We successfully crossed the Big Bend! This was the longest trip we've ever done. And it was the one we were the most worried about! Its about a 30 hr trip, so its a long overnighter. Pam and I have both done overnight trips, but not in our boat, so this was a first.
We waited in Carrabelle for good weather for the crossing. We stayed at the Moorings marina. An excellant marina. Buddy is a dock master there. He's famous for helping pick out a good weather window for peple to make the crossing to Tarpon Springs or Anclote Key.
Buddy was strongly recommending that people should not try for a direct crossing from Carrabelle to Anclote Key or Tarpon. He said the Gulf was just too unpredictable and could become really nasty during November. He recommended that we anchor outside of Alligator Harbor and then cross towards Steinhatchee. Then follow around the Big Bend at the 5 fathom line to Anclote Key. He said that Port Inglis at the end of the Florida Barge Canal is also a good place to hide out and anchor, if needed.
Right before we were heading to Alligator Harbor, Buddy said that the weather was looking unusually good and that after we get out in the Gulf, if the seas are really calm, we could aim for farther down the coast.
So we anchored outside Alligator Harbor and left the next morning at 7 AM. The Gulf was really calm, so as we were heading across, we kept changing course farther south of Stienhatchee. We ending up taking a heading for R2 off Cedar Key. The seas only got up to 2-3 ft. We had North and North East winds of only 5-10 knots. We sailed for about 2 hrs and then motor sailed the rest, to keep our speed over 5 knots.
There were lots of crab traps out in the Gulf about 15 miles before we got to R2. We knew the crab traps would get thicker the closer we got to the other side and on down to Anclote Key. So around midnight, instead of risking wrapping a crab trap line around our prop, we decided to anchor out in the Gulf just a mile and a half NE of R2 (off Cedar Key). We anchored in 20 ft of water, but there was no protection. The main coast was 20 miles away. It was nice to be able to stop and rest, but the boat was rocking like mad!
We left the next morning at 7 AM and wove our way through milliions of crab traps taking the direct route to Anclote Key (to R10 and then to Anclote). Motor sailed going down. Got really good at figuring out the pattern the traps were laid on, so we could avoid them. We were going straight into the sun's reflection on the water, so it was hard to see anything on the water directly ahead of us.
We arrived at Anclote Key around 4 PM. We anchored in a wonderful spot in the bight near the south end of the Key. The next morning we went into Tarpon Springs and are staying at the Anclote Harbors marina, $0.75/ft per day for a weekly rate.
We'll stay here for a week. A big storm is coming. We are going to try to see my sister Debbie and her husband Jerry. There's a boat show in St Petersberg, so we are going to check it out too.
But we've sucessfully completed the big crossing! Its a longer crossing than going across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and the other trips we'll make between the Carribean islands. So if we handled this, all the future hops should be easier!