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Friday, January 20, 2012

Misadventure of Algonquin & Fellow Boaters to the rescue

 Time travelled:  12.5 hours  felt like a 125
 Nautical miles:   100 nm
 Docked at:       Sombrero Marina, Marathon

We were just leaving the dock at Marco, and Garth got a call from Frank on Once Around  - "give me ten minutes and we are coming with you"  Great, it is always comforting to have company when you are out in open water. They were ready and we were on the move just before 7 am.

Our first obstacle of the day was a coast guard vessel blocking the exit, just a short wait and he moved. This should have been a sign of what was to come.
Coast Guard blocking our exit
We continued on our way, we had to go out a ways to get past a shoal and it was bumpy. Zeke does not like bumpy, I had newspapers on the floor, he was drooling and you could tell he was ready to throw up..  Once we got around the shoal and changed direction all was good.
This is the life!

We were moving right along, Zeke resting on the couch and Garth and I both reading. I looked up and there they were CRAB POTS ....we were 30 miles off shore and it was a virtual minefield of pots. Now is the time for heavy concentration - maneuvering through the maze and picking your path.
About 3 ish we got into a clear spot and Garth radioed to Frank that he was going to pick up the speed . He throttled up and CABOOM,  A hesitation in the engine and loss of power. Garth pulled back and  ran down to the engine room. No fire, no smoke - always a good sign. The port side transmission pressure gauge dropped to zero, he topped up the oil but it didn't help.  Keep in mind we spent 3 weeks in Iuka, Mississippi having the port side transmission dealt with and the mechanic returned for a day in Burnt Store.
Although it was a relatively calm day when you are just sitting there the boat starts to roll and roll it did! Lamps were flying, chairs falling over, things were flying and falling down the stairs. Zeke was barking at the back door - he wanted out. I yelled at him to get on the couch and he stood there shaking like a leaf as I was grabbing stuff flying around the room and yelling at Garth to see if he was OK.  (picture it - not a pretty site)  After about 15 minutes of this Garth decided that there was no fix possible at the time and we would continue in on one engine.  Off we went .  At the speed we were going it was touch and go on whether we would make Marathon.  We told Frank and Carrie to go ahead - we would stay in radio contact and if worst came to worst there is always Tow Boat US !   Frank said that they had a night vision viewer and if we wanted it they would drop it off -- yea, I am sure we could use that.  Carrie packed up the viewer in a bag and put the bag on the end of a boat hook. Frank brought Once Around up behind us and the hand off was perfection in motion. Garth looked back and saw the anchor from Once Around at the same time Carrie realized the two boats were a little too close - Carrie yelled F R A N K and Garth goosed our one engine. All was well - no incident and we had night vision. At the speed we could go with one engine we knew it would be dark coming into Marathon.
Once Around making tracks for Marathon

Hugging the pillow after all the rocking and rolling was over!

We limped along for what seemed like days but in reality about 5 hours. Still dodging crab pots but now it was even harder because we only had one engine and the maneuverability was challenging.  We finally spotted land and I think we all breathed  a sigh of relief.
Because we did not have any cell service we radioed to Frank and Carrie to organize our arrival. They found out our slip assignment and rallied the troops on the dock -- remember sometimes your the show and sometimes your the audience!
We limped under the seven mile bridge at sunset still dodging crab pots! Stop eating crab!!!
Our first Keys sunset avec crab pots no less!

As we were approaching the Marathon harbor night fell and I was using the night vision viewer looking for markers and crab pots. Unfortunately it works on temperature differential and the crab pots must have been the same temperature as the water cause they did not show up. So, I got our hand held spotlight and used that.  It worked well picking up boats, crab pots and markers. A fishing boat we passed filled with young guys asked me if we were looking for the harbor - I yelled "yes" and they said "over there - follow the green flashing light." I said thanks and told them we only had one engine. The smarty pants in the group yelled back - "so do we! "   About two minutes later they came closer and said what marina are you going to - I said Sombrero and they said , "follow us we'll take you in"  So, we did and it was sooo nice of them to do that. We were still in contact with Frank and Carrie and they had a plan. Carrie was on the bow of their boat with a flashlight, the next boat had on their anchor light and our spot was next to them. Being as we had limited maneuverability we had decided to bow in and that meant that I had all the lines ready for a port tie and all the fenders out. This was less than ideal as it would have made for getting on and off the boat, due to it being a short finger slip, quite difficult. As we arrived Garth saw that there was no current and decided to have one go at backing into the slip which meant that I had to change all the lines and fenders in a flash. I remember seeing someone in a dingy and Frank ready to grab our stern line....other than that it is a bit of a blur. I did find out that the man in the dingy was Fred from Boreas, ready to give us a push if need be. Garth did a great job backing in and here we sit trying to figure out how to get a transmission pump installed in time to get to Key West.

A very special thanks goes out to Frank, Carrie, and Fred for all their help. Also thanks to Roy, the dock master here, for letting us stay until we get mobile because slips at this marina seem to be a hot commodity.
To quote Frank "ISN'T BOATING FUN"

Below is Franks account of the day & night.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On to Marathon

After our abrupt departure from Marco Island, our crossing to Marathon, expected to take around ten hours, was a beautiful ride. It was a sunny day, and we were travelling with the slight wind at our back, so on our fly bridge we were in shorts and tee shirts.  The seas were 2-3 feet, and my First Mate and I were enjoying some Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney tunes to get us in the mood for the Keys.  We had been looking forward to this for months.
Algonquin on the Gulf crossing to Marathon
We weren’t sure just exactly where the heck we were going to stay that night, because we hadn’t planned to go to Marathon at all.  We began trying to reach marinas in Marathon as we left Marco Island, but were soon out of cell range.  Oh well, something would turn up.  If not, we had an ace in the hole.  We had met a generous fellow boater in Fort Myers who it seems has a small house in Marathon with a 50 foot dock in his back yard.  He had drawn a map to it on our charts and told us to use it if all else failed.
About two thirds through the crossing, Algonquin radioed to tell us they were going to kick the speed up to their maximum to blow their engines out for a few minutes.  This is good practice for diesels, so we told them we would do the same.  About two minutes into this, Algonquin slowed and radioed again that they had lost power on their port side completely.  We idled around for about an hour while Garth determined it was actually his transmission.  He had had it repaired twice in the past few months, and it was blown again. 
Garth secured the port shaft and got back under way using only the starboard engine.  He could only manage about seven knots, so he would be getting to Marathon well after dark.  He told us to go on ahead.  We agreed, but first we made a boat hook pass of our night vision camera from Once Around to Algonquin, a move that was more difficult than we expected, but which went off without a hitch.  They were happy to have the night vision aid. 
Once Around scooted on ahead at about fourteen knots, arriving at the seven mile bridge in Marathon about an hour before sunset.  It took another half hour to get into Sombrero Marina where we had finally secured a slip for the night. 
The Seven Mile Bridge across the Keys at Marathon was a welcome sight

The harbor at Marathon was an even a better sight
We passed Tropical Breeze on a mooring on the way in, and Doug was on the radio immediately welcoming us in.  He and Barb had been in Marathon for quite some time, and we hadn’t seen them since Canada or maybe Michigan last summer.  We promised to get together with them before leaving Marathon.
At our slip we were met by Fred and Julaine from Boreas and John and Rita from Brandy IV, who had arrived in Marathon that day as well.  We were beat and hungry, but the day would not be over until Algonquin was safely in port.  We stayed in radio contact as a local fisherman guided them through the winding harbor in the dark.  Garth managed a spectacularly executed back-in to his slip using one engine and his bow thruster which drew applause from the fishermen and those of us on the dock.  Maneuvering a 53’Hatteras backwards on one engine is no small feat!
We all took a deep sigh of relief and headed immediately to the Dockside Bar for much needed cocktails and a late dinner.  I think everyone slept well that night.
Friday morning my First Mate and I decided to try and stay the weekend in Marathon.  Our original reservations in Key West were for Monday anyway, and there were lots of folks here to hang with.  Sombrero Marina said we could stay right where we were for the next few nights, which sounded good to us.  The weather here is high 70’s with about a 5-10 mph breeze.  In other words, it’s perfect.  We’re just going to hang loose for awhile…
On our walk to the market on Sunday, a couple of bikers waved as if they knew us as they passed.  I jokingly said to Carrie, "Friends of yours?"  We figured they had mistaken us for someone else, but as they slowed and turned to come back to us we were really confused.  As the first one pulled up close with a big grin on his face, we recognized Sid from Something Special.  He and his brother-in-law had rented Harleys for the day and were headed to Key West to meet up with Evelyn and her sister.  Sid has a way of showing up at the strangest times, but this one really caught us off guard!
Sid the biker
Saturday evening we met up with Barb and Doug from Tropical Breeze at the local watering hole, the Dockside Bar.  "Dinner" consisted of appetizer plates of conch fritters and nachos, along with several rounds of drinks.  We were joined by the crews fromBoreasBrandy IV and Brown Eyed Girl.  We compared Loop experiences and laughed most of the night away.
left to right:  Carrie, Barb (Tropical Breeze), Julaine & Fred (Boreas) and Doug (Tropical Breeze)

The other end of the table, Craig and Jinny (Brown Eyed Girl) and John (Brandy IV)...and Carrie agian!
Once Around will be moving on to Key West on Monday if the current weather report holds.  We plan to stay there about three weeks.  We are looking forward to two separate sets of great friends from home who plan to join us there during our stay.

Once Around in Marathon, FL