Dec 21, 2016
Adamant 1 has had a busy month. We only stayed in Mobile long enough to get the mast put up and get provisions for the boat. Unless you rent a vehicle, there really isn’t anything to do near the marinas, so we didn’t linger.
We sailed across shallow Mobile Bay and entered the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. The narrow canal has been built up quite a bit since we last saw it in 2008. We sailed past miles of homes, new marinas, condos and high, white sand dunes. There was also a large fort, set up as a museum, complete with cannons pointing out into the Gulf of Mexico. We were headed to Pensacola to meet with friends we had sailed with on our last Loop. The Pensacola Yacht Club normally does not take transients, but as guests of prominent members, as well as being a Canadian vessel, we were given royal treatment.
It is a large and beautiful club with all the amenities of a country club: pool, bar, dining room and ballroom. Larry and Ann-Marie quickly got us off-loaded from Adamant onto their boat, an Island Packet 44, and we headed out to a club rendezvous that included an air show with special appearance by the Blue Angels as a highlight. Then they had a beach potluck fish fry at dinner, then a potluck breakfast the next morning. What a lovely weekend, a vacation from our vacation!
We headed out at noon on Tuesday, and after pouring a tot of rum for Neptune, we headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. The 26-hour trip to St. Joe’s Inlet was a combination of sailing and motor sailing, part of which was done under the super moon. The moon was so bright we didn’t need a light to check on the sails during the night.
We dropped anchor in Saul Creek, 5 miles west of Apalachicola, in the early afternoon. This creek is usually a hangout for alligators, but we never saw any. At 6 am the next morning we heard the weather window to get to Clearwater was open and unless we wanted to wait a week for another window, we needed to head out right away. It was a motor sail the whole way. Thiry hours later, we pulled into Clearwater Beach. It took two days to recover from those two crossings, but we were happy to be done with the Gulf, or so we thought!
One of the days we were in Clearwater, we took the trolley to Tarpon Springs, the sponge capital of the US. We took in the museum, the docks where a boat loaded with sponges had just arrived, and the carnival-like main street. It’s a Greek town, so we stayed for a fabulous Greek meal complete with Greek wine!
When the wind died down, we headed south, intending to stop to visit places we hadn’t stopped on our first trip. We threaded our way through the narrow canals for a number of miles, then crossed Tampa Bay where we were able to sail. We wanted to visit Anna Maria Island and Active Captain described a well protected, deep anchorage where we could stop. After running ourselves into the sandy, shallow bottom three times in the space of 5 minutes, we decided to retreat and anchor behind the causeway, alongside a number of other boats! We were in the shallow part of the GIWW, at times only 6′ of water was under us. In many places we went past birds standing on just submerged sand bars and they were only feet from us. We did visit Anna Maria Island, a long narrow island with a fabulous beach and many, many residents! We again took a trolley ride from one end to the other, a great way to see a new spot.
It was time to move on the Englewood where friends from Canada were vacationing. But first we had to navigate Lemon Bay. If we thought the last couple of days were blessed with shallow water, Lemon Bay was a nail-biter. Unfortunately we arrived just at low tide. Our friend was filming our arrival and I was sure he would film us running aground. Surprisingly, after creeping carefully down the channel, we anchored in 10′ of water, the most we had seen under the keel in days! Not only did we have a great visit with Norm and Dolores, Norm had managed to get in touch with two other couples from our sailing club and we had a great lunch together.
The only problem with Englewood is that there isn’t any dinghy dock. We had to park at a bar, then patronize them in order to leave the boat there for a few hours. We locked our dinghy there, which by the way, is something we do at every dock we go to. Our dinghy is our car and it would be devastating to find it missing when we return.
Our next adventure was on Saturday of the American Thanksgiving weekend. We were headed for Fort Myers and I believe about half of the million or so boats in south Florida came by us, most at full speed including 40 “poker run” type boats. We were deaf for a few minutes after that crowd went by. At least they didn’t make much wake! It’s intimidating to see that many boats heading directly at you at that speed!
We pulled in to Fort Myers and took a mooring ball for 5 days. We were to meet Tom and Sue, a couple we hadn’t seen since our last trip. We had a great time together and when we left, Tom sent us up-to-date weather forecasts for our last crossing of the Gulf. On our last trip down, we stopped at Marco, then again at Shark River. This time we opted to go straight through to Marathon. The Gulf in this region is a minefield of crab pots. Unless it is bright out, you do not try to motor through them….sail yes as the propeller isn’t turning, but no motor. There was no wind again all day so we were able to avoid the markers, but once it got dark, we took a chance, crossed our fingers and motored for 3 hours. I had no fingernails left by the time we dropped an anchor at 9 pm, in 30′ of water, 52 miles north of Marathon, 39 miles west of Everglades City, and 389 miles east of the western shore of the Gulf of Mexico, definitely out there.
At 4:30 am we were jostled awake by waves on the bow. Yipee, we had wind. We hoisted the sails and we were able to sail the whole way into Marathon. We heard a number of those markers hit the sides and bottom of Adamant but no problem, they just bobbed away! We were hoping to get onto a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbour as the wind was piping up, but they were full. We waited two days in poor holding ground to get a mooring ball and only dragged once, while we were out at a restaurant, where we got the call that the boat
was dragging! Mad dash back to the marina, run down the dock, get the dinghy going…slowly….very slowly….they have an “idle speed only” rule in the harbour! It was a mile to Adamant 1, the longest mile we have ever endured. There was no harm done though. When we reset the anchor, we put out tons of scope and backed down on it until it gripped tree roots in China! Now we are stocked up and ready to leave tomorrow as we have a 3 day weather window to make Nassau. The Gulf Stream is just a few miles outside of this harbour so we will catch it and ride the current north east until we get to the Bahama Banks. Until next time………