Ingleside to Key West

We began our 2010 cruise with a gulf crossing from Ingleside to Key West on Wednesday April 21. We left the dock at 12:03 PM with 10-12 Knot winds from the SSE and sunny skies. My crew for the crossing was three good friends from San Antonio, Bill Baumann, Jon Carlson, and Tom McHugh. Everyone on board had some offshore sailing experience (Bill and Tom completed an Atlantic crossing in 2006 with another friend and Jon has logged many hours throughout the Hawaiian Islands.

After topping off the tanks in Port Aransas, we headed into the Gulf of Mexico. The winds, were moderate and the seas were a comfortable 2-3 feet. Excellent, except that with SSE winds, we couldn’t head directly to our destination. In fact, the closest we could get was Morgan City Louisiana on a starboard tack, or South Padre Island on a port tack. We chose the starboard tack and Louisiana, hoping that a predicted frontal system would bring a favorable wind shift.

By Thursday morning, the wind had freshened to 17-20 and the seas were building, but as we were further offshore, the seas were more comfortable. By noon, the winds had come up to 20-25 knots with gusts to 30, so we put a reef in the main. As we were reefing, an offshore tug that had been on our heading for 3-4 hours came close enough to warrant our attention. The captain chastised me for not monitoring the VHF (I had it on, but turned way down), then told us that he was part of a group of boats engaged in a seismology expedition.  Our heading was away from them, but he wanted to make sure we stayed away!

Here’s a great video that exemplifies the feelings aboard the boat after 4-5 days of rough sailing.

The next couple of days, we continued to beat into a strong wind, though it slowly turned South, allowing us to head closer to our target. If you looked at our path, (see picture below), we made a big semi-circle tour of the northern Gulf before going south.  Interestingly though, we only sailed 30 miles further than our intended path!  The weather coming across was rough and somewhat uncomfortable, but we were never in any danger and we made excellent time throughout the crossing.

At 9:30 AM on April 27 (day 6), we arrived at the Dry Tortugas with a light West North West wind and warm, sunny skies. We spent two days here, exploring, snorkeling, and resting. The Dry Tortugas is a national park that encompasses 70 square miles of reefs and small keys. The most notable key feature is Garden Key, on which Fort Jefferson is built. Fort Jefferson is most famous as the prison that housed Dr. Mudd, the doctor that set John Wilkes Booth’s leg after he assassinated President Lincoln. The fort and the surrounding waters are definitely worth a visit, if you ever get the chance.

After dinner on April 28, we motored out of the Harbor at Garden Key, headed for Key West. The winds were SE and right on our nose the entire trip, so we motored through the night. We arrived at Key West Bight, just before dawn on the 29th and spent a couple of days playing around in Key West. The crew will leave on April 30 and May 2, headed back to San Antonio. Michelle flies in on May 2nd and we’ll begin Phase 2 of our adventure.

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