinnin' please… Here's some more lyrics to A Key West Point Of View, a little tune I wrote early one morning while having my coffee… It's a rocking little number. Maybe Jimmy Buffet will buy it one day!

If you ever get a notion to come this far,
You can always find a friend at the Green Parrot Bar
Listen to the music and tap your feet
or you can bring your own beer and sit across the street
with the fishermen and the tourists
the locals and the purists

It’s a Key West point of view and it’s laughing at
        you and it's laughing at me. 
 Here's looking through the deck hatch at Bahia Honda State Park… another great anchorage as seen below also

Here's the old bridge from Bahia Honda to Big Pine Key… It was replaced with the NEW bridge in the back ground… imagine that! The cut-away opening is so sailboats can enter the anchorage at Bahia Honda…

It seems like a good idea… but a sailor's worst nightmare would be for an anchor dragging in the night as you are positioned between two bridges… I dove to the bottom to be sure my anchor was well set… nothing worse that dragging anchor into a steel bridge in the middle of the night. 

In Key West, I splurged for three nights at the infamous Galleon Marina in downtown …. what a great location…. My old sailin' buddy, Dixon and his wife Tricia, spent three nights there with us.

Yes, I even broke out my tap shoes for this evening at the Galleon… gosh, those were three incredible days of seeing the sights, learning the history of the island and being with great friends…(see video clip below - may not play on all portable devices)

Dixon and Patricia…. 3 great days together

There's a heap of boats in Key West… this was taken from the observation deck at the Galleon.
Sherry managed to crank out a little artwork while on Glory Days during the week… she paints pictures like I write songs… frequent and uninhibited… sometimes abstract, sometimes comical.

Dinner at the Schooner Wharf Bar… a classic landmark there. Key lime pie vanished from our plates.

These are the dudes that I keep hoping to catch… mahi…. My trolling in the Keys has been far less successful than in the Bahamas last year… my trolling bait must be wrong… some boaters bring this in daily…. but I keep trying every chance I'm offshore.
The dinghy dock in Key West is a bee hive of activity.  There is a small fee ($26/week) for anchored boats to use the dock.  It was a small fee to pay for the perfect location and access to Duval St. and all of the Key West energy.
I like the fact that the Key West zoning rules will not allow you build a "new" structure as a home in Key West… the only option they allow you to do is to "gut" the house, leave the exterior structure, and rebuild keeping the historical integrity of the town…. it's not cheap but it maintains the image of Key West. 

Fellow sailors Nate and Gin joined me for a wonderful day sail on Sail Away Sunday at Marathon…. 17 boats participated in an effort to get sailors "off their butts, away from the marina, and actually sailing their vessels…"  Sadly, lots of sail boats never leave the marina.

We met Justin on the beach and he was one cool guy… son of Gayle M.

Yes, we actually did the tourist train car thing… corny I know, but it gave us a lot of good historical information in 90 mins...

I"ve never been a fan of tattoo's but I'm thinking about one now since I figure I'm on the final third of my life, hopefully… here's a prototype….
cute, but not what I had in mind… quite the jokester, that Sherry.

 Dixon and I got into a big argument…. NOT! 

You had a momentary lapse of reasoning
when you thought about leaving the Florida Keys
It happens to us all every now and then
But it’s hard to leave a place where you fit in
with the fishermen and the tourists
the locals and the purists

It’s a Key West point of view and it’s talking to you
        and it's talking to me.

 Wherever you go in the Keys, there's always a cool island you come across… it's gonna be hard to leave… 


It was nice buddy boating with Chris and Eilleen for a few days here… They have this cool trawler, "Last Tango".

Here's Chris and Eileen from Louisiana… He's really not this orange… must've been the light…. :)  did he get nuked?!

Key West is all about cruise ships….

 and entertainers...
and cumulous… 

and tarpon…
and more tarpon...

 and grandpas kissin' babies...
and circus acts...

and demure ladies...

and folk singers….

And big ships to dodge at sea...

and clear water….

and naps while under way ...

and happy couples…

So long now!  

I plan to remain in Marathon through Memorial Day, 2015.  Then I get to make the 400 mile journey north to my favorite home port, Fernandina Beach City Marina. Plans are to dock her there for the summer with a strong temptation to sail north to Charleston in September… Lots of factors and things need to align for that to happen…

So stay tuned…  there's still a long journey up the entire east coast of Florida!  Can't wait!  Here we go again.

The summer never ends and the music never dies
Everybody grins, it’s a secret we can’t hide.
It's a Key West point of view and it's living in you.
And it's living in me.

jcg 4-19-15