Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Video Updates of the trip to Florida from Demopolis

 During the trip that we made from Demopolis, Alabama to Florida, I recorded updates as I had new things to say. Some of them are a bit rambling, but some have some interesting footage. If you have a bit of time on your hands and want to learn more about the trip, please check them out. Just click on the links below.

Day 1, Leaving Demopolis: Day 1 - Leaving Demopolis

Day 2, Getting into river life: Day 2 - Getting into River life

Day 3,4,5: Day 3, 4, 5 - Challenges and Rest

Day 6: Crossing Mobile Bay and Beyond

Gulf Crossing: Gulf of Mexico Crossing 

It would be great if you would give the video a thumbs up or even subscribe to the channel. I am not trying to make money on this effort. It is purely to keep my friends and family updated on our travels and as a gift to my future self. Some day I hope that Kim and I will sit down and read and watch all of this content and relive this amazing part of our lives. 

Much Love,


There is more to come.

Exploring Tarpon Springs, Florida

 We arrived at Anclote Key on Sunday, November 28th. We spent the day resting up from our 50 hour sail from Pensacola. We had light winds and the water was very calm. The forecast was for the wind to pick up to around 12 knots overnight out of the North. The bad news is that we did not have any protection from that direction. I made a phone call to the Tarpon Springs City Marina and was pleasantly surprised to be told we could reserve one of the 6 transient slips for 2 nights. 

We had a beautiful sunrise before we left Anclote Key. You can see the power plant that is at the head of the Anclote river, which is where we were going.  

We were up early when the boat started to rock a bit from the increasing wind. It was not bad at all, but we were eager to get to a dock and get off of the boat. We pulled the anchor and we were on our way. We only motored about 7 miles to the head of the channel that is the Anclote river that leads the 5 miles inland to the docks of Tarpon Springs.  

We had stopped at a small anchorage at the head of the Anclote river in 2019. It was the place we had met up with our buddy boat, with Byron and Mary on it, to cross the gulf going north.

This time we continued up the river. The channel is well marked and has plenty of depth until you get to town. As we approached the marina, a dock hand yelled to us to watch the shallow water in the middle of the basin. That caused me to change my approach in mid turn and I did a poor job of getting in the slip. We scuffed a bit on a piling, but all was good and we got tied up to the very strange floating dock. I guess we have gotten used to the wonderful floating docks at Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis, and everything we have seen since then, have been a disappointment. Dillon, that met us to help tie up, gave us lots of local information. There is also a tourist information office in the same building as the city marina office.

This is the Tarpon Springs City Marina office and Visitor Center. They also have bathrooms and a nice shower. There is only one shower, but with only 6 slips, we never had to wait.

 We met some dock neighbors that had been in town for a week and they gave us the best places to visit and eat. Tarpon Springs was founded by Greek immigrants. They were both fishermen and sponge divers. This is one of the best places to find natural sponges on the seabed. 

We decided to take a walk and see what the waterfront looked like.

Kim standing in front of a statue dedicated to the sponge divers and the Christmas tree.

A sponge boat drying its catch. The docks were decorated for the season.

After exploring the docks we stopped at one of the traditional Greek bakery to get some sweets. Then it was off to the restaurant that was recommended by our dock neighbors. Sadly, Katarina's was closed on Monday's. We walked on to the center of town.

St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Cathedral is in the center of town.

On our walk back, we stopped at a Greek Deli for a Gyro. What a great find. We had an excellent meal at an excellent price. 

On our walk back to the boat we saw this hawk sitting on the hood of this truck. I thought it may be injured when it did not fly as I approached, but when I got too close it flew away. What a beautiful bird. 

The following day we met up with the former owners of SHIFT, Don and Kim. They were kind enough to make a drive up from Palmetto. We did have an excellent meal at Katarina's on that day. If you guys are reading this, Thanks for coming!

The Tarpon Springs vibe was very different from the places we have been in the recent past. There were open air bars and restaurants with live music. We could sit in the cockpit of the boat and enjoy the cool evenings and listen to music. It was cooler than normal and the locals let us know that. They were all dressed in hats and coats, while we walked around in shorts and T-shirts. 

We decided to extend our stay by one night, making our stay in Tarpon Springs three nights. On our last day we took a walk to get a prescription refill. On the way, we had heard about a spring where there we manatees swimming. 

Historic car and building 

There are some beautiful homes in the city center.

This is the park that we saw many manatees swimming around the spring. We took some video that I will post at some point on my YouTube channel. 

We really enjoyed our walk around town and then we hit a grocery store and the Walgreens. We got a taste of the cruising life when I put a gallon of milk and some fresh fruit and vegetables in my backpack and carried them the 2 miles back to the boat. Luckily Florida is flat. 

That was about it for Tarpon Springs. We were now out of time and were ready to get on the move again the next day. Where would we go next? In my next entry, I will write about our 4 straight travel days to arrive in paradise. The only problem is that I made a big mistake along the way.

SHIFT in slip #2 at Tarpon Springs City Marina. Ready for her next adventure. 



Monday, December 13, 2021

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico (part 2)

 In my last entry, I left you after 17 hours of sailing from the Pensacola inlet to somewhere south of Port St. Joe. We had sailed in rough sea conditions in winds ranging from 15 to 25 knots. The winds were not too bad, it was the confused sea state that was the most uncomfortable for the crew of SHIFT. It was now midnight and we had about 6 hours more of sailing off into the darkness. 

We both knew that the main thing we had to guard against was sleep depravation. In the previous 4 overnight sails that we have done, I slept very little and by the time we arrived, I was not thinking as clearly as I would like. This first night, Kim was seasick, and her best option was to curl up under her blanket on the starboard side of the cockpit and go to sleep. This made her feel much better and made me happy to see that. 

This is a shot of the sea state at sunset of the first day. The camera never does the sea justice. I did take some video that shows it much better. I am making some videos that combine my many video updates and posting them on my YouTube Channel. I will post the links in a future blog post. 

 The good news is that the conditions were consistent and we had no squalls. This allowed me to just sit back with my feet braced to the base of the starboard lazarette in the cover of the dodger and let the auto-pilot drive the boat. I was able to close my eyes for about 15 minutes at a time and then look around for any activity and check our course. I was able to watch a constellation off our starboard side that told me we were still on course.

The one downside to all of this sailing is that the auto-pilot had to work hard and that combined with all of the lights and instruments was taking a toll on our batteries. At one point during the night, I had to run the engine for about an our to recharge. I did not even put it in gear. We did not need any more speed. 

As we got close to sunrise, Kim woke up and said she felt much better. She insisted that I lay down and try to sleep. I did, and I slept hard for about an hour. When I awoke, I felt much better and that we could make it through.

Sunrise on the second day. The boat was covered with salt spray. 

As the sun rose you could see a slightly improving sea state. You can also see that we are now under full sails.

I have come to love sunrises at sea. 

  As we got into the day the sea state was improving and the wind was decreasing. At one point, I went back to sleep. This time I slept for about 2 hours and Kim was able to read her book. I awoke to winds now down to 10 to 15 knots and seas that were comfortable. I shook out the reefs in the sails and went to full sails. Our speed was running between 5 and 6 knots, but in a very comfortable way. The second day was really fun. 

As we got close to night fall the winds got even weaker. The forecast did say that by the end of Saturday the winds would become light and variable. We were able to sail until about midnight. 

It seems I only take pictures of sunsets and sunrises while we are at sea.

Sunset on the second day. 

Based on the current speed it looked like we would be arriving in the Tarpon Springs area in the morning on our third day. The last evening was some slow sailing and then I had to make the decision to start the engine. We had traveled over 220 miles by sail and that felt very good. We now had to motor the last 50+ miles. The seas were now calm and very comfortable. I felt confident in the new engine and was able to add significantly to my sleep that last evening. Kim was well rested. She said that she felt that she had slept most of the trip. I awoke to watch the sunrise on the third day. We had traveled over 250 miles and had only seen one other boat. I expected that to change as we approached land on a calm Sunday morning. 

First light on our last day of the passage. What a welcome sight.

Not sailing, but land not far off

I just love this shot.

 We knew we were close when we started seeing crab pots. Those buoys become a problem heading into the rising sun. Kim went to the bow with our headsets on and we talked our way through the last 20 miles to land. We also started seeing other boats. I am sure many were charter boats heading out with their customers for a day on the flat gulf. 

The conditions looked perfect to pull in behind a small key called Anclotte Key. It is really just a spit of sand with no visible vegetation, but it offers some protection and a place to set the anchor and rest. That is exactly what we did. I sent out a few texts and posted something on Facebook to let our family and friends that we were safe. 

Hard to see in this shot, but that is the key that protected us for our first night. There is a small boat on the left and some people walking on the sand in the distance. 

We felt great to be done and are very proud of our accomplishment. After getting the hook down and set, I went to bed and slept for a couple of hours. That is all I really needed. After sailing for 275 miles in 2 days, 2 nights and 2 hours = 50 hours, I felt great. I think we learned a lot on this trip. We learned how to manage the boat in rough weather and we also learned how tough SHIFT is. She felt like she was on rails the entire time. We also did a much better job of managing ourselves. If we ever make a longer passage, that will be even more critical. 

So, what do you do after spending 7 days on the boat and crossing the Gulf of Mexico? You go to a dock and take a walk in a cool Fishing village with amazing history. Come back to see our exploration of Tarpon Springs, Florida. 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico - Part 1

 In my last entry, we were anchored in Ingram Bayou enjoying the Dolphin shows. Our entire focus was on our plans to sail to the Tarpon Springs area of Florida. There was many ways we could do it. We could hug the coast along the panhandle and day hop to Destin, then Panama City, Then go inside to the ICW at Port St. Joe and then down to Carrabelle. From Carrabelle we could then make a 24 hour crossing down to Tarpon Springs. That is the route that we used (only in reverse) when we were coming north in March of 2020. The problem with that route is you have to find multiple weather windows that match your sailing plans and there is a significant amount of motoring. After coming down the river, we were tired of motoring. We wanted to sail as much as possible. SHIFT is a sailboat after all. 

We had this perfect weather window for the day after Thanksgiving, November 26th. It looked like we could head SE out of Pensacola with a 15 knot wind on our beam and head in the direction of just SE of Port St. Joe. We had a bailout at that point if the conditions were not to our liking or if we had a problem. After the first 24 hours, the wind was forecast to diminish to around 10 knots for the next 24 hours and then get very light on Saturday night as we would be approaching the Florida Coast. 

On Thanksgiving day, we weighed anchor and headed out of Ingram Bayou. We motored along the ICW to the Pensacola inlet. 

There was a lot to see along the ICW to Pensacola. This area was hit hard by Hurricane Sally in Fall of 2020. This boat was still up on dry land. 

Lots of nice homes along the water. This one has a nice sailboat.

The anchorage that we selected is right next to the inlet. It is a small basin surrounded by mounds of sand that were deposited here by dredges working in the inlet. 

When we arrived there were a number of other boats at anchor enjoying the nice day. There was one group that had a large pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, we were not invited. We baked some sweet potatoes and warmed up some deli sliced turkey and had our Thanksgiving feast. 

Here is a shot of the other boats in the anchorage. 

As forecast the wind died off to nothing about sunset. It was beautiful. 

I just love this shot with the Blue Heron on the spit of sand.

Sundown meant it was time to get some sleep and get ready for what was to come. The uncertainty is the hardest part. I was pretty nervous, but I slept well. I would need it.

The forecast called for a wind shift at 2 AM to the North and around 15 knots. I was uncomfortable with a boat that was anchored near me. He had a stern anchor out which meant that he was going to take that north wind broadside. After the day boats left, I pulled up my anchor and moved about 50 yards to stay clear of him. 

We were awoken at exactly 2 AM to the sound of strong wind in the rigging. I got up and found that we were laying  exactly as I had hoped. Clear of other boats and now on the other side of the basin pointed into the now strong north wind. I went back to bed and waited for daylight. 

Just before sunrise, we raised the anchor and headed out to the inlet. I decided to raise the mainsail in the protected water of the bay. We turned and headed out the inlet with a strong 2.5 knot current on our tail, just as had been predicted. I have learned a lot in the past few years of sailing and checking and planning for tides and currents in one of the most important things to do. We had a smooth ride to open water. 

As we headed out we sent a text to 2 of our sons to let them know we were on our way. We had already sent them our float plan and they knew what to do if they did not hear from us. 

Here is our planned route. You can see, we will get pretty close to land after about 100 miles of the 275 trip. Also notice the 7.3 knots of speed over ground.

This is our view as we left the inlet. It was a smooth ride.

When the time came, we made our turn to the East and unfurled our head sails. We had 15 knots of wind and about 3 foot seas. Our speed jumped to 7 knots. It felt great. We got set on a port tack and held that for the entire trip. 

As we headed further from land the wind began to pick up. We started seeing upper teens and the seas were building. I decided it was time to reef. I left the mainsail full, but furled the staysail. Then I furled the Genoa about 50% to be conservative. The boat leveled out a bit, but still was ripping along at 7 knots. We were now rising and falling close to 6 feet in the confused seas. It was a bit exciting, but SHIFT took it all in stride and made no uncomfortable moves. The Autopilot was having to work hard with the confused seas, but was able to keep up. We were just along for the ride. 

This pace continued all day and actually intensified a bit with some gusts as high as 25 knots. We were sustained at about 17 knots of wind dead out of the north. 

As the sun got low in the sky we were treated to an awesome sunset. 

Sunsets at sea are amazing. You can see the confused seas. It was quite a ride. 

At this point in the trip we were both feeling the heavy seas. I was trying to keep food and drink in me and I felt ok. Kim got sick at one point, but afterwards felt much better. She laid down on the starboard side of the cockpit and fell asleep. When she awoke around 10 PM, she told me that she felt good. I asked her if she wanted to go in at Port St. Joe, she said no. We actually got cell signal for a short time and was able to send a text to our boys that all is well and we were going to keep going. 

At that point it was right about midnight. We had covered 110 miles in 17 hours. That is a 6.5 NM per hour average. That is fast for us. We were now on Eastern time and ready to make the move out into the open gulf. All was going well.

In my next entry, I will finish this story. We still had a long ways to go and we would have to spend another night at sea.