Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dinghy Bottoms Need Love Too

Mouth of Sister Creek
When we arrived here in Marathon, Florida and started talking to other Cruisers and Liveaboards around the marina, a recurring theme began to emerge.  When people learned that we plan on staying for a month, they all said that we needed to keep an eye on our boat bottom.  They said that the waters here in Boot Key Harbor provide perfect conditions for prolific growth of barnacles and such, and that if we didn’t keep up with it, we might find our prop and bottom covered with growth in an amazingly short time.  Oh, and don’t forget the dinghy…

Boot Key to Dinghy Bottom Beach
We had new bottom paint on our hull back in February and were skeptical about growth being a problem there.  That is, until I began to notice some barnacles appearing a couple of days ago at our waterline.  Bruce started trying to get “bottom cleaning” on the to-do list, but it keeps being punted to the bottom… We get conflicting reports as to whether or not it is safe to go into the water here with all of these boats dumping their grey water.   He did take a cloth to the undersides of the dinghy pontoons…

Closer view of Dinghy Bottom Beach
Today, we had some time to get the dinghy bottom knocked off the list.  We heard from a local that the best place to do this is a small trashy beach up Sister Creek, almost to Sombrero Beach, but on the other side.  I had noticed the spot on one of our beach trips so we headed that way with a bag full of scrapers and sponges.

I remembered seeing all the trash!
We found the spot easily, although it was full of seaweed, it was still the only open spot along the way, so we headed there and beached the dinghy in the foot deep mass of seaweed and floating garbage.  There was a fine sheen of scum as well just to make the smelly glop all the more appealing…  

Each step I sank to mid shin...
I was glad I had worn water shoes instead of the flip flops and sandals I’ve been living in for weeks… I fought down the images in my mind of what might be lurking beneath the water’s surface as I waded through the thick odoriferous flotsam to the shore.  

While Bruce removed the outboard and pulled the dinghy close enough to flip, I began to take all of the gear we keep aboard off and pile it on top of a board we found.  

A little game of hid-n-seek going on...
Once I had the dink cleared out, he pulled it further ashore on a bed of seaweed where we would flip it over and see what was in store for us…  Meanwhile, I was exploring our surroundings, fearful of finding a snake, but instead, found this cute little hermit crab trying to hide from me…

A little help here!!!
Bruce was not amused by my distraction… must focus.  Oh, help flip the dink, right… I found a large block of wood that had floated up and used it to prop up one side of the dinghy to provide some stability and also to keep it out of the mire…  

And Bruce had wiped the pontoons clean a couple of days ago!
We flipped the dinghy and surveyed the situation.  ICK!  There was a glistening lumpy carpet growing on our bottom about a quarter of an inch thick or more…  

Things were crawling everywhere!
Looking closely, I found little creatures scurrying away… but there was no place for them to go, so they hunkered down waiting for what was next.  

You know this is a race right?
Bruce and I each took a side and started scraping away the thick gunk.  It was creepy and disgusting and smucky!  Yes, SMUCKY!  We worked on our respective sides for over an hour, glad that the sun wasn’t too hot as we toiled away.  

We scraped the goop off in sheets!
I began to wonder how many of the sailing women we know back home would do this… How many cruising women we’ve met along the way would do this?  I’m not sure… but although I wasn’t LIKING doing this… it STILL beats working!  Yes, I would rather be standing in stinky muck (hiding all manner or unfathomable evil) with my muscles screaming from repetitive scraping of fearsome sea creatures (probably carrying ebola virus or something)… than sitting at my old desk job in the AC…  Something must be WRONG with me!

But, as we worked together, we began to see the instantaneous fruits of our labor as the bottom went from “before” to “after”, right before our eyes.  The satisfaction of a job complete was our reward for this day’s toil…  At some point, we pronounced it “finished”.  We heaved the dinghy back over onto it’s now clean bottom and found to my horror… that many of the creatures we had scraped off the bottom, were now crawling on the pontoon that had been in the water!  EEEK!  I grabbed the hard hat we had found on the shore and used it as a bucket to wash them all away, carefully avoiding walking in the pile of bottom-scum we left at the transom...

Luckily we found a hardhat "bucket" in the trash pile
We got the critters all washed away, but I has in high gear as I brought things from the shore to the dinghy so that we could get outta here!  I continued to stifle the creepy thoughts in my head as we reloaded and secured the outboard to the transom once again.  I jumped into the dinghy as Bruce shoved us off the floating mass of seaweed on the incoming tide… I kicked my feet in the cleaner water and yanked off the shoes, peering inside to make sure that there were no hitch hikers…  I rinsed the parts of me that had touched the icky water.  Ahh we motored away from there!  Clean bottom!  

I guess we should have taken a look sooner, it wouldn’t have been so bad…  But we still can’t believe the speed at which these critters attached themselves and grew on our dinghy.  It hasn’t been three weeks and the bottom was clean when we arrived here.  So remember… if you ever find yourself in Boot Key Harbor, dinghy bottoms need love too...


  1. Nothing's wrong with you ... I'd much rather be standing in mud and scrubbing scum off our dinghy than sitting in this office! =)

    1. Cheryl! I really thing you would enjoy this! Some girls are just that way... myself included! I can't wait until you guys get your house sold and can head out here! I'm looking forward to your perspective! Thanks so much for hanging out with us!

  2. Yuck, creatures on the bottom. We get scum and slime in the Great Lakes; but no creatures. Hubby and I are partners on all things boat. We both clean and wax fiberglass. We both fill up the water, keep the decks clean, wipe down isinglass, vacuum, scrub the water line, kill spiders and empty the heads. Although Dan kills spiders with his bare hands; I do not. Yes, I would rather be working on the boat than sitting at my desk designing checking fixtures. Any. Day. Love following your travels!

    1. This was the most ridiculous thing! We've never seen growth like this anywhere we've been... We do lots of things together but there are some things he's better at and others that seem to have become my domain. I am NOT the spider killer! He usually takes them outside and lets them go...