The comedic adventures on board Beatitude continued this weekend. Our daughter, Mariah, is home from college in Boston for a couple of weeks. I have some time off, so we decided to go out on the water for a few days. The original plan was for four days, but Mariah and the boat don’t get along very well, so we decided to make it a two day trip.
We had several firsts on our two-day adventure. The first first was leaving the protected waters of Tampa Bay and heading out into the open waters of the gulf. It was exhilarating to be out on the gulf. As we made our way out of Southwest Channel between Egmont Key and Anna Maria Island we encountered a steady 15 knot northwesterly wind. This provided us with following seas of about 2-3 ft. The gentle rocking motion of the waves passing beneath us from behind was a new experience, as was the slight queasiness which accompanied it. Nothing a little ginger gum couldn’t help. We followed a line about 3 miles off the coast until we reached our destination. No major incidents to report in this.
The second first involves a fish on the line. I must preface this story with the statement that I have limited to no saltwater fishing experience. My only time fishing in the gulf involved a day charter a couple of years ago in which we went out a few miles, dropped some lines over the side of the boat while still and caught a number of grouper and snapper. I’ve never trolled for fish. Now, having said that, after reaching the gulf, I dropped a new 7″ lure I just bought over the back of the boat and let out 150′ of line or so. We sailed along at about 6-7 knots with the lure trailing behind. Finally, just a half-hour or so before our exit from the gulf, we heard the clicking of the drag as the tip of the pole bent downwards and line was flying off the spool. Now, that’s an adrenaline rush. Of course, it is one thing to have a fish hit your lure, it’s another thing to land it (especially when one has no idea what he is doing). I grabbed the rod with the anticipation of landing my first fish. Although, I turned my drag all the way up, the line kept reeling off. I have about 400 feet of line on the reel, but I was quickly having visions of an empty reel and losing all. It occurred to me eventually (after what felt like minutes, but was probably 45-60 seconds), that I should slow down the boat since even if the fish was stationary I was losing line at a rate of 6-7 nautical miles/hour. About the time I figured that out, in concert with my awkward attempts at reeling in the fish while giving enough drag, the rod straightened out and the tension on the line was gone. I had lost my trophy. I have 40 pound test line on the rod, so I am assuming that whatever sea creature I had snagged was of decent size. I reeled in the line and my lure was gone. Bummer!
The third first came as we made our way through the channel and into Sarasota bay. I must first note that Big Sarasota Pass is terribly misnamed. There is nothing big about it. Even though I stayed within the channel exiting the gulf, my shallow water depth alarm continually sounded and read 3.5-4 ft. My draft (the distance from the water’s surface to the lowest part of my boat beneath the water) is 4’2″. Fortunately, after several minutes of tense focus, we hit the deeper part of the channel and was comfortably entering the bay with 15-20 feet of water. Now, we came to the part where the channel splits into three separate channels. Although, I was pretty certain I was following the navigational markers, I soon heard my shallow water alarm sound. The next thing I heard was the dull thud of my two hulls on the sandy bottom. I had accomplished a new first of running aground (I’m sure there’ll be many more.) I take consolation from a recent sailing magazine quote said that there are only 2 sailors who have never run aground: The one who has never left the dock and the one who is a voracious liar. Well, I’m not lying and I did leave port. Fortunately, I was going rather slowly at the time (at least, one smart thing I did!). I quickly put both engines in reverse and gradually eased myself off the shallow sand. Whew! No need to call for a tow! The funny part (or not so funny) is that approximately 15 seconds before I ran aground, Cindy looked at the nearby sign which read “Shoal” and asked “What’s a Shoal?” Yes… that should have been a sufficient hint to avoid that area. Here’s your sign!
After our little experience of resting on the bottom of the bay, we motored on into the Sarasota mooring field, picked up our mooring ball which we had reserved, and settled in for the evening. You may recall that on our recent (first) mooring attempt, we had to make several passes to pick up the ball. This one we accomplished on the first attempt, although Cindy did lose one of our two boathooks overboard. Fortunately, we were able to grab the second boathook and secure ourselves to the mooring. I then jumped into the dinghy and performed a successful rescue of our pole.
In my next post, I’ll chronicle our return home the next day.