Log #53s Marathon to the Dry Tortugas

March 10, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 53 East Coast USA, The Logs

Placencia, Belize

March 10, 2012

Hi Folks,

We are just sitting out some heavy weather here off this pleasant peninsula town of Placencia. We had a pot luck get together last night with several other boats anchored here. Another small world situation came up when we met Tundra, another sail boat from Sarnia, Ontario. We were telling them of our experience in Sarnia in 1983 when Judy was to meet me at the Sarnia Yacht Club there while I was taking our earlier boat, Ruah Shanti, up to the North Channel with my brothers-in-law Bob Nelson and Don Norton. Judy was waiting on the grass of the yacht club, with a small outboard motor for Ruah Shanti’s dinghy, when she was invited on board a boat at the club for the night.  Kathy (from Tundra) listened carefully to this account, then said “That was me!” Twenty nine years ago!

Many of the boaters we met at the pot luck are heading down to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala as we are. Several have been there many years as it is a good location to leave a boat during hurricane season.

I have attached six pictures of Boot Key marina activities and a couple of our passage encounters. Let me know if this number of pictures is too large or problems for your system.

All the best,


~~~~(_~~~~       ~~~~(_~~~~       ~~~~(_~~~~

Log #53s Marathon to the Dry Tortugas

Placencia, Belize

March 10, 2012

Secure in Boot Key Marina at Buoy # F2 (24 42.465N, 081 05.414W) we were close to the marina office, and were able to access a WiFi network from the boat. Coming down the coast we used a Virgin Mobile service that accessed the Virgin cell phone network when in range. It worked out OK too. There are still a few areas of Boot Key where a boat could anchor free of charge for prolonged periods of time, as several were doing. However they were asked to pay a small fee for using the marina’s dinghy dock and other services such as showers, WiFi from the marina, book exchange, etc. We paid a monthly fee which averaged out to about $10.00 a day for the mooring ball, and all facilities of the marina, including weekly pump out, parking pass, showers, and use of the marina facilities. The office is located in a former fish warehouse with plenty of space housing the office, tables for WiFi, three TV areas, a bulletin board for cruisers’ announcements, things for sale, and bus schedules, and a tiki hut for social activities. Unfortunately the channel heading up to the Publix grocery store no longer allows dinghies to tie up at the end, necessitating a long walk to the store for supplies. We took the dinghy part way up the channel and tied up at a nearby boat ramp at one of the resorts, which made the walk much shorter. There is a daily VHF Cruisers net as well. It was a very comfortable mooring for the month. There are over 200 mooring buoys covering most of Boot Key Harbour.

We rented a car for 10 days, on a good deal we got on the internet, and used it to go up to visit Dwight and Stephanie for Christmas. We met them several years ago, first in Montserrat, then again down at Hog Island, our favourite anchorage on the south of Grenada. They have swallowed the anchor and now have a nice farm north of Orlando with a few horses, chickens, cows and some delightful dogs. Stephanie has served as a veterinary’s assistant and is very devoted to animals. Dwight, a former Canadian Navy ERA (Engine Room Artificer), has a workshop for several technical inventions he is getting patented. In addition he has a good collection of firearms, one of which is a muzzle loading, black powder rifle that we had a chance to fire out in his fields (see attached picture of Judy firing it). We had an enjoyable time with our old friends. Thanks Dwight and Stephanie.

On our return to Veleda we motored out of harbour for a couple of hours to charge the batteries as they were down 212 amp hours or 53% charge. We don’t want the batteries to go below 50% charge as they start to sulphate or otherwise are damaged. To replace the 212 amp hours with our Honda generator driving our 30 amp ship’s charger would take at least ten hours of running as it is not connected to a smart charger as is our main engine alternator. Our ship’s alternator is a 100 amp alternator, which stays charging at higher rates for longer periods of time, and as a result can charge the batteries far faster.

Another day we took off and flew our spinnaker for a half hour on our way down to Newfound Harbour for an overnight anchorage. It is nice to get off to isolated anchorages, away from other boats and civilization.

New Year’s Eve we attended a pot luck supper over at the marina tiki hut and Judy participated in a “Polar Bear” swim New Year’s Day (see attached picture). It was not cold as similar events which we have witnessed in Canada on New Year’s Day. They are really crazy for jumping in through holes in the ice! Another evening’s gathering featured a conch blowing contest (see attached picture). Each evening at sunset, several of the boaters sound conch horns to end the day. I have not been able to get any sound out of one. There is a hole cut at the end spiral of the conch shell, that when blown through with pursed lips as in blowing through a trumpet will create a loud low note mournful sound. One of the boaters has a small cannon on his boat which he periodically fires off at sunset as well.

My son, Aubrey Jr., and Leesa joined us for a week in the New Year, just lazing around the marina, and out for one day sail (motor) out to the offshore reef at Sombrero Key where we assisted a 50 foot sailboat, the Corinthia, that was aground at the reef. We launched the dinghy and took its bow anchor out to prevent it from bashing further onto the reef. They were so hard aground that they could not use the anchor or heeling the boat to get off. When we left there were several other boats coming out (Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Dept.) and the skipper probably had to pay or get a tow boat to haul him off, and probably had to pay a fine for damaging the reef. We were going to snorkel the reef, but the swell was so bad that we just headed back to shore, fuelled up and enjoyed a delicious hamburger at Burdines. The fuel stations there sell only non- ethanol fuel, as the ethanol fuel damages the hoses and engines of most marine engines and outboards. I personally think the ethanol fuel additive program is environmentally ineffective and a waste of grain that could be better used for food.

The next day (Jan. 16), after they left, we headed off for Key West, but before we got to Newfound Harbour we had caught a fish float in our prop while under sail. The only reason I noticed the snag (as the engine was not running) was that our speed dropped by two or more knots. We were dragging the whole fish trap behind us, and it served as a sea anchor. We cut the line, dropping the trap, but our prop was still fouled. We sailed into an open roadstead off Newfound Harbour and dropped anchor to cut the line free of the prop, then went further in to Newfound Harbour to anchor for the night.

Next day we sailed and motor sailed down to Wisteria Island off Mallory Dock of Key West (24 33.992N, 081 48.501W). We didn’t bother going ashore as we have been to Key West several times before, and the West Marine when we phoned did not have the LED light we wanted. We left later that evening at 1830 (6:30 pm) for a 60 mile overnight passage to the Dry Tortugas. Ha!

Even though we had a good sail for most of the night, we caught two more lines from fish traps, and since we couldn’t see at night to avoid them, we anchored out in the middle of the passage (24 32.400N, 082 25.445W) at 0400 after only 35 miles, and waited (slept) until dawn before going in to cut them off. These lines are treacherous as they are not single floats with the lines anchored down straight into the water, but are in pairs of floats linked together on the surface by two or three feet of line, almost guaranteeing getting caught if you go over any one of them (see attached picture). The damn fishermen deserve to have their lines cut for creating such a navigational hazard! These floats are many miles out to sea, making a night passage a dangerous situation.

In the morning we cut the floats free and cleared the prop before resuming our passage for another 28 miles to anchor in Garden Key of the Dry Tortugas (24 37.597N, 082 52.299W). En route I caught another small 15 inch little tunny (see attached picture), enough for one meal. More about the Dry Tortugas and our passage to Mexico in my next log.