24 Hours to Coconut Grove

Thursday February 27, 2014

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Monday June 10, 2013, Grand Cayman Island. That’s the last good snorkeling Matt and I have had on this trip. We’ve been to many other so called diver’s havens: the Bay Islands, Belize, Mexico; but each time we dropped ourselves below the surface we saw murky water and little or no coral. We’re going through a little bit of snorkler’s withdrawal at the moment. So when it was mentioned to us by a few people that there is a great place for snorkeling and diving in the Keys called John Pennecamp State Park, I was just a little excited to go. I’d been researching the area since Key West, but had yet to come up with an anchorage in or near the area, or even find out exactly where this good diving was if not buying tickets on a tour boat for them to take you there. I was all set with plans to have Matt just drop the hook anywhere in that area while we spent all day searching for this coral if necessary, but then I started to read a few accounts on how only boats with drafts of just 4’6” and under are allowed in there. We’re a little over that, and taking chances of bottoming out on coral is not on my list of things to do, so it looks like we won’t get our diving in until we’re back in the Bahamas. I am really starting to look forward to those gin clear waters again.

Since we now no longer had any reason to stop midway, we set our sights on heading straight from Marathon to Miami, about a 118 mile trip. Getting the anchor up with the sun at 7:00 we motored out into glass calm seas. Finally a passage where I can actually do things! Clean the galley, do work on my computer, read a book. But first, I had to get out of all these crab pots and out to deep water. Matt was quickly back to bed since there was nothing for him to do in the cockpit, and I guided us out of the banks and angled us toward the Gulf Stream. There were quite a few fishing boats to look out for, an obstacle that we’re not used to encountering, so my attention unfortunately had to be focused on the water instead of any other projects.

I took to watching the water and all the garbage that would gather in the seaweed patches we’d pass through. I’m beginning to realize there are way too many plastic bottles floating out at sea. One thing that was much more abundant than discarded oil jugs though, were man-o-war jellyfish. Although we’d been seeing them constantly since Belize, my new goal was to get a good shot of one on my camera. Sliding open the wooden panel in the salon as quietly as possible as not to wake Matt, I lifted my camera bag out and tiptoed back up the steps into the companionway. The game was now on. Time after time I’d watch one pass by our hull only to realize too late that I didn’t have enough time to grab my camera and capture it. Preparing myself the next time with camera in my hand I was like a Planet Earth videographer in the jungles of the Amazon, statue still with camera at my eye, waiting for any kind of movement.

When Matt roused himself out of bed just before noon he found me scampering from one side of the cockpit to the other, full of excitement each time I saw something that looked like a plastic water bottle floating out in the water. Finally I saw my shot coming. There was quite a large one just up ahead of us, and it looked like it would pass within only a few feet of our hull. Running up on deck I positioned myself with my camera and waited for it to come on our starboard side. This was going to be a close one. Too close in fact. Just as it was coming in view for me to get a good photo it disappeared under our hull. We ran the damn thing over. Sigh. Giving up on this little project for the moment I grabbed my last can of Monster out of the fridge, a gift I actually received from a friend back in the Cayman Islands, and resigned myself to the shade with a good book. Since I’ve been reading nothing but trash lately Matt suggested I try 1984. We’ll see how it turns out.

It wasn’t hard to tell when we’d found the Gulf Stream, our speed jumped up to 7 knots, and since I had been monitoring water temperature as well, the rise of 2 degrees was also a dead giveaway. With the sails now up and trimmed, we sat back as the waves rose to 2-3 feet, but still comfortable enough for me to enjoy the book. The rest of the afternoon flew by as we kept these positions, only momentarily moving to grab food or use the head.  As night fell and Matt was down taking a nap before his first watch began (how much can that boy sleep in a day?) I was busy dodging all the large ship traffic out in the Gulf Stream.  I swear, none of them decided to come out until it was night.  Trying to keep a position between three different ships passing up and down, I eventually passed only 1/3rd of a mile from one of them, something Matt woke up just in time to see and scold me for.  It was that or lose my sail trim.  I still say I chose wisely.

We pulled in to the Government Cut of Miami just as the sun was coming up, but with still a long way to go before reaching our destination at Dinner Key Marina.  Or more accurately, the channel outside of it.  We like to anchor, what can I say.  After having just come off a 9 hour watch to get there, I was exhausted by the time we finally dropped anchor.  Letting Matt put the boat back together since I told him to sleep while I had stayed on longer (he had NO idea where we were going, I didn’t trust him alone up there), I passed out in bed, not to get out of it for the rest of the day.

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 First jellyfish spotted!

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The jellyfish that was soon under our hull.

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This ship was 1 mile away, imagine it 2/3rds closer, at night!

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