Friday, March 23, 2012

The Great Escape

3 long weeks stuck in Marathon is enough. A nice place, but when you expect to spend 1 week and are boxed in for 3, it gets frustrating.  The wind is finally going to switch direction after 3 weeks of continuously blowing out of the east, the only bad wind direction. So it's time to git!

But, earlier this week a boat with an extra tall mast caught a telephone wire that drapes across the entrance to Boot Key Harbor, which pulled the wire about 5' lower. It was set to 65' at high tide. We need about 62' plus another foot for the whip antenna. The wire is now 60' at high tide and 62' at low tide. Now what?

A few guys went to the bridge next to the wire for an elevated view to spot for us. We waited for dead low tide at 1630 (4:30pm) to make our escape. The lowest droop is right at the channel so if you go around the droop, you gain elevation...but the channel shoals to about 5' very quickly and we draw about 5' 6" and this is at dead low tide! Truly ZERO room to spare.

So we cut through the bridge, forced a small power boat out of our way and listened for the guy on the bridge with a radio to tell us how we looked. Looking up from our boat doesn't tell anything. We've gone through 90' bridges and it looks like you're going to hit it. I turned left after the bridge toward the shallow water and then turned back as soon as I heard from the spotter. I didn't know it at the time but he reported that I hit the wire with the top 1" of my whip antenna! Another boat after us caught the wire with their mast and were lucky to be able to maneuver back off the wire while not running aground. Oh, the wind was blowing 15 at our back pushing us toward the wire. Oh, another minor issue; the depth finder decided to crap out! So when I was heading to the shallow water, I was blind to the depth. That's why I turned very quickly as soon as I got the word. But we made it and we're now anchored in the open ocean behind Boot Key ready to sail east in the morning.

AT&T is wrangling the only barge in the keys big enough to fix the wire. They'll be there in another week. And, BTW, the wire is no longer in use and this is the third time in 2 years for this sort of issue. Lots of unhappy people stuck there another week. We felt like Steve McQueen in the Great Escape. We made it under the wire!

As for the depth finder, we still need one. During a most fantastic sunset over 7 Mile bridge, I scrambled to McGuyver a backup. I have a little fishfinder in the dingy. I removed the finder & the transducer from the dink. I have a fiberglass painters pole for extended reach scrubbing. So I cut off the end of the pole and mounted a stainless 1" bracket I have in the parts bin. Bolted the transducer to the end of the pole and tied the pole to the swim ladder. Spliced on a cigarette lighter plug to the power wire and instant depth readings! I just hope the turbulance from the boat, engine and exhaust don't interfere with the readings. Stay tuned!

Posted by Ed aboard S/V Freedom

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