It was the first day of the New Year, and we were ready to move on after a rowdy night in Key West.
On Duvall Street, we had waved at a drag queen named Sushi in her ruby slipper as s/he awaited her midnight lowering in the “rainbow” part of the street. We peeked in art galleries, caught beads and admired the giant conch shell replica over Sloppy Joes, also waiting to be lowered during the countdown. And we waded through the crowds on Mallory Square before finding a spot on the schooner wharf where we watched a pirate wench swing her rapier as she was lowered on a halyard from the mast of the schooner America.
Anything more would have been anti-climactic, so we were ready to jump on the ICW and head up the coast. We made all the usual preparations, started the engine and I went to the foredeck to haul in our two anchors.
First I had to untwist the two rodes. We had been there for several days, and the boat turned a 360 with each tide change. The Bruce anchor came up easily enough, but the CQR seemed to be set a bit better than usual.
I cranked at our windless until the chain was pointed straight down from the bow and we were still firmly planted in place. With a little extra effort, it broke free from the bottom and slowly began to rise.
As it broke the surface, I saw the cause of our difficulty: we had speared a large square piece of crusty debris that still dangled from the point of the anchor. It looked like a fiberglass hatch cover from a wreck.
The admiral brought me the boat hook and I managed to hook it under the lip of the thing. After a couple of tugs, the mystery item came off the point of anchor only to dangle on the end of the boat hook. At that moment I realized this wasn’t some piece of muddy fiberglass. I had a chunk of metal weighing well over 200 pounds dangling off the boat hook while I leaned precariously over the side of the boat.
As my grip slowly slipped, we frantically tried to figure out how to get the thing off the hook. I tried jerking it up and lowering the hook, but it was too heavy. Finally, it slipped from my grip and sank out of sight, boat hook and all.
We hoped the hook might float free when it hit the bottom, but no such luck. Perhaps some day a marine archaeologist will document the debris as part of a warship or treasure galleon. She may wonder what the 21st Century aluminum boat hook is doing attached to it. At least she won’t be able to add our anchor to her museum of historic nautical artifacts.