Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finally Free of the Dock and the Lines That Bind Us

Our goal was to leave the marina on March 1st and we actually stuck by that date. The week leading up to our departure was hectic as we made a final trip to see my sister and her family, dropping off more items that didn’t make the cut for the boat. We also put as much as we could in our overstuffed storage unit and packed the car with items we decided needed to go with us. See you later’s were said as Dirk and I try never to say goodbye. Several trips to West Marine were made for last minute thought of items and items that we were trying to decide if we wanted or not. On our last boat we had the smart controller remote and really liked the idea of being able to steer the boat away from the helm.
Raymarine Smart Controller
Great when you’re in open water and only small adjustments need to be made. We can relax in our port o seats on the front deck or lay back on the nice comfy couch on the stern. The nice feature about it is it is also a repeater station for all the instruments and we can keep it in the bedroom at night if we need to be aware of anything. We also got the antenna finally for the small handheld GPS that we have mounted by the bed that we use as an anchor alarm.

Hand held GPS mounted on the wall in the bedroom
 I sleep so much better knowing something is tending to the anchor. Several trips around town making sure scripts were filled and provisions were gotten. As I put the provisions away I find more room and thus think I need more. I mean, can you really have too much? We shall see what we return with. I also finished up some screens for hatches and installed the lee cloth I made in the forward berth.

screen on the aft hatch, come on flys, your not getting in here

Lee cloth keeping lots of stuff stashed and stowed.
 There was one final dock party to attend and we had our friends Mac & Margie return to spend some time together talking over plans to have them visit us in the Bahamas. Loads of laundry was cleaned, water tanks topped off, fuel collected and systems checked, I think we were ready to go. Our plan was to have a short trip down the ICW to stage for a long day on Friday. We would be travelling with a buddy boat from the marina that is heading to Key West.
Our buddy boat s/v Leela at anchor by Caya Costa
We met s/v Leela with Robin, Tony and Charley the chocolate lab at Christmas when they pulled in beside us. We left the docks together around noon with our dock friends there to help, waving us off, with hugs all around. I have to admit I even shed a few tears for new friends made and left behind. I am sure we will all meet somewhere along the way, it always seems to happen. With only a 2 1/2 hour trip the first day down to Sarasota Bay it was a good way to ease back into cruising again. The winds were calm which was nice as this would be the first time to anchor this boat and everything would be new to us. It all went well and we settled into the rest of the evening with some curried chicken salad and brushetta with a couple cold beers out on the back deck.

Our anchorage in Sarasota Bay

Dinner and a cold one on the back "couch"
 Aaaaahhh, this is what we were missing. The next morning we were up at daylight hoping to get a jump on the day our sights on Caya Costa in Boca Grande as an anchorage. The fog was so thick it looked as if it could be cut with a knife. Wow, so we hung out for just a bit than decided we needed to get underway. In the open areas it wasn’t too bad but there were a few skinny areas that we had to travel that my main goal was to spot the next channel marker to keep us on track. Thank goodness for radar…..We had known the winds were going to be picking up that evening so we wanted to be tucked behind the island for some good protection. The trip took about 10 hours of busy busy waterways bustling with people getting a head start on the weekend. We got to the anchorage threw the hook down, watched the sunset, ate some dogs from the grill and called it an early evening. Up early again the next morning, we needed to reach Ft. Myers today as a cold front was moving in and it was packing some hefty winds. We really wanted to be snuggled onto a mooring ball rather than anchoring in unknown waters with little to no anchoring around. It was a rough trip as the winds were already picking up and even in the ICW it was fairly rough. That coupled with the fact that we had several power boaters racing by along with being in the middle of a cigarette boat race that didn’t leave us feeling too warm and fuzzy. These boats were literally flying past us from all sides one cutting not 30 feet in front of our boat. It scared the cat so bad that I’m sure he set a land speed record for a cat making tracks to a hiding place below.
Butters hiding in the Vee Berth upper bunk
Had one of these boats lost control it would have been a nasty event, and for the life of me I can’t figure why they would have a race in the middle of the ICW, on a Saturday to boot. Once we passed under the Sanibel Causeway Bridge we had a short jaunt in open water to make it into Ft. Myers Beach and the City mooring field.
Renegade heading to Ft. Myers
It was quiet a rough ride as we were taking wind and waves over the sides. The wind was cold and we ended up dropping the sides to the cockpit enclosure. Wow, what a difference as saltwater was sprayed and yet we stayed dry. It has already paid for itself. Dirk called ahead and got our ball assignments so at least that would be taken care of. We knew we would be in the back field and we were told there were only two balls that our boat was rated for. As I’m on the front with the binoculars looking for ball numbers I spot what looks like another Vagabond 47. As we get closer I start to recognize the boat, it is a Vagabond 47 and in fact it’s the one we first thought would be the one we would end up with when our search first began 2 years ago.
s/v Majestic Dream
The owners came out on deck seeing us pull in and watch for a moment before the husband Don I think it is hops in the dinghy to give us a hand locating our ball. We had a choice of two and we noticed there was already a smaller boat on one and when we tried to pick up the other the tackle on it was completely rusted away. We call the office and they tell us we need to be on the ball with the smaller boat, they are on the wrong ball. Humm no one is on the boat and the wind by this point is making coasting around in tight places a bit uncomfortable. Don is in his dinghy going from one ball to the next before finding one with suitable ground tackle, he hands me the line up and I tied it off. I don’t care if the office is upset we took a different ball we would deal with moving later. We just wanted to get secured. We thanked Don for his help and set about getting the dinghy in the water and the engine put on so that Dirk could go into the office and settle up. He would pay for two days and we would make a decision then whether we could move on or not. We settled in and when the couple returned to their boat Dirk went over to them explaining that they were on our ball and would have to move to the one they were assigned. He said don’t worry about it this evening we would do it tomorrow.

Sun set over the mooring field with the Ft. Myers beach bridge in the distance
 They had no problems with that and apologized. The next morning we awoke to calm weather but no sooner than we were thinking perhaps the weather people were wrong the skies started getting dark and the winds quickly piped up. We clocked 40 knots at one point and the boats were all straining on their mooring lines. Some heeled so much that I was able to see the top of the deck. We decided that no one was going to be travelling today so no one would need the ball we were on. We were staying put and we weren’t moving unless it was absolutely necessary. There were several other balls around and as long as the winds were as they were we wouldn’t have a problem with turning radius. However, towards the evening we had an alarm sound that we were in shallow water. We had six feet under us and we need 5’6” so there wasn’t much room to play with. Also the tide was still going out and we had another foot to go. That’s not good, it was time to move, wind or no wind. If we sat in the mud with the wind hitting us on our side it wasn’t going to be pretty. Dirk phoned the office to inquire the depth of the field to know perhaps a better place to go. He was told the depths were 8 to 12 feet all around. Dirk informed the lady we were sitting in less than 6 feet at that time, her response, “well move”. Um, anyone knowing my husband knows that’s the wrong response but what were we to do. With many onlookers and not one person offering assistance we let the ball go and plotted our course taking current and wind in consideration to maneuver around the other boats to pick up a ball Dirk had checked the depth with in the dinghy. The first attempt of us trying to get into the channel we ran aground and with just a bit of reverse were able to back off and back the way we came. We managed to get close to the ball but the wind was so strong it kept us from getting there successfully. After a couple of go arounds we pull up next to it, I hook the pennant and I get a line tied to the boat. Whew, then the fun began because with the way the winds were blowing we didn’t trust the tired looking rope and wanted to add our own tackle to it. After much cursing that I’m sure many people heard Dirk had his own lines through the ball and finally attached to the boat now using theirs as a backup. We are definitely not moving again, tough. So today is day 3 here, the 6th of March. I have only gotten off the boat once since leaving Cortez and that was to have sun downers on the neighboring Vagabond 47 s/v Majestic Dream. She is still for sale and both Dirk and I feel that even though we didn’t end up with her like we thought a year ago that fate brought us to the one we were suppose to have. We couldn’t be happier with our decision. A few more days here perhaps waiting out the front and then we will make a hop to Marco Island, Shark River and then on around to Marathon. Yes it blows that we are stuck sitting here waiting, but it beats sitting at a dock any day. I know this post is long but Dirk has decided he would like to add his recap of the events of the mooring field. Anytime he wants to add something I am all for it as he may only make one or two contributions per year. Here goes.....I said a long time ago that the only time that I will make an appearance on the blog is when something didn’t go right. So, that being said, let me take the sugar coating off from Nancy’s version and tell you what really happened.  There we were, no shi…no, but seriously, we arrived at Fort Myers, FL, after a 6 hour motor into 25-30 knot headwinds.  We had called the mooring field a few days ago and they told us they were only half full, but after calling this morning, they informed us that they had two moorings left for our size.  Of course we started calling marinas around the area, just in case.  Everything that we found was about $2/ft, which would make for an expensive stay for the week.  As we got closer we called the mooring field on the radio and they gave us two balls to choose from, #51 and #54, the only two balls left that had a 80’ turning radius.  Both of those moorings are in the southern field, which is about a 5 minute dinghy ride to the dock, but it will be better than having to pay for a slip.  We motored down to the field and saw another Vagabond moored in the field.  It was Majestic Dream, a Vagabond that we had always wanted to look at before buying Renegade, but after having the run in with the Broker last year, I swore that I would not buy a boat from Contemporary Yachts out of Annapolis, no matter how much I liked a boat.  Since that was the listing broker we never did look at it, which worked out just fine for us.  Anyway, back to the story at hand.  We found mooring ball #51, which you can see from the pic, was not a good place to be attached to and feel safe about it.

Ball 51, would you trust your boat on this?
 On to #54 it is.  After a 15 min cruise through the mooring field, we found what had to be #54. We were not really sure, since the ball was upside down, grown over with algae, and didn’t have a number shown on it.  On top of that, it had a 27’ sailboat attached to it.  After a quick call to the office I was told that there was no boat on 54, but rather 55. Since they had not seen the outside of their office in a while, I assured them that 55 was empty and 54 was taken.  After a little arguing  I told them that I am going to take one of these open balls and we could figure it all out later.  #56 it was for right now.  We had about 9’ of water under us and all was good,for now.  After we got tied up and all secured I dinghied to the office and informed them that since there is no one around us on any of the balls, that we would stay there until the boat  moves from 54 to 55.  After a nice calm night, the wind picked up to about 25 knots and stayed there all day.  About  2 pm our shallow water alarm, which was set to 7’, went off.  No biggie, readjusted it to come on at 6’ and the problem was solved.  At around 3pm we heard the alarm go off again.  Now that we are at 6’ it was time to get concerned since we draw about 5’6”.  So I checked the tides and it showed me the we still had another foot to go to Mean low tide and that by 4am, the water level would be even below that.  In land lovers terms that would mean that our keel would be sitting about a foot in the mud and we would be stuck. On any normal calm day that would not be an issue, but when you sit sideways in the mud and the wind picks up to about 40 knots… let me just say that there would be a foul smell coming from your underwear. A quick call to the office proved me wrong. There is always 6-12’ of water in the mooring field, and if I have less than that, then I should just move. To where?  #54?  I don’t think so.  So we found another ball that had no one else around it. On our way over there we ran aground in the channel but luckily backed right out and got back to 6’ of water.  Once we got to the ball, Nancy did a great job picking up the pennant and we were set.  So we thought!!! After a close inspection of this shackle and line, we found that the line is frayed at the end and that the shackle is rusted pretty bad to the point that I wanted my own line attached directly to the mooring ball and just use their line as a backup.  With the winds at steady 25 knots it took us a good hour and quite a few of choice words to get my chafe guard in place and all the lines attached, but finally it was time for a shot of Patron and some TV.  Like they say, sometimes you will be entertained and sometime you are the entertainment.  Well, that night we were the entertainment for sure.  The following morning I got into the dinghy and drove to the office to see what kind of idiots run the place.  I explained to them about the condition of the balls, the low water in the field and all I got in return was “ You should have checked your charts to see that kind of depth you have” and “ yeah with the mangroves on that side it shallows out quite a bit”  If you know that, then why don’t you tell boaters that when you assign them to that dry dock that they call a mooring field?  The person behind the desk gave me the Public Works number and a point of contact and that was all I could handle for the moment.  So that next night we were invited to Majestic Dream, the other Vagabond, and had sun downers when we saw a good size boat coming by looking for ball numbers.  I asked them which one they are looking for to help them out.  You won’t believe it, but they were looking for #51 or #54.  The one that is taken and the other one with no shackle.  Now tell me if I am over reacting, but not 4 hours ago I was in that office, telling them about the situation about those two balls and what do they do?  Ignore and reassign.   Then I finally I got a call back from the PW office and the lady was very nice and was glad that I contacted her and that she was going to address all of this with her staff.  We will see how this goes. Well this was my yearly contribution to the Blog, and since Nancy is doing such a fine job I won’t interfere again until the next thing that pisses me off.  Today as I post the blog we had the dock master come by and speak to us. Wow, the city actually did what they said they were gonna do. Lets see how far they take it. Maybe they were just greasing the squeaky wheel. Finally a photo of Capt. Butters perched on his favorite spot even though its open.

Leave me alone, Im chillin

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