Friday, January 29, 2010

Los Van Van

I had the privilege, along with most of my dock neighbors, to see a historic concert by Los Van Van at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West. This Grammy-winning band (2000) was formed in 1969 by Juan Formell, considered one of the most important people in contemporary Cuban music.

After 40-years Los Van Van are still billed as Cuba's number one dance band and after seeing them last night I understand why. It was a wonderful experience despite not being able to understand a word they sang. Up to as many as eighteen performers crowded the stage to play and sing a concert that kept most people on their feet and made the mojitos taste extra special.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Key West Race Week 2010

It's always exciting when more sailors come to town, which was the case for Key West's annual Race Week, held this year January 18-22.

But it's even more exciting to watch from a spectator boat, and thanks to my marina neighbors, I got to enjoyed the final day of racing on the water.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Key West Sunsets

Sunsets in Key West are spectacular. This is why one of the most popular things to do in Key West is the daily sunset celebration at Mallory Square where you are entertained by a circus-like atmosphere of street performers and vendors while you watch the sunset and its colorful wake.

The sunset photo above is taken from the deck of Event Horizon on a still evening.

Cheers to my port side neighbor, motor vessel Coconuts, where I can be found most Wednesday evenings for their weekly sunset soirée.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cold Snap

A nearly two-week unprecedented cold snap has stunned the Florida Keys and its inhabitants. At first I witnessed people bundled up in as many clothes as they could wear claiming it's never so cold in Key West. Then iguanas began falling out of trees (stunned into unconsciousness by the cold) or showing up in bazaar places trying to find warmth. Next the sea turtles became distressed with hundreds rescued and sent to the turtle hospital in Marathon Key. Reports of fish kills increased daily--large amounts of dead fish floated along side us in the marina for days and we are still reminded of the loss by odors of decay.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Last night my captain and I decided to try the Key West Harbour clubhouse restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to find all of our new dock neighbors at the bar. It turned into a fun met and greet for the Event Horizon crew.

On the downside, I learned this new swanky marina has poor WiFi and no laundry facility nor any plans to have one. I was stunned because these are such basic modern amenities as well as two of the three reasons we opted for marina living. (The third reason was not being alone at anchor while my captain travels for business.) These two issues could be a deal breaker so despite the fondness towards my new neighbors and being psyched to have access to a heated pool, early this morning I cycled to the other marinas on the ocean side of Stock Island to check out their facilities and get quotes...

King's Pointe / Oceanside Marina
Old Island Marina
Safe Harbour Marina

Each of the marinas has their perks as well as negatives. In the end I decided we shouldn't move--why risk giving up good neighbors? Plus, while I was out exploring Stock Island I discovered Hilltop Laundry, a commercial service that will pick-up, wash, dry and deliver for $8 per load. And there are rumors of the WiFi being "fixed" soon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Moved to Stock Island

Event Horizon has moved to the Key West Harbour Yacht Club of the Americans located on Stock Island, which is connected to the island of Key West by a short bridge over Cow Key Channel. The northern side of Stock Island is home to the Key West Golf Course and the Monroe County Detention Center. The southern side of the island is home to numerous mobile homes and marinas. "Key West" it is not.

Due to draft constraints, we made approach just before high tide because there is a coral head that creates a shallow spot in the channel just before entering the deep harbor marina.

The Key West Harbour Yacht Club (not to be confused with the Key West Yacht Club located off N Roosevelt on Key West Island) is located on the Atlantic Ocean side of Stock Island and about six miles from the furthest tip of Key West. It's a new luxury marina facility in the midst of financial rescue that recently began offering its slips to transient boaters at an unusually affordable (temporary) rate of $20/foot per month plus utilities.

The marina has a waterside restaurant, fitness center and heated pool--high-style living my captain warns me not to get used to.

Top photo is the marina entrance, bottom photo is a view of Event Horizon (tall mast) at the dock from the clubhouse restaurant.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sea Grass

Large amounts of floating sea grass have been causing problems by clogging up the water intake valves when we try to run the generator to charge the batteries and make water. At one point my captain was forced to go diving to clean the grass from the generator's saltwater intake seacock. Although we keep plenty of spares, we'll run out impellers soon if the current sea grass condition keeps up.

The temperature highs are still dropping while the wind and choppy water continue to make it difficult to go ashore.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year's Day 2010

Spent the morning dinghying around to marinas on the gulf side of Key West, continuing to explore our options for keeping the boat (and me) safe while my captain travels later this month.

Our plan had been to call the Garrison Bight Mooring Field home for the month of January until we were informed the mooring area will only handle boats up to 50ft, including any overhangs. No exceptions. Unfortunately these are the only transient moorings in the Key West area... While I might feel more secure swinging from one of these moorings, they are a long dinghy ride from the closest public dock and even further from the Key West buzz. Such tribulations are sure to put the kibosh on any of my friends coming to visit. But then the thought of being at anchor by myself for a week makes me nauseous. For now I’ll focus on the few remaining options, dockage at a marina on nearby Stock Island.

We were back at base by lunch to prepare for the approaching cold front--our first "big blow" in Key West. The dinghy was secured on deck when the first squall line arrived in the afternoon with 30kt gusts and heavy rain that reduced visibility to a few short yards. It only lasted about 15 minutes but is was scary given the dense number of boats in the anchorage. (Photos above show visibility during the squall and just after.)

The front arrived with force at nightfall. By 7pm we were getting tossed around by steady 30-plus knot winds. We knew it was going to be a long night because the GRIB weather files were telling us it would be at least six more hours before the cold front was past, meaning the worst of the “blow” might be over by then. It was to be one of those nights when you put your deck shoes on and stay dressed ready for action. It’s a period of waiting and hoping for the best while you monitor the movements of your outside surroundings, watch the wind instruments at the chart table and listen to the VHF radio.

I used to worry most about dragging anchor but lately I fret more about other boats hitting us. And based on the look of our neighbors, I'm guessing the majority of these vessels don't have insurance. Such observations tend to drive the stress level up a notch...

During the first hour several boats in the anchorage had to reset their anchor or dragged including the yacht closest to our portside. On the bright side, by now there were fewer boats around us.

At 11pm the sailboat in front of us, apparently with no one on board, passed us to port as it dragged well beyond us onto the shoreline of Key West, ironically alongside the US Coast Guard station.

Discomfort from sustained 30-plus knot wind and lapping waves continued. Eventually the wind went to the north, which allowed nearby land to provide a little shelter. The change in wind direction also signaled the passing of the cold front. By 4am the brunt of the weather had passed, so although the wind strength remained in the low 20’s, I retreated to the comfort of my pillow.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Hello Key West

I hadn’t realized until today that it’s been a week since I stepped on terra firma. Poor weather kept me on board for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in St Augustine, then we set sail for Palm Beach where we opted not to disembark, and we were too exhausted to inflate the dinghy upon arrival to Key West.

It felt good to walk onshore. Surprisingly, I didn’t experience any land motion, which is common after days offshore, especially when the seas are rough. I walked for four glorious sun-filled hours, first along the seaport boardwalk collecting quotes from the marinas. The best price was $2.75/ft per day or $40/ft for a month plus utilities at Key West Bight Marina but they don’t have a slip available for all of January because they host Key West Race Week, an international sailing event January 18-22.

I strolled on to explore the popular Front Street area and then the entire length of Duval Street taking note of the places I want to drag my captain at some point during our stay.

By afternoon downtown was hopping with happy people and a range of entertainment but I would keep to the safety of the waterfront to welcome in 2010. Besides, the wharf offered a better view of the blue moon.  

Fun Facts: A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2.5 years. The last time was in May 2007. New Year's Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won't come again until 2028.

Happy New Year!