Friday, November 20, 2015
Since we made a grocery run yesterday, we had the fixins' for a really good breakfast. Pork sausage, fried egg, and cheese on english muffin breakfast sandwich. We have not eaten this unhealthy in a very long time. And it felt, and tasted, GREAT! I can see boat living is not going to be good for my waistline.
Bob called a short while later to talk about the weather forecast. It was supposed to be windy this morning, then lay down in the afternoon. But the winds seemed pretty calm right now. Bob wanted to leave now; I wanted to wait until the forcast drop in the wind. I hopped in the dink and went to his boat to discuss it. We finally agreed to leave now and head to Alligator Harbor. If the wind was calmer than forecast then we would continue on to at least Steinhatchee.
By the time I got back to Micrsoship, got the dinghy put up on the boat deck, and got engines warmed up and anchor up, it was 1120. We headed down the river and out into the bay. As we turned east behind Dog Island, the seas were calm. This was looking good. By the time we cleared the east end of the island, it was getting a little rolly. But still not too bad. The decision was made to go for it.
As we headed out through the cut through the reef the seas started ramping up a bit more, but still tolerable. We did decide to limit the crossing to just Steinhatchee, though. As it was, it would be well after dark when we arrived. The number of crab trab floats in that area are legend, and I was not looking forward to trying to dodge what I could not see.
As the afternoon progressed the seas got bigger. We never got truly uncomfortable, the we did have to secure things to keep them from being thrown to the floor. Just before it got dark we started seeing lots of crab floats. This was unexpected, as we were still many miles from short. I decided it was best if I turned on the spotlight and just left it on. I can't begin to count how many floats we dodged over the next few hours. Some were really close calls. In fact, I am not completely sure we made it though unscathed. There were more than a few big thumps against the bottom. I will have to wait for warmer and clearer water so I can dive under the boat to check the shafts for ropes.
Stylist is a much faster boat than us and arrived 45 minutes before we did. Bob called to say the area was thick with crab pots, and be on the lookout for them. We anchored about 3/4 mile away from Stylist, in a bit shallower water. Anchor down at 2110, after a 10 hour run. We were bushed. A little Scotch to unwind, and to celebrate a successful crossing, and then off to bed.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Sunrise was at 0707, so I started the engines at 0645. It was only 4-1/2 hours to Carabelle but we wanted to get an early start while the wind was calm. We had the anchor up by 0700 and were on our way. Stylist left about 30 minutes later.
As we passed through Apalachicola we could see all the other cruising boats stacked up waiting for a good weather window to continue. There is limited space in Carabelle to anchor out so I was glad to have a chance to get there early. As we entered the bay I saw Stylist on the AIS just pulling into the river.
The wind was calm, and seas flat. Perfect day to make the run. Shortly after we passed through Apalachicola we started hearing all the other boats on the radio as they were getting underway. We had a smooth ride until we got to the pass between St George Island and Dog Island. The big swells from the gulf were rolling through there. I could see huge breaking waves on the other side. We rolled heavily in the beam seas, but it only lasted the 20 minutes or so it took us to cross over to behind Dog Island. I radioed back to let others know to be ready for this. Some of the boats were planning on pushing further past Carabelle, but when they heard the size of the swells they decided anchoring in Carabelle was the better option.
We arrived at the Carabelle River around 1130, and headed up river. Twenty minutes later we had the anchor down near the center of town. An hour later the other boats started arriving and were scrambling to anchor in the two remaining spots. The others ended up having to pay to stay in a marina.
Our friends on Stylist already had reservations to stay at Moorings Marina. They needed water and fuel, and needed to pump out. This worked out nicely for us, as we were able to dinghy in to tie up behind them. We topped off all of our water jugs, made a grocery run to the IGA across the street, and did laundry at the marina. I then walked from one end of town to the other to go the the sole liquor store. Only to buy the most expensive bottle of cheap vodka I have ever purchased. I think our liquor re-provisioning will have to wait until we can buy at more sane prices.
We spent a pleasant evening with Bob & Gail, and they fixed dinner for us. We got home late and went straight to bed. We were serenaded to sleep by the live music from the eclectic local bar about 50 yards from us. Then the music ended a 0100 and the redneck brawls began. That lasted until around 0300, and it was finally quiet.
The weather looks like we might be able to leave tomorrow afternoon and make a short run to Alligator Harbor. We can stage there for the crossing to Steinhatchee or Cedar Keys.
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
We were swinging from bank to bank in the wind. M/V Stylist was doing the same. Sometimes we would get within 30-40' feet of each other. I finally decided the safest thing to do was to pull up the anchor and move a bit further away. I made the mistake of thinking I could let out a little extra chain when we re-anchored, since Stylist was now further away.
During the night the wind got even stronger. I could hear the aluminum framework on the bridge thrumming as it vibrated in the wind. This usually happens once the wind is around 40 mph. But the anchor seemed to be holding well, as it always does. We went to bed and slept pretty well.
When we got up the next morning I noticed that Stylist was gone! I knew they would not leave in the middle of the night unless something serious had happened. Bob had mentioned that if he had any problems with his anchor holding he was going to move further back in the creek. I was going to get the coffee going then hop in the dinghy to go look for him.
I walked on the back deck to get the dinghy ready, and got a real shock. The stern of Microship was up in the trees near the bank!! The extra chain I had let out had allowed us to swing too close to the bank. Some of the trees had large branches that extended out 10-20' over the water. We had apparently been swinging under those branches for a while. They scratched up the back of the boat, ripped our flagstaff and mount right off (there goes the flag I rescued last week!), and picked up the spreader bar for hoisting the dinghy and dragged it across the cockpit. Then it rested on the opposite side, just rubbing up and down against the bulwarks and scratching the heck out of it. How the heck did we sleep through all this??
I winched in some chain and got us pulled out of the trees. Then I decided to get the anchor up and to move further back in the creek myself. As we went around the bend, there was Sylist. We went a short distance past them and dropped anchor.
I put Duke in the dinghy and went to see if I could find the flag. Perhaps it had gotten caught on one of the branches. No luck, the current had taken it. As I was returning Bob came out of his boat and motioned me over. I asked what happened that made him move in the night. He said they woke up and saw my anchor light through their stateroom window. The way we were anchored, that should not have been possible. He rushed up on deck, and found we were less than 20' from his boat. He decided he must be dragging his anchor, as we were barely moving. He was surprised to hear we ended up in the trees, as we were rock solid in the middle of the creek when they moved around 2030.
We ended up moving even further up the creek to stay out of the wind. But the wind is finally supposed to subside tomorrow, so we are planning to make the run to Carabelle at first light.
Monday, November 16, 2015
We're still stuck at Saul Creek. The wind has been blowing 20-25 knots since Friday. Today is Monday. The forecast says we might get a break Thursday, then high winds again Friday into at least next Wednesday.
This is a great place to ride it out. We barely feel the wind tucked in between the trees here. But the view is getting a bit monotonous. In addition, hunting season opened last Saturday so boats are zooming past all day. There is not a lot of room here so they pass within 20-30' without slowing. Constant wakes.
We have no cell phone signal here. Zero. Phone just says "No service". Even with the signal amplifier turned on. The Verizon MiFi gets one bar of a 1X signal; the slowest connection possible, short of none. So just sufficient to do email, do blog updates (occasionally), and check weather reports.
I know it sounds like I am complaining, but I'm really not. This is a beautiful spot and I'm thankful to be here. It's relaxing, and the night sky is to die for. It just feels strange being so disconnected.
If anyone needs to contact us, email is the only way.
Paula and I did make a trip into Apalachicola Friday evening. It's about a 30 minute dinghy ride. We had to get our fix of some of the best raw oysters in the world. Boss Oyster restaurant has their own specially outfitted boat that harvests oysters every day. They are refrigerated immediately, on the boat, then brought to the restaurant. I have never tasted fresher, or saltier, oysters. Since we are going to be stuck here until at least Thursday we may have to make a repeat trip... or two!
It was well after dark by the time we finished eating and headed back. I had my MarineBeam spotlight so had no problem following the navigation markers home. But it was darn chilly!
The next day, Bob, on Stylist, mentioned he was having problems with their laptop. I decided to volunteer my services to fix it. It turned into a very pleasant afternoon visit. We returned to pick up Paula so we could all chat. Gail made a big pot of clam chowder for a mid afternoon snack. We ate, drank beer, and got to know each other. Bob ferried us home as it got dark.
So here we sit for the foreseeable future. I can think of worst spots to be!
Thursday, November 12, 2015
We were up early, as usual, but Bob & Gail still managed to beat us out of the anchorage by 30 minutes. They were heading out at 0550, we followed at 0620. It was looking like another beautiful day.
As you head east from Panama City there is another long, narrow stretch of the ICW. It is very scenic, and we usually don't see any tows in this section. And we did not today, I am happy to say. We made good time, and passed the Gulf Outlet Canal by around 1215. This is the canal that leads down to Port St. Joe. On our normal cruises we would divert here to spend a night or two at the marina there. It is very nice, there are big grocery and sporting goods stores within two blocks. Better yet, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants is only about six blocks away. But we are on a mission to get down to the Keys, so no diversions this time.
We passed White City a short while later. There is not much here except a big highway bridge, and a public boat launch with a small park. There is room along a bulkhead for a couple of larger boats to tie up, for free. But it is very basic, no power or water. Still, I had considered stopping here for the night when I was planning the trip. However, it was only 1230 and I did not want to stop that early. We had plenty of time to make it to Apalachicola.
I checked the weather forecast to see if there was any chance we could make the crossing from Apalachicola or Carabelle to the west coast of Florida. The big bend area is too shallow to stay close to shore, so you just have to cut across over to Steinhatchee, Cedar Keys, or Tarpon Springs. Depends on how long you want to run.
The wind was forecast to start blowing Friday, 20-25 knots, and do that for the next several days. I decided we would anchor in Saul Creek, just off the Apalachicola River, about 5 miles north of Apalachicola. Great protection from wind. It is in the middle of the swamps, very isolated, and beautiful,
Bob abandoned his plan of staying at a marina in Apalachicola when friends staying there told him what they were paying. Since he would need to pay to stay for up to a week before the wind subsides, he opted to anchor out with us.
They arrived first and anchored at the mouth of the creek waiting on us. We arrived about 45 minutes later, at 1300. I eased past them and led them back to where the creek splits and is big enough for two boats to anchor. We were secure by 1320 and settled in for the duration.
Bob immediately launched their dinghy to head into Apalachicola. They wanted to go visit their friends, make a grocery and liquor store run, and check out the town. They had not returned by dark and I was concerned. They had never been here before and would be running down an unfamiliar river in a pitch black night. They finally made it back at 2100, more than a little tipsy. We had asked for some limes so they motored over to deliver them. They also brought a gift for Duke, a large box of Milk Bones. Duke approved!
They retired to their boat. I watched to be sure they made it aboard safely, then went to put the limes to good use. Dark & Stormy's, here I come! :)