Sail St Louis
Promoting sailing at Alton pool on the Mississippi
Adventures aboard the SV Mardi Gras
February 15, 2020
Hello St Louis!
I have been a boater on the river for 40 plus years enjoying it as much as the next river rat. But I had a wanderlust for sailing to tropical islands in a warm climate. I still sail and boat on the river but I have been fortunate to have a sailboat in the southern states that I have been able to spend winters on. She is Mardi Gras and is now 40 years old. She was built very sturdy to survive the rigors of charter boat work in the Virgin Islands. She has carried me safely through 11 years of winter cruises where I didn't always have good weather and flat seas. My crews may have complained about 12 foot seas and a wet cockpit, but Mardi Gras has always carried us through. The cockpit stays dry unless the conditions are extreme.
Last winter, while crossing the Gulf of Mexico, we had a particularly rough night where the wind and wave predictions turned out to be a joke. We still survived and were greeted by two unusual sites when daylight came. The first was to pass within 50 feet of a very new 40 foot trawler drifting along on a sea anchor. So we didn't hit her nor did we see anyone to wave at though I did try to talk to them on the vhf with no answer. Probably sleeping.
The other site was truly remarkable as it was dolphins playing in the waves next to us and sometimes above us. The water was crystal clear and the sea creatures were frolicking along in the big water. My boat is a center cockpit and when you are sitting at the helm your head is about 6 feet above the water it is floating in. The waves were following but on our port quarter and quite often you could look up and see the tops of the waves as high as 10 feet above the
boat before the boat was lifted by that wave and it continued on under us. It was a much more entertaining ride than any roller coaster!
Yes, sometimes it is exciting to sail with me and more often it is boring. Mile after mile at 5 mph
seeing nothing but water. But then you see something on the horizon and you are nearing your next landing. It's very, very satisfying and everything I had hoped it would be. The sunsets and sunrises, the other cruisers you meet and become friends with make it that much more fulfilling. Then of course there is the repairing your boat in tropical locations that add to the enjoyment! I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
Today I find myself on a different type of winter cruise in Key West FL. I am in a marina on Stock Island which is the eastern part of the famous southernmost point of the US. There are pools and restaurants and I can order up any boat parts I need from Amazon or whoever and UPS will deliver it here. What a concept! In the Bahamas when I needed a part there was a long wait, lots of government red tape and a large shipping bill at the end. Then you have to hope that it is the correct part!
So I am living a life of ease here. Judy and I get to choose if we go to the pool or walk to the West Marine, or take the shuttle bus to Mallory Square. When downtown you have to decide between Sloppy Joes or Tony's and a hundred other less known watering holes for a good time.
What a great town this is!
I have been through here on Mardi Gras a number of times but I have always anchored out. Being in a marina is much easier for these old bones of mine. Being in the marina also introduced me to Air B and B on a boat. There are quite a few boats here that are being rented out by the night for people to sleep on and in some cases they are also crewed by the companies that manage them to take them out for boat rides or snorkeling. These boats are usually owned by an absent owner who arranges with a company to clean, service and manage the renting out of the boat to the public. The company that manages the boats near me have a large fleet of these boats and seem to keep them rented out nearly every night.
The one nite stay for these boats runs from a low of 80 for a small boat for one couple to 250 or 300 per couple for a large catamaran that requires double occupancy. I really like the concept. People get to stay on a boat and see what that is like. The boat owner gets a few bucks back on his investment but more importantly the boat is kept clean and serviced by a professional crew. It's a real win win.
This morning dawned cloudy but in the low 70s. I think the St louis temp is in the teens. Sorry folks!
I took a walk on the docks this morning down to millionaire row. Judy and I took a dinghy ride yesterday by a beautiful sailboat there that really caught our attention. She is Cabochon. She is at least 85 ft long by 20 wide. Teak decks with furlers powered by hydraulics. A drop down transom for access to your tender. The mast is at least 100 ft with four spreaders. Each spreader is equipped with lights shinning upward and the site is striking. The picture is below
along with pictures taken later this morning. Friends are going to be joining us soon and I will update you on our activities.
So long for now. Barry and Judy
Check out sailstlouis.com to read of our sailing adventures.
February 8, 2020
As usual I am late in doing the paper work. I have been on Mardi Gras for 6 weeks and have finally set down to write about the cruise. I hope and expect that my friends back in the frozen tundra of St Louis will find amusement and gain relief from the cold and ice as a result of reading these tropical words.Here goes. I left home first to get away from it and secondly to enjoy a change in temp from Midwest winter to tropical weather. The getting away from refers to my home in Portage that has been raised 8 feet to get it away from the next flood. The interior is basically gutted and I figured that could wait till springtime to bring it back to life. Well, tropical weather sometimes features high winds and rain and when it's raining and blowing 30 with the temp in the 40s it's not fun. I doubt I will get much sympathy from you folks trapped in the snow and ice but I find myself asking, where is this global warming everyone is talking about. The above mentioned tropical weather was happening in Fort Pierce FL which I left two weeks ago. I'm in Key West now and the wind and rain still applies but the temp hardly ever
drops below 60.
Mardi Gras suffered damage from a lightning strike. It didn't hit the mast but probably near the boat and some of the electronics were damaged. Since I changed my travel plans to stay in the states, the damaged instruments were not needed on this trip. Other than that there was normal maintenance to perform before we could leave and just to be in Florida and away from my damaged house was a relief.
Some of you remember Ragtime, the Endeavour owned by the Morrisons. Will she is in Fort Pierce now and I have become good friends with Phil, her owner. She is renamed Solstice now and getting major improvements. He intends to go a cruising when he gets her finished. I spent some nice time with Phil and the other neighbors on the dock in Fort Pierce.
Judy flew in and joined me in early January and has been a big help in getting Mardi Gras ready to go. Before she arrived I was able to meet Tyler, Kim and Wes Mitchel along with Bill and Ann Chase at a restaurant near Lighthouse point. It was a fun night. Those of you that know Tyler and Wes can just imagine getting them together with Bill and Ann. It was like being in a front row seat at the comedy club.
On January 26 we left Fort Pierce going down the ICW to Palm Beach where we anchored for the night. The next morning we headed out and found the sea uncooperative. The wind and seas were dead on the nose and rising so we turned back and went down the intercoastal instead. For a boat without a mast that's one thing. For us it meant 29 bridges to wait to open which took two days. But there was a silver lining. On Tuesday night we were able to get into Coral Ridge Yacht club in Fort Lauderdale and have dinner with Bill And Ann again who drove up from their boat Heartland in Hollywood. Heartland is the former Dragonet and since Bill was transferee down here they moved her to the Hollywood City Marina which is a close commute for Bill to the airport. They are busy putting the finishing touches to her instruments and gear for get this, to go sailing! Remember that they bought her three years ago and she hasn't had a mast up till now. But she is being expertly fitted out and I'm sure will go a cruising soon.
Wednesday morning early found Judy and I clearing the last bridge and heading out into the Atlantic with the weather much more favorable. We had an uneventful day until we were preparing to anchor at Rodriguez key. We were aware of a weather change and boy did it change. A squall with high winds and lots of rain hit just as we were getting ready to drop anchor. It passed quickly and except for being soaked there was no problem. Thursday morning found us up and moving on to Marathon where we docked at Marathon Marina. Favorable winds allowed us to sail for a while Friday morning while we had to motor most of the trip. We pulled
into Stock Island Marina Village about 2:30 Friday afternoon. We fueled up first then moved to our dock. We have nice neighbors and an easy walk to the pools, showers and restaurant. The marina offers hourly shuttle bus service to Key West, the grocery and anything else you may need so it is a nice place to stay. The neighbors also include a number of boats that are set up as Air BNB boats. Ill talk about that later. That's all for now. Barry and Judy on Mardi Gras
February 6, 2010
While finishing the next to final leg of our 2019 trip to George Town, I wondered at my lack of worry about flying over the Bahamas flats in south Exhumas in pitch black darkness.
The flats are vast and except for obstacles such as coral heads and old but well charted navigational aids, it is as wide open as the night sky. What I mean is that when you are on the flats and you have a gps with a chart in it that shows your exact location, you can take off at full speed to your desired destination without much worry. That is as long as you have a lookout posted who is constantly scanning the horizon for lights that could be a boat or a landfall.
I used to fly small planes and night flying, once you got used to it, gave a better sense of security to me than daytime flying. There were fewer planes flying and the ones that were up there had lights on that made them easy to see. The airports were easier to identify too since they each had an identifying rotating beacon with green and white lights that had a particular sequence to make them identifiable. Night boating is the same. Those enormous ships barges on the river and ocean that put fear into so many of my boating friends, have very particular lighting to aid in their identity.
So here I am tonight, February 6 2019, flying over sand 20 feet below my keel at 6 knots.
I am one day away from my final destination of Georgetown Exhumas Bahamas . I am on watch and have a healthy desire to not run into anything. Most of the time During daylight hours you can scan the water all around you and not see anything but water all the way to the horizon so if I could see anything now besides some distant lights, I would see nothing but water.
Just now at 8:00 in the evening, I can see light off my port bow. They are boats at anchor at Staniel Cay six miles to my east. I am headed to Galiot Cay to anchor there tonight hopefully just after midnight. I prefer to anchor in daylight hours but I feel comfortable going here tonight. There is reason to do it at that hour too. As always here, there is bad weather coming and I want to get into GT before it hits. In addition to that, I have been looking forward to getting back to Georgetown for 4 years which was when I was last here.
In my opinion, For a cruiser, Georgetown provides the ultimate tropical cruising experience. The water is crystal clear with shells and fish, dolphins and sting rays easily visible. The beaches are beautiful, the water is warm and the panoramic sunrises and sunsets are the best you will ever witness. But to add to the experience are the people. The cruiser comes from all professions and some even lack a profession except to cruise. But most are like me, a retired guy trying to experience some of the adventure that I had always dreamed of and hadn't been able to accomplish. Some people long to climb a mountain or hike the Appalachian trail. Voyaging to a tropical location is something I had always dreamed of and now I have done it. And all the other cruisers here have also joined that club so we have a natural connection. We help each other, we share meals and sunset cocktail hours. We play volleyball, cards, yoga, chess, checkers and we have special informational get-togethers to find out how to bleed the air from our Diesel engines fuel system or how to make a blowing trumpet from a conch shell. But mostly, we hang out with each other. It is a club of like people, men and women and it is open to anyone who takes the initiative to just go ahead and do it.
I left Portage December 18 and came down to Gulf Shores to get ready to cruise to the Bahamas, and Georgetown specifically.
When I got to the marina which is actually just east of Gulf Shores in Elberta AL the weather was rotten. Rain and cold kept me from pulling Mardi Gras until December 26 but I was prepared and my Christmas lights were up as you will see in the pictures. I have had to learn about what antifouling paints work in salt water and I had brought the best paint I have seen with me. When I pulled the boat out after 3 1/2 years the bottom was great and so she got two fresh coats of the same Blue Water paint. I had experienced some vibration in the shaft since I had damaged the cutlass bearing when I picked up a stainless fishing leader and so I replaced that too. All in all though, having owned Mardi Gras eight years she is in great shape. So it was new paint and cutlass and back in the water.
Now I was back to the more mundane preparations as my crew was to arrive on January 5 to help me move her back to the Bahamas. The Kubota/ Universal diesel runs great but I have had some oil leak issues with her intermittently. I wish it would just leak or not! But more on that later. I have docked Marti Gras at Barber Marina since November 2018 and it is a good place to dock your boat. My good friends and dock mates Pete and Theresa at Barber helped me immensely in every way they could. But happy hours were especially good since Pete is quite the chef.
On January 5 my friends Mike Colligan and Rich Hindrich flew in from St. Louis and Nelson Laffey drove from Gainsville. Nelson crewed for me on my first Gulf crossing 8 years ago. Rich has crewed for my friend Norm Jones on his 43 Irwin and I knew him for the time we cruised together to the Dry Tortugas. Mike and SherryColligan have been preparing their Fisher 30 ketch for cruising and Mike came along to experience blue water sailing.
With last minute preparations completed we pulled out of Barber monday January 7. We motor sailed to Pensacola inlet and out into the Gulf. We headed southeast hugging the coast as we made sure all was well with Mardi Gras. Which it wasn't. After a very uneventful afternoon and evening I noticed oil in the bilge. It appeared that the oil leak had returned . I returned the oil level to full and restarted the engine. It was now early morning of the 8th and we were 40 miles south of Port St Joe, which had been badly damaged in the last hurricane. But I decided better safe than sorry as I only had 8 quarts of oil on board and if the leak got worse we could have problems.
When we got into Port st Joe we had problems raising anyone in the marinas on the radio or phone as they are still in bad shape. There is a canal that links Port S Joe to Appalachiacola and so we headed over there. We got in just before dark and were able to dock and walk a short distance for a nice dinner in a seafood restaurant. Appalachiacola suffered damage but not to the same degree as Por St Joe has.
Mike helped me look over the engine for leaks which we could not find and we bought oil and pulled out of Government cut back into the gulf.
The forecast was for flat water and building wind from the northwest. Just exactly what we wanted to get to Fort Myers.
Ill finish this story later.