The Day We Quit Dancing
09 February 2008 | Key West to Boot Key
Gerry/Clear Sunny South Wind 5-10
Day 29: Friday, 2/8/08 Key West to Boot Key/Marathon
We left Key West at 0718 hours expecting southerly winds of ten knots and one to two foot seas in the Hawk Channel. Passing the old Submarine Base brought a feeling of nostalgia to the COD (Captain of the Day) in rememberance of his days as a weekend warrior riding USS Dace and other boats out of Key West during extended and exhausting September drill weekends. Key West and the surrounding op areas are as hot as Lake Hades in September and it isn't much cooler in February either. Oh well, I just have to accept the fact that our wonderful cool weather has been left to the North and just deal with it.
Wind and sea conditions were lighter than expected, so we motorsailed until 1130 when the wind picked up and we could do five knots and above. We secured the iron genny and were underway on sail power alone until around 1400 when the COD decided to take a nap. About an hour later, he was rudely awakened by the cry "engine problem." Apparently the wind had died and the watch had restarted the engine and resumed motorsailing. Analysis of the problem seemed to indicate the likelihood that the prop was fouled, either that or we had a major engine failure. In order to answer the question, the COD decided to go over the side and he discovered a huge hunk of net wrapped around the prop. Even in one to two foot seas he thought it best to limp into port rather than try to cut it off as the bottom had some barncles and getting under there with the boat rising and falling two feet in less than a second wasn't attractive to him. Also, he had already scratched himself on a barnacle at the stern and was bleeding profusely. Anyhoo, we now knew we had a fouled prop and called SeaTow in Boot Key.
We were about six miles from the harbor entrance and sailing again with the engine secured but now we were only making about 2.5 knots and the wind was dying fast. Captain Bob with SeaTow promised to meet us at the harbor entrance and tow us from there as the harbor and marina were crowded and we couldn't dance at the moment. We had not made a dead stick landing under tow before so we were a little apprehensive. Meanwhile, Sara had been busy locating a diving service on Boot Key as Roger rigged the tow and the COD manned the helm. Jean manned the VHF and handled communications with Captain Bob, such as they were. Most of the communications were by gestures and shouting. If it weren't so serious it would have been funny. Captain Bob's First Mate was a Jack Russell- like terrier fully rigged with his PFD with a lifting handle that Captain Bob would use to hoist Joey onto the seat beside him.
The tow went surprisingly well and the landing was without incident. Our diver arrived before we were tied up well and hit the water immediately. It was past cocktail hour so everyone was getting anxious. The diver cut the net away in seconds and proceeded to remove the barnacle growth from the prop so we decided to let him replace the zinc on the prop shaft as well. That is when we realized the diver was seriously hearing impaired. We had a few humerous moments with gestures and strange speech until we realized he understood us perfectly as long as he could see our lips move. He spoke quite well but Jean was the only one to realize he was hearing impaired immediately because of the sound quality of his speech. I just thought he was a Floridian: they all talk funny. As the diver replaced the zinc he also noticed the prop nut was loose and tightened it. The charge was $75 and we all felt we got our money's worth.
We quickly set up the cockpit table, Roger prepared Bloody Marys, we all said a few Hail Marys and, mainbraces spliced, Sara prepared a delicious shrimp stir fry which ended a somewhat embarassing day on a positive note. (GLR)