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The Florida Keys
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Diana Hanging in the Hammock
~ Diana Hanging in the Hammock ~
Boot Key Harbor
Anchoring Olympics
Our quiet anchorage was disrupted by a horrible grinding roar that brought Don bounding out the companionway into the cockpit.

"Diana, you've got to come see this!"

With all manner of ramshackle tenders towed behind, a 60' two story hackneyed trailer on steroids supported by two struggling pontoons drifted behind us, its captain futilely attempting to get their anchor to hold. There goes the neighborhood!

Don declared "They are way too close to that wreck, and low tide will have them sitting on the bottom. I'm going to go over there and tell them they are in a bad place to anchor."

Small clips of their conversation blew over to me with the 15 knot wind, but the serious scrambling that occurred on deck suggested they took Don's warning to heart. Upon returning, he filled me in with the details. The houseboat's crew consisted of an elderly couple, who were on their cell phone with TowBoat US when Don arrived at the scene. One of their twin engines had blown, and the other would only steer in reverse. Thankfully the wind was blowing from the North. We decided to stand guard until this monstrous vessel, aptly named Sheldon's Folly, was safely moored.

Boot Key Harbor Rainbow
~ Boot Key Harbor Rainbow ~
Let the Games Begin
Much to our chagrin, the tow boat relocated the trailer tub directly up wind of us with nothing but the open channel between. An anchor was deployed, and minutes later the tow boat departed. Sheldon's Folly began to drag her hook before the wake had calmed.

The elderly captain appeared on the bow and like a discus thrower, began swinging a second anchor round and round in a futile attempt to toss it out and set it. It was like watching a senior citizen's Olympic event, and after witnessing the fifth failed attempt it was obvious he wasn't going to be much of a contender.

Ever the chivalrous man, Don announced "I'm going to take the dinghy over and help that old guy set his anchor before he has a heart attack."

"I'm going with you." Chivalry was not in the forefront of my intention. Preventing Re Metau from being run over by this drifting behemoth was.

Falling Short of the Mark
The captain explained that his dinghy engine wasn't working (que el surprise!), and gratefully accepted our offer to take his anchor out and set it from our dinghy. I'd experience a severe back injury during a previous anchor weighing event of our own, and so opted to take the tiller. We headed off slowly toward the shallows while the captain paid out the rode and then – WHOMP! Like a dog on a short leash, Dinky Duck came to an abrupt stop.

"Forty feet of rode ain't what it used to be!" The captain reckoned from the deck.

A look of incredulity passed between Don and me. Here was a feeble couple in an unseaworthy, 10 ton houseboat, with barely enough ground tackle to hold a canoe. Don raised the Fortress high over his head and thrust the flukes down into the silt with all his might. As expected, the anchor promptly gave way. No amount of muscling was going to change its inability to hold in those conditions.

Can I Get a Lift to Land?
~ Can I Get a Lift to Land? ~
Judges Ruling
In the interim, residents on shore had gathered to voice concerns of their own. A change in wind direction was going to put the vessel on the seawall rocks, but I'd venture to bet having this unsightly houseboat blotting out their otherwise charming harbor view was more likely the cause of their distress.
The Agony of Defeat
The captain reluctantly accepted the agony of defeat and with a great deal of relief to all the spectators, concluded they had best leave the crowded anchorage. They decided to tie up to an abandoned marina on the other side of the bridge.

The engine problems on Sheldon's Folly meant this was not going to be pretty. The First Mate was only able to maneuver the boat in reverse. The one working engine would operate in forward, but without steerage. One can pretty much imagine the numerous Spiro-graph patterns that had to be made in order to get the vessel aimed in the right direction. Still fearing for the safety of our own vessel, we opted to referee the proceeding should any further assistance be required, but with a wide berth!

A few nail-biting feats notwithstanding, Sheldon's Folly finally reached the vacant docks. The captain tossed Don a rather short bowline to tie to a piling, but by the time Don was able to invent a secure knot with such a stubby end, the wind had pushed the tub perpendicular to the wharf. It appeared that all the lines on board 'ain't what they used to be.'

Boot Key 'Submarine'?
~ Boot Key 'Submarine'? ~

"Do you want us to try and push your stern around?" we hesitantly inquired.

"Sure! It would be great if we were up alongside the dock!" the captain insisted.

The first mate pleaded "Can you come around and tie on the stern line too after you get us over?" Not only was the vessel unseaworthy and ill equipped, but her crew was incompetent!

The Thrill of Victory
Thus, we found ourselves participating in a special Olympic event of our own – the Houseboat Docking Triathlon! The first portion of the event – Dinghy Wrestling – consisted of employing all the might Dinky Duck had in her little 9.9hp engine to shove the 10 ton trailer tub over.

The second portion was the Flotilla Obstacle Course challenge, requiring us to maneuver around the kayaks, dinghies and rowboats in tow. Finally, we were faced with the Spelunking Gymnastics portion, which involved squeezing between the wharf, pilings and hull, grabbing the 5' dock line and tying a knot before the competing wind negated all previous accomplishments. We earned a bronze medal by successfully completing it in three tries!

The crew of Sheldon's Folly extended their thanks, and overwhelmed and defeated hastily retreated below. Don and I headed back to the harbor, thrilled with the victory of having safe waters around Re Metau once more.

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2011 - Bahamas
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