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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Cruising the gulf coast of Florida: Dog Island to Apalachicola Black-eyed Pea Salsa Remnants of Hurricane Ida drench the Mid-Atlantic

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