Saturday, November 9, 2013


Time: 11/9/2013
Location: St. Joseph Bay, Florida

Weather is everything living on a boat.  In the last two days I have been in one of the most beautiful coastal areas in the US and I haven't had much fun because of, you guessed it, the weather.  Twenty knots of cold wind bearing down on me from the North/Northeast.  So today today I decided to provision in Port St. Joe's Piggly Wiggly, clean the boat, and get the hell out of here.  So that's what I did almost.  I did the Piggly Wiggly thing.  That's no easy feat.  I off load my dinghy by muscle alone then I use my mini boat crane to off load the Nissan 6 hp outboard motor.  I hook the motor up and lower it into the water where the prop just touches the surface.  For some reason today I had a fear of dropping it all the way in by accident.  As I was stepping down from my boat into the dinghy, I hear a splash. I knew what that was.  I sprint back to the crane and lift the submerged outboard motor back to the mother ship to rinse it off with fresh water and pull the the starter cord to blow out any saltwater they may have entered.  I eventually get the dinghy working and motor off to St. Joe's Piggly Wiggly.  The shallows run 200 feet from shore, so I pull my pants legs up, take off my shoes and wade to shore pulling the boat behind.  I anchor the dinghy and go grocery shopping.  Luckily the store is just two blocks away.  Groceries in my shopping cart, to my dinghy, to my boat, and finally in the frig and cabinets.  It takes some effort.  Now for the clean the boat thing.  That is more fun and satisfying.  I like to clean.  It's not just cleaning a boat.  It's like cleaning your brain too.  It's just makes the head feel good.  And that's when I noticed it.  The weather was actually starting to look pretty good.  The winds and died and the sun  came out from the behind the clouds and started to warm the boat, body, and soul.  That's where the almost comes in.  Instead of getting the hell out of here, I weigh anchor and motor over to St. Joseph Island State Park and Wilderness.  I anchor 300 yards off the beach, jump in my kayak and paddle into shore.  I am the only one around.  The sun is out, its perfect weather, the bay is glass, and I am feeling good.  I hit the shore running.  Literally.  I pull my kayak onto the beach and take off running, barefoot, no shirt just shorts, and run down the beach for a mile until I reach the north point of the island.  I am skipping over dead horseshoe crabs that have washed up on the beach, I watch the fish dart as I startle them, I smell the aromatic pines that line the shore, watch the sea birds work the shoreline for food.  There is so much to see and to feel on this run I don't notice my fatigue.  I  make the point and run back to my kayak as the sun dips lower, now touching the tops of the pines.  It's beautiful.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 2013: Biloxi Mississippi

I got back to the boat last Thursday and have been doing the things you do before a cruise: filling the water/fuel tank, strapping the kayak and inflatable dinghy down, checking the engine, hooking up the electronics(I take them home when I leave the boat), loading food and clothes, making up the beds, and general organization of stuff.  I did add a clock and barometer inside and a compass on the outside so I can lay down in the cockpit and keep an eye on direction without straining my neck.  My steering is still mushy so I will probably bleed the hydraulics one more time before leaving.

But it hasn't been all work.  Amy came down with me for three days and we packed a lot of eating and touring into those days, like the Walter Anderson art gallery in Ocean Springs, and the Bay St. Louis Festival, and dining in some nice places like Mary Mahoney's and The Half Shell Oyster Bar, both in Biloxi.  We even tried to go to a Willie Nelson Concert at one of the Casinos but it was sold out.

I will put the boat on the hard in Carrabelle for three months when I get there, but hopefully have a good cruise on the way there.  My plan is to jog on all of the deserted beaches I can and take some pictures along the way.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Back on the Boat in a Week

Ill be headed back to Biloxi next week to continue sailing for about a month.  The plan is to meander my way east toward Apalachicola and put my boat on the hard around November 25th somewhere in the area of Carrabelle, Florida.  Apalachicola was one of my favorite places on my trip south this year and I look forward getting back to this area.  I will definitely slow down this time compared to my trip down in January and enjoy the sights a bit more.  I will also have more experience ocean sailing this time around (instead of none at all) so that should make for a more relaxed time out on the water.  So, right now that's the plan.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tropical Storm Karen is Headed My Way

I am sitting in my boat as she snaps at my dock lines as the wind is starting to build outside.  Yes, I am a bit nervous.  Luckily I have met two other sailors that have found a nice hurricane hole 13 miles up the Biloxi River.  We have already positioned two boats there today and tomorrow morning we will take two more and ride out the storm there.  This will be my first experience with a big storm system.  I have loaded the boat with essential storm goods, beer and sardines, and  a lot of rope and chain.  The storm is supposed to reach us Saturday sometime.  Wish us luck and send good Karma.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Venice Florida to Biloxi Mississippi

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I left Pelican Bay anchored off of Cayo Costa State Park early morning.  It is a wonderful place and popular with the locals. The weather was nice so I decided to sail in the gulf.  My destination was Venice. I remembered how much John and I liked Venice on the way to the Bahamas so I made a point to stop back by on my way home.

The tide was running hard and fast as I entered the Venice inlet.  I called up Crows Next  Marina on the radio and asked for a slip parallel to the current.  No way was I going to dock it perpendicular to it.  They put me in a great spot and I was tied up nice and snug and made my way to the showers, and then to eat, drink, and be happy.
Tied up in Venice Florida at Pirates Cove Marina
I was told by a passerby that the restaurant at the marina is top notch.  It is.  Don't miss out on the excellent food there.  The beer was good too.  After eating I hung out at the boat and noticed a crippled manatee swimming not far away.  It had been cut by a boat prop.  They are too slow and boats are too fast to be out of harms way.

The next morning I planned to make my way around the "lost coast" of Florida.  It is shallow and remote but the rewards can be great with superb fishing and possible manatee sightings.  I left Venice early in the morning trying to make it beyond Tampa Bay.  As I approached Sarasota my phone rang and Rick, my neighbor in Little Rock, had invited me to hang out with them in Seagrove Florida.  He had rented a fine beach house near the famous Red Door Bar and Restaurant.  Hmmm... manatees or fresh fish grilled over charcoal with copious amounts for beer and friends.  Without checking the weather, I turned my boat in the direction of St. Joseph Island, a 250 mile open water crossing.  St. Joseph Island is just west of Apalachicola Bay and will put me on a good line for Panama City.  There I can take the GIWW to Seagrove.  I motored into the wind the first 3 hours of the trip.  I was cursing this damn stretch of ocean.  It had beaten me to pieces on the way south here and it looked like it was going to do it again.  But the winds changed right along with my attitude.  The seas became kind.

The winds became favorable and my attitude too.  

Sunset on the first day of my Gulf crossing.

Its always exciting when the sun sinks low and night approaches.
 I had a long haul to St. Joseph Bay, so I decided to take naps along the way.  I set up Amy, my wind vane self steering gear and took 20 minute naps all night long.  The weather got exciting in the middle of the night as thunderstorms were raging all around me.  I was headed into one very large storm at one point.  I was trying to decide if I should go around it or not.  It was so large I didn't want to waste the time to bypass so I just kept going into it.  As I became very close it just disappeared.  Evaporated. Vanished in thin air.  It did leave some pretty uncomfortable seas for about an hour...and then, the wind really picked up to 25 knots or so, and off I went, getting pushed quickly to my destination.

After one of my 20 minute naps, I got the binoculars and scanned the horizon looking for other ships.  You would think that being in the middle of the gulf with all that space the chances of coming up on another boat is very small.  Well, not true.  I was surprised to see a boat very close, dead ahead.  I scrambled for my radio and before I could hail him, I heard, "Hey sailor man, uh...I am trying to pick out your bearing here.....uh...Ok...yeah, I think I got ya...yeah we're ok....we will miss".  I responded with a similar assessment.  I clicked off the radio and cursed the nerves right out. does that happen.  A near collision out in the middle of the Gulf.  I had a similar situation on my way south very near this same area.  I need a radar for this solo sailing.

Squally weather all night and into the next day on my Gulf crossing. is always comforting to me after a long night of sailing.  Things just don't seem as sinister during the day.  I was chased by thunderstorms all night and into the next day.  They didn't cause me too much discomfort other than a little anxiety.  The wind remained very favorable and kept pushing me along nicely.  It was good sailing.

Sailing in following seas.
 I managed to catch a tuna along the way.  It was a Little Tuny and unfortunately not fit for good table fair.  The day was good fast sailing.  I started to approach St. Joseph Bay, 250 miles from my starting point, at about sunset.  I still had to sail down the length of St. Joseph Island and make a U turn through the inlet and into the bay for anchoring.

Nearing St. Joseph Island late in the afternoon.

The second sunset of the crossing nearing St. Joseph Island.
It was after midnight, 42 hours of sailing, before I was able to get the hook in the sand and hit the hay.  It is hard to understand how tiring sailing really is.  I am asleep very quickly.

Anchored off of St. Joseph Island, I get the dinghy loaded for some beach combing.
The next morning I get my dingy launched and have a great day beach combing and fishing.  I landed two nice red fish and let them both go.  It was a beautiful day.

St. Joseph Isand orgy

Gulf Coast Horseshoe

Campsite at St. Joseph Island State Park.  Very nice indeed.
I spent two nights anchored out in St. Joseph bay to catch up on a little sleep.  It was wonderful.  What a beautiful place.  I did some hiking on the island, productive fishing from the beach, and beach combing.  Then off toward Seagrove.  I had about 30 miles of gulf sailing before reaching St. Andrews Bay near Panama City Florida.  The weather was nice with light winds and some thunderstorms off in the distance.  I found a nice place to anchor in 7 feet of water in West Bay near the ICW.  I would motor up the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway(GIW) the next day and anchor in Choctawhatchee Bay.

Dogged by thunderstorms again as I head toward Panama City Florida.
Below is my anchorage in West Bay.

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Motoring up the ICW between St. Andrews and Choctawhatchee Bays.
 I was able to anchor in Choctawhatchee Bay within four miles of the Rick's beach house.  I found a canal that was deep enough for my dinghy and motored up until it dead ended and locked it up to a tree.  Rick was able to find me walking down the road and the rest of the day and into the night was a exercise in gluttony with lots of great food, drinks, and a good time.

Below is my anchorage in Choctawhatchee Bay.

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I left around 10 am the next day and decided to stay in the GIW until a reached my destination.  I had bypassed most of the GIW on the way south and was curious to see what it had to offer.  It turned out to be pretty nice, especially around Perdido Key area.

Good sailing on Choctawhatchee Bay.

Anchored out in Big Lagoon on the GIW.

The GIW near Perdido Florida.  This was a very nice area on the GIW.

Below is a google maps shot the Perdido area.  I didn't know this paradise even existed.  What a treat.

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Workboat along the GIW.

The GIW is normally very protected from weather.  This trait is lost as you enter Mobile Bay.  From here on you are in the wide expanses of water of Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound.  There is protection created by the Gulf Coast National Seashore Barrier Islands of Dauphin, Petit Bois, Horn, Ship, and Cat, but only in southerly winds.  I had my most miserable night here on my cruise south anchored off of Cat Island.  I did not want to repeat it.  The wind was stiff from the West as I entered Mobile bay.  I had to motor and motor sail into some seriously nasty 3-4 foot chop.  It was very rough sailing for most of the day.  I decided to sail up into Mobile bay for several miles and try and find some protection from the bay's western shore.  It worked out nicely and I had a good nights sleep.  The next day I made my way toward Petit Bois Island pounding into the wind the entire way and  managing to find a little spot off its southern shore that looked like it would offer some protection from the West wind.  It was bumpy but proved to be adequate and I did manage to get some sleep.  The next day I was headed to Cat Island and still pounding into the wind.  About mid day the wind switched from West to South and gave me some decent sailing weather.  It would also allow me to anchor off the southern shores of Cat Island in comfort.  I hooked into a large fish near Horn Island that cut through my wire leader in short order, shark.  I anchored off the southern shore of Cat Island near a motor yacht.  As the sun sank low on the horizon, the motor yacht pulled anchor and took off for the Mississippi coastline.  Hmmm....why would he do that.  Well, just after dark I found out.  Apparently he had good communication out there and got a weather report.  The wind shifted from South to North and really began to blow.  I spent another miserable night off Cat Island(which I renamed Devil Island) and slept nary a minute.  The next morning I was ready to get off the boat for a while.  I decided to scratch Lake Pontchartrain and try and find a marina close by.  I got on the phone and finally located one out of Biloxi, The Point Cadet Marina.  After a short 3 hour sail I was pulling up to my slip and tying off.  

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This was the end of my first cruise in the newly rebuilt Mary Annie, a 1974 Hallberg Rassy Rasmus.  The boat performed great and held up beautifully with no breakage whatsoever after four months of hard sailing.  I am very pleased with her.  The plan now is to get ready for another adventure early next year(2014) and try and sail from Biloxi Mississippi to Maine and into Canada.  Cheers. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Three Days from Ft. Myers to Venice

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Overall the sailing was good between Ft. Myers and Venice.  I anchored out near Redfish Pass the first night and at Cayo Cosa State Park the second, and tied up to The Crows Nest Marina in Venice.  I was going to anchor out in Venice too, but the anchorage looked very tight and shallow.  The weather is hot with afternoon thundershowers.  The wind has been light so I have had to motor or motor sail most of the way. Here are a few pictures that I took along the way.

Below is my anchorage at Redfish Pass

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My anchorage near Redfish Pass just north of Ft. Myers

Cabbage Key Inn on the GIW
I have read that Jimmy Buffet's "Cheeseburger in Paradise" song was inspired right here at Cabbage Key.

Below is the entry into Pelican Bay.  If you look just right of the sand bar running north and south you can see the narrow channel.  Notice how close it runs along the bar.

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On the trip down south, John and I anchored out from the entrance into Pelican Bay.  I just didn't have the confidence at that point to try the tricky entry into the bay.  Today, I was going to try to get in.  After almost two months negotiating the shallows of the Bahamas, I figured this would be doable.  And it was.  There is really no problem with the entry if you just line up with the sand bar on your starboard side and stay very close to it's shore.  There were 3 or 4 boats in the bay and I pulled up to the first spot not far from the sand bar.  I spent two nights here and had time to hike the Cayo Costa State Park, do a little fishing, and watch the weather roll through.  Below are some pics of the area.

A white ibis on Costa Cayo State Park beach

Cayo Costa State Park beach

Sunsets at Cayo Costa State Park

My anchorage at Cayo Costa State Park

I left out early in the morning for Venice.  The weather was nice and today I decided to take the gulf route for the Venice Inlet.  It was just a short sail away.

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cruising the Okeechobee Waterway

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Mary Annie waiting patiently in Ft. Pierce

Below is the Harbortown Marina where I kept S/V Mary Annie for an month

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It's always a little nerve wracking when the boat gets moved around on the lift.

Organizing and loading the boat for the trip home.
Horses grazing along the Okeechobee Waterway

Airborne mullet

One of the "fixer uppers" parked along the Okeechobee Waterway

This fisherman had a fish on each rod.  

A beautiful sports fisher cruising the OW.

Bank fishing on the waterway

As we entered Lake Okeechobee we met some cruisers that had just crossed.  I asked how the lake was and he replied, "BORING".  This proved to be an understatement.  The lake was a play on gray, with no breeze, no color, no fun.  These white pelicans were the only life I saw during the crossing.

Another cruiser anchor out on the waterway.

A boat with character

This is the railroad bridge that causes many cruisers pain.  It is only 49 feet tall and many cruisers have the locals fill barrels of water tied to one side of their boat to heel it over enough to pass under the bridge.

It was very hot on the cruise across Florida's Okeechobee Waterway.  Amy and I did all we could to stay out of the sun.

Making the turn at Clewiston, Florida

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Sunset on our second night on the OW just west of Moore Haven, Florida.

Below is the Legacy Harbor Marina we stayed at in Ft. Myers.  It was nice.

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