Key West

We were looking forward to Key West for several reasons.  Key Largo was disappointing because of the recent hurricane damage and the fact that we had multiple trips to the vet for Kellie, and a Passport renewal to accomplish.  It was more like a business stop.  Then as we wrote about our overnight at Marathon turned into an anchor tangling fiasco.  Key West we looked forward to as a stress free goof off time and our first real tropical stop since last year.

As I wrote in the last blog entry our trip started with a little bump.  Luckily we were off quick and it didn’t spoil the otherwise perfect passage.  Because we again stayed inside the Hawk Channel, we had calm seas and local FM radio to keep us entertained.  Entering Key West under sail was great. Key West is a wide and deep harbor that gave us little issue.  We chose to anchor on the east side of Wisteria Island, also called Christmas Tree Island.  We dropped the hook near the red arrow on the map below.  The dinghy dock we used is at the green arrow.

Kew West Harbor

Wisteria Island is inhabited by some strange characters who live in tents and boxes. I guess they are the people too weird for “Key Weird”  They seemed friendly enough and wave as they dinghied to shore every day.  We took Kellie to the island for walks on the beach and met some of their doggies.  All were friendly. Here is our view looking out to the Gulf of Mexico.


We went to shore at the Key West Municipal Marina.  It seemed to be a good place to access everything we needed.  Close to the entertainment area (Duval Street) and also close to boaty stores (Chandleries) like West Marine so we could order parts.

Which brings me back to the dinghy motor.  I noticed in St Augustine in November that the motor was not idling as smooth as it did before.  The problem became more  noticeable in Key Largo but wasn’t an operational issue until Marathon where the motor would not run at idle speed. Cleaning the carburetor seemed to correct the issue in Marathon, however it remanifested in KW. 

Our motor is a 2009 Mercury 9.9 four stroke.  It came with the new (used) dinghy I bought in Little Washington NC back in September. See picture.  Not as flashy as the first dinghy that got stolen, but it does the job and is easier to load onto the boat.

dinghy on beach

  I have since learned that Mercury engines, or rather their carburetors are notorious for the idle jet becoming clogged. The idle jet controls the amount of fuel that is mixed with air while idling.  The “jet” is just a tiny needle valve used for metering out very small amounts of liquid.  Gasoline in our case.  The holes in the Mercury jet are very very small.  Even though we have a fuel filter on the inlet line, the jets routinely get clogged requiring the carburetor to be removed and disassembled. idle jet

This is a pain in the butt when the dinghy is in the water.  First the risk of dropping tools or parts in the water is ever present, and second the wave action can make a jerky platform to work on as the lines reach the end of their travel and jerk the dinghy. 

By the time we left KW I had opened up the carb at least four times.  I am pretty quick with it now.  Still not fun job and should not be happening.  I will say that this time there were other issues affecting the carb, including a corroded float needle.  I am assuming this was caused by ethanol gas.


I decided to be bold and rebuild the carb at the dinghy dock where it was calmer than tied up to the boat.  After replacing corroded parts and cleaning everything else I got the motor running and reset the mixture and idle speed.  Purring like a kitten afterward….luck man.

Once we got settled in and caught up with maintenance/repair we hit the town and acted like tourists.  We went to all the big tourist spots

At Captain Tony’s, with the tree!

KWest bar

We also hit  Schooner Wharf, Green Parrot, the something Monkey with frozen drinks…can’t remember the name now, the Sunset Tiki Bar, Kellie liked it as it was nice and quiet:


We discovered by accident that Colleen’s friends Brad and Kristen were also in Key West.  They are from Chicago and were in Florida attending a boat show.  They are looking for a boat to do pretty much what we are doing.  I of course told them to buy an Amel but I think they have their heart set on a catamaran.  We wanted to take them out on Annie but there was bad weather looming so we had to defer. 

Since Christmas was in a few weeks KW was being decorated for the season.  Colleen found her “Toyland”  themed house.  <get pic>.

We also had some of the most expensive margaritas ever.  They were good…but not that good.

Of course we visited the southernmost point buoy. <get pic>