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Swing Set

Dec 14, 201208:04 AM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Everglades City To Marathon

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We cruised up the Barron River to a couple of other establishments, but the two we saw were either not open or had no customers. Rosie and I both figured we could have a better dinner on the boat, and could be back at our anchorage before dark, so we turned around and started planning our menu. We were happy to get back and drop the hook before darkness settled in. We found out later that our anchor neighbors were glad to see us return, too.

The next morning we made our decision to go. The forecast called for some winds to kick up later in the afternoon, so if we were going to make it with some comfort to our planned anchorage on the Little Shark River, 40 miles away, before the Gulf got too nasty, we had better get going pronto.

As we were pulling up the hook, our sailboat neighbors were gliding by and gave a friendly wave, so I hailed them on the radio and asked them where they were headed. They responded that they were headed to an anchorage in the Little Shark River, so I told them we were, too. I followed Alley Cat out to a route nearly on his tail and found out later that he was using Navionics on his iPad, too. I also found out later that they had done this trip over 17 times; their home base being in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, and I was impressed that on our first time out we were following the exact same course of some more experienced boaters.

Not being a "follower" though, we hailed them as we passed and said we'd see them in the Little Shark River later on that afternoon. Our ride was as bumpy as we'd had so far on our travels, and we also found out later that Alley Cat almost turned around. But, we found the markers to the Little Shark River and turned up into a swift current to make anchor.

The current was ripping through the narrow river, and the water was nasty. I figured it was good for fishing and threw out a line. No time later Alley Cat showed up, and once they got a hook set, brought their dinghy over to say hello. Gerald and Phyllis are experienced sailors and are headed to the Bahamas. We chatted until the "no see ums" attacked us all, and they bade us goodbye after saying they were headed to Marathon in the morning. We said we were, too, and we'd see them then.

Now, I want to say this; our anchorage in the Little Shark River was the worst, the worst I tells ya, anchorage we had encountered in nearly eight months of travel. The current was rushing past our hull, we had some marine life eating at stuff on our hull that sounded like an electrical fire was about to start and the tidal current shifted twice in the night, setting off our anchor alarm both times. Did I mention the bugs? We were attacked during a game of dominoes with the utmost severity. "No see ums" are not denied by any screen that man has invented. We had them flying all around us and they BITE. Oh, yeah, and the humidity was off the chart. I don't think they have a scale for the humidity we were experiencing. I had more sweat running out of my head than I ever had during wrestling practice way back in the stone age. But we survived.

We couldn't get out of there fast enough in the morning. The tide had dropped nearly 5 feet on the last turn, and we barely had enough water to get back out to the Gulf. Alley Cat was on its way, and sure enough, we had both plotted to same course. On our way out, we passed a motor vessel that had been towing a center console fishing boat and had sunk it. The bill was going to be over $6,000 to get the vessel back to civilization via Towboat US, and the vessel was sitting at anchor waiting for the rescue. Glad we weren't them.

The pond was flat as a pancake as we went, the only issue being millions of crab pot markers that we had to dodge. We saw what appeared to be a small boat way off on our starboard beam and went over to investigate. No telling when someone might be adrift at sea: I read Hemingway. No souls on board, so we hailed Alley Cat and told them not to bother when they went past.

The skies had darkened to the west, as a storm had settled over Key West and the Dry Tortugas. I kept an eye on our weather radar and monitored the VHF weather reports from NOAA radio and knew we would evade any storm, but I'll tell you, the clouds we could see off the starboard beam were ominous indeed.

It was pretty dreary as we approached the Seven Mile Bridge, but as we slipped beneath it, the sun came out and we steered our course back to Marathon and Boot Key Harbor.

Back in the late 1980s, we visited Boot Key Harbor in our 24-foot Formula, and we were only there for a few hours, so we wanted to spend a fair amount of time in Marathon this time around. In the picture, we are headed for the Marathon City Marina, where we decided to get a mooring ball after seeing the derelict vessels anchored in the "free spots" in the harbor.

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