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.

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