Friday, March 9, 2018

……A good Passage

By First Mate – Tamera
Lets see….where did we leave off…..oh yeah we got our butts kicked. 
Tamera enjoying the calm passage
Kooky Dance enjoying the calm passage 
Excellent sunset while on passage 
The advice we got from many many many sailors was to follow a bad passage with a good passage and that is exactly what we did.
With nerves still on edge we untied the lines from Palafox Pier Marina in Pensacola and made a short trip to Big Lagoon to anchor down for the night.  The next morning we awoke to dense fog and decided to wait it out.  Finally we pulled up anchor at 8:30 and made our way out to the Gulf of Mexico again.  We rode some nice size swells out of Pensacola Pass and into the the deeper waters of the Gulf.  We set our sails and began heading East, Port Saint Joe here we come.  The winds filled in 8-10 knots from the SE and increased up to 15 knots and gave us a lovely sail doing around 7 knots SOG all night.  This was the kind of passage we needed after getting our butts kicked.  We made it to Port Saint Joe, FL around 3:15 am and found a wonderful wide & deep entrance into PSJ.  We rounded the corner and dropped the anchor in beautiful clear water and white sandy beaches…..Ahhhhh paradise.
Clear water and sandy white beaches 

Scott Exploring the many wonders of PSJ
Jill showing us around PSJ 
Jill lent a hand at changing a light up the mast
The crew arriving in Pensacola
We have arranged to have a friend of ours Bud Campbell help us crew our boat to Mexico.  Bud was in Texarkana for a week to help his family so we had some time to chill and plan our passage to Mexico.  The next 14 days we spent living the life of boat bums in PSJ as well as watching the weather to see when our weather window to Mexico would arrive.  Port Saint Joe, Florida is a wonderful little town to visit both by land and sea.  We anchored outside the marina (to save money) most days.  But we did however make our way all over St. Joseph Bay to anchor and explore.  The beaches were wonderful and were so full of seashells and lots of sea life to explore, heck Scott even went snorkeling.  Let me clarify Scott went snorkeling for about 10 minutes because the water was soooooo cold (68 degrees).  Oh well he will have to wait until he reaches Mexico to snorkel…..Speaking of Mexico…..our crew has arrived and a weather window is coming up SOON. 
The salty trio - Bud, Tamera & Scott
Lumpy Seas - the water color was stunning
Captain Scott worked so hard and slept so little
We had a few days to visit with Bud & Jill in PSJ and it looked like our weather window was closing so we were going to be “stuck” in PSJ…..or were we???  Bud and Jill were wonderful and generous hosts allowing us use of their home and providing taxi service to help tie up some loose ends.  We are forever grateful for their hospitality.  But then on Friday March 2nd they “got the call” our weather window was a GO NOW window so we told Bud we were tossing the lines off at 6:00 PM.  In the true fashion of cruising we left at 7:20 PM from PSJ with butterflies in our bellies and excitement in our hearts…..we were going to MEXICO.
Leaving for a long passage is a bit nerve racking and leaving for a long passage at night is even more so.  I went below to try to sleep a little so I could do my share of watch and about an hour later I woke up to lots of rocking and rolling….we were back in the Gulf of Mexico.  The entire night was quite boisterous and the crew was doing an excellent job of avoiding major sea sickness.  We all felt seasick to some degree or another – thank goodness for Meclizine, my sea sickness wonder pill.  We had a wonderful full moon the guide us each night and a wonderful sunny skies to warm us each day.  The seas continued to bounce us around – they were 5-6 feet waves with the occasion 10 footer thrown in for some extra FUN. 
Scott holding IPAD with chart showing us just off Cuba coast
Bud holding IPAD with chart showing us just off Cuba coast
The days that followed were even better – the seas calmed, the crew became less seasick and we were getting closer to Mexico.  There were a few bumps in the road and only one “Captain shit a brick” episode.  That episode happened as we approached CUBA…..what?  Cuba??  The Loop current that we had been riding at a speed of 10 knots for about 24 hours runs toward Cuba and when you reach a certain point you sail into the Yucatan Channel and then off to Mexico…..but back to the brick shitting.  I was asleep and captain come to my bunk and says “Were in trouble, you need to get up” – OK now the adrenaline is pumping.  “we have lost our GPS signal and I need you to get the hand held GPS and get on deck, we have ships everywhere!!!!!….more adrenaline.  Oh yeah it MIDNIGHT…..more adrenaline.  Arrrrrrrrrrr.  I grab GPS and IPAD (it has Garmin blue charts as a back up system) and head out on deck.  After many tense minutes and the captain trying to fix the problem and Bud driving the boat without GPS the Captain announces we are turning east to Key West.
Arriving into Isla Mujeres Mexico 
Buddy finally getting a chance to check out the anchorage
Boat hair - Don't care  - enjoy your well deserved drink Captain
First Mate Tamera
The happy crew in Mexico
We turned and headed east and the GPS began working on its own……after 15 minutes of the captain and Buddy talking the GPS was working.  Buddy told of a time it happened to him and it was a case of simply losing the satellite signal and the GPS remarkably came back to life…..Captain decided WE ARE GOING TO MEXICO !!!!  So we turned back west and arrived in Isla Mujeres Mexico on Tuesday March 6th at 2:30 Pm and dropped anchor at 3:09 PM.  We called our marina and were told come in and tie up…….we tied up and then paperwork Cha Cha can began.  It is called the paperwork Cha Cha because it is a not so well orchestrated dance that needs to take place to complete all the necessary documentation to check into the country.  I never was a very good dancer so I found this incredibility difficult but the Captain handled it like a champ.  It was all finally completed today with the final piece of the puzzle the boat importation document (good for 10 years).  Realize many more events happened during this 3.5 day voyage but none of them brick shitting worthy of writing about.
We have now sent our crew home but wish to extend a whole hearted Thank You to Bud for his assistance with the trip.  Your friendship and companionship during the voyage was memorable and we truly appreciate the laughs, conversation and extra sleep.  We now need to settle into a cruising mode of meeting new people and learning a whole new way of life Mexican style.
Tamera taking down the "Q" flag
Tamera raising the Mexico flag
The boys enjoying a hard earned night out 
Welcome to Isla Mujeres MEXICO BABY

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Turning Back

By Captain Scott Buckley

The Weather:

The weather system as it passed Pensacola
In the last post we planned to leave Sunday for Port St. Joe to pick up Bud Campbell.  The weather was not looking good.  There were these large bands of rain sweeping in off the Gulf and the news was mostly about flooding.  Somewhere I missed what that there was a low pressure trough in the Gulf of Mexico.  On radar it looked like a passing front.  Well about 13:30 Sunday the rains stopped and I looked again on radar and it looked like the weather had passed us and was now heading east towards Panama City Florida.  What I did not realize was that it was headed to Panama City but was not in any hurry to make it there.
Offshore Tamera before the ordeal

The crew (1st Mate Tamera) was concerned about leaving with the weather that appeared to be very unsettled.  I was guilty of feeling the pressure of trying to meet up with crew in Port St. Joe and getting out of an expensive transient dock, but I convinced Tamera that the bad stuff had passed and we would just follow it to St. Joe and to ready the boat and we would leave and follow the weather to the east.  The forecast called for south winds at about 10 knots.  This should be very doable for us.  So we slipped the lines around 2:30PM and headed out.

A Little History

I have been on boats, ships and things that go to sea for nearly half a century.  I have weather hurricane Juan alone in the Gulf of Mexico in a 32 foot flat bottom aluminum boat (something I suggest no one ever do), I have weathered the North Sea and South Atlantic and Pacific all across the world and in all that time I have never turned back.   Once I have fought for miles at sea I am very reluctant to give them up.  The same goes for the 1st Mate.  Once when sail East into an eastern sea back in 2013 I asked the 1st mate if she wanted to turn back.  Our buddy boat behind us had given up and turned back but the 1st Mate said she hates to give up the miles and I agreed.  Those miles are hard to give up if they have not come easy so we pressed on.  Our little bit of history is we are not quitters by nature.

Forecasts be Damn:

Once we got out of Pensacola Pass the winds were not from the south but from the east but were in the 10 knot range.  The swells were quiet large and the sea state was a little rough for no more wind than what we had.  Due to the sea state I decided to raise sails to stabilize the boat and maybe get a little more speed.  The speed would not mean much because with the sails up and the wind on the nose we would be beating towards Port St. Joe about 105 nm at a heading of about 105 degrees true.  The darkness did show up as predicted with no moon and overcast skies so it was going to be dark.  Very dark.

Deteriorating Conditions:

As we worked our way  east the rain started.  The farther east we went the harder it rained and the winds kept increasing.  With the rains and the complete darkness there was no visibility.  Though I was standing watch there was nothing to see. 10 to 15 knots became 15-20 knots.  15 to 20 knots became 20 to 25 knots and the conditions deteriorated into the darkness.   It was impossible to remain dry and everything in the cockpit was wet, crew included.  With the sea pounding and Kooky Dance slogging her way to the east the speed rapidly fell off.  In the first 2 hours of travel we cover about 9 nm to the destination.  I the next 4 hours we only increased that by 10 nm.  Winds started topping 35 knots and stayed constant above 30 knots.  It was pitch black with rain.  I could not see anything.  I could not see how big the waves were but could make out the curling white foam of the breakers seconds before the crashed over the bow.
I was hoping the 30-35 knot winds would abate but I watched them closely for 30 minutes and they were not weakening and if the truth be told they actually looked like they were increasing.  I tried sailing further offshore and while the wind did shift about 10 degrees to the south they increased with each mile further south we traveled. 

Turning Back:

I told Tamera I was going to turn back.  I got no arguments.  You would think that turning around should be easy but with no visual references (remember pitch black and driving rain) and a sincere fear of jibing in this wind it took a great deal of control to bring the boat around under control and get here headed back to Pensacola.  The seas were so big and SV Kooky Dance was jumping around it was very difficult to maintain orientation.  The only reference I had was the wind direction and when the boat was in a wave through that could not be completely trusted.  Once Kooky Dance was turned around and the sail (by this time I had only a single reefed main sail up) eased she was screaming along at 7.8 knots.  Tamera thought I was an exceptional boat handler but I thought I was lucky.

The Lights:

As we sailed west the rain cleared and I was actually able to pick up the glow of some city lights to the north.  In that distant light I was able to see the monsters that pursued us.  At first I thought they were ships or other boats.  These dark shapes would pass between us and the glow from the north.  They were moving fast and at first caused my heart to skip a beat until I realized they were waves and not huge ships intent on doing us harm.  They were the waves we had been beating into that I could not see and they were massive.  In just under 3 hours we were back at the Pensacola Pass.  We had completely undone 6 to7 hrs. of sailing in just under 3 hrs.

The Raging:

As we approached the pass the winds has abated to 20 knots and clocked a bit to the south.  I did not want to go racing thru the pass and chance jibing so just before we got the Pensacola Pass we dropped the main.  When I turn the boat north into the pass our speed dropped from 7 knots to 2.2 knots.  There was an outbound current from Pensacola Bay against the wind and seas.  This is commonly known as when “the pass is raging”.  That is exactly the right words for what was coming next.  The big seas that had been pursuing us were running into this fast outbound current and this stood them up.  It made them peak, crest and break.  It made them crest and break on Kooky Dance.  These seas would slam into the stern of Kooky Dance and try to spin her around.  The current would catch the bow and try to force her off course.  It was everything I could do to maintain control of our tiny vessel.  The Pensacola Pass is not very wide and has shoals on both sides.  At night in these conditions the Pass seemed very small and the way the boat was getting tossed about I had a great deal of trouble keeping Kooky Dance lined up in the channel and not go careening into a shoal.  The channel markers were bobbing around in the waves like us and very often not visible but there was something that stay visible for most of the trip thru the Pass.  That was the Pensacola light house.  If I kept the lighthouse about 20 points to the starboard I was roughly lined up with the channel.   When I say if I kept the lighthouse at that bearing what I mean is if I kept the average bearing about 20 points of to the starboard.  The actual bearing of the lighthouse at any given time was from 90 degrees to starboard to 60 degrees to port.  I probably looked like a drunk walking thru a rock garden that night but I can swear I was VERY sober.  With the boat pitching about I caught a glimpse of Tamera sliding to the cockpit floor and staying there.  I was worried she could see the fear on my face and could not stand to look at it anymore.  That was not the case at all. 

Wrestling the Gas

What had happened and unknown to me at the time was the 20 lb. propane tank strapped to the  steering station had broken loose and was flying around the cockpit like a 2 year old on caffeine and sugar.  Tamera jumped down to wrestle it under control.  The post mortem showed the buckle had broken.  No chafe, no loose straps but a broken buckle. 

Turning the Corner

Pensacola Pass
As you go north into Pensacola Pass you can turn right and into Pensacola Bay or left thru the narrow cut into Big Lagoon.  While Big Lagoon would offer a more secure anchorage I had no stomach for negotiating the narrow cut at night.  Tamera concurred.  We turned right into the bay and dropped the hook behind the barrier island.  The time was about 2AM.  We fell asleep still in our wet clothes.

The Damage

There were two types of damage to be assessed.  The physical and the psychological.  For the physical the newly installed fish cleaning station I had installed on the bow was ripped away.  Only a few bits of torn metal remained.  A boat hook was missing (from the cockpit)  Both Tamera and I wondered how we missed seeing it go flying past us.  It was very dark.  Finally one of the two of our folding chairs that was lashed to the stern was gone.  The psychological damage would take additional time to assess but the first casualty was a loss of confidence.  While Tamera had only praise for my ability to get us home I was profoundly shaken in my estimation of myself as Captain.   Tamera was jumpy the next day which proved even though she was putting on a brave face she too was still rattled.

Bad Passage the Remake

The next morning I got up early and listen to the weather on the VHF and told Tamera we would try again.  I raised the anchor and got us underway.  Once we got out to the Pensacola pass the seas were sloppy and Tamera came up from below and did not look happy.  I had not given her time to take sea sickness medicine and with the slop in the pass the 1st mate was sick.  On top of this we were still wet and the boat was in disarray. This was no way to start out a trip so I turned around and headed all the way back to the dock.  In stead of meeting our crew in Port St. Joe I would have them come to Pensacola and we would depart from here.  That was the plan but plans can change with new information.  I was still trying to hold our schedule together.

Fixing What Needs Mending

The physical toll will be first.  The fishing station was gone.  I removed the remaining pieces of the brackets and tossed them away.  I would be cleaning fish on the deck like most sailors.  We would buy a new boat hook and folding chair in Pensacola.  The psychological toll will be next.  Every sailing couple gets there butts kicked every once in a while.  We had to turn this into a positive quickly.  Tamera turned to “Women who sail” on Facebook and relayed her story and concerns.  We got some really thoughtful responses and advice.  They all said it is a wise sailor who knows when to turn around and most importantly it is important to follow a bad passage with a good one.  I on the other hand got busy getting my weatherfax set up working on the SSB radio.  I was counting on weather app on my phone and once we set off for Mexico those apps would not work.  I replaced the broken speakers in the cockpit and got the IPOD working with the stereo so we could have music while making passages.  We did a better job of stowing things while underway and keeping the deck and cockpit clear.  I also got a better fix on the weather. 

The New Plan

Well plans change and I was not going to rush things.  Probably the biggest mistake I made during the bad trip was letting a schedule of events push me into rushed decisions.  We would eventually make it to Port St. Joe and follow a bad passage with a good one.  More on that in the next update.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Blow by Blow from Texas to Florida

By Captain Scott Buckley

The Taylor Outfall Bayou Anchorage
We set sail from Texas and headed East.  Our first blog this year (UNTYING THE LINES) covers the trip from Kemah Texas to our first anchorage at Taylor Outfall bayou about 5 miles west of Port Author Texas.  That was a very trying day. 

23 January 2018 Taylor Outfall Bayou to Shell Island TX.  Trip distance about 20 nm.

The following day we decided to take it easy and only travel to Shell Island close to the Texas Louisiana border.  We left Taylor Outfall Bayou at 10AM and arrived at Shell Island at 14:10 and anchored in 15 feet of water.  Our Buddy boat SV Minnow (and crew John and Julie with dogs Mondo and Penny) ties along side.  It is becoming evident that SV Minnow is not able to maintain good cruising speed and SV Kooky Dance is having to travel very slowly.  SV Minnow is also displaying some engine overheating problems.

The Calcasieu River Ox Bow Anchorage
24 January 2018 Shell Island TX to Calcasieu River Ox bow anchorages.  Trip distance 30 nm.
We left Shell Island at 8:30AM.  On this portion of the trip it is required to pass the Ellender lift bridge.  According to Skipper Bob’s guide the bridge requires a 4 hour notice.  1st Mate Tamera call them at 9:30AM to give them their 4 hour notice.  We arrive at the bridge about 1PM (30 minutes early) and tried to call the bridge but could not get any response.  Tamera called and found out our time slot was set at 4PM.  The 4 hour notice was written down as the appointment time.  We ended up waiting 1.5 hrs. for the bridge operators to arrive.  Arrived at the Calcasieu River Ox Bow anchorage at 15:15.  We anchored in 15’ of water and our buddy boat SV Minnow tied up along side.  SV Minnow was still having problems with an overheating engine.

The Mermentau River Anchorage
25 January 2018 Calcasieu River Ox bow anchorage to the Mermentau River.  Trip distance 40 nm.
We got underway at 7:30AM with light winds and transited the Calcasieu locks at 8:51AM and Black Bayou pontoon bridge at 09:02.  We passed thru the Grand Lake pontoon bridge at 10:20.  Temperatures were kind of chilly and wind was on the nose.  Cold hands, cold feet, cold nose.  Our buddy boat was having engine overheating problems all day and at the end of the day 3 miles from the anchorage call on the radio to tell us their engine seriously overheated and they had to shut it down.  We turned around and threw them a tow line and towed them to the anchorage and had them tie up along side for the night.  Trouble shot the engine and found the coolant was low and that there was a leak.  Coolant under the floor boards and the bilge.  Told SV Minnow to plan on pulling the heat exchanger as I discovered it was not secured at our next stop as we were planning to stay a couple of days to wait out weather.

Shell Mrogan at Intercoastal City
26-27 January 2018 Mermentau River to Intercoastal City, LA.  Trip distance about 40 nm.

This was going to be a long day and we got an early start.  Due to SV Minnows engine problems we plan an intermediate anchorage at Bayou Petite Anse that was about half way.  If things looked good there we would continue on to Intercoatal City to a transit dock at the Shell Morgan fuel dock.  Heavy rains were expected and it may give us a chance to sort out some problems with SV Minnow’s engine.  We actually made to the Shell Morgan facility and Tony Morgan himself was there to help us tie up.  Julie began working on removing the heat exchanger and I pulled the end cap.  During this inspection they found a leak where the heat exchanger was rubbing on its bracket.  We had discovered this unfortunately after the hardware store had closed until Monday.  Tamera and I used to live in this area and reached out to some of our friends for a visit and to see if they could help fix SV Minnow’s leaky heat exchanger.  My old and best friend Henry Dubois came to the rescue and soldered the hole in the heat exchanger.  The heat exchanger was re-installed and secured this time with a big hose clamp.  We agreed to look for a pressure test kit in Morgan City (our next stop) to look for additional leaks in the system.
I really rained a lot on Saturday  and we were planning to leave the following day.  Tamera and I did some light provisioning and filled the water tank on SV Kooky Dance and took a couple of showers.

Morgan City Public Dock
28-29 January 2018 Intercoastal City, LA to Morgan City, LA.  Trip distance about 55 nm.
Morgan City
As this was a long day we pushed off a 6AM.  There were light winds and some fog.  We arrived at the Morgan City public dock at about 5:30 that night.  While tying up we met a nice guy named Tom McNutley from Lafayette, LA and was visiting his mother in Morgan City.  Tom had a perfectly restored 40 year old Morgan 38 up on the north shore of lake Pontchartrain.  Tom agreed to give us a ride to the auto parts store that night to see if we could locate a radiator pressure test kit (we did).   We tested the coolant system and found no leaks.  We also found that the raw water intake strainer was clogged with mud and debris.  I had thought of asking them to check the strainer but felt it might be insulting to ask such a basic question.  We ran the engine under load at the dock and found no over heating or steam issues in the exhaust.  It looked like SV Minnow’s engine problems may be mostly behind them.Smile
On SV Kooky Dance we discovered two leaking port lights during the heavy rains in Intercoastal City.  I re-bedded those two port lights while the weather was good and dry.  We also took care of the laundry and did some additional provisioning.  We took SV Minnow along with us and let them use our 4 wheel cart.  Special note;  VTS (Berwick Traffic control) called me on the radio after I passed thru the railroad bridge and pointed out that next time I should check in with VTS before moving around the river.  The cruising guides state that recreational vessels do not need to check in with VTS but they really do need you to check in for your safety.

30 January 2018  Morgan City, LA to Houma, LA.  Trip distance about 40 nm.
The barge we tied to east of Houma at Week Marine 

We pushed off a 7AM and hour plan was to tie up at the Houma public marina that night.  Well plans don’t always work out.  When we got to Houma and went into the Marina we ran aground.  A big power boat and pontoon boat had the only deep water tie-up occupied and they did not need them.Annoyed  We got off and proceeded down the ICW to the east looking for and alternative.  The pickings were slim.  We passed an crane barge at Weeks Marine that look possible and Tamera got on the phone to talk to someone about getting permission to tie-up for the night.  We after numerous phone calls with some begging included and promises to not board their equipment we got to tie up for the night. 

31 January 2018  Houma, LA to Lake Salvador, LA.  Trip distance about 37 nm.

We made good time and anchored in Lake Salvador at about 1PM with SV Minnow tied along side.  It is an anchorage I have never liked as we have strong currents with opposing wind that caused the anchor to hang backward under the boat.  The next day we would be transiting the Mississippi lock onto and off of the Mississippi river.

New Orleans from the Mississippi River
1-3 February 2018  Lake Salvador, LA to Rabbit Island, LA near The Rigolets.  Trip distance about 37 nm.
The short dock tie up at the industrial locks at New Orleans
We made good time and Tamera was able to get us permission to transit the Harvey locks on our own instead of the possible delays at the Algiers locks.  We transited the Harvey locks with SV Minnow at about 10:30AM.  We arrived at the industrial Locks and were instructed to tie off at the short pier at noon.  We waited there for 7.5 hrs. to lock thru.  There were numerous occasions to lock us thru much earlier but we were required to wait until  dark. 
When we finally got to transit the industrial locks after the 7.5 hour wait.
This meant getting to our planned destination (Rabbit Island another 24 miles to the east) was going to be a late arrival and this would be the first time SV Monnow’s crew attempted anchoring.  A front was expected that night with 25 to 30 knots winds and I would not allow SV Minnow to tie along side  in those conditions.  I had told John to practice anchoring back when were in Calcasieu and Mermentau Rivers but the suggestion was ignored.
Rabbit Island Anchorage
We had the anchor down at Rabbit Island at about 1AM in calm conditions.  By 4AM the winds were howling at 35 knots.  Anchors held and we sat tight for the next day.  The temperature was very cold and with no heat available it was the coldest temps we had endured thus far. The wind had clocked from N to NE to E then South and then SW.  The anchor is pretty narrow and I was up every hour at night to check the anchor and our water depth.  At 5AM we had 1 foot under our keel and I was pretty sure the stern of the boat was in the mud.  I told Tamera we were going to have to move.  I went topside to remove the snubber from the anchor and requires raising about 25 feet of chain.  Once the snubber was removed I  checked the depth again and found 3.5 feet under the keel.  The move up removing the snubber was enough to get water back under the boat so we waited until 7AM to leave and did not have to re-anchor.   Our next stop would be Gulf Port Marina to visit some more friends. 

The Gulf Port Municipal Marina entrance
4-5 February 2018  Rabbit Island, LA to Gulf Port Mississippi.  Trip distance about 40 nm.
Pier 5 Gulf Port
1st Mate on the Gulf Port Beach
Gulf Port tie up.
We left Rabbit Island at 7AM frozen to the bone but the sun was out and it promised to warm up throughout the day.  At first we were making excellent speed at 7.5 knots with a favorable tidal current and wind.  That was to last for a few hours.  We arrived at the Gulf Port Municipal Marina.  We were assigned slips on pier 5. We got to visit with Steve and Pam Rice.  They were part (actually the main part) of the crew from Galveston when we had our previous boat (lost in hurricane Ike) SV Jolie Bateaux.  They took us shopping, dinner and socializing.  It was so wonderful to see them.  The water was pretty low due to a northern front.     The plan to move on from Gulf Port was an involved plan as it required crossing the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay.  It will also time our arrival in the Wolf Bay anchorage and arrival in Pensacola, FL.  The weather was not ideal and waiting for a better window could take weeks. 

Fog on Mississippi Sound
6-7 February 2018  Gulf Port Mississippi to Bayou La Batre Anchorage.  Trip distance about 40 nm. 
This would be our second day on the Mississippi Sound in our effort to get across the Sound without getting our butts kicked.  We planned to leave Gulf Port early however when we awoke the fog had set in very thick.  I delayed the departure until 6:30AM for some daylight to appear.  The entire trip was with thick fog.  I used the radar to keep track of the buddy boat.  It was difficult to stay awake.  The weather was predicted to change in the evening with wind filling in from the west and building from the north to 25 to 30 knots.  Just before getting to the anchorage at Bayou La Batre the rains came and the winds shifted and the fog cleared.  We headed into the anchorage and anchored in 20 knots of NNW winds.   SV Minnow also anchored down.  It was a bouncy night.   We  would leave the next morning.

8 February 2018  Bayou La Batre, MS Anchorage to Wolf Bay, AL.  Trip distance about 40 nm.

The wind had shifted slightly east over the night so the anchorage had calmed down a bit.  We left the anchorage with a following wind and good sailing.  This part of the trip up to and through the Dauphin Island Causeway bridge was the most difficult.  Winds were 20 to 25 knots on the nose.  Progress was slow and SV Minnow called with their concerns about continuing on.  Both Tamera and I talked them through it as this was not actually bad conditions.   Afternoon the winds decreased to 15 to 20 later in the day and progress got better.  By the time we got anchored down in Wolf Bay the winds were down to 10 knots.  SV Minnow anchored down for their third time.  

9-10 February 2018  Wolf Bay, AL to Pensacola, Fl.  Trip distance about 25 nm.

Because it was a short trip we did not get underway until 8AM.  We got into Palafox Pier Marina at about 1PM.  The winds started picking up from the east and SV Minnow called to voice their concerns about the chop size in Pensacola Bay.  they were thinking of bailing and staying at one of the marinas along the route instead of braving the 1 to 2 foot chop in the bay.  I told them the winds should abate by the time we get to the bay and that they should hang in there for a little while longer until we get to Palafox Pier.  The winds abated and they hung in there.  Once we got there and tied up we showered and cleaned things up.  I also took time to update the blog with this post.
The plan is to leave here on Sunday and travel to Port St. Joe and grab a transit slip for Monday and Tuesday night and leave for Mexico Wednesday.  Bud Campbell will crew with us down to Mexico.  It should take 4 to 5 days to get there.P1020660

Monday, February 5, 2018


By Captain Scott Buckley

We have finally "UNTIED THE LINES".  After 2 years of working to build the cruising kitty and getting SV Kooky Dance ready again we are actually underway East.
The Plan is to sail east thru the ICW to Pensacola FL.  From there we will make an overnight passage to Port St. Joe where we will meet up with our old friends Bud and Jill.  Bud has agreed to crew with us to  Mexico. 

SV Kooky Dance at her original home at South Shore Harbor Marina next to our friends Dr. John and Miss Peggy

We will sail from Apalachicola to Isla Muejeres.  It is typically a 4 day sail if things go as planned.  It will be nice to out of the cold.
SV Kooky Dance at her temporary home at Sea Brook Ship Yard while we waited for weather to sail.
We left Texas in stages.  Saturday January 20, 2018 we left South Shore Harbor Marina (Our home for the last two years) but only sail about 6 miles to Sea Brook Shipyard to tie up to the transit dock.  We did this because the water in and out of SSHM is very shallow and with a northern front coming it was doubtful we would be able to leave the marina and a good weather window was approaching. 
We were still finishing up the list of last minute tasks that typically accompany any adventure.  We had sold our house and had moved out that Friday. We were ditching our belongings and the cars temporarily at a storage unit. We were still doing some last minute repairs and provisioning.  Saying good by to friends and making friends with our new buddy boat SV Minnow.
Sunday's weather called for strong south easterlies and the trip from Sea Brook to Galveston would be a slog to windward however Monday promised winds from the north so Monday was the departure day,
We got up early Monday and had planed to depart around 8:30AM.  We found we were ready at 8AM and were just twiddling our thumbs.  At 8:09AM we slipped the lines,  At 8:19AM we called SV Minnow to let them know we were underway and they should also get underway.  Well things don't always go according to plan.  I was to be another hour before they were actually underway.
The winds and currents were perfect for a fast sail down to Galveston taking about 3.5 hours.  We turned east into the ICW and were met with such a cluster of barge traffic that I have never seen.  The previous weeks ice storm had closed the port and ship channel traffic and it was just this morning starting to get moving to thin out the log jam that crowded the Bolivar peninsula.  Tempers were short.IMG_1535
We had planned to move east and find someplace to tie up or anchor for the night.  We could have anchored at Galveston but this would make our second day of travel very long and due to the short days at this time of year this was not advisable.  It turns out actually finding a place to tie up or anchor east of Galveston on the ICW is not as easy as it sounds.  Besides our buddy boat was very new to sailing and having to deal with impatient barge traffic was making there first day sailing very memorable.  I have to say they impressed me with their tenacity. 
At about 2:30PM they called us to report they were hard aground and unable to get off.  We reversed course to help but honestly did not know how I would be able to free them without endangering SV Kooky Dance.  We had them call Sea Tow.  They did and they told us to continue looking for an anchorage for the night. 
Sea Tow finally got SV Minnow off the shoals around 4:30PM.
We had tried a couple of location and ran aground in each one of them.  At this point we had grounded 5 times.  We read in the Skipper Bob's guide of and emergency anchorage at High Island bridge.  We proceeded there and promptly ran aground before even getting out of the ICW.  Our next option was the Taylor Outfall Bayou. That was another 20 miles east.  We would not get there before dark but we could not identify any other options.  So off we went at night in the ICW that was very busy with barge traffic.
The winds had eased up so the barge traffic was not having to use spot lights to navigate.  Big bonus for us because they will blind you for a while when they shine them on you.
We arrived at Taylor Outfall Bayou at 11:45PM and threaded our way in.  We found water and a really good anchorage.  It was the first time we were to set our new Vulcan anchor and man did it set.  We informed SV Minnow that we had found an anchorage.  By this time SV Minnow's crew was exhausted and at night nothing was making sense to them.  We talked them thru getting to our location and had them tie up along side.  It turns out they had never actually anchored before and this day has proved to be more than a sufficient number of first for them without adding their first anchoring to it. 
It was very cold that night and we had a small propane heater that we invited them over to warm up before going to bed. 
It seems to be a pattern with us that our first day after UNTYING THE LINES would be challenging enough to make us question our decision to cruise but both times we hung in there and the second day proved to be worth it.

Back the Boat Up.

By Captain Scott Buckley

Back the truck up.
I realize my last post was from about 2.5 years ago.  We have put SV Kooky Dance on the hard in Green Cove Springs FL. and were headed to Houston to make some money by working 3 to 5 months to do some improvements to Kooky Dance.  We both found jobs that would agree to our 5 month terms and had been able to find a bedroom at a friend of my wife that lives alone and wanted some help recovering from here surgery.  Both my wife's place of employment and mine started offering pretty good packages if we agreed to stay a little longer.  We both ended up agreeing to 2 yr contracts to stay and work.  Part of the contract was to allow us time to go get SV Kooky Dance back in the water and hire a crew to bring her back to Texas.  I will admit I was a nervous nelly will someone else sail our baby from Jacksonville, FL. to Kemah, TX. They had a spot tracker that would update every 10 minutes and think think I tracked it for the entire 14 day transit.  I did see our SV Kooky Dance log some 170+ mile days while making the Gulf crossing.   I won't bore you with the rest of the details but not because I like you it is because there were a lot of details and as a writer I am pretty lazy.        
Suffice to say we bought a house and some vehicles and worked for 2 years building the cruising kitty and working on SV Kooky Dance.
So what did Kooky Dance get:
Dinghy Davits which required removal of the Monitor windvane steering
Added lift points to the Dinghy
Added outboard motor mount to the dinghy
Added drain plug to the Dinghy
Added bigger hatches to the dinghy
Made a cover for the dinghy
Repainted the dinghy
Built a deck box for storage.
Installed a washdown pump
Installed second depth transducer in the Furuno
Installed a Spectra watermaker
Installed a 12V outlet in the stateroom for the anchor alarm. 
Bought and installed a 3rd anchor (Rochna Vulcan)
Bought and rigged an asymmetrical spinnaker
Installed 360 watts of solar panels in addition to existing 280 watts.
Installed Victrom MPPT solar charger controller
Installed a total enclosure for the cockpit.
Make a stay sail bag for storing the stay sail on deck for rapid deployment
Rebuilt and serviced Simrad autopilot
Installed midlevel shelves in the hanging lockers
Installed 4 x Oasis Firefly carbon foam batteries
Bought a multitude of spares for the engine and autopilot.
SV Kooky Dance in the yard for upgrades
The water maker install
Dinghy davits and solar panels
The deck box
We had found some water in the core of the deck at the bow near where the check stay goes thru the deck.  That required cutting out the core and replacing it and I did not think I could do it myself and have it look decent.  I contracted that work and am happy with the results.
So we were not sitting around making money we were also seriously upgrading SV Kooky Dance for offshore and remote sailing and thus far (we have actually been cruising for 8 days as I write this) our preparations have paid off.  Our Buddy boat SV Minnow has pointed out our preparations were much better than theirs as were have had few problems comparatively.