Hello virtual crew members and fellow adventurers!
The crew spent the week cruising thru the damage done by Hurricane Michael. Notice that the tree tops have all disappeared.
On the brighter side, we get to welcome some new virtual crew members aboard this week. You are just in time to cross the Gulf of Mexico with the crew. Welcome aboard chmyers2000 and Greg P. Hope you enjoy the adventure!
It should be obvious by the map above that the crew did not make last Wednesday’s Gulf crossing. That was unfortunate because the weather was perfect for a glass smooth sail across the Gulf. However, because of high winds over the weekend the crew was unable to leave Ft Walton Beach and get staged for the crossing.
Instead, the crew hunkered down and let the high winds blow by. On Monday, it was finally safe enough to continue eastward so the crew made three moves to stage for the next weather window to allow safe passage across the Gulf.
They anchored out north of Panama City on Monday in Burnt Mill Creek (1). Then stayed at a free dock in White City (2) on Tuesday. They then made way to Carrabelle (3) where they will sit and wait for a weather window to open.
Click here to read the day-to-day travel log. This includes weather report, sea conditions, captain’s log, a summary of the day’s experience, and a few pics of the route.
This week’s video is an intro to the Great Loop from America’s Great Loop Cruising Association. Enjoy!
To see past videos, click on the link to the Still Waters II Vimeo site. The library contains videos of Still Waters II cruising America’s Great Loop.
Ft Walton Beach to Carrabelle was a 150 mile journey through the devastation of Hurricane Michael. Because of the damage, the marinas along this route are still closed which necessitated finding docks or anchorages to stop along the way.
The first night, the crew planned to stop at a restaurant that has a dock but is closed on Mondays. However, upon arrival, the skipper could not find enough water under the keel to safely dock without going aground. When he finally abandoned the dock strategy it was time to head to Plan B, an anchorage about an hour away.
When the crew arrived at the anchorage they dropped the anchor but it did not set. On the second try, the anchor failed to set again. But this time when they brought the anchor up they noticed it had some grass hanging from the points. The skipper moved to some deeper water to get out of the grass and the anchor set on the third try.
The skipper then launched the dinghy to take Tori ashore. Under the category of ‘No job is as easy as it looks,’ the skipper could not get close to shore because of the shallow water. He finally gave up on finding a path to shore in the boat, got out of the dinghy, then waded and pulled the dinghy to shore.
After Tori did her business and loaded back in the dinghy, the skipper waded back out to deeper water and floated away. Luckily, Chip Ahoy was there to assist and get the dinghy, dog, and skipper back to their respective boats. This was especially good because it was getting dark and dark fast.
The temperature was also dropping fast so the skipper was glad to get back on board to fire up the generator to warm the boat and dry off.
The crew woke with temperatures in the 30’s, so the skipper fired up the generator again to warm the boat before the Admiral crawled out of bed for her first cup of coffee. Mary also called and said it was too cold to be wading in the water to take Tori ashore. Tori would either hold it all day or use the green carpet. Obviously, Tori does not like artificial grass because she choose to hold it all day.
On the way to Panama City the crew saw a grand assortment of birds.
The Admiral came up with an idea to try and get Tori off the boat and on to shore at the Panama City Marina along the sea wall. However, when Gammel Dansk was approaching the wall to tie up, a police officer showed up and told them the area was off limits and they could not land.
Looking around at all the damage it was obvious why the area was off limits. It looked like a virtual war zone and liability nightmare.
Tori would have to wait until the flotilla landed in White City. The town free docks are normally closed to over night stays. But because the marina at Port St Joes was destroyed, White City has allowed transient boaters to stop for the night while passing through the area.
While making way to White City, the crew saw this large yacht aground. They later learned that the yacht is on order for someone in California. Supposedly it is a 100 Million dollar boat. The builders decided to move the boat to a mooring ball rather than take the chances in a marina during the hurricane. The winds broke the boat free of the mooring and the storm surge floated the boat away. After the waters receded, she was left aground. They are slowly trying to move her to deeper water and float her off.
The skipper woke to literally freezing temperatures. The handrails and deck were covered in a thin layer of ice. A new experience on the Great Loop. Oh, did I forget to mention the fog that enveloped the boat also.
With the fog starting to break up a little bit, the flotilla set off. It would not take long though to experience a scary moment on the water in the fog. The skipper had the radar on to help detect approaching targets. He noticed an object come out from beyond a bend in the river. He sounded the horn to alert the boat to his presence. About the same time as the horn sounded he made visual contact with the fast approaching boat. Luckily the boats were not on the same line and the boat quickly passed to the starboard of Still Waters II. While all that was happening, he was trying to warn the two tugs behind him of the fast approaching boat over the radio.
With the fog gone, the skipper thought it would be smooth sailing for the rest of the day. But that was not meant to be. As they came out into the Apalachicola Bay, they encountered a dredge dead center in the channel. The dredge told the skipper to pass on the 1, so the skipper moved to starboard to go around the dredge. He looked at the chart and noticed that there would be only 5 feet of water. Not good when your boat draft is nearly 4. The skipper slowed and eased his way around the dredge until he could get back into the marked channel.
Not long after this, the crew was overtaken by a boat named SunSpot Baby. She is crewed by Dave and Nancy from up north on Lake Michigan. They had planned to cross the Gulf today in that great weather window but had some issues getting out into the Gulf. They are now headed to Carrabelle to wait for the next window to cross.
SunSpot Baby hosted dock tales on their boat. The Admiral got the Grand Tour. The skipper learned that the boat is named for a Bob Seger tune by the same name.
She packed up her bags and she took off down the road
Left me here stranded with the bills she owed
She gave me a false address
Took off with my American Express
She sure had me way outguessed
Thanks for a great evening aboard SunSpot Baby.
There have been several groups of boaters who have ventured out into the Gulf over the last few weeks in marginal and deteriorating weather conditions. Then when things did not work out well for them they blamed the forecast for their bad decision. This fits perfectly with the skipper’s quote of the day, “To err is human, to blame the other guy is more human.”
For example, back on December 6th, a group of 13 captain’s got together to discuss their Gulf crossing plan. Two of these captain’s decided the weather window was not good for them and choose not to go. The other 11 left and encountered 3 foot seas at East Pass, just after entering the Gulf. Two more decided that this was not their cup of tea and returned to Carrabelle.
The other 9 continued on for twenty more hours getting kicked around by the seas. Rather than own their decision to cross based on what they saw with their own two eyes, they blamed the forecast for their choice.
One of the survivors had this to say after making it across the Gulf:
In my humble opinion, and recent personal experience, this crossing IS a big deal. We have no auto pilot and no stabilizer. We traveled in a very stable albeit small boat and it was the most frightening 22 hours of fighting the elements in total blackness I have encountered in 25+ years of boating.
Despite all monitored apps, NOAA, consensus at the captains meeting (involving 13 other boats) the projected weather was not as expected.
I am not ashamed to say I was very frightened.
It was obvious to the skipper that some people do not understand the basics of wave height, so he shared this little simple thought experiment with the AGLCA membership in hopes that others will not follow out into the Gulf in three foot waves, especially in a small boat.
As we now sit in Carrabelle waiting our turn to cross the Gulf, my thoughts have begun to ponder why many before me use the thumb rule of:
– Less than 10 mph winds
– Less than 2-foot waves
as their go-no-go decision tool.
I have also begun to ponder if I would go if the waves were just three foot just past Dog Island after entering the Gulf at East Pass.
To answer these and other questions, I ran this thought experiment and determined not only no, but heck no, I’m not going in three-foot seas. Read the thought experiment and you can make your own decision if you would go or not.
If the average wave height was predicted to be three foot, what could I actually expect to see while crossing the Gulf at 8 mph?
First, I found the following definition for wave height on the NOAA, National Weather Service page.
Significant Wave Height – is an average measurement of the largest 33% of waves.
IMHO- that is not very useful on the surface
Second, I also found this info following the above definition:
Significant wave height measured by a wave buoy corresponds well to visual estimates of wave height. Most human observers tend to over estimate the real height of waves.
As the significant wave height is an average of the largest waves over a recording period it should be noted that some waves might be much LARGER than the average.
Third, that begged the question, ‘How many are some?’
Answer – on average, about 15% of waves will equal or exceed the significant wave height. The highest 10% of waves could be 25-30% higher than the significant wave height.
And on occasion (about one per hour) one can expect to see a wave nearly twice the significant wave height.
So, in layman terms what does that mean to me as I spend 21 hours to cross 170 miles at 8 mph across the Gulf?
Assuming 3-foot waves in the Gulf with a 6 second period the entire route across.
And ignoring the fact that the boat is actually moving across the Gulf.
I could expect to see at least 7,560 waves (6 sec period, so 6 waves per minute, so 360 waves per hour)
The highest 10% of waves could be 25-30% higher. So, 30% of 3-foot wave would be 1 more foot or a bunch of 4-foot waves. How many is a bunch? 10% of 7,560 = 756 four-foot waves
And on occasion (about one per hour) one can expect to see a wave nearly twice the significant wave height. Therefore, we should expect to see some waves twice as high as the three footers which means we get to surf some 6-foot waves 21 times as we go across the Gulf.
# of waves – 7,650 (which most look like three footers to the untrained eye)
# of 4-foot waves – 756
# of 6-foot waves – 21
As a reminder this was assuming the boat is not moving which we know it is. So, in reality you will see even more waves than this simple thought process.
However, for me and my wife, these numbers are proof enough that we do not want to go out in 3-foot seas, meet a bunch of 4 footers, and get kissed hourly by a 6-footer.
So, when I stick my nose out in the Gulf and see 3-foot seas, we are making a game-day-decision to return to Carrabelle, and wait for the next window. Four to six-foot waves take the pleasure out of pleasure boating for us.
But every body is different. On our boat we have two people on board and two types of peanut butter (creamy and crunchy). Different is neither right or wrong. It is just different.
So maybe you would go, if you do, I hope you make it safely. I am sure you will. It might not be pleasurable but it would probably be safe.
One clever response to the skipper’s post was as follows:
A wave is wave of course, of course
But the height of the wave is of course, a force?
The simple truth is, how much force do you want?
No force, little force or the boat doing stunts.
For me it is simple, while riding the seas
I only want a MINIMAL BREEZE!
If you want to brag that you survived the worst
Get out there and do it! You may be the first!
There are now 8 boats at the Moorings in Carrabelle waiting for the next weather window to cross the Gulf. To pass the time the group of 8 decided to have a potluck dinner that actually turned into hamburgers and hotdogs.
The ladies transformed the Boaters Lounge into a nice place for dinner, converting the pool table into a serving table with all the food.
It appeared that all had a good time, but before breaking up for Looper Midnight I managed to get this group shot. Notice I even got the skipper in the pic.
Also, a shout out and big THANK YOU to the management of the Moorings of Carrabelle for the two bottles of complimentary wine. It was a nice surprise and much appreciated!
The next weather window to cross the Gulf seems to be opening up on Monday. Because the winds have blown hard for the last several days, it will take a while for the waves to calm down. Based on the current forecast, a Tuesday night Wednesday crossing looks the best. If the forecast holds the crew should make the jump across the Gulf and be safely docked in Dunedin by Wednesday afternoon
Well thought out, I will heed your warnings!