Recapping our journey after leaving Key West, Viridian cruised back to Marathon, FL by retracing our original route from there to Key West. The sky was overcast and the ocean was not settled down from the high winds from the previous 3 days. Passing under the 7 mile bridge in channel 5 we pulled into Faro Blanco Marina where we visited some friends and spent the night at. Getting an early start the next morning, Saturday 3 Feb, we set sail north in the Gulf of Mexico for Little Shark River to anchor over night in the Everglades National Forest. The wind was 16 mph out of the north when we untied from Faro Blanco, but the ride was much smoother than the one from Key West. The sky was clear blue and the sun was behind us now, making it easier on the eyes. Waves broke over Viridian's bow and splashed through the open window into the fly bridge as we weaved our way among the crab pots. The taste of salt on our lips, wind in our face and busting through waves on the open sea on a bright sunny day is what we came to experience. We met several southbound sail boats taking advantage of the downhill run to the Keys, but they couldn't be having as much fun as we were.
Viridian was the first boat to enter Little Shark so we got the pick of where to drop our hook. The tide was running in and the wind was still strong but coming from the east. Our anchor bit in on the first try and the current kept us steady even though the wind was across our beam. Six other boats would join us before dark and there was room for six more. This place is famous for mosquitoes and alligators but we saw not a one. The wind died during the night and the waning gibbous moon came up and chased away most of the stars that filled the sky earlier. It was so quiet you could hear the dolphins breathe with a puuuhhh-fffwhutttt noise every now and then.
The sun rose over a calm ocean the next morning and Viridian was the last boat to exit the anchorage at Little Shark behind a Canadian trawler. We headed out into the gulf for about 3-4 miles and turned north for Everglades Isle in the Everglades National Forest. The Canadian trawler was also heading north but was about 2 miles further offshore than we were and was running fast, stopping, running slow then back to cruising speed. We kept checking on her but she seemed to be doing OK eventually.
The 38 miles to Indian Key was like cruising in a calm lake. The wind was at our back and we had a current that helped us along. To get to to Everglades Isle marina, we had to cruise about nine miles up the Barron River through a maze of mangrove islands and narrow channels. As we started our approach to the Barron River, we were hailed by the Canadian Trawler and he asked if we were heading for the Everglades marina. We said yes and he replied by saying he wasn't sure about the depth along the way but decided to follow us anyway. He was still about a mile behind us when we started in. Viridian entered the river on a rising tide since reports of shallow water were on our charts. (We had information from a boater at Key West who had just come from Everglades City and said they saw 8 feet all the way in, so we were going off current, first hand info).
Along with a rising tide in a river comes a strong current. In our case the river was flowing backward and gave us a good 3 mph as we made or way along the 9 mile channel to our slip. The cruise through the mangrove islands was absolutely wonderful. Viridian was pretty much idling and we still made about 7 mph. About 10 minutes out we phoned the marina but got no answer. A call on the radio was met with silence. Finally, someone returned our call and said they would relay the message to the dock master. This is not too uncommon and that's why we start contacting them ahead of time. When we arrived in the marina area we saw mostly empty slips (turns out these only had 20 amp pedestals) but there was no one standing on the dock that looked like a dock master. The current was especially strong in the narrow river channel and the wind had picked up to about 12 mph in the same direction. The Barron River got shallow the further up we went looking for the dock master so we turned around, but not before Viridian touched bottom. About this time the airboat tours were coming in like a swarm of flies. They were as noisy as a squadron of airplanes taking off all at the same time and were going around both sides of us as we wiggled off the bottom and spun around in the swift river. Heading back along the docks up stream we finally noticed the dock master waving his hands for us to pull in to a slip. All was fine up to this point. (Remember the Canadian Trawler that was coming in behind us? ) The dock master had missed us as we went by looking for him, and mistook the Canadian trawler for us. Since he didn't use a radio or phone to communicate he could only assume that they were the boat calling for assistance. So he directed them into the slip intended for us, leaving the only other slip available with 50 amps but being the one most exposed to the wind and current). The fun started as we attempted a stern first docking with wind and current off our beam. (These slips are best suited for stern in docking) Having to spin around in the river channel caused me to lean on the bow thruster more that normal. Docking at a right angle to wind and current required even more bow thruster. The first attempt to dock was aborted because half way in the thruster began to fade just at the wrong time. Viridian drifted into the outside corner of the pier and the current/wind spun her around back into the channel, dock lines trailing in the water. Still leaning on the thruster to maintain control, the switch stuck in the "on" position and now the thruster was running half speed and not responding to my switch inputs. All the while airboats were buzzing around us and the current was moving us further away toward boats on the other side of the river. Eventually the thruster died when the switch broke off and that sick feeling of helplessness momentarially washed over me. No time to analyze a failure, the main engine throttle was pushed forward powering Viridian back towards our slip. The bow was aimed towards the back diagonal slip corner, and momentum was killed by backing her down before she hit the other corner. The current/wind pinned her to the port side dock and thankfully we were far enough in to not get washed back out. By this time the Canadian Captain was on the dock helping get us secured. We powered Viridian forward, scraping along the padded dock till she was all the way in and shut her down. Needless to say we are in the process of investigating the thruster situation but we will not be able to get it repaired until we get to River Forest Boat Yard in Moore Haven, FL later this month.
Lessons learned: Tides turn around and winds usually calm in the evenings. It was a good decision to come in on a rising tide but we should have aborted the docking after the first failed attempt and anchored somewhere till the tide turned.
However, we are safely docked on a floating concrete pier and will enjoy our stay here at Everglades Isle Marina!
That's the news and now for some views:
Passage route from Little Shark to Everglades Isle, FL
Location of Little Shark River Anchorage
Everglades Isle Marina
Our Dock at Stock Island Marina, FL
Shrimp Tacos at the Fish Market Key West, FL
Viridian Waters at Key West, FL
Classic Key West House
100,000 ton cruise ship
Shrimp boat Jenny & Jasmine
Diver installing a zinc on the prop shaft of Viridian
Super, Blue, Eclipse Moon rising over Key West, FL
Leaving Marathon, FL heading north
Wildlife at Little Shark River Anchorage
Look what I caught in the shrimp net!
Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in the Making
First light in Little Shark River, FL
Sail boats anchored with us in Little Shark
Calm waters to start the day
The Canadian Fast Trawler that followed us to Everglades NF
Smooth sailing 3-4 miles off shore heading north to Everglade Isle Marina
Entering passage at Indian Key in the 1000 Islands region
Entering the Barron River, FL
The Rod and Gun Club in Everglade City, FL
Viridian resting along side the Canadian Trawler at Everglades Isle Marina, FL
A view from the slip
One of the MANY airboats that are always buzzing around
Book time in the Tiki Hut