Marathon to Key Biscayne, Florida

What were we thinking? Planning to stay in Marathon for a couple of days, and then move on. We should have known better since we have been delayed here for weeks, months, and sometimes years, in the past. So it is not surprising that after 10 days we are finally getting under way again. For those at the City Of Marathon Marina in Boot Key, that would have meant 2 weeks payment on one of your moorings instead of it sitting empty, as a result of your, in our opinion, unreasonable pricing policy. It is easy to get comfortable tied to the dock with power and water but we really want to get north. The problem in the Keys is one of wind and weather. The Keys pretty much run east and west until you get to Key Largo then they begin to turn the corner and take a more northerly orientation. So with winds daily at 15 to 20 out of the east it would be an uncomfortable slog into seas and wind, not making a lot of head way. In addition, something the chamber of commerce does not want you to know, Florida in June and July is a terrible place to travel by boat. Anyone that has read our posts to date is aware of the constant battle with storms almost on a daily basis. Being in Marathon has been no different and trying to just get to Miami has proven a task. But the winds have finally laid down and the chance of thunderstorms has been reduced to 60%, so we are finally off to our first anchorage north at Rodriguez Key off Key Largo.
As has been fitting, the winds were just south of east and we need to go east so it was just enough of an angle that we could motorsail but not sail. They pretty much remained in the 8 to 10 knot range all day. We arrived at Rodriguez at 1:30 in the afternoon and settled in as several other boats arrived during the afternoon. Just about as the sun set and it was getting dark, the storms made themselves known in the distance with billowing clouds and lightning. We watched them on the local news and on our own radar as they developed and marched all around us for most of the evening. There were some pretty spectacular lightning displays from all points of the compass. The local weather radar showed a massive storm center out in the Gulf Stream towards the Bahamas. But this night we lucked out and they passed to the north and south of us but no direct hits. These storms can not be taken lightly. They can and do pack winds anywhere from the 40 knot range to hurricane force and they come upon you quickly. The wind front usually hits you first, then the torrential rains, sometimes leading to zero visibility for long periods of time. Add to this the dangerous cloud to ground lightning and the potential for hail the size of baseballs and you get the picture. We have been dealing with these storms daily for weeks now and it is getting a bit more than stressful.
Rodriguez Key also has an east and west orientation so east winds will make it a pretty rolly anchorage and the prevailing winds are from the east. The bottom is grassy here making for less than favorable hold as proved by our anchor’s reluctance to set when we arrived and the ease in which it came up when we left. This is the most used stop between Marathon and Key Biscayne and many use it as a jump off stop for the Bahamas. We finally fell asleep very late and the bouncing all night would wake us from time to time. We were one of the first boats out the next morning. Wind forecasts called for light winds around 10 knots out of the southeast, which would have been good for sailing, then they changed their mind that morning and forecast light 5 to 10 and variable. We mostly had no wind so motored off toward Key Biscayne burning off yet more of that expensive diesel. As we often note, this is a trawler with big aluminum sticks poking out of the deck.
Not to leave this day to be anything other than normal, as we approached the Biscayne Channel off Fowey Light and the west end of Key Biscayne, we watched the thunderstorms march over Miami and the western side of Biscayne Bay. As we made the turn we began preparing. The tide was at dead low so we could not use our normal route, which is to turn out of the channel and head directly for Cape Florida Light until we hit the park seawall, run alongside it and go around the shoals to the anchorage behind Key Biscayne. With the tides so low, we were forced to go all the way into Biscayne Channel to the middle of Biscayne Bay, past the area formally called Stiltsville for the homes built over the water in the middle of the bay. We were also heading directly into the worst part of the storm.
Just as we exited the western end of Biscayne Channel it hit us, again with a vengeance. Initial winds started at 25 knots and quickly built to 35 knots, then the rains started. The waters in the Bay are only 9 to 12 feet here so a very steep chop developed as soon as the storm hit. Another concern was the shallow waters just behind us that were actually bare with the current tides. We had to make sure we were not blown back into the shallows. At one point we had the engine running at full throttle and were making only 1.9 MPH and a few times we were even moving backwards while motoring hard into the wind and waves. A few boats that were out there with us were doing their best and trying not to run into each other in the zero visibility. While all of this was going on a friend called us on the cell phone to let us know there was a serious weather watch for the Bay, and we said yes, we know. The whole thing lasted for almost an hour and eventually the winds dropped to 30 then 25, then 20, and by then we had everything back under control. It is amazing how relieved you can be to see the winds down to 25 knots. Well I guess, we never really were out of control but sometimes it seems that way. And did I mention that while all of this was going on we had morons with large sport fish and even smaller power boats running up and down past us at full throttle making huge wakes. Welcome to Miami!
Once it all passed, we motored the rest of the short distance to our usual anchoring spot behind the west side of Key Biscayne, and just off the several mansions on the shoreline. We were surprised at the number of boats already anchored and several more came in after we did. Fortunately the rest of the evening and into the night it was very peaceful and quiet. We were able to get a much needed good nights sleep and even sleep in the next morning.
Our plan here was a lay day the next day and a fuel stop at Crandon Marina. So around noon time we pulled up the anchor and made the short run to Crandon. We had been there once before but I believe it was 12 years ago. Amazingly, not much had changed except some construction for a new dock office. We topped off with diesel at $4.92 including tax per gallon, which is cheap compared to other fuel stops we have made. This is also the same price they quoted us on the phone two weeks ago. We topped off the water tank at no charge and dropped off our trash, all part of the service. By this point we had used up 40 gallons of our precious diesel, but considering the distance we have traveled, all under power that is not too bad. We returned to our anchor spot from earlier and dropped the hook in a nice easterly breeze. But the storm clouds were brewing to the southwest, exactly where they came from the day before. We had discussed earlier that the easterly sea breeze was definitely stronger than the day before and wondered if that would affect the daily gales. And sure enough the storms were fewer and lesser in intensity and stayed inland most of the day except well north of us. So we finally got a break for the day and hopefully for the evening. I just hope we don’t have to pay for it tomorrow when we make the run up the Atlantic beaches to Ft. Lauderdale.

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