Monday, February 27, 2023


We are underway eastbound in the Hawk Channel after a lovely week in Key West. Only a line of shallow reefs separates the channel from the full fetch of the Atlantic Ocean, and today's ride is a bit lumpier than forecast. We have our sights set on a new-to-us anchorage tucked behind Molasses Key, in the hopes of getting out of the swell that will otherwise rock us in our more usual spot off Boot Key.

Vector departing Man of War Harbor, Key West, as seen from Esmeralde at The Galleon. Photo: Dorsey Beard

We had a fair current for most of the rest of our passage Tuesday, and we never increased above 1375 rpm. We finally encountered the flood just as I was coming back on watch and it was against us through the Northwest Channel, where I did my daily run-up to 80% power. Still we had the anchor down before 11 in a familiar spot in Man of War Harbor (map).

Normally after an overnight passage we are absolute zombies and need a full day to recover. On this occasion an afternoon nap did the trick and we ended up meeting up with good friends Dorsey and Bruce for the evening. We met at their lovely boat Esmeralde, where we got some quality time with pups Ollie and Maisie before strolling to dinner at the Waterfront Brewery.

We did not use the whole week, but it's cheaper and easier than day passes at $8 apiece. They walk the dock and check these multiple times each day.

Man of War is a terrible anchorage, and we would end up re-anchoring twice to take advantage of departing boats to move closer to the windward shore (map). But with easterlies the whole week it was comfortable enough when we were not being waked, and it sure beats $4-$7 per foot, which is what marinas cost here. We paid $40 for a week-long dinghy pass.

Key West is a familiar and comfortable place for us now (so much so that I took few pictures) -- we still have credentials as bona fide Conchs -- and so we broke no new ground on dining or anything else. We also did not feel compelled to do anything other than wander aimlessly and, as our homie Jimmy would say, watch the sun bake all of the tourists. Of which there were fewer than on any visit I can remember.

I passed Virgin's Scarlet Lady in Mallory Square. We first saw her in Bimini, ahead of her planned debut, just before the pandemic derailed their launch plans.

For the record, in addition to Waterfront, we partook of Onlywood, Amigos, Fogarty's, and Bruschetta Francesca, all good, and this morning we had breakfast at Harpoon Harry's before weighing anchor. We had two more dinners with Bruce and Dorsey, ironically ending up back at Waterfront Brewery last night for our farewell meal. They are shoving off tomorrow and will pass us somewhere here in the Keys.

I did get ashore a couple of times just to stroll around, usually in conjunction with some errands, such as picking up our mail which we had sent to General Delivery. The weather has been picture-perfect all week, in the low 80s during the day and dropping into the mid-70s overnight. Mostly I tackled projects around the boat.

Our mail came in a huge box (visible at right) and I barely fit it all in the pack, along with a replacement window blind that came separately. Louise neglected to tell me there were six bottles of holding tank treatment, totaling three kilos, in the shipment.

Chief among those was changing the oil in both the main engine and the generator. I was a few hours early on the main, but I was motivated by the fact that Key West has free and super easy recycling for both the used oil and the used filters, and thus I was able to get all eight gallons of oil and both filters off the boat right away. I had stocked up on fresh oil back in Clearwater while we had the car.

The other big project, and I know several readers are following this one, was the unending saga of the water heater. After changing the engine thermostats made no difference, I decided to redouble my efforts to "prime" the heater loop, this time by purging all the air out with a pump. I first ran our watermaker to make a few gallons of clean RO water and then jury-rigged some hoses to a drill pump to circulate that water through the loop. With four hands between the two of us I got the now-charged hoses back on the barbs without letting any air in, and a quick test run suggests this may have cured it. So far, under way, it's looking good.

I ended up walking back through this art festival, pack and all, on my way back to the dock.

Other projects included changing the engine anodes, fixing a recalcitrant switch on the davit crane, and taking apart, cleaning, and lubricating the water pump on the dinghy outboard. This latter item was necessitated by no fewer than three overheat alarms on the way to dinner Saturday, but I found no problems and all ran fine yesterday. I also removed, cleaned, and reinstalled an injector line on the generator which has been slowly leaking diesel.

Usually when we are in Key West we find a way to get our scooters on the ground, as the town is perfect for them. On this short visit we opted not to pay for a couple of hours of day dockage to get them off and on. That aced us out of Publix and the lone bagel joint on the island. Yesterday's provisioning run had me going to CVS, Walgreens, local supermarket Fausto's, and the mini-mart near the dock to fill the entire list, even though it was pretty short.

A not-atypical Key West dinghy. The orange tag from the police is what happens when you don't pay; the tag says it will be impounded for trespassing.

We're back to having something of a schedule, with a commitment to be in Fort Lauderdale on March 7th. That's plenty of time, and it was tempting to stay another day or two in Key West, but we can easily miss this decent weather window and then either be trapped, missing our date, or else bash through bigger seas than we'd like, and so today was the day. That will get us off the ocean and into the protection of Biscayne Bay by the end of Wednesday, with seas possibly building here on Thursday. We have just a couple more days of crystal blue, 82° water.

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