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First Blood

March 1999

Copy Write 12/17/2000 ©   Updated  1/3/2006

Prolog   History   The Trip   After Glow   Disclaimer    E- Mail


For years I never considered this trip important enough to include on my web page. There are no nice sunset / sunrise photos. Nothing dramatic happened nor was the trip long or far from my home port at the time on North Perdido Bay . I have decided to include this trip to illustrate how things change over time and how experience alters your perceptions. I run into many South Coast owners new to the joy of sailing. Quite often those of us with some water under our keel have forgotten the early years. Many times the new person on the bay gets the impression an experienced sailor is omnipotent and nothing ever goes other than planned.


In the Begining

Just a bit of history to help keep things in perspective. I spotted my current boat one evening, not even looking for a sail boat. She was sitting at a boat sales place on the trailer. I knew the moment I saw her she was mine. The next day drove back for initial inspection. She was then and is now a bit worn from long years of banging around on the Gulf Coast. I am of the delusion the owner had grown too old to sail her and all my purchase dealings was thru his son living here in Pensacola. One thing led to another and a final purchase price was agreed upon June of 1997. Hooked her up to my truck and towed her home. Spent several weeks going thru her cleaning everything and repairing some minor things. Arrangements were made at Grand Lagoon Yacht Club for a slip.

Life was good at Grand Lagoon Yacht Club until Hurricane Danny the same year.

After Danny spent all day churning in Mobile Bay Alabama many boats were damaged including what really amounted to minor damage to "Don't Ask". I attribute the damage to failing to name the boat prior to launch. I had her named and the previous owner did not leave the name he gave her on the boat. BUT, I failed to put the name on the hull, there by angering King Neptune. After cleaning up the mess and dragging her home once again the process of repairs at a marine boat repair place was started and eventually finished. With a new mast, rigging and some fiberglass repair "Don't Ask was ready to sail once again.

Take this lesson to heart; make sure your boat is named.

I learned my lesson and no longer wanted an exposed slip. A friend offered slip space on North Perdido Bay which was five miles from home. I will forever be most thankful of the generosity of that friend. Many days were spent sailing the northern parts of Perdido Bay.

My sailing history revolves around rented or borrowed small Hobbie Cats and Sunfish or boats of that nature. At one time we lived at Sarasota Florida and I owned an 18' Wellcraft Bucaneer Class sailboat kept at Sarasota Sailing Squadron . I went without a boat for many years until I joined Grand Lagoon Yacht Club. Many hours were spent sailing on Big Lagoon with the 19' Flying Scot , club boat for Grand Lagoon Yacht Club . All these boats are what I call day sailors, others class as sailing dinghies. No cabin and home by dark.

"Don't Ask" was a big step forward for me.


The Trip

My original plans called for a weekend sailing trip to somewhere on South Perdido Bay . I had not sailed this area very much and had only a general idea of where I wanted to anchor for the night depending upon weather.

I had never spent the night aboard a sail boat before except once at Sarasota Sailing Squadron. A 30' sloop moored. Would I get seasick, was a big question? As I had no prior experience there was a host of other concerns, weather, seas, what to bring, what not to bring, bla, bla, bla.

Due to winds from the South, South/East I choose to motor to the Lillian Bridge. I knew this area well and would have spent too much time beating into the wind to sail. I had transited the bridge just a few times previously always in fair to calm winds.

Once long ago I heard the tale of woe from a sail boat owner suffering a knock down as he transited the lee side of bridge calm to the windward side gusty. Remembering always that tale I am cautious around bridges as the wind and waves can be quite different either side.

Today was the perfect example of this fact. The north side waters calm wind not too bad, motoring thru the other side wind probably around 20k seas real choppy with gusts. Although I was not afraid of the situation, it was defiantly uncomfortable. Time for a tactical decision.
Plan A. continue as planned
Plan B. turn around and find another place to anchor for the night
Plan C. Go Home

Plan A. Was full of unknowns!!! Would the waves get worse as I went south? What about the wind? Big concern was if the weather worsened overnight. Would I be able to get back the next day?

Plan B. Find a protected cove on the eastern side of North Perdido Bay. Spend the night and enjoy myself. As long as the wind was from the east I would have no problem getting home hugging the windward shore.

Plan C. Just call it quits. I choose to err on the side of caution, turned "Don't Ask" around and motored thru the bridge turned east and found a protected cove. Raised the keel all the way up and tucked in close to shore. Spent a delightful evening on the hook, I was here, I had arrived, I was finally on my first sailing trip. That night I learned one of my first lessons about sleeping aboard. Always set two anchors to keep the boat from sailing at anchor too much. Yea with the keel all the way up and the rudder fully raised we swung around quite a bit.

The next day the winds abated and a fun sail back the way I came.


After Glow

As I stated before there was no high seas adventure this trip. The only thing noteworthy about it was the fact it was my first overnighter and some decisions had to be made.

Since this trip I have transited the Lillian Bridge many times in weather much worse than this trip.

I have learned if the wind is from the South, South/East to South/West the lay of the land and water will funnel wind and waves north to the choke point; the Lillian Bridge. From the south wind and waves will increase as they are pushed north. Had I choose to continue on that trip the worst of the conditions would have been from the Lillian Bridge south to Nix Point (see map). From there things would have calmed down. Assuming the conditions did not worsen or change.

Had the wind shifted east I would have had better conditions and a shift to the west in worsening conditions probably would have created all kinds of problems getting back as I would have been on a lee shore all the way home.

I have no problems transiting the Lillian Bridge in conditions much worse than that day long ago March 1998. The experience gained has helped me make judgments concerning other bridges here on the Gulf Coast.

My advice to new sailors, give yourself time to learn. Take baby steps to gain experience. The hardest part is letting go of your frustrations. Always remember things do not always go as planned.



The information on this page is not intended as a "definitive" guide to sailing .
Rather it is a collection of things that work for me also ideas I have learned from other sources.
The information is specific to my 22' swing keel South Coast Seacraft Eclipse.
The sailing area is local bays and ICW
Use at your own risk
Any good sailing resource book should provide a comprehensive review of sailing theory.

Do you know how you got here?

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