Suspended 12 feet above dusty gravel and old flakes of fiberglass, our catamaran sits like a sad, beached whale. I study the view from the bow: A tower of used oil bottles teeters beside an overflowing green dumpster, islands amid a graveyard of engine parts. If I stand on my tiptoes, I can see a slice of seawater in the Cow Key Channel near Key West.
My husband flops down beside me, covered in diesel after disemboweling the port engine. I smell like a holding tank after wrestling out rusted screws behind the head. We’re both trying to work up the energy to hike to the communal boatyard bathroom 200 yards away for weak-but-hot showers. The kids peed in a bucket before bed. And the no-see-ums are swarming. All told, it’s a bad case of the Boatyard Blues. Our engines failed 12 days into our annual two-month stint cruising aboard Mikat, a 2004 Jaguar 36 catamaran that we co-own with two partners. Instead of sailing under rainbows toward the Dry Tortugas, we’ve been holed up for days ineffectually troubleshooting diesels while the kids dodge forklifts and collect “treasures” made of broken glass and plastic hunks of ground-down God-knows-what.
Like most nights, I briefly consider calling it quits and flying home to Montana. But then the positives convince me to stay: It’s 70 degrees outside. We feast regularly on Jamaican jerk chicken and Cuban sandwiches from nearby food trucks. We just ran into a long-lost friend we hadn’t seen since cruising in Tonga a decade ago. We get to watch fire juggling and unicycle riding when we venture out into Key West. And, most importantly, we’re teaching the kids that sailing across turquoise waters goes hand in hand with wielding wrenches in dirty boatyards.