Saturday, December 21, 2013

F------ Crab Pot Slalom on the ICW

dodging crab and lobster pots
They’re hard to see, but the speck in the lower right
is one of the pot floats we were slaloming.
“Watch out!  There’s a crab pot! And another!  And another! And…”

Left.  Right.  Left.  Right. Left.  Right….

Our sailboat slalomed through thousands of crab pots (or lobster pots – we’re not sure which), often as frequent as every 20 feet, stretching even across the ICW (intracoastal waterway) shipping channel and across Hawk’s Channel on the Atlantic Coast into Boot Key, Marathon.  Forget using an autopilot (hands-free boat steering); they do not have the smarts of Roombas (click here if you’re not sure what a Roomba is).  Autopilots can only go where you tell them, and will only avoid hitting things if they’re naturally outside a set path.

bridges channel 5 bridge in florida
Channel 5 Bridge gave us a brief respite from the crab pot slalom. 
We just had to sidestep the power towers and bridge struts.
Marked by rope-tethered dimunitive balls, the pots are usually but not always bobbing clearly at the water’s surface.  We had daymares of our prop (propeller) catching a tether, bringing the boat to a rapid halt, cleared only by a dive under our boat, to cut free the ropes binding our prop.

All this in a strong steady wind; strong enough for our sluggish sailboat to average over 6 knots on our 37 mile trip, despite reefing in the one sail we had up, our motor off nearly the entire trip.   Wind waves, smacking our boat’s broadside across Hawk’s Channel, were a steep, choppy 2-4 feet with as little as 10 feet between each, giving our boat a constant back and forth rocking motion. 

reefed in jib
Notice how the sail isn’t open at the top?  We reefed it in to
minimize how much sail we had out – and still cruised along at
6 knots average!
This Galley Wench’s tummy didn’t like that rock ‘n roll.  Wayne, also a little erpy, but not as much, got spotted for a helm (steering) for bathroom and meal breaks.  Otherwise, it was most prudent for this blogger gal to lie back before her stomach decided to rebel more seriously. 

We arrived no worse for the wear, and made a rapid recovery upon mooring in Marathon’s Boot Key City Marina yesterday.  At the marina potluck that night, we were envious of another cruiser’s approach to these pesky pots….

“We go right over ‘em, like a lawnmower cutting grass.  Chop ‘em up and just keep on going.”

If only we trusted our our propeller enough….


  1. Not a fan of intentionally chopping up the crab pot lines. They are likely someone's livelihood and once cut the trap stays on the bottom continuing to collect, cage and kill crabs... But, I certainly don't appreciate pots in the middle of a channel.

    1. Agree on both counts. It's one of those things I'd like to do... but won't. Truth be told, just not a good passive agressive;).

  2. I would not think it was a good idea if you don't have a line cutter installed.


  3. The lobster traps are a pain in the ass to manuever / sail around. Many, many years ago, Allen had to take the plunge in February with 20 knot winds to free a trap from our prop. Not an experience we want to have again.

    It is however, still lobster season and the bugs make a wonderful meal. Stay clear of the traps when diving/snorkeling to get your catch. Make sure you have your lobster measurer so you only take legal lobster. We put a line out the back of the dinghy and Allen drags looking for the bugs.
    Hope you both have a very Merry Christmas and possibly lobster for your dinner. Allen, Michelle & Belll

    1. We might look into a cutter for safety but not deliberate mayhem.

      We'll likely wait 'til the Bahamas before we attempt to harvest anything from the ocean so we don't have to worry about regs or licenses as it's all inclusive there.

      Best to y'all too!