This is our first open water trip. 120 miles from Ft. Myers Beach to Key Weird West. The Crew consisted of Bill Miller, Pete Miller and Jim Miller. Pete and Jim arrived around 11:00 a.m. Monday February 2. We planned on leaving that evening and travelling overnight to Key West, or depending on weather, to travel during the day stopping at Marco Island for the night. Neither option worked.
The weather forecast turned particularly bad for Tuesday night with 30 Kit winds, 9-11 foot seas and zero visibility in squall lines forecast for the Southern Gulf of Mexico. We decided to hunker down in the local watering holes and wait out the weather for a day or two. We appreciated the extra time to prepare for what looked like a rough passage. We purchased extra offshore life jackets, straps to tie down the furniture and torsion rods for the refrigerator and freezer to prevent items from shifting. We actually ended up spending three nights at the Big “M” marina while waiting for good weather. We had to be in Miami Sunday night at the latest for the Miami Boat Show.
We made many friends while waiting for the weather to clear
Finally on Wednesday Afternoon we decided to leave. The weather forecast wasn’t great, 20-25 kt winds with 4-8 foot seas, but our weather router, Bob, said if we stayed close to shore until we reached Marco Island, and then headed for Key West. we would be OK. Unfortunately with winds out of the North 25+ kits, and a 500 NM fetch, the waves really built up, and when we turned W-SW towards Key West, we had huge beam seas for about 9 hours.
I was nervous about the approach to Key West, especially due to all the shipwrecks noted on the chart, but as long as you have good visibility and brief the approach prior, it’s fairly straightforward. We arrived at the Galleon Marina about noon on Thursday and as soon as we paid out marina fee ($150), we proceeded to the main drag in Key West.
OK, Key West was fun, but don’t plan on bringing your daughter here. The people and T-Shirts are pretty vulgar, the bars are good, but I for one, won’t be back any time soon. The Keys are beautiful, but Key West is a bunch of rag heads selling t-shirts and New Yorkers from the cruise ships. No thanks.
We had originally planned on spending a few days here, but quickly decided to move on. We had heard good things about Marathon (Vacca Key) which is a one day run from KW, so early the next morning, we headed out. ^ hours later after talking to several marinas and anchorages on the the VHF, and finding the Inn was full, we decided to anchor on the the SE side of Vacca key in 15′ of water with a North wind. What a great decision. Beautiful place and within 15 minute ride of at least three Tiki bars.
We immediatley launched the dinghy after a long day of navigating and turning the autopilot heading knob and headed for the furthest Tiki bar (the best bar is always the one furthest away). We pulled into the transient dock at the Sombrero Marina & Dockside Lng and walked up the bar to inquire the transient fee. The bartender replied that it depended on if we bought a beer or not. He said if was $5 if we didn’t buy a beer. I asked how much 3 beers would be and he replied $5. Our decision was immediately made. We sat at the bar with an old dog at our feet, which we didn’t notice for the first 10 minutes, and then made inquirys as to the best eatery nearby.
We ended up taking a taxi to a great restaurant (can’t remember the name), and then stopping for three helpings of deep fried frozen key lime pie (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) before trying to find our boat in the anchorage. I would heartily recommend this place over Key Weird.
The next morning we did a 7 hour run in the outside passage (Hawk Channel) to the “anchorage” at Rodriguez Key. Good holding, great scenery and no one else was there. We had creamed Chicken on toast (SOS), lots of beer and a good nights sleep.
Early departure at 6:00 a.m for the long leg to Maimi. Fairly good weather with 2-3 foot head seas and increasing traffic as we approached government cut in the city of Maiami. We could not raise Sea Isle Marina on the radio and ended up docking mostly by ourselves at the temporary dock still under construction for the Miami Boat Show. Very tight quarters docking the boat but we made it and had a pleasant evening out on the town prior to our early morning flights back home.