Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Night Before Christmas on s/v Freedom

'Twas the night before Christmas, and out in the sea
Our vessel was sailing, as nice as could be

The stockings were hung from the teak trim with care
With hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there

The crew were nestled all snug in their beds
As visions of new gear danced in their heads

And the skipper and I relaxed and calm
A nice warm day under the palm

When up in the sky, there arose such a clatter
I leapt from my bed to see what was the matter

To the companionway, I flew to look at the ocean
To see what was causing all the commotion

And what to my skeptical eyes should appear
But a giant osprey expelling droppings next to my ear!

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Apalachacola to Clearwater and St. Chris  

 We got up bright and early to begin our next overnight trip to Clearwater.  Don't ask me what time it was, we have now switched back to Eastern Standard time and I am still trying to adjust.  We were delayed getting under way for an hour by fog, once again.   I was eager to get further south for the warmer weather but had some trepidations after our less than perfect previous night crossing experience This weather window sounded perfect, so no need to worry.  We had anchored in site of a bridge with a 65' reported vertical clearance.  As we approached, I got out of the cockpit to look for the vertical clearance board.  Our mast is approximately 63'.  As we neared, I read the gauge.......exactly 63'......Yikes!  We crawled towards the bridge, watching very closely.  The problem is, it never looks like we will make it under the bridge with enough spare room.  Needless to say, we made it under but it was too close for my comfort.  Sailing lore talks about never starting a trip on a Friday, it is supposed to be bad luck.  Hopefully our close bridge encounter was the worst of the luck.  There are two passes, or openings out to the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachcola.  The West pass will cut a few hours from our trip but requires "local knowledge" due to shoaling and shallow waters.  We recieved advice from the gentleman running the fuel dock, he tells use that as long as we hug the green markers we will be fine.  Leson learned;  if there is doubt about a pass take the sure thing.  We took the short cut and ran aground.  I had to go up to the bow of the boat and jump up and down as Ed maneuvered to get us off the sand bar.  Surely, now that will be the last of our bad luck?  We took the east pass and made it out to the gulf.  It was a beautiful day, light wind, so we motor sailed a close reach.  Our daylight hours keep getting shorter and shorter so sunset came sooner than we would like and the wind died as the sun set so it was an evening of motor sailing ahead of us.  Almost as soon as the sun set a haze engulfed us.  It was not as strong as a fog but it was difficult to distinguish the sky from the water.  Luckily our radar was working well.  There was not a cloud in the sky and the stars were spectacular, we saw 5 shooting stars!  The seas really calmed, just a light ripple of waves.  The moon finally rose around 11:00 and really made visibility much better.  It turned into a magical night.  We each got a little sleep, we were visited by dolphins, had spectacular starry
skies and a nice comfortable ride.  At first light we could hear, but not see some loons.    We arrived in Clearwater around noon and decided to take the inland passage to a nice anchorage we had planned.  As always, we have a few options in case we do not like the looks of certain anchorages.  The first two were just not right so we ended going another 20 miles and had to pass through about 7 Bascule bridges.  Most opened on request, a few opened at specified time, 20 - 30 minutes.  We had a nice relaxing evening at anchor and proceeded on to our Christmas home this year.  We are at a marina that is within walking distance of St Petersburg, Florida.  We are cleaning and provisioning for the holidays and the weather could not get any better!  Highs in the 80s for the next few weeks!  Merry Christmas!