Yesterday we moved the boat about 12 miles southwest from where we were anchored off Sands Key in Biscayne Bay to anchor off Linderman Key in Card Sound, passing through the narrow channel across Cutter Bank.
We spent five days on the hook at Sands Key, getting boat chores done and exploring nearby waters and small keys.
Cell reception there was not good, either weak or no signal even though the Miami skyline was in view, less than 20 miles away! Sometimes I would get a signal inside the boat, other times we had to walk around the decks holding our phones out like Mr. Spock held his tricorder out in Star Trek, trying to pick up service. The limited connectivity had the benefit of being less distracted from the beauty around us.
Our steaming light, halfway up the mast, didn't work during our night passage from Lake Worth, so I rigged up my ATN Mastclimber bosun's chair and inch-wormed my way up the mast. The bulb was blown and shattered as I tried to remove it, leaving small shards of glass on the deck, a small one making its way into Robin's foot. Sorry. I managed to extract the root of the bulb from its fixture, installed a new bulb and had Robin switch it on so that I could make sure it worked before I descended. It did, so I made my way down the mast and packed up all the gear, satisfied with another job completed.
Until I switched on the light myself to admire my work and the bulb didn't light. Ugh!! It was up the mast again the next morning to clean the fixture to get the new bulb seated properly. Now it's fixed.
I also did some research and troubleshooting on the Wakespeed WS500 charge regulators (see my final boat project update), which did not seem to be playing nicely with each other. It turns out that when you connect the two regulators together, the master regulator LED flashes green status codes and the slave regulator LED repeats these codes in orange. I had mistook the orange flashes for red error flashes and thought something was amiss when in fact everything was working fine. It would have been nice if the documentation for the regulators mentioned this, in my humble opinion.
The irony of completing the engine charging upgrade now is that, with winter behind us, the days are now long enough and the weather has been clear enough for the solar panels to keep the batteries fully charged! I have to purposely run down the batteries to test the engine charging system!
After completing boat work in the morning and eating lunch, we've been enjoying our afternoon excursions.
We kayaked up a narrow channel into a circular pond among the mangroves in the interior of Sands Key, encountering a large manatee along the way which swam under Robin's kayak and lingered there for a bit. The gentle, slow-moving creature was over five feet long and I'd estimate weighed over two hundred pounds. Robin was glad it was gentle and slow-moving.
We snorkeled along the mangrove roots at Sands Cut, which leads out of Biscayne Bay into the ocean. We lots of fish enjoying the shade and protection of the mangroves, but what was most amazing were the number of lobsters hanging out there. Dozens and dozens of them, peeking out of holes in the sandy coral or from between roots. The bottom was literally crawling with them. I've never seen so many lobsters in one place. I checked and discovered that lobster season in the Florida Keys closed on March 31 and doesn't open again until August, so I was out of luck, dinner-wise.
We took the dinghy to a beach on nearby Elliott Key and discovered a trail that led to the "Spite Highway", a narrow unimproved road that runs the length of the key. The "highway" is about eight feet wide, covered with leaves and goes through what I would describe as dense tropical hardwood forest, though that is probably not the proper ecological term. In any case, it was nice walking along the trail, shaded by the trees, no sounds except for birds and our leaf-muffled footsteps, smelling the organic, musty smell of the forest, a cool breeze filtering through the foilage. And, believe it or not, not a single mosquito! Everything I had read about hiking on these keys mentions them, often in tales of hikes abandoned due to dense clouds of the beasties. We have been very fortunate, none on our hikes, none while kayaking among the mangroves, none in or around the boat. I think there hasn't been much rainfall here.
Our new anchorage is off the shores of a large key, Palo Alto Key, that is chopped up into pieces by narrow channels than run through its mangroves. It is great for kayaking as most of the small channels are within the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge and are off limits to watercraft with internal combustion engines. Robin was a bit worried about exploring a place called Crocodile Lake in an inflatable kayak, but we didn't see any crocodiles or alligators. (It reminds me of an Australian joke: What to salt water crocodiles call inflatable dinghies? Answer: Teething rings.)
Today the weather forecast threatened thunderstorms with high winds and lightning, so we decided to stay put on the boat. The haven't materialized yet, although it has been pretty windy. It looks like they won't arrive until tonight and might miss us completely.
Only a few more days before we need to turn around and head to Fort Lauderdale and begin getting the boat ready for loading onto the ship. That is, if the August 19 loading date still holds.
|Mostly-lazy days in the Keys|