Archive for the Category »Passage «

Amelia Island, FL to Charleston, SC

We departed St. Augustine on Saturday morning where our route took us up the ICW to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, the northernmost town on Florida’s east coast.

Looking out over the Fernandina Yacht Club and Harbor

With plans to head offshore from the St. Mary’s Inlet just north of Fernandina Beach the next morning, we took the rest of the day to explore the town with our friends from “Simpatico” and some of their friends (now our new friends) aboard “Magic Beans.”

Strolling the tree-lined streets, we drifted in and out of an eclectic collection of local stores, shops, galleries and boutiques. A mid-afternoon ice cream stop helped keep us cool and upon a glowing review from Don on “Magic Beans,” we stepped into Pablo’s for a little A/C, margs and Mexican dinner.

Fernandina Beach welcome center

Lots of pirates roaming Amelia Island

Full on fajitas but not ready to call it a night, the sounds of live music brought us to the garden patio of Cafe Karibo where a local band, Hofmann’s Voodoo, was staged beneath huge oak trees, singing and strumming a guitar and mandolin to a funky mix of Americana and Acoustic Blues until about 8:30. An ideal way to wrap up an early evening as we still needed to prep “Kaleo” for our 30 hour passage to Charleston the next day.

Enjoying the music of Hofmann’s Voodoo

Monday morning we checked the weather, said our radio farewell to “Simpatico” and topped off on fuel at the marina. We made 7 knots on the ebb tide (outgoing tide) leaving St. Mary’s Inlet, hoisted sails and were making great time toward Charleston, about 140 miles away.

Late afternoon, Matt went down for some rest with plans to get up around 10 p.m. Lighting woke him up a bit sooner and with the winds gusting in the low 20’s we decided to reef the main (reduce the amount of sail so as not to get over powered by strong winds). No sooner had we got in the first reef when the winds picked up above 25 knots.

With a thunderstorm behind us and ever-growing sea state, we played it safe by going to our third reef (the smallest amount of main sail out). It was a wise move as within the hour winds were blowing at 30 knots and the ocean swell was running about five to six feet. It seems our smooth offshore sailing streak had run its course as we spent the remainder of the night reefed down with following winds and seas. Though we were getting rocked and rolled, we gained the benefit of speed where at times we were surfing down the waves at 9+ knots, a new record for us.

After what seems like an incredibly long night, dawn broke with only about 30 miles to Charleston. If we kept up the evening’s pace, we could have made it in 6 hours sooner than planned. That did not happen as the winds soon shifted to 15 knots from the NE, exactly the direction we were headed (not good). So we spent the remainder of the day painstakingly tacking toward Charleston and finally arrived in the harbor at 7 p.m, 6 hours later than planned.

With darkness approaching and already 36 hours into this passage, we decided to pull into a slip at the Charleston Maritime Center where we could tie up safely and get some much-needed, solid rest.

As we crawled into bed, Matt mentioned having a lot of pain in his right eye which was pretty bloodshot. By the time morning came, he couldn’t open it and was in intolerable pain. A quick Google search led us to Access Healthcare, a quaint, modern medical center within about a mile’s walking distance of the marina. After 15 minutes with Dr. Dave, Matt was diagnosed was a corneal abrasion, a scrape on the clear surface of the eye. He walked out with an eye patch, a need for a pair of those nifty disposable sunglasses you get after dilation (which we picked up from an optometrist down the street) and a prescription for pain management. Ouch!

Captain, er Pirate-in-pain Matty

With the captain slightly out of commission, still exhausted from our abusive passage and with tons to see and do in Charleston, we’ve decided to make the Maritime Center our home for the week. We look forward to some rest, recovery and a fun week of exploring the incredibly charming Charleston.

“Kaleo” at harbor in Charleston Maritime Center

N 32° 47.39 / W 79° 55.42

Bahamas to Florida Passage Timeline

Assuming all fuel and water are topped off, the evening before any significant passage is spent prepping the boat and ourselves for safety and ease underway.

This involves, but is not limited to, securing the dinghy outboard motor on the stern rail, deflating and storing our dinghy on deck, checking the main engine oil, alternator belt and fuel filter, inspecting standing and running rigging, uncovering the main sail, running our jack lines (safety straps that run the length of the boat that we clip into when going forward of the cockpit), preparing meals that we’ll have underway, organizing and securing all movable things inside the boat and laying out the clothes and PFD’s we’ll wear.

And here’s how we spent the 30 hour crossing from Green Turtle Cay, Abaco to Ft. Pierce, Florida.

6:30 – Matt wakes up to tune into Chris Parker’s weather forecast. It confirms favorable conditions for a smooth Gulf Stream crossing with winds 5-10 knots from the east, southeast and two to three foot swell on the ocean.

Kaleo pointed toward the homeland

7:00 – We pull up the anchor with Matt at the bow and Christie at the helm. The chain rapidly clanks up over the bow roller, most likely alerting everyone in the anchorage that a boat is leaving.

7:02 – Scooted past the sleeping “Honu Lele” and entered White Sound Channel toward the Sea of Abaco. 55 miles to Great Sale Cay, our intended staging anchorage for the crossing.

7:30 – Christie makes egg and bacon sandwiches for breakfast while Matt programs the day’s waypoints into the chart plotter.

10:00 – The wind picks up so Matt rolls out the jib to motorsail.

10:09 – The wind dies so Matt rolls the jib back in to stop it from flapping against the shrouds.

12:00 – Lunch is served, salads with summer sausage and crackers for Matt, grilled Veggie-cheese for Christie.

14:30 – The wind picks back up and Matt rolls out the jib again.

16:00 – The wind has held and Kaleo glides along at 6 to 6.5 knots with only the rumble of Mr. Beeker (our affectionately named engine) to disturb the peace of the island we’re floating past.

16:15 – Matt finishes his second book of the day. (Life on a Rock and The Sun Also Rises)

17:30 – We arrive at our intended staging anchorage of Great Sale Cay. Feeling good and decide to sail on through the night and get to Florida by Saturday afternoon. About 110 miles to go.

18:30 – Christie heats up premade foil packets of Quinoa stuffed bell peppers which we enjoy in the cockpit as the beginnings of sunset beckon nightfall.

19:00 – We get cell reception from a lone island tower and use our last $8.00 of Bahamian cell credit to call AT&T and have our U.S. cell phone taken off vacation hold and call  family and friends to let them know of our adjusted plans.

19:15 – Matt goes below for his sleep shift while Christie takes the helm.

20:30 – Our fishing reel starts to click, click, click signaling fish on! Matt jumps up to bring it in while Christie goes for the gaff hook and gloves. Much to our dismay, the fighting fish is nothing more than a large Barracuda which we unhook and release. At least we didn’t lose a lure.

Fishing false alarm with a barracuda on the hook

21:00 – Christie scans the horizon as a few twinkles turn into a comforting blanket of stars in the pitch black sky.

23:30 – A bright flash wakes Matt up. Turns out it’s lightning about 10 miles off our stern, not Christie taking pictures in the night. Matt joins the storm watching party in the cockpit and eventually takes over for the admiral to get some rest.

24:00 – The storm passes well to our stern with strobing flashes indicating its location.

2:30 – A silver quarter moon rises and gives lighted dimension to the waves around us.

3:00 – The engine mysteriously lugs and dies, leaving an eerie silence in the night. We sail on at 4 knots while Matt opens up the engine room to start diagnosis.

3:20 – The motor cranks and starts back up after Matt traced the problem to a drained starting battery which didn’t have enough power to run the electric fuel pump, starving Mr. Beeker to silence. After hot-wiring into the house batteries, it was back to full steam ahead at 7 knots.

5:30 – Streams of sunlight begin to pierce the sky signaling the approaching sunrise.

7:30 – Breakfast is again served, this time it’s cereal.

8:00 – Our speed increases to a near 8 knots as we’re pulled northward into the strong currents of the Gulf Stream.

9:30 – Christie crafts notes to fill a couple message in bottles and we toss them overboard in the ripping current of the Gulf Stream.

Casting message in a bottle #1

Tossing over message in a bottle #2

10:30 – Matt lowers our tattered and torn Bahamian flag as we sail back into U.S. waters.

Kaleo has seen many Bahamian isles under this flag

11:00 – Looking over our stern, we realize there is a fish on our line. We reel in a bluefin tuna, which was a little too small to eat so we cut it up for bait.

11:20 – We were welcomed into Florida by a pod of about a dozen dolphins and a double rainbow. Our playful friends escorted us in for about half an hour, some doing synchronized leaps and dives that were so well timed we thought they had escaped from Seaworld.

Welcomed under double rainbow

And escorted in by playful friends

12:30 – We motor through the channel entrance into Ft. Pierce Inlet and quickly realized we were making our grand entrance into the coast of southern Florida on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend! Boats big and small swarmed the waterways buzzing around at speeds that shattered our laid back island pace. It was an abrupt annoucement that we were back stateside.

1:15 – We dock at Harborview Marina to treat ourselves to A/C, a freshwater bath for Kaleo and a long night’s rest. First stop in the U.S. was “A Touch of Brooklyn” pizzeria where we overindulged in a gooey fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil Pizza Margherita.

1st stateside dinner, classic Pizza Margherita

A clean Kaleo resting after returning us safely stateside

6:30 – Matt finishes washing the boat, and Christie wipes the last surface inside clean. After long showers we crawl into the V-berth and are asleep before we can say goodnight.

Flying the Bahamian Flag

With the Bahamas so close that we could taste the conch, we pulled up anchor in Boot Key Harbor on Tuesday afternoon, and headed east.

Kaleo sailing toward the Bahamas. Taken by our friends aboard Storyville.
Matt taking a break from trimming the sail

The weather window was right and the five boats we had been planning the passage with were either getting ready to pull up anchor or had left a little earlier. As we sailed out into the deep waters of the Atlantic, the silent question aboard Kaleo was “how smooth will our crossing be?” After a 45 hour passage we’re happy to report that all-in-all, it was a wonderful trip into the Bahamas.

The first few hours after we sailed out of Marathon were quite rolly and uncomfortable and as we headed for “the Stream“, we hoped and prayed that it wouldn’t get worse. During our every-three-hour radio check with our buddy boats, we intently listed to what those in front of us had to say about the conditions. Some reported the same rocking and rolling but two of the lead boats said it was beautiful and smooth sailing up ahead. We altered course a bit and sailed toward those reported smoother waters.

We entered the Gulf Stream about 20 miles off the coast of Florida and were treated to unbelievably great conditions. Other than a few large container ships we had to avoid (one that came alarmingly close, despite telling us on the radio that he was miles away), the whole night we motor sailed at 7-8 knots (the Gulf Stream current was quite helpful). As Troy on Storyville put it “you could water ski out here.” At dawn the sea state was again rolly and rough as a the winds picked up and the swells increased to 4-5 feet. But things calmed down again as we passed South Riding Rock and into crystal clear waters of the Great Bahama Bank.

Still with no land in sight, the day was spent sailing, and occasionally motor sailing when the wind died, over the sea floor that we could easily see through 20 feet of pristine water. We were joined by dolphins that torpedoed around the boat like curious kids of the newbie on their playground.

One of our welcoming dolphins. Taken by Deana aboard Storyville.

At sunset on day two of the trip we hove to (parked the boat by opposing the jib sail’s force to the rudder’s force) to ensure that we wouldn’t get into Nassau before sunrise and to get a few hours of rest. Well, Matt got rest while Christie burned off the sugar-free Red Bull she had just drank as it was her turn to be on shift before we decided to heave-to. She used the time, and energy, to clean the boat, to fully catch up on this past season of Mad Men and to keep an eye on the other boats that were hove-to.

Sunset on the Great Bahama Bank

As soon as the night’s sky was filled with the most bold and bright full moon, the group got back underway and headed for our next waypoint of Northwest Channel, the entrance of the Tongue of the Ocean. With shoals on both sides and strong currents, the channel can be fairly tricky to navigate through, especially in the dark. So, all six boats within our flotilla lined up pretty tightly, like elephants trunk to tail, and kept in close communication as the depth sounder went quickly from 10 feet to 15 to 25 to 100 to the unreadable depths of 6,000 feet.

The next 10 hours were spent mostly motoring toward Nassau Harbor. Matt was sound asleep when morning came and Christie was treated to an amazing sunrise off the bow and a majestic moonset off the stern.

Soon enough we had radioed Nassau Harbor Control for permission to enter, were cleared and were on our way to dock at the Nassau Yacht Haven to wait for customs and immigration. The check-in process went smoothly as three customs officials boarded Kaleo, remaining in the cockpit, to complete the paperwork.  The only hang-up was that we were over-charged by $150 due to the customs officers not being familiar with the rates based on vessel length (or so we’d like to assume). Note: The official cruising permit fees for the Bahamas are $150 for vessels 35′ and under, $300 for vessels 35.1′ and up. We were essentially forced to pay $300 in cash, although Kaleo is 34′, as there was really no way to convince them beyond our attempts to point out our understanding of the rates. Frustrating to say the least but we plan to investigate the facts further and to take it up with the main customs office in hopes of a refund.

We took down our yellow quarantine flag and hoisted the Bahamian flag to prove Kaleo was now cleared to cruise the Bahamas. Dead tired, but excited to finally be here, the crew of our group of buddy boats met at “The Poop Deck Restaurant” for a celebratory dinner. We finished the evening sipping champagne and sharing sailing stories aboard our friends’ boat, Storyville, then it was back to Kaleo for a deep slumber.

N 25° 04.5 / W 77° 18.9
Bahamas Bound!

We’re like kids on Christmas Eve today as we prepare to set sail for the Bahamas tomorrow!

Fun sign at Boot Key Harbor Marina

Our plan is to leave Marathon tomorrow afternoon, around 2:00, and sail overnight, crossing the Gulf Stream, to South Riding Rock. The weather window we are taking should make for favorable crossing conditions. At South Riding Rock we will cross onto the Bahama Bank, an area about 10-12 feet deep with crystal clear water, and head to the Northwest Channel. If the seas are calm enough, we will drop an anchor on the bank and take a nap before heading into the Tongue of the Ocean which is about 6,000 feet deep. The last part of our passage will take us down to Nassau, where we can check into the Bahamas and get some rest. If the weather starts to turn for the worse, we will head to our back-up spots of either Frazer Hog Cay or Morgan’s Bluff.

The trip is about 40 consecutive hours of sailing and/or motoring. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be and beyond ready to be in the tropics. So, here goes …

While offshore and out of the country, we will lose our cell service. We will also be without internet service for a few days but you can track our progress by clicking the “globe” icon below (also in the upper-left corner of the site) which is constantly updated via our Spot Tracker.

Once we get settled in, we plan to get a Bahamian cell number. We will also be able to Skype and update the blog when we have internet. And, if you haven’t already, join us as virtual crew on our facebook page where we post more casual updates of our adventures. That’s it for now :o).

Boot Key Harbor Life

Since our last post, we’ve been enjoying the warm weather of the Florida Keys, prepping for our trip to the Bahamas and meeting new people in the “neighborhood.”

Kaleo at anchor in Boot Key Harbor, taken by our neighbors aboard SaltyPaws

  • Regardless of our plans for the day, each morning at 9:00 a.m. we tune into the cruisers’ net on VHF channel 68. The net is a radio gathering of all the boats in the harbor and are moderated by a net controller. These organized sessions are intended to welcome new arrivals, bid farewell to those departing, share information and local announcements (like yoga at 10:00 at the tiki hut, SSCA lunch at Hurricane’s), allow other boaters to request help on a projects, routes, etc. and facilitate a “treasures from the bilge” exchange, (a buy/sell/trade/give-away session). They wrap up with a challenge (trivia) to try to stump the harbor and any final business. All very informative, entertaining and a great way to start the day.
  • On the net we heard about the weekly “meet and greet” for Wednesday evening. Everyone brings a dish into the marina and we all spent some time getting to know each other. It was there that we connected with Deana and Troy on Storyville and Steve on Anchor Management who are also from Kemah and are headed to the Bahamas on the next window. We’ve enjoyed getting to know them, are looking forward to making the crossing together and hanging out once we’re in the Bahamas. Watch out lobstas, Deana’s got her Hawaiian Sling ready for ya.
  • While the boat is stocked to the brim with provisions, we have been taking advantage of the convenient walk to the grocery store to pick up some fresh foods.
    There’s also a West Marine within walking distance, so we stopped in to get a Bahamas courtesy flag (a boat must fly the courtesy flag of the country it is sailing through) and a few other final items.
  • Saturday evening we stopped by the cruisers’ concert (heard about it on the net) to listen to our anchorage neighbors Bentley and Jim, on SaltyPaws, play for the crowd and Troy, on Storyville, who belted out a few acoustic solo sessions for the gathering.
  • It wouldn’t be cruising without a little boat work which included Christie going up the mast to replace a flag halyard and shipping home our spinnaker sail (a large downwind sail that takes up a lot of room and rarely gets used) as well as replacing the fresh water manifold, remounting the WiFi antenna, changing the oil, zincs and fuel filter and adding straps to more easily lift the dinghy’s outboard motor. Ah, we even used a marina cart to haul that sail to the post office where Christie managed to hitch a ride on the cart part of the way (we looked like quite the sailor bums down the sidewalks).
  • We got geared up for going under with new fins, masks, snorkels and a wet suit from a nearby dive shop.
  • Our digital camera was lost to the depths of Marathon Harbor after a slippery mishap handing it down from the boat to the dinghy. It was painful to watch it sink (like a brick) but thankfully we had just ordered an all-purpose (waterproof) digital camera so the memory capturing will continue uninterrupted.
  • Much of our time has been spent watching for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas and preparing for the actual passage. We’ve been doing our research as Kaleo will have to cross the Gulf Stream. The first big leap in getting to the Bahamas is crossing this “ocean river” that runs northward with at least 2 knots of current. The Gulf Stream can either be a benign and helpful current or a rough and hard sail in heavy seas. In planning the crossing you have a number of factors to consider: wind speed, wind direction, sea state, optimum crossing angle, vessel speed, day or night voyage, season of the year and preferred arrival destination. Whew – lots to align for an ideal crossing.
  • Two afternoons have been spent meeting with other Bahamas-bound cruisers to swap weather notes, GPS waypoints (specific points along the route we sail towards), anchorage and check-in information. While about 12 boats attended the meeting, the final count for tomorrow’s departure will probably be 6-8. While we are all taking the same route, each vessel will leave at a different time depending on their boat speed. The slower boats leave first, the faster ones last. Kaleo is right about in the middle. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be and are ready to head out tomorrow.

A Marathon Sail

We’ve been spending the start of our new year by moving further south. After leaving the Tampa area, we spent a few nights at anchor along the ICW as we motored down to Fort Myers. Then, we picked up a mooring ball for two nights in Fort Myers waiting out a strong storm front and rain that came through. While in town doing laundry, another cruiser asked where we were from, and to our reply she said with excitement “Oh, you’re the kids!” It seems our reputation proceeded us as our friends and fellow cruisers, the Sittons, mentioned we would be coming through the area soon. For a little context, at the start of our adventure a handful of other cruisers we had gotten to know (and our diesel mechanic) started affectionately referring to us as “the kids,” a name that stuck. We like it and it certainly suits us as we have so much to learn from their experience and advice.

The main, full of wind, from Fort Myers to Marathon

On Friday morning we dropped the mooring ball in Fort Myers and topped off our water and fuel before heading out into the Gulf. The wind was blowing in the opposite direction of what was forecast (blowing SE, forecast to be NW) dashing our hopes of a smooth downwind sail to Marathon. Combined with seas from the west, meaning they were perpendicular to the boat, made for a very rolly ride. Though uncomfortable, we were making good progress so we moved on past our backup stop of Marco Island to keep heading toward the Keys. The wind continued on the nose until about 7 p.m. then started to clock around to the west enough to raise the main sail. That helped speed but just after dinner we heard the dreaded “thunk” of a crab trap hitting the prop. Thankfully it didn’t get wrapped up in the shaft (which would have necessitated a dive trip into the water to cut it loose). With the darkness, it was impossible to see and avoid the crab traps so we decided to shut down the motor and raise the remaining sail. The wind filled from the west and much to our delight, Kaleo was gliding along at 6.5 knots under full sail (and only full sail). The peaceful quiet of water lapping past the hull and the whisper of wind through the rigging reminded us why we love sailing. It’s a beautiful feeling to be moving along in your house, powered completely by mother nature. About midnight, the sailing was still great but our speed would put us into the Moser Channel before light (a big no-no as you never want to enter a new channel in the dark). So we dropped the jib and sailed under just the main at about 3 knots to ensure a daylight arrival. With sunrise came wind on the nose, the motor came back on and we weaved our way under the Seven Mile Bridge and into the Atlantic Ocean.

About an hour later, Kaleo was securely anchored in Boot Key Harbor with gorgeous 70° weather under sunny skies. We promptly changed into swimsuits and fell asleep lounging in the sun on the foredeck. A few hours later we took the dingy in to check out the marina and take showers. The city marina, though utilitarian, fosters a great community of sailors and liveaboards. When checking into the marina we even received a welcome bag from the local cruisers’ net. Think of a “net” as an interactive morning radio show for every boater in the area who has a VHF radio and wants to join. We’re looking forward to listening in tomorrow. Coming back to Kaleo after dark, we were awe struck by just how many boats are in the harbor. There are rows and rows and ROWS of anchor lights lit up like a city on the water and our best guess is that we’re neighboring at least 300 other boats.

Dusk at Boot Key Harbor

Tomorrow, our friends, Erica and Sean, are driving in from Fort Lauderdale to have lunch nearby and Monday we plan to do a few last minute errands. Then, it’s time to get serious about our crossing to the Bahamas. We’ll have our eye on the next weather window with plans to stage in Angelfish Creek (or somewhere nearby) for the crossing.

N 24° 42.16 / W 81° 06.23

Looking Forward While Celebrating 2010

As we look forward to what 2011 has in store for us, we reflected on our blessed-beyond-belief 2010. This has been a year of big changes, new beginnings and celebrations galore.

Looking forward to a walk like this soon

The first part of our year was filled with starting more projects than we finished on Kaleo, learning as much as we could aboard, as well as through Seven Seas University courses, and spending a few freezing weekends planning for warmer weather projects.

Spring brought warmer weather, some great sailing in Galveston Bay, the wedding of our dear friends, Amy & Jeph, and Christie’s parents’ 35th wedding anniversary in April.

May was a landmark month as we became officially debt free, gaining financial freedom. We also moved from our 1,400 square foot townhome to a 650 square foot studio apartment to better prepare for our life aboard Kaleo. And, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at The Joule, were we stayed on our wedding night. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

With the Texas summer heat came lots of family and friends visiting the boat, marina BBQ’s, and more boat projects. And in June, the “Cyclin’ Sailors” geared up for our 4th annual Urban Assault Race in Austin!

The Fourth of July was shared with the Wilborns by sailing and watching incredible fireworks shows while anchored out in the bay. Then, we jetted to Coeur D’ Alene, ID to celebrate the newest Butchers, as Matt’s brother Jeff married his bride, Meloney. We topped off the trip to the Northwest with an incredible experience of sleeping 50′ off the ground in the boughs of a giant, old Washington Red Cedar Tree at Cedar Creek Treehouse and touring Mt. Rainier National Park. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

While the summer heat continued to bake us, we enjoyed a shakedown cruise to Galveston with the Kryzaks and a sailing weekend with The Powers. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

The fall brought a trip to Minneapolis to celebrate Grandma Butcher’s 90th birthday, visit with family and to Trader Joe’s to stock up on our favorite snacks. The realization that we were now within one month of tossing the docklines helped us get a lot of boat projects wrapped up almost every weekend.

October was a big month as Matt took his leave of absence from work, Christie resigned from her job, we moved out of our land home and aboard Kaleo full-time, sold a car and put another one in storage along with our belongings. We soaked up treasured time with loved ones and were given three outstanding Bon Voyage parties. We also got to celebrate the marriage of Ben and Carly (Matt’s cousin) and spent time with family in San Diego. Of course, we managed another trip to Trader Joe’s for more provisions.

November 8th marked the beginning of our cruising life. Before leaving the dock, we met up with some cruising mentors, The Sittons, and celebrated Christie’s birthday with family and a dear friend, Crystal, aboard. The month was filled with a host of new experiences – from adjusting to life aboard to overcoming unknown challenges and navigating new waters to connecting with new friends along the way. We topped it off with a roadtrip from Mississippi to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with family.

The year wrapped up by crossing the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida. It was on those passages that we learned to love the open ocean, more fully appreciate warm days and spent time digging our toes into our first white sandy beach. Christmas with shared with family and friends in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and we were back home aboard Kaleo on New Year’s Eve.

We welcomed the new decade with the most unusual of celebrations for us at this time of year. The clock struck midnight as we pushed two carts down the isles of a 24-hour Walmart. We laughed and shared a little “Happy New Year” smooch in the canned goods aisle and continued provisioning in preparation for the Bahamas and beyond. Yes, really. Oh, the cruising life ;o).

Thank you for joining us as virtual crew along this adventure. It means a lot to us. We wish you peace, blessings and togetherness in your new year!

We’re ready for 2011 and believe the best is yet to come. God has even more amazing things He wants to do in and through our lives so we’re straining to what is ahead. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Carrabelle to Clearwater Passage

The past few days have been spent waiting out a cold front at C-Quarters Marina in Carrabelle, FL. We spent most of the time staying warm, doing some housecleaning, running  few errands and checking the weather to plan our next long offshore crossing. A highlight one evening was getting to catch up with our good friends, The Powers.

It looks calm here but coming in to C-Quarters Marina it took eight people, each with a line, and three tries to wrangle Kaleo into the slip as we fought against 35 mph winds and 2 knots of river currentSkyping with the Powers

Our Spot Tracker route from Carrabelle to Clearwater

The forecast was iffy and the weather window short but after a talk with some cruising mentors, and knowing the next window was over a week away, we decided to go for it. While most of the time was spent motoring as the wind was on our nose, it turned out to be a relatively calm and easy passage.

  • 150 – nautical miles traveled in 30 hours
  • 35 – miles offshore at the farthest
  • 10 – average knots of wind with 1 to 2 foot seas
  • 2 – distinctively inspiring books absorbed, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi and The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
  • 2 – movies watched on our iPhones, Letters to God and Bobby
  • 0 – land in sight at 360° around us
  • 1 – powerful bible verse shared with us by friends and fellow cruisers, The Claytons, that brought a great amount of security and peace, Numbers 6:24-26. Thank you!

We were reminded that being out at sea is actually more peaceful than sailing near shore or in channels like the ICW. When offshore, the boat basically handles itself and we each take turns on watch, routinely checking the horizon, course and instruments. When closer to land, we have to be constantly vigilant for hazards such as other boaters, floating debris, shoaling, crab traps, and missing or incorrectly marked navigation aids.

One of two magnificent sunsets on this passage

Open waters of the Gulf as we neared Clearwater

Tonight we’re anchored in Clearwater where will spend a few days before moving the boat to Tampa and flying to Texas to spend Christmas with family and friends.

N 27°58.54 / W 82°49.30

Pensacola to Apalachicola Passage

Early Friday morning we set out on a 97 mile offshore passage from Pensacola to Port Saint Joe, FL. Almost 22 hours later, we arrived at the channel entrance a few hours ahead of schedule. Feeling motivated and with favorable conditions, we decided to press on past Port Saint Joe for another 25 miles through the ICW to Apalachicola. There’s a harsh cold front forecast to blow through the area this weekend so we wanted to get as far down the line as possible before being held up by the weather. We’re now tied up to a city dock that’s a little rolly, but coming off the past day’s adventure, we’ll probably sleep though just about anything.

Kaleo cutting through the Gulf

  • It took almost 13 hours to cover just the first 50 miles from Pensacola to Destin because of 17-19 knot winds right on the nose (coming at us) and 3 to 4 foot seas.
  • Just after nightfall, the winds settled to about 12 knots and the seas were nearly flat, helping us to cruise along at 6.5 knots.
  • We enjoyed the most spectacular night sky scattered with dazzling stars burning brighter than we’d ever seen. To top it off, seven shooting stars blazed above us throughout the night.
  • At the farthest, we were about 20 miles offshore.
  • Other than those twinkling stars, the only company we had along the way was one offshore fishing boat and an unidentified object that our hull hit in the night, giving us quite the jolt. (We couldn’t see what it was and there didn’t seem to be any damage but we’ll check it out more thoroughly when we can dive under in clear water.)
  • We took shifts checking the engine’s vitals, the bilge, wind conditions, sail trim and our course while the auto-pilot did most of the steering.
  • If there was a theme for the night, it would be set to the Garden State soundtrack. (Which we both listened to throughout our shifts.)
  • Other than being pretty cold, our first overnight passage of 122 nautical miles was less intimidating than we had imagined and we are grateful for being blessed with a safe trip.

Peaceful seas and a beautiful sunset

We’re off to get some rest and we’ll see what the weather brings in the morning to decide when and where we’ll head next. Ideally, we’d like to make another offshore jump to Clearwater/St. Petersburg/Tampa area once the weather clears. We’re looking forward to possibly catching up with some dear friends there.

N 29° 43.72 / W 84° 58.96

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