Saturday, December 16, 2017

Foggy morning on Tampa Bay when we left St. Pete.
[Hilde’s log]

As I write this, we are sitting quietly in our slip in Burnt Store Marina, about 10 miles south of Punta Gorda and about 1/3 the way up Charlotte Harbor. We’ve pretty much recovered from our trip down from Pensacola, the laundry is done, we have managed to reprovision, and we’ve found the sailor’s library in the laundry room. All in all, not bad. Although I must tell you, winter in Florida is not the kind of warmth I was expecting. The temperature climbs to the low 80s in the afternoon, but the breeze is downright cold. I find myself wearing long sleeves and sweaters in 78-80 degree weather and scratching my head. No one else has commented on it, which leads me to believe they are all from Buffalo, NY.

Our trip from St. Petersburg took us down the InterCoastal Waterway (ICW) in the hopes of beating the huge winter storm that stretched from Pennsylvania to Cuba at one point. We didn’t quite make it, due to our decision to come in at St. Petersburg, which lost us two days. However, we did manage to tuck into a wonderfully protected anchorage between Lido and Otter Keys, and that is where we waited out the high winds. 

Our anchorage at Otter Key, with the cold front looming behind us. The first day we were there, it was 80 and I luxuriated in the cockpit. The second day...eeep. Cold.

You have to bump over a sand bar at high water to get into this anchorage, which meant we had to time our exit to the tide. We actually used this Google Earth app to navigate the bar (to the bottom right of Otter Key above you can see the bar and the narrow channel). The blue dot moved as we did and we could see where the sand was. Now, that was novel!

When we left the anchorage, the winds were down, but so was the temperature (40). We were really, really cold in our open cockpit, bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, and grateful for the relatively calm air. Every detail of the scenery was in sharp relief as the cold front swept all traces of moisture from the atmosphere.

Me peering over the dodger as we chug down the ICW. I'm too short by about 4".
The ICW is a protected “trail” for boats, with barrier islands between you and the open sea. That cuts way down on chop and wind. In some places the waterway is very wide, but you have to navigate by instruments to stay on the “path” - that part of the waterway that is deep enough for passage. Otherwise, you risk going aground. In other places, the waterway is very narrow, like a canal. You have to hand steer, as well, because of the twists and turns. It’s not particularly difficult, just a lot of motoring which jiggles my insides and makes me tired.

In Florida the ICW is littered with bridges, all of which we have to pass under. Having a 49 foot mast, that means we have to call most of the bridges to request passage. The bridge operators are almost all quick to respond to a hail and very helpful, but the sheer number of bridges can really slow you down. One day we passed under nine of them!

Approaching a bridge on the ICW.

I truly enjoy passage on the ICW because there is so much to see. I particularly like looking at all the birds. We saw brown pelicans, white pelicans, gulls, terns, little shore birds, ospreys, buzzards, ibis, herons, etc. Some of the birds were roosting in the mangroves, which made the mangroves look like decorated Christmas trees. Some stood on the sand bars, sunning themselves and stretching their wings. Some stood or waded on sand bars in the shallow, glittering water, enjoying the returning warmth as the sun rose.

A large flock of ibis gathered in the mud flats at the base of the mangroves, goozling in the mud for their breakfast. So glad I don’t have to dig my breakfast out of the mud. The gray-white branches of a dead tree on the bank were draped in huge, black roosting buzzards. Below the tree, another 20 or so were shambling around, flapping their wings and nudging each other out of the way. Above, in the clear sky, another group of buzzards rode the thermals, gliding up and around in the air enjoying the day. I have no idea why there were so many.

Ospreys are everywhere, roosting on the ICW channel markers and here at the marina on sailboat masts. They fly by with the unfortunate fish they have caught for their dinner. Ospreys make the prettiest calls, not screaming as so many raptors do, but instead making a flute-like call that is almost a song.

I apologize for no photos of the birds, but I was freezing and wearing thick gloves I was not interested in removing to take pictures!
After one more day at anchor we chugged up Charlotte Harbor to the marina. The harbor is a perfect place to sail if you have the wind at the right angle, but it was right on our nose and we were too tired to tack back and forth. Arriving about 1 p.m., we tucked into our slip, sighed over yet another short finger pier, and hooked up the heat! Oh, luxury!

Entrance to Burnt Store Marina
View from our slip. More of the dreaded finger piers.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Adventures are Better Told Than Lived

[Hilde's log]

Our first day out gave us calm seas and light winds under a bright sun and blue sky. That night the full moon rose, coating the sea with liquid silver. The light of the full moon illuminated the haze on the water, giving us a diffused glow like predawn light. David and I sat in the cockpit, listened to the radio, sang Christmas carols and thought, this is great! We love cruising!

The moon rises in the east on one side of the boat...

....while the sun goes down in the west on the other side of the boat.

Then about 1 a.m. (why is it always in the early hours?), it got cold, the wind piped up and the ride got interesting. We did all right that night although it was more work than we liked. The next day the wind laid down and the seas remained moderate, but both of us were feeling a little punk. I discounted that – after all, we’d already done the seasick thing leaving Galveston, so that was behind us. I thought.

For my watches, I sit here, cuddled up next to the companionway and the dodger, mostly protected from the wind.

The green canvas you see with the metal bar across the top is the dodger, which keeps most of the wind and water off of us. The tan is the bimini, which is our "porch cover" and keeps off the sun and some of the rain. We got sloshed so much, the isenglas "window" got completely fogged up with salt spray and you couldn't see a thing.

The third day the seas started piling up and we both started yawning and turning light green. Then darker green. Long story short, we were seasick for three days, ate practically nothing, drank just enough water to remain alive, and felt despondent that we were sick for the second time in a month.

That third night the wind came up in the low teens early on, the seas started roiling, and we were up and down every hour to two hours to change watch. We were on port tack (where the wind comes over the boat from the left hand side, as you are facing the bow) which I loathe because it makes going up and down the companionway ladder really hard for me.

Late that night the wind came up to about 22 apparent and Raven pitched like a bronc. Sailing didn’t help – we didn’t have enough speed in these steep and confused 5’ waves to make much forward progress. We turned on the motor to motor sail and that helped the speed but not the bucking motion of the boat. At one point we had to hand steer – David for several hours and me for only 30 minutes. I have no idea how he did it for hours. Holding the wheel was like wrestling with a bear, dragging the wheel back and forth against the surging water. Those 30 minutes almost killed me. While I held the wheel and prayed to God to keep him safe, David inched forward on the pitching deck to retrieve cans of diesel to keep the motor going and then filled the tank. The wind dipped down to 15 (in answer to fervent prayers from me) and David stabilized the self steering so that we could finally let go of the wheel. After that, it was a case of standing watch to monitor the self steering and our course, which for me meant creeping toward the wheel with my butt firmly attached to the cockpit sides and peering up at the instruments. The helm chair is way too far above the cockpit floor for me to feel safe sitting in it in bad seas!

When the sun came up, the wind moderated a bit, but the seas stayed high and choppy and the two of us were toast, literally limp with exhaustion. The floor of the boat was covered in stuff that flew off the shelves as we bucked our way along – papers, cans of sardines, pillows, settee backs...disaster. I suggested we make for St. Petersburg, as there was no way in the universe I was going to last two more nights in those conditions (that’s the right angle turn we made, for those of you who were following our track). I wasn’t sure David would last, either. He was simply exhausted after his heroic efforts the night before, and because we were still seasick, he hadn’t eaten a thing but a few bites of a Power Bar. We took turns sleeping for an hour or two below and then stood watch, napping on the deck (not good, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open).

Basically we had another 12 hours of sailing semi-hell, and then it calmed down as we got closer to shore and the last 12 hours were lovely. The approach to St. Petersburg was gorgeous, with milder seas, bright sun, and moderate wind. We sat in the cockpit, glassy-eyed with relief, and snagged a T-head at the city marina for two days (that’s all that was available – we’d have taken a month if they had let us stay).

St. Petersburg is a gorgeous city (although from the construction going on it looks as though it is on its way to being a second Miami) with lots of greenery and a vibrant downtown. The marina is right there in the downtown area so you can walk to everything. I washed all the fabric on the boat, which stunk (no other word does it justice) and we both revelled in a hot shower. I caught a peek of a green heron on a boat’s mooring line through the laundry window. He balanced on the line, leaned far forward (how he didn’t pitch in headfirst is a mystery) and snagged two fish, one after the other! I have never seen one catch a fish. 

View of downtown St. Petersburg from the fuel dock at the City Marina. That's Raven tied up at the pier.

They found us a spot for two days on a T-head (think end cap of a retail isle). They literally have room for no more boats. It's high season here.

While I was doing laundry, David cleaned up the mess in the galley, rearranged the cabin to get the stuff off the floor, and put the settees back in place. Then we sat in the cockpit and had the first tea we’d drunk in three days, in 78 degrees, with the lights of downtown St. Petersburg shining on the water all around us.

Downtown St. Pete, from the cockpit of the boat. Christmas lights abound.

What a wonderful night we had, first in the gentle breeze in the cockpit with our tea, and then supper in the cool and dry comfort of the A/C, not moving, sitting down to eat together...aaaah. (A/C sounds weird, especially since we suffered being cold for 3 days straight, but St. Pete was 81 when we came in, and humid as a jungle.)

My cousin lives there and we had a great reunion at a fabulous coffee shop (Kahwa, if you ever come to town). We walked through part of downtown to get to the shop and admired everything. Lots of people, lots of young people (!), lots of energy. We like St. Pete a lot, and talked about coming back here to spend the winter next year. You have to make your reservations really early (like now), so I will look into that after I post this.

A tree in one of the parks downtown. Such a beautiful city!

Meanwhile, David is washing the outside of the boat, which was coated in salt, and is otherwise making us ready for tomorrow’s departure. We are “going down the ditch” (traveling the ICW) from here to Punta Gorda, where we have a month’s reservation at the Burnt Store Marina (I have no idea about the name). The ICW should be a lot calmer and we’ll be able to drop the hook every night and sleep. Good plan! I’m a lot older than I wish I were, and sleep every night makes all the difference to me.

Now this is more like it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Tyranny of the Weather Window

[Hilde's log]

When you are traveling from place to place on a boat, you soon learn to take advantage of the weather window. This is a short term forecast that gives you the kind of conditions you want to travel in. A weather window is usually good for two or maybe three days, and when one comes up you have to hop to, because they close pretty fast.

In Pensacola, we waited for a chance to leave that would be moderately warm. We saw that a cold front was arriving on a Wednesday, so decided to leave the preceding Friday. Our plan was to motor over to the anchorage we’d used when we first came in, drop the hook, and then leave early the next day. 

Clear weather, calm water, cool temperatures...but waiting for incoming cold weather. Time to leave!

The veranda at Island Cove. On sunny days when the breeze was still, it was pleasant.

On Thursday David discovered that the fresh water pump on the engine was leaking. Further inspection revealed that it was shot. Fortunately, a nearby shop (Bell Marine) knew the part we needed and was able to order it. We spent the next 24 hours on pins and needles waiting for its arrival. Fortunately, while we were waiting, my good friend Sherry came to visit and we had a delightful distraction from the waiting frenzy. Had the pump not arrived Friday, we’d have had to wait for a Monday delivery, and our window would have slammed shut. Temperatures for later in the week were in the 40s. To our mutual relief, the pump showed up Friday about 4 p.m., and David installed it. Obviously, it arrived much too late for us to go to the anchorage, so we just decided to roll with it and leave Saturday morning. The boat was all ready; all we had to do was leave first thing.

The round thing under the pulley is the fresh water pump.

All tidy and stowed and ready to pull out.

Because we were all squared away, we took advantage of an invitation to a local neighborhood party, courtesy of Art and Mary Jane. Most of the people in their neighborhood are retired boaters, some of whom are circumnavigators (that’s way out of my league, but I stand around and admire them from a distance). It was a lovely end to our stay in Pensacola.

The next day, we lept out of bed at 5:30, had everything stowed by 7:30 and were ready to back out of the slip. What we had not counted on was the tide. We draw 5’ (i.e., we need 5’ of water to move) and we simply didn’t have enough depth to back out of the slip. How frustrating is that!! We spent three long hours waiting for the water to rise. Time and tide wait for no man; time and tide don’t rush for anyone either.

We finally got away about 11, and motored toward the fuel dock. We needed to fill up the tank and the cans on deck. We radioed the fuel dock and got no response, which was weird. Then we came up to it and found no one in attendance. David slid Raven as close to the dock as he could and then jumped from the boat to the dock. I threw him the spring line (the one in the middle of the boat), crabbed to the back and pitched him the stern line, and then pulled myself forward to toss him the bow line. It was all very “cowboy sailing” which I hate. Evidently since we were out cruising last, no one monitors the radio any more – it’s all cell phone. The young fellow who eventually showed up had no idea what channel they monitored, which told me they didn’t monitor the radio at all. Since it’s hard to fool with a slippery cell phone on deck, it’s not a change I much like.

David got the fuel cans secured and we finally pulled away around noon, crossing Pensacola Bay in about an hour. We popped out of the entrance about 1:15 p.m., under sunny skies, watching the sugar sand beaches on the barrier islands slide by, dotted here and there with people laying back in deck chairs soaking in the sun. 

Leaving Pensacola. Now you know why they call this the Emerald Coast.

Raven underway from Pensacola

The temperatures were cool, but pleasant, and the sparkling blue water mirrored the sky above. Now this is the life, I thought. Little did I know.

Click on the link above for a short video.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A month of repairs and upgrades

[Hilde’s log]

I keep hoping that David will do a post detailing the repairs and upgrades he has done since we arrived in Pensacola. The list is long! As I am writing this, he is out in the cockpit braving some very cold breezes putting back together the junction box under the cockpit table and polishing the cockpit walls which end up collecting all sorts of black marks as he works on various projects. It’s really cold here in the morning, but fortunately warms right up in the middle of the day.

I helped him a little with servicing our winches. That’s the part of the boat that you wrap the sail sheets (ropes) around to help you pull them in. Sails are really heavy, so help is needed! Our two winches hadn’t been serviced in a long time and were hard to crank. David pulled off the covers and then unscrewed the five 8” bolts that hold the winch to the teak block on the deck. The bolts go through the foot of the winch, through the teak block, and then through the fiberglass deck. Unscrewing them was difficult; even the power screwdriver balked. After he got them off, David cleaned off any corrosion and greased them and reassembled them on the deck. My job was mostly holding the screwdriver against his wrench, or holding the box wrench against his screwdriver. Each of the winches took most of a day to finish.

Starboard winch with its guts exposed. It also got resealed (see white goo around the base).

Rusty bolts (some leakage over time), looking up at the winch base from the quarter berth. One of them broke! We had to get new ones online, as they are a size no one keeps in stock.

The port winch is reached through the port side lazerette, which meant a lot of unnatural bending and stooping to get at the bolts. The starboard winch is reached through the quarter berth and that meant taking everything out while we worked on that set of bolts. The good news is that I was also able to wipe down stowaway dust and clean it up a bit. 

David tucked into the empty quarter berth.

Me wiping down the dust.

What do we store in the quarter berth? All this that is shown filling up the main cabin. Oi.

David also put in a new jiffy reefing system that eliminated long dangling lines that tried to snag on everything and also let us, for the first time, have three working reef points. Sawing off some of the stuff already on the boom in order to attach the reefing rack took about three hours. Fortunately, I was off shopping and didn’t have to listen to the screech of the saw.

Three reefing points!

Jiffy reefing track installed.

The Walker Bay Hyperlon dinghy tube has taken some wear and tear, and David patched that up nicely. The glue that came in the original repair kit committed suicide at some point, but David looked on line and found that the glue he already had (3M 5200) would work nicely. Am happy to report the tube is fixed and firm once again.

Abraded dinghy tube.

One upgrade that made David very happy was convincing our AIS to display on our chart plotter. He also repaired the red and green bow light that went dark during the crossing and replaced the leaking water hose in the engine. Ditto the broken traveler.

It made me happy to note that he restored the gate wires across the access gates (where you get on and off the boat, either side, when you are not tied up to a stubby little finger pier but to an actual dock). It is scary to walk past them when you're at sea and have them be open to the water, even though no one should count on that slender wire to stop a fall. I guess it's mostly psychological.

The gate wire, which gives me a false sense of security.

David breathed life back into the outboard which came awake with a nice loud roar.

He added a red LED in the compass, which was dark the whole way over. Not a huge thing when you have GPS, but still nice to be able to check the heading without a flashlight.

In our mania to redo the teak in the cockpit we forgot to replace the caulking and got good and wet as punishment from King Neptune. The caulking is back in place! Gee, I hate a wet boat.

The toilet sprang a small leak on the passage, and David tightened it back up.

He replaced the night light in the engine water temperature gauge.

He also stripped, cleaned, and lubed the jib sheet foot blocks which eliminated a lot of screeching when handling the jib.

And me? I polished the stainless steel life rails. After all, gotta look shiny. I also administer tea, coffee, meals, and the occasional power bar and herd the laundry to the washing machines. I have my uses.

It's not all banging away on the boat, though. We take a walk almost every day. Here is a little park not too far from us where you can sit and watch nothing happen on the bayou.

We've also hooked up with old friends Sherry, John & Cookie, and Paul, and made new friends, Art & Mary Jane. Thanks to them all for their friendship and for providing lovely reasons to leave the boat and for schlepping us around in search of boat parts. The nicest thing about cruising is the people you get to know. We've also made contact with Gary and Linda, a couple we met two years ago when we sailed on a schooner in Maine who live here in Florida and who we will see when we get to Punta Gorda. Somehow, everyone we know eventually washes up near us.

Current plans are to leave for Punta Gorda around December 1st. Until then, stay warm and stay in touch!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving on Raven

[Hilde’s log]

We send our best wishes to all of you for a warm and memorable holiday season! We are pretty low-key here on Raven, but I do try to cook a bit more around the holidays. We had a lovely pre-Thanksgiving meal at our friends’ home here in Pensacola, complete with lovely tablecloth and linen napkins and roasted Cornish hens. Our actual Thanksgiving Day meal was a whole lot less beautiful, but made for leftovers aplenty. No big turkey roasting in the oven – we have a pretty small oven!

Our lovely friends, John & Cookie, who shared their Thanksgiving dinner with us. They've been friends with David for almost 40 years. I am a johnny-come-lately, only meeting them at our wedding 17 years ago.

The thing about using the oven is that first I have to unload it. The oven usually functions as a storage space for baking pans, my cast-iron grill skillet and other less-used items. All that has to come out and perch...somewhere. The counter, of course, is awash in ingredients. I always get everything out of the refrigerator before I start, since the counter is also the top of the refrigerator. And, invariably, I forget one thing and then say a few choice words as I balance everything on the ladder, the nav station, etc., while I go digging.

One of my cooking piles...the stuff from the oven.

The rectangular door under my pot and the red dish is the door to the refrigerator.

This is usually the point at which I realize I have forgotten something in the fridge.

I made three things this year – a sort of green bean casserole (no cream of mushroom soup, but some gluten free panka crumbled on top of the green beans and onions did nicely to distract me from the lack), butternut squash and small Brussels sprouts, and a gluten free stuffing mix. That ended up being lunch. That night I made gravy to go with the turkey breast and remaining stuffing. Sometime later this week I guess I will get around to the mashed potatoes and sweet potato pie. After all, it’s just the two of us. So what if we spread the meal out over a week, right?

Thanksgiving meal #1 - lunch! We ate outside in the cockpit under a bright and almost warm sun. The dishes are the Corelle that got replaced the next day (see below).

Eventually order is restored...
I capped off the week with my first-ever Black Friday shopping trip with another of our Pensacola friends, who have been very kind to take us around in their car for various bits and pieces David needs for repairs and grocery stops for me. On Friday, Mary Jane and I made a day of it, stopping at Stein Mart, Sam’s, Kohl’s, Starbucks, etc. At Kohl’s I found lovely melamine plates for 40% off! I have been looking for nice melamine plates for a long time and was so pleased to find these. The fact that I had to wait in the check-out line for 30 minutes didn’t even dim my enthusiasm. I have to say, I haven’t been shopping in a very long time and the sheer volume of stuff and the crowds of women (not a man in sight) nearly overwhelmed my senses. If it hadn’t been for Mary Jane, I think I would have bolted!

Pretty blue dishes! Such a relief. I have been using my old Corelle for decades and am heartily sick of looking at it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Third Time's the Charm - Part 2

Greetings from Florida! That's me near the beach at Destin.
[Hilde’s log]

The whole character of the trip changed the next day. From light winds (8 knots) to no wind, from confused seas to flat calm, suddenly we were adrift on a turquoise and blue sheet of water, relying on the motor for any forward progress. Sunny skies glinted off the ocean and we baked happily in 85 degrees. The only breeze came from our motoring forward; the seas went creamy calm. Other than the fact that the droning of the motor drives me crazy, the trip was ridiculously pleasant. I could warm up food, climb up and down from below, take the wheel, etc., all on a nice flat surface. The calm lasted three days. Had we had only the sails, we’d have drifted along listening to them slap back and forth. Another reason to love Mr. P, our engine – we weren’t stranded.

By day, we were surrounded by a deep blue sea in every direction, a bright blue sky stretching from horizon to horizon. By night, before the moon rose, the carpet of the Milky Way glinted overhead, cut from time to time by passing satellites. The moon rose, its blood red disc cut by a few indigo clouds, climbing high and casting a pale shimmer of light over the water. 

Sunrise on the Gulf - in the distance are some drilling rigs.

From Texas to Mississippi we shared the scenery with all sorts of working boats, barges, supply boats, and oil rigs. The oil rigs are lit up at night like gigantic Christmas ornaments. The most spectacular one I saw was all golden orbs at the base, topped with glowing green towers, and strung with blinking red lights. In the dark of the night, their lights lit up the horizon. Marvels of engineering, these glowing behemoths stand in 700 to 1,000 feet of water, dwarfing the vessels that come to supply them. After Louisiana, we had the Gulf to ourselves. As we passed Mobile Bay, we saw two big ships. By Florida, our only companions were a few fishing vessels.

We had a couple of things break (fortunately, during this calm period). David went down to check the engine oil and discovered a leaking water hose. He double-wrapped it in Rescue Tape and it performed just fine for the rest of the trip. The connection from the block to the traveller car (the traveller allows the mainsail to go from one side of the boat to the other) broke and David had to remove the offending part and rely on the blocks for the rest of the journey. I wobbled my way forward (clipped on, of course) to help him by moving one of the blocks to a new position while he held the mainsail lines out of the way. It is pretty intimidating to be looking right down at 700 feet of water from the deck. The cockpit is like a cozy screened-in porch, but climbing out on the deck (which David does all the time) is like being in a yard next to the Big Bad Woods with no fence!! The view is breathtaking but it’s pretty scary scenery to me.

Traveller, blocks, etc. The incomplete "C" in the middle is the broken bit.

We have new instruments this time out. Our panel is B&G, we have radar, and we have AIS. My overwhelming favorite is the AIS (automatic identification system). All the commercial boats transmit on AIS, and by looking at our screen you can see out 15 miles, determining what ships are out there, what kind of ships they are, how fast they are moving, and in what direction. It even tells you the closest distance they will pass and what the name of the vessel is, so that you can hail it to let it know you are out there! The AIS takes most of the terror out of night voyaging. It won’t show random private vessels, but will show you the Big Scary Ships in plenty of time. When I compare it to our last cruising adventure, when I spent hours peering into the darkness, straining to see if lights on the horizon were green or red or white, which way, how fast, etc. and always just guessing, I cannot believe what an improvement this is. Like having a flashlight in a dark room.

Ha! With AIS, you can't sneak up on us anymore!

We arrived at the entrance to Pensacola Bay at about sunset. We intended to go in and anchor in the bay, but decided to wait until moonrise to have a better shot at seeing our surroundings. We don’t like to go in at night – in fact, this was our first time. The lights at night can be very confusing, with different reds and greens marking different channels, and lots of other competing lights from shore, from cars, from buildings, from parking lots – it can be hairy. But we have been to Pensacola before and our alternate was doing donuts outside for eleven hours, waiting for dawn. The AIS helped us again, showing us the barge that passed right in front of us in plenty of time for us to slow down and watch its huge black bulk glide in front of us, about ½ mile away. We dodged a couple more barges as we motored down the GIWW, accompanied by a pod of cheerful dolphins that dove and splashed beside us not realizing it was time for all sentient beings to be fast asleep. We dropped the hook at English Navy Cove in about 12 feet of water at about 11:30 p.m. We sat below, stunned to be floating quietly without a motor deafening us, and finally passed out, sleeping “late” like dead things - a little over five hours.

The morning after we arrived, at our anchorage. Happy, but stupid tired.

The next morning we zombied around, eating breakfast in the cockpit and getting ready to come into a marina. I called the City Marina, where we stayed nine years ago when we were here, and asked if they had a slip and what the rates were. I was told the rate was $15 a foot. That is high, but not awful, for a month. So, to clarify, I said, “A month, right?” “No, ma’am, $15 a foot per week.” $540 a week? What is this guy drinking? He assured me they were right downtown near everything. I assured him that made not a whit of difference, hung up, and called another marina in Bayou Chico. $11 a foot – per month! Sold.

Our marina is sort of picturesque, being across the bayou from the scrap yard, but has a rustic charm. Like fixed wooden docks and a finger peer that comes about 12 feet down the boat, which means some interesting times getting off and getting on. But it has all the essentials, folks are friendly, and we are happy and plugged in.

View down the dock here in Pensacola.

Scary finger pier...

We’ll be here a month, while we rest and David catches up on the stuff that needs to be fixed. He’s done so much already, in less than a week, and is currently rebuilding a winch. He’s a happy man.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Third Time's the Charm - Part 1

Our comfy bunk in the V-berth, complete with "mattress and springs", sheets, and a sleeping bag for the winter. This is our bedroom most of the time, except when making passage.

The V-berth as catch-all while we are underway. Everything got stuck in here, including a whisker pole. Obviously no place to sleep! It's uncomfortable, if the sea is at all rough, because this is the bow of the boat. If David had been sleeping here on night two, he'd have waked up in a hurry - probably on his head on the sole.
[Hilde's log] We have survived our third Gulf crossing and are ensconced in a marina in Bayou Chico, in the Pensacola region. Technically, we are in Warrington, FL. After two days plugged in with electricity, and three nights of decent sleep, we’re about to emerge from the exhaustion that is just part and parcel of a Gulf crossing. A couple of people have commented on how little time the crossing took. That’s because we didn’t go far south. We basically headed out to the commercial safety fairways and then scooted along parallel to the coast, about 100 miles out, before heading in at an angle to Pensacola. Had we headed for Tampa or further south along the Florida coast, the trip would have been a lot longer. When we leave here, we are looking at another five day voyage to get to Punta Gorda, just south of Tampa. We will be here in this marina for about a month, fixing what broke and getting our energy back.

I have also been asked what our plan is. Do we have a route, destination, goal – i.e., what are you doing? I don’t have a clear-cut answer. We both retired in May and are, first, thrilled to get out of Houston and environs. Too many people, too much pollution. We are choosing to live on the boat and travel to reclaim some joy in our lives. On land, our lives feel constricted and predictable. On the water, life goes technicolor and there is a sense of adventure. We find ourselves smack in the middle of God’s breathtaking creation – sun, sky, and sea – and our hearts fill in a way that they just aren't living on land. When we take a break in an anchorage, it’s peaceful and still. When we take a break in a marina, folks are friendly and welcoming. It’s a very pleasant way of life (also rough and ready and without conveniences...but who cares?).

The overall plan is that we are going to sail and voyage until we don’t feel like it any more, or until David’s 93 year old mom needs us to help her, whichever comes first. We envision a cruise of at least a year to five years, but who knows? We have no fixed destination or goal. As I said to David, if we want to hole up in Pensacola for the rest of our lives, we can. No agenda, other than keeping ourselves in a mild climate. Since we are shivering in a cold front here as I write this, that looks a whole lot like a lot further south for the winter. Neither of us is a fan of cold.

We left Kemah on Thursday, November 2nd, about noon, headed for an overnight anchorage at the Texas City dike. I wanted to squeeze in one last sleep! We filled up at the fuel dock across from Portofino and then headed out into the bay, where we were greeted with leaden skies, 24 knot winds, and choppy water. As we lumped our way to the ship channel, the whole idea of leaving was upsetting. I had a couple of good cries below, mostly just releasing all the stress that had built up over the last month, and some sadness at parting with my car. I know, ridiculous, but I bought her new and loved her. She’s gone to a good home, but still. Fortunately, by the time we reached Redfish Island, the wind had calmed down, the sun was out, and the trip was benign, albeit noisy with the motor chugging away.

Taken from our anchorage at the Dike the morning we left for the Gulf. This big ship was headed into Houston. Each ship that passed sent us rolling gently from the wake that travels all the way to shore from the ship.

We anchored off the dike in about 12 feet of water, lopping back and forth with the passing of each huge ship making its way to Houston up the ship channel. I made a good dinner that night and a big bowl of oatmeal for each of us the next morning, knowing they were probably the last square meals we’d have for awhile. That turned out to be an understatement.

We hoisted anchor and slipped down the ship channel, past the ferries and various early morning fisherfolk, the sun eating up the mist on the water and the cool air flowing over us. Just past the south jetty, we put up the sails and promptly headed for Corpus Christi (i.e., west, not east). I don’t know why we expected to sail south, since that is the same direction of the ship channel to Galveston, and there is no sailing to Galveston. We wrestled with the sails and basically tacked back and forth over a horizontal line for a couple of hours before giving in and motoring south. By that time, we were both thoroughly seasick.

Explain to me why, no matter how bad the weather is in the bay, we never get seasick. But just let us get three feet into the Gulf, and down we go. Every time. This trip was no different. We took ginger pills and they did help (nobody puked) but we still felt miserable for two days. Neither of us ate a bite and we hardly drank any water. Fortunately we had a gallon of water on deck or we wouldn’t have had that either. Going below to use the head was torture.

By the third day I had recovered enough to make us hot jello (the jello you get after you add the water but before you put it in the fridge to set) and sipping that helped the nausea and settled the sharp hunger pangs. About two hours later, I made another batch. A few hours later, we sipped some soup. Gradually, we got some energy and some perspective back. The next day, I reheated some meals I had cooked in advance, and we each had very small portions. David was recovered; I came down with a cold. Seriously?

Our first night watch wasn’t too bad, other than the seasickness and the two hour watches. The second night out we were motor sailing through oil rig “cities” (10-12 oil rigs close together) and although we didn’t have much in the way of wind, the boat shuddered and hobby-horsed its way through five foot waves and troughs, all headed in contrary directions. My theory is that the currents swirling around and among the rigs create the contrary seas. There was certainly no wind to blame it on (maybe 8 knots). The bow of the boat would leap up and then slam down in the troughs, seawater bucketing over the deck. At the helm, I was sick as a dog, mad as a wet hen, and totally frustrated, since every time we hit a trough, the boat basically stopped before ploughing on. I don’t know how David slept through it. (We sleep in the main cabin in the middle of the boat when making passage, and that is a very stable place.) 

"Bed" in the main cabin, where we take turns sleeping underway. Wads of sheets that didn't stay put, jacket and life vet wadded up at the "foot" - the good news is, you're so tired you just faint. Most nights I slept in my life jacket and sandals. When there is an emergency, no time (and no light) to get dressed.

The last straw was when one contrary wave picked Raven up and slapped her down in such a direction that the sails tacked and we were headed back to Corpus again. I yelled below, David came up, and we got her headed back on course. Then we just cut the motor. Sailing in chop is much less stressful than motoring, as the boat rides the sea instead of blasting its way through it. Less stressful or not, when I made my way down for my off watch nap, I was having mutinous thoughts of desertion the second we touched land. 

Fortunately, that night was the nadir. The next day dawned sunny, our seasickness was mostly past us, we ate something, and life looked good again. Enjoy the videos below to sail with us. (left click on the text, left click on the link that appears, click on the x in the upper right hand corner of the video frame in Google Photos) - please let me know if these do not play correctly. The Wifi here is a joke and I am having a hard time checking the links.

Navy blue ocean