While I am here, may as well as report my hop from Marco Island to Marathon.
I left Marco on a little late in the morning. I headed for the Little Shark River. I went a little farther out so as to miss any issues with Romano Shoals. It was a lite wind
, and all I could make was @ 4.5 knots. I spent the day trudging along south. By the time I able to see the marker for the Shark River's entrance, it was late, @ 10:30pm, and it was a cloudy no moon night. So it was dark, to for me to attempt an entrance. So I just continued south, and decided just to make a all nighter out of it.
Occasionally, the clouds would clear a bit, and the moon would peek through, as I motorsailed along. I was nearing Cape Sable, and on the chart I have, it shows a flashing red marker, 18ft high. I looked and looked but couldnt find it. Up ahead and to my left, I could barely make out a white light, high in the air. I could barely see to my left land about 2 miles off, and I check my location on the paper chart. Hmmm...I thought, the light I see is where that flashing red marker should be, maybe the red glass is broken and the light is stuck. Just pass that white light, I could see another white light off in the distance. I checked my charts
, and it showed that there was another flashing red marking in that same vicinity as the second white light I saw.
Now it was really dark, and all I could really see was those white lights, up in the air, and to me seemed to be more or less 18 feet off the ground. So I continued on, but keeping my distance from the markers. As I rounded cape sable, I picked up the other white light, and headed towards it but maintaining my distance.
I passed the second white light, took a look at my charts
, and was trying to pick up the flashing red marker for the line to John Sawyer Bank. It was suppose to be off to my oblique starboard. Couldnt see it anywhere! Then I got to thinking, I dont know exactally where I am at, so I better stop and re-think this. I stopped, and sat there scanning the chart. Hmmm...I am not sure where I am, my lats and longs says I am here, but that voice inside my head
said, something just isnt right. I decided to turn around, since I know where I came from was safe water
, to really re-think this.
This time back to my previous marker sighting, I headed closer to the previous white light marker. When I got close enough, I pulled out the binocs to take a better look at that marker. Lo and behold, it wasnt exactly a white marker, but the anchor
light of a very large sailboat. I quickly looked for the other white light I saw, and it too was an anchor
light, on another sailboat. Damn, what an idiot I am.
Now confident in my location, I headed back to that unseen John Sawyer Bank marker. I really wanted to just snuggle up between them two sailboats and throw the hook, but since I was now wide awake, I may as well keep going.
I picked up the John Sawyer Bank marker about an hour later, and plotted parralell course. Could see squat, it was so dark. I was lighting
a cig, and caught a glimps of a crabpot bouy passing down my port side, so close I could hear it rub against my hull
. Well, thats enough with the motor
, and shut the engine
off. I ran just on the sails
, and it was slow going, but I thought, better to go slow that be wrapped up in a crabpot.
The morning came slow as all mornings do when you really desire sunlight. I check my lats and longs on the chart. I was on the right bearing, and not far now from John Sawyer Bank. I fired up the yanmar
, and hit the gas. I was ready to be in Marathon so I could take a nice sleep.
I picked up my second marker, right where the chart said it would be. Fine I though, and I could see the 7 mile bridge off in the distance. Wont be long now, couple of hours at best. I was headed to Bethel Bank marker. I could see it off in the distance. I saw alot of boats out and about and a **** load of crab pot bouys in front and to either side of me. Hate them things, takes all the relaxation out of sailing.
I got to the Bethal Bank marker, and started to head towards the next marker. As I passed the Bethal Bank Marker, I noticed it wasnt the same number as on my charts. Perhaps they change marker numbers from time to time, and the chart I was using was like 15 years old I thought. So I kept going....then stopped. These have GPS
numbers, let me double check this ****. GPS
numbers dont change. Sure enough, I wasnt where I thought I was, and not double/triple checking is a bad way to do this sailing thing.
I doubled back, but as I approached the marker, I couldnt remember which side I passed it on, so I passed it on my portside. I looked down into the water
as I passed and admired how clear the water was here, and I could see every blade of sea grass beneath me. WoW! I am really liking this water. I could hear the faint beeping of the depth sounder
, but paid it no mind, as its set at 10 feet, and it has been beeping for quite some time. The water was so clear, and then I could see some mudding going on. I looked at the gauge, and damn I was in 4ft of water! I looked over the starboard side, yeah shallow there too...**** **** ****....I looked over the stern, and the propeller
was churning up the bottom, holy crap! I gave it some more throttle for some reason, maybe I came just power my ass through this soft bottom, as I was still in 4 feet of water, well 3 feet...well 4 feet, as I kept watching the gauge bounce back and forth. Whew! 6 feet now, 7 feet, 8 feet! I'm a lucky bastard I thought, as I looked at the muddied water behind me.
I sat there for a time, figuring out where I actually was. Somehow during the night, I went a little farther west than I wanted. Not making sure I was on my bearing, and just assuming I was hitting the right markers, I got myself in a not-so-good situation. I found the marker I was suppose to be at, and confirmed the bearing I needed to travel. Bearing 150 degrees will put me to Bethel Bank Marker, and made sure I was headed for that GPS location. I check the depths and it was 7 to 8 feet along that bearing according to the charts.
I got to the Bethal Bank marker is due time, and now it was time to make the turn to the 7 Mile Bridge. Okay, I made it and it will be a nice ride to Marathon, and its still early in the day. I heard the depth sounder
beep, looked down, 7 feet, ok its a low tide. no worries. I glanced down at it a few seconds later, 4ft....and as I watched it went from 4ft to...I could hear my bottom touch and the gauge was blinking 0 ft. Oh ****!
I tried to wiggle back off in reverse, nope that wasnt working. I put it in forward and turn the wheel
and make the bow go left, then made the bow go right, then in reverse. Nope that wasnt working either. Jumped out of the boat a beam and went knee deep. I admired how clean my bottom looked, and it was beautiful. I walk back to the stern, and was now belly deep. Hmmm...the water here at the propeller
was in 4+ feet of water. I walked up to the bow, and it was dry, and I was in ankle deep water. I climbed back on board, and put the boat in reverse at idle, climbed back over board and tried to push it off. A 13K lbs boat is not easy to just push off a sandbar. Wasnt much else to do but "Make The Call" to my friends at towboatUS. The tide was coming in, but I was tired and really wanted to make Marathon before dark.
The boys from towboatUS, were there in about 30 minutes, and it took like 30 seconds to get tugged off. The captian of towboatUS, said to me. Ya see that marker over there? Yep I said....You see that marker over there? Yep I said....stay between them till you can see the bridge squarely on your beam. Ok, I said. After you clear the bridge go to the very last marker before you make your turn to Boot Key...dont go straight across after you clear the bridge.....He waved his goodbyes, and off I went.
I followed his instructions to the letter. I made it through the bridge on an incoming current
, flying along at 1.7 knots. Took me like 2 hours to make Boot Key. I was spent, the sun was going down, I found a place to throw the hook and went to sleep. Only took me ALL DAMN DAY to go like 10 miles, but I was fine, tired but fine, and my boat was probably happy to hear my anchor go into the water.