Monday, February 25, 2013

2/22/13-1/23/13: Apalachicola to Sarasota: Success But No Joy Ride: 210 NM

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Wilson and I left out of Apalachicola Bay at 6:30 A.M. for our 210 mile journey to Sarasota.   There was dense fog in the area.  Government Pass was our passage into the Gulf.  We had anchored only a 1/2 mile from it.  The passage looked simple enough, IF THE BUOY MARKERS THAT MARK THE PASSAGE ARE PLACED IN THE RIGHT PLACE!!  Even being between the red and green buoys, I run aground in mud and stick the boat pretty good.  It takes me several minutes to get out of this one.

As I enter the Gulf and the surf and see the conditions I get a good shot of adrenaline.  It is nasty out there.  The seas are big with very steep and confused seas.  I am immediately getting jolted around and have to hold on tight to stay in the boat.  After 3 minutes of this I am considering turning back and waiting for better conditions.  But I motor on south.  The wind is in my face AGAIN and I can't use the sails.  A sailboat is much more steady and the motion better with the sails up.  They act as a wonderful stabilizer when sailing.  Without the sails flying the boat rolls and bucks and is very uncomfortable.

Wilson and I soon pick up a hitchhiker, Mr. Coldfront, who rides with us all the way to Sarasota.  He brought with him dense fog, rain, and lightning.  After a couple of hours of fighting the conditions I am wondering how my stamina is going to hold out.  I am cold, wet, and miserable.  There is no way I can tend to the boat constantly and physically hold up through the entire trip down.  So I devise steering solutions, or "rigs", to steer the boat as I take 15 second cat naps.  I start doing this 3 hours into the trip and continue through the trip.  So I would set my course, lay down in the cockpit under my wet blanket and put it over my head so I could try and remove myself from the elements surrounding me, and shut my eyes for a moment.  Under the blanket I would tell myself, "it will get better soon, just keep the boat moving".  It was a test of mind over matter.

It did get better 24 hours later.  I had faired the night OK and Sunday morning was looking good and stayed nice through to Sarasota.  As I said in an earlier post,  I am not fond of navigating an unfamiliar pass and anchoring at night.  My goal now was to get that done in the daylight.  When I got to Sarasota at 4:30 I was at the entrance to Big Sarasota Pass.  A dense fog reduced visibility to a 100 feet.  This was a tricky pass and I talked to a local to give me information.  He gave me GPS coordinates to get me through.  I plugged them in and made my move.  Soon I was aground and beached again.  I couldn't believe it.  The surf was pushing my boat farther onto the shoal.  I threw her in reverse and really screamed the engine and inched my way off of it.  I had bent my tiller shaft in the process and I feared the rudder might be damaged.

Below is an overhead shot of Big Sarasota Pass.  As you can see, trying to enter this in nothing but the best conditions is not advised.

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I got back on the phone and asked for a better pass to enter.  It was going to be Longboat Pass and it was 8 miles away but I wasn't going to attempt that one again.  So, it was going to be another night entry.  It goes like this:  You are in unfamiliar waters and  can see practically nothing.  You are looking at your navigation screen and trying to put the triangle, your boat, in the right spot.  You do this while there are breakers crashing around you but you can't see them.  You move forward slowing watching your depth sounder, your nav screen, and try to spotlight some kind of marker with a spotlight outside.  To top it off, I don't see well at night.  It is very challenging for me and I have a lot to learn before I get it right.  I did make this one fine and got anchored at 8:30 pm.  It was a 38 hour passage.

Below is my Longboat Key anchorage.  It was very nice.

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  1. Hey Pat....I'm a little late with this but after your Apalachacola post I thought it was appropriate...Steve Earle singin Gulf of Mexico...enjoy it and good luck...

    Henry T

  2. This is awesome! Thanks for play by play!

  3. Hi Pat! Thank you for sharing you adventures with us! Here in Sweden it is cold and the boat is sourounded with ice in the harbour. Good luck on your upcoming trip :-)

    Best Regards Liv whith the Rasmus 35 no 166 Nanny

  4. Pat,
    I must say we've really enjoy reading your blog. Just remember if you get into a bind all you have to do is drop a dime on Danny and I and we're on our way. We just have a few prerecquisit questions to ask first.
    1) Where do you keep the life jackets?
    2) Where's the big orange life boat you should be towing from behind?
    3) How many cable TV stations do you get?
    4) How long does it take to get over the sea sickness?
    5) How many can be tied to the Mass during a storm?

    And most important!

    6)How many weapons can we carry aboard without sinking?

    Melissa and I really do enjoy reading your blog and can't wait for the movie version. You stay safe, keep writing, and the wind to your back.

    Mark & Melissa