22nd - 25th Dec 2011 - To Key West & Christmas Day

Sun 25 Dec 2011 00:37
We were on a mission to get to Cuba for a party we had been invited to by Commodore Estrich on 28th December at Hemmingway Yacht Club. Brian and Sandy left a day earlier in strong winds to head down to Key West, so they were able to give us a ‘heads up’ on the Hawk Channel and a potential overnight anchorage at Rodriguez Key. The Hawk Channel is not the ICW, but is a navigable 145 nm inshore passage which runs the whole length of the Florida Keys.
We left the Miami anchorage with Scott Free, but within a few moments, Michael and I knew something didn’t sound right with Nimue’s engine. After a quick check below, Michael didn’t find anything substantially wrong,  but we VHF’d Scott Free to advise that we had a problem and were not going to risk going of the outlet. They offered to ‘standby’ whilst we tried resolve the problem. It wasn’t looking good, until Michael decided to put Nimue’s engine hard in reverse and that did the trick! We must have got something around the propeller and whatever it was, came off with that action – Thank Goodness!
Leaving Miami in a bit of a blow!
The wind was blowing S/SE 15 knots, but the sea state was very lumpy for the first couple of hours until we reached the Hawk Channel. The sea was a perfect azure blue and the seas a lot calmer. In fact we had a fabulous beam reach in 20 knots of wind, with 2 reefs in the mainsail for the remainder of the 56 nm stretch down to Rodriguez Key. We were hoping to find some shelter in the lee of the island, but with a light onshore wind, there wasn’t anywhere really suitable, so we just dropped the hook outside of the main channel and got a few hours sleep.  In fact we left at 0200hrs the next morning, as we wanted to make Key West before nightfall. As it was still dark when we left the anchorage, we had to keep a sharp look out for fishing pots, which were quite troublesome to spot. With sunrise, the wind dropped and we ended up motor sailing to Key West. We noticed loads of pretty coloured sailfish as we motored down the Keys, but these turned out to be Portuguese Man O’ War jelly fish and they use their ‘sail’ as a means of propulsion.
Scott Free sailing well in the Hawk Channel
We sited hundreds of these Portuguese Man O War jellyfish, as we sailed towards Key West
After 11 hours, we found a good spot to anchor near Moonshadow Star.
A run ashore in Key West with Steve & Michael on a mission to find out what’s happening.  It’s only a recently caught fish being cut up!
Our first hint of Ernest Hemingway
Not the usual Christmas decorations, but this is Key West!
The two of us and ‘the gang’ meeting up for a drink.
Christmas Day arrived and we had arranged each course on a different boat.  Bucks Fizz prepared by Scott Free and Seafood starters on Faring,  the “Full Works” (Roast turkey, ham and all the trimmings (including fresh Brussels sprouts donated by Scott Free) on Nimue.  Finally, Christmas pud. and mince pies on Moonshadow Star.
Brian & Sandy, Steve & Chris with full plates .                           Ken & Heather slowly eating their way through the meal


Clean plates and all replenished

Once Christmas Day was over, Boxing Day was the day to leave for Cuba.  Michael & I remember the Boxing Day’s we used to sail in the Solent, but this time we would be sailing across the Gulf to Mexico!