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It Is A Wonderful Life

We took it easy yesterday as another cold front was forecast to blow through the Clearwater Beach area. After sleeping in until the sedating sounds of rain waned, we decided to move anchorages for better protection from the north wind that was on its way.

We reset the hook, cleaned up a bit, and by about 3 o’clock noticed that the gray clouds of the day had made way for a little sunshine and clear skies for the evening. Given the better weather, we jumped in the dinghy and were off to see if the outdoor movie, scheduled for the night, was still a go. Yes! The screen was up right along the beach at Pier 60 for Sunset Cinema and the night’s showing was “It’s A Wonderful Life”. I love, love, love this movie because it shows that God makes what seems ordinary and insignificant in our lives into something extraordinary and significant when we are living our lives for Him. We made a date night of the moonlit movie by picking up a pizza from a local cafe and snuggled up for the show under the stars.

Sunset Cinema at Clearwater Beach

Just as it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, we returned to the restaurant where our dinghy was tied, only to find the entrance securely locked for the night. Much earlier than they had told us they’d be closing. Our dinghy was within sight, yet we were separated by about 30 feet of cold, dark water. Matt thought about making a quick swim for it. For about two seconds. The next logical option was to call marina security for a little help. The call yielded neither an unlocked restaurant nor a boat to give us a lift. Looked like we were on our own. So, up to the roof Matt went. His ninja skills paid off as he scaled the building, crawled along the steep peaks of the roof and dropped down to the deck where he could rescue our dinghy. Whew, freezing late night swim avoided and a great laugh was had while break-in arrests were averted.

Ninja captain retrieving our dinghy

We returned to our floating home safely and tucked in for a solid night’s rest. This morning, we pulled up the anchor in Clearwater and headed back into the Gulf to sail a few hours south to Tampa. Remember when you used to ride your bike as fast as you could up those really steep homemade ramps and crash down only to get up and do them again? Welcome aboard Kaleo’s wild ride today. The first hour or so was pretty rolly and once we turned due south, the north wind propelled us along at about 7 to 8 knots! A few hours later, we negotiated a tricky and rough pass into the ICW, once again proving to us that open ocean sailing seems to have far fewer obstacles to navigate.

Running downwind to Tampa, FL

We’re now docked for awhile as we’re catching a flight to Texas tomorrow to spend Christmas with family and friends. We hope you enjoy a blessed one with those you love.

Opa! We’re At The Beach

Clearwater Beach, FL has given us our first full day of powdery, white, sugar sand and endless sunshine at the beach!

After the past two long offshore passages, we were particularly grateful for such a perfect day to stretch our sea legs and be part of the action on land.  Kaleo spent the day quietly anchored while we explored and soaked in almost every inch of Clearwater Beach as well as the neighboring towns of Dunedin and Tarpon Springs.

Kaleo resting at anchor

“Bubble and Squeak” (our dinghy and motor) quickly propelled us from our anchored floating home to the city docks within a short walk to try out the highly recommended, original Frenchy’s Cafe for lunch. Patio dining in t-shirts were topped with Prince Edward Island steamed mussels, fries and sangria for me, Baja Grouper tacos, coleslaw and Rolling Rock for Matt. What a way to start the day!

Within a block, we were digging our toes into the fluffiest, sugar sand we’ve ever felt! Yet. For the next few hours we played and lounged, taking in the serene sights and gentle sounds of a relatively secluded beach on a Friday before Christmas. We can’t think of a better way to have beat the holiday chaos.

Jolley Trolleying

Next up, we hopped aboard the Jolley Trolley and were whisked about town, stopping off to experience the street fair on Pier 60 and were convinced that we should check out Tarpon Springs for an authentic Greek dinner that night. Authentic Greek in Florida? While we were a little suspect of such authenticity, we were up for an extended Christmas lights tour aboard the trolley so we went for it. And so glad we did! We stepped off the Jolley Trolley in Tarpon Springs and into a genuine Greek community, ambushed by aromas of Souvlaki and Baklava just waiting for us.  Considered the sponge capital of the world, the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs brought Greek Spongers in 1905 and is still a working port with sponge and fishing boats, shops and incredible Greek dining. We’re sure glad they came! We wandered about for awhile taking in some of the history and ventured down a side street where the inviting windows of Costa’s Restaurant called us in. There we enjoyed our fill of hummus, pita, Greek salads, Spanakopita, Souvlaki, and of course, more sangria.

The Tarpon Springs Sponge Boat

Were we done? Of course not. You can’t fully appreciate Greek cuisine without diving into their rich, buttery pastries so we walked back down the main street to the must-stop of Hella’s Bakery where we sipped cappuccinos and split a Saragli (walnuts rolled in filo and dipped in honey). Ahhh, we have truly lived today!

With rain in tomorrow’s forecast, we plan to stay on the hook, order some parts to be shipped before Christmas, go for a run and if the weather clears, check out the outdoor movie at the beach near Pier 60.

N 27° 58.59 / W 82° 49.29
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Carrabelle to Clearwater Passage

The past few days have been spent waiting out a cold front at C-Quarters Marina in Carrabelle, FL. We spent most of the time staying warm, doing some housecleaning, running  few errands and checking the weather to plan our next long offshore crossing. A highlight one evening was getting to catch up with our good friends, The Powers.

It looks calm here but coming in to C-Quarters Marina it took eight people, each with a line, and three tries to wrangle Kaleo into the slip as we fought against 35 mph winds and 2 knots of river currentSkyping with the Powers

Our Spot Tracker route from Carrabelle to Clearwater

The forecast was iffy and the weather window short but after a talk with some cruising mentors, and knowing the next window was over a week away, we decided to go for it. While most of the time was spent motoring as the wind was on our nose, it turned out to be a relatively calm and easy passage.

  • 150 – nautical miles traveled in 30 hours
  • 35 – miles offshore at the farthest
  • 10 – average knots of wind with 1 to 2 foot seas
  • 2 – distinctively inspiring books absorbed, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi and The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
  • 2 – movies watched on our iPhones, Letters to God and Bobby
  • 0 – land in sight at 360° around us
  • 1 – powerful bible verse shared with us by friends and fellow cruisers, The Claytons, that brought a great amount of security and peace, Numbers 6:24-26. Thank you!

We were reminded that being out at sea is actually more peaceful than sailing near shore or in channels like the ICW. When offshore, the boat basically handles itself and we each take turns on watch, routinely checking the horizon, course and instruments. When closer to land, we have to be constantly vigilant for hazards such as other boaters, floating debris, shoaling, crab traps, and missing or incorrectly marked navigation aids.

One of two magnificent sunsets on this passage

Open waters of the Gulf as we neared Clearwater

Tonight we’re anchored in Clearwater where will spend a few days before moving the boat to Tampa and flying to Texas to spend Christmas with family and friends.

N 27°58.54 / W 82°49.30

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Pensacola to Apalachicola Passage

Early Friday morning we set out on a 97 mile offshore passage from Pensacola to Port Saint Joe, FL. Almost 22 hours later, we arrived at the channel entrance a few hours ahead of schedule. Feeling motivated and with favorable conditions, we decided to press on past Port Saint Joe for another 25 miles through the ICW to Apalachicola. There’s a harsh cold front forecast to blow through the area this weekend so we wanted to get as far down the line as possible before being held up by the weather. We’re now tied up to a city dock that’s a little rolly, but coming off the past day’s adventure, we’ll probably sleep though just about anything.

Kaleo cutting through the Gulf

  • It took almost 13 hours to cover just the first 50 miles from Pensacola to Destin because of 17-19 knot winds right on the nose (coming at us) and 3 to 4 foot seas.
  • Just after nightfall, the winds settled to about 12 knots and the seas were nearly flat, helping us to cruise along at 6.5 knots.
  • We enjoyed the most spectacular night sky scattered with dazzling stars burning brighter than we’d ever seen. To top it off, seven shooting stars blazed above us throughout the night.
  • At the farthest, we were about 20 miles offshore.
  • Other than those twinkling stars, the only company we had along the way was one offshore fishing boat and an unidentified object that our hull hit in the night, giving us quite the jolt. (We couldn’t see what it was and there didn’t seem to be any damage but we’ll check it out more thoroughly when we can dive under in clear water.)
  • We took shifts checking the engine’s vitals, the bilge, wind conditions, sail trim and our course while the auto-pilot did most of the steering.
  • If there was a theme for the night, it would be set to the Garden State soundtrack. (Which we both listened to throughout our shifts.)
  • Other than being pretty cold, our first overnight passage of 122 nautical miles was less intimidating than we had imagined and we are grateful for being blessed with a safe trip.

Peaceful seas and a beautiful sunset

We’re off to get some rest and we’ll see what the weather brings in the morning to decide when and where we’ll head next. Ideally, we’d like to make another offshore jump to Clearwater/St. Petersburg/Tampa area once the weather clears. We’re looking forward to possibly catching up with some dear friends there.

N 29° 43.72 / W 84° 58.96

Ahoy Pirate’s Cove

We slept in a bit today knowing that we had just a short hop to cross into Florida and stage for a longer Gulf sail tomorrow.

Talk about hospitality! We discovered a freshly delivered USA Today at our companionway doorstep. Thank you Marina at the Wharf! After breakfast and catching up on all the daily headlines, we fueled up and headed back into the ICW toward “The Sunshine State.” Before we dared to cross the state line, there was a must-stop in Josephine, AL. Pirate’s Cove! Legendary hamburgers, white sandy beach, clear waters, and a mandate to stop by almost everyone we’ve met who knows these waters. It was just as they had described and the only way it could have been better is if they were docked there with us.

Kaleo waiting while we enjoyed lunch

One of the dogs took this photo while our burgers were on the grill

After our fill of burgers and wings, we motored over the Florida state line and into Big Lagoon where we tied up at Lost Key Marina & Yacht Club in Pensacola, FL. (For any cruisers out there, this is a hidden gem, not in the guide books, at $15/nt with power, water, and spacious, well-kept shower facilities.)

It’s off to get some rest now as we prepare for our longest run yet out in the Gulf. We’re planning to shoot out of Pensacola Pass tomorrow morning and sail for about 24 hours straight to Port St. Joe, FL. Yes, mom and dad, we’ll be taking turns between sleeping and sailing so no over-caffeinating will be necessary ;o).

N 30° 19.5 / W 87° 21.3

Crossing a Cold Mobile Bay

Matt’s hands are raw and tingling at their core from puppeteering Kaleo’s lines as she sailed hard across an agitated and arctic Mobile Bay.

Spot Tracker plot of our route from Moss Point, MS to Orange Beach, AL

The day began when we pushed off from the dock a little after 5:30 this morning and made our way back down the Pascagoula River to the mouth of the Mississippi Sound, before sunrise, to resume our route across the Gulf Coast. From there, we set course for Dauphin Island Bridge, the west entrance to the bay.

Kaleo sliced through the remaining Mississippi Sound and with winds building, we began our march toward Mobile Bay with a little trepidation about the conditions that would await us. The metal steering wheel was ice in Matt’s hands with air temperature at its high of 40°, the wind meter reading about 20 knots (23 mph) and with sea water breaking over the bow. But we had come this far and Kaleo was sailing admirably, so we pressed on. Gusts of 25 knots became the norm and then wind continued to build with it blowing up to 27 knots. To meet the ICW entrance on the other side of the bay, we had to change course and the waves starting rolling on the beam (perpendicular to the boat). To ensure that we didn’t have too much sail up for the wind conditions, Matt added a second reef to the main and rolled up the jib completely and she was still cruising along at 7 to 7.5 knots (that’s mighty fast for our sailboat). With a little prayer that the winds hold steady or subside, we sailed on with Matt rotating between checking our course at the wheel and staying out of the wind and sea spray under the dodger.

Midway through the bay we were greeted by dolphins swimming alongside and jumping out of the water just off the port beam. Around 3:30, we sailed into the ICW, the wind dropped and we motored toward our berth for the night at The Marina on the Wharf in Orange Beach, AL. Since we spent most of the day freezing and with temps forecast to be in the low 20’s, we decided to treat ourselves to some shore power heat and a movie at the Wharf theater. This area has been newly built with tons of little shops, bakeries, bars, restaurants and even a gigantic Ferris wheel and movie theater making it quite the treat to walk around.

Other than numb hands and windburned cheeks, Matt said he really enjoying getting to sail Kaleo in those conditions. We look forward to getting a warm night’s rest and crossing into Florida tomorrow!

N 30° 16.76 / W 87° 41.00

Inside Our Home

We had some down time while staying warm today and thought we’d share an inside tour of our little floating home. Kaleo has a salon (living/dining room), galley (kitchen), head (bathroom with hot water shower), v-berth and quarter berth (bedrooms) although our quarter berth has been converted into our garage, navigation station (home office), and a cockpit and deck (patios). There are several book nooks on board with the main one being tucked behind the fold-down salon table. Kaleo also has a ton of storage space in virtually every nook and cranny of the hull which helps keep the living spaces more organized. Ah, and there’s our trusty infirmary (Adventure Medical Marine 1000) tucked above our closet if needed. We even have a water car (dinghy) that resides on deck when we’re not using it. Welcome to our humble abode.

Entrance view of the salon and galley from the companionway (front door)

Inside the salon with hallway to the head and v-berth

The galley with refrigerator in the countertop cabinet on left and a pantry in the countertop cabinet on right

The v-berth

View of the galley, navigation station and companionway from the salon

Ice Cream Monday

Today was all sunshine, yet a brisk 34° as we spent most of the day keeping warm with a mega migas breakfast, laying down a couple coats of varnish to the coaming tops, some housecleaning (how does a boat get so dusty in just a day or two!?), and looking forward to plans with our new friend and fellow sailor, Dick.

We really enjoyed and appreciated him taking the time to point out some anchoring and route alternatives for the next leg of our journey, being treated to shrimp po-boys at Bozo’s and walking up to get ice-cream cones at Edd’s Drive-In. After treats at Edd’s, we were introduced to some favorite, local ham while picking up a few groceries (Matt’s looking forward to lunch tomorrow!). Throughout the evening, we learned more about the history of Pascagoula and enjoyed hearing stories of him growing up in the area. It really does make such a meaningful difference to connect with new friends in places that could have been just another pin in the map along our route. Thanks again, Dick!

Walking up for ice cream at Edd’s

Tomorrow we plan to get the boat prepared as we’re hoping to untie from the dock early Wednesday morning. Though it will still be quite cold, it’s forecasted to have lighter winds making for better conditions to cross Mobile Bay.

Dick and Matt going over charts for the Mobile Bay crossing

Category: Boat Life, Cruising, Friends, Mississippi  Tags: , , ,  Comments off
Warm Spirits in Cold Winds

Kaleo is tied to a marina dock in Moss Point, MS (near Pascagoula) with the cold North wind blustering about outside. Despite needing to wait out the weather once again, the engine seems to be up and running and we’re ready to keep sailing toward warmer waters as soon as the cold front passes.

Aboard s/v Blue Dolphin (Thanks for this & many more great photos, Dick)

Yesterday, after an early morning start on finishing up the sea water pump repair and changing the oil one more time (our 7th oil change in a month!), the engine roared to life and ran smoothly for about an hour under load (meaning the engine was running in gear but we were tied to the dock to keep us from moving), satisfying Matt’s repair test.

Weather and engine issues are driving us into marinas with slip fees slowly chewing into our cruising spending plan more than we’d like. Other cruisers reassured us that they too were forced to use marinas more in the gulf of Mexico because there is so much open water to transit (i.e. fewer protected winter anchorages).

In the afternoon, we met some fellow sailors on the dock and asked them about other possible places we might tie up or anchor in the area. After a quick discussion, one of them offered to drive us to a channel that would offer great protection from the coming winds. Dick, not only drove us there and helped us figure out the best way to tie up but also was kind enough to give a tour of the town. He also took us to his marina, showed us his unique and beautiful french-designed sailboat and many of the photos he has taken of his sailing and cruising experiences in the areas we are heading toward, giving us so much to look forward to.

We returned to the boat for a warming lunch and saw how the decorations for the evening’s Christmas by the River boat parade were coming along aboard s/v Blue Dolphin, owned by one of Dick’s friends. Matt triple checked his engine repair and started cleaning up the boat, when Dick stopped by to pass along an invite to join the crew for the parade. To which we quickly said YES, thank you.

The Christmas Crew aboard s/v Blue Dolphin

An hour later we were cruising the river with a stampede of boats each lit up like the Griswold’s house. We spent a little time getting to know everyone on board while waiting for the parade to start and in our matching blue shirts, began practicing “the routine” in prep for passing the judging booth. After wishing the Merriest of Christmas’ to the crowd and judges, we tied up at the city dock in perfect timing for the spectacular fireworks show exploding from the sky less than 100 yards away. Though Blue Dolphin didn’t win first place, she was the best looking boat on the water and her crew were a delight to spend the evening with.

With temperatures forecast in the low 30’s tonight, we’re going to stay tied up at the marina to take advantage of all the amenities (complimentary laundry, shore power to run our on board heater and probably pizza delivery ;o). We are coming to peace with the cost and enjoying the places that we’re getting to visit along the way.

Tough Day, Looking Forward to Tomorrow

Thursday started with an eager 5:00 a.m. wake up to get back underway in hopes of making it to our next anchorage off Dauphin Island, AL.  It didn’t take too long for us to know that the tide had left us in the night as we could see UP to the dock we were tied to in the harbor (while the night before, we were stepping down to it). We took advantage of the time by going back to sleep for a bit, enjoying a great brunch aboard, and getting in some housecleaning.

Once the tide released us from the harbor around noon, we made great progress under full sails on a beautifully sunny day. With only about four hours of daylight left, we decided to anchor off Horn Island inside the Mississippi Sound. A pristine island but very rolly anchorage made for a restless night. We’re still getting used to the whole waterbed effect.

Horn Island, MS

Around 9:00 p.m., we noticed the bilge pump was running more often than normal. Matt went to check it out and discovered a drip, drip, drip from the raw water pump. After tightening a loose screw the drip ceased and we assumed all was well. Since he already had the engine bay open, he decided to go ahead and check the oil then to save a little time on the next morning’s prep routine. It was then that he discovered that our engine crank case was FULL of water. And I mean full. Like a couple healthy gallons full. Ehem, that’s. not. good. at. all.

A quick taste test (eww) revealed that it was salt water which made it even harder to diagnose. We were baffled at how salt water could have gotten into the crank case. After reading the engine manual and a couple reference books (How To Be Your Own Diesel Mechanic, etc.), we narrowed the issue down to the raw water pump seal. We sent off a few “our situation” emails asking for advice and went to bed with plans to call our diesel mechanic (thanks Russell!) first thing the next morning.

Well, that leads us to today. Goooooood morning! The calls started at 6:30 a.m. For the next several hours Matt swapped calls and began taking apart the pump. We decided to play it safe and call for a tow to River City Harbor Marina rather than risk further issues by running a faulty engine. Also, while we had all the necessary parts and know-how  onboard (thanks Matt!), we needed a tool that wasn’t (bearing press or vice). After calling the tow boat at 7:00 a.m., he finally showed up a little after noon from being trapped in his bayou with low tide. Within those five hours, it felt as if the weight of all the engine issues, running agrounds, and general lifestyle changes started to bear down on us (well, me more than Matt but when one crew is down, the whole boat gets down). This became our most trying and disheartening day yet.

After a looooong tow in, we docked safely and with equally long hot showers, we took some time to decompress. We are going to sleep tonight with intentions of resetting in the morning and pray that we have renewed enthusiasm for this adventure. And also for an easy solve and repair in the morning.

Kaleo under tow

At the end of the day we have a tremendous amount to be grateful for, not the least of which are great people who offered to come tow us (thanks Gene), talked us through engine issues (thanks Rusty, Mike and Steve) and offered encouragement to keep our spirits up (thanks Linda, Mom, Jeph and Janay). Good night.
N 30° 24.8 / W 88° 32.0
Family Fun & Exploring Ocean Springs

The past week has been FILLED with everything from giving thanks with family and feasting on all our favorite holiday dishes to exploring and enjoying almost every nook and corner of Ocean Springs, MS.

Here are some highlights:

  • Made a rental car road trip back to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with family

Louisiana marsh from the road

Thanksgiving dinner at Nana’s

  • Decided to spend a few extra days there to help Christie’s mom and Nana put up Christmas decorations, run some errands, and just relax with loved ones

Mom and I putting out the Christmas lights

  • With our rental loaded down with fresh foods, Thanksgiving leftovers! and other provisions, we returned to Ocean Springs with a cold front right on our tail
  • While waiting for the weather to pass, our marina neighbor, and new friend Gene, was generous enough to play tour guide and took us exploring all over Ocean Springs, Biloxi, and D’Iberville
  • We were introduced to the BEST shrimp and crab po-boys along the Gulf Coast at Ole Biloxi Schooner (a local fav and now ours!)
  • Picked up Gene’s favorite baguettes at Le Bakery (with the air smelling so amazing that you could taste the french bread and pastries)
  • Took a tour of Back Bay and learned all about the damage and reconstruction since Hurricane Katrina
  • Received three Mississippi seafood recipe books as an early Christmas present from Gene (thanks!)
  • Stopped by the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (fascinating character, incredible depictions of nature)
  • Had Gene over for dinner and reviewed the next leg of our route through Florida on the charts he’s lending us (thanks for all the advice and tips!)

We love this beach

  • Meandered all over town, stopping along the way to enjoy a good old fashioned buttered pecan milkshake at Lovelace Drugstore on Washington Street (Ocean Spring’s “Main Street”), picked up pecans that had fallen from neighborhood trees (we must have at least 3 lbs onboard), and played at the beach.
  • Discovered that the first restaurant we dined at in the marina, Harbor Landing, had closed. We heard they were selling to the city for office space but we are hoping someone reopens it for others to enjoy. It was a gem along our route.

Some pretty tasty milkshakes and malts are made here

Ultimately, we learned that connecting with friendly folks like Gene are what makes the difference between just being tourists in a new place and truly becoming part of the community for a little while. We have so enjoyed this charming town and are grateful to have spent some extended time here. Tomorrow, we untie from our slip and get back underway toward our next anchorage at Daulphin Island, AL.

Giving Thanks

In all aspects of our life, we are blessed beyond measure and are deeply humbled by the life the Lord has created for us.

Specifically, we’re thankful for:

  • Our salvation and for each new day that God allows us to become better Christians
  • A sound marriage that’s growing even stronger by the day
  • The time we’ve been given on this adventure to learn more about each other and experience the world around us
  • For starting a new Thanksgiving tradition of reading Psalm 107 to anchor us in true appreciation
  • Our AMAZING family who are so much fun to be around, have taught us kindness, love and generosity, and who lift us up daily to reach our dreams
  • Our close friends that we consider family
  • Modern technology that helps us stay connected with our loved ones
  • Our careers that have helped provide for this dream and for Mvelopes for helping us manage those finances
  • The challenges and trials that force us to become more God and self-reliant
  • Psalm 91 and the peace it provides (Thanks, Marli)
  • The inner diesel mechanic in all of our friends
  • Fellow cruisers out there – past, present, and future – that we are learning from and being inspired by
  • For all of you, for joining us as virtual crew along this journey and for your uplifting encouragement and well wishes. Wishing you many blessings today and always.
Adoring Ocean Springs, MS

We’re spending a few days in Ocean Springs to get ahead on a couple boat projects, wait out some weather blowing through, and to take a roadtrip back to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with our family. While here, we’ve had the chance to explore the town and absolutely love its character and charm in the quaint small town atmosphere, white sandy beaches and genuinely gracious and kind neighbors.

In between traversing about town, we’ve:

  • Replaced a few port (window) screens and seals
  • Polished all the crazed ports (scuffed and oxidized windows that needed some love to become clear again)
  • Started revarnishing the coaming tops
  • Got a personal visit from our diesel mechanic, who happened to be passing through town, to inspect the engine and put our minds at ease (completely a God thing!)
  • Did a little maintenance on the head plumbing (completely a Matt thing!)
  • Took advantage of our beautiful surroundings to get in some evening jogs and walks
  • Spent some time with a fascinating group of a few gentlemen who gather each evening on the harbor docks to talk about all things boating. They have a wealth of knowledge to share and we appreciated them making us feel at home in their group and for keeping an eye on Kaleo while we’re away.
  • Been the recipients of a ton of blessings by people willing to go out of their way to help and encourage us along our journey.

N 30° 24.15 / W 88° 49.45

We’re in Mississippi

We’ve spent the past few days motoring from New Orleans to Rabbit Island, Rabbit Island to Cat Island (no, didn’t see or hear either creature out there), Cat Island to our current tie up in Ocean Springs, MS. Three relatively easy days with great weather, other than a little fog before leaving Rabbit Island.

New Orleans to Rabbit Island

Secluded Rabbit Island anchorage

Rabbit Island to Cat Island

We were greeted this morning with a thick fog that reduced visibility to about 100 feet. That was a no-go for the first couple hours so we took advantage of the time to leisurely enjoy some breakfast and reading. By about 10:00 a.m., the fog lifted and we were on our way to our anchorage for the night at Cat Island. We were treated to some wide open waters of the Mississippi Sound and our first sights of sandy beaches (versus mud banks). A great change of scenery from the narrow channels we’ve been navigating thus far. Once at Cat Island, Christie dropped the hook and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and moonrise in near absolute silence of the glassy Mississippi Sound.

Morning fog at Rabbit Island

Cat Island to Ocean Springs, MS

We pulled the hook up early and headed for Ocean Springs, motoring along with dolphins joining us for much of the way. The jib sail was unfurled for the last couple of miles into the harbor and Kaleo was running at 7 knots with the sail full. Dolphins again playing all around the boat. We cautiously navigated into the harbor as the depth meter told us of ground just inches below the keel. After pulling into the best looking slip we could find, the boat yard manager said we were welcome to stay the night for free as the office wasn’t open until tomorrow. Bonus! Our growling bellies told us it was time for lunch and conveniently enough, the marina had a highly recommended restaurant right above our slip. While dining on meals that lived up to their reputation, we met Norm and Jan, two other full-time cruisers and swapped sailor stories, advice and laughs. The evening wrapped up with an invigorating 6 mile jog/walk along the beach and over the Biloxi Bay Bridge with some local musicians playing bongos next to a large bonfire on the beach.

Taking a break on the Biloxi Bay Bridge

Navigating New Orleans

The day started early as we untied from our dock in Lafitte and made our way back through the Barataria Waterway to rejoin the ICW on our way to New Orleans. We were met with a morning storm passing in the distance along a spectacular sunrise.

As we neared the Port of New Orleans, we could hear and feel a consistent thundering overhead that soon revealed themselves as circling fighter jets. Must have been some training exercise or important activity in the area because we also saw gunships (heavily armed helicopters).

Passing storm and rising sun along the Barataria Waterway

Before getting into the Mississippi River and the city of New Orleans, a series of nautical obstacles must be overcome to be granted access.

First up, the Harvey Lock.

Last night we had thoroughly read up on all the steps and protocol and were feeling confident as we approached. While we were hoping to be the only vessel in the lock (or at least one of a couple), we found ourselves being instructed to jam in alongside a barge and three tugs, on our port side. Our port side?! We were prepared to tie up on our starboard side as all the guidebooks instructed.

After hurriedly switching the bumpers to the other side, Matt slowly maneuvered Kaleo inside the lock and close to the wall where we attached a line to a built-in cleat. After specific instructions to watch for prop wash from the tugs (which could push Kaleo quickly into the wall), we were given our exit order and before we knew it, the water had risen the two feet needed to meet with the river.

The doors on the other end of the locks opened and there it was, the mighty Mississippi River!

Inside the Harvey Lock

Once exiting the Harvey Lock, we had the sight of New Orleans’ skyline in our view. We’ve gone under many bridges so far, but going under the Crescent City Connection was impressive with a clearance of 170 feet.

We passed under the bridge and cruised alongside The Riverwalk, downtown New Orleans, Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral, the river boats along the bank, and the French Quarter.

Approaching the Crescent City Connection

Soon we were at the entrance to the Industrial Lock.

We tried hailing the lockmaster several times with no response as we inched closer to the lock entrance. When we heard a number of other tugs hailing the lock without reply from the lockmaster, we knew we were going nowhere fast.

After a few phone calls and two hours later, radio chatter with the lockmaster in attendance commenced. Hearing barge after barge check in, with the latest being at position 19, we were finally answered and granted a position for entering the locks. Luckily, it was position number three and after waiting for one barge to lock across to our side, we entered the Industrial Lock along with one other tug (much roomier than the Harvey Lock).

A couple lines were tossed down from a lock attendant and we secured one to the bow, one to the stern as we snuggled up to the port-side wall. It was then that we learned that the past two hours of radio silence had been caused by an impromptu union meeting of the operators.

The water in the locks dropped a foot and a half around us, the other side of the doors slowly opened and we were on our way. To a bit of anxiety as we could see a lift bridge (not lifted) less than 100 feet away. Again, the bridge operator was MIA as we requested an opening. Finally, after idling to lessen our distance her voice crackled through the VHF to ask where we were and when we needed it opened. Here and now.

This is really starting to feel like an unforgiving game of frogger out here.

Next up, the Florida Avenue Railroad Lift Bridge. Because of our delay at the previous bridge, this bridge operator let us know we had better get up here as he was lowering this bridge because a train had been waiting to cross for the past five hours. We throttled up to max speed to get through as quickly as possible. Just as we crossed under, the bridge started lowering and moments later we heard the operator announce that it had gotten stuck at 34 feet (pretty much in the middle). We were pretty grateful to have not been stuck between those past two lift bridges for the entire afternoon.

Inside the Industrial Lock

Because we have both already spent time in New Orleans, we had hoped to just pass through to an anchorage further down the ICW for the night. With the delays of the morning, exhaustion from the obstacles, and not enough daylight to reach the anchorage, we decided to stay at a marina close-by at SeaBrook Harbor Marine.

After tying up, we spend the rest of the evening stretching our legs with a great walk around the area, washing down and organizing the boat, checking in on finances via Mvelopes, making dinner and some pretty heavenly pumpkin spice bread with Cranraisins and walnuts.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Rabbit Island with plans to get to Biloxi, MS by Monday or Tuesday for a roadtrip to spend Thanksgiving with family!

N 30° 01.47/ W 90° 01.93

Barataria Waterway

We woke up in Houma this morning to lower tide levels than expected and needed to wench Kaleo out of the mud a bit to get on our way to Lake Salvador to anchor for the night. For the next 37 miles, we motored along for a relatively easy cruising day. Believe it or not, we haven’t tired of the bayou’s beauty as each new day brings a varying landscape of trees, water hyacinth, and wildlife (eagles today!).

Bayou La Fouroche (“La Foosh”)

Lake Salvador turned out to be potentially too shallow to anchor and more exposed than we were comfortable with, so we ventured through the Barataria Waterway (very pretty) to C&M Bayou Fuel & Dock. Although this added another 16 miles to our trip, we decided to chase the daylight for a more secure place to tie up. The sunset alone was more than enough treasure left along the legendary waterway from the infamous pirate, Jean Lafitte. We wrapped up the evening by cooking jambalaya and watching a movie.

Sunset along Barataria Waterway

N 29° 39.37/W 90° 06.55

Category: Cruising, Louisiana  Tags: ,  Comments off
Morgan City and Houma, LA

Hanging out in Morgan City for the day

We took advantage of the rainy day today by catching up on a little rest, finishing some engine work and ran (walked) errands while docked in Morgan City. Here’s how we spent it:

  • Slept in till 8:00 a.m.!
  • Made a mega Migas breakfast
  • Visited with our new friend, Hank the shrimper (incredibly nice guy who went out of his way to help us)
  • Took a sloshy tour around Morgan City to hunt down some Wi-Fi, starting at the library but was a no-go with stationary computers that were too slow and no Wi-Fi. A local library goer turned Morgan City tour guide offered to walk us about two miles to the nearest McDonald’s to try theirs. After meandering the miles in the rain, James, though his friends call him Jimmy, was ready to camp it out with us at Micky D’s (and aboard Kaleo had we let him) so we bought our new friend, Jimmy, a soda and tried to get going on catching up on all things digital. Wha wahhhhh. Faulty internet at Ronald’s house. We gave in and pulled out our Hilton Honors card and walked next door to relax in the less greasy aromas of the Hampton Inn lobby to quietly tap into Wi-Fi (all that work travel is starting to pay off).
  • Worked out the kinks in our onboard internet service and are back up and running. Whew!
  • Got a call from our former marina neighbor, Steve, who happened to be passing through Morgan City for work. He stopped by the boat to visit, sign the guest book and let us know about a little treasure of a Cuban restaurant just a few blocks away. We planned to go there for dinner but the restaurant didn’t answer their phone to confirm they were open and it was dropping buckets at dinner time. We opted to stay dry and made dinner at home while watching a LifeChurch.tv service.
  • Received a call from the mechanic we had been working with remotely at about 8 p.m. (surprising as it was after work hours). He was responding to a message left earlier in the day about working the kinks out of our oil pressure issue. Matt stayed up a few hours completing his suggestion, talking with one of his dad’s friends and ended up with a list for the parts store in the morning.

A visit from our former marina neighbor, Steve of s/v Ebb Tide

Tuesday morning came, still cold but without the rain, and Matt began his trek to the parts store. The only one within walking distance didn’t have what he needed and after talking with Hank, it was decided that his wife would drive Matt to the store across town. A short while later Matt was back with the parts, the engine was put back together and the high oil pressure we experienced coming into Morgan City was resolved. Whoo hoooo!

We were back on course to our next destination of Houma (pronounced Home-uh), Louisiana. It turned out to be a gorgeous day with 10-15 knots of wind from a direction our sails could use. We rolled out the jib sail and clocked 6.5 – 7 knots for most of the day. Morgan City to Houma is the most scenic section on the Louisiana GIWW. Majestic cypress trees line the banks, their knee-like roots protruding from the water surface to breathe, and the Spanish moss romantically hangs from tree branches.

Cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss along Wallace Bayou, east of Morgan City, LA

Enjoying the gorgeous day. In my flippie-floppies.

Matt assembling our new shower bench that he and his dad made

We arrived to a wonderfully quaint dock just off the ICW in Houma, tied up and walked to the laundromat (sailors have to wash clothes too).

Docked at the Houma Downtown Marina

After laundry was put away, we set out for a date night on the town. Some local joggers led us to discover Café Milano in historic downtown Houma. To say the least, we had a FEAST. (Started with lobster & shrimp bisque and jumbo lump crabmeat in a creamy herb dressing atop fresh avocado garnished with cherry tomatoes and sherry balsamic reduction. Next up were Stuffed Filet, Filet filled with shrimp & crabmeat mornay stuffing, topped with sautéed mushrooms, served with oven-roasted potatoes & sautéed vegetables. Matt had the Pork Chop Belanger – All natural pan-seared Bone-in Pork Loin Chops finished with blackberry demiglace served with a pork confit and sweet potato mousse (BEST EVER), accompanied by sautéed vegetables. Ah, and the bottle of Ausi Pinot Noir and Chocolate Terrine, Frozen chocolate mousse glazed with chocolate ganache, with raspberry, chocolate, white chocolate and passion fruit sauces for dessert). Wow! We might have gone a little overboard (pun intended).

Part of this adventure for us is about new experiences. And at the dinner table, we each committed to a specific promise that would expand our perspectives. We’ve coined them, “Café Milano’s promises” and are holding each other to them as we continue forward. We’ll reveal them as they’re kept. As you can see, we had plenty of time to pontificate through the dinner courses.

We enjoyed (and needed) the brisk walk back to our floating home, took showers (loving the hot water heater!) and fell asleep with a full and restful day behind us. It’s back on the waterway tomorrow to Lake Salvador for the night and then on to New Orleans and beyond.

N 29° 34.88/ W 90° 43.03

Week 1 Wrap-Up
It’s been an eventful first week of cruising. As we start to adapt to this new lifestyle, here are some highlights from the past 7 days.
  • 235 miles traveled
  • 3.5 nights spent on the hook (anchored)
  • 3.5 nights docked (the .5’s represent our first night where we were half anchored, half tied to a dock at Stingaree’s)
  • 6 fixed bridges and 1 lift bridge passed under and 2 pontoon bridges passed across
  • 2 locks crossed
  • An insane amount of mosquitos killed during their ambush at our marshy anchorage in Taylor’s Bayou (buggy!)
  • 4 times stuck in the soft mud of the ICW
  • 2 times towed off of the soft mud of the ICW
  • 1 gator crossing
  • 2 engine issues (jammed oil pressure relief valve, broken pre-heat solenoid ground)
  • Enough notes and voices of encouragement to keep our spirits up as challenges were overcome
  • 7 spectacular sunsets
  • 7 days we’re grateful for this dream coming to life

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