Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas

Ron and I have been privileged to attend many churches along the way, some large, some small, some with music and some without.  Today, this fourth Sunday of Advent,  we attended St Brendan's in Clearwater Beach, FL.  We were very impressed with several things.  The music was wonderful.  The deacon, Dr. Bill Gorman, a former nurse, gave the homily and did a wonderful job.  He welcomed visitors and asked where each was from.  He told a story about a volunteer who worked with soldiers who displayed emotional problems in the emergency room of the hospital where he worked in New York.  When asked what this volunteer did to calm each soldier, she said, "I just told them that God loved them" and they immediately calmed down. The priest, Fr. Eric Hunter, a true Irishman, had a wonderful voice and sang many parts of the mass.  We attended the donuts and coffee social after mass and met a a very nice couple from Canada.  After church, we took the trolley to Tarpon Springs.  All in all, a wonderful day.

We will not be posting until after the first of the year, so we want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Appalachicola to Carrabelle to Clearwater

We enjoyed the company of the crew on Glory Days,(Joe, Tom, Bob, Jim, and John), and after two windy, cold days at Appalachicola, we headed for Carrabelle to wait for the weather window.  11/11, 11/12, 11/13, 11/14 We waited!  While we waited for the weather window, we enjoyed Docktails at C-Quarters Marina every evening. After the first evening, we realized that everyone took their dog along and just let them roam freely to play.  So on night two, we decided that we would take Duke.  This marina was about 1/4 mile from where we were staying and we walked along the highway.  Ron decided to let Duke run freely with all of the other animals.....that seemed like a good idea, until someone said....I think your dog just left.  Ron followed Duke and found that he had returned to our boat on his own....guess he's just not a party animal!
 Although we stayed at the Moorings, just down the river, most of the loopers went to C-Quarters.  We chose the Moorings because we heard that Buddy, a long term employee and weather prognosticator, could tell us when to cross safely.  Both Tom Conrad (the AGLCA weather musings guy) and Buddy said that Thursday the 15th was the day to cross.  Buddy said that it was not wise to leave East Pass and set a direct course to Clearwater because of something called the loop current.  He said that we should instead set a course due east (30 miles) to Buoy 26 and then set our course southeast to Clearwater.  That would provide us with calmer seas.  Seven boats (Glory Days, Gemini, Jeremiah, Adagio, Gold Leaf, Nauti Nell, and Laughter) followed his recommendations and we were really happy that we had done so.  After the first hour of 2 foot waves, the sea calmed down.

  Although the first four hours of darkness were a bit unnerving, the 1/2 moon appeared around 10 pm and gave us some light for the remaining 8 hours we traveled in the dark.  When the sun rose we had to deal with crab pots for 4 hours as we approached was like a mine field of things that look like large hand grenades with wire baskets attached to the bottom.  If a boat snags one, it can damage the prop.  Fortunately, we navigated through them without incident.  The shore here is beautiful and the weather is warm.  My best friend Becky lives within a few miles of the marina, so we were able to meet her for we hadn't slept yet, that will come later. (Ron napped for an hour during the 22 hour crossing and I slept on and off for about 4 hours)
We had obsessed about how the crossing would affect Duke.  Should we give him sedatives?  Should we buy a grass pad for the stern?  How would he handle 24 hours without bathroom privileges?  Well, our worries were unfounded.  When we left Carrabelle, Duke went to sleep in the helm and slept for 22 hours.  He did not attempt to drink any water or eat any food.  Twice we gave him a small biscuit and he went right back to sleep.  He behaved no differently than usual when we arrived at Clearwater....he was a real trooper!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ft. Walton Beach to Apalachicola

11/8 (Ft. Walton Beach to Panama City).  We left at 0645 with Glory Days and Gemini.  As they pulled away from the dock, we put our boat in reverse, tried to back out of the slip and got stuck due to low tide and winds from the north. We threw a line to the port stern, pulled our boat over, and pivoted while reversing and finally got out of the slip.  The trip today was uneventful...much improved wind conditions.  A few military jets flew over which provided us with entertainment.  We arrived at Panama City marina around 1400. Duke, always anxious to exit the boat after docking, missed the dock and fell 4 feet into the water.  He looked up in total panic and swam to the nearest piling which was thick with barnacles.  He held on to the barnacles for dear life until Ron lowered the dingy to provide him with access to the swim step.  It took all of Ron's strength to haul him out with just his collar, so from now on, we are making him wear his harness or life jacket. We went to dinner at The Place, a good burger joint. with the guys from Glory Days.

11/9/ Panama City to Apalachicola
We left at 0700 and followed Glory Days through narrow channels in very shallow bays with 1 foot of water just outside the channels.  Then we traveled through 25 miles of  straight manmade canals unitl we arrived at Apalachicola.
Eleven loopers got together for dinner at Papa Joe's Oyster Bar.  We met the Groggs, Stan and Barbara.  Stan is the dean of the medical school at Oklahoma State and Barbara is a nurse practitioner.  Interestingly, they never owned a boat before starting the loop. 
We will be here at Scipio Marina for 2 days and then move to the Moorings at Carabelle.  We will wait there for an acceptable weather window so that we can cross the gulf.  We get daily weather advice from Tom Conrad through the AGLCA website on when conditions are conducive to cross (waves 2 feet or less and winds 10 knots or less).  Originally we'd planned to go to Steinhatchee only 75 miles, but we've decided to bite the bullet and cross from Carabelle to Clearwater (175 miles) at 9 or 10 mph which will take 18 hours to cross.  We will definitely be crossing with other loopers.  We're not sure how we will manage Duke's bathroom issues yet.  So far we've been blessed with safe weather, good companions, and common sense...all of which we will need for a successful crossing. Please pray for a safe crossing for all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Orange Beach to Ft Walton Beach

11/6  We made it to Ft Walton Beach by 3:00pm without any bad weather, although it looked threatening behind us.  The new auto pilot worked well, but we are still not getting good reception from a distance with our radio.  After arriving at the downtown free dock, we walked through the adjacent park and shopping area.  In the slip next to us is Gemini, whom we met through Jenny and Jerry Reves the night we anchored on the Tennessee River. About 11:30 pm,  4 or 5 older teen boys, who sounded as if they had been drinking, came onto the dock right next to our boats.  They were up to no good and made several comments about the boats and they people who were on them.  Fortunately, Duke did not attract their attention by barking, and after about 10 minutes they left.  It was the first time I've felt unsafe on the whole trip.
11/7  We arose early for an early departure.  Today we were scheduled to go across Choctawahtchee Bay, a thirty mile open water area. After listening to the forecast and discussing it with Steve (Gemini), we decided to stay put since there is a high wind warning through tomorrow morning.  Better safe than sorry!  Two more boats came in today in the rough weather...Inconceivable and Glory Days.  We went to dinner at the local Italian restaurant with the crew from Gemini (Steve & Beth)  and Glory Days (Joe, Jim, Tom, Bob).  Nice time!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Orange Beach

12/5  We had a great weekend visiting with Sherry....dinner Friday night at Cosmo's and Sunday breakfast at Hazel's. 

Then we went to the Outlet Mall near Sherry's home and were able to meet Foley.  Duke and Foley were able to play for a while and we got a tour of Sherry's condo (very nice!). 
This morning we are hoping to do a sea trial of our new Auto Pilot system, however, there were some glitches and our Vessel View is not may be here through today.  We are anxious to get to Carabelle which is several days away.  There have been very few days calm enough to cross the Gulf (only 3 good days in November).  We don't want to miss a good weather window. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eastern Shore Marine to Orange Beach Marina

11/30  Although the weather forecast was for winds of 15 knots, we decided to leave.  We had been stuck at Eastern Shore Marine for a week due to high winds.  Eastern Shore Marine was not bathroom/shower for women and one for men,one washer/one dryer, and a courtesy van with a sliding door that flew open when you drove it.  The people at the marina were nice, though, and the town of Fairhope was lovely.  When we left, winds were out of the northwest, and provided us with a following sea most of the way to the intracoastal.  As we arrived at the intracoastal, we immediately had dolphins on our starboard bow.  We had been in the intracoastal about 15 minutes when we saw a boat (Salt and Sand) ahead of us pulled over and boarded by the coastguard.  When the coastguard disembarked Salt and Sand, they had a choice of examining a catamaran sailboat, a homemade raft (with hippies aboard), and us.  Guess who they boarded?  You guessed it.  They boarded us.  The way they did it....someone drove the coastguard vessel and pulled along side us.  Two coastguard members boarded us from the stern while we traveled at idle speed.  The first thing they asked, "Do you have any weapons on board".  Then they asked for documentation on the boat, general information about where we were going, our home port, etc.  They were very nice, and disembarked after about 10 minutes.  I guess we looked like harmless old people.  After getting off the intracoastal and winding toward Perdido Pass, we arrived at Orange Beach Marina which is really tucked away at the end of a bay.  We chose it because we need to have some electronics done, and this facility has Saunders Yachtworks and Extreme Electronics. Today they are working on our AIS system, the VHF radio, and the Vessel View which does not have a GPS signal.   They are going to install our Nema 2000 Auto Pilot tomorrow.    The marina charges loopers $1.00 per foot (regular price is $1.50 per foot).  We are so pleased that we will be able to see Sherry Wright, our former daughter-in-law tonight...she lives nearby and is coming to see the boat and join us for dinner.