Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Repairs continue - so Learning Drone

 Repairs Continue

Midnight Sun III continues to be repaired at Pensacola Shipyard.  The main issue is the repair of cosmetic scratches in the gel coat from Hurricane Sally.  While we were fortunate to sustain no structural damage, the boat was hit by many roofing shingles that were blown off our house roof.  Well that will not happen again - we now have a metal roof!.  The shingles did not pierce the gel coat bet left many shallow scratches.  These are being wet sanded or compound polished out prior to re-sealing the surface.  Its proving to be a slow painstaking process - but the finished areas look like new again.  We keep getting told "two more weeks"........we shall see.

So this has put us behind schedule with our plans to leave for the Bahamas, but we have not given up on that hope yet.  Needless to say I am monitoring progress every couple of days and itching to get her back in the water!!

In the meantime....

Drone Flying

Yes, I do have one of those annoying Drones.  I have been wanting to film sailing shots with it for the past year but have not had the confidence to fly it over water - so yes, that is a major issue.  Well I have been practicing and built up more confidence.  This weekend members of Pensacola Yacht Club came over to our area and we had a party and raft-up. - Yes, everyone here is about over the whole Covid thing.  Foolish - well who knows, we will see.  Fun - Yes!  So I took the opportunity to do some drone filming and made a short video.

Check it out! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Repairs and Video Update


As I write this post, Midnight Sun III is currently in the Pensacola Shipyard getting final repairs completed.  To be honest, I have made the lions share of the repairs (other than mast and rigging) myself while waiting on a space at the shipyard.  Everything has been backed up because of Hurricane Sally.  We are very grateful to Rick Zern and the guys at Zern Rigging for getting the mast and rigging work done.  Awesome job guys - as always!  Also, a big thanks to Hunter Riddle at Schur Sails - another local Pensacola firm that does first class work at a reasonable price.

Final items include painting the bottom (antifouling), wet sanding/polishing a few remaining scratches on he starboard hull, and detail cleaning/polishing the topsides and hulls.  

Of course we have had several rain days sine she was hauled out - but we are hoping for a speedy turnaround by the yard and our contractor - Perdido Sailor!  So the pressure is on Brandon.....its all up to you now!

Our Plans for 2021

Of course with the ongoing Covid situation, our plans are even more certain to be "written in the sand at low tide" - meaning subject to change and revision.  I know that many of my blog readers are in Europe and other parts of the world, but the situation here in the US is far more.........well I hesitate to say better, but certainly more "nonchalant" than other parts of the world.  Comparatively, we have few restrictions on travel within the US, and facilities are certainly open and available.

That said, our current plans are to leave -hopefully later in March and head south around Florida then across to the Bahamas.  From there, we will likely head back to the US East Coast (Maybe June) and head north for Hurricane Season.  I hesitate to put this in writing, because I just know that things will likely change.  But as of now - that's the plan.  I will keep you posted, but we are getting excited to hopefully be underway soon.  Now that does mean we have a LOT of preparation work to do in the next month.  So wish us luck!!

Video Update

I have finally finished the video series on our Atlantic Crossing from La Rochelle France to Josephine, Alabama!  This has been quite a project, but the entire trip including our planning and preparations now form 9 episodes that are uploaded to YouTube.  The final part - Episode 9 covers the Bahamas to home.  Since we have come through the Bahamas several times and since this was the last leg of our trip, we  passed through fairly quickly but did manage to stop at a few places that we had not had a chance to visit on previous trips.

Please check out the final episode at: 

If you would like to see the full series of videos, please check out the following link:

Thursday, January 28, 2021

We Have a New Mast!

Our new mast has arrived and as of this post (Jan 28, 2021), is being installed by Zern Rigging of Pensacola.  Once the install is completed and we have se-trialed the boat, I will write a post on the differences and improvements.

Needless to say we are very happy and will soon be back on the water.  We are planning a cruise starting (hopefully) in March.  More info to follow on that.  We have been very busy with repairs since Hurricane Sally.......and the new mast is a significant step forward.

Here are a few photos of the work in progress:

Waiting patiently for the boom truck to lift the mast!

New mast design - note the spreaders - Two levels!

St. Christopher and Silver in place - taking no chances this time.  Note the more robust mast foot.

Mast in place  - now to work on the Standing Rigging

One step closer to getting back to being a Sailboat!

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Progress with Repairs!

By way of recap - Midnight Sun III was damaged in Hurricane Sally.  The devastation to boats in our area is difficult to comprehend.  So many boats were lost as a result of the unexpected nature of Hurricane Sally.  We were expecting tropical storm conditions at worst, and we actually got a Cat 2 (I think 3) hurricane.  The worst attribute was that it was a slow mover, and we had sustained winds well over 100mph for hours and a high storm surge (I measured close to 9 ft).

If you look back a couple of posts, you will see some photos of our damage.  The major damage to MS3 was the loss of the mast.  Other damage was largely superficial - but the estimate from the boatyard was still substantial.  Notwithstanding that - the boatyards have all been full with wrecked boats etc, and all the repair contractors are booked and cannot give a date as to when they can start.  Its been very frustrating  - so I decided to get moving on the repairs myself and have the boatyard do anything I could not get to.  I'm happy to say that although its been slow.......I am almost there!  THe big thing of course is the mast - and I am pleased to say our new design has just been delivered to Zern Rigging in Pensacola and it should be installed next week (guessing around January 15 2021).

Mounting points for pulpit seats

So in the meantime, I have been grinding out spider cracks around deck hardware.....filling with epoxy and re-gelcoating......

So far, I am pretty pleased with the progress on this.  There's a bit more sanding and polishing needed.  But most of these areas will be drilled out again to mount hardware.

There were also some scratches on the coach-roof, that I have pretty much got out with a light wet sanding.  Once this is complete, I plan to have the topsides professionally detailed, compounded and waxed.  Yes, I could do that my self and may do if I can't find anyone that will do this for me........but I do think there is an art to doing this well.

Helm Station

I have been building a new helm station enclosure.  This time, the new version will have a hard top

Removing the old frame - bent by the tree
Removing the old damaged frame for Helm Station

Building the new frame from 1 1/4" dia. stainless steel tubing

Fabricating a new hard top from 3/4" thick King Starboard XL.  This is pretty heavy material, but it sure beats laying up fiberglass and it seemed to machine pretty well with a router.

New stainless steel frame installed ready for hardtop.  I also took the opportunity to run some cable in the frame so that I can add lighting.

Installing a Lewmar hatch in the hardtop for ventilation and to be able to see the sails when sailing!

The next step is to get this up on top of the boat!

And Viola!  New hardtop on the boat.  I have temporarily attached the old windshield, but we have a new canvas enclosure on order for the hele station and for the entire cockpit area.  We should have that installed by the end of February. I think this is really going to change the look of the boat  I have installed wiring in the frame so that I can put LED lights in the hardtop.  So there is still some work left to do before this project is complete!

The next step was removing and mounting damaged deck hardware.  This has been fairly easy - there are a few damaged stanchions.  I had to re-bed and tighten a couple of bases, but so far no gel-coat cracks other than the forward pulpit seats that I fixed.  I have just replaced the metalwork for those and fabricated new seats also from Starboard.  I thought the original seats were teak. but they turned out to be  marine ply.  So I figured the Starboard would last longer.  When making the new seats, I made them about 1.5 inches bigger (at the request of the admiral) to accommodate bigger butts!

So we are getting very close to being seaworthy again.  Jobs remaining include replacing a piece of toe rail and sealing a leak on a window.  Oh - and of course a new mast!   Which has arrived in Pensacola.  We will be headed to the shipyard next week to have the mast, rigging, and sails installed by Zern Rigging and Schurr Sails.  These guys are the best and I can highly recommend them.  They work very closely together to ensure everything fits.  We have had work done by Zern and Schurr before and they are  both first class!

Anyway - I am going to go ahead and post this and hopefully one more update should see us back on the water as a sailboat rather than a cata-trawler!

Monday, December 7, 2020

Article Pubished in Multihull Sailor

 I feel very honored to have an article published Sail Magazine's MultiHull Sailor.  I am not sure if it will be legible here, but if not, you can always take a look for it on Sail Magazine's website.  Please visit 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Saving Midnight Sun III - Hurricane Sally

Hurricane Sally (landfall September 16, 2020)

I wish I was writing this post under  better circumstances, but as they say, "it is what it is".   Let me first say that Janet, Austin, and I are fine as are our dogs Salty and Annabelle.  

We had been carefully watching the development of Hurricane Sally.  This was the storm that came from nowhere, moving across Florida as a disturbance and stalling in the Gulf of Mexico.  The National Hurricane Center first gave it a track towards Louisiana, about 350 miles west of us.  But we watched as slow but sure the model runs started trending east.  Equally worrying, this was a slow moving storm - first predicted to be a Tropical Storm.  But as it moved at a snails pace over the Gulf (3 mph), it grew in magnitude and its path became unpredictable.

Here's what we got

The storm path went just east of Mobile Bay through Orange Beach and pretty much over our home which is located on Perdido Bay.  Unlike most hurricanes, this storm was a very slow mover.  Official reports to date clocked this one as 
a strong Category 2 storm.  Unofficially, we are pretty sure it was a Cat 3.  We know we had winds that lasted for over 4 hours in the 100-130mph range and on either side of that, winds in the 70+ mph range for 3-4 hours on each end.

While we were safe in our house, the noises were incredible. Wind, debris hitting the house, shingles tearing off the roof.  Of course all of this happened in the early hours of the morning and after the power blew out.  We were also watching the rising surge water.  Our floor slab is about 9.5 ft above sea level and a
4-7 ft surge was predicted.  We are on the water but on a bay about 2 miles inland from the I thought we may get 5-6 ft at the house given attenuation from the bay and time needed for water to reach us through the Perdido Pass inlet.  Well that was not the case.  We got about 7-8 ft at the house and water was 6-8 inches from flooding the house (accounting for waves).  We had water in the garage and shed with waves.  

We had moved one car to higher ground - just in case.  The 2 in the garage got wet tires, but didn't flood.  

Fortunately we had made a last minute decision to put up storm shutters and during the storm we braced the garage door with 2 x 4 timbers to prevent it from blowing in.  Strongest winds came from the east across Perdido Bay bringing waves and debris from neighbors' docks that typically run 300-400 ft into the Bay.

We were watching the boat, Midnight Sun III carefully in her slip.  I had tied her in with just about all the lines that I had - about 18 lines in total.  Our dock is very protected and perhaps one of the better spots to ride out a storm.  The boat was tied to the dock, the boathouse and trees.  She was doing very well, then with the water above the dock, and at the height of the 130mph winds, I noticed something was wrong.  With a flashlight, I could see the stern of the boat sitting up and the bow down.  It took several minutes peering in the dark with winds howling to realize that a large tree had fallen on her. With the wind noise, we didn't hear the tree go down.  It was a very stout 50+ ft high oak tree, measuring almost 4 ft in diameter at the base.  Holy crap!....but we could do nothing.  I suspect but can't confirm that we had a tornado amid the storm, and flood waters had definitely saturated the soils and loosened the tree's root structure.   On closer look the mast of the boat was gone, but the boat seemed to be pinned by the tree but floating.

As Morning Light Came

Midnight Sun III pinned by tree

Tree laying across Bows

Debris in our yard

Everyone had debris from destroyed docks

About 50 percent shingles missing from roof

View from Roof

I can't describe it in words, but to see out paradise destroyed was simply overwhelming.  Where do you start?  I remembered the old joke - how do you eat an elephant?   Answer - one piece at a time.  Two weeks earlier I had surgery for a hernia - my instructions were not to lift anything over 2 pounds for 6 weeks.So add overwhelming frustration to those feelings.

When Friends Really Count

Our phones lit up with messages from friends checking on us.  Thank you everyone for your concern.  Janet and I can't thank you all enough!
But what really was amazing was the people that showed up to help.  So I must mention them - with apologies to anyone that I miss:
  • Our daughter Helen immediately loaded up with tarps, chainsaw, gas, rubber name it; and drove down (10 hours) from Tennessee.  Then climbed on the roof with Austin (our son) and I to tar holes and place tarps.  Helen and Austin - we love you and can't imagine what we would have done without you!
  • Friend and former colleague Jeff Simons similarly drove from Birmingham and helped for 3 days.  Cutting and moving debris and anything else he could lend a hand with.  Jeff was similarly amazing - thank you so much.....words can't describe!
  • Sailing friends Larry and Tracy and their son Taylor were there despite having damage to their own boat.  They started the process of cutting away tree limbs off the boat........and many other things - thank you guys!  You are the best as always!  The job was looking too big and we needed a heavy lift, so I started the search for a crew with a crane.
  • Jared Patterson came to lend a hand with removal
  • Shaun West and Casey Kimberley arrived.......on a tractor loaned to them by Pirates Cove Bar..  now that was a true "God-send"  Shaun spent the better part of a day 
Shaun and Pirates Cove Tractor

moving and stacking debris, with help from Jeff.  Without the tractor, we would have still been moving debris.  Thank you Shaun and thank you Pirate's Cove!
  • And of course all of our neighbors helped each other where we could.  Mike, Cathy, Ron and Cindy - thank you!  But a special thank you to neighbors Paula and Kenny for allowing heavy equipment access by their driveway!
  • Pirates Cove Bar made burgers for the neighborhood and gave away beer for 2 days, despite having their bar/grill essentially destroyed.
  • The adjacent neighborhood (Stone Quarry) made BBQ for several hundred people
  • The Red Cross showed up with meals, tools, water and supplies.

Saving Midnight Sun

I worked the phones.....filing insurance claims, and trying to find a way to get the tree off the boat.  While Geico (boat insurance) were good, they would not commit to what they would pay to get the tree off.  So I took it into my own hands - it had to come off and quickly if we were going to save her. We will argue about money later!

I got a couple of tree services to quote......after sticker shock, I hired the one that had the crane available.  4 guys and a crane from Trinity Excavating worked for 2 days to remove the tree, and recover the mast from the canal.  They did it "piece by piece" (just like eating an elephant).  They caused no further damage - which was amazing!. 

 More amazingly, it seems that damage to the boat is fairly superficial.
  • no holes!
  • bent stanchions and hardware
  • scratches seem superficial
  • some damage to solar panels
  • broken mast
  • and I am sure we will find more as we get into it
  • After tree removal, it took 60 man-hours to clean off the sawdust and staining from the tree and debris.  I pressure washed her 3 times, and had to chemically clean the decks, coachroof, and cockpit.

The bottom line is - she is saved and repairable!  Midnight Sun III will sail again!  How long it will take to get a new mast from France......????  we shall see.  But our good friends at Zern Rigging are already starting the process.

Our insurance adjuster has now seen the boat and has approved us to commence estimates and repairs.  I know it will take several months, but we will get there.

Branches removed

The Root Ball

Now to start Repairs

The trunk

Mast Recovery

I will keep you posted as we make progress!.....Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement.   More to follow!

We are Thankful

Our  hearts go out to all of our friends that are in worst shape than us.  There are many.  We are thankful to be living, thankful for no injuries.  For those of you that know us, you will know that sailing and the sailing community here on the Gulf of Mexico is a huge part of our lives.  Unfortunately, about 50 percent of our sailing friends have had major damage or a total loss of their boat plus (in some cases) damage to their homes.  I will not name all the boats that have been lost, as everyone is still dealing with it in their own way.  Although they are fundamentally inanimate objects - boats have a special place in the heart of their owners.  Especially the ones that have carried their owners safely across oceans!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trip to the Forgotten Coast

Back to Florida's Forgotten Coast

Florida's Forgotten Coast

Cape San Blas, Florida
If you read my blog on a regular may have seen several posts about Florida's Forgotten Coast.  Maybe that is because its one of my favorite cruising grounds.  Having now sailed from Europe, through the Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, Cuba......well I have to say, this is still one of my favorite cruising grounds.  Why? - white, deserted beaches; virtually no plastic debris; nice anchorages, blue water; friendly towns and locals........and its close to home.  All attributes that  go a long way towards making it a special place!

Our Trip

Our trip took us from home to Ft. McCree, Pensacola for an overnight stay.  We left McRee at around 8am with nice winds from the S, to SW.  The seas were a little big and confused due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal which came through the area over the weekend.  But all in all not bad and the south winds were perfect for our ENE sail to Panama City.

We made great time with speeds generally over mid 7s and regularly into the 8s and 9s.  We were able to fly our Code Zero sail all the way.  We did get a little close to its rated 20 kt apparent wind speed, but all was good.

I think the top speed that I saw for the day was 10.9kts.  Which is pretty respectable for a cruising cat in winds that didn't exceed about 18kts.

It was a great sail, and we made it into Panama City/St. Andrews Bay well before dark anchoring near Shell Island.
Shell Island, St. Andrews Bay

Salty enjoyed stretching his legs after a long 85 mile day-sail on the shore at Shell Island.and all was good for the night.

The following day (Thursday) we set sail again for Cape San Blas/St. Joe's Bay.  The wind was light and nowhere near as cooperative so it was a motor sail, but with full sail and one engine running, we were making a respectable 6.5 to 7 kts making it a sort 25 mile day to the anchorage at the  tip of Cape San Blas.

After a night at the Cape, we continued on to Apalachicola and spent a night at the Apalachicola Marina.  Well marina is a bit of a stretch - its a long side-tie dock with power and water, an that's the extent of the facilities.  But its a great location right across the street from Apalachicola Ice Company (Bar).  Salty enjoyed talking to the bar staff and listening to the band!
Salty orders drinks at the Apalachicola Ice Company

The following day, we moved on again and headed for Carabelle and Dog Island.  The first night we
anchored just off  Carabelle Beach for a smooth night at anchor.  The following day, we explored Dog Island.  We headed over to the east end first and explored the area around Tyson's Harbor.  I was surprised at the number of homes on this private island and cars - since there is no ferry service that supports the island..  There is apparently a water taxi available from Carabelle.
Anchored off East End of Dog Island

For the evening, we moved down to Shipping Cove on the west end of the island.  This proved to be a great spot with a nice beach that formed a narrow barrier between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The view from the anchorage was great, and the narrow sandy beach between us and the Gulf provided protection from any wave action.
Shipping Cove - Sandy Beach separating Gulf and Bay

Returning Home

The following day we decided reluctantly to start the return journey.  Looking ahead at the weather, we saw less favorable winds - not heavy, just with a west component making it "uphill sailing".  We decided that we would sail on the outside (Gulf) on the return.  Our boat-buddy, Tra-Sea indeed did this.  We set off out of the pass and conditions were not great.  We were hobby-horsing and the admiral  was not feeling great.  She had been a trouper as she is recovering from a bout of Shingles.  So, given the discomfort we elected to follow our outbound tracks and return via the bay and ICW to Cape San Blas.

We actually had a great downwind (dead downwind) sail across St. George's Bay before motoring along the ICW/Apalachicola River.  It was a nice comfortable trip and I think the admiral approved of the route!  Surprisingly, we arrived in St. Joes Bay just ahead of Tra-Sea and again spent the night just off Cape San Blas.

The following day we moved the boats and anchored just off the entrance to the old marina which as destroyed by hurricane Michael and to date has not been re-built.  It does seem however that a portion of the marina sea wall is actually public and is outside the fenced area.  We ere able to tie up our dinghies to the wall for a  visit into town.  There is also a fishing charter boat that seems to be operating from this spot.  We love the town of Port St. Joe.  It is so friendly and the town is not over-run with tourists (most of the time).  We had a great lunch at Krazyfish, got a few provisions from the Pig (Piggly Wiggly), and of course had "just one more" at the Haughty Heron.

St. Joes Bay
We decided to try a different anchorage for the night and new spot for us.  We moved the boats down
to the south end of St. Joes Bay to an area known as Lighthouse Bay.  We attempted to dinghy over to to a relatively new brew pub called Scallop Republic.located near Salinas Park.  Unfortunately we tried this at low tide and water in the majority of this end of the bay was less than one foot deep.  We got to within about 100 yards..........but the girls were not up for walking in the mud!! it was drinks and dinner on the boat.

The following day we sailed back to St. Andrews and were able to dock at the St. Andrews Yacht Club.  even though still suffering from some storm damage, the club is open, and they have one floating dock available with no power or water.  The staff were great adn very helpful.  We actually stayed 2 nights making use of thier nice swimming pool.  We then headed onwards to Destin. for the night.

Lost Prop!

As we arrived in Destin, we discovered we had lost a prop somewhere en-route.  No idea how or where!  it was definitely on the boat as we motored out of the pass.  We then sailed; but when we headed to wind to drop sails, we had limited control and no drive from the port side.  After safely anchoring in Destin Harbor, a quick dip in the water confirmed that a prop was missing......Geez - no idea where that went.  its a folding it will be $$$$$$$$$.   The following day we limped home on one engine...upwind.  We motorsailed as and when we could to keep a reasonable speed.   So now the search is on for a replacement prop.  It looks like it will have to be shipped from Denmark as none of the US prop shops seem to stock them.  Ugh......oh well - that's sailing!