Saturday, May 30, 2009

We're still sailing, but almost home

No the earth is not flat and we didn’t sail off the edge. The past two weeks have been full of activities and limited time to write a post. We’ve explored Tampa Bay, flown north to visit John’s mother in Wilmington, DE, experienced the summer afternoon thunderstorms while at anchor and secured to a dock, watching junior sailors learning “the ropes (sheets)”, enjoying time with our daughter, Keri, in St. Petersburg, feasting on good Spanish “tapas” and Indian curries. Last Sunday, we met up with our good friends from home, Kay & John Sheehan sailing on their 34’ Catalina, Sea Shell. What fun and safe it is to have companionship on the seas. Clearwater was our destination for Monday. This was our last stop before crossing the Gulf to Apalachicola. Jeannie & Dale Whalen who had been our welcoming hosts in early March to the Barnett-Caffrey sailors again provided bounty this time to the Sheehan-Caffrey sailors. It was a great to be together, we can’t wait for Dale’s retirement (he’s still young) so they can return to Gulf Breeze. At 7:50 AM Wednesday morning, Zephyrina and Sea Shell embarked on a race to stay ahead of the storms forecasted to cross the Gulf from west to southeast in the afternoon. Southwest winds ranging from 8 to 11 knots along with the “iron mike” at 75% of full engine speed, allowed us to average 6.2 nautical miles per hour on a north west heading while watching the storms slip aft of us to the south east. We made the crossing in our best time 26 hours! Our Sirius Weather on the chart plotter was extremely helpful for the first 55 miles. Then with 100 miles remaining on the trip it stopped transmitting. Whatever gremlin that caused that to happen was scared off when the power plug to the SR50 computer, located in the stern locker, was removed and the reinserted. But that was only accomplished after calls to Sirius Weather, then Raymarine and resulted in a suggested solution (not in the manual) and John Sheehan (more agile than John Caffrey) practically stood on his head to remove screws, turn the unit to remove the plug. Nothing is easily accessed in a sailboat. Our reward was an excellent dinner at Boss Oysters on the Apalachicola waterfront. The ICW through the Impenetrable Swamp and Cross County Canal was the first half of our schedule for Friday. Just after noon we entered St. Joseph Bay and headed southwest into the wind with a 2 foot chop to position ourselves, beyond the entrance buoy #6, for a north west heading and close haul motor/sail to Panama City. The 10-knot SW winds became 15-knot west winds with gusts to 20 by the time we rounded the St. Andrews jetty. Glad to be inside away from the westerly chop and swells we headed for the City Marina. Now on CDT, thus gaining an hour, we arrived at 5:05PM and marina staff were still on duty and gave some assistance to our docking into the wind in a narrow slip with a high narrow finger pier. John and Kay slipped in next to us. The evening order of events was: (1) Desalt washing of the boat (2) Crew showers (3) lovely shared dinner cooked aboard. West winds will keep us here in Panama City for a couple of days. Hopefully, by Monday evening (June 1) we’ll have favorable winds and can make the 100-mile coastal sail to our home marina – Boca Grande NAS Pensacola. We’ll write the last post after our arrival.

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