Saturday the 15th, Carrabelle, and Sunday the 16th, Clearwater, FL:
We got up early and got the boat ready for crossing the gulf. By 09:30 we went over to The Moorings Marina as they were the only place since Panama City, FL, that had a working pump-out. We attended the 10:00 meeting for crossing with Buddy, the local expert on the Gulf. There are 5 of us making the crossing: Queen Ann’s Revenge, One September, Good Karma, Gemini, and us.
Buddy had us set our first way point east of Carrabelle at Red 26, then our 2nd was south to the Tarpon Springs buoy. We set a 3rd way point for Clearwater. We got going by 11:30 because there was a storm coming in from the west and he wanted us to get ahead of it.
We made our first turn at 14:15 and by then the sun had come out. We had beautiful seas with smooth sailing all the way. At about sun down we had a great dolphin show by about 50 to 60 dolphins jumping and swimming in and around our boats, it was really something to see. The sunset was beautiful and early evening brought out just a sliver of a moon and it just shimmered over the top of the smooth seas, awesome. By 19:30 a dense fog set in and we could not see any ones lights and had to navigate by radar only. Keith said it was just like flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules), something he did many times in his career.
Our new boat has a auto pilot which made it much easier to pilot the boat as compared to our Sea Ray. Boy, what a difference it makes. It was very easy to steer and with smooth seas we had a great crossing. At about 25 nautical miles before the Tarpon Springs buoy we broke away from the group and made our turn toward Clearwater. We got to our buoy about 20 minutes before day light so we waited and started in about 07:00. This area was the roughest part of the trip with seas about 1' which were not bad at all. The closer to shore we got the smoother it got. We saw our first crab pod in about 30 feet of water so we kept a valiant watch out for more but were surprised not to find many at all; about 75% less than in 2010. We got to our marina by 09:15. We put our boat back together, made some phone calls and e-mails, and went to bed. We went a total of 200 miles and it took 22.5 hours. We had a great trip thanks to Tom Conrad, Weather Musings, and to Buddy at Carrabelle.
Keith did not have a decent meal in 3 nights so we went to "Crabby Bill's" and he had their boiled seafood bucket (huge) and he ate it all. I had their shrimp and it was very good but too much for me.
CO's comments: Much better crossing than last time. I made it a point not to drink any coffee. I was able to get some sleep on the helm because of the ample resting space on the new boat which kept me close to the XO.
Our chart plotter and helm during the middle of the night
Sun set on the Gulf of Mexico on 12-15-2012
Queen Ann's Revenge crossing the Gulf on 12-15-2012
Sun rise on 12-16-2012