Chapter IV, Part 6. Marathon and Back
Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)
Part 6. Marathon to Marathon via Disaster at Crab Key, Days 23 to 25
Mar. 18, 2004 (Thu.), Day 23
Robin and I went to shore in the inflatable dinghy this morning and went to the Stuffed Pig for breakfast. This time we ate out on the patio. We then walked back to the West Marine store where Robin purchased a replacement stainless steel bolt for the rudder. The old one was a little bit short to take full advantage of the Nyloc nut. We then returned to Spirit Song, and Robin replaced lines with those purchased yesterday. Looking out to the ICW Channel we decided to wait for the wind to calm down with a few less whitecaps. We left at 2:00 p.m. and traveled for three hours. Most of the time we were able to sail. We are now at anchor on the northwest side of a very small uninhabited island called Crawl Key. We are the only boat anchored here. We traveled only 19 miles today. Robin and I sat in the cockpit after full darkness and looked for almost an hour at the many starts. We could see the Milky Way very clearly.
Mar. 19, 2004 (Fri.), Day 24
At 4:30 this morning, Robin and I both awoke knowing that something was not right. Spirit Song was rocking from side to side in a more extreme manner than it should even though the wind was blowing strong. It was pitch black outside so we grabbed a flashlight and Robin discovered that our rudder was on the bottom. After getting our GPS coordinates and applying them to our navigational chart we discovered much to our amazement that our anchor had failed to hold even though Robin had set it using the motor. We had been blown 1-1/3 miles across the channel into water that was only 12 to 18 inches deep. We decided that the best thing to do was to get dressed, have a cup of coffee, and wait for daylight so we could better evaluate our immediate surroundings.
After first light we tried using the motor to back us out. It was not obvious which direction would be the closest deeper water. Robin decided to survey our surroundings by attaching a 250 foot anchor line to the inflatable dinghy and exploring for deeper water. At 8:30 a.m. we were able to achieve our goal of 4 to 5 foot water. The wind was blowing at between 30 and 35 mph. The surface conditions were quite rough with many whitecaps and 2 to 3 foot chop. With these facts in mind we decided to abandon our goal of Key West and return to Marathon. We motored the entire return trip as the wind was coming directly over our bow. It took 4 hours to travel the same distance today that we traveled in 3 hours yesterday. The return trip was very bumpy and wet with lots of spray blowing back into the cockpit. We are now anchored with about 300 to 400 boats, 90% of which are sailboats, in Boot Key Harbor at Marathon. We observed three sailboats trying to un-ground themselves this afternoon.
Mar. 20, 2004 (Sat.), Day 25
The wind was still blowing, when we had a wet dinghy ride from our place of anchor to the marina office. We purchased dinghy dock permit for 3 days and then returned to “The Stuffed Pig” for breakfast. Robin and I hired a taxi to take us to the Marathon Airport, which was about 4 miles east. At the airport, we arranged for a car rental from Avis to be picked up tomorrow morning for our return trip to Tarpon Springs. The airport was interesting in that there were many aircraft-related WWII photographs. There were also a number of model aircraft on display. Much to our dismay we discovered that due to the proliferation of cell phones all of the pay phones have been removed by Southern Bell. It seems that working pay phones are being replaced by cell phones. We returned to the marina area by taxi and walked a short distance to a hospital to purchase dinner in their cafeteria as there were no suitable restaurants in the area.