Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Final night in the Florida Keys

A quick update here, as today will be our last open-water sea day for a while. We are underway eastbound in the Hawk Channel, headed for Key Biscayne, where we will pick up the inside route to Fort Lauderdale. Seas are flat calm and we have another gorgeous day, 79° and sunny. The water is still crystal clear and a balmy 82°.    

Sunset "between the bridges" from our anchorage at Bahia Honda. Flagler's old bridge at left, modern at right.

While I had written in my last post that we were aiming for an anchorage behind Molasses Key, short of Marathon, we instead stopped even earlier, tucking in between the new and old bridges just west of Bahia Honda (map). We had considered that possibility in our discussions, but were afraid there might be too much swell. We watched another cruiser go in there on AIS, and I called on the radio to ask. We made the decision after a favorable report.

It was, indeed, quite calm in there. But the heavy current racing under the bridges has the bottom scoured down to rock with a light dusting of sand, and we had to hunt around for a spot where our anchor could get some purchase. Ultimately we put out 100' of chain in 10' of water and let the weight alone do most of the work holding us against a knot and a half. We did not move and had a calm night. Having already spent a night at the state park back in our bus days, we opted not to go ashore. We had a nice dinner on board.

The view in the other direction is less appealing; the campground where we stayed years ago.

The early stop made for a long day yesterday, and so we weighed anchor after our first cup of coffee for an early start. Seas were higher than forecast and we had a lumpy day. We did have a group of dolphins join us for several minutes, frolicking in our bow wave. That's not such an unusual occurrence, but down here the water is so clear you can see them swimming well below the surface. A mom and her calf were the last holdouts after the others lost interest.

As we approached Conch Key we could see a plume of thick black smoke rising from the bridge. Some six miles ahead of us, it was too distant to get a photo. As we got closer we could see it was a large tour bus which had burned; fire apparatus had the bridge closed in both directions. The backup extended for miles, and we learned later the DOT had to inspect the bridge for damage.

This never gets old.

We pulled in to a familiar anchorage around the north side of Rodriguez Key, off Key Largo, and dropped the hook (map) just before 5pm. We were among perhaps a dozen boats, one of which ran their generator the entire night. I went for a quick swim before dinner, my last chance to sample the clear offshore waters of the Keys.

No sooner had I stepped into a hot shower than the radio started blaring with a Mayday call from a sailboat just a few miles east of us. The skipper was having a heart attack and a fairly panicked first mate was trying to evacuate him. The Coast Guard was unhelpfully running their Mayday script ("How many life jackets do you have on board?"), and then tried to direct them to a dock that was down near us, perhaps an hour and a half away from their position.

Rodriguez Key cocktail hour.

We could hear a distinct shift as the woman stopped asking questions and took charge of the situation. They decided to drop anchor and get him to shore in their tender, to access a very close marina that did not have the depth for their boat. She directed the CG to have EMS meet them at the dock, then she and the two teenage sons loaded dad in the dink, with one boy remaining behind to manage the boat. A short time later we saw the USCG small boat racing to their position from somewhere west of us.

We never heard the postscript but hope there was a happy ending. We passed them this morning an hour and a half into our cruise. I tried hailing them on the radio to see if there was anything that they needed, but got no response. There was normal-looking activity on deck. Thankfully it is so calm out here today, because they are in an unprotected spot.

The conjunction of Jupiter and Venus above the last of the sunset over our anchorage last night.

We enjoyed a nice dinner on the aft deck, for the first time in a while, and after dark Louise deployed the under water light to watch the fish. I had to keep resetting the depth alarm; at low tide our keel was grazing just a few inches over the sand.

Today is another long day, and we weighed anchor first thing. This evening we should be anchored off the old Nixon compound on Key Biscayne; I had hoped for a berth at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club, but they were full up. We might tender in there for dinner. Tomorrow we will work our way up through Miami and we will probably end up in the Hollywood Lakes in a couple of days until our commitment in Fort Lauderdale.

Bonus shot omitted from last post. Breakfast at Harpoon Harry's in front of 8-track art. These titles were the very last of the 8-track era.


  1. Here's the view from the bridge of the fire.

    1. Thanks for providing the link. It was definitely quite a fire.

  2. this whole heart attack thing has me a bit on edge. I actually went to my GP, did bloodwork, and am taking some pills for BP now.

    I dont wanna be the reason someone has to "listen to the script"

    this whole getting older thing? it beats the alternatives, but it aint for the weak, thats for sure


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