C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Key West

What happened to the 9th?   Well this is Key West.   Anne and I focused our energies on reprovisioning, laundry, repairs yesterday so we have elected to remain in port to allow us an additional day to indulge in Key West.  Anne, who missed her calling as a travel agent, found a good deal for dockage at the Key West Westin Marina.  We have access to all the Westin’s amenities and we are 200 yards from Mallory Square.   I find Key West overwhelming there are simply too many options to service too many vices. 

We will be departing the marina on Sunday morning and are unsure of where to point our bow.  Sometime in the next week we hope to catch up with Kim aboard Rainbow connection. 

By the end of next week we need to be in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon to receive our new wind generator.  While in port I contacted Southwest Wind Power about our damaged wind generator.  They no longer make replacement parts for our unit (too old) so they offered to sell us a new AirX marine unit at wholesale.    Hopefully the new unit will be awaiting our arrival in Marathon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On the move

With favorable weather forecast we pulled anchor and made a dawn departure for our 70NM eastward leg to Key West.  Winds forecast to be light out of the NE so we anticipated a day of motor sailing under the main.   A long day of motoring will provide us the opportunity to charge up the house bank after 8 days in the Tortugas. 

While we were the first boat to depart the anchorage, many others were on our stern also looking to take advantage of the favorable conditions.

The first 20NM of the crossing were a slog in 4ft confused seas with a 1knot current on our bow.  Speaking via VHF with other vessels on the same heading we were assured that these conditions were the norm between Garden Key and Rebecca Shoals.   So we plodded on with a promise of better conditions ahead.

The promise held true and by midday the sea state had improved.  By mid afternoon, with the Marquesas off our port bow, we were making 5knots under full genny & main. 

19:00 found us anchored in Man of War Harbor just north of Key West.  We plan to find a marina for a day or two to reprovision and indulge in Key West.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Loggerhead Key

The weather co-operated with us and today we explored Loggerhead Key with Bob and Mara from MV Last One?   We also dove in multiple areas around Loggerhead and Garden Key.   

The long awaited break in the weather has us and many of the other vessels here in the anchorage planning to depart tomorrow morning. 

We have very much enjoyed our time in the Dry Tortugas.  Thanks to everyone that kept encouraging us to visit this amazing outpost.  We hope the oil threatening the northern Gulf waters does not find its way upon these shores.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chumming for big ones

The weather improved slightly today.  Bob invited me to ride long on a trip out to some of the local commercial fishing vessels.  We traded some rum for a dozen fresh yellow tail snappers.  Cleaning the fish back aboard Last Chance attracted some of the larger local scavengers.   I returned to C’est la Vie to retrieve Anne and the snorkeling gear.   The image above was captured below Last Chance.  In the foreground is a 200+ lb goliath grouper.  In the background is a 5+ foot nurse shark.  This encounter served to pick up our spirits and renew our hope in snorkeling the area.

Unfortunately, while shooting these images, our waterproof Olympus digital camera quit.  We are guessing this is due to a leak in the camera body.  Hopefully we can dry out the camera and this will not be the last of our underwater images.

Later in the day we dove the north and south coaling docks.  Both these dives were remarkable due to the size and quantity of sea life visible in the area.  Anne and I swam with a school of large tarpon.  We were bullied by a 4’ barracuda that obviously tired of us exploring his turf.   We observed a school of snook alongside a spotted eagle ray with a 5 foot wingspan.   AMAZING!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Looking for a break in the weather

Storms and squalls continue to damped our efforts to snorkel or visit Loggerhead Key.  The image above is of Eos just prior to being consumed by  wall of  spray and rain.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Squalls Continue

We greeted the day with little sleep.  Squalls continue to drift in from the south and west.  The image above is of a passing squall and accompanying water spout.  Fortunately the storm pictured above passed to our south. 

A thorough inspection confirmed that C’est la Vie’s only damage was the wind generator which by all visual inspections appeared to by providing power, but the battery monitor told a different story.   We were unable to use the onboard switch to stop the whirring blades and the unit was not providing any power to our battery banks.  Anne and I removed the blades and tied out the tail of the unit.  Our faithful generator not rests naked and silent. 

One point of pride is that both the aft awning (pictured above) and the foredeck awning that we created prior to our departure survived the squall while set up.  Our experience proves their strength, but given the option I will remove this canvas in future storms.  We have never before pulled our anchor and I have to believe that the resistance of these additional awnings was part of the reason we drug our anchor.

Between squalls I dove our anchor and was pleased to find only the shank visible above the sand and grass.  Its current set and the additional rode buoy my confidence that we will not again lose our grasp on the sea bed.   My dive confirmed that we did drag anchor last night.  We plowed an impressive 60 foot long by 1 foot deep furrow across the sand before catching in the grasses.

With C’est la Vie inspected and secure, I rowed Origami over to EZ to offer my assistance.  Lance, the lone crew of EZ, and Wes had just completed clearing the fouled prop and visual inspection of the hull below the waterline.  EZ suffered a 4”X6” puncture in her starboard hull.  She also sheared the linkage between the wheel and the rudder.  I was impressed by Lance’s calm demander as I peered into the flooded starboard hull.  If this were not a multihull vessel she would likely be resting on the bottom along the coaling docks.  EZ’s  two intact hulls were providing buoyancy for the wounded third hull.  Using an emergency, makeshift tiller Lance, Wes, and I moved EZ off the NPS mooring on onto her own anchor.   Lance, a long time live aboard cruiser feels confident that he can ship the damaged rudder linkage back to Key West for repairs via the daily tourist ferries.

Perhaps an afternoon nap?  First an invitation for afternoon coffee aboard MV Last One?  Bob and Mara are generous hosts and provide many insights and stories about the Dry Tortugas.   They convince us that we must visit Logger Head Key before we depart the Tortugas.  

What a Night!

By yesterday evening what had been a three boat anchorage filled up with a number of medium to large sport fishing vessels.  A trimaran, EZ, appeared on the western horizon as the sun began to set.  She dropped her hook off our starboard bow the light of day waned.  The evening was pleasant with light winds relative to the past few days.  That was all to change.  Slightly after midnight I awoke to an abrupt shift in the wind and the heavy feeling of impending rain.

I set up our new foredeck awning to allow us ventilation during the pending rains and was returning to the cockpit when we were slammed by a 50+knot wind gust from the south.  I dashed below decks to shut down the straining wind generator.  Bad idea… engaging the wind generator's clutch during the blast only served to destroy the clutch mechanism.  The whine of our damaged wind generator now added to the screams of ongoing squall.

With 50+knot gusts lashing the anchorage I returned to the cockpit to survey our position relative to other vessels.  The late arrival EZ was moving pilotless across the anchorage and bearing down upon the sport fishing vessel, Whiskey Tango.   It was unclear in the melee if the two vessels struck.  What was clear is that the two vessels anchors were intertwined and they were both now streaking towards the fort’s decaying coaling docks.  The coaling docks, once a pier designed to allow steam ships to take on coal and water, now are a grid work of large rusting metal I-beams (see image below). 

 Whiskey Tango, was able to cut their anchor line and avoid becoming dashed upon the bristling coaling docks.   The entangled rodes fouled Whiskey Tango’s props.  Fortunately the crew was able to get a line around a channel marker and retard their drift into the shallow waters surrounding the fort.  The trimaran, EZ, struck the coaling docks broadside and remained pined their as the squall continued to batter the area.  Our wind generator screamed on into the night.

To our port side a Grand Banks trawler also pulled free from their two anchors and was maneuvering under power in an attempt to avoid other vessels in the anchorage.  Observing the woes of others, I began to worry about the holding of our own ground tackle.  I had limited our anchor rode’s scope in an attempt to provide more room in the anchorage.  I was now regretting my generosity.   Our wind generator screamed on into the night.

 I started C’est la Vie’s engine and began to counter each wind gust by powering forward into the wind.  Anne checked our position on the GPS, but it was difficult judge the integrity of our anchor with this limited data.  Time became blurred along with the streaming, wind driven rain and I am unsure how long it took for the squall to finally pass to our north. 

As the squall abated the blackness of the night was dissected by halogen beams as each vessel in the anchorage took stock of personal damage, proximity of other vessels, and the drama unfolding on the coaling docks.    Somehow during the ebbing minutes of the storm Wes from Eos had reached EZ and was attempting to free her from the docks.  The park service was also mounting a response to the two disabled vessels.

I became convinced that we had pulled our anchor across the sea bed and were now uncomfortably close to a 40+ foot sport fishing vessel, Double Diamond.  Anne and I drew our attention away from the ongoing rescue efforts ashore and reset C’est la Vie’s anchor.  The VHF was abuzz with talk of more squalls so this time around we fed out our entire 100’ of chain rode.  We also set up our hand held GPS to accurately monitor our position relative to the anchor.   This “anchor drag alarm” would prove valuable as the squalls continued to target our anchorage. 

By 04:00, EZ, the trimaran was secured to the NPS mooring ball; Whiskey Tango was tied to the docks; the Park Service had visited each vessel to confirm all is well; and I was ready for some sleep.