03 March 2009 | Clearwater, FL
1st Mate Gail/NNW 10-15
Here we go again! We are getting a later start this year due to a surgical procedure Frank had done in December. He didn't get released until January. Then a couple of weeks to get the boat ready and there we were in February. We needed a three-day window of decent weather to get to Clearwater. We were having a tough time getting three days, so we decided to leave and take it a day at a time, if need be. So we headed out on February 19. The wind was a little brisk, but not too much for the trip to Panama City.
Frank bought a Track it TV for the boat, which is a device that you install a Direct TV dish. The device fixes on the satellite and holds the signal as the boat moves. Typically intended while under anchor, we tested it underway. We were able to get reception. We could have watched television while we sailed, but, of course, we didn't. Frank was really glad it worked like advertised.
We stayed at Panama City Sun Harbor marina for 4 days. We like that marina. The amenities are nice, the people are friendly, but it's not too fancy. We then sailed over to Port St. Joe, where we anchored for the night. The beach looked similar to one of our favorite anchorages, Shell Island in St. Andrews Bay, with a little more trees. While we were setting our anchor, we saw deer on the beach. It was a gorgeous clear night.
The next morning we entered the Intracoastal Waterway heading toward Apalachicola. It had a different type of beauty. Much of it looked similar to the cypress trees at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee. Immediately before exiting the waterway at Apalachicola bay, we took a hairpin turn into Scipio Creek. We docked at the marina. For the first time since we left Memphis, we had seafood for dinner. If you are in the area, we highly recommend Papa Joe's Oyster Bar and Grill at the marina. Everything was delicious. Even the sweet tea was more like the good stuff you can find in Memphis.
We "dieseled up" the next morning and headed across the bay, not our favorite part of the trip. The bay is really shallow and quite foggy/overcast until the sun burns it off. We proceeded to St. George's Island. It was getting to be afternoon. We anchored at the end right before we enter the Gulf. Frank took Keesi to shore. Then we put the dinghy on the front of the boat and secured the motor for the crossing.
The crossing was as expected. We motored into the wind. We knew we would have about 4 hours in middle of the night at 20 knots. The seas were about 5 feet. But we went ahead because we wanted to get moving. A little rough for a while, but not at all like last year.
When we were approaching Clearwater Pass, the dolphins came out to welcome Keesi. They were the biggest we've ever seen. In the Gulf, they jump completely out of the water. They typically make a sharp re-entry close to where they jumped out. One huge dolphin (looked a lot like the fat seals that sun on a pier at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco) would jump out of the water, propel himself a good 20 feet over the water, several times. It was quite different from anything we have ever seen.
We docked at the marina for five days to wait for the weather to pass. We were at Clearwater when the football players were apparently overcome by the wind/waves on a fishing trip. As of this writing, they have located the boat and one person, three are still missing.
We plan to take off today and head to Venice, Fl. The weather after that is light and favorable for three days. We expect to keep moving and get into Marathon in the Keys before the weekend. Stay tuned - will try to update at least each week on this trip.