Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Cap also repaired the
dinghy's broken
We've been working our way along the underside of the Florida panhandle, following the network of canals, bays, and sounds that make up the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

The scenery says "Florida":  Palm trees and beaches with sand like white sugar and dolphins leaping from sparkling blue water.

The air temperature says "Upstate New York."  Just our luck to visit during a record cold snap.

Sunday night, we tied gratefully at the dock at Port St. Joe and on Monday, while the crew shopped for thermal underwear at the town's lone clothing store, the Cap'n visited three hardware stores, two dollar stores, three furniture stores and an auto parts store, looking for construction supplies to winterize the boat.

Before the big boat insulation project: Bath towels
worked fairly well to insulate the windows!
Amazing what you can do with some velcro, carpet padding, and creative thinking.

Tied to the dock near us were two other Looper boats, also waiting out the weather. This segment of the trip will be the most challenging for us . . .  in a few days, we'll need to leave the shelter of the protected waterway.  

Where the Florida panhandle meets Florida's west coast is the region some people call the "Big Bend," a U-shaped indentation that's long on natural beauty . . . and short on places for boaters like us to tie up safely.

It's  area of coastal mangrove swamps and extreme shallow water . . . you can go 20 miles offshore and still be in water a mere 6 feet deep.
Side door nicely insulated.
Magnets hold the foam in place

With our shallow draft, we could theoretically continue traveling the same way we have been--creeping along the shore, making about 20 miles a day.

The problem is, we'll have a couple hundred miles of mostly undeveloped shoreline to traverse, and the chances are slim, in Florida in December, that we'd have nearly two weeks of beautiful weather to creep along in.  

Days are already short in December; if it's cloudy we can't adequately recharge our batteries, and we don't really want to be sitting at anchor in freezing temperatures and gale force winds . . . possibly for days and days.

So that means making the trip across The Bend in a couple of "hops"--long traverses across open water.  To date the farthest we've ever traveled in a single day is about 50 miles.  By geographic necessity, we'll need to travel close to 100 miles on at least one of these hops.

Stern hatch protected by plastic.
Whew, nice and warm!
Some of the small towns we might touch down in include St. Marks, Steinhatchie, Cedar Key, and Clearwater. Once we get to Tarpon Springs, we'll be back in the protected waters of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway . . . about 70 miles north of Sarasota and 150 miles north of Fort Myers.

Luckily, the Looper network is helping us out with this stage of the trip.  Tom Conrad, a Looper alum, Pensacola resident and long-time boater, has made it his mission to watch the weather and offer expert advice on making the crossing.  He knows the coast and the conditions.

Yesterday, we travelled the 30 miles from Port St. Joe to Apalachicola--mostly on a canal, but with one lake crossing.  Today we're holed up again.  Once again, waiting on the weather.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like MY boating wardrobe is going to need an update...