April 17-23, 2013 – The Crossing: Chapter Six – Never Trust a Non-Drowsy Drug

After the dinghy incident, Mitch’s “non-drowsy” Dramamine kicked in again and we lost him to the settee (the boat’s version of the couch) for another 8 hours.  Phillip and I stayed up at the helm through the night, enjoying the now smooth feeling of the boat heeling left to right and the pleasant swish of the hull rolling back and forth in the water.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still spitting rain and we were chilled and soaked, clinging to the helm like a wet cat on the edge of the tub.  But, without the screeching and banging of the dinghy on the back, what was once about as pleasant as the dragging of hooks across sheet metal now felt like a summer afternoon on a sun-drenched porch swing.  I curled up next to Phillip at the helm, laid my head on his back, closed my eyes and let the movement and sounds of the boat engulf me.  Although serene, the night was a bit eerie in the sense that we could not, had not, seen the horizon since sunset and there was not a sign of any other vessel that night, no other ship, boat, plane, train or automobile anywhere to be seen.  We were still in the middle of the Gulf, completely alone, with stinging rain and cold winds.  But, we bundled up and hunkered down at the helm.

The boat performed beautifully that night.  The waves were still 4-6 feet, but she climbed them effortlessly and without complaint.  It was as if the dinghy was the one bloody thorn in her heel and now that we had pulled it out and rubbed the wound, she embraced us with gratitude and carried us through the storm.  Phillip, too, was a rock that night, holding the helm for about 8 hours, without complaint, despite the steady heeling and rough waves.


Once the sun came up on Monday, and we could finally see the horizon and the waves and assess our state of affairs in the daylight, my survival instincts sauntered to the background and my initial, adventurous tendencies returned.  I whipped out the camera to begin, once again, documenting our tale.  While trying to capture Phillip in photo at the helm, I inadvertently took a short video clip.  Funny thing is, I scolded my phone at the time for going rogue but clearly she had the right idea as I wish I had recorded another 10 seconds to give you a real feeling of the waves we had been scaling for the last 24 hours.  But, alas, as it always rings true, my “smart phone” is, indeed, smarter than I.  I give you the clip regardless:


I fear, much like a third of a gopher, that video would only arouse your appetite without bedding her back down.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qw6Hon013E  (Complete with spanish subtitles for your viewing pleasure).

No, no.  Only a whole gopher village will do for my faithful followers.  Here you’ll find some much more fulfilling footage of the friendly, finned ambassadors that welcomed us that morning into the Pass at Apalachicola.



We’d been out to sea for approximately 27 hours (Phillip and I having spent about 24 of those in the cockpit or at the helm).  A slightly-less ghastly Mitch finally woke to the light of day and joined us in the cockpit.


We finally made it into the Pass around noon and spotted land.  The shelter from the shore also gave us some relief from the wind which, for the first time since we had left Clearwater, was finally pushing us along toward our destination as opposed to beating us broadside and making us fight for every nautical inch.  But, most importantly, we were finally on the “other” side of the Gulf.  We had done it, crossed it, conquered it, put it behind us and we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief having simply achieved it.  Being in the Pass, in the sunlight and comfort of familiar shores, definitely put the crew and captain in good spirits.


We were eager to get to Apalachicola, get the boat secure and get ourselves to a hot shower.  We finally regained cell signal and called the Bottom Line guys to check in.  Although we learned later we had not actually lost radio contact the night before.  The main unit below simply wasn’t working because the handheld had gone out.  Once we disconnected the handheld, the main unit worked fine.  But, that was certainly not the understanding the night before and, regardless, that revelation came a bit too late because it turns out the Bottom Line crew had been trying to hale us on the radio throughout the night and, after hours of no contact, had reported to the Coast Guard that they had lost contact with us.  They were just getting into Apalachicola (about 3 hours ahead of us) and were glad to hear we were safe.  We contacted the Coast Guard to let them know we had made it safely, albeit minus one dinghy.  Looking back, that was a small price to pay.

We expected to get into Apalachicola around 3:00 p.m. and we motored along the Pass, enjoying the sights of land, other boats, a bridge, all the soothing signs of civilization around us.  The Bottom Line guys had told us the bridge into Apalachicola was 65 feet, so we wouldn’t have any trouble getting under.  One little lesson about sailing (a very obvious, but easily overlooked one – or at least I over-looked it) is that you can’t go under a bridge that’s too short for your mast.  The mast on Plaintiff’s Rest’s is 50 feet, which is definitely on the high end of the spectrum and something we considered at length when we were thinking seriously about buying her.  But, you learn, over time, that every option and feature on a boat is a trade-off.  While a Sloop Rig, like ours, with a taller mast means less sails to deal with:

Sloop Rig

shorter masts (usually two – like on a Ketch Rig pictured here) means more sails to wrestle and wrangle:

Ketch Rig

I stand behind my original analogy in that finding the right sailboat is like finding the right mate.  Any sailboat is never going to be absolutely, 100% perfect.  There’s always going to be things about her that you have to work around or deal with, it’s just a matter of deciding which “flaws” you can live with and which ones you cannot.  Our mast height is one we decided we were willing to live with.  But, “living with it” means we have to check and double-check each time we come to a bridge.  So, Phillip got the guy at the marina in Apalachicola (another Lou, Bob, Dick, Harry type) and asked about the bridge height.  He told us he thought the bridge was 50 feet but that he wasn’t certainThanks man, real helpful.

This troubled Phillip to no end.  And, for good reason, because I’ll tell you, the time to learn your mast is too tall for a bridge is not right when you come up on it.

Too tall

As much as we may curse our mast on occasion, we never want to see her laying down on the deck like this:

Mast down

So, Phillip pulled out the paper charts Jack had left on the boat to check the bridge height.  Sure enough, the chart said it was 50 feet, which meant this Plaintiff was not going to be Resting anytime soon, and particularly not in Apalachicola.  We began looking for another marina where we could come in to dock for the night and we found we had passed the inlet for Carrabelle River about eight miles back.  (Funny, I’ll bet you’re thinking, like I used to – eight miles, that’s nothing, whip around!).  Let me drop some knowledge on you.  Our optimal speed in the boat is about 4-5 miles/hour.  So, “eight miles back” translated to another two or so hours backtracking in the Pass (against the wind) and then another two to three hours to get into the river and get docked and it was 2:00 p.m. already.  But, considering the dilemma with the bridge, it was the only option.  The crew was a bit disheartened as we turned around and started steering away from Apalachicola.  It was just there on the horizon, within reach it seemed, but we were now turned, steering away, putting more distance between the boat and land.  Mitch and I stared back like two kids leaving Disneyland.  Thankfully, though, the weather had died down at last, Mitch had regained color and we were moving along smoothly.  We looked forward to getting to Carrabelle.  Little did we know what was waiting for us in the River.

April 17-23, 2013 – The Crossing: Chapter Four – Good, Quality People

I would like to say we woke Saturday morning to the peaceful sounds of birds and water gently lapping the hull, but that’s just not how it happened. Phillip and I had the pleasure of waking to his Dad hovering over us in the V-berth snapping photos at 6:00 a.m. like the paparazzi proclaiming, “Awww … your first night in the little bed. How was it?”   Was? … We’re still kind of sleeping in it. So …


He had the best of intentions, but we were really waking up to a photo shoot at the crack of dawn. Thankfully, Phillip knew just how to handle him:

Phillip: Yeah, Dad, it’s great back here. Let me show you. Take that door, there. Yeah, unlatch it.

Paul (with excitement): Oh, neat. Here?

Phillip: Yep, right there. Now pull it toward you.

Paul: Like this?

Phillip (with patience): Mmm-hmmm. Just like that. Now step back behind it.

Paul: Okay.

Phillip: Keep pulling it until it shuts.

Paul (muffled from the other side of the door): Oh, I see what you’re doing …

Phillip: Yep. We’ll see you in a bit Dad.

I swear I could hear Paul’s shoulders slump like he was the last kid picked in P.E. class. (Which by the way – never happened to me – you never get picked last with a name like this):



But, Paul did the right thing waking us up. Whether we were going to head out that day or stay and ready the boat for the passage, we had a lot to do. We got up, made some coffee and enjoyed the sunrise while we checked the weather.


Around that time, we ran into a fellow docked there in Clearwater who, like us, had just bought a boat down in Punta Gorda and was sailing it back to Pensacola. His was a 32-foot Seaward Unlimited. A beautiful boat:


The Bottom Line. And, it just so happened Phillip knew one of his crew. They were former neighbors in Pensacola. So we chatted them up and talked about our plans for crossing the Gulf. They were interested in buddying up and making the passage together. Having another boat make a passage with you (especially one like this) is always a good idea. So, we agreed to stay and wait out the worst of the storm in Clearwater on Saturday and head out with them first thing Sunday morning to cross the Gulf.

We started readying the boat for the expected 20 knot winds and 4-6 foot seas. Phillip got Jack, the former owner, on the phone and asked him about the storm sail (a smaller sail that is used in heavy winds) and the dinghy, which was held up by davits on the back of the boat with the outboard engine attached to it. Jack told us how to rig the storm sail and told us he had strapped the outboard securely to the dinghy so we shouldn’t have a problem with it. We decided to spend the afternoon rigging up the storm sail.

Storm sail

Although it was the right thing to do, it was a futile endeavor because just as we were pulling the halyard to connect the storm sail, the line snapped and the sail fell in a loose heap on the deck. The halyard for the storm sail (which is a fancy way of saying, the rope) was so old and dry-rotted that it just broke right in two. So, we decided to forego the storm sail and just secure everything else as best we could for rough seas.

After a day of hard labor, we made our first sit-down gourmet dinner in the galley. Remember the shrimp feta pasta I told you about? (http://havewindwilltravel.com/2013/06/04/april-17-23-2013-the-crossing-chapter-two-sailors-delight/). And, when I say “we” made it, I actually mean Phillip,


and I’m just taking full credit because that’s the kind of person I am. But, it was a grand meal, laden with heavy glasses of wine and tall tales at sea.


Full of liquid courage, we decided to hit the town and see what good quality people were roaming the streets of Clearwater. And, let me just tell you, my friends, the streets were littered with performers and peddlers of every kind of “ware” (and “wear”) you could imagine. Words will never do it justice. No, only a cheesy, finely-narrated slideshow will do.

There was a man on stilts making balloon animals (at least I think it was a man):


And please take note of the classy clientele in this photo, because unlike others, these ladies at least dressed for the occasion:


There was a woman getting an ass tattoo right there in the open:


And I normally wouldn’t say anything if Thelma here wanted to ink herself in front of a crowd.  More power to you! That is IF she were getting something cool tattooed on.  But no.  This chick was getting some rainbow kittens permanently impressed on her derriere.  Like, fifth grade, Lisa Frank, Trapper-Keeper kittens:


Real classy.

There were just crazy people everywhere. Some were talking to themselves.  Some were imitating the statues:


I’d watch out for this one. I’m pretty sure she’s beyond help.

Some were apparently even dropping their panties.


Yep. It was a wild night in Clearwater. But, the finale performance for the night was a really cool one. This guy sets up a couple five-gallon drums and beats the hell out of them.

Drummer 2


He wowed us all with his self-proclaimed (although I think it’s worthy) “world-famous” one-handed drum roll. Check it: http://youtu.be/a3IsqXpztnA. Phillip was definitely impressed:


Even Mitch was mesmerized.


Although I’m not sure you can see him in that pic. He looks just like another character we all know and love who likes to blend into the crowd:


Minus the hat I guess.  Otherwise … a spittin’ image.

In all, we had a great time checking out the town and watching all the “crazies” that came out FOR the show but who, in actuality, WERE the show. We got back to the boat around 9:30 p.m. and crashed. We woke the next morning all business. The boat was buttoned down and ready.  All we needed was a good breakfast before we got under sail. We hit up the local greasy spoon for one last rendezvous with our sail groupies and, unexpectedly, one last crazy!  Our waitress.  What a sight?!? This woman (again, I presume she was a woman) weighed about 89.4 pounds soaking wet and looked like a pile of toothpicks glued together.  There were all kinds of tacky t-shirts and things hanging on the wall and she repeatedly told us:

Waitress 1

“Now all of this crap …

Waitress 2

is for sale!”

And, for her, “sale” had two syllables, and a “y.”  I, naturally, bought a tacky t-shirt to memorialize the occasion. Who wouldn’t? Phillip and I now lovingly call it my “big boobs shirt” because it’s graced with their infamous logo:


Phillip and I checked the sea state one more time,


then it was back to the boat and time to get under way. We checked in with the Bottom Line guys and they were ready to pull out too. We picked a haling channel to go to if we needed to talk via radio, decided our next stop would be Apalachicola, an approximate 28-hour passage (138 nautical miles) from Clearwater, and set off.  We had a great morning sail.



The sun was peeking through the clouds, we had some strong, but steady, northeast winds, and we could see Bottom Line in the distance.


That was, until, the squalls began . . .