Monday, April 23, 2012

Escaping from Florida's Big Bend

The Big Bend of Florida starts in Carrabelle where the GIWW East of Harvey Locks ends. Of course for Wahoo with her need for 60ft bridge clearence the GIWW basically ends in Pensacola. We have no choice but to make offshore runs as we travel along the panhandle. However, from Pensacola those runs can all be made in easy daylight sails. Our panhandle stops are Destin, Panama City and Apalachicola - all 50-65 nm sails. The sail from Apalachicola to Carrabelle is shorter, only about 25nm. It is at Carrabelle that a decision must be made. It's 179nm straight across the Gulf then 6 nm up the Anclote River to Tarpon Springs. Wahoo generally cruises 6-7 kts/hr so it's a 24 hr crossing. In the past we've generally opted to go with shorter sails, stopping at least in Cedar Key(129 nm) and once even in Steinhatchee.

This time a nor'easter was coming so we didn't even make Carrabelle but stayed awhile in Apalachicola. While there we ordered a generator part for a new problem. (voltage too high - that's different from the old, still unfixed, problem of safety switches burning up)
Apalachicola is a lovely, charming town it's waterfront obviously experiencing a decline from its heyday of bustling warehouses for cotton and lumber with wharves filled with all kinds of steamships and sailing vessels. Still it has lots to offer with its many coffee houses, restaurants, bars, antique shops and clothing boutiques. Some of it's old historic homes have been turned into Inns or B&Bs, others have been restored and are open to visitors, a few are still being lived in.

-On our way to do laundry we stopped at the wooden boat show-
The courthouse sign says it all "Apalachicola, the real Florida". It's coastal location is near enough to the white sandy beaches of St George's Island for sun lovers and fishermen will find lots of charter boats to take them out. But today's oyster and fishing industry means that it's much more then just a tourist town.

- Dr Gorrie's patient with the ice bucket above the bed -

-the Mechanical Refrigeration Machine -
There is also an historic figure that called this town home and like the town he's important but not well known. His name is Dr John Gorrie. He invented the first machine for making ice. His 1851 patent for a mechanical refrigeration machine was first of its kind. Dr Gorrie needed a lot of ice because he realized the importance of keeping his yellow fever victims cool. He devised a way to chill the patient's room by suspending a bucket of ice above the patient's bed, then fixing a pipe that took air in at the floor level, and up through the attic and out over the ice bucket. Thus by sealing the room so no other air entered he could use the "hot air rising - cool air sinking" effect of air to lower the temperature of the patient and the room. It worked,but Dr Gorrie died not being able to market his invention or witness the amazing results that air conditioning would bring to the south.
Part of the fun of cruising is meeting fellow cruisers. The other boat in the Marina was Shaman, from Pensacola. Her owners, Don and Lisa, were making there way to the Bahamas this summer. When they aren't cruising they are big time racers in the Pensacola area. Lisa has her own all women crew and seems to win often. Ellie and Marcie do you think we want her around for LPWSA events? There was plenty time during our 4 night stay to drink sundowners, eat lots of Apalachicola oysters and trade sailing tips.

- our 4 slip marina in Apalachicola -
The marine forecast showed Tuesday morning as the day that the wind speed would slow to 15kts and start to switch around to the west. The waves would also go down to 4-5ft by mid-day so it looked like the day to head out. Roy and I had checked the charts and decided that we could cut off 12 nm if, instead of going out Carrabelle pass, we went through tricky Government Cut due south of Apalachicola. To be sure we got local knowledge around the marina " it shoals, favor the starboard side and all the big fishing boats use it". We couldn't leave early with Don and Lisa as we were still waiting on that part but by noon we'd filled the fuel and water tanks, paid our marina bill and were just waiting for the Ups truck. By 2pm we were on our way. Tarpon Springs was 24 hrs away!
You know that thing about sailors. - "if you don't run aground you aren't trying hard enough" Well we obviously were trying real hard. By 3pm we were aground in Government Cut. And shortly after that we were hard ground as the winds hadn't slackened though they were now from the West and each wave was pushing us into shallower waters. Roy tried and tried to get us free but we soon knew we'd need help. So using our Boat US membership we called and asked for a tow. (for the non boaters - SeaTow and TowBoat are the two commercial rescue operators. A BoatUS membership gives you free towing for $150/year). It was 5:30pm when SeaTow arrived. The captain tried diligently for 2 hours but we were now on a falling tide and it was getting dark. After taking our anchor out to deep water to try and halt our being pushed into even shallower water the captain checked we had provisions and slipped off into the night. It was with a sinking heart that we faced what we knew would be a long night listening to Wahoo pound her keel against the sandy bottom. Roy did what he could throughout the night to keep the waves on our beam and reduce the pounding.

dusk and SeaTow's last try to free us

Long before daybreak we were scanning the horizon for our returning savior. Finally dawn arrived and with it a larger, more powerful boat from TowBoat. It still took from 7:30 to about 9am and a rising tide for us to break free. We carefully checked the keel bolts, watched and listened for water seeping in from possible cracks in the keel connections. Things seemed good so the TowBoat Captain led us through the pass and by 9:30am we were once again on our way to Tarpon Springs, having now escaped the Big Bend area of Florida.

Or have they...
How is that keel? Can they take another 24hrs? this blog looks different...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time to Slowwww Downnnn

Luckily we aren't in a hurry —

We had a lovely sail from New Orleans to Pass Christian, wind was light and out of the SE. The squall before we arrived couldn't possibly dampen our spirits.
Where's my French Fries??
Lindy 'n Babara's seafood spread in the Pass
We checked in at Pass Christian Yacht Club where the slips are only $25 a night including water and electricity thanks to our membership at NOYC. Quiet power and all the water you wanted - pure luxury (especially after 3 1/2 months living on a generator and schlepping water at West End.) Unfortunately, we couldn't meet up with Roy's sister, Dawn, and brother-in-law, Jerry; poor planning on our part. We did, however, spend time with Dale's sister-in-law, Lindy. Not only did we get a "welcome to the Pass" visit but also a great evening with boiled seafood and the fun of seeing another friend, "Fancy Nancy", from those old French Quarter days.

We ended up spending a 2nd day in the Pass as it seemed a good idea to finish with caulking the windows with that Dow product that seems to work so well.

Dauphin Island
On 4/13 we turned East and headed to our favorite Dauphin Island anchorage. Once at anchor it was time for Sheba's first dingy ride and beach visit. Roy & I loved feeling sand between our toes again. Later, watching the sunset towards New Orleans with some Louie Prima on the stereo made us happy to be sailing again.

4/14  We headed across Mobile Bay hoping the Marine Forecast was going to be wrong. A high wind advisory went into effect that afternoon and we saw gusts as high as 38knots as we crossed the Bay. Bye bye to our plans to anchor in Big Lagoon near Pensacola and make Destin by the next afternoon. Sailing is nothing if it isn't about loose plans. The wind was whistling but the sky was blue. We decided to stop near daybeacon #65 on the ICW (Orange Beach area). Two great Marinas face each other across Arnica Bay. Saturday afternoon we tied up to the free dock at Pirate's Cove Marina. No electricity or water but the price was right and there was live music and a bar for a Saturday Night in Alabama.  Pirates Cove bar and restaurant has been at that point for 90 years. The bartender said that due to the shifting sand bars it was a pirate hideout in the old days.
too much fun to take pictures!

4/15  Sunday, the wind was still high so we crossed Arnica Bay to Bear Point Marina for a rollicking Sunday afternoon session with a singing guitar player and a bar full of regulars who knew all the words. Platters of boiled crawfish and shrimp could be had for 5 bucks! Who would even want to cook!

On the 16th the wind was calming down a little so after doing some laundry and a few other chores we motored the 10 miles to our anchorage on Big Lagoon behind Perdido Key, a National Seashore. How many times can you say beautiful, lovely...
Perdido Key Dingy Approach from lagoon side
Gulf Side, WOW!

Wahoo at Rest
White sand beaches and dunes with the Gulf just stretching out to the horizon. That's the view. When we dinghied ashore and took a look at the surf. Wow! Think we'll hang here a couple more days.

On 4/17 (what day of the week is that?) Our wise decision was rewarded by our own private Blue Angel air show. Something to watch!! Our pictures certainly don't do it justice.
FOUR planes in formation!!

So fast you can't even see the planes!

We finally got to sail out of Pensacola Channel on the 18th and in quick succession spent nights in Destin and Panama City. We are now secure in Apalachicola at Miller's Marina (all of 4 slips) as we once again wait for a front to pass. Luckily Boss Oysters is right next door and there's the cutest liquor store a few blocks away.
No land? Really now, NO land??!

Dauphine Island Anchorage 30 15.63N     88 10.43W

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New Orleans to Key West Redux

What a winter!! I know, I know it wasn't that cold but we were glad to see a warm March. Roy was ready to throw me over the side, he was that tired of having me complain about the cold.

But we (he) got an awful lot accomplished. In December Wahoo went to Seabrook Marine to have the bottom done and pull the mast for the really big deal of installing the Raymarine E7d Chart plotter with Radar. Moonlight Marine and David Burke were just a great help getting the things we needed. If any of you need help with things nautical he's the one. Plus his kids are so cute!

While the mast was down we also installed our long distance WiFi antennae to the top of the mast and ran the cable down through the mast, then snaked it under the floor to finally have it emerge and be connected to our Time Capsule(router). The Time Capsule is a WiFi router as well as an automatic backup device. Now as long as there is an access point ashore that we can - well access, we have WiFi throughout the boat. The antennae is an 8dpi omni directional unit connected to a Ubiquiti BulletM2HP all using power over internet to allow us to receive Wifi signals. The farthest we have connected so far is about 2 miles. We bought ours last year from Bob at Island Time PC and can't recommend him high enough. His customer service is superb! ( Roy decided to install a line stabilizer also because power aboard a sailboat isn't stable.
Wahoo on the Travel Lift at Seabrook
Mast being lifted off of Wahoo

We also installed an Epirb for safety sake and replaced 150' of anchor chain. The jib furler had been showing signs of wear for a couple of years, so it came off and got sent in for repairs. Ended up with...
well here's the story -

We sent it in for repairs in early November. First they just forgot about it, then it was Thanksgiving, then they forgot to look at it again, then it was Christmas followed by New Years (I don't know when these folks actually work). When we called again in early January they couldn't get to it because they closed two weeks for inventory! By now it was getting close to Mardi Gras and we were getting worried. The next time we called they were all apologetic and said they couldn't fix it but would send some replacement parts. Once the parts arrived - IT WAS A WHOLE NEW JIB FURLING SYSTEM! Value $3,500. costs to us $550. WOW!
Wahoo from top of Mast

Final installation for the WiFi antennae and radar

Wahoo received loving care in the repair and refurbish department. That includes both AC units (thanks Ralph from Comfort Services) and replacing insulation in the engine compartment. A new locker was built, the front engine compartment panel was replaced, our hailing port was updated from Lafitte to New Orleans and the dingy got a name (li'll hoo). The fixed windows in the salon got replaced as they were throughly scratched, cracked and crazed. But, (there's always a "but" it seems) Hunter's recommended caulking was wrong so the leaks got worse until we finally found a solution (hopefully). If you have the same problem use Dow 795 silicon building sealant. The list of repairs went on and on.

However, as we sail out the generator is NOT fixed thanks to the numb nuts at Kohler Headquarters. They swear they will have the CORRECT part at our next port of call that has a Kohler mechanic, I think that's Ft Meyers. Only a year trying to get this right.

See the tab "About Wahoo" at the top of the blog for more on a refurbished Wahoo, including pictures.

Anyway, its Wednesday morning the sky is blue, the wind is fresh and we have a following sea so we're on our way. 
Farewell New Orleans, We're gonna miss ya.

Hello To Our Next Adventure

Now stenciled on a Wahoo Bulkhead - thanks Dave and Angela

 New Orleans Municipal Harbor to Pass Christian Municipal Harbor 53.72NM

NOMH  30 01.96N   90 06.76W
Hwy 11 Bridge  30 11.75N    89 50.00W
I 10 Bridge 30 09.36N  89 37.78W
Rigolets RR Bridge 30 09.36N 89 37.78W