Saturday, May 18, 2013

Homeward bound

I awoke at 4:30 am Friday morning, and listened for the sound of the wind. It was certainly less than yesterday, but I could still feel a little wave action going on. I went up to the pilothouse and checked the wind speed. It was blowing 10-15, exactly as forecast. Certainly better than the 20-25 of yesterday. I decided it was time to start getting ready to leave, before the wind kicked up again. I did the standard engine room checks, then got the coffee going.

At 5:15 am I started the generator, figuring that would get Paula up. Nope, no movement from below. At 5:30 am I started the engines, certain that would do it. Nope, still the sound of gentle snoring from the stateroom. I finally had to go downstairs to rouse her. She did say that starting the engines had awakened her, but the soft droning of the idling engines had put her back to sleep. Sorry, honey; time to get up.

By the time Paula, and the engines, were ready to go it was just getting light enough to see. I thought of taking Duke in for one last beach quickie, but decided we needed to get underway. He knows where his mat is on the bow. I also decided not to hoist the dinghy yet, figuring we could do it once we were in bay near the marina.

It took a little while to get the anchor up, as it was dug in pretty deeply. But we got it up and were heading west by 6:30 am. The wind was out of the south, so we were still in the lee of Horn Island for a little while. Paula took the opportunity to start breakfast. Homemade sourdough biscuits and Conecuh smoked sausage. She was just putting them in the oven as we started crossing the pass between Horn and Ship Islands.

As we got into the open water of the pass, we started feeling the swells coming in from the gulf. They weren't too big, perhaps 2-3', with an occasional 4'. But, since they were directly on our beam, it made for a rolling ride. Good thing breakfast was in the oven, so we did not have to worry about it ending up on the floor. We could hear the metal baking pan sliding from side to side. A little shake and bake going on!

By the time we started getting in the lee of Ship Island breakfast was ready. Perfect timing! Sausage biscuit sandwiches... yum. With a full belly and smoother seas things were looking up. :)

Now was a good time to check on the dink, and I was surprised to see that I had forgotten to raise the outboard. So now it was cocked to one side, causing the dink to pull at an angle to our course. Drat!  So now I have to stop the boat, climb into the dinghy, and raise the outboard. This is what happens when you do things early in the morning before having enough coffee!

The Dukester missed his bathroom break this morning, and it was showing. He was pacing the bow obviously needing to relieve himself. There was a bit more motion of the bow than he liked, so he would pace around and then come back to the pilothouse. But, finally, he could hold it no longer and went up and used his bathroom mat on the bow. Good dog!!  He gets special treats for this, and we are all happy.

As we progressed westward, and further away from Ship Island, the seas were building a little. Then we crossed the pass between Ship and Cat Island and again caught the swells coming in from the gulf. But soon we were behind Cat Island and headed for Bay St Louis. As we crossed the channel, I took the opportunity to tweak the radar heading. There were multiple channel markers, and we were heading directly at one. I opened the radar utility in the software on the PC, and adjusted the heading line to point at the channel marker. It was about 4 degrees off. I have been wanting to do this for a while, and was glad to finally remember to get it done.

As we were approaching the CSX railroad bridge at Bay St Louis, we heard a sailboat call and request the bridge tender to open up. He proceeded to do so. We were about 20 minutes out, and called in to ask if he could leave the bridge open for our approach. He replied that he had a couple of "high rails" approaching (service trucks) and would have to close for that. He asked that we give him a call once we were closer.

We could see three of these service vehicles closing on the swing bridge. Once we were 5 minutes out we called the bridge tender again. He replied that as soon as the service people were dropped off and the trucks exited the bridge, he would open for us. I was surprised to see that one truck remained on the bridge, while the other two went east and west of the bridge and stopped at the signal lights about halfway to shore. Oh no, it looks like they will be working on this for a while!

After about 10 minutes or so, the bridge tender hailed us, and said that if we were willing to squeeze by on the east side he could do a partial opening of the bridge to get us through. It was a little windy, but I was willing to give it a try rather what wait out there for who knows how long. The bridge opened about halfway and we slipped through with about 6' to spare on either side. As is turns out, this was a good thing for us. For a couple of hours after we came through, we heard repeated calls to the tender to open up, and he replied they were working on things and it may be a while before they could open again.

Once in the bay we stopped long enough to hoist the dinghy. It was relatively calm and the task went quickly enough. Then we continued on to the marina.

As we entered the marina the wind was blowing pretty hard from the south. This meant it would be blowing directly across our slip, pushing the boat to the side as we docked. This is always the most challenging wind direction to dock in. But we were up to the task and backed the boat in on the first try and had her tied up 5 minutes later. Paula and I have done this so many times together we generally don't even have to speak to each other during the process. While we cannot see each other during this process, as I am on the bridge and she is in the cockpit, we can "sense" what the other is doing. We do have walkie talkies for when it is necessary to communicate, though.

So now we are home in our slip. Fifteen minutes after arriving all dock lines are secure, power cord is connected, and the air conditioners are running. It has gotten quite warm today, so we decide to just rest up inside until later this afternoon. At that point, I go outside to remove the outboard from the dink and hang it on rail mounted bracket. Flush and wash it, then wash the dink. Flip it over and tie it down. Now I have to rinse the salt from the entire boat. A couple of hours later I was finally finished and it was time for a shower, then an evening libation!

Other than the rough start, this has been one of our best spring cruises ever. A bit windy, and occasionally too cool, but pretty weather nonetheless. Certainly better than the heat that is now building in.

Can't wait for the next one!

Microship anchored at Petit Bois Island

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Horn Island

We spent a very peaceful night at Petit Bois island on Wednesday. It was a bit windy, but we were well protected from any wave action. We both awoke around 7:00 am, feeling refreshed and looking forward to our last day at the barrier islands before heading home.

When I got ready to take Duke in for his morning constitutional on the beach, Paula decided to come along. This is unusual for her, as she usually prefers the evening beach visits. But this was such a beautiful beach, white sand, pristine, that she could not pass up the opportunity to have one more walk on it. We all piled in the dink and headed ashore.

We walked in a different direction than yesterday, west, to explore further. We came across a tidal lagoon, with a small inlet connecting it to open water. The tide was out, so we were able to wade along the inlet back to the lagoon. It was chock full of fish. We could see large Redfish swimming along the edge of marsh grass, and schools of speckled trout over in the lagoon. Where the heck is my fishing rod when I need it?? I won't make this mistake again! I have marked this spot on my chart and intend to return here in the future.

We waded further back, and spent quite a while watching the Redfish swim up to the shallows to feed. Duke somehow ended up on the opposite side of the inlet from us and was barking as we tried to encourage him to jump in and swim over. He would have none of it, and eventually found a shallow spot where he could get in and walk over to us. He had been chasing ducks in the marsh and was covered in mud. When we got back to the beach we had to pull him into knee deep water so we could rinse all the stinky mud off of him.

We decided that was enough fun for the morning, and got into the dink to head back to the boat. It was our good luck that we caught the dolphin's morning feed on the way back, so we had a repeat performance of the night before. Nature is just so awesome!

We did not have far to go to get to Horn Island, so we were not in a hurry to get underway. But, the wind was starting to pick up and we thought it best to get moving. We had the anchor up and were westbound by 8:00 am. We only had a couple of hours to our next anchorage, and had nice conditions, so we thought it called for Bloody Mary's. Paula was bartender while I ran the boat. Once drinks were in hand, she started breakfast. She had a special meal planned for our last full day on the water; her special homemade corned beef hash. Man, I love that stuff! She puts a couple of fried, or poached, eggs on top and I am in heaven.

She had the hash well underway as we passed out from behind Petit Bois and crossed Horn Island Pass. Well, perhaps Bloody Mary's and breakfast were not a good idea while underway. The wind had really kicked up, out of the south, and nice size waves were rolling in from the gulf. Paula ended up having to stand in front of the stove to hold on to the skillet so it did not slide off. Fortunately, this did not last long, and 30 minutes later we were in the lee of Horn Island. So we were back on the Bloody Mary/corned beef hash plan.

We decided to stop at an anchorage we have not used before. It was closer the east end of the island, and we were ready for breakfast. We eased in close to shore and got the anchor down. It set quickly, and we were set for the day. Or, so we thought.

After a couple of more Bloody Mary's we were feeling pretty good. Our good friends, Alan and Peggy, called to check on us. They were concerned about the wind, and if we were getting beat up by it. We responded that all was well, we were safely anchored, and the only issues we had were we were running out of vodka, coffee, and dog food. Alan graciously texted me and asked what kind of coffee and dog food we needed. I replied we have enough to get us back to the dock tomorrow. Thanks Alan, you are a great guy!

After our morning libations, we needed a nap. We zonked out around 1:00 pm, and woke up just after 3:00 pm. Now, the wind was really blowing! Even though we were a couple of miles from the east end of the island, the waves were wrapping around and we were doing a bit of rocking. Not uncomfortable, but noticeable. I elected to raise anchor and move further west along Horn Island to a spot we had used before. 45 minutes later we had the anchor down in a spot much better protected. While the wind was still blowing 20-25 knots, the wave action was much less.

Another trawler that was anchored a mile or so to the west saw us come in and anchor here. I guess they were getting bounced around there, because they pulled up the anchor and headed our way. They stopped about a 1/4 mile east of us and dropped anchor.

Shortly after arriving here, a Mississippi Marine Patrol boat passed by, and stopped to check us out. He had his binoculars out looking us over. I waved at him, but got no response. I thought he may come over to talk to us, but he just continued idling by. He did the same for the other trawler that had just arrived. I'm just glad we had not gone to the beach with Duke yet. This is Gulf Islands National Seashore and no dogs are allowed ashore. This holds true for the other barrier islands, too. But Horn Island seems to be the one they enforce it on more than any other.

We waited a couple of hours to be sure the officer would not return. Around 7:00 pm we took Duke ashore. This is an absolutely beautiful island, and full of wildlife. Duke wasted no time in locating it. There are rabbits everywhere here, and there were several grazing at the top of the nearby dunes. As soon as Duke saw them he kicked in the turbos and went flying after them. They scattered to the grass flats behind the dunes. By the time I got to the top of the dunes I could see Duke a 1/4 mile away leaping through the high grass like a gazelle. Rabbits were scattering everywhere. There were so many Duke did not know which direction to go. I spent a half hour trying to call him back, and ended up just having to wait for him to wear himself out. He finally returned, panting hard, and came up to me with his tail between his legs. He knew he was in trouble.

Paula had been waiting on the beach and was relieved to see me return with Duke. Now that he was safe, she felt she was justified in telling him he was a "dumb ass dog" for running off like that. He was covered in marsh mud, yet again. So he got dragged out into the surf for some much needed rinsing off. He was not happy, but Paula told him "if you don't like, don't run off next time!". She was pretty pissed.

We all got in the dink and headed back to the boat. The tide had dropped since we came in, so I had to paddle a good way out before I could lower the outboard. I think we were all ready to get back to the boat, at this point.

Time to get back to the boat

We have had enough excitement for the day. Duke is exhausted, and is sound asleep. So is Paula. I am heading that way shortly (it is 11:00 pm). Keeping my fingers crossed this wind abates tonight. Last time I looked it was blowing at 25 knots!

The big day

It's Wednesday. The day. Today we are going back across Mobile Bay. On this boat, it is also known as the "washing machine"!

 However, it appears our plan is going to work. We have been watching the forecast closely and the wind for today is supposed to be the least for the next several days. Even though it meant heading back a couple of days earlier than planned, it will be worth if we can cross in light wind.

I was up at 6:00 am to check on the forecast. When I walked outside it was dead still. The gnats loved it. I quickly retreated inside. The forecast was for light and variable winds until mid afternoon. Perfect. Down to the engine room for engine and generator checks. Make sure everything is secured. Just in case. Then a beach run for Duke, and back to the boat. Crank the engines, reel in the anchor (while the gnats made breakfast out of me), and we are underway for 7:30 am.

We eased past the well known Lulu's Restaurant (Jimmy Buffet's sister) long before they were open for lunch. Tacky Jack's, their competition, is located almost directly across the waterway.

Lulu's Restaurant and fuel dock.

Tacky Jack's      
An hour after getting underway we entered Mobile Bay. This was a far different experience than when we came across almost two weeks ago. These are the conditions we hope and pray for when crossing this bay. It was calm enough that I was actually able to snooze in my hammock on the flying bridge while Paula kept an eye on things. Even Duke enjoyed the calm and snoozed on the bow, enjoying the sun.

As you can see in the photo below, this is about as flat calm as water gets. I love it! The pelican does not seem to care.

It was an uneventful, even boring, trip across the bay. Boring is GOOD! We did have one sport fisher blast past us, but I saw him coming from a long way off. I did not rely on him slowing down, and had plenty of time and space to get well off the channel before he blew past me.

We were passing behind Dauphin Island by 1:00 pm, and decided we were not ready to stop for the day yet. So we pressed on to Petit Bois Island. A sailboat arrived shortly before we did, and was headed for the anchorage we prefer when staying here. But he ended up stopping about 300 yards away, so we had plenty of room to drop the hook where we usually do. We were anchored and having sundowners by 4:00 pm.

We spent a couple of hours on the beach before sunset. It must have been feeding time, because there were dozens of stingrays all along the beach, coming up in water about 6-12" deep. Paula had quite an eye for them, and was able to pick them out. They do a good job of camouflaging themselves in the sand. I could only see them when they were moving. There were also hundreds of small, perfectly preserved, horseshoe crab shells along the beach. We have found their shells before, but never with the entire skeletal structure as preserved as this.  Paula found a much larger shell, which now resides with her other sea shell collections.

Sunglasses are for size purposes

Back to the boat in time to watch the sunset. On the way we had a special treat. The dolphins had come in to feed and were all around us. I turned off the motor and just let the dinghy drift. There were dozens of dolphins, of all sizes, splashing and herding fish into the shallows. Then they would rush in and feed on them. Sometimes, they would throw the fish in the air as if to play with it. They came right up to the dinghy to check us out. We thought of reaching out to touch them, but did not want to frighten them away. Duke was fascinated by them, and watched them intently until they finally moved on. All in all, we had them around us for about 20 minutes. It was awesome. Unfortunately, I was so enthralled I completely forgot to get my phone out to get video. Drat!

Then it was time for dinner; grilled chicken breasts, risotto with porcini mushrooms and shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese, and Paula's famous homemade spicy cole slaw. Yum. Then retire to the top deck for a cigar and a whiskey. Life is good!

West to Ingram Bayou

We were up early Tuesday morning, and started getting ready to begin our trip home. The weather forecast was for light winds on Wednesday, so that is when we want to cross Mobile Bay. No repeats of our trip across last time, please.

It was a beautiful day, a little breezy, but not bad at all. After a quick trip to the beach for Duke, we cranked up the engines. We had the anchor up by 8:30 am and were on our way. It was only 37 miles to our next stop at Ingram Bayou. We were in no hurry (good thing in a trawler) so pulled the throttles back and just cruised at 6 knots. This is the first day of this trip that we have been able to run the boat from up on the flying bridge. It has either been too chilly, or too windy. Today was near perfect and we were able to remain up there for the entire day.

As we were approaching the Pensacola Beach bridge I checked behind me for any overtaking boat traffic. I saw a big sport fishing boat approaching at high speed, throwing a huge wake. About that time I heard someone come on the radio and "thank" the boat for the wake. I was hoping to avoid getting waked by this guy, so called him on the radio. I offered to slow to idle so that he could get pass me at a slow speed. He replied that he already had it "taken care of" and was down to 1000 rpm. Well, I don't what kind of power he had in that thing, but when he blasted by at that rpm he was throwing about a 4' wake. I turned into as quickly as I could, but it still rocked us pretty good. It probably would have cost him all of five minutes to give us a slow pass. You just gotta love these guys... NOT!

We got across Pensacola Bay without any drama. Water was beautiful, as we had an incoming tide and all the clear, blue water from the Gulf was pouring into the bay. We had a dolphin escort for quite a while.

Dolphin Video

We had hoped to watch the Blue Angels practice on Wednesday, but had learned that all practice sessions for 2013 had been cancelled due to the budget sequestration. Who came up with that name anyway?? But, while traversing Big Lagoon, a pair of Blue Angels were doing some maneuvers overhead, so we got to see a few minutes of their performance, after all.

It was an easy ride to Ingram Bayou. Just before arriving Paula mentioned that no water would come out of the faucet. I checked the water pump to be sure it was running, and it was. Uh-oh, looks like we ran the water tank dry. Fortunately, Barber Marina was only 5 minutes away. I did not really want to take a slip for the night just so we could fill the water tank. Paula called them to ask if we could come in and fill our tank, and what would the charge be. No charge, they said. Hooray! It was a bit windy so we had some fun getting tied up to the dock. Paula did a commendable job of getting the lines around the cleats as I jockeyed the boat. In the end we had a full tank of water and headed back out to anchor in Ingram Bayou.

As we were getting anchored we noticed a boat from the marina that had followed us. One of the dock boys was in it, and was obviously waiting for us to get the anchor down. I thought that perhaps the marina had changed their mind about free water and sent him out to collect a fee.  But, he just dropped anchor a short distance away and sat in the bow texting on his phone.

When he got ready to leave he approached us, and commented on our boat. He asked what kind it was, and chit chatted. We had hoped to get rid of some trash while at the marina, but there were no trash bins nearby. So Paula asked the guy if he would mind taking our trash, and he agreed. I felt sorry for the poor kid, as she handed him over one of the bags from our trash compactor. It had over a weeks trash in it and must have weighed 50 lbs. Well, at least it seemed that heavy to me.

There was a stiff south wind when we entered the bayou, so we motored a good way back. But we still stayed in the main arm so we could get a good breeze back there. It was very nice all afternoon. But, once evening fell and the wind died, we were reminded of why this place is not good in calm winds. BUGS! Lots and lots of biting gnats! Almost invisible little buggers whose bite feels worse than the biggest mosquito. They just about ate me alive before I could get off the top deck and get the boat closed up. Thank goodness for generators and air conditioners!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy birthday... to me!

What a great day for a birthday!  Sunday we awoke to glorious weather, calm wind, and a beautiful sunrise. Paula allowed me to sleep in, and served me coffee in bed. Once I got up she had a Mimosa waiting on me. That sure took the sting out of being one year older today!

There were no problems during the night other than, sure enough, one of the sailboats dragged anchor around 2:00 am and got a bit close to us. The captain was quick to move further away and reset the anchor, and all was well for the rest of the night.

I went on deck at 7:00 am and stepped out to survey the anchorage. I was surprised to see that more than half of the little sailboats were already gone. The remainder were making preparations to get underway. I would have thought that after their beach party last night they would be a bit slow getting going this morning.

We had considered staying here until later this afternoon, but were concerned about how much jet ski and ski boat traffic there would be. The nice weather was going to have everyone out. Seeing the sailboats getting underway and heading west we decided it would be best if we did the same. If they were planning on stopping at our next anchorage, we wanted to get there first, while there was still room. We had the anchor up by 7:30 am and were underway. Looks like more Mimosas will have to wait. But, as soon as we were underway, Paula cooked one of my favorite breakfasts; homemade apple-cinnamon muffins, and served them piping hot slathered with butter, and a side of sliced fresh strawberries. Yum! Hmm, birthdays are not so bad, after all.

We spent the entire three hour trip to Big Sabine Point passing these little sailboats. Most were doing no more than 3-4 knots. We passed the final one just before we turned south into the anchorage. All of them were very courteous, and stayed in a line hugging one side of the channel. It made it very easy to get past them. One of the boats hailed us on the radio as we passed. He thanked us for sharing the anchorage with them last night. He also told us his was the boat that dragged in the night, and apologized for it.  I responded that I thought they were the most polite and courteous bunch of boaters we had ever shared an anchorage with. I meant every word, too.

We reached our destination at 10:30 am.  The only other boat here was a very nice Krogen 48' trawler. They were in the best spot, but there was room for me to squeeze by and anchor further back in, so we would have good wave protection. The wind was forecast to pick up to 20-25 knots overnight. While this anchorage offers no  wind protection from that direction, the shoals to the north of us are shallow enough that any incoming waves will break there, and not make it to us.

Once the anchor was down, and set, Paula immediately handed me another Mimosa and I was ordered to go get comfortable, and that I was off the clock for the rest of the day.  I made my way up to the bridge and deployed my hammock. Once ensconced there my awesome wife proceeded to ply me with champagne throughout the day, with occasional snacks. I spent a wonderfully dreamy day swaying to and fro in the hammock, drinking, reading, napping. Now, THIS is the way to celebrate a birthday! Thanks so much, honey!

Later in the day the owners of the Krogen came by in their kayaks to introduce themselves. Jeff and Julie out of Cape Coral, Fl.  The bought the boat in Annapolis, MD last October, and have been cruising on her since. They have only been home for three weeks in that time. They came down the east coast, around Florida, then up and around the gulf coast. They made it to New Orleans, and spent some time there. They are now making their way, slowly, back home. They plan to sell their house and then get back to cruising. Really nice folks.

The nice weather had lots of people out. Several boats came in and beached at various spots around us. Everyone had kids and dogs; all playing and having a great time. It was nice to hear all the laughter, and barking, mixed with the lapping of the waves on the boat. One group of four women drove in and walked down from the road. They pulled a cart full of stuff and setup for the day. They brought two half gallons of rum with them, and were making a nice dent in it. Two of them were fishing, and there was lots of squealing going on every time they caught something.  They did not keep anything they caught; it was obvious they were not even sure how to get them off the line. One caught a small stingray and that caused a bit of hysterical screaming as they ran from the water, dragging the poor stingray behind them. Fortunately, after a hefty round of picture taking with everyone, they figured out how to get the hook out, then used a stick to push it back in the water. They finally left around 5:00 pm, very sunburned and definitely feeling no pain. Tomorrow morning was going to be another matter!

Another fellow showed up with a kite surfing rig. I could hear him telling one of the fishermen that he had just purchased the rig, and this was his first outing with it. I remember another time here a couple of years ago someone else showed up with a new rig for his first attempt. So, I knew what to expect. The poor guy spent over three hours trying to get the kite up. For the first hour or so, it would just go up and do an immediate 180 and slam back into the ground. He eventually got to where he could keep it in the air for several seconds, doing uncontrolled loops before crashing. During that time it would drag him for several dozen feet. One one attempt, he kept it in the air for about 30 seconds. But it dragged him off the beach, across a small lagoon, and through the marsh grass before it finally crashed. The whole time he had his heels dug in, leaving furrows in the sand, then almost skiing barefoot across the lagoon. Once he reached the marsh grass he just sat down and slid on his butt for quite a distance. When the kite finally crashed he just sat there, exhausted, and rested for half an hour before bringing the kite back to the beach for yet another attempt. We could hear the guy talking to himself, berating for his lack of skill, then trying to encourage himself to keep trying. I have to give it to him, he was certainly persistent.  He never did get to kite surf. He finally gave up around 6pm, when he was just too exhausted to continue. To his credit, as tired as he was, he spent almost an hour packing everything up, meticulously cleaning the sand off everything before stowing it. I had thought of videoing the attempts, but just did not have the heart to do it. It was embarrassing enough for him to do this performance in front of several dozen people around the beach.

Before he left, a powered paraglider came over and buzzed around us a couple of times. We could see him taking pictures of Microship. The kite surfer guy was whooping and shouting, telling the paraglider pilot "way to go"; not that the pilot could hear him over the engine. I guess kite surfer dude was just happy to see that someone had gotten airborne that day.

After the kite surfer left, we and the Krogen folks had the place to ourselves again. So we had a very peaceful evening. I took Paula and Duke for our traditional sunset dinghy ride. We motored up into the shallows about a mile upwind and shut the engine off.  We just drifted for a while, looking over the side and enjoying all the marine life in the grass flats. Stingrays, trout, redfish, crabs, etc. I did not want to disturb the peaceful aspect of the evening, so just deployed the oars and slowly rowed us back to the boat.

After a great meal, and an evening of Survivor finale, I went out to adjust the dinghy mooring line, and noticed all the bio-luminescence in the water. Every little wave, or splash, would sparkle with little explosions of light. I decided to hop in the dink and take a spin around our little bay to enjoy the spectacle. The wake was ablaze with swirls of bluish-green light. It was awesome. As I returned I could see little bursts of light around where the anchor chain entered the water. It would have been great to get a photo of all this, but it is just not possible.

It has been a long, and wonderful, day. I could not have asked for a better birthday. Somehow I managed to stay up until 10:30 pm. The forecast wind was beginning to make itself felt. I checked the anchor chain, our depth, and location. The anchor was holding fast and everything was secure, so I headed to bed. The wind was blowing 25 knots, but waves of only about 1' were making it to us. Just enough to gently rock us to sleep. Which it did.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Spectre Island

We arrived at Spectre Island around 4:30pm Thursday, and took the west entrance into the anchorage. While the chart shows this side to be too shallow, looking at the sat photo of the area shows a relatively deep channel here. We found no less than 9-10' on the way in. This is much easier than the approach from the east. Only one other boat was anchored here when we arrived, a Jefferson motor yacht, about 47'. It was a very nice evening, and a gorgeous night. A bit noisy, though, as there were some flight operations going on at the air force base, Hurlburt Field, nearby. They must have been doing gunnery practice, too, as we could hear Gatling gun and cannon fire late into the evening. Noisy, but way cool. Paula got a little nervous and went to bed.

The Jefferson left around 10am Friday morning, and we had the place to ourselves for a while. Later in the afternoon a couple of other small power boats arrived, offloaded a bunch of gear, and setup camp on the beach. Unfortunately, they also brought along a jet ski, and the kids spent the afternoon buzzing around our boat. We were waked endlessly. Fortunately, jet skis throw pretty small wakes.

I wonder what would happen if I just stood on the bow with a shotgun cradled in my arms?

When I took Duke for his beach break that morning, we saw the Navy Seals doing training. They came out of a cove, in full gear, laying horizontally along the tubes of their black RIBs. They came ashore on Spectre Island and proceeded to do some kind of mock attack. They are pretty stealthy, and it was difficult to locate them in the high grass on the island. Finally they met for a debriefing on the beach, then dragged their RIBs off the beach, loaded up, and headed our way. This was too good to be true. There were in full stealth mode and passed less than 50' from us. Got some decent video of them hunkered down in the RIBs as they passed by.

SEALS video

That was the highlight of the day. The rest of the day was spent getting buzzed by jet skis and fishing  boats. The folks camping on the beach got a little rowdy around sunset, but they burned out quickly and were asleep by 8pm. There were no flight operations or gunnery practice tonight, so we had a very quiet and pleasant evening.

Well, actually we did have on other event during the day. An 80' motor yacht, Blue Moon, was traversing the ICW heading east. This monster was cruising about 20 knots and was throwing one of the largest wakes I had ever seen. As it approached I was thinking how happy I was to be behind an island. That wake had to be at least 6'. As we watched him blast by on the other side of the island I heard the sound of breaking waves. I looked up to see that his wake had actually wrapped around the tip of the island and was heading into the anchorage. Thankfully, by the time it got to us, it was down to around 3'. Still rocked us pretty good. I could not imagine going past that guy if he did not slow down. A tow boat with a string of barges saw him coming and radioed a request that he slow down. Way down, please. He complied.

Saturday morning we awoke to dark and dreary skies. The forecast was for thunderstorms all day, so we elected to stay put. A nice benefit to the weather was the beach campers promptly packed up, and both boats plus the jet ski left. The jet ski did have to buzz us one final time. Thanks.

The rain hit, but it was not the thunderstorms that were forecast. Just a gentle rain, with a little breeze. We did not even have to close the windows. We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance, but it was well offshore and heading east. Once the rain started, a horde of small sailboats arrived. We thought they were looking for shelter from the wind that never developed. Most are Catalina 22's. As it turns out, this is an annual gathering they do ever Mother's Day weekend. Lucky us. For some reason they felt like the side of the anchorage we were on was the best side, so we have 23 sailboats crammed up into one corner of a large anchorage.

As we were walking along the beach today, an eagle landed in the tree just above us. I did not have my camera, so had to use my phone to take a picture. It is a shame to take such a crappy picture of such a beautiful bird. We stood and watched him a while, then he flew off and started hunting. Impressive to see it grab a large fish out of the water and carry it up into the tree with ease.

With all the activity here we considered heading back to our previous anchorage at Big Sabine Point. But, there is no way to tell how many boats took safe harbor from the storm there, and there may not be room for us by the time we would arrive around 6pm. We decided it was best to stay here, where we know we are safe. Plus, all the sailboats are anchored downwind from us, so one drags anchor tonight, they will be moving away. If you could have seen the antics when these folks tried to anchor, you would know that at least a couple will drag tonight it the wind picks up very much at all.

Well, it is time for a sundowner. Or two. We are heading to the top deck to enjoy the breeze, and the clanking of halyards banging two dozen masts. Grilled salmon, baked sweet potatoes, and cole slaw on the dinner menu tonight. Yum!

Navarre Beach

I spent the morning doing some re-wiring on my inverter and charging system. The port alternator was giving strange readings on the Link 1000, and I thought it was not performing properly. A call to Balmar, the manufacturer, confirmed the alternator was working fine. But the Link 1000 was  not displaying the full current the alternator was putting out. On their recommendation, I checked the wiring to the shunt on the negative side of the battery connection. Somehow, for the last eight years, this has been mis-wired!!  There was an extra connection on the battery side of the shunt that was connected to the negative bus bar on the port side, thus the Link 1000 was not seeing the full load. I am not sure how it worked all these years, but it was not working now. So I rewired the circuit to isolate the load from both port and starboard battery banks to go through the load side of the shunt. Everything works perfectly now. Thank you, Eldon at  Balmar!

Now that was done, we were ready to raise anchor and head east. We departed around 1pm and headed for Navarre. There is a Winn Dixie right at the bridge, and easy access to it from the public boat launch there. The Admiral had a list, and she was on a mission!

On the way there, I had to deal with issues with the electronic charting software I use. The newly released update to Furuno's MaxSea Time Zero, required in order to be able to run in Windows 8, has glitches.  It crashes periodically, at the worst possible moment. When it does, I lose radar, depth, and chart info. I do keep Coastal Explorer 2011 running in the background, so I can just switch over to that for chart display. MaxSea went wacky on me twice on the way to Navarre. I could get radar to display, but could not adjust range.

As we approached the Navarre Bridge, we noticed several work crews on barges around the bridge supports. We had to work around them to get off the ICW. We turned north along the bridge and anchored in about 8' of water, halfway to the public boat ramp from the ICW. As Paula and I were preparing to get into the dinghy, we had a surprise. Duke has decided that he likes dinghy rides, and nudged us out of the way as we were preparing to step down to the swim platform. He literally flew out of the stern boarding door and hopped into the dinghy. Paula and I looked at each other in astonishment. We had never seen this behavior before! Here he was, sitting in the dinghy wagging his tail.

Paula made her grocery run while I took Duke for his constitutional. She managed to leave her list behind, so did not get everything she needed. I think when she got to the wine aisle she got distracted. ;)

It was a short stop, and we were back aboard and underway an hour or so later. The wind has picked up a bit, out of the west. But the ride is still comfortable, and the next stop is only about an hour away. As we were heading out of Navarre, a Marine Corps Osprey aircraft buzzed us, twice. The second time around I managed to get a few seconds of video.

Osprey fly-by video

This was the highlight of our day. A short while later we arrived at Spectre Island and anchored behind it, protected from the wakes of boats passing by on the ICW.  It was perfect timing to have an adult beverage and watch the sunset. We sat on the top deck and grilled steaks and baked potatoes. After a fabulous meal we climbed into bed and slept like logs.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Big Sabine Point

Big Sabine Point is one of our favorite anchorages on the ICW. It is far enough off the ICW so that you don't even notice any boat traffic, and wakes are no concern. The island, at this point, is national park land, so no commercial development. It is a very quiet and peaceful anchorage. Due to the shoals all around the north side, there is good protection from pretty much all directions. Great fishing, too!

Getting up Wednesday morning, it felt like this was the real start to our vacation. Weather was perfect, wind was normal, and we had miles of white beach to ourselves. And, all my current boat issues have been resolved! Let me tell you, there is nothing like sipping coffee, with the smell of bacon and eggs cooking, listening to the wave on the beach, and knowing you don't have to be in the engine room today! :)

After breakfast we decided to take Duke to the beach. While he has learned to do his business on the mat on the bow, we felt it would be good for him to know the beach was an option, too. The last time we took him to the beach, it was quite rough, and he did not like the ride. So when we tried to get him in the dinghy he zipped inside and got on his bed in the pilothouse. Paula picked up and carried him to the boarding gate, where I grabbed him and more or less pulled him out on the swim platform. At that point he continued on into the boat. Not a very graceful entry.

Microship as seen from the beach

Once ashore he was thrilled to have grass under his feet again. He loves to romp in the grass and flush the birds out. Unlike Max, he does not give a fig for digging in the sand. It is just something he has to lick out from between his toes later. We walked along the beach and, much to my surprise, he actually let the water touch his feet!  When we first took him to the beach, not long after getting him from the pound, he actually ran from the little wavelets lapping on the shore. Now, here he was actually walking through it, although only about an inch or two deep. But, it is progress.

On our way in Tuesday night, after dark, we saw target on the radar. Obviously a boat, in the narrow channel that is the entrance to the anchorage we are in now. As we got closer, I still could not find the boat in front of me. I continued to watch the radar as we approached the target. We were just about on top of it when I finally saw it. A small sailboat, with no lights on. The boat did not have a white hull, and was almost impossible to see in the dark. After our beach run this morning, Duke and I went to look at the sailboat. It was obvious no one was aboard; the mast was lashed to the top of the boat with a cushion blocking access to the cabin. It looked as though it had been abandoned here.

 Paula won't drink the water out of our water tanks (don't ask) and prefers to bring bottled water for drinking and cooking. Water in our main tank is used for washing dishes and showers. Anyway, we were down to our last 5 gallons of drinking water so I loaded up four of the empty gallon jugs in the dinghy and headed east to Navarre Pavilions. It was only 15 minutes, but was bumpy. Once there I proceeded to the water fountain only to find the water was off. No other faucets around, I headed to the restrooms. Locked. Off to the side of the restroom building, there was a pedestal with shower heads. Success! It was a little messy, but I got all four jugs filled, with the added bonus of getting my feet washed.

When I returned to the boat, I noticed a small catamaran fishing boat circling our boat. By the time I got there he had made a couple of circles around the boat, and I noticed he was taking pictures, or video, with his phone. I got to the stern and started handing up the jugs, and Paula told me she was getting very nervous about the guy, and was glad I had returned. About this time he approached us and explained that he and his wife had owned a DeFever 49 Pilothouse, just like ours. They had owned her for nine years, and he had completely refurbished the boat himself. Took him two years. They sold her last year, so when he saw ours it brought back fond memories. He asked if we would mind if he returned later with his wife, as she would want to see the boat, too. Of course, we said that would be fine with us.

An hour or so later, here they were. They pulled alongside and we had a nice chat. Found out that their boat was even the same year as ours. Their boat, Spring Tide, was hull #26, and ours is #30. We invited them aboard, but the wife declined, saying she would not do that to us. They did offer to either take us ashore for provisions, or to pick up anything we needed and bring it back. Paula asked for milk and sour cream. As it was quite late, we figured we would see them tomorrow. In fact, we made it a point to mention that we would not be leaving for the next day or so. However, around an hour later, almost sunset, we heard someone outside calling us. There they were, with the stuff Paula had asked for. They refused payment for the items, and would not let me cover their fuel expense, either. Very nice people, indeed!  They left us with their phone number should we need anything else. Wow!

Just after sunset, two sailboats joined us in the anchorage. They anchored a little closer to me than necessary, and certainly closer than I liked. We were the only three boats here, in an anchorage that could easily hold 6-8 boats. They had plenty of room to spread out a bit. So, Thursday morning I was getting the itch to move on, and get away from the crowd. We waited for a while to see if they were going to continue on, and one did. But the other, the closest of course, did not. I could have just pulled up the anchor and moved further away. But, if I am going through that trouble, I may as well keep going. Besides, Paula has now decided she needs more "provisions".

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Finally, a little progress!

Started the day off working through some suggestions from Balmar tech support on how to resolve my charging issue with the port alternator. A little re-wiring of the shunt circuit solved the issue. Wind has finally subsided to a tolerable level, so we were able to head out of our hidey-hole. We got a late start as we had to wait for my replacement video adapter to arrive. Anchored just off Bear Point Marina to await notification the package had arrived. I took the opportunity to have a nap. I needed it.

Finally, around 3:15 pm, the package arrived. We hopped in the dink and headed over to the marina. Paula went to the office to retrieve the package, and I filled a 5-gallon gas can with ethanol-free gas for the dink outboard. We were underway by 4:00 pm and on our way east, finally.

Weather was great, and we had a comfortable ride. Only serious wave action came from a dolphin excursion boat that blasted by us in the opposite direction. I made sure to thank him on the radio.

We arrived at Big Sabine Point around 8:00 pm, just as it was getting dark. I could see on the radar that it looked like another boat was anchored, but not at the good spot all the way in behind the point. As we approached, I could see that it was a very small sailboat with no lights. The mast was stepped, and I do not think there was even anyone aboard. Thank heavens for radar; otherwise I would never have been able to see the boat. As we proceeded further back, I picked up another target, and I could see a very faint light. Crap, it looks like someone is already in there. We continued to approach, and dropped anchor about 200 yards from the radar target. As soon we the anchor was down, the target started moving towards shore. It turns out there were a bunch of kids on the beach, and one out in some kind of canoe or kayak. Once we arrived, they moved much further down the beach. While I would have liked to move all the way in to the best anchorage, I did not feel like pulling the anchor back up. I was ready to stop for the day, and so was the Admiral.

After a wonderful hot meal prepared by the Admiral, and a sundowner (much after sundown), I am ready to head off to bed. This was the best day of our trip, if for no other reason than nothing broke, and I did not have to work on anything. We just had a very pleasant cruise to our next anchorage.

Still at Ingram Bayou

It has been three days since we arrived, and we are still stuck here. Not that it is a bad place to be stuck; it is one of the best, in fact. But we had only planned on being here Saturday, then leaving Sunday morning. We're still here for a couple of reasons. First, and foremost, the weather stinks! Wind is blowing 20-25, gusting to 30. Small craft advisory posted. Second, I have spent more time fixing stuff on the boat in the last three days than I have in the last three years!  This is what happens to a boat when it sits at the dock for too long. When you don't use stuff for a long while, it tends to break when you finally do.

I will try to condense this as much as possible. Don't want to bore everyone with our boat headaches. I would not want everyone to think cruising is not fun. We are having fun, right? RIGHT!

First thing Saturday morning I visited the engine room to clean up the mess. Then I checked the filters to see if they were clean. Damn if they were not full of water again. I proceeded to drain, and change filters, yet again, and I got another surprise. The starboard filter was so full of gunk I have no idea of how the engine had continued to run. I will be ever thankful I switched to 30 micron filters, in lieu of the 2 micron. The thought of both engines dying in the middle of the storm, while on Mobile Bay, is truly frightening. Someone, or something, was watching over us that night.

Once I drained all the water, and changed filters, on both main engines and the generator, I thought I was good to go. Started up the mains only to hear a loud squealing noise. Down to the engine room, yet again, and the starboard alternator belt is slipping. Tighten it up and start again. Now the port engine belt is squealing. Down to tighten it up, and found that it was getting ready to break. So now I install the spare belt and try again. Finally, both main engines running, and good fuel to the filters.

The rest of the day Saturday is spent straightening up the boat. How can so much stuff get displaced and thrown all over the place. Where the heck did all this stuff come from, anyway? Someone must have snuck it aboard when we were not looking. :)  The wind is blowing even harder, from the west. So we decide to raise anchor and move further back into Ingram Bayou. We go as far back as we can, and have the entire cove to ourselves. 360 degree protection from the wind, too. What a gorgeous, pristine wilderness area.

Sunday is a relatively easy day. The port alternator does not seem to be putting out and I spend part of the day trying to determine if the problem is the alternator, or the regulator. No progress is made, and I determine that a phone call to the manufacturer is in order, first thing Monday morning. But, as usual, other events intervene.  In the meantime, another boat has come back this far and anchored not far from us. Older couple on around a 40' Biloxi lugger, with a very old, overweight, yellow Labrador Retriever. So we no longer have this area to ourselves. But, they are quiet, and the only sound we hear is the outboard engine when they have to take their dog ashore for a bathroom break several times a day.

Speaking of that, Duke has been exceptional. We thought it would take some time to train him to use the mat on the bow, but he picked it up the first day out. He now trots right up to the bow to do his business, so no dinghy trips to the beach required. In fact, if we mention going for a dinghy ride, he runs the other way and hides out in the pilothouse!

Since it looks like we will be here for another day, or two, we decide to launch the dinghy so we can go exploring. Normally a simple process, but since this is turning into the trip from hell, nothing is simple. I hook up the davit and lift the dinghy, then swing it over the side and start to lower it. Nothing happens. I can hear the winch running, but the dink is not moving. I swing the dink back in and look at the davit. The cable has come off the pulley at the end of the davit arm, and is jammed between the pulley and support bracket. The only way to get it out of there is to remove the load, which I cannot do since we can't lower the dink. Agh!  Paula and I are finally able to support the aft end of the dink long enough that we can unsnap the lifting harness and lower the dink to the deck. Then, after much beating, banging, prying, and many choice words I get the cable unstuck and back on the pulley. We then very carefully lower the dink to the water, uneventfully.

Have I mentioned yet how much fun we are having! ;)

Back to our other problems. Monday morning I fire up the generator to charge up the house bank. It runs great for an hour or so. I am polishing fuel from one tank to another, and know that I need to switch tanks before empty so the generator does not die from fuel starvation. As I am thinking it is near time to do this, the generator dies. Crap, my timing was just a bit off. I go down to the engine room and switch tanks, and go back to start the generator. I find it strange that there is still fuel in the filters. It takes several tries to get the generator started, but it finally fires up. I immediately notice that the water pump is not turning, and the belt is just slipping. Uh oh, please I don't tell me the bearing in the pump has frozen. I shut down the generator, remove the belt from the pulley. I am unable to spin it by hand. Drat! It was time to change the impeller, so I think perhaps some vanes may have broken off and jammed the pump. I dig out my spare impeller and start the process of changing it. As soon as I remove the back cover to the pump I can see the impeller is fine. I can also now spin the pump pulley by hand. What the heck??  Well, I'm already in to it, and it is due, so I change the impeller, anyway. I also change the drive belt, since I am here already. After several failed attempts to get the new impeller on the shaft, due to the Woodruff key, I finally removed the pump from the mounting bracket so I could get better access to it. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Woodruff keys!!!  Finally, success!  Cleaned everything up, put the tools away, and started the generator. Hooray! The raw water pump is spinning and everything is copacetic. We have power again!

I thought we might be able to get out of here today, but the wind is still blowing hard. More boats are coming in here to ride it out. Yesterday, I ordered a replacement video adapter and had it shipped to Bear Point Marina. I figured we would stop by there on our way out to pick it up. If we don't leave I will just take a dink ride over. It will be nice to have our dual displays again. I like to have radar on one, and chart plotter on the other.

So, now the blog is up to date. I will try to keep up with it on a daily basis while on this cruise. If the boat will leave me alone long enough.

Time to go cook breakfast, and wake the Admiral (Paula).

Monday, May 06, 2013

Better late than never...

Okay, okay... I know that I have kept everyone hanging for a few days. But, our ill fated trip across Mobile Bay has left me with a plethora of boat issues to deal with. I will do my best to catch everyone up. Sorry, but this is going to be a long post. You may want to grab your adult beverage of choice and get comfy. ;)

As I mentioned previously, we were hoping to get across Mobile Bay before the frontal system arrived. Forecast was for it to push through around 7pm.  We were bucking a head wind, and seas, so were only making about 6.5 knots (about 7.5 mph). I had planned on at least 7 knots. It still looked like we would make it across Mobile Bay in time, until IT happened. First, the starboard engine died. Paula took the wheel and kept us on course while running on the port engine. I went down to the engine room and found the Racor fuel filter was completely full of water. WHAT???  A quick look to the port side filter showed the same condition. I did not have much time before the port engine died, too. Started draining filters, and to my horror, the secondary filters also had water in them. Yikes! Fortunately, it does not appear it made it all the way to the injector pump. After draining the filters I changed the filter element in the Racor, and was in the process of bleeding the fuel line when the port engine died. Great, dead in the water with 3-4' seas. This is going to get uncomfortable, fast. Ran back up and dropped anchor to at least keep the bow into the waves. Back down to the engine room, finished bleeding fuel lines, and get the starboard engine started. Back upstairs, get the anchor up, and we are back underway. Then down to the engine room again to repeat the process on the port engine. But, this time, I had to change the secondary filter elements, too. But, finally, I was done and we were back on our way with two engines. We had only lost about 45 minutes total, but that was to cost us dearly later.

Nuttin' but water. This is supposed to full of red diesel fuel!

The rough seas were stirring up all kinds of crud in the fuel tanks, so I fired up the fuel polishing system and started filtering the fuel in the tank with the least amount of water and crud. All seemed well, and the seas even laid down as we got behind Dauphin Island. We still had about three hours to go before reaching the ICW on the east side of the bay. We would be safe then.

We were a bit over half way across the bay, and were starting to pat ourselves on the back for getting through the tough times of the day. Big mistake. I noticed some light rain starting to show on the radar, about 12 miles behind us. I stepped out to take a look, and.... oh, crap... this is not going to be good. The sky was black, and everything behind us was disappearing in a torrent of rain. I could see the outflow boundary, or gust front, approaching at a frightening rate. It was obvious here was the front, and it was going to hit us before we got across the bay.

We had about an hour left to the ICW when the storm hit. It felt like a big hand had just slapped the boat sideways, and the wind immediately climbed to 30 knots, with gusts to 40. It took less than 15 minutes for the seas to build to 5-6', and they were beam seas. The worst kind for us. The boat was rolling 30+ degrees from side to side, and stuff was crashing around inside everywhere. The autopilot was struggling to hold a course, and we were getting pushed off course to the south. I turned it off and took the wheel, trying to anticipate the rolling and correcting at the last second. It seemed to makes things better, but maybe that was just because I was now so preoccupied with steering that I did not have time to notice all the stuff in the boat crashing to the floor.

This is what the engine room looked like after our crossing. Not nearly as bad the rest of the boat, since it is much lower down. I was going to take a picture of the salon, but Paula would have none of it. She said no one ever get on the  boat with us again if they saw that!

Just when we thought it could get no worse... well, you know it did. We took a big roll, something went zzzzztt, and I smelled that burnt electrical smell we all know and love. And the computer shut down, which meant there goes the chart plotter program, the radar, autopilot control, etc. We were completely in the dark. I quickly turned on the big spotlight mounted up top and started scanning for the channel markers. Finally located them and adjusted course to stay between them. I do have a stand-alone radar and chart display on the fly bridge that was still working, but there was no way I was going up there with the boat rolling like that!  We continued on like that for the next 30 minutes or so, and finally reached the safety of the ICW. We slowed (if it was possible to go any slower) and I spent a few minutes trying to determine the source of the zzzztt and burnt smell. Turns out the USB adapter I use for driving a second monitor had taken that opportunity to fry itself, and the short caused the computer to shut down. Once I unplugged it the nav computer booted back up and we had radar again. The rest of the trip to our planned stop at Ingram Bayou was uneventful. It had been a long 17 hour day, the longest we have ever run.

Upon entering Ingram Bayou, the wind was howling and it was pouring rain. I could just make out a small anchor light further up the bayou, and could see the target on radar. It was raining too hard to see him with the spotlight. Apparently the poor fellow thought I might run him over in the rain, and came out on deck (at 10:30 pm) and was wildly flashing a spotlight in my direction. He continued this until he was certain we were not coming that far back, and had stopped and anchored a fair distance from him.

Duke says he is just glad it is finally over!

That is enough for this post. I will continue with the saga on my next post, and make you all jealous of our cruising. You know what they say... Cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations! :)

Friday, May 03, 2013

Finally underway...

Well, I was up at midnight to check the weather, and there was zero wind. Got up at 2am and still calm. We should have left then. Up at 4:30, and out of the marina at 5:30, and the wind ramped up within 15 minutes of departure. Now it is blowing steady 20 knots, and gusting to 25. Amazingly, the ride is not too bad, with only 3' waves, and occasional big boy that causes lots of crashing noises around the boat. Paula did a good job of securing everything, but the big waves always find something to knock loose.

Other than that, it is a beautiful day. Sun is out, temp is only 69 degrees. Duke, the boat dog, is on his first long trip aboard. He is handling the rocking and rolling pretty well, especially since Mom is feeding him a steady stream of dog treats to keep his mind off it.

We are just passing Ship Island now. I hope to get across Mobile Bay before the wind really starts kicking up, as forecast. But that is a long way off. At our current speed of 6.5 knots we won't get there until around 5pm.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Looking a bit better... for now.

Well, the weather gurus now say east winds at 10-15 knots for Friday. That is doable, if it holds. But we will have to find someplace to hunker down that evening as it is supposed to get up to 15-20 knots. That does not make for comfy sleeping conditions!

Weather delay?

Well, we may not be able to depart this weekend, as planned. The weather is not looking good, with 15-20 knot winds and 4-6' waves forecast for Friday and Saturday. But, the weather guys and gals have been wrong many times before, so we are still keeping our fingers crossed.

I spent two days getting her all washed and spiffed up, and Paula worked inside to get all the supplies stowed away. So, Microship is ship shape and ready to go.. and so are we!

We are not sure of our ultimate destination, but it will be at least to Apalachicola or Carabelle. If the weather cooperates we may try to reach the west coast of Florida, and get down to Tampa, and maybe even Sanibel Island. But the destination is not important, it is the cruise that matters. So we'll go slow and enjoy the scenery, and anchor out every night in a nice secluded spot.