Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Belle Isle Marina – We Run Aground with the Alligators

Along the Swamp
Well, cruising down the ICW is certainly not boring, at least for us. The day started out calm enough with a cruise through swamps which was quite beautiful. There was lots of Spanish moss, birds but we didn’t see any alligators.

We arrived at Belle Isle Marina on a 3.7 ft tide which when added to their advertised 4.0 mean low water (MLW) depth over the bar coming in should have been plenty. However, as I came in, I saw the water depth dive down below 4.5 and then 4.0 and the boat stopped! How could this be? (I thought) 4.0 plus 3.7 equals 7.7 ft, plenty of water for our 5.0 ft draft. Did the marina pad their numbers? As it turned out, I ran into a common phenomenon for the area, the west winds gusting to 20 kts today blew water out of the shallow bay. I would have thought the marina operator would have figured this out before we came in but no such luck. Like a dummy, I plowed ahead thinking what I ran into was a bump, still wanting to believe the ads about 4.0 at MLW. I made it to my dock on the end finger and was floating at that point in 5.2 ft of water but then the tide started to drop and so now we’re sitting on the bottom. The next high tide of note is at 2:00 pm Thursday, the same height as today but hopefully without the west wind we’ll get more water but who knows?

The Sign Got our Attention
Meanwhile, we’re briefed by the dockmaster on the marina and the first question he asks is whether our dog likes to swim in the water, an odd question we thought. Then he explains about the alligators in the marina! Presently there are only two (!!) and they’re small, under 5 feet (!) Where are they now, we ask. Oh, they move around, he replies. He has a license from the state to shoot alligators over 5 ft. How many has he shot this year, we ask. Nine, he replies. He has photos of the bigger ones he bagged. Hummm. Where do we walk the dog? Right over there but keep your dog on a leash – not to worry we say, it’s a great incentive you have here to keep dogs leashed.

In a second meanwhile, I get in the dink with a depth finder and head out to find a channel, or at least the most water on the way out. Luckily, I bought a new depth finder for the dink, one that shoots the depth through the bottom of the dink so I don’t have to lean overboard with my portable depth finder that requires me to dip it in the water with my hand!! On board, Ann has the binoculars out looking for alligators but doesn’t see any yet. Eventually I return not too happy but with a zigzag course out that may be doable. Sitting in the cockpit pondering the day’s events I see a familiar shape in the distance. Look at that I say, where says Ann. It’s an alligator! Sure enough, about 50 ft behind the boat is the head of an alligator slowly going forward, right where I was trying to find a channel. When it’s dog walking time, I accompany Ann and Hoolie with a flashlight and we march along on the dock to the clubhouse and the parking lot, lots of asphalt with some grass in the middle, I want to see if anything is coming (although I'm not sure what I would do if I saw one coming - the dockmaster said they can move much faster than you think, at least for short distances, he's so encouraging..)

They Hardly Ever Get on the Swim Platform said the Dockmaster(!)
As I write this blog (still aground – the rising tide hasn’t lifted us yet!) the A/C starts to spark, what else can go wrong… After an hour of trouble shooting it turns out to be two wires shorted to each other. Who ever made the A/C put the fan connection in the pan that collects condensate from the cooling coils. So all this time the connections slowly corrode and tonight they decided to short! Well, that was fixable at least and the A/C is back in operation.

Now let’s hope for a good, high tide Thursday – you can see if we make it or not by following our track using the link at left. Such fun we’re having…