Sunday, January 30, 2022

Making Good Progress! - Bahamas Bound

 Moving Right Along

We saw a seemingly good weather window to make the longest leg of the trip to the Bahamas - this, surprisingly is the trip across the "Big Bend" of the Florida Panhandle.  From Apalachicola, we motored up to Dog Island on the ICW, just inside St. George Island.  There, we made an appropriate "pitstop" for Salty so he could relieve himself on Dog Island.  We walked the beach for an hour or so for him to run off some energy.  We left Dog Island at around 4:30pm so that we would have a daylight arrival in either Anclote Key or Clearwater. 

A brief stop at Dog Island
It was a cold day, but the wind direction was favorable from the NE to NNE.  I looked at 6 weather models.  Now I must say that to me the forecasts for this part of the Gulf have always tended to be a bit iffy, but the models were reasonably consistent.  I think discrepancies happen on this area because there are not many observations in the area.......and many of the weather buoys in the area are not operational, or have gone missing in storms - so the models have few data points.  Anyway, 4 models showed wind strength from 10-15kts - on the beam so perfect.  One showed 14-18, and one showed 15-20.  At least the directions were consistent.  What do you think we actually got?  Well, when we left, we were struggling to make good speed with winds at 6-8., so we put out the Code Zero.  Soon we were at 10-12 kts of wind - perfect, smooth calm conditions and moving at good speed.  But of course things changed after dark.  

Winds built and we switched from Code Zero to jib.  Winds built, seas got lumpy with 3-5 ft waves but
Salty finds a stick!

at about 4 seconds period - yuck!.....crash bang, bumps in the road!  For the majority of the trip we had winds in the 18-26 range, with some significant periods of 23-25 kts.  Well although it was bumpy, we were going fast, averaging in the high 7s and 8s and peaking at 11kts.  We slowed down for the last few hours with wind decreasing to below 14 kts, and direction moving behind us.  So we switched back to the Code Zero sail to maintain about 6 kts in speed.

Sunset over Big Bend

Since we were making such good time, we elected to go directly to Clearwater as we had made a reservation for a night at the Clearwater YC.  We made it in by about 2:30pm making for a great time for the crossing.  The total trip from Apalachicola was 164 miles, and about 144 from Dog Island - so 145 miles in about 22 hours - not bad  going!

After a night in Clearwater (staying at Clearwater YC), we continued on to Tampa Bay, then back up to St. Pete's as a gale watch was coming into effect bringing cold frigid air our way.  Wait - wasn't Florida supposed to be warmer??

We decided to have a little downtime so elected to stay 3 nights at St. Pete's YC.  So for anyone reading and thinking "why stay at Yacht Clubs?" - there's a very good reason.  We are members of Pensacola YC which is a member of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs.  One amazing benefit is a free night at any Florida Council YC, and with dockage at at $3-4/ft at commercial marinas.....this is a great deal!  Of course we will anchor in some locations, but in urban settings with things to do ashore, the marinas are more convenient.  And the people and staff at the YCs have been so helpful and friendly so far - thank you Clearwater and St. Pete's!

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On Monday, we will head for Sarasota!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Headed to South!

Boat Prep - Done

Oil Changes - Done

Convert main head to fresh-water flush - Done

Install iPad at Nav Station - Done

Provision - Done

Create Bahamas Profiles and apply for Pet Permit - Done

Wow!  It must be time to head out!

Bahamas Bound!

Well with the most tentative of plans and all written in the sand at low tide, we have pushed off the dock and are headed south (well actually east at the moment).  Our plan is to head to the Bahamas  - but given all of the uncertainties in the world and in our immediate lives, I hesitate to say anything but “let’s take it a day at a time and head towards the Bahamas”.  We tried to get there last year, and found that Janet’s dad was terminally ill, so had to make the decision to turn around in south Florida.  Sadly, Don passed away, but Janet was at least able to spend some quality time with her Dad.  We are thankful for the time we had, but of course wished for a different outcome.

This year, although we are optimistic, we still have a couple of things that are kind of “looming”.  Of course, in this new world that we live in, there is always a risk that the Covid situation may change limiting our ability to travel to the Bahamas.  Secondly, our amazing dog Salty has been diagnosed with a blood-borne cancer.  We were fortunate to spot a change in his mood and activity and he had a large tumor on his spleen that required emergency surgery.  Fortunately he recovered extremely well from surgery, but unfortunately a biopsy of the tumor revealed the presence of cancer.  After heart-wrenching discussions with our excellent vet, we have decided to enjoy every day we have with Salty and live as normal a life as we can.  There appears to be no viable treatment with a good chance of extending a quality life for him.  He is currently in great health having recovered  amazingly quickly from his surgery and is back to his normal, happy self..  As a precaution, we had him checked by the vet a few days ago and he is healthy and an ultra-sound indicated no current issues - so fingers crossed and as I said -  one day at a time as every day is a bonus day.  So for anyone sharing our journey, and especially if you know Salty and know how much he loves to be on the water and on a new beach every day….please share him a thought and a prayer as we embark on this adventure.  If you know him, I am sure he has touched your life.  For me this guy has changed my life.  He is the most intelligent dog or animal I have ever come across and is truly this man's "best friend".

Leaving Pensacola

Yesterday, we did the final loading of the boat - thank goodness it was at the house as the system was less than organized…..but we have what I hope we need for a several moth trip.  We left the house and headed to Ft. McRee for the evening.

It was a cold night with temperatures just below freezing.  We set the alarm for “early”.  The following morning, Salty got a pre-sunrise trip to the beach, then we loaded up and were out of the anchorage as the sun was starting to rise.  The Gulf was pretty calm. And with a north wind of about 10kts, we are on a beam reach headed for Panama City, making 6.5 kts.  After a few hours, the wind lighted up and moved west of north, so needing to make good time we started motor-sailing.  Our hope is to make Panama City as soon after sunset as we can (its about 85 miles).  We planed to anchor just inside the pass near Shell Island  so that we can get an early departure in the morning. This all worked out!

We set off on Monday headed for Apalachicola.  Another log day, but not quite so early a start, and we arrived by 4pm.  We went offshore to Cape San Blas, then along our favorite route up the ditch and Jackson River to Apalachicola.  It is always such a wonderful ride on this stretch of the ICW which is so remote and wonderful!

As of 4pm, January 24, we are docked in Apalachicola.  Bad weather tomorrow - so a down day and already things to fix!

But that is Cruising!