Plans Change…

Safe Harbor Marina
Key West, Florida

So, how did we end up here after a week? Why aren’t we in Mexico somewhere?

It all started at noon on Sunday, January 21. With a fresh 15-20 knot wind from the east northeast, we set out from Bayside, with all crew aboard, excitement and anticipation driving us up to the flybridge to celebrate Miami in the rear view mirror. The cats, less excited and anticipatory, were driven to their usual cruising location.

It was beautiful — sunny, about 80 degrees, plenty of boats out and about. We left via Biscayne Bay and Stiltsville escorted for a short while by a dolphin, heading for Hawk Channel and our first stop, Key West. Exiting Biscayne Bay was rather exciting, with seas at 4-6 ft and the wind freshening as we entered open ocean, making for interesting hand steering. Once we got the autopilot sorted out and put ourselves on our plotted course, we took the seas on our port beam for several hours. Word to the wise — seasick prevention starts at the dock — not when you are already feeling woozy. God bless Lise for stocking the abundance of ginger remedies, from home-made biscotti, to tea, to non-drowsy Dramamine.

On auto, the boat handled well. For the first time since we have owned her, Emma Jo had full fuel tanks (800 gallons) and water tanks (200 gallons), so the rolling was slower and less snappy. With a short slacking of the wind in the late afternoon, those of us off watch tried to nap, but as our course turned more westerly, the rolling increased. We figure by about 3 a.m. we were surfing the 6- to 8-footers coming in from our stern quarter and taking rolls of up to 25 degrees. Out in the deeper water south of Hawk Channel, we saw at least four cruise ships lined up, making for Key West and Cozumel. Last time we were through Hawk Channel, in August of 2005, we played “minesweeper” with hundreds of crab pots, and hoped that this time there would be fewer. There wasn’t much we could do about it anyway, as it was pitch dark and hand steering was a struggle.

At about 5:30 a.m., we pulled into an anchorage in the channel between Key West and Wisteria Island, on the advice of the pilot boat that was on its way to pick up Jewell of the Seas. Once we picked our spot, things started to go off kilter. First, the starboard engine died any time Ole tried to put it into gear, and the wind and current kept trying to sweep us into one of the several sailboats in the anchorage. Then, the anchor chain wouldn’t pay out. I guess rolling back and forth 20 to 25 degrees for 16 hours might have had some impact on the chain in the locker. After several attempts and quite a bit of swearing in Norwegian, we finally dropped anchor, cut the engines, and decided to sleep a bit before trying to figure out what was up with the engine.

After a 2-hour nap for everyone, over coffee, we thought it best to send Svein down with a mask and snorkel to check on the status of the starboard propeller, thinking that maybe the problems with maneuvering had to do with one of the aforementioned crab pots. Sure enough, Svein came up with a wad of 1/2 inch polypropylene line that had wound its way around the starboard shaft. Aha, we thought. That must have put a strain on the transmission. (Good that both Ole and Svein are marine engineers…) So they went down into the engine room, tried to manhandle the starboard transmission, and found that it was frozen, stuck, dead.  After more Norwegian swearing, and several telephone calls, Ole located an authorized repair shop for American Diesel, who confirmed the news was worse than we thought: not only is the starboard transmission frozen, stuck, dead — it has been out of production for 10 years and parts are scarce and expensive.

A business meeting over mojitos (thanks again, Lise) concluded with the decision to replace both 20-year-old transmissions with new ones, for peace of mind. When the marina assigned us a slip for the night, it was fitting that the name of the boat usually moored there was “Only Money.”

We had filet mignon and champagne, scheduled originally for our arrival in Mexico, at the dock at Oceanside Marina. What the heck — we’re cruising. And it’s only money.

The next morning, while Svein was helpfully rigging the fishing gear, we met our next-door neighbor, Chuck — a charter boat fisherman who couldn’t resist offering advice.

Svein celebrating our arrival into Key West.


Ballyhoo rigging lessons from Chuck next door at Oceanside.

On Tuesday evening, January 23, Svein and Lise went back to Miami. We moved Emma Jo to the Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island, until the new transmissions comes in — probably a week or two. Philosophically, it’s not so bad. We now have the time to fine-tune our stowage, refresh our memory about how the autopilot and chart plotter work, figure out how to send email via ssb radio, and get the hang of “work a little — play a little” that is the cruising life.

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