Date: 22 Feb 97 12:59:50 EST
From: Nellie Gruender <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Sitting In The Keys

Rainbow Chaser has once again made it to a phone, and can download E-mail, and give an update.

From St. Petersburg instead of going to Captiva, we went straight to the Dry Tortugas. If you ever have the chance to go there don't miss it. It was Zach's first time to really see the turquoise waters, and he was captivated.

Getting there was of course as it always seems to be for us an adventure. When we started out we had the wind behind us ( for some reason a rare occurrence.), we had the sails set, and we were hauling ****, well you know we were really going fast forward. In fact we were breaking hull speed at 10-11 knots at times. Well, the fast sailing Gods decided we should slow down, so the halyard for the jib suddenly snapped. It had chaffed through. I again remembered looking at a 300 year old rope that had been under salt water on La Salles wrecked boat, and wondered what we're doing wrong. Any way, Gene went forward and pulled the flapping mess down.

We reset the main and staysail to wing on wing, and we continued to move forward quickly. All seemed well. I took over the watch, and Gene went to rest for awhile. Before I knew what happened the staysail was whamming (is that a word?) back and forth. Another chafed line had broken. Gene once again went forward, and took the sail down. We were now down to the main. Needless to say we were concerned that our last sail would also go amuck.....but it held, and we did reach The Tortugas. A good lesson learned about carefully checking lines for chafed spots.

The troubles we had seemed well worth it when we began to see that crystal clear water. We spent 3 days enjoying the water, and exploring Fort Jefferson the most remote National Park in the US. The water in this spot is pure Caribbean with multiple hues of turquoise. The pass into the anchorage was so clear that it looked to be only 3-4 feet deep but was over 15.

Zach got to celebrate his 11th birthday here, and it was a most unusual one! We had a special dinner of snapper. We had heard that the fishermen would barter for fish. Gene set out in the dinghy with a bottle of white wine, and came back with 10 fish, and the fishermen wanted to give him more. After dinner Zach opened presents, and we had our chocolate chip pecan bread topped with candles.

After spending 3 days in the Tortugas we set out for Islamorada. (this was after some sail repair in the Tortugas). The wind was once again on our nose, and try as we might we again resorted to using motor power to give the sails a boost. We reached our chosen anchor point much later than we anticipated, but enjoyed a rest ( if a rolling one at that)

We then started out on the last leg of our trip. As the weather warmed up, and the water got more and more blue, we were reminded why we had started to cruise in the first place. It was glorious in the Florida sunshine.

As we entered the channel leading to Islamorada, we were suddenly aware of just how shallow the water was. We were made increasingly nervous by the 3-4 ft showing on the depth sounder. The charts show 7-8 feet, but who trusts them anyway? We made a slow and careful passage through the channel afraid that at any moment we would stick the keel in the sand. For once, we just nicked the bottom, and cruised on through. We did see a large Catamaran outside the markers, and commented that he must know the water well to feel safe to do that, or he was just a fool. Well, it was the later. About 45 minutes later we heard him calling a boat towing service.

We chatted with Beth at Voyager Service in Islamorada. She and John are the ones who care for our mail, etc, and do an incredible job of it. We recommend them highly if you are in need of such services! Beth gave us directions to the Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina where we could anchor out at no charge. We took several stabs at sinking the anchor, and just wouldn't seem to hold. (a 60#CQR). Gene finally did get it to stick, but added our Bruce as insurance.

After getting the dinghy inflated, we went ashore to find some food. The restaurant seemed expensive for our budget, so we tried the "hut" on the beach. No such luck. They were closing. I suggested ordering a pizza, and have it delivered. I called Dominoes, and told him where I thought we were. After the pizza didn't arrive I checked and found I had given him the wrong name of the restaurant where the pay phone was. I quickly called back, and tried to redirect him. He kept saying, well is that near this or that, and I finally had to reply, "look, I don't really know where I'm at" I suddenly felt like the blonde I am with that statement....We finally with the help of a person on the next phone determined where I was at, and gave the Dominoes guy (no brain surgeon) directions. The pizza was GREAT. Anything that you don't have to brace yourself to cook in the galley is deemed as GREAT.

Beth and John have been kind enough to lend us a car for the day so we could improve the economy of Islamorada by stocking up on food, and boat stuff before we leave the states. We're now looking toward our passage to the Bahamas, and not especially looking forward to crossing the Gulf Stream.

aboard Rainbow Chaser