The day we scheduled out Covid-19 vaccines we decided we needed a vacation once we were fully vaccinated. Nikki asked me were and it didn't take me long to think of Key Lime Sailing Club and Cottages . The resort had been suggested on the Catalina 22 forums several times in the past, and I had always thought about going down to try it out.
Key Lime is a resort located in Key Largo Florida, on buttonwood sound near the everglades. The small cottage resort is known for the fact that with your cottage rental, you are able to sail one of their Catalina 22s during your entire stay. Starting out, that's really all I knew about the resort, and I was already sold.
The website for Key Lime lists kayaks, snorkeling equipment, canoes, wifi, bicycles, fishing gear, and BBQs at things included in your stay. They have several float plans listed for places to sail and things to do out on the water. The resort is located close to a ton of restaurants and places to pick up things such as groceries that may be needed for your trip.
Day 0 (April 21st 2021):
A month after I was fully vaccinated we were in the air on our way for our vacation. We left our youngest kid at my mom's house, and the older one at my mother-in-laws since he had to get to school. We had packed everything we could think of needing and more clothes than (we thought) we would need.
The closest airport to Key Lime is Miami. We decided to go another route, and fly into Key West. The drive is about twice as long, but we figured there would be far less traffic, and it would be a prettier drive. We had a short layover in Atlanta and boarded a much smaller plane for the last leg of the trip.Image by Michael Draeger from Pixabay
We were amazed upon landing in Key West, the stairs being wheeled up to the plane for us to walk across the tarmac and enter the tiny arrival area. The Key West airport was adorably small. Within thirty five feet we got our luggage and checked out our rental car, all within fifteen minutes of touchdown. We were so glad to not have the nightmare of dealing with Miami's airport. Walking to the rental car we had to step around a chicken that was walking down the sidewalk. It had the perfect tropical feel.
Nikki called ahead as soon as we were in the car to tell them our estimated time of arrival. Paul at the resort let us know the keys were on the table inside and the door would be unlocked. He texted with instructions on how to get to the resort from Key West, and we found the direction easy enough to follow.
We had a two and a half hour drive up the keys, and I loved every minute of it. The view was absolutely amazing. It had been a few years since I was in the keys, and it was the first time I had ever had a car in the keys. I had missed a lot of what the keys has to offer. We stopped for about twenty minutes for a virtual parent teacher conference on the beach. The teacher was a bit jealous.
Following the instructions it was easy to find the resort. Reading review and looking at google street view I knew what I was looking for. It was 8:30 at night when we finally pulled in and parked where Paul had instructed to, right in front of our cottage. He had even sent a picture so we could be sure which one was ours. A friendly personalized welcoming note on the front door of the screened in porch also helped to make sure we were in the right place.
Inside the cottage, known as the Dolphin cottage, it was decorated to its name. With a dolphin table and lamp. Dolphin stuffed animals and everything to set the mood. The cottage was extremely clean, cleaner than most hotel rooms we stay in. There a definitely a lot of repairs needed, but it was still very pleasant inside. The cottage was a one room studio with a queen size bed and bunk beds, just enough room for when we return with the kids.
One the bookshelf was a guestbook, we read through a few of the latest entries. It was full of praise for the resort and staff, and it had suggestions on where to eat nearby. The latest entry was from www.sailadks.com and detailed where to go and what to eat in the area and we found their information really helpful.
After relaxing a bit we headed down to the tiki hut by the beach. We sat by the table with an older lady for a chat. She and her husband were regulars at the cottages, coming back many times over a 20 year span. We talked about what to do out on the water and about her history. She was great at telling stories, and giving suggestions on the area. She told us about her husband before they met joining the Coast Guard and getting stationed in Virginia, he spend his first months wages on a hobie cat. He took it out sailing and quickly learned that the weather in their bay didn't cooperate in the afternoons. So he rowed to shore, which happened to be where she lived, and how they met.
We didn't get her name, but we loved talking to her. It really set the tone for how our week would play out, similar situations happening every night over sunset as we talked to the other guests.
We ended the night with a quick drive down the street to Publix grocery store. We picked up food for breakfasts and lunches with the plan to eat dinner out every night. This plan worked fairly well really, though we did swap lunch and dinner a few times.
We set our alarms for the morning and both went to sleep after the long day of travel.
Day 1 (April 22nd 2021):
Our alarms both went off at 7:30 a.m. and we snoozed until 8. We ate bagels with cream cheese on the porch and watched as people began to move around the resort. Everyone said hello as they walked by and they were very friendly. At 9 we headed down to the tiki hut to check out our boat.
Paul is the owner of the resort, and also does the boat checkouts. The first thing he has you do is fill out a sailing resume. It consists of details about your certifications and/or sailing experience and a quick test. We have received our 101 and 103 ASA certificates, so I was only a little concerned. We do sail about once or twice a month, so it was only a little concerned though.
It was only a five or six question test and I basically missed two of them. One was about which winch to use for the main halyard, and another was right of way for two sailboats. The winch question wasn't too important, as my boat does even have a main sail winch. The other one I felt a bit silly not knowing, but it's never been my strong area.
I think the fact that I sail a Catalina 22 made up for the missed questions, because soon enough he was showing us our >2000 Catalina 22 "Key Largo Cottage" I'll go over the differences between this boat an my boat in another post, but let's just say I was impressed in the improvements over my boat. The ourboards on all the boats were fairly new with under an hour of service. There Tohatsu 4s are similar to my sailpro six, so I am familiar with their operations. This would come in handy later.
The weather the first day was a bit windier than I am used to, but not really excessive. We decided that we would head out at two for a quick sail. By then the winds were supposed to die down a bit and should allow us to figure out the boat without the added pressure.
We ran to the dollar store right down the road for some cheap sunglasses and water bottles to use while we were in town. Then we kept driving up Key Largo to get our bearings. Key Largo feels like one of the less built up keys at first glance, with large areas of dense trees. This isn't really the case though, it just
Heading back down we stopped in a Mrs. Macs right outside the resort for some lunch. The restaurant is road side with a very diner feel to it. Though is a Mrs. Macs II restaurant nearby that we didn't get a chance to eat at. We both ordered the special for the day, which was a Mahi, Lobster, and Shrimp basket. The food was good, but we probably should have gotten something lighter and not fried. Overall this was good food and a convenient location, but probably at the bottom of the list of our favorite places we ate. The service was amazing and so friendly, something we were about to get very used to in the keys.
After lunch, with heavy stomachs we headed back to the cottage and took a short nap. We both woke up around 1:00 p.m. and headed down to the boat.
My plan for getting out of the slip was to use the rear starboard side spring line. We would leave this attached and then as we motored forward we would swing out till we could motor forward. In my mind this would work fairly well and let us look like pros going off the dock........
We got the sail uncovered, the outboard started and Nikki went forward to set about the plan..... I thought. Soon all of our dock lines were in the water including the rear spring line that I wanted to use. We had someone sitting on the beach come and help us with a push to get us moving off the pier. In all it ended up working fairly well and while we didn't look like pros, we didn't ran anything either.
Navigating through the mooring field wasn't difficult, but we did have to go out further than I had expected. The wind was still a bit stronger than I was used to, but not within the limits I know to reef. With very little effort we got the sails up and set sail for Porjoe Key, a tiny island of mangroves about three and a half miles from the resort.
This was the first time really using a roller furler, and we were both really impressed with how easy it was to work with. We knew basic operations from the boat we used for 101 and 103 ASA classes, but this was really the first time we had used one while knowing what we were doing. It really beats going up forward to hank on the jib on our current boat for sure.
Like most of our sailing on the Great Salt Lake, there was really no need to tack and jib, the wind from the east meant that we would avoid that for most of the trip with the exception of a few maneuvers behind Porjoe key. I was glad about this because it meant we were hidden from the coast while we worked out the specifics the maneuvers on this boat.
The wind had died down some by the time we got alongside Porjoe, which was nice as we got to sail close to the island to look at the birds nesting in the dense mangroves. There is supposed to be a shipwreck on the south east side of the key, but we planned to look for that on another day where we had time to snorkel around.
One thing I know about Catalina 22s is to make sure the keel is down when sailing. The keys challenge this concept. In the sail plans for Porjoe key, it specifies to raise the keel 8 cranks to avoid grounding on the shallow waters past Porjoe. I don't know exactly how high 8 turns on the keel drums is, but I think it's about half way raised. We found the boat was still fairly stable with the keel at this height, but I did notice that during large gusts of wind, I would just loose controls on the boat. The rudder would be useless and we would round up into the wind.
The sail back down to the resort was slower than the sail up as the wind continued to slow for the afternoon. This was fine with us as we are used to slow sailing under light winds. It gave us time to look around and enjoy the area as we sailed slowly back towards the dock.
We dropped the sails out away from the mooring field and turned on the outboard. We began to notice a problem when lowering the speed to idle, the motor would stall. This worried us because docking was going to be more complex than we were used to, and we needed to go slow. We called the number on the top of the paper to have someone from the resort meet us out on the dock to help us in.
To dock the boats at the resort, it requires you to turn the boat around as you approach and slide into the dock. This isn't really too difficult with low winds, but that's not how the weather was at the moment. I slid next to the neighboring properties dock and began my turn. That's when the motor decided to stall on me. This left me with no steering. I started the outboard again and was almost instantly going too fast, so I throttled down, causing another stall. At this point there wasn't much we could do, we got blown towards the shore. Nikki used the boat hook to keep us from running aground and someone from the resort threw us a line and we pulled ourselves sideways into the dock.
Our nerves were a bit rattled, but we were safely back on the dock. Resort staff checked over the outboard and determined the idle needed to be adjusted. They said it would be fixed the next morning. We tied up the boat and secured everything then went and relaxed in the room with showers and a few beers.
At around 7:15 we headed down to the tiki hut for sunset. This was the normal for guests to do in the evening. Everyone gathers and relaxes and talks. People bring their drinks and cameras and see how everyone's sailing went for the day.
We sat under the tiki hut and struck up a conversation with a couple named Joe and Suzy. They were down from Maryland for a week and had just gotten in that day. Joe was taking classes with someone local as he hadn't sailed in a few years. We got along with them really well and sat with every evening that they made it to sunset, which was most.
We also met another couple down from Virginia(?) they had taken a course when they first arrived at the resort from the onsite school and were really happy with it. They had some experience prior but not any recent experience. If you are headed to Key Lime and don't have a lot of experience, this is probably the best way to do it, as they won't let you take the boats out without confidence in your skills.
After sunset we headed back to the room to see where we check out to eat. Here we ran into a problem. It was now 8:30, we hadn't thought about when restaurants close. Unfortunately, most already had, or they were to far of a walk as we were a bit too tipsy to drive. We ended up just eating sandwiches, which was great because we were both still jet lagged and exhausted.