Fun and Education in the Gulf of Mexico
I did not sleep Thursday night. A mix of excitement and anxiety filled my stomach and my head with nervous energy. I finally just got up around 4 AM, tired of tossing and turning, and cleaned my kitchen, did a load of wash, and started packing.
Friday morning, most everything was ready when I accidentally turned the light on, waking Robert three minutes before his alarm was going to go off.. he growled at me. Good start. I can't say as I blame him.
Pack the truck, drop my brother off at work ...off we go! So excited about the long weekend of sailing.
We make a brief swing by West Marine- big sale on the Tender and motor we have been wanting...but they have none in stock!! We can order it for you....guess what? We can order it for ourselves...I find this very annoying. Big Sale on items they do not actually have to sell.
Way to go, West Marine.
ok, so we won't have a tender this trip and that's ok.
We return to NeverLand and cast off - our first stop is at the Regatta Point Marina shipstore for fuel and ice, our first time putting fuel in her.. again, one of our marina friends appears from nowhere (thanks, Eric!) and takes the line and we refuel uneventfully. Full tank, lets go!! Robert casually mentions that adding new fuel can sometimes stir up gunk and we casually discuss that we should have an extra fuel filter or two on board (remember this later)
Kick off: 12:45 PM...Down the Manatee River, across Tampa Bay, into the Gulf, and pointed South. Hey, this part of the trip is second nature- we have done this quite a few times now. We run across a pretty good group of dolphins headed the oposite direction but all they do is tease and stay just out of camera range. (need a better camera)The winds are disappointing on this first day. But we run up the Genoa and motor sail and keep up a pretty nice 5-6 knot per hour pace. Several attempts to shut down the motor and sail end in disappointment as the wind just isn't strong enough to move us beyond 2-3 knots.
We stay in sight of the Florida coastline the entire day. But as the sun starts to set, we are not within range of an anchorage that we can reach before nightfall. Not wanting to night sail quite yet (if ever)(haha) we decide to find the right depth of water and drop anchor.
20:00 We anchor off the shore at Longboat Key. Most of the night we got tossed around like a floating beer can- Note to self, plan better and get to a real anchorage- It was way too rocky to sleep in the V berth- so, I slept at first in the cockpit using the ice chest as part of my bed. Then it was cold, so I went below- Robert had offered me the aft berth, which is usually less rocky....but he can't curl up in the other spaces like I can, so I say no. My second sleeping spot was the saloon settee. Let's just say- did not get much sleep-
Robert had figured out how to set the drift alarm on the RayMarine...which helped some with the anxiety, but still, we both continually checked our position all night. Our first night on the hook in an unprotected anchorage and it was a little stressful. But finally, sleep did come. Robert rose before me as the drift alarm woke him (we had swung, but not moved) and he caught the sunrise and saw a group of dolphins cruise by. I wish I had seen them! But remember, I did not sleep Thursday night.....
But overall, the anchor held, we might have had some discomfort, but we survived, and after all, the point is to gain experience and confidence. Mission accomplished!
This morning the conditions were much better, and we were only at a slight roll pretty similiar to what we are used to at the marina. So I decide to fix my first meal in the galley.
My intent was to pretend we were miles from shore with no fresh provisions and make a meal like I would in those conditions. I take a can of Spam, the Hawaiian favorite, and a CAN of potatoes...cube everything and brown it with dried onion, salt, and pepper ...I then heat corn tortillas, spread beans on, add cheese, and spoon the hot spam hash over it all.
Robert said it as the best breakfast meal he had eaten in a long time- and we were really hungry, having only had a cold sandwich on the rocking boat the night before ...he was amazed that those ingredients created such a tasty dish. I felt so proud. One weekend before, I was afraid to light that stove, now I'm a gourmet galley cook!
0900- Day two, we offically set sail. We had thought about pulling in at Venice Inlet, but got there around one, so decided we just wanted to sail. Day 2 still very light winds and we are continuing to Motor sail.
At this point- I am going to let Robert tell this account in his own words:
"We got to Venice about 1300 and decided that we wanted to sail further before stopping. South we went. AS the sun was starting to wane, we thought we better look for a good anchorage, but not in the gulf again…..we wanted a good night’s sleep! Decided the best option was to go just past Gasparilla Island into Charlotte Harbor to find a good anchorage. The cruisers guide mentioned some anchorages there that were tight and a little too shallow for my comfort. My Raymarine chart plotter showed an area just inside the harbor from the channel a fairly large area that was about 10 foot deep that I thought looked promising. We proceeded to run the gauntlet of small fishing boats that were filling the channel. The current was really strong and we were only able to make about 2-3 knots going against it. As soon as we got into the harbor and turned into the area that I picked out, the current subsided and the water was smooth and blue. There was another sailboat anchored in the area, but not close by. Paula and I decided that this would do nicely so we dropped anchor. There was a lot of traffic for a little while as fishermen were headed home with their catches. Paula cooked us up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches that were fantastic. Something about eating relaxing in the cockpit right after a sail that makes food taste better. I set the anchor alarm and hit the hay. I woke up about 0100 with the anchor alarm going off again. The boat had just drifted around the anchor again so nothing to worry about. I need to spend more time messing with the anchor alarm to set the drift distances. "
Back to me:
The second day was the best!!!- all day on the water, cooked a good meal, and anchored in a secure area, and a grilled cheese sandwich washed down with Angry Orchard...I slept so much better, and woke on day three refreshed and ready to face anything............. (or was I???)
Stay tuned for Part TWO!!!!