Monday, December 10, 2018

4 Hour Tour on a 40 Foot Sailboat

We arrived in Gulfport, Mississippi on November 18. We had plans to stay in the Big Biloxi Campground. Big Biloxi is a National Forest Service Campground. It has electric and water hook ups, but does not take reservations. We have found that campgrounds that do not take reservations are fairly easy to get in. You just need to arrive by early afternoon and arrive on a Sunday through Thursday. Big Biloxi is a nice little campground with easy access to the main highway heading south to Gulfport. We were only about 14 miles to the water. We only paid $20 per night and had great Verizon service and good OTA TV.

Site 15 at Big Biloxi - The largest site in the park.
This was the week of Thanksgiving, but that is not the reason we came to Gulfport. After spending all of last summer learning to sail on our little lake in Missouri with our Hunter 22, we wanted to charter a big sailboat and get out in some more open water. Neither Kim or I had ever been off shore more than a short distance in a boat, other than a large cruise ship or ferry. I looked at a map and the shortest distance to open water from Missouri is Gulfport. I looked for a charter company in the area and found North Star Sailing Charters. When I contacted them, Captain Jim King was quick to offer exactly what we wanted. We not only wanted to ride on his boat, we wanted to help crew it. Jim's response was "No Problem!"

Jim King is also an American Sailing Association certified instructor. I am sure he was thinking this was just going to be our first lesson with him. Jim is a retired Air Force Pilot. He flew C-130's during his time with the US Air Force.

When I contacted Jim to make final arrangements for our trip, we had to work around some weather issues. We decided on a 4.5 hour trip out to Cat Island. Cat is one of the barrier islands that sit about 6 miles off shore. We would not be sailing in the open Gulf of Mexico. This area between the barrier islands and the coast is called the Mississippi Sound. That was fine with us, 6 miles should give us a good taste of coastal navigation and some other large ship traffic coming in and out of the Port of Gulfport. The trip was scheduled for Tuesday the 20th of November.

On Monday, Kim and I went down to the docks to check the place out. We have been to the Gulf many times and I can never remember seeing it so calm. There was no wind! The good news was that there was some wind in the forecast for the following day. We walked around on this beautiful day and looked at all of the boats. We easily found the North Star dock. Here is a shot of Kashmir. She is a Catalina 40 MK2, a beautiful boat.

I had trouble sleeping on Monday night. I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. We got to the dock early on Tuesday and watched as Jim came in to dock after a morning lesson. We headed out at 1 PM. We got the motor started and after a short safety briefing,  Jim looked at me and told me to take the helm. I drove this big beauty right out of the slip. We cleared the channel and the lessons started. I turned her head to wind and we unfurled the sails and shut down he engine. We were Sailing! The rest of the trip was just a dream. We had autopilot, but I wanted to "drive", so we did most of the time. We had winds between 10 and 20 knots and a swell of 1 to 3 feet. This boat handled it all with amazing ease. I now see the advantage of a 40 foot boat in rough water. I do feel confident, I could have sailed on this day, in this water, in our 22, but it was so much easier in the 40. Kim enjoyed moving around the boat and taking pictures, she even took the helm for a while. We took hundreds of pictures, even Jim took a bunch he sent us after the trip.

Jim King giving me directions getting our of the harbor

Unfurling the sails. This boat had a mast furled mainsail.

We did see some dolphins

I had to dodge this barge

Kim riding the bow. It did get chilly as the day wore on.

Beautiful Sunset. This is where we want to be! Nice Hair!
We sailed down wind out to Cat Island. As we turned into the wind to head back in, the wind came up a bit and we were now feeling the wind that had been with us earlier in the day. We fully unfurled the headsail and this boat showed me what she had. We went to wind with a bit of heal and topped out at a bit over 6 knots. I was in heaven. 

Check out our angle of lean in this picture. 
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset. It was a near perfect day. Jim is a great captain and a great story teller. I would highly recommend his charters to anyone that wants to experience sailing. As far as this being my first lesson, I am sure this was just the first of many to come.

We ended up spending 7 days in Gulfport and had a fun time touring other marinas and checking out the area. Kim did fix dinner on Thanksgiving.  It was quiet, but still a nice day.

We love the gulf coast and were not done with our boating adventures. Come back to see where we went next and what kind of boat we would be in this time.


  1. What an exciting adventure! Do I see a 40'er in your future?!?!?

    1. One of the main reasons we are in Florida is to begin the process of boat shopping. We have so much to learn.