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Section 13 & 14

The Gulf of Mexico including our arrival back in St. Petersburg.

(November 10 - 22, 1999.)

Tuesday, November 9, 1999 (continued).  At about 4:00 PM in the afternoon we bummed a ride to the Mobile airport for a quick trip to New York (for Bill's meetings) and on to St. Petersburg (for a day or so of catch-up in the office).  The connections are made without problem.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999.  We visit the Vinoy Marina and the St. Pete Yacht Club marina to see if there is a place for Interlude when we return.  So far, we know we're near the top of both lists, but there isn't a vacancy.  To our great surprise and joy, the Vinoy says we have a slip.  Problem solved, we have a home. The Vinoy is a great solution, too, since it is run by the Vinoy Resort.  The resort is probably the nicest one in the whole Tampa Bay area.  The docks are first class--floating, concrete, with huge cleats.  Our slip is almost 70 feet long and more than 20 feet wide, so we'll fit perfectly.  Each dock has two 50A 220V circuits, water, cable TV, and telephone which runs through the resort switchboard.   In addition, if we choose, we can have room service--wow!  What a class act.   And it's within walking distance of our office, our new condo, the yacht club, and the symphony hall.  What more can you ask for?

Tuesday, November 16, 1999.  We return in the afternoon to Dog River Marina after a short flight from St. Pete.  Went to the marina office to see what they had been able to accomplish on the maintenance list we left for them.  As a Hatteras dealer and highly recommended,  we were comfortable leaving the Interlude in their hands.  As it turns out, they were able to (1) get the oil changed in both engines and both generators including all oil and fuel filters.  This is a total of 14 filters a almost 50 gallons of oil.  It typically takes two people most of a day to get it done.  (2) They found the leak in the pilot house air conditioning system, fixed it and recharged the system.  (3) They fixed the squeal in the salon air conditioning air handler. (Good; it was driving us crazy.)  This required  them to make a bracket and spring arrangement with an idler wheel (something that should have been designed into the system originally).  What a good solution, and now it's perfectly silent.  (4) They checked the voltage regulator on the port engine and cleaned a couple of connections.  It appears to be working properly which makes this a cheap solution to say the least.

They weren't able to fix the Hart tank measurement system so we'll have to get that worked on when we get back. 

The KVH satellite television system still isn't working, so we call Yacht Tech in St. Pete to ask Brent how we should proceed to troubleshoot the problem.  He suggests we measure the voltage across the DC-DC power supply.  We do, and the unit is dead.   Brent suggests that we parallel the sat TV system off the sat phone power supply until we can get the second unit repaired.  Bill climbs into the the top helm storage area and, with a flashlight in his mouth, makes the wiring changes and reinitializes the system.  It works.  We have a temporary solution until we get back to St. Pete in a few days.

In the evening, we plot the remaining trip home--we have 432 miles to go and could arrive back in St. Pete as early as Sunday afternoon.  (This is the first chart plotting we've done since we were in the Great Lakes.)  Sunday is a day before the Vinoy is ready to receive us.  And it's a problem because the super hydrofoil national championship races are being run there over the weekend.  And the race headquarters is at the Vinoy Basin.  So, we may need to spend an extra day in Clearwater; or perhaps we can spend a night on the transit dock at the yacht club; or we may need an additional day to cross the Gulf.  Not a bad predicament since we have several potential ways to use the extra day.  We'll work on reservations tomorrow once we're underway.

Wednesday, November 17, 1999.  Since we had only sixty miles or so to travel today, we get up leisurely, and spend some time securing the boat for the next days' runs. We depart at 8:00 AM and run the length of Mobile Bay on our way to the Intracoastal Waterway.

As we near Pensacola, we pass a sailboat called Beluga from Minneapolis.   We pass him slowly but notice that he his making very little forward way--perhaps a couple of knots.  We pass and shortly hear him hail us on channel 16.  We move to channel 06 and learn that he's hit something in the water and has a bent propeller.   He wants a tow.  We're ready to be of assistance, but first we continue to talk.  It seems he wants a tow to Panama City (100 miles ahead).  Further, we learn that he's ignoring Tow-US who can bring him to Pensacola.  Further, we learn that he encountered the problem almost a hundred miles ago on the Tombigbee River.   Things don't seem to be making much sense.

We offer to tow him to Pensacola but he refuses the offer saying that it would take him out of his way.  We wish him well, and tell him we'll monitor channel 16 for the next couple of hours and will relay any messages he might have for him.  What a strange encounter.  And, I feel we did the right thing, I think...

We arrive at Pensacola and tie up after fueling.  Palafox Pier Marina is wonderful--adequate power, solid docks, big cleats, strong cell phone service, etc.   What more can a person want?  Life has gotten so simple--our needs are so basic... I mean big dock cleats for crying out loud...

Thursday, November 18, 1999.  A big day with 100 miles to go so we start with a 5:30 AM wakeup and 6:00 departure.  We have been advised that it is quicker to run outside (in the Gulf) rather than in the Intracoastal  for this leg.  So we listen to NOAA weather and it says winds from the east at 10 knots and seas about two feet.   We leave and almost immediately we're in 2-4 foot seas which build to 3-5.   So, it is a rough and long day but we arrive in Panama City at 3:30.

Bay Point Marina may be the nicest we've visited to date (it is marina #106 for us on this trip). The reservation was made by phone and Jan commented that she talked to a "can do" person.  The assistant harbormaster who came to met us really made docking easy.  He even expedited registration and payment so we didn't have to leave the boat.  What a great attitude. 

Upon arrival we met another Hatteras 70 and the captain said it is hull #407 (we are hull #412) so it's our sister.  He is on his way to Belize where the owners will join him   We docked between a 100 foot Lazarra and a 70 foot Hatteras sport fish.   At last, we're back in the land of the giants.  This marina must have half a dozen boats our size.  The most we've seen since St. Pete when we left last April.

The Bay Point Marina is adjacent to a Marriott resort, so we're probably in for a good dinner tonight.  We'll report on it tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 1999.  First a post mortem on dinner last night.   We went to Club 19 that was within walking distance of the marina.  And it was fabulous!  Jan had grouper with a soy-honey glaze.  Bill had scallops with a lemon butter sauce.  Wow!  And they had a good pinot grigio on the wine list that complimented dinner perfectly.

We start at 6:00 AM this morning and choose to go by the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway).   It was worth the effort.  We passed through two enormous bays--one at Panama City and one at Apalachicola.  In between, we traveled down a series of rivers that ranged from wide and magnificent to narrow, swampy and mystic.  We passed very few boats until we got close to Carrabelle where there were a number of boats moored near Dog Island (five miles nearer Tampa Bay than Carrabelle). 

As we approached Carrabelle we called the Moorings Marina and prepared to take on fuel before we docked.  As we were completing our communication, we had another party break in and request us to move to channel 11 for more conversation.  It turns out that it is one of the readers of this web page aboard their 42' Grand Banks, Floatboat,  and they are positioned to make the run to Tarpon Springs tomorrow morning.  We are a few miles further from them and planning to go a bit beyond them (to Clearwater) but our speed (20k) tomorrow probably means we'll see them along the way. 

After we got checked in and settled at the dock, we walked into downtown Carrabelle to visit their police station.  For those of you who a trivia- and geographically-challenged, Carrabelle celebrates the smallest police station in the world. (see Trip Photos).  Guess that crime is not a "big" problem in Carrabelle.  

In addition to entries in Guinness World Book of Records, Caramel is a major seafood processing center with a large fleet of fishing boats anchored along the river.  We go to Julia Mae's for a great shrimp dinner with northern Florida small town atmosphere.  (They send us a car so we don't have to cross a very busy bridge in the dark.  Nice!)

Tomorrow is one of the epoch days of our entire trip since we cross 150 miles of open ocean.  We've had other similar days of exposure including running the length of New Jersey in the Atlantic, the diagonal of Lake Ontario from Rochester to Toronto, and across Lake Michigan from Saugatuk to Chicago.  So, this is not something new, but it is something to take seriously.  We'll listen to the weather radio and watch the local news very early tomorrow morning to ascertain that conditions are acceptable.  If not, we'll wait. 

Saturday, November 20, 1999.  We rise at dawn and are underway at 6:45 AM at first light (oh dark thirty, to those in the know) and we slowly work our way out of Carrabelle via the river we came in on.  We cross the sound and head through the Dog Island cut into the open Gulf of Mexico.  By 8:00 AM we bring Interlude up on plane at 19 knots.  The computer tells us that we'll arrive at the Clearwater cut at about 3:30 in the afternoon. 

By 11:00 we're well underway making about 21 statute miles per hour.  We've hardly seen a soul--perhaps one or two boats all the way.  But we're hailed on the VHF and it's Floatboat.  We chat for a while.  They started at 5:00 AM and are heading to Tarpon Springs, planning to arrive by dark.  They're on schedule.   These folks are just completing their second Great Circle loop. Wow! Two!

At 3:15 we bring Interlude down off plane to pass some fishing boats gently.  It's also a good idea to cool the engines before we arrive at the dock in Clearwater Municipal Marina.  We hail the dockmaster and we tie up.  We've traveled 156 miles, a very full day. 

We spend a couple of hours washing the accumulated salt from the boat, then collapse.   Mission accomplished.

Sunday, November 21, 1999.  A day of pure luxury.  We listen to NPR in the morning, we read a newspaper,  we enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and we don't go anywhere.  We spend the day just relaxing -- something we haven't done much of for quite a while.

We need to fuel the boat and with luck, we're tied to a commercial fuel dock, and can do it at our convenience.  We top up with 750 gallons of diesel.

The temperatures are perfect, and we walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner.  A wonderful day.  Tomorrow, we head to St. Petersburg, and the formal end to our Great Circle Trip.

Monday, November 22, 1999.  This is the last day of our Great Circle Trip.   We cannot believe it has finally arrived, and we greet it with mixed emotions: glad to be back, but sorry it is over. 

We leave Clearwater Municipal Marina about 8:45 AM and decide to poke our way down the ICW rather than run outside.  It's 30 slow miles inside, 60 fast miles outside, but the weather is perfect and the ICW is always fun to travel because there is so much to see.

We bump across the bottom in Clearwater Bay: we're leaving at low tide.  But it is a sand bottom, and it is only a sand rib we touch not far from the marina, so it's no real problem.

A "dozen" bridges later we arrive at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and tie up to the end of a south tee. We're home.  We'll move the boat elsewhere in the next day or so because it appears there are complications with our new berth at the Vinoy, but those details will have to be worked out tomorrow.  Today, we'll clean up Interlude for guests arriving the day after tomorrow, and Thanksgiving Day, the day after.    And tomorrow, it's business clothes along with shoes(!) as we go back to work. One of the things we dread most is that within a month or two all of this great adventure will begin to blur.  Maybe we will read our own diary occasionally to keep this dream and this experience alive.

This is the last "official" entry into our log.  We have completed a trip of 109 marina stops covering 6480 nautical miles or  7452 statute miles spread over seven months, one week and two days.  And we'll update tonight so that we can share these details with you, patient readers.  But, there will be one more update, in a week or two, with some reflections from both of us on this experience.  Stay tuned....