After talking with one of my friends on our way home, Dave asked, “Did you tell her what happened yesterday?” When I replied that I did not, he was curious. “How could you not tell her what happened?” he asked with surprise. “How could I tell a story like that, in just a few minutes?” “Ya, I see what you mean,” and he also decided that it was too much of a story to tell to a friend in passing. It’s one of those featured headlines you tell at a get-together, with plenty of time to talk about it!
With no get-togethers on the horizon, and some particular people bound to ask questions soon about the boat, I’m telling the story here first. This way, each and every one of my friends can reap the full benefit of all the story has to offer.
Our last day there, Sunday, August 25th, we got up at 5:30 and were out on the boat at 6 ready to watch the sunrise (while we fished of course). It was beautiful, and I took a ton of pictures.
We started out by Rachel Key (pink star labeled s), just off the bay by where we were staying. We drifted in the boat, as we like to do, while we fished. We were heading toward the 7-mile bridge and our plan was to go under the bridge and around Boot Key, past Boot Harbor where the fishing’s been good.
So we were cruising right along drifting nicely when my line got tangled. I told Dave I could get it, but as far as he knew, this could have easily meant can’t you see I’m mad – help me! so he put his pole down, came to the front of the boat, and started helping me untangle the mess I had made. Then right there, right next to our boat in front of our very eyes, we saw about four feet of grey matter surface, followed by a fin, then a big round eye. It seemed like it was happening in slow motion but when it disappeared under the surface, then it seemed as if it happened much too fast. “Did you see that?” my husband said, sounding as if he wasn’t exactly sure of what he’d just seen. “Yes!” I exclaimed, followed by, “Grab the camera!” He couldn’t believe it. “The camera?” he exclaimed, “Grab the fishing pole!” He dropped my tangled line like a hot potato and grabbed his pole. I felt his frustration from bringing a girl on a fishing trip.
Not one to really let things get to him, our morning resumed it’s pleasantness in no time. We had made our way to the side of Boot Key, where all week, we had seen small boats go into a canal that seemed to go nowhere, so we checked it out. It looked like an old fish camp of some sort, one of them had some activity going on but the others were all abandoned. It appeared to serve as a boat graveyard as well. (labeled fc on map)
We made our way back to the ocean and started toward West Sister Rock. It was on that drift that it happened again – only this time, my line wasn’t tangled. No, this time I was having my husband put sunscreen on my back. It was the same exact scene as before, we saw about four feet of fish roll along the top of the water, but much quicker. Dave tossed the sunscreen onto my bag, and as he reached for his fishing pole he realized his hands were all greasy from the sunscreen. “Ugghh,” he grumbled, but didn’t give up. We didn’t catch that tarpon (that’s what we think it was anyway), or any others, it was barracuda, snapper and grunt fish for us all week. And more barracuda.
When we reached the point we could see that a dark storm was coming our way. I checked the radar and suggested we keep going around the bend and go where we had planned. The way it looked, we were just on the outskirts of it and would be traveling east parallel to it while it was traveling west. It soon however became a little scary.
We high-tailed it across the coast looking for shelter. We passed up the causeway, a familiar area to us, because of boat congestion and rough seas, and we pulled into a canal system up the way a bit. We wound up (after winding around a while) somewhere near the purple star. As we explored canal after canal, we verbally expressed our differing opinions of where we were. I became increasingly annoyed as Dave professed to know better than google maps on my smartphone. Finally deciding to stop giving away my peace of mind, I sat back and played Words with Friends.
We eventually wound up at the causeway, the familiar area we had passed up. But to get there, we had to maneuver through some thin areas, which according to our navigational maps, were not through areas. But we made it through.
We started heading back via the bay and were shocked at how rough the seas were. This was the calmest day we’ve had, and the bay is supposed to be calmer than the ocean side. Dave slowed down enough for us to hear each other so we could converse about what to do. It was a much closer ride via the bay, but the ocean seemed much calmer. I voted for closeness, as it was dreary and getting cold out. “Just go slow and I can handle it,” I said. We continued on, but immediately the engine started acting funny. For a few seconds Dave thought it might just be the roughness of the water, but he quickly changed his mind and headed back to the causeway.
We pulled over, anchored, and Dave got out and checked the motor. “Everything looks fine,” he reported. This time I voted for returning via the ocean because of the way the land would protect us better, and it seemed to be a little smoother. The boat sounded bad, but there was one speed that didn’t sound as bad, and that was fast. So Dave drove fast. Oh, I was terrified! He kept turning around to make sure water was still coming out of the motor and that really freaked me out. I started scanning my brain for a solution for my intense fear.
No kidding – I was like paralyzed scared. I had to purposely breathe. I wanted to cry but was afraid if I did, I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Then I remember thinking, what if I get thrown off the boat? So I reached for an orange life jacket and pulled it over my head. Then I thought, would anyone see it happen? would anyone see me out there? how would I get someone’s attention? So I pulled an orange whistle from the outside pocket of my bag and put it around my neck. After some more thoughts, I tucked the whistle in the life jacket, tightened the straps and clipped them shut in front of me. I scooped up my bag from between my feet and clutched it close to me. If I was going, my bag was going with me.
I prayed and I prayed and I prayed. I thought of something I had recently heard – you can not have fear and faith at the same time. Not convinced that I’m convinced of that, I tested it out. I can say that I reached the perfection of faith that day and felt no fear, for a few minutes anyway. And God answered my prayer, we made it back safe, but we didn’t make it back without paddling.
We were near the purple star labeled finish, when the motor let out a strange sound and decided it was finished. Dave and I looked at each other with dropped mouths, reading each others mind, oh crap! He grabbed the paddle and started paddling for shore. Oh good, only one paddle, all I can do is sit here… except we were not getting anywhere fast enough and I had to pee. I retrieved my phone, only to find that the battery was dead. Great. Oh well, who would I call anyway? I thought. I grabbed one of my dive flippers, put my hand in it and started paddling too. About 45 minutes later, we pulled up to the public boat ramp a mile down the street from where we were staying.
Now I really had to pee, and I was in luck – there were public restrooms here. I walked into the one labeled “women”, locked the door behind me and proceeded to do my thing. I went to leave, and the door wouldn’t unlock. “What the…” I mumbled, to which Dave said, “What?!” “The door won’t unlock,” I informed him. “What do you mean, it won’t unlock?” “I MEAN IT WON’T UNLOCK!” By now, I’m feeling a little frantic, and the tiny row of ants marching in line up the wall were starting to close in on me. I asked God if there was some reason He was keeping me from going back to our hotel, then Dave tried joking about it. It worked, he made me laugh, then he seriously asked if I had a screwdriver with me.
It sounds funny that he would even ask me that – who goes around with a screwdriver on them? Well it just so happens that there’s this particular tool I’ve been bringing with us all week, just in case. When packing my bag the night before though, I thought of how I’ve been bringing this along, for what? We haven’t needed it, we probably won’t need it and I thought for sure I left it back in the room. I looked for it in my bag and didn’t see it. I dumped the contents out on the bathroom floor and I have never been so happy to see my little tool.
I unscrewed the lock and freed myself from the women’s bathroom at the boat ramp. My first words out were, “Never again will I let someone make fun of me for bringing too much stuff!” Dave said something about how he’ll always poke fun, so I revised my statement – “I will never again let someone make me feel bad for bringing too much stuff!” And my husband, who already affectionately calls me the bag lady, was most likely thinking, grreeeaaat.
As I went to retrieve my camera to take a picture of the door, a scenario came to mind that scared me out of taking that picture. Could you imagine hearing on the six o’clock news, woman arrested for defacing government property, proof of pictures were found on her phone. So, we walked a mile back to our room, got the truck and trailer and headed back to get the boat. It went well, and we were back in our room by five.
We showered and decided to go eat at a place we had passed on our walk – the Keys Fisheries. I was bull-headed about it at first because I wanted to go somewhere else – where I thought they had the world-famous lobster reuben. But then I decided that for me, it really wasn’t that important, and not the case for him, so I became fine with it. When we walked up, we realized that everyone who worked there probably watched us break down, paddle to shore and the whole nine yards. We literally broke down in their backyard, or their back bay.
And their food was the BEST – Dave had grilled lobster tails and I had their world-famous lobster reuben. Yes, this was actually the place that had what I wanted all week, and I would have been sadly disappointed if I had gotten my way with the other place. But I think my husband knew this all along, though he won’t rub it in my face, because that’s just the kind of guy he is.
Back at the Banana Bay, we took our baby for a sunset stroll, then called it a night.
The next morning we packed up in the rain and headed home. (And if you’re from the government, I made up that story about the bathroom, that was someone else!)
I hope you enjoyed my blog of our vacation. I enjoyed making it!