Our time in Honduras was the best of the best. We met so many wonderful people and formed lasting friendships. Such is the life of a cruiser. On our last morning, we made a final trip into the town of French Key Harbour (Roatan). The shrimp dock (or dinghy dock – as we call it) was crowded with shrimp boats that were in for the season getting minor and major repairs.
Shrimp boats and nets crowd the dock where we land our dinghy
Time to say goodbye to Big Fun!
At about 1700, on 3/31, we started out on our five day trip to Marathon, FL. The seas were bouncy and a little confused but nothing big. The wind direction was excellent and enabled us to sail on a beam reach most of the way up into the narrow Yucatan Channel. This part of the trip has a bad reputation for getting rough with steep waves.
The sun sets over Roatan as we sail northward
However, the winds were moderate and enabled us to top up our fuel tanks just in case we got the opportunity to push on further than Marathon. Our laid-out course took us closer to Mexico than to Cuba which allowed us to travel with the strong current. We averaged nine knots coming out of the Yucatan and crossing into the Florida Straits.
Ron fills our tanks from the diesel stored on deck
Unfortunately once into the straist, the wind picked up from the east instead of the southeast and we had to head further north to keep our sails full. The wind direction was supposed to be south east and then south heading to southwest at this point but it never follows the wind predictions in the straits. Each evening the wind would pick up and the ride would get a little rough at times. The seas seemed to subside with the rising sun and Ron enjoyed hunting for the treasures deposited on our deck in the night – usually a bevy of flying fish!
Ron scolds this “hitchhiker” who paid the ultimate price for his adventure
Eventually the wind did come around to the south in enough time to allow us to parallel the reef about three miles off the Florida Keys. The current was an big help on this final part of the first leg of our journey, speeding us eastward towards Marathon with three extra knots above our over water speed.
Our new helm instruments – a joy to work with
Just as we crossed the reef into the area near Marathon (7-Mile Bridge), a strong squall came through, one that warranted warnings from the coast guard over the VHF radio. We chose to lower our sails, face into the wind and endure the squall head on until it was safe to enter Boot Key Harbour at Marathon.
Rough weather and waves crashing on deck is child’s play for Pioneer
Not much changes at Marathon from one year to the next so it was familiar surroundings that we encountered. The next day we took the bus into Key West where we officially reported to Homeland Security – all went smoothly.
Sunset at Boot Key Harbour, Marathon
Judy relaxes at the helm for our trip to Beaufort
The sun sets as Pioneer sails north in the Gulf Stream
At that point, the wind picked up and was against the current causing the seas to be rough and uncomfortable. Then we started to see squalls ahead of us along our course line, ones that were supposed to be well offshore. The concentrated lightning bolts in the squalls caused us to reconsider our route to Beaufort so we angled out of the stream towards the Cape Fear River (NC). When we arrived near the coastline it was dawn and the area was blanketed in fog. Under the watchful eye of our radar, we felt our way into the river opening.
The Lady Claudia catches up to us in the Cape Fear River
At 0630 we enter the Waterway passing our first of four bridges en route to Morehead City
The trip to Morehead was boisterous with squalls which came up behind us. We took advantage of the high winds from our stern quarter and unfurled our Yankee which gave us a three-knot boost in speed – enough to get into Morehead just before dark.
Waterway homes like this make this inland route interesting
The next night we had to anchor in Adams Creek, just outside the main channel near the entrance to the Neuse River, to wait out the change in wind direction. We needed a north wind to start to blow water back into the creek where we keep our boat in the summer.
Pioneer carefully winds her way into secluded Wayfarers Cove
The next morning we manoeuvred the tight entrance into Wayfarers Cove and brought Pioneer into her new docking location. This would be the best location we have had at the marina for six years. Hopefully we can get it back next spring!
Pioneer’s new docking location – a real bonus!