Monday, January 14, 2008

Panama City, FL, to Sarasota, FL

January 4, 2008 – Segue pulled out from the Panama City Marina early on the 4th and headed for Apalachicola, FL, about 60 miles away.

The trip to Apalachicola was a chilly one! We were driving from the bridge because we had some long passages across bays and could spot the channel markers easier from above. At one point, though, we had an electric blanket wrapped around our legs…and a down comforter…and a polartec blanket. Warm weather, here we come!

Apalachicola is a neat little town. We walked from the marina to the grocery store for a few items. The town is playing up to tourists now…but it’s cute.

We pulled into Apalachicola behind a boat from New Orleans dubbed “My Missy.” We’d gotten to know the crew in Panama City because they were docked with us on the transient dock there. They highly recommended the oysters, as did the guidebooks, so Wayne indulged in a couple of dozen while I dined on peel and eat shrimp. De-lish!

January 5 - Wayne's Birthday!! - As we left Apalachicola that morning I caught this sign advertising Scipio Creek Marina where we had stayed the night before. “Transients welcome” may sound like we were there among hobos…but “transient” is the term used for boats, like ours, that are “passing through” and not staying for a long time at the marina. Hobo: “One who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or a means of livelihood.” Hmmmmm. No, wait…we have a permanent home. For now.

The trip to the Moorings Marina at Carrabelle was brief, by our standards…25 miles. We had originally planned to spend two nights at Scipio and go to Carrabelle on Sunday. Looking at Weather Underground (, however, we decided there might be a window for leaving Carrabelle on Sunday afternoon for Clearwater and arriving Monday morning. Read: winds of 10mph or less and seas of 1-2 ft. Weather Underground has a marine forecast for each coastal area and will show a chart with predicted wave activity in feet. The 0-1 and 1-2 feet wave heights are a shade of pink. It looked like large areas of "pink waves" coming up for our travel path Sunday through Sunday night. We called our boating friend in Knoxville, Jim Hemphill, as we were cruising to Apalachicola to see if he could join us a day early for the crossing. Jim and his wife Pam are planning their trip on the Loop and Jim was glad to experience this crossing with us. Jim was able to alter his schedule and he agreed to join us in Carrabelle Saturday evening. (Jim had checked out the options for getting to Carrabelle earlier in the week. Flying was out because of the iffy schedule we had. Instead, he rented a car in Knoxville and drove to Tallahassee, FL. From Tallahassee he hired a cab to take him the remainder of the way to Carrabelle. You gotta want to get there!)

Before Jim arrived, Wayne and I talked with Buddy, the Moorings’ weather expert to see what he thought about a Sunday departure. Buddy saw a window, too, but strongly advised that we leave Sunday morning to take advantage of the weather. He suggested we leave at sun-up…provided the wind was calm. “If the flag at our office is flying out straight…just forget it.” Buddy also advised us to go closer into the coastline for our crossing. While it would mean a few more hours (19 instead of 17…but who’s counting at that point!) it would offer us the opportunity to duck into land should the weather become threatening. In winter months there are more chances for weather to change quickly down here, Buddy said, and we would have more peace of mind following the new route. We could anchor out at Ancelot Key and wait for daybreak to navigate the Clearwater Harbor. Armed with this advice we decided to leave first thing Sunday morning, January 6, and make our way to Clearwater.

When Jim came in that afternoon we told him of our new schedule and he was all for it. We all went out to dinner that evening to Pirates…transportation courtesy of Moorings staff…and went to bed for a good night’s rest.

January 6 - Why do a crossing? Why not continue as we were, hopping from one place to the next in 50-60 mile spurts? The Intracoastal Waterway, which we started in Mobile Bay, ends in Carrabelle and picks up again near Tarpon Springs, Fl, just above Clearwater. There’s an option to hop around the “Big Bend” in Florida by going out in the Gulf and coming back in to stops like Steinhatchee or Crystal River…but with few weather windows in December it could take days to find the right travel time. FYI, the Intracoastal Waterway is defined by the Columbia Encyclopedia as,
“3,000 mi (4,827 km) long, partly natural, partly artificial, providing sheltered passage for commercial and leisure boats along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Boston, Mass. to Key West, S Fla., and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Apalachee Bay, NW Fla., to Brownsville, Tex., on the Rio Grande. The toll-free waterway, authorized by Congress in 1919, is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers at a minimum depth of 12 ft (4 m) for most of its length; some parts have 7-ft (2.1-m) and 9-ft (2.7-m) minimum depths. Among some of the waterway's most often used canals along the Atlantic route are the Chesapeake & Delaware and the Chesapeake & Albemarle; along the Gulf route the most used are the New Orleans–Rigolets Cut, the Port Arthur–Corpus Christi Channel, and the Inner Harbor Navigational Canal at New Orleans. The separate Okeechobee Waterway, S Fla., crosses the Florida peninsula. Plans to build a canal across N Florida to link the Atlantic and Gulf sections were blocked in 1971 by a presidential order to prevent potential environmental damage. Many miles of navigable waterways connect with the coastal system, including the Hudson River–New York State Canal System, the Chesapeake Bay, the sounds of North Carolina, the Savannah River, the Apalachicola River, and the entire Mississippi River system. The Intracoastal Waterway has a good deal of commercial activity; barges haul petroleum, petroleum products, foodstuffs, building materials, and manufactured goods.”

We woke up early on Sunday, January 6, determined to be ready with engines running when the sun rose. The first thing we checked was the office flag. As you can see by the picture, the flag wasn't moving. We’re off!!!

We left Carrabelle and headed out the East Pass. At that point, the water looked harmless...and this shrimp boat was one of the few signs of life we spotted.

As we went through the pass and entered the Gulf of Mexico the waves picked up. We estimated they were about 2-4 feet. We had moved everything off of the surfaces downstairs in preparation for this…and had covered the glassware with athletic socks to protect it from breakage. Good thing! By our estimation we had a few 5-footers thrown at us as we made our way on an easterly path to get closer to shore. Jim, Wayne, and I took hourly shifts at the helm…and for the first 3-4 hours we were dealing with pretty rough waters, by our standards. As Jim said, “This will be a confidence builder.” How right he was! The boat held up superbly. Oh, it creaked and groaned…but there was no damage. Now we humans…well, we were OK, too, as long as we held onto something when moving around. Lucy had a dose of Dramamine that morning and planted herself on the floor for this part of the trip.

When we got to the waypoint indicating our turn to the south, the seas calmed. We’re talking glassy smooth seas. Calm. Then fog set in. Visibility went down to about 1 mile, but we had the radar on, of course, and the water was still benign. The fog stuck with us for about 4 hours and when it lifted we were greeted with a beautiful sea. These are some of the views we took in that afternoon and evening…

Night came... on and we settled into a routine of having one on the helm, one at the radar screen…and the other person could either stay up (usually the case) or head down for a short rest.

We had no cell phone coverage in the Gulf after we got out about 10 miles. When we saw our first light (“oh, there’s Clearwater!”) we were sure we’d be able to pick up some coverage, but no. We were still probably 20 miles from land. We could have used the VHF radio to call for assistance if needed, but it would have been nice to check in with our friends and family while on this endurance run. “Hi, Mom. Guess what I’m doing right now!!”

As we moved closer to Clearwater and the anchorage we’d selected for the night (Ancelot Key) we made the decision to push on through to Clearwater Marina. The water was SO calm…and who knew what tomorrow would bring.

The entrance into Clearwater Harbor was tricky. Crab pots everywhere. We hit one, but avoided 50 others. We made it under the bridge at the harbor entrance, but missed the immediate turn that would have taken us to the marina. We realized our mistake and doubled back…but ran aground on the edge of the channel as we made the correct turn. By this time it was about 3:30 AM on January 7. We just threw out the anchor, turned on all the lights in the boat, and went to bed for a few hours…knowing that the tide would be coming in later that morning and we could probably work our way off easier.

And we did just that. We pulled into Clearwater Municipal Marina at around 9:30 AM and were greeted by our newly made friends on My Missy. We re-fueled and Jim made plans for a rental car. We had a cup of coffee and reviewed our exciting 19-hour, 190-mile trek. Jim took this parting shot of Wayne and I as he set off for home. We are so glad Jim came along. We could have done it alone, but it was awfully nice to be able to rotate around and offer the opportunity for an occasional rest. Thank you, Jim!

January 8 – Clearwater was beautiful! And WARM!

But our sights were set on Sarasota and a nice extended visit with our friend Bob Sicignano.

January 8 - We left early on the 8th and pulled into Marina Jack’s in Sarasota that afternoon. Sarasota is gorgeous this time of year. The marina is right downtown and within easy walking distance of a couple of grocery stores, post office, restaurants, library, etc. We both admit we could live here for several months a year. Here's a picture of Segue docked in the marina, bow out, with the Sarasota skyline in the background.
We’ve had coffee with Bob and his regular coffee crew…celebrated Shirley’s birthday with a dinner at Bob’s house…and entertained our Sarasota friends, Shirley, Bob, and Julie, with a dinner on the boat.
And shortly after we arrived in Sarasota our “sister ship” My Missy pulled in next door. We’re getting to know Bruce, Missy, and family…including three little poodles that compete with Lucy for attention as folks walk by.

A front started through on Sunday, January 13, and this was the view of the fog moving in that afternoon towards the marina...
Being around the water offers so many photo ops!

We’re here until Friday the 18th. Knowing that, I was able to enroll in a watercolor class at the Art Center Sarasota January 14-17 with Linda Kemp, an artist I’ve admired. The classes are within walking distance of the marina…how convenient! We also had a chance to schedule a visit from Captain Patti Moore of Sea Sense Boating ( on Sunday the 13th. Patti worked with us (me at the helm and Wayne doing the lines) to help me gain experience in maneuvering the boat into a slip or along side a dock...and to help us develop a method of communicating during the process. We worked at it from about 9-2:30 (with a lunch break) and both learned a lot from the experience.

Wayne has been busy with the boat. We found a diver to cut the crab pot line from our prop. (By "found" I mean that Wayne was sitting on the back deck when a diver emerged from the water in the slip opposite ours. He agreed to take a look and was able to wrap up the job in no time!) It's time for an oil change so that will happen this week. We'll head out again on Friday, January 18.

Next stop: ports south….

1 comment:

John and Lil said...

Well I guess the next best thing to being there is reading your blog with pictures. Great job... and lots of work, too. We much appreciate your efforts to record the voyage for others to be a part.

John and Lil