Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Conched out

We are underway eastbound (or northbound, depending on your frame of reference) in the Hawk Channel, bound for Marathon out of Key West. We had a lovely and mostly relaxing week as Conchs, with more or less everything right where we left it after our last visit.

Sunset from our upper deck in Key West, beyond one of the numerous charter cats and the cruise piers.

Shortly after my last post, offshore of Longboat Key, we made a slight diversion to port to keep within cell range of the coast for another couple of hours, owing to the fact that Louise's chart computer decided to do a Windows update right then. The slight diversion cost us less than a mile, or about ten minutes on arrival time, and we decided that was better than having the plotter end up half-baked for the rest of the trip.

We had a lovely sunset and a nice dinner at sea. We passed the night in wide open water, an uneventful passage. Tuesday morning, after we were both awake, we discharged our waste while outside the nine nautical mile "resource boundary" (waste discharge is normally legal three miles offshore, but the west coast of FL is an exception). When we had done this on the crossing to St. Pete, we noted a small leak from the macerator pump; this time I was able to determine it was coming from a broken case bolt on the pump head. We used a pet pad to catch the drip.

Sunset at sea, on our passage from St. Pete.

After winding our way through the Northwest Channel, we arrived at the Key West Ship Channel around 4:30 in the afternoon. We called the marina and were tied up in the Margaritaville South Basin (map) by 4:45. After a well-earned beer on board, we wandered over to the closest of our old standbys, Amigos, for dinner, and we both crashed early.

View of the Margaritaville Resort from our deck.

In the morning I walked to the office and picked up our "resort cards," basically the same as hotel room keys, which got us access not only to the marina rest rooms and laundry, but also the resort pool, hot tub, gym, and lounge areas. While we have stayed in "resort" marinas before, this was, hands-down, the most we have ever paid to dock the boat. The run-of-the-mill pool and hot tub did not make up for it.

Key West is full of feral chickens, and we saw more than our fair share of chicks with their parents.

This is the nature of Key West in high season, where hotel rooms at this same resort start at $500 a night and go up from there. Our preferred digs here are at the municipal dock a few blocks away, which has no amenities at all and is only 25% less. The other marinas in the Bight are even more, with no better amenities to speak of. Margaritaville is open to swell, and we had a bumpy stay, so next time we'll see if we can get into the Bight instead, where things are a bit calmer.

One of our neighbors, a 112' yacht, bouncing in their slip. It was a rough night.

From here, though, we did get to watch the sunsets right from our deck if we so chose, and we also got to watch the cruise ships come and go, as well as the shenanigans of their passengers. The resort also has a rooftop bar, aptly named the Sunset Deck, which is one of the best places in all of Key West to watch the sunset. It's open to the public but little-known and so uncrowded.

View from the Sunset Deck. The quayside below gets crowded every night at sunset.

We put the scooters on the ground the first day, parking them in the free dedicated scooter area of the hotel's garage. Scooters are ubiquitous here, and every block has free scooter parking, whereas parking for cars is scarce and pricey. I rate it as the most scooter-friendly city in the US, at least of those we've visited thus far.

Even though we had the scoots available, being so close to Duval street, we mostly walked everywhere. We visited many of our old haunts for dinner, and enjoyed strolling around the Mallory Square area of Old Town and into the Truman Annex, open to pedestrians during the day. It was a bit of a different view of the city from our previous visits.

This was typical of our view, one of the larger ships to call here. Boats coming and going from the north basin of our marina actually have to go under her bow lines.

Our friends Dorsey and Bruce, on their beautiful American Tug, Esmeralde, were also in town, staying at the Galleon over in the Bight, and we connected with them for dinner twice. It was nice catching up, and Bruce lent me his SWR meter for my investigation into some VHF radio issues we've been having. We're hoping to run into them later in the year in their home waters of the northeast.

We also connected on our final evening with fellow Great Loopers Sam and Revina, whom we had met in Schenectady and again in Joliet. We were mostly within a few dozen miles of each other for much of the way around, but somehow kept missing one another. It was great to finally meet up over a meal. We hope we'll see them again in the Fort Lauderdale area as they continue north.

Cocktails with Rev and Sam on the Sunset Deck.

In addition to relaxing and enjoying Key West, I got a few projects done around the boat. Those included replacing a busted connector on the davit for the wired remote, adding a dedicated switch on the davit so it can still be operated if the remote fails, testing the VSWR of the VHF radios, and replacing the macerator pump.

This latter item did not go well. I will spare you the ugly details, but the word "expulsive" comes to mind. I've rebuilt this pump twice, so with the bolts finally corroded through I just trashed it in favor of the on-board spare (also rebuilt), but it did not come out quietly. Sadly, we just tested the replacement outside the three mile limit, and it's not working. I have another adventure ahead of me in the bilge, but first I need to have another spare pump in hand. We can not go to the Bahamas without a working macerator.

Vector in her berth, with the Disney Dream behind, in hers. That pier is actually on the navy base, and passengers need to be shuttled around to town.

Speaking of the Bahamas, we got the cat's vaccines updated at the beginning of the month, which establishes March 2nd as our earliest departure date. We've started the process of getting the boat ready and provisioned for a three-month stay. While it would have been great to leave for the Bahamas direct from Key West, or maybe even Marathon as we did last time, it will be easier to get a lot of this done in the Fort Lauderdale area.

This dovetails nicely with a get-together on the calendar with my cousins in Orlando toward the end of the month. We're going to rent a car and drive up, cat in tow, for a few days, and that, too, is much easier from Fort Lauderdale than from anywhere in the Keys. Docking the boat for the time we are gone is likewise also much more reasonable. When we get back from Orlando, we'll turn around and head right back south, at least as far as Biscayne Bay, to stage for our crossing.

Departing this morning I had to thread my way between the cruise ships. We passed Carnival close aboard; the nominal 100 yard security zone simply can not be enforced here.

Tonight we will be anchored off Boot Key, where we will likely tender in to one of our old stand-bys, the Sunset Grille, for dinner. It will be a short visit; tomorrow we will continue on to Rodriguez Key and thence to Miami. The timing is right to catch the Boat Show for a day, and then we'll settle in for a few days in Maule Lake, one of our favorite anchorages.

1 comment:

  1. Noooo, not a bad replacement macerator! Say it isn’t so... so sorry for you, ugh!


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!