Aboard the Sailing Vessel

March 31, 2004


FT. LAUDERDALE, FL After more than a month in the area, that included a week-long delay for ugly weather, Jill and I slipped the dock-lines at the Isle of Venice and departed Ft. Lauderdale bound for the Florida Keys.

Again, we felt the bitter-sweet emotion of moving on. Bitter, because we were leaving friends with whom we have so much in common. Sweet, because we were moving on toward what we were looking for, the laid-back life-style of the Keys. Oh, the dilema of a cruiser's life.

Miami was our first stop. Shibumi's mast is too tall to pass beneath the Julia Tuttle Bridge in the Miami area. That meant we could not go via the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW). So we headed out of the Port Everglades Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean for the 22 mile trip south to the Government Cut Inlet that is below the Tuttle bridge in Miami.

This was our first time in the Atlantic Ocean, any ocean, with just the two of us on board. Jill and I have traveled the Intra-Coastal Waterway, the equivelent of a river, quite extensively with just the two of us. But, all of our previous ocean experince had at least five people on board. We had to get use to not having three extra crew members.

We toyed with several sail combinations of our cutter-rig. We were running before the wind. I rigged a preventer line to protect us from an accidental gybe. A gybe, particularly an accidental one, can be quite destructive if the wind gets behind the main-sail and forcefully swings the boom from one extreme of the boat to the other. A preventer line ties the boom off and "prevents" a violent swing. We evidentually settled on motor-sailing with just the jib flying up front. That seemed to take some of the roll out of the following sea.

Two rain squalls made the ocean somewhat lumpy. Shibumi's cockpit grew wet and chilly with rain and an occassional wave over the deck. We wore our foul weather gear most of the trip because Shibumi's cockpit is open on three sides.

When we reached Miami we pulled into Government Cut Inlet then turned south of Dodge Island to enter Biscayne Bay. By that time we were feeling quite smug about our ocean experince, albeit only one day's sail.

We anchored off of Dinner Key, near Coconut Grove. That anchorage turned out to be a disappointment. There were several derelict boats and much debris floating around the anchorage. In fact, when we weighed anchor the following morning our anchor fished up a twenty-foot long rub-rail, apparently shed by some long neglected vessel.

All in all, our first time as a couple in the ocean was an exilarating experience. We slept well at anchor that night, feeling that we have accomplished something that we hadn't done before.

Jeff and Stan, from the sailboat Contessa, prepared ribs on the grill, near the pool at the Isle of Venice, the night before our departure.

From a distance, they looked like oil rigs growing out of Biscayne Bay, where the bay emptied into the Atlantic Ocean. As you get closer you realize they are homes constructed in the open water south of Cape of Florida.


It takes a special personality to live out in the channel between the bay and the ocean. The commute to work during stormy weather must be a grand adventure.

There is a plan to make Stiltsville a national historical site.

MIAMI TO RODRIGUEZ KEY - Oh Sh..! What Happened to the Engine?
MIAMI, FL We departed Dinner Key on the morning of March 30th.

After getting rid of the rubrail that fouled our anchor overnight, we headed across Biscayne Bay and through the channel, near Stiltsville, to the Atlantic Ocean and Hawkes Channel.

Hawkes Channel is a widely used passageway to the Keys for vessels whose draft is too deep to continue via the Intra-Coastal Waterway. It is in the Atlantic, but offers some protection from harsh seas due to reefs that border the route to the south and east of the Keys.

We had light wind on the stern most of the trip. Flew jib most to the way... should of had a spinaker on board, but we didn't. Eventually, the wind got so light that we pulled in the jib and motored with bare poles.

We were about half way between Dinner Key and Rodriguez Key.

That's when it happened!! Our Perkins diesel engine fell silent. No wind. No engine.

Shibumi drifted slowly toward the distant shore.

I had run the starboard fuel tank dry... It was a stupid mistake. There was plenty of fuel in the port-side tank, but I was running on the starboard-side and starved the engine of its precious diesel.

Don't run out of fuel in a diesel engine!!!

I had to drop anchor in Hawk's channel to bleed fuel system of air bubbles... that creates quite a mess... and anchoring in Hawkes Channel is frowned upon because of the possibility of damaging a reef with your anchor. Luck was with us. We did not anchor over a reef. But it took time to bleed the lines.

I started to get concerned about running out of daylight before we got to Rodriguez Key. We did get somewhat of a late start this morning. There are not many places to anchor in the Keys when you take the outside route via Hawkes Channel. We had to make Rodriguez before dark.

I was able to contain the diesel fuel that leaked during the bleeding process with oil absorbent diapers that I had on board. The diapers were left-over from our oil leak episode earlier in this journey. But the smell of diesel would follow us for days to come. Don't run out of fuel in a diesel engine!!!

We pulled into Rodriguez Key just before sunset. It was a eight hour and forty-five minute trip.

Jill and I had a habit of celebrating sunset in the cockpit with an adult beverage every night. I missed the celebration this night because I was down in the engine room cleaning up the mess that I created earlier in the day...

READ MY LIPS: Don't run out of fuel in a diesel engine!!!

After the cleanup, of both the engine-room and myself, I sat back in the cockpit and enjoyed the most beautiful display of stars that I ever remember seeing.

The sky was clear. No clouds. No polution. There was a waxing moon that was three days beyond first quarter. The stars twinkled as in a nursurey rhyme.

Only four other sailboats anchored on the southeast side of the Key along with Shibumi. It was very quiet. So quiet that Jill and I whispered everything we said, so we would not disturb the perfect peace.

Below: Sunrise - Rodriguez Key

Sunset - Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL


MARATHON, FL After a enjoying a wonderful sunrise along with our morning coffee, we sailed from Rodriguez Key enroute to Boot Key Harbor in Marathon.

The wind was on the bow all of the way, ten to fifteen knots. We rised the main-sail just to stablize the boat in the choppy seas.

The trip took nine hours and thirty minutes.

When we arrived, we took on badly needed diesel fuel at Marathon Marina. We added 50 gallons in the the starboard tank and 33 gallons on the port side. We already knew the starboard tank was bone dry. I didn't know the port tank was less than half full. In the future I will have to work out a better fuel management system. We don't have fuel gauges... yet.

After refueling, we snagged Mooring Ball K-6 in the Boot Key Harbor mooring field... got it on the second attempt. This was our first time picking up a mooring ball. We were very cautious in our approach, especially with the wind picking up. The second approach to the ball was right on. Jill was able to snare it with our boat hook and get a line through the pennant. I idled the engine and scurried forward to help her secure the line to Shibumi.

That evening we had a wonderful sunset celebration in Shibumi's cockpit. We had realized our goal. We finally reached Marathon, in the Florida Keys.

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