Wednesday, March 30, 2016


We successfully crossed the scary Gulf Stream and made it to Bimini!
It's a whole 50 miles from Miami... but a world apart!

Doesn't sound like that bid a deal when you say it like that but it's a big deal to sailors because it can go terribly wrong if the wind and waves don't cooperate.  In our case they did, for the most part.  We started out at 2am, to guarantee that we arrived in daylight.  Our first time to sail at night so that was new and terrifying, I mean exciting...

There were some rough portions but the winds moved from East to Southeast during the day and we were able to sail at least half the time and managed 7-8 knots for a couple of stretches both under sail and on the engine, with the help of the Gulf Stream's current.  We made it in a blistering 11 hours!  That would be hilarious to most power boaters but hey, we used less than 5 gallons of diesel!

We'd love to show you a bunch of photos of the sunrise under sail, the ships and freighters we passed, the incredible blue water because it's thousands of feet deep, etc... but the wifi at the marina sucks so that'll have to wait.
In the meantime please look at the Tumblr posts.

Heading to the Berry Islands next!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pennekamp State Park

We've been hiding out at John Pennekamp State Park for about a week.
We heard about the place from another cruising couple (hey Paul and Nancy!) that waited for their Bahamas weather window here too.  We've never even technically met them!  A friend of a friend (hey Nancy W.!) told them about us and they reached out to us via email.  We were hoping to catch up to them but they've been in the Bahamas for almost a month now.  Who knows we might pass them on their way back.

Anyway, Pennekamp is a fantastic park.  There's several beaches, a small marina, dive shop, camping facilities, mooring balls, etc.  Mooring balls are similar to anchoring but more reliable in adverse conditions and they're much cheaper than a marina slip.

Here're some photos of our time here.

There were some grey days and we rode out a thunderstorm but this was usually our view from WIngs.

There were always a few other boats in the mooring field but it was never full.

One of several nice beaches and good snorkeling.

The little marina is mostly for the park's boats and for use of the boat ramp but there's also 3 slips you can rent.  Our boat is a little too wide and you have to back in anyway.  We don't do backwards so well.  That's "Outta the Loop" (hey Paul and Jackie!) in the back.  We've crossed paths 3 times now!  They spoiled us to a fantastic steak dinner aboard their beautiful boat, what a treat!

The park runs snorkel and dive trips out to the many nearby reefs.

Kayaks and paddle boards for rent.

The visitor's center has a bunch of aquariums with coral and sea life.  Note the Caribbean lobster, hopefully we'll be eating some of these very soon...

This huge aquarium is in the center of the visitor's center.

Kipper got plenty of land time.

We've been wearing out the new (to us) dinghy.  Little guy requires a few pumps of air daily but is much roomier than the old one.

It'll be getting even more use in the Bahamas...

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bahia Honda State Park

After a great trip to the Tortugas we headed back towards Key West.  As has been our luck the weather began to deteriorate as we headed back.  No storms just gusty winds and uncomfortable waves.  Even though Wings is pretty stable she rocks just as much as anything else if the waves are from the wrong direction.  We made it back to Key West and dropped anchor for the night near Stock Island.  The anchorage was fine until the next morning when the wind changed direction and the waves built.  Studying the various weather forecasts we came to the conclusion that we'd be stuck on the boat for nearly a week!  So we called good 'ol Stock Island Marina Village and begged for a slip...

Thankfully, they took pity and let us come back.  We never planned to spend so much time in marinas but sometimes there's no choice if you want to maintain your sanity.  Another week slipped away but it was time well spent.  We got to see some family, gather more Bahamas documents, more prep, and talk to a lot of other cruisers.  We've met some great people that have been incredibly helpful.  We also scored a deal on a new (to us) dinghy right in the marina!  We're still using the same engine but it works much better on the new hard bottom dinghy compared to the soft roll-up we were using.

While at the marina we had a nice motor yacht beside us that had these blue lights, under the swim step, illuminating the water.  The bright cluster on the left, in the distance, is the fleet of shrimp boats.  Even they weren't going out.

Finally the day came and we were free again!
Except for all the crab pots.  Zoom in, you'll see them.

Crab pot watch...

We anchored at Bahia Honda State Park for two nights.  It's a great spot.  We even found a grassy patch for Kipper which is a big deal these days.

Met some of the locals...

We also met another cruising couple on "Outta the Loop", the boat anchored in front of Wings.  We had anchored near them at the Dry Tortugas but never had an opportunity to meet them.  Great people and we just ran into them again at Pennekamp!

In addition to the great beaches and snorkeling Bahia Honda is also known for this section of the old Flagler railroad bridge that dates back to the early 1900's.  Most of the railway was destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.  This section was reused for car traffic by adding a concrete deck on the top of the trestle until the "new" road was built, on the right.  It's scary looking to say the least.  One small section, to the left of the removed section (for sailboats...), has been restored for pedestrians to take in the view.  The anchorage is between the two bridges.

It's a beautiful spot, go there!

On to Pennekamp State Park...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dry Tortugas - Fort Jefferson

We've been remiss in keeping the blog updated due to intermittent wifi.  Hopefully anyone interested has figured out how to follow the Tumblr updates, they're much easier since they can be done with our phones.

We're currently at Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo waiting for a weather window to go to the Bahamas.  We think we see it on the horizon but more on that another time.

After leaving Stock Island we headed West to the Dry Tortugas where Fort Jefferson is located.  Great trip and quite a place.  A bit surreal that it's even there at all.  The fort was never completed but it saw use as a refueling station for coal burning steam ships and a prison, among other things.  It's most notable resident was Dr Samuel Mudd who was imprisoned there for treating John Wilkes Booth's broken ankle after he had assassinated Lincoln.  He was eventually pardoned after taking over as the fort's doctor when Yellow Fever swept thru the population killing the original doctor.  The history of the place is fascinating and overall pretty horrible... but it sure is beautiful now!

Enjoy some photos!

The trip out was fantastic and we actually got to sail the entire way.

The conditions were ideal.

We anchored the first night at the Marquesas about 20, or so, miles from Key West.
These homemade Cuban refugee boats are all over the beach.  The ingenuity is pretty impressive but looking at some makes me wonder how many didn't make it.

Some are better than others and this one looked like it could make another trip.

Next day we reached the Dry Tortugas.  Angie stands at the entrance over the moat.  Dr Mudd's cell was those small windows over the Sally Port.

That's a lot of brick!  The moat has suffered some damage over the decades but is overall intact.  Shouldn't there be sharks in it or something....?

Huh, what's that?

Uh, seriously, what is that!?!

It's a crocodile!
Right after this photo was taken he swam thru a breach under the wall into the moat!
The photo is deceiving, he's at least 6 feet long.  He's been nicknamed Oscar.  The theory is that he was blown out in a storm and is stuck there.  So far he's behaved and hasn't bothered anyone...

The moat surrounds the entire complex.

A ferry comes from Key West everyday with passengers and brings a little bit of civilization for a few hours.  There's food, ice, a bar, and outdoor showers on the stern.  There's about a dozen primitive campsites on the island and the campers arrive via this ferry.

If you really want to get there in a hurry this seaplane makes 3 or 4 trips a day.  He passed us at least that many times while we were on route!  Once the ferry and seaplane leave the place gets pretty quiet.  The campers and boaters have the entire fort to themselves.

Note the stalactites and stalagmites gradually forming as rain water leaches the lime out of the masonry.

Atop the walls the view is pretty incredible.

Wings is among the boats anchored in the background.

A couple of miles away is Loggerhead Key with 150 foot tall lighthouse built about the same time as the fort.

It's out of service and can't be climbed due to the iron stairs and infrastructure rusting away.

Did I mention it's built of brick!?!

The morning before we left the anchorage was like glass...

Where does the sky start?

Nothing West of here until Mexico...

We anchored just past the Marquesas on the return trip which unfortunately was not as smooth going as the trip out.  For now we're safely on a mooring at Pennekamp.
More about all that another time!