Thursday, June 30, 2011

Relaxing progress - Pictures and Videos

Just a quick post to put up a few pictures. Pretty cool to be able to be cruising along and post via the air card.

We are just passing through Orange Beach Alabama as I post this, The pictures and videos are from between Pensacola to Orange Beach Alabama

This  is just a water line short video, I always like this type of video shot.

This was a little 360 Degree view of where we are.

Island in West Florida

Relaxing on the Bow while Deb takes the Helm

Wouldn't that be a petty place to live?

From the Bow back at Deb commanding the ship :)

I didn't edit this but may later to zoom in, Deb caught this dolphin just rolling and playing in the water.  He is coming right toward the camera for the picture.  Pretty cool stuff.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday June 29 - Repair Day (Ugh)

As I may have mentioned we stopped for the night last night in a Marina just inside the inter-coastal Waterway in Pensacola. We picked the Marina from the information stored in our GPS. It was close and had all the amenities we were looking forward after the first leg of our trip. The GPS listed features like, Fuel, Water, Electric, Ice, Groceries, Restaurant, Showers, Laundry, Restrooms, etc. We arrived last night as it was raining, so after securing the boat and hooking up electric, we told the harbor master we would settle up in the morning. This morning, I went up the dock to find the showers and restrooms and there was nothing there but a small office with nobody inside. I asked the guy in the yard and he said “We ain’t got no showers” I then asked about the restrooms, he pointed me to a single “port o let” across the parking lot. So much for amenities. We met the owner this morning and he is a cool guy, Chiropractor that owns a couple of Marinas but he rebuilt after the first hurricane, second one tore it up again and he is battling a bit with FEMA without insurance and with all the changed regulations, sounds like he might not build it back to what it once was.

Oh and my Friend Mike from S/V Kosrae, told me years ago that “Cruising is working on your boat in exotic locations” Today was no different. Last night our bilge pump wasn’t working and we pinned it down to a small hole in the bilge hose not allowing it to get enough suction. We woke this morning to no DC power. I spent the majority of the day sitting on the water muffler with a headband flashlight on trying to find fault in the electrical wiring. We took a break and caught a cab to West Marine to get the hose we needed and grabbed another battery just in case we needed it. I thought it had to be some major connection that came loose on the trip but just couldn’t find it. Finally after taking a couple of breaks and speaking to Mike and Mike (Thanks guys). It did turn out to be a negative buss connection near the electric panel. 5 hours to find, 30 seconds to fix. Figures. The good news is in an anticlimactic fashion, all is working. Yeah.

So tomorrow morning, we plan on fueling up when the dock opens at 7am and we are heading west bound. We didn’t really plan on spending a day not making any progress so we have a bit of ground to make up.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Passage

We left Panama City Monday at about 10:30 am, and pulled into Pensacola about 7:30 pm tonight.  Safe and sound.

We planned on going from Panama City to Mobile Alabama and then about 2 in the morning, we changed plans.  Deb and I have decided that a passage (and a small one by most peoples account) is BORING.  You sit at the helm and drive 5-7 miles per hour.  We averaged about 4 knots most of the way due to wanting to keep the RPM's low on the engine.  There was not much wind and most times not even enough to sail, when the wind did pick up it was just ahead of one of the many Thunder storms we saw last night.

We left St Andrews Bay and it was kind of  a cool send off as the guy we bought the boat from is a captain on dolphin tour boat.  As we are passing the last buoys marking the channel he buzzed by on one of his tours and gave us a wave. 

From there is was just open water sailing.  Within a while we could barely make out the land that was Panama City and as night started to fall you could see the clouds lit up over the land masses from the lights of town.  Pretty cool look when you can't see the buildings but you know (or have some false comfort) that they are there.

It is pretty boring, so taking an hour or 2 nap sounds like something that would be a good idea while the other takes the helm.  The disappointing thing was that there was just not enough wind or in some cases it was on our nose and we either couldn't sail or when we did we were beating into the wind.

As dusk started to fall you could hear thunder and see lighting in the distance, but what are you going to do at that point, so you just kind of hope for the best.  We took our safety persuasions, we both had life jackets on and safety harnesses and any time we were leaning out of or getting out of the cockpit we were tethered to the boat on a 6 foot harness.  At this time, I tried to get some sleep but it was almost impossible to stay on the bench with the rolling in the seas.  We had agreed we would each sleep in the cockpit in case the other needed the one sleeping.  So the only place I could get comfortable was either curled up on the floor wedged in to keep from rolling back and forth or I also found that if I wrapped my tether around my body once, and then had deb looped it over a cleat, I could lay on the bench and would only roll about 1/2 way over before the tether would pull be back into my sleeping position.

Once out in the ocean, there is nothing to look at but the waves and clouds and each other.  Deb read a book, I drank a ton of water and had some fruit to pass the time more than anything else.

When we were getting to Pensacola, I must admit both of us wanted to just get out of the waves and chop and into the protected waters of the InterCoastal.  So I decided to improvise one of my routes and cut part of a corner off, mainly because it allowed us to sail and stop some of the rolling, but as we approached Pensacola, I ended up having to tack, or motor, we tacked and then at some point ran into a patch of ground 3/4 of a mile out from land where it got down to 8 feet deep.  Fearing a grounding, we turned around and went back to our original route (and likely added 2-3 hours of time to our trip.  As we were sailing in that area though we did get into a pod of dolphins and they were playing and jumping in the bow wake of the boat.  Deb went up and took some pictures and I may have caught a few surfacing from the little hand held camera in the cockpit. 

In a fitting tribute, just as we got through the entrance into Pensacola and out of the Gulf of Mexico, we were met with another thunderstorm.  We pulled all sail in and just as we turned west into the InterCoastal, we put up all the eisenglass and rode out another thunder strorm with plenty of rain.  The good news is that it dropped the temperature about 10 degrees and that was welcomed (so was the rain actually).  From there we tied up at a marina for the night.

So, here we are in the boat with the Air Conditioning back on and access to the internet via Aircard.  We are hoping that we make better speed in the ICW moving forward.  I am not sure if the slow speed was due to the head wind and waves last night in the Gulf (or the fact that we found one of our fenders was dragging behind the boat for some undetermined amount of time since leaving).

Additional Pictures can be viewed here

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First leg of the Voyage home

Preparations are complete, Provisioning has been done and all food and supplied stowed.  Burning music while I type this blog so we can head into the ocean listening to Jimmy Buffets Boats, Beaches, Bars and Ballad box set.

I am about to head to sleep for what I assume will be a somewhat restless night while I second guess every repair, preperation, provistion and skill that I have as we prepare for tomorrows departure.   We planned on leaving today but there were still a few things to get done to the boat and the threat of severe thunderstorms all day had us decide to sit another day and leave tomorrow late morning in what looks like a good weather window for the crossing to Mobile Alabama. 

Tomorrow after we get up, we will both enjoy restrooms and showers on terra firma and then pack the dock lines, fenders, shore power and head off to the Gas Dock to top off Diesel in the boat, Gas for the Generator, Gas/oil Mix for the dinghy and fill all 115 gallons of water storage for the trip.  Once off the gas dock it will be heading for the Gulf of Mexico and will be about 30 hours before heading into the somewhat protected waters of Mobile Bay.
Our route takes us across St. Andrews Bay in Panama City to the Gulf of Mexico where we will take a 270 degree bearing (West) for about 140 nautical miles.  We will do this until we are just south of Mobile Bay where we will head just east of North at a 12 degree bearing to the Ship channel leading into Mobile Bay.  Once into the bay we will go west into the Gulf Inter-Coastal Waterway (ICW), go under a bridge and find a place to anchor for some rest.     I suspect our course will look something like the image below.  The good news is that with this route at any point along it, all we have to do is go do north for the shortest trip to land. 
(Mom and In-laws are nervous about this trip so I want you to know that we have plan B in all cases)
This is our planned route

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Shake Down Cruise

We have been in Florida this week preparing the boat for a trip back to Texas and getting familiar with all of her systems.  After doing the must do's.  Learning where all seacocks are and checking them, Changing the oil, Verify plumbing and electrical and make minor tweaks as needed, Review all engine manuals and electronics, stow 2 car loads of "stuff" and make a list of the money I will spend at the Ship Store, wire in additional fans for the trip back, passage planning and feeding it into the GPS from the computer, validate all radio communication works.  validate propane and stove along with electrical cut off, install fire extinguishers, install CO2 detectors and smoke detectors, add placards and other Coast Guard requirements, mount outboard on start davit, add grill to boat, stow dinghy on read deck, review lighting, flag and bell requirements for vessel size and add to boat if needed.  I know there is more but it was a whirl wind week where Deb did work all day and I started on boat projects after work each day.
That said, the boat is just about ready, We return next week to provision and take off at our first weather window.

Thursday we did our first shake down cruise.  All started well with a smooth run out of the slip and into the bayou where the marina is.  A quick call to the Bridge tender and up went the drawbridge and we were soon out in Saint Andrews Bay.  She drives nicely forward.  Reverse like most sail boats is a bit of a hope and a prayer.  I will say that while practicing in open water, she really just goes in a circle to starboard when in reverse, so I was already a bit worried about getting her backed into the slip when we were through.  We motored through the channel toward the Gulf of Mexico and tested out the AutoHelm (Autopilot).  She worked pretty well but eventually went into standby mode on her own and I am not sure why.  (I ended up rewiring the control head in the navigation station below and we will have to see if that makes it better, I hope so as hand steering for 30 hours straight in the Gulf doesn't sound like fun).
She tracks great, steady and doesn't wander with no hand on the helm.

We enjoyed a few hours of tooling around the bay and checking out all the boat systems.  Made note to self that I have to rig up a way to reef the sails as they have reefing points by no goose neck hook and no reefing lines on the sail at all.
Maiden Voyage on Last Affair (Easy Helm)

Deb standing on the aft deck looking back toward the cockpit. (I think she was looking for dolphins)

Another call to the Bridge Tender and a request for proper etiquette when calling for bridge openings later in our trip and up went the bridge, all the while he shared with us the proper way to call for bridge openings and the best way to address the tender.  We motored through the bridge into the bayou and we were able to put her backward in her slip as if we had been together for years.  No hard throttle or line tugging, just a gentle touch on the helm, took our time, let the wind help where it could and just slipped her in beautifully.

As we left, we thought about the next time we are here it will be the last and we will be heading back to Texas on our first real trip of any length (more than overnight) and our first time in the ocean by ourselves.  Nervous, sure, excited more than anything.  Smooth sailing and looking forward to next week.. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Last Affair

It was February when we moved to Kemah to sail on bigger water and take a step toward our dream of getting a bigger boat and moving aboard.  We have been causally looking at boats, and then listed ours with a broker.  Two weeks after listing it, we found the boat we both really liked in a price range that made sense for us now.  After a trip to Florida to look at it, a second trip to have a survey completed, we made an offer and executed a contract on a 43' Gulfstar MKII Sloop.

The Boat has almost all of the features we have been looking for, Center Cockpit, raised toe rail, lots of ventilation, an engine room with some space, air conditioning and 2 heads.
We are really excited and have made 3 trips to Florida in the last 6 weeks.  We are back in Florida this week preparing the boat and packing our stuff on it.  We are planning on sailing her back to Texas near the end of June.

We are a little nervous about the unknown but know that as soon as we head out on the journey and face adversity we will feel more alive and be more satisfied with what we can accomplish than anything else.

Below are the first pictures we took of the boat.  We need to get her out of this Marina where we can get a picture of the whole thing (not just the front of back half of her)