Trying to catch up. Big Pine Key edition!

(Fun pictures below all these troublesome words)

In an attempt to catch up our avid readers – that’s you – to where we actually are in the world and what we’re doing, I’m cheating a bit on this one. Even though I love writing, it still takes a good amount of time to sit down and try to fill in useful, informative, yet slightly funny dialogue and still have it interesting. And if you’re all like, “uh – Josh, you live on a boat and don’t have a job. What do you do all day?” Well, to all those interested in this sort of lifestyle, I say it is the most rewarding undertaking I’ve ever undertook, yet the most time consuming all around problematic good time.

If you read the last blog post, you know we made it to Marathon in the Florida keys from Marco Island and we were working our way to Key West (where we are now). The trip was about 60 miles and we decided to break it up in two parts because we thought there might be some bad weather in a couple of days. Big Pine Key was right in the middle and in a kind of protected anchorage so we decided to stay there till it stopped blowin’.

This is an actual cut and paste from Peacemakers logbook as written by Captain Leah:

03/23 – Thursday

Winds are forecast to pick up this evening, so we figure we may be confined to Peacemaker for the next day or two. Today, we decided to take the dinghy out and explore while we could: We found a spot to tie up the dinghy near the E side of Big Pine Key bridge. Met a local guy who lives in his tent in the woods nearby who was collecting shells from the lagoon there to sell to aquarium stores – friendly guy. We walked up the path and along Overseas Hwy 1 in an attempt to get a money order from the post office and then FedEx to send in Brewster’s entry application for the Bahamas. Unfortunately, the post office didn’t have any international money orders left – go figure. So we’ll have to wait until Key West to send it in. Went in the local library (right next to the newly redone Winn Dixie) to print the application form, so at least we checked one thing off the list! Our plan was to walk about 45 mins from there to No Name Pub, an eclectic dive-y pizza place, well-known in the Keys since 1935, but again, that went out the window when we called (thankfully!) before getting too far and hearing that they’re not dog-friendly… unless it’s a service dog. Maybe Brew needs an official ‘service’ accreditation! Turned around and headed back – still got at least a 3-mile walk in. Hit a street taco stand (owned & run by a young guy from Kansas City who moved here 5 yrs ago). Tacos were delicious – but a bit expensive ($15 for 4 tacos). Stopped on a small beach near the mangroves to give Brew a good run and romp in the water before heading back to Peacemaker. Filled up our water bottles and decided to dinghy over to Picnic Island for the afternoon (dubbed a ‘good local hangout spot’) by our cruising guide. It was a shallow shoal just across the harbor from our anchorage where about 8-10 smaller boats, SUPers, kayakers were just hanging out either aboard, wading in the knee-deep water or on the small community island – with a bunch of mis-matched chairs, a couple of grills, campfire site, cornhole game and a ‘sculpture’ of wooden signs decorated by different visitors to the island over the years. Cool & eclectic, and a great way to spend a couple hours in the sun! (Josh: Picnic Island was the only area worthwhile in all of Big Pine Key and where most of the pictures below are from.)

Got back to Peacemaker around 4:15, in time to shower (and finally wash my hair – thank god!) and get the deck & cockpit prepped for the high winds to come. As forecast, a squall came on fast around 6:30 with winds as high as 45mph! It was blowin’ a houlie, as Duncan would say. Luckily, we knew it was coming and had prepared. Rain and high winds, but since we’re near the lee side of the key, the waves weren’t bad. We were just swinging back and forth on our anchor rode rather than rocking up & down uncomfortably. Still stressful, but we made dinner and hunkered down inside with Brew to watch a couple movies and wait it out through the night. Whew! Our anchor held tight and we woke up this morning to sun & winds around 16-18knots.

 03/24 – Friday

(Josh log) – We stayed on board today because of the winds. I built a wind generator which took most of the day and in the end failed miserably – awesome. Made up a new drink today. I call it the “Ramrod Guzzler” because we’re next to Ramrod Key.

Ramrod Guzzler Ingredients:

– Moonshine (as much as your day dictates)

– ‘Red’ Gatorade

– Old coffee dreggs left in your mug from the morning

03/25 – Saturday

We had planned to head to Key West today, but the small craft advisory stayed in effect until 5pm tonight, with winds up to 20kts and seas in the SE Gulf up to 7ft. So we decided to stay put here another day. Tomorrow the winds should calm to around 10-12kts. Laundry in the morning, and then we popped to town – following a splash-tastically wet dinghy ride, thanks to the chop on the water! Brought our scuba tanks to Strike Zone Charters to get visually inspected and filled with air. Hadn’t planned to pay for the visual inspection, but since they had to ship to us empty, there’s more of a risk of contaminants entering an empty tank. Better safe than sorry, especially since we’ll be filling them on our own after this – so we payed the $20 each for the VIP (incl air fill). Since we had to haul the tanks on foot, luckily the dive shop was almost just across the street from where we docked the dinghy. Walked about a mile back to Winn Dixie to stock up on some food, back to the dive shop to pick up the tanks. It was an awkward walk across & up the street to the dock with all the groceries, full tanks, plus Brewster, but we managed and felt like we had a productive day. It was only 2:30, so we had a bite back on Peacemaker and zenned out in the cockpit, reading and napping for a couple hours. Josh is building the lower set of scuba tank supports. Maybe I’ll shower later.

03/26 – Sunday

A bobbly trip since the wind was mainly behind us and waves were around 4 ft. The damn basil plant fell over more than once. Other than that, everything was lashed down pretty well. Brew’s got her sea legs (well, she lays down mostly, but doesn’t seem fazed by the pitch of the boat). When we got out of the channel and into the ocean, we were all set to put the sails up, but as soon as Josh attached the halyard to the mainsail, a massive pitch of the boat sent the halyard around the spreader and caught it on what we think is the radar deflector (white cylinder on the front of the mast). Despite Josh’s best efforts to free it (while the boat was rocking all over the place), it’s pretty tight on there, and will need a mast mount to get it free. Maybe tomorrow I’ll hoist Josh up the mast in the bosin if the wind is calm enough…. So, meanwhile, we motor-sailed the entire passage. We slowed as we approached Western Samoa reef where we’d planned to moor and dive, but the waves were just high enough that we thought it might be un-enjoyable/dangerous to dive, so we skipped it and headed on to Key West. (Hopefully we’ll have a chance to hit it on the way back.) As we rounded the Southern most tip of the US (!!), there was an enormous cruise ship leaving the harbor. Those ships are seriously entire cities on wheels – HUGE! Cool to be on the water near it. We could see a bunch of people out on the aft deck looking back as they left Key West. We stopped at Conch Harbor Marina to pump out our poo, fill our water tanks and the dinghy gas tank. It was a busy place, with a ferry queued up to pull in as soon as we were finished. Friendly guy working there, easy access to the dock and facilities and all we paid for was the gas! Pump-out and water was free, which was surprising! (Too bad one of our water bladders just popped… we’re down to 3 bladders now, or 15 gallons. It’s time to graduate to the ‘real deal’ – the blue plastic water cans.
Busy anchorage – we pulled around several boats and found an open area, but we may have ended up anchoring a bit to close to our aft neighbor… Possibly an adjustment needed tomorrow. They haven’t said anything, but we feel slightly guilty. Ah well, we’re set for now… TFAB!! … while we watched a beautiful sunset!

IMG_1677PicnicIsland2_BigPineKeyPicnic Island1_BigPineKeyIMG_1663

Not Brew, but what a cutie!IMG_1641IMG_1648IMG_1660IMG_1661IMG_1658IMG_1659IMG_1652IMG_1651

This was supposed to be for the Trash Project, but what you can barely see hanging from the stump is about fifty cigarette butts and half a shoe we picked up.IMG_1664IMG_5489

I spilled verde’ sauce on my shirt.IMG_5499

NEXT UP: Where we actually are! Key West/Dry Tortugas.

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