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April 2000

Copy Write 4/1/2000 ©   Updated  12/29/2005

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April 2000 is an important trip, it is the first overnight trip for my eight-year-old daughter.

Starting about fall 1999 I have been slowly introducing her to yachting. Early times out due to no wind we motored. With flat water she loved the tiller as she steered the boat in big circles and arcs the wake, a ribbon behind us.

Eventually we worked up the wind speed to just below whitecaps. Some of the trips lasting from noon to 4 PM our favorite day trip is to head out stop for lunch then head back.

There was one big issue to resolve, the potty! She was going to have to accept it on her terms. I couldn't force that one. On a small boat the port-a-potty is as good as it gets. After many trips on the water she eventually adjusted. The second issue was sleeping; she is used to a big twin bed and normal household noises. Boat noises are a bit different. Her big concern was what she would sleep on. There was no bed in the boat. In the past I have used a hammock, works great smoothes out the boat motion. It is a pain to set up. I tried to explain several times even showed it too her.

Months passed. The trip I took in March opened the door a bit. She had been on the boat enough for it to be familiar. April arrived, I waited 8 years for this moment and it was beginning to look like another year would pass as well. One day she told me she wanted to spend the night on the boat. At first I wasn't sure I believed her. We talked a few times over the next several weeks. She actually seemed excited. Now came the tough part, convincing Momma!

I knew better than to plan a long trip, short and sweet overnight not too far. Spring break had already passed the last Friday of April would be perfect. She gets out of school at 2:30 PM just enough time to dash home, launch the boat and motor to Dupont Point . Kids need to be involved in the planning. The more you involve them the better. Handing her paper and pen we discussed what to eat, with her keeping notes. From there a grocery list was developed. When it came time to buy she was with me Discussions as to what she should pack and carry. Several times she needed reminding she couldn't bring all her toys. Clothing for this time of year was next. Nights can still be cool.

Thursday night everything possible was loaded on the boat, the weather forecast was still good. As always with Florida weather a chance of showers but the percentage not too high. I need perfect weather this trip. Friday morning I'm like a kid at Christmas. Needless to say I did little work on Friday. Knocked off at noon drove home. Grabbing the remaining few items, out to the boat. Due to the remote location I don't keep the motor on the boat. It will disappear. So I put it back on and cranked it to insure no surprises. With everything stowed it was time to get the first mate. By 3:30 PM we were back and ready to cast off. Motoring south I let her handle the tiller. Teaching her to pick a landmark and steer to it has mixed results. We wander around a bit but there is no rush. It takes me an hour to motor to the Lillian Bridge, if we go in the right direction this time just a bit longer. Another thirty minutes to Dupont Point once under the bridge. Rachel thinks the bridge is cool and takes some photos as we pass. The other side of the bridge the wind is noticeably higher. By April the wind pattern changes from winter winds dominated by east / west flows to more southerly sea breeze from the Gulf of Mexico. Wind is on the nose. Glad I was flexible and choose to motor. I wanted to get there fast and set camp. North side of Dupont Point near the tip I see a small patch of beach that looks perfect. Sheltered from the wind. As we pull along side the beach it proves better than imagined. The water is deep enough I can pull within a few feet of shore and not bump bottom. Quickly bow and stern anchor are set.

Time for a swim, walking south across the point we reach the south side. Wind a good 18K or better whitecaps just beginning to form. I picked a perfect protected anchorage. With the wind so high we didn't swim long eventually heading back. The north side was well protected and the waves non-existent. We had fun playing in the water until a little spot of brown floated by. Rachel came out of the water like a gunshot. The jellyfish were out. I groaned I could just see us packing it in and heading home. For years she was terrified of jellyfish. Can't blame her too much. The jellyfish aren't too bad and the water is clear enough to see them as they float along. For the most part you can see them as they drift along. Rachel is obsessed with them standing on the bank she can't leave them alone. Poking sticks at the ones washing up on the shore. Then she graduates to covering them with sand. Next thing I know she is stomping on the ones she covered with sand. I find this most amusing but dangerous. She is wearing water shoes. Thick soled on the bottom but open weave on the top. The jellyfish is not painful only the tentacles. She hasn't comprehended the true risk. By stomping on the jellyfish she risks a tentacle on the top of her shoe. After about the third time of reminding her I think she finally understands.

Keeping kids busy and occupied is the name of the game. It is time to scrounge firewood for the evening. Grabbing a plastic bucket we load it full of pinecones (good fire starter). Then it is time to hunt for fallen wood. This works out OK and end up with a nice pile, hopefully enough. I have been hiking in this area once many years ago. It has lots of dirt roads and trails, piney woods and brush. As we are walking not far from camp I see a limb good for firewood. Walking the few feet from the dirt road to get it I find myself in the middle of a low growing patch of prickly pear cactus, naturally I have been speared. Like any kid Rachel comes rushing in to see. Then I hear the scream, you know what happened don't you!!! We were both speared. Of the two I was the lucky one. The cactus was alive and the needles hurt but were soft. Rachel managed to find a dead one to argue with. The needles are hard to get out. After pulling the needles out, she is crying, I carry her back to our beach. Holding her until she gets the crying out of her system. We haven't been here that long and already a major crisis. Some boo boo's daddy can fix, most, only mommy can help, it is a good ninety minutes back. Eventually she calms and I ask if she is all right. Then I ask one of life's most dangerous questions. Do you want to go home? Fortunately she says no. But, she makes it clear she wants no part of walking in the woods.

As I start pulling things off the boat for our evening cookout, she is back to pestering the jellyfish. Evening is falling and it is time to light the fire and fix dinner. Roasted sausage dogs and chips pretty good at any time. Out in the open over a fire even better. Afterwards toasted marshmallows. I prefer to let mine get black on the outside and gooey in the inside. Rachel likes hers warmed a bit. Somemores are made using chocolate chip cookies. Not too bad! The fire is dying and it is time to pack it in for the night. After a quick sponge bath to remove the saltwater we are ready for bed. The hammocks are set with our feet pointing into the V-berth. Two hammocks make things a bit crowded. This is Rachel's first time in a hammock she does well. As we are crowded, there is not much room to swing. Later in the night I am itching like crazy Rachel not much better. Getting up another sponge bath and I decide to rub down with suntan lotion. With the itching easing we climb back in and are soon asleep. I usually don't overnight this close to shore and most of my trips are in the cooler months. Consequently I have never had to deal with a no-see-um infestation before. We are sheltered from the wind and just a few feet from shore. Naturally the no-see-um's wanted to spend the night with us.

Folks fish Perdido bay all the time, night and day. I'm unsure why but the night fishermen feel they must drop by and take a look several times fishermen buzz us, naturally I wake each time.

Mornings on the boat are magic, I usually wake at dawn. Quietly I crawl out of my sleeping bag and into the cockpit. With the coffee pot bubbling I tend to another coating of suntan lotion. Hey no-see-um's want breakfast too. Breakfast is bagels with cream cheese, or should I say cream cheese with bagels. In deference to the first mate I bought chocolate chip bagels. Actually not too bad I prefer cinnamon / raisin.

Looking in the cabin, what a sight. Rachel is sprawled out over two hammocks. Her hammock has a spreader bar and my sleeping bag keeps my hammock from cocooning around you. As both are side by side she is half on hers and half on mine. And to think I was concerned about her comfort. After she wakes and has breakfast it is time to re arrange the boat for sailing mode. To give room in the cabin, stuff is moved into the cockpit. Now it is time to stow everything back.

Today's destination is Pirates Cove Marina . Motoring out into deeper water we head south past Dupont Point, raise the sails and off we go. Already this morning there is a good south sea breeze. Beam reaching we start working our way west. As we sail toward Orange Beach the wind starts shifting south west, just off the nose and building a bit. The channel between Bear Point and Innerarity Point is ICW and barge traffic must be contended with. My approach is along the north side of Innerarity Point (south side of Perdido Bay). As I am working to wind, a barge makes its presence known. Keeping a port tack I head west as the barge is heading east. I need to push this as far as I dare without causing problems. Basically I must anticipate where the barge will be and how long it will take me to reach that point and be gone before the barge gets there. As I continue I fall in the wind shadow of the trees and buildings west of me. The wind abates a bit; this throws a wild card into my judgment. If I continue the wind may falter a bit more, slowing the boat and throwing my timing off. Rather than chance it, time to come about. Broad reaching on a starboard tack we head north across the bay towards Soldier Creek. Gaining some sea room another tack back to port we are on a close reach back southwest. I must clear Ross Point and the accompanying shoals. Once again as we near the ICW and the strip of water between Ross Point and Mill Point another Tugboat. This time I don't have the room and must come about to starboard. Now I am in the thin water around Ross Point. If the wind is light I can raise the keel and keep on sailing. Not so if the wind is moderate. The boat will slip to leeward and I will end up pinned on somebody's dock. Time to cheat and crank the motor to get back into deeper water. By the time I am deep enough to lower the keel down I am also west of Ross Point and ready for the grand entrance to Pirates Cove.

Sometimes it is most important to have good seamanship. When there is an audience it is critical.

Broad reaching north toward Roberts Bayou I have never been here. Threading along the beach I follow the channel markers. There is a narrow deep channel along side Pirates Cove several powerboats pulled up on the sand. I cruise past and into the turning basin behind. Coming about smartly I stall the boat, bow into the wind and calmly walk forward to drop anchor.

Stowing the sails takes a few moments then weigh anchor and crank the motor to find my place on the beach. Pirates Cove was first described to me as "rustic" I think that may be an understatement. Basically it's an old wooden building, patched tin roof, and big covered deck. In other words, a perfect place to hang out and watch the world go by. There are lots of slips for those needing one in the bayou behind lots of room to anchor and dingy in. Wading through the sand we walk up the steps and through the beat up screen door into the main room. Placing our orders and getting a couple of cold sodas we head back out to the deck. A few moments later munching on one of their world famous hamburgers with onion rings all is well and life is good.

A family of four pulls up in matching jet skis, life vests and all. A powerboat pulls in and they literally drag out a huge basset hound. Another powerboat has a wire terrier in it. I guess that's the way to do things. Go boating and take the dog. Finishing our meal it is time to explore. We passed a good-looking beach on our way in. This beach is reserved for swimming and to Rachel's joys no jellyfish. Romping around in the water we kill another hour. All good things must come to an end and it is time for the trip back.

Motoring past Ross Point we raise the sails for another broad reach east the wind has built and I choose to run on full main. We are sailing comfortably all the way back to Dupont Point. Running north downwind through the chute and bridge. It is getting late and Rachel a bit restless, ready to go home. Stowing the sail we motor the last hour making it back by 5 PM or so.

All in all a great trip.



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.

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