Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cedar Key to Tarpon Springs

We were up early and underway at first light. It was raining, and quite windy. This was going to be long day, at least 10-11 hours, as it was 66 miles to Tarpon Springs.

We headed offshore and found that we were going to have following seas, and a bit larger than we like. It was likely to get worse, too, as we were going to be running about 20 miles offshore. That was the shortest route. So Paula started fastening everything down, or putting it on the floor before it fell there. An hour or so later the seas had definitely kicked up, as did the wind. We settled in for a long, uncomfortable day.

The water was beautiful, clear and blue. We had many dolphins visit us during the day, to frolic off the bow.  We could actually hear them squeaking and clicking. Duke could too but he could not figure out where the sound was coming from. He does stick his head out over the cap rail, but never thinks to look down.

The boat settled in a rhythm that was not totally uncomfortable. An occasional big wave would come through and roll us heavily, then we would return to the normal side to side motion. It was never even close to unsafe, but it did get uncomfortable from time to time.

Then we started running into the crab traps again. I could not believe the crabbers were coming 20 miles offshore to place the traps. There were hundreds of them and we had to keep a very sharp eye out to avoid running over one. They were very difficult to see in the big seas, and we very nearly ran over some several times.

Once we were a couple of hours from Tarpon Springs the shoreline started angling out toward us. As our distance offshore lessened the seas started dropping. By the time we had the big power plant at Tarpon Springs in sight, the seas were minimal. But, the wind was howling!

We had planned on staying in a marina that night, as there is really no place to anchor near Tarpon Springs. Its too shallow. We made reservations but by the time we started up the river the tide was falling quickly. The marina approach has only 4' at low tide, and we need 5'.  We decided to anchor just off the channel to wait for the tide to start coming back in. We would have enough water around 1900 to get in. But the marina said they closed at 1700 and they did not allow boats to arrive after hours. That sucks.

The only possible anchorage was in the power plant cooling canal. It was very small, and there were already four small sailboats permanently moored there. On top of that, there was a public boat launch there and the lagoon was teeming with small boats coming and going. I ended up anchoring just off the channel at the mouth of the cooling canal. I had 10' of depth so thought I was good. M/V Stylist arrived a short while later and managed to squeeze in the middle of the sailboats. It was far less than perfect but was our only option.

We had hoped to visit the town as it is a thriving Greek community. Tarpon Springs is renowned for its Greek restaurants. A large population of Greeks are involved in sponge harvesting. Since we were anchored in less than optimal conditions we decided it would be best if we stayed aboard. We had dinner and went to bed.

Around 0100 I got up and looked out our stateroom window. I could see that we were pointed in the opposite direction now, which meant the tidal current was going out. I came up to the pilothouse to check the depth, and still showed 1.5' below the keel. Obviously not thinking clearly at that time of night, I went back to bed. About 15 minutes later Bob was calling me on the radio. I ran upstairs to answer, and he informed me I appeared to be on the bank. I looked out and could see I was still 30' from the rivers edge. But when I checked the depth below the keel it now showed 0'. Uh oh.

I ran to the bow to pull in some anchor line in an attempt to pull the boat to deeper water. That didn't work, the boat was firmly stuck on the bottom. The anchor came loose pretty easily in the soft mud and I pulled it up to the bow. I went back inside and started the engines. I eased them into gear and watched to see if we moved at all. We didn't. I gave it a bit of throttle but no joy. We were stuck. I turned the engines off. The tide was falling, and had 3' to go. I know that we would be leaning way over by the time the tide was fully out. I could already feel the deck tilting beneath my feet.

I rushed around to get everything secured, and placed on the floor on the port side. By 0300 we were leaning to port almost 30 degrees. It was very difficult to to walk. I encouraged Paula to just stay in bed. She had to turn sideways so she could let her feet rest on the wall to keep her from falling out of bed. At one point the high water alarm went off. I was pretty sure it was just because of the severe tilt, but I had to check it out anyway. We have three compartments with alarms and I had to move through the boat to check them all. Two are below in the engine room. It was nearly impossible to move about. The stairs down to the staterooms were almost vertical. I did confirm there was no water coming in and just turned the breaker off to silence the alarm

Duke was totally freaked out, panting and whining. Poor guy just did not understand what was going on. I sat on the couch with him and he laid down in my lap. After a while he finally fell asleep, and so did I.

I awoke at 0430. Low tide was at 0415 so it was on the way back up. I could already hear the boat creaking and groaning as it started to right itself. By 0600 we were almost level again. A sponge boat came by, throwing a large wake. I could feel the boat bumping on the bottom. I started the engines and put them in gear. It looked like we moved forward a few inches so I gave it a bit more throttle. We ever so slowly started moving forward, and in short order were in deep water.

I was maneuvering to get lined up to enter the channel when I ran aground again!!  I could feel the bow rise up as we bumped against the shoal area. I could not go forward, so I went in reverse. The boat slowly slid off again. I made a hard right, then left, and we were back in the river. Let's get the heck out of here!!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Yikes!!! Tough night!! Glad to hear you made it!!!