we rounded east into Egmont channel and put 15 knot winds on our beam and our bodies, I was instantly grateful that the majority
of the day’s sail put the wind on our back. BURRRR!!!! Forget the math for apparent wind calculations; I should learn the trigonometry for apparent temperature. I tried to ignore my discomfort by changing my focus to the
luxury of having 80’ of water underneath. It was nice to confirm that the higher digits on the depth sounder worked.
The choppy waters excluded Egmont Key as a comfortable spot to drop the hook. Given the sun’s position and our
current speed, I convinced Don we’d have just enough daylight to make it to a calm, protected anchorage spot up the
Manatee River. Apparently the sun was more anxious to spend time in the southern hemisphere than I had anticipated. We
entered into the black hole of the Manatee channel equipped with an antiquated GPS loaded with waypoints I set as a neophyte,
a 1,000,000 watt spotlight that could only be deployed from the cockpit, and our ‘Marriage Saving’ Mariner 500 Headset Communicators.
While I was at the helm, Don got some blood warming exercise running up and down the decks looking for markers,
comparing them to the GPS, reviewing paper charts, and sweeping the spotlight across our path. Following is an excerpt from
the conversation that occurred over our headsets with the method of delivery included:
(Don - encouraging) "You’re doing great. Just stay on this bearing. We’re coming up on a
marker now. It says…..14…..it’s marker 14."
(Diana - concerned) "The waypoint on the
GPS says 16. Are you sure it’s 14?"
(Don - accusing) "Yeah, you must not have the waypoints marked
right in the GPS."
(Diana - defensively) "I know I put those waypoints in right. I think the state came
out and changed all the channel markers!"
(Don - calmingly) "Well, don’t worry about it, it’s
a wide channel and we have lots of water under us. I’m coming back there to do a spotlight sweep."
- self-soothing banter) "You know, we’ve used that spotlight more during the last month than in the last 5 years
since we bought it. The only other time we used it was that night we overheard that couple daring each other to dance naked
on their fly deck."
(Don - disturbed) "Damn! the spotlight isn’t working. It just went dead."
(Diana - not amused) "YOU ARE KIDDING ME! That’s not funny. It probably came unplugged."
- irritatingly calm) "No, the wire’s pulled out…I can feel bare wire. Just keep this heading and watch
the depth. I’m going to check the chart."
(Diana - desperate rationale) I can see a boat over there. Let’s
just go anchor there. The depth is good."
(Don - schizophrenic) "I think we can make it. It’s
a wide channel with plenty of water. We’re fine. Just go slow. Wait….bear to starboard NOW!!! There is
a 2’ shoal to port!! SLOW DOWN! MORE TO STARBOARD!"
(Diana - heightened anxiety) "Man…I can’t
see any markers at all. WHOA – I could have reached out and touched that one! Did you see that one? How is it I can
have this whole wide river and manage to almost run down the one thing sticking up in the middle?"
(Don - sheepishly)
"Yeah – must be marking that shoal we just missed. I don’t see anything else on the chart to worry about.
Just stay in the middle of the river. We’re good. There is plenty of water under us between here and the bridge."
Just as I was being pacified by this misinformation, I managed to react to the decreasing numbers on the depth sounder
yet again. After repeated pleas of “Let’s anchor here.”, “This looks good.” “Can we
drop the anchor now?”, “This looks like a good place to anchor.”, “Want to drop the anchor now?”,
it was music to my ears hearing the chain pay out. Once we confirmed the 60lb Bruce was well set (like that was ever going
to be a problem), our anxiety quickly turned to euphoria as we congratulated our impressive achievement. Hey - we had no
qualms about taking fallacious credit for dumb, blind luck. No one saw us swerving about the river, so our success was purely
the result of exceptional nighttime navigation skills. Now - where did I put that nail file?