Tuesday, March 26, 2013

OH.....OH. Long Time No Post!

Time has certainly slipped away from us the past 10 days. We must be retired! .... and a little tired at the end of each day as well. Or maybe we are partying with some friends or who knows what. We decided that a quick "catch up" post  might help assure everyone that we are alive and well.

We left Tarpon Springs on Monday, March 18. We stopped on consecutive nights at Madeira Beach, Turtle Beach, and then Port Charlotte. There we met up with some friends [ Doug and Judy ] that we met three years ago at a Great Loop Rendezvous. It was like we had seem them last week. We had a great visit and think that we will meet up again in May.

From there we traveled down to Ft. Myers to stage ourselves to cross Lake Okeechobee and to meet up with Debi's brother, Jeff, and sister-in-law Kathy. They arrived on Saturday, March 23rd and have been on board since then. Because of high winds we stayed an extra day in Ft. Myers but had a chance to tour the city a little.

On Monday we left Legacy Harbor Marina and went to Clewiston, FL the jump off spot to the crossing of Lake Okeechobee. There is a famous redneck fish camp there started by Roland Martin who has some great trophy bass on the wall.

Today, Tuesday, we left Roland Martin Marina and crossed the lake. It was a bit rough with 2-4 foot waves but it only took 3 hours to make it across. Yesterday we did our first locks passing through three of them and today we did two more. Tonight we are in Stuart, FL on the east side of the state and will start inching our way up the coast line.

We are all doing well and Debi and I are enjoying having Jeff and Kathy on board. At most stops we have run into other loopers that we know or are new acquaintances. We are looking forward to starting up the east coast and enjoying a little slower pace.

Soon we will fill in the blanks and hope to add some pictures. But right now I am being called to get ready to go to dinner. This looping can be hard work! Those of you who have gone before us know what I am talking about. We hope that all of you are well TOO!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Across The Gulf

Many thanks to all of you and your kind thoughts and messages before, during, and after our crossing of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday night to Saturday morning... and especially to Cathryn and Bob from Next To Me and Olalla Bay who monitored us and our float plan. It all went very well with a spell of beam seas to wallow us back and forth. Once we got past the rock n' roll part of the journey, the winds were behind us and pushed us on in to our marker.

Someone asked us..."just how in the heck are you going to do this?" It sounded a little like the old phrase... "oh ye of little faith" was in order! As those of you who have done this before, you know that it is all in the preparation, establishing a mindset,  developing a crossing plan, and establishing confidence in yourselves and your boat.

We had the good fortune to meet up with 3 people from Kansas on another boat [ JuLi IV ] who were waiting to do the crossing as well. Tim, Beth, and Joe had been in Carrabelle since Friday and pretty much knew the town.

They were more than happy to show us around the high spots. During our time together we were able to develop a strategy for the crossing.

Along the way they showed us land-based hazards to avoid,

sea-based hazards to avoid,

THE place to dine in town,

and the location of the Snip and Clip for Bob's much needed haircut.

As we further walked the streets of Carrabelle we came upon the police station. After a short visit which required that no bail be paid, we continued on with our first strategy meeting.

This was held at the Carrabelle Junction which has an old fashioned soda fountain and the best milk shakes we've had in a long time.

The purpose of this was to prepare our stomachs for the next stop. That would be Harry's Bar.

This place was quite a joint filled with a bunch of regulars. The ambiance was "special" and helped us develop a mindset for the trip.

Anxiety was not an issue here and relaxation ruled the day. I guess we can get worried later on if we feel a need to do so.

Since excellent preparation is the details we spared no time or expense to procure the maps and aids to navigation to help us cross.

Tim asked me if I was going to have to go around the corner where AAA lists the towns or could I go straight through? With these navigational wonders we were able to develop our float plan from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs.

So now we have the preparation all set, the crossing plan established , the mindset in place, and the longer we stayed at Harry's Bar the more confident we became.

OR MAYBE we prepared a little differently than that.... checking our fuel levels,

oil levels,

the seawater strainers that go to the engine and the generator.

AND MAYBE we used our fantastic suite of Garmin chartplotter, depth sounder, radar, and autopilot to help us navigate the crossing.

AND MAYBE we used our I-pad based Blue Garmin chart system as a back up.

AND MAYBE plotted our course on our MapTeck Chart Kit as another backup.

So after all this we left our moorage about 2:00PM on Friday and headed for the first mark which was about 8-10 miles from our dock.

From there we we able to use the touch screen technology to plot our straight line course across the Gulf to a marker about 15 miles from downtown Tarpon Springs.

Next we kicked in [engaged"] the autopilot...

and took turns monitoring all the systems.                          

The crossing started with 1-2 waves quartering off the bow. This was not bad at all as we were running about 7-8 mph the whole time. Later the wind and waves came abeam and finally for the last 50 miles were on our stern so pushed us on in to our marker on the other side.... nearly right on time.

The sunset at about 7:45 and was spectacular. After many years of trying to see it in Hawaii, I finally saw the "green flash" as the sun descended below the horizon.

We were treated to 3-4 dolphins swimming with us as the sun went down. We felt that this had to be a good omen. They are darn hard to catch on film though!

Shortly after that the tiny sliver of a moon came out. It was already descending when it made its appearance so it only stayed around until about midnight. Then it got really dark. Here is a picture of the Gulf of Mexico at night.... when the moon is gone.

During the crossing we had our radar on and saw a few other boats and communicated with one as they were overtaking us on their way to Clearwater. It was otherwise a quiet, long, nearly sleepless night. Overall, it was a good crossing. No one got seasick and the seas were fair enough.

Now the ace we had up our sleeve was that we were parked behind a State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission boat/ship when we were in port. It had to be a hundred feet long.

This was the last part of our strategy if we ran into trouble out in the middle of the Gulf, I felt that all we had to do was call them and tell them that we had a dolphin caught in our prop or that we saw a beloved "snaildarter" out there or perhaps a "spotted owl"... anything protected .... and they would fire that big boat up and come find us real quick!

Nautical Word For The Day: [from seatalk.info]


1. Waves emanating from a vessel as it passes through the water.

From Great Loop Jargon:

2. Being part Irish it is their equivalent to a funeral celebration and certainly involves minimal quantities of Irish wiskey.... but no maximum! I guess that would happen if the crossing had not gone so well!!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Next Goal

After leaving Pensacola our next goal is to get staged for the crossing from Carrabelle, Florida which is on the mid-portion of the Pan Handle to Tarpon Springs which is just north of Tampa.  The typical crossing involves a 170 miles of open Gulf of Mexico crossing. The greatest distance offshore would be about 50 miles.

To get to Carrabelle we had a few stops along the way. To get underway though, we had to get out of the "skinny" canal from the NAS.

When you boat here you must be mindful of your position ALL the time.

The depths are usually very shallow as a rule as seen on our display. The depth portion is the 7.5 feet on the screen.

Our next stop was Ft Walton Beach. On the way we passed some unusual sites in the skyline including a Ferris wheel amongst the condos on the beach front,

an architecturally interesting radar tower,

and our first barge coming at us under a bridge so the space was a little tight. There is a jargon used on the waterways that falls back many years to the old sternwheelers that is still used today.

When passing tows who have the right-of-way, you typically talk to the tow captain on the VHF radio to ask which side of his barge he would like you to pass on. He will either say "the one whistle", "the two whistle", or "either side". If it is the "one", we veer to the right; if it is the "two", we veer to the left. We chose to just get out of the way all together as there was no room left between the barge and the bridge.

That evening we spent the night at Shalimar Marina in Ft. Walton Beach after traveling about 47 miles. Debi cooked us up a batch of fresh chili...

and ate while we enjoyed the birds...

 and a nice sunset.

From Ft. Walton Beach we navigated to the Panama City Marina which was about 66 miles away. Along the way we entered a portion of the dug out ICW.

There was a dredging operation going on which was interesting to see.

In this area they pump the spoils [the "dredgings"] up over the top of the bank and fill up settling ponds. After the sand settles out, they drain the water back into the ICW.

Further up the canal we approached another barge and took him on the "one whistle" this time. It is beginning to sound like we are getting some experience under our belt and know what to do!

Once in Panama City we walked the town where we had our first upclose and personal "gator" sighting.

The good news is that it was stuffed and in an antique shop.
Also in the store there was an old "hatch cover" from one of the old Liberty ships from WW II. It was priced at $350. Those that have known us for a long time know that we used to own over 300 of these hatch covers when I was in college. Where are they all now?

We finished this day off with a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant and a short walk home. We find that we are getting anxious to get closer to Carrabelle to be in place to make the crossing but still have some way to go to get there.

The next day took us to Apalachacola. These names are a lot easier to spell than they are to pronounce at first. On our passage there we went through some very typical Panhandle swamp country complete with shore birds,

fish camps,

and derelict boats.

Debi swore she heard banjo music so we sped up a bit!

Along the way in what seemed to be a very secluded part of the ICW, we passed a shipyard which was in the process of building 3 new ships. At least someone is building something in the US yet. This was at Allanton, Fl.

Apalachacola was one of our favorite stops so far. We were easily able to walk the town and had dinner at Boss Oysters,
a fresh daily specialty oyster restaurant...

with many different recipes on its menu.

Part of our walk led us to a maritime antique store.

It was full of crab pot floats...


and signs. I can not argue a bit with the pirates rules and have adopted them for In My Element.

Later that evening we went to their local theater and listened to two musicians from New Orleans play their guitars and sing their own original songs. It was fun to get out for the evening. The theater was originally built in 1911 and had recently been renovated. They did a great job and are rightfully proud of it.

The next day took us to Carrabelle arriving Sunday afternoon only to learn that the next safe "crossing window" would be Friday afternoon at the earliest and perhaps Saturday morning. I think that we will get to know this small town very well before we go. We have fueled up and prepped the boat for the crossing already. Now we are waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate.

Nautical Word For The Day: [from seatalk.info]


1. Finish piece.

2. A heavy block of wood installed at the masthead for supporting a topmast.

From Great Loop Jargon:

3. From our experience this is a slang term in dentistry used to describe a crown that is used to restore a tooth.