We stayed in West Palm Beach to celebrate New Years Eve watching fireworks from Anhinga. Then, last minute provisioning (including the bagels and cookies! from Renee and Irv) and the wait for weather to make the overnight trip to Key Largo. Checked and double-checked, asked advice of our weather router and decided to go. Just one thing we forgot about... the Gulf Stream. The winds were lighter than expected, so we didn't have the oomph to overpower the adverse currents as we moved south offshore. It wasn't until entering the Hawk Channel at Biscayne Bay that we were able to get out of the Stream and move easily. That was after a pretty hair-raising time passing the Port of Miami. Bet you didn't know that at least six cruise ships line up at 4am Saturday morning to wait for pilots to take them in. Well, now we do. Yes, we have AIS, so we could see them all, but with the Gulf Stream against us, getting out of the way wasn't all that easy. One of these monster cruise ships passed us with 100 meters to spare... talk about a close call!
Once the sun came up and we started passing the Keys, we could see that we were really in a very different place. The clear, turquoise water, the wide open sky, we were here! Our first anchorage was Rodriguez Key on the ocean side of Key Largo. It was much warmer than in WPB, and we just soaked it up. And there were frigate birds flying over Rodriguez -- now we knew were in the tropics again. We explored by kayak to see what Key Largo was like and were a little disappointed. Very developed and not very attractive up close, though not important as our main purpose in being there was to snorkel in Pennecamp State Park. But, that was not to be. Yup, the weather. The wind came up and the reefs would be too rough to swim. The prediction -- at least 5 days of 20-25 knot winds with seas of 6-9 feet. So, consulting the charts, we decided to head down to Lower Matecumbe Key and anchor on the bayside of the island to get out of the rough seas.
Rodriguez Key, Key Largo: 25d03.353'N 80d26.980'W
Matecumbe Bight, Lower Matecumbe Key: 24d52.132'N 80d43.127'W
(Note: to prepare for our trip, we watched the Bogart-Bacall-Robinson classic, 'Key Largo' and kept our eyes peeled for Dad Temple's Largo Hotel... didn't see it!)