Pandemonium in Paradise

Hell Week … that’s what locals and folks in the service industries call the week between Christmas and New Years in Key West.  Here at the marina is no exception.   From sunken/lost boats to bumper boats to fuel spills and not to forget the explosion wreck, it’s been pandemonium in paradise this week.  In the spirit of learning from mistakes….

Sunset at the marina.

Sunset at the marina. I’m not showing photos of the incidents below … wouldn’t be nice.

Fuel Spill.  The craziness started early in the week with a fuel spill.  A big yacht with experienced crew simply made a mistake. They were transferring fuel from one tank to another in order to fuel up the other tank, when something went awry.  Not sure exactly what happened but suddenly there was pink diesel flowing down the decks and out the scuppers.  Marina staff acted immediately to contain the spill and the US Coast Guard was on the scene post haste.  USCG commended the marina on their quick actions and what could have been a total disaster turned into just a messy cleanup.  Imagine getting an inch of diesel out of your teak decks and you have a mental picture of the “mess”.  There were truckloads of pink containment barriers hauled to wherever is appropriate to dispose of such a mess and the next day marina life started as usual.

Bumper Boats. It was blustery and windy early in the week and it’s not easy maneuvering large boats in tight quarters – several boats had to be helped into slips with engine problems, or single screws that simply weren’t enough to overcome the wind gusts.  Luckily others in the marina chipped in to help fend off and get boats where they needed to be.  About mid-day all seemed well …

Busy marina!

Busy marina! You can see the fuel dock in the distance.  Photo is from last winter.

Until … KABOOM!  A major explosion brought anyone that happened to be down below to the docks.

Here’s the scene.  A large catamaran disabled dive boat was tied at the end of the LONG fuel dock and unoccupied.  In front of him, a 64 foot (brand new?) luxury boat towing a 20-ish foot dinghy and a jet ski on the back platform had just finished fueling.  In front of the 64 foot boat was a 200 foot FeadShip luxury ship.  The boat was planning to move to a slip on the other side of the dock.

The 200 foot mega yacht in front of the accident incident. Don't hit this guy!!!

The 200 foot mega yacht in front of  (and not involved in) the accident incident. Yikes! Not a good idea to play bumper boats with this guy!!!

Now the details get a bit fuzzy. Leaving the fuel dock, the 64 footer had a steering joystick failure.  He immediately switched to alternate steering, but the end result was he backed over his large dinghy, pinning it under the already disabled dive boat, then pinning his jet ski platform under the dive boat.

The explosion noise was the dive boat’s lines exploding from the force of the contact as it was boomeranged off the dock and out into the channel with no one aboard.

By this time there were three unoccupied boats loose in the channel:  the disabled dive boat and also the 64 footer’s 20 foot dinghy and the jet ski which was knocked off  its platform.  The wind blew the dive boat into the boatyard just north of the marina – no details except the FWC (Florida Water Patrol) was called to investigate the accident.

Another cruiser happened to see the incident, jumped in his dinghy to fetch the driverless 20 foot dinghy back home and also rescue the jet ski which had also blown into the boatyard next door.

Our dock where the ill-fated sailboat left two weeks ago.

Our dock where the ill-fated sailboat left two weeks ago.

Sunk/Lost Sailboat.  Holy Moly!  Two weeks ago there was a nice looking Bavaria 40+-ish sailboat on the other side of the dock from us.  The owner wanted it in Corpus Christie, TX and hired a local captain and crew to transport it.  Not sure why, but the boat left Key West with an 8 day cross the Gulf voyage planned … with a strong cold front forecast for 3 days hence.  Battered, leaking like a sieve with no autopilot working, they ducked into the Tampa area.  The owner then got on the boat and was planning to sail along the coast to Corpus Christie.  Except yesterday we got the word that the boat hit a shoal and sank, the crew aboard (not the crew from Key West) had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard.  Not sure what it’s like north of here, but it’s been blowing stink with a huge high pressure parked over us for a week.  Maybe they figured going east to west, they’d be running with the wind and choppy waves.  I guess I’m too much of a wuss. We wouldn’t have gone in the conditions with that boat.

And it’s only Wednesday!  Yikes!


Be safe out there! Wonder what will happen today? There are two days left until New Years Eve – and apparently everyone in the world wants to be in Key West for New Years Eve.  Supposedly 30 boats are scheduled to come in today.  But at least the weather has moderated!  Cheers!  Jan



  1. Keith Davie says:

    Remind me to avoid Key west for the holiday week next year! 😉

  2. Glad I’m ensconced in my recliner waiting for an inch of ice to melt so we can head for Florida.

  3. Are all marinas like this or is Key West especially prone to a little adventure?

    • I suspect any marinas with larger boats are subject to pandemonium when the wind is gusty and strong. Larger boats = bigger pandemonium. Smaller boats usually only play bumper boats, which can also cause damage, but usually less dramatic. Luckily, it’s not an everyday occurrence which is why it merited a post. We’ve seen smaller boats blow up at the fuel dock through (luckily no one was hurt) but the boat wasn’t in good shape. Cheers — Jan

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