During our stay in the Little Shark River, we had been listening to the weather daily. The wind had been coming from the south east (the direction we were wanting to go. not good for sailing), and we were watching for the day that the winds switched back to the typical north east pattern for this time of year. I also had my fingers crossed for a day during the transition where the winds would be slack. You see, I’ve always been intrigued by Cape Sable. Cape Sable is three points on the very bottom of Florida and the Everglades shaped like a crown. Far, far from anything. Between the points of the crown is nothing but miles and miles of secluded white sand beach facing out to the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay (zoom in on a satellite view on Google maps. you’ll see it). It’s also exposed to the weather and waves that can come over these large expanses of water. So, to do anything but stop for an hour or two, you want calm weather. And, if you want to spend the night at anchor and get any sleep, you need very light winds which aren’t common for this neck of the woods. Also, going those extra 12 miles from Little Shark to Cape Sable would reduce the next jump to Marathon in the Keys to another of those 30 mile hops that I had planned our Everglades stay by. Well, on Thursday, December 1st, we got what we were looking for. We left Little Shark early in the morning and motored the short couple of hours dropping the anchor at Middle Cape (the middle arrow in the map).
We spent the day dinghying around to the beach, reading, laying around (Lindy found a nice shade tree on the beach!), and walking up and down the beach checking out shells and all the different plants on the dunes. I’ve got to say, I always had my eyes peeled as we walked around, checking for anything that might want to bite or eat us! You definitely get a sense of the wilderness of the area when that far away from civilization. But, luckily all was clear on the beach and the dunes bordered by thick jungle just a few feet away that day. We also took the dinghy over to a small canal we saw on the chart through a cut in the beach back to Lake Ingraham just behind. As we were motoring through the cut, the engine shut off (as happens every now and then). It was only then that we noticed the tide was ripping through this tiny cut, and we would have no way to row against it if the motor didn’t start back. As we were swept into the lake, I chuckled and told Lindy to put the oars together so I could try to get us out of the current to await for the tide to slack and went to trying to start the engine back. It took quite a few pulls, but finally she came back to life after we had been swept a good distance back into this spooky large lake that was no doubt full of gators. At full power we crept back against the current and out of the cut. We saw a ton of wading birds during our short time in Lake Ingraham, and I’m sure it would have been fun to do more exploring, but our little experience with the motor cutting out left us wanting to leave well enough alone so we headed back to Holiday to hang out and watch the sunset over the open water. We didn’t get a lot of pictures at Cape Sable, but I did get some video. Now in Marathon, I’m going to go to work and get the Youtube channel updated. Stay tuned! Very early the next morning, we awoke and prepared to cross Florida Bay to the Keys. Back by popular demand is another picture of Lindy The Mosquito Warrior as she wasn’t taking any chances during her anchor up tasks.
We mostly motored the 6 hours to the Keys as the winds were light, it looked rainy, and high winds were forecast for the coming evening. I put up the sails once, but it really slowed our progress. So, we decided to not mess around, and go ahead and get across the most unprotected expanse of our cruise so far by the “iron genny.” The most notable thing about crossing this area of Florida Bay is the number of crab pots. They are crisscrossed in every direction everywhere you look in this huge expanse of water. For those unfamiliar, it’s a floating styrofoam ball connected to a rope that goes down to a cage sitting on the bottom (10-15′ in this area) that the commercial fisherman put out everywhere to catch the crabs that end up on your dinner plate. For the sailboat, that means that if I accidentally run over one, the rope will get entangled on my propeller and prop shaft. The prop might cut the rope, but it also might not. At best, I have to go in the water, swim under the boat, and untangle or cut the rope (already had to do this once up around Naples). At worst, it can damage the engine beyond what I would be able to fix at sea and result in thousands of dollars of repair work. So, these different colored balls are littered about 30 or so feet apart in every direction. We managed to make it without hitting any, but it takes constant watching and weaving (not that I’m complaining, it’s actually kind of fun…I guess until you hit one).
After 8 days out in the Everglades, we finally started to see the Keys rising in front of us. With all the rain clouds during the entire crossing, we only got a few sprinkles as we approached the famous 7 Mile Bridge.
Under we went and entered the Atlantic Ocean. We hung a left and headed straight for Marathon and Boot Key Harbor where we planned to get a mooring ball. It’s a huge mooring field with an interesting cruiser community that I will write about later, but we had read that by this time of year it is usually full with a waiting list. It’s a first come, first serve policy, and you can’t reserve until you are inside the harbor. Sure enough, it was full (200 and something mooring balls!). We tried to anchor in the crowded anchorage inside the harbor just next to the field but didn’t feel comfortable so we gave up and headed just outside the harbor where we had a little more elbow room but less protection and a longer dinghy ride to shore (that’s where we are now 3 days later and on the waiting list). Once we got anchored we dinghyed straight in and were glad to be back in civilization. We walked around and found this cool place called Keys Fisheries on the bay side with an awesome view, ordered up some raw oysters and smoked fish dip, and started our time as residents of the Keys! Something I’ve only ever dreamed about but now am living 🙂