Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Big Bend

Our next overnight would take us across the Big Bend area of Florida.  This area is full of very shallow inlets, and since we have 6 ft draft, we were feeling very unwelcome here.  We were a bit dissappointed that we couldn't do more exploring here, but at the same time, a big overnight jump like this would take us to warm weather, finally!

We staged for the jump outside of the town of Carabelle, and actually spent a nice, albeit cool, day on the beach waiting for the strong northerly wind from the last cold front to subside.  As the day went on, our anchorage became more and more rolly, and it seemed that the wind was shifting to the west.  That's ok, I thought, we have protection to the southwest, but where are all these waves coming from?  By 3 pm, it was clear that we needed to move.  The wind was southwest, and we had 2-3 foot whitecaps all around.  So up anchor and head south across St George Sound to Dog Island, where there is just barely southwest protection, but lots of south protection, and the way the wind is shifting, it might be just what we need.  It also turned out that there were three other boats anchored there, so lemmings we became.  I fully expected to be moving back to our prior anchorage at some point in the night, but the wind just faded and we had a good night's rest.

Sunset hiding from the wind at Dog Island

At sunrise, we were up and heading out East Pass toward Clearwater!  In total, the passage would be a little over 150 miles, and at our cruising speed, that would take nearly 30 hours.  So an early start today would get us into Clearwater in the middle of the next day.  We had another beautiful sunset, while a bit cloudy, still showed us some beautiful colors.

Sunset, about 50 miles from shore

By morning, we had lots of fishermen around us and we new the shore wasn't far away.  We also had the welcoming committee greet us about five miles offshore.  A group of 6-8 dolphin enjoyed our bow wave for about about 20 minutes!

I think they are camera shy, not once did they smile for the camera!

Immediately upon entering Clearwater Pass, we knew we weren't in Kansas anymore.  For one, we went from cool morning air, with multiple layers and full foul weather gear to short sleeves!  For another, we passed a boat that looked like a shark.  And then one that looked like a pirate ship.  Welcome to south Florida.  Did I mention that we like that it's warm here?


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Exploring the last of the panhandle of Florida

Once we recovered from our overnight trip to Port St Joe, it was time to explore!  We took the dinghy from our anchorage to the municipal marina.  What a nice town and marina!  We both looked at each other, and said, yep. we could live here.  This was our kind of Florida.  Miles of beaches, friendly people, and no condos!

Unfortunately, the one major drawback to our staying here - it is still cold here.  We still have no heat on our boat unless we are plugged in to A/C power, and freezing temps are freezing temps, even in Florida.

Our next overnight weather opportunity was just a short four days away, and we needed to move through the ICW to get in position at Carabelle, so unfortunately, our stay in Port St Joe was cut short.  We headed up the ICW and made our way to Apalachicola.  We anchored across the river from town, and had a beautiful view of this cool harbor town.  We toured the museum and enjoyed the history of the town.  It was once bustling with various trades over the years, but now it has gotten a bit sleepy and just about perfect, if you ask me.

A view of the waterfront in Apalachicola, from our anchorage.

The quaint streets and waterfront view of Apalachicola.

Or, was it just a chance view of Tatiana while crossing the street?!?!

Leaving Apalachicola, we headed a bit further east toward Carabelle.  We stayed at anchor for two nights outside of town, to position ourselves for the overnight ahead.  There we found lots of undeveloped beaches and a friendly attitude among everyone we ran across.  What a pleasant part of Florida we had discovered.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Ok, maybe this title is a bit backwards, but in our case, that is just what we saw.

When we left Pensacola, it was to be our first "outside" jump.  Due to several low bridges on the intercoastal waterway, or ICW, we would need to go out the Pensacola Inlet into the Gulf of Mexico to get around these bridges.  We needed to get as far east as Panama City, but we chose to go a bit further east, to Port St Joe, which would be about a 120 mile trip.  It would be about 20 hours total from our departure at the Santa Rosa Yacht Club to Port St Joe.  To avoid arriving at night, we left late in the morning, and timed our arrival for first light.  On top of that, it's best to time the travel through through these inlets into the gulf with slack tides, so that current and wind don't combine to mess with your chi.

Around 9 am we departed to head toward the gulf.  Our trip through the pass was flat calm and lovely.  Out we go.  We had a few other boats that were heading through the pass with us, one going straight to Tampa, and the others stopping short in Destin.  Well, we had our plan, so off to Port St Joe we went.  We sailed further south than the direct line in hope of taking advantage of some SE winds that were supposed to fill in some time during the night.  Otherwise, the passage was nearly windless, so we got to see what motoring offshore was like.  Besides a bit more roll, it was a lot like motoring anywhere else.  Big suprise.

Ready for the darkness...

Sunset was awesome.

We were both filled with apprehension as the sun went down.  We had been preparing for this jump for weeks: between arranging our safety gear, making everything secure above and below deck, and planning the trip with weather and charts.  Even with all our preparation, we were both thinking that we were doing something wrong as the sun went down.  However, just as the final light of the sun diminished, a near full moon began to rise in the east.  We've never seen the moon so blindingly bright.  Wow.  On we motored.  In the middle of the night, we noticed our speed increased by about 1.5 knots, and the water warmed up about 10 degrees.  I think somehow we landed in a random gulfstream current.

At first we thought how fun, it will make the trip faster.  But this messed with our planned sunrise arrival, and that was a problem.  So, around 2 in the morning, we slowed way down, to around 4.5 knots.  Apparently, the change in our engine noise attracted the attention of some dolphins, because after just a minute or two of changing the engine speed, we had 3-4 dolphins show up to investigate.   The light of the moon lit up their silhouettes underwater, so we could watch them under water and surfacing.  It was amazing.

Sunrise was incredible.  There's nothing like staying up all night to appreciate the  light and warmth of the sun.

Welcome to Port St Joe.

We dropped the anchor near a beach, watched for a while to make sure we weren't going anywhere, and then collapsed down below for a well-deserved nap.  Another new experience had been successfully completed.  Now we were ready for the next (bigger) jump to the South, and Warm Weather!

This post is dedicated to the late Katherine Drozdek, who always encouraged me to follow my dreams and fill my life with memories.  Thank you, Grandma.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Return of the Smiley's

Everyone kept telling us while we were waiting in Mobile that we were so close. They were right. Since leaving, our logbook is filled with smileys, you know, the kind you use when you experience something you like.  Not that living on the hard for a month wasn't smiley worthy, we were just happy to see something new...

We left and had a nice motor sail down Mobile Bay. It can get a little bouncy out on the bay, since it is so long, and even the light winds forecasted turned to 10-15 by the south end of the bay. It was nice to be able to unroll the jib and get an extra knot of free speed. We ran out of bay before we could take advantage of all the wind that filled in. Our first stop was to another Marina, as it was supposed to get down below freezing (anchoring out when it is below freezing does not earn a smiley).

On our way down Mobile Bay, we had a hitchhiker.  This guy was climbing all over our boat for about an hour.  For a while, he was even closing his eyes for a bit of a nap.  The whole time I was hoping he wouldn't poop, which of course, he did.  This smudged his smiley.  

Our next day was a short one to the anchorage everyone seems to use when leaving Mobile: Ingrams Bayou. It was great place to spend the night, and the anchor came up without a chain full of mud. This earned a smiley from me - usually it comes up full of mud and clay, and this meant we were in sand. This was another short day, and one that allowed us to take a small break from motoring. Yes, we actually turned the motor off while underway and went for a sail. Unfortunately, it was just to “tune the rig”, as it was our first sail after stepping the mast. So we sailed one tack, and then back on the other and ended up in the same place we started.  Later that day, we had our first dolphin experience, when all of a sudden, one surfaced right next to the boat and scared the pants off of us.  It was wonderful, and earned another smiley.  Our anchorage that night was at Fort McRae, at the inlet for Pensacola.  What an amazingly beautiful place.  Beautiful water that was full of dolphins, pelicans, loons and gulls and was surrounded by white sand beaches. 

Unfortunately, there was some strong weather brewing, and we needed to find shelter for a few days, and ended up at the Santa Rosa Yacht Club for a few nights.  This was a really cool place to wait out some weather, and get ready for the "overnighter"...