December 15-31, 2009 - Cruising Log for S/V Freedom - a Gemini 105 - Jim and Deb Faughn

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 Dec 16 - It has been non-stop visitors which has been fun here in Ft. Myers. You saw Larry and Joyce, then Garry and Shirlene arrived back from looking at property above Tarpon Springs, then we were able to reconnect with an old friend who previously owned Vacation Yachts. We hadn't seen Lee in 10 years although we tracked him down this summer so he could sign off on some of my time back when we rented Gemini's and other boats from him. Then our friends Pat and Paul arrived on their boat, pictures to the right and below, on Monday evening just after dark. They stayed until after lunch on Tuesday and we had arranged for Fred to join us also Tuesday at lunch whom you might remember from our past logs because he cruises on a 32 foot Nordic Tug. We had a wonderful lunch of grilled salmon and a bunch of other things not to mention great conversation.

At this point we've caught up with everyone that the weather will allow us to because we have to leave this afternoon to get ahead of the next front. We've received mail which included our new micro sized microwave which you will be hearing more about in future posts but it does work fine on the generator. It is our intention to receive one more shipment this morning and then put everything away for our trip to Marathon. As it turns out, we will not be making the normal three stop trip because the weather is going to turn bad on Friday. So we will be leaving this afternoon and going overnight to arrive in Marathon on Thursday around noon depending on the winds and our overall speed. A perfect trip would be 20 hours but it could be as much as 24 hours. We will be sailing most of the night for two reasons. First, I want to sail. Second, we won't be able to see the crab trap floats and lines and I don't want to get one hung up in the outdrive during the night. We will let you know how everything goes probably Friday morning.


 Dec 18 - We awoke on Wednesday to a leaning monohull. Oops. I guess he forgot to check the depths when he tied up to the mooring ball. He's been leaning each morning so my bet is nobody is there and he won't have bottom paint on the keel when this round of groundings is finished.

We hung around most of the day and got away to the fuel dock at about 2:45, filled up and then headed out for a wonderful crossing at 3:15 p.m. The winds were supposed to be (please not here the "supposed to be" part") 12-15 knots out of the northeast. That would be a pretty good sail heading to the south southeast. By the way, a perfect sail for us would have been out of the northwest and after this crossing, we will be looking for that totally downwind sail.

When we left the waves were great and things were looking great. As you can see below we left Ft. Myers in a beautiful sea and were motor sailing during daylight hours so we could pick up a couple of miles extra that we would loose at night because of the crab traps. You see, the waves between the hulls directs every crab trap float directly at the outdrive. On a night with no moon, you can't see the floats so one of them would definitely get tangled and that is another problem that I didn't want to take on during a moonless night.

We even had a shrimper overtake us on his way out to catch the family fortune. A beautiful sunset was the end of a wonderful day. What came next was a bit of a problem but as Bob Bitchin says, "Attitude is the different between an adventure and an ordeal." Well, I've got a pretty good attitude but we were almost into ordeal on this one. At about 10 p.m. we were sailing along and Deb was on watch. When the wind hit 18 knots we were sailing at 8 knots with one reef in the main and an almost full head sail. I got up and immediately took in half of the head sail because the boat was pounding so much. In this part of the gulf, the water is so shallow the waves don't get to build. Instead, they just get rougher and rougher. Deb was then off duty and it was my watch the rest of the night. Then it really got rough. The winds built to 20+ knots for about 3 hours and rough was just the way this one was going to go. I ended up pulling in all of the head sail because the waves were slamming the boat so hard and it was so rough you couldn't stand up or anything else. We were making about 4-4.5 knots just to keep things on an even keel. Even is an understatement - we were really going from 30 degrees to the right and back to 30 degrees to the left. I'm talking rough here in case you missed that part.

Overall, this was in the top three and more probably the top two of our rough crossings. We slammed on and then the sun came up. I thought things were going pretty good since the wind was down to "only" 18 knots and then we saw a squall coming our way. The winds built up to over 30 knots and when you are in 12 feet of water with 30+ knot winds then that redefines rough. The wave would slam into the side of the boat and throw saltwater all over the top of the boat. If I ever had a doubt about the Gemini, this was the trip that demonstrated that the boat can hold up to more than Deb and I can. Score one for the Gemini 105 and 2 upchucks for Jim. One of them was at about 6 pm the night before when some perfume fell out of a storage area and broke. Not only am I allergic to perfume, it is now perfectly clear that when in rough seas my system doesn't like it either. I'm only talking seconds between breakage and removal of my dinner. The second time was the next morning when I tried to speed things up and since I was already in the tank, that was the wrong thing. Of course at that time there wasn't much left.

For anyone concerned, seasickness is a way of life for me. My body is prone to it and there is nothing I can do about it. So who cares. I'll still live my dream and move on.

We made it to Marathon but it took 25 hours since we slowed down so much. If the weather would have been as predicted it would have been much shorter and enjoyable. However, after a day, I'm still happy we are here! Right now we are security tied to a mooring ball with 25 knot winds blowing as they will all night long. We have been shopping to pick up some "stuff" we need and are in limbo about heading over to Docksides tonight. It depends on if the band is going to play or not given the weather.

We are planning on hanging out here until Monday and then head on down to Key West. If the wind cooperates, we will be leaving early Monday and will be anchored by Monday afternoon late. I talked to my friend down there and he is holding one of his moorings for us and is planning on me helping him this winter fishing again. Now that sounds like fun. As long as the wind turns to the North or even Northeast then we will be in great shape since the islands down here run east to west. This next sail will again be wonderful.

 Dec 20 -We walked to K-Mart and Publix yesterday to get some food along with a replacement pressure cooker. Not the pressure cooker that this connoisseur really wanted but it was cheap and I'll get the pressure cooker of my dreams in the next 6 months or so. You see, I lost the weight overboard on the last one in Ft. Myers Beach. Oops, darn that fast release of pressure. I also took my LED anchor light back to Stecktronics here in Marathon. What a guy. After I went up the mast then took it to him, we pulled the lens off and a bunch of the LED's had burned out. Even though the warranty was well out, he gave me a supper deal and gave me a new unit at a pretty good discount. It worked for me and he didn't loose any money so bottom line it was good for everyone. As I've said before, it isn't how you treat people when things are going right, it is how you treat them when something wrong happens. I highly recommend Reynold at Stecktronics!

We then took off and went by dinghy to Castaways and had a great time with Garry and Shirlene for a light dinner and happy hour. Then back to the boats to just hang out.

Today we went to lunch with the Gemini people here in the harbor. You actually might remember these folks. To the right are Tim and Jill whom we met in Cambridge when we were touring the Chesapeake. They came to visit and talk about the cruising lifestyle and get an idea if they could do it or not. As you've already figured out, they not only can do it, they are doing it. Congratulations. The couple in the center are people we met 2 years ago here in Marathon and they are Michael and Cheri. They own a 2005 Gemini and left Annapolis about 3 years ago, sailed south to Key West then came into Marathon to stay a day or so, booked a week and then got involved in the community and have been here ever since. They have become VERY involved in the community theatre and do acting, crew work, and now directing. They are talking about the possibility of dropping the mooring in a year or so and looking to another chapter of their lives aboard their boat. Cool story and it just shows that you can do anything, anywhere, with anyone when you live on a boat with no previous decisions. I love this lifestyle.


Tomorrow we are leaving Marathon because we simply aren't "involved" here and we are with friends in Key West. Besides, there are a million things to do there and I actually enjoy the town off of Duval. Well, truth be told I like Duval when the cruise boats aren't in town. The rest of the truth is the music there is wonderful and that is something I really love.

We are planning on dropping our mooring at about 8 am and setting sails for Key West. The forecast is for about 15 knots out of the northeast which is almost perfect for us. I guess we will see if the weather service gets forgiven for the last forecast tomorrow. We actually know where their office is in Key West so we may just stop by and see what's up. Our bicycles are ready and our bodies really need to get the exercise so to say we are looking forward to arriving is an understatement.

 Dec 22 - We dropped the lines for the mooring ball in Marathon at 7:30 heading out of Boot Key Harbor past all of the moored boats to meet Garry and Shirlene at the fuel dock where they were taking on water. We arrived before they were finished so went slowly out the channel. On the way out we passed this section of mangroves and you can tell they are a roosting place for the wild fowl. After getting to the end of the channel, I turned the boat into the wind, set the autohelm, and went on top to set the mainsail. Today was going to be a great sailing day. The wind was as advertised on direction but higher in strength this morning. Northeast at 15-18 knots gusting a bit higher. Again, the islands run east to west and we are going west so it is going to be a great day!

As I was finishing putting up the main, Garry and Shirlene came out so it was time to get going. I set the genoa and off we went. Deb was still sleeping but the waves didn't wake her so that meant it was going to be a very very good day.


This is Garry and Shirlene's boat the Zipadedoda.

We took off from Marathon passing the 7 mile bridge on our starboard side. What a ride! Winds were at 110 degrees apparent and were blowing up to 13 knots apparent which translated to about 18 knots true. I was moving at 7 knots+ on only our sails. Now this is what I really enjoy. No noise except the sound of the water as it passes our two hulls. With the outdrive out of the water, not only does it reduce drag, it also reduces the noise. In essence we got started sailing at about 8 or a little after and turned off the motor as soon as we were heading towards Key West. We were making excellent time and it was soon obvious we would make the 43 nautical miles and be anchored by 3 pm.

It was interesting as we headed west because each time we passed an island such as Big Pine Key, the water to our starboard would open up again and the waves would increase. However, the next island quickly came up and back the waves went down again and like I said, it was a great day to sail!

As we approached Key West the winds were dropping. We sailed the last 5 miles along the island at about 5-5.5 knots which was just fine with me since the wind had dropped to 10 knots. I could have pulled the asymmetrical out but we weren't in a hurry to make the 5 miles. As we got to the main ship channel, Deb turned us into the wind and I took down the main and we motored into Key West past the cruise ship dock, mallory square, and of course the end of Duval Street.

It was almost like being back home.

Statistics for the sail were - 43 miles traveled in 7 hours averaging a little over 6 knots including all the idle time and anchoring time. Now all I need is to get this kind of wind each time we head out!

The picture to the left is Key West Bight and as you might remember, that is where we use the dinghy dock. Now the next thing of interest to us is where to anchor. We are supposed to meet up with Lobster Lee tomorrow for our private mooring but tonight we will see how this new No Boat blast zone is affecting the anchorage.

We went on up and found out very quickly that the markers are in place but the boats haven't all moved out. I then found out that it wasn't really in place yet and there are about 3 weeks before it becomes published and is official. So we pulled up next to the range marker and anchored in this space for what will be the last time we will ever be able to anchor right here in Key West. After we had everything taken care of, I put the engine on the dinghy and we were off for Dante's and then to Caroline's for dinner where we were meeting up with Garry and Shirlene.

We had fun last night and it was good to see things again. This morning the wind is blowing at about 15 knots out of the northeast and we are protected. I'll await Lee's call and then move the boat to it's primary location for the next 2 months. This year, I am very much looking forward to our weekly sailing trips along with more fishing and diving. It should be a good two months for the website. The next few days leading up the Christmas will be seeing Key West again so we will have lots of new pictures. See you in a day or two.

 Dec 23 - Yesterday we went to lunch at one of our favorite places to eat which is Caroline's. They have good food at reasonable prices so Shirlene, Garry, Deb and I met for lunch. At the end, you can see Lisa who we met in February when she was just starting to work there. She's great and many people spend their entire vacation having lunches with her. Not a bad way to go if I say so myself.

Deb and I split our favorite shrimp club.

Below let you can see the restaurant from across the street in case you ever get down this way. Of course it is easy to find since it is at Caroline and Duval thus the name.

Next, Garry had some work to do on his boat and Deb and I took off walking to see what Duval looked like for Christmas. Some look just like every other day and others decorate for the festivities.


Some venders even get really into the role. Although I didn't think there were angles in Key West, I guess you can never be too sure.

Yesterday was a little warmer than when we arrived but it was still cold at 68 degrees for the high. That is still cold to me but today it is supposed to get up to 74 and tomorrow, Christmas Eve is going up to 79. Now that is the kind of weather I can tolerate.

Sorry about all the colder weather up north but wait, I think everyone is up north now compared to us.

We continued walking and I just love some of the trees down here. They have their own attitude and just make Key West what it is. We then walked down to the Chamber of Commerce to pick up our annual phone book - doesn't that sound like fun? The reality is when we stay someplace for a couple of months, we try and pick up a phonebook so we can just make calls to let our fingers do the shopping and finding. So, that really is an important part of being in a place.

Finally we stopped back by Dante's to see some more people we know. This time I took a picture of their pool because it is just too cool. It is also cool, which means it isn't heated.

Then we headed back to the boat to get started getting things ready to move into our anchorage we will stay at. Lee ran out of ground tackle so I will be putting my own mooring in again this year. I think I will be replacing some stuff at the end of the this year in Key West because it will be pretty deteriorate by the time we are done. At least for me it will, for someone else it would probably be fine but I would rather keep my tackle up to first rate.

I've thought through what I want to do, went up an looked at the area with Lee and picked a nice spot that is too shallow for a monohull so there is plenty of space. Now to get three anchors down and set so we can ensure everything is good while staying far enough from everyone that they are comfortable.

Then of course there was sunset. I take more pictures of other people's boats at sunset. This sunset didn't look like it was going to be that good but the clouds cleared out at the last minute and it was beautiful. The clouds that were left created a wonderful canvas for the setting sun to paint a unique picture as it was heading over to set in the central time zone.

It is pretty had to watch this every night. Just think, I could be watching it snow!

 Dec 25 -

Deb and I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a safe holiday. We hope your life's are as filled with happiness as ours. Although we had a loss this year with my Aunt Sandy, we know she would be hoping we celebrate this holiday season thinking of our family and friends rather than grieving her loss. So that is what we will be doing. Even though we can't be with you, we are thinking of you up north and hoping you are staying warm.

Again, we hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Jim and Deb

 It looks like tomorrow, Saturday, the winds will clock around to the NE and we will drop our mooring lines that we put in yesterday and head over to the Marquesas for a day and a half. We intend to do a bit of fishing and probably snorkeling before heading back on Sunday afternoon. Winds are supposed to grow again on Monday so it will be nice to be back on the mooring. Hopefully tomorrow night we will be having fresh fish on the aft deck watching the sunset.

Dec 26 - Yesterday we took Christmas Day and went to see our friend George Victory playing at Hog's Breath. We had ran into him the night before at Sloppy Joe's as we were walking by and found out he would be playing at Hog's Breath on Christmas between 1 and 4. Just the right time for us to head in, have lunch and have a good time. On break we caught up and then after about half of his second set we headed back to the boat. What a great musician!

This morning we took off at about 8 a.m. and dropped our mooring lines and took off for the Marquesas only to get almost there and see Garry and Shirlene in their boat who lead us into Boca Grande where they had caught a bunch of fish the day before. As you can see below, we were anchored off of a wreck where there were supposed to be bunches of fish. Well, as you know from previous fish stories from many other people, yesterday's fish doesn't mean today's fish.

It was slow but after catching a few bait fish we kept on going.

Everyone was into the party of fishing and almost everyone caught a fish or two. The reality is that we learned more about fishing from this trip because when the tide was coming in to the flats, the fish weren't on the wreck. When the tide was coming back out we did catch a few. Yesterday, Garry and Shirlene caught a bunch and it was also on the falling tide. I will have to put that info in my memory bank for next time.

The picture below is of Freedom anchored in the land of the free and next to Zip.

I had taken Deb back to Freedom to start a salad for dinner when Deb heard Garry calling "Jim, Jim, Big Fish." I thought sure!

I got there and Garry had a fish hooked on my rod that we had put a fish head on. It looked like fun and since it was on my rod, I guess that meant it was my fish. So Garry gave me the rod and the fight was on.

As you can see we moved about 2/3rds the way around the boat passing the rod between the stays and around the forestay with the headsail on it. The fish was pretty big and then I saw that it was a shark. You just can't misinterpret the lines of a shark!

Do you see that tail below? That is the tail of a 5 foot shark and he was on my line. I also saw that he was miss hooked and I could see the hook in his side. At one point, I thought about the fact that we might need a bigger boat but that was really a take off of "JAW'S."

Yes, he was a big one!

This picture happens to capture the tail of the shark and just at the same time the pole when straight and the line when limp. Why? Simply because the wraps of the steel leader came unwrapped. Darn. We could have fed the whole anchorage back in Key West on that shark. Garry already had a plan to lasso his tail and haul him up on the dinghy davit. I can see it now the fish hauled up upside down and his teeth trying to take the stern out of the boat. How much fun would that have been not to mention great pictures. Perhaps next time.

After that fun was over, we did some more fishing but the most fun was watching Garry feed the pelicans.


 We then had a wonderful dinner. During the middle of dinner we had another tick, tick, tick of the rod as another shark perhaps missed the head of another fish that we had placed on the now proclaimed shark rod. It sounded just the same as what you heard on Jaw's except we didn't hook up this time.

We finished dinner and planned our trip back tomorrow then Deb and I came back to the boat and removed the engine from our dinghy. Perhaps next time we will hook up with Jaw's 2.

But there is more! On the way back this morning I hooked up with a 48 inch King Mackerel. I haven't seen one that big but I caught it and it is in the refrigerator. Pictures tomorrow when I get the ones Garry took from his boat too. BIG FISH!

 Dec 27 - Our friends up in Omaha sent us this picture to the right and guess what? We are happy they have the snow and we don't. It certainly appears that Steve and Linda will have snow for the rest of their lives or at least until spring thaw.

We on the other hand are still warm and are catching a few fish. The one you see below is the 48 inch King Mackerel that we caught on Sunday morning on the way back to Key West. The two pictures on the left and right appear to be the same but are a bit different. They just show a 30 or so pound King Mackerel that is getting ready to be fillet. The center picture shows where the fish, once on my lure, had either a shark or barracuda trying to take a chunk out of his side.


We headed back into Key West and found a cruise boat anchored off and ferrying people back and forth. I keep wondering if they actually told their people that the reason that their tickets were 5 bucks cheaper than the other boats is that they won't pay for dockage. Who knows?

We arrived back in Key West and then we had to measure and clean the fish. The blurry picture below shows that the fish was just short of 48 inches.

Now if you have a fish as long as this and you plan on continuing to catch them, you had better get a longer filet board. This fish was just too long to clean on my board. Instead, we had to clean the fish on the aft deck and we had to bring our anchor washdown hose back to clean up the substantial mess.

Regardless, it was a great fish.

The lure below shows the teeth marks in it and this was a new lure. Bottom line is that the lure worked and we just happened to catch the biggest King Mackerel that I've seen. I'm just happy that he wasn't still snapping when we took the picture to the right. I'll just bet that this lure catches some more fish, don't you?

  Dec 29 - Sorry, no pictures. We headed in night before last to eat fish but I forgot to take a picture of all the fish we had. Ended up Garry and Shirlene had to cancel and they cooked the entire bag instead of half so we ended up feeding everyone at the bar. Good thing they had already eaten or the owner might not have been happy. Ha Ha. That was a great night. Then yesterday, I took off on a dinghy expedition with Garry. We both took our own dinghy's and headed about 8 miles off to an island where a destroyer had missed the Key West Channel and instead hit a small island. To get there we went through the shallow lakes passage and then drifted over some very shallow grass bars. I saw sponges and it was a fun but a rough trip because the wind started coming up before it was forecast. We ran the 8 or so miles back through the rougher waves. That should have told me something but sometimes I may be dense when it comes to weather. Regardless it was a great 2 hour trip.

Later in the day, I took our two propane tanks in to be filled. This has to be done one at a time because I have to ride with one strapped to the bike out to the fill place and then ride back to get the second one. After an hour and a half I noticed the wind was still building but stopped by to have an appetizer for late lunch at Dante's and get Deb. Then it was back to the dinghy and the rougher than normal ride back. The wind did build and now it was blowing almost 20 knots and we had to go straight into it. Rough is an understatement with small craft warnings out and we are in a 10' Port-a-boat. Water was spraying everywhere as I motored it up the sharp waves and then it slammed back down. I saw adventure and Deb saw her life flashing before her eyes. We only took about 4 of the waves over the front of the dinghy and the rest just sprayed around us. Sound like fun??? We got back to the boat a bit wet - read that - had to strip and get dry clothes!

We are in the best anchorage we've ever used in Key West and just inside the prohibited line marked on the chart and behind mangroves. Where we are it is just ripples when there are 2- 2.5 foot seas down by the entrance to Key West Bight. This will be our best year at Key West from a standpoint of comfort. If I was living here full time, I would definitely have the 12 foot Port-a-boat. That would be nice but since we are cruising the 10 footer is fine and we normally just don't go in if it is that bad.

Who knows exactly what we will be doing today, probably boat chores and hoping the wind shifts a bit more to the east so we have a protected dinghy ride in. Our mail should be here today and I need to pick that up. We are also gearing up to maybe stay up until 10 or so on New Years Eve. Look for us on CNN when they drop the Conch or Red Slipper from Key West. The reality is probably that we will be asleep but who knows.

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