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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Nothing to do but gaze up at stars and distant galaxies...

It's now late in the evening and there is still not a whiff of air to be found blowing in any direction. I'm still debating with myself whether to continue sailing to Marathon once the wind finally kicks up or head back to Marco Island and get my motor repaired by someone who knows what the hell he is doing.

I am nevertheless concerned about my already depleted water supply and the fact that there is virtually nothing between my next way point and Marathon other than mosquitoes and gators. I check my nautical charts and note some menacing names of places no one has been to in a while... "Mosquito Key", "Alligator Bay", "Big Lost Man's Bay", "Buzzard Kay", "Alligator Cove", "Shark Point", and "Dead Man's Key".

Somehow I also find myself thinking about the true life story of an adventurer featured in the movie, "Into the Wild"... and of his fate, and no, I certainly do not want to be that guy...

I'm also concerned about uncharted shoals. There is always the possibility of running aground on some uncharted shoal out in the middle of nowhere and not having any auxiliary power to pull the boat off. I ask myself, who would come and save my ass? It's not like anybody knows I'm even out there.

My handheld VHF radio has a but a limited range of but two miles or so... besides there wouldn't be anybody out there to hear my pleas for help anyway... and I might just wind up having the misfortune of having a shoal named after me.

I finally make the decision that evening not to make a decision until the next morning. I open up my last bottle of inexpensive and unpretentious Merlot and pour myself some wine into a wide based ceramic cup.

I spend the rest of that evening sipping on wine and contemplating the stars and heavens all the while thinking about all the screw-ups in my life and yearning for companionship. Earlier that evening I watched the sun dip below the horizon yet did not see the green spark this time around.

Navigation lights can be seen methodically blinking on and off in the distance while I contemplate whether sailing is indeed more relevant than growing a vegetable garden, or hiking, or even grilling burgers out in the back yard with friends and family.

I marvel at planet Jupiter, the brightest object in the sky on a moonless night. It is but the width of three fingers above the horizon and its reflexion on the completely still water makes a perfectly straight line.

Later that evening I see the skies light up beyond the southern horizon with a distant thunderstorm. I also see an occasional satellite high above the atmosphere streaking across the sky but it fails to make much of an impression on me since it has become somewhat of a common occurrence to see them.

I periodically wake up throughout the night to check my GPS position. There is a slight current but I'm only drifting at half a knot or so. I'm in deep water and have drifted but three miles throughout the night.

I awaken with a clear head and decide to do the prudent thing and head on back to Marco Island to have the outboard repaired. The "never go back" bit of advise from my fellow barfly up at Fort Myers Beach will simply have to wait until I have "embraced this" in its entirety...

Morning showed some gray skies over the eastern horizon and sure enough the wind started to pick up ever so slightly but not enough to bother with the sails just yet.

I make a French press pot of Bustelo coffee and find myself wishing I had some "pan tostado con queso y mantequilla" to go along with it. I check my position once again and calculate some twenty miles to Marco Island. There is now a perceptable slight breeze blowing.

Soon thereafter I've raised the sails and am glad not to see the sunrise because of the cloud cover on the eastern horizon. Blondie-Dog is once again under sail doing a good five knots while gliding over placid seas.

It was a delightful easy sail made in four hours or so. Upon rechecking my nautical charts, I note a beach on the south end of Marco Island. The chart shows plenty of depth up close to the shore. As I make my approach I can see kayaking and para-sailing going on. On shore is a row of luxurious condos from one end of the beach to the other.

I slowly ease my boat into about twelve feet of water while continually checking the depth of the water before dropping sails... there is no point chancing getting in too close in shallower waters and I drop an anchor and let out a good hundred feet of rode.

I then partially unfurl the jib and angle off from my hook to set the other anchor. I now have got all my gear stowed away. It's but a little past noon when I get down to the business of a few phone calls to see about having someone come out to the boat and replace the starter cord in my outboard.

My first call goes out to First Marine up in Fort Myers for a local store to call, who may in turn might suggest a local marina to call... and I'm once again thinking about the "you need to embrace this" comment because if I had, I'd already have this information before I even set sail for Marco Island. The marinas certainly do inform me that they would be glad to repair my outboard but no, they can't go get it and that I'd have to bring it in myself.

Now I'm thinking that I'm going to have to re-inflate my dingy, tie off the outboard, lower it into the dingy, and row ashore, then hoist that two hundred pound outboard up on my shoulder and trek to the marina.

Which brings me to my last phone number to call and see whether my boat towing insurance would cover the cost of having them send out a boat to take my outboard ashore. To my pleasant surprise, not only will they come out to the boat, but they will also tow my sailboat to the marina completely free of charge... because technically, the moment I didn't have auxiliary power, my vessel was "disabled" all on account of a broken starter cord. Disabled my a**... didn't anyone see me sail right up to the beach this morning?

I turn on my GPS and press the MOB (man over board) key to get my position and relay this information over the VHF radio. (N25' 55.036 W081' 43.842)
We agree for him to tow the vessel at three that afternoon... giving me some time to catch my breath and scope out all the scantily clad eye-candy up on the beach.

Tanning ashore can be seen a couple, both with hard bodies as far as I could tell looking out over the water at my boat. I imagine the guy to be thinking, "what a life, I wish it were me aboard that boat" while I in turn am thinking, "what a life, I wish it were me laying out on the beach rubbing tanning oil on that super-hot babe laying out next to the guy".

I shortly thereafter grab my snorkeling gear and dip into the cool refreshing water. I bring along a pair of cotton gloves and my plastic paint scraper and get to work once again scraping off barnacles and crud off the hull of the boat.... seems as if I didn't quite do near enough scraping while anchored off Point Ybell some tens days ago or so. I missed more than a few spots this second go around as well. I'll need to bring along a chipping hammer next time to remove a few of the larger barnacles steadfastly refusing to become dislodged from the hull.

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