Last Saturday we pulled out of the marina at noon, waving to our send off party aboard Capt. Randy’s boat and made it about two hours down the Intracoastal Waterway to Big Lagoon in Pensacola before dropping the hook. The last week had been a whirlwind of boat projects, provisioning, and goodbyes. We just needed a few minutes of quiet to let it all settle in before heading offshore.
After making lunch, writing a few last emails, posting one last post, and uploading a video, we secured all of the things that were most likely to go flying around the cabin and put Pensacola in our wake.
The current was ripping from the north out of the pass and the wind was coming in from the south, creating some pretty steep waves in the middle. We’d climb up one wave, then crash down into the next, water and spray going everywhere.
A few miles out, however, it calmed down enough to get some sails up and throw out the fishing lure. Because of my fishing drought the past year or so, catching more birds than fish, Capt. Philip of Cold Mil Dolphin Cruises left me a nice new saltwater rig in the rodholder. He promised that we’d have caught 3 fish before we were 10 miles away from Pensacola. We all laughed, thinking there was no way.
At 3 miles out, we caught a nice Spanish Mackerel that somehow disappeared while we were in the process of trying to get our gloves, knives, and buckets together. He’ll live to tell the story of how the two loud idiot sailors didn’t know how to make him a taco.
By the 3rd fish, at the 10 mile line, we were smarter. The 2nd fish (likely a world record tuna) didn’t even make it to the boat, but the 3rd fish we were ready for. We landed him and after fighting for another 20 minutes, had a bag full of filets for the freezer.
I’m still trying to clean the blood off the fiberglass, and I’m not sure if it was from me or the fish.
53 hours after leaving Pensacola, just before Monday’s sunset, we sailed under the Clearwater Pass bridge, found an anchorage about a mile south and dropped the anchor.
[It wasn’t lost on me that almost exactly 11 years ago I passed under the very same bridge grinning ear to ear because I’d just survived my very first offshore storm that I dubbed “The Night I Became a Sailor”.]
The passage itself was a blur of catching fish, spotting dolphins, avoiding storms via radar, watching the AIS screen for ships, reading books, playing UNO, and just staring off into the wild blue yonder.
Of the 53 hours underway, 48 of them were motor sailing. We did actually have a very nice 4 hour sail when the wind had moved far enough to the southeast for us to kill the engine. The rest of the time, however, the 90hp Ford Lehman diesel did it’s thing without a hiccup.
Leg 1: Orange Beach, Alabama to Clearwater Florida
53 hours underway. 291.2 nautical miles traveled. 47.9 engine hours.