Friday, February 26, 2016

A Ticket To Ride

Pinellas County Bus Passes

We joined our friends Julia and Robbie for a day of adventure in Clearwater. The county bus system is readily accessible in walking distance and an all day pass is $5. We boarded the 52 Route bus headed south toward what Robbie and Mike considered the biggest and most most exciting tourist attraction in Clearwater. We are talking 15 acres of fun, intrigue and entertainment. A big mall? A monster sized museum? A roller coaster filled amusement park? Nooooooooooo! We're talking Don's Marine Salvage baby.

Goats, roosters and acres of stainless steel, motors, anchors, rigging, doodads, gizmos and electronic junk. This was the boy's mega mall. Julia loved the rooster and the goats, but the rest of the stuff didn't exactly get her too excited. Brenda found it fascinating for quite a while before kind of glazing over with a "been there, seen that" look. Robbie and Mike dug, rooted and drooled over the seemingly endless storage buildings and containers. Neither had ever seen anything like Don's Marine Salvage before. After viewing perhaps 20 percent of the stock, hunger took over and it was time to find some food close by.


We stopped at the Big Storm Brewery on 49th Street right next to our bus stop. Although they didn't serve food they had a local restaurant called "Mario's" that delivered in house quickly. We ordered some food and started sampling the Big Storm's beers. Mike loved the cherry chocolate stout while Julia tried a flight of five different brews. We had a blast chatting and laughing together as we enjoyed our tasty meals and beers.

Taking the 52 Route bus back we hopped off once for some Walmart shopping and then back to the Park Street bus terminal. The four of us walked down to Julia and Robbie's beautiful Carver power boat where Mike had a very tasty cappuccino before catching the water ferry back to Wrinkles' marina.

Thanks for a great day Julia and Robbie.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

So Who Pissed Off Mother Nature?

Screenshot of our Radar Scope App

OK, OK, Ok! We get it. You're pissed! Enough with the wind, storms and tornados already. We seem to have a never ending series of high winds on this adventure. Wherever we go the winds find us say hello with gusto. We decided to get a slip in Clearwater as the forecast had once again said, "Hey Greenes, I found you and here comes some wind for you." At 4 a.m.this morning we were outside, along with several other boat owners, securing banging lines, adjusting fenders and putting on additional dock lines. We now have double dock lines from all four corners of our slip. The winds are gusting at 35 knots and are expected to increase later this morning. Oh, tornados may be coming too. Goody.

Screenshot of our Windfinder App

Monitoring the dock lines from the cockpit with a hot cup of coffee is actually quite nice, but it looks like the thunderstorm portion of this storm is about to say hello. Time to go below and button up Wrinkles.

Wrinkle's Cozy Cabin



Monday, February 22, 2016

Random Thoughts on Our Crossing

Here are some of the thoughts we shared as we relaxed in the cockpit following our Gulf of Mexico crossing:

  • OMG not many people have done what we have done. We crossed the Gulf of Mexico not once, but twice in the last seven months
  • There were a crazy number of crabpots as we approached the Clearwater Pass. They were in the entryway, down the channel to the marina and everywhere. And they were close together. Made navigating a little tricky.
  • Sunrise and moon set on the water at the same time is pretty impressive.
  • Good ol' Yannie motored the whole way - 32.5 hours. Guess it deserves another oil change.
  • Dolphins greeting us for at least 15-20 minutes. Brenda played peek-a-boo at the bow while Mike watched them jump behind the boat.
  • Total relaxation within one hour of docking with Zac Brown playing Toes in the Water Life is Good Today on our blue tooth speaker.
  • Probably the last time our boat will be north of Clearwater.
  • Team work!!!
  • Ahhhhhh!
  • We didn't know whether to hope for a good weather window or not. It was hard to leave Carrabelle, but there are good times ahead.
  • Barefoot in the shade in February and loving it.
  • WE DID IT!!!
  • Three boats left Carrabelle headed to Clearwater and we never saw each other on the water.
  • Sunshine, warm, light breeze - this is paradise.
  • A marina is really nice after a crossing!
  • Zzzzzzzzzz



Gulf Crossing To Clearwater

Clearwater Baby! Picture taken by our new friends Robbie and Julia


Porch at C-Quarters Marina

We left Carrabelle with mixed emotions. It was sad to see all the empty rocking chairs. Lots of fond memories of the people who quickly became our friends while whiling away the hours.

Well the big scary crossing is now a thing of the past. We were a bit on edge about crossing the Gulf of Mexico after our rough previous experience. It turned out to be a beautiful and easy event. The waves went from reasonable 2-3 footers to dead flat with just a few hours of a rolling swell to add interest to the trip.

Brenda bundled up!

We motor sailed for four hours with all three sails up making great time out of Carrabelle. Once the wind died off to less than 5 knots the sails came down and our trusty old 22 h.p. Yanmar kept us moving. Other than another four hour motorsail when we turned slightly eastward into Clearwater the Yanmar did all the work. The little fella putted along happily for 32.5 straight hours using up a whopping 16 gallons of diesel. Our new boating friends Ronnie and Julia aboard Tranquilo II (44 foot Carver power boat) said that wouldn't even fill their fuel filters. Some of those power boats suck up 30 or more gallons an hour! Robbie cruises at a slower speed to keep his fuel consumption more reasonable. Not easy to do when he has twin 400 h.p. power plants.

Mid crossing diesel top-off.

The sunset was glorious and a nearly full moon came up to light the night sky. The stars and moon are incredible out there in the middle of the Gulf. Sailing along 70 miles from anything the moon seems like a friendly companion.

As we motored the last 15 miles into Clearwater the warm sun had us peeling off coats, sweatshirts, gloves and cockpit blankets. By the time we entered Clearwater Pass we were down to T-shirts. A large group of dolphins came to usher us in as we worked our way around all the lousy crab pots strewn everywhere. Brenda was literally dancing up on the bow watching the show and trying to take pictures. That girl sure loves her dolphins.

We rented a slip at Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina which we entered without looking like rookies. What a relief to turn off that Yanmar and tidy up the boat. We got cleaned up and slept pretty much forever.

The next day Robbie and Julia took the water taxi over from the Clearwater Harbor Marina to stroll the beach area and share a cold drink at a local bar/restaurant. They plan on exploring the area a bit before deciding where they want to go next. What a fun life we cruisers have. "Where do you want to go next dear?"


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Weather Window

Weather definition according to us: an elusive period of time where the wind, waves, current and temperature all magically align to insure a smooth passage by boat across a large body of water. We are beginning to think that there is no such thing as a weather window. We have been sitting in Carrabelle for over a week now waiting with about a dozen other boats for "the window". First it was going to be Wednesday. Then it got backed off to Thursday (today). Now the weather gurus say that Friday would be ok, but Saturday and Sunday would be even better. Guess we'll just grab another cold one and pull up a rocking chair on the porch and soak up the sunshine. It looks beautiful where we are docked-sunshine, warm and calm winds. But a couple just came in after trying to poke their nose out into the Gulf. They reported with eyes wide that "it was rather choppy out there." We just pulled out a couple more rocking chairs and said, "Why don't you just sit here for a spell?"


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Wind, Flying Dinghies and Cruiser's Pitching In

The Flying Dinghy Back Upright

Last night we were expecting some thunderstorms and a bit of wind. We didn't expect 60 mph winds tearing the little town of Carrabelle up. The evening started with a lovely get together on Tranquilo II (Julia and Robbie) with Docktari (Bob) until the rain began getting serious. Back aboard Wrinkles we monitored the dock lines, put out additional fenders and tightened up the dinghy restraints. About 11:30 p.m. the winds suddenly escalated from strong to holy crap! We went outside immediately after the worst of the blast had gone through and began gathering up loose items blown off all the boats. Fenders, kayaks, life jackets, garbage, oars, dinghy pump............ Yup, a real mess.

The captain of the 56' Carver parked in the slip next to us was outside trying to figure out what had banged loudly along his boat. It turns out an 11’ dinghy with a 15 h.p. outboard attached had been ripped off the top of the 44 foot Carver two boats over. The wind had broken one of the 1" wide nylon ratchet straps and sent the dinghy flying over and against the two big Carvers. It ended up upside down in the water between the two boats with the outboard still attached.

Dinghy rescue crew.

The weather settled down some and people finally went to bed around 1 a.m. By 4 a.m. several of us were out rounding up debri and boat gear. The sun came out and the wind was completely gone providing us with a beautiful February day. Reports of 60 mph winds causing trees to be uprooted and buildings to be severely damaged were heard. Amazingly enough the two Carvers came out of the mess with just one scuff on a hull which was later buffed out. How can a 75 lb motor attached to a 115 lb dinghy fly over and against two yachts without doing some serious damage? One of the Carvers also lost a section of Isinglass. Wrinkles lost one cockpit cushion as well. All things considered we all fared very well.

Brenda doing canvas repairs.

A few of us rescued the inverted dinghy and spent the morning getting the outboard emptied of water and back in running condition. Others hunted for lost gear and helped calm a few frayed nerves. Brenda got out her sewing machine and did some canvas repairs for another boat, another sailor was helping get some stubborn inboards started for another boat. It was so neat to see people doing whatever they could to make life better for each other.

There are several boats sitting here waiting for this never ending weather pattern to break so we can cross the Gulf of Mexico in mild conditions. It looks like maybe Saturday or Sunday we may finally get that chance.


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Panama City to White City to Carrabelle, FL

ICW scenery
ICW Scenery


We were looking forward to a nice day of sailing across St. Andrews Bay and East Bay before entering the narrow ICW toward White City. The winds were supposed to finally calm down a bit which would be a pleasant break. Unfortunately the forecast that morning showed winds blowing up to 25 knots once again. Since the winds would be coming from the west we decided to head east anyway. The following wind and waves should make it reasonably comfortable out there. The sail turned out to be fun even when the gusts were pushing up past the 25 knot range. Once we entered the narrow ICW the wind and waves were blocked making for a nice relaxing motorsail.

Never trust your GPS

We arrived at the White City Municipal Docks and found it completely empty. The docks are free which we really appreciate. A fisherman pulled in just behind us and warned us that there were going to be about fifty boats launching well before sun up the next day for a bass fishing tournament. We knew we were going to be getting up early for a long sail the next day, so we weren't too concerned about the noise they were sure to bring. Little did we know that those goofy bass fisherman are nuts. Who gets up early enough to launch a boat and be on the water by 4:15 a.m.? Geez, the fish will wait guys! So much for sleeping in.

Drag race line up.


We watched the committee boat release two boats at a time who then floored their 250 to 300 h.p. outboards like it was a drag race. We guessed we wouldn't be passing any of those boats on our way.

We threw off our dock lines and floored our 22 h.p. Yanmar to accelerate right up to 5-6 knots. We motor sailed when we could, but due to a strong opposing current we often slowed down to 4 knots. Our plan was to sail all the way to Carrabelle if possible, but the slow start wasn't making that look possible.

Luckily the wind swung around to the north giving us a nice boost as we motor sailed across Lake Wimico at 6.2 knots. After crossing the lake we once again entered the narrow ICW toward Appalachicola. The current and winds were now in our favor and Wrinkles was really cruising along. Being a displacement hull our theoretical top speed is 7 knots, but a strong current gave us a speed over ground of up to 8.5 knots. This fun run lasted all the way past Appalachicola out into St. George Sound.

Bridge at Appalachicola

Turning eastward toward Carrabelle the north wind and strong current allowed us to sail along at 7 knots for a long time. The waves were 2-4 feet which made the ride fun and exciting. Eventually our good luck ran out and the course we had to take put the wind nearly on our nose. Shoot, time to put the sails away and just motor Wrinkles to a slip.

We planned to stop at C-Quarters Marina where we stayed last October and just loved our time there. We became good friends with a couple, John and Nancy, who had cruised for ten years already. We were excited about seeing them again. Brenda wanted to call ahead to tell them when we would be arriving, but Mike remembered how much "fun" everyone has getting their boats in C-Quarter's slips and really didn't want them witnessing our docking. A strong current runs perpindicular to the slips which only have two wooden posts on each side and a really short pier on one side. The posts are far enough apart that a boat under 40' can't span both of them. Sounds like fun doesn't it. Well, it wasn't! Mike underestimated the current and once Wrinkles was between the two posts there was nothing to stop her from beginning to turn sideways. Hitting reverse only makes matters worse as the prop walk pushes the stern in the same direction as the current. Fortunately there were enough people around to help us muscle Wrinkles in to the slip without damaging anything more than our egos.


We tidied up the boat and walked up to the office feeling pretty embarrassed. The boaters on the porch made us feel so much better when they said, "That was better than we did yesterday?" Then they described how they had their big trawler completely sideways in the slip before getting it situated. We laughed about each other's mistakes and got to know their cruising plans. Our good friends, John and Nancy, popped up out of their sailboat about then (they didn't get to watch the docking disaster) and welcomed us back to Carrabelle. A few cold drinks were enjoyed as everyone got acquainted.

John and Nancy

We went to dinner at The Fisherman's Wife restaurant with two of the couples for some good food and conversation. It is really good to be back in Carrabelle.



Goodbye To St. Andrews Marina

Wrinkles at St. Andrews Marina


We really enjoyed our stay at St. Andrews Marina. The facilities were exceptionally well cared for by a very friendly staff. We met some very nice people who made our stay a pleasurable one. The historic district that surrounds the marina offered great entertainment during our walks.


There are sailors, commercial fishing boat crews and a few people who just love being around boats who went out of their way to stop and chat for a while.


Roger and Genie aboard Tranquility

We were lucky enough to get to know the new owners of a beautiful Hans Christian 43. Roger, Genie and super dog Jack hosted us on "Tranquility" for the Super Bowl game. They had just sailed the Hans Christian across from Kemah, Texas a couple of days before we arrived. They were busy moving aboard, but made sure the TV was installed right away for us. How nice was that? What a great way to spend an evening and get to know two people we now call friends. We were able to host them aboard "Wrinkles" the evening before we left the marina. Thanks a bunch you guys. Say hi to our buddy Jack.

Tranquility III

We left St. Andrews Marina at 8:30 a.m. today to continue our adventure. The forecast calls for 15-25 mph winds out of the West, so it could be a fun ride.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Exploring Panama City

Mardi Gras Season

Yesterday we bought a pair of $4 all-day trolley passes to tour Panama City Beach on the cheap. The trolley stops within a block of our marina which made it pretty convenient. The plan was to ride the trolley system from 10:00 a.m. until lunch time when we would hop off at a restaurant called Schooners.

The wheels on the bus go round and round.

We travelled from St. Andrews across the bridge to PCB and then rode all the way to the west end of route. As we headed back eastward, we commented that there really wasn't anything along the route (except the occasional glimpses of the beach) that made us want to get out and explore. It is mostly condos and mega-souvenir shops with restauant/bars in between. It all seemed tired and a bit run down to us.

We asked the driver to drop us off at the stop closest to Schooners restaurant and he assured us he would tell us when to jump out. Good to his word he let us know when to exit and we thanked him for his help. We walked in the direction he pointed until we decided there was an issue. The only restaurant there was called Spinnakers and it was closed for remodeling. Brenda Googled Schooners and found out it was over three miles from where we were. The trolley runs hourly, so we decided to get some walking in. By the time we reached Schooners we were both pretty darn hungry. We ate a big lunch while enjoying the beautiful view of the gulf.

St. Andrews farmer's market.

Today we wandered around historic St. Andrews enjoying a farmer's market as well as art, antique, gift and other local shops. We particularly liked walking through a salvage shop with all it's collectibles, antiques and junk. Mike's sisters, Lisa and Kim, are in this business and would have loved it. We took several pictures just for them.

We decided to eat lunch at a waterfront restaurant called "Uncle Ernie's". Any place named after Brenda's late father deserves our business. It was a bit cool sitting outside, but the food was excellent and the view of St. Andrews Bay and our marina made it a great lunch. Brenda highly recommends the Clam Macaroni and Cheese soup.

After lunch we walked up to a "hippie" looking spot called Little Village and Finn's Restauant for some live music. We checked out the cute little shops and then found a couple of chairs in the sunshine to listen to the music. The only big purchase was a pair of much needed comfy slippers for Brenda at 50% off.

Sitting in the sunshine and listening to live music while we drank our hot tea and coffee made for a very relaxing afternoon.

Finn's Restauant


Little Village

The day was slipping away, so we headed back to the boat. The western sky was promising a pretty sunset to cap off our fun day and it did not disappoint.

Good night Panama City.