April 10, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 8 – Catching Butterflies

We were both a little disoriented when we woke on the boat behind Dog Island.  Having slept so soundly at anchor and waking to the alarm in pitch black, it was a little hard to tell if we were still dreaming or awake.  But, we finally eased on up after a few alarm snoozes to start readying the boat for passage and preparing to pull the anchor.  I slipped on my new Gorton’s – some, super trendy clown-pant Frogg Toggs – to try them out for the first time and got into my wader boots and foul weather jacket knowing I’d be doing some serious chain spraying.

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We had 150 feet of links lying out there in the mud that needed raising.  Before I even got down to 100 feet of chain, big chunks of grey clumpy mud were coming up in the links, and I knew this was not going to be a quick chore.  “I’ve got mud at 100 feet,” I hollered back to Phillip to let him know he could settle in.  We were going to be there a while!  We spent the next 20 minutes raising and rinsing the chain, hoping it was piling up as it should down below so we wouldn’t have such trouble dropping it next time.  We finally got her all up, though, and kicked back to enjoy some coffee as we motored out of the East Pass, watching the sun just start to peek up, an electric pink sliver on the horizon.  It felt good to be underway.

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Unfortunately, the wind was light in the early hours and we had to motor a bit, but we were enjoying watching land disappear on the horizon and seeing nothing but blue ahead.  The wind finally came around mid-morning, and we got a nice run, doing 4 knots, toward Clearwater.  Phillip and I curled up on the deck with a couple of page-turners and took turns napping in the sun.

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We brought the solar shower up onto the deck, too, so she could heat up and give us each a nice shower that afternoon.  After two days underway, we would certainly be in need of it.  In all, it was a beautiful day out on the water.  Our arrival time for Clearwater popped up about mid-day: 11:37 a.m. the next day.  It only registers our ETA 24 hours out.  Anything over 24 hours is designated only with bars, like a flat-line heart monitor, so it’s kind of exciting to see the arrival time pop up.  Only 24 hours now baby!  We weren’t in too much of a hurry, though.  The water had grown a deep, crystal blue around us and there wasn’t a single blip on the horizon.  We were still averaging 4 knots and enjoying the soft, soothing swells that we were rocking over.

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We heated up the frozen chicken and sausage gumbo Phillip had made for us before we left.

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We tried, again, to heat up the frozen bag in boiling water, but after we started to see a little gumbo leaking out into the water, we were sure some water had to be leaking IN to the gumbo, so I will say we will not be doing that again.  It will be a few hours’ thaw in the sink and then we’re plopping it into a pot to heat.  No need to risk tainting Phillip’s perfectly seasoned dishes just to spare a messy pot.   No sir! But, despite some suspected water intrusion, the gumbo turned out great.


And, it was the perfect, hearty treat while underway.  After dinner, we enjoyed a nice solar shower in the cockpit.  It was our first time using the solar shower.  We had found it on the boat when inventorying and we were excited to try it out.

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Other than the finicky spout, which would occasionally pop off, spouting water like a fire hose and causing a slight, soapy mad scramble to get her back on, it was one of the best showers we’ve ever had.


Of course, we can say that after two salty days at sea, while enjoying some free warm water from the sun.  Something about the fact that it’s been heated naturally makes it hard to beat.  Around dusk, we had some dolphins come by to congratulate us on the excellent passage we were making – naturally – 


and to bring us one of the most exquisite sunsets we’ve seen on passage.  The water rippled like smooth silk.  It felt like you could reach out and touch it and you wouldn’t get wet at all.  It was incredible.

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It wasn’t long after the sunset, though, that the wind started to die out.  We tried to keep her going under sail, but the Jenny kept luffing and our speed kept dropping.  The arrival time on the Garmin went blank again which was a sure sign – we were slowing down.  So, we decided to crank up the motor and motor-sail for a bit.  The batteries needed a little charging anyway.  We sat back and quickly decided to declare it … wait, let me let you guess.

Uh-oh … guess what day it is!  



That’s right.  Moooo-vie DAY!  Or night, I guess.  We booted up the laptop and hooked it in to the cockpit speakers and nestled in for a little something we like to call “Movie Night!” on the ole’ Rest.  Black Swan it was, and were in the thick of it when the main started flagging.  The wind was right on our stern and kept shifting the boom from one side to the other.  We took a brief intermission to drop the main, should be an easy chore, right?  Nothing to it in these light winds.  Ha.  Guess again.  All hell broke loose when we let go of the halyard.  Now, I’ve mentioned on this blog before how important it is that you never (EVER) let go of the halyard.  But, believe me, it happens.  It just does.  And, I’ll say “we” let go of the halyard because there’s no need to point fingers.  This wasn’t the first time and it certainly wouldn’t be the last, and it doesn’t really matter who does it, you both, somehow, have to get it back.

And, ours was swinging wildly back and forth, whipping around the boom, winding around the backstay, unwinding and swinging out freely again.  It soon became clear we weren’t going to be able to reach it on tiptoes and with outstretched hands alone.  Phillip got the gaff from the lazarette and started batting at it.  He was standing on his tiptoes on the coaming, stretching into the sky, and he almost had it several times but it would slip out of his reach every time.  For reasons that baffle us to this day, it was snapped shut initially, so that if we could get the hook of the gaff in it, we could conceivably pull it back down easily.  But it soon came swinging back around opened and it was clear we weren’t going to be able to get it with the gaff, there was nothing to ‘hook.’  Now, how in the world that thing closed itself initially, on its own, only to open back up again, on its own, baffles us to this day, but I’m here to tell you that’s what happened.  That’s when I came up with the brilliant idea of using the fishnet – which is about the equivalent of a big butterfly net – thinking the open end of the shackle would surely snag in the netting.  I duct-taped it to the gaff for added reach, which was helpful, but it made it very cumbersome and unwieldly.  Phillip was standing on the coaming on his tiptoes with me behind him bracing on the bimini and dodger in case he fell backward as he swatted and poked in the air – trying to snag it.  It wasn’t funny in the moment, really, but I’m sure if a nearby vessel had got a look at us, swinging and swatting – trying to catch all those imaginary butterflies, we would have given them a big, hearty laugh.  As Phillip gave it one last valiant swing, a wave rocked us, forcing him to leap down into the cockpit to save his footing and causing our Frankenstein butterfly contraption to bounce once on the deck and then slink off overboard.

I stared blankly at Phillip and asked, “Oh gees, is it gone?”  “No, we’ll circle back,” Phillip said.  “Find it!”  First rule on the sailboat, and I knew this, but knowing is different than actually doing.  If anything goes overboard (particularly a person), someone on board needs to immediately find the thing-slash-person in the water and shine a light on it if necessary or at least keep a watchful eye on it.  Do NOT look away, not even for a second.  Because you can lose a thing-slash-person in an instant in the great big sea.

You idiot, Annie I thought to myself.  Look overboard!  Find it!  Thankfully, Phillip had instructed me quickly – it wasn’t too far from the boat.  And, thankfully, it was floating and had some kind of reflective sheen to it so we could spot it easily with the flashlight.  Phillip turned us around so we could get it.  I got out our secondary gaff – the one for the fish, and headed up to the bow to snag it.  “Nothing else is going overboard tonight,” Phillip said.  “Hang on and be careful!”  He pulled us up right along side it and I made one valiant reach over the lifelines and nabbed it.  Whew!  With all of our gear, limbs and bodies intact, Phillip and I plopped down in the cockpit for a disheartened rendezvous.  It had been a hairy moment, and we were both glad to have survived it, but as we sat in the silence, our halyard wrapped around and banged loudly on the back-stay — as a reminder of failed efforts.


That’s it – wrapped around the back-stay:


I wanted to climb up on the boom and give it another go, but Phillip vetoed that plan.  He wasn’t going to let me climb up on the boom … this time.  Probably the right call that night, though, since it was dark.  We had already taken some substantial risks jumping around on tiptoes swatting at the damn thing and losing some equipment overboard in the process, but something just didn’t feel right about letting it flail about up there.  I mean, it is our main halyard.  But, the decision had been made.  We would deal with it in the daylight tomorrow.  We left her banging on the back-stay and motored on through the night toward Clearwater.  Having already suffered our own black swan moment, Movie Night was clearly over …

April 9, 2014 – Keys Log: Day 7 – MOTORIN’!

WHAT’S YOUR PRICE FOR FLIGHT??  At least I think those are the lyrics.


Feel free to test me (and jam to that oldie-but-a-goodie) here.  But, know that I don’t care either way, because that’s what I like to belt out.  “Finding Mr. Right!  Believe you will tonight!”  That’s the way I sing it.  And, the way I sung it that day.  We were “Motorin’!” down the ditch that day.  We had waited an extra day due to heavy winds and a kicked-up sea state out in the Gulf and while the winds had made for a good kite day for us yesterday, they made for a terrible night of unrest for us on the ole’ Rest.  They were blowing us hard against the dock, all night long, which meant lots of groaning and squeaking on the fenders.  It was a bit of a rough night for the boat.  While we had planned to leave at dawn, we ended up waiting a couple of hours for the wind to lie down.  She finally settled out some around 7:00 a.m., but we couldn’t wait much longer, we had a good 10 hours of motoring ahead of us if we were going to make it to Carabelle that night.  We neededst to go!

We sipped some coffee and readied the boat and I sat there contemplating the Gorton’s pants.  I just couldn’t bear to leave them hanging there so lonely on that pole,


and I certainly couldn’t wad them up and throw them in the trash.  We’d been through so much together!  While they made an absolute mess now every time I put them on, Phillip made the excellent point that it would be good to have a back-up set of foul weather gear – albeit a messy one – shoved away in some locker on the boat in case we had a third mate aboard who found himself foul weather gear-less.  Good point!  (Although I needed no real excuse to keep them on the boat as a good luck charm alone, it feels better to do it under sensible pretenses).  Either way, we folded them up and shoved them in a vberth locker,

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and I felt much better about it.  There, there Gorton’s.  You’re still with us!

Just as we were getting ready to shove off, our dock-mate, “Skipper Bob” on the s/v Maverick, came out to lend a hand.  The wind was blowing hard off the the starboard bow and we were wedged in fairly tight between our two dock-mates, Maverick and Liza. With Bob’s help, we decided to let the bow off and back out around Liza then turn starboard and move forward.  A great plan, in theory, but it was blowing about 18 knots. Phillip started to back out and tried to push his stern out far enough to clear Liza behind him but the wind wasn’t letting him move very far.  He went back and forth a couple of times (the beginnings of an 82-point turn) and finally just scooched outside of Liza but when he started to move forward, the wind pushed hard on the boat broadside and sent her stern back toward the pilings.  Bob and I looked like a pair of dancing monkeys, me on the boat and him on the dock, running the length of the boat shoving the boat off of pilings.  It was a mighty struggle.  I stuck a foot out and gave one last mighty push and the stern missed the dock by just inches and Phillip was revving hard to miss Bob and Pat’s boat in front of us.  Bob was a huge help, though, and a good sport.  As we just squeezed by his dinghy, he hollered out “You should’ve swiped her!  We need a new one!  Safe travels you guys!”  It was a heart-pounding moment and certainly not the way you want to start a leisurely morning.  When I finally made it back to the cockpit, heaving and sweating, my heart still thumping mightily in my chest, Phillip scolded me for sacrificing my body for the boat.  Rightfully so.  It was a good lesson.  Unfortunately, it was also one that I would not really learn until later, but that’s well on down the line. For the moment, we were finally off the dock, our adrenaline subsiding and we enjoyed the sunrise as we headed out into the bay.

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The view was amazing when we came under the bridge to Port St. Joe.  A gorgeous sunrise, the slightest bit of fog on the water and pelicans everywhere, just skimming the water.

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Well, most were skimming.  One wasn’t so lucky.  As we turned in under the bridge to Port St. Joe, we heard a mighty thump up at the bow.  I had been staring off the starboard side, watching some pelicans glide above the water, and I was shocked to now see one, ten feet away, flapping and wrestling around on our foredeck.  A pelican!  Flopping around on the boat!?!  For whatever reason, perhaps he’d had one too many Sailor Jerry’s at the old Pelican’s Perch the night before, or he was just the local pelican idiot, he had flown right into our Jenny sheet, and the more he squirmed and flung those big, clumsy wings of his around, the more tangled up he got.  The sheet was wrapped around his neck at one point.  I thought I might have to go rescue him and actually got a little excited thinking about it.  Man-handling a real, live pelican?  I mean, could it get any better?  Phillip and I watched him a moment or two longer in astonishment, exchanging a few lame guesses as to what in the hell had driven him right into our boat.  I remember Phillip saying at one point, “Is he retarded?”  Good question.  How do you know if a pelican is?  He finally flapped himself free of the Jenny line, though, and then waddled and snaggled his way through the lifelines and took off from the starboard bow.  I watched him fly for just a bit and then he quickly plopped down in the water, shook his head a hard time or two and just sat there for a bit.  Trying to get his bearings I would imagine.  Big dumb bird.  That was wild.

Once we’d shaken that image out of our mind, we sat back and enjoyed watching the sun come up over the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (“the ditch”).  It was incredible.  Big, rusty shrimp boats lining the docks, fog dissipating on the horizon, jagged tree stumps lining the shore.  I felt like we were making our way right down the ole’ Mississipp’ and that Huck Finn would pass by on his raft at any moment.  It was such a surreal feeling.

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We made a pot of piping oatmeal and savored our morning in the ditch.

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Lake Wimico was gorgeous too and we made a nice, easy day of it motoring over to Apalachicola.  We needed to fuel up for the planned Gulf Crossing tomorrow, so we stopped into the fuel dock just before Apalachicola Bridge and suffered our second docking debacle of the day.  I’m starting to think I’ve got some kind of horrendous docking curse.  The current was really working against us, pushing us right along the dock, so it was crucial we get a line on –and fast.  I called ahead to let them know we were coming (like I said, I’m not afraid to ask for an extra hand to save our boat!), and I threw the guy the bow line as we were coming in. It landed at his feet and before he could get down to it (sadly he did not move at the pace I do when we’re docking – that of a mad jackrabbit), and I watched in horror as it snaked slowly away from his feet and into the water.  I’m sure I didn’t hide my distaste very well …   But, perhaps I should have taken a lesson from him.  Phillip always says “Smooth is fast.”  As I scrambled wildly to pull the line back up before it made its way back to the prop, I slipped nicely on the wet foredeck and found the only thing that saved me from going overboard was the fat welp I had just created on my chin when it wedged against the lifeline.  Smooth Annie.  But, at least we knew the lifelines we had re-tied during our Keys preparations were working.


They certainly kept my sorry self on the boat that day, and it wouldn’t be the first time we would test them on this trip.  We finally got the boat secure at the fuel dock, though, and set about fueling her up.  If I haven’t expressed it quite clearly enough – I hate docking!  Something always seems to go awry and put our boat in grave danger.  It’s like watching your dog cross a busy street alone.  It’s just unnerving sometimes.

But, alas, we gassed up and made our way out into Apalachicola Bay.  It was a gorgeous day and we had favorable wind.  While our morning motoring was fun, we have a sailboat for a reason.  We like to sail!  I didn’t hesitate to jump up on the deck and ready our sails!


And, we were thrilled to see some guys out oystering in the St. George Sound.  When we ordered oysters in Port St. Joe, we had been told they came from Texas, because the local supply was low, so we were glad to see them out there harvesting.  They said the oysters were coming back.  Good!  Cause we like to eat ’em!


The wind picked up that afternoon, a steady northeast around 14 knots, and we actually did some of the best sailing yet on our trip.  We were heeled over, averaging 6.5, sometimes 7 knots most of the way.  That was the fastest we had gone the entire trip and it felt great!  I was curled up and leaning over the coaming on the windward side — pretty much the equivalent of a dog sticking his head out of the car window — watching the hull cut through the water.  We were sailing baby!

We made it over to Dog Island around dusk and got ready to drop the hook.  We had covered a lot of ground that day!

Dog Island

Log book:

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We struggled a bit with the anchor chain.  As part of our preparations for the trip to the Keys, we had pulled it all out at the dock to (a) check the length and (b) remark the 25-foot indicators.  Regarding the length, 200 feet was our belief, but we wanted to verify that and make sure the end was secured to the boat.  I certainly did not want to be the one to send the entire thing out and overboard because we’d never eye-balled the end. “Did you get the anchor out?” calls the Captain from the cockpit.  “Yep, just fine.  She’s all OUT!”  DOH!  So, we pulled her out for a look-see:

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And do know that the entire time we were hoisting chain along the dock, I couldn’t help but shake the song “Back on the chain gang!” from my head.

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All out – 200 feet total.


Yep.  Tied in.  Whew!  Now for the indicators:


25 feet


50 feet


75 feet


100 feet


125 feet


150 feet


175 feet.  End of the line!

While the chain gang project was a good thing to do (you want to be sure), we believe, for whatever reason, our having pulled it all out and winched it back in at the dock, without tension, caused it to pile up on itself in some unfavorable way in the anchor locker, which made it a mighty struggle to heave it out, but we finally got 150 feet out and set right to what we do best at anchorage.  Making some cocktails to enjoy the sunset!

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I have to say – we love our stand-up ice tray on the boat.  It makes these huge, Mad Men-esque cubes that look like they were made to be drenched in fine whiskey.  Or rum … we usually choose the latter.

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Dog Island was a fantastic anchorage.  Pristine actually.  Beautiful white sand, an exquisite view of both the Gulf on one side and St. George Sound on the other.  There were just a few old wooden houses, mansions really, propped up on stilts overlooking both sides.  And, the sunset was just stunning.

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We savored the moment – and a few more cocktails – made dinner and called it a night.   If things went well — and from our past record “well” wasn’t usually how things progressed for us when crossing the Gulf — but, if they did, we were looking at a thirty-hour passage out of the East Pass to Clearwater.  Well or otherwise, we were eager to see what the Gulf had in store for us tomorrow.