Skip to main content


America's Great Loop Cruisers' Association
Information & Inspiration for Your Great Loop Cruise
HomeBlogsRead Blog

Braveheart Blog

#9 - May 21/Day 8
By THOMAS GOLDMAN
Posted on 6/07/2017 12:46 PM
Marco Island is a beautiful area and a great stopping point prior to reaching out to the Keys.  Knowing we have a long day ahead of us we pulled away from the beautiful Marco Island docks about 6:45 am and headed south through an inside passage that comes out in a little town called Goodland.  The Calusa Marina is the last stop prior to entering the Gulf of Mexico and it was the last fuel dock between us and Marathon Key.  Good place to top off the tanks, but make certain you stay within marked channels.  Water gets real skinny, real fast.
Goodland fuel
We carry 87 gallons of gas when full, but at this fill up we only needed about 30 gallons.  Prior to continuing our trip this morning, we filed a "float plan" with my son Curtis, instructing him we would call him before 6:00 pm.  By that time we would certainly be in Marathon and would let him know we had arrived safely.

So by 9:00 am we're prepared to stick our nose out through the pass and enter the Gulf.  From pelicans in flightthis point to Marathon is about 85 miles of open water.  There are a few places on the coast to our port that are historic safe harbors if you get caught in bad weather, and although the waters are a little choppy, it's safe to continue.  Seas are about 2-4 feet SSE with 8-10 mph winds and kicking up a little spray.  We cruise at about 15 mph (3600 rpm) and settled in for our six hour crossing.  All around us is beautiful blue sky and blue water.

At 12:30, with about 30 miles remaining before we reach Marathon, our starboard temperature guage indicates we are overheating on that engine, and the warning signal starts blaring.  As you can imagine, these are not good things to hear out in the middle of no where.  We shut down the starboard engine, assessed our situation and made the decision to limp into Marathon on just the port engine.  So we raise the dead engine to eliminate drag and slowed to 8 mph.  Now, instead of arriving Marathon at 2:30 pm as projected, our new ETA will be 4:07 ... if the port engine continues.

Well, the port engine did not continue.  We deployed our new Manus anchor, that heretofore had never even been in the water, and are now anchored 27 miles from Marathon in about 15' of water.  We are too far from shore to have cell phone communication but we do have two VHF radios on board.  Unfortunately, we are having a difficult time raising TowBoatUS, but a passing vessel named FLUKE heard us and began relaying our communication with the Coast Guard sector/Key West. After sharing our location coordinates (N25º, 07'205" and W081º,10',43.4") the Coast Guard relayed our transmissions to the tow service advising them our destination was Marathon.  At 1:30 the Coast Guard confirmed to us TowBoatUS had been dispatched to our location and should be alongside within two hours.  At 4:00 pm we are still scanning the horizon, but no sign of any boat traffic.

At almost 5:00pm --- hurrah, the red hull of TowBoatUS is on the horizon, 
Stephen, their driver, quickly
and efficiently ties to our eye cleat on sunset the bow and starts our 4.5 hour towing trip to Marathon.  Enroute we share a beautiful sunset and a gorgeous moonrise, all within minutes of each other.  This has been a very long day.

Up to now we had been unable to contact any family members to let them know we were OK and no one was injured.  About 7:00 we received a transmission on the VHF radio from TowBoatUS that a "family member was making inquiry through Coast Guard regarding the that that was in tow.  (Apparently, Coast Guard will not provide details to anyone making inquiries by phone.)  It appears that when we were unable to contract Curtis by 6:00 he put our "float plan" into action.  He contacted the Marathon Yacht Club, Coast Guard and Tow Boat, which prompted the VHF message from the towing company.  About an hour later we were able to receive cell phone transmission and talked directly with our sons to let them know we were OK, and just delayed because of engine problems. 

On a funny note, I had tried earlier to text our kids to let them know we were waiting for "tow boat", but auto spell corrected my typing and indicated we were waiting for a "row boat". LOL

curtisNOTE:  Curtis is not a boater, and I told him I was very impressed with his efforts to determine our location and status.  How did you know where to call?  His response:  Well, I am an Eagle Scout, you know!"

Two very important lessons:
1) Never leave home without Tow Boat insurance, and
2) Always file a float plan

As of this writing we have restarted our engines many times during the next few days and they seem to be operating fine.  At first we thought this could be a fuel issue, but most of the comments at the marina feel we travelled through a "weed line" and may have picked up debris that restricted water flow through the pumps.  To be on the safe side we will top off our tanks at the Burdines Dock before heading out again and put a fuel stabilizer in the tank. Hopefully, we have remedied the problem, but just in case I still have my rosary on board.
Curtis Stokes and Associates
Southport Marina
Port Washington