Monday, May 27, 2013

Departing on the Magical Mystery Tour - The Gulf of Mexico

The outlet from St. Pete Municipal Marina to Tampa Bay

One Last Meeting with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

Eggmont Key Channel ahead to Starboard, the gateway to the Gulf From Tampa Bay

John Spent his life aboard this type of Ocean going Tow keeping the  engines and  Captain happy. 

Our first Sunset Wed. Evening...hoping to see the Green Flash

Planning for the Crossing

May is typically one of the better months of the year for a Gulf Crossing. The Cold Fronts are diminishing and less severe. Weather forecast seem to be more consistent and of course it is a last chance to get across before Hurricane season officially starts in June. The Primary weather forecasting we rely on comes from:
NOAA Marine Weather : and Passage Weather: . Of course there are a number of other resources that we check just to see if there is some consistency in the forcast models out there. It helps to have more than one set of eyes scanning the weather sources and here is where the crew come in as they are also paying attention to their favorite sources as well so the discussion begins weeks before the planned departure date. It is quite normal to be delayed a few days or even more. A planned depature date is just a work in progress.
Besides the weather are the Ocean currents that will certainly have a positive or negative influence on the planned route. There is a constant clockwise Loop Current formed by the Gulf Stream just about 140 nautical miles West of Tampa Bay. The currents can be 3+ knots or insignificant. The Current may stray to the North, South, East or West depending on ocean temps and lots of other factors. NOAA Marine weather and are good sources of information regarding the Loop Current. Carey, Maureens husband sent me the NOAA site which was more detailed than PassageWeather: . After viewing the more detailed page I changed our route around the Loop to the South to avoid the 3 knot East current and take advantage of the West flowing current. It would be a minor deviation in the Original straight line originally plotted across the Gulf.
Of Course the Next concern are all the oil rig platforms that populate the Gulf Waters. I googled for a Google Earth pic of the Platforms and found this site: . Just click on the link free GPS Map and you get a great Google Earth pic of all the Platforms out there. I used the Google Earth ruler Tool to draw our route line on the map. Zooming in I could see that our planned route would take us no closer than 1 1/2 miles to the nearest Rig. Of course BP could easily drag one out and set it up before it appears on this map so  a constant visual lookout  was mandatory. These rigs are serviced 24/7 by all types of ships and so they are constantly a Hazard anywhere in the Gulf.
Along with planning for weather, currents and obstacles/hazards we made sure we had up to date safety equipment aboard. We purchased Two ACR PLB's, or Personal Locator Beacons. these replace the old standard of the bigger and more expensive EPIRB's. I like these much better since they are small and you wear them so they are instantly available if needed, you do not have to waist valuable time going below or through the ditch bag to activate it.

We decided to rent a four man Offshore Life raft from Solution One Maritime in Tampa: The rental cost $250 for the week and is the no brainer solution for long distance offshore passages. The rafts cost around $2400 new and require costly re-certifications every 3-5 years. The cost to ship it back to Tampa by UPS was just $50. We already had plenty of water activated inflatable ife vest with built in Harness l, Jack lines, and tethers.

Fuel of course is a concern. I have heard the stories of some who had no wind all the way across and had to motor all the way. We carried 72 gallons of diesal in the tank and another 25 gallons in four jerry cans on the deck. At 1400 RPM we should be able to motor all the way if needed at about 4 knots. The first two days would be motoring if the forecast held and then the winds would fill in and we should have wind all the rest of the way to Corpus. The trip would take 8 full days at an average of 4 knots, just over 800 miles.

As we neared the planned departure date of May 8 as the weather forecast looked promising  I began to plan the provisions and surveying the crew for the things they would like to have for the trip.. Food is the last thing on board as fresh foods can spoil of bought to soon. The Admiral helped provision all the non spoil goods and on May 7 I made two trips to the local stores in St. Pete to get the rest.

Day 162/II St. Petersburg Municipal Marina

5/08/13 Departed 1330 hrs.  Arrived 1330 hrs; Avg. Speed 4.9 10-15 mph W winds, Sunny 85 degrees

The trip was on. I got up early to drive over to Tampa and pick up the Life Raft and First Mate John Furlinger. Maureen was already stowing her gear as we drove back over to Tampa. The Admiral walked over to pick up some Subway for Lunch and after lunch the crew automatically began to prepare Wand'rin Star for departure  Very few directions were required as  everyone knew exactly what we needed to get done to depart the Marina. The water tanks topped off, the foredeck was cleared except for the dingy and all the items stowed on the aft deck were secured. Jack lines were secured and all the safety equipment reviewed. By 1300 we were ready to toss off the lines just after a few good-bys and photos of the crew.Some new friends we made on NB dock came to assist the departure and by 1330 we were motoring out of the marina to take advantage of an Ebb tide to the Gulf of Mexico

We had discussed possible watch schedules and agreed to a 3.5 hour night schedule and a 4.5 hour daylight watch schedule so we could stay on the same schedule throughout the trip. John took the first watch from 20:30 to 00:00, I took the 00:00 to 3:30 watch, and Maureen took the 3:30 to 07:00 then John was back on from 0700 to 1130, I had the 1130 to 1600 and Maureen the 1600 to 2030. This provided everyone with at least 6 hours or more sleep. This three person watch schedule worked great for us, We each had our space below as Maureen took the Aft Stateroom, John took the V-Berth and I took the Saloon so I would be close by the cockpit in the event the watch stander needed assistance.
By 1600 we exited Tampa Bay through Eggmont Channel in 2-3' Seas motoring at 4+knots at 1400 RPM.
We discussed the planned route and decided to change the route to go directly to the waypoint at the southern edge of the Loop Current rather than to follow my pre-planned route due West and then turn sharply to the West. This would cut off a few miles and make sure we missed any opposing current if the Loop shifted while we were in route.So our heading was 272 and as we neared deeper water the swells were just 1' eventually becoming what John called oily seas, flat and so smooth the brilliant star studded night reflected off the water in amazing detail along with the Bio-Luminescence streaming off the hull as we motored on through the night.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Magical Mystery Tour - The Gulf of Mexico

Wand'rin Star at St. Pete Marina loaded with provisions, extra fuel, water and all systems  go.

A quick pic of the Crew, myself, Chief Mate John Furlinger and Second Mate Maureen Stotland

Wand'rin Star and Crew secure on G Dock Corpus Christi Marina

The Magical Mystery Tour - The Gulf of Mexico

We departed St. Pete Municipal Marina NB dock at 1330 on Wed. May 8 and sailed 867 Nautical Miles arriving at G dock Corpus Christi Marina Wed May 15th at 1730 hours, a full day ahead of schedule.Today is May 26th, and I just now have a moment to begin to write the blog detailing this Magical Mystery Tour of the Gulf of Mexico. It will take a few post to complete the story and blog the course over the Seven Days. Wand'rin Star exceeded my expectations and confirmed that she is fully capable of safe and comfortable ocean passage making. As with any passsage the learning curve continues and truly points to the importance of  the competence of the crew. I got lucky. John Furlinger's life long career at sea was a major plus especially with his ability to communicate with all types of ocean going commercial vessels in their language. We received immediate respect from those vessels that were most likely to complicate the trip. When confronted with our only storm his "Pass the Salt" demeanor provided the proper mind set to Sail on. Maureen Stotland provide much more than just a women's touch. Her career in the male dominated world of the Navy fit right in with a couple of guys who of course are going to be a bit salty in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. Her previous Odyssey on her first trip across the Gulf was no Cake Walk so she took on her Watch duties with a determination that went beyond my expectations for sure. There was very little that she needed from John or myself to deal with her watch, in fact she had some of the fastest sails during her watch on the 0330 to 0700 hours when John and I were soundly asleep!
The upcoming post will detail the log as well as provide some insight to some comments from each of us. There are some people who have the ocean in their blood, I am one of them. Every moment was euphoric for me, I have to admit I got happy emotional several times and the farther we were offshore the better it got as for as I am concerned. It is not cool to see the Captain of the vessel swell up, so I of course made every effort to hide my incredible moments of happy tears. Who would want to see tears in the eyes of a Captain who is supposed to be responsible for your life at Sea, Not ME.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Don's Marine Salvage

I had to see Don's Marine Salvage before leaving St. Pete.

It took me thirty minutes to just scan the stuff before you even got to the front door, I would love to have a electric  motor for the Dingy davits but my davits could not even hold this motor up.

Outboard Motors, racks and racks of them

They seem to be trying to organize 

A Moutain of anxchors sold by the pound, some very strange looking anchors you have never seen before.

A sea of Stainless Steel

The attempt to organize it all seems impossible

Trailer loads of transmissions, starters, alternators...

If the propeller you want does not exist here then neither does the boat it belongs on.

Hummmm....I could use a nice deck box

At least 6 racks of Mast of all sizes

9 acres of boat stuff, Mind booggeling

I could not figure out storage building, a little bit of everything  on these shelves, there was 1 guy trying to sort it  out and make a attempt of getting it organized?

Storage containers one right after another, rows and rows of them!

This old Sea Ray had been stripped and this guy was starting to cut the hull up with a Sawsall in big chunks...I guess the next  stop is the fiberglass dump?
Don's Marine Salvage

I heard about it but there is NO WAY to tell anyone about this place!  A 36 year collection of boat salvage stuff spread over 9 huge acres. the locals told me that it had improved a lot recently as the owners, (children and grandchildren of Don) had started to make progress in actually organizing all the stuff in the Marine Salvage yard spread over 9 acres. There are tons of every single boat part power and sail for boats of all sizes spread all over these 9 acres. It is incredible, there was just not enough time to really look for anything I might need. Just trying to survey all that was there in the short three hours I spent there. If you think you can go out back and search for the part you are looking for on your own then you probably work there. The only way to sort through this stuff is with professional help, do not even go out in the yard and search, go immediately to the front desk and tell them what you want and get a guide to take you to your destination.
Or try: or call them and tell them to ship it. I want to go back there but I just do not have time...nor the space to haul it all back across the gulf to Texas!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art

I was well over a hundred yards away and I still could not completely frame these two awesome Banyon Trees

These two trees are right next to the St. Pete MFA, it is at least 5 degrees cooler under the trees.

We have taken pics of several Banyon trees along the way but most were difficult to capture since there was so much other vegetation around

Besides their regular collection Philip Perlstein's "People Places Things"  was on exhibit

The Florida Everglades on Fire

This one spoke to me, made me like Georgia O'Keefe

This one must travel around, think we saw it at the Kimble in Ft. Worth

This one is not entittled "The Simple Woman"

Little did we know how telling this one would be

The Sculpture Garden was a great place to find a bench and enjoy the sculptures in  quiet  courtyard.

I just wondered how long this took to carve out?

St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art

We took a chance and was surprised to find the wonderful time at the St. Pete Museum of Fine Art. We went on the cheap day with a free guided tour of course.  The pics above are just a small sampling as the collection extends from antiquities to modern era art, see more about their permanent collection at .
Philip Pearlstein must have been a unique character for sure. His realist perspective captures those parts of life I avoid seeing, I like to have more fun for sure.But I am glad there is someone who took the time to document those things for the rest of us so we might take notice and think differently for a moment. I would go again just to challenge myself one more time.
We enjoyed touring with the Docent as she could clue us in on both the permanent collection as well as the Pearlstein collection. I am sure many would prefer to tour the Art on their on as of course Art is in the Eye of the beholder and why would you want even a knowledgeable  Docent whose passion is to guide you through just to color up your moment to translate for yourself?  Well that is just the teachers in us, we like to learn as much as possible and enjoy the passion of someone who probably lives art daily and volunteers their time to share their ideas along the way. This MFA is worth the visit for sure.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tampa Bay Blues Festival 2013

Where else would a Mermaid be the central figure on a Blues Poster?

We knew some of these guys but we were the most excited to see Trombone Shorty again

Black of course were the most popular T's and they sold out first.

We were glad to have a dry place to enjoy the Blues since the Rain forecast was 60% all weekend.

The party filled up on Sunday

The pier was light up in Blue for the event, I took this from Vinoy Park, site of the Blues Fest.

We got lucky and were invited to the 1st nights after party. Right now I can not even remember this dudes name but he was  really good!

We have not been out this late in a very long time but who could refuse the free invite?  We got there about 11 pm and left with the music still going strong about 2:30 am.
Tampa Bay Blues Festival 2013

We saw a flyer in the boaters facility about the Blues festival and right away the Admiral looked up the contact number for the organizers. We drove over to this House on the corner of Martin Luther King and about N. 36th ave. It was a Lawyers office but there was a small sign outside about the Blues fest so we walked in and asked if they still needed volunteers for the Festival . She said "Yes, we need some for Friday and Sunday from 4 pm-10 pm". We said we would take both nights so she took our information and told us to report to the volunteers tent on the North side of Vinoy Park on those dates.
The weather forecast was 60% rain for the whole weekend so we packed our ponchos and wore shoes good for mud. The attendance for Friday was sort of light, about 50% full but the every band was really good. We were not real busy with about 6 persons manning the T-shirt Tent, all were veteran volunteers and knew how to enjoy the Festival without a few T shirts getting in the way. We had a place to sit in a tent close to the bandstand and did not have to be concerned if it started raining but it never did. It was just a nice overcast day sparring the music lovers from sunburn. We were excited to see Dicky Betts since so many people were there just to see him. Something happened and he ended up in one of the St. Pete Hospitals so His son along with several of the other Artist did a fine job of covering for him and you could hear the allman Brothers throughout the park. About when we began to shut down the T-shirt Tent one of the head dudes rode up on his golf cart and asked us all if we would like to go to the After Show, We said Yes!, thank you very much and he handed us two tickets to get in along with instructions on how to get there. Fortunately is was a venue within walking distance to the Marina. We left the Blues Fest just after 10pm and went back to the boat to regroup. Put on our walking shoes and went to the oldest theater in Town but they have done some updating to the building and it is still Ginnin.
We had to find seats in the back since the music was louder than this little place was meant for but we found a spot where it worked out on the back row right in the center. We had a great time, lots of people dancing in the rows and  partying. By 2pm I started to deflate a bit and we decided to go after the next song. We managed to leave by 2:30 but the music was still going strong.
Saturday we slept in and did not even think about going over since we both knew we needed to store up some endurance for Sunday. Sat. was another fine overcast mild day and so we were looking forward to Sunday since the weather forecasters here are no better than Dead Wrong Dale in Corpus Christi.
We were looking forward to hearing the Royal Southern Brotherhood with Cyril Neville since we had heard the whole Neville family in New York City years ago on the Plaza at the World Trade Center.
These guys rocked, everyone was groovin. Finally Trombone took the stage and the moment he hits his first note the place was standing and rockin....He came on about 8:30 and by 9pm I was checking my Radarscope App on the Iphone as you could see a approaching storm in the distance. By 9:30 everyone was already wet. We closed up the T-shirt tent and everyone started to exit. The Admiral started towards the music, They had cleared the stage but all the horns come down into the audience and continued to play in the mud, a huge crowd circled the band and it could have easily been a New Orleans scene on the streets there. No one cared about the rain it was just fun.

We are in the midst of making final preparations for our gulf crossing. My mind has been centered on getting Wand'rin Star ready for the trip and to make sure I had a committed crew. John Furlinger committed for sure early so I just wanted one more to  make the watch schedule easier (it is a baby boomer thing). Johny mentioned he would help but a Female Star arrived in his universe so he could not commit to make the trip. Bill Wilson wanted to go but could not overcome his obligations at work. I sent out a all points bulletin to recruit a third crew and due to the increasing short notice I could give people everyone I knew had other commitments.
Maureen Stotland sent me a Facebook message and volunteered for the trip but I wanted to make sure she knew what she was committing to so we met Carey and Maureen at the Saturday morning market and afterwards they came over for a basic 101, 102, and 103 on the systems aboard Wand'rin Star. All checked out so we plan to depart St. Pete May 8th on the afternoon ebb tide or the best next weather window after.
See Y'all in Corpus Christi Soon.