|In a first for us, we shipped the boat to Florida and participated in the Florida Powerboat Club's Miami to Key West Poker Run.|
Jane went to Miami the day before Chris to program the GPS chart plotter, organize the boat, and attend the captain’s meeting.
We left Miami at around 11 AM and got to Key West at 5:30 PM. It was very exciting to run at 60 MPH + in a pack of other fast boats, all leaping in and out of the water with the props spinning free in the air and hitting the rev limiters. An experience we will never forget. Basically the trip was outside in the Atlantic past Miami, into the Gulf of Mexico through “Stiltsville” channel, down the ICW channel to Bahia Honda, then down Hawk Channel in the Atlantic to Key West. Most of the water in the Florida Keys is incredibly shallow, vast expanses of ocean only a few feet deep.
Stiltsville is a bizarre community of houses on stilts, shut down by the state of Florida due to various illegal activities often found at this location. No land within miles. Shortly after getting home we watched the movie comedy “All About the Benjamin's “ starring Ice T. Spinnakers, our high dry marina in Miami, and Stiltsville, are both prominently featured in this film.
We were surprised to find many boaters we know from N.J. and New York in the Poker Run. Owners are increasingly fed up with N.E. boat yards not doing the work they promised to do over the winter. Hence, why not trailer the boat down to Florida, where work is actually done, and use it a few times?
It was race boat week in Key West when we got there, about ten city blocks were shut off for race boat team street displays and block parties. The Florida Powerboat club did an excellent job organizing the four day Poker Run. Many Canadians are members, having brought their boats down for the winter. Saw numerous amazing boats, some with twin F-16 fighter plane canopies and speeds in excess of 160 MPH. A WWII PT boat in historic garb tours the harbor, as does the Western Union, a historic sailing ship that laid telegraph cable throughout the Caribbean.
On the way back from Key West, we ran 50 MPH against a strong head wind and 4 to 6 foot seas for an extended period of time. This caused a great deal of damage to our boat as well as many others. Interior cabin pieces pulled out and luggage was thrown everywhere inside. Even worse, the port engine hatch hydraulic ram ripped out and went sideways into the alternator wheel and port engine. Smoke and nasty noises emanated from the engine bay, until Chris quickly shut down the engines to investigate. He had to dismantle the top of the mechanism while the occasional wave came into the boat and exercised our bilge pumps.
Finally he got the ram free and tossed the whole thing into the battery box, jamming a screwdriver under the hatch to keep the hydraulic line from being sheared off. We were lucky nothing more than a slightly bent alternator wheel occurred. So, we continued on, stopping at Sunshine Key (Ohio Key) to get fuel and then onto Cross Key to overnight and rest our weary boat. Tied up at the terrific Anchorage Resort, crossed a metal opening bridge to eat dinner at Gilbert's resort.
Cross Key is located in the middle of a mangrove swamp, along Jewfish Creek, one of the many channels we had to navigate on our journey. Feeling our way along the docks back from dinner listening to the world’s best sixties cover tune band, we were blocked by a fence and a Cuban restaurant employee at a table gazing into the water. “What are you doing,” we asked? “Oh, waiting for the crocodiles to show up,” he said. Naturally we thought he was joking as saltwater crocodiles are very rare in Florida, but he explained that every night, two saltwater crocs showed up around the same time to check for any juicy bait the fisherman had discarded after returning from fishing trips. We joined him on his vigil, and sure enough, within twenty minutes an eighteen foot croc silently swam by, then submerged under an out flowing current from the channel.
Within fifteen minutes, another, smaller croc about 6 feet long cruised by. Wow! Heading back to our boat, Chris spotted an interesting custom boat and approached the hull to investigate. Yikes, an encore performance with reptiles! Not two feet below him was the giant croc, holding what looked like a human arm, hand and sleeve in its mouth. Must have been a fish, but that is exactly what it looked like to Jane and I. The next day a fisherman told us that the croc tried to grab his friend, leaping out of the water and snapping his jaws shut with a loud noise. It just missed him, but maybe it got someone else the day we saw it.
Next morning, Chris was puzzled by a loud squawking sound, until he looked up to see a big 3 foot tall Florida Anhinga bird demanding some food. It was funny that almost no birds or wildlife were seen while weaving through the mangroves. Once the human habitation was found, all the animals were in close proximity.
Oh yes, as usual, everyone loved the Hyperfishing custom boat products.
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