Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cruising the gulf coast of Florida: Anclote Key to Dog Island

Dog Island, Carrabelle, Florida
Of all the beaches in Florida, those along the gulf coast are the best. On any given year, one out of several - Caladesi, Fort De Soto Park's North Beach, Siesta Key - can be found on Dr Beach's top 10 list of the best beaches in the U.S. We hope and pray that the BP Oil spill will not cause too much damage to the beautiful Florida coastline. Not only Florida’s economy relies on it for tourism and fishing, many shore birds and sea creatures also call it home. What is going to happen to the fisherman’s livelihood and our favorite Apalachicola oysters?

Around this time in 2006, we were cruising the gulf coast of Florida. We were heading up the inland waterway to somewhere in the deep south - Mississippi, Alabama or Tennessee - anywhere to hide from the hurricane.
shelling at Caladesi
After anchoring out in Clearwater and spending a couple of days at the lovely Caladesi State Park , we moved to Anclote Key (near Tarpon Springs). Here, we waited five days for a good weather window to do an overnight gulf crossing to Dog Island near Carrabelle.

Here is our trip's log:
Gulf Crossing, May 15-20, 2006
The next five days found us at Anclote Keys, waiting for a good weather window to cross the big bend to Carrabelle. This is a good 140 miles of open waters in the Gulf of Mexico, so we planned on an overnight trip. It would take Mai Thai about 20 hours traveling at 7 knots. This would be our first experience traveling solo on an overnight passage. On Saturday, May 20, we made the leapt. Half hour into the gulf, forecast of 10 knots wind from the West and 2 foot waves felt more like 10-15 knots wind and 2-4 foot waves. It was uncomfortable, and after several hours, monotonous. Had it not been a pair of dolphins that came to play in our bow wake on two separate occasions, we would have been totally bored. We kept hoping when we get to the latitude of the Suwanee River (weather forecast for that area was better), the sea would be smoother. After the sun set, it actually got worse. Now Mai Thai is being tossed around rolling waves of 3-5 feet. with a bow spray every six or seven wave.

We could hardly move around, let alone cook. Nor did we have the appetite to eat. Apples, cheese and crackers was our dinner. By 9 pm, we were enveloped in complete darkness and utterly alone. All we could do, other then watching out for boat traffic, was to trust Mai Thai and the autopilot to take us safely to our destination. Since we had wanted to cross the bulk of the gulf during the daytime and get closer to land earlier, we had to negotiate the inlet in the dark as we got there at 3 in the morning. The East Pass inlet into St George Sound is wide and deep, but we wouldn't have done it without our trusty GPS and the chart plotter!
As we came in to the sound, we found we were not alone. A shrimp boat was already at work. By the time our anchor was set in protected Dog Island, it was 4 in the morning. We took showers to wash off the salt, ate chicken soup and hit the sack. We awoke to a beautiful morning, our anchorage facing a long narrow strip of beach with a few simple beach houses on stilts. What a view! We thank our lucky stars to have made the crossing without incident. After lunch, we pumped up our dinghy and went to the beach to see what treasures were in store for us.

Stilt home on Dog Island, Carrabelle

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Nashville under water

Yesterday, our boating buddies Ed and Joyce called from their boat One Love, currently docked at Oriental, North Carolina. We had met One Love at Jekyll Island, Georgia, and in the spring of 2003, cruised to The Abacos, Bahamas together. What an adventure and what wonderful memories! I had posted our trip's log and pictures on Yahoo! Geocities and written an article that was published in Latitutes and Attitudes, all of which had shuttered over the years (Like it or not, print is slooowly going away). I will try to post those stories, our awesome pictures and videos on this blog.
One Love, anchored at Tahiti Beach, Bahamas
While we were in the Abacos, Joyce had a schedule. Not a good thing for a cruiser when you are dependent on Mother Nature's whims. She's an avid country music fan, and she had bought tickets to Fan Fair, the CMA music festival held in Nashville every June. We were not in tune with music festivals, let alone Fan Fair. Anyhow, we now have to be back stateside in time for her to get to Nashville.

Fast forward seven years. Mai Thai is docked in Chattanooga, a mere 2 hours from Nashville. We actually met Joyce at Fan Fair two years ago, and had enjoyed it so much we went again the year after that. But with our upcoming move from the house, we won't be back in time for the CMA music festival. Joyce said the festival might be cancelled due to all the flooding.

CMA Festival on the riverfront (Cumberland River)
What flooding? Unbeknowst to us, Nashville was pounded with wicked storms that dumped 15 inches of rain over the weekend. The Cumberland River, which winds through the city overflowed its banks and flooded Nashville's historic downtown and other areas. We were so engrossed with BP's disastrous oil spill in the gulf of Mexico, the Times Square Bomb, the Greece debacle and the volcanic ash over the UK that we had no clue the flood, so close to our marina, was so severe. Fox News this evening reported a total of 18 deaths in Tennessee alone. Northeast of downtown, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel apparently evacuated their guests on Monday. The Grand Old Opry House and the Opry Mills Mall in the vicinity were all flooded as well. It is hard to imagine the damages done to this area (links to video coverage and pictures of the flood).

Clubs along Broadway, Nashville
Just ten days ago, I wrote Top 3 Bars in Nashville, TN for another shuttered Yahoo! site. One of them - Wildhorse Saloon - might be flooded, as we heard on the news that Second Ave is definitely flooded, We pray that people affected are safe and sound, and that their situation will get better soon. I leave with you with our good memories of Nashville.

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Monday, May 3, 2010

A Ritzy Wedding in Laguna Beach, Ca

History repeats itself. Looking back at last year's posts, I published only 1 posting last April. Ditto this year. Alas, life happens. Last April, my mother passed away, and I was really down and depressed. A year later, I am back to my normal self, and in April, was thrilled to go to L.A. to attend our nephew's fancy wedding at the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Beach. What a spectacular property! The setting was absolutely gorgeous, with a breathtaking view of the ocean. The food was a tad disappointing, much to our surprise. Not sure why I have such high expectations of great food in L.A., or of California, for that matter. Other than the wedding, the highlight of the trip was, of course, the chance to see all the relatives again. Thank you Howard and Catlina for an unforgettable memory. As you start this new chapter of your life as a married couple, we wish you a lifetime of happiness. Congratulations once again!

Even the bathroom was impressive!
Glorious sunset viewed from the Ritz Carlton Hotel
Meanwhile, back at the marina, our boat neighbors reported duck sighting at one of our flower pots. David had planted something in the pots. Next thing he knew, there was a duck egg! As of yesterday, there were a total of eleven eggs. This is the pot on the other side of the boat, and it is bigger than the one she used last year. I wish I were back on the boat to see all these happening. Thank you Glenda for the pictures!

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