A change of scenery

by Glen

Thursday 13 Jan, cruising day 47, Key West: Crazy goings-on around the boat. Fly the drone then move to east side Flemming Island

The forecast tonight is to blow hard from the NW. In our current anchorage we haven’t experienced this wind direction yet, but given it’s open sea to our NW, we are sure it’s not going to be a pleasant night. When we first wake up there is no wind at all. But within half an hour it suddenly blows 15kts from the NW. And in a matter of minutes the sea state becomes pretty unpleasant. Even making Oana take a sea-sickness pill. At first, we think the wind has come 12 hours early, but as quick as it came, it dies back to virtually nothing again. It was clearly just a warning from the wind-god, giving us a taste of what a blow from the NW will feel like. Thank you Mr.W.God, you certainly did the trick – we are moving from here!

So after breakfast, armed with Navionics (navigational charts) on our iPad and my hand held depth sounder, I take the dinghy for a reconnaissance trip. The obvious anchoage for tonight’s blow is on the other side of Wisteria island (east side). But the depths are all over the place there and the anchorage is already crowded. I do identify a small space, but it would mean placing the anchor very near the shore, so I would have to be very careful we would not be swinging that way, or we will be on the beach. It’s a bit too dodgy, so I move on. Before doing so I call on a boat to ask about current here. No answer, until I’m just about to head off, when 2 guys, clearly gay, emerge looking a bit like I just disturbed their action. Ooops sorry guys, go back and carry on! All sorts of characters here. No wonder Hemingway had a such blast.

Scooting across the main channel I then go under the road bridge and through to the east side of Flemming island. This would be ideal shelter from a NW wind, but the chart indicates only 2.4 to 2.7m depths. Behind Flemming there is a mooring field with likely over 100 boats there. I had already enquired about this, but a) they are full and b) they don’t accept boats over 50ft long. So anchoring it has to be. Closer on the Flemming side, there are currently just 2 boats at anchor. Which seems a bit odd considering the hundreds of boats on the west side of Flemming. I chat to one of the boats, a catamaran and he says it’s a great place, but holding (anchor holding) is not so good on the grassy bottom. But he reassures me that our 8ft (2.5m) draft will get in here through the dredged channel, just. As for the depths, my handheld depth sounder shows 2.9 to 3.3m at half tide. This will be just enough for us. The grass can polish the bottom of the keel as we swing in the wind at low tide 😊

Before going back to Cloudy, I decide to take a tootle further east. The Uber driver explained a place where we could tie the dinghy into mangroves right next to Winn-Dixie supermarket. Odd that an Uber driver should know that! So off I go to check it out. The place is up a small creek and under a road bridge. On the chart it looks just about deep enough to get your toes wet, but in reality, I manage to plane in on the dinghy, with the propeller just skimming over the bottom. And the Uber guy was right! It really is a mangrove swamp, right in the middle of Key West town. And in 2 or 3 places along the edge, tunnels have been cut through the mangrove trees, allowing 1 dinghy in each to get right up to the water’s edge. Then there is Winn-Dixie, right in front of you. This will make for an interesting shopping experience. We will feel like The Flintstones going to the supermarket.

Back at Cloudy I am greeted by a rather frantic Oana, who was desperate for me to return. But why, what happened?
Well, while I was away there had been a big commotion right next to us, which has only just died down. She had been alerted to someone shouting: “Help me, Help me!” and “that guy has stolen my dog!”. Out in the cockpit she sees a guy in the water near to the boat moored behind us. He continues to swim and shout, while another guy is nearby in his dinghy along with a dog, and he is also holding onto another dinghy. It appears the guy in the dinghy has taken the guy in the water’s dinghy and dog! And the guy in the water had dived-in to try to swim after them! Quite a scene, eh? Then, enter the next character. The guy from the boat in front of us is now in his dinghy coming to the rescue. He pulls the person out the water, then the abusive commotion continues. The 2 dinghies start careering around each other, both almost out of control, with all parties shouting and cursing. The only words Oana can make out are from the dog thief, saying something like “… stay the hell away from my girl” and “… you can take me to court if you’ve got the balls to, because we all know about your child pornography, you pedophile …”. It’s anybody’s guess what started all this. The mind boggles with the possibilities. But clearly these guys are off their heads and poor Oana had been petrified that they may run into Cloudy Bay and worse, try to engage her too! So she ducked down in the cockpit trying to stay out of sight, praying I’d come riding out of the sun to her rescue 😊
The ordeal ends up with the dog thief heading off in his original dinghy, complete with stolen dog, but leaving the stolen dinghy behind. Then 15 minutes later the rescuer and rescued also charge off in hot pursuit.
Oh Oana … why did you not have the GoPro rolling? We could have gone viral on YouTube with this one! Pffff nothing like this happens around us when I’m on board! Oh, what a colourful neighborhood we are living in.

And talking neighbourhood, before we move, I fly the drone to get an aerial view of our surroundings with Key West in the background and the jalopies all around us.

Then we move. After lifting the anchor, we first head west into deeper water where I unfurl the genoa. Elvstrom want a video to be taken as we furl the sail away, to try to help us diagnose the creasing problem. While preparing to do this, I realized the shackle to the tack ring was installed the wrong way around, giving the sail an extra twist as it started to furl. With this corrected I’m shocked to find the creasing is greatly improved. Improved, but not solved. There is still one big crease forming as we furl.

To get around the back of Flemming it’s about a 4 mile journey from our anchorage next to Wisteria, avoiding the road bridge that I took a short-cut under this morning. First, we go north up the main channel on the west side of Flemming, then into a very shallow channel that rounds the top of the island, then follow that same channel back down the east side. We end up anchoring in 3.0m of water just behind the other 2 anchored boats. Now Mr.Wind-God, you can blow all you like, we are nicely sheltered from you. Please just don’t pull our anchor up in the night. Thank you.

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Honey Rex January 14, 2022 - 10:39 pm

When are you crossing the stream to the Bahamas? Wish Cloudy Bay would make a trip up to Naples. Far different crowd up here! Also, waiting anxiously for your YouTube vlogs of the days in the Keys!! Love you guys! Your very colorful and sweet!

Honey Rex January 14, 2022 - 10:43 pm

Are you folks going to be at the St. Petersburg Boat Show! We are seriously looking at HR for our next boat!

Glen January 18, 2022 - 12:17 am

Hi there. No, I looked at the charts and Naples and that area are a challenge for us for depth (we draw 8ft). Plus there seems to be no place to anchor and we avoid docking due to the high cost in USA. So we are departing for Mexico tomorrow.

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