Monday, January 19, 2015

10000 Islands Trip

The wind was gusting over 30 as we climbed the Skyway bridge with Egret in tow. The high wind warning signs were lit up, so we slowed down to about 50mph as the cross wind buffeted the rig. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw the foredeck hatch fly open and rip loose from its hinges. I watched as the hatch flew up in the air, landed behind the boat and tumbled violently, finally coming to a rest in the emergency lane. I immediately pulled over and Kristi hopped out to retrieve the hatch. Wish I'd had the presence of mind to take a couple of pictures. It's pretty cool to be parked near the top of the Skyway bridge. Amazingly, the hatch suffered only minor scuff marks. After strapping it back on, the rest of the drive was pretty uneventful.
  The plan was to launch at Port Of The Islands and run wing and wing down the Faka Union Canal. It would have been a great ride in the brisk winds. As we arrived at POI, though, we realized that the combination of north wind and full moon had pushed so much water out of the canal that launching was impossible. We waited, along with several other WCTSS boats, for the high tide to struggle in against the wind.
   As soon as the tide rose to where I thought we could float Egret, we proceeded to launch. There was no rush but, for future reference, I wanted to see how low a tide we could get by with at this ramp. It turns out, we had to jump the end-of-ramp curb to get the trailer deep enough, but luckily there was enough paved ramp after the curb to fit both axles. The water was clear enough that we could scope all this out beforehand. Otherwise, attempting to jump the curb could result in a trailer-off-the-end-of-the-ramp, with potentially ugly consequences. On a side note, Egret's trailer floats. Yep, it's a 5000lb gross weight dual axle aluminum trailer with a 2x6 planked flat bed to carry flat bottomed Egret. All that wood and the 4 big tires are enough to float it so even if we had gone off the edge of the ramp it would have been no big deal as the trailer would have floated to the surface as soon as the boat was launched. The floating trailer has gotten us some pretty incredulous looks at the ramp. 
   Since no one else had a floating trailer they prudently waited another hour or so and all launched without problems. High tide was so late in the afternoon, we all decided to take slips for the night rather than risk having to pick our way through the channels in the dark. The dock master was very kind to us and only charged $10 per boat. That's by far the cheapest slip we've ever paid for. We settled into our slips and then went to dinner at The Captain restaurant. It was the the only game in town, but not bad and reasonably priced.

Friday morning on the way to Panther Key. Ron Hoddinot Motoring his new boat "Nomad". 

Kristi steering Egret down the Faka Union Canal. Photo taken by Ron Hoddinot.

 A few boats, including Dennis Bradley's Egret and Chris Behnke's DS2, were already at Panther Key when we arrived.

Settling in on Panther Key. Photo by Ron Hoddinot.

Not much wind during the day Friday so Bill Fite tries out his new EC boat ...

Some of us spent the afternoon plotting.

 I took advantage of the calm winds to do a bit of tri-copter drone reconnaissance.

Ron's "Nomad" and Ted Jean's "Hideaway" as evening approaches.

Marty Worline's Scamp "Fat Bottom Girl" and Dennis' "Egret".

The winds built to mid-teens from the E-NE by Friday evening and we were feeling a bit exposed on the west side of Panther Key. Bill Fite decided to move to the other side of the bay for the night.

The forecast was for stable weather with the winds eventually clocking to the East. So, being lazy and not wanting to miss the camp fire, we decided to stay on the lee shore for the night. The winds never did die down, nor did they clock to the East, so we spent the night in a less than ideal position. Egret, being relatively long, narrow and heavy, with low freeboard, rides pretty quietly at anchor but the wind direction was such that we could not use the stern anchor to pull ourselves away from the beach enough to prevent the boat from bouncing on the bottom at low tide. Drying out is fine and floating is fine but the in-between is hard to sleep through. Fortunately the bouncing only lasted from 1am-3am and we ended up getting a reasonable amount of sleep. 

Friday night camp fire.

Saturday morning some found themselves a bit out of the water. The extreme tides and a restless night made for a tired bunch and many decided to sail back home Saturday morning. The winds moderated and Saturday ended up being a glorious sailing day.

The Scamp two Egrets and Dimitri's Mac 26X were the only ones left.

The tide continued running out but we all have the right kind of boats for this sort of thing.

Since Denis's Egret was hard aground we invited him and his friend Mik to go for a sail. Dimitri's "Lucky 7" in the back ground.

I was playing with a new toy, a Garmin Glo Bluetooth GPS module. This thing turns our no-cell iPad Air 2 into one badass chart plotter. I used it to identify a deep water channel surrounding an un-named island between White Horse Key and Hog Key so we went off exploring.

Approaching the beach on White Horse Key.

 On the beach at White Horse Key. This would be a neat place to camp or anchor but there is a strong current running. I sheeted the sails in to keep Egret "sailing" onto the beach. Otherwise she would be lying parallel to shore stern to the wind which would have necessitated dropping sails and who wants to do that for a short stop. Playing these sorts of games is big fun with the cat ketch rig.

Marty comes sailing in.

"Fat Bottom Girl" with Marty at the helm. Marty finished last years Everglades Challenge in this boat!

After determining there were no hostile natives on White Horse we returned to Panther Key for the rest of the afternoon.

... where more drone flying happened.

 Egret back afloat.

It's a two man boat.

 Saturday evening.

2015 or 1915?

The winds died down to almost nothing and we had quiet evening, a great fire and a peaceful night. Quiet except some jackass decided to fly his drone through the fire. You'll have to check out Marty's excellent video of the weekend for what that looked like. 

Sunday we chilled until about 1pm to time our return with the flood tide. We sailed / drifted all the way back to the ramp Dylan Winter from KTL style.

 On the way back up the Faka union Canal. Playing with iPhone panorama mode.

That's a wrap.