Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Ringing in the New Year at sea

We are under way in the Gulf of Mexico, with the barrier islands of St. George Sound, off Carrabelle, Florida receding behind us, and plenty of open water ahead of us en route to Clearwater Beach. We're already several miles from the nearest cell tower, and soon we will be offline until we are a few miles from our destination.

Not long after I last posted here, perhaps a mile from our turn into the Carrabelle entrance channel, the fog thickened, until we could no longer see more than a few boatlengths ahead. We turned on the automatic fog signal, somewhat alarming the cat, and adjusted the radar. I made a Securite call before we re-joined the channel, and I switched to the quieter fog signal as we approached town.

Fortunately we had no other traffic, and equally fortunately, our planned anchorage was empty. We dropped the hook off-channel right downtown (map), a feat we could not manage on our last visit because we did not have detailed enough charts. There is nary a single decent eatery in all of Carrabelle, so we girded ourselves for fried food and tendered to Fathoms, immediately across the channel from the anchorage. The place was charmless but the food was acceptable, and we both found options that were not deep-fried.

Vector at anchor in Carrabelle, as seen from next to Fathoms.

Yesterday we had a leisurely morning aboard, and after lunch I made a quick run back to town just to see how things had changed since our last visit and the storm, and also to pick up some beer at the local IGA. I wanted to grab a couple of six-packs of the Oyster City Hooter Brown before we left the panhandle; I'm not sure how far this local Apalachicola brew is being distributed. I also stopped by the marina office to confirm the fuel price and that they had enough for us.

We weighed anchor as soon as I returned and headed over to the fuel dock. My logbook says we started fueling before noon, and we did not finish until 2:20 -- a very slow dispenser. We ended up bunkering 1,100 gallons, which will cover us for quite a while. For quite a bit of that time, fellow looper Matt, from Long Way Home, stood with us and chatted. Regular readers may recall we had met him and his family briefly at the dock in Detroit, some four months ago, and somehow our paths had not intersected again until now. We were off the dock by 2:30.

We motored just five miles back down the river and across the sound to Shipping Cove at Dog Island, where we dropped the hook in as much lee as we could find (map). Three other boats were also anchored in the cove, presumably waiting on Gulf weather. It was nice to make the trip in excellent visibility, enjoying the sweeping views of white sand barrier islands and coastal wetlands that we were denied by the previous day's heavy fog.

Sleepy downtown Carrabelle.

We enjoyed a nice dinner aboard and a mostly comfortable night. In anticipation of tonight's watch schedule, Louise turned in by 9pm, and I stayed up until 2:30ish. By the time I turned in, the cove had become a little bouncy, but not too bad. That same chop is what kept us from making the crossing yesterday instead of today.

This morning we again had a leisurely morning aboard, since our departure window did not start until noon, lest we risk arriving at Clearwater inlet too early (during my sleep period). We weighed anchor just before noon, and after battling two knots against us rounding the point, found ourselves with nearly a knot of following current coming out the inlet. If the Gulf Stream is kind to us, we'll arrive towards the early end of our arrival window.

Since Louise will be (we hope) asleep in her berth at midnight, we will celebrate the new year on Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), more or less the same as Greenwhich Mean Time, when it will be midnight in London. That will be just 7pm here, after dinner and before Louise turns in and leaves me alone on watch.

No visit to Carrabelle is complete without a stop at the tardis world's smallest police station.

The last time I started "celebrating" New Years on UTC was exactly 20 years ago today. I was running a telecom carrier network, and while we were pretty confident, prudence dictated that we be extra vigilant for any Y2K issues (yes, it's really been two decades). Because carrier networks all work on UTC, I had full staff on duty from an hour before midnight UTC until an hour after midnight PST, where our Network Operation Center was located and also as far west as our network extended.

Of course there were no problems at all, but we all sat around for ten hours just in case, and I had a first-class NYE party, minus the alcohol, catered in the NOC. Small consolation for having cancelled anyone's planned vacation on New Years.

We wish all our readers a very happy and safe New Year celebration, and when next you hear from me, we should be at anchor in Clearwater Beach.

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