Clear Lake to Pensacola
We left Clear Lake early the next morning. This would be Michelle’s first Gulf crossing and the first time we would sail together for multiple days – just the two of us. FYI, when you make a direct crossing, there aren’t any hotels or campgrounds, so you have to keep sailing – day and night. You might wonder who sails when we’re sleeping and the simple answer is, “We do!” Double Wide has an autopilot which steers the boat for us, but someone still has to stay at the helm and make sure we don’t run into anything. With two people aboard, we opted for a 2/2 (2 hours on, 2 hours off) watch schedule, which works quite well for Michelle and me.
Our path across the Northern Gulf of Mexico was littered with Oil Rigs, Platforms, and Crew Boats. During the day, we could see them easily from a distance, but once the sun set, we had to rely heavily on the Radar to help us spot the small, poorly lit platforms. On one occasion, I could see a line of low platforms on the radar, and adjusted my course to miss them, but I never actually saw them until they were behind us – they were unlit!
We had light east winds for a good portion of the troop, which meant that we had to motor for a good portion of the crossing, which took 4 days and three nights. Michelle did a great job, but now tells people that she’s good for 2 nights and 3 days!
We arrived at the Pensacola jetties just after daylight and anchored in McRee Cove, which is just inside the jetties. We napped there for several hours before heading into the Pensacola. The quiet and solitude of the cove was memorable. After a great breakfast and a couple of phone calls, I strong up the hammock in the cockpit and enjoyed a nice long nap!
Confession time. I didn’t bother to purchase paper charts for the Pensacola to Destin area, thinking that I could get by with electronic charts. As we got closer to the coast, I discovered that I didn’t have electronic charts, so I had to rely on the large scale charts, which told me we had made it safely to Pensacola, but it was a little stressful not knowing exactly where the channels and shoals were. We managed to find our way to the Palafax Yacht Harbor where we fueled up and took a slip for the night. I needed to find a local chart, so we called a cab and headed to West Marine. Once we were in the marina and had internet access, I was able to download the electronic charts as well. Charts obtained, we found a great restaurant and had dinner and turned in early, still making up for the lack of sleep on the crossing.