Tuesday, April 19, 2011

South to Key West

Along the GIWW - fishing NEXT to the boat
On 4/16 & 4/17/11 we chugged down the GIWW, pausing at countless bridges as the waterway was having a busy weekend there in South Florida. Found a great overnight anchorage on the 16th at Longboat Key south of Braedenton, Grouper's hometown. Had stone crabs at Moores Stone Crab Restaurant. If you're not eating oysters stone crabs are a great substitute. We made it all the way to Sanibel Island where we anchored in the same anchorage we used with Grouper in 2009.

Moores at Longboat Key

Roy's Stone Crabs
Dale's Stone Crabs

 Sanibel is at mile 0 of the GIWW. Here you can either go East on the Okeechobie Waterway to the East Coast of Florida, if your boat doesn't draw too much water or your mast isn't too high, or you can head out San Carlos Pass into the Gulf to make the trek to the Keys.

4/18/11 Of course we had no choice so it was out the Pass and a 6 hour sail to Marco Island which is just north of Naples, Fl. This was our last stop before the open water crossing to Key West. We'd checked the weather and knew that our weather window was closing fast so decided to get some rest then head out around midnight for the 13 hour sail, about 90nm to Key West.

Too excited - couldn't sleep so around 9:30pm we looked at each other, looked at that lovely full moon, lifted the anchor and sailed away.
 It was as nice a night sail as they get. Wind from the SE at about 15kts waves eventually reaching 2ft but much less for most of the night. We don't do this very often, so don't have that rhythm of standing watch and sleeping down. We take turns at the watch but find the sleeping part hard. (AND I absolutely don't intend to do this often enough to EVER get this routine down)

The moon was still up
Dale in our "Watch Nest"

Made it and had the anchor down for 11am!! WHEW.

Our Anchorage in Key West is about a 5 minute dingy ride from Old Town and all its pleasures (treasures)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tarpon Springs

4/15/11 Lovely to wake up late, have a little coffee and just savor the morning.

We docked at Anclote Harbor Marina. Tarpon Springs is located on the Anclote River about 6 miles from the Gulf. We spent the morning doing a few chores then took the dingy to the downtown water front area. That's the waterfront - notice the trawl boats!

Tarpon Springs waterfront behind Roy
We were planning to do a little shopping, pick up some fresh produce and eat Greek food. We were giving the Sponge Museum a miss as we did that in 2009.  Things worked out perfectly - the outboard gave a little trouble which gave Roy something to do while I hit the shops. Then we strolled along and watched a sponge boat finish unloading before heading to a Greek restaurant.
Greek toys!
Greek Restaurant

  • Sponges
Sponge Boat

Ended the day with my new purchase in the cockpit in time for sunset.

My new purchase - lighted palm trees - reminds me of Samme's courtyard

4/16/11 Now its really time to head south. We'll follow the GIWW to its end in Sanibel at Mile 0 then head out in the Gulf about 45 nm to Marco Island. Our best weather window has us leaving Marco island around 2am Tuesday and heading 90nm to Key West. I guess we'll visit Sanibel Islands on our return trip.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oysters in Florida's Big Bend

There's a part of the north western side of Florida, on the coast, they call the Big Bend area. If you're cruising and can't stay in the GIWW it means you're going to have make a few decisions. From Pensacola around to Tarpon Springs you have to be out in the Gulf if you have a mast that's over 50 ft (ours is 61). You can do longish day sails, as we did, until Carrabelle but then its 120 nm to Cedar Key. The good part is that oysters in this area are delicious - so we ate our way around.

Oysters at Boss Oyster - Apalachicola
4/9/11   We spent only enough time in beautiful downtown Destin to sample a few dozen on the waterfront. Didn't seem like our kind of place, too Spring Breaky. So fog or not, the next day we headed out. Besides, now we have to get to Key West as Dave and Angela are meeting us on the 23rd for our sail to the Dry Tortugas. Nancy is planning on meeting us for a couple of days when we return around the 30th.  The pressure is on.

4/10/11   It was supposed to be a light patchy fog but wasn't. As Timmy reminded us we were recreating the last line from Scuppers the Sailor Dog Rhyme "...under full sail in a fog." It was a damp, sloshy kind of sail, but eventually we reached the entrance to St. Andrew's Bay and sailed towards Massalina Bayou (Panama City area) in order to anchor and have dinner at Bayou Joe's. Ahhh... had oysters from Apalachicola. Well we'll head there tomorrow and get some more.

Marina at Apalachicola
4/11/11 Finally a day with no fog, none!! Several hours of lovely sailing. Then we entered the Apalachicola River and motored past piney woods with Osprey nests all around. Apalachicola is a lovely old town, known for its oysters AND the first machine that made ice! It was invented here by Dr. John Gorrie to help yellow fever victims.

He figured that since the cold weather stopped the disease from spreading, if he could keep patients cool he could save them. He devised a machine to make ice and then one that blew air over the ice to cool the patient's room. He's known as the father of Air Conditioning.

Beautiful old homes under mossy live oaks are nestled between the river and Apalachicola Bay. We found our oysters at a dock side restaurant called Boss Oysters. Yum, Yum.

Carabelle Waterfront Sculpture
Coming into Carabelle
4/12/11 Time to get to Carrabelle. They say a front is coming. Carrabelle is THE place; boats are either leaving to cross the Gulf or just coming in from crossing the Gulf. Its our 3rd time there, but this time we spent a little time and got to know the place. Thought we'd hang around for a day and let the seas subside after the front went through, but around 2pm it was so pretty and the weather forecast was so good that we decided to leave for the long passage to Cedar Key.

I don't know who wrote that forecast - wrong, wrong, wrong! Instead of 10 to 15kt winds from the North with 2 ft seas we were in 20 to 25kts from the SE causing the 3 to  5 ft sea hitting us from the starboard aft quarter of the boat. Not a comfortable ride. At times we were cruising at 8kts with just a little bit of jib up to steady the rolling. What a night; but we stood watches and got through it!!

Cedar Key Waterfront from our Anchorage
4/13/11   The entrance to Cedar Key is long, narrow and tricky, sinuous like a snake. So, while we wanted nothing more than to be safely at anchor, we were glad when the wind fell off some and we could slow down and spend an hour in the channel waiting for the sun to rise. We were rocking and rolling (and not the fun kind) but it was safer to take that channel in the early morning light. Finally put the anchor down around 8am and spent a few hours snoozing. We love Cedar Key and wanted to make the most of our day there,  so we dingied ashore and found oysters for a late breakfast.

Breakfast Oysters and Grouper Sandwich - Cedar Key

Spent the day drifiting around downtown poking around in the many local artists co-ops, visiting the local museum, buying a few things and eating ice cream. Cedar Key has only about 1200 residents during its high season yet at one time it was an important town with several manufacturing plants plus fishing and lumber mills. But when the railroad wanted to put a big line in the local powers wouldn't play and so the railroad went to Tampa. We all know how that story played out.

Ended the day aboard the boat having dinner with some crabmeat from Higgins Seafoard and watching the dolphins play while the sun set.

Luxury House in Cedar Key
Not Luxury House in Cedar Key

4/14/11   We're writing as we sail along to Tarpon Springs, another favorite stop. They speak Greek in the streets. Its a town that's known for its Sponge Fishing, even have a Sponge Museum and a Sponge Exchange. We remember several Greek restaurants where they sold freshly baked pita bread and an outdoor vegetable market where we can replenish our supplies of perishables.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"If anything's gonna happen it's gonna happen out there".

Quote from Captain Ron. And if you haven't seen Captain Ron you really need to come sailing with us.

Well I guess its part of the shake down for cruising.

4/4/11   We were doing swell. Got a taxi to take us to "Mac and More" a wonderful authorized, newly opened Mac Store. They fixed the Imac lickety split and we were just smiling away.

Decided that we would move on along the GIWW to hold up until the storm passed in a protected anchorage at Roberts Bayou. According to Skipper Bob this was the spot. Skipper Bob writes a great cruising guide to anchorages along the Intracoastal Waterways.  We loved not paying another night's marina fee, so off we went.

Yep, it looked just fine...until we tried to anchor. Deep mud, the anchor didn't hold!
Looked around and just waiting for us was this nice little (free) municipal wharf by a nice little park. Sounded our way carefully, didn't want to get stuck, and tied right up.

There we were all tidy waiting for the storm. Emailed with Nancy, talked to Grouper and Tricia (our lovely tenant at 7th St). Everyone said its a whopper, be careful. Seems it was bad, bad, bad in New Orleans but for us not so much.

4/5/11   Next morning - a lovely day, we waited for high tide around 10am to sail away. Long story short - had to call TowBoat around 3pm to pull us out of there. Moral of that story - high, high tide before the storm - low, low tide after the storm.

But we ended the day at a beautiful anchorage just west of Pensacola with a beautiful sunset.

4/6/11   Roy's so sweet. He didn't want to spoil our evening so he waited until after coffee to tell me that the freezer wasn't cooling. Could be the compressor $$$$$$, maybe just the thermostat. Let's go find out.

No sail to Panama City on this lovely day. But we did fine a marine refrigeration company that would come to the boat and check it out if we got ourselves over to Bayou Chico, which is up Pensacola Bay a bit. Ok, did that, out they came, wonderful folks - not the compressor (thank you to the powers that be) just a "module" and they had the replacement and knew folks who used to come to our restaurant in Lafitte. Great, even got some laundry done.

Did a little sewing, did a little laundry
4/7/11 Woke up feeling great - everything's working out.  Finally we're sailing out of Pensacola Bay, winds a little high and out of the SE.

It's a little choppy, waves building to 4-5 feet so its taking awhile. We decided to stop in Destin as it was looking like too long a day to make Panama City.

Great feeling to have the anchor down and be out of the wind and waves. We'll make Panama City tomorrow.

4/8/11 Fogged in!
Guess we'll go see what Destin's all about.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sail Away

After the excitement of Mardi Gras and the sadness of losing my Mother we're now on our way. The plan is to follow and extend the cruise we took in 2009 when Wahoo was brand new (to us). As thrilled as we are to get underway we are sorry to leave New Orleans in Springtime and all the fun to be had with friends and family. Thank you for the great going away parties, dinner and champagne!

Ya'll come on down and visit us aboard Wahoo!

4/2/11 - We made it to Pass Christian Yacht Club the first night and visited with Monica and Eve. The boat is smokin' hot with its new clean hull - wow!
Once we were out of the Rigolets and could get the sails up we averaged 7.1 knots instead of the old 6.3.

4/3/11 - Left PCYC around 8am and decided to come all the way across Mobile Bay instead of anchoring behind Dauphin Island. Our 24"imac is having trouble and that's our major navigation computer plus great for watching movies.
Had a bit of trouble getting the GPS connected to our laptop so where grateful for the redundancy of systems as the Garmin GPS at the wheel worked fine. Of course, we could probably do this leg of the trip blindfolded, we did it so often last summer.

Anyway, had a fabulous 90nm sail to Lulu's Homeport Marine at Mile 155 EHL on the GIWW(that's East of Harvey Locks on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). Sunny sky, winds about 22kts out of the SW and we were flying, once up to 8 kts.

Today we're off to an Authorized Apple dealer ( the next Apple store is in Naples, Fl 3 wks away). Have our fingers crossed the problem is fixable. Tonight a cold front with high winds and rain should come through so we'll stay snug in the marina.

Ok, that's all the excitement so far - surely you don't want to miss out so get out your calendar, count your airmiles and plan to join us.

Here's the itinerary with nearby airports:
4/6/11 Lulu's to Destin, FL
4/7/11 Destin to Panama City, Fl

Airport in Panama City
4/9/11 Panama City - Apalachicola
4/10/11 Apalachicola - Carrabelle
4/11/11 Carrabelle - Cedar Key (big jump about 110nm)
4/13/11Cedar key - Tarpon Springs (the Greek Sponge fishing town)
4/15/11 Tarpon Springs - St Petersburg
4/16/11 St Pete - Venice (Fl, of course)

Airports are either Tampa, Ft Meyers or Naples.

Ready for the jump off to Key West.  Want to be on the passage to Key West - visit that crazy town, have drinks at Louie's backyard-this is the one for you
4/17/11 Venice to either Sanibel Island or Naples, Fl
4/18/11 to Marco Island to stage for sail to Key West
4/19/11 Marco Island to Key West (big jump about 100 nm)

Key West airport

Love to snorkel, want a longish passage to visit Ft Jefferson... this is your time, we'll plan that trip to fit your schedule.
4/19 - 4/30/11(about) stay Key West with a 5 or 6 day trip to the Dry Tortugas during that time, also a great day sail and snorkeling trip planned for any day in KW.

Miami Airport 

Want to visit the keys, this one's for you.4/30/11 Leave Key West for Ft. Lauderdale. Shortest time would be 4 days but this can be a leisurely sail up the keys through Hawk's Passage on the Atlantic. Very fun - snorkeling, restaurants and bar hopping.

Airport in Ft Lauderdale and Marsh Harbor, Bahamas

Want to cross the Gulf Stream and have lots of Bahamian fun, come on down.
 5/12/11(about) Leave Ft Lauderdale and cross the Gulf Stream to West End, Bahamas. This is in the Abacos (northern Bahama chain). The Abacos are fun as nearly each island has a picturesque little town yet there's plenty of sailing, blue water, fishing and snorkeling. We were in the Abacos for the 2009 trip and want to go back.

Airports in the southern Bahamas are San Salvador, Nassau, Georgetown. Cheapest airline I could find to fly Fl to Bahamas is Spirit which advertises a $19 fares to San Salvador or Nassau.

 Southern Bahamas has the out islands where Columbus landed, lots of uninhabited keys plus Georgetown and Nassau for some nightlife - who'd want to miss out!
 5/27/11(about) Leave Abacos for Egg Harbor in southern Bahamas. We want to stay in the Southern Bahamas for about a month. We'll be cruising the Out Islands, Exuma and Eleutra Island chains with no particular destinations.

Bimini and Hemingway, okayyyyyy! Cross the Gulf Stream back to Maimi.
6/25/11 Depart Nassau for Bimini
6/30/11 Latest date to leave Bimini for Miami

We can spend more time in the keys but we'll need to turn for home by July 7. So If first week of July is for you that's okay with us.

Can do Tarpon Springs again on our return. Especially for anyone who'd like to visit but not sail. This is a perfect spot as Tarpon Springs is great and Crystal Springs with the mermaids is nearby.