Well thank God that’s behind us

The day finally arrived.  We couldn’t hide from The Crossing any longer.  Eddy’s Weather Wag said don’t go if you want a pleasant—or even acceptable for Eddy and Linda—22 hours on open water.  So of course we went.  At least we went prepared.

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After provisioning up with the fireworks and all the unhealthy snacks we might need, after filling the ditch bag with our most valuable possessions, and after preparing Mini Pearl for quick release in the event Misty Pearl sank under us, we left Carabelle at 2:30.  Lewis came along to help, while Terri drove the boys around to Clearwater Beach.

Wednesday night folks from about a dozen boats or more had met up to organize.  The biggest group was going to Tarpon Springs.  That’s about 20 miles shorter than the trip to Clearwater, which doesn’t make them cowards or anything no matter what some people might say behind their backs.  Mostly they all wanted Greek food.  Opa!  Four boats were going the long way.  One of them dropped out.  So Wander, Quid Pro Quo, and Misty Pearl made up the second fleet.  We were so nervous about leaving that we took no pictures of the departure.  Ridiculous.

In fact, we took no pictures at all until sunset,  by which time we were well beyond sight of blessed land.

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By this time we had 1 foot waves.  Nothing at all for an ocean-going boat like Misty Pearl.  We were having a good old time.  Looking forward to fireworks at midnight.  Well, 2 of us were looking forward to fireworks.  One of us hastily was jamming notes in bottles so that someday someone might finally learn what happened to our bodies and to make sure whoever found the notes would know that Dana’s warnings of dire consequences were justified, because what could be more dangerous than launching fireworks from the bow of a suddenly-very-small boat bouncing around in the ocean impossibly far from any meaningful help.  And she wanted the world to know that Doug and Lewis are idiots.

img_5431By about 7, we were bored enough to launch the show.  Again, we forgot to take one stinking picture.  Actually Dana took one shot just before the Tarpon Springs bunch faded away off our port side, but not of the fireworks.  That’s Wander and Quid—or at least their stern lights—off to the right.  The smaller lights are from the other folks.  Who as discussed below enjoyed much better conditions.

Anyway, Wander tried to get GoPro video but it was too rocky and rolly.  Trust us though.  The fireworks were awesome.  At the last minute we sort of feared the Coast Guard might mistake them for distress flares and then be mad that it was just a boat of buffoons screwing around, but then we figured we were in international waters so what could they do to us?  (The notion that they might refuse to come back if we subsequently launched real distress flares didn’t occur to us until later.)

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By 8, our radio communication with our Crossing buddies mostly turned to discussions about how slow the clock was moving.  Surely it’s nearly midnight.  No?  Crap.  At 12:44 Friday morning, we hit the half way point.  Distance, not time.  Because from about that point forward time slowed to the proverbial crawl.

Just after the halfway point, the wind started whipping up 3- to 4-footers.  Right on the beam.  That’s getting pretty nasty.  Experienced boaters probably wouldn’t flinch, but we’re still pretty much weenies.  Then it got worse.  By 3 am we were seeing the occasional 5+.   Wander was steering from the flybridge and saw waves higher than their bow, which is 6 feet above the waterline.  Just 10 miles or so north of us the Tarpon Springs bunch was missing all the fun.

At least we were making good time.  Until Wander lost a fuel pump.  Ted tried to fix it, to no avail.  We can’t believe he even tried.  We’re guessing his engine room was about 120°.  It must’ve been like trying to do needlepoint inside a hot oven while that oven is tumbling down a steep mountain.  While sleep deprived and queasy.  No fun.  Fortunately Wander is a twin engine Cris-Craft.  Unfortunately we all slowed to 6 knots to stay together as she limped along an engine short.

The positive side of new-moon pitch-black darkness is that the stars were spectacular.  We easily could have navigated using them, except, of course, we have absolutely no idea how to do that.  Thor Heyerdahl proved that ancient Polynesians could’ve traveled across the Pacific on bamboo rafts, presumably using celestial navigation.  Bully for him and for them.  No way they would have made it from Carabelle to Clearwater without drowning in the waves or freezing in their loin cloths and coconut bikini tops.  The point is that the stars were pretty cool.

Proving again that Little Orphan Annie was wise beyond her tender years, the sun indeed did come up directly ahead of us, despite our hard-knock night.  The waves even subsided to something between pleasant and acceptable.

img_6332By about 10 am Friday morning, things were back to as normal as possible for having last slept more than 24 hours earlier.  Wander did what we mostly didn’t do.  Took a picture.

Sometime after noon we docked in Clearwater Beach.  Back to the world of shorts and t-shirts.  Woo Hoo!  Basically we collapsed.  And forgot to take pictures.  Except for one of a bird on our 50A power cord.

img_6327After sleeping the sleep of the righteous—or perhaps the sleep of the almost-dead—we bid farewell to Lewis and Terri and rallied for the cruise down to St. Pete.  Saturday morning in Clearwater Beach was picture perfect.  Which reminded us to take a picture as we left.

This is what cruising is all about.  Dry and warm.  Sunny.  Flybridge.  Light wind blowing through what would be Doug’s hair if he had hair.  Awesome.

Even the return to drawbridges couldn’t dampen the mood.

More bridges than we’ve seen in a day since Chicago.  We waited for a few of them to open, but not a big deal at all.

Down the ICW the water was smooth.  In spots we could see over into the Gulf.

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Poor bastards in that sailboat probably think they’re having fun.  We, however, hope never again to be farther out in the Gulf than we can wade.  Although that might change in a few days as we head to Marathon.

On the way into Tampa Bay, we swung up to Eckerd College to wave at Shannon, who we’re sure otherwise would’ve been preparing for final exams.

Around the bend St. Pete looked like a pretty dang inviting place to stay for a week or so.

4DC33596-291F-46B5-A090-8A6FAE90FD04Shannon popped back over last night with some friends and will move aboard on Friday.  We have the boys back home.  Mallory arrives Saturday.  Their cousin Grant is in a soccer tournament in Sarasota this weekend so we’ll get to see him and Liz and Eddie.

We’ll be spending the week doing work in our Clearwater Beach condo, so nothing to blog about until next week.  The plan is to be to Faro Blanco by Christmas Eve.

All in all, The Crossing was the worst 24-hours of our Loop, by far.  However, as The King of Modern Country Music observed, “The road less traveled ain’t for the faint of heart.”*

It also also of course may be that the folks who travel the road most traveled are the smart ones and only morons veer off the safe and proven path.  Either way it’s sunny and dry so we’ll enjoy the day.  Actually it’s rainy and windy and gray, but we’re tied up nicely so no complaints.  Unless it stays this way.  Then we’ll complain.

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* Contrary to one school of thought, as great as he is George Strait is not the overall King of Country Music.  That would be George Jones.  Which makes Tammy Wynette—not Loretta Lynn—the Queen of Country Music.  You’re welcome.

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