Friday, March 27, 2015

At Sea with Miss Grumpy Pants

Yesterday I discovered I'm a poor sport and a crappy first mate. At least this is my observation and if Hans feels the same way about it he's wisely keeping it to himself.

I think maybe we just got off on the wrong foot first thing in the morning and it just went straight downhill from there.

We left Conch Harbor Marina in Key West on a high note and after motoring a couple of smooth hours we anchored in Saddlebunch Key. We arrived on a high tide yet saw depths as low as 4 feet. Hmmm. But it was a peaceful anchorage and we could see the huge tarpons surfacing all around us which explained the flat bottom fishing boats flitting about. Our plan for the next day was a short sail to Bohia Honda (we stayed there on our way to Key West and even though we dragged anchor we figured we'd be okay this time) so I stayed up later that night than usual.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I woke up around 8 AM because Hans had fired up our engines. "Hurry up." he told me, "we're leaving." Wilbur was lying beside me and gave me his 'here we go again look'.

I will say right now it's not my fault I ran us aground. Why the hell we left at low tide is beyond me but luckily all we did was churn up a bunch of mud and anyway I'm pretty sure the people in the fishing boat next to us were thoroughly entertained. And off we went.

It was windier than forecast and as we bumped and rolled along in the lumpy seas, stuff I hadn't had a chance to stow away started falling off shelves and counters (including the glass-top lid to my sauce pan). I asked Hans when it was going to smooth out since he'd promised me a 'wonderful day of sailing!' He gave me a blank look and said, "Well, this is it." And then he informed me we were shooting straight for Marathon with no stop along the way which meant about eight hours of this nonsense. I flounced down below to try and make coffee and was furious to discover Hans had finished up the last of my 'Wilbur Wow-Wow' cranberry juice even though he has his own bottle of grape juice. Grape juice in a Wow-Wow? Yuck! Oh, and someone shut off the refrigerator for an entire day thus defrosting it (it was just defrosted a week ago). We are both denying it but I think we each secretly blame the other.

After the first hour we let out the jib and since the seas were so rolly, when Hans expressed a desire to put up the main, I insisted on being the one to guide it up the mast and not him. With the engines shut down and by powering with sail only, it was a bit smoother but not enough to make me happy (by now I had my 'grump' on and didn't want to be happy anyway).

Throughout the day Hans was very excited to announce our speed which was usually 6 plus knots and then he wondered why all of a sudden we'd slowed down to four and a half knots. The boat sailing behind us started catching up quickly so we knew the problem must be with us (of course). There were crab pots everywhere and we were being very careful so surely it couldn't be that. I ended up stepping down behind our stern and when I tried to peer under the boat I saw a thick red line running under water directly from our starboard side.

Damn! Honest to god I swear we have a crab trap magnet on the Knotty Cat.

We've been through this drill before and once again I told Hans we would have to lay off the wind if he wanted me to try and snag the damn thing. He decided to heave to and even though the waves were sloshing over the bottom stern steps at least we didn't have forward momentum. I swiped at the water under our stern with our boat hook several times and just as I was ready to give up I snagged the line. I had my left hand wrapped around the main sheet so I wouldn't fall in and as I hauled it up (not easy let me tell you, remember there was a crab or lobster trap on the other end), Hans left the cockpit and laid down on the top step and started sawing at the line with his rigging knife (Wilbur was very interested in this particular activity and I noticed with great alarm how far over the side he was leaning). When Hans announced it was like trying to cut a steel wire and that he was going to go get our wire cutters I yelled, "You're not going anywhere! Just keep sawing the sonofabitch!" And he did. Once we were free of the trap we managed to get turned back around and all of a sudden there was the severed crab pot floating behind us. At least we didn't have to worry about starting our starboard engine when the time came to fire it back up.

The next time this happens (and it will) I fully intend to hang onto the trap. I only hope it's full because as far as I'm concerned we should get a reward for our troubles (sarcasm here, we don't steal crab traps!).

Please note; we have all the respect in the world for crabbing folk, and when the traps are in a line it's very easy to avoid them. However, there are areas where the traps are thickly scattered like buckshot and therefore not so easy to miss.

We ended up reefing the main and rolling the jib in a bit but for me it was still a crappy ride. At one point we had a wave wash over the starboard side and soak an astonished Wilbur. The strange thing is; the winds never went over 22 knots and the waves were only about 3-4 feet.

When we passed the Bohia Honda anchorage Hans was kind enough to ask if I just wanted to go ahead on in and anchor for the night. But since we now only had two more hours to go I figured we may as well sail on.

My stomach was churning, I was sticky with clammy sweat, and covered in a film of salt water spray from when I had to go up to the the bow and clear a line Hans had left there when we weighed anchor (this involved my crab-walking to the front while the bow continually plunged into the water and then shot back up), when I noticed that a fender had rolled off and was dangling over the side up toward the bow. I didn't care that we didn't look ship-shape, said the hell with it, and laid down in the cockpit.

Poor Hans had been stuck in the captain's seat for nearly the whole trip and I had no idea that during last two hours of our voyage he had to go to the bathroom. But, by that time I'm pretty sure he was regarding me with the same respect one gives a junk yard dog and the fear of disturbing me far outweighed the pressure on his bladder.

I'm pretty sure this is what I looked like. Scary!

Finally, after eight long hours we arrived in Marathon and picked up a mooring ball, Hans got to go to the bathroom, and I got to put the inside of our topsy turvy boat back together.

Our berth. This is the first time in seven years this has happened to us.


A different angle.


  1. Brilliant post - I love the honesty! Hopefully, things are going a bit smoother.

    1. So much better!!! A shower and a drink pretty much makes me happy!