Crossing Log from Clearwater to Destin



Thus far I am pleased with our fuel burn and progress.  Today (Monday the 27th) promised light winds from 60 apparent off the starboard bow.   The promise has been kept, right now I’m motoring ½ throttle on the starboard engine and sails to just hold a 5 knot average.  Tomorrow winds are due to be strong enough to take the one motor offline for a nice sail, the only problem with low winds the first day is…. we will likely burn more fuel today than tomorrow, but if things change and we don’t get tomorrows wind, It’s possible I’ll need the same fuel for the second day..

I’m carrying 55 gallons so if I stay under a 1 gallon per hour fuel burn rate I could motor for 55 hours, this trip should be under 48.

I just spotted two other sailboats headed the same way, one with no sails up and another behind him with sails.  I called and “FairKetch” answered me… (the one with sails up) they are both headed for Apalachacola.   Both boats are running 6 knots so they will probably pass me.. unless the wind picks up J   I’m keeping SYL in fuel saving mode for now while conditions are so pleasant.  The sky is only carrying a few clouds, it’s warm and sunny now 15 miles offshore.  Earlier I noticed that we picked up a nice current, I’m now moving 3 tenths faster on the same wind and power setting.

Winds have been between 4.5 and 7.5 knots apparent this morning.  Most of the 4 hours we have travelled so far, winds have been at 5.5 and our progress has averaged right above 5.  In years past I’d have both motors running full blast to minimize exposure time on the crossing but this year Linda is a much better sailor and I have Jono on board as well.   I look forward to a nice 4 or 5 hour sleep tonight.  Normally on this 48 hour crossing I only see 1 or 2 hours sleep, but with calm weather and a good crew I’ll have a great crossing.

Yesterday between the slip and the fuel dock we had our first problem of the trip… lol.  My port shifter quit working.  It broke last year and I repaired it, but the repair eventually gave way so when we approached the fuel dock and I shifted to reverse, the motor didn’t….. and the more gas I gave it the worse my lineup with the dock got.  In short we got docked OK and it only took a rag to remove the mark on the bow so that was good.  Ted Cook had given me his original Yamaha shifting arm after he replaced his with a Seawind part.  I dug it out and replaced the arm with a brand new one… thanks Ted!

Our second mechanical issue is the masthead wind instrument.  One of the two screws that hold it down apparently came out, so now it’s looking 45 degrees to the left.  Wind speed is still correct but wind direction is goofy on the gauge…. Not a biggie but something I’ll fix in Destin when the boat is sitting absolutely still.  Going up the mast at sea is not in my repertoire.

Noon:  Gondolier Pizza and a cold coke for lunch.  With the motor on, we are making a little ice for later on.  In full sun the solar panels keep up with  refrigeration, but not with the ice maker.  Both motors make more than we need, but with one.. we are holding our own with the batteries while making ice.  Linda has been napping below some of the morning.  Waves on the stern quarter are always the hardest to take and she was doing computer work for an hour or two so she needed to rest.  Jono is getting some great pictures in this deeper bluer water.  We are in about 60’ of water now so the color is nicer.  Jono is enjoying the deeper blue and not seeing any land.  95.4 miles to go to the half way point.  Maintaining 5.6 now, our average may be up to 5.3.  Tomorrow should be a 6 knot day easy.

1:45PM  winds are much the same but I found a current that is leading me more offshore.  The further from land I get the better my speed.  The combination of the offshore current and tomorrows forecast for losing all my North wind component is leading me off the rhumbline to the West.  You can make better speed with winds on your beam than behind you, so with winds shifting from the ENE to East tomorrow, I’ll do better having some right turn left in the landfall target tomorrow.

2:00  winds are slacking…. 2.4  apparent but still maintaining 5kts due to the good current on one motor at 75%.  I suspect soon I’ll have to go with both motors as the wind settles for the evening.  We changed trolling lures, no luck on orange and green, I went to a darker color with a bigger head.  2:30 – winds at 2.5kts…. still holding 5+ on 1 engine.  2:40 – winds 2 and less, now bumping 5 on a good wave.  2:45 – when it hits 4kts we get 5.1 and 5.2 so I’m leaving the sails up for now.. staying on 1 motor @ 75%.  Changed the XM radio from 50’s music to “the blend”.  2:50 – winds back up to 6.6…. speed in the high 5’s again.  Glad I left the sails up.

3:05 – wind bumping 8kts, speed bumping 6.  We have a visitor on board…. a small finch landed on the boat .   Now he’s walking around eating bugs.  He came right up to Jono cocked his head up then continued finding bugs.  We had some small flies join us a few hours ago… he’s feasting on them now….  I guess when all hope is lost 30 miles from land and you find a solid place to land and food!!!  People become the least of your worries.  He’s on the table next to both of us..
chillin’ in the salon to XM radio.

The Finch

3:30 – Mr. Finch is still with us.. we are killing bugs to feed him now.  The wind picked up.. we saw some solid 6 knot speeds a few minutes ago.  If this keeps up we can take the motor offline before dark.  That would be an unexpected pleasure.  4:45 – Finch has left the boat 3 or 4 times…. But flaps his little wings as fast as he can to get back…. Lol.  He’s landed on all three of us… picking up flies and seeds where he can.  He’s been all over the boat from front to back.  Jono put out some fresh water.. he didn’t take much of it but he did drink.  Several times I thought about going on all sails… but just then things slack off.  We are doing fine, if we hurry we will have to wait outside Destin Harbor until it gets light again Wednesday morning, so no need to hurry… then wait at the entrance.

The seas have developed a long low swell from behind us.  The boat is riding it well…. No need to trim or change anything.  The autopilot normally has trouble handling following seas at an angle… but right now “OTTO” is doing just fine.  I’m very pleased that we still have wind this evening.  4:00 – Linda is crumbling crackers for Mr. Finch but he doesn’t seem interested.  I think he’s all up into the small flies that we gathered a few hours ago…. Apparently just for him.

6PM – Mr. Finch found out we had small moths in the kitchen….he goes down and comes back up with a new one to chew on now and then… good job!

Winds have been holding, even bouncing over 8 periodically.  8kts of wind = 6 knots of speed with 60% on one motor.  I think we lost a bit of the good current…. Still in following seas and current, but not so much.  Now the long swell is 45 degrees off our starboard stern.  That makes it easier to “surf” them so they are helping our forward speed.  Mr. Finch hasn’t come out of the kitchen in 5 minutes…. The moths must be getting thinned out down there.  I went below to get some ice a few minutes ago and the bird was sitting on Jonathon’s toe as he slept in the forward bunk…. scanning for moths  ‘\^/`

6:30 – 6 knots… doing fine.  The sun is setting behind low clouds on the watery horizon….. I have the chart plotter and instruments on low light settings…. Getting ready for the run into darkness.  I’ll train Jono on the radar before I lay down.  Visual scans of the horizon and radar will easily take care of the night watch.

Night Watch – I went to bed at 7:30pm leaving the boat to Linda and Jono.  Shortly after I went to bed the wind indicator disconnected itself, so that gauge was unavailable for the rest of the trip.  Linda Here:  Jono was fantastic…he is just like his dad….always and I mean ALWAYS adjusting trying to eek out the last .2 knots.  It brought a smile to my face to watch the son acting just like his father….without him even knowing it.  Jono was in total control and I was very grateful.  The wind picked up considerably and caused some confused seas,  SYL was not a comfortable ride but we were making good headway on sails  and safe….on a crossing that is all you can really expect.  We were able to pick the motor up at 5:30pm and didn’t have to put it back down until 11pm.  That is always good.  Rusty appeared in the companionway at 12:45am.

Rusty here:  I woke up around midnight with the boat flopping around on light winds and short chop.  I layed there resting for a while and then got up to see what time it was.  I was glad to see that I had slept 4 1/2 hours, it was very nice to get so much sleep on an overnighter.  Jono had the sails to wing and wing, trying to find some air and without a wind instrument for exact direction that was tough duty.  I played with the sails and we finally picked up a little wind, but with good current once again we were still maintaining 5.5 kts on one motor.

SYL’s speed target was 5.5 kts the first day.  I calculated that we would have to spend several hours anchored off the beach outside Destin awaiting sunrise.  So to hurry only meant more time on the hook when we got there.  The Destin Pass is short but carries a lot of current and even though I have been through it many times it is by no means straight forward.  My intentions were to not take the pass after an all night run.  Around 1:30 am Tuesday morning,  I started doing some “what ifs” on the chartplotter and with the freshening wind, decided to put a motor down and see what kind of arrival time I could  make.  Eight knots of forward speed gave me a midnight arrival, so I started to think about putting the boat in “get there” mode.

Seas on the stern were a solid 3 foot with some 4’s thrown in there, so I put down both motors and arrival time on the GPS got earlier and earlier.  I started this passage in light winds, sunny skies, very comfortably running 5.5 kts, enjoying the day.  Now, at night time and condsidering the possibilty of avoiding a second night passagae,  I am back to my old ways, of getting everything I can get out SYL.  So we dropped the ” hammer”.  We were bumping 10 kts with one flash of over 11 kts on a particurily handy wave.  Our average speed was no where near 10 kts but it sure looked good to see those numbers.

The first twelve hours I carefully watched and recorded fuel burn and with that information I felt like we were good to go on both motors with the fuel onboard.  Arrival time got very close to sunset a few times on the GPS, so the full power scenairo looked like a good one.  I was running an experiment to see how long the starboard motor would run on its main tank at 75% power setting.  It finally ran out at 8:22am on the second day, that motor ran a total of 19 hours in motor sail conditions before needing to add fuel.  I could only get two cans ( 10 gallons) in the tank due to the sea state, so I didn’t get an exact measurement of how much that tank holds from dead empty.  I imagine at the fuel dock it would have held another 3-4 gallons.

When I got up to take over after midnight, the air was really damp and a fog had set in, which meant we did not have a visable horizon.  The trailing seas were pushing the transom around causing a 3 axis motion on  SYL.  These two conditions challenged  everybody’s stomach.  By hand steering, I could eliminate that 3rd and nauseating variable by holding the stern straight as the waves passed underneath.  During the worst of it, I found a sweet spot in speed and heading that made things better.  Pounding hard and fast down the rhumbline gave way to slower and smoother….. The best part was I didn’t have to give up much arrival time for the sake of comfort.  Jono and Linda may have appreciated it sleeping… but easing the way was just as much for me as it may have been for them.

My hardest time to stay awake is an hour or two before sunrise.  I fought sleep as the minutes and seconds went by starting about 4AM.  I held out until almost 6 knowing the sun would bring a much needed visual reference for the relief crew (Linda and Jono).  SYL’s radar made navigation in the night fog a breeze.  Boat traffic and fixed obstacles were non-existant thru most of the night as we were 50+ miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.  About 5:30AM I saw a blip in the radar 6 miles away.  Checking the charts there was no stationary object shown in that location so I assumed it was moving.  Placing the cursor over the marks position showed that the boat was approaching in the opposite direction, but 1/4 mile off my rhumbline to port.  As the two ships (me and the offshore tug) passed in the darkness I could tell how far I could actually see in the fog…. (not much over 1/4 mile)  My radar is very trustworty, but it never hurts to see that blip turn into reality to prove once again that I can trust the instrument and my ability to tune it.  I gave the boat to Jono and slept well for 3 or 4 hours below in total confidence….. in my nice dry bed.

A light fog hung in there half the second day at sea… we carried a 1/2 mile wide circle along with us until early afternoon.  By now, with the boat in “get there mode” for many hours our Destin arrival time was looking like 2 hours after dark… which is what we achieved.  Jono and I studied the charts of the entry to Destin very carefully, we pulled out the radios so I could talk to him from the bow… and prepped for the night entry.  Getting there so early meant we needed to choose to stay anchored in the surf all night or pick our way in.  My choice was to prep for entry and ease up slowly to see how it looked.

We hit our marks well and found ourself at the first entry mark just after 9PM.  After setting the zoom on the 2 chart plotters and scoping in the radar to 3/4 mile when all the instruments and the visuals agreed we set ourselves to the task.  Seas were fair and the wind was slack.  The light of the surrounding condos lit the water up well and the expected current (outbound) was found to be tennable so we eased in the cut at 3 knots ground speed against a 2 knot current.   I knew with the outbound current and opposite seastate the mouth of the cut would be lumpy and it was… but not too bad being the winds were very moderate so the waves driven intot he cut were only leftovers from the day.

By 10PM our anchor was set in dry sand on the beach just inside the cut.  We slept like babies with the boat beached on the pure white Destin sand….. nice.  The 38 hour passage was not without challenge….. but what adventure is?  It was by far the best passage I’ve made across the armpit of Florida.  My crew was superb, they performed well and let me get the much needed rest I previously didn’t have.  We have now successfully circumnavigated the Florida peninsula.  The GPS odometer shows 1160 nautical miles traveled since Brunswick Georgia.  Now it’s go West young man…. to Texas.

Linda Here:  Several times during our crossing we were treated to dolpins coming to play.  They would swim in and under the boat and sometimes would leap out of the water across our stern. I never tire of these wonderful creatures.  On a sad note, SYL had it’s first loss of life.  The Finch like to roost under things.  The last thing it roosted under was our conch horn and apparently during the turbulance of Monday night the conch horn rolled on its delicate frame.  Sad!  The Finch did have an appropriate burial at sea.


4 Responses to “Crossing Log from Clearwater to Destin”

  1. Grannie says:

    What an incredible experience with the little wren. I was so hoping he would make it to Destin. You were a part of something that was rare.

  2. I’ve been lazy lately and not keeping up on my blogs. I didn’t realize you passed so close to us! We are living on our boat in St. Petersburg. Hans has a job here so this is where we hope to be for a while. Moving along would be nice but having a job is nice too (at least for now).

    • Rusty and Linda says:

      Darn, sorry we missed the opportunity to meet you. We were in St Pete in the car. We are missing this cruising season to plan a wedding but come January……here we come!

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