Tuesday 4-Jan, cruising days 38: Motor to Key West, dodging fishing floats along the way, and have a weird problem with our lithium batteries.
After what seems an age anchored in the marine-hippy surroundings of Marathon, we decide to get moving to our last (official) USA stop before Mexico – Key West.
When I wake up, I still feel drained and think maybe I should just stay one more day here, in this tranquil anchorage. While I only have cold-like symptoms with this Covid, a common cold has normally long gone by the 1-week mark. But a nice coffee and my usual dose of paracetamol from nurse Oana and I’m fighting fit again, ready to get going. Oana is non-committal. Marooned on the boat in Marathon or marooned in Key West is no different for her. The only big plus to moving is that we can make-water, which we are rather low on now.
So, we leave. Only stopping at a very convenient and quiet fuel dock as we exit, to fill up prior to departing USA. Nice and cheap too. Only $3.76 per gallon (less than $1 a liter).
Once out the channel we set course for Key West, motoring on the shelf in just 4-6 meters of water while hugging the coast. First, we pass the Seven Mile Bridge that seems to hover above the water on stilts. This long bridge joins the Marathon Key to the multiple smaller Keys that lead up to Key West.
The water is flat and the wind at only 7kts on our starboard quarter, so the apparent wind is virtually nothing. Not a problem, because we really need to make water anyway. The energy of the Volvo will not be totally wasted on just propelling us forward.
The big problem with motoring in these shallows around the keys is the damned fishing floats. We swear they are as dense, if not more so, as the “lobsterpots” (floats marking lobster traps) in Maine. Luckily with the calm water, and thank goodness no fog in Florida, we can spot them easily. But spot them we must if we are to avoid getting a rope around the propeller. Consequently, the entire time we have our eyes glued to the water in front of us ready to hit the +10 degrees or -10 degrees buttons on the autohelm to avoid collision. All a bit tedious.
At one point the wind comes more onto our beam and we manage to turn the engine off and sail, which is not only peaceful, but we also don’t have to worry about hitting the floats. With the propeller folded for sailing, they are not a danger to us. Let the ramming begin.
Though the peace doesn’t last long. Whenever I activate the winches or furlers we get an alarm on the 230volt system and the inverter momentarily shuts down. Very odd. I then find that a BlueSea safety breaker switch on one of the lithium batteries has activated – automatically switching off one battery. That’s never happened before. Trouble is, although I can physically see one BlueSea breaker is no longer in the same state as the other, I don’t know which breaker is for which battery. If I try to reset the wrong one, we will lose 24v entirely. And that would be a calamity, with the boat sailing on autohelm and me down here trying to sort the problem.
So rather than touching the breakers, I decide to plug my PC into the Masterbus and see what it is going on. Using Masterbus log-in codes that I only recently got from another HR owner (that was lucky), I manage to activate the correct BlueSea breaker remotely from the PC, and the battery springs back into life.
Trouble is, we now have one battery fully charged while the other only 45%. In normal operations they are both in an identical SOC (state of charge). In the end, I decide to leave the offending battery off until such time as the good one has reduced to the same SOC. Then I’ll turn the offending one back on again, and hopefully the small misbalance won’t disturb their karma.
Pfff, I do hope that our 5 years of flawless service from our Lithium setup is not coming to an end. That would be a real bugger ☹
Key West is just 45 miles from Marathon, and we arrive at 4pm. We find boats are moored and anchored everywhere possible north and west of the town. I had planned to anchor on the west side of Flemming Key, but in the end, it looked much calmer to the west of Wisteria Island. So we put the hook down there, in plenty of space, in 4m of water. Yet again surrounded by a similar plethora of hippy liveaboard types. Tomorrow we will just have to get photos of the “best” of them, to show you what we mean. Funny, because a viewer just commented on our You Tube site that while he had sailed all of Florida, he had never ventured into the Keys because he had been told people are a little “different” down here. I think he nailed it! Just happy that so far we haven’t heard any banjo duets nor pig squealing imitations. If we do, we are off. That film, Deliverance, still gives me the creeps!
Our evening is quiet, but it is a treat to have a plentiful supply of hot water for long showers again. Even if outside we are plagued with the usual gen-sets all buzzing away on the neighbouring boats, it’s otherwise quite peaceful. Tomorrow we will head into town, hoping it’s a bit less hillbilly than the mooring field might suggest 😊