Saturday, April 26, 2014

4/23/14-4/26/14: Tarpon Springs to Dunedin: 20 NM

Baby Jaws: I need a smaller boat.

After two nights at anchor off of Anclote Key, a sailor friend I met in Biloxi encouraged me to see Tarpon Springs if I hadn't already.  Why not?  So I caught an incoming tide to help me up the Anclote River.  I docked at the Tarpon Springs city marina and hit the town on foot.  What quickly caught my attention of this nice quaint town was FOOD!, and history of course.  This town is dominated by sponges and everything Greek.  It grew up on the sponge harvesting industry in its early years and is now a prominent tourist attraction driven heavily on its Greek heritage.  And the food, what can I say, it is wonderful.  I stayed a night here and packed in everything I could.  I walked the sponge docks located on the Anclote River and then toured the historic district just a few blocks from the docks.  There I ran into the famous Panellas Trail that runs from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater.  After running a few miles on it I headed back to the sponge docks to relax.

Food and Sponges dominate the sponge docks of Tarpon Springs

A walk through the Historic District and the Panellas Trail

And back to the sponge docks before heading on to Three Rookers Bar

The next morning I motored out to Three Rookery Bar.  It was crowded and loud compared to the Anclote Key anchorage, but most of the traffic left in late afternoon and things became peaceful and nice.  Just as the sun set the birds began to scream, some laughing some crying.  It was a spectacle.  I saw many species of seabirds; gulls, herons, ducks, pipers, osprey, and many others.  That night I set out a shark line and caught a three footer and let him live another day.  The next morning I got the kayak out at daybreak and paddled over to Honeymoon Island two miles away.  There I was going to run the beach for a couple of miles but was stopped by the shell covered beach.  I was running barefoot.  So I paddled back to my boat and prepared for the trip into Dunedin.

Dunedin was just an hour motor away and I was soon at the city dock tied up and secure.  The city marina is very nice but very inexpensive at 90 cents per foot of boat length.  I would say that is the cheapest I have paid anywhere.  What I didn't realize is this dock is smack in the middle of town and a busy sidewalk filled with tourist was right next to my boat.  Chad and Maria, two young teachers in town, were very interested in Mary Annie and we had a nice conversation about it and their profession.  They both teach special needs kids in town.  They were definitely givers, not takers.  I bow my head to them.  Then a fellow came up and told me what a hole in the water boat ownership is.  Yeah yeah.  Then a good looking 70 year old sailor of Swedish descent admired the boat and all of her "systems".  After I tired answering questions from tourist about my boat I left the scene for downtown to become one of the tourists myself.

Dunedin is a town of Scottish heritage.  Bagpipes blow every Friday afternoon just to prove it.  It is a bit more upscale than the working class look of Tarpon Springs.  Downtown is painted up with pastels and lined with palms and upscale restaurants line the streets.  As I walked I came across a trail, the Panellas Trail, the one I ran into in Tarpon Springs.  So I set off on a 4 mile run.  The trail was nicer here than in Tarpon with huge white oak dripping with spanish moss providing shade for the trail goers.

The next day in Dunedin was much the same as the first, some good food, good exercise, and a relaxed mood.  It was a Saturday and there was a farmers market downtown.  I bought some gifts for my girls at home at the market.

Tomorrow I will head out to Moonshine Island near Caledesi Island and try and explore both before heading south out of the Clearwater area for the Manatee River just north of Sarasota.  In the meantime, cheers from the Mary Annie.

4/20/14-4/22/14: Easter Sunday 2014: Carrabelle to Anclote Key: 140 NM

My route to Anclote Key

All the GRIBs were showing Easter Sunday to be a fine day to sail south from Carrabelle Florida to Anclote Key, a 140 mile trip.  I have enjoyed my layover in Carrabelle,  but it was time to move on.  The weather people predicted east winds at 10 to 13 knots with seas 2-3 feet.  That would be perfect to push the old Rasmus on down to Anclote Key.  At least 6 other sailors had decided to leave either Sunday or Monday.  I motored out of the Carrabelle River around 7:30 am on Easter Sunday and raised my sails in St. George Bay.  There were two other sailors following me out.  The previous two times across this stretch of water I motored and motor sailed.  This time I wanted to sail the entire leg.  As soon as I moved out into the gulf, I noticed the winds were I bit more lively than I or the weather folk had expected.  I soon put a double reef in the main and reefed down the genoa and I was still making 5 1/2 to 7 knots, which is pretty good for the Rasmus.  The wind and waves were square on my beam and the were steep 4 ft. chop, which made a pretty uncomfortable ride.  But I was making good speed with sails alone and who can complain with that.  The first day out stayed about the same as described except for a bit of increase in wind speed and wave height.  The winds changed in direction enough to keep me very busy with sail trim and wind vane adjustment.  I was feeling fatigued by dusk.
Conditions were energetic from start to finish

The night brought even stronger conditions and very cold air.  It was starting to get miserable.  I was still working hard with sail trim and wind vane adjustment.  About my wind vane self steer system.  I have a Capehorn made self steer wind vane.  It is very sensitive to even the slightest adjustment to the vane, which rotates by means of two lines running from it to the cockpit.  The two lines are cleated off on opposite sides of the cockpit, so in adjusting them, I have to lean and reach about five feet, which after time can really increase fatigue.  I don't like it.  So after spending the night jogging around the cockpit adjusting the wind vane, I was determined to set up a better system.  I ran one line through a snatch block and secured the block to one side of the cockpit.   This system allows me to adjust the vane without reaching and leaning to one side of the cockpit to the other.  I can simply rotate the block pulley as I sit in my comfy spot.
This is my new wind vane adjustment block.  Just turn the pulley, that's it.

The old system had cleats on each side of the cockpit 5 ft. apart.  After time this is fatiguing.

Back to that miserable night of sailing.  As I said, the weather became cold, really cold.  I also acquired a rare case of sea sickness.  The weather had strengthened through the night.  The waves were now averaging 5-6 feet beam on with several eight footers that placed all items on the port shelves on the floor.  I started to shiver around midnight and was worried about hyperthermia.  I already had all my clothes on plus rain gear and chest waders.  I was still very cold.  So I pulled out my survival suit, a very thick neoprene suit made for very cold water exposure, and put it on and then climbed into a sleeping bag.  That stopped the shivering but I still could not get warm.  I felt like I was sailing the north atlantic, not Florida in April.  I thought about heaving to but what would that accomplish.  I wasn't in a survival situation and I couldn't sleep because of my nausea.  So I kept the boat moving in the right direction and hoped for a break in conditions.
Stong conditions for first 20 hours of crossing

I had all this gear on to try and stay warm: rain gear, chest waders, survival suit and sleeping bag.

I ate two boxes of Gin Gins to keep the contents in my stomach in my stomach

They came at 6 am the next morning.  I was nearing the coast and the waves reduced in size and the wind decreased.  Around 7 am  I stopped sailing and started up the motor and motored on in to Anclote Key.  I dropped anchor around noon just off of Dutchman Key and passed out for a 4 hour nap.  I was exposed to the east winds but by dusk the winds has switched to westerly and everything became calm and peaceful.  What a great nights sleep.  I woke up to glassy waters and a beautiful day to go kayaking and beach combing.  Ahhh…this is why I endure discomfort in a small boat.  I spent two wonderful nights there before heading off to Tarpon Springs.

Anclote Key Anchorage

Beautiful sunrise after a great nights sleep

Favorite anchorage for these locals
Recovered after a great nights sleep, I had a good day on the water

A classic wooden ship at its final resting place

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A last look at Carrabelle and an Easter sail across the Gulf

Things on the boat have gone well. I have fixed everything that wasn't working: dinghy motor, Garmin GPS navigator, AIS transponder, deck leaks, rigging tension, radar installation,…organized the entire boat: pantry, books, charts, tools, lines, bedding, deck, and grocery shopped.  I haven't had time to eat much, too busy.  Even though all has gone well, I haven't set sail.  That will start early Easter morning.  Ten other sailors and I are headed out in what looks to be fair winds for sailing south.  Please let there be fair winds and SUN.  It has been cold and rainy for three days here, good for working in but bad for the soul. 
My barometer says it all.  Northwest Florida has been invaded by a stubborn low pressure system that has turned it into the Unsunshine State.
We all have about a 145 mile crossing that will start in the morning, take us through the day and night, and into the next day.  It is so exciting.  This feeling now, the anticipation of sailing offshore out of sight of land and into the night, is the reason I and others put up with the difficulties of living on a small boat, I think.  It really is a rush.

Photos of Carrabelle

After all the chores were done and I was satisfied that the boat is ready for the crossing, I paddled up the Carrabelle River in my kayak talking to the sailors anchored out on their boats.  They were all getting ready for the trip. Katy and Ric were sailing Enigma, a Morgan 36.  She was a beauty, restored to her original luster.  Bob and Kathy were in Thar Be Dragons, an Islander 36.  

I hop off the kayak and do a short walk through town.  Its a humble little town with fish blood running in its veins.  Folks work hard here and play hard.  It's been a booming town in years past with logging as a major industry.  Its been smacked down by hurricanes and brought back by the sponge industry,commercial and recreational fishing.  Its a quiet anchorage that enables one to just rest.  I like Carrabelle

Homemade chili is simmering on the stove and anticipation builds as I wait for morning.  I doubt I get much sleep tonight.  I ask Big Dave (my dad) to ask Poseidon to have mercy.  He replies:

"To appease Poseidon I think you have to throw some shrimp overboard and sing the Naval Academy hymn. 

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,

Glad hymns of praise from land and sea. " 

Thanks Dad. I be singing.