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.
We 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.
The waters calmed to produce a very pleasant crossing with frolicking dolphins.
We enjoyed a Gulf sunset.
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!