New Johnsonville, TN to Marathon, FL

October and November 2011


Oct 6,2011
 Today is the day to move aboard the boat in preparation for the trip south. There are many items that need attention before I can actually get underway and the most pressing  is the leaking oil cooler on the main engine. I was very lucky in that it failed before I left the dock!

Trident Oct 6, 2011
Trident at the dock at the Pebble Isle Marina preparing to go south
 
After the boat has set for almost two years there are a lot of things that no longer work but, one by one, I'm fixing them.

Oct 11,2011 At Pebble Isle

The oil cooler repair is complete so all I have to do is clean up the boat a little and do my laundry before leaving in the morning for points south.

The stay here at Pebble was made more enjoyable but the two boats tied up on either side of me, "Nancy Jo" and "Blue Angel". I'll probably run into them again somewhere south of here.  I'll miss the 5 PM happy hours out on the dock.

Oct 12, 2011 Pebble Isle to Beach Creek Island

It was foggy this morning so I didn't get underway as soon as I'd liked. The fog did give me an excuse to go over to the Blue Heron Grill and partake of the morning cinnamon rolls and coffee they serve there.

After the fog lifted a bit, I took off and headed south. I only ran at 1300 RPM instead of the normal 1400 because I suspect there may still be a bit of water in the oil and I didn't want to put much of a load on the engine. There wasn't much current so I still made decent time and anchored behind Beach Creek Island just north of Clifton, TN.

Saw some nice fall colors along the way and had a nice enjoyable day with no rain. The weather man had forecast rain but I lucked out, LOL.

Oct 13, 2011 Beach Creek Island to Pickwick Landing Cove

The most important thing to check this morning was the engine oil. I needed to see if it looked like all the contamination had been removed and it looked just fine!  A good start to the day.

When I left the anchorage the light rain had started again and it continued until almost noon. I took a picture of some fall colors in the rain along the way.

Thursdays Colors

There are some interesting houses built on the large rocks along the Tennessee River.

Riverside Houses

One thing of interest along the way was an old abandoned river barge up on the bank and filled with dirt with trees growing in it.

Abandoned Barge

The current was pretty strong all day so the going was slow but I made it to the Pickwick Lock at 4 PM. I called the lock-master via VHF radio and was informed that I should find a place to hang out because it was going to be a while. The while turned out to be almost four hours!

By the time I was called to enter the lock, two other boats had arrived. One was about a 50' trawler and the other was a kayak. It was well past sunset and quite dark but the kayak had a bright red light aboard so he could be seen.

Pickwick Lock raised the boat up to the highest elevation of this trip, 414 feet above sea level. I had been planning on going to the Waterfall anchorage but since it was so late and very dark, I just made my way over to the Pickwick Landing Marina and anchored in the nice cove just past the marina entrance.
I had never anchored there before but it turned out to be an excellent place to drop the hook for the night.

Oct 14,2011 Pickwick Landing Cove to Bay Springs Lake in Mississippi

It got cold last night. It was 62 degrees in the boat when I woke up and only 51 outside. I started the generator and put on a pot of coffee and started getting ready for the day. I thought about building a fire in the stove but figured it would warm up quickly so decided against it.

I saw some more fall colors along the river just after leaving the anchorage.

Friday's colors

The weather was sunny and clear with spotty fog on the water as I left the anchorage and headed south.  It did warm up pretty fast what with the clear sky and bright sun. Good boating weather after about 9 AM. Not much traffic today and I only saw two boats after I entered the Tenn/Tom Waterway.

The picture below shows a view in the northern portion of the Divide Cut. The Divide Cut joins the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River and crosses the continental divide. This is a man made cut and is about 30 miles long.

Going Down the Tenn/Tom

I arrived at the anchorage in Bay Springs Lake, which is in northern Mississippi at about 2 PM. I anchored in a secluded cove and plan on staying put here tonight and tomorrow. There are a bunch of boat chores that need tended to so the first thing I did after stopping was to make a list of projects to do while here. There are 8 items on the list and I already took care of 3 of this afternoon.

Oct 15,2011 Anchored at Bay Springs Lake

Today was to be a lazy day. Take it easy and catch up on some much needed boat projects. I finished all the projects but it took most of the day, LOL. It was cool this morning at 51 degrees but warmed up nicely and it was an almost perfect weather day. I plan on going through the Whitten Lock first thing in the morning. It is the first lock of twelve between 414 feet above sea level down to sea level. The first lock will drop 85 feet. The rest of the locks are in the 30 foot range.
Below is a scene from my anchorage today.

Scene at Bay Springs Anchorage.

Oct 16,2011 Bay Springs Lake to Big Bluff

There must be a fishing tournament on Bay Springs Lake this morning. There are Bass boats running all over the place in the early morning light.

I pulled up the anchor and headed for Whitten Lock. This is the big one with the 85 foot lift or drop, drop in this case.  The lock-master informed me that I could lock down as soon as I got there so I headed out. When I got to the lock, I was the only boat there except for two bass boats. We all three locked down and as soon as we were down and out of the lock the bass boats started fishing. I headed on down to the next lock.

The next lock, Montgomery, was waiting for me when I arrived so I promptly locked down there as well. This continued all day through all seven locks I was to go through. I only planned on six but ended up doing seven, LOL.  Below is a picture of the Tenn/Tom just below Montgomery Lock early in the morning.

Tenn-Tom Below Montgomery Lock

The plan for the day was to go through six locks and anchor for the night at Blue Bluff. The day went smoothly and I arrived at Blue Bluff at 5:30 PM after traversing six locks and about fifty five miles of the waterway.  

When I tried to enter the channel into Blue Bluff, I ran aground! I was taking it very easy as That channel has always been suspect so I was able to back out and into the river again. I then decided to cross the river and go into the Aberdeen Marina. Same thing, I ran aground again!  It was getting late and I had to do something so I decided to lock through the Aberdeen lock and take my chances south of there. I called the Aberdeen Lock master and was told to," come on down!" The lock master had a chuckle in his voice when he said that as he had been watching me attempt the two side channels. He already had the lock open with the green light on!  I just drove into the lock, tied up and was locked down with no fuss. Here I was  south of the Aberdeen lock with night quickly approaching  and no real plan.  I decided to try some of the anchorages from Active Captain but they were both too shallow for me to get into. I figured they were made for canoes, LOL. I decided to bite the bullet and go for the anchorage at mile 344, "Big Bluff". It was going to take me a couple of hours to get there and it was already almost dark. I headed out. It soon was very dark but by using RADAR and electronic charts I kept going. I was lucky not to hit a half sunken log or something but I made it OK and felt my way into the anchorage in the dark, again using RADAR to stay in the middle of the channel and the depth finder to keep off the bottom.

I did the minimal night preparations and went to bed.

Oct. 17,2011 Big Bluff to Pickensville, Alabama

I started a little later than usual this morning and I only planned on going about 30 miles today with only one lock to worry about. I left the anchorage to a nice cool morning with very light fog. It took an hour or so t get down the the Stennis Lock at Columbus, MS and there was no delay getting through. (Only four more locks to go!)

Below is a picture of a barge being unloaded at Tom Soya. I assume they are unloading soy beans.
Tom Soya
The trip down to Pickensville, AL was uneventful and the weather couldn't have been better. I anchored in a little cut just off the river near a camp ground on one side and some river-front houses on the other. It was only 1 PM when I got here so did some minor boat chores for the rest of the afternoon.

Oct 18,2011 Pickensville to Gainesville, AL

The Anchorage last night at the Bigbee Valley Access Area (near Pickensville, AL) was a calm and peaceful anchorage only  a few hundred feet from the waterway. During the night I woke up twice to hear tows coming by on the Tenn/Tom. They were close but they could not get into where I was anchored.

While I sac cooking breakfast a northbound tow came by so that when I got underway and went to Tom Bevil Lock, the chamber was already full so I got to go right in. It was sunny early in the morning but misty rain started about 09:00. However it didn't last long and, toward noon, the sun came back out.

Below is a picture of China Bluff on the Tenn/Tom.
China Bluff

Just before I arrived at Heflin Lock, a large cruiser,"At Ease", passed me and we locked down together.

Heflin Lock
Going down in Heflin Lock

Heflin Lock is the last lock before Demopolis, AL and the last lock, southbound, on the Tombigbee River portion of the trip. Only two more locks left until sea level!!

After locking through Heflin Lock, I decided to try a new anchorage, for me.  Upon leaving the lock, I turned to the right and went about a half mile up the old river bed and anchored near Gainesville, Alabama.

Oct 19, 2011 Gainesville to Demopolis, AL

During the night last night, a cold front came through complete with thunderstorms, wind and rain. I woke up at about 3AM in a cold boat! I got up, built a fire in the wood burning stove and went back to bed. A couple of hours later it was nice and cozy in the boat so I got up for the day.  Did the morning routine and got underway with a clear shot to Demopolis. No locks or anything, just river.As I passed the entrance of Heflin Lock, I noticed that the doors were open and there was a tug and tow inside getting ready to exit.

After the tow exited it was right behind me and I noticed that it was going faster than I so I got on the radio and told the tug's captain that I would slow down and let him pass while we were in a straight section of the river. Shortly after he passed I took the picture below as the tug and tow were going around a bend in the river.

Tug Capt Earl Devall going around the bend

One of the most scenic sections of the Tenn/Tom waterway is around Epps , Alabama where there are some chalk white cliffs. Check out the two pictures below.
Approaching the white cliffs of Epps

More white cliffs

The trip on down to Demopolis was about normal but when I called the Demopolis Yacht Basin on the radio, I was informed that I had a choice of staying in the original marina or the new one. I chose the new one, of course.
It is still under construction but will be a really nice facility when it is completed which, according to Fred the manager, should be within a few months.  I can't wait to see it after it's all done.

I plan on staying here for a couple of days and leave Saturday for points south. I probably could leave Friday but there is a sailor's superstition about starting a voyage on Friday so I'll use that as an excuse and leave Saturday.

Oct 22, 2011 Demopolis to Bashi Creek, Alabama

It was a bit foggy when I got up this morning so I waited until I could make out the trees across the river before untying from the dock and heading for the Demopolis Lock. There must be a fishing tournament this Saturday morning as  there are lots of small boats launched and milling around the launch ramp in the river.
I called the lock master and asked him the situation with the lock and he said to come on down and that I would have to lock down with a  few fishing boats.
I made it though the fog down to the lock and it was ready to be entered when I arrived and there  were four fishing boats already tied up inside. The gates closed and down we went. It was even foggier at the bottom when the lock doors opened. The fishing boats exited and went over to the spillway side of the dam and started fishing.
Since I had the current behind me I was making good time and after the fog finally lifted the trip was very enjoyable.
There is a section of the river where there is a lot of trash along the banks. There used to be a school bus on it's top along the bank but it has finally washed away or been buried by the mud. However, in the picture below you can see a lot of old tires just at the water line.

Old Tires

Just a Little way on down the river is an interesting old riverside restaurant named, "EZELL's". I keep saying that I will stop and have a meal there but never have.

Old Restaurant

The rest of the trip down to Bashi Creek at mile 145 of the Tenn/Tom was uneventful and I arrived there at about 4:30 PM. It is supposed to get cold tonight, down into the 30's, so I prepared the boat for a cold night. I went to bed early as I wanted to get an early start so I could get through the last lock of the trip as early as possible.

Oct 23, 2011 Bashi Creek to Old Lock Number One

When I got up, did all the morning stuff and was ready to go, it was 37 degrees  and foggy but I could almost see across the river so I decided to go for it and leave. I had to weave among the other anchored boats to get out of the narrow creek. I finally made it without hitting any boats, running aground, or hitting any anchor lines, LOL.

Once it the river, the fog turned into pea soup! I idled along for almost an hour steering using RADAR before the fog started lifting. It worked out well though because I arrived at the Coffeeville Lock just as a northbound Tow was exiting so I got to go right in and was promptly locked down. After I left the lock, I met three more tows withing a few miles that were going upstream.

With that last lock, I am now at sea level!! Only a hundred miles or so to go and I will finally be back in salt water too, yea!!

I made very good time today and was anchored in the old lock at 1:30 PM.

I was anxious about the water level in Old Lock number One's basin but had no problems at all. There have been times when it was too shallow to get in.

Below is a picture taken of a couple of boats anchored in the basin.

Old Lock Anchorage

In the picture you can see the high water line from recent flooding by looking at the leaves on the trees to the right of the anchored boats.

There is not much left of the old lock but there is a picture of what is left below.

Old Lock Number One

To celebrate being through all 13 locks of the trip and being back at sea level, I grilled a nice rib-eye, cooked to my taste. I really enjoyed that steak!. Tomorrow morning there will be no locks to worry about so I will not be so anxious to get underway. I just need to get within a one day cruising distance from Mobile, Alabama so if I make 50 miles that will be fine.

Oct 24, 2011 Old Lock Number One to Big Lizzard Creek

I got underway with little problem this morning. Only had to thread my way through the late arrivals in the anchorage to get out but had no problem. There is only minimal fog this morning so navigation is easy. There is only minor current helping me along so it will take a while before I can plan on my destination for the night.

 The day went well and a little after noon I calculated that I could make Big Lizzard Creek before sunset so I decided to go for it.

Just before the Barry Steam Plant I caught up with the tug, Jackson III. I'd passed him just south of Demopolis a couple of days ago so he wasn't making much time going south.

I approached the I-65 Bridge at about 6 PM and took the picture below.

Interstate 65 Bridge

Just after passing under the I-65 Bridge I spotted the new 14 Mile Railroad Bridge.

New 14 Mile Bridge

This bridge is to replace the current 14 Mile Railroad Swing Bridge. The new bridge appears to have been built on this site and will be moved down the river  to replace the old bridge. This new bridge will be a lift bridge replacing the current swing bridge.

Just south of the I-65 Bridge was my targeted anchorage for the night. I went into the anchorage and had it all to myself for the night.

Oct 25, 2011 Big Lizzard Creek to Grand Mariner Marina on the Dog River

I had a nice quiet night, except for distant interstate 65 traffic, and slept well. This location is not pretty but has excellent cell phone connectivity due to the nearby interstate highway.

I headed south with minimal fog on a nice warm morning. I followed a tow boat down the the 14 Mile Bridge because I didn't want to cause confusion in the vicinity of he bridge what with all the construction going on. As I approached the bridge, I noticed that the lift towers for the new bridge were already in place and that the old swing bridge was already open.

Old 14 Mile Bridge

That was the last Time I'd see that bridge as the new one is to be installed in a few days. Just after going through the bridge, I passed the tow I had been following and made it for Mobile.

About to pass a Tow

One milestone when going south on this route is the Cochran Ave. Bridge north of Mobile. Once through this bridge you are in the Port of Mobile which is a busy port with quite a bit of maintenance work being done on ships of all types plus cargo handling.

Cochran Ave Bridge

The Port of Mobile has it's tugboat row and this morning there were only two idle tugs there.

Mobile Tugs

Notice the ship in the background with smoke from it's funnel. Continuing on through the port, I took a picture of the Mobile Skyline. The tallest building is the newest high-rise there.

Mobile Skyline

Just before exiting the port I passed a ship from Bergen, Norway with a modern fast eject life boat. It must be quite a ride to be inside that thing when they launch it.

High speed lifeboat

Salt water , finally! Below is a picture of Mobile Bay taken from the ship channel just south of the port.

Mobile Bay

Just after getting out on the bay,  I came across a couple of local shrimp boats.

Small shrimp boat

I went on down the bay until I came to the channel leading off to the right to the Dog River. This channel is shallow and narrow and crosses the tidal currents in the bay so it takes close attention to traverse without running aground. I entered the Dog River and tied up at the marina right at noon. Took on fuel and then moved over to a more permanent place on the dock. I expect to be here for a few days and then haul the boat Friday and paint the bottom.

Oct 26,2011 At Mobile

There was a colorful dawn this morning so I decided to take a picture of it. I was hand-holding the camera with a long exposure ,1/8 second, and expected it to be a shaky picture but it came out OK.

Dawn on the Dog River

Just beyond the high-rise bridge is Mobile Bay. The first thing I did this morning was get the marina courtesy car and go to the local Wal Mart Super center to get groceries and supplies to use for painting the boat bottom.

Last night, I had dinner at the marina's restaurant and it was good to have real fresh seafood again.

Oct. 27 - Nov 1, 2011 at Mobile, Alabama

Took care of boat maintenance chores on Thursday, the 27th, and had the boat hauled out of the water and put on blocks in the boat yard on Friday.  The picture below is of the boat just after being put in the yard.

Trident on blocks

It was very windy during the first night in the yard. When I started to get down off the boat Saturday morning I discovered that my ladder had blown down and I was stranded on the boat! In a few minutes I figured out how to use the dinghy anchor as a grapple to hook the ladder and stand it back up. I was no longer stranded high and dry on the boat.

I spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday cleaning up and painting the boot top and bottom of the boat. It was so cold Friday morning that I didn't get much done so that delayed me a day.  On Tuesday, Nov 1, The boat was re-launched and I got groceries and did the laundry in anticipation of leaving for points south tomorrow, Wednesday.

Nov 2, 2011 at Mobile

I awoke to a windy morning and a bouncing boat. I turned on the marine  weather channel on the VHF and the report was not good. I'd planned on leaving today but decided to stay until the approaching cold front passed.

Just before noon I wandered out into the boat yard and started talking to Richard who is re-fitting his 48 foot sailboat. A mechanic named Lee came up to Richard and told him that mullet were schooling behind the boat he was working on. Richard dropped what he was doing and grabbed his casting net while Lee grabbed a wheelbarrow. We all took off for the dock where the mullet had been seen. In just a few minutes Richard had netted about a half wheelbarrow full of mullet. They were nice ones anywhere from about 14" to 18" long.

They wheeled the fresh fish over to the travel lift area and spent about an hour cleaning all the fish. Many of the fish had nice full roe pouches and they were cut out and put aside to be cooked later.

Richard quickly cooked some of the roe and passed out samples. It tasted strangely like corn bread to me.  There were plenty of mullet fillets to go around and everyone got plenty.

Nov 5, 2011 Mobile to Ingram Bayou

I have been ready to leave Mobile for a few days now but the weather has been kicking up keeping me trapped in the Dog River. A minor weather window showed up today so I went for it and left at first light. It was blowing about 10 knots out of the north as I left but as soon as I got to the Mobile Ship Channel the wind switched to the east and was blowing about 20 knots right on the beam.  That made for a very uncomfortable ride so I headed to the lee of the eastern shore as soon as the water over the spoil bank was deep enough.  When I was within a couple of miles of the eastern shore, it calmed down to a more comfortable ride and I had a good trip down to the Alabama Canal which connects Mobile Bay with Wolf Bay to the east.
 
I transited the Alabama Canal and went by Lulu's which is a restaurant/marina owned by one of Jimmy Buffett's sisters. I keep saying to myself that one day I will stop in there.

I made a short day of it and was securely anchored in Ingram Bayou by about 2 PM. During the afternoon a sailboat and another trawler joined me in the anchorage.

Nov 6, 2011 Ingram Bayou to Joe's Bayou

It's really windy this morning! It's right on the nose at 20-25 knots. I'm glad I'm in somewhat protected water today as it would be pretty rough out in the open. However, when I passed the Pensacola Pass, three wave trains met along with the tidal current and it was like being in a washing machine for about 15 minutes until I got through it and continued on east.  At about 1 PM the wind started to die down and the rest of the trip over to Joe's Bayou at Destin, FL was a nice ride.

Nov 7, 2011 Joe's Bayou to Pitts Bayou in Panama City, FL

When I left Joe's Bayou this morning the wind was only about 10 knots, yea. The ride over to Panama City was uneventful. The sun was shining and the air was clear. There is a narrow passage called, "The Canyon", between Choctawhatchee Bay and West Bay, which is the bay west of Panama City.  It is called the Canyon because of the very high sand banks on both sides of it.

Just before entering the canyon, I took a picture of a pelican on a can buoy.

Pelican on a can

A couple who are old friends are living on their boat in Pitts Bayou. I hadn't seen them since 2004 and decided to stop in and visit with them at their dock.

As I was walking up to pay the dock rent, I suddenly realized I was back in Florida! Live Oak trees draped with Spanish Moss, Magnolia trees with green and shiny leaves, sugar sand and sand spurs.  The sand spurs I can do without but they are a pleasant reminder this evening.

I had dinner aboard my friends boat and we filled each other in on what we had been doing since Fort Pierce in 2004.

Nov 8, 2011 Panama City to Dog Island near Carrabelle, FL

I left Panama City about 07:00 and headed east across East Bay toward Apalachicola and then Carrabelle. It was a very uneventful trip except for some dolphins playing around the boat. Just before Apalachicola I came across a sunken shrimp boat to starboard.

Sunken Shrimp Boat

Carrabelle is one of the jumping off points for crossing the Big Bend and getting to Florida's West coast. A short weather window was indicated for the next day so I wanted to be ready to go first thing in the morning.  

Instead of going into a marina and catching up on my laundry and etc, I anchored behind Dog Island so I could get an early start in the morning. I can do laundry on the other side. There were six other boats already anchored there when I arrived so they must have heard about the weather window as well.

Nov 9, 2011 Carrabelle to Cedar Key, FL

The weather web site I used predicted that the wind wouldn't die down until about 10 AM but I left at about 07:00 anyway and it was pretty bouncy until the wind died down at about 11 AM. From then on it was a very nice ride down to Cedar Key. It takes about 16 hours for me to get from Carrabelle to Cedar Key so it would be late in the evening when I  arrived there, around 11 PM.

I was listening to talk radio for a few hours and didn't see any dolphin at all. A little while after I switched to Jimmy Buffet, here the dolphins came!  I had the boat on auto pilot so went up to the bow and took pictures of them while they played.

Dolphins playing around the bow.

Here is a picture looking back at the pilot house while Otto the autopilot drives the boat.

Otto Driving

At sunset the sky was very clear and I hoped to get to see a green flash as the sun set. I took a picture every few seconds as the sun went down. My eye was on the camera viewfinder so I didn't actually get to see the green flash but a few of the pictures had a good hint of it.  Below is a picture of the sunset at sea  on Nov 9, 2011.

Sunset at sea

It was so pleasant right after sunset that I wrote a little poem.

Sunset at sea:
Autopilot steering south
Jimmy Buffet on the stereo
Green flash to starboard
Full moon rising to port
Dolphins playing alongside
Day settles into night
Life is good.

At about 9 PM I made the marker just at the end of the Seahorse Reef and turned to go up the Ship Channel into Cedar key. I didn't go all the way in but anchored just off Seahorse Key for the night. It is an easy anchorage to get into  but doesn't afford much protection from wind or waves. Since a cold front is forecast for tomorrow, I will move the boat closer to down town Cedar Key tomorrow and hole up there while the front passes.

Nov 10, 2011 Seahorse Key anchorage to Downtown Cedar Key

It was such a long day yesterday that I slept in today. I could probably beat the approaching cold front to Tarpon Springs but I decided to just hang out in Cedar Key until the front passes. It is only about 3 miles from the anchorage to downtown as the crow flies but the channel is very crooked and it took me 5 miles by boat to get there.

On the way, I took a picture of the old Cedar Key Lighthouse. It is no longer in use and is almost hidden by tall palm trees now.  The lighthouse sits atop the bluff on Seahorse Key about 3 miles west of Cedar Key and the property is now being used by the University of Florida as a marine research lab.

Cedar Key Lighthouse

I took the ship channel into Cedar Key proper and anchored south of the million dollar dock. The dock got that name when it was build in the early 1950's because it was rumored to cost a million dollars to build. I don't know what it's called now but it's completely covered with seafood restaurants, bars , and gift shops now.

Cedar Key Dock

The cold front is coming so I will probably be here for a few days. Doing boat chores before continuing on south.

Nov 12, 2011 Cedar Key to Tarpon Springs

I awoke around midnight because the boat was bouncing around. The wind had shifted during the night and I was no longer in the lee of the shore. I could either bounce all night or move the boat. I decided to move the boat. I weighed anchor and moved over to the west side of Atsene Otie key. It was nice and calm there and I slept well until morning.

As I left at first light, I noticed large flocks of white pelicans in the shallows around Seahorse Key. I don't know if they winter there or are heading on south.

Since the wind was blowing from the east at at least 15 knots I headed toward the entrance markers for the  Cross Florida Barge Canal (which was never finished) to get closer to land and smoother water. From there, I continued on down to Tarpon Springs. I had planned on anchoring behind Anclote Key  but it was windy so I decided to try the anchorage by the power plant. It is usually crowded but I thought I'd give it a try. To my surprise, there were only two boats anchored inside so there was plenty of room for me. I anchored cooked another rib eye and had a quiet night.

Nov 13, 2011 Tarpon Springs to Gulfport

While anchored in Cedar Key I had to build a fire in the wood burning stove to keep warm but in Tarpon Springs, no fire was needed, yea!

I left Tarpon Springs by going offshore just south of Anclote Key and headed  toward Indian Rocks Beach which sticks out toward the west from St. Petersburg. I came in at John's Pass and headed for the anchorage in Boca Ciega Bay near Gulfport. I anchored just off the canal north of the Maximo Marina canal. The reason for that location was that I was near the house of a friend of the friends I was planning on visiting that night.

Around 4 PM a boat came out and picked me up off my boat and I went ashore to have dinner with my friends that live in St. Petersburg.  We made a stop by West Marine to pick up a new flag as the old one was torn to tatters by the bad weather I'd come through  since leaving Mobile, Alabama. Later on in the evening I was delivered back to my boat by the same boat that had picked me up earlier. Talk about service!

Nov 14, 2011 Gulfport to Longbeach, Florida

I was planning on a short run down to the Manatee River to do some cleaning on the outside of the boat and install the new flag. There was so much salt on the windows that I could hardly see out and lots of mud on the foredeck from all the muddy anchorages I'd been in. When the anchor and chain comes up, most of the mud is deposited on the deck and since I'm single handed I don't really have much of an opportunity to clean it up.  As I move farther south the muddy anchorages change to sand which stays in the water and doesn't make a mess on the deck, LOL

Below is a picture of the Sunshine State Skyway taken on a hazy morning.

Sunshine State Skyway

I arrived at the anchorage by 09:30 AM and had all my chores finished by noon. After a quick lunch I decided to go down to Longboat Key and try out that anchorage as I'd never been there before and it was still pretty early.

It only took an hour and a half or so to make the Longboat Key anchorage near Long Beach, FL. When I arrived it was pretty full but, lucky for me, a sailboat was just leaving as I arrived and I took their spot.

About 9 PM I heard lots of shouting and screaming  from shore. It sounded like  people stabbing each other of a very wild party. Since I didn't hear any police sirens it must have been a party!  It quietened down after a few minutes and was quiet the rest of the night.

Nov 15-18, 2011 Longbeach to Fort Myers Beach

It was very foggy when I woke up but it looked like about a quarter mile visibility so I decided to head out. I t was still pretty windy so I went down the Intracoastal Waterway.  The fog started lifting around Sarasota but didn't completely lift until I arrived at Venice, FL. The rest of the trip was uneventful and the anchorage at Useppa Island had plenty of room when I arrived.

The next day I headed on down to Fort Myers Beach.

I took the shortcut under the fixed bridge on the west end of the Sanibel Island Causeway. The bridge is only 25 feet high but I can get under it if I lower my antennas.

Here is a picture of the Sanibel Lighthouse taken as I went by.

Sanibel Lighthouse

Just after passing the light house I took a picture of the high bridge on the Sanibel Island Causeway.  This is not the bridge I went under but the high rise bridge over the normal navigational channel.

Sanibel Island Causeway Bridge

I went under the Mantansas Pass Bridge and into Estero Bay around 11 AM. I needed fuel, laundry, water, and propane so I tied up at the Salty Sam's Marina for two days.

Here's a picture of Trident tied up at Salty Sam's in Fort Myers Beach.

Trident at Salty Sam's

On my second day at Fort Myers Beach, I had lunch with a ham radio friend and his wife at Dr. Ford's restaurant. I'd never actually met the couple before but knew the guy from conversations on the radio.

Nov 19, 2011 Ft. Myers Beach to Marco Island

The weather forecast was for winds of ten to fifteen and gusty out of the east. Since I was going south and the whole peninsula of Florida would be to my east I didn't think that would be a problem at all. If I stayed within a mile or two of the coast I should have a comfortable ride in those winds. That's what I did and it worked out just fine.  

After I had been on my way for about a half hour, I noticed the Key West Ferry leaving Ft. Myers Beach via my AIS display. I watched it's progress an was curious about how fast that thing would run. It turned out that on that day the "Big Cat Express" cruised at 32 knots. I had expected that it would be faster but i suppose 32 knots must be fast enough for them to maintain their schedule.

Just off Naples I heard a helicopter coming quite near and I wondered what was going on. As it turned out, the helicopter was in the business of taking pictures of passing boats. I'd had them take Trident's picture before and had received solicitations by mail trying to sell me the pictures. I didn't buy any and probably will not this time either.

I made it into the Big Marco River via Capri Pass at about 1 PM and anchored in Factory Bay.

Below is a scene on Factory bay at Marco Island, Florida.
Factory Bay Condos at Marco Island

Since it was so windy I did not want to go around Cape Romano tomorrow and have to put up with the high winds and seas on the beam. The only other way to get farther south would be to go through the Big Marco River and come out in Gullivan Bay which puts one much closer in to shore than the Cape Romano route. The Big Marco River is very shallow and Trident can only make it through on a tide that is almost high. The next high tide was well after dark and I didn't want to try that so I decided to take the next high tide at around 8 AM the tomorrow.

Nov 20,2011 Marco Island to The Little Shark River

I got up nice and early and headed toward Good Lands, FL on the Big Marco River. The tide was high enough that I had no problems at all and in short order I was going by Coon Key and out into the shallow flats in Gullivan Bay.

It was pretty windy so I stayed as close to shore as practical but sometimes as close as practical was almost 3 miles due the the shallow water. However, it wasn't a bad ride and I made it to the Little Shark River in the Florida everglades at about 3:30 PM with no problems.

The Little Shark River is renowned for it's mosquitoes and no-see-ems. While still about a mile offshore, I closed all the non-screened ports on the boat. The temperature was into the 80's and not a cloud in the sky so it was getting a bit warm inside the boat. Just after I was securely anchored, I closed all the ports, screened or not, to keep out the no-see-us. I then started the generator and ran the air conditioner to keep cool and bug free.

Just before sunset I decided to go outside and take a few pictures and they are below. I had a very nice night anchored in the Little Shark River and expected to be in Marathon, Florida tomorrow night.

Sailboats anchored in the mouth of the Little Shark River
Sailboats in Little Shark River

Trawlers anchored in the Little Shark River
Trawlers anchored in the Little Shark River

Sunset in the Little Shark River
Little Shark River Sunset

Just after the sunset, I noticed a large cumulus cloud to the north whose top was still in the sunlight while it's base was in the sun's shadow.
Puffball cloud seen from Little Shark River

Nov 21, 2011 Little Shark River to Marathon, FL
 
High winds of 15-20 knots were forecast for today so I got underway at first light in the hopes of making Marathon before they got too strong.  The strategy worked as I had a nice ride all the way town to the Florida Keys from the Little Shark River and the winds didn't really start to pick up until I was about 2 miles north of Marathon. I turned west after passing the Bethel Bank and headed for the north end of Moser Channel which goes under the Seven Mile Bridge.

The Seven Mile Bridge seen as I approach Pigeon key.
Seven Mile Bridge

As soon as I cleared the Seven Mile Bridge, the wind and seas really kicked up.
I only had about 3 miles to go before entering the channel into Boot Key Harbor so it wasn't a big deal. Trident just plowed through the mess and was soon in sheltered waters but the wind was still really strong.  

Just as soon as I passed through the old Boot Key Drawbridge I got on the radio and called the Marathon City Marina to get a mooring ball assignment. I was assigned F-7 and I headed for it. It was quite windy in the harbor but I had no problems getting Trident tied to the mooring.

The long trip was finished! I expect to stay here in Boot Key Harbor for quite a while.

Boot Key harbor Scene
Boot Key Harbor Marathon

Below is a picture showing Trident's path from New Johnsonville, Tennessee to Marathon, Florida.
Trident's Path


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