Friday, April 24, 2009
Leaving Key West is a time of sadness, saying good-bye to old and new friends, and a time of anticipation of new adventures ahead. During our last weekend we visited the USCGC Mohawk that served as part of the naval forces providing convoy escort operations in the North Atlantic from 1941 to 1946. The Mohawk both attacked Nazi U boats and rescued survivors from transports ferry goods to England prior to the US entry into WWII. She was built at the Pusey Jones Shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware (John’s hometown) in 1935. Helen father was a Commander aboard a US Navy destroyer escort in the North Atlantic area during 1941-1942. The memorabilia on the ship spoke most eloquently of early navigational equipment, living conditions and the rough, cold, sometimes ice covered environment in which they operated. 35 similar Coast Guard Cutters were lost to German Subs during the war. Not to stay too serious, our Saturday excursion was to Duval Street for the Drag Races, an annual event and one of many fun activities that are part of the “ Conch Republic” Independence Celebration. A picture is worth a thousand words, so look for two in the side panel. Afterward at Kelly’s, a “sunset Margarita” was an excellent toast to our visit to Cayo Hueso. Turtle Story: We heard this story from a couple we met while working out at the gym at NAS Key West. (Yeah, we were at the gym using torture machines.) They had been snorkeling the previous weekend and came across a pair of large turtles, probably Loggerheads. The female turtle had rope (most likely from a crab pot buoy gone astray) wrapped tight around a front leg and then about a dozen times around her neck. She was in distress and certainly wouldn’t have survived much longer. Our acquaintance went into the water with his knife, went behind the turtle, (you’re not going to operate in front of a 6 inch wide mouth) and cut the rope from the leg, then unwound the rest from her neck. Free again, the turtle dove down several feet. Her mate, who had been observing the action from a few feet away, swam up to the rescuer, gave him a “look” as if to say “thank you” and then dove and followed the freed turtle. The rescuers companion took photos from their boat. Maybe they’ll share the story in the media. In preparation for a late Sunday afternoon departure, water tanks were topped off, laundry completed and the engine was inspected. We had a great send-off crew to wish us well and fend Zephyrina off the pier as we backed out of slip A27 with a 15-knot wind on our beam. In contrast to our trip down we sailed back to the peninsula (Indian River Inlet – the Everglade Nat’l Park) in 17 hours, with just 4 hours of motor sailing. Winds were ESE 15-20 with gusts to 25, moving SE in the wee hours of the night. Our speed varied from 5.8 to 7 knots, except when we were slowed to 2.8 knots by a snagged “something” (could not see what, in the dark) in 60 feet of water. Since we were sailing, John started the engine, engaged the prop and “POP” the “something” departed. We think it may have been a fishing long line adrift in the sea. Our radar showed we were alone in a 12-mile radius. The shallows off the Ten Thousand Islands area of South Florida are generally in the 7-10 foot depth. Strangely our chart plotter with the new 2009 Navionics Electronic Chart Chip was showing 79 and 33 feet, instead of 26 and 10 feet when on the 24, 12, 6, and 3-mile views. Only on the 1 ½ and ½ mile views were the depth accurate. A potential for disaster, or at least grounding! We’ve reported the errors to Navionics. They will refer our observations to their cartography supplier and it might be two or three weeks before they contact us with their finds and their solution (a recall and new chips, would be the appropriate consumer protection response). Once in the waters north of Cape Romano and near Marco Island the depth on the chart were accurate. Helen has a MAC ENC program with update charts from NOAA on her laptop, so we had another means to verify the depth along with our paper charts. This proves once again one should not navigate solely based on the chart plotter information. We ventured up the Indian River to Russell Pass, dropped anchor and took a two-hour nap. Night sails are good for passages that are longer that can be accomplished in daylight but neither of us get more than a few hours sleep when “off watch”. Two dolphin sentries patrolled back and forth between us and the tidal-current flow in the river. They were fun to watch. We had a wonderful rain shower (over an inch) at sunrise, Tuesday washing the “crossing salt” from Zephyrina. Later in the morning, we motored further up stream to Everglades City and tied up at the historic Rod and Gun Club. Barron Collier (Collier County Florida) built this Inn for the hunting and fishing enthusiasts of the twenties and thirties. The large paneled lobby displays a huge stuffed marlin, a Florida Black Bear, a river otter plus many seascape paintings, gilded mirrors and a billiard table. Besides being a sport fishing area it was known for its timber (now mostly depleted) and citrus groves. The Everglades City museum in the “old town laundry building” is a historic treasure trove of the early history of the area. Wednesday mid day, we returned to our first night’s anchorage to again enjoy the mangrove islands, dolphin antics and a little fishing – only catfish, [5 fish in 6 casts] all released. Yesterday, we gingerly worked our way back out into deeper waters and motor sailed north to Naples. As we got underway, our speed indicator suddenly stopped working. Over an hour later we cleared the narrow channel into the Gulf and stopped to pull the speed transducer. Seems a miniscule crab had become lodged in the paddle when the boat started to move. It will be remember by the photo in the side bar. Right now we have ash in the air, blown on easterly winds from the wildfires near Immokalee. John has given Zephyrina a good wash down but she may need another before we leave Sunday morning for Ft. Myers. Now it’s time to play. We’ll explore the “up market” shopping area of 3rd Street, check out the fresh air farmers market tomorrow morning and enjoy a little time on the beach.