Date: 15 June 2014. Anatomy of a Gulf Crossing
[Posted late because I am in
Deciding on how to cross the Gulf of Mexico is important, and
there is no one correct option though goodness knows there are lot
of choices. Initially I'd planned on skirting the edge,
following a coastal hopping itinerary so that I could sleep each
night safe and secure at anchor. Then, the new engine was in and plans
One of the fellows who did the work offered to go for a boat ride
with me, meaning we could leave Carrabelle, Florida and head across
the Gulf of Mexico to Cedar Key. That sounded feasible to me -- 100
miles, give or take and a guy along who could fix anything that
might break. Crew doesn't get much better than that. Another
destination considered, St. Pete, is 175 miles across the gulf.
and Cedar Key and
St. Pete, Florida
Then Jerry (my friend at
Just Right Marine) suggested I
the coast versus heading across just in case there was an issue with
the new-to-me motor. That sounded wise, and that I could do by
Having folks spend the night is
weird. There's just my bunk aboard Seaweed, and I'm not into
sharing my pillow. [This isn't your daddy's Navy.] So, taking the coastal
route means I can anchor every time I get tired, do it solo, and
take an extra day or three -- no schedule! That sounds just about
I do have (and recommend highly) TowBoatUS insurance. In this area
they will come up to 50 miles off shore -- even further with the
Unlimited Package I have. I tell you, if you have the money
for a boat you definitely need to opt for their insurance plan.
Thus, I'm covered if there is an issue that I cannot fix myself.
And most cruisers are experts at
fixing stuff in transit.
Or at least experienced at doing so. More
on that, later...
So anyway, Jerry suggested that
hopping along the coast would be better as the engine break in
period is still underway. That was a no-brainer, so I'm taking
his advice. However, you don't just hop in a boat and take off on a
multi-day excursion without some preparation.
Before leaving the checklist included:
- Fill fuel tank
- Confirm enough oil aboard for three
complete oil changes (2+ gallons for me)
- Have spare impellers for water pump
Having tools necessary to
fix things is important too. With my new Volvo I had to buy
three new wrenches: 10mm, 12mm and 19mm. All are open end
with six point box ends. I'm "ready" -- have tools, will
diagnose and fix stuff. Of course I have the shop manual for
my engine too.
Fill water tanks
Repair cigarette lighter
by Starboard window (connection was loose). This is important as that
unit powers both
my hand-held GPS and the computer for OpenCPN. I don't like
loose wires running helter-skelter, so this keeps things
More on OpenCPN in an upcoming article. You can check it out
*Side Note on OpenCPN:
It's a chart plotter, and the latest upgrade is amazing. The
old problem (lost GPS signal) has been resolved. I noted a new AIS display option, along with tides and currents.
It's amazing software and
free. Well, they ask a donation -- and I did. Twice so far. It
keeps getting better!
Verify food stores are
filled. For me, in the days before departure I cooked
chicken and other foods so if tired, all I have to do is eat
-- no food preparation required. I want it easy, so
just as you would pack for a picnic, I did the same in my
- Buy ice (I like iced tea so bought a big
bag of ice cubes)
- Check that running lights and anchor
- Continue to monitor the VHF Wx (weather)
station for updates on sea conditions
- Study charts to decide on potential
This one is particularly
critical. By having lots of anchorages chosen in advance,
should weather go belly up, or I simply wish to stop for
lunch, well, there are options already chosen. I don't
have to "think" or even consider if this place is better
than the next.
My stops are marked on the
charts (in the margins) and at the first random thought of
"it would be nice to rest and relax" -- I do, and at the
very next place. By having them spaced so frequently I don't
have to worry about getting tired and making a stupid
the post-mortem for preventable mistakes
made while underway boil down to one of four things:
#1) Being too tired or
exhausted from a passage
to make a rational choice and analyze the risks
#2) Being too Sure of Yourself, so you to fail to realize
the potential down-side for your choice.
#3) Filthy fuel and not enough filters to clean the crud out
causing engine shutdown.
#4) Equipment failure.
In the check list above I did not
include anything about the engine. Since the new engine went in I've
been taking her on river runs, shake-downs, and sea trials. All is
I am so pleased to have a diesel
motor now after fighting that gasoline beast for so long. Life does
not get much better!
Finally, departure date is here.
I'm definitely going to miss this town, and one particular fellow I
met while here -- possibly more than I'd imagined possible. But
staying isn't an option so I'm off to points east and south.
Algae is tied to the transom and
once out of the slip I will make sure both her lines are attached so
they balance. There are two connection points on Algae. On the
inside I have an eye-bolt and outside a u-bolt. Both are
attached to the dinghy davit on Seaweed so the strain on the lines
Too often people lose dinghies
while towing them. I cannot afford to lose my Algae -- she's
my "car" and worse yet: an empty dinghy brings out the Coast Guard
on an all points search for presumed missing mariners. IF you
lose your rowboat, it's always a good idea to notify the Coasties so
they won't needlessly search for your carcass.
The ice is loaded in two coolers. Excess is in the
refrigerator freezer compartment and the rest is in my galley sink.
We're off. More, from along the coast.
I'd love to hear what you do pre-departure.
And, are you a dock bunny or living life in transit?
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