Friday, November 19, 2010

Carrabelle to Fort Myers

The mast stepping in Carrabelle could have been a painfully expensive endeavor, but thanks to the kindness of a very special family who owns Dockside Marina, it was truly an enjoyable experience.

Our plan was to rent their crane and crane operator and do all the labor ourselves, just like we did at Dog River Marina in Mobile last year. This saves a lot of money, and after having done it several times, we are getting pretty darn good at it. We were totally unfamiliar with this marina, but dared to ask if we could take the masts off the boat the night before the stepping so that we could have everything prepared and minimize the crane rental time. Randy said no problem, he would bring the forklift over and lift them off. In his eagerness to help, we suspect they underestimated the amount of time and manpower involved.

As we pulled into the slip, two friendly dock hands appeared and helped with the lines. Shortly, Randy came down to survey the situation, and guys just kept appearing after that until we had a half dozen of them, scurrying around Tessa, ribbing each other while figuring out how in the heck they were going to move these "telephone pole" sticks! Eric, the owner, joined in and eventually the masts were stretched across saw horses.

As I am the designated worrier, I assumed the position and expressed my concern about the cost associated with all the labor and help already incurred, when we hadn't even started stepping the masts! Gary, the designated placater, assured me everything would work out just fine. The guys were great, Eric was great, life was good. Let's have a cocktail and relax!

The next morning, the guys were ready to start stepping, but first we had to move Tessa from the lift slip over closer to where the crane could pull up. Tessa decided to take control of the situation and refused to cooperate with the winds and current, and soon we had a dock hand on the boat with us and several guys positioned on the dock pulling lines with all their might. Since we could not pull up parallel do the dock, Eric decided to turn her around and back into the slip to step the mizzen mast first. Next, turn her bow in to step the main. All the while, the hours ticked by and I counted $$$$ like watching a spinning taxi meter heading to Chicago O'Hare.

Instead of leaving it to Gary and I to handle all the labor, the guys gathered around and efficiently got everything done. I commented to one of them that it looked like they were having fun! "This is long as everything goes right!" one of them replied. Eric was the last one on the scene, checking to make sure everything was completed properly. "Eric" I asked "Should I just bring the title to Tessa up to the office to settle up???" He just laughed and offered his truck for our use that night. We accepted, and ran across the river to pick Walt and Vickie up for one last supper at Old Salts Cafe. The oysters and grouper was as good as the first time.
We awoke early the next morning, anxious about paying our tab. Eric slid the invoice across the counter and I looked up in amazement. He smiled and said "I didn't charge you for all the labor." All we could do was offer a very heartfelt "THANK YOU!" Not only did we receive the royal treatment for almost three days, but they offered it generously with no strings attached. What great people!

We hated to leave this hospitable group, but needed to get back across the river to the Moorings Marina, where Bryan Diveto and Danielle were scheduled to rendezvous with us on Sunday, in time for an early Monday morning departure toward Tarpon Springs.

The weather was ideal for crossing the Gulf.....for Walt and Vickie. Calm seas and bright sunny skies, but lacking in one critical element for us. WIND! The masts were up, sails ready to fill, and we got nutthin! We didn't complain much as the Perkins droned on and on for the 24 hour overnighter to Tarpon Springs, as it could have be A LOT worse. Since it was calm enough to be out on deck to fish, we threw a lure out and Bryan reeled in what we thought was a small tuna. I filleted it on the stern deck, and tucked it right in the freezer for dinner. To our disappointment, it was a "Little Tunney" which sounds close, but definitely not tuna quality fillets. Strong and a weird consistency.

Anyway, who needed Tuna when we arrived at Tarpon Springs ready to feast on the Greek culinary delights. But our first delight was meeting Ted, the dock master of Tarpon City Marina. He professionally handled our docking procedure, all the while welcoming us exuberantly and explaining that he was not Greek, just a Polish guy imitating one. Picture Bruno from Dancing with the Stars, only much more masculine. Soon the Tessa crew joined Walt and Vickie on shore, all surrounding Ted to catch the next laugh. When I told him I might have to jump ship to stay with him on his big roomy SeaRay, I became his "Chickie".

Ted was generous enough to offer his somewhat rusty mountain bike for Walt to ride to Walgreens. Vickie wisely declined on Walt's behalf, so Ted next offered the bike to Gary. Not just to ride, to keep! Gary gleefully accepted, pumped up the tires, and off he rode to West Marine. Little did Ted know that he had just donated Gary's transportation to work in Fort Myers.

Each one of us enjoyed every charming aspect of Tarpon Springs. The Greek food, the beautiful pastries, the octopus, the Ouzo, and most importantly, the sponges. They didn't give the sponge fishermen convention enough credit in "Captain Ron". It is a fascinating industry, which we learned all about during the "Spongerama" movie. After shopping and laughing and playing with sponges, we did in fact buy several of them. These are not your everyday blue or yellow kitchen sink sponges. They are works of art!
As much as we hated to leave Ted and Tarpon Springs, the Tessa crew departed the next afternoon for destination Fort Myers. 20 uneventful hours later, we entered Matanzas Pass and arrived safely at a mooring ball. We celebrated with champagne toasts and then were treated to pitchers of beer and garlic teriyaki wings at one of our favorite hangouts, The Beached Whale.

Bryan and Danielle departed with his Mom and Stepdad, and Gary and I wandered around town seeking out old friends from last season. Gary kept saying "We're home, baby!" and after the long, exciting eight week journey, it felt wonderful to be back.

For the past week, it has been a whirlwind of activity, which will soon be documented in another update. For now, I must get back to work and finish pressure washing the decks!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Friday, November 5

We successfully arrived in Destin in time to see Bob and Mary Jane and Brad and Chris for two days before they headed back home to Ohio. The docking procedure, however, was far from successful. Without going back through the painful details, we will just say that both Tessa and Taken Care of Business did not like Destin Harborwalk Marina A LOT!

It was a great evening together at their Destin Towers condos. I fried up some of Bob and Brad's freshly caught Red Snapper, served with a clean-out-the-refrigerators buffet. The sun went down and the look in Vickie's eyes expressed exactly what I was thinking. It's time for us cruisers to be in bed! After six weeks of waking with the sun and going to sleep with the sun, we run out of steam after dark.

The next day, Vickie looked on in disgust as Gary, Walt, and I purchased a box of 8 dozen fresh oysters at the seafood shop. "What are you going to DO with all of those?" she asked incredulously. "SLURP EM!" we replied! Raw, Grilled, Rockefellerd, Steamed, each one was delectable. Vickie had a BLT.

That night, compliments of Bob and Brad, I served panko crusted snapper with Thai red chili sauce and basmati rice. The crowd loved it. Way too soon, it was time to say good night and goodbye, as we were all travelling the next day.

Saturday morning the boaters were off to Panama City. Taken Care of Business was behind us, and Vickie said Walt complained all the way, claiming that all he could see was empty oyster shells flying off Tessa's deck. Not true!


We like to time a marina arrival so that we have a few hours to enjoy the port before dark, instead of arriving late in the evening and paying just for a place to sleep. However, travelling on the intracoastal is unpredictable, and we barely got to Panama City before sundown in time to have a cocktail and some grilled oysters. Vickie had a hamburger.

After a short stay, we moved on early the next morning towards Apalachicola. The sky was breathtaking, casting long rays of sunshine downward toward the water. This portion of the intracoastal included a nice comfortable channel through swamp country. As we cruised along enjoying the scenery, we came upon the first boat we had seen the entire day. When the name "Serenity" became visible, I screamed to Gary "THAT'S JIM!" and ran toward the bow waving. What are the odds that we would cross paths here on the intracoastal when the last time we saw each other we were bidding farewell in Fort Myers last April, after mooring together for the winter? Jim grew up in Fort Walton Beach and he had departed from there a few days earlier after visiting his parents. We cruised side by side catching up quickly before he made his turn toward Port St. Joe and the Gulf. Just as Jim said, the wonderful part of cruising is that you meet good people, you become a part of each other's lives, you go your separate ways, and sooner or later it is meant to be that you cross paths again.

Once again the day, and daylight, slipped away too fast, and we decided to anchor is a popular hurricane hole instead of arriving in Apalachicola in the evening. Taken Care of Business moved faster than Tessa, so they continued on. This was indeed a perfect spot to drop the hook. Scenic, secluded, and safe! It was a little disconcerting when we spotted our only neighbor....a partially sunken trawler. Gary surmised that they didn't quite survive the last hurricane. I concluded that if we had to hole up somewhere, this would be my choice. It was so peaceful and quiet that night that I found myself laying in bed listening for something, anything, except the crickets. You get used to so many sounds, some comforting and some not, at anchor or at a dock, that they lull you to sleep. This night was absolutely still. Mother Nature pulled out all the stops and treated us to a black sky filled with a spectacular multitude of shining stars. I crawled into the cockpit with only my headlamp for light, unzipped the canvas, began to crawl out and ZAP went the bug bites. Back to our stateroom to gaze up through the hatch! The next day, the welts were there, but only on my left hand and arm that Ihad stuck out of the canvas.

We took off the next morning bright and early, as we were excited to finally experience oyster heaven, Apalachicola. We were not disappointed. It is a quaint, rustic, seaside town with several interesting shops and restaurants. The best restaurant, Papa Joe's Oyster Bar, was right at our dock. The food was good and the oysters were the plumpest juiciest ones we have had.

Gary and I planned to stay two days in Apalachicola, but the weather decided that we should leave the next morning with Walt and Vickie. We had to cross thirty miles of open water, and the winds were predicted to increase steadily. It was a rough crossing but not unbearable. We arrived in Carrabelle with plenty of time to relax and head to "Old Salts Cafe" for more oysters. Vickie had grouper.

We spent a second day at the Moorings waiting for an opening at the marina that we planned to step the masts. Gary and I explored the accomodating town of Carrabelle. Vickie did not want to see any more slimy oysters being ingested, so instead I prepared chicken enchilada casserole.

Today we step the masts at Dockside Marina here in Carrabelle. I hope I have very little to report about that!