26 – 27 April 2017
Once it was established that we weren’t going to venture to the Bahamas this season, we sat in Key West for a few more weeks. We had every intention of moving north again and heading back to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, and then further north during the summer. But as we started making initial plans it became evident that neither of us were really too excited about making the journey again, traveling along the same routes and seeing the same sites one more time.
We started looking at different options, and with recommendations and guidance from other cruising friends we decided to head west and north, to explore SW Florida.
First stop would be Marco Island. The passage from Key West to Marco Island appeared to be a pretty straight shot. The distance of xx miles meant we would depart Stock Island Village Marina in mid afternoon and arrive at Marco Island after sunrise so we would be able to navigate the respective channels in daylight.
We untied the dock lines and headed off. The promised wind never did materialize and so we motored on. As we left the channel of Key West into the Gulf of Mexico all was going well.
We will admit that we were a bit naive and didn’t really expect any crab pots in the deeper waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but we were wrong. Just as the sun began making its way over the horizon we started seeing the daunting traps and said – “oh f-ck”. We sure hope we won’t hit one in the dark. While we still had light we safely dodged line after line of the traps. They seemed more gnarly than ones we are used to seeing along the coast and in the ICW.
We continued on making great time through the evening thinking we were safe in 55 feet of water until the inevitable “thunk” was heard around midnight and the speed dropped by a knot. Uh oh!
We assumed we were dragging a pot but there was nothing we could easily or safely do to rid ourselves of the offending object and so we plodded along at the reduced speed, frustrated and hoping no damage was being done to the boat. We also hoped like hell that we wouldn’t pick up a second one or that the dragging trap didn’t trap another.
8 hours later we found ourselves at Marco Island, being greeted by playful dolphins (a sight we haven’t had for a while) and navigated up the channel to Marco Island Marina. As we knew we had the trap in tow, we opted for a bow in approach to the slip. Bob did have difficulty steering in the tight quarters due to the rudder being hindered by the line, but we made it into the slip safe and sound without incident.
Later in the day we came across a couple of divers who were working at the marina, and asked if they could dive our boat and free us from whatever we dragged in.
The diver started at our boat, and unwrapped the line from around the rudder (again the trap slipped behind the propeller and was lodged between the propeller shaft and the rudder – urgh!). Then he started pulling and pulling and pulling, but couldn’t find the trap. He eventually got out of the water with the line walked down 4 slips away and continued to pull until he was able to retrieve that trap that was in the middle of the fairway. This must have been over 65 feet away from the boat! He hauled up the cage which he said had to weigh at least 50 pounds and filled with mud. For all this trouble we were hoping to at lest find a couple of stone crabs inside. but instead he only found a pig foot which was evidently used as bait. Having no use for the trap ourselves, the diver was happy to take it off our hands for his own use as long as he promised not to put it in the middle of a channel.
We hope there is no lasting damage to the rudder, but won’t know for sure until the next haul out and in-depth inspection, and we are hoping to not require one of those for a while still.
For now, we will enjoy the serenity and hospitality of Marco Island for the next month.