Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hurricane Erika That Wasn't

  We just don't get tired of these sunsets in the Keys! At times we second guess our decision to face our stern into the west because the late afternoon sun is so hot shining into the cabin, but when the sun sets below our flybridge overhang, we just close the shade on the salon door for an hour or so. The really good weather is coming soon.
  The weather has been foremost on our minds for the last few days. First we had tropical storm Danny threatening to come our way, but that storm dissipated quickly and was soon replaced by tropical storm Erika, which had our attention in a big way.
  Our "hurricane plan" which is filed with our insurer, Boat U.S., states that our "plan" is to simply go where the hurricane isn't going to be. Well, we found out that trying to guess where the hurricane is going to be is nearly impossible for the experts, let alone us.
  First Erika was coming straight at us, then the path switched to the east to head up the Florida coast to miss us, then as the storm passed the Dominican Republic, the path changed again, heading straight for us and up the east coast of Florida, then just before the storm dissipated like Danny, the path was forecasted to go south of us, just north of the tip of Cuba. If we were going to go anywhere, it would have been hard to guess where to.
  My second option during this time of the year, would be to grab a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor. There is plenty of moorings available this time of year, so worrying about if there is room in there is a non issue, but as we are learning, the boats in there that are not on the city owned moorings have a great risk of breaking free and slamming into other vessels that are on the paid-for moorings. Also, from what we have seen on most of the vessels in Boot Key Harbor, many of them have so much junk piled on them by some of the pack rats living on them, there is a potential for a lot of flying missiles when the wind kicks up.
  Danny, as well as Erika, were never touted as developing as more than a category one hurricane, so our alert level wasn't to the point where we thought we would head to the Everglades up near Marco Island, or up the river near Cape Coral. This plan, being fairly expensive, will be put into play if the early forecast for any storm indicates a storm higher than a category one.
  Another option is to head to Stock Island. Safe Harbor is named as it is for a reason, and if we swallow our pride, we can get a slip at Stock Island Marina Village at their floating docks, my preference over the fixed docks like we have here at Marathon Marina.
  We eventually settled on another option for Erika. Judy, the dockmaster here at Marathon Marina, asked us if we wanted to take a bigger slip for the duration of Erika, allowing us to ride bow out toward the sea, and have more room to "spider web" our lines to keep the boat more to the middle of a wider slip in order to avoid bumping the pilings on each side of us.
Even as the strength of Erika was in question for its duration, we decided to move to a bigger slip anyway, just to be safe. Our boat neighbor on our starboard side moved as well, and we tied up next to each other in much bigger slips.

  As you can see from the picture, we are still off to the side, next to the pier, but Erika is gone and all we have left is some threat of gusting winds today. As I was writing this, the wind kicked up, and we positioned Swing Set more in the middle of the slip. We have ten lines around the boat, more available to us if we need them. We also have our auxiliary anchor lines, more than 500 feet of them, ready on the bow if we need them, but for now they are staying put.
  We had placed our Yuba bicycle back onboard the boat, along with the cover. The bike cover, and the bimini top, would probably be removed for any winds approaching 100 miles an hour. That's the plan anyway, but doing that requires some forethought that may or may not come into play.
  Several boats in the marina moved to bigger slips until this storm is passed us. Some owners flew in from out of town to move their boats, and some other owners pay a fee yearly to be on a haul out list, plus are charged for the haul out and blocking for each haul out. Not only would that plan require us to find a place to live besides staying on the boat, I've seen lots of boats in The Bahamas that had been hauled out for storms, now laying on their sides as the wind blew them off the blocks.
  Most of the staff here at the marina were housed in the condos around the resort. One staffer offered to share her condo if the weather got too rough. She said to just come knock on the door if we needed to, and bring our sleeping bags. That was a nice offer, and one we would take her up on if staying on the boat proved to be a mistake.
  Putting our scooter onboard wasn't necessary either, because Judy told us to put our scooter in the office until storm passed, so we did. Had we decided to leave, the scooter would have went with us, but as it was, we had one less thing to do to prepare.
  One reason we didn't want to leave was that Holly had a veterinarian appointment for yesterday morning. She has been battling an ear infection for over a month, and this third, and final visit, was to be a check up to determine if her ears were free from infection. We were happy to find out that she got a clean bill of health from "Dr. Gerry" at the Marathon Animal Hospital.
  On a less positive note, we began discussions about possible surgery for our little buddy, because she has what's called "luxating patellas" which means basically that her knees on here hind legs slide off to the side of her legs, causing pain and potentially causing an inability to even walk. We've known that she's had this since her first visit to Dr. Tara Brooks at Affton Animal Hospital in St. Louis. Now that she is going to be four years old, the constant dislocating is starting to take a toll. When she wants on our laps, Holly has no compunction about barking an order to us to pick her up. We're happy to do it.

  Rosie had a birthday last week and we celebrated by going out to breakfast, then taking the dinghy out to Sombrero Light and snorkeling on the reef. We weren't in the water but a minute, and we both got stung by jellyfish. Rosie just got brushed on her leg, but I got stung all down my right side. We continued to snorkel for about a half an hour, but it was hard to enjoy it due to constantly looking up at the water surface where the jellyfish mostly are. The water was really clear on the day we were out there, and we saw lots of fish.
  We climbed back in the dinghy and decided to take a long ride to Duck Key, about twenty miles to the east. The seas were flat and we had a good ride, taking about two hours to go around Duck Key and come back on the bayside to the marina as some thunderstorms started to roll in. We finished out the evening at Franks, an Italian restaurant in Marathon that was recommended to us. We had a really nice dinner, and capped it off back on the boat with some wine that was an unexpected gift from our boat neighbors.
  Speaking of boat neighbors, we have some good ones. The people on our starboard side are very social people, and we talk to them quite a bit. We've helped each other out to a small degree, and we compare notes on mechanical issues as they pop up. I'd say we have a pretty good "live and let live" situation with them and we like it.
  Our neighbor on the other side of us is a good one too. He also lives on his boat, and even though he is friendly, he keeps to himself and is no bother to us at all. One night last week though, we were in bed reading and I had actually fell asleep. Rosie heard a big splash, and I did too and it woke me up. We both jumped up and looked outside and saw nothing, so we figured it was a dolphin or tarpon splashing near the boat, as we have seen that happen before. I returned to bed and soon Rosie was hollering to me that someone was in the water. It turned out to be our boat neighbor who had fallen off the pier at the bow of his boat and was clinging to his stern ladder and couldn't get up. I crawled over to his swim platform and helped him out of the drink, to which he was very appreciative. We think he was embarrassed, but we know these things happen. It's just lucky he didn't hit his head going in and drowning. He owns an aluminum railing company and had one of his employees come down to the dock and install a nice post at the step down onto our pier.
  It's not unusual to read about veteran boaters falling off docks. It seems like there's about one a week around here, but I'm sure it's not that many. My message here is to BE CAREFUL on the docks, and don't get complacent. Even the most seasoned boaters can wind up in the drink.
  One thing there is plenty of on U.S. 1 is auto accidents. Currently there are eight fatalities so far this year on the Overseas Highway. Even though we ride the scooter to Key West occasionally, we don't take it lightly, and we try to avoid riding in the rain. I had a doctor's appointment for Monday, and we cancelled it because of the storm forecast. We may borrow a car and reschedule the appointment. We continue to get offers from residents here, and staff, to borrow their vehicles if we need them. It's nice to have options.
  We rode to Key West last weekend to "get away" for Rosie's birthday. Some friends had their condo available and offered it to us, and it was an offer we couldn't refuse. We loaded up the scooter with two backpacks of stuff we needed for a two night stay, and with Holly strapped into her carrier, we arrived like the Clampetts to Southard Street. Had we arrived in a car we wouldn't have found a place to park. There's usually a place to park a scooter in Key West, and those parking spots are free, but not always where you want them. We locked up the scooter and put our travel cover on it and didn't move it until we left on Sunday morning, not wanting to lose a spot that we could see from the condo we were in. Everywhere we wanted to go in Key West was easily within walking distance.
  Here in Marathon, cabs are five bucks. You can't beat that. Even though we keep thinking about getting a car, it's just complicates matters if we need to move anywhere. If there's anything we like, it's not having complications.