Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cruising from Pensacola - Clearwater 2010

We're writing this post from the comfort of a lovely spot on the shore of downtown Clearwater. Our friends, Jeanie & Dale Walden have lent us their slip for the past 3 days while their boat is in St. Petersburg having its bottom painted. Last Sunday, November 14th, we got underway from Pensacola to begin our 5th winter spring cruise to South Florida. After clearing the channel into the Gulf, we were delighted to see that the forecast wind direction had improved and we picked up 10-15 knot winds from the SSE. That gave us a terrific 10 hours quiet sail. When the wind direction shifted and the velocity slowed we furled the foresail and motor sailed with main for another five hours, until the God of the East Wind said we had used enough "free sailboat fuel" by again moving, this time in the path of our intended direction of travel. We motored into St. Joseph Sound at sunrise. From there we proceeded to transit the cross county canal and ICW to Apalachicola. Though we did not beat our 2008 record for the 144 NM trip, we did it in a respectable 25 1/2 hours. We did, however, beat the approaching weather from by 12 hours. It rained hard during the night and through Tuesday morning. Tying up in Scipio Creek with several good restaurants nearby allowed us to enjoy fresh Apalachicola oysters, local bay scallops and shrimp. We even took aboard delicious seafood bisque for our next night's "crossing dinner". After a short 8.5 NM crossing of St. George's Sound and through Sikes Cut aka Government Cut at St. George's Island, we again were in the Gulf of Mexico with a 131 bearing for Clearwater. We quickly hoisted the sail to take advantage of NNE 12 knot winds. The afternoon winds slacked 6 hours later, so we figured we'd motor sail until the evening breeze built. Well, the engine ran for 20 seconds then coughed and cut off. Two more tries were repeats. After ten minutes and a survey of all pertinent engine and fuel components nothing obvious was noted. John tried again. The engine started and kept running. Whew, 50+ miles from shore, an issue like that is cause for a few more gray hairs. Not wanting to tempt fate, we decided to keep the engine running at minimal RPMs. Naturally we had great winds through the rest of the trip. Zephyrina now has a new record for this route: 26 hours dock to dock for the 164 miles. The engine has behaved since our arrival! A gremlin at Sea? Tomorrow, we will move Zephyrina over the Clearwater Yacht Club and we will drive to Orlando to enjoy Turkey Day with daughter, Keri.