Joy. Terror. Boredom.

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. To take a landscape photo from a moving boat required a high shutter speed. That is not helpful in low light conditions resulting in grainy picture not even software could fix.

In our last post, we said we were headed to Carrabelle. As we neared Carrabelle, many dolphins came to the boat, swam at the bow, then left. We felt like we were getting a dolphin escort into Carrabelle. The last dolphin left us off at the mouth of the river to the town. We stopped at The Moorings of Carrabelle for diesel, WiFi access to download navigational maps for the Gulf crossing and to look up the weather status. Mr. Joey took good care of us at the marina. We spent long enough to achieve our goal and see that we had a window of good weather to head across the Gulf immediately. So, we did. Two dolphins met us at the mouth of the river and stayed long enough to say goodbye.

We were hoping the light fog we were in would disappear when we got into the Gulf. It did not happen right away. The seas were nice for an open body of water. The water was smooth but there were enough swell to rock us about. We immediately found everything that was not securely stowed or tied down. I got black and blue marks from putting everything away. It was clear that we were not going to be able to do much besides pilot the boat.

The fog as we entered the Gulf.

Eventually, the fog disappeared, and clouds began to form. They looked ominous but did not cause any trouble and made for an astonishing sunset.

As this cloud formed, it looked ominous but it was not.

By the time night fell, there was complete cloud cover, so there was complete darkness. There was a new moon on November 23. Without cloud cover, the moon would not have been much help to light the way, but the stars would give us something to look at. This is the part where my terror set in. We were going 6-7 knots in complete darkness trying to maintain a compass heading to our destination. I sat in the rear of the cabin doing mind games to get my head together. When I was young, my parents had a 16-foot boat we took out on the Chesapeake Bay to fish. My father would sometimes let me drive and warn me about floating debris in the water and to not hit anything because it could break the boat. That is all I could think about. We could watch for boat lights, but what about what we could not see. I managed to mostly push my terror aside realizing it was not improving the situation and things were what they were. I begged the sun to hurry back.

Staying on course was difficult and physically exhausting. It was difficult to maintain the compass heading because the waves/swells kept jostling us from the side. If you took your eyes off the compass to scan for lights, you immediately went off course. There is no chair at the helm in the cabin, requiring us to not only stand but keep our balance at the same time. We took turns napping and piloting. At some point, the clouds mostly cleared, and I began to see bioluminescence in the waves produced by the boat. Regis and I took turns watching it. I looked it up on the internet and most bioluminescence in Florida is from jelly fish in the winter and dinoflagellates in the summer and both can be seen in between. We are pretty sure the round things we saw were the jelly fish. I also saw green lights in the spray from the boat. I tried to take video but only got the green blobs. More often, the bioluminescence is seen around the time of a new moon. We also saw a large patch of water that looked like milk was laying on the surface of the Gulf. It was smooth as glass and different from the rest of the water. I have read about such a phenomenon and believe it had an organic origin. The moon I so desperately wanted brought a gift by not being around. The stars in the sky were beautiful and Regis briefly used them for navigation. It was easier than using the compass.

After the joyful respite of seeing the bioluminescence and the stars, the clouds returned, and the black curtain was drawn. We were both sleepy by then. At one point, while at the helm, I started to go in a circle and when I tried to correct it, I went in another circle. I thought I was losing it and woke Regis and he showed me the center post on the wheel that I could use to not overcorrect. I did not know about that and it was a big improvement moving forward. I continued to pray for the sun.

When the sun appeared, we were in dense fog. I liked it better than the dark, but we could not see any better. The water was incredibly calm (0 on the Beaufort scale). I was grateful for that. We finally got some visibility as we neared the inlet to Tarpon Springs.

Linda at the helm as we approached the bay leading to Tarpon Springs. This is as good as it gets with calm water on the Gulf.

It was an experience. There were the stars, the milky water, and the bioluminescence I will fondly remember. As for the rest, I am never doing this again.

As I write this post, Regis is trying to get the boat unstuck from near St. Petersburg Beach. It sounds like we have a topic for the next post.

Krakens (Collies) Update: By Jason

Day 4 was more of the same though we took them for extra-long walks during the day. Dan needed to drop off some tailoring, so I took them to a park across the street to keep walking them while we waited. I even attempted another run, though this time shorter leads and a slower pace so I could respond more quickly. It worked much better this time. Though once they get going, they seem to almost instinctively want to start fighting each other. It’s like they can’t exert energy without also playing at the same time.

We took them out to their first brewery in the evening. I wouldn’t exactly call it a success. They were definitely whiney and nervous in there (despite the fact that there were only three other people at the time). We tried our best to get them to quiet down but decided we’d better leave it at one beer tonight so the other customers could enjoy their beers.

3 Comments on “Joy. Terror. Boredom.

  1. Congrats!! you made it across the open water. Fearless mariners.
    You now have sea stories to tell to all your landlubber friends.
    Just imagine how much more enjoyable the crossing would be with a functioning autopilot. We like to call “him” OTTO, the only crewman that never eats, sleeps, or complains and always keeps us pointed in the right direction.
    Again, so glad you made it.


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