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