Saturday, December 19, 2015

End of the road...for now

Well, the problem with having a schedule is that weather may not always be on your side.  This trip has been a prime example!  With about 24hrs of thunderstorms in the forecast between here and Panama City Beach, our childcare and leave running out, and our strong desire to see our kids, we have made the decision to leave the boat in the Tampa area until we can start again.  We thought that decision would be the hard part, but finding a marina with room for us proved even harder!  After about a dozen calls we found one that had "one more" slip available!  We will strike out at sunrise to make the 20nm journey and then rent a car and head home.

It's been crazy windy today so we spent the day cleaning up the boat (when we weren't trying to find a slip!).

And after the stress of trying to find a slip, it's 5:30--I don't care what your clock says! (Yes, both are mine.)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Tucked in at Bradenton, FL

Well, last night was long and action-packed!  We continued to run into crab pots through sunset, so I manned the bow armed with a headlamp and a whistle to alert Frank of any buoys.  

After a bit we got into deeper water.  The shrimpers took over and we secured the crab pot watch...for now.  Our friend Beth kept us updated on the timing of the strong front and some heavy rain ahead of it throughout the night via our DeLorme InReach as we were out of cell range (p.s. She's the next big thing in weather routing for cruisers--I can feel it!).   As we approached Tampa Bay and the water got shallower the crab pots returned.  And to keep it exciting, heavy rain came shortly thereafter.  I was getting soaked, but we were able to see the pots!  My job was tough, but so was Frank's as he had to respond to my blasts of the whistle with quick helm or engine changes.  Tough all around!

We slowly made our way into the pay through heavy rain and low visibility.  We set the hook just inside for a few hours (of course, dodging more crab pots in the rain on our way in!), then woke at sunrise to make our way through a tight channel to a protected anchorage in Bradenton, FL just ahead of the really strong front.  We had big breakfast burritos, OJ with rum, and a nice sleep!  We spent the afternoon tidying the boat, drying out our soaked gear, and relaxing.

Next step is to rest up and wait for strong N winds to abate and look at forecasts to see if a leg from here to Panama City, FL is possible by Wednesday.  So far we have gone 650 nm since Saturday--pretty good considering we had to duck inside for weather for two days.   

Thursday, December 17, 2015

North to the crabbing grounds!

After a night offshore we pulled into Marathon Wednesday afternoon to top up on fuel.  Due to a shallow stretch and warnings of many crab pots after you pass to the Gulf of Mexico side, we initially planned to anchor there and wait for daylight.  However, as we crossed under the bridge with 3 hours of daylight remaining and good visibility on the crab pot buoys, we decided to press on.  This would give us a bit of a leg up on the front coming in Friday and perhaps allow us to make Tampa.

To lessen the chance of grabbing a pot line around the prop, we set the genoa at sunset and ghosted along at ~3kts for the night. What the heck?  It was 30 miles we wouldn't get if we had anchored.  It went fairly well, though as I took the rev watch Frank reported we had slowed a bit.  About an hour into my watch I saw why--in the faint glow of the stern light I could see a line stretching behind the boat a few feet under the water.  Not trusting my eyes, I checked with the boat hook--we had a pot hooked on the rudder.  I pulled in the Genoa and tried to free it.  It seemed to work, but as I got speed on again I could tell it was still there.  I pulled in the Genoa again, this time Frank got up to see what was up.  This time I successfully scraped the boat hook down the length of the rudder while leaning off the swim platform and pop!  Up came the floats and they drifted away.  I reset the sail and got that missing knot of speed back!

As the sun rose we were only making 2.5kts good.  We doused the sail, took off all the speed, spun the boat around, checked all around for pots, lines, and buoys, and decided we were good to start the engine.  We backed for a bit just to make sure nothing was on the keel, then we were off!  If we make 7kts, we will be in Tampa ahead of the front!

Watches have been stressful, dodging line after line of pots.  If this keeps up we may have to sail after dark.  We still think we can meet our timeline if it comes to that.  As Frank turned the watch over to me he set a fishing line.  About 2 hours later I was enjoying the company of some dolphins.  I had just turned off the auto pilot to dodge more pots when the line took off.  No rest for the Skipper!  He pulled this little tunnie in on his hand line! Dinner!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Offshore basics

"Wow, you guys are heading offshore.  Will you be safe?"  Thanks for that question, friends and followers of the blog!  We have spent a lot of money on safety gear we hope to never use--a life raft and an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)--and set ourselves up with a bit more gear when we are on deck.

Here I am modeling our Mustang auto-inflating PFDs. We wear them with leg straps and safety tethers.

The safety tether clips into strong points around the boat, or to Jack lines if we have to head to the bow for anything.  Here I am clipped in at the helm.

But that's not all!  When you're on watch you carry a few more things, like our floating, handheld VHF radio (a watch turnover item) and this nifty pouch full of survival gear!

Inside the pouch is a knife, signal mirror, emergency blanket, dye marker, flare, and another watch turnover item, the Personal Locator Beacon (PLB, we only have 1 so we have to share!).  The EPIRB stays with the boat, the PLB stays with the person.

That should cover the wave tops on that topic!  Here we are, 3 miles east of Palm Beach, FL, heading out for a few nights off shore!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Patrick AFB to St. Lucie River

Winds stayed from the south today, so we stuck with the ICW to at least make some progress.  It made for a pretty chill day...I made a "fancy" breakfast of sausage and egg burritos, we knocked out some chores, and even got a nice visit from dolphins near Fort Pierce.

We decided to hit up a marina tonight so we could shower, top off the fridge, and do a little laundry.  We picked one near the mouth of the St. Lucie River that had a grocery store nearby.  Eh, I'm not normally a fan of marinas and this one proved why!  We called ahead and got a slip assignment, and even told them when we expected to arrive.  As we approached we called for more info on where the slip was and to ask for line help, but the marina office was closed!  Pulling in sucked.  Huge slip, very windy, and to top it off, we touched bottom trying to back in.  We had some "help" on the pier that was a bossy know-it-all, and another guy that really did help.  We eventually had to swing around and go bow in--touched bottom again outside of the slip just trying to make that maneuver!  Finally we got a few lines secured, but it wasn't pretty or fun!  So the marina wasn't quite right about the slip being deep enough for us.  They also didn't provide wifi info, code for the big gate at the end of the pier, basically didn't provide anything one needs when arriving after the office closes.  But alas, we were tied up, showered, did laundry, overpaid for dinner, and managed to replenish some stores at a grocery store that was a 10 minute walk away.  And we found really yummy libations there!  Time to rest up as tomorrow we are heading back out to the ocean!

Sunday, December 13, 2015


With winds forecast on the nose for the next few days, we ducked in at the Ponce Inlet (that was a bathtub experience!) and spent the day logging miles on the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW).    To the sailing purists, shut it!  I want to enjoy this a bit and make it home for Christmas with my kids.  If that means motoring down a ditch for a few days, I'll do it!  We had a few showers today, too, but the results were stunning!

We are in the hook near Patrick Air Force Base for the night and will rise with the sun to continue the trek to our babies!