A Christmas Surprise...
12/25 Tuesday 1085.4, 63/45, sunny, NE10-15 - We slept well and warm last night and were underway by 7am. Dobbs dropped me and Murphy off at Daufuskie Landing for a quick walk. We didn’t waste any time because we needed to keep a schedule to pass through Hell Gate at no less than mid-tide. Theoretically, Grace could pass even at MLW, but we prefer more than an inch or two below the keel.
It was a beautiful sunny day on the water until we snagged a crab pot shortly after entering the Florida Passage. (The sun remained out but my attitude toward crabbers turned stormy…) We were offside to the west ever-so-slightly and didn’t realize it, and the full moon ebb tide current had pushed the trap floats under the surface - we couldn’t see them. The float line wrapped tight and stalled the engine. I quickly leapt forward and deployed the anchor, which set beautifully (I’m a chain believer!). Dobbs brought the trap on board by drawing in the line and then hauling the basket up with the boat hook. Then we drew taut the excess line going down to the prop and secured it.
Dobbs tried leaning over the side and knocking the float free with the boat hook to no avail. We launched the dinghy so that he could work closer to the water and from a better perspective. Everything - Dobbs, the dinghy, the boat hook, and a knife we rigged on a pole - had to be tied to Grace to prevent it being swept away in the current.
Dobbs tried turning the prop shaft this way and that and determined that the float was wedged between a blade of the prop and the annulus in the keel. We worked the problem from the dinghy for two hours, which gave the current a chance to let up a little. I volunteered to dive under and cut the line free. The water was 51 degrees, so still quite cold, but my lightweight wetsuit at least took the edge off. I’m a strong swimmer and I know Grace’s bottom well. Dobbs stood by in the dinghy and was there to grasp my hand every time I surfaced. The float line was wrapped three times around the shaft with the float jammed as we surmised. It took me two dives to feel around the area and figure out a plan, three dives to cut apart the tangle, and then two more to run my hands over the zinc, prop shaft, prop, and prop nut and feel confident that everything survived intact. I’m so glad for all the chilly Spring and Fall bottom cleaning I’ve done in years past - it helped me remember how to safely adapt to the cold and keep functioning.
Once out of the water, I stripped off the wetsuit and threw on a bunch of wool clothing to warm up. Dobbs rowed the trap to shore and tossed it above the high tide line - we released its captives in hopes of good karma from Neptune.
Dobbs checked the engine and engine mounts and everything seemed okay, so we started it and upped anchor, testing the transmission. That seemed to be working okay too. Whew! We’re really quite done with this sort of adventure and ready for some easy warm sailing, tennis, and relaxing. We proceeded the remaining 10 miles to Kilkenny Creek and dropped the hook at 5:30pm. Dobbs fed the pets while I called my family to wish them “Merry Christmas”; then he rowed Murphy to shore while I tidied the boat and put on some mood lighting and dinner music. Thoroughly worn out, we sat down to a hearty meal and continued talking and texting with friends into the evening.