Gulf Passage

We’re behind Hallelujah and others further up, all catching the Tuesday weather window.

We did it. We took a total of 25 hours to cross the Gulf of Mexico overnight, leaving from Apalachicola at 11 AM Tuesday and finally arriving at Pasadena Yacht Club in Gulfport FL, near St Petersburg at noon the next day.

For two hours we traveled east on the intracoastal to an exit at the west end of Dog Island and then out into the Gulf. The island is pretty flat and is now a state park with little on it. It was named because the old sailing ships were manned both by regular sailors and convicts, called “dogs”, working off their sentence on board. Before the ships landed in port at Apalachicola or elsewhere, they would drop off the dogs on this desolate island so they could not jump ship and escape.

Dog Island ahead, exit channel to the right. Overcast but warm. Bridge was completely open all the way.

Once out I put a waypoint on my chart just outside the entrance channel near St Petersburg FL and told the autopilot to go there. It then showed we would reach the other end of the line about 10 AM the next day. Until then Sue and I would be manning the bridge watching for boats or anything else we should steer clear of along the way.

Waves followed the prediction. They were worst, over 2 feet at first, quieting down gradually until we had little movement by 1 or 2 AM. After that it was pretty smooth the rest of the way. We’ve had worse, but there was enough movement in the first third of the trip that Sue could not fix any food in the kitchen. We should have thought about that and had some sandwiches ready in the fridge. We did find enough snacks tide us over.

Our path came within a few hundred feet of an air force communications tower that shows as a foghorn on the charts. It’s a foghorn because that’s the only part of it of concern to marine navigation. Our charts, radar and remaining daylight all showed it so there was little concern about a collision.

We cruise faster than Hallelujah, and took the waves better that way too, so we passed them early on.

Much later we passed a few hundred feet of a fishing boat. It showed up from far off because of a very bright light it was shining on the nets at its stern, although its running lights would have been adequate. Our radar had stopped working 6 hours after we started out, so we had to depend on their running lights to find other boats. Fortunately there was no fog. We did have some loopers headed for a more northern destination three miles out on our port for awhile. Even at that distance I could see their running lights. Mine were on for the first time I’ve ever used them.

Last light was around 6:45 after which we had several hours of cloudy skies and intermittent rain, but no winds and storming otherwise. It was quite dark until about 1 AM when the skies cleared, the moon rose, followed by Jupiter and then Mars. That gave enough light that we could see the horizon all around and would probably have been able to see a reasonably sized boat even if it had no lights.

I can only show the daylight part. This air force tower is about the last thing before dark.

Sue went to bed around 7. That time was the most unsettling with the boat still pitching about, but no visibility to see the waves coming or anything else. It’s just something to get used to. I don’t think we had any real danger at any time. With the boat on autopilot I could have tidied up the lines and pulled in fenders we left out, but it was not time to be getting near the rails on a pitching boat.

Sue took control at 11 and was happy when the moon appeared an hour later. I snoozed a few hours and relieved her around 1 AM. By then things had smoothed out and the moon over the water made for a very different and most pleasant time. That was certainly the best picture, but my camera is not up to that kind. I’ll get that radar fixed and we’re definitely going to do more of this. Maybe in the Bahamas?


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