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Senior Correspondent

October 7, 2011

We took a short trip on Silver Girl, our Catalina 310, just one day down the ICW to Titusville.

Now that trip had its adventures. We wanted an easy first day since we hadn’t had the boat out since last November, so we waited one day for the winds to die down. You get kind of rusty with this stuff. Living and moving on a boat is much different than on land. There are lots of things to remember that aren’t in our immediate land-bound memory. Simple things like start the engine, then untie the lines, then back out of the slip, etc. Don’t ever do these things in a different order! Oh, yes, and always have the boat hooks ready — which I didn’t when we pulled into the slip in Titusville. We did OK, but it could have gone smoother and made us look a little more experienced. I mean we are, experienced, just rusty.

OK, so Ed says, over beer and chips — the way we love to end a day on the water, “That was a bit too easy.” If you have any superstitions, you never say such a thing on a boat. Sure enough, next day on the way back, I am on a conference call (cellphones are either good or bad) Ed is managing the helm and radio to open the bridge in the crossover canal and I am chatting, or listening. As we leave the canal, the engine seems sluggish and when Ed tried to rev it up, the r.p.m. just doesn’t change. Something has tangled in the propeller.

Now add this: the cellphone cover drops out. This is good in that I am now available to help Ed, but bad in that if we need help, we can’t call. Of course, we do have our marine radio. So, next step: we are in wide, but shallow water. We can’t risk going out of the waterway or we will go aground, but we need to clear the prop in order to go on. Ed drops anchor knowing this is not allowed in the ICW, but what choice do we have? There has been no waterway traffic all morning and we’ve only seen a few open fishing boats in the canal.

Now, for you non-boaters, the only way to clear a propeller is to dive under the boat and clear it by hand, or cut away whatever is around it. I don't want Ed to dive! In the past he has done this, but he will be 77 in two weeks and has not been swimming for at least a year. We have the current against us, meaning he will be swimming against a current. Does he really have the strength and endurance? Also we discover we have no facemasks on board, meaning he will be doing this by feeling his way along the bottom of the boat. Now you have to realize, on a sailboat with an inboard engine, the prop is about five feet from the stern and in front of the keel. Not at all the same as an outboard mounted on back. I want to convince him to at least tie a line around himself so he doesn’t get carried off. He protests, saying it will just get in his way, or worse yet, if it gets tangled, he will drown. Great, now I have more anxiety. 

In my head, I am imagining watching him carried off by the current. The anchor is down. I have to either get it up, start the engine and go after him — while trying not to go aground or inflate the dinghy and try to get to him that way. I know I cannot lift the outboard over the stern and get it on the dinghy and again, since it has not been used in more than a year, what chance is there that it will start? Next to none. My stomach is now contracting with anxiety.

So, Ed drops the ladder off the stern and starts to climb down. At least the water is warm. Then, not really wanting to do this, he has a thought. We think it is seaweed around the propeller. We have seen huge hunks of it floating on the surface in this part of the waterway. He says, “I have an idea. Maybe if I put the engine in reverse, it will unwind the seaweed.” I’m for this. He climbs on board, starts the engine and puts it in reverse. It works! He revs the engine to full r.p.m. and it runs easily. Now just to get the anchor up and we are on our way again.

Nope, just one more thing. At this point a small open fishing boat approaches, the two guys waving and shouting. “Hey, you can’t anchor in the waterway." They are headed to cross the bow of the boat, which has the potential of cutting our anchor line. Ed shouts back, waving his arms. “My anchor is down. Don’t cross my bow.” They shout again telling us we can’t anchor in the waterway. Ed shouts again. Now shouting is necessary over the wind, their engine noise and the distance, but it all sounds angry as you can imagine. Guess they think we are old fogies, better yet, inexperienced old fogies. End of story. When they got close enough Ed was able to tell them we had a fouled prop and as soon as he fixed that, we would move on. They then offered to call for help, which we waved off by telling them we had a marine radio on board and could manage. It is sort of surprising they didn’t stay around to make sure we were good, but in truth, we were free and didn’t need more help. They roared off and Ed proceeded to get the anchor up, me at the helm. All this took about 45 minutes and we were on our way back to Daytona. Not a boring day.

OK, now this trip was not complete until we returned to Daytona and I my checked e-mail. We were waiting to hear about a second review from Blue Ink a new book review site we had submitted to, but we had an e-mail from Kirkus, which was even better. Kirkus was telling us that our book had been selected for their list of “Best Books in 2011!" It will be featured in their December 1 issue, and on their website for the month of December as picks for the holidays.

That’s all for now. What adventure will tomorrow bring?


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