Daysailing Tampa Bay (June 2000)
Now that we finally have our boat in Florida, we're trying to find some time to sail her.

Monday, May 29, 2000: Aborted Outing

Today, Christy and Kelley went to the beach, and Fred and Keith came out for a sail with Theresa and me. Unfortunately, our little sailing excursion nearly ended in disaster. We pulled smoothly away from our slip and motored out to the channel which leads into the Gulf. The wind was blowing 15-20 knots directly out of the west, and the tide was going out strongly (into the wind), creating some nasty swells in the mouth of the channel. We were obliged to pound into the oncoming swells, and our progress was slow.

As we neared the outer marks of the channel, we noticed that the swells were breaking all the way across the mouth of the channel. The depth alarm went off, and I powered down, but the next big wave dropped us hard onto the bottom. Theresa and I both decided we'd had enough, so we turned around and headed back in toward the safety of our harbor, but not before the waves dropped us twice more onto the keel and rudder.

The boat seemed to be handling normally, we weren't taking on any water, and it seemed a shame to bail on the entire day's sail. Conditions in the Pass-A-Grille basin were actually quite nice, so we put up some sail and enjoyed sailing back and forth through the basin.

I was still worried, though, about the likelihood of damage to the rudder, keel or hull, so once we returned to the slip (where we docked without much difficulty), I donned my swimsuit and diving mask, and dove down under the boat to inspect the bottom for damage. Everything looked fine, but I'm still worried that we may have cracked some fiberglass. I'll probably have to have the boat hauled and inspected before my fears are allayed. We need to have the bottom cleaned and the zincs replaced anyway.

Sunday, June 25, 2000: Boat Maintenance

My dad was in town for the weekend, so I asked him to help me with one of my outstanding boat projects: outfitting the boat with a second anchor for Bahamian-style mooring. (This is a mooring technique whereby you deploy two anchors, one at twice the distance from the second, so that the boat switches tension from one anchor to the other when the tide reverses. This substantially reduces your swing radius.) I also wanted to replace our primary anchor rhode, since it was looking a little worn.

The previous owners had purchased 200' of new anchor line, but they never got around to installing it. My dad and I measured this new line off in 10' increments, twisting little anchor rhode markers into the line at each interval. We then hauled all of the existing anchor chain and line out of the chain locker, cut away the old line, and spliced the new line onto the end of the chain. The splice took quite a while to complete because the new anchor line was slightly larger than the previous one, and we had to get the splice very tight in order for it to pass cleanly through the hole into the chain locker. Only when we had finally finished that task did we realize that we had measured our length markers from the other end! They were all wrong, so we took them out.

Once we finished feeding all of the line and chain back into the locker, we turned our attention to the second anchor. I already had a spare anchor (a Bruce), and I figured we could use the line that we had just removed from the first anchor, but we needed about 50' of chain in the right size for the windlass. It took a couple trips to West Marine to determine which chain we needed, and that West Marine didn't stock it. I placed an order for the needed chain, and we called it a day.

Monday, June 26, 2000: Daysail

My Uncle Richard and Aunt Judy were in town over the weekend, and we had some nice weather with favorable wind and tides, so we decided to take the boat out for a daysail. We found the shallow spot between the outer marks of the Pass-A-Grille Channel, but we had timed our trip to take us through just a couple hours before high tide, and the seas were fairly calm, so we didn't have any real problems. (Our depth alarm went off at 7.5 feet, but it reads over a foot low, so we probably had over 8.5 feet from the water line, or almost 3 feet under the keel.)

We sailed all the way south to the main Tampa Bay shipping channel, then turned around and sailed back. We saw some dolphins and had an altogether delightful day. We returned through the mouth of the Pass-A-Grille Channel in the late afternoon, a couple of hours after high tide. Again, the depth alarm went off as we passed between the outer marks, but we made it through without incident.

Because the tide was running, our slip had its usual nasty current, and despite all the extra hands on board, we bumped the pilings coming in. I can usually execute a nice docking when the tide is running OUT, because the prop walk takes the boat up-current, but when the tide is running IN, the prop walks the stern down-current, and I can't seem to lay the boat into the slip elegantly. (Any hints would be much appreciated!)

Thursday, July 6, 2000: Another Daysail

Rafael & Reena were in town to visit, so we took the boat out for another daysail. Unfortunately, the winds were blowing strongly out of the west, and the waves were really stacking up in the mouth of the channel. Theresa and I were reminded of the day at the end of May when we bumped bottom in similar conditions, so we decided not to risk the channel, and settled instead for a couple hours of sailing around in the Pass-A-Grille basin.

As usual, the tide was running strongly as we returned to the slip, and despite our best efforts, we bumped the pilings again coming in. At least we're not doing any damage to the boat with these blunders!

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