Monday morning we made the final preps to head out to the Gulf – gas, water, pump out, ice, closed the port lights and secured everything in the cabin. As predicted, the winds were much calmer, and the skies clear. We left Goodland behind, winding our way out through the marked channel to the aqua water of the Gulf.
The crossing went well with only about a 1 to 2 foot chop. We entered the Little Shark River in the Everglades National Park about 3:00, and anchored out. Mangroves surrounded the many channels. We took the dinghy exploring, but didn’t go too far because it would be very easy to get lost, with islands and channels crisscrossing everywhere. Also, the motor was not running well. We were very close to the Wilderness Waterway which runs from Flamingo all the way to Everglades City.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere, and saw only one other boat the whole time we were there. We had no cell phone service, no marine weather channel, no radio stations, no means of communication with anyone. It was a little eerie, and way off in the distance we could hear a constant drumming noise, as if someone was drilling for oil. As night came on the mosquitoes came out. The generator would not work – we kept getting the reverse polarity red light, so had no power other than our batteries.
The night was clear and the stars brilliant with no sign of civilization anywhere. The river runs from the Gulf when the tide is coming in, then reverses direction when the tide goes out. Since we were on ‘the hook’, the boat turned 180 degrees during the night. The light on our water switch, which hasn’t worked for months, suddenly glowed bright. Strange…
The next morning we got an early start to make another crossing and headed out toward Key West. About 12 miles off-shore while I was driving (of course) an alarm sounded, meaning that we were low on oil. We had to clear all the gear out of the back (cooler, gas cans, buckets, lines) so that we could open the engine cover. Luckily Jim carried spare lower unit oil, and added some. The alarm quit, and we started off again through the swells. Salt spray covered the windshield, and on one big wave the dinghy stabilizer attachment broke, and the dinghy and motor came crashing forward. We shut off the engine and trimmed it up because we were in a crab pot mine field, and actually drifted over one. Once we figured out another method to secure the dinghy, we lowered the motor, only to have the alarm go off again. Yikes! We cleared everything out of the back again, and Jim again added more oil to the lower unit reservoir. We decided to head to the closest marina where we had a better chance of hooking up with a good boat mechanic. Oh, and by the way, our Florida GPS chip does not include The Keys…
We did have a great time that evening after arranging everything. We did the ‘Duval Crawl’ with two-time marina neighbors Roger & Judy Peet from Michigan, hitting the bars on Duval Street, and caught one of the street performers in Mallory Square.
U.S. Boat came and towed us to the other side of the island, and we packed up our belongings for a stay at Travis & Kate Basavage’s place on Big Pine Key. Our mechanic, Mike drove us all the way. CJ our tow was a real professional.
We spent the night at the Basavage residence on Big Pine Key. They have a wonderful family, and their hospitality was much appreciated! We went out to Mangrove Mama’s where Travis works every evening, and hung out there, dining on a fab lobster reuben. We hooked up with Arnie Engstrom, long-time Elk River resident and avid historian.
The next day Jim ran errands, getting more hardware to repair the dinghy stabilizer. Mike, the mechanic, called and said that he could find NOTHING wrong with the boat. The only explanation was that the oil in the lines and reservoir sometimes ‘burp’, causing the alarm to sound. We were relieved that there was nothing major to repair, but really? I’m blaming everything on the Everglades – something mysterious went on there, a little like being in the Bermuda Triangle.
Brian Christensen, another acquaintance of ours who lives on Sugarloaf Key in the winter, was kind enough to pick us up on Big Pine Key and drive us back to our boat after Mike the mechanic said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it.
Back on the boat early that evening, we drove it around the other side of Key West to the Garrison Bight mooring balls. It is a large unprotected mooring field, and the winds were coming straight at us out of the northeast. It was a rocky evening, but we slept like babies.
Today we dinghied into the dinghy dock, and walked and walked (and walked) all over Key West. We went back to Mallory Square for the sunset, went to 2 marine stores, had lobster and shrimp pasta at Two Friends, then walked to Mile 0, the most southerly spot in the US. We saw many beautiful colorful houses with hurricane shutters, including Ernest Hemingway’s, lots of chickens and roosters running around, and the usual cats. There’s no place quite like Key West!
Now we’re pooped out – I think we must have walked at least 10 miles, then dinghied back to the boat in the dark. Tomorrow we’re off to Big Pine Key, docking at the Basavage’s to do a little maintenance, and hopefully a fishing trip on Sunday. We’ve got our course plotted through this maze of islands, and keeping our fingers crossed that there won’t be anymore hiccups (or burps)!