Monday, June 10, 2019

To Biscayne Bay

June 10
24.5N 81.3W

Intermezzo departed Key West this morning at 0800 after topping off the diesel tanks. Lisa almost took an unintentional early morning swim by trying to step onto the dock at the wrong time while we were pulling in. I attribute it to her dancing at a club until 1:30 a.m. last night, an activity that I did not participate in so as to be well-rested for our passage. I am a very responsible but boring captain.

We are heading to Biscayne Bay where we hope to take a mooring ball near Dinner Key, very close to the Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami. At my planning speed of 5 knots, it would take us about 30 hours to get there, so we left Key West pretty early this morning. However, the Gulf Stream is an amazing conveyor belt and we are making 6.5 knots with no wind and an engine running at only minimum rpms. If we continue at this speed we will at the Biscayne Inlet before sunrise and will have to hover outside on the ocean until there is enough light to safely navigate the shallow, narrow inlet and its shoals.

It is hot in the still air. All we have to cool the inside of the boat are small fans. Outside in the shade and bit of breeze it is a little cooler. The heat caused me to reflect on the three-plus years of living on the boat in the tropics with no air conditioning. Most of the larger boats here in Florida do have A/C and I can understand why. Yet, I'm actually glad that Intermezzo does not have air conditioning. For one it is another system to deal with, one that consumes a lot of power and can only be used when plugged in at a marina, unless we also had a generator. That would be yet another expensive, complicated, heavy piece of machinery to have on board. Most of all, I've learned to tolerate the humid heat. I sweat and swelter, but I have learned to slow down, avoid being in the direct sun, drink a lot of water, go swimming and take lots of showers. Now when I go into air conditioned space, it feels icy-cold, like a freezer. A pleasant respite, but very artificial feeling. And it makes the heat feel 10 times worse when you step out of air conditioning.

I did a lot of passage research yesterday and learned some things that altered my plans.

There are two near shore routes from Key West to Miami, one "inside" (to the north) of the keys, one "outside" (to the south) between the keys and the outlying reefs. These routes are pretty well protected so are used by smaller vessels. For some reason, despite having sailed Intermezzo for nearly 12,000 miles on mostly open ocean, I initially decided to plot a course along the outside route. Then I started looking at the details and discovered that virtually none of the navigation aids that establish the route are illuminated. That would mean not being able to travel at night, cutting the distance we could sail each day in half. And then it occurred to me that I would be miss out on getting a big push from the Gulf Stream, which lies about four miles off the outline reef. Duh. We're sailing the "outside outside" route in the nice big open ocean. I figure the guidebooks that are devoted to the two inshore routes and silent about sailing in the ocean are written for winter conditions when the prevailing northeast winds blowing against the current cause very uncomfortable, sometimes very rough seas.

Further on up the road, I was planning on ocean passages with rest stops in Miami, Port Canaveral and Jacksonville before reaching the final destination for this leg at Charleston, SC. I discovered that getting to Jacksonville from and back to the ocean involves over 20 miles of travel on the St. John's river each way. That's too far. So now I'm planning to skip the rest stop in Jacksonville and sail all the way to Charleston from Port Canaveral, which be a 2 1/2 day passage. This plan also gives us a bit more wiggle room to wait out bad weather if we need to. I'd like to get to Charleston sooner rather than later, as I need to fly back to California for business no later than June 24. I'm cutting it pretty close and eliminating the Jacksonville stop eases the pressure from schedule slightly.