Monday, December 10, 2018

2018: Bahia Honda State Park to Faro Blanco Marina

Depart: Bahia Honda State Park 11:45
Arrive: Faro Blanco Marina, Marathon, FL 1:45
Distance: 14 NM

The park ranger at Bahia Honda State Park told us we could stay past the normal check out time, so we went exploring in the morning before departing for Marathon. My only regret was that I had neither my FitBit nor my cell phone with me to track the number of steps I took today. We walked for more than two hours and covered a whole lot of territory. I just don't know how far we walked.

Views from the boat docks ...

Mounds of Sea Grass - good for the environment

Artistic shot: "Tangled Wood"

Peaking through the branches

Ev on bridge
Leaving the dock area to do more exploring at the park

Around the campers campsite area ...

We crossed under the highway ...

6'8" Clearance to go under the highway
Clark wanted to be measured to be sure he could fit under!

Painted water pipe - very attractive compared to the alternative

Moray Eel

I liked the turtle the best

View from under the highway

We came out from under the highway and walked down a long road on a sunny and humid day. At one point I told Clark, "I'm melting!"

Long, hot walk to see the cabins
(Fishermen on side of road)

 When we got close enough to just see the roofs through the branches, Clark asked if I wanted to continue. I am not sure it was worth the walk the rest of the way, but we did it.

Here are the cabins.

The road we had just walked had a fence that ran the full length of it. Clark said that if we crossed the highway, we could walk on the ocean side. That sounded like a great idea, and I found us a gate to get through.  We crossed over the four lane highway and came to the main entrance for the park. Fortunately, we saw little to no traffic at the point when we wanted to cross the highway.

Bahia Honda State Park
main entrance

We walked past the guard station where admission fees are collected. The park ranger came out to greet us. I guess he wanted to collect his per-person admission fees. We told him we came by boat and kept walking.

Long road back but much cooler with the ocean breeze.

Interesting, but I have no clue what I am looking at.

Love this "Share the road sign"
Share with bikes, golf carts, pedestrians and turtles!

Natural landscaping on the Atlantic Ocean beach...

The next part of our self-guided tour brought us to the old Bahia Honda bridge trail.

Gnarly Tree At Bahia Honda State Park

Up we go ...

Lone shrub on an island
(seen on the walk up to the bridge)

We got great scenery once we reached the bridge.

View of the beach below

Clark could not believe the bridge was wide enough for two cars to pass. He paced off the bridge and came up with 20.5' wide.

Only a short section of the road is made available for viewing.
The rest is gated off.

Looking down on the Atlantic Ocean side

View towards the Gulf

After entering the main entrance and passing the guard station, we came upon a man replacing the green "safe" weather flag with a yellow "hazard" flag. Signs posted nearby said, "No kayak rentals today". As we stood on the bridge, the people around us commented on how windy it felt today compared to the day before. One man stood with his arms outstretched with the wind hitting him and said, "I feel like that guy, uh, Leonardo da Vinci, in the movie Titanic." He told his wife to climb up on the railing to recreate the scene. She declined.

I had hoped that we could walk a bit of a distance on the bridge, but since that would not be the case, we made our way back down to the Atlantic Ocean beach side. Here we got another perspective on the bridges.

Highway built on top of old railroad trestle 

65 feet in the air

The exploration of the old bridge trail was our last activity before heading back to the boat to get ready to leave for Marathon. Clark checked the radar and saw a storm headed our way, so we made haste to leave before the storm's arrival. The folks we met from the sailboat "Serena" were already preparing to leave when we arrived back at "Sunset Delight". Clark helped them throw off their last line and they were underway.

"Serena" making her way up the narrow channel exiting the
Bahia Honda State Park docking area

We enjoy meeting new people and chatting with them, but sometimes it can be extremely inconvenient to chat. As we hastily prepared to cast off, a gentleman meandered over to gawk and talk. Trying to be at least somewhat polite, we gave short answers to his myriad of questions. As I busily removed my fenders and chatted to Clark via my headset, the man decided to start talking about how nice it was we could talk to each other. "I don't have anyone to guide me", he said, "so I backed my truck into the fence over there and dented it."

He proceeded to explain how he had no boat now, but he wanted to get one just like ours and travel to the Virgin Islands. He asked where we got our boat. He also asked, "How do you get to the Virgin Islands?" I wondered if he has never owned a boat and, if he backs his pickup into fences, how he would do with a 50+' boat.

Glad to be leaving, I prepared to pull in my last line and said, "Sorry we couldn't chat, but we are trying to get out of the way of a rainstorm." He then asked where we were heading and how long we would be there. "I'll be at Faro Blanco on Tuesday", he replied to my answer. "I'll look for you then." Oh joy!

As we left the park, we passed a small sailboat.

Sailing class in progress

We decided to take the gulf-side route to get to Faro Blanco - it would be shorter and less windy. The down side of this choice is the bridge clearance of only 20'. We had to take our mast down. Unlike most bridges, this bridge had no clear indication as to where we should pass under it. Clark stationed me on the bow to spot for troubled waters in terms of depth. Only problem ... I could not see very far into the water to have any clue what might be under there. It might be shallow or deep, clear of obstructions, or full of hazards. I had no idea.

As we approached the bridge span Clark finally decided to target, he asked me repeatedly, "Will we make it?" "I have no idea", I replied. "I don't have a good perspective from down here on the bow." Finally, I gave him the affirmative answer he was looking for, and we passed under the bridge. From my less-than-ideal vantage point, it looked like we had plenty of room, but we agreed that we definitely needed to lower the mast.

A hardy tree grows on the bridge adjacent to Route 1. We have come to learn over time that at some point the tree acquired the name "Fred". I recently read a Facebook post by someone from Marathon.

The story went like this. ...

     "I was driving on Route 1 and saw some debris in the road that appeared ready to cause an accident. I called the police and told them, 'There's something dangerous on the road - right by Fred'. The police responded, 'Okay, we know exactly where you mean. We'll get someone out there right away.' Only in the Keys can you give Fred as a mile marker!"

"Fred" on bridge near Route 1

We hoped to find less traps on the Gulf side than we dealt with on the Atlantic Ocean side approaching Bahia Honda State Park - no such luck. One or the other of us had to be alert and steer manually to avoid hitting them. They were everywhere and in no particular pattern. We had no hope of putting the boat on autopilot, so we could put our mast back up. The trap markers came in all sorts of colors - white, yellow, red, and sometimes green. Some colors are harder to see than others.

Green trap marker on blue-green water ...
"The worst!" per Clark

Even in the channel, we had to weave around trap markers. Normally the channels are considered off limits. That certainly was not the case here. Finally, we left the traps behind us long enough to get the mast in the upright position. Shortly after, we found ourselves at the entrance to the Faro Blanco marina.

Entrance to Faro Blanco Marina on the Gulf side of the Keys
Marathon, FL

We got settled in and registered. Boaters we know from prior years stopped by to welcome us and tell us about docktails tonight. Instead of the place we met in past years, docktails would convene by Mel and Ann's boat which is one slip over from ours. When we got together later, we had a good turn out and a very long docktails. It started at 5:00 p.m. I got chilly and left around 7:00. Clark returned to "Sunset Delight" about 40 minutes later. The gathering continued on until almost 9:00 without us.

Somewhere in there Clark managed to get a gorgeous sunset picture!

Sunset in Marathon, FL

Saturday, December 8, 2018

2018: Everglades National Park to Bahia Honda State Park FL

Depart: Everglades National Park, Gulf of Mexico anchorage 8:15
Arrive: Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys 2:10
Distance: 46 NM

We traveled inside the Everglades National Park boundaries as long as possible to avoid crab traps on our way to the Florida Keys. As we traveled through this area, a pair of frisky dolphins gave us quite a show. I have seen dolphins in paid-for shows that did not give us the performance we got today.

Dolphin pair giving us a great performance on the water

The two dolphins liked to jump. The came straight for the boat, got in front of us, and then did synchronized jumps at least six feet into the air. They jumped twice, but of course, by the time the camera appeared they had decided to quit. In addition to dolphins, I saw a sea turtle swim by. Of course, he too was camera shy.

The main event for today's travel, however, became "trap dodging". In trap-infested waters, I think the auto pilot is more of a curse than an asset. As soon as Clark set the auto pilot up to follow our course line, a trap would appear directly on our course line. We hypothesized that the traps have a built-in mechanism, magnetic perhaps, that is designed to get our auto pilot to change course to head for the nearest trap.

Many fisherman lay out their traps in rows. Some however must be extremely lazy and just drop them helter skelter in no orderly pattern whatsoever. The "helter skelter" approach makes it hard to navigate through them. We went through one particularly bad section.

Just passed through a "mine field" of traps
every little white dot is yet another trap float

We spent over three hours dodging traps in the Gulf before finally arriving at the Florida Keys.

Passing by opening in old bridge on Moser Channel

Between the bridges ...
Bridge to Pigeon Key on left and Rte 1 Bridge on right

There we found that the traps we encountered on the Gulf were nothing compared to what we had to deal with on the Atlantic Ocean side. Seas were rougher and traps were everywhere. Clark could not use auto pilot here. He could hardly steer manually around them there were so many. With the stiff steering on our boat, he definitely got his workout in for the day!

Clark decided that he wanted to visit Bahia Honda today before settling in at Marathon for the rest of the month. I was ever so happy to see our escape route from the trap zone coming up shortly.

Old RR bridge in front is missing a section for boats to
pass through to Bahia Honda State Park

After clearing the two bridges into Bahia Honda State Park, we dropped anchor planning to use the dinghy to go in and explore the park. We had strong current and strong winds as we anchored. The first attempt failed. The second attempt held. We put out 150 feet of line to make sure we had a good hold on the bottom.

Once we were convinced we had a strong anchoring, we worked to get the dinghy down and ready to go exploring. This, unfortunately, did not go as planned. Clark climbed in and got all set to go.  He told me to wait until he had it started, and wait I did. The engine sputtered and choked and stopped multiple times. He could not keep it running.

After several attempts at keeping it going that all resulted in a stall, Clark decided that maybe if he ran the engine more open for a bit, it would clear out the problem. With the fast current, however, he was afraid he would not be able to row the boat back to "Sunset Delight" if the engine failed. We tied a long line to the dinghy that allowed him to drive the boat around the area to test out the outboard.

Clark driving dinghy while tethered to "Sunset Delight"

As Clark fought with the outboard, he noticed that the sailboat we saw come in had disappeared out of sight. "Now where did he go?" Clark wondered. Since he had no success with the outboard, he called the park ranger to find out the docking situation at the park. The park ranger told Clark that last year we could not have docked at the park. As a result of the rebuild after Hurricane Irma, the channel to the docks has been dredged and can accept large boats with deeper drafts now where, in the past, only small boats could come in.

After a detailed discussion concerning the width of our vessel versus the width of the channel into the park's docks, Clark decided to pull in the dinghy, pull up the anchor, and go check out the docks for the night. With all the messing about with the anchoring and dinghy nonsense, we had lost almost two hours of time we wanted to use exploring the park.

In addition to the woman working for the park system, the folks from the sailboat greeted us at the dock and helped us with our lines. As we said our hellos, the sailboat folks invited us to join them at the picnic tables later as they planned to grill "brats". We agreed we would look for them later on.

First we wanted to take a bit of a look around the area. For our first stop, Clark chose the gift shop for a bite of ice cream (me) and raspberry sorbet (him). As we ate our dripping-in-the-heat treats, we walked around the local area.

Tree Colony Bahia Honda Key
Unusual plant life lives here and is often studied by botanists

Obligatory signpost to far-off places

Beach on the Atlantic Ocean side of the park

Another view on the Atlantic side

Beach on the Gulf side and view of bridge out to the Atlantic Ocean

As we walked by the beach on the Gulf side, we found the trio from the sailboat cooking their "brats". We stopped to talk, and once again, they offered to share their grill and hot coals with us. Since Clark cannot eat port, we went back to the boat to grab some all-beef hot dogs to throw on the grill.

When we got to the campsite, I put the hot dogs on the grill, and Clark wandered off to take pictures of the sky. A storm was definitely coming our way. Our timing was the worst!

Ominous sky over Bahia Honda Key

I did not really want to cook on the grill. I had a quick, reheat dinner all planned and ready. However, I figured, since Clark wanted to join these folks, he could cook on the grill. Instead, when it came time to cook, he was nowhere to be seen as he was off with the camera.

We had noticed a couple of sprinkles of rain, but thought "this too shall pass" and decided to ignore it. Well, that was a big mistake! Although it was a relatively short-lived rainstorm, it brought a downpour. At first we hovered under a tree to get some shelter, but it soon became obvious that the tree would not do the job. The sailboat folks grabbed their stuff and fled back to the sailboat.

I braved the elements and went to reclaim my hot dogs from the grill. By the time I had scooped them up to carry back to the boat, I was very wet. By the time Clark and I made it back to our boat, I was soaked. Everything was drenched - my hat and coat sagged from the weight of the water, and my sneakers squished as if I had worn them to go swimming in.

Water poured off of me as I stood on the back of the boat trying to get my shoes off and drop my wet hat and coat. I had to ring the water out of my socks. Given my miserable state, I was cranky, irritable, and disgusted by the entire fiasco.

We dried everything off, including ourselves, and sat down to eat our meal alone. Perhaps we will meet up again with the sailing trio tomorrow. We can only hope for better weather!

As the storm passed, Clark got one more picture for the blog update.