Days 7 & 8 – Iggy Biggy

Miles cruised 109 in two days, fuel purchased $0, slip fee $0, daily high temperature 83°f

Pilar was not always named Pilar after Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat. Gabe has been to Cuba 66 times and is a big fan of Ernest Hemingway. Her original name was Iggy Biggy. A name and logo selected by the previous owners daughter. On Gabe’s AIS the boat name is still Iggy Biggy. When other boaters see his AIS signal they see the name Iggy Biggy and call Gabe on the VHF radio by that name. He vows to get that changed soon.

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The original Pilar has been restored in Cuba.

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Cruising on a sailboat is generally described as hours of boredom punctuated by moments of shear terror. During this cruise we had long stretches between anchorages but no shear terror. We cruised 450 miles in 8 days from Miami to the Dry Tortugas and back. Pilar is an amazing boat in heavy wind conditions which eliminated any real “excitement.” The sailing was exhilarating going 7 -9 mph in 20 -25 mph of breeze. To you non-sailors going 9 mph in a sailboat is the same as driving 120 mph in a car. The boat is heeling 20°, the waves are splashing and the wind generator is howling.

Pilar has many great features. The former owner installed many blue water cruising conveniences. No storm is going to dislodge these pans.

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The navigation station could double as the luxury cockpit on a private jet.

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On Monday we slept in and hoisted anchor at 9 am to motor from Marathon to Rodriguez Key. For our entire cruise the winds have been NE 15 – 25 mph. That was great for the first five days as we headed south and west. However our return trip direction is east and north so we had the wind on our nose for three days. That just means we motor and do not sail. The winds are forecast from the NE until at least Saturday. Not many boats are crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

The white arrow is pointing to the direction the wind is coming from and the direction we are going.  They are one in the same.

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Monday was our last night on Pilar. We fired up the Magma and grilled steaks. Gabe made a magnificent salad and green beans. We were well protected behind Rodriguez Key. Gabe experimented with his rope anchor. We had used his chain anchor all week. Both anchors held perfectly. After seven nights on the hook we did not drag at all. Long time live-aboard cruisers Bev and Dave Feiges would be proud of us.

On Tuesday we had the anchor up at 8:00 am for the last leg of the cruise back to Miami. Once again we had NE winds 20 – 25 mph on the nose and waves 2 – 4 with occasional 6 footers. Although, I think we had a few 8 footers as we turned into Biscayne Bay at the Cape Florida Light Inlet. It would take more than a 6 footer to slap Pilar around. We got rolled twice just enough to get our attention.

This view of south Miami greeted us as we neared our home port of Grove Isle Marina in Coconut Grove.

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Gabe docked Pilar like boss with strong winds in a narrow fairway. We spent a few hours washing tons of salt off of every square inch of her.  When we were finished she looked like new and ready for her next cruise.

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For dinner we headed back to our favorite Mobil station with the amazing tapas restaurant in the back.

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After dinner John and Priscilla drove 109 miles back to Stuart. Gabe sat on Pilar and smoked his last Cohiba of the day.

Bonus photo

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Day 6 – Key West to Marathon

Miles cruised 48, fuel purchased $0, slip fee $0, daily high temperature 83°f

Tucked away in Key West harbor we were protected from the NE winds by Flemming Key. We enjoyed the sunrise and the respite from the winds that will be on our nose all day.

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We hauled the anchor at 8:00 am and motored down the Key West Channel past Fort Zachary Taylor. The wind was on our beam until we turned the corner to enter the Hawk Channel on our way to Marathon. Then we motored 48 miles to our previous anchorage at Boot Key. Along the way we fired up the Magma grill and grilled sausages for lunch. The boat was a little rolly and the apparent wind on the grill was 20 – 25 mph but Chef Gabe grilled them to perfection with no casualties.

Boot Key is a mangrove island that forms the eastern protection for Boot Key Harbor at Marathon.

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We dropped anchor close to the entrance of Boot Key Harbor. We had discussed going into the harbor and picking up a mooring ball because we planned to go into town to feast on stone crab claws. Upon further investigation we noted there is a power cable crossing the harbor entrance. The power cable is 65′ high and Pilar’s air clearance is 64′. We might have made it.

No mooring space is wasted in Boot Key Harbor.

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As soon as the anchor was secure we dropped the dingy into the water. John and Priscilla took the dingy to explore Boot Key Harbor. There are a few marinas before the harbor entrance which is marked by an old bascule bridge that is now permanently open. We were looking for a seafood restaurant with a dingy dock. Just past Pedro’s fuel dock is Burdine’s Chiki Tiki bar and grille. They have a dingy dock. Unfortunately they do not have stone crab on the menu. We toured the harbor and very similar to Key West at least half the boats are derelict. It is unfortunate that so many moorings are taken by boats that are never used.

Boat for sale – contact John at Weber Yachts.

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There is a huge dingy dock at the Marathon City Marina. We docked and went into the office. We inquired if there were any restaurants within walking distance and if there was a fee for the dingy dock. The attendant was very friendly and advised us there were no nearby restaurants and the dingy dock fee was $23. That fee included a mooring ball and free pump out. No a la carte pricing.

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I used my phone to find “restaurants near me” and Castaways popped up. We had eaten there a few years ago. It is nicely situated on a canal next to a red neck trailer park. We took the dingy down the canal and found Castaways. They have a terrific dingy dock. I called them on the phone. Yes, they have stone crabs claws on the menu. The only problem is they ran out of stone crab claws. The Chinese have been buying all the stone crab claws at a higher price than the restaurants are willing to pay.

Some good eating!

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We returned to Pilar and started calling other local restaurants and found one that claimed to have all sizes of stone crab claws from medium to colossal. Our plan was to pay a dingy dock fee at Burdine’s and take an Uber car to the King Fisheries restaurant at 10925 Overseas Highway (A1A). Upon arrival at Burdine’s a mature woman met us and asked our intentions. Gabe and I turned on the charm to win her over but it was not happening. We asked if we could pay a fee to dock our dingy. She advised we could dock for free if we ate at her restaurant. We said we would if she served stone crabs. She confirmed they did not serve stone crabs.  I asked if we could leave the dingy if we had cocktails at her restaurant. Somewhat reluctantly she relented and wandered off.  I guess you could say she was gettin’ crabby.  We went up to the Chiki Tiki bar and ordered bad wine, a Sculpin IPA and a Diet Coke. I tried to order an Uber car but it was busy so I called the Bob Narley taxi service. They sent a driver right over. The five mile ride for three people to the King Fisheries was $5.00. We ate 1.5 pounds of medium stone crab claws and a Cuban sandwich. The restaurant is owned by a Cuban family and most of the patrons were Cuban so it was very authentic. After dinner Bob Narley took us back to Burdine’s. The dingy was still in one piece and we headed back to Pilar for the night.

Burdine’s Chiki Tiki Bar.

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How ’bout them Cubbies!

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Day 5 – Dry Tortugas to Key West

Miles cruised 68, fuel purchased $0, slip fee $0, daily high temperature 83° f

On Friday night one of the Cuban crabbers anchored at Fort Jefferson called the park ranger and asked for the weather report. The ranger replied that the forecast is for East winds 20 – 25 mph and waves 6 – 8 feet. YIKES! That was not the forecast we read that morning before we departed Key West for the Dry Tortugas. We shall see what morning brings.

At dawn the four crab boats set out for their days work pulling crab pots. We sat at anchor and had breakfast. It was still dark at 7:00 am but we could see the start of the sunrise. There was almost no wind. So much for that forecast. At 7:15 am a storm front blew through with NE winds 20 – 25 mph. Oh, that forecast.

We looked over at Fort Jefferson and the 16 million bricks that were shipped in to build it.

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I am sure that being sent to an island called the Dry Tortugas was not considered a good duty station. The entire roofing system was built to catch rain water for a massive cistern system. The cistern tanks eventually cracked from the weight of the fort and were flooded with sea water so giant steam stills were built to process sea water into fresh water.

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Fort Jefferson’s peak military population was 1,729. In addition, a number of officers brought their families, and a limited number of enlisted personnel brought wives who served as laundresses (typically four per company). There was also a lighthouse keeper with his family, cooks, and a civilian doctor and his family. In all, there were close to 2,000 people at Fort Jefferson during its peak years.

In the foreground is the giant oven that heated the cannon balls.

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We saw two Cuban refugee boats that had landed at Fort Jefferson. They were homemade with styrofoam flotation on the outside and a small inboard motor.

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There were still objects in the boats that were left behind by the refugees such as sneakers, shirts and homemade paddles.

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Somewhat ironically we saw a Cuban refugee boat nearing Marathon. It had the same homemade appearance and styrofoam floatation. It was moving at about one mile per hour. We could only see one person onboard. According to our local cabdriver, if a Cuban lands with “dry feet” the immigration agent takes them to McDonald’s, finds them housing, gives them healthcare  benefits and food assistance and helps them get a job.

We had a robust sail back to Key West. The breeze was NNE at 20 – 25 mph. Pilar was in her element. We had her on a close reach about 60° off the wind and she was making 9 mph over the bottom. This was the most wind Gabe had sailed in Pilar. Both boat and skipper handled the heavy winds well.  We practiced reefing ( shortening sail ) in these conditions and it went expertly.

We returned to our same anchorage in Key West near Flemming Key at 4:00 pm. We wasted no time launching the dingy and heading to happy hour at the Conch Republic.

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Next stop was Fausto’s super market for a few provisions and then to Grunts for dinner at the food truck. To our great disappointment the Bubbas were not playing. The lead singer had experienced a seizure resulting from complications from a motorbike accident.  We wish him well.

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This is the first weekend of Fantasy Fest in Key West. The festivities are still fairly tame but there were several observations of things to come.

Bonus photo

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