Enough with the shipyard! I think you kids need a little flashback break and a glimpse of what all this hard work is for and the fantastic cruising grounds we have right here in our home port of Pensacola. Enjoy! (But don’t you get lazy … we’re getting right back to work next time! Just a few more projects and that boat will be pimped out, rigged up and ready for blue waters!)
And … little glimpse in the life of Annie. Life is SO FULL for this little sailor right now. I’m about to embark on an incredible adventure which I will announce on the blog THIS FRIDAY! I’m working on a really cool trailer for that this week. I’m also working hard on the book as well as I plan to publish it THIS MAY so you all have another salty Annie saga to relish while I’m off adventuring. Not to mention all of my normal HaveWind stuff that I need to stockpile so it can publish on schedule in my wake. I wouldn’t want you all to go through Annie withdrawals! I do it all for you, because I couldn’t do it without you. Thanks to you all, my Patrons, fans and subscribers, who have shown me such love and support! HaveWind is about to Travel to new heights! Buckle up!
A rotten discovery in the bilge brings us the blues during Blue Angles weekend. Find out what tragedy just made our project list a helluva lot longer and follow along as we knock out these chores and get our boat going south! Don’t forget to subscribe, share, wash behind your ears, floss and enjoy!
Thanks to my Patrons who help me share the journey. Get inspired. Get on board.
That probably needs some context. It was a legal conference, many moons ago. Phillip and I were listening to this speaker talk about, well, to be honest I can’t remember what his actual topic was, assuming he had one. He was this big, spirited man. He looked and sounded like James Earl Jones and had the same presence as a preacher at a Bible Belt revival. While his whole speech was entertaining, I only remember this one little bit. He was talking about handling what we call a “dog case” — one you know at the outset you’re going to lose. Everyone knows you’re going to lose, but then something happens:
“Now, I’ve told everyone from the outset–my legal assistant, my paralegals, my opposing counsel even–I-mona lose this case. I stand no chance to win. I never did. As we work the case up I continue these rants and tell everyone again. Then we start trying the case and somewhere in the middle, I get one little glimmer of hope. Things started going surprisingly in my favor–a witness unexpectedly cracks, some key evidence gets admitted, some … whatever. Little things start to happen and all of a sudden: I get delusional. I think I-mona win! I start walking around the office like I got something. But, what am I? Delusional. You know what happens? I lose. Big time. Just like I thought I was going to, just like I knew I was going to, just like I told everyone I was going to. Don’t let this happen to you my friends. You got a dog case. You gohna lose.
June 5-7, 2015:
After our rousing, rhythmic boat-to-dinghy Patron delivery, Phillip and I continued on our way down the ICW to Pirate’s Cove. We were headed there for the 9th annual Illuminating Autism FUNraiser hosted by High Hopes 4 Autism. We had never been before, but Bottom-Job Brandon had been telling us about it for weeks and encouraging us to sign up. The previous year, the event raised over $70,000 for High Hopes, which is pretty astounding. We learned it’s one big raffle fundraiser (excuse me, FUNraiser – because it totally is!) where they give away a ton of awesome prizes, one of which is a brand new Jeep donated by Chris Myers.com.
It is a two-day event with a silent auction, live music and all sorts of entertainment. The way they do the raffle, though, was really interesting. I had certainly never heard of this. Rather than drawing tickets that are winners, it is a “draw-down.” Meaning, they start with 500 raffle tickets and they draw down to the winner. If your number is not the last to be drawn, no Jeep for you! While they do give away several pretty nifty prizes (an ice chest, a Pirate’s Cove bar tab — who doesn’t want that?, etc.) for say the first ticket drawn, the 100th ticket and the 250th ticket, being the last number, the 500th ticket to be drawn, is what everyone is aiming for.
I’m not a gambling man, or a lucky lady, so Phillip and I pretty much spent the second day, the raffle day, lounged back enjoying all the entertainment, eye candy and people watching the Cove is famous for, hung some hammock chairs and just kicked back and soaked it all in. We only checked the numbers occasionally out of random interest as we made our way back to the bar occasionally for a refill.
Some friends of ours — John and Jody (you better watch out for these two, they’re trouble!) — gave us the inside scoop on the whole “High Hopes” part. “Don’t look to see if your number has been drawn until late in the day,” Jody said. “That way you can maintain ‘high hopes’ that you’re still in the running.”
So, that’s what we did. Phillip and I rarely checked the board. Instead we piddled, drank, partied and even took Brandon’s daughter, Ella’s, hand-made wooden 17′ sloop out for a sail.
Raffle, what raffle? We’re gohna lose. No need to worry about it. We didn’t even care that a little squall came through. Rain, what rain? We’ve got foulies. No need to worry about it.
It was a nice, easy day until we finally made our way, late in the afternoon, back to the bar for a refill and back to the board where we were sure we’d see our numbers drawn. I had to rub my eyes and look again. I couldn’t believe it. My number–lucky number 80–was still standing strong. I was one of the final TEN!
That’s when it happened.
I got delusional.
When they get down to the Final Ten at the draw-down, we learned that’s when things get real fun. They line the Final Ten up on bar stools in front of everyone and spend the last hour of the FUNraiser drawing down the final ten to see who wins the Jeep. But, there is some mad scheming that goes on during this time. Pirate’s Cove regulars had told us in years past some of the Final Ten folks will start auctioning off their tickets to the crowd. I mean, they’ve got 10-1 odds for winning a $25,000 Jeep. That’s worthy of some gambling. We had heard some offers got as high as $3k, $5k even $9k in the past. You see what I mean? Delusional. We were sick with it. They lined us up, I took my stool and started spending my daydream raffle dollars. I-mona WIN!
I had Elvis next to me (that’s got to be good luck) and my buddy Jody sitting down the way in proxy for a friend who was also in the Final Ten.
This cool cat, Tom, was the MC.
He was phenomenal. Okay, anyone who can pull off tails and a bowtie paired with shorts and flip-flops is phenomenal in my book, but he had such personality. He was smooth but saucy and took total control of the crowd.
[Bro-Lo, check it out. An “Alchies shot!”]
Tom got the crowd gathered and appropriately riled up while his striking lady-friend, Christy, got the top tenners seated and settled. They were FUNraiser masterminds.
My temporarily-appointed financial adviser giving me some advice:
Then the fun began. Before they even drew the first ticket off, Tom had the crowd shouting and heckling. “$1,000” someone shouted from the back, offering to buy one of our top ten seats. I glanced at Phillip but he had conceded all authority to me (dumb move), but no one thinks they’re going to be drawn first. I’ve made it this far, surely I’ve got some luck pushing me along, you tell yourself. Surely I won’t be the first to be drawn (although someone’s gotta be). But, it’s just too much fun sitting up there, being a part of the Final Ten. I held fast. Tom made me feel good about it. “That’s cheeap for a Jeeep!” he hollered. “Draw her down!”
Now, let’s recall. What was I?
You can’t catch me. I’m number eight-tee!
I lost. Big time.
“Number 80!” they said as they drew my number first from the bin. Dag-nabbit. First to be nixed from the Final Ten.
But, c’est la vie. If I hadn’t gotten delusional, I would have never even believed I could have won in the first place. I should’ve jumped on that grand, though … I blame my financial adviser (you know who you are John : ), and Tom. I blame him, too. And, Phillip. Might as well blame everybody for my failed delusion.
But, there was still the matter of watching the rest of the final nine duke it out. Jody was sitting in for a friend, Billy, who was reportedly on his way. She kept joking that he was stopping in at the church to pray!
Billy soon got nixed, too, though. After he was gone, the bids for the tickets started to increase as more numbers were drawn. Tom was certainly helping to up the anty, by scolding those who bid low with his same, shameful sentiment, “That’s cheeap for a Jeeep!”
One guy, and you had to feel sorry for him on this, offered to buy one of the final four seats for $3,800. I mean, it’s not a terribly risky bet. You’ve got a one in four shot of winning a $25k Jeep. But, before his rear even warmed the seat, his number was called, and he was out. That’s got to sting. I didn’t feel so bad about the $1,000 I’d turned down after that.
This guy hung in there till the very end. He was sitting proxy as well for his “Ma” on the other end of the line who actually held the No. 232 ticket.
Ma was sharp, too, always making the right call, sticking to her guns. After a few back-and-forths, Tom the MC would just look at this guy and ask “What’s Ma gonna do?” The guy would wait for Ma to decide and announce it. When he and one other guy were the last two tickets standing, Ma made the bold move to buy the other guy out for a smooth $9,000 — a small price to pay, really, for a guaranteed win. I’m telling you, Ma knew her stuff. But, the other ticket-holder held fast. He must have been delusional, too, because he lost as well. Big time. No nine grand, no Jeep, no nothing. Ma took the cake.
But, it was all in good fun and all for a good cause. I’m not sure how much they raised at the 9th annual FUNraiser, but I know the initial reports were it was more than the previous year’s $70,000, which is awesome. I highly recommend the event next year for any local cruisers in the area. Let me just warn you, keep high hopes for the autism research only, not the raffle.
Don’t let delusion happen to you!
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
Alright, (while I can’t confidently speak to the inner-workings of tequila-making), I’m sure it isn’t actually “brewed,” but I needed it to work with my theme. Just let me run with this.
June 5, 2015:
We have always found it funny (startling, actually) how really small the “cruising community” is. You will meet a gal in a little marina on the other side of the world who knows the guy who is fixing up a boat in the slip next to you back in your home port. I’m not kidding. It’s global but, in a sense, it is so small. And, the way you meet people and make those connections tends to be such good fodder for my favorite thing in all of cruising — STORIES. Let me ask you, how many times have you met a new cruiser in port or out in an anchorage because you needed to borrow something? Perhaps you ran out of duct tape (blasphemy!), or you can’t find your little keyring thing of allen wrenches, or you need to bum some of that all-purpose wonder stuff, anti-corrosion spray, to knock a rusty bolt off. It happens all the time, and cruisers are some of the most generous folks when it comes to lending out their useful boat stuff. Case in point here, and a good story to go with it. This occurred sometime in June of 2014 when Phillip and I had just returned from our Cruise to the Keys. We met a fantastic cruising couple at one of our local anchorages because we needed to bum something and when they came back through our cruising grounds the next year, they cashed in on the favor in a most interesting way with something borrowed, something brewed. (And, I can’t really say why I started this blog on such a sing-song note. Perhaps I was inspired by the soon-to-be-released book Suess so long ago wrote. Either way, I think I’ll have some fun with words today, and present a rhythmic blog upon which I hope you dote.) Here’s how it played out:
On the hook one morning, the Captain and I found ourselves in quite the pickle. It seems we’d brought a hose for our dinghy pump that was far too fickle. Without the proper inflating dinghy nub, our dinghy was a sinking tub, and bound to our boat we would be as sad as a cell that is sickle.
The Captain refused to sit stranded on our boat on his rump, so he set off on the SUP to request from our anchor neighbors a loaner pump. He stumbled upon a couple, the dame quite supple, on an exquisite Dufour who countered the Captain’s request with an offer for trade in sum lump.
The ladies on the Dufour, were digging the Cap’n and his board and believed, in exchange for loaning their pump, a free stand-up paddle lesson was in store. The Captain happily agreed, considering a lesson an easy deed, to allow us mobility for all the fun dinghy outings the weekend could afford.
Later in the day, when the Dufour crew got back out, they stopped by our boat to bring us a brew that was quite stout, as the Dufour dame, it seemed, like Patron with coffee teamed, the taste of which we would love she did not doubt.
In all, we spent a grand day with the couple “next door,” their spirit and spunk quite fitting for a Dufour. We were thrilled to learn, they would soon return as they sailed from Mandeville to our area every year for a month or three or four.
True to their word, the Dufour couple sailed back our way this past May and tried to coordinate another rendezvous at Ft. McRee. Sadly, with schedules jam-packed, the cards against us were stacked, and it appeared we were only going to pass them briefly in the ICW one particular day.
The Dufour dame it seemed believed that was close enough indeed. She decided to cash in the long-owed dinghy pump favor, with a liquor she could savor, and she enlisted the Captain and I to bring her a bottle of which she was in dire need.
Wanting to repay the fine couple for rescuing us so long ago, we set off that day, our boat loaded with her precious cargo. Near the North Cut, I spotted the Dufour crew, toting another couple, too, awaiting our arrival in colorful hats and attire reminiscent of Key Largo.
They rafted up quick as we motored along and worked quickly to accomplish the exchange. Captain Dufour graciously paid us extra for the cost of the liquor, while a smile, a chuckle and a “keep the change.” The dame, alone, was quick to satisfy her thirst for Patron, and she immediately grasped the bottle and tipped it up the minute it was within range.
(Love it Cara!)
Once the exchange was made, we bid the DuFour crew adieu, and they dinghied back to their anchorage their spirits anew with fresh “brew.” Having fulfilled our pact, our boat borrowing karma well intact, the Captain and I continued along content, knowing we would likely find ourselves someday in need of a boat-to-boat alcohol delivery, too.
Okay, who are we kidding? He doesn’t need the rum. He’s always a pirate.
May 1, 2015:
It’s B! Our buddy, Bottom-Job Brandon (who has rightfully reminded me anytime I mention his name, I should also mention his company — Perdido Sailor, Inc. — or he’s going to have to re-brand). He’s all decked out here for the annual Pirate’s Ball, the kick-off for the annual Perdido Wooden Boat Festival at Pirate’s Cove in Josephine (more commonly referred to as Orange Beach), Alabama.
Phillip and I had the event on our calendar for weeks — May 2-3, 2015. Not just because it’s an awesome pirate party, our friends were planning to sail over for it, too, and we really don’t need an excuse to get that boat out. No, we were really going for the book signing! The Point Yacht Club, the self-proclaimed “Little Yacht Club That Could” whose clubhouse-in-progress is right next door to the Cove, invited me over for a Salt of a Sailorbook reading and signing before the ball. Pirate costumes, rum and salty book sales? Who says ‘no’ to that?
We were also curious to see how the fridge would perform without power for the weekend after the pancreas-splitting Great Stuff repair. We turned the fridge on on Wednesday evening to let it start cooling down. While it did take some time (and several cranks up on the fridge setting), we were pleased to see it finally reach 40 degrees Friday morning on the 6 setting and holding. We headed out that afternoon, planning to meet up with Brandon and his family on their Gulf Star at the Cove. But, we were surprised to have him cruise right up next to us in the ICW on our way over. Good timing.
That little 17′ sloop rig he’s towing is s/v Ellavday, a wooden boat he and his father-in-law built for Brandon’s daughter, Ella. Great name, huh? That thing is a beauty and so much fun to sail. If you want to really sharpen your sailing skills, test them in a little boat!
It was great to have Brandon cruising along next to us, too. I love when we see fellow boat buddies out on the water. It’s just “boat code” to snap pics of each other under sail. With s/v5 O’clock leading the way, we made our way on over to the Cove.
In the weeks before the ball, Phillip and I had been snatching up some pirate attire and accessories and sending pictures to Brandon and his crew with a little light trash-talking as to whose costumes were going to be better. It must have worked because the Halls took the prize with their complete family pirate ensemble, from parents to little pirate run-a-mucks, even the gangly photo-bomber in the back.
Nice hat Uncle Russ.
I would say the doo-rag on their little pirate bundle (Kaitlin) was the cutest, but I just couldn’t. This little rapscallion (Ella) stole the show, unsheething her cardboard sword at every opportunity and poking the air with a fierce “AAAaarrrggghhh!”
You know it makes you want to do it, too. Go on. Who cares what your co-workers think. Close your door and unleash your inner pirate — “AAaarrrgghhh!”
The Captain and I came decked out in full costume as well, donning head-to-toe swashbuckler attire:
Jody Horner with the Yacht Club was instrumental in putting together this whole reading and signing, and I can’t thank her enough.
She literally dragged people over to my table by force, fished twenties out of their pockets and made them buy my book. It was awesome!
At Jody’s request, I read a fun passage from the book that describes our Second Mate for the momentous journey — the infamous MITCH! This was the passage she chose:
Now, let me take a moment to tell you a little more about our Second Mate–the infamous Mitch. Where do I begin? First, I must say, he’s an incredible friend to give up five days to sail across the open Gulf with us and help get the boat back. As fun as it is, remember what I told you about sailing, it is indeed hard work, and we were out of touch with the rest of the cellular world for days at a time. That’s a big commitment, and there is no way we could have done it without him. But, as I mentioned, Mitch is all of six feet, four inches. While that may seem pretty normal for a guy–on land–it’s a bit much on a 35-foot sailboat. Mitch lumbered and bumbled around that boat like an elephant going through a carwash. Each step of his foot on the deck sounded like Neal Armstrong landing on the moon. Ka-boom. I honestly felt sorry for him while I watched him bumble up and down the companionway stairs and through the hatch. He must have felt like he was crawling around on Playskool equipment. After a while, he decided to give it up altogether. Instead, each time I got up to go down the stairs, and I mean the minute I merely lifted my ass off of the cockpit seat, he would start in with “While you’re down there.” Sometimes I just had to screw with him. “Down where? I was going up on the deck to check the sails,” I would say as I walked up topside, knowing full well I had had every intention of going down below, but whatever it was for was now going to wait another fifteen minutes until the next time Mitch beckoned. I have to admit, it was fun, and Phillip and I had a good time christening him with the nickname–Mitch, While-You’re-Down-There, Roberts. But, to be honest, I’m sure it was a lot of work for him to lug that big body up and down those tiny stairs, and he did hold the helm for several shifts that day, so, the teasing was always followed with, “Sure buddy. What do you need.” Mitch was a talker and a screamer but he had a heart of gold. He taught me a great deal about sailing and he was a true asset on the trip.
The reading really was quite an honor and I enjoyed chatting with readers and fans afterward while Jody hustled them out of their hard-earned bills.
I also donated a few books and bottles of wine as a giveaway to help the Point Yacht Club raise money to finish their clubhouse-in-progress. They’re getting close!
After my Sharpie was worn to a nub, it was time for the much-anticipated Pirate’s Ball! We shuffled our way over to the Cove and stumbled upon this striking figure on the way in:
Lady BlackSquall!! Yowza!
And, do know that the bottle she’s holding was chalk full of home-made moonshine which she forced you to take a shot of before you could pass through to the party. Love that gal. But, the real treat of the evening? Mr. While-Your-Down-There himself showing up for the party, dressed in full pirate regalia with his trusty sea-wench at side!
Clearly we don’t need the rum to act like pirates …
After we petered out from the pirate party, we crashed hard on the boat. Having it right there docked up at the Cove always makes for an awesome boating weekend. That way you have easy access to all your amenities (which for us, was still a cold fridge on the 6 setting), yet easy access to the ongoing party at the Cove.
The next day we toodled around and checked out the exquisite wooden boats on display for the festival.
I set up a little table as an official “vendor” with my books in tow (Little Author Who Could here) in hopes of selling a few copies at the festival. Business was slow at first, so I busted out my ukulele and started strumming about in hopes of drawing folks to my sad little tent. Somehow, I managed to entice this interesting chap. Meet Gnarly:
He’s gnarly. He was also an awesome guitarist. He gave me his pick and taught me how to (in his words) “spank on the strings.” I had a great time hanging out with Gnarly. Life is so full of cool people.
With Gnarly’s magic touch on the uke, I was able to snag a few folks in my web and sell some books.
It was enough, at least, to buy us dinner and a few rum drinks that night. If sales ever start to cover boat repairs and maintenance, I think we’ll be all set. In all, it was another wild and raucous weekend at the Cove, with great friends and supporters of my author endeavors. I can’t thank the kind folks at the Point Yacht Club enough for hosting the book signing for me. It was fun being a celebrity for an hour. We had a great sail home, too, with the sun setting on our port and the moon rising at the same time to starboard.
Strange to think it really is the same sun and moon that set and rose back in the pirate heydays. Heck, I’ll bet some of the crumbling planks that make up the walls at Pirate’s Cove are from the same era. The swashbuckling behavior there sure hasn’t changed. They still drink, holler, spit and dance. I don’t think it’s the rum that makes the pirate, it’s the spirit.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
Since our Buffett debauchery started early, our night ended pretty early, too. After a few hours hooting and hollering and bopping flying beach balls at the Buffett concert, we were beat.
We crashed hard on the boat but woke well-rested and were glad we still had one more day on our Buffett voyage. It was Saturday, April 25, 2015. We had no real plans or agenda other than to make way west during the day over to Red Fish Point or Ft. McRae to spend the night on the hook before heading back to Pensacola on Sunday. Some coffee was lazily brewed and the docks were meandered before we decided to go ahead and get under way. We had no idea what was coming that day. As I said, no one did. But, by some stroke of luck we decided to toss the lines and head out just in time to tuck in safe for it.
Our de-docking was an unexpected adventure. Reminds me of Cap’n Ron when he barrelled in, skidded up to the dock and jumped off with a hearty “Hey, hey!” — except ours was unintentional. We were tucked in here at slip L175, with a strong (17 knot) west wind on our nose.
Our plan was to back out of the slip, ease the stern around to port, then head back out to the ICW. Simple, right? Sure, in theory–not in execution. We started backing out just fine, got all the lines untied and on the boat and were making our way out. I’m at the bow, ready to push off poles if need be and the bow (not the stern) starts turning strangely to port.
“Are you going to pull back in?” I holler to Phillip, a dock line in hand. He doesn’t answer me immediately. I know not to ask a million questions when he’s struggling with a situation like this, but I did feel the need to ask the one important one. “What’s the plan?” I can see him looking around, handling the wheel, fettering out what the wind is going to let the boat do. But, seconds are passing, he’s pretty much all the way out now, stern to the ICW facing the dead end wall with what does not appear to be enough room to turn around, especially with the west wind and a wall of big, expensive boats behind us.
“Nope,” he yells back after a few calculated seconds. “We’re just going to back out of here.”
Oh Lord. I stood at the bow, ready to push off of boats on our port side where the wind was blowing us, ready to throw a line if need be, ready to–I don’t know, really, do anything necessary I suppose. But, none of it was necessary. Once Phillip got some speed, he was able to handle the boat perfectly in reverse. You should have seen the folks at the dock watching us, slowly easing their coffee mugs down, cocking their heads to the side, eyeing us strangely.
You would have thought Jimmy Buffett himself was backing out of there with the looks we were getting. I’m sure it was a sight to see, us backing out like that. Once I could see Phillip had it all under control, I kind of posed up at the bow, like a hood ornament, waving and smiling. We were rock stars in reverse!
Phillip backed us up into the ICW, clocked the bow around and we set off. It was around 10:00 a.m. With the steady wind on our stern, we threw out the Jenny for a fantastic day of sailing. This little box-of-a-boat passed us along the way (headed to Pirate’s Cove I’m sure).
We sailed all the way down the ICW, through all the turns and dog legs and everything–never cranking the engine once. It was an awesome day on the water. The winds ranged between 14 and 19 knots, strong, but, on our stern, they were nice. We sailed right up to Red Fish Point and were picking out a spot to drop our hook around 3:00 p.m. Looking at the texture and chop on the water, though, Phillip was starting to question our decision to anchor there.
“We’re pretty exposed here,” he said, looking at the weather and radar on his phone. I had to agree with him, bouncing around up at the bow, ready to drop the hook but seeing exactly what he was talkinga about–textured water, white caps, etc. “I think we ought to pull into Ft. McRae tonight. Get a little more protection,” Phillip decided.
“Fine with me,” I hollered back and set my anchor gear down so we could make the 15 minute motor into Ft. McRae. Right about that time, Phillip started getting severe weather alerts on his phone. He certainly wasn’t questioning his decision to pull into Ft. McRae then. When we saw what was coming on the radar, we kinew we needed some shelter. We tucked in on the south side of Sand Island and dropped 100 feet of chain to be safe.
The scene in Ft. McRae was deceiving. There was a guy kite-boarding on the east side of Sand Island, several families set up near the fort with tents and tables and chairs and such. It was cheery. We saw a big foil kite launch over on the west side of Sand Island so I decided to go for a quick run on my paddleboard to check out our neighbors and the goings-on.
The guy with the foil kite was paragliding–jumping off the sandy dune cliff on the west side of the island and letting the steady west wind push him back into the soft sand. It looked like he was just getting the hang of it and had found a good safe place to practice. He was fun to watch. I found some buddies of ours who anchor out at Ft. McRae often and said a quick hello as I was paddling by. They were on a trawler and had a center console rafted up to it. An older couple sat leisurely on the cockpit of their Catamaran on the south side of us, sipping cocktails and watching the sun drop. The guy kite-boarding on the east side was zipping back and forth, making some nice runs with the west wind. It was a quick, 15 minute paddle, but you would never have guessed any severe weather was coming with the look of things in the anchorage.
Phillip and I agreed when I made it back to the boat that it was high time for a cocktail. I mean, we had just dropped the hook. It is protocol. But, before I even got the paddleboard strapped to the stern rail and got back into the boat, Phillip got another alert on his phone. Severe weather alert No. 2 went out, but this time they were reporting the potential for hale and winds of 70 mph.
It was a quick consensus that we had better drop some more chain before we made those drinks. I headed topside and we let out another 25 feet, so 125 feet total and snubbed her off with our Mantus like we always do. By then, the sky had darkened.
Ominous black clouds hung on the north horizon, and the wind, blowing around 18-20 knots by then, took on an eerie chill. Phillip and I could both sense it coming. I wish our barometer on the boat still worked. I would have liked to have seen what was registering.
We started bringing cushions down below, shutting hatches, readying the boat for a storm. Our actions were precise and swift, our nerves pricked with energy. When we heard more chain rattle out of our buddy’s trawler up ahead, a sense of community urgency started to register. People on the beach quickly hustled kids and buckets and toys back to their boats as the wind continued to build. Center consoles and smaller motor boats started zipping by, parents huddling children and holding onto dogs for what was sure to be a bumpy ride home. We saw a sailboat barreling in the inlet to Ft. McRae and watched as they hauled up next to us, kicked the stern around and started dropping anchor the second after their bow fell behind us. I was worried–okay irritated at first–knowing we had some crazy wind coming and now we had a boat not 30 feet away to worry about. But, you could tell by their movements that they were sharp sailors, doing exactly what needed to be done to protect themselves and their vessel in the coming storm.
Phillip and I stood in the cockpit, donning our foul weather gear over our swimsuits, cocktails filling the last thought on our minds and watched as the rains began to engulf the boats ahead of us to the west. Then the wind came–30 knots, 35, 40, 42.
“HOLD!” Phillip shouted into the wind, his thunderous voice about as useful as a spit into the ocean. But, it was all we could do. The only thing that was going to save our boat was that anchor holding. I have never felt such power on the boat from wind alone. We were heeled on anchor. Our boat was swinging so violently to the north and south on its pivot point that it registered a hull speed of 1.2, again while on anchor. The wind didn’t blow, it howled, over the mast, the dodger, every shroud, before it shrieked past us in the cockpit. I wish I had videoed it. I really do. But, documenting is really the last thing on your mind when the only thing saving your boat from popping loose, smashing into the boat behind you and dragging both vessels to shore in a sickening cacophony of banging aluminum and crunching fiberglass is one little anchor in the mud and some chain.
“HOLD!” I hollered it with him. It seemed to help because she did. Thank the stars in heaven she did, even with the bow dipped down so far water cascaded up over the pulpit and the toe rails. It was a strange sight to see all of us cowered in our cockpits or looking out port lights just watching one another. I imagine it’s the same look of helpless terror you would share with someone on an elevator that’s dropping uncontrollably. Phillip and I watched with bitten lips as the head sail on that Catamaran south of us started to flip and flail and wiggle its way out. As soon as it started, it wasn’t ten seconds before it unfurled halfway out and ripped to shreds. The couple emerged and put on a frantic show, the man up at the forestay trying to wrestle the sail in 35 knots of wind, the woman back in the cockpit trying to sheet it in. I had just paddled by them not 20 minutes earlier and admired their serenity, sipping cocktails in the cockpit waiting for the sun to set. No one knew the fury that was about to be unleashed.
Tents ripped up and rolled along the beach. Little buckets and toys and cans raced and tumbled along the sand. We could see the hands and faces of the guys on the sailboat that had scooted in last minute pressed up against the port lights, looking out. The captain would pop his head up every once in a while quickly out of the companionway to look around as his boat whipped around as violently as ours. Then the paddle board zipped across our view. Stupidly, we had left it hooked by its springy leash to the stern rail and it was now airborne, 10 feet behind the boat, hovering and spinning like a pinwheel on a windy day. Like I said, I wish I had videoed it, particularly because I had my phone right there with me. I kept refreshing the radar to see the blob of shit that was upon us. It was huge but thankfully moving fast, up and to the north. I had at least thought to take a picture of the radar:
We were just on a little sliver of green on the south side of the storm and we were getting 40 knots? I can’t imagine what it felt like for the folks in Mobile Bay at the Dauphin Island regatta. Truth be told, I don’t think I ever want to. One of the last gusts on the boat registered at 44 knots. That’s approximately 55 mph. Ass-puckering is what that is. It’s the most wind I have ever felt on our boat and the most I ever want to feel. The anchor wailed and groaned and the bow dipped, but she held. Thank God she held. And, thankfully, the storm passed through quickly. It was about 10 minutes of terror and then it was gone. I finally thought, after the worst of it had passed to get a little footage and video, but it in no way does it justice.
The guys in the sailboat next to us starting easing out, blinking and looking around, taking it all in. They quickly determined the coast was clear and started working, just as efficiently as they had to drop the anchor, to raise it and get the heck out of there. The captain gave us a knowing nod of his head as he passed by. We had survived it. We had no idea at the time what went down in Mobile Bay and the people that were fighting and flailing in the water at that very moment. We just knew we had 30 more knots of wind on the boat than we wanted but we had survived it. Phillip and I slowly started bringing up cushions, opening hatches, getting things back to normal. Phillip checked the anchor line and snubber to make sure we hadn’t suffered any damage at the bow.
Afterward, we started joking around about that cocktail: “Okay, now, it is definitely time for that drink!”
And, as it always seems, nature likes to remind you sometimes, what had just 30 minutes prior been a treacherous scene–thick black clouds, sheets of rain, driving wind–cleared to reveal one of the most beautiful and serene sunsets we have ever seen in Ft. McRae. Aside from the littered beach and the shredded foresail on the Cat next to us, it was like it had never happened.
We fired up the grill, cooked some chicken and kind of sat wondering if it had in fact happened.
I know what we experienced was pretty insignificant compared to the mariners who were sailing, full canvas up, in Mobile Bay in the Dauphin Island regatta when that wicked storm hit. They reported winds of 73 knots, numerous passengers overboard, many boats capsized, damaged or lost. Here is some footage if you haven’t yet seen it:
I believe it’s been reported as the most deadly regatta race tragedy to occur in the states. Looking back on it, I can’t believe the day started so amiably–Phillip and I just sipping coffee, meandering the docks, lazily tossing the lines and making our way down the ICW. The fact that we made it safely into Ft. McRae before the bottom fell out was pure luck–not an ounce of sail savvy involved. The decision not to anchor at Red Fish Point, though, I will say was all Phillip. He’s good about checking the weather before we drop the hook, trying to see what winds are predicted and whether we are in a sufficiently protected area to weather them. (I’m usually planning my post-drop cocktail … )
I am also glad we decided to throw out another 25 feet of chain for a total of 125 feet of rode out. That is more than we would usually need in Ft. McRae but I’m certain it played a factor in our anchor’s ability to, as Phillip said, “HOLD!” We also had the anchor snubbed up, which we always do with a Mantus hook and rope cleated at the bow. That much weight and pull would not have been good for the winlass I’m sure.
Now, leaving the paddle board attached to the stern rail was just dumb. That thing could have easily ripped off and been halfway across the bay in 10 minutes. That’s an expensive toy to lose to a stupid mistake. But, it would have been a small price to pay for the storm we were able to weather. I hated to see the couple on the Catamaran lose their head sail. I don’t know if there is anything different they could have done. Sometimes these things just happen. They can’t be stopped. But, it did make us think we could have easily put some extra bungees around our head sail because you just never know. Looking back, we also probably should have put on our PFDs and grapped the EPIRB just in case. You might think that would be a bit much in the protected cove of Ft. McRae, but, with those winds, you could get sucked out and blown across the Bay pretty easily. It’s easy to panic in times like that and waste precious energy trying to swim against the conditions. We heard many of the folks who went overboard in the Dauphin Island regatta weren’t wearing life vests. Also, several who were rescued from the water were found only because they had cell phones or hand-held GPS devices on them that they used to help direct the rescue boats to their location.
In all, we took away several important lessons from the storm. However, while I hate to say it, it’s just true–for the most part, it was pure luck and that’s just a big part of it. We had several friends who we discovered later had been racing in the Dauphin Island Regatta when the storm hit and, though shaken, reminded and humbled at the power and magnitude of the weather, they all agreed–they were just plain lucky to be alive. But, take it as it comes. If you’re going to get out there and sail, you’re going to run into storms and, while you can be smart and cautious, often the determining factor of whether or not you survive them unscathed is just plain luck.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
While we love big bunnies and balloon animals as much as anyone, we were far more excited about the night we had ahead. It was finally time for Buffett’s big debut! It was Phillip’s birthdday, we had a big steak dinner planned and every intention of blowing the evening out with a mayhem-filled night of debauchery at the Buffett concert.
Buffett said, “I want to see YOU there!”
You got it Jimmy.
Funny thing was, though, the folks at the marina told us Jimmy actually spent a good bit of the morning riding around the Wharf grounds in a golf cart asking meandering Wharf patrons where the concert was and when it started. As you know or have probably heard, Mr. Buffett likes to stay non-descript. He’s not much for the flash and flare of a paparazzi lifestyle, so he does a good job of blending in. Word on the street was, he would pick the obvious Parrotheads–those walking around decked out in Landshark hats, Tommy Bahamas shirts and Hawaiian leis–yet they had no clue they were talking to the man himself, their idol, their icon, Jimmy Buffett. Some pointed him politely toward the amphitheater, some gave him wrong times for the concert and some even blew him off a bit, not wanting any interruptions while they were sauntering around in their blissful Buffett zone. That man seems to have fun with his celebrity status.
In addition to the Sunset Festival, the Wharf also had the Bama Coast Cruise going on. It was pretty cool walking around checking out all of these old, cherried-out cruisers along the main drive.
I liked the ones that were decked out with big stuffed characters from the olden days!
Little known fact – the RoadRunner is the state bird of my home state, New Mexico. Road-kill coyote might be the state meat. I’ll have to verify that.
As if Buffett and the Bama Coast Cruise weren’t enough, they also had the famous Flora-Bama Mullet Toss going on that weekend too. I highly recommend this redneck tradition. If the flailing fish aren’t entertaining enough, I guarantee the groomed mullets and tramps stamps will be. We take our fish flinging pretty seriously around here.
I should know — Yours Truly placed second in the female 26-39 division at the Mullet Toss in 2011. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up:
Rather than a redneck parade at the Flora-Bama, we spent the day lounging at the Oasis. I mean … who wouldn’t? The place is gorgeous.
I decided to dawn a special birthday suit for the occasion — not that one, this one!
My “Captain Jo” hat my brother got me for my birthday last year. It’s kind of become the birthday hat. We certainly got some funny looks at the pool with it, which made it totally worth it. Thank you John!!
After a few hours around the lazy river, it was back to the boat to spruce up for our big b’day dinner. Where were we going, you might ask? Only the best restaurant at the Wharf. Well, only the best restaurant anywhere — Chez Phillipe! Phillip really is a phenomenal chef so when we cook, at home or on the boat, we’re pretty much guaranteed the best meal in “town.” What had he planned to cook up for his big day?
BEEF! It’s what’s for dinner.
Sure beats Roadkill Coyote!
The smell of it, though, must have been wafting through the air, because no sooner than we had pulled our steaks out to sear we get a knock on the hull.
“Excuse me,” a voice rang out. “Have you seen my lost shaker of salt?”
“Oh, never mind. I found it hanging around my neck!” Elle. You gotta love a woman that makes a hat for every occasion. Fourth of July:
St. Patty’s Day:
And, this here was her Jimmy Buffett Landshark hat. She said she couldn’t find a shark, so a stuffed dolphin would have to do.
A worldwide traveler, accomplished sailor and seasoned skier, Elle is first and foremost a hoot. She and her friend Terry were going to the Buffett concert, too. They stopped by the Plaintiff’s Rest to say hello on their way to the amphitheater, so we did what we normally do when guests arrive–promptly make them our famous house drink, the “Oh Shiiiit!” (five i’s).
We had a fun visit with the gals over cocktails, but it was getting close to Buffett time and we had some fine steaks to get sizzling. “It’s been fun ladies, but we need to get back to the beef.” We bid Elle and Terry adieu and set to dinner.
I will say, Phillip cooked up a perfect piece of meat. It was a birthday feast indeed.
Our bellies full, we were ready for a full night of Buffett shenanigans. We walked over to the amphitheater a little before 7:00 pm to check out the crowd and nab our seats.
There were at least 10 beach balls being bounced around and they stayed afloat pretty much the entire concert. It was just as much fun to watch and swat those things around as it was to watch Jimmy on the stage. You had to keep your hands up and a sharp lookout or you would get … well bonked in the head by an inflatable ball. We soon stopped worrying about it and just let the balls fly while we shouted along to some of Buffett’s finest!
“You got fins to the left, fins to the right and you’re the only girl in town!”
Buffett was a lot of fun. He didn’t play Margaritaville (probably because he’s sick of it), and he threw in a couple of oldies but goodies to shake things up — Stars Fell on Alabama was interesting. Southern Cross was a big hit and probably the highlight for Phillip and I as that song really resonates with us. The Buffett concert was the perfect end to our birthday bonanza. We had one more night on the trip and were planning to head out in the morning to motor sail back to Red Fish Point to spend one last quiet night on the hook. The next day was Saturday, April 25, 2015. I’m sure many of you recognize the date. We had no idea what was coming. No one did. But, we definitely found ourselves on the deadly outskirts of that storm late in the afternoon. While we, thankfully, weathered it safely, we witnessed some damage, some close calls and learned a few lessons, which I will share.
At the time, though, we had no clue what the next day had in store. We were shouting Buffet lyrics, bopping beach balls and dancing the night away.
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
With a heavy heart, we woke the next morning in Ingram’s Bayou and took down the pyrotechnics, the ukulele amps and the aerial silk rig. Nooooo!!!
But, we were excited to make our way over to The Wharf in Orange Beach to claim our slip for the Jimmy Buffett concert.
Recall when we bought our tickets for the concert and called to reserve a slip, they literally laughed at us and put us as No. 93 on the waiting list. Well, 92 cancellations later and here we were, with a slip of our own. So, we hustled up the anchor early and made our way west. I called when we were close and chatted with a gal named Judy who runs the marina office. She was super friendly and sent two strapping young men out to come help us with our lines.
While I love to see her out sailing, all canvas up, I also love to see her docked as well, all safe and sound! Another no-mishap docking accomplished. Whew!
Judy gave us a tour of the new facilities there at The Wharf. They have moved the marina facilities over from where they were previously located by the fuel docks on the west basin to the center of all the action on the east side of the bridge, and the new bathrooms, shower and laundry facilities are all primo. We were really impressed.
Judy was great, too–super knowledgeable and friendly. I may or may not have let it slip that I’m an author and that a book would soon be coming her way. It would be the first to start their marina book swap at the new facility. I was sure donating my very own book to start the swap would totally revive my piteous book swap mojo. Let us all hope. If I have to face another Fabio cover, his white flapping French shirt agape with some frail yet fully-endowed maiden clinging to him, I’m going to puke. Thankfully, Judy, was in my camp and was proud to welcome a good, salty yarn written by a local female sailor, to start the swap out right.
I put a little log in the book for readers to list their vessel, when they got the book and where they dropped it off to help document the book’s travels. Judy wanted to read it first, and then she’s going to send it on its merry way!
Another little traveling book set free! I hope to hear from some folks who find it some day.
After the “drop,” it was time for some food. We headed over to Ginny Lane‘s for lunch and were thrilled to find your first martini is only $1. Sweet! We’ll take two!
I have to say that’s some smart marketing, though. Because the next round is full price, but by then your whistle’s already wet with the stuff and your pocketbook is a little looser. Nice, Ginny. Real nice. They served us up a fine burger and salad as well, which we had earned with all of our hard work peddling my penmanship around the marina.
Then it was over to the Oasis. Have any of you seen the pool at The Wharf? It’s like something a wealthy oil tycoon would build in his backyard–a wave pool, a slow, curvy lazy river, complete with waterfalls and spouts, slides, hammocks, palm trees, a hot tub, a tiki bar. It’s incredible!
We lounged the afternoon away at the pool (cruising is real hard) then hopped on the free marina bikes and peddled the grounds for a bit before cleaning up for dinner, which apparently at The Wharf, comes with a show!
While the crafty carnies at Mallory have really perfected the craft, I will say the folks at the Wharf did give them a run for their money. There was cheery knife and flame juggler/tightrope walker, a trained dog, live music and some ladies from the local zoo with their more exotic animals in tow.
“What the heck is that?” asked Phillip.
“That’s a bunny, my friend.”
“A 13-pound bunny.”
But, the real talent at the festival? This balloon guy.
I mean, look at his fancy, flattering balloon apron. That’s some dedication. And anyone who can crank out a pretty much lifelike Mario in under a minute–suspenders, mustache and all–takes the trophy in my book. Sorry flame dude, this man was a genius.
In all, the Sunset Festival was really entertaining and, most importantly, totally FREE! Our favorite kind of fun! Dinner with Phillip’s fantastic family at Jimmy’s sister, Lucy’s, place — Lulu’s at Homeport Marina — rounded out the pre-birthday festivities. Tomorrow was the big day for the Captain. His birthday, yes, but more importantly … BUFFETT!
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.
I don’t know if you guys can handle this–a dolphin display, an aerial acrobatics show, and a ukulele concert. Light the flame-throwers, blow the pyrotechnics, it’s time to get RAW!
Alright, there were no pyrotechnics, but everything else I mentioned is right here baby! Day two of the Bon Buffett Voyage we woke to dolphin’s breath on the starboard stern.
They were swirling and stirring and (well, probably doing what we know dolphins love to do) for a good ten minutes while Phillip and I sipped our coffee in the cockpit.
It was a surprisingly cool morning in Ft. McRae with the cloud cover. Nice for lounging, but we were hoping to see some more input into the solar panels. We knew, though, that we would be putting some juice in during our motor that day, so a cool morning to read and write topside was welcome. Our next stop on the trip? Ingram’s Bayou:
We weighed anchor and threw up the sails pretty early so we could spend the majority of the day making the fun three-hour jaunt to the Bayou. The wind filled in nicely and we ended up having a pretty sporty little sail over.
The last time we had dropped the hook in Ingram’s was during our Thanksgiving trip 2013 and she appeared to be just as we remembered her–pristine and serene. We nestled in and Phillip set off to paddle our perimeter, check depths and poke around back in the bayou.
What did I do? Pretended to write until he left …
“You go right on ahead, babe. I’ve got plenty of blogging to get to here.”
Apparently those are my hangover eyes!
But, the minute he was gone, I set up the camera so I could video myself practicing his birthday present. Was it this?
No, that came later. That’s just everyday Annie stuff hanging around all upside-down-like. He’s used to that. No, for the Captain, I had to go all out. Do something he would know took time, effort and energy. I spent the better part of the week before we left trying to learn a new song to play him on the uke!
He had been pretty keen on Riptide by Vance Joy, so I got all disciplined with it and made myself practice, practice, practice until I had it … well, had it at least recognizable. At least I hoped. I decided to film one version all the way through while he was gone in case I got all fumbly and bumbly while playing it for him and goobered the whole thing up (happens all the time). And, don’t worry, I royally goobered this one pretty good, but I’ll share it anyway for your entertainment. I have such a hard time singing at a different beat than I’m playing. It’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. I can only do it if I can find a match on the down beat-slash-rub. Anyway, for what it’s worth — enjoy!
And, just for fun, here’s a gal actually doing this song justice on the uke. She seems a little off when the video starts (I thought she was about to play while high on pain meds as some ice bucket dare or something) but then she nailed it. This is what it was supposed to sound like:
[And, as an aside, if you’re in any way thinking about picking up the uke, I highly recommend it. You can get one at pretty much any little music store for around $50, it’s small and travels well, and it’s really pretty easy to start learning basic songs during your first lesson yet still challenging enough to push yourself on harder ones. Great, free entertainment and mental stimulation. I mean, why not?]
So, when the captain made his way back to the boat, I set us up on the foredeck with two deck chairs, two glasses of champagne and proceeded with the live version. I actually didn’t do half bad so the video wasn’t necessary. I even inspired Captain himself to give it a little go. (Minus the wailing pelican in the background … aka me!) his show wasn’t half bad either.
Needless to say, we had fun with it. But, post-concert was the real treat. The last time I had hung the silks on the sailboat for an aerials session was November of last year (far too long!). The conditions were perfect that evening in Ingram’s Bayou–calm, cool and still–for a sunset session. Captain helped me rig it up and I set to it. It was even more fun now that I had learned so many new tricks!
We totally need to install some pyrotechnics on the boat for this. Get all New World Order with it. BOOM!
In all, it was an incredibly fun day. It makes me think back on all the times people have asked me — “Don’t you get bored just sitting around on the boat all day?” Rather than enlighten them, it makes me want to say — “Yeah, it’s just awful. I’d much rather be working.” Best to keep the secret. We don’t want these anchorages to get too crowded. Ha! We like the serenity.
We cheersed the sunset and set to grilling up two killer salmon filets for dinner.
Oh, and definitely give this a try – a super-easy, super-flavorful (and light) sauce for fish, veggies, white meat, etc. Make it to taste, but it’s roughly 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, and dried dill weed. Perhaps Day Two dinner deserves some pyrotechnics too. BOOM!
Thanks as always, to the many patrons who help make these posts just a little more possible through PATREON.