Well you could say we made it…I mean the 213 mile cut across the Gulf of Mexico. We sort of sailed from Panama City to Clearwater Florida. Of the 55 hour non-stop journey we motored Pepper for over 20 hours. Talk about a headache! Mr. Weatherman was ill advised. The wind was on our nose the last half of our big trip. Believe it or not, getting here was the easy part. So begins a series of unfortunate events.
Approaching our anchorage, we ran aground. That’s a first. Trent very skillfully maneuvered Pepper off the sand, thank you Jesus. We changed our course and aimed for a different anchorage. Everyone was cool. Oh, it gets better though! That was sarcasm.
We approach our next anchorage 5 minutes later in the dark surrounded by unlit buoys. Thank you Clearwater. I’m driving while Trent’s on the bow ready to drop the anchor and let out by way of windlass. Let me first paint a better picture of this location. There are boats close by, I mean real close, flanking us on both sides. We’re approximately 300 foot off shore in a little cove and it’s only 8 feet deep. We desperately need to drop the anchor and sleep.
I go to pull the gear shift lever up to put the boat in neutral and it falls off in my hand. Let me repeat. The gear shift lever fell off in my hand. I lost all control of the boat. We’re drifting in the direction of another boat. Trent runs back to the cockpit so I can show him what happened because I was helpless. I couldn’t even verbalize to him the emergency. I didn’t even know what the thing was called that broke.
He starts flinging things around like a mad man looking for tools. I’m turning on lights, also looking for tools, and for the screw that must have fallen out. Having no immediate luck he puts the anchor down. Smart. Only Pepper doesn’t swing around in the direction the other boats are facing (towards the wind). Something else was wrong.
While I’m watching our location and depth Trent turns a vise grip tool into a temporary gear shift lever. Works for now! Everyone breathe. The screw actually broke in half. But because we weren’t sitting like the other boats we thought we needed to move. Was the anchor chain caught in the buoy or something else? I wasn’t the least bit ready to relocate but here we go again. Same drill right?
Au contraire. Then the windlass burned out. We couldn’t reel in the anchor chain. Double crap. But at least we were hooked. Trent quickly discovered a blown fuse and luck would have it, he knew exactly where there was an extra one on board. That never happens. It seems that we’re constantly searching for parts on board and off. He brought the windlass back to life within a matter of minutes while I nervously sat there watching our depth and location. I prayed out loud too.
We looped Pepper around once again and set the anchor. Now we were ok to think for a minute so we did a quick recap. When the engine was running moments before, what I thought was a barking dog noise, Trent thought might be a problem with the cutlass bearing. There could be something wrapped around the prop too. Who knows? We had to sleep on it because no one was about to go swimming in the dark.
I slept like a rock. He did too. It’s now the morning after. We’re bobbing around on this beautiful day, having not been off the water in a number of days, rethinking the series of unfortunate events. While troubleshooting, Trent zip tied the camera to a dock pole and shot a video of the prop. It turns out there very well may be something caught down there that doesn’t belong.
We should be out right now riding our bikes around town, celebrating our big crossing, playing tourist. Instead we’re toying with the idea of getting wet to free up the boat. Clearwater looks like a pretty happening place I must say. I do like our new location. At least it’s a pretty day out. The name Clearwater is deceiving though. It’s not so much clear.
Trent’s Dad described our experience best by saying, “It sounds like it was a like an emergency happening is slow motion.” Well said Steve. I had visions of us drifting right into that other boat. Yet, if anyone were on board there may be enough time to get their attention before we’d hit. Maybe they could quickly yank up their anchor and move aside. It was just such a nightmare. I remember us both shaking with adrenaline. Wow, what a trip.
And that my friends was Pepper’s big slow emergency. I’ll let you know what we figure out.