The Marquesas. Sounds familiar (and exotic), doesn’t it? That’s most likely because the Marquesas most people probably think about are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia in the South Pacific. The name also brings to mind the line from the Crosby Stills & Nash maritime classic “Southern Cross”…
“Off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas. We got eighty feet of the waterline nicely making way.”
Well, those aren’t the Marquesas we visited (and OLOH doesn’t quite have eighty feet of waterline) but they were still quite exotic – in a Florida Keys kind of way – and the song was running through our heads as we pulled into this beautiful and special spot just twenty-five nautical miles west of Key West. Oh, and OLOH’s brand model is “Marquessa Motor Yacht” so really, we had to go.
The “Marquesas Keys” as they’re identified on the chart are made up of several small keys lying in the shape of a South Seas atoll. In the middle of these islands lies a very large, very shallow lagoon. The recommended anchorages are on the southwest and western sides and wind direction will play a big part in your decision of where to comfortably anchor. Because of the exposure and strong currents that run through the area, it is best considered a place to visit in fair weather. After a mostly windy season in Key West, we saw a fair weather window coming and decided to jump through it for this bit of exploration we have long wanted to do.
Stock Island Marina to the Marquesas
Conditions: Sunny and warm, winds from the south/southeast 5-10 mph, seas one foot or less.
Distance traveled: 27.7 nautical miles
Time underway: 2 hours 53 minutes
Average Speed: 9.5 knots
Max Speed: 13.6 knots
Fuel used: 31 gallons
Once we were done troubleshooting our anchor windlass (loose fuse in the control box in a very tight space in the equipment room) with expert assistance from Jeff on Red Head (thanks Jeff!), we were ready to get OLOH off the docks for our first overnight away since arriving at Stock Island Marina precisely two months prior. It was a beautiful sunny and calm day and our beautiful crew comprised of our friends Sean, Captain of When And If, Ramie and Tim from Miss Norma and, of course, Miss Norma’s crew included Ringo, one of Jasper’s best friends. All of us were ready for this first-time experience and bit of adventure.
We had received good advice on where to anchor in The Marquesas and the spot we chose is close to the anchorage marker called “Tin Tin Anchorage” on ActiveCaptain. It lies on the west side and provided reasonable protection from the south-southeast wind when it was more easterly.
We found a light patch of water featuring a nice sand/clay bottom and paid out about 105 feet of chain in around twelve feet of water as high tide was approaching. Once the anchor set it didn’t budge once during our two night stay which was a particularly big deal as it was the first time we’ve had the opportunity to put our new anchor to use. We set our anchor alarm (which pipes through OLOH’s audio system throughout the boat) and settled in for our celebratory arrival cocktail.
Once the hounds were shored up, we settled in. The magic of being tethered to the ocean’s floor and rocking in her stead made it feel as if a spell had been cast. We gathered on the aft deck and the spirited current ushered OLOH’s position toward the sun’s final, nightly performance. The evening sky, magnificent in its soon-to-be starring role, revealed such vibrant colors that none of us could recall seeing anything like it. Surely it was painted just for us.
There’s something that happens out there when only the wind, the lapping tides and the rustle of warm conversation with close friends disturb the air. That place, where no phones can ring or emails can poke notifications, becomes a place where you remember what it’s like to just be. We settled in easily and as the evening moved on, we enjoyed the smells from the galley as Chef Bauerschmidt prepared a delicious, late-night shrimp taco dinner. As the stars began to shout for us to look up, the sea around us turned to glass and our final trip to shore to walk the hounds was the perfect final act of our first Marquesas magic show.
The next morning we awoke to a chop that was a bit more than we expected but that didn’t deter us from a day of exploration. The Marquesas are made of ten mangrove islands surrounding a shallow, oval-shaped atoll which was created by a meteor. There is a fair amount of shoreline to explore – though you’ll run into marine sanctuary signs announcing you aren’t permitted beyond the beach. We were fine with that as our plan was to pack a lunch (Chef made delicious curry chicken salad wraps) and find a sandy spit to sit a spell. If you plan to do the same, be aware of the tides so your tender is not left high and dry. After a few of the crew returned from some snorkeling around OLOH and checking her anchor we were off for some good old fashioned gunkholing. We were able to carefully skirt the inner ring of the lagoon, closest to the shoreline in around two feet of water.
Our second, and sadly last night on the hook was equally spectacular and again, the sea around us turned to glass. At the behest of Ramie, who had a craving for pizza, we decided to have a pizza making competition…all in good fun…or was it!? Tim made fresh pizza dough from scratch and then he and Chef Bauerschmidt went pie-to-pie. Even though Chef stole most of the fresh mozzarella for his roasted veggie, white pizza, Tim was able to craft a turkey-sausage/mushroom pie with homemade sauce and scraps of sharp cheddar! Who was the winner, you might ask? Both Chef and Tim would agree that the crew were the winners.
Before we went to bed, Sean, our early riser, convinced us all to wake before sunset to catch the beauty he had seen the previous morning. We were really glad we did.
The Marquesas to Stock Island Marina
Conditions: Sunny and warm, winds from the south/southeast 10-15 mph, seas a moderate chop then 2 – 3′.
Distance traveled: 33 nautical miles
Time underway: 3 hours 27 minutes
Average Speed: 9.5 knots
Max Speed: 19.6 knots
Fuel used: 50 gallons
After the canine crew got their morning beach walk, the tender was returned to the top deck and we were off to the foredeck to see how easily our anchor could be retrieved after its first weekend of use. Fortunately, it came up without issue and the chain got a proper freshwater rinse-down as it retreated to the anchor locker.
As soon as the anchor was “in the pocket” at 9:15 am we spun OLOH 180 degrees to start our way back. Because the south winds were picking up and expected to build, we opted to return via the northern route, traveling in the lee of the islands we’d be leaving to the south and then picking up the northwest channel into Key West. It added around five nautical miles to the trip over returning the way we came but we weren’t on a schedule and separate from the added protection, it was a nice change of pace.
Once settled in, Chef whipped together a decadent breakfast of eggs-over-easy atop shrimp jambalaya that we devoured while underway. The first two-thirds of the ride was simply beautiful. Because the winds were calm for this part of the trip we opted to leave our foredeck cushions uncovered so the crew could enjoy the ride from one of the best spots on the boat. And that was fine until we turned into the Northwest Channel and decided to boost our speed for a bit which the engines like after running at ten knots for a time. Unfortunately, the wind picked up just as we hit nineteen knots and one of the bow cushions made a break for it, flying into OLOH’s brow before bouncing off into the Gulf waters. The Crew quickly declared a C-O-B (Cushion Overboard) and once we slowed down and deemed it safe to turn around, recovery operations ensued. With little effort, the wayward cushion was safely returned aboard and the journey continued. A lesson was learned and fortunately, no harm was done that a little freshwater spray couldn’t fix..
The itch to drop our lines still remains and we’ll be looking for our next window to jump through so we can return to this spectacular spot, or another beyond.
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And that concludes your OLOH instructions. M/Y OLOH back to 1-6.