Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sailing the Ditch, Chapter III: Lake Ponchatrain, Louisiana to Apalachicola, Florida

Editor’s note: The following entries were printed from the handwritten log of Spirit Song, a MacGregor 26 owned and skippered by Robin McGill and crewed by his brother, Neal McGill. Chapter III covers about a month during the third year of their effort to “Sail the Ditch” of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway (I.C.W.) from Brownsville, Texas, to the Florida Keys. Chapter III is the log of their voyage from the Lake Ponchatrain, Louisiana, to Apalachicola on the west central coast of Florida. All aboard!

Chapter III: Lake Ponchartrain, Louisiana to Apalachicola, Florida

Chapter III, Part 1: Lake Ponchatrain and the Mississippi Sound to Mobile Bay, Days 1 –

Mar. 14, 2002 (Thu.), Day 1

Chapter III of this journal began differently than the first two chapters. Sylvia and I traded a week’s time share in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by a second week of time share in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We had a wonderful time, but that is another story. We then drove the rental car to new Orleans, Louisiana. Just prior to our arrival in New Orleans, robin arrived at Oak Harbor Marina, which is about 20 miles from New Orleans. After launching Spirit Song and setting her up for sailing he joined us for two full days in New Orleans. This morning [+] the two of us made a quick trip to Café du Monde for beignets [benyeas] and to an Italian market for muffalatos sandwiches. We checked out of the Garden District Hotel about noon and drove Sylvia to the New Orleans airport for her 2:30 pm flight back to San Jose. Robin and I used the rest of the afternoon shopping for groceries which included two fly swatters (mosquito swatters). We also washed a couple loads of laundry at the marina.

Mar. 15, 2002 (Fri.) – Day 1

After a good night’s sleep we were up at 7:45 am. We inflated the dinghy and went for breakfast. We then delivered Robin’s truck to a U-haul location for storage and hired a cab to return us to the marina. We cleared the marina by 12:00 noon and proceeded across Lake Ponchartrain and into a body of water called the Rigolets, which included passing through the US Highway 90 swing bridge and a railroad swing bridge. We are now on a single anchor about ¼ mile from the I.C.W. where we will spend the night. We were not able to do any sailing today because of an unfavorable wind direction. Robin and I are encountering little flying insects which Robin and I have named “Vampire Gnats”. They bite and then take your blood. We traveled about 16 miles this afternoon. The weather was approaching 100% humidity and the temperature was in the mid 70°s.

Mar. 16, 2002 (Sat.) – Day 2

We were up at 7:30 this morning to a very foggy surrounding. We ate breakfast and waited for the fog to dissipate. Visibility was good enough to start motoring by about 9:15 am. We motored until about 1:00 pm and then put up the sails and enjoyed sailing for about 2-1/2 hours. While we were motoring this morning the “Vampire Gnats” were aggressive and plentiful. We tried some “Off” insect repellant with no effect. “Skin so Soft” seemed to work well. At about 1:30 pm we encountered light fog that gradually became more dense. From then we relied very much on our GPS and the charts. We are now tied up in a marina at Pass Christian, MS. We purchased some ice and will soon walk to a café for dinner. We traveled about 40 miles today.

Mar. 17, 2002 (Sun.) – Day 3

We awoke about 7:00 am, and looked outside to see nothing but fog, fog, fog. We climbed back into our sleeping bags and didn’t get up until after 8:00 am. We walked to the same café, where we had dinner last night, for breakfast. Visibility improved to an acceptable level by about 11:00 am. We left the marina at about 11:15 am and proceeded east. About one or one and a half hours, the fog started to close in so we decided to put into Gulfport, Mississippi. Before we reached our destination visibility was reduced to 100 yards or less. Again we were very successful in using our navigation instruments to find our destination. The Gulfport marina is very nice. It has a good seafood restaurant where we had a shrimp dinner and also modern shower facilities. As a result of the fog we only traveled about 12 miles today.

March 18, 2002 (Mon.) – Day 4

Robin and I were up at about 8:00 am to sunshine and partial loud cover. We observed a fog bank out over the Gulf and another just inland from the Gulfport Marina. The Harbor Master (called D.J.) brought Donut Holes and a newspaper to our slip. He also offered to provide transportation to town in order for us to purchase block ice and coffee. We accepted the offer as it is very difficult to find block ice which will last much longer than party ice. By about 11:00 am the fog started to cover the marina once again so we decided to stay in Gulfport another night. We used the major portion of the rest of the day to set up Robin’s GPS receiver, which is a Garman 48, new this year so that it would communicate with Robin’s new VHF marine transceiver. This will allow the transmitter to send our GPS position in case of an emergency. We hope we will never need this feature. We also used the laundry facility at the marina. Robin and I worked on a jig saw puzzle while waiting for the laundry.

March 19, 2002 (Tue.) – Day 5

The morning started with the Harbor Master (D.J.) delivering muffins and a newspaper to our slip at about 8:00 a.m. The sky was solid overcast with good visibility on the surface. At about 9:00 am we said our farewell to D.J. and proceeded east on the Mississippi Sound motoring. The Mississippi Sound has an average depth of 10 or 11 feet for 15 to 20 miles from shore. We experienced very heavy chop which caused us to put on our foul weather gear to keep from getting soaked from the bow spray. This seemed to improve after about 2 hours. We arrived at the Point Cadet Marina in Biloxi, Mississippi at about 1:00 p.m. We were surprised to find at least 5 large gambling casinos in the area. We also noticed several casinos while we were in Gulfport. After securing Spirit Song, we walked 2 or 3 blocks to a small café for yet another shrimp dinner. The rest of the afternoon was occupied with dock walking in the marina looking at other boats and talking with other boaters. Robin calculated several waypoints for the GPS receiver to help us on the next leg of travel.

March 20, 2002 (Wed.) – Day 6

Our day began at 7:00 am. The temperature was about 70° with 80 or 90% humidity. There was good visibility with ¾ cloud cover and no wind. We walked the 3 or 4 blocks for a breakfast of ham and eggs, grits or potatoes, and biscuit with coffee. We purchased fuel for the boat and left the marina at 11:00 am. By this time we had complete cloud cover with a breeze coming out of the east. This meant that we would motor this morning. By 1:00 pm the wind was blowing a bit stronger and the surface of the water was becoming rough. We arrived at our destination for the day, which was Lake Yazoo, which is very near Pascagoula, Mississippi. We divided a can of chili-con-carne for dinner and then Robin dismantled the auto-pilot to correct a malfunction that occurred this afternoon. We are anchored to one side of the lake with the wind blowing briskly. Lake Yazoo is next to the Northrup Grumman Ship Systems yard where we observed several Navy destroyers under construction.

March 21, 2002 (Thu.) – Day 7

Robin and I awoke before 6:00 am to 15 to 20 mile per hour winds that had shifted 180° during the night. It was now coming out of the north. The temperature was in the low 60’s F. It was not a day for being out in unprotected waters. We went back to bed and stayed warm until after 8:00 am. After coffee and a snack, Robin mounted the small outboard motor on the inflatable raft and we went to shore. We talked with a man about available local restaurants or a grocery store and he offered to give us a ride to find groceries and show us a local restaurant. People in this part of the country are very helpful. After returning to the boat with ice and a few groceries, Robin and I returned to shore and walked at least one mile into the town of Pascagoula for some prepared food. After walking back to Lake Yazoo and returning to the boat we sat in the cockpit and observed a pair of fishing hawks hunt for and pluck small fish out of the water and carry them off. We both marveled at nature and the birds.

March 22, 2002 (Fri.) – Day 8

We were up by 6:30 am to a windy very cold morning. Wind was probably thirty miles per hour and temperature in the mid to high 30’s F. Again it was a [bad day?] ____ for sailing on Mississippi Sound. We turned Sprit Song around so that the wind was coming over the bow. This was accomplished by re-setting the anchors. We then took the inflatable raft to shore about 10:00 am. We walked the mile into town and each had a cup of hot tea at Monica’s café. We found a marine supply shop and purchased an extra key for the small outboard engine. We were offered a ride back to Monica’s Café, which was probably almost a mile, and had a southern cooked meal. We then visited the public library across the street from Monica’s Café and read for about an hour. We walked back to where the inflatable raft was tied up and returned to the boat at about 4:30 pm.

March 23, 2002 (Sat.) – Day 9
Robin and I were up at 6:30 am to a beautiful morning. The wind had calmed from the night before, but it was still very cold. Probably in the mid 30’s F. We had coffee and a banana and then Robin pulled up both anchors and we were under way at 7:00 am. We proceeded out of the Pascagoula Area and back into the Mississippi Sound heading directly into the wind and experiencing two to three foot chop. After a couple of hours the surface became less choppy and the wind subsided. We met up with the ICW once again as we had not been on the ICW for several days. We left the ICW because we wanted to visit Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. The ICW passes too far from these ports to be practical to do both. Later in the morning, Robin and I observed several dolphins on the surface of the water a short distance from us. We left the Mississippi Sound and entered Mobile Bay at about noon. Mobile Bay is very large and it took us another four hours to reach our destination for the day, which was Fairhope, Alabama. This small town is on the eastern edge of Mobile Bay. We were traveling for nine hours at speeds of 5 to 8 miles per hour.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Sailing the Ditch on Spirit Song, Chapter 3 Part 2

This is part of the log of Spirit Song during her episodic voyage with Robin and Neal McGill along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004.

Chapter III, Part 2: Mobile Bay to Pensacola, Florida, Days 9 – 14

March 24, 2002 (Sun.) – Day 10
Today was definitely a relaxing day. Last night Robin gave our 6 gallon fuel tank to Bob Pope, who is the restaurant/harbor owner to fill with gasoline as there is no fuel available at the marina. He did not return this morning until about 10:00 am. We then walked into Fairhope for something to eat and to purchase more ice. We walked through a residential neighborhood to admire all of the rhododendrons and other flowers which are at their peak of color. It was an absolutely beautiful day. About 5:00 pm we walked 1 ½ miles to a highly recommended Italian restaurant called Gambino’s. The fried shrimp was very good. Strangers on the street almost always greet us with a “Hello” or “Good morning” or a smile of greeting.

March 25, 2002 (Mon.) – Day 11
We were up by 7:30 am to a foggy morning. Visibility was about ½ mile. We ate breakfast on the boat and waited to see what the fog was going to do. By 8:30 it was evident that the fog was lifting and visibility was improving. We left the marina a little before 9:00 am and headed south. After a short time the wind was from a direction that allowed us to put up the sails and turn off the motor. We sailed for about 1 hour before we had to motor once again. At about 1:30 pm we rejoined the I.C.W. and entered a land cut. Our destination for the day was the Bear Point Marina, which is located at Orange Beach Alabama. We observed a number of dolphins throughout the day. The sun broke through the high fog later only a couple of times and we could that it was raining in the distance, but not where we were. We were able to enjoy much needed showers tonight at this marina. Because of spring break, there are many more people here than we anticipated. After sunset the fog came back in again. We will see ___ ____ __ ____ ____ ____ ____ ___ (end of page cut off)

March 26, 2002 (Tue.) – Day 12
Robin climbed out of his sleeping bag this morning at about 6:30 am to open the hatch and look at the weather. He saw moderately dense fog which meant that we would stay in the marina until conditions improved. Robin climbed back into his sleeping bag to wait for a while. It was very calm with no wave action. After a short time we could hear a few raindrops landing on the cabin roof. This was a very pleasant sound and became a little louder as the rain increased. After a while we could hear thunder in the distance that became louder and louder. It was lightning, thunder, and heavier rain. It was 9:00 am before we were up for the day. By this time the fog was no longer a concern. The wind was blowing very hard and it continued to rain for the rest of the morning. It finally stopped raining about noon. We decided to stay another night in the marina. We used the marina laundry room to wash and dry our soiled clothes. Visiting with other boat owners is always very interesting. We have noticed that the barge traffic here is only a fraction of the barge traffic we observed while traveling the ICW on the Texas Gulf coast.

March 27, 2002 (Wed.) – Day 13, Ash Wednesday
We had a somewhat rocky night last night due to a stiff breeze and the location of the slip we were assigned. It was a clear morning with a moderate wind. We squared away the boat, purchased ice for the ice chest and we were underway from the Bear Point Marina at a little past 10:00 am. We headed east on the I.C.W. and reached our destination for the day, which was Palafox Marina in Pensacola, Florida, at 4:30 pm. This was b far the most sailing we were able to do in one day. Of the 6-1/2 hours of travel today, we were able to sail about 5 hours. After entering Pensacola Bay we were able to observe 3 dolphins traveling in the same direction and at about the same speed as we were going. At one point they were within 30 feet of our boat. We observed the dolphins for about 20 minutes and it was fun to watch. Our course took us by the Naval Air Station and we saw numerous Navy prop and jet planes in the area.

March 28, 2002 (Thu.) – Day 14, Maundy Thursday
The weather was beautiful today and it would have been an excellent day for sailing. But we did not sail today because Robin and I both wanted to visit the Navy Air Museum here in Pensacola. It took 1-1/2 hours and two buses to get to the museum. The museum contained mostly Navy aircraft from its inception in 1911 to the present day. We saw an IMAX film titled, “The Magic of Flight,” which covered flight from the Wright brothers to the present day, featuring the Navy’s Blue Angels. It was a very well done museum and to be highly recommended to anyone interested in airplanes. We then took the 1-1/2 hour bus rides back to the marina and walked around looking at boats.

Sailing the Ditch, Chapter 3 Part 3, Pensacola onward

Robin and Neal McGill's adventures "Sailing the Ditch" on Spirit Song
Chapter III, Part 3, Pensacola to Panama City, Days 15 – 20

March 29, 2002 (Fri.) – Day 15, Good Friday
This was another great day of sailing. We started the day watching the Navy’s Blue Angels go through their practice. We could hear them but not always seem them because of the approximately ten mile distance between the marina and the Naval Air Station. This was exciting to watch. We then walked to a local French bakery where we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a cranberry scone. We then walked 1-1/2 miles to find a store where we purchased some salami and crackers for future lunches while sailing. We departed the marina after 11:00 am and headed east once again. We motored about one hour until we rejoined the I.C.W. where we were in a position to sail. The wind was steady and we let auto (autopilot) do most of the steering. We traveled about 21 miles today most of which was in the Santa Rosa Sound. We found a suitable place to anchor about 200 yards from Santa Rosa Island. We dropped the anchor at about 4:00 pm and decided to go to the beach in the inflatable raft. It was wonderful walking along the pure white sand in our bare feet. We must have walked ¼ mile each way from where we beached the raft. Then we returned to Spirit Song, divided a can of chili beans for dinner and settled in for the night.

March 30, 2002 – Day 16
We were up at 6:30 am after a quiet night. We had coffee and a bit to eat and readied the boat for travel. We pulled the anchor up at 8:00 am and motored for the entire day of travel which was about 5 hours. We were traveling east and the wind was coming from the east. We traveled 29 miles before reaching our destination for the day which was Destin, Florida. We found the harbor at Destin very busy. There were boats traveling in all directions. We found a somewhat secluded facility to spend the night. The owner of the facility gave us a tour of his 76 ft. motor launch, which was built for a daughter of the wealthy DuPont family in 1927. It was a treat to see the superior woodwork of the boat.

March 31, 2002 (Sun.) – Day 17, Easter Sunday
In the middle of the night we heard male voices and around 3:00 am somebody boarded Spirit Song at which time Robin sprang to his feet to find two young men probably college age. They were fishing and had managed to tangle their line with the stern of the boat. Robin helped them untangle the mess. We were eventually able to go back to sleep until about 7:30 am. It was foggy. We walked to a local café for a hot breakfast and then walked another 3 blocks to a Presbyterian church. When we arrived they were just starting Sunday school. After Sunday school we attended their regular worship service. After church we picked up a few groceries and topped off the fuel tanks and headed out of Destin Harbor. Shortly after leaving we put on our foul weather gear as it was starting to rain. Soon it was raining very hard with lightning and thunder all around us. We decided to leave the ICW and head for a safe harbor. We tied up at a 2400 acre resort called Bay Towne Marina at Sandestin, Florida. This was a distance of only 16 miles of travel for the day. It was nice to take a hot shower and get out of our wet clothes.

April 1, 2002 (Mon.) – Day 18
Today was a day for doing shore activities. We were up by 8:00 am and took advantage of a shuttle bus service here at the resort to take us to a resort restaurant for breakfast. As a result of yesterday’s weather, Robin had some concerns about the ability of the small outboard motor for the inflatable to start properly. We had the resort mechanic work on it. The motor is now running fine. We then did a much-needed laundry. We dock walked and talked with other boat owners.

April 2, 2002 (Tue.) – Day 19
We were up at 7:00 am and took advantage of the resort shuttle bus once again to provide transportation to and from breakfast. We readied Spirit Song and said our goodbyes to the several new friends we had met here. We left the marina at about 9:15 motoring because of no wind. In fact the water had a glass like surface. We proceeded east on Choctawhatchee Bay. After about 2 hours of travel there was enough wind to put up the jib which increased our speed only a mile per hour. With the motor and the jib we were traveling about 6-1/2 miles per hour. We motor sailed in this fashion for about forty five minutes until we entered a land cut which lasted for 17 miles. We then entered West Bay and anchored for the night about 3 miles south of the I.C.W. We motored for 8-1/4 hours and traveled over 40 miles today. When we entered West Bay we observed many sea birds diving into the water to catch fish.

April 3, 2002 (Wed.) – Day 20
Robin and I were up at a little past 6:00 am this morning. An amusing thing occurred this morning when Robin brought the inflatable to the boat in preparation for starting the day of travel. A little black sea bird about the size of a duck came flying out of the raft. Apparently she had been in the raft all night long. She stayed near the raft and did not seem willing to fly away. We watched her for a while as she slowly swam closer and closer to her raft. Finally she was standing on the edge of the raft. She would not leave until we motored off. We also watched a number of dolphins patrolling the waters. Robin also untangled the two anchor lines because the boat rotated 360° during the night. As we were motoring toward Panama City we were aware of a large thunder storm several miles to the south of us. As it turned out, we did not tangle with it. We traveled 16 miles before reaching Panama City Marina and securing Spirit Song into a transient slip. We ate lunch and dinner at a local restaurant, walked around town, and visited with other boaters. It was hot here this afternoon.

Spirit Song Sails the Ditch, Chapter 3 Part 4

Sailing the Ditch with Spirit Song, Chapter III, Part 4,
Robin & Neal McGill's ongoing adventure, written by Neal McGill
Panama City to Apalachicola and Beyond, Days 21 – 28

April 4, 2002 (Thu.) – Day 21
We were up at 7:00 am this morning to a cloudless sky. We walked to town to have breakfast and then found a grocery store to purchase a few groceries. We walked around the marina talking with several other boat owners. About 3:00 pm we decided to go across East Bay for about one mile to a small body of water called Smack Bayou. We arrived in about 15 or 20 minutes to find seven other boats at anchor of which all but one was a sailboat. It is very secluded and sheltered. We found it interesting to watch three loons in the bayou calling to one another. Robin tried fishing for our dinner about two hours but alas, it is chili beans tonight. After it became dark, Robin and I sat in the cockpit and watched the stars.

April 5, 2002 (Fri.) – Day 22
We spent a cool, quiet night in Smack Bayou. We were up at 7:30 am and had breakfast. We pulled the anchor at 9:00 am and rejoined the I.C.W. The wind was coming from the north which allowed us to put up our sails and sail for more than 3 hours. The wind was blowing at about 12 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 miles per hour. This required our constant attention to sail trim. We left East Bay and had to motor when entering a twisty-turny land cut. While motoring the land cut we overheard on the VHF radio a somewhat anxious female voice say, “I am lost and I don’t have a compass.” A reassuring male voice replied, “Do you see land?” The female voice replied, “Yes.” The male voice said “Then you are not lost.” The female replied, “I am still lost and need help.” The male voice advised her how to get help from another nearby boat. Anyway, Robin and I though the verbal exchange was quite amusing. We stopped for the night at about 4:15 pm at a little public facility in the small town of White City. This little town is about 8 miles north and a little east of Saint Joe, which is on Saint Joseph Bay. We traveled a little over 39 miles today.

April 6, 2002 (Sat.) – Day 23
Last night was very quiet until about 4:30 am when people started arriving with their trailered fishing boats to participate in a bass fishing tournament. Twenty to thirty boats being launched form a launching ramp can create a considerable racket. We finally got up about 7:30 am and fixed breakfast. We left White City about 9:00 am and continued east on the I.C.W. It was a cool morning with a cloudless sky. There was a light breeze which was enough to add to our motoring speed. We arrived at our destination for the day at about 1:15 pm. We are now docked at the Scipio Creek Marina, which is located in Apalachicola, Florida. Robin and enjoyed and hour and a half visit with Michael and Elaine Hunt who invited us aboard their 32 foot Catalina moored near us. We will set our clocks ahead two hours tonight. One hour because we have just gone from the Central time zone into the Eastern time zone and another hour because of daylight savings time. We traveled a distance of a little more than 21 miles.

April 7, 2002 (Sun.) – Day 24
We awakened to the wind howling and the halyards slapping the mast. We decided to not go out because we would be going out into open water and did not seem like it would be fun. We walked into town for breakfast. As a result of the high wind we decided to make Apalachicola our final port of call for this year. Robin telephoned the Greyhound information about bus schedules for Apalachicola only to learn that they did not offer bus service here. He also learned that they did not offer service into Carabelle, which was to be our final destination. Only yesterday Robin was told that they did have service out of Carabelle. So much for accurate information from Greyhound. This menat that we would hire a taxi to return us the sixty miles to Panama City, which has a Greyhound Bus Station. We are spending the night in a motel across the street from the bus station.

April 8, 2002(Mon.) – Day 25
We had a motel wake-up call at 6:00 am. We walked two blocks for breakfast at McDonald’s. It was the only thing within walking distance. We boarded a Greyhound Bus bound for Mobile, Alabama at about 7:45 am and arrived in Mobile about 12:00 noon. We had a two hour layover and left on another Greyhound bus bound for Slidell, Louisiana at 2:00. We arrived at Slidell a little after 4:00 pm and Robin and I had a cup of tea. Robin then walked (in the rain) about 200 yards and picked up his truck and boat trailer from a U-haul storage yard. We then started our return trip east on US Interstate Highway 10 and have now stopped for the night at a motel between Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

April 9, 2002 (Tue.) – Day 26
Robin and I were up a little before 8:00 am and continued our travel east. We stopped at Fort Walton Beach for breakfast. After arriving at the marina in Apalachicola, we put Spirit Song on her trailer. All of this in the rain. We then parked the boat in the parking area and took a ride in Robin’s truck about 30 miles each way to Carrabelle, which was our previously intended destination for our water trip. While eating dinner in the marina restaurant with Michael and Elaine Hunt and their friends we saw an alligator that must have been at least five feet long swimming in the marina. We will sleep in the boat on the trailer tonight.

April 10, 2002 (Wed.) – Day 27
We were up before 8:00 am to a cloudy, overcast day. We drove to town for breakfast. Upon returning to the boat at the marina, Robin set about the task of readying Spirit Song for the road, which took about 2-1/2 hours. After that was finished we left the marina parking lot a few minutes past 12:00 noon. We traveled west over the same route that we had seen twice recently. As we traveled west the clouds became fewer and the sun showed, developing into an absolutely gorgeous day for sailing. Robin and I both wanted to put Spirit Song back into the water. But, alas, this year’s water adventure is history. We are now stopped and will spend the night at the Mississippi welcome rest stop on US Interstate Highway 10 very near the Louisiana state line (milepost 2, Hancock County just east of the Pearl River). We traveled about 325 miles today.

April 11, 2002 (Thu.) – Day 28
We had a restful night at the rest stop, which also is the pickup location for visiting the NASA Stennis site. This is the second largest of the 10 NASA sites and is the site where the very large rocket engines are test fired. It was about a 5 minute bus ride to the visitors’ center. There were many static displays of various rocket motors. We spent several hours there before returning to the rest stop. We are now at a motel in Slidell, Louisiana. We only traveled about 20 miles today. Robin will take me to the New Orleans Airport tomorrow for m journey home to California. This is the end of Chapter III of the ongoing journey of “Sailing the Ditch”.

New equipment for this voyage

Standard Horizon Intrepid VHF transceiver
Garmin Model 48 GPS receiver
First aid kit to replace old one
2 additional fenders for a total of 4

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Motorist Alert!

A certain sixteen-year-old got his learner's permit on Thursday and got to drive for the first time ever in a parking lot near one of the marinas today. Now to get him enough practice so he's ready to drive the slalom course around traffic cones in reverse and practice parallel parking ... with our boat in tow, of course.

At least he's a decent helmsman, so maybe that bodes well for Gerald's driving. And, I think CA and Gerald are talking about driving right now ... while we decide which sailboat video to watch.

Weekend wrap

Maybe now that I'm feeling healthier this blog will get some more interesting stories and pictures.

This weekend was a bit disjointed for our family; Carol Anne traveled south on Friday to get ready for Adams Cup practice but Gerald and I stayed in town so he could get in a music lesson and then play the bass viol with the Albuquerque Youth Orchestra at Cottonwood Mall on Albuquerque's "West Side". Two other bassists were absent, but Gerald and the two others present laid down the beat for the youth orchestra. They'll also have a concert on Tuesday and another one next Saturday, and all of this is following a trip to southern New Mexico where the orchestra played for an audience of more than 2,000 in Carlsbad, NM, so Gerald's gotten a whole lot of great exposure as a musician.

Driving south immediately afterward, we were able to catch up with the Rio Grande Sailing Club folks at the dinner and awards ceremony for the Frostbite Regatta. Nine boats had started the distance race that afternoon in light, variable winds. Because Sue, the regular skipper and co-owner of the J-24 "Kachina" (and several other boats), was absent, Carol Anne got to drive Kachina in her first-ever real race as a skipper and had a lot of fun. (Ask her how she did or check out http://itsfiveoclocksomewhere.blogspot.com.) Tired, bruised, and bloodied but incredibly satisfied after a long weekend of sailing, Carol Anne would only admit to having had enough for the moment - - but is eagerly looking forward to the next weekend on the water.

Today, some of the ladies practiced on the former "Jaywalker/Icebreaker" while other folks took part in a three-hour RGSC board meeting that discussed the club budget and policies for operating the mast-up storage lot, for which the club will take over management duties next week. It looks like we'll soon have an official club mule (even if the goat is the navy's mascot and the mule the army's, in our world the mule will be busy protecting our dry-sailed fleet).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Brushy Point - Island View Cove

No. 3105, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006, view from near head of cove between Island View and Brushy Cove, toward Brushy Cove. Site is a possible future location for the Heron Lake Marina if it has to be moved from Willow Creek Cove.

No. 3111, view across to Brushy Point. Lake surface elevation on Sat., Jan. 21, 2005 was approximately 7142' above sea level, about 50' below the maximum lake level.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Slip fee waivers for the NMSC ... good or bad idea?

A question came up in the New Mexico Sailing Club about giving a "slip fee waiver" to allow a person to hang onto his right to keep his boat in a slip this summer without having to actually put his boat in the slip and pay for the slip. The club has a policy of allowing the board to give waivers when extraordinary circumstances create a hardship for a slip tenant. Most of the club's income comes from slip rentals, and the club's marina is operated by the slip users, who each agree to spend half a week as marina "dock masters". My response...

Hmmmm, I'm trying to do some devil's advocatry from both sides in regard to ________'s waiver request, and I'd sure like to get some guidance from folks about what they think is fair and humane and how we should handle waivers.

On the give 'em a waiver side:

- - These are extraordinary times for the club;

- - People like ________ have done a lot for the club in the past and ______'s contribution with the _______ and ______'s board service remain valued and appreciated;

- - It's hard for folks who are getting older or who have physical limitations or even healthy folks with burdens to get down the hill to the marina;

- - We have in the past given waivers, especially for unique, severe, unforseeable sorts of circumstances;

- - It would be unkind and indecent to dump long-term members from the list when they're suffering from problems that prevent them from participating fully in the club;

- - At some point, one or more of us may be in the same situation as the person who is asking for the waiver today. What would we consider fair and humane under those circumstances?

On the don't give a waiver side:

- - If we lower the standard for giving hardship waivers so that they can be indefinitely renewed, then our policies are meaningless;

- - Waivers are meant for unexpected, one-of-a-kind, temporary circumstances; it seems to be abusing the system to be repeatedly renewing waivers to the same people for the same reasons year after year;

- - Granting waivers for less-than-extraordinary circumstances or granting them repeatedly might give some people the idea that they can "bail" out of club obligations whenever the club faces tough times, further discouraging the remaining folks who are doing the work;

- - The club may not be able to solve the problems in regard to marina access and the precarious location of the marina in a shallow cove without the active physical and financial participation of as many members as possible; carrying inactive members (in terms of helping with the marina and work parties and such) on the priority list doesn't further this;

-- If someone is asking for yet another waiver for the same reasons as the year before, then there seems to be no reason to believe that the situation is temporary or is going to change. Yet, people who are actively contributing to the club will have a lower priority while the situation of the person on the waiver remains unresolved;

- - What problem does given the waiver solve? What is the expectation or plan for resolving the problem? Why won't the same person be asking for another waiver in 2007? And another one in 2008? Do the reasons for asking for the waiver depend upon things that are either under the control or beyond the control of the requester or the club? ..... Why is giving the waiver good for the club?

- - Letting people keep their slip priority without making the same level of current contributions to the club as other slip holders (in terms of dock sitting, paying slip fees, serving on work parties; and, yes, we definitely do acknowledge and value ______'s work on the ________ and ______'s past service on the board) is fundamentally unfair to the people who are doing the hard work of dock sitting and keeping the marina from falling apart.

So, what does ______ say about his reasons for a waiver, and does he believe that there's a reason that they are temporary and can be resolved in the coming year, and how is he willing to meet us halfway and help the club in exchange for helping him (again)?

I'm very open to creative ideas. For example, since we seem to be having a tough time finding subletters, maybe we could get people to agree to pay an administrative fee of half the normal slip rental when people don't want to use their slips but the club can't find a subletter. We can also put out lots of publicity about the club and marina and new A dock to try to get more potential marina customers and do a better job of finding subletters.

Also, I realize that not everyone is in condition to do heavy physical work on the marina, but there sure are lots of other things needing doing, such as publicity, help with the Spinnaker Sheet, social activities, racing, etc.

Home is the sailor... where is home?

A question posted over on "Muddled" had me thinking about the "home" idea.

Home Is the Sailor

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

A.E. Housman

What makes a home for you?

Each of us probably differs tremendously on what it takes to make a dwelling or a neighborhood a home; folks with a higher "gypsy" or "wanderlust" quotient can make their home practically anywhere they can hang their hat. Yet others of us with a higher need for security and rootedness want to have a a solid social support network in place as part of the "home" concept.
Perhaps Jerry got to think a little more about the "home" concept when he was in San Diego and found himself severely inconvenienced after misplacing the card that linked him to cash and finding himself separated from resources and with a perhaps slightly more tenuous social support structure after many months away from his former home.

For many folks, the local watering hole is an essential part of the "home turf" experience. Yet I feel out of place and in as somewhat alien environment when I'm in a bar.

Some people may even think of the spiritual afterlife as their true "home". ""My father has many mansions...."

Conversely, many folks would be intensely uncomfortable on the water, yet sleeping on a boat is intensely comforting to me and hearing the surge of the waves bonds me to my childhood. I'm also comforted and feel oddly at home on our old railroad train in Chama with its irregular rhythms as it traverses the rails.

So, what makes a home for you?

Four walls or glass walls? Predictability? Security? Comforts? People and relationships? Cultural stuff? Books or pets or hobby stuff? Bars and watering holes? Libraries? Nature? Urban amenities? A place where you can comfortably express yourself? A place where you are greeted and understood? A place where people expect you and make you part of their rituals and pastimes? A spiritual place or moment or refuge?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Wacky Weekend

It looks like this will be the weekend that Carol Anne gets in much more sailing than the rest of us. Carol Anne and a lot of the women want to practice this weekend down at Elephant Butte, but the helm I'll be at tonight will be a hunk of furniture in a home in Santa Fe.

The New Mexico Sailing Club will have its first meeting of the year there at our past commodore's home; we'll be munching pizzas and stuff and thrashing through the club budget. The big challenge in this green-eye-shades number-crunching exercise is uncertainty. It's also a relatively novel challenge for our club, which for many years enjoyed the luxury of relatively stable lake levels and a marina that was so popular that the club had a long waiting list of would-be slip tenants. The marina was located in a cove near the head of the lake; the cove was connected to the main body of the lake by a relatively constricted channel called "The Narrows" and was fairly well protected from waves from the main body of the lake.

From 1971, when the dam was completed and Heron Lake began to fill, lake levels on the 400,000 acre-foot reservoir were quite constant. The lake would be drawn down to about 70% of capacity in the winter and be nearly filled in the spring. Variations were encompassed in a narrow band. Then, a few years ago, severe drought made itself felt in New Mexico and political uncertainties about water use compounded the problem. Two-thirds of the lake disappeared in 2002, reducing the water level in our cove by more than fifty feet below the high-water mark.
Another problem surfaced with the unprecedented low water: a thick cake of silt, about twenty-five feet of it, had been deposited during the previous three decades. No equipment was locally available to deal with the silt, and even if equipment and environmental concerns could have been met, removal of the silt from the marina cove would likely have been a multi-million-dollar effort.

The rising silt and lowering lake put the marina in a squeeze; the result was a shortened season in 2002 and a long-term closure of the marina in August of 2003. The marina would not float again under May of 2005 and would not be re-opened until August of 2005. During that period, the New Mexico Sailing Club was debilitated by a lack of plan and purpose. The plan to deal with the drought had been limited to heroic efforts to partially dis-assemble the marina before it grounded so that the weight of the structure would not completely destroy the marina's sensitive substructure. Although damage to the marina was limited, damage to the club continued. Membership dropped significantly. Club activities were limited to meetings. Many members simply didn't do any sailing at all during the drought; others were on their own for sailing activities.

With the arrival of water in 2005, the club was able, with a great deal of effort from a few people, to re-constitute the marina, secure insurance, open the marina, and hold a few activities. Even with less water in 2006, the club and marina are likely to be much more active than in 2005. The challenge is planning the club's future beyond the summer of 2006.

From a budget standpoint, the questions are (1) how much money will we get from slip rentals? (i.e., how many folks will show up this year) and (2) how much of that do we spend now to make the marina better and have activities to entice people?, versus (3) how much do we hold back to get the club through future dry spells?

From a decision standpoint, the question is, If later this year, it seems likely that the marina will suffer another hard grounding in the winter of 2006 2007, do we leave the marina in the cove or do we move the marina to deep water on the main lake?

In order to have to even have the choice to move the marina to the main lake, we'll need to have a plan and budget for the move, and permissions already in hand from various government agencies. Also, a marina on the main lake would need some protection from waves, such as the floating tire-wall wave barriers used to protect marinas at Elephant Butte Lake State Park in southern New Mexico or at Navajo Lake State Park in Arboles, Colorado. Many other details would have to be worked on, including a driveway to the marina, parking area, provision for a boat-storage lot, boat ramp, mast-raising pole, etc. So, one of the big "bureaucratic" challenges for the club is getting a drought emergency plan with a site selected, approvals completed, and prices attached to all the engineering and logistical tasks.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Blog blitzed by bug - - no not that kind

Apologies for the quiet blog.

The flu bug that's been wiping me out has been a bit of a study of patience versus frustration.

-- For the past two years, my company has sponsored and announced a free flue shot clinic in the fall only to have to cancel each one when their supplier failed to come through with vaccine. This was my unlucky year.

-- My spouse says that the cough medicine with codeine is the only thing that would really knock down a lingering cough. It used to be that a person could buy the stuff by going to a pharmacy window, presenting identification, and signing a register. But, pretty much no pharmacies we know of in Albuquerque carry the magic gunk any more - - maybe everyone's afraid of black helicopters from the D.E.A. or Homeland Security or something. Getting plain Sudafed is also a challenge, since that seems to be a choice ingredient for methamphetamine (illegal stimulant drug) manufacture.

-- The flu bug strike coincided with an "awkward" change of health care providers. My employer changed from Lovelace to United Health Care. The company where I actually sit also did so, and their employees got their medical i.d. cards around Thanksgiving. We still don't have ours! Instead, I got the benefits folks to send me a "letter of introduction" that I can show to the medical office. I was able to use the on-line registration service at United and print out a temporary pharmacy i.d. card, but not a medical i.d. card.

-- Also, when I read through all the h.m.o. information from United, I learned that one of my "old" doctors was available to me, so I signed up to have him as my primary care physician. But, then, when I called his office yesterday, I was informed that all of the doctors in the practice has closed their panels and were not accepting new patients. It took quite a bit of talking for me to get them to agree to reinstate me as an "old new" patient. They also helped out by giving me the earliest available appointment with my doc. In two weeks. Of course, there's a limit to what can be done for the flu, but it seems that I also have a secondary infection - - eye goop - - and so if I want that treated it looks like I'd have to go to an urgent care center - - and hope the "letter of introduction" passes muster.

Oy ve. At least this isn't as bad as the broken arm, although it seems that the two incidents have a common feature: The "paperwork complications" are almost as bad as the injury or illness itself.

Enough of my problems. It is a beautiful day out. Even if I'm nowhere near water.

Also, if I'd been a sensible seagoing sort and out sailing the bounding main, I probably would never have gotten the silly bug in the first place.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NMSC Commodores Roster

Past Commodores of the New Mexico Sailing Club.

Many are still active in the club, but others I don't know about. Among the earlier commdores, Buzz Bainbridge is still in Santa Fe, Jim Cocke is in Los Alamos, Fred Shelley is in Arizona, and Dave and Sue Hutton are still very active members.

1971 Alan Pitcairn
1972 Kevin Murphy
1973 Howard Stephens
1974 Jim Purdy
1975 Jack Nelson
1976 Buzz Bainbridge
1977 Mort Ervin
1978 Fred Comstock
1979 Jim Cocke
1980 David Hutton
1981 John Donnell
1982 Buzz Bainbridge
1983 Jim Voltz
1984 Fred Shelley
1985 Dick McClesky
1986 Wayne Evans
1988 Terry Gibbs
1989 Cindy West
1990 Mick Jones
1991 Jim Stapp
1992 Sue Strasia
1993 Richard Meltz
1994 Robert Hall
1995 Ed Rauchfuss
1996 Bob Perry
1997 Dale Opperman
1998 Terry Langham
1999 Dale Opperman
2000 Greg Kuehl
2001 Michael Carlson
2002 Rich Strasia
2003 Al Sharp
2004 Lisa Carlson
2005 Lisa Carlson

Monday, January 09, 2006

Tribal Wisdom of Ancient Mariners Redux

The tribal wisdom of ancient mariners, passed on from generation to generation, says,
"If you can't plug the hole and your ship is headed for the bottom, abandon ship."

However, in government, educational institutions, and corporations, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

1. Buy a bigger engine or install a turbo-charger to improve sinking performance (power boats).

2. Send the sails to a sailmaker for re-cutting to optimize performance in the sinking environment (sail).

3. Re-tension the vang, move the traveler up, re-set leech tension for mainsail twist, ease mast rake, adjust the cunningham, man the yardarms, splice the mainbrace, and feather the spinnaker twanger to alter the center of effort on sinking sailing vessels.

4. Change helmspersons.

5. Appoint a blue-ribbon panel to evaluate the sinking ship.

6. Visit other countries to see how other cultures sink ships.

7. Re-define performance standards so that sinking ships can be included as fully contributing vessels in a healthy climate of inclusiveness and support for diversity.

8. Reclassify the sinking ship as flotation-impaired and therefore a member of a protected class.

9. Hire outside contractors to pilot the sinking ship.

10. Hire a marine surveyor to perform moisture meter readings on the sinking ship's hull.

11. Harness several sinking ships together to try increasing their aggregate performance and flotation characteristics.

12. Provide additional funding and/or training to increase sinking ship's ability to float.

13. Commission a productivity study to determine whether lighter crew would decrease the ship's rate of sinking.

14. Alter compensation strategies for sinking ship crews to re-incentivize their flotation performance.

15. Make the hole in the ship more uniform so that water flows in more evenly and in a more easily measured and aesthetically pleasing manner.

16. Re-engineer "Best of Class" benchmark performance standards for sinking ships based on validated, criterion-referenced, statistically-normed data.

17. Place a bug screen over the hole in the ship to exclude annoying insects and small sea creatures from distracting the crew.

18. Provide counseling for the crew to better understand and respect the sinking ship's feelings and cultural values.

19. Declare, that, because the sinking ship no longer needs to be fueled, it no longer requires wharf or dock facilities, requires less crew, and does not require annual haulout and maintenance, it is thus less costly, has minimal overhead, and therefore adds substantially more to the bottom line than do some other ships.

20. Hire motivational speakers and experts to fire the sinking ship's crew with enthusiasm and a dynamic sense of purpose.

21. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for all ships to be compatible with the performance characteristics of sinking ships.

22. Provide additional incentives, rewards, and psychological support to improve the sinking ship and crew's self-esteem.

23. Send the crew of the sinking ship to time-management and continuous process quality improvement symposia and provide them with the appropriate work-flow management software and tools.

24. Provide the sinking ship and its crew with the support structure of a matrixed management structure with multiple reporting lines to ensure accountable performance.

25. Advise the captain and crew not to rock the boat.

26. Hire the crew of the sinking ship as consultants for total quality paradigm management ship sinking continuous process improvement.

27. Promote the captain and crew to marine safety supervisory positions with responsibilities to manage and optimize the sinking process for all ships.

28. Hire the captain and crew of the sinking ship to manage the political campaign of your least favorite elected official.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Our Neighbors' Surprise Visitor

Nice kitty cat, nice kitty ... earlier during this winter, our neighbors Craig and Karen were visited by what appeared to be a 25- to 30-lb. bobcat. This is a cat with attitude who didn't mind posing for the camera.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Chapter IV, Part 1. Tarpon Springs to Tampa Bay

Editor’s note: The following entries were printed from the handwritten log of Spirit Song, a MacGregor 26 owned and skippered by Robin McGill and crewed by his brother, Neal McGill. The brothers spent about a month during each of several years in their effort to “Sail the Ditch” of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway from Brownsville, Texas, to the Florida Keys. Chapter IV is the log of their last voyage, from the west central coast of Florida down through “Alligator Alley” to the Atlantic and the Florida Keys. Enjoy!

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles

Part 1. Days 1 through 6: West Central Florida Coast, Tarpon Springs to Tampa Bay

Feb. 25, 2004 (Weds.), Day 1
It has been almost two years since my last entry in this log book. Robin was faced with some concerns at home that would not allow us to sail the ICW in 2003.

First I must write a few words to explain how Robin and I arrived in Florida for this new adventure. Robin left home in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Weds., Feb. 18, trailering Spirit Song and traveled 1,800 miles in about 3-1/2 days. Robin met with Sylvia and me in Panama City Beach, Florida, which is in the panhandle of Florida, where Sylvia and I had exchanged a week of timeshare following a one-week cruise of the Caribbean to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Sylvia and I then went to Disney World in Orlando, FL for three nights and two days. During these two days, Robin continued to travel to Tarpon Springs, Florida, which is just north of Tampa Bay, Florida.

Yesterday morning Sylvia and I met Robin at the Tampa Bay airport. Sylvia flew home to San Jose, CA, and Robin and I went back to Tarpon Springs with every intention of launching Spirit Song so as to start our sailing trip this morning. But Mother Nature had other plans for us. Before Robin and I could get back to Spirit Song, still on her trailer, a squall line came through the area dumping over 3-/1/2 inches of rain. Not a good time to launch a boat and stay reasonably dry. We found a motel for the night.

This morning, after breakfast, we drove the boat to a public launch ramp and worked on Spirit Song for several hours preparing her for the voyage. She finally got her bottom wet at 2:30 P.M. The launch ramp is about three miles from where Robin’s truck and boat trailer are to be stored for the next month. Robin motored Spirit Song to that area while I drove the truck and trailer to the storage area. Robin arrived to pick me up a few minutes later and we are now tied up to a dock at the launch ramp facility. It is still raining but not storming.

Feb. 26, 2004 (Thu.), Day 2

We were awakened this morning by two park rangers and told that the dock where we stayed the night was to be used for loading and unloading passengers only. We moved out from the dock about 50 yards and anchored while we fixed coffee and a snack. When we were preparing to leave, we discovered that the VHF transceiver would not turn on. It took Robin and me about 30 to 45 minutes to locate a broken wire and repair it. We then headed out of the bay and located the start on the ICW for this area. This took us in an almost southerly direction and we were able to sail for about 3 hours with the wind off of our stern. We averaged about 5 mph and at times achieved 6 or more mph. Our total travel for today was 16 miles.

When we approached the city of Dunedin, Florida, it started raining at a fair rate. We decided to stop at the marina there for the night even though it was early to stop for the day. We used the extra time on shore to use the laundry facility at the marina and also inflate the inflatable life raft, which we will tow behind the boat for the remainder of this journey. Just after arriving here we walked 1/3 mile to the Sand Bar Grill, which Robin had knowledge of from a previous trip through here last year. It was an exceptionally good hamburger.

Feb. 27, 2004 (Fri.), Day 3

It rained occasionally last night and the wind picked up. When we opened the cabin hatch the wind was stiff and it looked very gloomy. We decided to invoke our primary rule while on these sailing voyages, which is: “If it doesn’t look like fun out on the water, stay tied up.” It didn’t look like fun today so we stayed in the marina today and did not travel. We found a small diner that served a very good breakfast within easy walking distance from Spirit Song. After breakfast we watched the marina staff stack power boats in a large barn using a large special design forklift. We enjoyed a mid-afternoon cup of tea that Robin prepared back at Spirit Song. About 6:45 Robin and I helped land and secure a 65-foot power boat for a couple of men who did not have much experience with handling a boat of that size. We enjoyed a nice dinner at a local restaurant and stayed several hours to listen to the live entertainment.

Feb. 28, 2004 (Sat.), Day 4

Shortly after getting out of our sleeping bags this morning, we removed 10 or 12 gallons of water from the bilge. We could not imagine how it came into the boat. We have experienced water in the bilge before but not in this quantity. We had assumed that it was getting into the boat after a rain from deck runoff but it did not rain last night. Robin tried to contact the MacGregor factory in southern California, but alas it is Saturday and there was no response. We then solicited the help of Bruce, the harbor master and he was kind enough to do an internet search to find out if other MacGregor owners had a solution to our problem. We did find that a couple of other owners were looking for a solution to the same problem but not solutions. In looking around the boat trying to eliminate possible causes Robin found that the inlet valve to the ballast tank was not very tight. He tightened the valve and the water problem seems to be resolved. We will check the bilge in the morning and hope for the fix.

Robin and I took a 5 mile walk this afternoon to see the local sights followed by another great hamburger at the Sand Bar Grill. Tonight is the first night we have been able to see the stars. It would have been a good day for sailing but until we have a handle on the water problem we will stay in this marina.

Feb. 29, 2004 (Sun.), Day 5

Yip-ee, hoo-ray, the water problem was solved. The first thing we looked at this morning was the bilge and found no additional water had found its way in for one day. The ballast tank valve was the culprit. Because of the water problem, Robin had some articles of clothing that were wet with seawater. Robin used the laundry facility at the marina to wash and dry them. After walking a short distance for breakfast, we returned to Spirit Song, to tidy up and prepare to continue our journey. Before we left the marina, we were invited to go on board the 65-foot yacht that we helped to land several evenings before. It was a very nice boat with lots of gadgets, but I think Robin and I are doing this voyage a better way.

After leaving the marina we continued south on the ICW and were able to sail for about an hour before taking down the sails and continuing under motor power because we were required to circle a couple of times until the first of several draw bridges raised to let us through. Boat traffic in this area is almost all pleasure power boats with an occasional sailboat. We traveled about 20 miles this afternoon and we are now swinging on a single anchor in a small open area about ¼ mile from the ICW. The stars are out again tonight.

Mar. 1, 2004 (Mon.), Day 6

After Robin and I got up this morning we were entertained by a couple of dolphins that were swimming in our area. They were fun to watch. Robin made some changes to the fuel line routing so that when we are under sail and the fuel tanks shift in the fuel compartment the fuel line doesn’t get a kink thereby stopping the flow of fuel and starving the engine. This took some time so we did not get started south again until about 10:00 A.M. We were not able to sail very much today for two reasons. First, the wind direction was right over the bow (a headwind) and second, the number of drawbridges, which required the use of the motor. We stopped in the early afternoon at Tierra Verde Marina for a hamburger at the Sand Bar (not related to the Sand Bar Grill in Dunedin). After lunch we were able to sail for about one hour while traversing the mouth of Tampa Bay. We are stopped for the night at anchor about 1-1/2 miles south of the mouth of Tampa Bay. We traveled 33 miles today.

Chapter IV, Part 2. To Fort Myers

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 2. Days 7 through 10: Southwest Florida, Tampa Bay to Fort Myers

Mar. 2, 2004 (Tue.), Day 7

After coffee and a snack, we pulled our anchor and proceeded south on the ICW. The wind again was coming straight at our bow so putting up the sails was not an option. We traversed Sarasota Bay, which took about 3 hours. The wind became stronger and we were running through 1 to 1-1/2 foot chop. There was considerable power boat traffic, which meant that we were constantly dealing with heavy wakes. We stopped for lunch/dinner in Venice, Florida, and enjoyed a shrimp dinner.

We are now anchored to the side of the ICW about 5 miles south of Venice. A few mosquitoes have found us so the mosquito screen is in place for tonight. We were eating peanuts in the shell while traveling today and Captain Robin was not pleased to find peanut shells in the trailing inflatable. Where we are anchored, we can hear the surf just over a very narrow strip of land between us and the Gulf.

Mar. 3, 2004 (Wed), Day 8

When Robin and I climbed out of our sleeping bags this morning we discovered that we were gently sitting on the bottom. By the time we had coffee and a snack the tide had come in enough to allow us to pole out to deeper water using the boat hook. The wind was still coming from the south about 5 mph. By the time we reached Lemon Bay, which was about two hours of motoring, the wind had increased to about 20 mph with lots of whitecaps. We were not making good headway so we decided to find a marina early today.

We are now docked at Cape Haze Marina at Englewood, Florida. This is a very nice marina with very nice people in charge. When we asked if there was a grocery store within walking distance, the office manager (Dondi) without hesitation handed us her car key and gave us directions. We ate lunch at a local restaurant and then to the store for more groceries. We also purchased a pink potted mum for Dondi to show our appreciation for the use of her car. She was very pleased. Late this afternoon Robin and I used the hot tub for about an hour followed by much needed showers. I think we will both sleep well tonight. Robin borrowed a hose from a neighboring slip and spent about an hour washing Spirit Song.

Mar. 4, 2004 (Thu.), Day 9

We walked to breakfast and decided it was a bit windy this morning so we decided to stay here one more night. Robin topped off both fuel tanks. It took about 5-1/2 gallons. I check the bilge and only removed about ¼ bucket of water. AT 11:30 AM the owner of the hose that Robin borrowed yesterday arrived at his 27 foot Catalina sail boat. Robin and I went over to thank him for the use of the hose and was invited aboard. For the next 3 hours we had a very interesting visit with this man. His name is Carlos and he is a 73-year-old retired surgeon from Argentina. He practiced in the New York/New Jersey area and now lives in this area of Florida with his wife. He purchased the 27’ Catalina about a month ago and is becoming familiar with every nook and cranny. Although he has been on several sailboats as a guest, this is his first boat ownership. We found another restaurant at a neighboring marina and enjoyed an early dinner. Robin and I made use of the hot tub for the second night in a row.

Mar. 5, 2004 (Fri.) Day 10

We were up a little earlier than usual this morning. After breakfast at the restaurant located an easy walk from the marina we readied Spirit Song for the day’s journey and departed the marina. Again no sailing because of the wind direction. We motored into the wind until the wind picked up to about 35 to 40 mph with spray coming into the cockpit from the bow. We decided to head to shore for a b4reak because it was becoming not fun. We tired up to the fuel dock of a marina for 30 to 45 minutes and then back out to the ICW. By this time the wind had settled down a bit. We proceeded south until about 5:00 PM and found a nice anchorage about a mile off of the ICW. We are anchored on a single hook with about 8 or 10 other boats spread over a large area. We saw dolphin again today as we have almost every other day. Robin just watched a cormorant fishing bird dive and come up with a fish a little too big to get down without a struggle. The bird finally ate the fish and flew off looking happy. We traveled 37 miles today. I am sitting in the cockpit of Spirit Song feeling a cooling breeze and looking at an almost full moon. In the opposite direction the sun has just set and presenting us with a very colorful sky. We are now anchored about 15 ICW miles west of Fort Myers, Florida.

Chapter IV, Part 3. East Through the Swamp

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 3. Days 11 through 15: East through the Okeechobee to the Atlantic

Mar. 6, 2004 (Sat.), Day 11

Robin and I both agreed that today was the best day of sailing since Brownsville, Texas. We started sailing east today through the state of Florida. We were able to sail for seven straight hours. This represented 37 miles of travel. We were even able to pass through a drawbridge under sail with the cooperation of the bridgemaster. We had to take down the sails and proceed under motor power when entering the first of several locks to cross the state.

We are now camping out near the town of Alva, Florida, using two anchors to the side of the Okeechobee waterway, which is a natural fresh water river with an average depth of about 25 feet. It is very warm and quite humid. We had to put up the mosquito screens tonight as there are many mosquitoes in the area. As we were anchoring, the sun was setting and the moon was rising at the same time. The moon is at its fullest and very pretty. As we were traveling, there were many large motor vessels in the same channel. On one occasion, the wake we headed into put several inches of water over the bow and all the way to the cockpit. Some of this salt water came through the forward hatch and soaked many of our clothes. Moral to this story is don’t just close the forward hatch but also batten it down. We traveled 40 miles today. When sailing, we sailed on a beam reach part of the time and wing and wing the rest of the time.

Mar. 7, 2004 (Sun.), Day 12

After coffee and snack this morning we weighed both anchors and we were once again on our way east. Now that we are in fresh water we do not see dolphins. The river we are traveling in is about 250 feet wide and 20 to 25 feet deep. The sides alternate between very nice looking homes, most of which have a boat tied to a docking facility, and native vegetation. We also saw a number of citrus orchards containing many oranges. At times the fragrance of orange blossoms in the air was very prevalent. We tried to sail several times, but alas, not enough wind to make it worthwhile. We negotiated through a couple of bridges and a lock, which raised Spirit Song about 8 feet.

We traveled 36 miles today and are now tied to a public dock facility in the town of Moore Haven. This town is located on the western shore of Lake Okeechobee. We have not seen the lake as yet. The mosquitoes are out in full force tonight so up go the mosquito screens. Robin negotiated with a motel owner for the two of us to get much needed showers. Robin was befriended by Danny (some of the local color) who provided transportation to a local restaurant for dinner.

Mar. 8, 2004 (Mon.), Day 13

Our first order of business this morning was to do 3 big loads of laundry at a local laundromat. This included all of the saltwater-soaked clothes from the not tightened down bow hatch episode. The laundry was being heavily used, which meant that we would have to wait for driers. Instead of waiting, we found a small local restaurant about two blocks away and went there for breakfast. When we returned from breakfast, driers were available, so we were able to complete our laundry. We left the dock at about 1:00 PM and continued east. A short distance when we were stopped by a railroad swing bridge waiting for an 85 car freight train. This took about 10 minutes. A short distance further we came to our third lock in as many days. This one raised Spirit Song about 5 feet putting us at the level of the lake.

On the lake side of the channel we observed many acres of dead trees. It appears that it was at one time a very dense forest before man decided to control and raise the level of the lake. We still have not seen the body of Lake Okeechobee. We stopped at a marina near the town of Clewiston, Florida, where we purchased fuel and a meal of fish and chips. We are now tied between two piling clusters to the side of the ICW just a few hundred yards from the marina. Mosquito screens again tonight. We motored 15 miles today.

Mar. 9, 2004 (Tue.), Day 14

After coffee and a snack this morning we untied from the pilings and headed for the lake. Lake Okeechobee is a very large lake. It is about 30 miles in diameter with an average depth of about 10 feet. It took us about 6 hours to cross the lake. Four hours of which we were able to sail. When we first entered the lake the wind was blowing about 20 mph with 2 foot chop. Robin reefed both sails which helped to stabilize the boat for a somewhat smoother ride. After a while the wind settled down and the whitecaps became fewer in number. All in all, it was another good day of sailing.

On reaching Fort Mayaca on the eastern edge of the lake we once again had to proceed through another lock. This time Spirit Song was lowered less than a foot. Just after leaving the lock, we were stopped for about 10 minutes waiting for an Amtrak to pass before the railroad swing bridge was reopened.

We are now anchored to the side of the St. Lucie Canal near Indian Town. We were treated to another beautiful sunset this evening. Robin mounted the 3-1/2 horse outboard motor on the inflatable boat and buzzed around the canal to make sure everything was still in working order while he still had enough daylight to do so. We traveled about 40 miles today and the weather was comfortable cool most of the day. Mosquitoes again tonight. During the night last night the wind picked up quite a bit as a cold front moved through the area.

Mar. 10, 2004 (Wed.), Day 15

We continued traveling Easton the St. Lucie Canal (also referred to as the Okeechobee Waterway). After about 13 miles we went into the St. Lucie Lock. This was our fifth and final lock to go through. Spirit Song was lowered 13 feet to the level of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been quite cool, about 60 (F, with a wind chill a few degrees colder. It was definitely sweatshirt weather today. This wind was very gusty and at times reaching 35 to 40 mph. This became a challenge at times. As we traveled through the canal we passed a number of pumping stations drawing water out of the canal to irrigate the citrus orchards.

Somewhere around 3:00 PM we were experiencing spray coming over the bow so we decided to tie up for awhile at Northside Marina in Stuart, Florida, to see if the wind would subside a bit and also to get a hamburger at the marina restaurant. About 4:30 pm we left the marina and continued on our journey only to find that the wind was still up. We traveled about ½ hour further to a place called “Hoggs Cove” where we could anchor and have some protection from a land mass. We motored 24 miles today. I don’t think we will have a problem with mosquitoes tonight because of the winds.

Chapter IV, Part 4. South to Miami

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 4. Days 16 to 18: South to Miami

Mar. 11, 2004 (Thur.), Day 16

After bringing both anchors aboard this morning we proceeded east until we came to the Atlantic ICW at about 11:30 am. Until now on this journey we have been passing green markers on our starboard or right side and red markers on our port or left side. Now that we are traveling south on the ICW the markers are reversed with green on the port and red on the starboard. This has seemed strange to me but I think I am getting used to this change after half a day.

At about 3:00 pm we decided to take a break for lunch and stopped at a marina fuel dock for fuel and walked a short distance for a green salad and chicken sandwich. This was in the town of Jupiter, Florida.

We passed several bridges today, some of which had enough clearance for us to pass under and several that had to be raised for us. Sometimes, depending on automobile traffic load, they will open a bridge on request and sometimes if auto traffic is heavy they only open on schedule, usually 15 or 20 minute intervals. We are now anchored in Lake Worth, with 25 or 30 other boats, most of which are sailboats, which is near North Palm Beach. We motored 32 miles today. No sign of mosquitoes tonight.

Mar. 12, 2004 (Fri.), Day 17

Sailing would have been possible today except for one thing, and that was too many bridges to wait for opening. I have literally lost count of the number of draw bridges. It seems that we no sooner pass through one bridge and the next one is in sight or just around the next bend. Most bridges only open on a schedule. We arrived at one bridge at one minute past the hour and had to circle for fourteen minutes for the next scheduled opening. At another bridge we arrived at five minutes past the hour and had to circle for 25 minutes for the next scheduled opening. We traveled from bridge to bridge with two other sailboats for a while today until we stopped at an abandoned dock and Robin walked about 1/3 mile to a market for more groceries while I stayed with Spirit Song for security reasons.

Today we passed by many multi-million-dollar homes, some of which had multi-million-dollar yachts docked in front of them. We also passed by many 10- to 20-story apartment complexes. We are now anchored in a small lake called Santa Barbara Lake in the town of Pompano Beach, Florida. We motored 46 miles today. The weather was good today with a light breeze to keep the temperature down.

Mar. 13, 2004 (Sat.), Day 18

Robin and I started off this morning with very smooth going because there were no other boats moving on the ICW for the first half hour. When we were being passed by larger displacement power boat hulls the original wake was only temporary. But, because we were in a narrow channel with seawalls on either side, the energy would reflect back and forth for several minutes. This created a choppy ride.

Again, we encountered several more draw bridges. When approaching a drawbridge with less than 36’ clearance the following procedure was used. First we had to approach the bridge close enough to find the name of the bridge with our binoculars. This is not easy as the name was located in various places on the bridge or not at all. Second, we would use the transceiver on channel 9 to contact the bridge tender. A typical contact would go something like this: “Sunrise Blvd. Bridge, this is sailing vessel Spirit Song southbound requesting an opening.” The bridge tender would respond with something like this: “Spirit Song, this is Sunrise Bridge. I see you – come on down and I will open for you.” Or “Spirit Song – this is Sunrise Bridge – My next opening is in 7 minutes.” We saw six cruise ships docked at Fort Lauderdale and four more docked at Miami, this being the Saturday turnaround day. About 2:30 pm we left the ICW and tied up at the Miami City Dock which is at a large shopping mall. We telephoned home, purchased a meal, and a little light shopping.

We are now anchored in the same general area with many other boats. We sat in the cockpit of our boat for several hours and watched the sunset, the Miami skyline lights come on, and the many aircraft leaving the Miami airport. We motored 37 miles today.

We noticed with amazement when entering the north end of Biscayne Bay that the water turned an emerald green and appeared to be clearer than previously seen on this journey. Robin saw our first Atlantic dolphin today.

Chapter IV, Part 5. Miami to Marathon

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 5. South from Miami to Marathon Key, Days 19 to 22

Mar. 14, 2004 (Sun.), Day 19

This morning, Robin and I woke to rain on the cabin. It has rained one other time today and we were able to don our Frogtogs rain gear. It has been very cloudy the entire day. We left Miami this morning and only had to clear two high bridges today before staring our crossing of Biscayne Bay. Today was a wonderful day of sailing. We were able to sail with an average speed of 7 mph for about 5-1/2 hours.

It was more like open water sailing but we did follow the course of the ICW. Robin set a waypoint on the GPS receiver and we followed it for most of the day. Where there were no markers, the GPS system is a wonderful navigation tool. Robin and I would take turns at the tiller of about 30 minutes each. The wind was blowing about 35 to 40 mph at times. Spirit Song has developed a heavy weather helm and it requires a certain amount of physical strength to hold a course. We were both a bit tired so we decided to drop the anchor in the wind shadow of Pumpkin Key at about 3:30 pm. Pumpkin Key is a small island in Card Sound just about ½ mile west of Key Largo. There are nine boats anchored in the area. We sailed 38 miles today.

Mar. 15, 2004 (Mon.), Day 20

After a good night’s sleep and coffee we sailed away from the anchorage we were in. We sailed for two hours before bringing down the sails and starting the motor. The reason was an upcoming land cut plus a draw bridge (the only one for today). We passed through the drawbridge and spotted a fuel dock and restaurant. Both Spirit Song and we were in need of re-fueling so we tied up. This was also an opportunity for Robin and me to telephone home. We were able to sail off and on throughout the afternoon, only motored through several landcuts. The weather has been beautiful today with scattered clouds and temperature in the high 70’s. We are now at anchor in Ramshorn Bay which is just north of Plantation key.

Robin and I were sitting in the cockpit after the sun was down and it was completely dark. We were stargazing when Robin looked into the water and notice a pale green glow. Upon further investigation we noticed about a dozen green glowing things in the water. Some were glowing steady while others were blinking. A flashlight revealed a group of what appeared to be illuminescent squid.

We are traveling more west than south along the Florida Keys. We traveled 31 miles today.

Mar. 16, 2004 (Tues.), Day 21

This was a day of several varied boating conditions. We started off this morning under sail using only the jib. We did not start the outboard motor until entering a very short landcut. We proceeded from one body of water through a land cut into the next body of water. When we were in open water we were very often dodging a colored Styrofoam float attached to a line. The other end of the line went down to a crab trap placed there by many different commercial crabbers, each one identified with a specific color. We put on our Frog Togs once again when we approached a rainy area. It rained very hard for a bout 3 minutes and then slowed down for another 15 to 20 minutes. We had some sunshine today but mostly it was cloudy. We were able to sail more than half of the day. We are now anchored on the north (Gulf) side and West end of Vaca Key, which contains the town of Marathon. (There are only three other boats anchored in this immediate area. We traveled 44 miles today.

Mar. 17, 2004 (Weds.), Day 22

This was a day on shore. Robin and I started the day by using the inflatable dinghy to travel about 200 yards to a public facility to leave the dinghy. We enjoyed a good cooked breakfast at a restaurant called “The Stuffed Pig”. We then talked with some people at a local yacht club and were given directions to the nearby Marathon City Marina where we could take much needed showers and do a load of laundry. We then attempted to return to Spirit Song to pick up dirty clothes, etc, only to break a sheer pin for the propeller on the 3-1/2 horsepower dinghy motor. We then located a nearby West Marine store and purchased and modified a replacement sheer pin (the new one was too long). We were able to return to Spirit Song and collect the items needed back on shore. We then proceeded to take our showers followed by doing the laundry. While I was tending to the laundry Robin returned to the West Marine store to purchase replacement lines for the jib roller furling and both jib sheet, which were getting old and needed to be replaced. We then went to a nearby restaurant for a fried shrimp dinner. We then returned to Spirit Song in the last few minutes of twilight. The wind was picking up a bit and it was a wet ride back. The fetch was coming from the Gulf of Mexico with the wind coming from the west.

Chapter IV, Part 6. Marathon and Back

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 6. Marathon to Marathon via Disaster at Crab Key, Days 23 to 25

Mar. 18, 2004 (Thu.), Day 23

Robin and I went to shore in the inflatable dinghy this morning and went to the Stuffed Pig for breakfast. This time we ate out on the patio. We then walked back to the West Marine store where Robin purchased a replacement stainless steel bolt for the rudder. The old one was a little bit short to take full advantage of the Nyloc nut. We then returned to Spirit Song, and Robin replaced lines with those purchased yesterday. Looking out to the ICW Channel we decided to wait for the wind to calm down with a few less whitecaps. We left at 2:00 p.m. and traveled for three hours. Most of the time we were able to sail. We are now at anchor on the northwest side of a very small uninhabited island called Crawl Key. We are the only boat anchored here. We traveled only 19 miles today. Robin and I sat in the cockpit after full darkness and looked for almost an hour at the many starts. We could see the Milky Way very clearly.

Mar. 19, 2004 (Fri.), Day 24

At 4:30 this morning, Robin and I both awoke knowing that something was not right. Spirit Song was rocking from side to side in a more extreme manner than it should even though the wind was blowing strong. It was pitch black outside so we grabbed a flashlight and Robin discovered that our rudder was on the bottom. After getting our GPS coordinates and applying them to our navigational chart we discovered much to our amazement that our anchor had failed to hold even though Robin had set it using the motor. We had been blown 1-1/3 miles across the channel into water that was only 12 to 18 inches deep. We decided that the best thing to do was to get dressed, have a cup of coffee, and wait for daylight so we could better evaluate our immediate surroundings.

After first light we tried using the motor to back us out. It was not obvious which direction would be the closest deeper water. Robin decided to survey our surroundings by attaching a 250 foot anchor line to the inflatable dinghy and exploring for deeper water. At 8:30 a.m. we were able to achieve our goal of 4 to 5 foot water. The wind was blowing at between 30 and 35 mph. The surface conditions were quite rough with many whitecaps and 2 to 3 foot chop. With these facts in mind we decided to abandon our goal of Key West and return to Marathon. We motored the entire return trip as the wind was coming directly over our bow. It took 4 hours to travel the same distance today that we traveled in 3 hours yesterday. The return trip was very bumpy and wet with lots of spray blowing back into the cockpit. We are now anchored with about 300 to 400 boats, 90% of which are sailboats, in Boot Key Harbor at Marathon. We observed three sailboats trying to un-ground themselves this afternoon.

Mar. 20, 2004 (Sat.), Day 25

The wind was still blowing, when we had a wet dinghy ride from our place of anchor to the marina office. We purchased dinghy dock permit for 3 days and then returned to “The Stuffed Pig” for breakfast. Robin and I hired a taxi to take us to the Marathon Airport, which was about 4 miles east. At the airport, we arranged for a car rental from Avis to be picked up tomorrow morning for our return trip to Tarpon Springs. The airport was interesting in that there were many aircraft-related WWII photographs. There were also a number of model aircraft on display. Much to our dismay we discovered that due to the proliferation of cell phones all of the pay phones have been removed by Southern Bell. It seems that working pay phones are being replaced by cell phones. We returned to the marina area by taxi and walked a short distance to a hospital to purchase dinner in their cafeteria as there were no suitable restaurants in the area.

Chapter IV, Part 7. Key West and the Voyage Home

Chapter IV: Tarpon Springs, Florida to Marathon, Florida, plus 20 miles (cont.)

Part 7. Key West and the Return Voyage, Days 26 to 30

Mar. 21, 2004 (Sun.), Day 26

Robin and I had requested a taxi to pick us up at 7:45 a.m. She was late and didn’t arrive until almost 8:00 a.m. We arrived at the Marathon Airport at about 8:15 a.m. We checked out an Oldsmobile compact form Avis and started traveling north. We stopped for breakfast at the “Little Italy” restaurant in the town of Layton on Long Key. After we were seated at a table the waitress approached us and asked what we would like for breakfast. Robin answered, “I would like to have two eggs over medium please”. I guess she was feeling frisky because she looked him in the eye and replies, “We don’t have any more eggs.” I looked at her and said, “I guess you will have to go and squeeze a chicken.” That caused the three of us to respond with laughter.

We crossed the state of Florida going through the Everglades Park, also known as “Alligator Alley”. We didn’t see any alligators. We arrived at Tarpon Springs and claimed Robin’s truck and boat trailer from storage at about 5:00 p.m. We then located the Avis Car rental office only to find that they close at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and do not allow after hours car return. We found a motel for the night about one mile from Avis. We drove 484 miles in about 8 hours.

Mar. 22, 2004 (Mon.), Day 27

Robin and I returned to the Avis office promptly at 8:00 a.m., which is when they start their business day. I turned in the key and paperwork for the Avis car, which we left in their parking lot last evening. Robin was driving his truck pulling the empty boat trailer as I did all the driving yesterday. We stopped for breakfast before traveling south very far. We took a slight detour to the Paradise Yacht Club Marina which is in the Fort Meyers area. A friend of Robins whose name is Howard Ellsworth owns a 36 foot Heritage Trawler. Robin spent 21 days on this boat helping Howard relocate the boat from the Chesapeake Bay to Dunedin, Florida, last year. After leaving Howard we continued south and arrived back at Marathon about 8:30 p.m. We traveled about 490 miles today.

Mar. 23, 2004 (Tue.), Day 28

Today started out very early for me, and even earlier for Robin. The wind was blowing very hard last night and at about 1:0 a.m. Robin was concerned enough about our anchor that he got up to keep a watch on our boat in case it started to move. At about 3:00 a.m. he decided to put out the other anchor so I got up to help handle anchor lines and assist Robin with the dinghy. The second anchor also attached to our bow stabilized our oscillating back and forth. All seemed well so we both went back to bed and slept well.

After we were up for the day we tuned into a local VHF network consisting of other boat owners in Boot Key harbor. It was very interesting and lasted about 40 minutes. We then dinghied to the marina and located a boat ramp right in Boot Key Harbor. We left Robin’s truck and boat trailer at the ramp and returned to Spirit Song. The wind was still blowing strong. It only took us a few minutes to motor to the ramp and at about 3:00 p.m. Spirit Song was back on her trailer. This is always the saddest time of our journeys for me as I am sure it is for Robin. It took Robin about 2 hours to wash the boat with fresh water, fold the mast back, and prepare her for the road. We are now parked alongside of a highway in Key West, Florida.

Mar. 24, 2004 (Wed.), Day 29

After breakfast at IHOP we took a short self-guided tour of Key West. One point of interest was that we drove to the most southerly place in the (continental) USA which is 24 degrees, 33 minutes north latitude. At about 11:30 a.m., we left Key West and started traveling east (north) along the Florida Keys. We made several short stops along the way to do some light shopping. Once we were back on the mainland, Robin spent about 1-1/2 hours trying to stop a dragging brake lining on the left trailer wheel. It is better but he will look at it again in the morning. We stopped at an Applebee’s restaurant for an oriental chicken salad which we both enjoyed. We are now parked at a rest stop on I 75.

Mar. 25, 2004 (Thu.), Day 30

Robin and I enjoyed a reasonably quiet night considering we were in a rest area that truckers frequent with their diesel engines at idle for the night. This morning I packed my belongings from the trip home. After leaving the rest area we enjoyed a breakfast of steak and eggs at a local Waffle House restaurant. We then drove the 50 or so miles to the Tampa Airport where Robin and I said our goodbyes at about 1:00 p.m. and he left by himself for the long (1800 miles) drive back to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Neal and Robin at the end of one of their cruises.

I am now at 31,000 feet altitude on the second American Airlines fight home. The first leg was from Tampa to Dallas/Fort Worth and the second from Dallas/Fort Worth to San Jose, California. This has been a wonderful experience to travel the entire Gulf Coast over a period of four years with my brother. We have sailed/motored approximately two thousand miles and enjoyed every mile. This is the end of the final chapter of “Sailing the Ditch.”