One of the difficult parts of transiting the coast is the obstacle course posed by the markers commercial fishermen use to identify their traps. The styrofoam balls that float on the surface are connected to the traps with a length of line so the owner can easily snag and retrieve it from the bottom and empty the catch into their bins for later sale ashore.
But while the balls are easy to spot and maneuver around during the day, they are not lighted and almost impossible to see at night, and since half of our transit time comes at night this becomes a difficulty that one just lives with, hoping that they will just graze off the side and not get wrapped around the propeller. Even when we sail with the motor shut off the propeller still freewheels as the water passes by.
After cruising for 8 ½ years without a snag our number finally came up last night as I heard Carrie shout up to me from the aft cabin that she heard the sickening bump of a marker contacting the hull followed by the sound of the propeller shaft slowing down as the line wrapped around it.
At 3 AM the prospect of diving on the shaft to clear line is not a pretty one. It’s cold, dark and we don’t carry dive gear. Consequently the best course of action appeared to be sailing up to a reasonably safe anchor spot and waiting until morning. First of all however we needed to cut ourselves loose from the trap which was now dragging behind us. That trap must have been both large and full because it slowed us down to a crawl. It would have been nice to claim some of the catch in the trap for our trouble but ultimately getting rid of it seemed the more prudent option.
There’s lots of reasonably shallow water along the Florida coast and since there was no traffic out this night we dropped the hook and went below for some sleep before dawn.
After some rest we arose, had coffee and I donned the only shorty wetsuit we have aboard along with my snorkel gear and a hefty rigging knife and plunged into the very un-tropical water to assess the situation and git-er-done!. Diving under Firefly revealed that the Styrofoam ball and line were tightly wrapped around the prop and when I sawed through a single strand of line the entire mess popped loose and started floating away. Not so fast, it’s picture time!! Fortunately no other damage was apparent and we raised the anchor and continued on to Fort Myers Beach. Another adventure for the books. Hopefully our number won’t come up again anytime soon.