Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 25-26, 2013 passage

Merry Christmas.  We really miss our son, Pete, and wish he were sailing with us.  We often say to each other "Pete would love this!"   

We left Panama City Marina at sunrise, 6:30 am CST.  It was a nippy 34 degrees.  Thank you for the well wishes over the radio from our new friends, Ron and Libbo.  (We did hear your radio call about 9:00, but you must not have been able to hear our response. May have been our cockpit mike.)


 Picture above has Panama Beach in the background.

It took us about an hour to get out of St Andrew Bay and into the Gulf where we turned east heading for Port St. Joe Bay.  We were escorted out the bay by dolphins.  The plan for today was to sail to Port St. Joe, then enter the ICW to Apalachicola, spend the night, then leave via Carabelle in the morning for Clearwater, Fl. 

When we were heading into Port St Joe Bay about noon, we were disappointed about leaving the open water.  We made the quick decision to head back out and angle over to Clearwater today.  The seas were fairly calm and we hated to waste a good day at sea.  We made a louie around a bouie or would that be a luoy around a buoy?  We figured it would be about 180 miles.  That would put us in to Clearwater about midnight on the 26th.  And it's not smart to enter a bay at night, but ignorance is bliss. 

About 2:00, we decided to start our 3 hour watches.  We would soon be entering EST and that would put our changes at 3, 6,  9, and 12.  Dave took the first watch and I took a nap.  Just before my 6:00pm watch, I made us grilled cheese sandwiches.  I decided to add some summer sausage meat-that was a mistake.  There was just enough fat or spice or something that didn't sit well with either of us.  I started my 6:00pm watch and had put on a couple Christmas CD's to sing along with.  As it got dark, the seas became more rough, which made the boat rock side to side.  Dave said he didn't sleep much.  At 9:00, Dave started his watch and I tried to sleep, but didn't much either.  When I got ready for my 12:00 midnight shift, we were really rocking and rolling.  By the time I made it outside and to the helm, I got sick (for the first time) over the starboard stern corner of the deck.  And it hit me 2 more times on that shift.  I also prayed the rosary during that shift.  Throughout the night, we would just sit behind the wheel and stare at the radar, nod off occasionally, and 3 hours went by OK.  We were both able to catch some sleep during our other off times.  

Below, I tried to take a picture of  my life jacket with the tether to tie me to the boat.  I'm wearing a yellow jacket.  Then the blue and yellow life jacket laid flat over that.  There is a tablet holding a lever open, if it dissolves in water, it will open a CO2 cartridge that will inflate the vest.  That way it is more comfortable to wear un-inflated.  When I was on watch at night, I would wear mine and even attach myself to the boat.  Dave just had it handy.  BUT, at anytime, day or night, if one of us goes forward on the boat while out to sea, you wear the jacket and tether into a jack line.  That is a webbing that runs the length of the boat on both sides.  There is a shackle to attach to the jacket and then a short and a long tether with carabiners.   Sounds like a great system if you go overboard, but Dave has read about people being drug under water, too.  So we also carry a knife.  (Don't faint Barb.)
Somewhere in the middle of our passage, I panicked thinking we wouldn't have enough fuel to make it if we motored all the way.  After thinking through how many hours we motored before we last refueled, Dave reassured me that we would have plenty of fuel.  We are carrying 10 gallons of diesel in cans that we can use (and we did). 

During the day on Thursday, Dave put out the sails.  We were able to lower our engine rpm's and actually increase our speed.  We had been motoring at 6 knots but were often in the 7 range with sails and even into the 8 knot range occasionally.  He also saw dolphins several times on his watches.  When I got up for my 6pm watch on Thursday, Dave let me sleep a little longer.  He was feeling great and wanted me to be rested when we came into the harbor.  So I got up about 8:00, and we brought the boat into Clearwater together.  Seeing the lights on the shore was pretty and we were so thankful to see land.

There are red and green channel markers.  Some are lit and others aren't.  So I would have a flashlight looking for the unlit markers.  They reflect great with a flashlight once you spot them.  We checked our Active Captain app on our phones for a good anchorage and went directly to a great spot.  We were anchored by 11:00 pm and had a very calm night.  From the time we left Panama Beach and anchored in Clearwater Bay it was about 40 hours of nonstop motor/sailing.
Here's the little island we anchored by and found in the dark.  This was the next morning.

Even though I was sick, we felt like this was a great accomplishment.  We don't foresee that long of a passage offshore for quite some time.  And it feels great to be on the west coast of Florida.  The area we came into is exactly where I would stay to work with a dental consultant.  I made about 4 trips here.  It was strange seeing these familiar landmarks from the water. 

I'd like to quote part of one more Jimmy Buffett Christmas song.  It's titled Merry Christmas Alabama, but I am going to use SD.

Merry Christmas, South Dakota
Though far from you all I have roamed
'Tis the season to remember
All the faces,
And the places that were home

'Tis the season to remember
And to count up all the ports of call I've known
And to thank his mercies tender
For I'm never far from home
 Merry Christmas to my saints and guardian angels
Who protect me as I roam
'Tis the season to remember
All the faces
And the places that were home

Guess my life's moved at near light speed
Since I started this wild and crazy run
Such a long way from that first birthday
Merry Christmas, everyone
(trivia-Jimmy Buffet was born on Christmas Day) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24, 2013 Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

We spent the first half of the day getting the boat ready to set sail.  Then we cleaned ourselves up to head to Christmas Eve mass.  I attended a church on Saturday, so I figured out the bus schedule to return today.  They had a 4:00, 7:30 and midnight mass.  But the bus stopped at 8:00, so I chose to go to the 4:00 mass.  The best Christmas present ever was the surprise of Dave going to church with me.  He knew I was missing family and offered to go with me.  It made mass even more special for me.   

I noticed Saturday at mass that the music director looked like one that we had in my Daphne, Alabama church.  He had left my church about 6 months ago.  So after mass tonight, I asked the deacon if the music director was new.  And he said "yes, he moved here about 6 months ago from Mobile."  Small world. 

Dave received a phone call while we were in church from Leon in Daphne, Alabama.  He returned his call and we found out our suburban was sold today!  Remember, Leon is the car dealer that prayed for a safe journey for us.  And then he calls while we are in church.  Another small world.  

After church, we took some pumpkin dessert to another couple in the marina.  I meant to mention them earlier.  Ron and Libbo (short for Elizabeth) used to have a Beneteau similar to ours.  They sailed for 30 years, but now own a trawler.  They stopped by our boat a couple days ago just to tell us they admired our boat.  It was very fun to visit with them.  When we were in  Pensacola, we anchored on the bay where they live.  They stopped by again this morning and we told them about my blog.  Then on our way to the bus for church, they were just returning from the bus and gave us their all day bus passes.  So the least we could do was share our pumpkin bars.  Again, we sat and easily visited with them for about an hour.  They had read all of my blog since this afternoon.  They were going to go the same path as us, but now are returning to Pensacola for a repair.  We hope to cross paths again in the future.  Thanks for your hospitality Ron and Libbo.

We have listened to Jimmy Buffett's Christmas CD for about 15 years.  Today, when I heard A Sailor's Christmas, I started bawling.  (I've been kind emotional all day.)  I looked at Dave and said "we're really doing it".   Here are the words.

A Sailor's Christmas
(Jimmy Buffett, Roger Guth)

A sail on the horizon's got a land fall rendezvous
The captain steers a well known course he steers her straight and true
As he trims the sheets he sings a song he learned on boats and bars
"A sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour 'neath the stars"

He's traveled through the doldrums, typhoons and hurricanes
He's logged a million soggy miles, with water on his brain
But Christmas is the season better suited for dry land
He'll tell some lies, meet some spies and dance barefoot in the sand

A sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour on the hook
Cali, Calais no work today, let's shelve the old log book
The waterfront is reveling, the season has begun
A sailor spends his Christmas in a harbour having fun.

There's a party down at Le Select all music, rhum and cheers
Faces in the shadows, I haven't seen for years
The masts and shrouds are filled with lights 'neath the waning of the moon
There's an air of celebration in the realm of King Neptune.


Jesus was a fisherman who walked upon the sea
The North Pole is the ocean's remote frozen balcony
The continents keep drifting but the children sing and play
Cause nothing really matters after all it's Christmas day

Self photos are so strange.  But we did have some Christmas decorations.
 We arrived about 45 minutes early for church so we walked to the bay.  The church was about 2.5 miles from our marina.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013 waiting

We are waiting for our weather window to make the leap to the west coast of Florida.  In the meantime, the wind has been howling through the rigging on our boat.  Sure glad we're sitting here and not out on the water. 

Yesterday was another boring boat day at the dock.  I took our laundry to the marina office building.  Their machines were expensive.  But I did get to sit outside while I waited and looked out at the water in St Andrew Bay.  Dave did some more repairs and clean up of the boat.  When you pull up an anchor that has been in mud, you get a lot of mud on the deck of the boat.  Dave plans to install a wash down pump.  He could use fresh or sea water.  Sure would help clean up the mess right away.  (notice how I said HE?) 

He is continuing to sort though all the tools, etc in our "garage" (the aft berth).  We also listened to the sad Packers game. 

This morning, Joe Bob came by to take us to his favorite place for breakfast.  We wanted to pay him back for giving us a couple rides on Saturday.  We went to Big Momma's on the Bayou.  It was a great local family restaurant.  Reminded me of the Colonial House in Rapid City.  Dave ordered the sausage with his eggs.  He had 2 patties that were 1/4 pound each.  Just huge. 

Today, I walked about 10 blocks to a grocery store but called a taxi to get the groceries back to the boat.  We only needed to replenish milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables and some meat.  But that was more than I wanted to carry.  Besides, it was raining. 

When you bring groceries to the boat, there is some work involved with storing things.  For example, I have a hard container that holds a dozen eggs.  So I transfer the fresh ones to that container.  If I have a partial container left, or hard boiled eggs, I will cut the carton to the smallest size I can to make more room in our little refrigerator.  And I will continue to cut it smaller as I use the eggs. 

I take any kind of mixes out of their box, put them in a ziploc bag along with a cut out of any instructions.  Most mix bags aren't air tight.  And if the inside container is only paper, you don't want it to possibly get wet.  We even store toilet paper and paper towels in large ziploc bags.  Everything has the potential of getting wet.  Some groceries are stored in spaces under cushions, so you have to rearrange things just to put everything away.   

We try to get rid of as much garbage as we can before we leave the dock.  We haven't had to worry about it yet, but we plan to store extra garbage, when we are out to sea, in our shower stall.  We even are required by the US Coast Guard to have a written Trash Management Plan.  Reminds me of our OSHA requirements at the dental office.    

THEN, I enjoyed an early Christmas present from Dave (that I requested).  I spent about 4 hours at a spa with a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure.  There is no more room for "things" on this boat.  But this I really enjoyed.  Thanks Dave!!  (He says he's happy with getting a new anchor.)

Here was my view while doing laundry

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013 Saturday chores

Happy Birthday Cheryl!  If I were in SD, we'd be celebrating by looking at Christmas lights in a limo with you.  I'm thinking we started that tradition about 20 years ago.  Wow!

I thought I would be more like Cheryl, since I had been thinking about her birthday.  She never carries a purse.  So yesterday, I just put some cash and cards in my pocket and took off.  Well, I spent this morning tearing the boat apart looking for a credit card.  I even called every place I went to, besides the bus (closed til Monday).  So we ended up having to cancel my card.  Luckily, this account has different numbers for me and Dave, so his is still active.  If you didn't read the blog for Dec 15, we were already down one credit card.  Our new credit cards were in Daphne, Al on Friday.  But we were worried about forwarding them here with the busy Christmas season.  We still have 2 debit cards, so we should make it to Cape Coral.  We will forward our mail to our friends there in about a week.  I can see where having your mail catch up with you could be a problem at some point. 

Dave made an awesome brunch with the leftovers from the Italian restaurant.  Besides the veal scallopini, he made potato pancakes from the leftover mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach, then covered them with cheese.

Today was a typical Saturday of doing chores.  Dave worked outside in the wind and I worked inside.  The strong wind today is the reason we are sitting here in Panama City and not out on the open sea. 

I was hustling to get ready to catch a bus at 4:00 to go to church at 5:00.  Dave was talking to someone outside for a long time.  I was trying to figure out how to politely say "hello", but take off to catch my bus.  I went out, we made introductions, little small talk, then I gave my "got a catch a bus" line.  What does he do, but offer to give me a ride.  I tell ya, there are some pretty nice folk in this world.  This was Joe Bob from Arkansas, but he lives here now. When he dropped me off at the church, he asked how I was getting back to the boat.  I explained that I planned to take the bus.  He said he'd be back to pick me up.  And there he was waiting for me after church.  He also invited us to a Christmas party where his friends were playing in the band.  As much as I like listening to live music, we weren't really sure we should crash a Christmas party.  So we ended up staying home.  Joe Bob had even given Dave a ride to a hardware store.  So we're treating him to a meal in the next day or two.

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013 Shopping day

Today we explored Panama City.  We started out walking to a local restaurant.  We both had the 2 eggs, bacon, grits, and biscuits and gravy special.  Yes, we're in Florida.

We walked to a local marine store for parts.  I'm realizing this is a never ending part of living on a boat.  Next was a bus trip to Walmart.  Somehow, Dave came up with something important to do on the boat.  Don't tell Marsha Humphreys of Your Eyes Only Optical, but I bought a new pair of glasses at Walmart before we left Alabama.  I figured if I needed any adjustments as we started traveling, they would be able to help me anywhere.  I decided to get transition glasses that change from light to dark in the sun.  I need glasses to read charts and was sick of changing them to go in and out of the boat.  If it was only the light to dark, I would wear a patch, like a pirate.  You know they wore them so one eye was already adjusted to the dark when they went below.  Well, I needed some minor adjusting, so I figured out the bus system to get me to Walmart.  I figured if I could get around Munich and Paris in my early 20's, I can do this.  Halfway there,  I decided to hold my jacket and bag in my lap, rather than the empty seat by the wall that the cockroach just crawled up.  Yes, we're in Florida.

I then browsed through a used book store to pick up some books for the future journey.  Don't have to worry about charging anything when you pick up an old fashioned book.  Met Dave for a beer at a pub with tables outside.  75 degrees, yes, we're in Florida.

After regrouping and making a new "to do list" for tomorrow, we decided to go out to an Italian restaurant for dinner.  Dave tipped his ball cap back off of  his eyes because this was a nice restaurant.  There was also a "Dickens Christmas" festival going on in historic downtown Panama City-walking distance from the Marina.  They had horse drawn carriage rides, ice skating (never did find that), train rides for kids, live manger scene, live music and kids karaoke singing Christmas carols, and Frosty the Snowman show projected on the side of a building.  We even saw fake snow shooting out of a second story window onto the street with kids playing in it.  Yes, we're in Florida.

I have to say, it sure is nice walking the streets enjoying all the Christmas festivities in just a light jacket.  It finally feels like Christmas.  They even have street decorations in the shape of sailboats.  Yes, this is Florida. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 19, 2013 1st party

Wow, what an unusual day!  We had been told that sailors are such friendly people, and had noticed that back in SD.  But it was true in Panama City, too. 

I woke up around 7:00 as usual, but didn't have to get up for anything.  It felt great not to have to go anywhere or do anything for the first time in months. I checked e-mails and decided to let Denny and Debi Mills know that we were at their marina (even though they are in the Keys).  Then I went back to sleep (eye masks are great).  Later, Dave said we had an answer from Denny and one of his friends was going to stop by to visit with us.  So I thought I had better get up, get dressed and have some breakfast.  About 10:30-11:00 Horace shows up and we start visiting about our plans.  Pretty soon we are pulling out charts and he is telling us about all the great marinas and anchorages between here and Ft. Myers, our next destination.  Of course it was mixed with stories from both us and Horace.  He is also throwing out all kinds of boating information and I am taking notes.  What a great guy.  We instantly felt like friends.  He stayed until 3:00, but we had no idea he had been there 4 hours.

As he was leaving, a guy stopped by our boat, introduced himself as Stan, and invited us to a deep fried turkey dinner at the marina store at 4:00.  He was the manager of the marina.  There were two marinas that had a competition to collect toys for Toys for Tots and this was a thank you party.  But they were inviting anyone in the marina.

First we had to take our first showers since Sunday.  And I've been wearing the same over wear (vs underwear) since Sunday.  I can't speak for Dave on the over vs under wear situation.  I'll just say that since I took over doing the laundry, I haven't seen too many articles of clothing in that department from him.  I have changed from a shower every day to 2 a week.  That may increase when we are in warmer climate.  I'll at least have to rinse off the salt water after swimming daily.

We headed over to the party and happen to catch a beautiful sunset picture.  We started visiting with everyone we met, all so friendly.  I asked the people that worked at the marina if most of the people were slip owners.  She said actually, most of the people were people that worked at the two marinas, but a few slip owners were here and some other transient sailors, like us.  She pointed to the couple we were just talking to and said "Jeff and Karen are transients, like you.  They are on A Capella."  Dave said "as in the famous A Capella?"  And she said "yes the people from Active Captain."  Active Captain is an application we have on our phone that tells of current information about anchorages, marinas, changes in markings of channels, etc.  We checked Active Captain for anchorages when we came into Panama City just yesterday morning.  We were told about the Active Captain application by Denny Mills last June and have been using it since.  We had noticed from their site that they were just in Mobile Bay.  So we weren't completely surprised that they were here.  It was fun to meet them in person.  They even laughed at Dave's off the wall comments.  We found out they were from Maine, so they offered us information about when the best time would be to go there and when we had to head back south, where to find the best lobster, etc.  They even said to call them when we were in the area.  They have lived there 21 years and know everyone and everything about Maine.  Very nice people.  They started cruising in 2003 and were surprised how little current knowledge there was available for the safety of sailors.  So in 2006 they decided to start this site.

Now we are trying to digest the turkey and all the new information we received today.  My dad used to tell me it's not "good old American know how" as much as it is "good old American know WHO".  I think he's smiling right now saying "see what did I tell you?"  And he would be proud of our adventures.  Now my mom, she would be saying "now you've had your fun, it's time to get back to work."  Always kept me on track.  Miss them both, especially at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18, 2013 Panama City

After sleeping in, we checked out weather forecast for the next passage over to the west coast of Florida.  That will be 160-180 miles stretch, depending where we start and reach shore.  Most people don't follow the shore line, or the Big Bend.  It is shallow and takes much more time.  The most common passage is between Apalachicola, Fl and Tarpon Springs, Fl.  It will take us another day to get to Apalachicola.  Again there is a short bridge on the ICW, so we would have to go out into the Gulf.  Then we would plan 2 days to cross the Gulf.  It looks like there is going to be some nasty weather over the weekend, including 10 foots waves and lightning.  Then I don't want to be in the middle of the crossing over Christmas.  So we made the decision to get a slip in a marina in Panama City for a week. 

We can regroup, finish some little projects, and be sure to be able to go to church on Christmas.  We decided to go to the Panama City Marina because it is walking distance to the historic downtown.  It is also where friends of ours from Rapid City have a slip, Dr. Denny and Debi Mills.  Right now they are in Marathon in the Florida Keys.  We visited them here in Panama City last June.  We had just made the decision to buy our boat.  We spent about 3 hours picking their brains about cruising.  They were very gracious.  They have also sent us their itinerary for sailing south and have been a great source of information for us.
Leaving our anchorage

 Panama City Marina
After a nap, we have been getting caught up on our electronic addictions.  We decided to check out Panama City when we are more rested.   

December 17, 2013 Pensacola to Panama City

Happy Anniversary to Dave and Mary!!  36 years!!
To test our marriage, we are going to do our first passage with rotating watches.  To follow the intracoastal waterway between Pensacola and Panama City, Fl, you have to go under a 50 ft bridge.  Our mast is 53 ft, so we  have to go outside on the Gulf of Mexico.  We were not sure how long this would take.  We were told it was about 100 miles.  And if we only go 5 knots, it will take us 20 hours.  But if we have the right wind, we could use the motor and sails and go  6 or 7 knots, which would shorten the trip.  We didn't want to arrive in the dark, so we decided to leave between 10 and 12:00 in the morning.  Then we would  arrive early morning in Panama City.

We had everything ready to go and were anxious to leave while the weather was good.  So we left at 10:45 am.  It was 57 degrees and we had a 6 knot wind on our backs.  Actually not the best wind for sailing, so we motored.  We headed into Pensacola Bay but immediately turned south out through the channel.  We had the Pensacola Bay light house behind us.  I had toured this with Cheryl Ulmer last January.  We also had dolphins escort us out of the bay.  By 11:30, we turned east for  Panama City.  Dave wanted to go 3 miles off shore because it is then legal to empty our holding tanks overboard.  (hush to all you environmentalists, the sea life love it).  About 1:00 we decided to set sails along with our motor.  This helped us go from 5 to 6 knots.  Dave and I played around with our new electronic navigation charts and radar.   We could pick a spot outside of the Panama City entrance to their bay and mark it as a way point.  Then we could tell our auto pilot to navigate to that way point.  Then the boat takes over the steering.  Much better than driving across South Dakota.  You can walk around, eat, send texts, even go to the bathroom.

We have an AIS.  It is an electronic device that identifies other ships with an AIS.  And it tells them where we are and who we are.  Well it took off with an alarm twice within the first couple hours.  And sure enough there were ships crossing our path.  One was a ship that is made in Mobile by Austal.  It is used for chasing pirates on the ocean.  They look like a miniature battle ship and can move really fast and are designed to do high speed turns, which larger ships can't do.  It was cool to see one out here.

We decided we would take 3 hour watches started at 3:00pm.  Dave started the 3-6:00 watch.  We had made our dinette into a bed to be able to sleep on when you were off your watch.  It is more centered in the boat, so a smoother ride.  But also, you would be close to the cockpit to help if needed.  So I checked it out with a nap that afternoon.  I got up in time to catch a beautiful sunset behind us before 5:00.  Then I had a chance to review how to follow the charts, etc, before Dave took his break.  We also decided to take down the sails so I wouldn't have to deal with them on my watch.  6:00pm was my first watch by myself.  Since it was dark, it was easy for Dave to go below and crash.  We were between Ft. Walton Beach and Destin, but about 12 miles off shore.  You could still see the condos lit along the shoreline.  The coast line curves between Pensacola and Panama City, but if you take a direct line to Panama City, it takes you off shore a ways.  The most depth I noticed was 115 feet.  But it wasn't scarey.  It was very beautiful with the full moon.  The time actually went fast for me.  At 9:00, Dave was still asleep.  Since this was my first watch, I wasn't sure if I should wake him, or just keep going, since I wasn't tired.  He woke up at 9:30 and said I should have woken him up.  So by 10:00 he was ready to relieve me for a 3 hour watch.  I went below and set an alarm for 2 hrs and 45 minutes.  I'm not sure I really slept, but I must have part of the time.  When I woke with my alarm, the water was much more rough.  Earlier it was only 1-2 foot swells.   Now we had 2-3 foot swells.  Dave yelled down to  me that we were at Panama City and he needed my help up above.  Turning into the channel for St Andrew Bay also changed the wave action making it more rough.  I really had to hang on to get dressed and outside.
We were both surprised that we arrived so early.  Now we had to find a place to anchor in the dark instead of pulling right into a marina.  Dave has an app on his phone called Active Captain.  People send in their current information about areas, like marinas, restaurants and anchorages.  So we checked that and decided on an anchorage east of the channel and on the north side of Shell Island, a state park.  I am usually at the helm while Dave is lowering the anchor.  He uses hand signals for me and I was worried I wouldn't be able to see him.  But the full moon helped. 

We were anchored by 2:15 am.  I sent a text to Brian Killion that we arrived safely, then headed for bed.  While Dave stabilized the dinghy on our davits, I rearranged the bedding back to our V-berth.
We made it and our marriage survived!!  

Pensacola Lighthouse behind Dave 
 Our dinette made into a bed.  Also where company would sleep, since the aft berth has become our "garage". 
 Sunset on the Gulf
 Full moon rising beyond our boat
This is what you stare at during your watch.  You also scan the horizon for other ships.

December 16, 2013 ICW to Pensacola

This morning Dave was hearing a strange noise with our anchor rode, so he went out on the deck at 6:00am, barefoot as usual.  He was shocked to find ice on the deck.  Needless to say, he came back to bed to warm up. 

We left Wolf Bay about 9:15 am with a light north wind and 43 degrees.  We both put on our foul weather gear or foulies.  Dave's reaction: it feels pretty good out here in my super hero suit.  Mary's reaction:  I'm sure glad my suit still fits.  I guess that's the difference between boys and girls. 
We followed the Intracoastal waterway until about noon.  We stopped on the ICW in Big Lagoon.  It's that last body of water before you enter Pensacola Bay.  We wanted to position ourselves to exit out into the Gulf tomorrow morning at the west end of Pensacola Bay.  We went through some narrow channels today and were glad we didn't meet any barges.  There are red and green markers for you to follow through the ICW, which is supposed to be at least 12 feet deep.   Our keel is almost 5 feet below the water.  So it's best to stay within the markers.  Usually you can see several pairs of signs out ahead.  But today there were a few times you had to search for the next ones.  It reminded me of years ago when we were skiing in the Swiss Alps.  We had to follow the orange flags to avoid crevices in the glaciers.  It was snowing hard and we had to stop at each flag and look for the next one.  We were young and stupid, but loved it.  I'm not sure what our excuse is now.     

Today, we lowered our dinghy into the water, mounted the motor and took it for a spin.  We have a new 10.5 foot inflatable dinghy with an aluminum bottom and a 15 hp motor.  Dave said "boy it's a good thing we didn't have this in the water before we left because I wouldn't have gotten any work done."  We would have been exploring the coastline with our "convertible".  We decided to take the dinghy to one of our favorite restaurants on Pensacola Beach, Peg Leg Pete's.  It was 10 miles, but the bay was very smooth with no wind.  They have the best appetizer of grouper nuggets-bite size pieces of battered and fried grouper.  We also had a dozen raw oysters.  This was about 3:00 with no lunch.  We both had the mixed grill which was grouper, shrimp and scallops, all grilled and local, with rice pilaf and snap peas.  I had wanted to snorkel for scallops in the Gulf this summer, but we never made it over to the area near Panama City during the season.  We were celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary, which is tomorrow.  We plan to spend tomorrow out on the Gulf with no stops for about 24 hours.  Which we are actually looking forward to.  We made it back to our boat just after sunset.

We put the dinghy on our davits at the stern of the boat.  We took the motor off and put it back on its mount on the stern.  Then the dinghy is hooked to a pulley system to lift it out of the water.  Previously it was on our deck. 

Tomorrow we will tow the dinghy behind us in the water.  That way it will be ready as a lifeboat, if needed.  We also have a "ditch bag" that contains emergency systems to contact the coast guard, food and water, and medical supplies.  We will also give Brian Killion our float plan.  We give him our estimated time of arrival in Panama City, Fl.  And if we are late, he will call the Coast Guard.  The things you have to think of!!!

We made a to-do list for tonight that Dave is working on while I am typing away.  He'd much rather do that.  I think it will be another early night because of the cold.  And we will sail through the night tomorrow night.  Another first and adventure.        

 Photos- our superhero suits.  You can't tell, but I am wearing 
 a Santa hat.

Peg Leg Pete's with oysters and grouper nuggets.  

 Returning to our boat just after sunset. 

December 15, 2013 1st anchor

Yeah!  We're back to internet connections.  Now I will catch up on my blogs.

We had a great night at Wharf Marina.  We were much more sheltered than at our old marina.  We enjoyed their beautiful, clean showers, checked computers (thanks for all the well wishes from family and friends), and looked at charts.  Here we are on our second day of cruising and someone hacked one of our credit cards.  Dave has been getting some strange e-mails from Hotel.com with one thing different in the e-mail address.  Rather than delete them, he has been watching what might develop.  Well sure enough, we had a charge at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl through Hotel.com.  So he called our credit card company and had the card cancelled and figured out any other bogus charges.  But Dave can't leave it at that.  Dave had the name of the person and the hotel through the e-mails.  So what does he do?  He calls the hotel and the person hasn't checked out yet.  So he gives the hotel a heads up about the card not being good.  The person on the phone said they would talk to the manager and thanked him for the information.  He really wanted to know how they would handle this information.  There were a couple more attempts to charge, but the card had been cancelled.  Now we have to figure out how we are going to get the new cards that are being mailed to Alabama.  Good thing we have more than one card.  In hind sight, he should have asked to be connected to the room and talked to the person himself. 

We left at 1:00 pm and only traveled 1 hour 15 minutes on the Intracoastal waterway to Wolf Bay.  We traveled north into the bay to Hammock Creek.  We had a 15mph wind out of the north and it was only 46 degrees.  We pulled out the gloves and my earmuffs.  But being the hardy northerners that we are, we still loved it. 

We knew this would be a short day.  We had originally wanted to spend the first night here, but changed our plans so we could watch the Christmas parade.  This will be the first night we will sleep at anchor.  We thought we would also spend some time today exploring the bay with our dinghy, but that north wind changed our minds.  There is a muddy bottom in this area, so we chose to use a 45 lb Bruce anchor.  To determine how much rode to use (rope/chain), you need to figure the distance from your deck to the bottom of the water you are in.  You look at your depth and add the distance from the water to the deck of your boat.  Then you take that times 7 for an overnight anchor.  We were in 7 feet of water and our deck is 3 feet off the water, so that equals 10 feet from out bow to the bottom of the bay.  Take 10 times 7 for 70 feet.  We brought the boat to the spot we wanted to lower the anchor, lowered it, then let the boat drift with the wind until the anchor set.  Then you try to motor in reverse to see if the anchor stays in place.  With this length of anchor rode, you can sway in the bay with the shifting of the wind.  There were no other boats anchored here, but there were homes and condos on the shore line.  We set anchor at 2:15pm.

Dave checked out the boat for stability for the night while I cooked us a warm lunch.  I made biscuits in our gas oven.  I also made tomato soup and added chili peppers, fire roasted diced tomatoes  and a little meat that we had left over.  Warmed us up nicely. 

Dave took a nap while I started looking ahead at charts for the next few days.  And I updated our ship's log book.  In the log book, we note the weather, engine hours, from and to ports along with time and any comments we want to make.  It's more technical and an abbreviated version of  my blog.

We have paper charts for much of the Gulf of Mexico, but will probably not continue to buy paper charts.  Sailors now have such good electronic navigation systems.  But you have to have power.  I like having a paper chart in my hand to look at when I am not navigating the boat.  I guess it's similar to how I like an atlas in the car.  We sorted through our charts to store those we no longer need and organize the remaining charts.  With all the work we had to do before leaving, we now can enjoy the fun part of looking at the details of the voyage.  We knew the first few days would just be following the intracoastal waterway. 

I talked Dave into playing a game of cribbage (and beat him for once because he used different colored pegs this time-he says).  We actually went to bed early because it was getting cold.  We ran our generator for a while to charge our batteries, but didn't turn on any heat.

Here is a picture of Dave on the dock next to our boat at the Wharf Marina.  And working on a project from the never ending list.