We crossed the Gulf as scheduled yesterday and I'll report on that next, but in the meantime the "breaking" news is that on arrival in Tarpon Springs, we decided to go to lunch and on the way Carolyn took a header over the handlebars of her bicycle. At first she appeared to have only a few grazes and bruises on her right arm and leg, but she also had a very sore left arm. As it hadn't settled down in the afternoon, we went to the local hospital where she was found to have broken her elbow. She is presently in a splint and sling and we are waiting to hear from the Travel Insurance company on how to proceed next. It is probable that we may have to revise our itinerary and return to New Zealand earlier than planned, but it is early days yet.
So, back to the travelogue:
The crossing was very easy and took us around 18 hours. As we anticipated, we travelled with THE LAST RESORT who had similar cruising characteristics to us. We left Apalachicola at 4.30pm on Sunday night and went through the "Government Cut" in the barrier islands to the Gulf. Many pundits say the cut is too shallow to get through, but the locals in Panama City and Apalachicola told us the way to get through safely and we used their guidance to do so. I have put a note on Active Captain's website describing the procedure we used to traverse the cut without incident, so I'm not going to bother to do it here. Just outside the cut, and for the first hour the sea was short and choppy, but not uncomfortable (except to one of the cats on The Last Resort). After that it was smooth and by 1.00am it was glassy. There was a near full moon most of the way across and we stayed in touch with TLR by regular radio schedule - every hour on the hour. The sky was clear and the stars bright - it was quite an ethereal experience. The auto pilot took us right to our destination and the radar (which I had never had before) coupled with the GPS to provide all the navigation and safety information we needed. I was also delighted to see that the Navionics app on the iPad kept operating all the way across and as a final tool I had the Garmin car GPS hooked up which provided some additional interesting data - although "driving southeast" and a wee icon of a car crossing the Gulf of Mexico were somewhat incongruous.
I had a small sleep at 1.00am while Carolyn took the helm, and when I returned at 2.20, the wind had picked up a little to make small wavelets, but nothing uncomfortable. This continued until 6.30am when dawn began to break, by which time we had reached the 40ft (deep) line and the dreaded crab pots. Well..... we were warned about them, but let me tell you folks - there are THOUSANDS of them!!! AND they are close together and in no real order. They are generally in lines running east/west with the buoys about 100ft apart (but this varied considerably), but occasionally they would run at right angles to another line, or parallel but in the gaps between the adjacent line. The buoys are often black or gray, which makes the REAL easy to spot (yeah, right). To make matters worse, our track lay right down the reflection of the rising sun, so we had to zigzag across it so we could see the pots clearly. Carolyn, who had managed to get some sleep on the way across, was refreshed and found this part of the adventure to be exhilarating and a lot of fun. On the other hand I, having had less than two hours sleep in the previous 30, did not find it that endearing. This continued for 23 nautical miles to the entrance to the Anclote River (buoy R4) and it took is over 3 hours to get to safe water, and the last hour we were swerving around in only 9 -11 ft of water. We managed to avoid them all, so no repeat of the New Orleans debacle, although at one time I had to do an emergency "full astern" manoeuvre as one was right under our bow before we saw it!! Even when we were in the channel to Tarpon Springs there was the occasional pot - I will never feel the same about eating crab again. There is more skinny water getting into the town, and in the marina, but we arrived at 10.30am, chilled out for a bit and then decide to go to lunch in town where we were recommended to try the char grilled octopus at "Mama's". This is where we were going when disaster struck, and most of the rest of the day and evening was spent getting to, and in, the ER of the local hospital. When we got back to the boat, however, we had a feed of Key West Pinks (large shrimp) and fresh Hapuka (Grouper..Groper) that I had bought earlier in the day from the local fish merchants
Sorry there are no pix, but priorities have been elsewhere...but here's the map of where we are.