Tuesday, September 21, 2010
It is now the following morning yet it's not quite daybreak. I slept decently enough on the cabin floor throughout the night and now find myself poking my head out of the companionway to take a look around.
Two towers can be seen with their red lights flashing on and off every second or two advising me of shoals. They now appear somewhat closer than when I had seen them the previous evening off in the distance.
My GPS tells me that I have drifted some nine miles overnight closer to shore. Blondie is still somewhat away from the shoaling so I'm not overly concerned. Besides, first things must come first and I crank up the alcohol stove and brew a pot of coffee.
Winds are still howling out of the east and east is the direction that I want to sail to. Marathon is but twenty miles away or so and had the winds cooperated and shifted from out of the west, I would surely be tied up to a mooring in Boot Key Harbor by noon or so.
I have little inclination of raising the mainsail after the physical beating that I took the day before so I don't even try. I do partially unfurl the jib and do my best to tack into the wind. Blondie is making very little headway into the wind if any.
I later start up the outboard motor for the purpose of doing some motor sailing. I feel a small pang of guilt as I start up the motor for something other than getting in and out of a marina and feel as if I've betrayed Blondie because Blondie is a sailboat and not a motorboat. Marathon isn't all that far away and I just want to be there.
There are lobster pots scattered all throughout these shallow waters and I find myself continuously attempting to dodge the lines that attach the pots to a float. The floats all have distinctive colors and are numbered so that fishermen can readily identify and account for them from a distance.
It's hard enough sailing to windward let alone worrying about snagging a lobster pot on the skeg of the boat. It's like attempting to sail while dragging an anchor. It's just not going to happen. Like the song says... "There ain't no sex in the champagne room", and it's just not gonna happen...
I do nevertheless snag a line and come to a complete halt. Fortunately the line releases itself from the skeg without me having to don my mask and fins to dislodge the line from a safe distance with my boat book. I sure as hell don't want some random ocean swell catching the hull of the boat and having it smack me upside the head while underwater.
I'm on a slow northeasterly course while checking my current position on the GPS and preoccupied with avoiding lobster pot lines. No sooner did I come to the realization that Blondie is fast approaching a shoal when the boat suddenly comes to an abrupt and complete stop.
Ooopps... I've run aground of all things. Blondie heels over in the sand while I attempt to backtrack and get her off. There is no panic, no frustration and certainly not any cursing to be heard. It's just me with my thoughts churning to decide what must be done to get off the sandbar.
I let the jib completely out and it rapidly fills with air but Blondie only lurches a bit forward... and in the wrong direction. Ooops... wrong decision.
Off in the distance can be seen quite a few fishing boats laying out their lobster pots. I turn on my cell phone and fortunately I'm close enough to a tower to pick up phone service. I call TowBoat US to inform them of my location and request that they pull me off. What the heck... I paid for the towing insurance and whether I like it or not I'm going to need some help getting off this shoal.
A call is placed to a local towboat in nearby Big Pine Key to contact me. In the interim a passing fishing boat notices my predicament and swings in close by with an offer to pull me off the shoal which I gratefully accept.
I then fasten a line to a stern cleat on Blondie and heave the rest of the line in their direction upon which they tie it off and rev up their engines and Blondie is soon enough in deeper waters.
I retrieve the line and call out to the fishing boat to thank them for their assistance. All four fisherman onboard that boat acknowledge my wave with a wave of their own and they are soon on their way to lay out more pots.
The crew onboard "Shining Star" don't quite know it yet, but they've got a case of beer heading out their way once I can locate which marina the boat is routinely docked at. A case of cold beer is the least that I can do for those guys.
I in turn set a northerly course to get the hell away from the shoals and call TowBoat US to cancel my request for assistance.
There is no let up in the gusting easterly winds while I attempt to tack. I've burned half a can of fuel with little progress to show for it. It's now two in the afternoon or so when it occurs to me to call TowBoat US for a weather update. Surely they could perhaps let me know when the easterly winds could be expected to shift.
I call and proceed to explain that everything is okay, and that my vessel is not disabled in anyway and that I am calling for a weather update and calling to see if they could perhaps suggest an anchorage that might offer a bit of protection from the gusting easterly winds.
After a brief question and answer session, I'm offered to be towed to Marathon after informing them that I indeed have unlimited towing insurance. Well it certainly didn't take much arm twisting to accept their offer and an hour later Blondie is tied off to a tow boat and heading off to Marathon.
I wish that I could tell you that my seamanship skills were simply amazing and that the voyage from Marco Island to Marathon was a piece of cake and that the incessant easterly winds were but a minor inconvenience.
But the simple truth of the matter is that those "outer band winds" that kicked up from hurricane whatever, kicked my ass almost the entire way down.
I'd like to tell you that I was completely fearless and that I took the time to climb the mast at one point and do a few chin ups up on one of the spreaders while under sail... but no... it simply didn't happen that way and it's one thing to embellish a few details while describing the ordeal in a bar to make for a better story yet quite another to put it in writing and later read it and know that things happened otherwise.
It goes without saying that I was quite relieved to be tied off to a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor for the night. I took a few minutes to get all the gear squared away and later bathe before preparing a meal on the alcohol stove.
Not that anyone really cares but dinner that evening was a most satisfying dish of "Vigo Saffron Yellow Rice" along with a tin of "Lean Hormel Smoked Ham" all washed down with a huge mug of powdered milk.
The label on the package describes the product as "Authentic Spanish Rice", "Easy to Prepare", and "Completely Seasoned". It was damned good and I certainly couldn't have prepared it any better.