As we clean, swab the decks, polish the bright work, fake the lines, and square away, it is time to reflect on our adventures.

The Tenn-Tom Waterway is a 234 mile long mighty engineering feat of the Corp of Engineers. It is a thoroughfare of serenity and bucolic views, coupled with heavy recreational and commercial traffic (tows and barges). There are ten locks to negotiate and a further two locks before Mobile is reached. It weaves in and out of the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Best fun was anchoring out in Bashi Creek and Three Rivers with newly made friends.

The city of Mobile is a fun stop. Mobile Bay is not a fun bay to traverse. It is long, shallow and has heavy commercial traffic. The combination of wind and waves ensures a lumpy crossing. 

Fairhope was a nice diversion. Unfortunately, we experienced foul weather and Bushranger had a few uncomfortable days and nights and sustained a little damage tied at the end of a pier. 

The Wharf and Orange Beach were fun, again with our newly made friends. Pensacola was enjoyable history-wise, but most things were closed on Monday. Passage to Panama City was very pretty, however  the closer we came, the more horrific destruction we saw in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. So very sad to see. Apalachicola is a quaint town with gorgeous architecture, hit hard by the hurricane. Carabelle is the last frontier before the crossing and basically a holding point. The Gulf of Mexico crossing – glad we did it.

In brief:

  • We travelled 928 statute miles in 35 days. 
  • We negotiated 12 locks.
  • We entered 3 states: Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
  • The value of my bionic eyes was justified by the savings in the avoidance of crab pots.
  • The highs – mooring out and meeting friendly people

On a personal note:

During our time away a series of events occurred:
– my beautiful Aunt Ruth passed away;
– we became a great aunt and great uncle to Luna James Withers (Britt and Josh);
– our niece, Celeste, completed her HSC; and
– our gorgeous grandson, Ben, turned 5. 

Until next time…

Such is Life!

We made it to the other side

It is a night to remember. The sheer beauty of the canopy of stars, as seen from sea in pitch blackness, was truly an awesome sight. The heavens shimmered spectacularly. Through binoculars, cascading candelabra and galaxies far, far away shone in magnificence. This was coupled with an entertaining lightning show on the horizon to the north-east. Sheet lightning lit the horizon and fork lightning sizzled.

B8230EF4-5654-4B6C-8365-017D37224750We rendezvoused off Dog Island (Carabelle) with Exhale, where a replenishment at sea took place. We transferred boat-baked bread and received boat-baked chocolate chip cookies. (Thanks Mary – used as rations throughout the voyage.)


At 2.15pm, with Exhale in the lead of a flotilla: Bushranger, Unfettered, Cavara, we set sail across the the Gulf of Mexico – a journey which would take us 23 hours to complete at 7 knots. The first 3 hours were a little uncomfortable, as the rolling motion resembled a washing machine. I resorted to drugs.

340E64B3-20DD-4DCF-945B-C394D77B0191The waters calmed to produce a very pleasant crossing with frolicking dolphins.

We enjoyed a Gulf sunset.

D783EB02-EBF5-4917-820B-CB24E2A05474 The blackness is all encompassing. We sailed to Exhale’s rhythm. It was comforting to follow Exhale’s white stern light and look behind and see Unfettered and Cavara’s navigation lights. Every hour on the hour we held a radio sked, to make sure everyone was OK. Mark and I held 2-hourly shifts, where one would helm while the other slept. With no auto pilot, we needed to be constantly piloting the boat. 

Mark had more confidence in me than I had. I learnt new skills and gained a certain amount of competency, all while operating in darkness: radio skeds; using the chart plotter; steering by the stern light of Exhale, by compass and by stars; adjusting speed; and observing by listening, feeling and limited sight.

We left the safety of our flotilla at 3am, to head to Tarpon Springs, whilst the rest sailed on to Clearwater. To watch the stern lights be enveloped in darkness, was a little unnerving. Totally on our own, sailing into blackness was a new experience for me.  To watch Venus rise, followed by the sun was majestic. 

The sun rose at 6.55am. We saw our first crab pot at 7.01am. From that time until we tied up at Tarpon Springs at 1.45pm we were both on lookout on the flybridge. We passed hundreds of crab pots which were strung on lines running for miles – quite literally a minefield. 

Tarpon Springs is the Greek capital of USA and home to famous sponge docks. We arrived to a carnival atmosphere with a fish festival in full swing. Turtle Cove is a lovely marina, centrally located. We walked full circle to the historic downtown and then on to the Sponge Docks – a very lively quarter. Bushranger will call this place home for the next two months. 

Yes, we made it to the other side. And yes, it is good to be here. Would I want to cross the Gulf of Mexico again? No thanks – once is enough. I can tick that box – – – although it was not on the Bucket List in the first place!

For those who would like to have a more in-depth account of our journey, Nebo recorded the following. The gap in the middle is when Bushranger was incommunicado.


Such is Life!



Today’s the day

Bushranger is primed to go. She has been provisioned and is ready to cross the Gulf of Mexico. Stores have been replenished; tonight’s dinner has been cooked; the ditch bag has been packed; the route has been analyzed; batteries charged in all devices; safety procedures reinforced; systems checked; and the weather window scrutinized.

We bid farewell to Carabelle, our home for the last five days. Carabelle is a sleepy little river town, which has been devastated by Hurricane Michael. They had a great deal of flood damage. It will take the town a long time to be back up and fully operational.

A couple of insights on Carabelle:



Carabelle is the home of the smallest Police Station in USA.

The citizens take enormous pride in their memorials, which were restored soon after the flooding.


It is home to an old-time cafe/diner, complete with memorabilia from a bygone era. Very entertaining!

The town is so small, the nearest pharmacy and Walmart are a 47 minute drive away.

The Carabelle River is the home of manatees, but none have been sighted since the hurricane.

Now, a kiss for luck and we’re on our way,

Such is Life!

It’s a waiting game

No going against the weather gods. We have come as far east as we can go, Carabelle, before the next stage of crossing the Gulf of Mexico to reach Florida’s West Coast.  At Bushranger’s speed of 8 miles per hour this crossing will take about 22 hours. This will mean half the journey will be done during the night 😬.

We are being cautious. Just this week a boat turned back after 4 hours pounding into 4 foot waves. The damage to the interior of the boat was incredible. We will wait until Thursday, when tides, wind and sea state are forecast to be the most suitable for a slow boat. Hopefully by then Exhale will join us for the crossing: two buddies looking out for each other. Some boats attempt it solo – which is crazy.

Carabelle was hit by Hurricane Michael and the devastation is everywhere. Of the three marinas only one, The Moorings, is accepting transients. The Moorings has 170 berths (slips) and all are damaged. They are only able to accommodate 20 boats at a time with limited facilities. How lucky are we to be able to tie up to a dock which has been hastily repaired with electicity and water! Others have not been so fortunate. The turnover of boats is ongoing. Fast and large boats tend to only stay one night before heading off to the West Coast. Small boats and sail boats have longer stays of 3-4 nights, waiting for the elusive weather window.

For the next couple of days we will lavish Bushranger with TLC, coaxing her ever onward.

Such is Life!

Out of my comfort zone

Out of my comfort zone, but Mark in his!

The weather gods played merry havoc with us. Strong winds hit our little Pearl Bayou in the wee hours of the morning. Mark was up and down throughout the night, checking the anchor. At 5.00am I was awakened to the call to set sail, as our anchor chain had dragged and we were heading for shallow water.

Now to those who are old salts, setting sail would not be a problem. I was experiencing medium to high anxiety. We were in a little bayou with scattered crab pots. We had an unattended and unlit US Airforce boat at the mouth of the bayou. It was pitch black with the sun not scheduled to rise until 7.05am. We had to manoeuver through a small channel with markers not able to be seen and sail under a bridge with no marker lights. Oh, and not to mention any unseen flotsam from Hurricane Michael.

Mark rose to the challenge brilliantly. We were buffetted with strong winds for the entire voyage on the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway to Apalachicola. We decided not to moor out tonight. We raced for a marina and are now snuggly tied up – just in time before a heavy rainfall hit.

28C89E77-D8CC-422B-B722-42FBEC6A7583Today was not all doom and gloom. We were up to greet a spectacular sunrise.

And the nice thing about this marina is we have an oyster bar 100 metres from our boat! Guess who is heading there tonight?

Such is Life!



Confirmed sighting

Yahoody! It is official. Florida has alligators… well at least one confirmed sighting. Travelling between Valparaiso and Panama City, along a man-made canal, I spotted the alligator lying full stretch on a narrow sandy beach. He raised himself on his legs  and did a slow walk to the water’s edge. Alas, I was so excited at finally having seen one, I forgot to take a photograph. Such is Life!

6346C7BD-9BC8-4C1F-BFA7-6F04241FC75BLast night we found a superb anchorage in Tom’s Bayou just off Boggy Bayou, next to Niceville, which is part of Valparaiso. It was such a picturesque little bayou, we tootled in our dinghy to check out the neighborhood. Dolphins cavorted, butterflies swooped and birds sang in our little nook in paradise. But not all was as it seemed. Unbeknownst to us, over the ridge was Eglin – the largest US Airforce base. Not only did we enjoy Taps in the evening and Reveille at 7.30am, we also enjoyed jet blasts and low level flyovers.

Today we had a brilliant sail. The weather was superb. Over the course of the day dolphin pods joined us in our bow wave, pelicans dive bombed, eagles soared, and yes, I must mention the alligator sighting.

897218D4-73D9-44BE-A1C7-E89CE9A8D96DI also had to do a little fast maneuvering when a freighter suddenly pulled out behind me and challenged me for the channel. As he was moving at close to twice our speed, I moved quite a way out of the channel for him to pass… and refrained from telling him the overtaking vessel must give way!

Tonight we bob gently in Pearl Bayou, listening to dolphins quietly surfacing and birdlife chattering. We have sailed past Panama City and the devastation from Hurricane Michael is plain to see. Foliage has been stripped, trees are down, houses with tarpaulins covering their roofs, a ship on its side and many pleasure boats washed ashore. In Pearl Bayou alone, there are six boats aground and in tatters. Marinas are closed due to damage. May all quickly recover.

Life is not meant to be like this. But…

Such is Life!