With decent weather forecast and a wind from the east, we left Boot Key Harbor after 6 weeks there and headed for Key West.
The initial plan had been to stop at a few anchorages along the way and check out some of the other Keys, but our trip had been delayed a few times by the weather, and we decided to leave early and make the 8-10 hour sail directly to Key West. Plans are to stay in Key West a while, so the weather on the whole should be nice more often for exploring around the Lower Keys when we decide to leave and start making our way back toward the east coast.
So, the weather forecast had been 10-15 knots from the east with 1-2 foot seas and decreasing winds toward the evening. Wait a second…quick lesson for all the non sailor readers of Fun on Holiday:
1 nautical mile is equal to 1.151 miles and 1 knot is equal to 1.151 MPH (it’s a division of distance between latitudes making navigation easier)
10 knots to 15 knots is equal to 11.51 to 17.26 MPH
Holiday is usually travelling around 6 knots or 6.9 MPH
Anyways, we got out of Boot Key Harbor and noticed right away that the swell was rocking us pretty good. The winds were also above 15 but from the back so we put up the headsail alone (from this direction the sail is acting somewhat like a parachute and the main sail would just get in the way) and headed west figuring the more relaxing, forecast weather would come as the sun rose.
At around 10:20 AM the new NOAA marine forecast came out and reflected what we were seeing. 15-20 knots (17.26-23.02 MPH) and 2-4 foot seas with a “small craft should exercise caution” warning. Seas (or waves) are measured from sea level, so the trough to the crest is about double that height. Also throw in that the forecast wave height is the average wave height of the highest 1/3 of the waves and individual waves may be more than twice the average wave height. So, when a big set came through, measured from sea level (somewhere around mid way up the wave) was well over 4 feet or 8ish feet from top to bottom. The wave period (distance between waves) was also pretty short which makes Holiday tip back and forth pretty severely.
All that explained just to give you an idea of what sailing can be like. These conditions don’t put us in any real danger (well, relatively speaking. getting in your car and driving through town or down the freeway certainly carries more risk). Maintaining the important and structural systems on Holiday is the highest of priorities, and we keep all our safety gear ready when we go to sea. We simply put on our life jackets and resigned ourselves to a bumpier, rockier, less comfortable day than we had planned. The good news was that we were making great time and the trip would end up taking us right at 8 hours (about as good a speed as we can make). We were also able to sail the whole trip and not use the motor which always makes me happy 🙂
As we neared Key West we heard the Coast Guard talking about safety info concerning navigating around a sailboat race on the VHF. A quick Google search showed us it was the Key West Race Week Regatta, and the race courses would be near our track (although easily avoidable). We had a front row seat to 100’s of racing sailboats shooting across the horizon. They were all lucky, of course, that we had places to be, or I would have jumped right in and showed them what was what…
We opted for the mooring field instead of anchoring at Key West since we are planning to stay for at least a month. The cold fronts this year so far have brought considerable blasts of wind, and the extra money for the mooring over anchoring is the price we’ll pay for the peace of mind that our anchor won’t drag in the middle of the night or that another boat won’t drag into us.
We watched our first beautiful sunset and then our first amazing sunrise over Key West and have already spent a day walking around this awesome town. Make sure to click on the Youtube link above to see videos of our trip so far. I’m getting close to being caught up and got some good videos of the rocky sail over that will be up in the next week or so as well.