Thursday, March 18, 2021

Sail out to Ship Island

 When we first arrived in Gulfport, we knew we wanted to sail out to the barrier islands that make up the gulf side of the Mississippi Sound. We had sailed along them on our trip to Gulfport from Mobile, and they looked beautiful. We have made a number of day sails out to the water around the islands, but the conditions have never been right to drop the hook and spend the night. 

We have been warned by many sailors in the marina that the islands can be treacherous. They offer no protection from the wind and waves other than a south wind. I have been waiting for warmer weather, good wind during the day that would drop off overnight, and out of the south. The forecast for March 12th and 13th, was for exactly those conditions. The only problem is that Ship Island is directly SE of Gulfport. That was the direction of the wind, which meant we could not sail directly there. We would have to make a number of tacks to get to our target. 

We left the marina at 10AM. I almost made a major mistake as we left, by getting in a hurry and missing a major item on my checklist. I forgot to open the raw water through hull that provides cooling water to the engine. I caught it in time and all was OK, but it still bothered me all day that I would make such a significant mistake. I have since added some additional safeguards to reduce the chance that I would make such a mistake again. 

As soon as we were in open water, we had the sails up and headed out in the direction of Cat Island. The wind was strong at about 15 knots and we were moving at 6-7 knots under full sails. We made it to Cat island in less than 2 hours. That anchorage looked a bit rolly with the strong wind, so we tacked and headed in the direction of Biloxi. That was a long leg at over 2 hours and almost 15 miles. The conditions were perfect. That is when I recorded the first part of the video below:

Click this link to see a short video about our trip: Sail to Ship Island

Sometimes video just captures the scene better, but here are a few shots of our sail:

We are showing 6.8 knots on the GPS. We saw over 8 a few times this day.

Cat Island off the port bow.

SHIFT in her element! Cruising along with good wind.

As we approached the beach in Biloxi, we could see people on the beach and tell what brand of car was on Beach Blvd.. We then made another tack and headed back SW. We sailed all the way out the pass between Cat and Ship island into the open Gulf of Mexico. We then tacked back two more short ones and then motored the last half mile to the anchorage. The wind was dying off throughout the afternoon, so the anchorage was reasonably calm. We dropped the hook in 24 feet of water and settled in for the night. 

Our view of the fort and pier on Ship Island

A view without the sailboat hardware. 

We had the anchorage all to ourselves as we settled in for the sunset. Just as the sun was going down a catamaran joined us, but dropped the hook a good distance down the beach. 

Nice Sunset at Ship Island

Our neighbor for the evening

The wind died of to nothing as forecast. We had a very restful night. When we awoke the next morning, we were in a thick fog. It was so thick we could not see the island or pier.

Thick fog, no island. 

Around 9 am the fog lifted enough for us to get the dinghy down and put the motor on and make the short trip to shore. It has been since last summer that we had used the dinghy, but I have done the maintenance and it ran perfectly. 

SHIFT at anchor shrouded in the fog

Just another shot of our home

Our little dinghy tied to the pier.

Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island.

This is the main entrance to the fort, but it was closed.

Lots of damage from hurricane Zeta, that is not being repaired.

These Redwing Blackbirds were very friendly and followed us around as we explored the island.

There is a significant amount of infrastructure on this island. There are bathrooms and rangers quarters and even a snack bar. All were damaged by hurricane Zeta. The strange thing is there is no work going on to repair the damage in preparation for the coming summer season. I am not sure what is going on, I plan to do some research to better understand why.

There is a boardwalk across the island to the gulf side beach. Much of the walkway was destroyed, but previous visitors have found planks and laid them across the supports to make it possible to visit the beach. We all know that one of the main objectives was for Kim to take a walk on the beach. On this day we had the beach all to ourselves. It was foggy, but still beautiful.

Kim is never happier than when she is on a beach.

The view down this empty beach. The only footprints were ours. There are plenty of beautiful shells, but you shouldn't take them, it is a National Park.

Nice shore break on the gulf side. I want to surf fish there one day.

There is a big cannon up there on the top, I wish we could have gone inside to look around. 

We went back to the boat and I fished for a couple of hours. I caught 4 fish, but all Gaftop Sail Catfish, which I don't eat. It was then about 1 PM and even though the wind was still light, we pulled the anchor and started our sail back to Gulfport. The good news is the light wind was right behind us for a downwind sail back to the marina. As we went, the wind picked up a bit and we had a fun sail until the fog rolled in. At one point we could not see more than 100 yards. I was able to use by instruments to make the approach. We made the channel in the dense fog and felt our way to our slip. As luck would have it, a half hour after arrival the visibility was about 5 miles. All in all it was a great trip and we can't wait to go back out see some of the other islands. The problem will be waiting for the perfect forecast. 

We have had a warm week here in Gulfport with some highs in the low 80's, but last night that all changed. We had a strong line of thunderstorms hit us at about 9 pm with 45 knot gusts. It reinforced our thinking that we don't want to be out of the marina when the storms are around. That will influence our plans over the next few months. In my next entry, I will talk about our plans.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Champagne Sailing

 For the most part we have had a very relaxed time here in Gulfport, Mississippi. We have had cool weather that makes sailing a bit cold. We have decided we prefer to have more than 70 degrees, but not more than 85. It would be great if someone would tell me where we can see a nice 10 to 15 knot breeze and temperatures in that range all of the time. Oh yeah, and nice warm water. That would be good also. 

The boat work is never done, but SHIFT is ready to sail and so are we. It had been very foggy for about 3 days. 

SHIFT in the thick fog.

No wind, but thick fog.

When we got up on Sunday, February 28th it was no different. I went for my morning walk, but cut it short when I saw the fog lifting and the sun warming the air to over 70 degrees. We had a nice 10 knot breeze. I got back to the boat and asked Kim if she would like to go sailing. Sure! was her answer, and in 30 minutes we were off of the dock.

I recorded this video after we were under way: Sailing Mississippi Sound

(click on the link to watch the video)

As we approached Cat Island, we started seeing dolphins breaking the surface of the water. Before long there was a large pod of them all around the boat. We saw birds swooping down to the water and baitfish desperately trying to escape.   We saw dolphins jumping completely out of the water. We also saw some slapping their tails on the surface. It lasted for about a half hour.   It was quite a show. It was easily our best dolphin show yet. I shot some video, but it is not that great. I will do some editing and see if I can do something with it. 

We ended the day with some sailing with two other sailboats from our marina. They say that whenever there are two boats out on the water it becomes a race. So, we all raced back to the marina. We had to make one tack, but SHIFT did very well going upwind. We did have to wait for a large ship that was coming into the commercial port. We ended up second.

Large Ship coming down the channel at about 14 knots.

We held up and let him go in front of us. 

It was a great day sailing and we can't wait to go again. 

This past weekend we had our first dock party of the year. I understand that our pier is known for their dock parties. It was great! We had two live bands and plenty of food. 

I have been doing some crabbing and fishing here in the marina after I have seen some others doing very well. No luck yet, but hopefully soon. 

I have been keeping up with my daily 3 mile walks. I love to check out the birds in the area.

Four Snowy Egrets on this dock.

This Blue Heron and I have become friends. He hangs out on the jetties and is quite bold. He will stand right behind a fisherman waiting for a handout. When I walk by, he comes over and looks for food. When I show him I don't have any, he leaves to beg elsewhere. 

The featured boat this week is this beautiful little sub 30 foot Ketch. The masts on this boat are made of Sitka Spruce. The Teak is all being replaced by a master ship builder. I had a nice conversation with him one day about his project. Another labor of love.

Beautiful little Ketch.

Now that it is March, we are planning to do much more frequent sailing and some anchoring out at the islands that lay offshore. I am hoping to write about that in coming entries. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Surviving a Polar Vortex on a Sailboat

 It has been a few weeks since I have written in this blog. To say I have been uninspired, would be an understatement. I have always said that I never wanted to feel like this was a "job", so when I don't feel like writing, I don't. 

As we all know, the week of February 8, 2021 was one for the record books. It was record setting in coastal Mississippi also, but it was very mild in comparison. We saw the coldest recorded temperatures in over 100 years. My family reported power outages in Texas that lasted a few days while temperatures were in single digits. There was snow on the beach in Galveston. It was colder than minus 10 degrees F in Missouri at the ranch where pipes burst and created quite a mess. The good news is that our son Scott was there to shut off the pump and then fix the pipes. 

We only saw one night that got down to 20 degrees. The marina staff opened all of the water spigots at each slip, so we had some icicles, but that is the only ice we had. Gulfport was one of the few places in the country, other than Florida, that had no snow or ice. We have a small electric heater that kept us nice and warm during the worst of it. We never lost power. SHIFT did fine and has no issues as long as we keep it warm inside. 

I did not have any problem keeping busy during the cold snap. We were still testing the new holding tank with just fresh water when I found that the system was leaking. I spent two days taking the tank back out and replacing the fittings with brass and using a different pipe thread compound. While I was doing that, I tried to evacuate the water in the tank with our macerator pump. Well, the pump did not work. I did some troubleshooting and determined the pump was bad. The good news is we have a brand new spare. In the process of installing the new one, I found a bad hose and clamp that could have burst and leaked a nasty mixture into the boat. I think SHIFT was just trying to tell me that I wasn't done fixing her yet. 

The brand new macerator pump on the left and the old one on the right. 

 Since this refix, all seems to be good and we now are using it again. Boat life...

After the cold front passed we were eager to find a day to go sailing. The forecast for February 22nd was for sunny conditions with 65 degrees and wind of 10 to 15 knots out of the NW. We tossed off the dock lines and headed out into the sound. We put up the sails and then as we rounded the end of the jetty, BAM! we got hit by 20 knots and gusts over 25. Hello! oh well, it is always good to get some heavy weather sailing practice in. We furled the Genoa and sailed on the Main and staysail. SHIFT was in her element. It was a comfortable ride. We stayed out there for about 5 hours enjoying the fast ride and sunny day. The cool thing about sailing here on the Mississippi sound is even with the strong wind,  there were flat seas.

SHIFT cruising along at 4.9 knots on just a staysail up front. Notice the flat seas.

Kim doing what she does. Coiling lines and organizing the cabin top.  

One of my favorite activities when we are not working on our own boat is walking around the docks checking out the other boats and talking to other boaters. There is a very special boat that is sitting about 100 feet from ours. She is a 1929 Red Banks. She was made in New Jersey and was originally a passenger carrying boat around the bays there. We have met the owners and they are in the process of varnishing the exterior, which looks like a monumental task, but it is so cool to see her survive and be cared for. 

1929 Red Banks

Those are stained glass windows on the back of the cabin.

A nice shot on a sunny day.

 It is now March and we are ready to really step up the sailing and adventurizing around this area. We had one of our best sails ever this past Sunday. I will tell you why it was so awesome, in my next entry. Maybe it will not be a month from now.