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December 1 - 31, 2006

In December, we finally got moving.  We started on December 1 with a short sail from Punta Gorda to Fort Myers Beach with an overnight stop at Cabbage Key.  In Ft. Myers Beach we bought spare parts for our new generator, had work done on the main sail furler, and had our washing machine repaired.  We were able to get all these things completed quickly, since we had scheduled them prior to our arrival.

Last summer we had planned to cruise the Florida Keys and visit the Dry Tortugas after our return from the Bahamas.  Our plans were changed due to our ailing generator, but John was still anxious to get to the Dry Tortugas.  We wanted to get some overnight sailing experience on the way to the Dry Tortugas.  We left Ft. Myers Beach on Wednesday, December 6 about 2:00 pm and arrived at the Dry Tortugas National Park on Thursday at 10:30 am.  We motorsailed 130 miles for more than 20 hours, with winds varying from 3 – 12 knots.  The moon was 2 days past full and the clear skies and calm conditions made a beautiful overnight sail.  We saw numerous shrimp boats and fishing boats along the route. 

Loggerhead KeyIt was a beautiful, warm day when we arrived in the Dry Tortugas.  The water is clear, reminding us of the Bahamas.  We anchored off Fort Jefferson at Garden Key and took a dinghy trip over to Loggerhead Key and walked the beach.  As predicted, the winds increased to over 30 knots that evening and we waited at Dry Tortugas for a week before we had any wind below 20 knots to make the trip east to Key West tolerable.  For four days, it blew so hard we stayed on the boat and didn’t even go to shore.  Fishing boats often use the harbor as an overnight anchorage, but for a several days they stayed in the harbor and didn’t fish due to rough seas.


We left Dry Tortugas for Key West bashing into waves and winds of 15 – 20 knots.  There was lots of water over the bow and on deck.  Our progress was slow, so we opted to stay overnight at Boca Grande Key rather than arrive in Key West after dark.  We arrived in Key West around noon on Thursday, December 14.

Key West is one of our favorite places to visit, but this was our first visit on Livin the Dream.  We anchored northwest of Wisteria Island and traveled by dinghy into Key West bight.  Since we are familiar with the area, it was easy for us to find everything we needed with the many convenient services and to finish our Christmas shopping for each other.  It was difficult to leave Key West after only a couple of days, but we wanted to travel further north to prepare for our crossing to the Bahamas.

A rainy day with light winds out of the northwest gave us a good opportunity to get to Marathon.  We arrived in a crowded Boot Key Harbor around 3:00 and were lucky to get a good anchoring spot just as another boat was leaving.  This was our first visit to Boot Key Harbor and we were welcomed by many friendly and helpful cruisers.  Several boats were decorated for the holidays and the Smorgasboat brought Christmas carolers around to the boats in the harbor one evening.

At Marathon, we studied our options to cross to the Bahamas and monitored the weather forecast.  We decided to leave from Marathon and enter the Great Bahama Bank at South Riding Rock.  We estimated our arrival times at various waypoints to choose the best departure time.  We pulled the anchor up off Boot Key at 6:45 am on Saturday, December 23 and found Southeast winds near 20 knots that moderated to 12 knots and came more from the East by the evening.  The Gulf Stream current gave us a great boost and we made over 8 knots for several hours.  We entered the Great Bahama Bank ahead of schedule at 10:00 pm and reached the Northwest Channel light at 7:00 am on Christmas Eve.  Since strong SE winds were forecast for the following day, we opted to continue our trip to Nassau rather than stop for a rest.  We tied up at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina about 4:00 pm on Christmas Eve and waited for Customs and Immigration.  Our trip from Marathon to Nassau covered 235 miles in about 33 hours, our longest passage so far.  We had a fairly fast passage averaging 7.2 knots.

  Ann up the mast

Nassau was unusually quiet on Christmas Day and a more pleasant visit than our time there in the summer.   All of the businesses were closed and there was little traffic.  We had a small Christmas celebration and completed a few boat projects.  We had lost the flag halyard used for our country courtesy flags and needed to go up to the spreaders to attach another one.  Ann had her first experience in the bosun’s chair as John used the windlass to raise her.  The wakes from boats passing in Nassau harbor made Ann swing around a bit, but it was a quick job.  We had planned to watch the Nassau Junkanoo parade beginning at 1:00 am on December 26, but the parade was rescheduled due to forecasted rain.  We left the marina on December 26 and anchored off Athol Island to continue our journey south.

The winds shifted to the north as predicted and we left Athol Island in overcast skies with 15 – 20 knots of wind.  Our original destination was for Allen’s Cay to snorkel off Highbourne Cay in the afternoon.  Since snorkeling conditions were not good and we had a good downwind sail, we decided to continue on southward.  We sailed over 70 miles and arrived at the Big Majors anchorage near Staniel Cay just before sunset.

During our waits for weather in December we have gotten a lot of boat projects completed including:

So finally we are back in paradise.  The water around here is crystal clear when you look straight into it and a beautiful turquoise color when you look at it from a distance.  You can see the colors in the pictures of the local sailboat races but of course the pictures can’t do it justice.

Class C sailboat races

 

 

We were hoping to welcome 2007 in Georgetown, but the weather has kept us at Staniel Cay.  Luckily, there are lots of activities at Staniel Cay surrounding New Year’s week-end.  We attended a cruiser’s beach pot luck where we met several cruisers including a few who are also planning a tip to the Caribbean.  We joined a dinghy drift as we watched Staniel Cay Class C sailboat races and attended a local fund raiser lunch barbeque.   Fireworks are planned for midnight on New Year’s Eve with Junkanoo to follow, and a cruisers regatta is planned for New Year’s Day.