Many years ago when we first bought Tango we began a voyage from Miami, Florida which is considered the tropical zone to Key West, Florida in the sub-tropical zone. She is a 63’ Bertram International of which they only made about sixteen. Less than six are left on the water.
We took on about 330 gallons of diesel at $2.67 per gallon, topping off is the official term for this, at about 7:30 am from Shoreline Fuel. We backed down the south channel out of Bayshore Landing Marina and turned in the crowded basin as agile as a Mini-Cooper in a football field. We motored past the 85 foot Oceanfast sportfish “Sea Force V” that was previously owned my Greg Norman of PGA fame. Past the numerous boats tethered in Dinner Key Marina and out toward Dinner Key Channel.
The skies were slightly hazy, winds were light from the south-southeast, and the seas were nearly flat calm as we headed out Dinner Key Channel towards Stiltsville Channel and Bug Light for Hawks Channel which takes us along the eastern seaboard toward the Florida Keys. A couple of playful bottle-nosed dolphins swam alongside us and jumped in and out of the waves. A large gooney bird dove into the surf and came back up with a moderately well sized Hound Fish. He tossed his head back in hopes of swallowing the fish whole. He gulped a time or two and the tail was all that remained visible from our vantage point. The third gulp and the large catch was halfway to his stomach. The dolphins dove and surfaced a couple more times before we lost track of their path.
At about 9:00 am our captain, Hiram, noticed that there was a slight vibration on our starboard engine that reverberated and shook our bow railing on the same side. He throttled back to neutral and asked me to take a look overboard from the swim platform to see if I might notice anything unusual. I couldn’t tell from my vantage point if there was a line caught around the propellers or not. Hiram decided to jump in and take a look. I slipped inside and then came back out to the aft deck toting my brand new snorkeling gear. Hiram donned the mask, slipped out of his shirt and shorts leaving only his skivvies and dove into the emerald green froth. He swam as easily as the dolphins in the slightly choppy surf. He ducked under the stern and resurfaced to tell us that there was indeed a long black line caught around the propeller on our starboard side. He asked for a knife to cut the line free. With the knife in hand he dove again this time returning with about 50 feet on ¼ inch nylon line. He tossed the snorkeling gear up onto the swim platform, hopped onto the swim platform and was ready to go. I handed him a fresh towel to dry off the salty water. He dried off, put on his shorts and came back to the pilothouse to engage the engines. Voila, they (the propellers) spun freely and we were off again on leg one of our adventure.
Ten hours later we began our turn into the Boot Key Harbor Channel in Marathon Key. Prior to landing here we had made reservations to dock there for the night. The dock staff left at six sharp so we were unsure which slip we were supposed to take. With no guidance in this regard we decided to lay alongside the fuel dock. Gently Hiram brought us to rest alongside the fuel dock. We tied off the bow and then the stern. Tango was secure. Next, we added a couple of spring lines to keep us from moving fore or aft. We hooked up the hose to the shore water and tested our pressure water system so we could shower and cook if we decided to. We hooked up our two fifty amp shore power cords and shut down the engines and generators. The silence of the moment was splendid after a day of running.
I took my cattle dog Abu off for a much needed potty break before preparing dinner for her and my cat, Zack. Just an aside; Abu usually hangs around with the people aboard during our voyages while Zack doesn’t care for the sound of the engines and rocking of his “house” and thus hides away until we are safely moored for the night. As soon as the coast was clear Zack was out scampering about as if nothing dramatic in his life had changed.
We washed down the boat, then relaxed for a few moments prior to taking a quick shower and heading up the dock toward the dockside restaurant for a bite to eat ourselves. Enroute to the restaurant we encountered a few of the locals enjoying sunset over a couple of dockside cocktails. The Australian tourists stopped us to ask if we would take their picture. We obliged them and even took two for god measure. They thanked us profusely and we chatted a bit before moving on.
The docks here were wide and made entirely of concrete which was sturdy and strong. Their pedestals for power and water looked like they were shiny and new. Finger piers were long and the pilings were a good height and fitted with horns to hold your lines above the water. Marinas vary so much that when you finally get to a good one you simply have to comment.
Single file we entered the side door of the restaurant and looked for the hostess station. As was to be expected, the restaurant was filled entirely with tourists. The inside was air-conditioned and noticeably vacant of patrons while outside along the dock looked like the place to be. The staff was cheery and efficient. They seated us outside under the fading sunset and ceiling fans. Off to our right was a long bar filled with social drinkers swapping tall tales or so we assumed. Once seated we ordered ice waters all around and a cool bottle of chardonnay before mulling over exactly what suited our fancy from their well-rounded menu. I settled on the Yellowtail Piccata with a Caesar Salad, Pat had the Shrimp Scampi with their house salad, and Captain Hiram had the Dolphin-not Flipper- sautéed with the house salad.
Once sated we ambled back along the dock back toward our vessel. There were no city lights to distract from the darkened sky. Stars like diamonds dotted the blackness, we tried to make out the Big and Little Dippers and the North star. Pat knew celestial navigation from his Navy days, but had long since forgotten most of it.
Today was over and tomorrow was yet to be promised. We opted for a good nights sleep.