SV Passat II - Postcard from Hawk Channel, Florida, USA (with Collision Avoidance Drill)Yesterday we slipped our mooring in Key West and headed up the Hawk Channel. Windy, wet passage on a Close Reach up to Merrithon, Fl where we anchored outside Boot Harbor, as we can only enter at high tide, due to our draft. Quiet night on the hook.
Today, just after sunup we returned to the Hawk Channel, hoping to make Rodriquiz Key Anchorage before dark or the arrival of the pending "Norther".
The channel was busy, with Sail, Power and Sports Fisher boats out before the coming inclement weather.
It is a wide and, for the East Coast, deep channel (12 to 20 ft deep). A recommended course is marked on most charts and there are a very few choke points to watch for. We have learned from experience to stay at least a 1/4 mile off the recommended course where possible. It is surprising how many boaters just put these courses in their chart plotters and "go to sleep".
The main hazard (we thought) was the ever present trap floats. They are planted in surprisingly straight rows, every few hundred feet. The secret is to identify the rows and adjust your course to sail between them. This works until the set is complete, then you start all over again.
We were sailing on the starboard tack, beam reach, making six knts in a 15 to 20 knot wind, with only the jib and stay sail. The 2 to 3 foot waves plus "Stink Pot" wakes add to the challenge.
I was standing on the Starboard side of the Cockpit looking ahead for floats. Sandra was sitting on the port side determining the lay of the rows from the floats we had passed. My view to Port was limited by the sails.
As luck would have it Sandra advised me to look to Port as she anticipated a float based on the line established by the ones we had passed. I ducked down to get a better view. BIG BLUE SAIL BOAT!!! Only 4 or so boat lengths away on a collision course with us. I went into auto mode. Instant 5 blasts on the air horn (kept in the dodger at all times). Disengage Auto and throw myself against the tiller to come to starboard. Looking up I saw a brown haired, wide eyed, male pop up in the other boats center cock pit. HE TURNED TO PORT!!! We desperately braced for impact. At the last possible moment he turned to Starboard. We passed Port to Port with no more than 3 ft between us.
On the upside, Sandra and I know we can pass any heart stress test with flying colors.
We made it to Rodriquiz Key without further adventure and are securely anchored anticipating the "Norther" to come tonight.
At 3/18/2014 12:35 AM (utc) our position was 25°03.60'N 080°26.78'W
Wishing you fair winds,calm seas and lots of sea room.
|Miami skyline at dusk.|
|Miami skyline at Sunset.|
|Fisheye view of Miami.|
|Night watch self portrait.|
|Wrecked house at Dragon's Head.|
|Manatee welcomes Passat II to Titusville, with a kiss.|