- < July 14-15, 2012 - Wanna see a $600 grouper?
- July 28-29, 2012 - As far as the eye can see... nothing. >
I've always told people that even the bad weather is better in the keys. Well it would seem that Mother Nature is determined to test my resolve on my declaration this Summer. This has been without a doubt the Summer plagued with the worst weather and viz that I can recall. There have always been times of bad weather as is the case anywhere you go and anytime of the year, but this year the wind hasn't let up long enough to allow the viz to clean up substantially at all. The problem we face is that even if the water happens to clean up, we have to endure 4-6' seas in order to work the areas we're interested in. In addition to the wind, although we haven't had a disproportionate number of tropical systems (not that I'm complaining about NOT having tropical storms and hurricanes) the number and frequency of storms we've been getting dealt this Summer is unbelievable.
If we were insensitive clods (sure we're insensitive, but clods?) we wouldn't have any concern for the poor person driving in the boat that not only has to put up with the bulk of the tossing and pitching (and sometimes heaving...). But even if you disregard that, it's quite honestly dangerous for those in the water because it's extremely difficult to spot divers on the water when you're trying to peek over high seas. Not only that, but the boat usually ends up at a dangerous distance due to the wind and waves causing a lot more drift than on a calmer day.
If you don't believe us, try this one day... take a coconut out on your boat with you the next time you're expecting slightly rough seas. Once you're in the washing machine (as we like to call it), hit the MOB button on your GPS, chuck the coconut overboard and turn away for about 30-45 seconds while letting your boat drift. Now turn in the direction you thought the coconut was and try to spot it within 5 seconds. Trust me, it's not as simple as it sounds and the MOB is worthless due to the drift. BTW, even if you're able to spot this one coconut, try multiplying it by 4 or 5 and try spotting them all. And don't forget that not all my coconuts are on the surface at the same time!
So there are no pictures from this weekend but it wasn't for a lack of trying. I wake up Saturday morning and come outside a little after sunrise to find that the wind has already picked up to a solid 10-15 mph coming out of the ESE. So after some deliberation and consideration we decide to strap on a pair and take a chance to see if we can make it to the reef and hopefully some clean water in spite of the horrific sea conditions (and we were underestimating the horrific-ness, believe-you-me). We come out of the marina to find a couple of feet of chop as soon as we get up on plane.
Obviously, a couple of feet is not a big deal (especially since we put int the big boat) so we press on thinking, "this isn't that bad...". We no sooner clear the south end of Boot Key when the seas jump from a couple of feet to 3-4' (and we're still only in about 10 feet of water). Still, we press on...
I'm watching the depth finder almost as much as I'm watching the seas off my bow as we continue on our SE heading with increasing seas. By the time the depth finder is reading about 16' we're in solid 4' seas. We start to look at each other and say "this isn't as good as we thought it might be..." while realizing we still haven't entered Hawk's Channel (depths to 40') which we know will have a multiplier effect on the waves especially when we hit the relative shallows as we exit on the other side. By the time the depth finder is indicating our exit from the ocean side of the channel, we've already experienced waves well in the 8' range and we're all surprised that I haven't stuffed the bow at least once by now (of course, I wasn't surprised... shocked, but not surprised). There was at least one time where the waves on either side of the trough we were in extended above the height of my T-Top.
As rough as the seas were, we kept being encouraged by the sight of blue water at the edge of the reef and we kept hoping we had been through the worst of it and it would be calm enough to jump in once we started getting back into some relative depth. All I can say is, one out of two ain't bad. The seas were milder on the reef, but we were still in steady 4-6' seas so in spite of the clarity we were able to find at the edge of the reef in 40-50' of water, we decided the prudent thing to do would be to turn the boat around and ride the following seas back home.
On the way in we decided to check out the Special Spot to see if shallow water would afford us an opportunity to jump in. Unfortunately, the viz even in this spot less than 10' deep was horrible and we were still dealing with the washing machine effect. So Eastward bound we turned to await the afternoon high tide and see if we still had enough left in us to give it another go then.
1:30pm was upon us before we knew it and we packed ourselves back in the boat to give it another try. We had a little trouble getting motivated so we knew our time would be limited since we were running late (slack was scheduled to be at 2p). So I drove for the first round while 4 coconuts (I mean divers) jumped in trying to round up dinner. We started out at the "dots" with a stop at the "bands" to see if we could land black grouper I had seen on my last visit there. The good news is they were able to land about 6 hogfish, a mutton and a red grouper within a relatively short period of time. The bad news is that by the time I jumped in the tide had switched and I didn't even squeeze off a shot. That's ok, you don't always get to shoot, that's just part of the game. So we headed back to the campground to have a late lunch and see what the women were doing.
In spite of the wind and seas (and the late hour), we somehow came to the decision that it would be a good idea to take a 9 mile hike to that shallow sandy spot we like to frequent (albeit on much nicer, calmer days but...) on the other side of the 7 Mile Bridge. So we head out in our 2 boat caravan to burn some time and fuel by heading to "the playita" (that's the "beach" for you unilingual readers - doesn't everyone know spanglish?) to kill some time, rum and ceviche. By the time we get back to the campground it was a little late to start cleaning fish for dinner, so we thawed out some cowfish fillets (steaks) and ordered some chinese food too (we're so United Nations!) before hitting the sack for the night.
Sunday, I awoke to rain just after first light which didn't let up until around 3:30p so I decided early on that I wasn't in a hurry and picked up slowly throughout the day until it was time to pull the kids out of the water and get everything and everybody back in the truck for the trek home. They really do seem to enjoy that forbidden time when they should be getting ready to go home the most out of the whole weekend.