Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Yin and Yang of Sailing

April 7, 2017

The yin:

Cabbage Key to St. James City at the south end of Pine Island was an easy hour plus of motoring through the Intracoastal Waterway.  We anchored just west of the island.  Lots of fishing boats hotrodded up and down the waters giving us alternatively a gentle and not so gentle rocking.  Fortunately by dark all of their activity stopped and we had a very peaceful night.  

Going into St. James City the next day was a new experience for us. The city is largely built around canals lined with fairly small houses, all with boat lifts which held mostly fishing boats, some considerably larger powerboats and a few sailboats.  We explored the main canal by dinghy and ended up at the Ragged Ass Saloon.  With a name like that we had to stop there for lunch. They had NO desserts so no key lime pie, but their shrimp tacos were wonderful!  There was a small marine store nearby where Jim managed to get some parts that he needed to finish the wiring of the auto pilot!

Heading down the canal at St. James City

Jim in front of the Ragged Ass Saloon

The yang:

When we returned from our dinghy exploration, the outboard engine decided to misbehave, ie die. It waited until we were about 20 feet from the boat with the wind and current pushing us away from the boat. Jim could get the motor started but it would no longer keep running at low speed.  He managed to get it started many times and by the last time we had made enough progress towards the boat that we were able to grab the rail and hang on long enough to tie off the dinghy.

More yang:

The winds were picking up and changing direction so we decided to move from St. James City and find a more protected anchorage.  Glover Bite seemed to be perfect. It was pretty much east of where we were and altho we had to thread our way around a plethora of fishing boats all of whom were sharing the narrow beginning of the Okeechobee Waterway we made it.  We found, however, that the winds were penetrating what had seemed like a very protected bay although it was better than other nearby options.  However, after three tries at anchoring only to drag each time after we thought we were holding, we opted to go on to another anchorage in San Carlos Bay, across from Sanibel Island and north of Ft. Myers Beach.  

By the time we reached our anchorage, the winds were increasing and coming from the south - the one direction from which we had no good protection.  We had been on the move most of the day and it was getting late although not dark yet. We could have crossed the bay to the east coast of Sanibel or tried to call the Matanzas Bay mooring field again to see if they had space.  (I had talked to them earlier and they were full) But, we were tired so we stayed put and I made a rookie mistake.  I was carefully monitoring the depth, but not the tides. When we dropped anchor, the depth gauge read 8'.  (We draw 5'6") The anchor held and though it was rather rolly and bouncy with winds in the 15-18 kt range we thought we were OK. 

 About 10:00pm we were startled by a bumping of the boat on the bottom. At this point the depth gauge read 5'.  We tried to pull forward and managed to get far enough to pull up the anchor, but then we went hard aground. Now the depth gauge alternated between 4'2" and 4'9"!  There we sat for a very long two hours while the tide came back in ever so slowly.  We tried to take advantage of the waves to raise us up and move forward a bit. Meanwhile it was pitch black. We had our reckonings that we always take when we are at anchor, so we could pretty much tell that we were moving slightly. It did not appear that we were heading toward any other land. The jarring bashes into the bottom, the strong winds and waves, worrying about what damage we were doing to the boat and wondering how long this would continue were a bit disconcerting. 

Finally around midnight we could tell that we were making some progress pulling forward and then all of a sudden we were free.  We simply went out further into deeper water and reanchored.  We survived a very blustery night on a watery roller coaster but no more incidents. The next morning it was still rough but the mooring field now had an available ball so we hightailed it into the Matanzas Bay mooring field.  Thanks to a good Samaritan who came over in his dinghy to help, we were able to pick up the mooring ball. (It was missing its pennant and our boat hook didn't fit the tight loop on the ball itself.) Though the winds continued to whistle above our heads, inside the bay the water was calm!!  A deep breath, a cup of coffee, a nap and all was well!! 

And this was the beautiful and peaceful end (the yin) to what will be remembered as quite the "interesting" adventure.

Sunset our first night at Matanzas Bay

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