In anticipation of my first singlehanded adventure aboard Beatitude, my rest was uneasy and sleep came with difficulty. I had this recurrent thought/dream of falling overboard and Beatitude sailing off into the great beyond, crewless. At least, I was wearing my life-jacket each time I fell overboard.
So, I was already awake when my iPad alarmed at 6:00 a.m. My plan was to push off from the docks by seven. Plan accomplished: At 6:55 I released the last line from the dock cleat and began my first solo journey of our cruising life. The sun had not yet risen, but the eastern sky was just beginning to glow a muted orange interspersed with clouds. I made my way out of the channel and into the Atlantic. The destination: Marathon, and more specifically, Boot Key Harbor, where I planned to pick up one of the 226 mooring balls which are administered by the Boot Key Harbor City Marina.
I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise as I turned Beatitude to port upon leaving the Stock Island Channel. They day’s journey would cover approximately 37 nautical miles and take approximately 7 hours. The early morning seas were 2-5 feet and came across my starboard bow. As the morning wore on, however, the sea state flattened out to 1-2 feet. I motored the entire way… for two reasons. Firstly, because the wind was coming from the east, the direction I was headed. To sail, would have meant tacking (I know… what kind of sailor am I?). Secondly, because I was a little intimidated by my first solo journey. But, my apprehension would prove to be wasted. The trip through Hawk Channel inside the reef proved to be a pleasant one. Beatitude behaved, meaning there were no boat breakdowns or snafus. The day before leaving, I had changed the seawater impeller in the port engine. The old one seemed to be fine, though, and did not appear to be culpable in the engine-overheating incident. Nonetheless, both engines performed perfectly today.
Around 1 p.m., I entered the east-west channel leading into Boot Key Harbor. I followed the advice to stay close to the green markers due to shoaling near the reds. I passed beneath the 65 foot high clearance cables that traverse the channel above what used to be a drawbridge without incident. I navigated the channels leading into the mooring field. I radioed the marina prior to entering the channel to obtain my mooring ball assignment – A2. When I arrived at my ball, thankfully, there were three people in dinghies ready to assist me in picking up my ball. What a relief! I’m confident I would have eventually been able to pick it up singlehandedly, but I’m glad I didn’t have to try.
I secured Beatitude and tidied up a bit before taking the dinghy into the marina to check in. From there, I crossed the street to the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House for “lupper.” I enjoyed some mediocre calamari and some very good tuna sashimi. I may visit again given its proximity to the marina.
It will be different not being in a marina. One can become quite spoiled with marina life. I feel a little like I’m roughing it on a mooring ball. No shore power. No stepping out onto the dock at a whim. On the other hand, it feels a little more authentic being out on the water – a little closer to nature. Last evening, I enjoyed the brisk evening breeze bringing a comfortable close to an eventful day. This morning I awoke at 5 to view the lunar eclipse. What a beautiful way to enjoy it, sitting on the deck watching the light of the moon reflecting on the water slowly diminish as the earth’s shadow nibbled away at it’s brightness. Cindy and I actually watched it together. She in Ohio, I in the Keys, connected via FaceTime, gazing on the same cosmic wonders at the same time.
And, lastly… Great news! My lovely wife will be rejoining me in five days. She’ll be flying into Miami on Monday. I’ll likely rent a car to go pick her up. It can’t come soon enough!
The following 5-minute video is a relaxing look at my 7-hour trip from Key West to Marathon: Nothing exciting… just out on the water. 🙂