During yesterday's crossing into Tarpon Springs, we encountered crab pot buoys while over 25 miles from shore. Crab pots are used by crabbers to bait, lure, and catch crabs for commercial purposes. The pot is actually a wire cage designed so that crabs can get inside to the bait but can't get back out. The buoys are about 9" in diameter and are connected by a line down to a crab pot to mark its location for recovery. They are decorated in colorful ways and have numbers on them to identify the owners.
|Crabber pulling in a crab pot full of crabs|
Now, a few buoys here and there are not so much of a problem. The probabilities are that you might not run over one even if you weren't looking. But we encountered fields of them as far as the eye could see. The crap pots with their lines and buoys are thrown out of the crabber's boat while it is moving and appear every 100 or so feet set in straight lines. However, these lines are from different boats going in all directions, and they crisscross each other like pickup-sticks scattered on the floor. It was not easy to see them and sometimes not obvious how to navigate through them.
As a result, we spent the last couple of hours cruising with Anne up in the pilot house searching for and pointing out crab pot buoys, while I maneuvered the boat to evade them. It didn't help that we were already fatigued and just wanted to get into port. I tried to estimate the number of crab pots that might be in the Gulf by multiplying the density we were seeing by an estimate of the areas they might be in. I never got to a good answer, but I'm sure it is in the hundreds of thousands!
Today there were high winds and waves in the Gulf, so our decision to cross earlier was a wise one. We spent today recovering and I rinsed the salt off the boat, ran checks on the dinghy engine, and filled the water tank, while Anne straightened up the interior. Then, we got some exercise and an overview of Tarpon Springs by bicycle. More on Tarpon Springs starting tomorrow.