Friday, February 14, 2020

Starring in our own late late show

We are underway northbound in the Hawk Channel, off the Florida Keys, after spending two nights off Key Largo, tucked in behind Rodriguez Key (map). Ahead I can just make out the skyline of Miami, where we should be anchored tonight.

The remainder of our cruise Tuesday was a little lumpy, but not too uncomfortable, and we had the hook down off Vaca Key, in Marathon (map) just in time for cocktail hour. After cocktails we splashed the tender to head ashore for our customary Marathon dinner at the Sunset Grille, where we arrived just in time for sunset, somewhat to the annoyance of people who had crowded onto the boat dock to watch it.

In the dinghy with us was a folding wood door that we had removed from the master shower shortly after we bought the boat. We found the door to be an annoyance, and we replaced it with a simple shower curtain, but we had stowed it in the event we ever wanted to put it back, for example prior to eventually selling the boat.

Our view from the bar at the Sunset Grille.

Long-time readers may remember that we had the shower completely re-done a couple of years ago, including adding a spiffy new tempered glass door, completely obsoleting the wood one. It was well-stowed and we've been carrying it around ever since, but in Key West we dug it out and listed it for free online. A guy in the upper keys wanted it and I agreed to haul it to Marathon to give it to him.

We had a lovely sunset and a nice dinner at the bar, since even as early as 6:15 there was a wait for tables. The guitar and lap-steel duo on the patio was decent, and the weather was perfect. The guy who wanted the door, however, never showed, even though we sat on the patio an extra half hour over another beer. We ended up hauling the door home with us, and it will go in the dumpster in Fort Lauderdale.

The anchorage was calm and pleasant when we arrived, but the wind clocked around and things got a bit rolly toward the end of the evening. Overnight it got even bumpier, and things were jerky enough when we awoke in the morning that we decked the tender and weighed anchor even before our first coffee. Steaming out of the anchorage with the stabilizers working was a great improvement.

The relief was short-lived. After we made the turn eastbound into the Hawk Channel we found ourselves bashing into steep three-footers. That's not unsafe, and Vector herself hardly notices, but the crew soon tires of all the bashing. It's an uncomfortable ride, and you can't do anything except stay glued to your seat. An hour into it, Louise asked me to turn around head back to Marathon.

Gratuitous Key Largo poster, to go with my post title.

The ride was a little better in the other direction, but we did not backtrack far. After calling around to a few $200-a-night marinas, we contemplated the prospect of staying in Marathon for days on end before we got a better window, and we decided to just soldier through for eight hours and get it behind us. Louise took some meds and informed me I'd be on my own for the passage. Well, me and a very unhappy cat.

We made it to Rodriguez Key at a dead low tide of minus one half foot, and I picked my way through the shoals into the protection of the anchorage. Things calmed right down as soon as we were in the lee of the key, where we dropped the hook just after 4pm. All of us were exhausted, and we broke out some leftovers for dinner.

We woke yesterday morning to winds of over 20 knots. We were very comfortable in the anchorage, but we knew the channel would be a washing machine all morning, with the winds laying down in the afternoon. We decided to give ourselves a break and just stay put another day. With a 50-mile leg to Miami ahead of us and no intermediate stopping points, leaving anytime other than early morning is not an option.

With an unscheduled free day, I got a number of projects done on board, including repairing the lightning damage to the autopilot with a board I bought on eBay recently. I made some progress on planning for our upcoming Orlando and Bahamas trips, and I spent too much time trying to find an app to store the myriad boat cards we've collected in some kind of database, without success.

Miami skyline in the distance, through the haze.

As forecast, the winds laid down in the afternoon, and with the water calm between the anchorage and the town, we took a 3-mile dinghy ride into Key Largo for dinner. After dinner we walked to the store to pick up milk and the gas station for dinghy fuel. We at at Skipper's Dockside, which has courtesy docks, but is at the very end of the Port Largo Canal, with its infamous "crash corner." This was our first time ashore in Key Largo, despite anchoring at Rodriguez Key numerous times.

Today's conditions are perfect, so spending the day at Rodriguez paid off. The downside is that I will have to see the Miami Boat Show on a holiday weekend rather than a weekday; I am girding myself for the crowds. If all goes to plan, we should be able to anchor just south of the show, but I will have to paddle in by kayak to land on the beach.

Things will be busy for the next few days. With just two weeks before we stage for the Bahamas, we have a lot to take care of on board and a lot of provisioning to do. I will try to update the blog at least one more time before our road trip to Orlando.


  1. At least you should be able to swim or kayak:

  2. Assume you were referencing the old Bertie Higgins song “Key Largo” in which he sings about Bogie and Bacall for your title. From the 80’s I think.

  3. Gear up for the show Sean! Hard luck that it is a weekend, But I must say that it would be a great experience to enjoy the show amidst the crowd. With all the winds and bashing, I understand that riding the dinghy is not an easy job. Good that you did all the chores that were pending!!


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