When originally planning our stay in the Keys, we decided to take a week off work in the middle, when Matthew was there, to fully enjoy ourselves. We had been looking at either chartering a boat or taking Highwind to the Dry Torguas, an island with a fort 80 miles off shore from Key West. This would be the furthest Highwind had ever gone off shore! As the week approached, we kept a close eye on the weather to see if there would be a window for the trip. Weather was looking a little windy, but decent enough at least to get to Key West, so we loaded all 5 of us onto Highwind, with 5 days worth of meals planned and cast off from the house.
We arrived safely at Key West at the Galleon marina. We headed into town to find a nearby brewery. Since it was a holiday weekend (MLK), it was pretty busy, which made us somewhat nervous. We did manage to find an open air restaurant with plenty of space that had an upstairs deck with fewer people. We settled in for dinner and as our cocktails arrived, a live guitarist started setting up on the small stage down below – behind a perspex screen. He was great and we enjoyed a lovely dinner while the sun set.
The next day, we decided that the weather was not quite good enough to go all the way to the Dry Torguas, but we would be able to get to Marquesas Keys, a cluster of islands only 15 miles off shore. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, and we dropped anchor in a little shelter from the wind off the south western corner where we were completely alone! We all piled into the dingy – the most people it’s held – and had a very wet ride to the beach. Matthew and I sat up front and got drenched from waves cresting over the bow. The water was extremely shallow very far out from the beach, so I ended up hoping overboard and wading up to the beach dragging the boat behind me!
We spent some time wandering along the beach, trying to find a path to circumnavigate the island, but the vegetation turned out to be too dense. The wind was pretty strong, making it a little chilly, and since the water was so shallow for so far, we decided not to swim.
The next morning, the wind was still blowing, making it still too rough to be sensible going to the Dry Torguas and too dangerous to snorkel off the boat, so we decided to head back to Key West and stop at Marathon on the way home to see if we could snorkel there.
As we were pulling into the Key West harbor, we see a Coast Guard zodiac zooming towards us. They circled around behind us and then we heard them hailing us on the radio. “When was the last time you were boarded by the Coast Guard?” “Never,” we responded. They pulled up along side us and three officers hopped on board. One of them was only wearing a one-layer gaiter mask, so Mum immidiately told him to stay on the swim step – which clearly surprised him so he complied! As it turns out, it was a training exercise – for that guy, so a bit sad since he wasn’t allowed to do anything!! They were very friendly. Also, they had forgotten their official checklist, so they were working from memory, but we showed them our paperwork, fire extinguishers, flares, lifejackets etc. We were officially cleared and they handed us our report and headed off.
This time, Key West was a little less busy, since it was now mid-week. There are loads of wild chickens and roosters wandering around the streets!
The next day, we headed to Marathon, stopping at Sombrero Reef on our way. Though it was still pretty wavy, some of the crew hopped in the water for some snorkeling.
We dropped anchor just outside of Marathon and had another fun night on the boat.
The next day, we headed back to the Key Largo house and began the lengthy process of packing up and cleaning Highwind. Everyone pitched in to help with the scrubbing and schlepping of boxes up to the house, and by Friday evening we had everything packed and stacked ready to load into a Uhaul sometime next week to head up to the new boat.
We said goodbye to Matthew 🙁 that evening as we’d be setting out early the next morning to deliver Highwind to Ft Lauderdale where she will be listed for sale. We’ll spend one last night aboard, and Mum and Dad will pick us up tomorrow morning after they drop Matthew off at the Miami airport. This week of vacation was a great break from work and a fantastic last hurrah on Highwind. We were so glad to be able to entertain one more time after the last year of unexpectedly not being able to have any guests join us.