Diva Di's Cruising Adventures

Days 10 to 12

24 March 2008
[Having a malfunctioning keyboard and poor internet access makes this tough. The title for the last entry read "the first 8 days," but obviously you got 1 to 10. This is the next few days.

The lessons keep mounting; let's hope I am truly learning never to repeat some of them.

We have vert few pics because: 1. we're not good photographers, b. there hasn't been much interesting to take a picture of quite yet.]

Day 10: Fri 21 Mar 08

[cont'd from previous entry]

** posted to blog 21 Mar 1400 **

Our small outboard engine is running OK, but we decided this would be a good day to switch and put the 10 HP one on the dinghy for a test. It's not a trivial thing because you are working with a bulky 90 lb item that, if mishandled, can hurt you, drop into the water, or both. With the aid of the engine hoist and some careful planning, we got the job done with no mishaps.

The big engine fired up quickly and my short test run proved good. Now, it was time to prepare for another run to shore - this time to walk the half mile to the library and see if the free Internet wi-fi was working. I asked Diane to get me something comfortable for walking and she dug out a pair of former running shoes from back when I was still able to run, so perhaps they were seven years old. I didn't get 10 yards from the dinghy dock and heard (and felt) "slap-flop, slap-flop." The sold of the right shoe had come off except for the toe and it was a funny sight and feeling.

We had no choice but to tear it off completely. It was not a comfortable condition, to be sure. e did have quite a belly laugh just a few minutes later when the left sole did the same thing. You have to credit the maker with tight quality control. They both failed the same way at the same time.

The library's wi-fi was working and I was able to download a few hundred email messages. It won't surprise you that in our current circumstances, only a half dozen were the least bit relevant.

It was funny to be surrounded by about ten other cruisers (or live-aboards) who had walked or ridden bicycles to the closed library (Good Friday) with laptops open. For reasons yet unknown, my email service would download all my email, but when I was ready to send messages out, it balked. Another challenge to overcome.

Back at the boat, Diane wisely decided to cook the evening meal early to avoid adding extra heat from the galley stove. Despite her logic, however, the wind blowing through the anchorage is quite sufficient to cool us down.

Another great meal by galley mate Diane, some reading, and early to bed.

Day 11: Sat 22 Mar 08

Ahhhh, what a day we have had so far. The mundane parts can be skipped (thank goodness, you are saying!), but the drama unfolds shortly after dropping the mooring ball and motoring out Sisters Creek to the south.

We are going slowly through the narrow waterway with areas that are quite shallow, so my attention is directed forward. I occasionally glance aft to check for overtaking traffic, but nothing appears. The area where the creek meets Hawk Channel (the Atlantic Ocean just inside a somewhat protective reef) is the trickiest part, so again the focus is forward.

We are perhaps one-half mile eastward of the entrance under sail when Diane shouts that the dinghy is gone! I am momentarily stunned, but act quickly to douse the sails and turn 180 degrees. I concentrate on steering since running aground would make everything much worse, while Diane scans to leeward (the direction the wind is blowing toward) for the dinghy. We retrace our original track to ensure good depths while scanning all the while to no avail.

I tried hailing boats exiting the creek entrance but no one responded. I also issued a Securite radio announcement for a missing dinghy so that other boaters would be alert for it. With no radio help at hand, we knew we needed to get at least inside the entrance before the tidal height dropped any lower and we would risk grounding to come back in. Once just inside the entrance, there were many nice homes and we aimed for one with an empty pier. It was a very nice docking maneuver, I must say, considering my heart was in my throat wondering how we would recover from this fiasco.

The nice neighbor of our temporary pier came over and we explained the situation. He offered to take me out in little skiff to look, so off we went. I carried both my cell phone and the handheld VHF radio. After about 10 minutes, I heard that the Marathon City Marina had received a call from the local Coast Guard station of a report of a lost dinghy. The word relayed to me was that the dinghy would be delivered to the City Marina dock. I need to add that Diane was aboard Diva Di monitoring and communicating on the radio and handling everything like a champ. I am so lucky to have her!

At that announcement, we returned to the good samaritan's dock; he refused any offers of gratitude other than my heartfelt thanks and a handshake. Most boaters are like that, perhaps because they know they can be the one needing help someday.

Now, I must tell you that at this point, I have just made mistake number three. Mistake one was to not secure the dinghy on the davits which I went to all the expense and effort to install. It was to be only a very short hop of 5 miles and the seas were not bad at all, so towing it behind us should be fine, I said. Mistake two was not to use a second safety line while towing, which would have almost certainly prevented the problem.

Mistake three was "assuming' I could believe what had been reported to me second hand. After successfully bringing Diva Di back through Sisters Creek with ever-falling tidal heights, we secured another mooring ball (the fact that Diane was standing on the bow to pick up the mooring pendant when the rain started teeming just made the situation worse). I awaited a lull in the rain to take the local water taxi to the Marina dock where I did not see the dinghy. No worries, it will be here soon, I thought.

The next several hours were like an episode from CSI: Marathon. The marina staff told me what they heard - the CG called on the telephone to say they would deliver the dinghy. When I called the CG Station, they said they had a SAR (Search and Rescue case) and had abandoned the dinghy mission. Very understandable, of course, but what does that mean? We have no further information for you at this time. What??!! I left my cell number and hoped for a callback soon.

An hour later, I called and reached a different person who told me even less optimistic things. The marina staff suggested I call a taxi and go to the beach where the dinghy likely would have washed ashore (at least the winds were carrying anything floating toward land and not to sea).

I decided to call my longtime Internet sailing buddy, Ed, who lives aboard his boat just 5 miles east, and who we were going to visit when calamity struck. He responded in stellar fashion and came over to pick me up. We drove around for quite a while, when he suggested we get the story from the "horse's mouth." Arriving at the gate of the CG Station, we were allowed inside, and a Petty Officer explained in person that they had the name and telephone number of the person who apparently found the dinghy in open water and towed it back to the dock at their rental property. Now, THAT was a far cry from everything I had been told so far, and very optimistic to boot!

More drama ensured when the phone number was disconnected, so we tried to just locate the neighborhood. After some false directions, I called the CG back and found either they or I had gotten one digit wrong. That phone call bore fruit and we were on our way. A few wrong turns later we found the right place and a perfectly fine dinghy. Again, the good Samaritan would accept nothing but a handshake.

Feeling mighty blessed to have been spared a very expensive and cruise-altering (ending?) blow, I bid thanks and goodbye to my friend, Ed, and brought the dinghy back through Sisters Creek to tie up to Diva Di once again.

I then called Ed on the cell to inform him that all was well, then hailed Anne at the marina office to apprise her of the happy ending. It turns out she and her husband, Al, live here aboard their powerboat moored adjacent to ours, and Al was my water taxi driver. I invited them aboard at 1800 for drinks and appetizers to tell our tale and thank them for their concern and assistance.

You can be assured that before we depart tomorrow, the dinghy painter will be secure, and it will be on the davits, well-secured.

I am very thankful that the lessons being taught do not involve personal safety. I truly try to do the right things, but sometimes being paranoid is the only right course of action, it seems.

Day 12: Sun 23 Mar 08

There was a fair amount of scattered showers throughout the night, which is good. Most of Florida needs rainfall badly. Down here, it won't be filling any aquifers, reservoirs, or watersheds, but it will reduce the demand for water. And anytime a boater with salt spray on his boat can get a free fresh water rinse it is nice.

One of the few items not completed before departure was the actual assembly of the rain-water catching system. I have a tarp and a drain fitting with a hose attachment. What we need to do is decide exactly where and how we can affix the tarp to catch rain when we are in the more isolated Bahamas. Water can be very expensive over there and not always easy to find. Many boaters use rain-catching systems, so we'll try too.

We alerted the marina that we were departing (again), and traversed Sisters Creek (again). The wind was not favorable (what a surprise), so we motored the short distance to the entrance to Coco Plum channel at the southern end of Fat Deer Key, just 4 miles east of where we had stayed for 3 nights. My friend, Ed (a.k.a. snoozer), came out in his little runabout to guide us in. After anchoring in a nearby basin, we lowered the dinghy and visited Ed in his abode.

What an unusual, interesting, and delightful setup he has there. It's a condominium of boat slips (spaces with pilings to dock boats) and a certain amount of dockside space where all have erected shelters of various sorts. They seemed to range from simple tarps over pipe framing, to nicely-crafted chickees (wood pole frames with palm frond roofs). Some were just functional and some were elaborately decorated, but they all had character.

It was impossible to do anything in your area without your neighbors being involved in some way. That's great if you like your neighbors and Ed seems to have good ones. After several hours sitting around hearing about Ed's commercial fishing history and gleaning lots of sage advice about all things nautical, we went back to the boat for a nap and freshen up. Later, we went back to go out to dinner.

True to the community spirit they developed, several of Ed's neighbors joined us for dinner: Chris, OT and Lorraine. All were delightful folks and the table we shared at Burdine's restaurant was full of lively conversation. In anticipation of a steady diet of fish I will be catching (much belly laughter from Diane; do you see the abuse I take?), I elected to get a juicy burger and it was good.

After dinner, Ed gave us an interesting tour of some nearby spots along with the history. Much of it revolved around big money changing hands, politics, some people making a killing and others losing their shirts. Such is the way of the keys. The character of the keys may be changing in some areas, but the "characters" of the keys remain.

It had been a long day for all, so we bade goodnight and gave many thanks for all his assistance and for a good day getting to know each other more. Back aboard, we had some quality time with Clyde on deck. He surprised and concerned me by going the extreme foredeck and flopping over to lie on his side. His back was mere inches from the side rail with essentially nothing to prevent him from falling overboard if he rolled the wrong way. I don't want him to get so comfortable on the boat that he fails to respect the "edges." So far, we have a policy of watching him all the time he is not below.

I called John on his cell and we agreed that if weather permitted, we would move up the keys another 24 miles or so to anchor near him for a night and visit. John is another friend I met on a sailor's Internet site many years ago. We met face to face once in Annapolis very briefly and have remained connected via the 'net and email frequently. He retired after a very interesting career and now lives aboard his boat in Islamorada.

Day 12: Sun 24 Mar 08

Up at 0six00, it was a wonderfully comfortable evening. At bedtime the breeze had died to a whisper and I felt a stifling night was ahead. Diane's prediction proved better and we enjoyed a gentle breeze which became just a tad cool by early morning. Clyde and I enjoyed the pre=dawn and he was mesmerized by the couple of commercial fishing boats that came through with their rumbling engines in the darkness.
Vessel Name: Diva Di
Vessel Make/Model: PDQ MV34 Power Cat
Hailing Port: Punta Gorda, FL
Crew: Duane and Diane

Diva Di Crew

Who: Duane and Diane
Port: Punta Gorda, FL