Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gulf Coast (Nov 1 to 30)

The cold (cold for New Orleans, anyway), windy weather that had greeted us in New Orleans had ended so we started our trip east on a nice, calm day.  Still feeling stuffed, we were looking forward to a few days of anchoring and simple meals on the boat.  This leg of the trip takes us along the Gulf Intra-Coastal Water Way (GICWW), similar to the easter Intra-Coastal Water Way (ICW) in that the water way runs mainly behind barrier islands, with occasional inlets that join to the Gulf.  Crossing those inlets can sometimes be tricky, depending on the size of the opening, the wind and the currents.  But we had a good day, enjoying the radio chatter that had been nearly non-existent on the Mississippi except for the tows negotiating passes.
Everything was going so well, and the winds were so calm, that after a 10 hour cruising day, Joe didn't even go looking for some well protected place to anchor.  We just pulled off the channel near Biloxi in the Mississippi Sound and dropped the anchor.  As we went to bed we noticed that we seemed to be feeling quite a bit of motion from the waves.  As the night went on, it just seemed to get worse.  Evidently, the winds and tide change - and our location near an inlet - were all wrong.  Instead of being gently rocked to sleep, we were tossed to sorta sleep. The anchor held and we certainly were in no danger - but we didn't get a whole lot of sleep either!
We started out the next morning thinking it would be another nice day.  Shortly after we'd started out, thought, dense fog closed in.  Really dense fog.  One of the thrills of cruising in the fall.  Thankfully, the AIS and radar were both functioning, so we felt our way along for a couple of hours before the sun finally broke through.  At the end of another 10 hour day, we anchored in a well protected bayou near Pensacola and had a good night's sleep.
The next day was to be a short one, but exciting.  The Blue Angels, again, were putting on a show to welcome us back.  There were boats everywhere jockeying for position to watch what they thought was the Blue Angels annual homecoming show, but we knew the truth.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying the day, except maybe the tow operators as they tried to push there loads along the channel without running into any of the pleasure boats that were darting in and out.
After a few hours, we arrived at our canal near Pensacola, and tied up behind our house.
In October, we had contacted our realtor and decided to put the house up for sale.  We'd had it rented for more than two years and really didn't foresee living there in the future.  Our current tenant had not been cooperative with the realtors, so we'd given him notice and when we arrived the house was empty - and also under contract.  The contract negotiations had started the day after the house went on the market and taken place while we were on the Mississippi with only sporadic cell service.
So by the time we arrived, all the sticking points had been worked out - or so we thought - and we had a short list of minor repairs to take care of.  We also had stuff that we had left stored in the attic, garage and shed to deal with, but we had a month until settlement.
One winter Joe had planted fruit trees - key lime, lemon and satsuma oranges.  The poor satsuma tree was bending to the ground under the weight of its delicious fruit.  Family and friends helped us unload the branches and we managed to get three pies from the key lime tree.  We'll miss the fruit.
After almost three weeks, Joe had given up many treasures and managed to wedge the rest of them into our 10 x 15 storage unit.  Hard to believe you can fit virtually a whole household in that amount of space.  Even at that, though, there's lots of stuff packed away in there that we probably shouldn't have kept.
The repairs had been going well, with a few bumps along the way from our buyer who seemed to be making some unrealistic demands.  A junction box in the attic that needed a cover plate could not be taken care of by Joe - it had to be done by a "professional" electrician.  The breakers that the electrician said were fine (the problem had been an overloaded circuit,which he took care of), had to be replaced anyway.  But that's okay, we'd taken care of everything to her satisfaction and even taken care of some things that weren't on the list.  By Thanksgiving all that remained was a repair to the gas cooktop.
Joe had looked at it - when you turned the switch, the igniter didn't click or ignite - and  once again Joe wasn't permited to repair it as the rerpair had to be performed by a "professioal" appliance repair person.  Joe had purchased the igniter module - which had arrived in two days.  The tech found that the transformer was also bad and ordered that.  Unfortunately, he didn't order it from the place Joe had gotten the igniter.  After waiting a week, we asked that they expedite it.  So, the transformer was put in, cooktop re-assembled, switch turned - and smoke came out.  There's only one more part to replace a switch assmebly harness.  So, the "professional" ordered it.
Since we were still in the area, Joe's brother Mike and his wife Bev had invited us for Thanksgiving.  Dinner at Bev's house is always a treat, but we also really enjoyed seeing her family and their friends.  There were about 20 of us, three turkeys and enough sides to feed an army.  So we were stuffed again, but what a pleasant day we had.
The next day it was back to reality.  The part for the cooktop had not arrived - would not even ship until the next week that after being told that it had already shipped! Our settlement had been moved up to Nov 30, the following Friday so this delay was  a problem.  We fired that repairman and Joe's brother Mike took over the logistics of the repair with a new professional company.  We were anxious to take advantage of an upcoming weather window to cross the gulf.
So by noon, Carolyn Ann was making her way down the canal - probably for the last time - and out into the sound.  We stopped in Fort Walton that night to take on fuel.  We could see Lazy Dolphin in a slip at the marina but, unfortunately, Randy and Barb had gone to Georgia for Thanksgiving and would not return until the next night.  We were really missing them as traveling companions!
The following day we moved to Panama City to be ready for an early start out the pass there into the gulf.  Joe checked the weather that night, and again the next morning.  It looked like we would start out with some uncomfortable wave action - 2' to 3' waves were predicted - but after a few hours, the conditions should get better.  We decided to try it, knowing we could come back in and wait until the next day if it was too rough.  The problem with waiting was that the good weather wasn't going to last too long and we didn't want to have it go bad on us once we were already out there.  So off we went, emailing several family and friends that we were on our way and our SPOT would be tracking our progress.  It was a bit rougher than expected and didn't calm down as early as expected, but it wasn't a horrible crossing.  Around midnight the seas flattened out and most of the night we had a nice bright, almost full moon.
 All in all, the trip was boring - just the way we like it.  Right around noon the next day I noticed that my phone was blinking.  That meant we were back in cell range and I had email waiting.  Sorting through all the cyber-Monday ads, I found a message from our son John.  He said the SPOT had stopped tracking at 8am and asked if he should call the coast guard.  Joe had just realized that the SPOT batteries had died - that thing goes through some batteries.  I emailed John that all was well.  He had checked the weather and seen that it was fine, considered the fact that SPOT was not our only emergency notifier, and called the SPOT people who told him the batteries often go dead.  And since we weren't due to be there yet, he held off calling the coast guard.  Nice to know he was thinking of us, though.
Shortly after 3pm Monday we arrived at the Club at Treasure Island.  We'd spent the past two winters here and really like the facility - I especially like the large, heated pool.  But they are now not allowing people to stay on their boats more than 72 hrs at a time, so we'd found a new place for this winter.  We did want to stop for a couple of days and visit the friends we've made there.
After two days, we moved to downtown St. Petersburg's Municipal Marina.  We had to wedge Carolyn Ann into the slip, but she seems pretty comfortable.
The great thing about this location is that we are right downtown with all the restaurants, museums, and - most importantly - our son, daughter-in-law and grandson.  We're looking forward to the next three months with them, and in January, Alex will have a little brother!
November 30, settlement day on the house, turned out to be filled with drama as the cooktop had not been repaired, although we had an estimate from a GE technician.  Per our contract we offered to put the repair money in escrow; the buyer wanted to delay settlement; her lender said no way; various new papers were signed and resigned over the internet.  After spending 3 1/2 hours in the settlement conference room our agent called and said it was done.  So now we are houseless, but certainly not homeless!
We plan to stay in St. Pete for about three months and then...we'll let you know.

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