Copy Write 10/21/2001 © Updated 1/4/2006
My pre trip rituals have all the pomp and circumstance of a Japanese High Tea service. Go thru the fishing tackle box, I need a bigger one (maybe Santa's helper will be kind).
Next the various coolers and water jugs. They always play hide and seek in between trips. The bathing ritual consists of a formal bath with bleach, complimentary soaking and then final rinsing. Towel dry for that fresh all day feeling.
Dinner menu this trip will be something different. A friend recently bagged his first deer of bow season. Medium sized deer and he offered venison. Spent a few hours cutting up a venison ham. Set up 5 baggies of meat for the trip, dinner aboard will be interesting. If I manage to catch a fish or two I may just change my name to Huck Finn. A few spices and stuff will need to be carried for the venison.
Of course a day out from launch comes the ultimate pre trip ritual; "Brewing of the Ginger Tea" usually coat and top hat is worn as the coffee machine perks hot water over the slices of ginger in the glass pot. Once completed the tea with ginger is poured into a two gallon cooler and left out to cool. Two pots of tea are brewed and placed in the cooler. Once the tea has cooled to room temp the cooler is filled with water up to a set mark then placed in the refrigerator. Just before launch ½ bag of ice is poured in. In the past I used candied ginger and carried some with me to add later in the week. This time I think I will try fresh. I have no set recipe, just get the ginger and dump some in, makes life interesting. You never really know how strong the first batch is until under sail and the mug is filled. Sometimes the lemony zing of ginger is enough to knock you down.
Sleeping bag is always ready; packing clothes is a typical guy thing just stuff them in there. I have learned to keep a separate bag for shower stuff and related things like that.
Finding flashlights is the real challenge. If you ever had to hunt them boogers down you know what I mean. They hide all over the place.
There are two plastic tubs kept aboard that serve as the kitchen both need a last moment look see. But the rule is there must always be something you need that gets left behind. Never forget that rule!!! I don't know why the rule is so important but it seems to be, as I usually follow it.
The single biggest pre trip ritual is weather forecasting. I get up in the morning "The Weather Channel" goes on, stays on till I leave for work. Come home I sneak the remote from my wife and promptly change the channel when she is not looking. If she takes a nap on the couch I get real sneaky turn the volume down before changing the channel. (hey guys, trust me it works) Now it won't work if you are trying to watch one of those blow everything up and everybody dies but the hero and the girl movies, but I can usually get at least a good ½ hour of weather channel before she wakes up and puts it back on HG TV.
There is a scientific theory; that on a sub atomic level the fact that you are watching an event affects the outcome of the event. Trust me on this one I read lots of Sci-Fi books and am familiar with all the theory's, also I am left handed. (if I have to explain left-handed logic to you then you don't need to know). Any way my theory is if I watch the weather channel enough then I should be able to influence the weather. My main problem has been watching the weather channel enough. Sooner or later I go to sleep or have to go to work, but hey I am trying.
Of course the last is the actual loading of the boat. For that you have to be up at dawn. Bow down 7 times at the four points of a compass to appease the wind gods. Then do a little jig on the foredeck to scare away the rain god. Once the sun is up throw everything aboard and hope you can find it later.
I have officially become a card-carrying member of the trailer sailors club. Loaded the boat and drove 15 miles to the northeast end of Pensacola. This is the first time "Don't Ask" has been trailered very far other than back in 97 when I bought her. Stopped by Swamphouse early this week and made arrangements. Unfortunately I did not get everything in writing, first mistake. When I spoke with a person today there seemed to be a problem getting a slip in close to the main area I mentioned my previous price agreement and there didn't seem to be a problem. Eventually we came to an agreement with a slip not far from the ramp. Mistake # 2 was not writing a check and paying for things then I figured I would stop by on the way out. When I went back to settle the bill there was another person behind the counter. The slip I was in was not satisfactory and the price I was quoted originally did not agree with what this new person was telling me. Fortunately we worked everything out eventually.
The actual launching of the boat was truly and adventure. Apparently I did not get the shrouds laid out in such a way to make raising the mast possible. After floundering around some, finally got it up. The real weird part was all the powerboats coming and going. It was truly a zoo. Here I am trying to raise the mast solo, this truck with boat and trailer pulls up real close to the back end of my boat. He looks up at me trying to raise the mast and proceeds with the business of backing his boat. Had I lost control of the mast at that point this guy would be driving a damaged truck. About the time he gets away from me another pulls in same thing.
Every time I think I may be able to back my boat another boat comes in from the water. All the boats at Swamphouse are relatively small so it doesn't take them long. Eventually things slow down. One ramp is a single the other is a double ramp. A guy pulls his boat in one half of the double (the ramp I need) and proceeds to spend at least an hour trying to get the motor to run. After about a ½ hour of waiting for him I give up and fit my truck and trailer beside his and the edge of the ramp. It doesn't take long to splash "Don't Ask" and within reasonable time she is in the slip.
Sunday evening my wife drops me off at Swamphouse Marina. All the last minute stuff is stowed. After a while everything is as stowed as it is going to get and a trip to the clubhouse is in order. Apparently there is a fish fry going on and the invitation is given for me to help myself. Triggerfish, Amberjack and Red Fish are on the menu. I find my irritation over the slip space fiasco fading with each tasty morsel.
Part of the docks look like any other marina, some of the other docks require a boardwalk along the marsh just to get to the slips. After a brief stroll it is time to turn in Tonight I was smart, lit the citronella candle well in advance so by the time to turn in all the small biting things have left the cabin. The marina is a noisy place at night. Right next to the bridge over Escambia Bay on Hwy 90 there is a lot of road noise. My slip is near the ramp so as fishing boats come and go you hear all that. There is bridge construction so no alarm clock is needed as the bridge workers use the boat ramp to get to the barges in the morning.Return
After some fresh coffee and breakfast it is time to go. Weaving around the construction barges servicing the bridge building a trip up the Escambia River is in order. An electrical power plant is on the river and I can only go a few miles up river before the power lines over the river prevent further passage.
Back the way I came the river dumps into Escambia Bay. Due to no wind motoring is the only option. Right at the mouth there is a fair size island; the north side has a section of beach. Looks like a nice place to stop sometime, that little tidbit is filed away for another day. Scenic Hwy runs parallel to the western side of Escambia Bay, I drive this route to work most every day and daydream of being out on the water. Just to tease all the folks driving to work I decide to motor along this side. The shallows extend well out so care must be given if you are not in the shipping channel.
Eventually Escambia Bay flows into Pensacola Bay. Heading west Bayou Tejar dumps into Pensacola Bay near the Pensacola Bay Bridge. It was my plan to head up into the bayou. Sometimes little things are important, I forgot about the railroad track that runs along side Escambia Bay it crosses Bayou Tejar the bridge is too low. Hmmm change of plans.
After lunch it is sailing time, the wind has picked up a bit. Just one slight "small" problem. Motoring down the water was flat so I never bothered to lower the keel. Sometimes King Neptune is kind, today is one of those. The keel was stuck in the up position. Fortunately I was in clear water shallows with no real wind or waves to deal with things could have been different. Diving on the keel I am of the delusion it can be pulled down. You know how well that worked don't you.
Phase two of this little issue involve pulling the boat further into the shallows to bump the keel. No such luck! Hey how bout another bright idea. Rock the boat baby; Rock the boat baby (you know the tune) all these folks driving their cars over the bay bridge have the privilege of watching me stand on the cabin rocking the boat sideways. Hmmmm, what about rocking the boat lengthwise this is much harder than it sounds.
Phase three is locating some driftwood to use as a ram. Part of the keel rides below the hull. I figure if I bump it hard enough it will work loose. Man I am running out of ideas that one didn't work either.
Climbing back aboard it is time to as Winnie the Poo says "Think Think Think" so here is what I thunk up. A long screwdriver down the pendant pipe just might work. Only one slight problem the pipe is too long. Over the years I have made several jib pendant leads out of SS wire. The wire will saw through fiberglass if you work at it. Between the SS wire and some handy pliers the pendant tube was chopped down to about an inch or so above the keel trunk.
I carry a small hatchet aboard (will explain that later) it came in handy as a hammer. Just as I figured the pendant wire loops around the keel and back. Tied off with a wire clamp. Not sure why but something got crossways, it was jamming the keel just enough. It worked free and I was back in business.
Under light winds port tack it is time to play with an idea my Dad gave me using the motor down in neutral to create just enough drag to balance the boat. See Self Steering for details.
Up at dawn time to watch the sun come up. As the sun comes up I hear a strange roaring sound, not too loud but growing. If you saw the movie "City of Angels" then you know what I mean. Cool, I can hear the sun, ooopps I forgot about the bridge and the growing morning rush hour.
After a quick motor through NAS Pensacola Yacht Club docks and mooring field it is time to head back out. First dolphins of the trip are feeding in the yacht club basin, either the sun is in the way or the dolphins are to quick surfacing for me to get a camera shot.
Destination for the night is Spanish Point onBig LagoonThe wind has picked up a bit (not much) the afternoon is spent working my way west. Pensacola Pass is wide the winds mild, no waves just swells coming in. Too much temptation for me "Don't Ask" knows my heart she just turns southwest catching the wind close reaching. Once past the barrier island I start trying to figure if I really have time to do this before the sun goes down. I would have loved to sail out there to catch the sunset then return. Lots of considerations what is the tide doing, will the wind die once the sunsets. I didn't want to get out there and trapped unable to return. Did that once in Sarasota Fl. with another boat. An outgoing tide can be a problem pushing against. Eventually reason wins out and we come about and head back. Getting thru a pass is never easy biggest problem is all the big powerboats whizzing by. They care little for a sailboat trying to get thru. At this time it is not too bad. Coming back with the wind from the south dead down wind I can't expect much from the sails in the light wind. Also to make life interesting is the smaller fishing boats anchored around the edges. Trying to broad reach my way back in would have take too much time. So with sails up and the motor pushing we make our way back in. I wouldn't dare say this little foray into the open Gulf qualifies me as a blue water sailor. But it was rally cool looking behind me to see the Pensacola Lighthouse marking the entrance to Pensacola Pass on my stern. My anchorage for the night is Spanish Point, an all time favorite. This trip the Gulf Islands National Seashore folks have decided to be environmentally sound by restricting access to my favorite thin water anchorage in a cove near an area marked as Ft. McRae on the maps. This cove is secluded due to thin water. The Park "powers to be" have marked the area no motorized vessels, recently because I don't remember seeing the little buoys on a previous sailing trip. I understand their concern over saving the sea grass habitat and all the life it supports. But still it is was a favorite secluded area to get away from everybody. Spanish Point anchorage only has a few bigger boats two of which seem to be running together. Due to bugs I didn't want to get in too close so I picked a spot behind (to the north) of the rest of the boats. Lit the anchor light and settled in.Return
Woke early rather than greet the day in my usual fashion the decision was made to pull out and back track to Santa Rosa Island and visit
on the east side of Pensacola Pass.
Setting anchor near Ft Pickens is an art of balance. Several competing factors to be balanced. Wind direction was south to southwest perfect for keeping the boat off the shore. Second is current flow, which is noticeable depending upon which direction the tide is flowing. Thirdly and most damaging is the powerboat wakes. The big ones come thru full blast kicking up a wall of water. There is enough boat traffic where the water is almost always churned up. It took me three tries before I got the two anchors set in such a way to allow the wind to keep me off shore far enough so the powerboat wakes wouldn't push me back ashore. Yet in deep enough water to keep the keel down 10 cranks for stability from the wakes.
Jellyfish were out in numbers this morning. Some of them are really beautiful. About 12" in diameter with 4 circles in the center of the umbrella. Translucent bodies with a purplish tint. The edges fringed with purple color to the fringes. Unfortunately with so many washing up and banging around on the shore the water was littered with bits and pieces of the tentacles. Not bad enough to hurt but defiantly stings a bit
Ft Pickens on the east side of the pass, Ft McRae on the west and Ft Barrancass on the landside. Pensacola Bay was protected well back in the olden days. Lots of history a cool place to spend several hours. Spent some time wandering the halls of Ft Pickens. Both the old stuff going way back in time and some of the newer stuff used in WW I and II for coastal defense.
Once back on the boat it is time to decide what is what. I am way ahead of my scheduled itinerary. Outside passage to Perdido Pass is tempting. I have the time. Tuning in the weather radio I decide against it. The winds are supposed to shift S/W to W and increase. Outside wave height to increase as well. My biggest fear is ending up beating toward the end also Perdido Pass is much narrower than Pensacola Pass. Hence things get rough in there a lot quicker if the weather or waves get worse.
Inside passage is the decision. Getting thru the channel between Pensacola Bay and Grand Lagoon sometimes is tough due to tide. Today is one of those sailing against an outgoing tide issues. The channel is narrow and deep the tide can get moving pretty good, if winds are light the iron jenny comes in handy.
Once out on Big Lagoon things settle and for the first time this trip some decent wind maybe 10 K with a few mild puffs. Beam reaching the length of Big Lagoon I notice "Don't Ask" seems sluggish just not sailing right. I noticed this previously but passed it off as light winds. With the stronger winds it is obvious something is going on. The only difference load wise this trip and other past trips is the addition of two marine batteries and their location. I built a dedicated battery rack in the v-berth for two batteries. Previous trips included one battery stored back on the starboard side near the keel pendant.
The 6-gallon gas jug tied to the bow pulpit is brought back to the cabin and placed near the keel winch. Under sail again and "Don't Ask" is back to her usual self. Hmmmm learn something new every time. I stuff most everything in the cabin in the v-berth. Carry 6 to 12 gallons of water at the keel pivot point. The coolers in the starboard cockpit locker and the 6 gallons of gas tied to the bow pulpit. With the added weight of two batteries it seems I have too much weight forward.
Grand Lagoon runs East / West about 7 miles long. West end is Big Lagoon State Park jutting out into the water with the shoals out even further. The shipping channel is well dredged. The north side shoals up fast. South side stays reasonable almost to the barrier island. The name of the game here is to sail (not motor) the entire trip around the point then continue as the ICW turns north thru the Theo Barrs Bridge where the ICW changes back to east west. If you are lucky you may be able to sail the entire way out to Innerrarity Point.
I laid my tacks out pretty good most of them went well. I was able to work my way west and end up south enough to hug the red channel markers in the inside (land side) of the channel and line up almost perfectly for the run to the bridge.
Rather than a dead downwind run I opted for broad reaching northwest eating up a lot of channel going in. By the time I was ready to run the bridge there was little down wind sailing. Once on the west side of the bridge the channel jogs to the left and I was back to beam reaching to close reaching in the narrow channel. I made it almost out of the narrows and into a wider section when the ICW takes a more southwesterly heading meaning the wind was on the nose. Dropping the jib it is time to motor out past Inerrarity Point. The weatherman was right on the money concerning wind speed. Late in the afternoon the winds had indeed picked up.
Around here the crab pots make good water depth indicators. Most of the commercial crab pots are in 6' to 8' of water. Occasionally I have seen them closer in. Keel ¾ down 6' 8' water depth is just fine so I didn't need to go out to the channel markers and I didn't bump bottom. Flying the main sail I tried to keep on a broad reach instead of running to get better boat speed.
The Perdido Bay system is hourglass shaped. Just the main in 15 K winds with puffs was more than enough for a comfortable ride across south Perdido Bay. I have learned from past experience flying the jib into the narrow section with winds all day from the southwest may not always be the best thing. As the bay narrows it channels the winds so the puffs are stronger. The Lillian Bridge at the narrowest part creates problems with wind blown waves. The further in you go the shorter the period and steeper, as you get real close to the bridge the waves try to bounce back from the bridge pilings resulting in confused seas. Sometimes bad sometimes not. Once I was in similar conditions, the trip across south Perdido the jib was blanketed by the main and mostly useless. Once into the narrows I call the "chute" wing -n-wing was possible. Initially it was manageable and a good ride. As I got closer to the bridge the gusts kept trying to broach on the jib side. Between the waves and the jib I had my hands full. One particularly strong gust brought the boat around rather quickly at a rather bad time with wave action. All I could do was hang on. We got hit hard on that one bounced the anchor overboard along with the rode and the anchor set instantly stopping us cold. What a ride that was and it happened so fast. Normally I try to keep the anchor rode coiled and tied to the bow pulpit to prevent something like that happening; sometimes I get careless and forget
This time I just run the bridge fairly easy no big deal. Once on the north side of the bridge the bay takes an easterly direction. If I would continue north things would probably be a bit smoother but I usually just turn and start lining up with the trip home. With the wave action getting thru the bridge and the changing wind due to the bridge structure it self-things can get a bit squirrelly for a short period.
Motor sailing home is a gravy run. Night is falling some stars thru the clouds. Return
I had a judgment call to make Wednesday, the kind I hate. Weather forecast was for seriously deteriating weather tonight with worsening weather Thursday. I had a hiding hole just south of the Lillian Bridge I could have stayed in overnight well protected. Used it many a time in the past in heavy winds as a temporary stopping place after working my way across south Perdido. The forecast for Friday wasn't much better. Do I stay there for the night or push on home. If the weather did not get bad I could continue playing around and visit Pirates Cove for lunch and a few other places to gunk hole. Or if it did get bad I wouldn't be far from home. If it got really bad I could call for a pick up. Or just push on home. I hate these decisions. No way to win! I decided to head on in. In the car and driving home by 9pm. Will go back Friday morning for the post trip clean up.
Today is Thursday, morning is cloudy and moody, by afternoon clear and sunny winds breezy but nothing like what was forecasted. Basically the cold front pounded those up north and fizzled down here. Of course had I decided to stay aboard things probably would have been different. You see the first thing I did when I got home was to watch the weather channel to see what is going on. Do you remember my statement at the beginning of all this concerning weather???
This trip a 5 hp Honda four stroke was used. True to advertising it was sweet on gas. Started with 6 gallons I used 5. It did OK on pushing the boat. I did not encounter any real weather so I don't know how it would push against in difficult conditions.Return
I started something back when I bought "Don't Ask" in 1997. Any and all spare parts left over stainless, old jib pendants and assorted boat related "stuff" goes into a plastic box. If, you ever had young children and watched the Barney Show then you know what a Barney Bag is.
Over the years I have found my Barney Box invaluable this trip was a classic example. I checked the motor gear oil before launch and promptly lost the screw that goes back in the hole. Never did find it. This was accomplished after my wife left on Sunday. I just happened to have a bolt the right size to fit. Without the box launch would have been delayed.
One of the extra SS wire jib pendants came in handy as a wire saw used on the keel pendant tube.
The hatchet kept aboard is just one of those things. I started carrying it to cut wood for any campfires on shore. Several times I thought of removing it. Always left it aboard figuring if I ever needed it I would really need it. Sure made a good hammer to free the keel.
The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
formated for 800 x 600 and Cascading Style Sheets