First Sailing Trip (to the FL Keys)!!

On the project front things are coming along pretty well. Also still full of frustrations and new projects/fixes taking over time that we had allocated to planned projects/improvements, but thats all par for the course. Biggest/most exciting recent addition is the custom stainless steel solar arch being delivered so we could start installing the panels.

Our original goal was to install without posts, but once in place it was immediately clear that the structure wouldn’t support the weight of the panels (2x375watt panels for a total of 750watts)… so we ended up adding two stainless posts in the back that hopefully will also prove useful for other functions (hammock stand immediately comes to mind) as we learn to live aboard.

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We also recently got neighbors!! Sitting in this disgusting industrial marina all alone hasn’t been great, and after staring at the Catamaran across from us for a couple weeks we were stoked to see the lights on. A family of four, also embarking on a great journey and also new to sailing (see… we’re fine - everybody does this)!

They recently quit everything, sold everything and moved onto the boat to learn to sail and head for the caribbean. It’s a pity we don’t have anything to talk about. ;)
The’ve been on their boat a few months longer than us, but we’re on similar paths and it’s been great having someone to bounce ideas off of, compare boats/rigging and discuss mutual fears/anxieties. Im also thrilled that now when I get the hateful texts/emails/comments about “only people without kids can do this” I have someone to send them to as proof that you get to choose at any point what to do with your life. No excuses. These guys are out here killing it (and their kids are loving it)!

I think somewhere last week it hit us.
We hit a wall of some kind. We’ve been tired and exhausted, but now turned the corner toward grumpy, anxious and restless. We’ve been here almost a month, which is a long time for us even somewhere we love to be- but we don’t love being here. We don’t like the money were spending, how every day is spent on projects only, and we don’t like that as long as were here in this location, we’re stuck squarely in that “phase”.

I think we finally realized that this ebb and flow of extreme rush/anxiety and lows/failures was taking its toll on us, and the thing that we weren’t getting enough of was the highs to balance it all out. We are tired of sitting in the sesspool that is our little corner of this marina. We’re tired of being minutes from the ocean but never having the time to go see it or stick our toes in it. We are tired of living on a boat and paying for an expensive slip but not reaping any of the benefits of boatlife… and frankly, the holiday weekend is upon us, so as long as were just sitting and checking social media it sucks to think about what and who we’re missing back home.

So we decided it was time.
We wrapped up any and all projects that we could (primarily the solar and new chartplotter), taped the boat together as best we could and set out for an entire weekend.

We left the channel that has at least begun to feel comfortable, got safely outside and put the sails up before pointing south. Sweet, sweet Freedom!!

We sailed all the way to Miami, where we tucked into Miami Marine stadium just before sunset. Our first time dropping anchor!! The harbor was well protected (not that the weather made it necessary) but the holiday crowd was out in full effect. Not too bad here, but every hour a so a powerboat would stroll through the bay with 20people onboard jamming out to their latin mix. Some days it might have driven us nuts, but today we didn’t care. We were elated to be out in the open, to be surrounded by water and to be seeing new sights.

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We were rewarded with a great sunset and slept like babies (for the first time in a while). In the morning we woke up, got under way and headed further south into Biscayne Bay and the upper keys. This meant turning under our first bridge to get out of miami, which was somehow stressful despite checking the height and measurements 3 times to make sure we had plenty of room. Just too easy to picture us ripping the mast right off and ending up on the local news.

Winds were still with us and having the full day to sail in a protected bay was lovely. Got to work on our tacking, reading the charts and watching the actions of other boats before and after us… all good things.

Until… a gust blew through just as we were trying to tack and as our solent sail luffed in the wind the shackle holding it to the halyard broke completely free! Yikes!
Immediately our day goes from calm and leisurely to intense and stressful as we have a wild sail flapping around the boat uncontrollably. I run up on deck and grab the sail unsure whether this is a good or (very) bad idea and picture the wind tossing me out into the bay at will if it chooses to. I shout into the wind for to Jen to hold the boat in irons (directly into the wind) so I don’t get pulled over and then start trying to troubleshoot.

I grab at a spare line and tie it onto the sail and wrap the loose end around our winch and finally somewhat under control. I take a few deep breaths while Jen puts the boat into autopilot and climbs around the mast looking for the shackle pin that is clearly not there. We trade positions and I run below to search for a spare shackle, which we do not seem to have (don’t worry… several are now on order). We notice that we have an extra block at the base of the mast and grab some pliers to remove it and steal/borrow it’s shackle to reattach the sail.

All’s good again and we slip back onto the cushion at the helm to catch our breath, be grateful that turned out as well as it did, and try to appraise what just happened. I’m not sure there is much we could have done to avoid that, or if we could have done anything different in handling it on the fly… but you better bet I went around and tightened every other shackle I could find on board before we even reached our destination!

We began getting a bit worried about making it to the keys before sunset, so we motored the rest of the way but also started seeing how shallow things got so we might have decided to dropped the sails anyway. I spent the last 30-60 minutes up front watching and trying to tell how deep it was and if we were likely to run aground.

We planned on heading for Boca Chita Key, but a glance through our binoculars showed dozens of boats, clearly in partying for the holiday weekend so we decided to head for nearby Sands Key and a quiet anchor drop instead.

We found a spot we were comfortable with well inside of a pair of monohulls and dropped anchor for the second time. True pros at this point i’m sure. We tidied everything up and watched the sun start to set and simply couldn’t help ourselves- we were leaping off the back deck into the water less than 15minutes after shutting down the engines. Finally!!! our first time in the water since arriving to FL. That was WAY overdue!!


We enjoyed a much deserved sunset cocktail and then got a great nights sleep before exploring a bit in the dinghy looking for a decent spot to snorkel (which we didn’t find, but did get to watch a lemon shark chasing a school of jacks from the dinghy!) before turning back north.

We would have loved to continue onward south to Key Largo (or further) but had a appointments we had to make early in the week (measurements to replace our ripped sail bag, watermaker inspection, etc) so we made our way back north to Miami.

But not before more drama/issues - of course. During my pre-sail inspection of fluids and status I notice that we have a ton of water inside of our port engine compartment. Not enough to sink us, but in a compartment thats supposed to be bone dry enough to be unsettling at the very least. And lets face it- were floating in the middle of nowhere for the first time ever, so seeing your engine sitting in water will make the mind jump at least for a few moments to whether it might sink you! =/

We determined that it was fresh water (way better than a leak allowing the ocean to come onboard), traced the leak to the deck shower and did some plumbing repair before climbing down into the engine compartment to evacuate the water. Not exactly why we brought red solo cups onboard… but it worked.

The rest of our safety checks complete we got underway pointing north. Sadly, this time the winds were against us, so we motored dead into the wind all day and this time dropped anchor just outside No Name Harbor. Not only did it appear lovely, but we’ve read that this will likely be the best spot to depart from when we cross the Gulf Stream to the Caribbean (hopefully in a couple weeks), so it seemed a good idea to come check out the situation and get comfortable with the area before we have to do it in complete darkness next time.

We could see all the masts tucked inside the marina, where they paid $20/night to be protected but we opted to stay just outside and had a lovely evening except when motorboats would zip past at full speed within 20’ of us and send giant wake our way. The entire boat would toss side to side and send everything falling from countertops and shelves… and I could only imagine what the monohulls just up the shore from us must be doing.

In the morning we departed for open waters and again beat straight into the wind in order to get back to Ft Lauderdale before dark. We wanted to be heading south instead of back to the marina… but I will say we had more energy and enthusiasm then when we left.
This was a much needed getaway and at least gave us a taste of what’s to come… and we CANT WAIT!!

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