Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

Before we left Panama City we were able to meet our friends Rich and Isis that we met last winter at the church we attended.  They came to pick us up and we had dinner at their house with another friend.

After dinner we headed back and stopped on the way to see the lights in a park in downtown Panama City.

It was very nice to be able to see Rich and Isis again.  It seemed as if we had never left.

Ed and Lucy on "I Love Lucy" had left that Saturday morning and we remained for one more day to walk into town to church on Sunday morning and to see a piano concert at the church on Sunday evening.  The concert was by 10 pianists on 5 grand pianos.  We arrived early and were able to get a photo during the rehearsal.

We left Panama City on December 6 and stopped to top off fuel before heading east to stage for crossing the Gulf of Mexico.  We stopped at White City where there is a free dock and very limited power available.  Ed & Lucy were already there and we were able to get in just ahead of them. 

While there we saw our friends on "Ladybug" along with three other boats come by headed for Appalachicola.  Right behind them were friends from Goose Pond Marina "Jolly Tolly" and "Empty Pockets".  It was good to see them again and Stacy hiked to the bridge over the ICW to get photos.  They were heading to Carabelle to stage for the gulf crossing.

We waited at White City for a weather window to make the gulf crossing and finally decided that Friday, December 10 would be the best time to go.  We made our way to Carabelle and anchored out on the 9th along with a few other boats.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and had a comfortable anchorage.

We left the next day a little after noon with six other boats.  As we departed, the weather was as forecasted and we were excited and anxious at the same time. 

I Love Lucy Crossing Gulf

After dark we noticed the wind pick up and the waves increased as well. We had a rough time from about 10:00 to about 4:00 in the morning. The waves were not quite on our beam but enough were to rock us. Since we had no moon we could not see anything but the other boats in our group. We maintained radio contact and took turns standing watch.  Before we left Goose Pond I had installed an autopilot that was given to me by someone that was upgrading theirs.  I made a few repairs and replaced our "30 year old autopilot with a 20 year old pilot".  I was amazed at how accurately it would hold a course in the conditions we found ourselves in.  We had not used autopilot but very seldomly on the loop and it is worth having one if for no other reason than to cross the gulf.

The seas calmed somewhat by around 4:00 am and we waited for dawn.  When the skies started to get lighter we noticed what looked like storm clouds ahead. 

It turns out that we did indeed have cloud cover but not storms.  This was actually a good thing as we were to navigate through crab pots and the rising sun can be right in your eyes as you enter the "mine field".  We timed our crossing so that we would not be in the pots until the sun was higher in the sky but the clouds blocked the harsh sun and we had no problem with the crab pots.  Actually there were very few compared to what we were accustomed to in the St. John's river and the Chesapeake Bay.

Prior to departure Stacy went through the boat and secured everything for the crossing.  We tied down everything that was loose and the only things that moved were the table, chairs and couch and everything behind it on the aft deck.  This was during the worst of the beam seas and they did not move again afterward. 

After we arrived in Tarpon Springs we had a celebratory glass of Champagne and realized that the Christmas boat parade was to be held that night and that they were beginning at our marina.

Tarpon Springs is famous for the sponge industry before synthetic sponges became available.  The entire city is Greek and everything was centered around sponge diving and the sponge trade.  Now it is mostly a tourist town with many Greek restaurants and the typical tee shirt shops.

We slept the whole night and the next day we cleaned up the boat from salt spray and generally performed any maintenance chores that needed tending to.  We were not planning to be in the marina for long but a new cold front was roaring in and was bringing 30 mph winds for Sunday through Tuesday.  We decided that we would stay until Wednesday. 

We got together with the other boats that crossed with us at a Greek restaurant in town on Monday night.  It was good to get together with these boaters that we shared our crossing with.

It has been very cold here and we are looking forward to going further south and getting into some warmer weather.  We plan to leave Wednesday and head towards St. Petersburg.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fort Walton Beach & Thanksgiving in Panama City

After leaving Little Sabine Bay at Pensacola, we headed for the free dock at Ft. Walton Beach.  This dock is provided by the city for one overnight stay but has no power.  It is a chance to get off the boat without using the dinghy however and it does have water on the dock so we avail ourselves of it when we come through. We joined the boat Negotiator which was already there.  We noticed a number of people setting up tables and staging in the park next to the dock and went up later in the evening when a band was playing.  We found out that it was a church that was throwing a party for all of the volunteers that helped make the church function each week.  It was good to see this happening.

We had decided to try to run from Destin to Panama City on the outside just because we hadn't done it before and so we stuck our noses out at Destin inlet and found that the gulf had not calmed enough to be comfortable for that trip.  We turned around and came back in and traveled on the ICW on over to Panama City.  We did get a good view of Destin Harbor on our way by.

We arrived at Panama City and anchored in Watson Bayou next to Carl & Greg Vernon's house. wI Love Lucy rafted to us and we had dinner with RoyEl who was already there and tied up at the Vernon's dock.

The next day I went with Ed on I Love Lucy to drive back to Mobile Bay to retrieve their car.  That took most of Saturday and we had dinner with Carl & Greg that evening.  On Sunday we borrowed Carl's truck and went to the church we had attended last year while we were in Panama City over the winter.  They were having a combined service with dinner on the grounds and it was good to see people that we had met last year.  They had good music and the kids performed.  We were treated to a great lunch.  As the pastor said "Where two or three are gathered at the church a chicken will die". 

On Monday evening we drove to Bo and Carmen Johnson's beach house and had dinner there.  It was a pleasure to see Old Grumpy's crew again.  We are still so thankful that they shuttled our car back to Scottsboro last spring.

We spent the first part of the week taking care of boat chores and looking at web sites to determine the best time to cross the Gulf of Mexico.  We all have different sites to visit and looking at them all gave us a good picture of the situation.  We had a good time visiting with Carl & Greg, Ed & Lucy and Roy & Elvie.  Carl & Greg were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for any Loopers in the area and were expecting around 30 people.

The Thanksgiving dinner was great.  We had 25 Loopers there and Greg did an outstanding job of cooking turkey, ham, stuffing and whatever else.  We all brought a side dish and I don't think anyone went away hungry.

After Thanksgiving we decided to move to Massalina Bayou in downtown Panama City.  We wanted to get out of Carl & Greg's hair and get settled in for what appeared to be about a week of bad weather before we would be able to make a crossing of the Gulf.  We were able to tie up in some abandoned slips that Carl was aware of and it has been good to be able to wander into town.  We walked to the First Baptist church on Sunday and attended their service.

We think we will now be here until Friday when we will make our move over to Appalachicola and then to Carabelle to stage for crossing the Gulf.  We think the conditions will be right for a Saturday night or a Sunday night crossing.  We will know more the closer we get to that time.  In the mean time, we are having rain today and will have much cooler weather tomorrow.  Hopefully the gulf will calm down after this front moves through and we will have a good crossing to Tarpon Springs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AGLCA Rendezvous, Tenn-Tom, Bottom Paint & Pensacola

We attended the AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park where we got our usual spot and for the 4th year volunteered to handle the boat parking for 60+ boats that were coming in.  The marina would give us the list and slip assignments and we would be "traffic control" for groups of boats coming in from the lock and get them into their assigned slip.

We were there a few days early as boats come in early and socialize prior to the rendezvous.  We had two boats in early that had just completed the loop and we had a celebration party on the pool deck for them.

Later we had friends new and old gather on the back of SEASEA and share stories.  This would be a regular occurance for us during the week.

One boat came in that caught our eye.  It is a canal boat originally used on the Erie Canal.  It is 41 feet long and only 10 wide.  A professor at Penn State University owned it and had converted it to run on either electric or diesel power.  It was an interesting boat to visit for three reasons.  One is that we have two nieces attending Penn State, the second is that we have on our "bucket list" to charter a canal boat in France, and the third is that I was interested in the electric power system that was installed.

We left the AGLCA Rendezvous on Friday, Oct 29 and headed to the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to go south to the Gulf. We anchored at the head of the Tenn-Tom (Zippy Branch) for the first night and then anchored at Bay Springs staging to go through 6 locks to make our way down to the Old Tombigbee River channel.  From there we went to Cochrane Cutoff and then to Foscue Creek at Demopolis. 

Along the way we saw the usual river sights.  Among them this all too common occurance - a house that once was along the river bank is now almost in the river.  The Tenn-Tom is constantly altering it's shore line and this is the danger of being too close.

We met up with our friends Ed & Lucy on "I Love Lucy" at Foscue Creek where they had a wonderful meal ready for us.  We had been running long days and it was good to see them again and spend a couple of days there before heading on down toward Mobile.  We rafted together at Okatuppa Creek, Alabama River cutoff and the Tensaw River cutoff. 

I had a good time playing with their new dog Brie. 

When we entered Mobile Bay we headed to Dog River Marina and Ed & Lucy headed to Fairhope.  We were going into Dog River to haul out SEASEA for bottom paint. 

We were hauled out on Monday November 8 and spent the week preparing the bottom and painting two coats of bottom paint.  We were very pleased with the condition of the bottom.   We had no blisters and it only took minimal prep to get the bottom ready for new paint.  We use ablative paint that wears away slowly as you cruise (like a bar of soap) so we don't need to do extensive sanding in preparation for new paint. 

 After leaving Dog River marina on Saturday we headed to one of our favorite anchorages at Ingram Bayou.  We could not get back in the water a day earlier at Dog River in order to get to Pensacola in time for the Blue Angels air show but did get quite a few boats in the anchorage that night that had come from the show.

We remained in contact with boaters we met while at Goose Pond (Bob & Ellie on "Sunshine Lady") that live in Gulf Breeze (Pensacola) and they suggested that we anchor at Little Sabine Bay so that they could come by car and let us use the car to go to the Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  We were not able to see this museum last year and we jumped at the opportunity.  We saw the entire history of Naval Aviation at the museum and it was very interesting to any gear head or aviation buff.

We had dinner with Bob and Ellie on at their beautiful home in Gulf Breeze and then headed back to check on SEASEA since we were in the middle of a fairly heavy blow and rain.

We are currently anchored at Little Sabine Bay waiting out the bad weather today.  We have winds of 20-25 with higher gusts.  We plan to leave here tomorrow and head on toward Panama City where we will plan to spend Thanksgiving with the Vernons.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hot summer at Goose Pond Marina

It was a very hot summer at Goose Pond Marina on the Tennessee River.  We spent most of the summer getting SEASEA ready to travel back down river in the fall and working on other boats in the marina.  I stripped and refinished the interior teak on the aft deck and replaced the rear plexiglass windows, painted the engine and generator rooms, repaired the icemaker door, replaced the autopilot, replaced the GPS receiver, cleaned carpets, re-made the dinghy cover, cleaned and polished the dinghy hull and polished the boat.


On other boats I replaced all fuel lines, replaced raw water pumps, rebuilt carburetors (teaching opportunity for the boys), replaced fuel pumps, repaired fiberglass, repaired a windlass and repaired wiring.

We had sunset cruises on board and had dinners at Ray & Patsy Whitney's house (AGLCA Harbor Hosts for Goose Pond Marina).

Stacy's cousin Richard Copelan and his wife Lynn and son Michael visited from Birmingham and we had a great visit with them.  

We said our goodbye's to our friends and left Goose Pond on the 14th and headed to Joe Wheeler State Park for the Great Loop Cruisers rendezvous.  We have already met old friends and made new ones and the rendezvous hasn't even started.  We will be very busy in the next few days as we will once again be assisting the marina with coordinating the parking of all the arriving boats.

We are planning to see our friends on Omega again once we get down to the Keys and it is always a possibility to see Ray and Patsy just about anywhere.

Our plan is to leave here a day or so after the rendezvous and make our way back down the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to the gulf coast and eventuallyback to the Keys and the east coast.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Babies, Graduations, Weddings and boating with the Rays

After we got back to Athens we attended our Nephew Andrew Brannon's graduation from the University of Georgia. 

We then went to the wedding of our Nephew Caleb Tingle and saw there for the first time our new Great Niece Sophie Tingle, daughter of J and Kendra Tingle.

The wedding was wonderful and we had a great time.  Isaac Ray and I participated with many others in saluting the couple with giant sparklers as they left. 

The next morning I headed for the boat and Stacy went back to Athens to attend the Baccalaureate service for our niece Emma Tingle.  On Monday Stacy brought her sister Susannah and her five children (Dana, Hannah, Gretchen, Jennifer and Isaac) to the boat.  We left on Monday afternoon for Jones Creek where we anchored  for the night.  Jennifer, Isaac and I sounded out the entrance with the dinghy.

The first order of business was dinghying to shore and climbing to the Pinnacle, a rock outcropping on the top of a nearby mountain.

After returning to the boat the kids swam and used the dinghy deck as a high jump platform.

Of course, no trip to the river would be complete without hair shampoo in the lake.

We left Jones Creek the next morning and headed up through Nickajack lock.  It seems most of the trip was spent reading - something the Rays really enjoy.

Jennifer and Isaac were the primary helmspersons and kept a good watch.

Isaac did a good job negotiating the tow and barges.

We all donned our required life jackets for our trip through the lock.

Once we anchored at Little Cedar Mountain we played in the dinghy and swam again.

 The next morning we pulled anchor and headed back to Goose Pond Marina.  They left from there and had an 11 hour trip back to Pennsylvania.

We had a great time with them on board. 
Memories, Memories, Memories