Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 89-? Carrabelle to Tampa Harbor Marina

We made the East pass in 30 minutes after departing the slip. Rusty told me it would be choppy here but the ride would smooth out as we progressed out into the Gulf and he was spot on. This is a pic of the West end of Dog Island where the pass runs very close to the island.

Douglas Dedrick heard I was looking for crew to pass and he came over to the boat to meet us. The timing worked out perfect, he is a boater and has helped others get across. If you need crew to cross just ask at C-Quarters Marina and they will get you in contact with Doug, you can't go wrong.

Entering the Tampa Bay ship channel, the water is flat and calm winds 0-5.

WS tied up on these wonderful floating docks at Tampa Harbor Marina. This is primarily a power vessel marina & dry stack storage but it is very protected and the perfect spot if you have to leave your boat for a few weeks. Mooring at marinas where you are tied to pilings with 3+ tides is a challenge since the lines often need adjusting. with the floating docks you can just set them and forget about them since the docks raise and lower with the tides. The only other floating docks we have seen on this trip was in Seabrook, Home Port Marina & Pensacola.

Doug went over to talk with the gentleman on this vessel. Apparently it was here for a photo shoot. they are built in the Tampa area and sell for $1.2 million to governments worldwide. This one will be going to Iraq. The bow is reinforced with steel so it can be used to ram other vessels.

I was mostly interested in this marine device, thinking it could come in Handy on WS.

We wasted no time jumping in the little truck that can and visiting St. Pete. This pier is a great first stop with great views of Tampa Bay, the St. Pete Municipal Marinas, and downtown

This is the primary St. Pete Municipal Marina, you can see a few boats anchored out in the entrance area. Transients can anchor here free.

This part of the Marina mostly had very large power vessels but there is a Mooring Ball field adjacent that is only $15 a night with a secure dingy dock and marina privileges.

The Mooring field is a pilot program intended to discourage derelict boats from accumulating in the harbor.

Seems like every large harbor area in Florida has their own tall ship replica.

Of course the local wildlife refuge just minutes from downtown, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve.

The Mangroves just keep getting larger as you move South.

Lots of Osprey in Florida, I think they own the State, this guy is drying out his wings after getting fat in Lake Maggorie.

This funky armadillo would be welcome in Austin for sure.

This is the first Anhinga we have ever spotted, they are kin to the cormorants which are so plentiful all over the gulf Coast. The Anhinga is more pleasant to see.

Day 89-? Carrabelle to Tampa Bay
Underway 30:55 hrs, 200.2 Nm., Avg speed 6.6 Kts. 55-72 degrees, Overcast, SW 10-15 Kt. Winds with 2-4'seas subsiding to 0-5 Kt. S winds 1-0 seas.

Tom Conrad sends out an email early every morning reporting the weather and sea conditions to the members of the American Great Loop Cruisers Association. He specializes on just the 200Nm. route from Carrabelle to Tampa Bay area since so many cruisers make this jump since it is unwise to try and anchor or find a marina in the shallow waters along this portion of the coast that either require a draft of less than 3 feet or you must time it just right to go into a pass at high tide. His forecast for the weather window we were looking at said a daytime crossing on either Tue. or Thur. would be ok and advised against a nigh time crossing. If we did not make this window then the next one would not come till 1st week of March and we needed to get to Tampa so the Admiral could make a March 5th flight out to Texas. The Admiral was not interested in making a overnight crossing 60+ miles offshore so I had contacted a friend, Bill, in Tampa to see iif he could help crew. He could but only the last week of Feb. and that would be making it a bit to tight for me but maybe. I began asking the locals in Carrabelle if they knew of anyone that might could crew and so the grapvine is pretty short. By that afternoon Doug Dedrick knocked on the hull and sure enough his timing worked out great. He came over the next day to go over the systems on WS and all his questions were spot on so I knew he would be great crew for the crossing. I called him the next morning to let him know we were in a holding pattern as the Gulf may not settle down enough for a crossing on Tues-Wed. He had seen the same thing so I told him I would stay in touch, that afternoon the NOAA forecast had improved and I heard there were a couple of boats down at the Moorings marina wanting to cross so I went down and talked to them. They planned on going but if the conditions were not good for their 44' endeavour Catamaran Motor Vessels they would make it a short trip to Steinhatchee River. He explained 4' seas were not good for the catamarans as the seas would slap the underside of the bridgedeck making it uncomfortable, they tried to only be out in 1-2' seas. When I got back to C-quarters there was a 42' Beneteau S/V "Happy Go Lucky" and he planned on making the jump to Tarpon Springs. I picked up the phone to call Doug and just then he called. I told him that it was looking good and to be at the boat by 0630 in the am, he was hearing the same reports. Two more motor vessels and 1 more sailboat pulled in around sundown to make the trip as well. I consulted with the local Mariners and they all repeated the same thing, it would be a bit choppy in the early morning and as we made our way offshore things would smooth out.

Doug was on board by 0630 and stowing his stuff as I made ready to depart, I helped the Admiral get her stuff to the little truck that can, kissed her bye and we were out of the slip by 0700. We were the first boat out of Carrabelle that morning. It was good having a local on board as he made a short cut to the East Pass and we were out in the Gulf by 0730. The pass was just like they said choppy but we had an ebb tide so we just shot through at just over 8 kts. We found 2-4' seas but as soon as we got the headsail out in the 10-15 SW wind right on the beam we found our comfort zone. The winds would hold for the first 6 hours and the seas very slowly diminished for the next 8 hours. This is the first time the deck hatches have been tested after all my work to stop the leaks. The forward hatch was under a couple inches of water for extended periods and I wondered if everything was still dry in the V-berth.. A inspection a few hours later revealed all is good no leaks anywhere. By 1500 the winds had moved South and the headsail put away. We could hear the other 4 boats communicating on the VHF but we were 2-3 hours ahead and did not expect to see them as they were all headed to Tarpon Springs instead of Tampa Bay. We called them just to let them know we were out in front just in case. Doug went down to get a couple hours rest and the evening light changed to complete darkness. Since the sky's were completely overcast not even starlight was available. It was pitch black dark. Using the chartplotter to hold a course just was not working. We had experimented with the autohelm but we had to use the hand controller like a video game to keep it on course. I know there is a connection problem with the fluxgate compass, I will just have to take time to isolate it and fix it. It turned out easier to just hand steer using the compass to maintain as steady a course as possible. I surveyed the radar every 15 minutes to make sure there was nothing out there and we did not see 1 vessel until we got close to the Tampa Bay channel where there were two ships anchored out. I had heard of the numerous crab traps set as far as 30 miles out of Tarpon Springs and Clearwater & I was just hoping we would not venture into those areas as we neared the coastline as we followed the rhumb to Tampa Ship Channel. I thought it may be a test for the line cutter on the shaft though but who wants to test that? After my 2 hours sleep I came back up to absolutly flat, no ripple seas. Daylight showed entering in at the Tampa ship channel would avoid all the crab traps and you also avoid having to pass through all the bascule bridges between Clearwater and Tampa Bay. We both got a couple of cat naps and the next morning I turned on the seapower and fixed up some breakfast tacos, I can do eggs. After entering the ship channel it would be almost 3 hours motoring up this huge bay and we were doing close to 8 knots at 1900 rpm on the flood tide. As we neared Tampa Harbor Marina the winds started piping up to 15-20. I thought this is perfect, just as you come into dock in a strange marina the winds pipe up to test your skills. Why does this happen all the time? The Admiral was there and had 2 young dock hands to assist and with Doug it was easy to get in at the Fuel dock to top off the tank. Getting into our assigned slip however was a bit more problematic as due to the prevailing winds it would be best to back into the slip to avoid hearing that wave slap on the stern all night. The wind was blowing out of the South and it was a North/ South slip. After four attempts to back in and each time have the bow blown way off I had to revisit the solution. Since the slip was a double wide and there was no other boat in the adjoining slip I just nosed the bow up to the finger, a dock hand took the bow line and we just let the wind blow the stern around. I do not know why the simple solutions are so hard to see.

We got the boat put away, got showers and Doug and I enjoyed the beer till we went to dinner at a nice little restaurant right here at the marina. We all crashed at 2100 and slept easy till around 0700 when I got the coffee started so I could drive Doug back the Carrabelle. We had a great chat on the way back with Doug providing lots of local knowledge etc, etc. I made it back to the boat by 2030 looking forward to learning just where we have come to.

The next day we drove to the St. Petersberg downtown waterfront and it is easy to see why this is such a popular destination. the municipal marina looks fantastic and there are tons of events, restaurants, and fun within easy walking distance. This would be a great place to live aboard or even get a land dock. We made it to the Boyd Hill Nature Preserve just minutes from downtown and here again sighted lots of wildlife and a couple of new birds checked off. We went back to the waterfront the next day to go to a food festival with around 175 tent spaces full of different foods, organic farmers market and of course the arts and crafts that go along with it and live music.

Experience the Sail, click on the title for a link to a youtube video.

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