Archive for December, 2008

Florida’s Big Bend

December 11, 2008

We have arrived!  As I sit here in Tarpon Springs, Florida, mid 70 degrees, sun shining, light breeze in shorts and bahama shirt with a rum punch in my hand, I’m reflecting on the last few days.

We left Shalimar, and took three days going through canals, bays and rivers, the weather was cold and damp, but the winds were light and made travelling easy.  Our repaired motor ran like it was brand new, but we decided to tow the dingy anyway, just in case.

The canal was very reminiscent of what I expect the “dismal swamp” canal on the east coast to be like going home.  Narrow, animals everywhere, and we had a group of dolphins beside the boat several times.  At one point the cruising guide suggested we would see lots of bald eagles, we did not, but saw several nests.  One shrimper must have decided that being a pirate was more lucrative!

The crossing itself was a 26 hour trip across open water; we were at one point about 35 miles offshore.  The weather window opened the day we arrived at Carrabelle, so we weren’t given any time to prepare, we had to go with our previous preparations.  Probably for the best, I would have overdone it, as usual.  It was cold when we left, and until we arrived on the west coast of the Florida peninsula, stayed cold, then started warming up.  The weather forecast was correct for the crossing itself, but wrong for the west coast (I suppose the east coast storms affected the forecast).  After midnight, it was rough, windy, and as usual, a few things go wrong.  Nothing serious, nothing we couldn’t handle, and nothing that would prevent us from arriving on time.  The only thing missing from the crossing was our sleep.  We both tried, and found it impossible with the waves and wind  (it was actually very nice until I decided to have a nap, so MB made me take the sails down and run on motor only, then it got rough).  I guess she fixed me!

All during the crossing we wore our harnesses, and whenever alone in the cockpit or on deck, we were harnessed in.  I could not imagine trying to find someone in that huge Gulf at night in 6 foot seas, even with our little flashing lights and whistles attached to the life jackets.  Trying to work in the cockpit or refueling at sea with a harness and tether attached is an experience.

I could not resist one more sunset photo, when we were in the middle of the Gulf, the sun going down.  Sailing at night is an interesting experience.  Not particularly one I would care to do on a regular basis.  Although the radar and chartplotter made us secure in where we were, when we hit something in 60 feet of water it was very disconcerting to say the least that we have no idea what it was, or could have been, and the bang was loud!

When we arrived at Tarpon Springs, we anchored and went to sleep.  We spent the day here, and then will head to St. Petersburg Tuesday to see Ralph and Peg for a few weeks.  My mother is due for a few weeks as well, so it will be a visiting month.  A friend of mine is coming for New Years, then he and I will sail to the Keys, where I will be met by MB again, and he will head home.  At least, for now, that’s the plan.  As I have surely learned on this trip, plans are fluid.

So for now, we are in St. Petersburg until January, there will be no more SPOT or blog updates until we get back on the boat.  The boat is docked just across the bridge, and we will walk over and look at her daily, and do a little work to get her back in Bristol fashion for the balance of our trip.  Right now, the ground does not move right, there are people right next door to us instead of trees and sea breezes.  It doesn’t feel right, but MB loves the big bed.

Please everyone, have a Merry, Merry Christmas.

Love to All,

Joe and Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold” currently in turquoise water

A long, hard road

December 4, 2008

After our exciting trip to N’Awlins (be sure to read about the trip, link on the sidebar), we relaxed for a day, hoisted our sails, reprovisioned, and set sail in the Gulf of Mexico.  The weather forecast being what it was, we actually crossed Mobile Bay, and then headed up the intercoastal for about 90 miles to Shalimar Yacht Basin, where we planned to spend the night, as very high winds were called for.  After going to the fuel dock for a pumpout, the motor wouldn’t start.  After an hour working with it, I got it started and moved into our slip.  Upon closer inspection, there were more problems that appeared more serious, and would require more in-depth investigation.

I investigated, ordered new parts, priced new engines, priced old engines, priced hauling the boat and installing, and went back to work on the engine when the parts arrived.  They were half right, and half wrong.  I ordered more parts, and had an impatient day waiting.  It’s still cold here at night, I want to get into turquoise water, when I stand on the bow of the boat and look hard, I can see it!

It is Thanksgiving weekend in the US this week, on Thursday, so if I’m not ready to leave Wednesday night, I will be here for the extra long weekend.

The trip to Shalimar was just like New Orleans, a contrast of the old and destroyed, and the new and beautiful.  There were wonderful new boats on the water, and there were sunken sailboats, only their bow and mast above water, and sailboats that had been stripped and just left on the banks.  There were nice new marinas (no docks, just posts and Mary Beth had to jump, difficult for her, especially with laundry), and there were so many marinas that appeared vacant.  The new high rise buildings and the old, ruined homes just left to rot.

The pure white sand is fabulous!  One person told us it is ground up quartz, I’ll have to research this a bit to see why it is so white.  I am not sure what this guy is fishing for, I tried to reach him on the radio to see, but he didn’t answer.  Perhaps he couldn’t understand my accent!  I know when we hear the tows on the VHF we can’t understand them, and constantly have to ask them to repeat.

We did some sightseeing around Shalimar, close to Destin with the courtesy car from the Yacht Club, and toured the Eglin Air Force Museum.

The closest I have ever come to acting mechanical was when I was a teenager; I had an old Rambler that threw a piston out the block.  I bought another old Rambler and attempted to switch motors.  Neither one ever did run, so both were junked.  So when I told MB I was going to take the motor apart and install a new head gasket, she was hesitant.  However, we actually did it.  By the time the parts arrived (well after the Thanksgiving weekend), and were installed, it was two weeks since we arrived.  No matter, it runs, and no leaks.  I can now say I am a fixit man as well as a sailor.

One more point, when we left, both MB and I agreed that six months into the trip, either one of us could veto the rest, and the trip would be called off.  No hard feelings, no regrets, just sell the boat and go to St. Pete for Christmas, then head home.  Six months to the day was Dec. 2, two days ago.  We went out for a shrimp dinner, and had our meeting.  MB said she wanted to continue the trip, as did I, so we go on.  She had her chance to back out, and didn’t take it, so don’t tell me she’s not a sailor!

And for the person who suggested I give my boat a Viking funeral at sea and go home, I say “balderdash”.  We will go on!!

Tomorrow we move.

Love to all,

Joe & Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”