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Bruce & Beverly's Blog

The Big Bend or the Gulf Crossing
By Beverly Kness
Posted on 11/22/2017 11:55 AM

We awoke to clear skies and beautiful sunshine!  After hearing it rain all through
the night we were very thankful for sunshine, on Thanksgiving Day! 

Conditions were calm and the sky was clearing as our fleet of four, Ned Pepper, Ocean Star, Independence and
Seaquest set out for Apalachicola. Most of the day we were in a channel with cypress trees or tall grass other
than when we crossed the wide expanses of Lake Wimico.  After we were through Lake Wimico and back
into the canals we had the current with us instead of against us, as it was when we first started the day. 

Our route took us through miles of narrow canals reminiscent of the low
country areas of North and South Carolina.  

We saw several Eagles!

The tide was low as we arrived at the Marina/Hotel! As we were backing into the slip we were churning mud! 
Since the Marina is mainly a hotel, no one was there to catch our lines.  Bruce got the boat close enough
 to the dock so i could jump off and tie our lines to the dock cleats!  We were the first ones in so we then
helped catch the lines of our buddy boats as they came in.  When we got back to our boat, the
Captain decided we should drive in the slip instead of backing in.  This would protect the prop incase
the water got even lower.  We've heard stories of boats getting damaged when the tide
goes out and the water gets too low!  So we drove out, turned the boat around and drove
in bow first instead.  This time our buddy boats caught our lines so that was nice.

Below: the hotel from the land side.


The quaint, charming town of Apalachicola, was primarily a fishing town, but has now been converted
to cater more to tourists.  The beautiful old Victorian homes, many assorted gift and antique shops and
fine restaurant assured us this was an enjoyable place to stop.  The hardware store, museum, large marine
parts store, several grocery stores and Boss Oyster House were all an easy walk from the marina.

We chose to stay in Apalachicola instead of Carrabelle because we were told that if we had to wait
for a weather window to do the crossing there is more to do in Apalachicola.  It was a nice town.
The hotel/marina had a swimming pool.  It was a nice place to gather.

It was Thanksgiving Day when we arrived at Apalachicola.  We walked downtown and found
out we had just missed a potluck dinner, however when we got there they told us to just
help ourselves to the left over food.  It was a great Thanksgiving Day dinner! 

Pictured below: Larry on Independence is from Kansas, Mike and Tammi on
Ned Pepper are from Canada and David and Angelika on Ocean Star are from Alaska.

For a while we thought the dog was going to help himself to dinner as well!

We continue to watch the weather apps as we try to decide which route to take!
It's all about the weather, winds and waves!
It will soon be decision time!  We need to decide if we should take the outside
Bend, which would be to stop at Steinhatchee, Crystal River and then Tarpon Springs
or to go straight across the Gulf from Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs.

The forecast sounded like it may be okay for our crossing!  We know some boaters have
been waiting a week to get a good weather window so we were excited to think that
we maybe would be able to cross either Friday or Saturday! 

In anticipation of crossing the gulf, we filled up with diesel at Apalachicola
in the morning, as we left port.
We decided to travel to Dog Island which is close to Carrabelle and anchor out there until we 
hopefully can begin our over night crossing either that day or the next day, weather permitting!
We didn't want to miss this weather window or we may have to wait nearly a week for the next window. 
Dog Island had beautiful sand beaches both on the bay side and on the Gulf side. 
Here we standing in the Gulf of Mexico.      

They say the house behind us, the one on the very end of the island, is for sale for $600,000.


Even Kato, Mike and Tammi's dog enjoyed the beach on Dog Island! 

There was an area where the sand looked like this....there were tiny little sand bumps..


The Big Bend Coast is a marshy coast with shallow water depths.  Also, there are few
barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico, making the waters subject to the big
waters of the Gulf. Taking the big bend route is no easy task either.. 

We were encouraged that the wind forecast looked to be good!  We checked the forecast for where we were,
out in the middle of the Gulf crossing and at our destination for the appropriate times and it all looked doable!
We decided to make the 20 hour crossing across the Gulf!  We called every marina in Tarpon Springs to find
they were all full!  We then called the marinas in the next town south, Dunedin, the marinas there were also full! 

We continued our search southward for marinas to the town of Clearwater!  There we found one that
had room for three boats and booked it!  We then proceeded to prepare for our overnight crossing! 
We brought a flashlight, pillow and a blanket to the fly bridge as well as snacks ect, anything we
thought we may want during the night hours, just to have it handy.   

At 4:00 pm we pulled up our anchors at Dog Island and began our overnight crossing of the Gulf of Mexico! 
We said a prayer and we felt emotional as we sent a text to family that we were setting out into the open
waters and that we hoped to arrive about noon on Saturday.  It wasn't long until we lost our cell service.  

The water was calm with a slight roll as we started our overnight journey!

Below:  Sunset.  We knew it would soon be dark!

Below:  looking back during the sunset.  Ned Pepper and Independence are following.
Ocean Star isn't with us here as they go slower than the three of us and they had reservations
in Tarpon Springs because that is close to where their daughter and her family live. 

It was a clear night with the stars shinning overhead along with a quarter moon. The moon set about
11:00 pm and by that time our eyes had adjusted to the darkness. It was nice that with the lights
of the stars in the sky we could just make out the horizon in a distance.  I was happy about that
knowing that if i started to feel sea sick i simply would look out at the horizon and that should help. 

It was a quite night.  We had one boat pass us, he was a looper boat also going to
Clearwater, but since his travel speed was faster than ours, he passed us.  It was
surprising how long we could see his boat lights far off in the horizon.

It got dark and it seemed like there were going to be a lot of dark hours as we crossed!  
We had radio contact with the other two boat at the top of every hour and that was a great
plan. It seemed like a person went from hour to hour instead of counting down 20 hours!    
At 8:00 PM i laid down on the bench up in the flybridge, while Bruce drove.  I didn't think i would
be able to fall asleep that early!  But the rolling of the boat soon put me to sleep.  I woke up at
11:00 PM and then let Bruce rest. He woke up about 1:00 AM and then he drove until 5:00 AM. 
At 5:00 AM I took the wheel and Bruce rested until 7:00 AM. 

Below:  Sunrise during the crossing.  We were happy it was getting light out!
Twelve hours of darkness was enough!

It was a few hours after sun rise that we ran into the crab pot area! Looking into the sun, it was VERY
hard to see all the crab pots and there were a lot of them!   They generally put the crab pots in a line
so if you spot one you strain your eyes to try to find which way the line is running.   

The photo below is looking back toward our two buddy boats.  On each side of
the photo, look closely to see the two white crab pots. 
Looking back it is much easier to see the crab pots then looking into the sun! 
To show how hard it is to see the crab pots, i placed an x below each of the two crab pots
on the photo below. Look for the small white round balls, which are the crab pots.   


  x                                                                                                                                              x

Coming into the Clearwater pass, we met a few interesting looking boats.

We were happy and thankful to arrive at Clearwater Harbor Marina at about 11:00 AM ! 
Our 19 hour crossing was complete!  

Curtis Stokes and Associates
Prop Talk
Anchoring Consultants, Rudy and Jill Sechez