Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First cruise of the season...

After spending a week alone on Alizee to do boat chores, I drove back to Deland to pick up Penelope and return the next day, Sunday, 4 November, for our first cruise of the new sailing season.  Bringing some provisions with us as well as Penelope's clothes, we arrived at our Harborage Marina a bit after noon and stowed our stuff.

We decided to do a couple of chores before our departure, such as putting new 20-foot marks on our anchor chain.  We let the chain out on the dock and put new zip ties up to 100 feet.  We brought our new Spade anchor down to the boat to swap it out with the CQR, but not surprisingly the anchor shackle on the CQR was frozen; it's a project that will have to do later, and we stowed the Spade.  Then, we raised the dinghy up on the davits, and when we were finished, we decided to leave the next morning and simply relax for the afternoon and cook a good dinner for the evening (Morrocan Spiced Pork Stir Fry).

5 November - We arose at 0800, and I realized that our second propane tank was empty.  While Pen got things organized to depart, I drove off to find a U-Haul to refill the propane tank.  Naturally, the propane station nearest the marina was not working, so it took about 45 minutes to drive to a more distant station.  But I got back, we ate some breakfast, and by 1030 we left the berth and headed out.  Our plan was just to follow the wind, which led us south toward the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and south Tampa Bay.  We raised our main and the Genoa, thinking the NE winds would certainly pick up beyond 7-10 knots, and although it did not pick up, we were too lazy to hoist the Spinnaker.  It was a peaceful, quiet sail, we tested the SiriusXM and it worked beautifully, and around 1530 we arrived at our favorite anchorage on the north side of the Manatee River.  We rejoiced at being on the hook on a comfortably warm Florida fall afternoon, barbecued some chicken thighs, and listened to music in the evening.

Election Day, 6 November, also brought a front from the northwest.  It rained ahead of the front during the night, and we expected weather during the day, so we planned to stay put.  Around midday, the cloud cover dissipated, so we decided to motor up river to the Twin Dolphins Marina and get diesel fuel.  After filling up the tank, we sailed back most of the way under the Genoa, and re-anchored just as the clouds filled in and the front began coming through.  Although there was no rain, we had strong winds that extended well into the next day.  Penelope made some yummy black bean soup for a late lunch, and I made a lamb curry for dinner.  We watched the movie Wind, about the America's Cup, and then listened to early election returns, going to bed quite happy that it looked like our guy was winning.

The next morning, our anniversary (7 November), we awakened to 20+ knot winds and white caps all over the river.  The weather reminded us of fronts we'd sat through in the Bahamas, and we decided to sit through this one as well.  Penelope made a wonderful breakfast omelet with some of our leftovers, and we celebrated Obama's re-election, listening to returns and commentary on National Public Radio.  To celebrate our anniversary, we cooked two rib-eyes with baked potatoes and a salad ... one of our favorite meals.  And the wind played tunes in the rigging and spun our wind generator sufficiently over these two days at anchor to keep our batteries fully charged.

8 November found us ready to move on.  At 0800 we arose determined to sail west and north to Boca Ciega Bay.  Winds had moderated greatly, and at 0930 we hoisted the main, weighed anchor, rolled out the Genoa and headed down river.  We briefly considered reefing when we got out onto South Tampa Bay, but the 15 knot winds (gusts to 20) were comfortable enough on a close reach to sail across the bay.  We tacked to avoid a tanker just before crossing the shipping channel and proceeding out on to the Gulf, but the wind direction forced us to motor through the secondary channel that took us on to the Gulf.  Once there, we found a real chop and the winds continued as before.  It was an invigorating sail, and probably as much as we want to do anymore ... we've had our share of 25 and 30 knot winds.  At our age, we prefer comfort.  Nevertheless, we sailed about four miles off shore, then tacked back into the entrance of Pass-a-Grille Inlet.

The last leg was a fast one, with speed over ground reaching 7 knots, and Penelope enjoyed being at the helm.  The only problem with this port tack beam reach is that we have encroaching sea water seeping onto the sole at the base of the settee next to the navigation table.  When we were in the boat yard in January, the yard searched high and low looking for the source of the leak.  It's not the chain plates, and they thought they'd found it when the re-bed the port light above the nav table.  But, alas, it is still there.  It's salt water, not fresh, so that would seem to eliminate a leak from fresh water line that goes to a fill cap in the vicinity (but maybe not?), and I've checked the scupper on the deck there and it's not leaking.  What's particularly odd is that we got no water on the deck this time, so that means the water is encroaching from the side of the hull.  Since the chain plates have been eliminated, I'm thinking that the stainless bumper trim along the hull about fifteen inches below the caprail might not be bedded properly.  I'll have to have it re-bedded, I think.

But, I digress ... After we got into the Pass-a-Grille Channel in the channel and headed up toward the Structure C bascule bridge, which leads into Boca Ciega Bay, we found ourselves wrestling with the Genoa.  The furling line had overlapped in the furling drum, and we could not furl the Genoa completely, leaving a few feet of it out.  Once through the bridge, we motor-sailed to the anchorage just off the Gulfport pier, and once we got the anchor down, we easily got the overlapped line untangled and the Genoa in.  It was cocktail time, a gorgeous sunset with the deepest colors of red we'd seen in a long time, followed by a chicken oriental stir fry dinner.

The next morning (9 November), we were up at 0800, had a leisurely breakfast, and at 1000 raised the main, weighed anchor and ghosted out of the anchorage and back toward Structure C bridge.  It was almost noon by the time we started going out the Pass-a-Grille Inlet.  What a difference a day can make in weather. The wind was completely benign and the seas flat, and once at the end of the channel's navigation markers, we lowered the mainsail and hoisted the Spinnaker.  With 4-6 knots of wind, we ghosted our way south to the secondary channel on to south Tampa Bay.  At about 1430 we neared Egmont Key and tacked to head into an anchorage there.  In tacking we realized we'd erred in raising the Spinnaker, running one sheet incorrectly.  As we troubleshot this, we decided staying the night at Egmont would probably not be a good idea, since the winds were shifting from northeast to east and we'd be on a lee shore.  Thus, we tacked back and had a wonderful Spinnaker run back to the Manatee River.  Coming into the anchorage, a couple dinghied out to look at Alizee and admire her, and we both beamed with pride.  That night we had Empress Chili, which Penelope had brought from home.  A wonderful day.

10 November, Saturday, our last day of the cruise, brought us a very good wind day.  Still largely out of the northeast, we had a steady 15 knot breeze, and with the main and Genoa we made three tacks up south Tampa Bay to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which we sailed under at almost 6 knots SOG.  Pen made us scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast while under sail, and we marveled at the ease of the sail.  Once again, as we came toward the shipping channel, we had a tanker to avoid, but we didn't have to tack out of the way this time.  Once under the bridge, we sailed for about a half-hour and the wind started dying.  We made one tack westward, but it became apparent the winds were pretty much gone for the day, so we fired up the "iron genny" and motor sailed north to the marina, where we were met at the dock by Jeff Grant and other members of the C-Dock contingency of sailors.  Jeff noticed that the wind direction finder on our mast had broken (a bird ... probably an Osprey ... had snapped it off), and he volunteered to go aloft to put a new one up.  I just happen to have a replacement, so I gave it to him later, and he made me a present of a nice bottle of California zinfandel, which Penelope and I consumed with oriental chicken stir fry leftovers for dinner.

The week on the water was just great.  We used the motor for no more than eight hours, and had four different types of sailing, all of which we enjoyed tremendously.  Our next adventure is a week-long charter in the BVI's, the first week of December, but we're looking forward to being back on Alizee soon thereafter.


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