Monday, June 2, 2014

Closing the loop

Posted by Scot

Back in Miami, sailing the waters where Dexter dumps the bodies
We left Marathon planning to work our way up the Keys in a series of short day sails.  There are not a lot of good anchorages along the Hawk Channel, so our choice of destinations was limited.  There are even fewer marinas with good access for sail boats.  They are either very shallow, which tends to limit the ability of mono hulls to get in, or have narrow slips, which limits catamarans.  This is really the world of the sport fishermen, and everything is geared towards shallow draft power boats.

As we left Marathon, the wind picked up, and as our course started to shift from directly east to a more north easterly bent, we managed to do some sailing, tight-hauled on a close reach.  On our first night, we anchored in the Long Key bight.  Once again, we were right next to the overseas highway, and spent the evening watching the cars stream by.  The water was shallow, so we were a long way out from land.  There were six other sail boats anchored in the same spot, which we took as a testament to the fact that there weren’t too many other places around to anchor.  Despite being relatively unprotected from the east wind, the shallow water kept the waves down, and we had a pretty good night.

The next day, we had planned a short hop to Indian Key.  There are lots of easily accessible coral reefs along the edge of the Keys, which are all well marked, and have mooring balls that make it simple to bring your boat in for a brief snorkel.  Our plan was to move a little each day, and take time out to enjoy the snorkelling.

Mother nature had other ideas.  A perfect wind of 15 to 20 knots was blowing from the southeast, and as we raised our sails coming out of Long Key Bight, Monashee kicked up her heels and headed north.  The whole crew settled in for a sail, with the calm water of Hawk Channel making it an ideal day.  The relatively strong winds also made it a less than ideal snorkelling day, with waves breaking around all the reefs. Before long, we found ourselves sailing on past Indian Key.  The guidebook said it would be poor protection in a strong east wind, and since that is what we had, we figured we would keep on going.

Excited to be closing the loop, crossing our outbound track from last fall.
Our next planned stop was Rodriguez Key.  We were moving fast, drawing abreast of this island shortly after noon.  But the wind was still up, so, after a brief look at the anchorage, we decided to make the most of the day.  If we kept  moving at this speed, we could easily make it to Pumpkin Key, which should offer more protection from the wind, since it is on the inside of the Keys.

We continued to glide along under full sails, and around 4:30, we were coming to the entrance of Angelfish creek, which is the channel where you need to cut through the Keys to the inside, and Pumpkin Key.  It is shallow, with only 5 feet of depth at points.  It is also narrow in spots, and we could hear other boats on the VHF calling out their passage as a warning.  It was low tide, which would leave very little water under our keels, but since we only draw 3.5 feet, we should be able to make it.  On the other hand…

Sailing in to Biscayne Bay, with the lighthouse at Bill Braggs State park marking the way for us.
We did some quick calculations, and realized that if we just kept going, we could be anchored outside of Miami before dark.  The days are long here right now, and the sun is not really setting until about 8:30.  With the speed we were making, if the wind stayed strong, we could just put in a long day and close our loop, crossing the line marking our course out of Miami back in the fall. 

Monashee anchored in Biscayne Bay.
We decided to go for it.  About 11 hours after we set out on what was supposed to be a 3 hour sail, we crossed our outgoing track and sailed back in to Biscayne Bay.  We anchored outside No Name Harbour, which had been the site of our exit for the Bahamas back in the fall.

It is hard not to reflect on the differences between then and now.  Back then, we were anxious about our first offshore experience on the trip across to the Bahamas.  In retrospect, it is hard to remember what we were so nervous about.  The boat was new to us then, and we were still figuring out what was worth worrying about, and what to just learn to live with.  Now, with a lot more miles under us, those concerns seem kind of trivial.

This huge moth paid us a visit as we were anchored outside No Name Harbour.
Anchoring in Biscayne Bay is a unique experience.  The Miami skyline is just a couple of miles away, but you are at peace and protected from the city by being just a small distance out to sea.  The day after our arrival, we took the opportunity to relax, and explore Bill Braggs State Park, which is the park that sits on the tip of Key Biscayne.  When we were here last time, we had far too much going on in our heads to take the time to explore the park, and we were in a hurry to catch a weather window across to the Bahamas.

The historic lighthouse at Bill Braggs State park.

This time, we were ahead of schedule, so had the opportunity to take a good look around.  Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed, but we still had a good hike around the park, and learned a bit about the history of the area.

It's good to start using our walking muscles again!  Hiking around Bill Braggs park.

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