Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Trip North

I am writing this entry from the ranch in Missouri. We have been crazy busy the past two weeks. We made the drive to Missouri on September 14 and 15. It feels very strange to be here in our home on wheels. SHIFT is alone in her slip in Palmetto, Florida. We are watching the weather closely, praying that no hurricanes come to that area.

This entry will be about what we did just after Hurricane Dorian turned north and missed the west coast of Florida. As the hurricane headed north it brought solid 15-25 knot winds out of the west and dry air to the Tampa Bay area. As many of the boats in the marina were getting put back in the water, we quickly got ready to head out on a trip. We have been wanting to check out the area to the north of Tampa Bay and this would be our opportunity to sail in some stronger winds.

We headed out on Thursday, September 5. We had to go west to exit the bay, so we made a few long tacks to get the right angle to exit the inlet. The sailing was brisk, with 20 knot wind gusting to 25. We sailed under the first reef in the main and about 50% genoa. The boat felt very balanced and did not heel much at all. By the time we made it to the inlet, the wind over the top of the outgoing current created some huge waves. We started out, but quickly turned back. It was just too rough and Kim was feeling a bit sick.

There is an island called Egmont Key at the entrance to Tampa Bay. I turned the boat back to get in the lee of Egmont. We still had good wind,but the waves were significantly reduced. We sailed around the bay for a couple more hours and then decided to drop the hook behind Egmont for the night and get an early start the next morning.

As we were eating dinner, this Carnival Cruise Ship headed out of Tampa.
Lots of Pelicans and other birds

The anchorage was a bit rolly, but we got some sleep. The strong breeze kept us reasonably comfortable and no bugs.
We would like to have been closer to Egmont, but the water gets too shallow to chance it. The breeze was nice, but the constant roll and the passing of the pilot boats that base on Egmont made for an uncomfortable night. We were up early the next morning to try again to exit the bay and head up the coast. We had to motor directly into the 20 knot breeze to stay in the narrow ship channel. The waves were not as large as the previous afternoon, but still big. We could only muster between 3 to 4 knots. A large ship came in while we were in the channel, we stayed as far to starboard as we could and passed comfortably. It took almost 2 hours to get to the point that we could turn north and put the wind on the beam and shut down the engine.

That is the Century Royal coming at us at 12.3 knots. My AIS system show these ships on my chartplotter.
Just as we turned north, we passed this tug pulling two barges:

We sailed north for about 6 hours in 4-6 feet seas with 15 to 20 knots of breeze. Kim and I debate how big the larges waves were, but I am sure they were close to 8 feet. This is exactly the type of sailing we wanted to do to gain confidence in both us and the boat. I was never concerned for our safety, but was happy to arrive at the inlet in Clearwater.

A shot of us coming into the Clearwater inlet.
We came in passed the hotels and condos and intersected with the ICW and turned back south for about a half mile to the Bellview Island Anchorage. It was a perfectly calm night with a nice breeze. We both slept great.

Sunset at Bellview Island, Clearwater in the distance.
Beautiful Sunrise at Bellview Island
 We relaxed for a bit and decided we wanted to go further north to some barrier islands that promised to have some nice beaches. The wind had died down overnight, so we decided to just motor up the ICW.

Kim took this shot of me at the helm. 
There was a lot of boat traffic on this Saturday. We had to open one bridge, but for the most part it was an easy trip.

You never know what you will see as you motor along. A Shark Boat!
We tried to anchor close to an island in Anaclote State Park, but got a bit too close for comfort. It got shallow very quickly. We reversed course and moved a bit further away. It was fun to watch all of the families enjoying their day on the beach. Later in the evening, after all of the boats left, we swam to shore and took a walk on the beach. We would have taken the dingy, but we forgot to get the dingy gas before we left the marina.

Lots of boats on this little sand island. 
Beautiful sunset at Anaclote State Park
We were up early on Sunday, like before sunrise to make the trip back to Palmetto. The winds were supposed to be 8 to 10 knots in the morning, but only 5 in the afternoon. We made it about 2 miles with some wind and then it went to zero. What a difference 2 days make. It was like a big calm lake. We had to motor all the way back to Tampa Bay. It was actually a very pleasant day. We took turns on the foredeck in my chair watching for crabpots, dolphins and turtles. Sadly, still no good pictures of dolphins or turtles.

In this shot you can see how calm the seas were. I spent much of it on the foredeck in my very comfortable chair taking pictures. It was a very relaxing day.
As we got to Tampa Bay the wind increased and we were able to do a bit of motor sailing. As we came through the inlet this large ship was on it's way out.

We made it back to the marina at 6 pm. It was a very good trip. We learned a lot and that will certainly help us with our future plans.

We spent the next week working on the boat. I replaced a raw water pump that was leaking and sent the old one out to see if it could be rebuilt. I then changed the oil in the engine. We have put 75 hours on the engine in the two months since we have owned SHIFT. I then replaced the rusted out water heater that may have been original to the 26 year old boat. We took advantage of great wind on Wednesday and sailed over 30 miles in the bay. That brought up our total miles to over 200 nm in the first 11 days of September.

We had a rigging inspection done on Thursday, and found all of the major things looked good. We will have to replace some minor rigging and we found issues with both head sails. We took them off and took them to North Sails in St. Petersburg on Friday morning on our way out of town. They will hopefully be able to fix them while we are in Missouri.

Our future plans include staying in Missouri until October 17th. We will fly back to Tampa and rent a car for 3 days to do our final provisioning and pick up our sails. We expect to spend close to $500 on food to stock the boat for our 5 to 6 month trip to the Florida Keys and back to Alabama. I will probably not write much for the next month. We will relax in Missouri and get ready for the adventure ahead.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Dorian Spared Us

It has been about 10 days since my last update. I really wanted to write sooner, but we have been very busy. This one will be short to try to not fall too far behind.

First off, Dorian turned north and missed us completely. We are safe and sound and had no damage to the boat. On Friday, August 30, we were very concerned. The forecast track had it coming right at us. It would go over the Florida peninsula first and lose some strength, but it would have still done significant damage. By Saturday, the track was changing and we decided to not take down our canvas and other planned preparation. Here is what the boat looked like.

If you look closely, you can see all of the extra lines. I think we had about 14 lines on the boat. You may also notice there are no boats next to us. Many of the boats in the marina had been hauled out.

A row of very expensive motor yachts

A 58 Marquis from Dallas, Texas. She was only here a few days. 
We felt so good about everything on Sunday that we went to the Bradenton Beach after church. We had an awesome time walking along the beach and swimming in the clear water. There was almost no wind and just a beautiful day until mid afternoon. That is when we started to feel the effects of the storm. We just had some strong thunderstorms and 30 knot winds. That stayed with us until Wednesday.

We felt strange praying for the hurricane to go away, because we knew if it was not us, it was going to hit some other place. The damage reports from the Bahamas are amazing and terrible. We are hoping to visit the Bahamas in 2021, we pray for their recovery.

By Thursday, we had strong wind and dry weather. We decided to take a trip. I will write about that trip in my next entry.