Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hunkered Down In Carrabelle

The lousy weather continues, so we are staying put in Carrabelle for a while. The rain comes in like a commuter train at a busy station. All is quiet for a while then another deluge of water. Wait a bit and the next one will be right along.

We get out between "stops" and wander the old town, watch DVD's, do laundry and waste the rest of the time away. Yesterday we wandered over to Carrabelle Junction which is an old school ice cream shop. Lots of neat decorations including the red vinyl booths.

We took our picture next to the World's Smallest Police Station The Packers were on Monday Night Football, so we walked over to Harry's Bar to watch the game. It was fun to see them play again.

The rain continued all night and is currently pounding on our boat's cabin top. Guess it is time to watch a movie.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Carrabelle, Florida

Brenda rocking away at C-Quarters Marina

We motored down the Carrabelle River toward C-Quarters Marina for a few days of rest and relaxation. We selected this marina based on the glowing recommendations on Active Captain. C-Quarters Marina is exactly what we hoped it would be - a huge old porch with rocking chairs overlooking the shrimping and fishing boats, locals hanging out on the porch solving all the world's problems while tossing their empty beer cans at the recycle bin.

Carrabelle River

We called ahead to secure a slip and the friendly staff met us at the slip to help us get tied up. The river has a strong current that is perpendicular to the slips, so entering your berth is pretty interesting. We did a decent job of getting Wrinkles into the slip and got simple nods of approval from the porch audience. Whew!

Wrinkles all tied in.

As soon as we were tied up Norm, the marina attendant, told us to take our time and then come up to the office for a cold beer. We bought a six pack of Corona while Norm grabbed a 5 gallon bucket of ice to fill the big cooler on the porch for us to keep our beer cold. We put our beer into the cooler and settled in the comfortable rocking chairs to sip and relax. Mike loves this place.

We expect 4-5 days of rain, so we are planning to do a few simple boat projects, sample the local restaurants, visit a couple of interesting spots in Carrabelle and just rock away the days. Now this is cruising.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Tough Gulf Crossing

Mike at the top of the mast. Dog Island, Fl

We checked, checked and rechecked the Gulf weather forecasts from every source available to us before crossing from Clearwater to Carrabelle. The forecasts all said the same thing, nearly perfect weather for our crossing. We sailed out of Clearwater hoping to arrive at Dog Island late the next day. Good plan, right?

We alternated between sailing and motoring for the first 11 hours enjoying some great 12-15 knot winds for long stretches. The sunset was beautiful, but a gray cloud in the distance didn't look promising. Unfortunately all the weather pundits missed something, because we ran into a nasty storm after dark that pretty much kicked our butts. Wrinkles proved herself that night by taking care of us in the wind and waves. At one point during the worst part of the storm Brenda asked Mike if he wanted a break at the wheel and and he responded, "No, Wrinkles and I are bonding right now."

The next morning we sailed under bare poles as the wind was plenty strong to move Wrinkles along without any sails up. Wierd to be sailing that way. The waves kept coming, but as day broke the wind finally abated to the point we could hoist the headsail and make headway. We sailed all morning until our heading forced us to run the Yanmar to motor sail.

The sun was shining and the weather was ideal for 360 degrees. Perfect, we'll be anchor down before too long. Good plan, right? We could see our destination about 2-3 hours ahead of us when another eerily similar gray cloud broke out over the entire area in front of us. Who did we piss off in the weather world?

Yup, another nasty, windy night off shore to look forward to. Once again Wrinkles faithfully protected us as we killed time waiting for morning and hopefully a break in the weather. At 7 a.m. we headed in the direction of our anchorage after getting almost no sleep for the previous 2 days. The motor sail was rolly in the leftover waves, but we landed in the protection of little Dog Island and dropped our anchor. Mike slept from 8 pm to 10:30 am the next day.

Brenda's turn next? I don't think so!

Dog Island is very primitive and quiet. We cleaned up the boat a little and then investigated our mainsail issue. During the storm the winds managed to jam the main halyard which we use to raise the sail. Although we were still exhausted, we knew we needed to have that sail ready for use if another storm comes our way. We pulled out the Mastmate mast climbing system and Mike climbed the mast. We got the halyard working again and called it a day.

Tomorrow we will move to a marina in Carrabelle for a short relaxing stay.

Thank you Wrinkles for being such a good caretaker.


Friday, September 18, 2015

Totally Tourist

Monday, Sept 13th when we were still in Longboat Key

Today was a "no boat projects day" and we took the free trolley up to the end of Anna Maria Island and walked out to the end of the old pier where the steamboats used to dock after bringing supplies from the mainland. After receiving a personal recommendation from the trolley tour guide, we chose Ginny and Jane E's for lunch. Great choice! Funky and eclectic, this transformed IGA store greets you with local crafts, antiques and whatever. Interspersed are a variety of mismatched tables/desks that customers use while enjoying an entree or ice cream from the deli. An old bike hung from the ceiling with colored glass plates and cups intertwined through the spokes. In another corner was a mother of pearl colored mannequin that was "bejeweled" to look like Elvis. Fun! Fun! Fun!

Next stop was Manatee Beach for a cold one and a walk in the waves. As long as were out, we stopped at CVS to refill a prescription, Ace Hardware for a cutting board to use as a mounting plate for the depth sounder and Publix for groceries.

The dinghy ride back to our anchorage was highlighted by dolphins leaping out of the water right near us. Fun, carefree day!



Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dinghy to Trolley to Bus to Trolley to Taxi to Bus To Dinghy

Statue in downtown Sarasota

We are finding out how different it is to live without a car. While in Longboat Key we needed to fix a couple items on the boat before we could move on. Our 31 year old depth sounder called it a career and stopped displaying anything. Our battery bank also needed upgrading very soon. We located a West Marine in nearby downtown Sarasota which only required us to dinghy 1 mile, hop a trolley, change to a bus and walk to the West Marine. We purchased a Norcross Hawkeye D10D depth sounder, a 90 ah deep cycle battery and a 5 gallon diesel jerry jug. The battery certainly tested the strength of Mike's backpack.

We questioned whether the bus would let us on with a bright yellow diesel jug, but hoped with a receipt showing it was brand new and obviously empty they would let us pass. Of course the driver said no to our jug and we had to hire a taxi to the central bus station. By the way, that taxi was first pirate sighting we have had this trip. $40.60 for a few mile trip. Argh! We purchased some black trash bags and put our "rectangular boat part" into one so the next bus driver wouldn't object to our possessions. We didn't mention the 60 lb battery in our backpack. We enjoyed the trolley and bus ride tour of downtown Sarasota. The transit system down here works pretty well for us carless people.

The following morning we took The Ernie T a couple miles north to fill our two diesel jugs and top off the dinghy gas can. We motored back to the boat and filled Wrinkles tanks before picking up the anchor and motoring out the channel and back through the Longboat Pass bridge. The wind was predicted to be perfect for a beam reach all the way to Clearwater. We put up the sails in 8-10 knots of wind and enjoyed an hour of sailing at about 6 knots. Wrinkles is fun to sail and it was wonderful to be out in the Gulf with the motor off. As the winds built to 10-12 knots Wrinkles kicked up her heels and gleefully sailed at 6.5 to 7 knots. Now this is fun!

After three hours of sailing Brenda saw an ugly black front catching us from dead astern. Down came the sails as the winds picked up to 24 mph and the waves quickly reached 5-6'. OK, time for a different destination. Brenda had selected the North Channel into Pass-A-Grille near St. Petersburg as our plan B stop. In order to get there our poor little Yanmar was at nearly full throttle and struggling to maintain two knots against the wind and waves on our nose. The channel looks like a piece of cake with good channel markers and 15-20' of water all the way to the Pass-A-Grille Marina. We followed the channel perfectly and even called the marina for any local knowledge available on the pass. The guy just laughed at us and said the pass was easy with no issues. About then the new depth sounder chirped a low water warning which is set at 5'. Seriously! We actually touched bottom briefly in the channel which is charted at 18' deep. Yes, it was low tide, but who cares when the depths are charted at 18' and the tide is only 2'? Maybe 18 - 2 = 4 in this area.

Wrinkles in the background

The good news was the deeper water reappeared and the rest of the channel was nice and deep. When we arrived at the marina the gentleman said, "Oh, that area does shoal sometimes." We side tied to the marinas dock and both started grinning. Two or three days in a quiet marina while we wait out the lousy weather. The Wharf restaurant only 150 yards from Wrinkles' bow sounded awfully good to us, so we wandered over for a nice meal and some iced beverages. Sweet!



Friday, September 11, 2015

Chug, Chug, Chug

After waiting an hour and a half for the morning thunderstorm to decide where it wanted to come ashore, we motored out of Pelican Bay for the second time in search of points north. Our plan was to go out into the gulf to sail in the predicted 7-10 knot winds. As we motored out the Boca Pass a little wind did show up for us to sail for about half an hour. That was the last wind we saw all day.

We figured we would go as far as Venice and then decide if we wanted to push farther on. Push on we did. The little Yanmar chugged along at 5 1/2 knots hour after hour. A couple of times during the day a small breeze would tease us into raising the sails only to be disappointed as the breeze faded away. Chug, chug, chug.

We decided to enter Big Sarasota Pass which sounded tricky, but doable. As we poked around in the shoals near the entrance we made the call to move on instead of taking the risk of grounding. This meant the next pass was another 13 miles ahead. Chug, chug, chug.

Entering Longboat Pass just south of Tampa we found it to be well marked with good water depth. Brenda had called ahead to the bridge tender an hour before to make sure it was still opening on demand. This was our first bridge and even being tired from motoring 11 hours and 60 miles we were still excited. The bridge tender agreed to open for us (VHF Channel 9) when we approached and all went well. It is pretty cool to see your sailboat going through an open bridge.

Our selected anchorage was just several hundred yards inside the canal after a right turn. We were paying way too much attention to the bridge and way to little attention to the IMMEDIATE right turn into the canal and came to a very quick stop. Yup, grounded in the lovely sand a few hundred yards from a restful night at anchor. We came in on a rising tide, so we weren't too concerned. Wait 15 minutes and we will most likely float off the sand bar. 15 minutes later we turn the key and push the start button on the previously reliable Yanmar. Really! Nothing. No buzz, rattle or bang. Dead in the water, stuck in the sand with the sun going down.

OK, it is time to call Tow Boat U.S. We paid for towing insurance when we first got Wrinkles and one month later we will now have saved more than it cost. Yippee for Tow Boat Unlimited! Mike started trouble shooting the engine while we waited for our tow boat. Battery good. Battery connections good. Key switch good. Fuse good. OK, time for the old bang on the starter and solenoid to see if it got hot and froze up. A couple good whacks and we have a motor again. The tow boat showed up about then and we gratefully accepted the tow back to the deeper water. Since it was dark now, we were happy to at least have a working motor to set the anchor.

When the tow boat operator dropped us off he told us to side tie to the abandoned pier of an out of business restaurant adjacent to the apparently full anchorage. Boy did it feel good to get the boat tied off and safe. A couple of stiff drinks in our galley were in order while we unwound our nerves and discussed our mistakes and options. Once we settled down we called our good friends Jim and Joni to tell them the tale of the day. They laughed with us as we recounted our blunder. Oh well, we are learning.

The next morning we woke early and settled on a plan. The starter will work for now, so we could move off the "No Trespassing" posted pier and find a gap in the already crowded anchorage. We took The Ernie T for a spin around the anchorage using an oar to probe for deep enough water for our 4' keel and 2' of tide. We found a spot that would work and moved Wrinkles out to set the anchor. Ahhhhhhhhh, that is more like it.

We rested up and dinghied over to the Mar Vista Bar/Restaurant just 100 yards from our boat. Cold beer, Sangria and good food overlooking the anchorage made our previous night seem like a distant memory. We enjoyed our meal and then sat down with a long term cruising couple to chat about our new lifestyle. It was good to hear them tell us about their tow boat experiences as well as all the things they love about the cruising lifestyle.


We've heard the first 6 months of cruising are by far the most stressful and challenging. We think we have matched that in our first month.


Caya Costa State Park

Not much doubt which side to pass this buoy.

Since we re anchored in Pelican Bay, we decided to dinghy in to the Caya Costa State Park for a visit. We packed our swimsuits, water bottles and towels into The Ernie T and motored over. They have a nice boat dock to tie up to and a friendly volunteer met us right away to see if we wanted a golf cart ride across to the gulf side. Heck yes we want a ride! It was 93 degrees and the sun was scorching.

The park has rustic cabins and campsites available along with bathrooms and basic showering facilities. We walked the shoreline and only saw one other couple. We donned our swimsuits and simply plunked down into the clean cool gulf water. If you ever get a chance, check out this wonderful Florida treasure.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Another Lesson Learned

Two sets of tracks?

Well your intrepid crew has learned a lesson today. They left Pelican Bay knowing that the winds were only forecast at 5 knots or less. Being smart and savy people they chose to motor along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway(GIWW) instead of going out into the gulf. This plan was working really well as they arrived at the Boca Grande Bridge just minutes before it's scheduled opening time. They motored confidently up to the bridge and waited a few minutes until realizing the bridge was not going to open for them. The crew hailed the bridge tender who politely informed them that the bridge was under repair until September 18th.

A long motor both ways.

2 hours of motoring and no other passages out to the gulf. They glumly motored the 2 hours back to Pelican Bay to reset the anchor. Lesson learned. Never assume that a bridge that is posted to open every half hour will necessarily follow that plan.

So early a.m. tomorrow the crew will head out into the gulf to sail north toward Sarasota. They sure hope this is a one way trip.



Monday, September 7, 2015

Properly Propped

John from Mariner's Mobile Marine in Rotonda, Florida brought our repaired prop back yesterday. He had previously removed and delivered it to Coastal Prop Tech, Inc. out of Cape Coral for a Class I restoration. (Class I is one step below racing perfect.) It turned out that all three blades were set at different pitches which likely caused our shaft vibration. John painted the prop with 2 layers of Interlux 2000 primer and some hard Trinidad paint to help keep the sea life from calling it home.

John re-installed the prop while the boat was still in a wet slip. The cola colored water of the Peace River made the job pretty difficult, but John expertly did the job. When we turned the little Yanmar diesel on it was wonderful to hear and feel a smooth operating drive shaft. The final test will come tomorrow when we leave Fishermen's Village Marina in search of a new spot to drop our anchor.

If you need repair work done on your boat in this area, we highly recommend the three companies we have worked with during this refit. Norm's Prop and Repair, Coastal Prop Technology and Mariner's Mobile Marine.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

BVI Trip Days 16-17

The Indians

The plan for the day was to go out to the Indians just outside Norman's Island for snorkeling and scuba diving. We didn't get an early enough start though, as all the dive moorings were already taken. We decided to put the sails up and enjoy some sailing while we waited for a mooring ball to open up. After a couple of hours several balls opened up for us.

We grabbed a ball right next to the Indians and began to suit up. Karen and Peter began their dive rigging process which seemed like a lot of work to us. Tanks, flippers, rubber suits that are nearly impossible to get into, weights, tank bangers, goggles, regulators.......... Geez, we were tired just watching the process.

We put our snorkels and flippers on in about 3 minutes and were in the water right behind them. The Indians are a very popular dive site which offers everyone a great adventure. It is beautiful and unique with the small spikes of land jutting up out of the water. The coral is bright and healthy with numerous fish to watch.

Once everyone finished debriefing after the dive, we fired up the diesel to motor over to Great Harbor, Peter Island. As we left the Indians in our wake the diesel decided to conk out on us. We restarted it a couple of times and it continued to sputter out. The crew raised the headsail so we could safely make it between the two islands while Mike checked into the issue. We had been maintaining a fuel usage log since day one which showed 21 hours of motoring and charging time. This should mean we had used roughly 15-16 gallons out of a 45 gallon tank, so we ruled out low fuel. The next obvious cause would be dirty fuel and/or clogged fuel filters. We discussed the situation and agreed to continue on to Peter Island and sail onto a mooring ball.

A little more wind would have made the sail easier, but we eventually managed to get ourselves on a mooring ball. We rewarded ourselves with a drink aboard and then a nice lunch at Ocean's 7 restaurant. We contacted Jim at Pro Valor Charters who agreed to come out first thing the following morning to look into the mechanical issue. It is nice to be on a charter boat and simply call in a chase boat for these repairs.

The next morning Egbert from Pro Valor and his assistant pulled up to our boat and proceeded to go through the entire diesel fuel system looking for leaks and clogs. Mike enjoyed the free diesel class as they ended up going all the way from the engine to the fuel pump to the Racor filter. After a couple of hours Egbert called it good and told us to have a nice day. Mike didn't like the sound of the diesel, so he suggested they follow us out of the harbor to ensure the issue was really resolved. Good thing, we didn't make it 200 yards and the diesel was coughing and stalling again. Egbert helped us grab another mooring ball and brought his tools back aboard. The real culprit ended up being the fuel pick-up screen inside the diesel tank. Once it was cleaned and re-installed the motor sounded great once again.

Since the day was slipping away we decided to return to Peter Island for the evening. Karen and Peter snorkeled while Brenda and Mike just relaxed aboard. Not your typical charter day, but a fun and interesting adventure to be sure.



Saturday, September 5, 2015

BVI Trip - Days 14 and 15

We feel bad that we didn't finish detailing our 20 day BVI charter. Since our refit and cruise started we have been posting about our current shenanigans rather than completing the BVI story. We told you about day 13 last time, so here we go with the next couple of days.

Arriving in Leinster Bay, St. John USVI we awoke to a new tropical playground. The trusty dinghy took us to shore so we could tour the ruins of a sugar plantation. The plantations are always fascinating and the views of the bay truly remarkable. Once again this was Brenda's favorite bay.


The group decided to head for Soper's Hole to check back into the BVI. As we sailed toward Soper's Hole Mike reminded Karen and Peter that there was a massage parlor available there. That certainly perked up their ears as they quickly made plans for a quick provisioning trip, lunch and massages. Karen and Peter came back from their massages looking rested and very relaxed.

Next up in our list of bays was Cane's Garden Bay, Tortola. This bay has a reputation of beautiful scenery and great local music. We motored and sailed around to the bay and found plenty of empty mooring balls to choose from. The chickens crowed so loudly as we motored in to the mooring field that we could hear them easily over the diesel noise.

The girls got out their pretty dresses and we went ashore to find some food and music. We landed in Myett's Restaurant and it fit the bill perfectly. We dined on tasty food as the sunset framed the bay for us. The local reggae band was terrific and soon we were all dancing our hearts out. Yes kids, even Mike was on the floor having a ball.

We returned exhausted to the boat for a Drambuie sundowner to cap off a day to remember.

The next morning Mike and Brenda wanted to wander the little town while Karen and Peter felt like sailing. So, that is what we did. Mike and Brenda hiked around the town and toured a tiny old rum distillery while Karen and Peter sailed north of Tortola and later returned to catch a mooring ball on their own. Way to go guys!

After fueling up the dinghy outboard we headed out once again in the direction of Norman Island. Once there we found a mooring ball and dinghied ashore to swim on the beach. All this activity had everyone starving, so we headed back to our sailboat for another great meal aboard. This chartering is getting addictive.