Friday, December 26, 2008

Vero Beach to Marathon - Could this be Margaritaville???

There were 4 guys standing at the bar who were well into a couple of jugs of draft beer. They were engaged in a very animated conversation about the day of fishing they had just returned from. There were loud descriptions about the number of tuna that had surrounded their boat out on the reef, but for some reason refused to take the live baits that were offered. They stopped their rising crescendo of colorful expletives just long enough to greet a large man, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and covered in tattoos, who had walked in carrying a small terrier like a baby in his arms. The terrier was appropriately dressed for the season in a Santa suit complete with fur trim and a tasseled hat. Accompanying Mr. Tattoo was his woman friend who was carrying a drink that she brought in with her from outside and smoking a cigarette.

On the stage a solo singer piano player with a pony tail was belting out a country rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer as a man in a full Jack Sparrow pirate outfit, complete with tri-cornered hat, 2 stepped with his Pirate Jenny girlfriend. I’m pretty sure he was also wearing eye liner, but maybe it was the lighting, or maybe he just had very striking features? A couple of clean cut prep school types wearing designer board shorts and flip flops and sporting Oakley sunglasses on top of their heads were huddled together completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Pat and I had just returned from a day trip by car to Miami to pick up some solar panels and we were sitting in the aptly named Dockside bar on Tuesday evening waiting for our food to arrive. Both of us were pretty tired because we had arrived in Marathon late on Sunday evening after a 5 day nearly non-stop journey from Melbourne and then almost immediately turned around and driven back to Miami. Perhaps it was fatigue, and perhaps it was the tortoise shell cat sitting on the bar but there was something decidedly surreal about our surroundings. Could this be the fabled Margaritaville?

As his friends fussed over the dog in the Santa suit, one of the fishermen made eye contact, and he walked/staggered over to introduce himself as Tony. He shook our hand warmly and welcomed us to Marathon. He was just passing through, but he had already been there for 6 months, and he had no specific plans for leaving. It seems that he had left behind a stressful life in Chicago and was on his way to Panama aboard his 50 foot catamaran. As he started to describe his journey, our server arrived with our meals, and he politely excused himself and invited us to visit him aboard his boat when we got settled. His beer hazed speech and the Ralph Lauren shirt stained with fish guts were a stark contrast to the elegant way in which he excused himself from disturbing our meal, leaving us wondering just what he did before he became a sailor on a 50 foot cat in the Keys.

Perhaps Tony’s story is an anomaly, but judging by the number of graying pony tails sported by both men and women who are as old or older than Pat and me, I have to believe that the Keys is one of those places that can draw you in and lull you into a satisfied stupor. Perhaps it is the retirement community for aging hippies or perhaps it is the true fountain of youth, but there is something about the air in these parts that just seems to re-adjust one’s notions about time.

The pace of Marathon is a welcome change and a relief from the pace of the past week. Last week, when Pat and I left the anchorage in Vero Beach we knew we were in for a week of dawn to dusk traveling if we were to make the Keys in time for Christmas. As we were caught up in the moment, once again I neglected my rule about being in a specific place on a specific date. Now when you are underway and operating under a self imposed deadline there are two things that a sailor does not want to hear. The first thing is a very loud bang coming from the engine and nether regions of the boat, and the second is the total silence that ensues.

We were approaching St. Lucie Inlet following a channel no more than 150 feet wide that was surrounded by very shallow water. According to the charts the area we were in was very prone to shoaling due to the currents from the inlet and the main channel depths were well below the ICW controlling depth of 12 feet. Furthermore the water outside of the dredged channel was left to go native and was reported to be less than 5 feet deep. Understanding that we were in precarious waters I paid extra close attention to the channel by carefully back sighting each mark to ensure that I was not drifting out of safe water. Suddenly there was a loud bang and a shudder from below and then total silence.

I was like a deer in the headlights because the information from my instruments could not explain what had just happened. The chart plotter showed we were in the middle of the channel, the depth sounder showed close to 10 feet of water, and the speed log showed we were still moving forward at a decent clip. Pat nailed the problem right away when she yelled over that we had hit something floating in the water and that our prop was fouled. As I cursed all crab fishermen, I managed to restart the engine, but as soon as I put it into gear, it would stall so I shifted the focus of my cursing to the company that manufactured my prop line cutters. I managed, after several attempts of putting the engine into forward and reverse, to create a substantial cloud of debris that looked like a mix of tree branches and bits of canvas. The engine would run while in gear, but the vibrations that ran through the hull felt as if the engine was going to come out of its mounts.

I had visions of bent prop shafts, fried engines and broken transmissions, so I shut everything down. There was not enough wind to sail and the engine was of no help, so we allowed the boat to drift and as we moved into the shallow water off the channel Pat went forward to set the anchor. A call to Tow Boat US on the VHF and help was on the way. Within 20 minutes we had a Towboat alongside and were on our way to the Marriot Resort at Hutchinson Island where a diver would meet us and check out our problem. It turned out that I had hit a submerged construction tarpaulin like the type that is used to cover the load in a dump truck. It seemed endlessly long as I took the edge from the diver and pulled it from the water.

In the end the engine was fine and we were none the worse for wear. It cost us about 2 hours out of our schedule and $50 to cover the cost of the diver. It could have been much worse, but in retrospect what was impressive to Pat and me was that the experience we had gained over the last few months came into play, and apart from my initial surprise, we handled everything calmly and correctly like we had been doing this all of our lives. Kudos to Tow Boat US for being so responsive and many thanks go out to the staff of the Marriott for providing safe haven for sailors in distress, but in the end it was Pat and me that kept a bad situation from getting much worse.

It was a shame that we had imposed a deadline on our traveling because the next 4 days took us from anchorages in Jupiter Inlet to Fort Lauderdale and to the strangely named but beautiful Long Aresenicker before arriving in Marathon. Each of the stops could have easily been expanded into much, longer stays, but there is always next time.

We have arrived in Marathon, where we were met by Bruce and Esther of Con el Viento fame who produced last years cruising blog. Bruce has appointed himself as the unofficial dockmaster for Canadian boats, and he has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that Pat and I feel comfortable and welcomed. The holidays were welcome quiet time, but a little lonely because the usual hustle and bustle of family dinners were missing this year. Still Pat managed to put together a great Turkey dinner for the two of us

This week will be dedicated to scrubbing several months of grime off of Threepenny Opera and catching up on boat chores that have been neglected for awhile. One of the best chores will be to pack away all of the cold weather clothing that we had been living in up until about three weeks ago. These days dressing up means putting on a shirt with a collar and somewhat cleaner shorts.

Marathon is extremely cruiser friendly and both Pat and I are looking forward to integrating ourselves into the community. We are prepping for the next stage of our travels, but the current plans call for a stay in Marathon until the end of January…. Who knows, maybe we will be like Tony the fisherman and we’ll find ourselves propping up the bar and introducing ourselves to next seasons fresh faced arrivals.

Have a great week. I know we will here in Margaritaville!


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Carol & Helmut said...

Dear Pat & Addison:
Wishing you a Happy New Year! We were thinking of you on New Year's Eve as we enjoyed another fine bash at PCYC - good food and friends and an evening of fun.
We wish you good health and happiness and of course fair winds and smooth sailing for 2009!
Carol & Helmut Trupke

Knut and Gerda Buschmann said...

Hi Pat and Edison;
Finally, I have managed to get me signed up with Google. As you always say Edison, also that procedure can NOT be described "mission critical".
Gerda and I wish you all the best for 2009. We had a great New Years party with Carol and Helmut, John and Margaret and the usual bunch of fine folks.
I googled the map of marathon and wonder if you are docked on Sombrero Blvd ? With satelite pics it looks as if there are a lot of docks.
All the Best !

Knut and Gerda

Knut and Gerda Buschmann said...

Hi Pat and Edison;
This is my second try to leave a posting. Let's see ...
We wish you all the best for 2009 and, as we say in Germany, always the 'width of a hand' water under your keel. You sure need that !
We had a great New Years party together with Carol and Helmut and Margaret and John, and a lot of the other fine folks at PCYC.
I googled your location and with satelite images I can zoom in pretty close at Marathon. Are you docked at Sombrero Blvd ?

Your blog is worth while publishing in one of the cruising magazines. I think you may have found a new calling ?
How is the boat holding up and all your fancy 'add-ons'?
Why not rent a locker in Marathon to store all your obsolete winter gear ?
All the best for 2009 !
Knut and Gerda Buschmann

Anonymous said...

HNY ! Strategic Offsite Meetings haven't been the same...
Warm wishes to your whole crew from mine !
Colin, Pauline, and Miss Helen

Pat & Addison said...

Thanks Colin

We are on the ultimate offsite adventure. I made it the local Ham Radio Club luncheon today. The lunch was only 1 hour, but somehow the entire day disappeared. Check out the nets on 14.1225 Mhz USB Canadian 7:30 AM Eastern and 7.268Mhz LSB for the US net 8:00AM Eastern 7 days per week.


Andy Morris said...

Addison -

Happy New Year! I am in Singapore this week and with all the Chinese New Year festivities here I was reminded that this time of year is big for you and your family.

I will be here until Saturday when I move on to Delhi for 2-3 weeks so unfortunately will miss the big events, but I have been told China Town will be exciting on Friday night.

I just caught up on the last entry to your blog and now am going to be coming back to read more. You have a gift my friend for telling a story. Being a big fan of the keys (mostly Key West) I completely understand your point of view and the way you decribe it brings back some fond memories of my younger days. If I get home one day ... I think its time for me to get back for a visit.

If your course allows and you have the time, do take in Key West. Definitely a bit more "tourist" than Marathion and the other keys, but I always enjoyed my time there. Just in case its still in business ... the "Light House" was an excellent Italian restaurant.

Drop a short note when you can so I know you got this. Now that I know your posts are not just boring "sailor geek" talk, I will be back to read more about the adventure.

Say hi to Pat. Safe journeys


Brian Lemon said...

Greetings from Brian and Frances Lemon of Baccalieu. (You may recall our meeting in Molly's Cut with David and Judy Hume when we were comparing notes about preparing our boats for the trip south and both growing up in Saint John, NB).
Frances and I left Whitby on Sept 3with Baccalieu "nearly ready" for the trip ahead. We sailed down the NY canal system, on to Annapolis for boat show. We were in North Carolina in early Nov and left Beaufort on Nov 6 for St. Thomas. Our passage was 8 days and 23 hours of very vigorous sailing. We have been cruising the Virgins for past couple of months and are now preparing to go down island to St. Lucia etc. for next six weeks. After that we head back through Turks and Bahamas with plan to arrive in Florida by mid June.
Best wishes on your cruise. We've enjoyed reading your blog and have shared similiar experiences. Maybe our paths will cross in the Bahamas.
Brian and Frances

Anonymous said...

Kung Hey Fat Choy and Yan Yan Sune Ley from the inferior

Simon Puttick said...

Hadn't checked in on your progress for a couple of months! Excitement has a different level in your world - something I would definitely prefer. Having lived in Miami for a couple of years you are talking about a lot of places I know, but viewing it from the sea makes it look so much nicer! Will check in again soon - take care and thanks for the eloquent and entertaining blog.

Simon Puttick

Anonymous said...

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