By 6:30 a.m. the sun is shining through the hatch directly above my head. I can smell the coffee as the Pirate Guy gets up to watch the sunrise while I lounge. The wind is gentle, sounds like about 5 knots, and I don’t hear any strange noises so it’s safe to relax for a few minutes. We’re not going anywhere today so there’s no rush. By 7 I’m up and facing the first decision of the day, which bikini to wear? Once decided there’s the first application of sunscreen. Even though it’s not really hot yet, it’s a routine that very necessary when spending all day outside.
I can hear the first dinghies buzzing around. We’re in Boot Key Harbour, Marathon Florida and there’s about 400 boats here at the moment. Some are permanent residents who liveaboard. Many, like us, are waiting for the right weather window to jump the Gulf Stream east to the Bahamas, or south to Cuba or Mexico, or staging up to coast to do the big jump, across to Bermuda and then Europe.
Next on the days agenda is the morning cup of tea. While the kettle boils I check out the weather and our neighbours. It’s ENE 5 knots, beautiful day, but not a day for the Gulf Stream. Only one new boat in sight, they must have come in late, and the cat beside us has left bound for Key West, good weather for them although they’ll probably have to motor most of the way. All other boats are in the same place, which is good, no one has dragged.
Staring into space while drinking tea takes about an hour. The dinghy traffic is picking up and everyone waves to everyone as they go by. By 8 a.m. it’s breakfast time. Grapefruits of course because this is Florida (and because we were given a dozen by someone with too many trees). Followed by banana pancakes (meaning the bananas are way beyond their prime). Dishes get done after every meal. Dishes are the bane of my boating life. I loathe washing dishes at the best of times, using a sink the size of shoe box and rationing water is not the best of times. However, it’s a small price to pay. At least when we’re in harbour, I don’t have to use sea water hauled up in a bucket. (Galley tip: if using sea water to do your dishes always use Joy dish detergent, it’s the only one that suds in salt water, and make sure you rinse with fresh water). By the time the dishes are done and put away it’s 9:30. Little things like dishes take hours longer on a boat than they do on land.
We hear a call and find Dev from Quo Vadis approaching in his dinghy. He’s heading to the supermarket and offers to pick up anything we need. I decline as I like going to the supermarket. We chat for a while. It’s now 10:00. I take a few minutes to fill in the ships log. We listen to the weather forecast on the VHF and record it in the log along with all the details we track.
10:15 and time for a water run. There’s 3 ways of getting fresh water on a boat. 1, install a watermaker. For us, too expensive, too space consuming and in a crowded anchorage such as this, always a bad idea. 2, raise the anchors, find a fuel dock, buy fuel and fill your water tanks. Or 3, use jerry cans and a dinghy. Option 3 is what all the boats do here. So I grab our 3 empty 6 gallon jugs and hop in the dinghy. It’s a 10 minute commute to the city marina and the water station. The water station is arranged so that you leave the jugs on the floor of the dinghy, tie up to the wall and use a hose. There’s 4 other dinghies ahead of me so we chat away as we fill up. I dinghy back, checking out the anchorage and waving to everyone I see.
Full jugs weigh 60 pounds. Lifting that with one hand while climbing from a moving dinghy up a steel ladder, then climbing over the stern rail and hauling the jugs up is not easy. And if there’s waves it gets really hard. So I’m experimenting today with other methods of hauling weights. On board, I rig a block and tackle using the main sheet and the boom. I’ve raised the boom up with the topping lift. I swing the boom out over the side where I’ve tied the dinghy off midship. Using a piece of strapping, I tie a water jug to the quick release clip on the end of the main sheet. With this in place, from the dinghy I haul the jug up, swing it over the lifelines and lower it to the deck. Success! As I’ve got the second one over, Jerry from Poppy arrives to visit. He’s just cruising around the harbour chatting with folks. We chat, he leaves, I stow the jugs, the Pirate Guy finishes the laundry (in a bucket with a toilet plunger) and it’s 12:30. My how time flies. Lunch.
As with all meals the first thing is to check if any fruit or vegetables need to be eaten immediately. The answer is that lunch today will feature avocados. Yum, avocados stuffed with tuna salad. Lunch and dishes take until 1:45. Post lunch is time to stare into space again. It’s 80 degrees and the sun is beating down. We have no pressing maintenance issues and it was a busy morning so we take an hour to read in the cockpit. Reading is interrupted a couple of times with people stopping by.
As we watch a new boat arrive and anchor next to us, Greg and Linda from Flirt dinghy past and we hail them over. They’ve extensively cruised the area we’re heading to (the Abacos in the Bahamas) and we want insider information. So they climb aboard and we go over the charts. A glance at the clock and it’s now 4 p.m. Flirt departs and we putter around. It’s the little things on a boats. The Pirate Guy works on a frozen (salt corroded) boat hook, I sew up a torn pair of shorts. By 5 it’s time to think about sundowners. Today is Taco Tuesday at Dockside Lounge and everyone goes for the $1 tacos. We grab out dinghy light and head in. Dockside is the local cruisers lounge, an outdoor meeting place that offers dinghy docks, mail drop, laundry, bulletin boards, internet access and a chance to meet absolutely everybody in the harbour. Due to happy hour beer it’s a zoo, almost impossible to get space at the dinghy dock, there must be 75 dinghies crammed in. Bumper boats for adults. Happy hour is going at full speed and it’s raucous. There’s dogs barking, people networking, bare feet, bags of groceries, piles of laundry, bicycles, pony-tailed pirate wannabes, and no shortage of tall stories. People check their mail, read the bulletin board, hook up with friends, plug in their laptops, get cruising information, drink eat and make merry. The stories get taller. As the sun sets we hear a conch trumpet salute. Joe Mama picks up his guitar and the twilight deepens as we laugh and chat.
By 8 p.m. we’re done in. We pile into the dinghy making sure our light is on and fire up the outboard. Despite the predictions of a front it’s a clear starry night. Slowly we putt putt through the anchorage under a nearly full moon. Back on board we pour a glass of wine, fold back the bimini and stare at the stars. We follow Orion through to Gemini, sight Procyon and the head of Hydra. With binoculars we gaze at the Sea of Tranquility on the moon.
The boat rocks, the stars shine, the waves lap at the hull. We hear the snort of a dolphin as he circles around us. We sip wine and think how lucky we are to be here.