Almost made it to the Keys

January 21

Couple of issues I need to address prior to our latest adventures on Whisky Business. In the last post, The Long and Winding Road, I made a disparaging remark about Sea Ray owners. While it seems to happen more often with that marque than any other, I apologize for that. There are many owners of these boats like Bert and Sylvia Kremer who own a beautiful Sea Ray who were our neighbors in Captain’s Quarter’s Marina in Louisville. These very capable co-captains would never dream of waking another vessel in the haphazard way we were treated in Florida waters. Bert and Sylvia, if you are reading this I hope you accept my apology.

Also, in the same post quite a few images did not show up. Should you take another look they are now there.

On Tuesday, January 8 Dave and I departed Burnt Store Marina for a 1 day run to Fort Myers and then another single day run up the Caloosahatchee River to River Forest Yachting Center for a haul out and bottom job. This river eventually becomes a ditch that goes to the huge Lake Okeechobee in the middle of the state. There are 2 locks that raise the water level a total of 10 feet.

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River Forest is in the middle of the state and believe me when I tell you it is in the middle nowhere. BUT, since it is so far from the coast it is well protected from hurricanes and all of the storage buildings are hurricane rated. This place was the cleanest boat yard I have ever seen.

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This really narrow channel runs from the boat yard to the river channel. Looks to be 30 feet wide. WB is 15 feet wide. Not a lot of room for error. Upon our arrival I asked the yard manager for a shovel so I might widen it a bit for our departure. The boat in the foreground is a 60+foot Neptunus belonging to the fella that owns the yard. With it’s many custom features, maybe $4M? Me and WB were total riff raff in this facility.

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Following photos are WB after getting her bottom painted. This high copper content paint makes it more difficult for growth to occur on the bottom especially in salt water.

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Notice the shiny metal plates on the back of the boat and on the prop shaft? These are zinc sacrificial anodes that in an environment where there may be electricity running through the water, it will attack the replaceable  zinc anodes instead of the expensive metal boat parts like propellers ($2500 each) or shafts ($4000 each).

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This device called a Spur is a scissor device mounted on the propeller shaft and strut that cuts rope should it get tangled up with the propeller.

This is a 1 inch thick, 5 foot long piece of rope we picked up on the way from St. Petersburg. Fortunately the propeller cut/ripped it off whatever it was secured to beneath the surface of the water. Very well could have stopped the boat. These Spurs would have cut that thing to pieces.

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Following time lapse video of River Forest launching WB.

 

After the yard launched WB, we got out the grill, cooked up some real pretty strip steaks, couple bottles of wine and a fabulous dessert we picked up in Chattanooga, home of Moon Pies.

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And then inspiration hit. Culinary Nirvana!

You got nuttin’ on me Master Chef Cassaro!

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Following morning we are to leave for a  day journey to Cape Coral to meet up with Bob and Pam Shircliff aboard Mint Julep for a trip to Marathon Key.

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Along the way I taught myself how to “whip” a line. After a while rope will fray and unravel. As a preventive measure, I ordered a very large needle and waxed whipping twine. Running the twine through the end of the rope and then wrapping the end of the rope/line with this stuff will make the rope/line last a lot longer. Plus it makes the rope look a lot better.

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Some pretty cool hacienda’s along the Caloosatatchee headed back to Fort Myers.

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Debbie manning the bow as we go through the Ortona Lock with it’s staggering 1 foot drop. Notice the rope she is hanging onto? Remember when we were on the rivers and we would have to put a line around a bollard to lock through? Not here, Just grab a rope and hold on.

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They don’t pump the water in and out of these lock chambers. Just open the door a couple of feet and let the water run in or out.

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This is a faux steamer running the river. Not many folks on board today? Heard the skipper of this vessel call the lock master at Ortona and announce he had 160 on board that day. Yes, it was a wee bit chilly.img_0932

This railroad bridge that is 9 feet above the water remains in the open position until a train needs to cross.

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Downtown Fort Myers.

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We arrive in Cape Coral and tie up to the beautiful Mint Julep, a 63 foot long ocean crossing vessel owned by our friends the Shircliffs. Seated: Pam Shircliff, the War Department (that would be Debbie) and Sue Heilman. Standing: yours truly, Dave Heilman, Bob Shircliff and their friend Dave (sumthin or other). That’s the diminutive Whisky Business on the right side of the photo looking rather small…

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Upon our arrival in the anchorage we saw this yacht whose name some of you may recognize. Far Niente. That name is well known to wine lovers all over the world as it is also the name of a fabulous Napa Valley winery by the same name. When you sell wine for $6 an ounce ($150+per bottle) I guess you can afford a yacht such as this. Notice there are 4 people on board washing this monster.

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After dinner that evening upon reviewing sea and wind conditions for the trip to the Keys out of safety considerations we canceled our trip. Just too rough out there. So we enjoyed the following sunset, went to bed and headed back to Burnt Store Marina the following day.

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Great photo of Dave and Sue screwing up the sunset for Debbie and me.

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Actually these sunset photo’s were taken as we arrived in Charlotte Harbor. We were 30 minutes from sunset when we got to the entrance to the marina so we stayed put in the harbor and waited for another glorious sunset. Never get tired of ’em.

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In closing, I want to tell you about a free app that can be downloaded from the App Store. It is called “Nebo – boat logging made easy” Great little app we Loopers use to track each other in order to meet up. Just got a call from some folks we met on the way down the Ten Tom Waterway who are now in Cape Coral along with 2 other boats we traveled with. Will have a reunion of sorts in a few days. You will always be able to see where WB is on this app. Pretty cool stuff.

 

The Long and Winding Road

January 6

Arrived in St. Pete on Friday with a departure planned for Saturday. Winds and seas had a different plan. All of the forecasts said stay in port. Dave and I were discussing approaching our hosts, Mike and Leann to request an additional night of lodging when Mike shows up at the boat and makes that suggestion. Great news. Dave and I walked a mile to a Enterprise renta car and our choices were a truck, a bigger truck and a Mustang ragtop. Chose the convertible. Due to the wind and the temps in the area we had the top down for about 20 minutes, swallowed our pride and put the top back up.

We went to the West Marine store to look for a new lens for my anchor light which fell off when I bumped it while covering the dinghy. Didn’t float. No success, but one of the clerks at the store recommended a place called Don’s Marine Salvage. That place was probably 10 acres of all manner of marine stuff.

They even had goats.

After a few hours browsing this marine graveyard we went downtown to the water and had lunch at a restaurant that was right on the water. Located next to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. We tried to get in there but since neither of us were wearing our ascots, no luck. Check out this 40′ Sea Ray. See the piling in the left side of the photo? See the concrete sea wall in front of the boat. How the hell…

Coupla shots of downtown St. Pete and the marina.

Woke up at 6:30 (still dark) to prepare for the long journey ahead today. I must interject at this point. As gracious as Mike and Leann were in allowing us to stay 2 nights at their dock providing us with electricity and water I must say I was a wee bit dissapointed. Upon rising from our slumber yesterday morning there were no fresh fruit and croissants nor any espresso to be seen. Not only that, hell they didn’t even place chocolates on our pillows prior to retiring for the night! I posted this info on the AGLCA forum last night (with tongue in cheek) and VOILA, first thing this morning they showed up at the boat with chocolate lobsters!

I’ll make proper concierge’s of them yet!

Underway for 30 minutes when the sun peaks over the horizon.

Look at how narrow the channel is in these photo’s.

This sign says DANGER shallow water. DUH!

Coupla shots of the Tampa Bay bridge

Learned something new today. In a much earlier post I explained channel markers. If returning from the sea the red marker is on the right side of the channel and the green is on the left. When traveling on the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) the green is always on the right and the red is always on the left. But if there were a channel leaving the ICW with red and green markers how would one know if he/she were still on the ICW? See the little square above the number “57”? That square tells us we are on the ICW. It is absent on all other markers. Thanks Captain Dave for that important tidbit of info. Can’t make a good pot of coffee but he’s good to have around.

Passing Sarasota…

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Great video of a draw bridge:

 

 

Larry and Marney, forget about the house on the Tennessee River, BUY THIS ONE!!!

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Small flotilla of boats follwing us between bridge openings…

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This is Wine Speed. He is a Gold Looper in that he bought fuel TWICE to do the Loop.

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What a great looking little tug boat, right?

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Okay, there are courteous boat captains and then there are  SOME Sea Ray captains that simply think they are the only ones on the water. Saw this 40+ footer approaching us at a high rate of speed throwing a HUGE wake (waves). The proper thing to do in this instance is to slow down to a minimal wake speed so you don’t knock the hell out of other boats in your immediate vicinity. Not this guy. He comes on full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes.

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This guy obviously has a large boat and a small…

In earlier posts I had commented on how shallow the water is in SW Florida.

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Look at the photo below. Do you see the bridge? Neither did we. Until we got a bit closer.

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This swing bridge blended in with the backround so well that we were within 200 yards before we saw it.

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The operator must walk out to the middle of the bridge to operate it. That’s fine on a pretty day like this but not so much on nasty weather days.

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Saw these signs all day and decided to run in open water so we could make better time. Also burn a helluva lot of fuel!

When we passed Siesta Key my friend and all around fantastic guy from our church, Steve Minsterketter came out with some buddies to greet us.

Steve is easy to spot. Bony legs.

There is a little island at the inlet to Venice Beach. Great party spot.

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This is where we entered the Gulf of Mexico.

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Wide open seas.

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When we got into open water the wind and wave action was on our stern. When we run fast the boat travels about 18 miles per hour on flat seas. What we experienced was very interesting and I had not encountered this before. We were running faster than the waves so we would climb over the top and then run down the other side of the wave. When we would “climb” a wave, swell is a better term, we would slow down to about 15 MPH. On the “down”side of the wave we would speed up to 20MPH!

This is the tip of Boca Grande and the entrance to Charlotte Harbor. Almost home!

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See those little bumps in the photo? They are the tower condo’s in Burnt Store Marina. Striking distance!

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This is the Burnt Store Webcam as Whisky Business finally, after 5 months, 2400 miles and I don’t want to know how many gallons of fuel arrives.

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Our arrival at our dock…

This video needs a little explanation. The dock that runs along side our slip is rather short. I would have prefered to pull bow in so while sitting on the aft deck we would have had a better view of the marina. As you can see a number of our friends showed up to greet us. When I determined I would have to back the boat into the slip it occured to me that I really did not want an audience for this. Fortunately all of the pilings are still in place and there are no new scratches on the boat.

Great shot of Whisky Business heading for the north basin of the marina.

These are the great folks who came out to greet us on our arrival. L to R: Betty Netherton, Linda McDonnell, one handsome bastard, Christine Kuchma, Rhonda Begin behind her and Trish Murray. There may have been others in the photo but they are not as entertaining to behold as this fine bevy of lovely ladies.

What’s next for Whisky Business and crew? On the 10th of this month I am taking the boat to River Forest boat yard for a haul out and bottom painting. After that we have plans to take the boat to Marathon Key for a few days with Bob and Pam Shircliff and a few other boats. Beyond that? A whole bunch of cleaning, washing, waxing… it never ends.

A great big shout out to my great friend Dave Heilman and my favorite big brother (he’s my only brother) Jim Rogers. They weren’t the able bodied crew Debbie is but their assistance sufficed. I could not have done ANY of this without Debbie. Thanks babe, for letting me follow this dream. I miss you terribly. Getcherass to Burnt Store soon!

Future posts will be infrequent at best until we start the next stage of our Great Loop Adventure in April when we head to the Bahama’s

See ya then!

On The Road Agin (like the Willie Nelson tune)

December 4

First Mate Dave Heilman and I flew into Orlando yesterday, picked up a rental and headed to Tarpon Springs. Dear friends Terry and Betty Netherton just happened to be in TS visiting their daughter and son in law Lisa and Pat Hallam. They were out on a boat when I got a text from them asking when we were coming back to the boat. Shortly thereafter here comes this pontoon boat weaving back and forth in the channel. Don’t know what the captain (that would be Lisa) was drinking but if she hit something on the right, she steered to the left! Just kidding, Lisa commanded that pontoon boat like the skilled navigator she is. Later that day we joined Betty, Terry, Lisa, Pat and their friends Darlene and John Turner at Captain Jacks for buckets of beer and wings. Hooray for Terry, he picked up the check!!!

Just after departing Anclote Isle Marina we stopped at River Energy’s fuel dock to top off the tanks. After our fast run burning 25 gallons per hour for 8 hours on the way to Tarpon Springs we needed to reload to the tune of 259 gallons @ $2.73 per gallon. Lowest priced diesel I have seen yet.

View as we left Anclote Isle Marina.

The best part is we are now properly attired in shorts and T shirts. First Mate Dave properly demonstrates his captain skills.

We came upon the Dunedin Honeymoon bridge and Dave thought it looked a little close to the water for WB’s 23′ air draft with the antennaes up. Gave the bridge a call on the VHF radio and he had it opened by the time we got there.

You can see our starting point in Tarpon Springs. The blue dot was our position after 2 hours of travel near Dunedin. The large dot in Saint Petersburg is our bogey for the night. We will be staying on the dock of Mike and Leann Rowe. They are the Harbor Hosts for St. Pete. I called them last night to get a recommendation to stop for Friday night and they have a dock on the back of their home. Mike had posted many times on the AGLCA Forum so I was familiar with their names.

There is this great app called Nebo that a lot of Loopers are using to track each other. You can enter a boats name and (provided the owner has his phone on the boat) find the boat. This is how we will find Mike and Leann’s home when we get to St. Pete later today.

When we got to Dunedin which is a GREAT little town 10 miles south of Tarpon Springs I was on the lookout for our friends Matt and Rene Cassaro’s condo. They have a small beach area that you can’t see from this vantage point, right on the water.

Debbie and I have taken many a photo of sunsets like this whilst pouring copious amounts of Champagne down our necks with Matt and Rene. Special shout out to Stella: see, I learned a lot of really cool words in the 3rd grade.

You had to be there.

Coming up on Clearwater.

We had a number of bridges we had to go under that required lowering the antennae. While doing so I took a short video of our wind indicator that was getting a helluva workout.This fine fellow is Mike Rowe, Harbor Host for Saint Petersburg. He had this really neat setup on his dock to tie boats up at his dock behind his home. He provided us with a safe place to tie up for the evening and shore power. I see a steak dinner in his immediate future.

We no sooner got the boat secure when the storm that had been brewing out in the gulf finally rolled in.

Timing is EVERYTHING!

It is currently raining like crazy.

Rain finally slacked off enought to disembark and go to dinner with Mike. He told us about this local joint that served stone crab calle P J’s.

I knew it was a high class affair when they did not put napkins on the tables.

Great meal, great friends, this is what Looping is all about!

Tarpon Springs…AT LAST!

December 14

Left Steinhatchee yesterday at 7 AM and were met with smooths seas…for awhile.

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About 45 miles south we ran into some waves, 4 and 5 footers off the bow. Water was spraying over the top of the bimini which is 19 feet above the water line. Had the waves been hitting us on the beam (side) we would have been a wee bit nauseous. No photo’s of the rough seas as we were a bit preoccupied with steering. Oh yeah, add to the rough ride the fact that there are about a brazillion of these little bastards floating around and if you get the rope from one of these crab pots wrapped around your propeller, your boat stops.

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Pretty visible in this photo but when the seas are rough ya don’t spot ‘em till you’re on top of them.

This is what the beginning and end of our day looked like. Middle part, not so much.

I had mentioned that my auto pilot had stopped working due to a old hydraulic pump that was not part of the electronics upgrade. We really missed it. Until this morning. Dave and I discussed our day yesterday and while it would have been GREAT to have been able to set a course and sit back and allow the AP drive the boat we wondered if we would have been appropriately vigilant with regard to the crab pots. In any type of wave action they were hidden as they are only about 6 inches in diameter. Should one have had appeared off the bow I don’t know if there would have been enough time to disengage the AP and steer the boat clear. In retrospect probably best the damn thing didn’t work!

After about 3 hours of the roller coaster ride the seas finally flattened out and we weree ready to dial up the throttle again and cruise along at 17 MPH. Speaking of cruising at 17 MPH, we burned 25 gallons of fuel every hour while running at that speed. Sounds like a lot but I’m a bit surprised.Now I know that I can run this boat at that speed for 20 hours or 340 miles before my fuel tanks are dry. Of course, at my normal running speed of 9 MPH I have a range of 750 miles with no fuel reserve.

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With the outgoing tide giving us a little extra push we were running at just over 18 MPH for a spell. Oh yean, notice the depth of 15 feet? Doesn’t get much deeper than that, maybe 21 feet deep in some parts of Florida’s coastal waters. So the advice you get from boaters down here is, should your boat capsize, don’t panic until after you stand up.

When you purchase a 20 year old boat you have no idea what is in your fuel tanks. If there is any water in the fuel stuff can grow inside your fuel tanks. So I purchased a case of fuel filters as one of my first additions to the boat. Changed ‘em often. The real test is when you get into big seas and your boat is really moving up and down, if there is anything in your tanks it will break loose and clog up the filters and the engines stop till you change the filters. Which can be quite a daunting task in rough conditions. Very happy to report that these big, bad boy 500 cubic inch (that’s 8.3 liters for you millenials) Cummins did not so much as hiccup while running yesterday. Just to be safe I’m gonna change the filters again should there be anything in them waiting for an inopportune moment to clog up.

Around 3 o’clock we pull into Tarpon Springs and VIOLA, it’s 72 degrees! Last night was the first time I have not had to run the heat since getting back on the boat the day after Thanksgiving.

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I apologize for the poor quality of this photo.  The fellow I am standing with is Herb Seaton. Debbie and I met Herb the first time at Green Turtle Bay on Lake Barkley. His boat Phanthom was in the slip next to us at the AGLCA Rendezvous in Joe Wheeler state park in Alabama. In the Looper community, Herb is an icon. He is one of those rare individuals who make it their mission in life to help others. Whenever a Looper comes into Tarpon Springs, Herb is there on the dock to catch a line, provide a map of the area with restaurant recommendations.259284BB-015F-41FE-9816-1D8530ADAC7E

And breakfast for the following morning.

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In the AGLCA there are members in each harbor that are known as “Harbor Hosts”. These are folks with local knowledge who can help you find mechanics, provide info on safe areas to boat and so on. Herb is a Harbor Host Extraordinaire. He joined us for dinner last night and was such a terrific host. We were joined by our buddy boat from yesterday, Jan and Don and a fellow single handling a small sailboat from Bowling Green and Herb.

This is Herb’s boat, a 53 foot Marine Trader that he single handed on on his 2nd Loop. It has a great “back porch” for cocktails at the end of the day.

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Coming home on Sunday, but will be promptly booted from the premises as that is the day Debbie and all of the women in her family make Christmas cookies.

Me? Going to Pat’s for a steak and a manhattan bigger than my head!

 

The Crossing

December 12

By anchoring out last night we got a 15 mile head start on todays crossing of the Gulf of Mexico. We crossed on a perfect day. From sunset last night through today the weather cooperated fully.

Some shots of our anchorage.

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But the best photo opps came this morning while getting underway:

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And after running for half an hour, this guy shows up and rides the bow wave. What was interesting was he never “porpoised” to take a breath for the albeit short time he was with us.

Had dinner with all of the boats we traveled with tonite and back on board WB trying to get warm. Nineteen days and counting…

 

Better safe than sorry…

December 11

Dave and I have been holed up at the Moorings Marina in Carabelle for a few days. We have been having issues with the autopilot and yesterday we took WB out into the bay and reconfigured it to no avail. Add to that our fuel burn rate at our maximum cruise of 17 mph and we were concerned we can’t carry enough fuel. Making a 46,000 lb boat go 17 mph drinks diesel ($3.09 per gallon last fill up) at the rate of 35-40 gallons per hour. WB only carries 500 gallons. Concern was there would not be enough reserve for a safety margin. I was quite upset last night and went to bed with the intent of hiring a driver to drive us 50 miles to Tallahassee to pick up a rental and drive home. Over breakfast with Loopers from 5 other boats they shared their plan with us. We departed on a 15 mile run to an anchorage known as Alligator Point and are waiting for the other 5 boats to arrive. We will form quite an armada.

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Open water tomorrow, out of sight of land.

At first light Wednesday morning we will begin a slow run across the Gulf to Steinhatchee which is 120 miles north of our original target, Tarpon Springs. Running at 8 or 9 mph we will get superb mileage, maybe 1.5 miles to the gallon! You’d think we were in a Prius!!

While we are at this anchorage we are preparing the boat for the voyage. Securing the dinghy to the top of the boat since it is up high it will pendulum as it weighs around 400 lbs. Seas may be a bit rough but all of the forcasts for tomorrow show a calm travel day. We’ve tied the handles together on the cabinets, placed all glassware (‘cept those damn souvenir glasses Debbie likes) in the dishwasher with proper spacing. Moved the aforementiond “precious cargo” to a safe spot in a cooler with cushioning between the bottles.

Here’s my favorite part:

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Dave scraping old caulk off the forward hatch above his bunk. HA! Bet he’s sweating his ass off!

Bright sunshine so I’m sitting on the deck reading a book, look up and WOW! It’s the Spanish Armada, No wait, it’s the US Navy!

Naw, just the rest of our posse.

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This is our little Navy. Up before dawn, hoist the anchor and under way before sunrise.

It’s 5:30 and I can tell there is going to be a beautiful sunset. Reminds me how much I miss Debbie. We love sunsets and we’ve had a bunch of ‘em!

Watching the sun go down and had a splendid idea! Check out this time lapse video.

Looks like the boat is moving but that is just the wind on the water. It’s the wind moving the boat around that makes the sun appear to move to the right.

Pretty cool, huh?

Made it to Carabelle

December 8

We entered the eastern time zone yesterday afternoon so when I tell you we left the anchorage at 7 AM please do not think us lazy. It was 6 AM 10 miles behind us. Interesting though, as we moved east along the Florida panhandle we were picking up daylight. When we started east from Mobile Bay first light was 6:20. Two days ago it was 6 AM sharp. Following are a few more photo’s of Irma’s wrath. A few of these were taken before sunrise so they are a bit dark.

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A few days ago the forcast for today was for smooth going with very little winds. Uhhh, what the hell happened?

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My wind speed indicator showed a wind speed of 29.3 knots, adjust that to miles per hour and we had winds off our bow (thank God) of 33.7 MPH. The indicator was clocking around a bit even though it appears the wind was coming from our starboard. Mostly directly on the bow which made the ride very tolerable even at the high wind speed. If the wind was blowing across the water and making the accompanying waves hit us on the beam (side) everything inside the boat would have been destroyed. Here’s what the seas looked like from the flybridge. Better to hit ‘em with the bow of the boat rather than the side of the boat.

Actually it was a lot worse than the video depicts. Waves were in the 3 foot range.

The followng video of Whisky Business under way during the high winds. This was taken by our buddy boat Oar Knot. This is how a boat gets it’s “mustache”.

We arrived at the Moorings Marina in Carabelle around 12:30 today and met a number of other Loopers who are preparing and hoping for a smooth Gulf crossing this Wednesday and Thursday. The group that crossed last Thursday/Friday got the hell knocked out of them. It was reported that a few had messes to clean up on their flybridge cuz they didn’t have buckets handy when the motion of the boat became, uh, a little nauseating shall we say??? Note to self: If it can break, secure it. Everything in the boat must be placed in a secure location. Fridge/freezer doors must be secured. All lamps and knick/knacks must be layed down on the floor. What the heck am I gonna do with all of this “water of life”???

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Precious cargo.

Keep yer fingers crossed that we have a better experience than those other guys.

After arriving at the marina we took a walk around and found this sailboat that was being salvaged. If you look closely around the gaping hole in the side of the boat you can see where it got pretty scraped up. I am guessing it must have been blown up on rocks.

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Our timing could not have been better because tonight was the Christmas Parade of Boats in the marina. My Ipad did not take very good photos but the video’s came out much better.

Can’t get used to Santa in shorts.