The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

Days 156-160; November 30 to December 5. We crossed 170 miles of the Gulf from Carabelle to Tarpon Springs, Florida for total miles traveled: 2,050.

Let me begin by saying that the crossing of the Gulf has been the most anxiety producing part of this adventure. Back in May when putting together the slide presentation for our bon voyage party, I vividly remember looking at the Loop map and thinking, I’ll worry about that later, secretly believing that we would follow the “big curve” hopping marina to marina close to shore from the panhandle down the western coast of Florida. This is a long and pretty trip but much too shallow an option for the Namaste’s 5 feet of draft. Later had now arrived and the Gulf crossing was upon us. Given its relative importance, I will allow myself a longer- winded than usual description.

There had not been a good weather window for several days if not weeks and many boats were backlogged in Carabelle waiting to cross. Also, there had been a significant incident in which the Coast Guard had been called to rescue a couple from their boat while trying to cross in “it will do weather.” Although anxieties were high, a potentially long window (days) opened on Saturday, November 29th and we were determined to take advantage of the moment. We provisioned (mostly comfort/junk food), checked all boat systems, studied charts, and had a lovely group dinner (laughingly termed the last supper) before departing on this 170 mile crossing. Doing the math: 170 miles divided by 7 miles an hour (our cruising speed) = a minimum of 24 hours on the open ocean!

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and not wanting to worry family and friends we advised only Curt of our float plan before departing Carabelle at 11:30 a.m. behind Sea to See, our long-standing boat buddy. Faster boats would leave Carrabelle later in the day with the theory that they would pass us during the night and we would be in an ever changing but never ending flotilla throughout the crossing. What we later learned was that there were at least ten other boats out there with us that night – thankfully all on a slightly different course.  Also, it was important that we plan to arrive in Tarpon Springs late morning due to tide levels and so that we would not be blinded to the potentially dangerous floating crab pots that might fowl our propeller.

As we passed Dog Island, the R2 buoy and headed out to sea, the wind seemed to pick up and the waves from the NE insisted on hitting our beam making us roll more than cut through the waves. The good news was that we happily put up the sails to steady ourselves and motor sailed for six hours. By sunset the wind subsided and the water turned almost calm allowing for a perfectly beautiful 138 degree course for the next 12 hours. We had hoped for and got a gorgeous, warm, clear night watching the mesmerizing cycle of spectacular sunset (celebrated with our Jimmy Buffet CD and a coke) followed by a star-lit sky, a slightly less than full moon and finally sunrise to a new day.

Jim and I had decided on two hour watches so during the night hours we each were at the helm three times for a total of six hours alone on the sea while the other slept. For me the time went by almost too quickly as I listened to an Anne Lamott ibook and sang along with my playlists while holding Sammy in my lap and thinking deep thoughts. With the auto-helm set, I watched the stern light of Sea to See ahead and the running lights of Friar Tuck behind throughout the night and listened intently to VHF radio check-ins and announcements.

Just before sunrise the wind picked up again and I awoke to what felt like monster waves hitting us broadside once again. Truism: the darkest hour is just before dawn! This had been unanticipated and was surely unwelcome as we were groggy and slightly spicy with the discomfort. Although challenging, it did seem that we had earned our crossing medal as we arrived at the R4 buoy at 11:30 a.m. as planned, turned and headed up the long channel arriving at Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs at 1:00 making it a 25.5 hour successful crossing.

I don’t think Sammy closed her eyes the entire crossing nor did she eat or drink. For sure she never took my suggestions to potty on the cockpit floor which contains a grate and a drain. Others, including the vet, had told us this would probably be the case so we didn’t worry but tried to empathize with her state of confusion. We suspect that the payback happened a couple days later when she ate the turkey from Jim’s sandwich sitting unattended in the cockpit. She carefully left the bread and cheese untouched. I suspect she was saving them for the next course when I caught her. Yet another payback has been happily allowing her to pee on every blade of grass she finds fascinating.

We are spending a week in Turtle Cove which is a short walk into Tarpon Springs where the Greek influence and tourist shopping are palpable. We are filling up on Greek food and pastries while enjoying the marina pool and Tiki bar. Last night I cracked a tooth so we found over the counter tooth fixing stuff and also came upon two walk-in dentistry clinics not open on Saturday. Who knew?

Next week we will anchor out a couple of nights and then head for Clearwater for a long awaited weekend visit from Debbie and Tom Littlepage. I plan to post again before we fly home on Monday, December 14th to meet Cedar and celebrate the Holidays.

Boat Name of the Day (Or rather a theme of boat names): Never Home, Always Home, No Zip Code

Bad Boat Name of the Day: My Dixie Wrecked (just to see if you are paying attention) on a very fast cigar boat

Quote of the Day: “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” – Robin S. Sharma

Happy Birthday to: Our beautiful granddaughter, Lexi (17!); Sammy (4) and Monica Law

Oh yes, and GO GREEN tonight!

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The shrimp boats of Carabelle.

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Captain Jim surveying the Gulf

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Admiral Jo Ann at the helm.

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R2 Buoy and heading out

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Sunset on 11-30-15

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Sunrise on 12-1-15

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R4 Buoy – a welcome sight!

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One of many Greek bakeries with Vicki and Ron. What to pick?

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Sammy and Benjie at the Tiki Bar. No dogs allowed on the bar top!

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Cedar, two weeks old!

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn

  1. Yi yi yi! There are no words. Yes, there are. I was so worried about you on the gulf. However, was also hoping you would sail past Cedar Key. Oh, how Bill and I love Cedar Key. It’s so beautiful. It’s south out of Gainesville. Hadn’t thought of the draft on the boat. So happy you are having a wonderful time. I’m sure thought it will be good to be home in your own bed once again and holding that precious little boy. Just love his pictures. Thanks for the updates. Missy

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  2. Just to let you know I so enjoy reading and then going back and rereading your posts and seeing the pictures. I didn’t tell Bill until the other day that you had crossed. Some things just cause him to much anxiety. He is loving the pictures of Cedar and also and most important he has gained 16 lbs. We are all cheering, he was down to 120 and wasn’t eating. Anyway, keep posting and stay safe and enjoy this coming month.It will be great to get home and sleep in your own bed on quiet land. LOL watch there will be a massive snow storm complete with howling wind. That is what it is doing here right now..

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