windy weather worries

I should have known as we started the day with windy conditions that it was going to be a mess out on the water. When we left our overnight dockage the captain was already fighting the wind, he made the decision to navigate the entrance to the marina, backwards. A little worrisome but given the wind, and the other boats I believe it was the correct decision. Minimizing the opportunity the wind had to influence the boats path. The channel was about the length of a football field, but the maneuver was successful and soon we were on our way. We were not however out of the woods yet. In a couple of short hours I would face the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life.  

It was a trifecta of worrisome boating conditions that combined to create a terrifying situation. It was around 11am when we approached a bridge on the ICW. The bridge needed to be opened, our 17 ft height was too tall. I contacted the bridge and requested an opening, the bridge tender informed us it would be about 10 minutes. Ordinarily thats not an issued but today we were in trouble. A fierce wind was pushing us toward the bridge, gusts of 25 MPH and a tidal current driving us towards the bridge.  When the captain shifted our boat into reverse the boat still continued to move towards the bridge at an alarming rate. He took drastic measures and turned the boat around attempting to fight the wind and current Head on. The wind still pushing us forward but even more alarming it was now pushing us towards shore, a concrete fishing pier awaited us like a knight awaits the chance to sink his lance into his opponent. The captain worked feverishly to maintain control against the conditions. Using the throttle to give the engines more fuel and more RPMs,  engaging and disengaging the gears forward and back to cause the boat to swing around more quickly. Evening turning the rutters so the boat would come about a little bit faster. The space we were working in was smaller then I’d have prefered but the captain kept a level head and brought us through. In 10 minutes the bridge opened as promised and still fighting the wind and current was got turned about again to glide through the bridge opening.

Looking ahead I was able to contact the next bridge tender well before our arrival and we weren’t forced to make any fancy maneuvers. The bridge opened as we approached and we glided through.  But our challenges weren’t over for the day. I made the suggestion that in the weather conditions perhaps we should think about getting off the water sooner instead of later. We were coming though little sarasota bay, unfortunately our prefered marina was booked and the mooring field they suggested was unprotected and a poor prospect in the fact of the deteriorating weather.  I pulled out my magic wand (AKA my phone) and performed a dramatic rescue. There was a marina a hotel just north of our preferred location.  I called and they had space so they got us off the water. The brilliance of the selection was the bay I arranged was protected from the choppy water, current and most importantly the wind. Large high rises on all sides shielded the bay and gave my captain the ability to breath a little easier as we slipped in. If I allowed my captain to believe that i intentionally booked us in that slip, in that protected basin at that hotel with a fabulous bar on purpose instead of it being a lucky shot in the dark then I am sure I can be forgiven.

We managed a tough day on the water. The captain earned his stars and bars. And I earned another glass of rum punch. 

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Landlubber

I’ve been off the water now for more than a week. What began as a few repairs to Old Glory has become a series of Major projects. Of major concern is a break in the Keel, 60 inches long. A previous injury to the boat that was repaired, but not well. A repair that didn’t survive the river trip. The Captain has undertaken the fiberglass fix and it should be finished soon. A local boat tech that specializes in our particular brand of electronics is tackling the auto pilot. I anticipate it’ll be reinstalled shortly before the boat is launched and a sea trial will be performed to ensure its operating properly. The engine issues are being addressed as well, which was our major reason for having the boat hauled. Theres a bend in the rudder but the props seem to be fine with little damage they were sent out to be balanced. Overall not to bad. The pitman Boat yard is unusually busy for this time of year but the manager and his minions are very nice and everyone had been extremely helpful. I have my fingers crossed that Old Glory will go in the water early this week.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Or rather the Florida Floraflop House. The construction crew arrived late last Sunday night and have been working hard to get the Piers installed. Without the piers parking Old Glory at the Florida house becomes a more difficult prospect. They have been here a week. A hold up with the Permit office has delayed the instalation but the crew has stayed busy. They work through the day on the floraflop house, break for lunch and then eat and drink their way through the evening hours. Particularly Drink. Good grief.

Living in a house full of men has been a unique experience. While they attempt to be tidy their efforts seem to miss the mark somewhat. With two bathrooms finding a toilet with the seat already down is akin to winning the lottery. The doing of the dishes is always someone elses job. I was grateful when Steve’s sister agreed to come and stay a while. The balance of estrogen to testosterone still isn’t even but I feel better anyway.    

One nice thing about being off the water is that the incidence of unlooked for adventure is greatly diminished and I’ve relaxed considerably. Christmas in Florida is a bit of a disappointment. There is music and some decorations but the holiday spirit is missing. Maybe its because I grew up in Indiana but without snow and cold christmas just isn’t the same. One major bonus of christmas in florida are the lighted boat parades. A spectacular sight and something I think folks everywhere should look into experiencing. I do miss the life on the water a little bit and am eagar to explore the florida waters with places to see and people to meet. 

Bilge Bumps

Monday December 1st, 2014

The sun was setting and land, while insight, couldn’t be reached before nightfall. The seas were as smooth as glass, a true mirror finish. I’ve never seen anything like it. We decided to just drop anchor. The place, about a mile off shore between two marked channels, as long as other boats kept to a channel we’d be fine. The captain was determined to tie off to a green channel marker. highly illegal. I protested vehemently. I got my way and we motored a little further and dropped anchor. The overnight water was predicted to grow to waves that were 2 feet or less. Not insignificant but not terribly worrisome either.

Not surprisingly I had difficulty falling asleep. A repeat of the alien boat incident from the Ohio river kept playing through my mind. Finally I drifted off.

I awoke only a few hours later to the most unusual sounds. The waves were hitting the side of the boat. Not big waves but they were frequent and against the hull sounded quite bizarre. Once I managed to accustom myself to the noise, I went back to sleep.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, the waves had indeed risen throughout the night but not by very much. A clam day was anticipated. Most of the day had indeed been hugely uneventful. I spent a goodly amount of time behind the wheel successfully navigating the boat on a predetermined course heading. After lunch things got more interesting.

The captain had been doing some general maintenance and when he went to fix himself a bite of lunch he told me. Be Careful the hatch in the aft bedroom will be open. I wouldn’t want you to fall in. Well, 2 o’clock came and the captain took a turn at the helm. I went to the bedroom in search of my sunscreen. Totally forgot the hatch was open and like any walking talking catastrophe stepped into the hole. scared the dickens out of me. I dragged myself out of the hole and laid on the floor assessing the injuries. My Left ankle hurt like the blazes and was swelling rabidly already turning black and blue. My wrist hurt from where I caught myself on the way down. and my other leg hurt but not as bad. Figuring the captain should at least be informed I part dragged part hobbled my way to the bridge. Dismayed by the  accident he quickly performed as assessment of my injuries. The ankle wasn’t broken, possible sprain, and there was a popped blood vessel causing concern. Further checking revealed very large black bruises on the other leg, starting at my knee and running clear up to my fanny. OW!

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After I stopped shaking I decided I Felt better sitting down and with my leg propped up. I again took over at the helm. The captain went to finish his repair work, check the bilge and close the hatch. No sooner did the captain leave the bridge then I found myself in the middle of crap pot ally.  Shrimpers and other fisherman drop traps in the water. each trap is connected to each other trap by a chain that is underwater so boats can navigate between the traps. Each trap then is marked with a small round ball bobber or tiny buoy about the size of a small mellon. The buoys give the boats the line to follow to pick up the traps when its time to bring in the catch. Each boat has its own distinctive bobber and each boat can lay traps extending for a few miles, some boats lay down more than one line of traps. Its a bit like navigating a minefield. except you know where the mines are. I was doing well until we had cleared the field completely or so I Thought. I relaxed my vigilance for a moment and missed a lonely final melon sized marker. My attempt to avoid it while valiant ,failed. I hit it, the prop caught the rope and with some clunking and a snap the line was wrapped around the prop. Bad very bad. But as bad as things were they could get worse. Having struggled with engine issues all day just after I hit the crab pot the engine died. Not the engine we’d be fighting and struggling with the whole trip but the good engine. And it wouldn’t restart. Tried and tried not even a gurgle, the starter the captain said. He was expecting it to fail at some point. Bad timing.

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The sun had long since passed its zenith, our speed was cut back to about 5 knots, steering was difficult and the engine that remained was fluttering, badly. However, home was in sight. An earlier phone call to a repair yard had gained us a slip for the night in one of my favorite places in florida. Anclote river and the Sponge Docks. A second phone call alerted the Repair Yard of our circumstances and we were assured that all hands would be there to catch us when we arrived. It seemed like forever but eventually we made it to the repair yard, they had us slip in the boat well and within minutes the boat was being hoisted from the water. Moments later an assessment of the damage was underway and repairs were scheduled. Even had parts on order before we left the boat yard. A super Shout out to the boys of Pitman Boatyard and Yacht Services. They took care of us, quickly and professionally. Super impressed with them.

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To celebrate our arrival a dinner was ordered at one of my favorite restaurants. Dimitri’s at the sponge docks. a wonderful delight of greek fare was thoroughly enjoyed and many toasts were made to our safe arrival.

So, now the boat is on land being repaired. The captain and I are comfy in our florida home for a short time. In a few weeks we will take the boat on more adventures down the coast to Ft. Meyers beach. Meanwhile we are expecting visits from friends, and a crew that’s going to give old glory a more permanent home north of the sponge docks at our florida house.

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

Saturday November 29th 2014

Today was the day I dreaded this whole trip. A return to the Gulf of Mexico. My first Gulf of Mexico crossing was the stuff of legend. The type of life event memorialized in motion pictures. The type of thing that’s only a good story if you live to tell about it. Today was the second crossing.

Embarking from Apalachicola, Florida. A great stop on the costal waterways of Florida. The place to make the crossing from the panhandle to points south. Knowing we had a long day ahead of us we left early. Just as the sun crested the horizon. The water was calm, a few light waves in the protected waterway.

I was scared. Absolute terrified. So much that not only did I sleep poorly the night before but aproching the gulf caused my stomach to knot and the desire to vomit overboard became quite strong. NOAA predicated 2 to 4 ft. seas. The calmest seas to be seen on the Gulf of Mexico in 10 days. Later in the afternoon the waves were supposed to subside and smooth sailing was predicted. Unlike my first crossing, the weather man got it right and the waves were a little disturbing in the morning but began to subside just afternoon. By 3pm the 4 ft. rollers that were spraying our bow calmed totally and flat water layed before us. Wonderful water, sea green. Calm enough to allow me a unique view of a mysterious sea creature. The jelly fish. Easily the size of a large dinner plate the creatures paid no attention at all as we sailed by.

We knew that we had engine issues with the port side engine. The issues plaguing us most of the trip. Most of the time the engine would run somewhat reliably as long as it was kept to a minimal RPM. Well, ever one for surprises shortly after we entered the gulf our starboard engine died. It restarted and gave us another hour before dieing again. The rest of the day I started or restarted one engine or the other until about 3pm. Both engines quit. Done. Kapuzki.

No engine no go putt putt. The boat doesn’t move. I start looking for the contact info for Tow boat U.S. and practicing May Day radio calls in my head. Both engines restarted but continued to fail one and then the other regularly throughout the day.

The engine issues slowed us somewhat and what should’ve been a docking at our chosen marina at 4 o’clock became us hunting for the shoreline around 6. The most nerve wracking evening I’ve ever had started with a line of blinking buoys. Red and green it looked like Santa was coming in for a landing. The spot light helped illuminate additional unlighted buoys that guided us into port. WHOO HOO. I think whoever established that particular buoy line deserves great giant hugs. Without it we’d have gotten into serious trouble. The shrimpers however that are randomly dropping their traps and their markers in the channel deserve to be drawn and quartered. Seriously. Like I don’t have enough problems lets run over a rope that get wrapped around our prop and causes major issues. Keep them out of the channel boys. It was a near thing but for the whole day we only managed to snag one.

At long last we pulled into our slip at Sea Hag marina. That’s right, Sea Hag. It’s a cool place. And the people here are amazing. I am somewhat insulted that Steve brought me to a place called sea hag but it was recommended. The evening meal was had at a place called the fiddler. Just up the road it was going to send a car but our marina dock hand and office girl dropped us off. One of the waitresses brought us back to the marina.

Tomorrow we hit the open water for the last time. With near shore weather forecast the waves should be minimal and the sailing smooth. Keep your fingers crossed. We’ll be in Florida home port tomorrow night.

All in all it was a successful crossing. Must better then the first one to be sure.

A strength of character

If there’s anything I’ve learned about traveling on a slow moving boat it’s that going back isn’t usually an option. Weather, wind and waves are just part of the world you live in and allowances must be made. It’s one of the reasons active boaters watch weather and water conditions very carefully.  However, even with the most careful planning, things can still go awry. On the water there are no promises only hopes. 

The morning welcomed us with a stiff wind that casually claimed to around 20 knots. In the ICW with land on both sides the water is rarely difficult. What some may not realize is that the ICW connects lots of much larger coastal bodies of water. One such body of water, Pensacola Bay. Large enough and deep enough to accommodate large shipping vessels. I didn’t expect to find rough water in the bay but I did. The further the boat traveled the worse the water became. Waves cresting at around 3 and 4 feet with the occasional 5 footer. We were taking significant water over the bow. Not just spray but the waves themselves. 

You’d think given my panic attack ridden actions previouly this trip I’d be a complete wreck. But no…we were about to loose one of our flags. It’s repair, came unrepaired. Steve went to fetch it before we lost it to the deep blue sea. I took the helm. The waves rocking the boat and causing it to pitch somewhat violently forward and back. Water everywhere. I guided the boat confidentiality through the waves. Amd no panic, infact it was the opposite. What a switch,  in charge of the boat and doing what I could to control the rocking and pitching I felt in command. No more panicky whatnot for me. Give me a couple more feet on the waves please. Though I’ll likely rethink that bravado should I ever face actual 7 foot waves. Well,  face seven foot waves,  again. But that’s a tale for another day.

The day hasn’t been without some serious bright spots. Despite the cooler temperatures and the rain. This morning I saw four Blue Angels Jets flying in formation right over our boat! I was so awestruck I didn’t even snap a photo.  We were also in the presence of one of mother nature’s most remarkable creatures. The dolphin. Though out the day we saw several pods. The dolphins sometimes swimming and playing alongside the boat. What fun! 

Tonight we are in Destin Florida. Enjoying the Destin River Walk.  We are warm and happy for the night. Safe in our slip and are making plans to head for Panama City tomorrow.  We are on schedule for a gulf of Mexico Crossing later in the week. Very excited to be getting close to the Florida home and a genuine break from the river rat existence I’ve learned to live.

Not quite the end.

Saturday, November, 22nd 2014

Today was the day! We finished THE RIVER! 5 weeks, four days and two hours. We finally arrived in mobile bay! Mobile Alabama. Our anchorage, the night before, just off the Tensaw cut off, was perfect and pretty. Protected from Passing boats, weather and wind.

We started off early. The captain started off early. For the first time in our trip I stayed in bed. Napping till the sun actually crested the horizon. We arrived in Mobile bay. A major shipping port. The sights were honestly overwhelming. The ships so huge we looked like a toddler tubby toy!! The most interesting part were the dry docks where the ships were being repaired, even built. So cool. Mobile bay stretched out before us. The shipping channel going south.

We arrived in mobile day during windy conditions. Building during the day, overnight the winds would be gale force. The crossing was, as they say, choppy. It started out kind of uncomfortable though I dare say other boaters would consider it fair weather. At a 9 am a mere three hours after we left our secure anchorage the Captain and I arrived in Fairhope, Alabama. The East Shore Marina is our home for the next couple of nights. We will stay through the bad weather and then try for the Intercostal waterway (ICW) to take us to Florida. Be assure that while our river adventure may be concluded. Our boating adventure has not ended.

The begining of the end

Demoplolis, Alabama. Demopolis Yacht Basin. After two long days of boating before dawn and close to dusk a break was welcome. The weather was turning frigid and the subzero temperatures would mean disaster if problems ensued while on the hook. Water lines could freeze. Generator might fail. Not to mention pulling an anchor out of the water in the wee hours of the morning wasn’t preferred. So we stayed almost a week.

The new Orleans Bar and Grill was a local hang out. By local hangout, I mean it was a dive. The kind of dive with fabulous people and great food. It’s a favorite among locals and a must stop for boaters passing through.  We met the owner, a New Jersey native, he had been in Alabama 16 years. His biggest complaint? Trouble getting help. Well, I said, “I’ll do it”. So the next night I showed up for work in a red dress. Hair done and makeup in place. I was able to work alongside a lovely girl named Brooke. She’d just received another job offer. She and I had a good time. Telling jokes, taking the teasing from the local boys and dishing it right back. I served a great number of beers and received an invitation to join the owner for his next business venture nearby a local collage. I don’t’ need to say it but I will. A good time was had by all. Lots of love to you Billy Bob, Happy Birthday Jonny and to Ronnie, Hugs and kisses.

The first really decent day was going to be Thursday and we joined a whole group of boaters going through the Demopolis lock. All of us headed to bobby’s fish camp. A restaurant on the Tom Big Bee waterway and the last chance for fuel before Mobile bay.  The lock that morning was our first lock with a great number of other boats. 10 floating pins, seven boats. We locked down exited the lock and proceeded down river.

We hit a bit of luck. After refueling at the Demopolis Marina our port side engine decided to have its day in the sun. A record 12 miles an hour saw us leading the pack by mid afternoon. We arrived at Bobby’s well ahead of our projected schedule and tied up for the night. After helping the other boaters land and tie off a 22ft Boston Whaler pulled up, needed fuel. After mistaking me for the dock help I met Joe and Jennifer (Jenny) A very nice couple from Wisconsin. On their way to Florida.

The whole gang came together at bobby’s fish camp for their famed catfish. Some drinking ensued. Afterword Jenny and Joe joined us for an evening on board our boat where we bored them with the tales of our river travel. They convinced us to try and do the northern Mississippi the next time we got the chance. Wondrous sights and small towns to terrorize await our discovery.  Game for an early morning departure Joe and Jenny followed us as we headed for the Coffeeville lock the next morning. Our last lock on the waterway. The fog permatating the river caused some concern but we carfully pulled up to the lock. Jenny got a great picture of Old glory in the mist and later shared it with me.

The engine once again ran well, until about lunch time. Then it decided to fail. We coaxed it back to life and, despite concerns from the captain about the endeavor, found a place to anchor out for the night. 12 miles north of the end of the river. It was everything a boater wants in an anchorage. Protected from passing boats, weather and had stunning scenery.  Dinner was great. We watched TV. Hit the sack early and prepared for our next adventure.