Steve from Key West Engines had our turbochargers back on the engines at end of day on Tuesday. I asked him if he wanted to take the boat out to see how it ran and he said that we could save about an hour of labor cost if we just went out the next morning ourselves. He was very confident that Swing Set would run like it was supposed to. I liked his confidence.
Wednesday morning, the 16th of January, was bright and sunny, a perfect day to test drive the boat. The picture above is of Triple Net, the 80 foot Hatteras that I mentioned in the last post.
We took Swing Set out of the bight and past the cruise ship docks and opened her up. We were up to temperature and I didn't baby her. I hit the throttles and the engines took heed. The turbos kicked in at 1600 R.P.M. and Swing Set jumped on plane and we were quickly running at 2800 R.P.M., the speed at which our Caterpillars are designed to run. We were doing 30 M.P.H. in no time, and I didn't even use the tabs. The fastest I ever got our boat up to was 34 M.P.H., and that was when we test drove it to buy it back in 2004 and there was hardly any weight on the boat.
We came back in and we filled up the fuel tanks, taking on 124 gallons of diesel, nearly another 1000 pounds. We went back out and she jumped up on plane just as quickly, but the top end was a bit slower, but still turning 2800 R.P.M. Very little smoke was coming from the exhaust, and what was coming out was white. I was very happy. The boat has never run as good as it is running now. The only thing left is to wait for the bill.
Our friends Doug and Jeanne Harmon got into the R.V. park at Stock Island on Wednesday afternoon. Doug drove his scooter over and Jeanne brought the Jet Ski. We talked about going lobster fishing on Thursday and what boats to take. Now that Swing Set was healthy, it only made sense to take the "big boat" along with the dinghy and leave the Jet Ski back at the dock.
The four of us wound up at the Conch Republic Bar and Restaurant, where this photo was taken. Then it was on to Fogarty's, Carolines, Hog's Breath Saloon, and another place I forgot. It goes like that in Key West.
The next morning, Doug and Jeanne showed up right on time and we piled their gear aboard Swing Set and set a course up the Northwest Channel out past Tank Island. When we got past the reef we headed east toward one of Doug's "secret lobstering holes".
The secret lobstering hole was even a secret to Doug. He had left his GPS co-ordinates at home and both he and Jeanne had to find the spot by looking off the bow of Swing Set. Each one of them was pointing in different directions at any given time, directing me as to which way I was to head the boat. Jeanne turned out to be the expert.
We finally dropped the hook and checked out the bottom. There wasn't many "holes", or "ledges" in the vicinity, so we put the dinghy in, leaving Rosie and Holly to guard the boat, and the rest of us went in search of lobsterville.
About a mile from the boat we found some promising holes. I quickly found two large lobsters hiding under ledges, but couldn't get down properly to get them because my wetsuit was too buoyant. Doug was having no problem and just as quickly bagged a nice bug, caught another, but lost it putting it in his bag. I didn't have a bag, I wasn't that optimistic.
I tried using my weight belt, only narrowly drowning four or five times, before I ditched the wetsuit. Doug scared up a smallish lobster which I was able to catch. I hadn't caught a lobster since the mid 1980's, and I was happy, but knew that I had to let it go. There were witnesses. As I dumped my bug from the net, I was fully cognizant that I had eaten shrimp much smaller than my precious lobster. Again, there were witnesses.
We were soon out of gas, physically, and made our way back to the boat. Rosie and Holly happily greeted the three of us and we had a light snack in the cockpit and I examined the big bleeding blisters on both of my second toes. Ouch. Doug had comfy booties for his swim fins. I was using some antique fins that barely fit my feet, let alone with booties or socks on. Amazon, here I come!
We discussed heading further east, but it was getting late in the day. We decided on taking a slow ride back to port instead. The sun was out and the temperature was sublime. Rosie and Jeanne sunned themselves on the bow and Doug and I just enjoyed the ride and the view.
By the time we reached the end of the reef and made our turn to head toward Key West in the Northwest Channel, a storm cell popped up to the west. I took this picture and then we kicked Swing Set in the butt and headed for home, chased by several fishing boats with the same idea. We outran this cell, I slowed down to enter Key West harbor, but another cell brought heavy wind and rain.
I circled around in Key West harbor, dodging sailboats and tour boats, trying to wait out the weather, but we found out that the wind wasn't going to let up until the next afternoon. I finally entered Key West Bight and headed for our slip in 30+ M.P.H. winds. I made one attempt to back into our slip with the wind at our bow, but bailed on the attempt before I ran into something expensive. My aborted attempt put us thick into the Galleon Marina. I saw lots of folks watching as I swung the boat around in a narrow spot to get out. It was an anxious moment but we emerged victorious.
I hung out a little longer in the turning basin of Key West Bight before calling A-B Marina to see if the slip across from us was still open, giving us a berth to pull into that would allow me to keep the bow into the wind. One of the dockhands met us out on the pier and took our bowlines as I pulled "headfirst" into a narrow slip. We got some extra help from the owner of a large Viking Convertible in the adjacent slip as he handed over a very big round fender to help keep Swing Set where she belonged.
Bill the dockhand brought over some portable steps and we used them to exit the bow once we got Swing Set tied up, albeit without plugging in power cords. No problem, we had enough wind for the wind generators to do their thing.
The four of us then walked over to the Raw Bar and had dinner. We were at least happy to be at the dock, but Doug and Jeanne had a windy scooter ride ahead of them. We loaned them some rain gear and they headed back to Stock Island and the motor home, making it safely.
This morning the wind was still whipping it up at nearly 20 M.P.H. Cliff, another employee here at A-B, climbed aboard Swing Set to help Rosie with the lines and I motored back over to our original slip to try and back in. I may not have been able to make it without Cliff's help, I almost bailed out, but Cliff said I was doing fine, but he emphatically suggested at that point that I "give it some throttle to port". He left out the "you better hurry", but I heard it in his voice. Once I was between the pilings, I used forward on one engine, and reverse on the other, to "twist" Swing Set into place. Then it was just a matter of gently easing her back against the pier where two more helpers were standing by to grab lines. Tips were happily dispensed. Our deductible is much higher than any measly tip I was willing to give out.
Rosie and I were preparing to give the boat a wash down when a new boat owner to the dock walked by and complimented us on the condition of our boat. He had owned the same model, only three years newer, but sold it to buy his 65 foot Azimut Yacht. He said that our boat was a very good boat, for a "first boat". I told him that Swing Set was our 17th boat, and might very well be our last. A man's got to know his limitations.
So, yes, we have lobster in the freezer. It's the lobster that Doug caught, Doug cleaned, but the lobster we're gonna eat. Thank you very much Doug and Jeanne! I figure that lobster cost us about 80,000 dollars, not counting the cost of our boat. I promised Doug and Jeanne that I would reciprocate once we return from the Bahamas with our own lobster. That was fine with them, but I don't think they'll be holding their breaths waiting. Mike Nelson I'm not.