After much preparation @ home and aboard, Zephyrina and her crew, Captain John, 1st mate Helen and crew member of many talents, daughter Keri left Bayou Grande, NAS Pensacola for a winter and spring adventure, on November 20th.
Since the chart plotter hard drive crashed and had been sent to Raymarine in Nashua, NH for repair, we navigated the Gulf of Mexico crossing in two segments using our IPAD with GPS. The Pensacola to Port Joe leg was 22 hours and the continuing leg to Clearwater was 30 hours. During our 24-hour respite between legs we enjoyed a pre Thanksgiving Dinner @ Joe Momma’s. Both segments on the Gulf were motor sails with a 10-hour sail only during the night. When we left the Pensacola Channel the dolphins gave us a farewell salute. The sunsets and clear night stars (using IPAD application Star Walk) were entertaining for the night watch standers. Speaking of night watch, having three aboard for this crossing and with Keri’s willingness to take the middle watch, both John & Helen got 8 hours of sleep, a first. In the past five crossings sleep came in 4 hours spurts.
Arriving in Clearwater in the early afternoon of Friday, November 23rd our welcoming committee included John & Key Sheehan, Jim St. Pierre (The CYC dock master) and our “like new C-80 Chart plotter”. On Saturday, Keri’s good friend, Lisa came down from Orlando with “Thanksgiving Turkey Feast” left overs and two bikes in Keri’s van. So, Keri & Lisa rode the Pinellas Trail from Clearwater Beach to Tarpon Springs and we drove her car up to Tarpon Springs so the four of us could enjoy a great Greek dinner. We were driven back to Zephyrina and Keri & Lisa headed back home to Orlando.
The November 26th wind forecast was better than the next day, so both the Sheehan’s Sea Shell and Zephyrina headed back into the Gulf to sail/motor sail south to Pass-A-Grille (18 NM) then inside using the ICW to motor up to St. Petersburg. SPYC is the perfect spot to enjoy the St. Pete Boat Show, dine at fun restaurants, ride our boat bikes on the Pinellas Trail and address emergency part replacement.
Prior to departing on this 6-month winter/spring sail we had our shaft seal replaced and our engine’s heat exchanger removed, pressure tested and reconnected. Well, twice on the high seas we noticed low coolant even though the engine temperature was normal. With a motor sail we were only doing 2000 – 2200 RPMs. When we arrive at St. Pete we drained the cooling system and found very little coolant and mostly seawater. So much for the pressure test! To our rescue came Bob Fleege, a fellow PYC member and down in the Clearwater/St. Pete area for a family visit and the Boat Show. He knew about Lenco Coolers, in New York, who had a replacement and sent one down, next day air. Then he kindly did the hands on work of installing it, with John assisting. Our humble thanks, Bob!
With this done, we were able to truly enjoy all the Boat Show’s seminars, new boat tours and seeing and partying with lots of our friends. We were especially happy to be with Steven Parry and Sharron Randy. They came down from Canada to exhibit their company, Poseidon Charters, with whom we’ve sailed in Greece and Croatia.
Tonight, the Sheehans and the Caffreys are off to one of our favorite restaurants, Moon Under Water, for fish and Chips, to say goodbye to St. Pete. Tomorrow, we’re off to an anchorage near Alafia River before visiting Tampa for a few days.