January 13, 2015, Marathon, Florida Keys; Amy
We’ve been marooned in Marathon, a cruisers mecca, for nearly two weeks.
Yesterday we were finally granted a mooring ball by the Marathon City Marina. We were #18 on the waiting list when we arrived. Of course we initially thought we’d be here for 1 night, but that was before I wrapped the dinghy’s painter (towing line) around Mary T‘s propeller in the process of anchoring and caused some damage… Now we don’t know if we’ll ever get out of here.
Wrapping a line around the propeller is a good way to bend the propeller, the shaft, and screw up the transmission… It would be a forgivable mistake if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve done it twice in less than one year. (Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice…and I think that makes me George W. Bush).
When Kenny went down to untangle the line from the propeller, he noticed that one of the blades was bent. With a hammer, he made some small improvements to its shape, but to fix it properly means taking it off the shaft and bringing it to a specialist to beat it back into shape. There are two ways to get the propeller off of the boat: 1) Take the boat out of the water and drop the rudder or 2) Leave the boat in water and slide the shaft forward and make room for the propeller to slide off forward of the rudder.
Taking the boat out of the water would involve a number of expenses, so we decided that doing it in the water would be the way to go, but not while at anchor. Taking the propeller off makes it difficult to move the boat in a crowded anchorage, so if we started dragging anchor we’d be in a wee bit of a fix. Now that we’re on a mooring, we can finally begin work. If we’re really lucky our only problem will be the bent propeller and we’ll be able to move along in the near future. But we may open a Pandora’s and be stuck in Marathon in perpetuity, like so many others…
There are at least 300 boats in this mooring field/anchorage not to mention the ones at docks and up all the adjoining creeks and canals. Quite a few are in disrepair with beards of bottom growth, and all manner of sundries cluttering the decks. It’s easy to find oneself in this situation. You’re on your way to some place grand, but your boat starts breaking down (They’re always breaking down). And eventually you run out of funds to keep fixing it, and that’s when you know you’ve arrived, because you can’t go any further. I wrote a song on the ukelele called “Cruisin’ Blues” about this very phenomenon. It’s never seemed so poignant to us as it does now…
When we first pulled into this place, we were horrified. We prefer the lone anchorages of Newfoundland. Sometimes if we’d see another boat up a fjord, we’d turn away and go up another branch. Not that we don’t like people, it’s just that idea of enjoying a bit of nature all to oneself. Of course cruising south is another ballgame, but this place is extreme. I mean you can’t look up without seeing 10 boats. You can imagine our initial shock and awe when we realized we’d be stuck here for awhile.
But the place quickly started to grow on us. There are all manner of activities from baseball and tennis, to dominoes, to jam sessions, and basket weaving. I hooked up with a tennis group which meets three days a week. There’s also a beach, and many restaurants with views and happy hours. Almost all of these things are just a short dinghy ride away. Tonight I’m going to a ukelele jam session at the Dockside. It’ll be my first time playing in front of strangers. I’m sure they’ll be impressed with my whopping repertoire of 5 songs. Of course I only plan to play one or two at most. I better start practicing!
Last weekend there was a Celtic Festival at the nearby park featuring four different bands, an odd assortment of vendors, and a lone mandolin player who looked like he’d been coerced into playing by his mother. We got free T-shirts because we were among the first 175 to arrive at the festival. Totally awesome, right?
One of the bands was a group of four sisters from Ireland playing a combination of rock and traditional Celtic music. And I thought, why can’t my three sisters and I get it together to form a group? My favorite “vendor” at the fest. was a guy with a labyrinth. It was just a giant tarp with lines on it designed for a sort of walking meditation. He explained how labyrinths were found in many indigenous cultures and contained the fundamental truths of existence… He travels the country in a van and shares it with people. I liked the simplicity of it. That’s all he needs to feel fulfilled. I think if we walked it, we would’ve become enlightened, but we passed.
Our favorite spectator at the festival was a massive bearded guy wearing a white tank top and a kilt with all manner of baubles hanging off it including a cow bell. He carried a giant stein containing mead, I imagine, and danced in front close to the stage throughout the entire night. He was clearly in heaven.
There’s a boat at the marina here which is not easy to miss because it has an orange mast and it’s name Great Old Broad, is emblazoned on the side in huge letters. Old Broad has quite a bit of bottom growth and a lot of marine paraphernalia on the deck. We met the the owners, Ed and Sally, 7.5 years ago in Cape May, New Jersey on our first cruise. They came here three years ago with no intention of staying… but, they’re still are. They are delightful characters and hope to escape Marathon in the next month or two and head to the Bahamas. They kindly bought our video Cruising on the Mary T; Nova Scotia to the Bahamas. I’m hoping they’ll get on the VHF radio for the morning Cruisers’ Network and tell everyone how great it is, so I can sell some more!
We’ve made one new friend here named Don, who is a retired diesel mechanic. He has a deep smokey voice and speaks in a slow southern drawl and likes to spin a yarn or two. When he turned 50 he had a number of injuries including three broken ribs and various bodily sores resulting from boat explosions. His cure was to sit in the sand about 5 feet under water, breathing with the aid of a SNUBA and watching the fish go by. “Nothing like warm salt water to cure all that ails one.” We consulted him about our upcoming repairs and he gave us some good advice, and will step in to help if we need him. His prices are extremely reasonable.
Now for a bit of backstory…
Before sailing to Marathon, we were anchored off Miami Beach for a few days. We arrived there on Christmas day and were greeted at the entrance to the harbor by a Coast Guard boat. The coasties came along side of Mary T in their inflatable and asked a number of questions about our itinerary and how many people were on board. They were clearly looking for someone and when they realized it wasn’t us, they peeled off. We seem to be magnets for the law. Must be our pirate past…
We were excited to be back in South Beach because we had a fun time there a couple of years ago, when the film festival was on. This time it was another kettle of fish. It was uber crowded on account of the holidays and the restaurant we were looking for was no longer there, and the one with the cheap happy hour wasn’t doing the cheap thing on account of the holiday. We landed at a ridiculously expensive Italian place and paid a LOT for one glass of wine and one appetizer. The 20% tip was included for our convenience. The whole time we were there was just as frustrating. We just couldn’t find our rhythm. The next day we went to the beach, which was horribly crowded with people, seaweed and jellyfish. I went into the water and bumped into a jellyfish in no time. It wasn’t a super dangerous one but it left me with some bumps on my back that itched like the dickens for days.
We did find one new place that we liked, which served the best boozy coffees we’d ever tasted. Our last day there, we sat and sipped the delicious elixirs and watched the perfectly sculpted waiters rush back and forth gracefully with trays above their heads. The endless parade of beautiful people feeling good about themselves in their new clothes strolled past us to the mindless beat of the techno music emerging from the restaurant. I felt like an invisible alien spying on an exotic world. Then it seemed my brain cells were shrinking as I was being seduced into a vapid culture of fake boobs, techno, fashion and money. Run away. Run away!
The next day we sailed away down Biscayne Bay and anchored off of Key Largo. Two days later we found ourselves in Marathon and now, two weeks later, we really kind of dig the place.
January 16, 2015, Marathon, Florida Keys; Kenny
Just an update: We hired Barnacle Bill, a local diver, to remove our bent propeller. I had to remove part of the coupling inside the boat in order for there to be enough room to pull the propeller shaft forward. But it wasn’t obvious whether the extra inch gained would suffice. Bill, however, managed to wrestle it off. Bill is proud to say that at 73, he’s the oldest working diver in Marathon. I hope I’m in that good a shape when I reach that age.
So, we’ll bring the prop in to the shop on Monday where they will bang out the dent and balance it.