Eagle Ray in the Dinghy?

Dinghying in to Everglades City to pick up fresh seafood for dinner, we were absorbed watching the kamikaze pelicans dive for fish when a HUGE spotted eagle ray decides to leap out of the water directly in front of the dinghy!   I’m not talking a dozen yards in front of the dinghy … I’m talking maybe THREE FEET!  The dinghy was moving fast enough that after clearing three feet out of the water, we had to avoid hitting ray on the way back down!   I guess we scared him as bad as he startled us because he didn’t surface for the second leap.  We’ve been noticing the big rays usually leap twice with a split second in between … convenient when one of us spots him for the other one to look in time to see the second leap.  They are like ballerinas – very controlled, showing their beautiful white undersides as they flip back toward the water.  Wow.  (No this is not my photo – I couldn’t react fast enough to get a photo of an eagle ray jumping, but this is what he looked like!)

Relaxing & Dinghying Around 10,000 Mangrove Islands ... That All Look Alike!

Relaxing & Dinghying Around 10,000 Mangrove Islands ... That All Look Alike!

Later someone told us about a fishing boat in Hawk Channel (the channel between the reef and the Keys) where an eagle ray leaped out of the water and landed in the fishing boat, supposedly killing a passenger and the ray.   This is unconfirmed, but it certainly gives us reason to think!  We weren’t traveling all that fast with our little 8 hp, and it’s probably a good thing!

After our hearts stopped racing, we continued our leisurely dinghy into town, stopping at the dinghy dock at City Seafood since we were planning to purchase fresh shrimp on the return trip.  We don’t like to leave our dinghy somewhere unless we ask permission and plan to buy something, it’s just not nice.  We bought our seafood and headed home in time for the afternoon anchorage “rage”.

The Afternoon Boat Dance Courtesy of the Tide Against the Wind!

The Afternoon Boat Dance Courtesy of the Tide Against the Wind!

Every afternoon when the brisk wind would blow against the outgoing current (the tide is over 3 feet, so it’s a major event), boats in the anchorage would dance around their chain in every conceivable direction.  The first night it happened, Winterlude did a complete 360 around the anchor – and the GPS said we were moving at a half knot.  The boats don’t go in sync, so we were lucky there was plenty of separation between anchored boats the first two nights when the wind was blowing 15-20 knots!  It was unnerving to watch the boat behind us heading directly for the bow of the catamaran to the side of him!  But as I said, the boats anchored well, with enough distance that no one ever had a problem, other than watching the GPS and the bearings to reassure ourselves that we weren’t adrift.

Look closely, you'll see us

(NOTE:  the last night we were there, several boats came in and a power boat in particular anchored WAY too close to us – we said something, and they replied it would be all right … the only reason we didn’t move was because there was almost no wind, so the “rage” wasn’t as bad as the two previous nights. — oh by the way, the power boat had the AUDACITY to turn on their generator in our ear for the next three hours after anchoring too close to us, so we were not happy campers!)

But the afternoon we bought the fresh shrimp was earlier with no offending power boat and generator, and we sat in the cockpit enjoying the antics of the dolphins as they tossed fish and played in the waters behind the boat, the birds fishing, and rays jumping – at a more circumspect distance.   Not much is better than savoring shrimp scampi over brown rice and asparagus with a bit of red wine topped off the brilliant shades of orange, rose and red reflected in the water at sunset.

Reviewing the weather later, we confirmed what we already know … the wind was still stronger in the Keys, the wind between Indian Key and the Keys is still from the south, nothing has changed.  So we might as well tarry and enjoy the anchorage another few days.   It’s a few mile dinghy ride to Everglades City, but winding among 10,000 mangrove islands reminds us of Belize.

At the City Seafood Dinghy Dock in Everglades City

At the City Seafood Dinghy Dock in Everglades City

We try another dinghy dock — the Everglades RV Resort park – a very high end motor home resort for those very very expensive bus type motorhomes.   Asking at the office, we were told it was fine to leave the dinghy – and when they learned we were going to the grocery store, we were even offered the use of a golf cart for no charge! We declined because we didn’t need much and needed the walk!

On the way, we passed the local farmer’s market – a stand set up next to the post office – which had everything we needed, eliminating the need for the grocery store!  We found the local Tohatsu dealer and inquired about a magic solution to our outboard steering which keeps getting worse (corrosion has solidified the grease and the dang thing won’t turn – something that eagle ray almost found out firsthand!), but alas, there are no magic bullets for anything marine.

Not Quite a 3rd World Farmer's Market, but Restocked With Produce - YUM!

Not Quite a 3rd World Farmer's Market, but Restocked With Produce - YUM!

Restocked with fresh produce, we went back and checked the weather yet again.  Our “buddy boat”, War Dept. left that morning, to sail to Little Shark.  We decided to stay since the wind was still southeast, we cannot sail with wind on the nose!  But alas, the very next morning, our patience ran out (it was Saturday – if we waited until Monday the wind would have been northwest and we’d have had a wonderful sail, but ….)

When we awoke, we had no intention of sailing south — does this begin to sound familiar?  The dinghy was hanging, not on deck, lashed down, nothing was ready to leave.  But at 7 AM when four boats pulled out of the anchorage, I knew we were in trouble … David was beginning preparations to get underway … BUT IT’S a SOUTH WIND!  Oh well …. we never learn!  Our sail from Indian Key to Marathon (we decided to skip Little Shark because we’d heard of at least 7 boats planning to duck in there, we knew there wasn’t much room, plus the forecast had squalls preceding the cold front that would cause the wind to switch to the north forecast for Sunday).    Next up… the sail to Marathon and all the lessons we should have already learned!   🙂

Wide Variety of Birdlife, Dolphins, Manatees and various Rays, but we didn't see a Gator! OK with us!

Wide Variety of Birdlife, Dolphins, Manatees and various Rays, but we didn't see a Gator! OK with us!

If you’ve anchored at Indian Key (actually Russell Bay) and want to share experiences, leave a comment!  Cheers!  Jan

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