Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Really Fast Boats!

It's now Sunday. Once again we head off from our bed and breakfast south on US1 the 90 miles to Key West. This trip down was a little different though. As we are both very much getting into the life aquatic with this entire trip our conversations have turned from "oohs and aahs" to things having to do with navigation and boating. As we are driving along and can see the water we are beginning to see the features that are important to boaters such as the markers and seeing the differences in the water color that come with shoals and shallow spots. We are beginning to be more critical in our thinking as we gaze out over the water. It is becoming more about how to get here and there along the way. Lisa then has a great idea. We have the entire Maptech chartpack of Florida which is a very large wire-bound book of all of the charts you need to navigate Florida waters including the Keys. We pull over the car pop the trunk and grab the book. So now as we drive along we are noting the time, water depths, channels and markings of the waters on either side of the Keys. Here is what we have surmised.

The north side of the keys for the most part are shallow and full of shoals. As Dunwurkin has a three foot draft it is best to navigate these waters at high tide and stay in the channels. Now, the south side of the keys is deeper but there are not too many passes and channels that are readily navigable until you get out closer to the south end of chain. Now once you get out to Key West, especially the southwest end of things the water opens up pretty easily.

It was a pretty funny sight. Here we are rolling down US1 with an 18" by 2 foot book (18" by 4 feet open) laid out across our car's passenger compartment. But it was fun!

We got into Key West about noon and drove to the party zone, or as they like to call it, "downtown". We found a parking place pretty easily (surprisingly) and had a very nice lunch at an outdoor restaurant called Caroline's on Duval street. Very pleasant. Now, during this time that we had been there (actually since the previous Wednesday) Key West was holding the big time national offshore power boating world championship. As we had been eating I thought I had heard the sounds of very loud engines.

It was race week.

After we ate we walked north on Duval, around a couple of street corners, and just like that we were on a very crowded deck of a hotel restaurant/bar staring out over the waters off Key West. We were able to get to within about three people's deep of the rail and could see the home straight away pretty well. There was a very nice man near us that obviously followed this stuff and he gladly shared information with us.

And our timing was perfect. This was the final race of the big boats, the Unlimiteds. They all have two 1000+ hp engines and can go 100+ miles per hours. They were loud and they were very, very fast. They run a six mile course six laps. We were not too far from the innermost marker that they come screaming down make a 180 degree turn and then haul ass out to the open see about 3 miles, make another 180 degree turn and scream back. There were thousands of people lining the shore and a whole bunch of boats along the course. There was even a navy ship out near the far marker. These race boats put up so much water that you could see their rooster tails all the way out and all the way back. It was very exciting.

Now, it should be noted that this is also a VERY dangerous sport. Three racers were killed during this race, including two from Missouri.

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