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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Apalachicola, Caravelle and across the Gulf of Mexico

Apalachicola was an extremely pleasant stop. We stayed at the Water Street Hotel and Marina. The tide was flowing in and the wind was blowing in the same direction. We are learning that the force of tides is a new experience for us. Add the wind and you had better have friends at the marina to pull the boat into the slip!

The town itself is fabulous! Apalachicola has been one of our favorite stops. Antique stores, restaurants, outfitters, grocery store within bike riding distance and a HARDWARE. Jim is in heaven! In addition, the residents are friendly and welcoming.

We carry our bicycles with us on the boat on the flybridge. My bike is 20+ years old and is perfect for a trip that will expose it daily to the salt air. Jim, on the other hand, owns a new bike and did not want to watch his beloved bike deteriorate, so he bought an old bike and we are set! We use the bikes in most ports for grocery shopping and other errands as well as the fun of discovery.

We are moving toward our final destination of Carabelle before crossing the Gulf of Mexico. Carabelle is typically the "stepping-off point" for crossing the Gulf. Many boats take a "straight shot" across the Gulf from Carabelle to Clearwater or Tarpon Springs. Others will stop in Steinhatchee and Crystal River before visiting Clearwater or Tarpon Spring. The considerations are many, but the shallow waters of Steinhatchee and the few good travel days a month in November on the Gulf are but a few of the serious issues to consider.

The Gulf of Mexico is shallow for many miles off shore. In addition, crab pots abound. A constant vigil is necessary as finding a line from a crab pot around a propeller is a serious issue. The line could stop the boat totally.

Discussion of weather is a constant as we prepare for the trip. A week before our crossing, we started to watch for a calm day and night to cross the Gulf. Many of the Loopers are traveling in trawlers whose top speed is 10 miles an hour. (Now you know why the transition from sailing to a trawler was so easy!) The total mileage from Carabelle to Clearwater is over 185 miles and the number of hours of travel time totals at least 18 hours. Trying to find a harbor at night is near impossible, so the crossing must take place through the night with the entry into the Clearwater Harbor in the morning hours.

Blue Yonder, Monkey Girl and Crawdad agreed to travel together. We discussed the option of Steinhatchee, Crystal River and there are few good weather days/nights on the Gulf.

Certainly each of these boats (one Nordic Tug, one American Tug and Crawdad) are capable of handling weather, but it is not pleasant for the passengers.

We left Carabelle at noon, headed for Clearwater. The boys, Buddy and BooBoo would have to relieve themselves on board or wait until we reached our destination. No surprise to us, BooBoo took care of business, but Buddy, his eyes were yellow! We encouraged his sleep and plied him with Benedryl to help him sleep.

Since I am writing this blog, you know by now we survived! The Gulf on Tuesday and Wednesday was mild. Blue Yonder lead the way (as they have the most experience and are a bright pair in dealing with solutions), Bill and Laura followed next (Bill provides constant comic relief). In the rear was Crawdad to bring in the rear. The trip lasted 22 hours as we chose to follow the East Pass and stay to the east and enjoy the protection of land. We were blessed with finer weather than any of us even imagined.

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