by2wingsor2wheels

Supermoon!

In astronomy, a supermoon is a full or new moon that coincides with a close approach by the Moon to the Earth. The Moon’s distance varies each month between approximately 354,000 km (220,000 mi) and 410,000 km (254,000 mi) due to its elliptical orbit around Earth.
There are approximately four to six supermoons annually. The following is a list of past and predicted extreme supermoons.

  • November 10, 1954
  • November 20, 1972
  • January 8, 1974
  • February 26, 1975
  • December 2, 1990
  • January 19, 1992
  • March 8, 1993
  • January 10, 2005
  • December 12, 2008
  • January 30, 2010
  • March 19, 2011
  • November 14, 2016
  • January 2, 2018
  • January 21, 2023
  • November 25, 2034
  • January 13, 2036
Definition courtesy of Wikipedia.

I had a misconception that sailing in the Keys would be less worrisome than my sailing as a kid in the Gulf Islands and around Vancouver. I was greatly mistaken. Warm shallow waters and small tides? With a lot of humility I have been learning. Third largest barrier reef in the world. The entire area is sailed through channels and guided by markers. Flashing green and red markers are everywhere and somewhat difficult for a newcomer to navigate. Mangroves are everywhere and visually from the water they do not look like entrances to anything, let alone an island. Venturing outside of the channels means running aground in a hurry. Add a supermoon that increases tides and currents, then Birch and I decide to sail at night!

The Key West Sailing Club is on one side of Garrison Bight. We headed out of Garrison Bight at 7:35 and had 20 minutes of light to navigate out of that channel and into the mooring field with all the big boats. Wind was blowing and we had reefed the mainsail. Meaning that we had only two thirds of the sail up and the rest was tied down to the boom. Reefing gives a little more control to the boat in heavier winds. As we made our way out of the channel and smoothly sailed out towards Flemming Key it was getting dark and the supermoon was coming up over the horizon behind us. It was just an incredible sight. The Moon is so big and clear. The lights of Key West are gone once we are out this far. You can actually see every crater and shadow clearly. It is stunning. Felt like getting a new prescription for your glasses or contacts. Crisp and clear view that seems incredibly close. 

Birch was messing around with the furling jib and I was at the helm and following the markers out of the channel. As it gets darker the markers are even more difficult to spot. Little flickers of red or green way, way out on the horizon. A dark land mass off to my left and a nice even breeze because we are still in sheltered waters. Moored sail boats on our right are just silhouettes now,  with the occasional mast light to warn us that something is there. Sailing at night is eerie and comforting at the same time. Kind of like when I ride my bike. Your senses are on hyper alert for everything that can harm you, but also peaceful as you are out on your own in the world.

As we came around Flemming Key the brightest orange and yellow strip of sky was still on the horizon to the West! It was the coolest sight. Pitch black behind us and the moon had been up for at least half an hour. Come around into the channel back towards Key West on the other side of Flemming Key and the bottom four inches of the sky is still light up?! It fades out within minutes and I was able to get a couple pictures of the sky off the bow and the moon off the stern?

Very, very dark out now and the wind dies a little. So we get rid of the reef in the main and hoist the sail fully. We pick up speed instantly and head towards downtown Key West and the big harbour. It is still and quiet out here though. Waves lapping and white water trailing the boat as we slip by the channel markers.  There is a marker that is not light, so we are hyper vigilant about looking out for it on our left. Party boats and night cruises are making there way out and we have to watch out for the activity as we get closer. 

Pull into the gas dock right in Key West and tie up. We need batteries for the running lights on the bow and snacks for the crew. Getting off the boat and walking into Key West at night was a different feeling. It is a whole new experience seeing downtown from this vantage. Kind of felt like we just arrived from Cuba, very foreign even though we had only been out on the water for an hour and half. Bars and streets at capacity given the St. Patricks Day festivities and a Saturday night to boot. We walked the block to get some double aa batteries, cookies and trail mix. Turned tail and headed back to the boat and out to the water.

The sail back was a little more technical. Same route, but the wind had picked up and we had a current ripping around the end of Flemming Key. We were both a little more tense as we anticipated the upcoming water. Full sails and a couple really quick tacks to stay in the channel markers as we rounded the point. Gunwales were in the water for those tacks and a few waves over the bow. Lost my footing during one tack, but that was the only real mishap. We were both quite chuffed with our performance as we let the sails out and headed downwind towards the mooring field again. 

Picking our way by moonlight through the mooring field. Keeping an eye on the horizon for flashing red and green channel markers. Amazed and very grateful for an outstanding sail. Crystal clear skies light up with stars. Big and small dippers easily spotted and that supermoon! Another night in the Keys that I can never forget! We both were kind of speechless as we rounded out the last channel and headed back to the sailing club.

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