Charter Captain for a Day

Living a life that many dream of living, surprisingly, can become quite mundane. One forgets how blessed he is… until reminded by a group of visitors who by their enthusiasm and sense of wonder remind one of what a wonderful life he has. Such was the case today.

Alex, the son of our good friends, Dan and Louise, is getting married on Saturday to his sweetheart from Finland, Jenna. Several weeks ago, we agreed to take the wedding party out for a surprise day sail. Today was the day. Shortly after 9 a.m., eight members of the wedding party, the mother and father of the bride, and the father of the groom made their way aboard Beatitude. With the addition of Cindy and I, that brought our total crew to 13 people, a record for us. (Thanks to Terry, who owns our neighboring boat, for letting us borrow four of their life vests.)

Christy and Cindy before the wedding group arrived.  Christy volunteered to stay in the marina and do our laundry while we took the group out.  Thanks, Christy!

Christy and Cindy before the wedding group arrived. Christy volunteered to stay in the marina and do our laundry while we took the group out. Thanks, Christy!

Gathered in our salon.

Gathered in our salon.

Pre-charter safety briefing.

Pre-charter safety briefing.

We were honored to have such a great group of guests on board for the day. We spent about two hours making the trek to Egmont Key where we anchored for some fun and relaxation. We raised the sails once out into Tampa Bay. This was more for aesthetic reasons than practical ones. We had less than five knots of wind which would have propelled us nowhere much. The intended effect was achieved, however, with the “oohs” and “aahs” which accompanied the raising and unfurling of the sails.

Dan, father of the groom, inspecting the mainsail.

Dan, father of the groom, inspecting the mainsail.

Bride and groom with genoa as backdrop

Bride and groom with genoa as backdrop

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

We hung out at Egmont Key for a couple of hours. Most dinghied ashore for swimming and exploring on the island. I made two taxi runs in our dinghy, carrying up to five passengers on each run. Others swam around the boat while anchored in 12 feet of water. Some made a quick effort at kayaking. Many had fun jumping and diving off our bimini top which is 11-12 feet above the water’s surface.

Discovering how difficult it can be to get up on  kayak from the water.

Discovering how difficult it can be to get up on kayak from the water.

Returning from Egmont with a group of passengers

Returning from Egmont with a group of passengers

I't's a bird, it's a plane, no, it's...

I’t’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s…

Somersaulting off the bimini roof.

Somersaulting off the bimini roof.

Taxi anyone?

Taxi anyone?

Jenna and Alex in Tampa Bay at our anchorage. off Egmont Key.

Jenna and Alex in Tampa Bay at our anchorage. off Egmont Key.

After finishing up at Egmont, we returned home to our slip at Regatta Pointe. I believe genuine fun was had by all. The parents of the bride are missionaries and stated that this was an experience of a lifetime for them. We saw quite a few dolphins (the first time some had ever seem them in the wild), sea turtles, ospreys and other waterbirds. Through their eyes, I was reminded just how special my life is and how “supremely blessed” we are to live in a sailing yacht on the water.

The return trip was an excuse for napping for some.

The return trip was an excuse for napping for some.

The gang's all here (except for Cindy who was the photographer).  Bride and groom complete with Mickey Mouse ears.

The gang’s all here (except for Cindy who was the photographer). Bride and groom complete with Mickey Mouse ears.

Three Days in June

I spent Monday morning redoing the fittings for the new Raycor fuel filter/water separator which I recently installed on our starboard engines (for the third time, and I still think there is an air leak). You may remember that on our last trip, the starboard engine kept dying on us at low rpm’s and idle. (It still did this trip as well). Anyway… Monday afternoon, around 1 o’clock, Cindy guided Beatitude out of our slip and out into the Manatee River for three days away. Cindy’s twin sister, Christy, is visiting with us for a couple of weeks. These three days are the only three we could get away during that time.

Installing the new Raycor Fuel Filter

Installing the new Raycor Fuel Filter

I’ve never had so much as a nibble on my fishing lines trolling behind the boat while on the river or out on Tampa Bay. That changed just before we exited the Manatee River channel. Something hit the line trailing behind the boat on the starboard hull. The usual panic ensued as Cindy took the wheel, Christy scrambled for the net and other fishing equipment, and I hauled in the prize (One of these days, we’ll be ready and organized when we get a fish on the line.) Disappointingly, the prize was not all that great. As I drew it nearer the boat, it became apparent that I had hooked a ray. After bringing it up to the bottom step, I wrestled with it for a few moments attempting to free the hook. The futility of my efforts were soon manifest, so I cut the line and lost another of my favorite lures.

It's a big one!

It’s a big one!

Never mind... It's a ray.

Never mind… It’s a ray.

The marine forecast called for waves of 1-2′ in the Gulf. Rather than take the ICW to our destination, I decided to head out into the Gulf through the Egmont Channel, make a quick jog to the north, and then reenter the ICW through the North Channel. In retrospect, not the best decision. Those 1-2′ waves were 3-4′ waves and rolling directly in from the west. This means that for approximately one hour they were right on our nose. The girls, who were out front sunning on the trampolines, were drenched as water splashed up through them every time the bow would drop from one wave crest into the next trough. Although never in any real danger, Christy did a lot of praying. As soon as we made the turn north, all was well. We did sustain some breakage inside, however, from the violent rises and drops.

Splash Zone!

Splash Zone!

Warning! You will get wet on this ride!

Warning! You will get wet on this ride!

Here is a short video of Cindy and Christy’s “ups and downs”:

It seems that fish never strike when in wide open spaces. This always stresses Cindy out, because she has to hurriedly take the wheel and maneuver the vessel in tight spaces, hoping not to run aground, hit an obstacle, or another vessel. Just before we made our way under the Pinellas Bayway bridge, the rod tip bent and the drag began making noise. We scrambled once again to prepare to land our fish. This battle was short-lived, though, since as soon as I grabbed the rod, my trophy leaped up from the water’s surface and spit out the lure. That would have been a nice one to land.

We motored on into Boca Ciega Bay and dropped our anchor in 9 feet of water not far from the Gulfport dinghy dock. We then dinghied in for dinner at Pia’s Italian Restaurant. This was our second visit, and it was as good as the first. It has a great feel and the food is excellent. By the way, our recent Yamaha outboard motor servicing did wonders. It is so nice not to worry about the dinghy motor starting or dying once started. After returning to the boat, I took 2 out of 3 card games (Christy took the other). We then retired for a good night’s sleep.

Christy on our dinghy ride into Gulfport.

Christy on our dinghy ride into Gulfport.

!BienvenidosĀ”

!BienvenidosĀ”

At Pia's

At Pia’s

The Gulfport Dinghy Dock

The Gulfport Dinghy Dock

The next day, we dinghied into town again for a little shopping. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Gulfport hosts a street bazaar on Tuesday mornings! After lunch at Neptune Grill, we returned to Beatitude and weighed anchor around 1:30 in the afternoon. Around 6:30 we dropped our anchor in our go-to anchorage at the mouth of the Manatee, DeSoto Point. After some grilled corn-on-the-cob and burgers, we all had a good crying session watching Les Miserables (the new one with Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Anne Hathaway). That has got to be one of the greatest movies ever. For me, the third time watching was better than the first.

Me and my bride relaxing on the foredeck

Me and my bride relaxing on the foredeck

Enjoying a cooling off plunge after anchoring at DeSoto Point.

Enjoying a cooling off plunge after anchoring at DeSoto Point.

The bathing beauties

The bathing beauties

Sunset at DeSoto Point

Sunset at DeSoto Point

Today, I awoke to observe the sun rise (a rarity with my schedule) and then took a quick nap on the trampolines. We took a morning dinghy ride into the DeSoto National Memorial Park, returned to the boat, and around 1:30 eased into our marina slip. How nice it is to get away from the rat race and relax on the water for a few days.

Sunrise over Palmetto

Sunrise over Palmetto

Sunrise

Sunrise

Peaceful Morning

Peaceful Morning

A Boat Comes with No Brakes

Imagine you get in your car to go for a ride. But, once you pull out onto the road you notice that the roadway itself is moving beneath you. It may be moving in any direction – back to front, side to side, or from any other angle you can imagine. In order to get to where you want to go you have to take this into account with your steering and speed.

Imagine further that your car has no brakes. The only way to stop your car or to slow it down is to let off the gas and let it roll to a stop on this moving roadway (if possible), or put your car in reverse to bring it to a stop – all the while taking into account the moving roadway beneath you.

Imagine further that, at times, the roadway develops hills and valleys which themselves are moving beneath you. They may come from any possible direction, lifting you up and dropping you down perhaps 20 feet every few seconds, increasing and then decreasing your speed accordingly.

Welcome to life on the water.

Cindy's first excursion into the engine compartment to get information off the fuel filter.

Cindy’s first excursion into the engine compartment to get information off the fuel filter.

It is with this in mind that we have bought our most recent piece of safety equipment – A Seabrake, delivered all the way from Australia. This item belongs in a general class of equipment called drogues. A drogue is a device which is attached to the stern of the boat and used to slow the boat down in a storm and to keep the hull perpendicular to the waves. These are usually deployed in large seas where one is surfing down the waves at high speeds risking a loss of control. Obviously, we hope this is a piece of equipment that we will never have to use.

200 Feet of 5/8" Low-Stretch Polyester Line, 10 Feet of 3/8" Chain, 2 7/16" Shackles, and the Sea Brake.  Rigged per Specifications.

200 Feet of 5/8″ Low-Stretch Polyester Line, 10 Feet of 3/8″ Chain, 2 7/16″ Shackles, and the Sea Brake. Rigged per Specifications.

The Jordan Series Drogue is perhaps the best well-known of these drogues, but at least five times the cost of the Seabrake. It is difficult question to decide how much money to spend for safety equipment which you hope to never use. In the end, after doing as much research as I could, I decided to go with the Seabrake, which you can read more about here. Soon, we’ll have another piece of safety equipment which I’ll tell you about.

This is what the Seabrake looks like opened.

This is what the Seabrake looks like opened.

We also recently replaced our grill which sits on our stern rail. That grill was wonderful. It warmed quickly and reached a high cooking temperature. But, it had seen its better days. It was dirty, ugly, and had rusted through on the bottom. At one point it almost fell off the rail. We bought a bright, new, shiny one on sale and installed it in the place of the old one. Unfortunately, our one cooking experience with it was not fulfilling. It heated slowly and very little. I’m not sure it will last long on Beatitude unless it improves in performance in the near future. Since we use the grill to cook the majority of our meals, a slow and poor-heating grill would be very frustrating.

Old Faithful is Retired. *sniff*

Old Faithful is Retired. *sniff*

Drilling out the Bracket to Accommodate the New Grill.

Drilling out the Bracket to Accommodate the New Grill.

Out with the Old; In with the New

Out with the Old; In with the New

Grilled Corn and Burgers: The first meal on the new grill.

Grilled Corn and Burgers: The first meal on the new grill.

Until next time…