Bimini, Bahamas – The Gateway to Paradise

WARNING – There are a ton of pictures here :)

Escaping East from the so called “real world,” the first blip on the radar is a tiny little pair of islands poking out of the water like the lone illuminated sign of a truck stop on a long Texas highway. Like a truck stop, this place is often populated with travelers making their way one way or another, but this isn’t exactly your typical Wawa or 7/11. Here, you won’t find cheap laxative-infused burritos and stale coffee. You probably won’t even find Peanut M&Ms or beef jerky.

Oh no. Here, in this delightful little place, you’ve finally found the first piece of Paradise.

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Bimini is everything you’d expect from a little spit of sand in the middle of the ocean. Other than a bunch of small marinas, a few restaurant/bars, and a conch salad shack here and there, there isn’t much to remind you how close you are to the hustle and bustle of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Only about 45 miles away, you can almost see the glow of the big American metropolis on a clear night. Over the last two years, the mega corporation Resort World has invaded and built a big casino and hotel complete with a cruise ship dock, but even though its just a few minutes’ golf-cart ride away on whats practically the only road in town, its easy enough to avoid if you want to maintain the authentic island-time experience. Its also easy enough to get in and take advantage of the huge new pool! Regardless of where you spend your time on the island, you’ll find Bimini to be an extraordinarily friendly, easygoing, and welcoming place.

We docked Contigo at the quaint Brown’s Marina after a 30 hour run from Marathon Key. Other than a brief scare about a rumored stormy forecast overheard on the VHF, it was a peaceful albeit exciting trip. This was the first time I’d sailed across the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and let me tell you that thing is a phenomenon not to be taken lightly. That current was strong enough to push Contigo along at an extra couple of knots if we cooperated with it, and there is no doubt the waves take on an entirely different personality when rolling through the Stream.

We tied up just after sunrise, made ourselves a few stiff celebratory drinks, and crashed out like the tired salty sonsofbitches we were.

passed out adam

^ You have to watch that video on a computer, cant watch it on a mobile device. I added a copyrighted song and YouTube caught me :/

… And at last, we’d found our friends. Four months behind schedule, Contigo and her crew was finally reunited with Brian and Cassandra of the Miss Informed, whom we’d intended to meet at that same dock for New Years. Their trip through the Bahamas was nearly over and ours had just begun, so we took advantage of the remaining time we had together and enjoyed the island.

brian and cass

^ Sorry Brian I stole that from your Facebook….

We rested up, bought as much cheap Cuban rum as we could carry from the liquor store just across the street, and got to work indulging in the hard knock life of an island hopping sailor. Since we didn’t have cell service, it was a fine epiphany to have when it hit us how easily we could disconnect from the “real world,” and disconnect we did. The problem was that our friend Bob was about to land in Bimini and I was careless enough not to give him details on our exact location, rendering him a lost, luggage-touting wanderer for a few hours. Sorry Bob, but I’m glad you met some people while waiting for us to realize I screwed up.

Speaking of meeting people, two awesome new friends entered the picture during our conquest of Bimini. One day, while Xavier and I were sitting on the porch of the liquor store drinking some ice cold Kalik Gold (a fantastically drinkable 7% Bahamian beer) we’d just bought, some particularly sketchy dude on a fittingly decayed golf cart that I couldn’t believe was still running approached us trying to sell some… herbal medicine. Dorian, whom X and I immediately renamed “D,” came out of the store and saved us from an embarrassing encounter with Mr. Sketchy. Street cred acquired, we thanked D and invited him to BBQ that night for rum infused political and ethical discussions and some delicious food. Thanks again D.

grillmaster grilling
^ The always incredible Chef Pablo cooking up some bangin’ food at the BBQ grill at Brown’s.

Another night, while all of us were kickin’ it in the cockpit trading sailing stories with Brian and Cass, a curious half-Cuban gal was walking up and down the dock reading boat names out loud trying to lose some Miami “The Situation” wannabe guido dude that was following her around.

Girl – “Contigo!!!”

All of us – “Aquí aqui!! We tenemos mucho rum-o!”

Between fits of wild laughter, she introduced herself as Lauren Lavender, which is of course the coolest name anyone has ever had other than perhaps James Bond, and she goes by Lala. We hit it off from the moment they came on the boat to the moment Guido randomly decided to leave after a a half-hour of awkwardly sitting there in the corner ignoring the conversation. I guess he finally realized he wasn’t getting any that night, or maybe he just wasn’t familiar with being on the boat because he tried to disembark by climbing up the lifelines like they were a ladder. Swinging around with a terrified, dumbfounded look on his face for what felt like a full fifteen seconds of hilarity, he was perched on the wagging white cables like an overweight infant trying to climb out of a playpen. Launching himself toward freedom, he nearly got himself killed when he almost fell forehead first on the hard wood dock. He even tried to steal the Captain’s hat she’d been wearing and childishly threw it down when Lala called him out as he was walking away like a spanked dog who’d gotten caught tearing up a trash bag. Had we not been laughing so hard, we might have felt bad for the poor guy.

Liberated from the creeper extra from a knock off episode of Jersey Shore, the party kept rolling.

blurry 1_1 d is hammered 1 d is hammered 2 me n adam faces pablo pot top knifie

cass and lala 2blurry 2 adam x brian 3 adam x brian 2 adam x brian 1 20150418_232528 20150418_232525 20150418_232521

^ I can’t stand posting blurry pictures, but some of these are just too good not to post. I think it more accurately depicts our state of mind anyway.

Brown’s Marina was such a fine place to stay, and Bimini was such a great place to meet people. Check out this video of a very cool fishing guide we met cleaning fish not twenty yards from our boat named Shammy Sammy! This is a fantastic video.

(Sorry about the profanity in this one… if you’re in public, turn the volume down. Also, I cant get Youtube to put up a thumbnail but its worth watching)

Just before we left town a few days later, we also spent an afternoon visiting the Sapona shipwreck just South of Bimini. I probably have a hundred brilliant photos of that awesome old concrete barge, and if anyone ever has a chance I highly recommend snorkeling the wreckage.

sapona02 sapona01 sapona03 sapona04 sapona07 sapona08 sapona06 sapona05 sapona09 sapona10 sapona11 sapona12

Both D and Lala immediately became part of the crew, and you’ll see a lot of them as I get through the rest of the adventure. I could go on and on about how much fun we had playing French Darts (explanation and pictures at the bottom) and roaming around Bimini like a pack of wild drunken buffoons, but I think a whole bunch of pictures will do the trick better than I could.

the guys at browns_1 x paul celebrate shammy sammy fish

speaker phone
^that is a Bahamian Speaker Phone

^that is how we plan our expeditionplanning time plane landing
^ Thats a plane landing in Bimini… its a wild sight!  konch shack konchs konch shack 2 letters konch shack konch salad konch island browns panorama

storm coming to biminikonch shackbrowns pano 3browns signbrowns pano pit bob and friend konch shack_1

Oh yeah one more thing. This guy pictured below is named Humphrey and was the dock master for Brown’s Marina while we were there. He was a hilarious dude who epitomized the Bahamian island-time lifestyle as he spent his days hanging out in the marina’s bar (its not stocked he always asked us for booze) watching TV and reminding everyone that “Humphrey doesn’t hump for free!” Apparently he passed away not long after we left, so this entry goes out to Humphrey!

humphrey dont hump fre

French Darts: Also known as Polish Horseshoes, this game has nothing to do with France, Poland, darts, or horseshoes, and is perhaps the most fun game on the planet other than…. okay no its definitely the most fun game on the planet. The idea is to set up two sticks about 25 feet from each other and set an empty bottle of Kalik on top of each stick. We use PVC pipe with a round flange for a flat surface on which to set the beer. Then, each team of two people, each with a drink in one hand, has to throw a frisbee at the opponents stick trying to knock over the bottle. If the bottle hits the ground it counts for two points, and if the receiving team drops or doesn’t catch the frisbee (provided its thrown above the knees and within arms reach) thats worth one point. The receivers can’t catch the frisbee before it gets to the target, but they can try to prevent both the frisbee and bottle from hitting the ground by catching it after contact is made. The first team to get to 21 points wins the game. Brian is absolutely nuts at playing defense that guy can catch a frisbee and bottle in one fluid move with one hand. Pablo, as it turns out, used to be an ultimate frisbee player and he can throw that thing like Peyton Manning can throw a football. Anyway, its a great game I highly recommend it.

french darts pic

brian almost caught it bob adam action bob adam action 2 20150421_170508 pablo brian action pablo and brian darts smile


Thats it! See ya at the next entry!

It’s Bahamian Calypso’s Fault: Bahia Honda and Marathon Key

staniel contigo name2
           ^ Contigo anchored just off Thunderball Grotto in Staniel Cay, Bahamas

If there is a Bahamian Goddess of Sailing, she’s certainly not keen on discipline. She is an Island-Time Calypso, seducing salt-stained sailors with the promise that here, in this crystal blue paradise, time is endless as the ocean and abundant as the rum.

It’s her fault, I swear. I mean, look at that picture above. There hasn’t been an update because Bahamian Calypso prefers her adherents to celebrate safe passages by drinking and relaxing in excess like discoverers of Shangri-La. But now its been long enough. As I type this on September 8th, its been exactly five months to the day since Contigo left Key West toward the Bahamas. I promised myself I’d get no farther than a week behind, then almost immediately, I succumbed to the sun-drenched urge to kick responsibility to the wind.

So this is my second excuse to use this meme…


These days, back in my beloved Fort Myers Beach for about a month waiting on another replacement mainsail (we’ll get there…), I’ve got time like Flava Flave. I haven’t updated since we stopped at Bahia Honda Park and then provisioned in Marathon Key. Not since we left the States to visit Bimini, New Providence Island, a half dozen of the Exuma Islands, back to New Providence and Bimini, then into Ft Lauderdale for a few months (plus 5 weeks visiting home) before making a storm-motivated run around to Fort Myers Beach (here now) to prep for the trip back across the Gulf of Mexico this fall.

track from KW
         ^ Our track ever since the last update

Needless to say, there are a lot of stories to tell. So where’d I leave off? Oh thats right. We were just about to leave Key West…

KW flag Sept 15
        ^ The tired but never beaten KW flag as it is now, Sept 8th.

Leaving Key West was a major milestone on this trip. We’d been flying the blue Conch Republic Flag ever since Corpus Christi, hanging it over us like bacon on a stick attached to the head of a hungry dog. We’d goofed around clumsily, tripped over dozens of unseen obstacles, and managed to learn a boatload about cruising while chasing some 1,500 miles after that crispy Key West bacon.

Now all of a sudden, that beaten blue flag represented where we’d been as opposed to where we were going. Key West was a damned fine appetizer for ambitious salty-dogs like us, and with newfound energy we charged toward the Bahamas like a pack of restless mutts who’d just gotten over a food coma and wanted… well, we wanted more bacon.

First, though, we needed to get at least as far up the Keys as Marathon so we could grab a decent tack for the jump to Bimini. Our first stop, heading generally Northeast again for the first time since the Texas coast, was Bahia Honda State Park.

Bahia Honda has a little anchorage between two bridges and right across from a state park beach with an entrance to a tiny little center-console dominated marina that looks more like a dinghy dock than an actual marina. Naturally, we anchored right in front of the beach. Paying close attention to the ripping current and stout wind, we set the hook and checked out the impressive surroundings.

adam looking at bahia bridge bahia bridge closeup paun n adam sunset_1 bahia honda day

Bahia Honda is a great little anchorage between two large highway bridges running along the Keys. One of them, the Bahia Honda Railway Bridge, has long since been decommissioned and has a section knocked out to allow tall boats to enter. The thing is falling apart, and for those that appreciate modern ruins and bridges and big rusty deteriorated structures, this is a gorgeous place.

We met another sailor anchored in the same area heading to Marathon. As is required by maritime superstition/law, he was having problems with his diesel engine. I helped not-fix that old Atomic Diesel just long enough to share a cold beer with him, and the next day he sailed out through the gap.

single hand sailing out of bahia

We we’re next. We ran up to Marathon and grabbed a lucky open mooring ball not three hundred yards from the dinghy dock. We rested up just in time for a spontaneous visit from another fraternity brother of ours, Xavier. Along with his friend Wayne from Key West, Xavier (aka “X”) brought along enough Bud Light to lean Contigo over about five degrees to starboard.

Marathon mooring sunset

We stocked up, rested up, told our families we loved ‘em, and headed out for Sombrero Key Lighthouse. We’d planned on leaving Sombrero Key in the morning, but our rocky stay on the mooring ball there motivated us to skip out around midnight.

sombrero key lighgthouse_1 someone got a little sick_1
^ I’m not sure but it looks like someone didnt like the rockin’ n rollin’

So….. I promise (again) to get this thing updated.

Truth be told I never really thought this blog would turn out to be more than a personal “travel journal” and a way to keep my family and close friends from thinking we’d gotten run over by a barge. I never thought people I’d never met would ask how to buy prints of our photos and where we’re going next. I never thought I’d see over 10,000 hits in one day on our pages. Granted, that particular post was the one about Spring Break in Fort Myers Beach complete with booty shaking contests in front of the Lani Kai and a whole bunch of promotion both online and at the bikini-laden beach, but still! who’da thunk it? I never thought I’d get so busy with beaches and side-projects over these past few months that would sorta get…. forgotten.

But no more. Next stop, Bimini, Bahamas.

Life in Key West

First of all, did everyone see that goofy video of Paul playing around on the dink? It’s hilarious….

Anyway, back to the blog! We were still in Key West, and with the Yanmar diesel just hours beyond her most recent repair, the prospect of meeting our first charter customers drove us to cruise the local pubs for walking dollar signs.

As it turns out, spontaneously meeting would-be charter customers isn’t very hard if you visit the right place. The trick, however, is getting from draught-beer-driven conversation to a wind-driven, money-making charter. We learned the carbonated way that ya can’t put too much value on a good happy hour. We met so many people from so many corners of the world sitting at that tiny bar at Pepe’s drinking $1 Yuenglings and eating baked oysters I couldn’t ever hope to list them all.

pepes towel

One was an Australian sailor who’d circumnavigated twice. Another was a retired graduate school professor turned cruiser with long silver hair draped over frail but proud shoulders whose accent I couldn’t place if my life depended on it. This man somehow managed to convince me to go back to school, and then all within the same conversation, to avoid it at all costs. I asked if he thought I wasn’t cut out for it. “No,” he enthusiastically replied. “Graduate school isn’t cut out for you.”

I guess we sailors have a way of steering clear of the systems and standards of society. Sailing, at least for me, is becoming far more than a method of travel. In Flirting with Mermaids, John Kretschmer describes his relationship with sailing:

“Sailing is my lifeline. Sliding across an ocean, propelled by spirit and sail, is synonymous with freedom. It’s not freedom from responsibility, for sailboats are the most demanding of mistresses and nobody laughs at the concept of freedom like old Neptune. But my freedom is the ability to shake off the grip of society’s expectations.”

sailing sunset KW schooner sunset key west purple porthole rusty bucket sunset

One particularly adventurous couple, Kim and Doug from New York, bumped into us at Pepe’s. We all hit it off from the very start. Kim and I were born in the same hospital in Corpus Christi, Doug is a musician turned pilot, and we all love oysters. It was love at first draught; we’d found the perfect match. After a few more oysters and Yuenglings, Kim and Doug agreed to become our first sailing charter. The trip was a huge success and we had far more laughs than we deserved. They even managed to play cupid and bring along a couple of cute med students for us to mingle with…. can’t be mad at that! Big thanks to both of you!!

Doug and Kim after sailing

We also met a number of especially hospitable locals, some of whom were’t exactly your typical “local.” As I’d mentioned, we were anchored just off Christmas Tree island, which as it turns out, is far more inhabited than it looks. A psychedelic tribe of camping/sailing rascals took us in like family and we shared many a night by the campfire cooking pasta and listening to Joey play classical guitar iterations of Bohemian Rhapsody under solar-powered neon lights.

Not to be outdone, the mainland offered just as warm a reception. Brian of Danger Charters, his sparky girlfriend Brooke of Schooners Wharf, and their entire group of awesome friends showed us a splendiferous time. Yes, I just said splendiferous. T’was that good. We met them at a little craft beer bar called The Porch, and by the time the night had passed us by we felt so at home we could have moved in next door and lived the rest of our lives.

porch bathroom big

Even the men’s room at the Porch is worth checking out! ^^

porch draught list

A few days later we met up with Brian at his house for a great BBQ after a few gourmet Bloody Marys a la the always exquisite mixologist Brother Pablo.

paul BMs

The BBQ was fantastic, the company was generous, and yet again we had more laughs than we deserved. Brian even had draught beer on tap!

Paul Wall

(Yes, that is a big octopus hanging above Adam’s head.)

We even spontaneously jumped into a little sewing circle to make cornhole bags for Brian’s cornhole set.

Brian wtf sewing

Yet again, as had almost become habit on this adventure, we’d met the right collection of people that made us feel like we belonged.

A few days later, our college friend Allen and his law school buddy Chris came down from Jacksonville to meet us. As usual, we got ourselves into more than we’d bargained for, but suffice it to say that the nights lasted long and the company was again fantastic. As it turns out, Chris is an epic Super Smash Bros player, and I don’t say that lightly… because I am an epic Super Smash Bros player and I don’t like getting my ass handed to me. Chris, I demand a rematch.

We took a quick snorkeling trip to Sand Key just West of Key West. Its a gorgeous reef, and a common destination for local chartering companies…

sand key allen swimming at sand sand key_1

One night at the dinghy dock, we saw four enormous and beautiful manatees grazing just below the surface of the shallow water. It was dark, and its hard to see in the picture, but Allen being Allen decided to slip in the water. He never tried to or intended to disturb or touch them, and he never did, but he wanted to be with them for just a moment.

allen manatee dinghy manatees

By the time we had to leave Key West, I was fantasizing about living there permanently…

Then again, we were racing the wind till we discovered Paradise and we wouldn’t stop till we found it…

Behold! The Power of the Wind!

Big thanks to Casey for the especially detailed (not to mention marginally edited for family consumption) account of how we chased the limits of overindulgence during his visit in Key West!

threesome at pepes

No more than a couple of days after Casey left, the North end of Christmas Tree island where we were anchored got brutally slammed by a Northern wind front. Our friend Mike, one of the great people we met in Fort Myers Beach, took this picture of the storm as it was heading our way…

the unnamed storm

As it happens, I was on land stealing Wi-Fi from a nearby restaurant when this sinister storm roared into Key West. I jumped in the dink and hightailed it back to Contigo. Fortunately for all of us, we’ve got the greatest crew this side of the Atlantic. Major credit to Adam and Paul for getting ahead of the game and getting the boat prepared before I made it back. Well done fellas! Those instincts of yours certainly saved the night!

Bursting through growing wind-driven rollers in that little inflatable on the way back to the boat, I saw Mother Nature wreaking havoc on the sloppy little anchorage. Two boats were crashing into each other, their rigging intertwined, pitching and rolling in a watery wrestling match until a miniature fleet of dinghies came in to separate them before even more damage was done.

With Adam and Paul onboard Contigo and the recently crippled engine miraculously powering through the rising waves to keep her away from other thrashing boats, our anchor rode got tangled with another. Since I was already on the dink, I sped over to heave it free. I was barely able to untangle the 3/8-inch chain and 35 pound anchor when the excessive weight halfway submerged and disabled the dinghy’s little six horsepower outboard motor. I was adrift, but Contigo was free. Adam and Paul were able to duck and weave the heavy Morgan 38 through the chaos and out of harms way toward a clear space in the anchorage, and our new friend James came in to tow me and the dink back to the mothership.

It wasn’t over yet.

We got the boat anchored, but the brief sense of relief that came with a lull in the storm was quickly spoiled by the panoramic view of a massive impending second stormfront following just behind the first. We needed to set a second anchor, so we started the motor and…


With the sound of a cinderblock crushing into a concrete slab, the motor told us it was stuck. It wasn’t hydrolocked, it was caught on something. I dove down to find the friggin’ dinghy tow line, which I’d haphazardly tied to Contigo in the mayhem, had drifted under the boat and wrapped about a dozen times around the prop. I mean that thing was really really stuck.

…. Damnit.

With dusk fast approaching and this second wind front racing to beat it, daylight was becoming an issue. I took the coveted Capt. Sonny Hill “Oh Jesus!” knife and dove down, the hull crashing up and down over waves just above. I can’t hold my breath nearly as long as I thought I could…. but after more dives than I could count, the prop was free and Contigo was again mobile. We set two anchors and swam a third line out to a stray mooring ball, then we settled in for a wild night.

From Contigo’s bow, I measured 35 knots sustained. Over the VHF we heard another captain report a gust up to 50 knots. BoatUS was flying around doing whatever they could. The Coast Guard was all over channel 16 alerting everyone to the numerous boats adrift and a missing family somewhere farther East who’d just called out a Pan Pan. Less than 200 yards away, we watched a singlehanded sailor desperately trying to furl in a violently shredding headsail.

Later that night, the wind howling all around us, we noticed the dinghy had broken loose. Fortunately someone else found it the following morning and tied it to a nearby boat. We never met them, but thanks to ya, wherever you are! The Gettin’ It, our beloved dinghy, is safe and sound.

That night our thoughts went out to the damage done and people missing (who we believe turned up safe) and we jumped headfirst into a glass or three of chardonnay each.

Behold! the power of the wind!

—- Sorry I don’t have any pictures of that wild ride, but we were a bit busy wit the whole…. well… you know….

Check back tomorrow for the rest of the Key West experience!

Part 2: Life on the Hook by Casey

Thanks to everybody who liked the last post! I hope you all enjoy the saga of my second day with the guys. One quick anecdote though – when I was in KW I was exposed to an entirely new culture of people who don’t live on land. I know plenty of people who’ve bought houseboats or sailboats and lived out of a marina, but Florida has a whole population that lives anchored out from the coast and takes dinghy boats into shore each day. I heard somebody say they were “living on the hook,” and the phrase really resonated with me. So that’s the title of this second post – “Life on the Hook.” Enjoy.


Part 1

Tuesday started around 11am after a few cups of coffee and some badass breakfast quesadillas a la Paul. Hank had a pretty comprehensive list of things to accomplish including things as simple as showering and as complex as finding a store named Cuban Joe’s that debatably didn’t actually exist (spoiler alert: we found it). But that’s another story. We took the dinghy out around noon and made our way to the dock. Unfortunately the dock was full so we had to will a spot to open up. I think we put on a pretty good show for the people eating brunch at Turtle Kraals. But we made it happen and we felt like champs. Victory #2 for the day (#1 was breakfast).

Our first destination was to Stock Island to pick up a part for the engine. This was one of those times where it’s not so much the destination, but the journey that was important. I say this because a really expensive cab ride resulted in the part not even being available for pickup, but the cab driver, Rick, was the freaking man. We started talking about making a living in Key West and asked how long he’d been here. Rick said 4.5 years ago he divorced his wife, sold his shit, quit his 6-figure job and moved to Key West to start driving a cab. Swag. And the best part was, he spent the 13 years prior to that living and working in Corpus Christi. Hank was obviously super stoked and we compared life notes for the entire 45 minutes we were in the cab with him.

After he brought us back to KW we went hunting for some more boat parts and struggled to find a store people kept telling us about called Cuban Joe’s. Well, it turns out it’s actually called West Marine or something and has a small sign on the door that says Cubanito’s. Translation issues I guess. Victory #3(?). Hank and I got done there and decided to check out a few bars for drinks. I needed sunscreen and the place we happened to walk into actually sold beer too, and had a bar we could drink it at. Such a helpful store! Victory #4. We had a cold Shiner and moved on to Dante’s, the apparent Spring Break College Bar. We drank some shitty Landshark before reverting back to what we know best – The Red Snapper – The King of Beers – THE Budweiser. We played some Bohemian Ring Toss and I learned I should probably start betting money on that game because I hustled the shit out of Hank. Victory #5. We ate some oysters and wings (Victories #6 and #7), talked life, and hit on the bartender (no victory). Overall a good man date.


Part 2

Hank and I headed back to the dingy around 5, but not before making a stop at the convenience store. I asked “Hank, should we get more beer for the boat?” Hank replied, “That’s never been a bad idea.” So that’s what we did, and we enjoyed some roadies on the dinghy as we putted back to Contigo.

Adam and Paul were both hanging watching Breaking Bad. Adam had finally opened his eyes after probably a 15-hour recovery slumber. Though I don’t think he’d actually physically moved his body yet. I actually don’t know if he did for the rest of the night other than to click on the next episode of Breaking Bad.


We lounged on the boat until probably 9pm then Hank, Paul, and I loaded into the dinghy to start the bar crawl on land, but not before Paul graciously grabbed three more red snappin roadies for the trip. When we hit land we started at Half Shell for a quick beer and oysters before they closed. I gotta say I really wish that cluster of restaurants that serves the cruise ships would stay open past 10pm. Then we’d almost never have to leave the square where we park the dinghy. But Halfshell closed basically after we finished our beers and we had to head out to Duval Street. The oysters weren’t quite enough for dinner so we had the challenge of finding a place that served both food and beer after 10pm. Enter Johnny Rocket’s.

I never imagined that’s where I’d do dinner in Key West but we got a bucket of buds (notice a theme here?) and some kick ass sandwiches. We were maybe halfway through when you’ll never guess who we saw trotting down the road past our booth. That’s right, Silent K and The One. They saw us right away and trotted onto the patio we were eating at. They brought their own plastic cup and we happily filled it up with beer for them as they broke into song. Silent K actually talked this time. And he sang. And it was actually pretty soulful.

The One just continued his diatribe of “I’m the one, man. I’m the fuckin one.” I just kept telling him I acknowledge his status and I agree he’s the one. Silent K played an original song about getting drunk in Key West (he claims it’s an original at least), but it was funny and catchy. Not to be outdone, The One tells us he’s gonna sing us something and to make a request. After shooting down every request he suggested Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.

We let him have his moment then went into some serious life discussions. At one point Paul and Hank had both gotten up from the table the The One was really getting in my face about how important heart is and how big ours were. It was the most aggressive compliment I’ve ever received. He also talked about how big his neighbor’s heart was: “I sleep in a doorway about two blocks from here every night. And you know what my neighbor says when he sees me all balled up on the street outside his place in the morning? He says “Good Morning.” That’s heart, brother. And I’m the one.” Then he told me about how he ended up in Key West with a pretty kick-ass little anecdote: “I came here on vacation 20 years ago with my ex-wife. Three years later, she cheated on me. I started driving South and by the time I hit the first palm tree in Southern Georgia, I didn’t give a shit about that bitch. But I still miss my fuckin dog.” Sorry for the profanity but that was a powerful story at the time and I typed it exactly as he said it. Finally, we paid our tab and Silent K dragged the one away because he knew it was time to move on and busk for some money and beer elsewhere.


From there, the night never really took off. If there’s one thing we learned, Duval Street and the surrounding bars are a good place to be drunk, not necessarily get drunk. But that’s ok. We grabbed some roadies from a street bar, people watched, watched a guy pick up a hooker on a motorcycle, and eventually ambled back to the dinghy. When we got back to the dinghy, there were two guys sleeping on the dock hoping to catch rides back some place. One was our friend Scotty, whose boat was en route to Contigo so obviously he got a spot in the dink. The other guy was this really whiny wannabe hipster looking guy who just said he needed to get to Casa Blanca but had no idea where that is. It’s too bad we could’t help him, but he wasn’t doing himself any favors by ambiguously saying he needed to go some spanish white house…and looking and sounding like a little bitch. That being said I hope he found his way home, kind of. End Day 2!

Dinghy with an “H” Part 1 by Casey

Followers of Contigo – I’d like to start this guest blog entry by thanking Hank, Adam, and Paul for being outstanding hosts. If you ever have a spare few days, I encourage you to fly out and join them for a short bit. It’s worth every minute and penny. Lastly, I want to provide a disclaimer – what follows is not the usual progress updates. This falls just short of a full blown story.  And it’s about partying. Day 1 Part 1 (mildly edited for family consumption) So there I was (no shit) fresh off the plane from nine grizzly months in the Sinai Peninsula. I had 3 weeks of leave with no plan. I was shopping some ideas around with the guys back home but nothing was coming together. Then Hank chimed in. All it took was “dude, you should come hang with us on Contigo,” My response was pretty simple – something like “F**** yeah.” After a small amount of limited coordination Hank told me they’d be somewhere in the Keys around the time I would take leave. That was all I needed to know. Right away I booked a flight to Miami and the Keys Shuttle to take me to Marathon Key (Marathon was the estimated rendezvous at the time.) Unfortunately for Contigo, but fortunately (and selfishly for me) they got stuck with engine issues in Key West. So bam, easy answer – boys I’m coming to KW on Monday, and idgaf what happens from there as long as I find a way to Miami by Thursday, and that’s where day 1 of this log begins. I flew into Miami around 10:30am with the plan of preloading at an airport bar before a 1pm shuttle. After I grabbed my bags I walked to pick out where I would be picked up by the Keys Shuttle. Luckily, the driver for the 1100 shuttle was an old confused man who hadn’t taken off by 1120 so I said “Hey, I’m here. Can I just get in and go?” He made the call to his office and they said ok so I proudly declared shotgun and hit the road with a full shuttle. The 5 hour ride wasn’t so bad, except for the first four hours and 50 minutes riding shotgun with a senile retiree. I swear we made a u-turn for every stop we made, even though he had a Garmin GPS mounted on the dash. We stopped and let off people at about a dozen stops before I made it to Turtle Kraals and he drove like and asshole the entire time. An old asshole who doesn’t know what conventional traffic laws are. But to his credit he retired ten years ago to Marathon Key and just drives the shuttle for fun. I hate because I want. So after 5 hours of pulling 2 G’s every time a light turned green and trying to keep my head from flying through the windshield every time there was a red light or even a hint of traffic, he let me out at the Contigo home base bar – Turtle Kraals.

Day 1 Part 2 I got myself a beer and some lunch at Turtle’s while I waited for Adam and Hank to show up with Paul. They eventually came storming into the bar and we had a hell of a bro love reunion for the entire place to enjoy. Hank and Paul had to then run off and find some stuff for the boat and mail some items so Adam and I started impatiently drinking waiting for the turtle races – which are exactly what they sound like. IMG_0419 Adam practiced what I call alcoholic social excellence and began making friends with everybody who occupied the three seats beside us for about 4 hours. We met a bunch of people from Omaha, they sure were nice. IMG_0416 Then we met two couples from Baltimore that included a former marine who lived vicariously through Adam’s stories. He had them entertained for at least 90 minutes. But the best was your classic two friendly gay dudes and their sister accompaniment. They were probably like 40+ish. I did not understand the dynamic there but they were hilarious. No doubt I could tell the gay guys had their radar on trying to figure out me and Adam. I’m not sure what they figured out in the end, but I did get free drinks. IMG_0420 Kinda weird looking back, but I like beer and it was free. IMG_0421 Towards the end Adam got into an argument with one of the guys – Jimmy, about whether or not he can actually crochet. Adam swore up and down he had a pot holder he made himself on the boat. We later took a picture of it and sent it to one of the ladies as proof. Unfortunately I lost the picture at sea. PS shout out to Thomas Cole, we bragged about him being a pageant winner and they started asking a lot of questions about the authenticity and prestige of the pageant that we were not equipped to answer. All I could say was that Thomas wasn’t dressed like a girl, apparently that was an important detail. Finally their time at Turtle’s came to an end, we took farewell shots of Fireball (free again) and said goodbye. They left the bar, we didn’t.

DAY 1 PART 3 Hank eventually came back to meet Adam and I at Turtle’s. IMG_0428IMG_0422 Adam and closed out for probably the third time, but this time we actually left afterwards. The three of us headed out to Duval street to find some more entertainment. We had the genius idea to call Eric Duskin along the way to talk about what we really thought was some deep stuff at the time. Luckily for him he didn’t answer and the three of us just left a loud incoherent message on his answering machine. I think we actually left two messages. Sorry Eric. We hit a few quick bars and got the crappiest liquor drinks ever made, like worse than what we probably served at the Nutmeg drive house in 2009. If you know what I’m talking about, then you know what I’m talking about. We took the party to Irish Kevin’s to see a band that promptly hit an intermission the second we walked in. But, we really wanted to see these guys for some reason so we stuck around and had some more drinks and that’s when Adam hit that next level making it a mostly memorable night. I’ll hit a few of his highlights. One of the best was at Irish Kevin’s a girl had her hands full of drinks and beers she was carrying, leaving her defenseless (figuratively). Adam grabbed a straw, dropped it into one of the beers, had a nice taste, thanked her kindly, and she moved on. She wasn’t even mad. I love Key West. After Irish Kevin’s somebody decided we should get pizza. They were 100% correct. But en route to getting pizza we made two unlikely friends. IMG_0434 I say unlikely, but honestly at this point in the night nothing was unlikely. One had a guitar and no shoes plus an unlit cigarette he literally never took out of his mouth the entire 15 minutes we hung out with them (except the above picture). I guess he can just breathe through his nose really well. He was leathery tan and withering away. Classic Key West. We’ll call him “Silent K” for the purpose of this story. His buddy was an even older and more haggard looking guy, but he hand a nicely trimmed snow white beard. Like it was impressive grooming for a bum. He also wore sunglasses with one lens popped out. I guess it was so he could actually see at night. We’ll call him “The One.” They asked for us to buy them a beer. I agreed on the grounds that it would be Budweiser and they would have to share it with me. So I grabbed a frosty can and ceremoniously offered it to our new friends. Politely, they demanded I take the first sip. I was honored. And it was the best first sip of Budweiser I’ve ever tasted. Those that know me understand those words carry weight.

After the first sips, the Truth gave Adam his missing lens as a gift. I guess he just kept it in his pocket to pop back in during daytime? IMG_0442 Anyways, that’s when The One started his whole “I’m the one, man. I’m the one.” speal. Silent K started playing guitar, what song was debatable, but The One decided he could sing Wish You Were Here along with it. So that’s what we did. We stumbled through the “two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl” line over and over and over, with every break in words being filled with “I’m the one boys.
I’m the one.” After what was apparently a ton of pictures and videos we didn’t even know we had until a day later, we decided it was time to move on and let The One continue trying to find his next beer benefactor. As we got closer to wanting to leave and started hitting bars en route to the dingy, Adam and Hank got into an argument about where the dingy was parked and how to get there. It escalated really quickly. Listen to Hank talking and Adam screeching. Love you Adam.
You could really tell these dudes have been stuck on a boat together for 4 months. So Adam got really upset but hung with us as we stopped at one last bar. You should have seen the bartender’s eyes when Adam walked in. He ordered a drink and the bartender looked at Hank and I. We gave him the head shake saying don’t do it. But Adam, socially excellent as he is, convinced the bartender he was ready for another drink and he got it. I love that dude. Unfortunately at some point Adam got upset again and stormed off to find the dingy without me and Hank. What happened after that was something I’ll always regret missing. Apparently Adam had some issues with the 4 foot drop into the dingy and took a swim. Like fully submerged. Now I know why Hank and Adam are both super stoked on their Life Proof phone cases and are on their second phones, at least. So there’s Adam flailing around in the water, or at least that’s how I imagine it happened. Really he probably just shook it off and finally was able to crawl into the dingy from the water. Fortunately for us some guy named Frenchy saw the whole thing. So when Hank and I walked up and saw Frenchy checking on a soaking wet, gangly passed out Adam sprawled across the dingy he waved us over and told us the whole story. Adam also gave us his side of the story, it was something like “I fell in the water and now I’m all wet you guys.” We decided to call it a night then, rolled Adam into the front of the dingy, and we headed back to Contigo. That’s the end of Day 1. Stay tuned for the recount of Day 2!

adam in the dink

We’re moving again! Sailing South from FMB to Key West!

First of all, huge kudos to Aramis and Marc for having the guts to come offshore with us on the first trip with that new engine! Fortunately, the sail south from Fort Myers Beach was calm and easy as expected, so I think ya’ll were good luck. We needed to get some high-rpm hours on that new Yanmar 3YM anyway, so when what little wind we had to start left us after about 15 hours or so, it was a welcome feeling to hear the smooth tune of the new diesel rumbling below…

 group 1 group plus ar me on the bow adam and aramis

visitor Sunset on the way down

sleepy marc

And she ran like a charm. And so did the crew, because at one point, ehm ehm, Adam CAUGHT A FRIGGIN FISH!!

fishinfish netfish wild out fish measurement

That fantastically unfrozen, exceptionally raw, especially deliciously fishy fresh fish was a Spanish mackerel somewhere between 16 inches and 75 feet long. We ate some of it totally raw, and Pablo cooked up some scratch-breaded cast-iron fried fish bits and we all feasted like royalty.

When we caught first sight of the northwest corner of Paradise, the sun was high and the water was clear. Mother Nature rolled out her royal red crystal blue carpet for us and the five of us trotted in on Contigo like conquerers. We’d just made a quick-n-easy passage in near nonexistent weather and nothing could go wrong because we were here and it was friggin’ B-E-A-utiful!


 aramis! Crystal blue water key westSchooners entering Key Westgiddy marc

The first day we snorkeled around our new anchorage just NW of Christmas Tree/Wisteria Island, which proved to be a great little spot for a few vagabonds on the hook like us.

floating anchorage bait shop key west 

floating rust bucket key west contigo anchroed selfie group first sunset 2 key west paul and marcus first sunset key west

That first night we dined at Caroline’s, smoked a fresh Cuban’s cigar… not a cigar from Cuba, but a real live Cuban rolled it!…

cubans meme

… and we partied our minds away at Ricks and Coyote Ugly and Sloppy Joe’s and Irish Kevin’s and just about everywhere we could manage. We didn’t discover the Green Parrot till later, but that totally became my favorite place.

The next day, we tried to start the engine. The starter clicked, and the starting mechanism turned just enough to make the sound of a muffled dumbbell crashing into a concrete slab and bouncing back up to slap us across the face. There was zero movement. I jumped down to check the oil and found this…

Water in the Oil

Thats water in the oil, which means at least one of a few different things. For us it was one thing specifically: our brand new Yanmar 3YM30 with just over thirty hours on it, was hyrdolocked.

Crash Course on Hydrolocked Diesels!
*** Hydrolocking a marine diesel is what happens when the “wet exhaust” system, which circulates seawater in and out of whats essentially an enclosed radiator called a “heat exchanger” in an effort to circulate heat out of the engine by pumping this warmed sea water out through the exhaust at the back of the boat, messes up by siphoning water back into the engine because the engine is below the water line. What happens: water gets stuck in the cylinders and can’t compress and ignite like diesel fuel, so the cylinder can’t move and “hydrolocks,” preventing the entire system from turning and keeping that starter from starting the engine. Needless to say, saltwater inside an engine can be devastating if not addressed quickly, and thats only if you’re lucky enough that there wasn’t serious damage already done***

The next day we lost Aramis to the real world, but our other stowaway Marc had one more night and it was his birthday. We went out around 10:30pm to party like rockstar sailors, and returned by dinghy around 3:30am to find…


Contigo was gone. Seriously, totally, completely, no-kidding-holy-crap-I’m-about-to-have-a-panic-attack gone. If this entry wasn’t already getting long I’d spend a paragraph or two colorfully painting how terrifying and debilitating it was knowing Contigo, our salty chariot, our protector, our floating fortress and humble home, was just…


After searching in vain within a 200+ yard radius of pitch black anchorage we’d just started getting to know, we asked the neighbors and they said they might have heard what sounded like someone ruffling sails and trying to move it (their implication). We sped back and I contacted the local police and Coast Guard. After a tedious few hours of police reports, we found ourselves waking up in the parking lot at dawn.

One of the officers had suggested a bored, cold hearted, vile, bastard of a local living on one of the floating dumpsters in that area might have just moved it. Apparently, its sort of a “thing” for locals to toy with tourists who anchor in the “locals” spot just north of Christmas Tree Island.

He was right. At dawn I took the dink to the anchorage and found Contigo, rashly anchored and almost aground, on the SE end of the island. It had been a calm night and there were far too many obstacles for her to have dragged anchor and ended up there.

Someone screwed with my boat, and they don’t ever want to meet me. The damned thing couldn’t start anyway… ok I’m getting a bit excited I need to chillax…

Bad boys woosah

Back to figuring out that hydrolocked engine….

After a nail-biting hour or so with the local Yanmar mechanic clearing water out of the engine and explaining what we need to do next, a few trials testing cooling water and compression pressure, incessantly checking oil levels and purity, changing the oil a zillion times, cleaning the valve cover, swapping out the oil pressure sending unit, and ensuring the engine was circulating sea water correctly, plus (especially this one) adding an anti-siphon loop to prevent this problem from happening again, we were again good to go.


Brand new Yanmar catastrophe: averted. Lost Contigo: Found. It was already a wild ride in Key West, but we need to get back to partying.

It just so happens that the next friend of ours to visit us, one Casey Clarke, is on deck for a friggin great guest entry coming up next…

Fort Myers Beach: Party Time!

WARNING: This entry is loaded with a ton of Spring Breakers, bikinis, beaches, boats, beers, potty mouths, drunkards, fornicators, and other various fun things. It might be a little long, but its loaded…

I mean, it’s not like we just sat on Contigo at the mooring ball, wrenches in hand, bending our backs every day for seven weeks coaxing that old Yanmar into working order; it was going to be Spring Break in Fort Myers Beach, and we had some serious partying to do.

Before the younger crowd was to show up, however, FMB was in full “snowbird” swing. We couldn’t find a bar, restaurant, or live music venue with anyone else both under 40 and over 18 during the first two weeks we were there. It was like one awesome mega-mid-life-crisis community but it still seemed like more fun than anywhere we’d been on this trip. So when we weren’t working on the engine or cruising through The Sopranos/House of Cards, we were getting the lay of the land for the nightlife to come.


The FMB mooring field is located right in the middle of the Matanzas Pass, which is between Estero Island (the long island with all the beaches) and San Carlos Island. We stayed in the East Field, which meant there were no less than six bars or restaurants directly reachable by dinghy in addition to the dozens within walking distance of the dinghy dock on Estero.

Naturally, we got to know them all. I could practically list off the happy hours at each respective restaurant and name at least two or three of each staff. When I (finally) get around to adding that reviews section, you’ll see a lot more detail about each, but suffice it to say that Doc Fords, Parrot Key, Bonita Bill’s, and Matanzas Upper Deck became our living rooms on land. Major shoutout to Chris, Aramis (who had the guts to come sailing with us down from FMB get em gal!), Matt, Hannah, JP, Bell, Mark, Mallory, LJ, Adam’s cousin Austin and his other cousin Marcus, Chris’ friend Chuck, and a whole bunch of completely rad people working and living in the area. We can’t forget Keith and Jim, who showed us how real northerners play Euchre at the Tiki Bar… why the hell did you have to teach Matt how to “steal the deal?”


We also met a couple of magnificent and just as certifiably insane people named Mike and Mellisa. These two crazy kids were down south from Indiana for two whole months at their condo in Bonita Springs, which worked out perfectly since that was almost the exact stretch of time we were stuck in town. When M&M weren’t springing for rounds of Jager-Bombs or letting us use their brand-spankin-new Tundra to run errands, Mike was teaching us to fish in their own semi-secret fishing hole just a short walk from their condo. Hell, I even managed to catch a fish… Adam and Paul caught way more, but hey I got involved too…

I caught a fish adam fish mike fish


When we weren’t catching dinner and Mellisa wasn’t cooking it into the most bangin’ fish fry I’ve ever been lucky enough to try, they were telling hilarious stories and providing the life for the party no matter where we went… which was pretty much everywhere. Especially Mellisa, who as it turns out is a wicked good Euchre player (I want a rematch).

^ Thats Contigo anchored just off the beach right next to M&M’s house ^

Oh man I can still taste those massive ribeye steaks with sautéed mushrooms and Florida sweet onions that Bud-Light-Mike cooked for us one night… what a damned good time we had with M&M! These two are easily some of the most hospitable, friendly, fun, and down right just as crazy as we are people I’ve ever met and we can’t wait to catch up again!

MnM family pic

One day, we sailed farther south to Lover’s Key for an afternoon of relaxation in the sun to take a break from the party in front of Lani Kai.


When Spring Break really hit, tens of thousands of party animals aged 18-30 crashed the beach in front of the infamous Lani Kai for one of the most raucous revelries I’ve ever attended. FMB transformed from snowbird central to Spring Break cesspool… which was just perfect for us.

Of course, we came prepared with our own pre-game “equipment.” Gotta get the mind right for the party…

The Lani Kai was the center of it all, and by 2am every night the party made its way to the one and only YO TACO!.

LK Pano boat party st p pano dinkparkedLK

In FMB, this is how friends wake friends up…
wake your friend up

Staff: “Ok dude, he’s up… have you had too much to drink? Maybe you should sit down too. Now.”
ok, hes awake

Can’t forget the booty shaking contest every single friggin day at 5pm…


It would be impossible for this many people to have this much raunchy fun without someone trying to rain on the proverbial parade…

(As my Dad might have said, they were surely well-intended but sorely misinformed)

A great dude and former state wrestling champion named JP and I got into a little play wrestling match on the beach…

After St. Patty’s Day came around, which was literally on the final day of our seventh week in town, we were just about ready to keep heading south again. Adam’s cousin Marcus and our new friend Aramis were coming along for what was going to be an easy twenty or so hour sail down to Key West…

And it really was an easy trip down here. The problems didn’t start happening ‘till we arrived…

Fort Myers Beach: Out With the Old Yanmar, In With The New Yanmar

All in all, we spent exactly seven weeks in Fort Myers Beach from January 27th to March 18th. We’d planned on getting out of there within a few days, but that engine just wouldn’t let us go. In that time we met some of the most hospitable and fantastic people we could ever hope to meet, had an insane amount of fun at one of the USA’s Trashiest Spring Break destinations, and learned everything there is to know about living on a mooring ball in Fort Myers Beach.

contigo mooring ball

boat leaning fmb
Its always nice seeing someone else run aground as bad as we were in Venice… I guess it really happens to everyone eventually)

But more on that later. First, lets deal with this engine. New water pumps were going for $750+ and I was fed up with it. So after a solid week or so of Happy-Hour driven soul-searching and advice-getting on what the hell to do about this black hole of an engine compartment, I finally decided to repower. That old 3QM had been pushing Contigo for decades and it was time we modernized the power plant.

Enter Matto’s Marine Supply and Captain Joe Hanko. Matto’s is the local Yanmar dealer and they highly recommended Capt. Joe and his Yanmar Certified company Restless Sailor for the installation. A nearby boatyard called Gulf Ways Marine was the chosen work site, which worked out perfectly since we were going to have to push the 25,000 lb sailing fortress with the little 6hp Tohatsu dinghy motor. For whatever reason, they don’t allow engine swaps without a costly haul out which I thought that was ridiculous. As soon as I saw the bottom growth and cracking paint, though, I figured it was as good a time as any to get the work done.

contigo prop muck contigo muck

The good people at Gulf Marine yanked Contigo out of the water, and while they stripped down the old bottom paint in preparation for the new coat, the impressively efficient Capt. Joe got to work swapping that engine.

One thing to keep in mind is how far diesel engineering has come over the last 35 years. That old Yanmar weighed in the neighborhood of six hundred pounds at least, and when Joe said we were going to hoist that old motor out with the boom I almost didn’t believe him. Believe it or not, it worked.

old motor stripped

new and oldnew motor in holeWhile we worked on getting that engine set up, Chip and Dougie and the gang at Gulf Ways threw on a couple coats of a handsome custom blue bottom paint.

contigo new paint

Captain Sonny Hill, the sailing veteran I bought Contigo from, established a tradition of painting Greek trireme style reef-god eyes on the keel whenever he got a new bottom job. I had to keep it going, but I’m nowhere near as good an artist…

eye fish thing(I think it ended up looking more like a puffer fish than an eye…. damn)

After three days on the hard getting all this work done, Dougie jumped back in the travel-lift and dunked Contigo back in the water…

Other than the obvious factor of continually having to dump money into this engine, which is a factor that really really really sucks, its hard to complain too much about being stuck in Fort Myers Beach for Spring Break. And now we’ve got a new motor… time to get back to the party. If you don’t like bikinis, booty shaking contests, and drunk college kids by the thousands, don’t read the next entry… coming within the next day or so… ish…

Venice to Fort Myers Beach

The whole going aground and leaning over a solid 35 degrees in Venice thing was one of the most hysterical, random, surprising experiences of this trip. We could literally stand on the wall inside the boat like some terrible N’Sync music video, which was hilarious because our too-tall selves could finally stand all the way up. Its the little things…

Luckily the boat was undamaged and our worn-out spirits were brought back to life with every laugh. When we we got going again we headed south, but not before noticing someone else had parked their boat in the exact spot we had the other day…

someone else aground

Granted, the tide didn’t rush out from under them nearly as much, but they were stuck for a couple of days and seeing that mistake right after ours felt validating.

On the way south from Venice…

_MG_555723 _MG_556024 _MG_556325 _MG_556826 _MG_557127 _MG_557730 _MG_557629 _MG_557228

So we’ve now been in Fort Myers Beach since January 27th and we’re leaving right after St. Patty’s Day on March 17th. That means we will have spent seven weeks here. Thats a solid 45 days longer than we expected…

And its been a blast, but thats for the next entry.

We tried to leave on January 29th (or something like that) and the water pump on the beloved old 3QM went out. I popped it off and saw the solid metal driveshaft for the pump had just broken off. I’m talking some serious metal straight up breaking… ugh.

20150129_140426 20150129_140549

So we now had to call BoatUS again to get the boat towed from our little emergency anchorage to a mooring ball. We hadn’t met anyone down here yet and my first reaction was to call for a tow. In retrospect, we probably could have managed to tow the boat with the dinghy… not to mention the BoatUS boat engine died two or three times while we were adrift in the mooring field…

Anyway, our time in Fort Myers Beach was all about getting Contigo running again and then enjoying Spring Break like a bunch of locals. And that, we did.

Catching up Pt 4: We Finally Made it!! Well… we made it somewhere…

After a few days of blue water wave riding and wild dolphin sighting, we ran into one thing we just didn’t expect to happen: the wind just died.

The Gulf of Mexico, the Great Washing Machine, was totally dormant.

Without any wind, we trudged on with that old Yanmar 3QM at a modest 1400 rpm to save on fuel. Compounded by the fact that we just can’t seem to get away from trouble with this ancient hunk of diesel chugging iron, we just couldn’t lose that engine.

Then again, we were on a sailboat with 400w in solar panels and provisions for at least a couple of weeks. Not to mention we didn’t have anywhere to be any time soon. Screw it, we could have drifted around for a week waiting for wind if we’d wanted to.


Well, then again again, we had ice cold beer and red hot bikini-clad women to track down on a white sandy beach somewhere.  As it works out, though, if that wind didn’t pick back up, we barely had enough fuel to make it to the Dry Tortugas. If we didn’t catch some wind soon, we wouldn’t have enough fuel to make the following leg from the DTs to Key West. So, we decided to give it another twelve hours or so of motor sailing and see if anything changed.

Something did change. The wind started breezing from the SE, right where we wanted to go, and we didn’t have a chance of motoring our way all the way there if the wind didn’t swing back around the other side. Without the patience to spend an extra few days tacking around in superlight wind, we decided to hang a hard left and motor for Florida’s nearest coast around Venice.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 3.53.50 PM

We arrived in port just in time to crush a few brews and find a good spot in an anchorage just around the corner. Adam was already passed out down below, so staggering from port to starboard we two salty sailors found a great wide open spot in the middle of the anchorage.

We woke up a few hours later, anchored in the same spot, but by now the anchor was irrelevant. [Sorry about the music Mom! I couldn’t help it…]

Apparently, we pulled into Venice during the peak of a rare 3.5 foot tide change. We were hard aground and leaning harder by the moment as the water swept out toward the Gulf and the Moon in the dark night sky above. By 7:00am, we were truly laying sideways in the middle of a dredge shoal.

I freaked out for a minute, realize there was no immediate danger (or anything we could do anyway), poured a round or two of Espolon tequila shots [whats up Harrison’s Landing peeps hanging out after work!!], and we all hunkered down for a slightly sideways night.

While we cruised through about 8 episodes of the Sopranos laying on the wall/floor, I made sure to document as much as possible.

leaning from companionway 35deg DCIM107GOPRO DCIM107GOPRO DCIM107GOPRO

After two separate attempts from the great people at TowBoat US, we stuck around in Venice and waited for the heavy clouds to clear our way back South. Apparently, Fort Myers Beach is pretty cool… Looks like the Dry Tortugas will have to wait…

Catching Up Pt 3: To the Gulf! One wild night and a whole bunch of dolphins!

Here’s Part 3 of Catching Up…

Getting out of Pensacola, away from the ICW, and back into the Gulf was an awesome feeling. We felt like we’d finally gotten somewhere, or rather, we we’re finally going somewhere. After spending the bulk of the trip in the ditch dodging North’ers, trailing tugboats, and dealing with the old diesel, the open Gulf was invigorating.


The forecast called for a breezy first night with Northern gusts up to 20 and waves around four feet. Well, it’s a good thing we were mentally prepared for it.

That first night was a wild one. By 8 o’clock the wind was out of the NNW up to 25 knots and we were running SE at around hull speed. The waves seemed to be changing their mind every hour or so, but for the most part they wanted to come out of the West or WSW. We were making great time but the sail was a bit rough.

When things seemed to settle down for a while I went below to grab some Zs and left Paul at the tiller. This was this guy’s first bluewater experience and he tackled it like a champ. Conditions in the Gulf of Mexico/Great Washing Machine were at least as sloshy as advertised, and things seemed to be changing constantly. At one point the wind died almost completely and Paul was practically surfing Contigo over five-foot rollers with hardly filled sails.

Then the wind changed its mind again and picked up from the North, then West, and we were suddenly on a run. Then the waves changed their mind again too, and they started following the wind. Breaking rollers, now easily eight feet tall and chasing us just off our starboard stern quarter, conditions were getting tricky by the wee hours of the morning.

“Hey Hank! HANK!”

I think I remember hearing the mainsail tear but I’m not sure. When I got above, Adam and Paul were doing whatever they could to get the sails under control in those wild seas, but with full sails Contigo was well overpowered by the strongest gusts yet. We didn’t measure it, but even heading mostly downwind it felt windier than earlier. The waves were doing jumping jacks behind us, clapping against the hull and splashing us in the swinging cockpit every few seconds.

shit wave

Ok, so it wasn’t quite as bad as that picture…

It wasn’t anything to be too nervous about, but it was just dicey enough to be exhilarating and challenging. We got Contigo back under control with more appropriate sail area and she balanced well even in steady Force 6 winds.

Looks like we’re not bringing that mainsail up any higher this trip.

The thing is, we should have reefed those sails way earlier. Between the three of us, we heaved in the shiny new Genoa to about 30% and started pulling in the haggard main to its second reef. The tear was about 20” long and just above the second reefing point.

Things calmed down enough for the next 48 hours or so for us to enjoy a calm downwind sail. I hope you’re ready for a whole bunch of sunset/sunrise pictures.

_MG_533703 _MG_534404 _MG_535505 _MG_535806 _MG_536807 _MG_537008 _MG_541909 [^ Thats the moon rising just above the sun that morning… very very cool!]_MG_544410 _MG_546511 _MG_546712

On the third day, as calm and sunny as you could imagine over a hundred miles offshore, we picked up some traveling companions for a while…

_MG_548413 _MG_548614 _MG_549315 _MG_549716 _MG_550217 _MG_550618 _MG_552919

To be concluded…

Catching Up Pt 2: Welcome to Florida!

Heres Part 2 of Catching Up…

After leaving the dark blue Mississippi Sound and flying through the breezy southern end of Mobile Bay, through a few miles of channels connecting Wolf and Arnica Bays, and another five miles or so of double-waterfront mini-mansions, you’ll find a very special part of the ICW. You could almost mark the point on a map.

The water just sort of… changes. Just like that. Just before Fort San Carlos passes to the port side. I didn’t get a picture of it, and I don’t even know if it would have shown up if I had, but that water just turned clear.

Welcome to Florida. We had finally arrived… ish.

We found a friendly little marina called Pelican’s Perch that’s immediately next to a reputable Yanmar parts dealer that we couldn’t pass up. [Which reminds me, there’s a reviews page coming soon!] The weather, as usual, was a bit of a bummer. The marina itself felt a world away from “paradise” but it was full of resources and good people.

We needed some time to get ourselves together before the big jump south across the gulf anyway.

We finally had a dinghy, now we needed a motor. We’d been searching for a used 6hp high and low since New Orleans, through Biloxi and now all over Pensacola with nothing to show for it, so finally I gambled the extra dime on the value of a new engine. Maybe I’m picky, but I sure am happy with the 6hp Tohatsu so far.

tohatsu gettin it

Now we had a dinghy and a motor, but we needed a way to put the bigger-than-youd-think inflatable on the boat without blocking the hatch slide.

Fancy that, there’s a great metal fabricator in the marina.getting dink metal workdink mount

Of course we had a couple of anchors, but now with all this chain we’d picked up in Morgan City we wanted to put some use to our bow sail locker… so we added a poor man’s hawse pipe…

poor mans hawse pipe

My bruddah-from-another-muddah, Capt Dax, has this great canvas flap for his companionway. We could use one…

Hey look, a canvas shop next to the marina shower house.canvpanionway

Water, diesel, and one more round at The Oarhouse and we’re outta here.

But wait, there’s more!

We’d spoken with a few mechanics throughout this trip about our symptoms with that Yanmar; hard starting especially on cylinders #1 and #3, ability to start quickly when decompressing either #1 or #3 for a moment, white smoke from the exhaust when it starts up, slight diesel sheen in the water from exhaust after it starts, runs perfectly after it starts, starts easily within 24 hours or so of last run, no other symptoms of running poorly or other colors of smoke from exhaust or anywhere else, etc etc etc.

They all suggested, among other things, pulling and likely replacing the injectors and gaskets as a means of solving a possible over or under fueling issue. Its about time anyway, etc etc. We’d been saving some money staying on the anchor, Pelican’s Perch gave us a good weekly rate, and we’re right next to a great Yanmar dealer, so I said screw it lets just replace ‘em.

Most of all, I wanted to be finished with engine problems on Contigo.

swappin injectors

Plus the Cowboys were in the playoffs and I didn’t mind sticking around for the weekend :)

Anyway, it didn’t work. At least not completely or enough to start the motor normally. Anyone looking for 2 out of 3 perfectly working fuel injectors for a 3QM30?

We’d basically been hitting the wrong nail on a board with a lot of loose nails worth hitting. So, instead of moping around, we put everything back together, hit The Oarhouse to hit on some more gorgeous bartenders, and hit the Gulf of Mexico the following morning.

We left Pensacola status-quo on the old Yanmar, but with what we’d gained in marine diesel knowledge and other tweaks to Contigo, the stop was worth it.

To the Gulf, to the Dry Tortugas, and to a clear-water-paradise we go…

track up to pensacola

Catching Up Pt 1: Biloxi to the Florida State Line

Well… I’m guilty.


I’ve completely neglected the blog for the better part of a month. I guess there are some somewhat valid excuses; I could tell you how my laptop has been in and out of a corrupted-operating-system-induced coma, how accessing the internet has proven to be such a chore, or how I just didn’t feel what we were doing was all that interesting. Well… there are definitely some tid-bits worth sharing. Now, we’re stuck on a mooring ball in Fort Myers Beach and I’ve got all the time in the world to play around on my now working laptop.

Either way, I’ve got some catching up to do and I’m not looking to cram a zillion words and pictures into one long blog entry. Lets do it bit by bit…

Hanging out in Biloxi was a pretty uneventful time. There wasn’t much for entertainment other than the casinos, and we’d seen enough slot machines and overpriced Golden Nugget restaurants to make us prefer life in a bowl of Ramen. Thankfully, Paul could always be depended on to make sure we eat very well at anchor or otherwise.

contigo anchor biloxi 2 contigo anchor biloxi pablo cookin awesomeness

The closest thing to groceries was a 7/11 a few blocks away, and the nearest liquor store was as overpriced as it was understocked. Oh Biloxi…

After two seasons of House of Cards (Kevin Spacey is nuts!) and a few days of crazy rain, I got cabin fever and took the dink for a ride to nearby Deer Island where an old Endeavor 37 has been facilitating some… uhh… youthful expression.

biloxi island boat far biloxi island boat biloxi island boat2

As soon as we could, we weighed anchor and kept it running East.

leave biloxi sunset fin leaving blox sunset

We found a nice little anchorage called Round Island. Apparently, that little island used to be some ten times bigger but hurricanes have been wiping it out piece by piece just like so many of the Mississippi Sound barrier islands.

round island anchorage

We charged on to the Alabama – Florida state line. I do my best not to post too many sunset pictures, but that night the lightshow was particularly breathtaking…

al fl line sunset 2 al fl line sunset 3 al fl line sunset 4 AL FL line sunset

Near Wolf Bay we found two cool little restaurant/marinas, Pirates Cove and Flippers. The latter had a nice little screened in and heated patio bar outside with an absolutely bangin’ burger on the menu. The former was practically deserted for the offseason, but we managed to tie up for the night and keep our trip going the following morning.

Pensacola and more engine trouble in the next post. I promise it wont take me three weeks this time…

Well, We’re Off!!

Here we go! The hobbled Yanmar is charging us through Pensacola Bay like a champ and we can almost smell the open Gulf.

The EPIRBs are registered and the GPS tracker is on, so be sure and check out our “Where’s Contigo Right Now” page and follow along!

Four hundred and fifty short miles from now we’ll be looking at Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas…..