Saturday, December 17, 2011


December 17, 2011

Where to begin...

Since we last posted our progress, much has happened.  We spent a really nice, relatively uneventful week in Pensacola with Jack & Tatiana and friends, during which time we were referred to a guy who does great work on inflatables.  He fixed the leak on our wonderful (but old and leaky) dinghy that Al had been battling for over two years and, for the first time, we had a great, seaworthy, airtight dinghy.  Wahoo!  How nice!  And just in time for our trip down the Florida coast.  We left Pensacola on Friday, December 9, "buddy boating" with Jack & Tatiana on Pashka for what was to be a two-day, two-night trip across the tip of the Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola to Clearwater.  We checked with three weather services, all of which gave us a favorable weather window of a northwest wind (perfect, since we would be sailing southeast to Clearwater and would have the wind behind us, helping our progress) along with calm seas alternating between 1-2 feet and 3-4 feet and winds of 10-15 mph.  Again, perfect, right?  DON'T EVER, EVER BELIEVE THE WEATHER FORECAST!  Holy cow!  We left Pensacola with a north wind, expecting it to turn northwest.  Instead, it turned northeast (where it stayed), the wind speed increased to 20-25 mph and the waves increased to 6-8 ft.  After a long night at sea, things got worse.  The wind increased to 30 mph and the waves increased to 10-12 ft with the wind edging even more easterly, coming at us from the ENE.  The end result was that we were driven further and further south, away from the Florida coastline and into the Gulf.  On Day Two we lost our dinghy (which we had been towing, thinking that we would have a fairly calm sail).  We retrieved it (what a tough time that was) and reattached it, only to lose it again the following day.  Once again we retrieved it but had a much tougher time tying it to Wind Dancer since some of the holding points on the dinghy that we could attach lines to had ripped off.  Later that day, we lost her for the third (and last) time.  Unable to secure her to Wind Dancer, we had to continue sailing without her.  However, we're sure she'll make some Cubans happy when she washes up on the western tip of Cuba (which is where we were headed when we lost her).  In any case, losing her was a significant loss for us.

Continuing on.  The end result is that we had to sail virtually due south for two straight days and nights until the wind and waves eased up enough for us to set an easterly course.  By then we were due west of Fort Myers, where Al's brother lives, so off went Pashka and Wind Dancer toward Fort Myers.  We arrived there on Tuesday, Dec. 13, after another two days and nights, bringing our total time at sea to four days & nights.  God, did it feel good to arrive in port!  Everything on board was soggy and we were absolutely exhausted.  But we made it!  And what troopers Sophie & Chelsea turned out to be.  They stayed with us in the cockpit for virtually all of the trip, soaking wet and shivering, but determined to tough it out with us. What a joy these little creatures are.

As to why you haven't heard from us before now, while at sea we lost our standard lines of communication, including cell phones and email.  In fact, we were just able to get our email back online yesterday.  So thanks for bearing with us.  We're so sorry that so many of you were worried about us.  We're fine (just pooped but almost recovered) and are presently at a great marina by the name of Salty Sam's in Fort Myers where we think we'll hang out for at least a couple of weeks, including Christmas, before heading for the Dry Tortugas and Key West.  We found a used Achilles (top of the line) dinghy for a really good price (Merry Christmas, Sue & Al!) and, although she's small, we're delighted with her.  She's light enough that we can fold her up and bring her on board, lashing her down on deck when sailing in seas that we feel are too heavy for towing to be appropriate.  (We are not about to lose another dinghy to wind and waves!)  By being able to carry her topside, we can avoid the expense of having to add dinghy davits to Wind Dancer.  We think we're pretty well set for going forward at this point but are enjoying being able to spend some downtime with Jim & Phyllis here in Fort Myers Beach, as well as with Jack & Tatiana, and being able to take the time to clean up the boat (and us!  holy cow, the laundry!).

We truly do wish all of you were here with us.  If we don't talk with you before then, have a wonderful Christmas.  We'll try not to let so much time go by before our next post.  Thanks for hanging in with us!

Sue, Al, Sophie & Chelsea
The Crew of Wind Dancer

Friday, December 2, 2011


Friday, December 2

Well, we made it to Mobile Bay Tuesday p.m. and anchored just north of Dauphin Island (a chilly sail day...turning on the generator & the heaters that night felt really good).  The next morning, after a somewhat rolly night and five minutes after pulling up anchor and setting out for Pensacola, we had a major engine overheating problem and Al spent the next four hours replacing the impeller (that had basically disintegrated).  While he was doing this, the wind was blowing us south (toward the ICW) at a rate of approximately one knot/hour which turned out to be exactly what we needed to arrive at the ICW with perfect timing to continue on our way.  After starting the engine (which no longer smoked and sent alarm bells clanging....Thank you, Al!) and letting it warm up, off we went.  We stayed overnight at a great marina called Marina on the Wharf (we know a lot of this means nothing to you, kind reader, but it's a great log for us for the return trip to plan on where to overnight or, in some cases, not to).  The next morning, Thursday, we slept in, had a leisurely morning, and then set off for the short hop to Pensacola, arriving just before sundown and in time for docktails on Pashka with Jack & Tatiana and their friends Doug & Shirley, also owners of an Island Packet.  Nice folks!  The six of us had dinner ashore and turned in early for a great night's sleep.  Tatiana (a serious walker who at one time competed in the Olympics as a biathlete) has promised to take Sue on a "walk" around Pensacola (get ready, legs!).  An absolutely gorgeous day is forecast:  bountiful sunshine with a high in the upper 60s.  Nice!

We'll be in Pensacola for a few days (maybe as long as a week) tending to some minor engine work and having a tear in our jib mended.  Then Pashka will join Wind Dancer for the trip south, "buddy boating" (which will be nice for the longer offshore legs that we plan on doing).  We'll skirt along the Gulf Coast of Florida with several offshore hops, necessitated by the fact that many of Florida's bridges have fixed heights that are too low for our boat to pass under (stopping off at Fort Myers Beach to visit Jim [Al's brother] and Phyllis] and then head for the Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson (and great snorkeling in turquoise waters) before continuing on to Key West.

All for now.  We'll keep you posted.  Thanks once again for following us! (Al is promising to post pics today on our blog.  We'll see.)

All for now.  We'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Monday, November 27

Well, once again, plans changed.  After remembering that there was a Whole Foods Market in New Orleans, we rethought the French Quarter idea and opted for a taxi ride to Whole Foods instead, thinking that having great food onboard for the next week was probably a better option than enjoying one great meal onshore.  Once back on board, we turned in fairly early and headed out Sunday morning for Gulfport, MS.  The weather forecast (why do we ever believe these guys?) called for moderate winds and cloudy skies in the afternoon but nothing more earth shattering.  Instead, we had 25-30 mph winds on the beam as we crossed a large lake with some fairly decent chop, giving us a great 8-9 knot sail.  Great, that is, until we had to turn 90 degrees to port to enter a really long (miles long) channel into Gulfport.  At that point, we had 30-mph winds "on the nose" and had to slog our way into port with waves crashing over the bow, soaking us in the cockpit.  Sue, at the helm, developed a "windshield wiper" routine, clearing her glasses after each soaking by wiping her (very wet) gloves on her jeans to dry them enough to then wipe the water off her glasses in order to see (until the next wave).  And it was drizzling, to boot.  (Not, of course, forecast.)  We were a cold, wet, sorry looking crew (Sophie & Chelsea included) as we pulled into the Gulfport Yacht Club (found by accident, gratefully, as we were on our way to another marina farther up the channel).  The folks at the yacht club were great and, boy, did it feel good to plug into power at the dock, turn on the heaters and begin to thaw/dry out.  Upon waking up this morning, we have decided to stay in port today and let our clothes (still damp) completely dry out before continuing on with our next leg, to Mobile, AL, on Tuesday.  (Besides that, we're still a little pooped and a day to rest up sounds really good.  If nothing else, we have cemented our feeling that we're not cut from the cloth of whatever it takes to be circumnavigators.  Too hard on the old body.)  Wednesday should find us in Pensacola where we will link up for a few days with our good friends Jack & Tatiana on s/v Pashka.  (Jack & Tatiana live on board their lovely Island Packet and are on their way to the Dominican Republic, having stopped off to visit friends in Pensacola; we have known each other since the days when we were all at Clear Lake at Waterford Harbor and it will be great fun to see them again.)

One good note re yesterday's sail:  Chelsea finally found her dolphins.  After spending every day for the last two weeks hanging over the side looking for dolphins (which Chelsea considers to be her job, taking it very seriously), finally...DOLPHINS!!!  We had two very happy dogs for awhile...wet and cold but joyfully barking away at dolphins, who seem to enjoy the attention.

In any case, that's the latest, folks.  'Til next time....

The Crew of Wind Dancer

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Saturday, November 26

We almost made it to New Orleans yesterday...but not quite.  Instead, we decided to dock just prior to the Harvey Lock in New Orleans at the Boomtown Casino for an onshore meal.  The waterway guide states that Boomtown "allows visitors to tie up along the bulkhead" and that "the casino welcomes visiting boaters."  It also states that you should "have some robust fenders in place to guard against contacting the steel walls of the bulkhead."  Boy, howdy, are they right!  (What they neglected to mention was the multitude of rebar pipes sticking out of the steel & concrete bulkhead at all angles.  What a nightmare!)  Fortunately, a tugboat operator tied up nearby saw our plight (as in how to get the boat close enough to the bulkhead so Al could jump off while at the same time not having Wind Dancer impaled on rebar) and we were able to throw some lines to him to get tied up.  Whew!  In any case, we made it, had a nice dinner, and this morning we took off, transiting the multitude of locks & bridges that it takes to get through New Orleans and across the mighty Mississippi.  We are currently at a nice little marina (Seabrook Harbor) just south of Lake Pontchartrain waiting for a front with a large area of thunderstorms to come through this evening and throughout the night.  With the French Quarter only a ten minute taxi ride away, we're going to treat ourselves to some Louisiana cookin', a Bloody Mary or two and some great jazz before calling it a night.  Wish you were here!

Tonight's low is supposed to be 60 degrees...which is also tomorrow's forecast high.  Yuck.  Then we're expecting the lows to be in the 30s for the next four days with highs in the 50s.     Chilly sailing but, with the wind behind us, it shouldn't be too bad.  We'll keep you posted.  'Til next time....


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thursday, November 24

Instead of putting in our usual 65 miles, we instead took a short hop to Houma, LA, today and are staying overnight at the city docks, primarily to refill our water tanks.  What a delightful place!  The dock is adjacent to a small park with colorful flowerbeds and grass for "the blondes" (as my son calls Sophie & Chelsea) to run.  The waterway guidebook describes this dockage as "truly Southern hospitality at its best."  With that kind of a write-up, how could we not stay here?

Tomorrow will find us heading toward New Orleans with current plans to anchor somewhere just west of the city and probably stay put until Sunday waiting for the forecast front/thunderstorms to pass.  If anything exciting happens, we'll keep you posted.  Until then, hoping you had a really nice Thanksgiving....

The Crew of Wind Dancer

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Wednesday, November 23

Well, we did finally find a place to anchor last Sunday.  However, it was in a little nook right at the edge of the ICW and we lit our spreader lights as well as our anchor light to ensure that all passing tows/barges knew we were there.  That being said, we then slept like rocks.  I don't know whether it's the constant isometrics involved in just balancing yourself in the cockpit all day or what, but Al and I (always night owls) have become early-to-bedders who sleep the sleep of the dead.  Morning finds us weighing anchor at 6:30 and heading out for the day's (average) 65 miles.

Interestingly, who knew that you would actually see the colors of fall foliage while sailing through Lousiana swampland in November?  It's not quite the same as Bucks County, PA, in October but, nonetheless, it's still very pretty.  (We have yet to see an alligator.)

We spent Monday & Tuesday nights at a place called Shell Morgan Landing (lousy weather, forecast for Tuesday, in fact did hit, so we hunkered down).  With this exception,  since leaving Galveston the weather has been absolutely glorious, with highs in the low- to mid-80s and lows in the low 60s.  All good things, however, must come to an end...and our end is in sight.  Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) and Friday are set to be gorgeous days.  However, Saturday we're slated for scattered thunderstorms, followed by a low of 37 degrees (brrrr!) and a high of 57 (brrrr again) on Sunday.  Unfortunately, the following 10 days will be more of the same:  lows in the low 40s (as in 40-41) and highs in the mid-50s.  Florida can't come soon enough.  (After repeated delays, our friends Daren & Nancy on s/v Flying Dogs have decided to head directly south from Rockport to Mexico en route to their final destination of Costa Rica rather than join us on the ICW to the Florida Keys.  One of their determining factors was that they don't have a generator and one of Nancy's goals is to never be cold again.  Nancy, be glad you didn't come with us!)

Back to Louisiana.  We are currently anchored about ten miles southeast of Morgan City.  We had planned on staying at the public docks at Morgan City; however, the strong creosote smell at the docks made Sue so sick that we couldn't stay.  It's just as well.  We've found that we actually enjoy spending the night "on the hook" more than we do at a dock.  (Which is just as well, since that's what we'll be doing the majority of the time once we get to the Bahamas, Virgin Islands, etc.)  One interesting side note:  upon leaving the public docks at Morgan City, we took a wrong turn and headed away from the ICW.  By the time we realized our mistake, we had successfully, albeit very, very slowly, taken Wind Dancer (who has a 53' mast) under a 49' bridge.  Now that's excitement!  (And magic!  Lord only knows how we did it.)

Friday could find us in New Orleans, where we're tempted to hang out, drinking Bloody Marys and eating gumbo while waiting for Saturday's weather to pass.  However, we think we can make it past New Orleans a little ways, so that's probably what we're going to do.  Come time for bad weather, we'll anchor out, Sue will bake some bread and perhaps some shortbread cookies, we'll watch a jillion episodes of Boston Legal on DVD, maybe get some reading in, and life will be good.  It has been so far.  Fair winds, friends.  More later.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Sunday, November 20

Well, as you can see, still no pics.  But we're working on it!  All things in good time.

Since Galveston we've stayed on the ICW rather than going offshore...and we're loving it!  We spent Friday night anchored just west of Port Arthur and last night we were again at anchor, just south of Lake Charles, LA.  This morning we're back on the road (with no idea where we'll be spending the night).  The Waterway Guide shows that there is absolutely no good anchorage between where we are and where we'll be come sundown, so wish us luck.

Sophie & Chelsea are proving themselves to be great little sailors.  Sophie's funny.  She's decided that, rather than go down below for breakfast in the galley after we've started motoring in the morning, she would prefer to take her breakfast in the cockpit.  So we bring her bowl topside where she munches contently (and, we assume, gratefully).  Neither dog has ever been seasick (at least not to the point of losing their breakfast), so we can only think that breakfast in the cockpit is Sophie's way of continuing with the status quo.

God, this is fun!  Thanks once again for following our progress.  We'll let you know if anything exciting happens.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Thursday, November 17

Well, just after our last post we found out that sailing buddies Daren & Nancy were to be further delayed so we decided, what the hey, let's beat feet.  Unfortunately, we didn't decide to leave Costa Grande (just south of Port O'Connor) until 8:00a.m. Monday, leaving at approximately 9:00.  Encountered a wild wind-against-tide wave action exiting the Port O'Connor channel that had us motoring through 10-12 foot waves.  Roller coaster stuff.  Wahoo!!!  After making it through the channel, we had a delightful full day sail offshore to Freeport but, unfortunately, our late departure from Costa Grande put us into Freeport after dark.  Never again!  Since we had been to Bridge Harbor marina in Freeport several times in the past, we felt fairly comfortable entering the Freeport channel at night. However, we were entering from the south and had always entered from the north before, so it was a little different.  No major problems were encountered but your heart is nevertheless in your mouth a few times; night sailing is much tougher to get your bearings than day sailing and we have resolved to be in port prior to sunset from now on.

Thunderstorms came rolling in the next day so we stayed at Bridge Harbor, leaving there for Galveston Wednesday morning.  We sailed offshore (gorgeous day!), arriving in Galveston at around 5:00p.m. and immediately went to the fuel dock to top off our fuel tank and where we were met by our wonderful employee, Ernesto, who brought us more Mountain Valley for our trip.  Ernesto then ran Sue over to the local grocery store to pick up some fresh veggies.  The plan was to then anchor out overnight and take off early in the morning for Port Arthur.  Problem:  While Sue was at the grocery store, the wind (which had been forecast to increase "late" at night) came roaring in at 30 mph and pinned us to the fuel dock overnight (which is where we sit right now at 7:00a.m. Thursday).  Unfortunately, the wind isn't forecast to drop until late afternoon so if we can't find some kind soul to tow our bow off the dock, it looks as if we may spend the majority of the day here.  Yuck!  Al has just gone ashore to see if the fuel dock folks have any suggestions (or demands, such as "We don't care if you damage your boat.  Just get it off our dock!).  We'll see.  Not the best of situations...but not the worst either.  Eventually, we'll be on our way again.  We'll keep you posted.

Update.  Al just came back to the boat.  Fuel dock folks were great.  Said boats get pinned to the dock here on a regular basis and not to worry about it.  Just sit here as long as needed.  Nice!!!  We'll probably head for Bolivar (just north of Galveston) late today so that we can get a jump on tomorrow's rather long sail to Port Arthur.

Today may be the day that Al figures out how to transfer our photos to our blog.  If so, we'll let you know.  Thanks for being our friends and wanting to keep up with our voyaging.  We wish we could take all of you with us!

More later.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Friday, November 11

Fulton Harbor boating friends Bert & Dixie treated us, our "boat buddies" Daren & Nancy, and another couple who have recently arrived in their boat, Kelly & Darline (who plan on sailing to Australia next year) to a farewell dinner tonight.  How nice!  Thanks, Bert & Dixie!  We'll miss you.  (We would show you their pictures but we haven't quite figured out how to operate our new camera just yet.  Patience.  We'll get there.)  We're leaving tomorrow morning, headed for Key West initially, then on to The Bahamas and eventually, hopefully, to our old stomping grounds, the Virgin Islands.  The plan is to then return to Fulton Harbor in May or June 2012.

Saturday, November 12

And off we go!  We motor sailed up the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) to Costa Grande, a drop-dead gorgeous little community just south of Port O'Connor with beautiful facilities and floating docks.  (We actually have pictures now of both Fulton Harbor and Costa Grande; Al resorted to using his phone to take the pics but at least we have them!  Now we just need to figure out how to post them on our blog.  Ugh.)  Joining us in their boat for the trip from Fulton Harbor to Costa Grande were friends Larry & Sue and Frankie & Sherry.  Daren & Nancy came from Fulton by land yacht (car) to join us for dinner, as did Lee & Kate (who drove down from Austin).  All of us have boats at Fulton Harbor and have built treasured friendships over the last year.  It was great fun to have everyone together.  Daren & Nancy, along with their two German Shorthaired Pointers, Pete & Libby, will be joining us in their boat, Flying Dogs, later this week.  (They've been held up a little, waiting on their dinghy to arrive, fixing the dinghy motor [that was cracked during shipment)], selling their truck, etc.)  In any case, the four of us plan on "buddy boating" together to the Florida Keys.  After hanging out there for a little while, we will continue on to The Bahamas while Daren & Nancy head south to Costa Rica.  The current plan is for us to take the boats (Wind Dancer and Flying Dogs) offshore from here in "baby steps" rather than head directly across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida.  The Gulf can be treacherous and we're just not up for the possibility of running into some strong storms this early in our voyaging, so....instead, we will be sailing offshore from port to port, hugging the coastline and anchoring out each night, so that should bad weather come along, we can duck into a port and hang out until we get a favorable "weather window" to continue sailing.  The trip will take a little longer this way but, hey, we're sailing!  No complaints!

Sophie & Chelsea are having a ball, barking at dolphins who swim alongside us when we're sailing.  Dolphin watching is exhausting work and the dogs are sacked out by early evening.

Actually, we're all pooped.  More later.  Good night.