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8 Days of Sailing through Doldrums & Storms…and then the Perfect Wind

Live in the Sunshine, Swim in the Sea, Drink in the Wild Air

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Departure Port of the Island Marina, FL
– Friday May 27, 11 AM

Arrival South Creek Anchorage – Bohicket Creek, SC
– Friday June 3, 7 PM

  • Our Route – 8 days
  • Fakahatchee Pass
  • Marquesas Keys
  • Sand Key Light
  • West Palm Beach
  • St. Augustine
  • N. Edisto Inlet

We recently journeyed from Port of the Islands Marina just north of the Everglades in Florida to our home port of Bohicket Marina on Seabrook / Kiawah Island in South Carolina. On board we had two sailing experience charter guests looking to gain some offshore and nighttime sailing hours. Both had taken numerous ASA sailing courses and now wanted hands-on sailing adventures to complete their training and gain confidence to sail on their own.

We left the dock around 11 AM on Friday May 27 and began our voyage. High tide is the only option to leave Port of the Islands Marina to make the (8) mile mangrove river trip to the Florida Bay. Destination: Dry Tortugas. The wind was extremely light, and we ended up having to motor sail, so we changed our destination to Marquesas Keys.

We arrived about 3 AM, anchored and caught some shut eye. We woke to a beautiful morning and did some reconnaissance in the dinghy to find the best snorkel spot. Not happy with our existing anchor location for snorkeling, we pulled the hook and headed south to the ocean side of the Marquesas Keys. While normally not a good option, the slick calm seas made this possible. There we found some nice coral growth and quickly jumped in the water for about an hour.

After snorkeling, we were hoping for better wind but no luck. So, we pulled anchor and motored sailed a bit enjoying the beauty of the water. We stopped at Sand Key Light, picked up a mooring ball for the night and enjoyed one more snorkel, along with the tour boats and the locals. It was not quite as nice as Marquesas Keys and a couple of sharks scared one of our guests out of the water quite quickly. But the beauty of the water made it all worthwhile. Sand Key Light used to be on land, with a lighthouse keeper even living there – that was before a hurricane came and changed the landscape forever.

From Wikipedia “Sand Key Light is a lighthouse 6 nautical miles (11 km; 6.9 mi) southwest of Key West, Florida, between Sand Key Channel and Rock Key Channel, two of the channels into Key West, on a reef intermittently covered by sand. At times the key has been substantial enough to have trees, and in 1900 nine to twelve thousand terns nested on the island. At other times the island has been washed away completely.

Historical photos credit – By USGS, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8309463

The next morning we departed early, wanting to make some progress in spite of the lack of wind. We had a few storms brewing south of us and we wanted to get ahead of them. We joked about sailors who talked about how ridiculous it is to think you can outrun a storm, but we had a good head start.

We had a sailing day full of ups and downs – that is – we put the sail up and took the sail down, we reefed the sail and shook out the reef. Rinse, Repeat. Numerous small storms surrounded us. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. We saw 35 knots of wind at the worst point, but it was thankfully short lived. And luckily, the sea had not had enough time to build up substantial waves. As usual, PILAR performed admirably under the conditions.

Our Sirius XM weather forecast on our Raymarine really helped us dodge the worst storms and gave us ample warning so we could properly reef at the right times. We also stayed in the Gulf Stream to gain those extra 2 knots of speed. We caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi that made a fine dinner – actually about 18 fine filets total which we froze and took home to share with our friends.

After rounding the corner at Miami, and still not having the right wind, we decided to stop in West Palm Beach for a day and a half. We grabbed fuel ($7.13/gal) and water at Sailfish Marina and were actually able to grab a T-head dock. While Stephen and I ran errands and visited my daughter, our guests could come and go as they pleased.

We enjoyed dinner out at a wonderful French restaurant, Pistache, (highly recommend it) in Downtown West Palm. The next morning, we visited Peanut Island for another snorkeling adventure. This was a surprisingly great spot – we saw Eagle Ray, Barracuda, Sergeant Majors, Atlantic Spadefish, and of course a shark. There is also an island walking trail about 1 1/2 miles long, and a picnic area along the beach with state run facilities. Peanut island is only accessible by boat. They are in the process of restoring an old Kennedy complex on the island and hope to open it in 2025.

The next morning, we left and headed north. The wind was finally going to turn in our favor.

Since one of our guests lived in St. Augustine, he requested that we drop him off there. This meant another change to our route, as we had originally planned to go up the Gulf Stream. But with the wind not exactly right for a smooth Gulf Stream sail, we decided to forego that option and headed to St. Augustine.

As you know, that inlet is quite rough, so we attempted to do a shore drop. That did not work out, as the waves had been starting to build and we could not safely get over the surf on the St. Augustine shoreline. Getting short on time now to catch our wind, we dinghied in through the channel for the drop off.

After we left St. Augustine, we had the best 2 days of sailing of the entire trip.

I mean “drop everything the wind is perfect” kind of sailing.

We used the Main and Genoa from St. Augustine to the Florida line, then the SW wind came up and we were able to fly our parasailor spinnaker all the way home to SC. Wind speeds of 22 knots on the stern made for an amazing downwind sail. Following seas would rush forward under the bridge deck and created some amazing surf – right under the boat.

2 Days of Heaven.

It was interesting to pass through the container ship anchorage in Savannah. In these time of supply chain problems, we counted 28 tankers and container ships waiting for port entry.

Turning in at the North Edisto Inlet, we quickly changed sails to Genoa only and were still making 10 knots! Once inside, we anchored for the night in South Creek and enjoyed our last dinner on the boat – Grilled Swordfish at sunset. It felt good to be home.