Delcambre, LA, USA to Clearwater, FL, USA, September 2014
Thursday morning September 25th dawned bright and beautiful. We finally finished packing and stowing stuff on DREAM AWAY at around 1900. We had dinner and then I did a DREAM AWAY update, so we did not get to bed until very late. Even in the update I did, I forgot to add some email addresses, so I will have to fix that situation.
Our crew arrived around 0730 on the 25th. They are Janice and Jeff, and Connie and Wayne. We got all of the food and supplies loaded onto DREAM AWAY, and we were ready for Gulf Crossing 2014. We motored away from the dock at 0810 ... not too bad! We stowed the electrical cords, but kept the fenders and dock lines on deck as I knew we would be using them when we stopped for the night in Morgan City.
We motored down the Delcambre Canal to the GIWW, and then headed east to Morgan City. The trip was pretty uneventful. There were a number of push boats and their tows, and a couple of crew boats. We did see a small raccoon swimming in the GIWW near the Wax Lake cutoff.
We had a funny event take place as we were motoring down the GIWW. Kitty was down below taking a nap, and I was down below working on getting things squared away. Janice and Jeff, and Connie and Wayne, were in the cockpit and I heard them talking to someone. An Iberia Parish Sheriff Marine Patrol officer was asking the crew some questions. The questions followed the line of, "How Are You Doing?", "Where Are You Going?", "Where Have You Been?", and the clincher "Is This Your Boat?". The crew called me up to the cockpit, and asked me to speak to the Iberia Parish Sheriff, who was in a small skiff next to DREAM AWAY. It was Jeb Schaubert who is with the Iberia Parish Sheriff's department Marine Patrol.
He and his brother, Zack, are both on the Marine Patrol, and we had become friends because they were at the North Pier Marina quite a lot. Jeb had recognized our boat, but not seeing us on board, he was asking the crew where the owner's were! When I appeared in the cockpit, and Jeb recognized me, he was relieved, and so was the crew. Jeb and I talked for a few minutes, and then Kitty popped her head up. We all had a good laugh over the situation.
When we got near Berwick, we were boarded by the USCG who did a courtesy inspection of DREAM AWAY. All was well, except that my flares were out of date. Since we were inshore, they did not ticket us, but I did get a warning that they would have to be replaced before we left to go offshore.
The USCG guys left us just in front of the railway bridge that crosses the Atchafalaya River between Morgan City and Berwick. We looked at the docks in Morgan City, and saw that the shrimp boats had pretty well taken them up. So, we crossed over and docked on the Berwick side of the river. We had already eaten dinner, so we settled in for the night.
On the morning of the 26th, I checked the fuel in the starboard fuel tank, and found we had only used 10 gallons of fuel. I emptied two of the fuel Jerry jugs into the fuel tank to top it off, and then Connie, Wayne, and I walked up to the Exxon station on LA 182 in Berwick to get the two Jerry jugs refilled with diesel. Connie and Wayne walked them back to DREAM AWAY. I called a cab and went to the local Walmart where I purchased a USCG approved flare kit. Then the cab brought me back to DREAM AWAY.
By the time I got back to the boat, Wayne and Jeff had already stowed the two Jerry jugs, so I just had to make a few adjustments to the other stored buckets on deck. By 0900, we were under way down the Atchafalaya River. We started heading out the channel to the Gulf. We had a nice lunch before we hit the open water. Once we passed the end of the channel, the water got very shallow, 9-15 feet, and the seas were very choppy. This was a little rough for some of the crew, and unfortunately it put Connie down for the count. Her seasick medicine was not working as well as she had hoped it would.
The good news is that we had plenty of wind to become a sailboat. The bad news is that the wind was coming from the direction to which we wanted to go, East! So, we had to sail to the south-southeast to sail at all. The NOAA-promised northeast winds never materialized, but we did get to become a sailboat at 1537 on September 26th.
On the night of the 26th, we had the full Genoa and the mizzen sail up. As night approached, we reefed the Genoa down to about one-third its size as the seas were still pretty rough. But at least we were sailing. The wind was clocking around, so by the morning of the 27th we were sailing south-southwest. The problem was that we wanted to get to Florida, and not Mexico, to which we were heading. And the wind was dropping. We did not have a storm that night, but on the morning of the 27th we did get hit by a pretty good rain storm. The winds got up to about 17 knots, and we got lots of rain. After the storm, we had to become a motor-sailor. We tacked back towards Florida and pinched the wind as much as we could. At least we were heading towards our destination.
Later on that day, we completely rolled up the Genoa as we were pinching the wind so hard. All we had up were the mizzen and the main sails. On the night of the 27th, we reefed the main sail just in case another storm might come up that could cause some grief if all of the sails were up. It was a good precaution, as we did get hit by a rain storm during the night.
Most of the 27th and 28th was spent trying to use the wind and motor to get pointed to our destination. Sometimes it was with great success, and other times not so much.
The main engine ran well, and the water-maker ran just fine. I made water for an hour on Saturday, the 27th, and then topped off the starboard water tank on Sunday, the 28th. Most of the crew took a nice shower. Having plenty of water was enjoyed by all.
By late afternoon of the 28th, the wind was down so much that all of the sails were doused. The good news here was that we could motor in the direction of our destination. With the nice current we had, we were motoring at a steady 7.5 knots, and sometimes even reaching 8 knots. Late in the afternoon, a pod of dolphins appeared at the bow of DREAM AWAY, and hung around playing for over an hour.
We motored all day on the 29th, and we were still heading to our destination. On Monday the 29th, we hooked a good-sized Dorado on our trolling line, but it got off the line before we could gaff it. Monday night the 29th/30th, we had no sails up because the wind had dropped to 3 to 5 knots. The night was so pretty, we even had all of the hatches open.
On Tuesday the 30th, we hooked and landed a 18-20” Dorado. We were looking forward to it becoming dinner that night! We raised the sails around 0645, unrolling the Genoa and raising the mizzen up to help with the rolling of DREAM AWAY, and to make better speed. At 0935, we had 110 miles to go.
We hooked a barracuda, but let it go, not wanting to take a chance with Ciguatera. The wind on this day started out from the southwest and clocked around until it was on our nose. We rolled up the Genoa as we were having too much trouble keeping it full. The main was not up anyway, and we also dropped mizzen. We motored on. DREAM AWAY was rolling a lot, but still heading towards our destination.
I found that the holding tank would not pump out. I suspected a problem with the holding tank vent. Sure enough, there seemed to be some kind of strange debris clogging the tank vent. Finally, I was able to clear the vent and pump out the holding tank. I reconnected the vent, and then blew it out using the raw water wash-down hose.
I called the the Dunedin Municipal Marina and talked to the Harbor Master via our Globalstar satellite phone. We talked about our plan, and he said the water depths at the Dunedin Municipal Marina would not accommodate us. He suggested we go to Clearwater Municipal Marina just inside the Clearwater Pass. Wayne, one of our crewmen, had the ActiveCaptain database on his phone, so I was able to get the telephone number for the Clearwater Municipal Marina. When I talked to them they said they had space, and the marina was easy to get to, so at this point, we changed our destination from Dunedin to Clearwater Municipal Marina in Clearwater, Florida.
Today was turning out to be a great fishing day for the onboard fisherman, Jeff. Just before the sun went down and would be forced to bring in the trolling line, he hooked a very large fish. When we finally got the fish landed and on deck, it turned out to be a 48" Wahoo. We got quite a lot of meat from it. We do not have a scale on board but I am guessing the fish weighed about 35 lbs, and we got about 25 lbs of meat from it! Jeff (Pegleg) is now the official DREAM AWAY fisherman!
The night of the 30th/1st was a bad night as the boat was rolling constantly due to waves from all directions. With the bright sunrise on Wednesday the 1st, the rolling was getting to be less and less prevalent, and that made the day seem better. The closer we got to Florida, the more the waves settled down.
On this morning, I again could not empty holding tank. This time it seemed as if the pump would not get a prime. I would obviously have to look into it when we docked.
We were very close to the coast at Clearwater Beach as we could see the hotels and condo's. As we motored closer to the channel, at Clearwater Pass a pod of three very large dolphins played around the bow of DREAM AWAY for about 15 minutes, and then left.
We entered the channel, at Clearwater Pass and took the first channel on the left to get to the Clearwater Municipal Marina. This first channel had shoaled up all the way across at red marker 4 and green marker 5. We ran aground in the middle of the channel, so I backed off, and decided I would try hugging the red side of the channel, but we ran aground again.
We called the fuel dock at the marina, and they told us that channel had shoaled badly, and to get into the channel to the GIWW, and use a deeper channel to get to the Clearwater Municipal Marina. I backed off and took the channel to the GIWW, headed north up the GIWW, and then turned west into the Clearwater Municipal Marina entrance channel.
We got into the marina and had DREAM AWAY tied up around 1030. We had some adjustments to make to the docking lines, and we got the power cables and the water connected. We got a couple of keys to the shower rooms, and the crew went off to get showers.
We then all sat down for a lunch of mostly leftovers from the great meals we had had during the passage. After lunch, Connie made taxi and rental car arrangements so all of the crew could drive back to Louisiana. The taxi arrived around 1400, so we got Janice and Jeff, and Connie and Wayne, and all of their gear, up to the taxi. We said our goodbyes, and they were off to the airport to pick up the rental car for the long drive back to Louisiana. Once they got to Louisiana, Connie and Wayne still had to drive to their home near Freeport, Texas.
One of the crewman, Jeff, put together a video of his experiences of the passage, and I have included the URL for it here for you all to enjoy. Jeff's Excellent Adventure.
Our original plan to stay two days at the Clearwater Municipal Marina changed after the first day. A pretty big cold front was coming, and there are really no good anchorages around here with protection from a severe north wind, so we decided to stay at the marina for a week.
That plan has changed again as I have had a refrigeration system failure, and need to get that system operational again before we leave. We will probably pay to stay here a month as that is a much cheaper rate than by the week. This will give me time to get the refrigeration system back together, and complete a few other projects that need attention.
Just so you do not feel too poorly for us, here is the menu that Connie and Janice had mostly prepared before we left the dock, and had frozen for the trip! Kitty, who had not had time to actually cook had purchased delicious chowder and spaghetti from our friend in Delcambre, Ms. Barbara, who is famous for her outstanding cooking.
Thursday: Shrimp and Corn Chowder w/ salad and Acadian herb bread
Friday: Turkey Spaghetti w/ broccoli and/or cauliflower
Saturday: Shrimp and Bok Choy Noodle Bowl w/ broccoli and/or cauliflower
Sunday: Eggplant Casserole Dressing w/ green peas
Monday: Mexican Chicken
Tuesday: Chicken/Sausage/Okra Gumbo w/ rice and Acadian herb bread
Breakfast/lunch/snack choices on your own: Various breads (Cinnamon Burst, honey whole wheat, Dakota), Biscuits, Pancakes, Oatmeal, Muesli, Cereal, Eggs, Bacon, Various sausages (some prepared at home by Connie from her own personal recipe), Fruits and Berries, Shrimp salad, Salmon salad, Cheese and Crackers, Nut Butters, Tuna Packets, Coleslaw, and Ham.