Saturday, February 28, 2015

One Good Turn . . .

   Our meeting up with Raindog was never really planned.  We only "knew" each other through the Cruisers Forum and when we actually met for the first time, we didn't expect to be buddy boating.  However, the fact that we are has definitely turned out to be a good thing.  There have already been numerous occasions where one of us has helped the other out.  In some cases, we would really have been in a mess if it wasn't for our buddy boat. We've gotten to know each other, had each other over for meals, and helped each other with problems along they way.

Raindog's Colorful Spinnaker
   After our little off -kilter issue (see previous post), Brian, Erika, Bill, and I were still waiting for a weather window to make the jump to Clear Water.  We decided that all four of us would head out on Raindog for a day sail to do some beachcombing.  We anchored about an hour away from the marina and were met with more shells than you could possibly pick up.  We found some great shells and got some exercise walking around the beach.  As we were heading back to the dinghy, we were met with strong winds and noticed the waves were growing in height.  The waves were too strong for us to take turns heading back in the dinghy.  So, Brian and Erica took the dinghy back to the boat so that they could move the boat to a section of the beach with calmer waters.  Brian then came and picked us up on the calmer end of the beach and we headed back to the marina.
Scupper Likes When We Come Over
Beautiful Beach

No.  I Didn't Set the Shell This Way, The Waves Did

These Horseshoe Crabs Came Up The Beach Together. 
Unfortunately They Couldn't Get Back To The Water.


Sunset First Afternoon Out

   A few days later, we found a weather window and headed out for Clearwater, FL.  This leg of the journey took us about 43 hours, motoring nearly the entire way.  We were expecting to only spend 36 hours traveling but, the weather had other plans.  The cold temperatures that are causing problems for the northern part of the country are affecting us here, too, in the form of very dense fog.  This fog meant we had to slow down. A lot. For a while, we couldn't actually see Raindog with our own eyes in broad daylight, even though our AIS said they were less that a half a mile from us (thick as pea soup). 

Nap Time
   The fog was so bad, it nearly helped to cause catastrophic issues for both of our boats.  Not long after sunrise on our second morning out, Bill noticed a fast moving blip on our radar.  He communicated this to Raindog who doesn't have radar and was depending on us for these readings (Radar allows you to see ships that are on the water but, not broadcasting on AIS).  We could tell that that this blip was a large pleasure craft (a yacht over 150 ft. long) moving at 17 kts. straight for our boats.  As if that wasn't worrisome on its own, the person(s) operating the yacht were not responding to repeated calls on the radio.  With the fog not allowing us to see a thing, this was getting scary.
That Barely Visible Spot is Raindog
Before The Fog Got Too Bad

   We then (according to protocol), sounded our horns; 5 long blasts for a "Danger" signal (At this point I was thinking it was a "Hey, Idiot! Pay Attention!!" Signal but, it was 5 blasts either way).  We and Raindog did this two times each.  Still no response.  The yacht was still barreling towards us.  We made a quick, decision to alter our course by 60 degrees (yes, it was that close) so that neither of us would end up with two halves of a previously whole boat.  We turned in just enough time to hear a roaring engine go past us.  The yacht never slowed down and we never actually saw it; The fog ensured that.  All we could hope for was that the Coast Guard was listening in and tracked him down.

About To Start The Race
   Once we were finally settled in in Clearwater, we spent two days relaxing and recuperating from our journey.  On our first morning there, we woke to find ourselves surrounded by little racing boats (International Contender class).  We were literally beside the starting line of their races for the day.  Apparently this little team races for fun and, according to the officials we talked to, does as many races as they can when they meet.  Cool! We had the best seats in the house to watch these guys strut their stuff.  We were so close that, at one point, the wind shifted and nearly sent one of the racers into the side of our boat! If he had been any closer, he'd have hit his head on our rub rail.

Motoring Down The ICW
   Once the racers were finishing up, the wind started to rear its ugly head again.  So, we decided to move a little further down, away from the winds, for the night.  The next morning,  we pulled up the anchor and headed for the Manatee River.  This was a wonderful morning to sail.  The weather was perfect and since we were motoring down the ICW for most of the trip, waves didn't become an issue until we had to head "outside" (away from the ICW) for the last few hours of the trip.
One Of The Many Bridges That Had To Be Raised For Us

Two Texas Dinghies In Florida
  So, here I am, writing this on our second day in the Manatee River.  This is definitely a quaint little spot to hole up for a few days.  We have taken the dinghy over to the beach a couple of times to check out a few of the local sites.  The De Soto National Monument and the local park are great places to check out. 

Black Mangrove - Their Roots Actually Grow Up

Heron, I think

Pretty Flowers At The Park

Walkway At The Park

   We spent our morning today (unexpectedly) working on the batteries.  Bill tried to start the engine so we could charge the batteries but, nothing happened when he pushed the start button.  Hours later, and after having to borrow Raindog's starting battery, we got the kinks worked out (a stuck solenoid) and we were charging again.  Funny enough, as soon as we had the engine going, Brian called us on Bill's cell.  He wanted to know if we could go "rescue" Erika.  She had taken their dog, Scupper, for a walk in the park by way of their dinghy.  On the way back, their motor had died and she was stuck in the water.  So, we got into our dinghy and towed Erika and Scupper safely back to Raindog.   One good turn deserves another.   As the Beatles so eloquently put it, "I get by with a little help from my friends . . . ".

Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Well Blow Me Down!

   Wind is a funny thing.  For obvious reasons, it is essential to the sailing life.  However, it can also be a real nuisance.  It can change direction or surge in strength, causing you to be blown off course.  It can also cause some very unpleasant rocking and rolling.  Even it's nonexistence is an issue because then you must resort to motoring (never something a sailor wants to do).  Don't get me wrong.  I like the wind when it is favorable . . . just don't ask me to be so pleased about it when it gets uncomfortable.

   We were still in Port St. Joe and had been expecting high winds that day.  We had prepared.  Extra fenders against the dock. Check.  Ensure lines are tight and secure. Check.  Secure items on deck so as not to rattle or blow away. Check.  We thought we were all squared away (thought would be the operative word here). 

   Because of our precautions, the day had gone fairly well.  We had only had to adjust our fenders a couple of times.  As night drew near, the wind shifted and began to push us away from the pier (something I would be thankful for later).  We went to sleep comfortable with the fact that the boat would fair just fine through the night . . . 4 a.m.  A sound from the galley woke me up.  It sounded like something fell to the floor.  I normally would have chalked this up to the cats and gone back to sleep but, something told me to get up.  As I did (in my half asleep state), I noticed that I was forced to walk slightly to the side of the boat.  Walking down the hallway was like walking on the floor of a funhouse.  We were heeled over.

   We weren't sailing. We weren't moving.  How could we be heeled over?  I climbed the ladder and hopped up on deck for a better look.  We were definitely on an angle leaning toward the dock and only inches from it.  It hit me.  We were aground.  The keel was resting on the bottom of the marina.  I ran back down to wake up Bill. At first he thought I was nuts.  There was supposed to be ample depth in the marina; no chance of grounding.  However, he checked and I was right.  In fact, two of the other three boats on the pier with us were also in the same predicament.

   What happened?  Three words.  Wind and tide.  Wind normally blows water out of marinas, bays, etc. but, when it is really strong, the wind blows a significant amount of water out of these areas.  This cause severe drops in depth.  On the particular night in question a black moon was combined with the winds.  What is a black moon you ask?  It is a new moon when it is at its closest point to the earth.  The closer the moon, the more extreme the tides (Which meant a really low "low tide").  So, extreme low tide plus strong winds equals a stuck boat.

   Thankfully, we, and the other two boats, were just sitting on the bottom not actually sunk in.  So, with some time, patience, and monitoring of the fenders (I did not want another ding in the teak . . . or worse), we slowly began to shift into an upright position.  No dings.  No further issues.  Thankfully we had been pushed away from the dock before the tide went out.  If we hadn't, we would have been leaning right on the dock.

   So, I guess you could say I should be thankful for the wind blowing us away from the dock . . . but, If the winds hadn't been so high in the first place, it wouldn't have mattered which way the wind was blowing us. . . I digress . . . I thought this little incident deserved its own entry since it certainly shocked us and the locals even said they hadn't seen anything like it.  I guess we can now claim that our boat is so good it was heeled over without a single sail raised . . .

Note:  I wanted to take pictures of this strange occurrence.  However, since I discovered our issue in the wee hours of the morning, any pictures taken would have come out rather dark.
 Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two If By Sea

Sunset in Destin Harbor

   So we enjoyed the rest of our time in Destin.  We got a chance to spend an afternoon with John (Bill's Navy buddy) checking out the progress on the house he's building.  On Saturday morning, we pulled up the anchor and headed to meet our friends in St Andrew's Marina.

Same Sunset; Still Pretty

   The trip to St. Andrew's wasn't bad.  The waves were a bit choppier than expected but, certainly doable.  It also helped that for the majority of the morning, we were escorted by a pod of dolphins playing around our bow.  We thought that they may not stick around long because, compared to the much larger ships that I'm sure they're used to, we weren't going very fast.  However, they didn't seem to mind.  They leapt out of the water, zigzagged between each other, and changed which side of the boat they were playing on from time to time (guess they needed to decide which side was better). I could have watched these guys all day.  They reminded me of a well choreographed swim team, especially when three of them propelled themselves out of the water at the same time.

Oliver Has Found a New Traveling Spot in the Cockpit
   When we arrived in St. Andrew's for the night, the two buddy boats we were meeting, Raindog and Palm Latitudes, helped us tie up.  Brian and Erika (Raindog) even had us all over for dinner for homemade chicken and rice.  Yummy! By the way, these guys have a pretty cool story, too. Check them out at if you get a chance. 

Our Fleet of Three
   The next day, our newly formed fleet of three set out for the next leg of our journey.  Our plan was to head for an anchorage off of Port St. Joe, Fl.  Palm Latitudes wasn't quite sure if they were going to stay there with us or keep going to Apalachicola as they had a deadline to make.  Since the turnoff for Apalachicola wasn't until mid-afternoon, we decided that we'd travel as a group of three and their decision could be made along the way. 


The Bridge That I Didn't Have To Worry About

Along our route, we passed under a couple of bridges.  One was so close to our mast height that we made sure to pass under it during low tide.  Luckily, we were able to clear it with a few feet to spare.

View of the Route

   The scenery made for interesting viewing.   The land on either side of us was a mixture of tall trees with strange root systems and white sand.  This combination made for some precarious travel at times as there were a few too many submerged trees and shallow areas for comfort.  Staying exactly where the deeper spots were was Bill's main focus.  The wrecks around us were a sobering example of what could happen if we weren't careful.

Boats Sinking into the Water; Still Tied to the Dock
A Grounded Vessel

Hmm . . . New Take on a Houseboat?

   As we made the turn to Port St. Joe with Raindog, we said our goodbyes to Palm Latitudes over the VHF.  They had decided earlier that they needed to keep going.  So, our group of two continued to motor toward our destination (Yes, I know we live on a sailboat but, sailing is just not possible on that route).  Once we had gotten a bit closer to the anchorage, we had a little powwow with Raindog.  The winds were beginning to pick up (we were heading for open water), the water was getting choppier, and the ever changing forecast wasn't looking pretty.  We decided that the best thing to do was to stay at the marina in Port St. Joe instead.

   So, here we are.  This is our third full day in the marina.  We are all anxious to get out of here and on our way.  The weather definitely doesn't seem to care.  It has plans of it's own.  We've had cold temperatures, high winds, choppy waters, and rain.  Thankfully we are able to hole up here.  I shudder at the thought of being on the open water in these conditions.  Even now, as I'm writing this, Bill is checking the lines for the umpteenth time because of the rocking that we're doing. 

   There is a bright side to this waiting.  If we have to wait things out in a marina, this is a pretty good place to do it.  The marina staff are very helpful and seem to go above and beyond for their customers.  The town has everything we need within walking distance or a short bike ride, and the marina even provided us with bikes!  The other boaters here are very friendly, too.  We had an impromptu BBQ the other night with Raindog and another sailboat, Kittiwake; definitely an enjoyable evening.

   We are making fast friends with Raindog.  We plan to continue to travel with them as we are pretty much headed in the same direction.  The only difference being that Raindog wants to hit the Dry Tortugas before heading to the Bahamas.  That destination is not in our plans.  So, if we can find a good weather window (Right now Friday seems like it might work; A good weather window is so hard to find), we'll keep sailing together until Raindog heads to the Dry Tortugas.  Then we'll head for Marathon Key and catch up with them there to make the jump to the Bahamas (Yeah!). . . Now, . . . where did I put those flip flops . . . ?   

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Nice People, Cold Weather

Leaving Pensacola (The White Tower on the Right is the
Beach Ball Water Tower I Posted Earlier)

   So, our last few days in Pensacola were very productive and pleasant.  I did a few final loads of laundry before we left, we both got a few more projects done on the boat, and, with the help of a new friend, Bill was able to fix a problem we didn't think we could afford.


   When we first arrived in Pensacola, we met a man named Pat.  We were in an Irish pub for lunch and he was with several other former sailors and  friends for a pub crawl.  As we talked, he asked how our sailing was going and if we needed help with anything on the boat.  We told him we had a several foot section of roughed-up teak that needed to be looked at.  As he did boat repairs as a hobby, he offered to come down to the boat and take a look.  He met us at our boat a few days before we left.  He and Bill talked about how to remedy the problem and, once they'd settled on a solution, Pat not only took Bill over to his shop to pick up the necessary wood but, also helped install it and wanted no payment in return.  He even turned down an offer from us to take him to lunch.  Nice Guy.

Coming into Destin
More of Destin's Coast

   The trip to Destin was pleasant even though there wasn't enough wind to actually sail.  After what we went through getting to Pensacola, motoring the whole way to Destin was just fine with me.  We got into our anchorage around three-thirty on Wednesday afternoon.  After getting settled in and shedding a few layers of outerwear, we called John (the Navy buddy of Bill's that we were supposed to meet up with) and arranged to have dinner with him a few hours later.  That gave us time to get the dingy in the water, put the motor on, and talk to a few passersby who stopped to talk and complement us on our "nice boat".  Dinner with John was great.  The conversation flowed for hours and the food was delicious.


View From the Anchorage

Abandoned Boat A.K.A. Bird Hang Out

   We spent yesterday puttering around the beach and the boardwalk in the dinghy.  We had lunch and browsed around the shops for a while. We took a few pictures, one with the help of a stranger, and found a gift for Bill's sister for her birthday.  The sand truly is white here.  If put into a different setting, it might pass for snow.  The only disappointment so far has been the temperature.  The point of heading south was to get to warmer weather (I'm beginning to think we're dragging the cold with us).  So, far we have seen highs in the 60s (pretty comfortable) but, the lows have been in the 30s (not pleasant, especially since we can't run the heaters at anchor).  We just haven't been able to out run cold yet. 

The Boardwalk
Looks Like a Tree, Really a Piece of Aft


Our Mode of Transportation
We Were Being Watched
Pretty Beach
   We're heading out to meet John again in a few hours.  He and his wife are building a house here and he wants us to see the progress.  We will be heading out of Destin tomorrow morning for Shell Island near Panama City.  We'll be meeting up with the buddy boat friends that we met in Pensacola beach, Raindog and Palm Latitudes.  They're headed in the same direction we are.  So, we're hoping to be able to do some traveling with them soon, minus the cold weather gear, of course.
Second Chances at Anchor

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Checking Out Pensacola

   We've done our best to settle into Pensacola over the last week.  We've run errands and picked up groceries, checked out more of the base, and met some interesting people.  We've also been doing our best to check more items off our to-do list and are, for the most part, succeeding. 

No the Picture isn't Fuzzy - Those are Dollars

Pensacola Beach
   On Saturday, we made further use of our rental car by hunting around town for a few things we needed for boat projects.  We stopped in for lunch at McGuire's Irish Pub and Brewery.  This place definitely had character.  Nearly every square inch of wall and ceiling was covered in signed dollar bills.  Customers, famous or not, can sign a dollar bill and have it pinned up.  The food and drinks were great (though they definitely offer an Irish-American menu).  We talked to a few former submariners, and one even offered to help with some of our boat repairs.  After that we headed over to Pensacola Beach  to walk along the water and pick up shells.  We finished the day by meeting up with some boating friends who are headed in the same direction we are, S/V Raindog and Palm Latitudes.

Water Tower/World's Biggest Beach Ball

Float Planes - Part Boat, Part Plane

 We spent Sunday morning exploring. We started off with a haircut for me (Bill got his earlier) and some shopping around the base (hooray for lower military prices).  Next was the Naval Aviation Museum.  It was definitely worth going and we plan on going back because we didn't allow enough time to see it all.  For the afternoon, we met our sailing friends again at Shaggy's Bar and Grill for the Super Bowl.  We had a great time and it was nice to spend time with new friends/fellow boaters.

WW II Corsair (The model featured in Disney's Planes)

Shattered Windshield of Returned Plane

Each Rising Sun Represents a Successful Attack

An Aircraft Carrier Propeller

   The work week was spent, well, working.  Rewiring, sewing, cleaning, scraping, drilling . . . tiring but, things are slowly getting done (at least the laundry is free - we can save our quarters, woohoo).  It's interesting living on a project boat (not that there is a boat in existence that couldn't be called a project boat).  Sometimes the projects are major, sometimes they're small; Some projects show an immediate improvement upon completion and some, like an oil change, don't really show at all.  We just have to keep in mind that this is a process; it's getting a bit better with every project. 

2 of the 4 Shelf Covers
   Our major projects this week included:

New Propane Sensor
  • Sewed and installed shelf covers (curtains) - to prevent things from flying everywhere in bad weather
  • Added GPS input from chart plotter to our new VHF radio (Bill installed the radio last week) so it could be used for emergency broadcast and a backup AIS
  • Finished scraping out epoxy from windows (a bad attempt by the previous owner to prevent leaks) and installed new screens - this was very hard on the hands and quite frustrating
  • Installed propane sensor and safety switch

This may not sound like a lot at first but, those covers took me almost three days to cut and sew together and Bill had to run a lot of wire through some pretty unruly places in the boat to complete his installations. 

   We plan on working on the boat through Tuesday.  Then, if the weather still looks good, we'll head out on Wednesday morning for Destin.  We'll stay there for a couple of days to visit with a Navy buddy of Bill's and then sail on to St. Joseph Bay.  Our stay here has been very enjoyable, albeit colder than we expected (still no flip flops and shorts . . . guess we'll break those out in Southern Florida).   

   Please let us know what you think. Feel free to ask questions and leave nice comments. (Just click on "No Comments" if no one else has commented yet.)