First of all, I apologize for the continual time jumping around in our posts. One moment it seems we’re leaving Ft. Myers, then we’re in the middle of a hurricane in the Keys, then we’re back in the Everglades in August, and now we’re skipping you back to present time in Miami. We’re trying to catch up the travelogue & videos to be more real time, but life & adventures keep getting in the way that are just better shared pre-empted.
We’ll get back to a continual timeline, hopefully, one day!
This post.. is real time. As in just happened here in early November!
This post is a bit vulnerable to share and we ask for your kindness – it’s still fresh and ongoing, and we keep re-playing in our minds what we could have done better to have prevented this.
We’re so super thankful for all of the outpouring of positive support from our Patrons, Facebook and YouTube since we decided to share the details. In the end, Ship Happens (hah, love it!) – and this was a culmination of several factors, including post-hurricane conditions that up the skill levels.
We’re trying to be gentle with ourselves, realizing we all make mistakes and you don’t learn otherwise. Hopefully by sharing it helps other newbie boaters understand how on guard you have to constantly be.
If you’d prefer to listen to us talk about this tale, last evening we gathered up our courage and shared on a live video cast. Here’s the ~ 30m archive:
We left Marathon almost two weeks ago trying to get ahead of some weather, and ended up spending a week in Tavernier waiting our Tropical Storm Philippe and a couple cold fronts that moved through. We’ll catch you up on those adventures later.
We had a perfectly lovely cruise on Wednesday leaving Tavernier, and a spectacular anchorage in North Key Largo. We even invited our YouTube followers on a live cruise across Barnes Sound to get there.
We woke up Thursday morning with plans to cruise to Boca Chica next – a delightful sounding stop.
I’m making breakfast with the generator on – we were overdue for a battery recharge, and our induction cooktop doesn’t run so well off just the inverter. Electrical upgrades – including solar, lithium, hybrid inverter, 12v fridge and engine alternator charging – were projects that got punted in the Keys thanks to Irma.
The generator sputters and shuts off. It’s been an intermittent problem for a while now, but it always comes back. It was “on the list” to fix at our next major stop in Ft. Pierce where all our boat projects had been punted to, along with Irma related repairs.
But not this time. Lots of diagnostics, bleeding the lines and we think we have a fuel pump out. No spare on board.
We call around the Biscayne Bay area to try to find a mechanic – no luck.
Ok, we’re heading in to the yard anyway once we get to Ft. Pierce – we’ll just adjust the pace, marina hop on the way for power and get in early.
Keeping charged up isn’t just important for keeping our food from spoiling, but many of our ship’s systems are off the house batteries – including chart plotting, toilet flushing, anchor windlass and VHF radio (we do also have a separate battery powered handheld).
We guessed we had about a 1/2 day’s worth of power to safely make it to a power cord if we went into minimal power usage, and hoped we had enough voltage left to pull the anchor (we did).
We find a marina that is open about 40 nm north, and start heading that way.
Cruising is going well, nice day with a bit of wind.
In these parts, there are lots of narrow channels – so you cruise for long bits in open deep water, then have to aim for the crossing. It had been smooth sailing through them all thus far, and despite being on extra edge for post-Irma navigational challenges – we had found channel markers matched up with our charts. We had also checked Active Captain and Waterway Guides for any reported navigational alerts, as we do before starting any journey – there were none on today’s path.
We were feeling good as we officially left the Keys and felt we had successfully ‘escaped’ our Irma experience.
Complacency however, will get you. We should know better.
I’ve been at the helm most of the morning.
While we have an old clunky Garmin GPS (circa 1999) with a nice daylight screen – we use it only as a quick overview glance given how out of date the charts are and how antiquated in general it is (did we mention we have an upgrade list?). Our primary detail navigation has been apps on our iPads, at least until our refit where a total electronic upgrade was also planned.
iPads with fully engaged bright screens to be readable outdoors & GPS burn through battery power (oh, did I mention we have no USB charging up on the flybridge.. yet, another planned upgrade). Since we were trying to conserve power – I was turning the screens off and only verifying our course at detail levels when needed. I kept a constant glance on the old Garmin.
As I was approaching Cutter Bank leading into Biscayne Bay, there’s a sail boat slowly motoring through. I have plenty of depth and plenty of room to give them a little space to exit before I approach myself. Since this is the first boat we’ve seen all morning, there’s no need to unnecessarily crowd.
All charts show open water leading into the channel. As long as I merge into the clearly marked channel entrance in time, should be no problem.
I had turned the iPad back on to zoom in and make sure I was solidly on approach for the channel. I hadn’t had time to really study the channel super close, and after all.. the markers where clearly visible and thus far we hadn’t encountered missing markers and there were no alerts.
And then ..
Up we go.
Side ways we go.
Down we go.
Then we level out.
We’re still floating. We still have power, and I put the engines in neutral as we’re pretty sure we hit a prop with that sound.
Now.. what to do. We’re blocking the entrance to the channel and there are rocks a bit off to the east we definitely want to avoid.
We do a quick engine check – port side seems normal, but the starboard has a clunking sound. So with one engine, I get us back out of the channel opening to open water.
Under otherwise normal situations, it would be logical to drop the anchor at this point. But knowing we likely didn’t have enough power to pull it on our own, we didn’t want to unless we really needed to.
Instead, I stay at the helm keeping us hovering around while Chris goes down below. The starboard shaft is indeed wobbly. He checks for any signs of water coming in, and there is none (whew)!)
Meanwhile, I’m feeling comfortable we have steerage and power on one engine. So we make the decision to transit the pass on one engine while we decide what to do.
As we pass “the spot” we look for what we might have run over. Something was submerged in the channel opening that wasn’t marked on the charts as shallow water or a hazard. As we pass by “the spot” again and confirm with our charts & GPS track…. the spot was marked as a … MARKER.
Yup, the opening channel marker was underwater/chopped off – and I happened to go right over whatever remains thinking I was still approaching the channel. (I’m not sure I could intentionally hit it if I tried!)
Don’t know if it was Irma related or newer damage – we hope it’s newer damage because two months is a long time for it go unnoticed and unreported. (I have since reported it to Coast Guard, FWC, Active Captain, WaterWay Guides and CruiserNet – so hopefully others can avoid our pain.)
We got through the channel and decided to call our TowBoatUS towing service (kinda like CoachNet for boats – we recommend both highly!) for advice. They got us in touch with the local captain, and he’s pretty sure we’ll need a haul out to fix this.
While we could limp in our own to a nearby marina, he’s only 30 minutes out – so we decide to accept his offer of a tow. Having a set of experienced eyes involved was reassuring.
He starts heading our way, and when he arrives he had already called to all haul out services in the area and found one that could take us on Monday morning. However, it’s 25 nautical miles away and there’s nowhere to dock up there while we wait.
So, he brings us to Homestead Bayfront Park at Hoover Marina – his base – where there’s available space on the seawall for the weekend. Thankfully it’s been temperate so AC isn’t needed, because they only have a 110v outlet for us (and at that, we had to scurry around town by Lyfx to acquire the right adapters to use it with our 50A setup).
It’s a very pleasant park with walking and a swim beach.
But we’ve not been just dilly dallying around.
We got our GoPro camera and mount to our Shurhold line handling pole out, and took it under for a closer look – to discover we not only bent the prop (and shaft), but discovered the bolts to the prop support strut had completely sheered off.
The revolving strut while underway can cause substantial damage under such a long tow as it knocks around on the hull. So thank goodness we had this time to pause and prepare.
TowBoatUS has arranged a diver to come out before the tow to inspect things closer underneath and remove the prop & strut.
So, Monday should be interesting as we’re towed up the Miami River to our haul out. We’ve spoken to the yard – they sound great, and liveaboard is allowed and they have facilities (bath, shower, etc.).
We do have a spare prop and shaft onboard – so hopefully that will be helpful in speeding things along. But we also suspect the rudder was damaged.
So.. always an adventure! Not always rainbows and sunsets.. but always an adventure! And always learning.
And in our attitude, if it’s a problem you can fix with a credit card, it’s not really a problem.
PS. About the title… they say there are two types of boaters. Those who have run aground. And those who haven’t yet. Not sure if this counts as ‘aground’.. but close enough.