Back to the Jumping Off Place
29 April 2017 | Seahawk in her Clearwater Beach Marina Perch
Saturday, May 6th and Sunday, May 7th
We were against a pier port side to which was easy to get into on arrival but more difficult to get out of now that we were departing. We planned to make a tight backing turn to starboard but the wind and prop reaction prevented that so we had to back very close to a large power boat stuck out into the channel which lined us up perfectly to exit. We had hoped to cross Tampa Bay before the wind picked up but fate was not on our side so we endured the 2'-3' chop for the next hour and got back into the ICW. The rest of the day was uneventful and we navigated the half-dozen moveable bridges along our track with typical delays.
There are two ways to get into the Clearwater Beach Marina from the ICW and this time we decided to use the main entrance as we had run aground in the channel using the alternate route the last time we were here. This time we had no trouble and pulled into the fuel pier to top off for the upcoming Gulf crossing. The wind had picked up and was gusting 15-20 kts so the landings were getting a little tricky. The fuel dock had three slips and we pulled into the one across the pier from a large power boat that was ahead of us. The power boat was about to tie up the diesel pump on that side for a considerable period so the dockmaster directed us to move to the slip to port of us so that we could use another pump and not be delayed. The wind was setting us off and we had to pin the bow and use the engine to swing the stern in but all went well and we refueled then proceeded to our assigned slip which turned out to be the same slip we were in when we were here last.
The plan was to use the same procedure we had used at the fuel dock except we were now starboard side to vice port side to with fewer piling to use and a little less protected from the wind. These slips only had a partial pier and the only piling at the stern was about a boat length from the closest piling forward so we had to pin the bow to that forward piling before we got into the slip further and swing the stern against the wind to get a line to the piling at the stern. The helmsman was confident with this procedure as we had just done the same thing at the fuel dock albeit on the port side and with no absence of piling, but it was not to be. What happened next turned into the biggest Chinese fire drill the helm had ever witnessed. It is difficult to describe all that transpired as a half-dozen helpers arrived with the best of intentions and the dockmaster took over to maneuver the boat with lines since the engine was of no help at that moment. By this time the boat was 90 degrees to the pier and the dockmaster decided to turn us stern to our original plan. At that point it was about all we could do but somehow the line at the bow was lost and the wind was pushing the bow into the boats moored in perpendicular docks on our starboard. We finally recovered but a red-faced helmsman could not describe how as it was all a blur. One kind-hearted observer tried to convince the helmsman that it wasn't his fault but he just replied it is always the Captain's fault.
The mainbrace was spliced several times by some and the crew had a tasty supper at the Bait House at the head of the pier.
The next day still looked rough in the Gulf according to the National Weather Service so we took it easy, did routine chores and went to supper at Crabby Bill's which was the highlight of the day.
May 8, we planned to cross the Gulf as seas were predicted to be 1'-2' albeit wind from the North which would preclude sailing. However, fate was destined to continue to deal us a bad hand.
G. L. Ray, CDR, SS, USNR-Ret