Crossing the Gulf!

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Crossing the Gulf to Clearwater Beach is a 165 mile journey from Carrabelle.  It will take us about 80 miles away from shore…out of reach of radio and cell phone contact.  I’ve planned this for a while, and have been waiting for an opening when the seas as supposed to be rather calm.

We’ve rented a satellite phone to communicate in case of a problem

Our maximum speed is 24 mph, which would take us a minimum of 8 hours, considering a slower pace will be needed at both ends of the trip.   To give ourselves maximum opportunity, we planned to leave a half-hour before sunrise.

The seas in the Gulf can become quite treacherous.  Many boaters wanting to make “The Crossing” rely primarily on the advice of Tom Conrad, who writes a daily blog on the topic.  He posts every morning before sunrise.  Here’s what he has to say today:

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In addition, I checked the NOAA marine weather forecast:

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Dense fog at 7am, but we had enough visibility to navigate a mile down the river and into open water.

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Here we go!

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We used radar and our chart plotter to “see” where we were going.  We always felt safe and in control. We didn’t see another object on the radar until we were within 2 miles of Clearwater Beach.

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Our chart plotter provides good info on our status and location. Here, it shows we’re traveling at 22.8mph, in waters that are 84 feet deep, 116 miles from our destination, with an expected arrival time at 2:43pm. It shows we are slightly off course, 3 miles to the right of the line we started on. It shows we should be on a heading of 142 degrees to hit our target, and we are currently traveling on a course of 143 degrees.

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Seas were fairly calm like this most of the way. Started out 2-3 feet, and got smoother as the day went on.

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Twin diesel engines, each with 460hp, move a lot of water.

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A great way to spend time with brother Curt!  We solved a most of the world’s problems.

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After traveling eight hours in the fog, we finally saw something on the horizon! It was weird!!
Highrise condos on Clearwater Beach, rising above the fog.  We were exactly on course for the sea buoy we were aiming for.

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We navigated to the Clearwater Municipal marina with plenty of daylight to spare.  At the gas dock, we talked to a professional boat captain who had also traveled from Carrabelle today, delivering a new boat to its owner.  He had been about an hour behind us the whole way. He told us he’d made more than 200 Gulf crossings, and said today was the first time he had ever seen fog coast-to-coast.

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