March 15-31, 2009 - Cruising Log for S/V Freedom - a Gemini 105 - Jim and Deb Faughn

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Mar 17 - I know, it's been too long since my last update. So what's happened? Great question!!!

- Another person bought us lunch and it was the last lunch we had in Key West this year. Pictures next update and it was a great lunch again.  

- Deb fell off the boat as we were going into get fuel and pump out in front of a Coast Guard Cutter getting ready to leave Key West. I'm not kidding! I was talking on the radio when I heard "JIIIIIIIM." I have a great picture to show you her bruises when she hit the lifeline and stanchion. You should have seen all those Coast Guard guys getting ready to dive in and save her.

- We are now in Clearwater Florida and tomorrow, we are leaving for a 220 mile crossing to Panama City. Now wait, why are we on the West Coast instead of going to New York??????

- We have made it from Key West to Clearwater in five days both sailing and motor sailing. No we aren't trying to set a record but we are really moving faster and longer than we every have.

- We are headed back to Kentucky Lake. Why??????

- A great friend of mine, Bill Gary whom you met in the last update, along with his Yacht Sales Manager have offered me a job as the Sailboat Specialist at Green Turtle Bay.

- Deb and I are thinking this is all a wonderful opportunity and looking forward to a new challenge not to mention the fun of meeting ton's of new people and helping them achieve their dreams.

- And once again, we are getting ready for a "Deb dreaded" crossing. In case you haven't picked up on it yet, Deb hate's crossings but she knows this is the best way to get there quickly. We lucked out on the weather and we are going to have east, northeast, and of course very limited winds. Hopefully we will get to sail or at least motor sail on this crossing. By the way, we have been using our asymmetrical offshore motor sailing at 7 knots. What a great sail and everyone know's I love to sail. I am truly going to have a great time sharing sailing with all of the people who are looking for a sailboat and representing those who have entrusted their boats to us to sell. Our plan is to leave on Wednesday morning at 7:30ish from the dock here at Clearwater Municipal Marina. We should be about 36 hours offshore unless something happens to the engine. If so, we will be longer and we won't make it by Thursday night. Don't worry, I really love to sail and I have everything from patching supplies to a 2200 gallon an hour pump on board. Of course the Gemini won't sink so it could be the adventure that I will never have. Truthfully, I will call my aunt when we arrive and she is my person to sound the alarm. I will try to post before we get out of Panama City so the rest of you won't worry either. Thanks for your concern, at least I would hope you would be concerned.

- I almost forgot, I just have to tell you about the conversation I had with a guy on the dock here at Clearwater. All he wanted to talk about was pirates and if we were afraid of them. All I could think about was - everyone can get an excuse for not going. I also have to tell you about the - on the court verses being in the stands thing that I live by. It changed my life.

- Lot's of pictures on the next update - I promise. We are just spending all of our time offshore and just don't have calm water so I can write. But you ask, what about the evenings? I answer, after 10-11 hour days plus cooking things like ribs and other great delectable's for dinner. Time just goes buy with no time to update when you have to figure out the next days passage. However, you have to trust me, you will love the story of Deb's falling off the boat along with the picture! 

- If that isn't enough teasers and a good enough outline of what I will be writing about, I give up! Hopefully we will find a great place to post in the next 5 days. Sorry about the delay.

Mar 19 - First things first. We made it to Panama City. Weather wasn't as predicted and it was a rough trip with a couple of things breaking. Story later. The other detail is that it will take a bit of time to catch you up on all of the stories.  

Before we left Key West, Lou and Meg bought us lunch. We decided to enjoy it at Caroline's which is one of our favorite places for lunch in Key West.

Lou and Meg bought us lunch before we headed out of Key West. I printed their entire email just so you could get to know them. By the way Lou, I'm going to put that search function in just as soon as I get back to Kentucky Lake.

Your boat looks great along with the two of you on-board. As you will see in the next story, staying on-board is a good thing.

Once again, thanks and we will make it up to New Jersey, just not this year.

Meg and I have to work 5 more years to begin cruising as you both are enjoying. In the meantime, we find the site useful for preparing us to what lies ahead. Whether it be Gemini related maintenance, useful upgrades, cost related issues, locations you visit, etc. it would be hard to single out what specific information we find the most useful, we both love it all! One stand out was when you had to replace your transmission, Meg and I are do it yourself' ers and the found the information a real heads up. It is very helpful to have someone with the same boat post their experiences, good or bad. Stuff happens to all types of boats and following your adventures give us a reality check and prevents us from having unrealistic expectations of the Gemini and cruising in general. Your site and the Gemini forum are a must visit for Gemini boat owners.

When we did our small 500 mile trip with Starrider last year, we felt we were well prepared for the journey. We had necessary spare parts, supplies and the proper mind set for the journey. We did overnight sailing offshore, and your posts on sailing in shifts helped prepare us for that as well.

We intend on cruising the exact southern areas you have been cruising. Viewing your site gets us pumped up for all the fun we will have with our Gemini after retirement. We always enjoy the updates and look forward to them as they appear. It makes this boring life we have to lead, seem worth it and gives us something to look forward to. We find the site a wonderful inspiration and surprised you do not have a cult like following, lol.

The stories pertaining to the cruisers you both meet along the way are fun to read as well. Several weeks ago we were text chatting on another sailing forum and came across Bill and Christy from Veranda. We remember seeing their boat in Barnegat Bay NJ. Bill noticed we own a Gemini and asked if we knew you and Deb. The conversation then switched gears, and all I can say as you both left a very positive impression with them. I felt proud to know you and Deb through the forum and some emails we have exchanged.

The only thing I wished your site had was a search function. We remember the post you made about replacing the helm and master lexan windows. We could not find it in the maintenance section, so it must be buried somewhere in the logs. A search function would make some things easier to retrieve.

Keep up the good work and please don't change a thing. Thanks for taking the time and sharing your experiences with us all. I know this is way too long for you to place on your site, just use what you feel is important to you both.

Take Care,

Lou & Meg Cavaluzzi
*Starrider* hull 727 in NJ

She said - He said

Note from Deb…..

Joan Baez stated, “You don’t choose how you are going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live. Now.”

Well, with certainty, I will die falling overboard. We have made pretty good decisions on how we want to live our lives on board; however, I have now broken the world’s record for a cruiser falling off the boat. Jimmy Buffett holds the second record. The sordid details started with Jim wanting to leave Key West and we had to take the big boat into the marina for fuel, water, etc…. It was about 10:00 a.m. and as we approached Key West Bight, I took my lines (like I have 1000 times before) and headed up to the port bow. As we approached the Coast Guard station – now let me paint a picture of this station…. It is a fully functional station and there were about 30 young, strapping, tan, muscular, handsome men - you get the picture- standing on the end of the dock, ready to board their boat for drills.

As I stepped onto the tallest part of our boat, I slipped – and went gracefully, backwards into the bay in front of the Coast Guard. As I fell, I thought about doing a half gainer, but too little time and too little skill for that. As I hit the water, Jim was on the radio yakking at the pump out guy and thanking him for his help since December. As Jim drifted off into the sunrise, all I could do was scream bloody murder…. JIM I FELL OFF THE BOAT! He looked around and told the pump out guy, “Sorry I have to go, my wife just fell off the boat.” The first item on the list of rescue procedures in a, “man overboard drill,” is to throw the person a flotation device. Since I’m not a strong swimmer, I was at the mercy of treading water in strong current, since Jim was so far away and nothing could get to me. As fate would have it, the young, strapping, tan, muscular, handsome, Coast Guard men were getting ready to muster their craft, donning their life jackets, to rescue me. By the way, it did cross my mind to tell Jim I would meet him at the dock….Jim made a very slow – by my standards – turn and ended up picking me up. His first words were, “What are you doing in the water?” I felt like saying, “Well Einstein, I fell off the boat…. I took a shower this morning.” Lessons learned: Although we cannot reach new horizons if we fear to leave the shore, I learned that although you have done a procedure many, many times, accidents happen in a split second and you need to be vigilant in all aspects of the boat and life in general. I sustained some pretty severe bruising to my ribs, but am recovering nicely. As a side bar, this was the second time I’ve been overboard; Jimmy Buffett has been over once.

Jim’s note: I just knew when Deb fell that she had to hit something. The next day, as you can tell, she was sore, sore sore. She hit the lifeline and the stanchion post. Ouch. - The first thing I heard was “JIIIIIIIIIIM.” I looked back and thought, what is she doing in the water? I immediately started a turn to the starboard but these boats turn like a manatee when it comes to doing a 180. I thought about throwing her our life cushion which is always in the cockpit but quickly decided that since the wind was blowing away from her it would simply be the second thing I had to rescue. So after my turn, I took her up the starboard side so I could see her the entire time and purposely overshot her so she wouldn’t get into our prop. Afterall, we wanted to leave tomorrow and I didn’t need to have a hospital putting her chopped body back together. I tossed her the life cushion so she could float, let down the ladder and then backed the boat up so she was about 5 feet away from the ladder. Then I told her it was ok to swim in to the ladder.

By the way, you should have seen the look on all those Coast Guard guy’s faces when she was yelling “JIIIIIIIIIM.” I’m not sure why she didn’t take a bow after she was aboard but it may have had something to do with how fast she perceived me turning the boat around. Truthfully, it was a good wakeup call since we were going to do most of our trip up the west coast of Florida offshore. All she needed next was dry clothes, new visor, new sunglasses, and then we could pick up fuel, water, and pump-out.

We left Key West saying good bye to our friends and to the great memories we've had during this season. Not only did we get to enjoy the people ashore, we also enjoyed all of the other people who came by boat to one of our favorite rocks.

We left at day break and motor sailed to the Little Shark River. Two days earlier, Bill and Bette had left Key West and as it turned out, they were going to be anchored at Little Shark also on Friday night. Once again, we rafted up to them and Bette cooked a wonderful meal that included one of my favorites - crab cakes.

We had a great conversation and although Bill tried to convince me to slow down a bit, we are going to try to get back to Kentucky as fast as practical so I can get some time in with the Yacht Sales division before the boat show coming up the second weekend of April.

Below you can see we had a wonderful sunset to cap off a wonderful evening.

On Saturday, Deb and I went from the Little Shark River to Marco Island. We motor sailed most of the time although we had the island made so we sailed the last two hours with our asymmetrical and the main.

On Sunday, we once again left at daybreak and headed north to Pelican Bay at Charlotte Harbor. There is an anchorage up there you can get to from the outside (gulf) and it is a both a good channel along with anchorage. On the way up, we once again motor sailed because there just wasn't enough wind to sail. This is where I found that in very light apparent winds, the boat really likes to have just the asymmetrical up instead of both the main and the asymmetrical. In four knots of apparent wind, we were able to pick up about .7 knots on top of the motoring speed. When you are trying to make 58-60 nautical mile days, every bit helps.

On the way up, I found out that my friend Fred aboard his Nordic Tug was heading north too. We almost caught him before heading in to the anchorage. You can see his boat below. The anchorage is one we just have to stop at on our way back down. There is a park here with a dock and great hiking trails over to the beach.

We simply settled in and Fred came over for dinner. This will be the last time we see Fred until we get south again unless he happens to do the loop and we head down the Tenn-Tom with him.

While offshore, I've been trolling some and caught this Spanish Mackerel. We decided to let him go instead of eating him although I've already told we should have eaten him instead. Even though the meat is a bit dark, I'm told it is very good.

Our next stop was a quick stop at Sarasota. However, as we approached Sarasota, I restudied the charts and just didn't like their entrance so we went in at Venice and had to endure three bridges as we made our way up to the marina for fuel. We just didn't want to run out before we hit Clearwater. We were only stopped for 15 minutes according to the GPS before we were underway again for Longboat Key which is about 10 miles north of Sarasota. We had a great meal at our anchorage and the next morning we had them open the bridge so we could get back offshore.

We stayed offshore and entered the channel for Clearwater which is well marked and an easy entrance to get in. Next we headed for the Clearwater Municipal Marina where we were taking a dock for the night. For us, this is a spurge but after 5 days of moving, it was worth it to get laundry completed, clean the boat, and eat some junk food at Crabby Bill's.

I found it pretty funny that so many people had paid for a dolphin encounter and the first place they brought them was 200 yards from where they boarded the boats. There were four dolphins playing and eating just off of the fuel dock.


 I'm going to tell our crossing story later because I really want to do it justice. I did have to put in this rendition of Deb's idea of our watch schedule. Of course once we get underway Deb always goes back to bed to catch a few more winks. I always have first watch.

As you can see, her ideal watch schedule is listed to the left. If I add it up correctly, she would have a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes of watch in the 36 or so hours of our crossing. I was laughing pretty good but she didn't understand why I thought that was funny.

Truthfully, she had a different schedule on the opposite side of the card.

More later - Thanks for following our site.

Mar 22 -  I think I left off about our adventures getting ready to tell you about a guy we met in Crabby Bill's and his fear of Pirates. We were just sitting there and of course as soon as someone asks us where we are from we say from our boat and right now we are from here. That always leads into an interesting conversation and in this case into a non-ending story this guy had about a friend who once had a boat and had a person come aboard whom they didn't invite. Questions continued about don't you carry guns, aren't you afraid, and of course aren't you afraid of pirates. It really didn't matter the fact that the guy didn't remember the facts of his friends story that happened 20 years ago, what mattered was he was afraid. This all brought up a saying that I learned about the time his friend was, maybe, having a person aboard his boat. The saying goes, "You are either on the court or in the stands and the only person making a difference is on the court." Pretty simple especially if you think about a game of singles tennis. Out of all of the people in the stands, watching on T. V., listening on XM radio or any other way they can watch or hear the match, who is making a difference? There are only two, the two people on the court and you might argue the officials. I've watched people criticize, expound on the skill and lack of skill of people while watching sports and business in every walk of life and the bottom line is the only ones making a difference are the ones who are out there engaged and trying.  In my mind that guy will never be on the court because he is afraid of sticking his neck out and trying something new. I go back to my saying on the first page of our website that I wrote before Deb and I left to go cruising.

"I am not afraid of the dangers we face, I am afraid of missing the opportunity to experience and enjoy what life has to offer." - Jim Faughn

We've never had a bad experience with "pirates." Crossings on the other hand........


So after the fourth weather update with my computer and listening to NOAA, arguably the same data, we left on our crossing from Clearwater, FL to Panama City, FL at 7:30 am Wednesday morning. Weather was supposed to be winds from the northeast at 15-20 knots until 10 am then lowering to northeast at 15 knots by 1 pm and shifting more easterly at 15 knots and then lowering to 10-15 knots out of the east by 7 pm and staying that way or lighter all night. By the time we get to the turn heading to Panama City, the winds were supposed to be 5-10 knots and east to northeast. WRONG.

The first three hours were correct but since we were leaving the harbor and so close to shore it really didn't matter. Deb went back to sleep and I figured when she woke up the winds would be starting to be perfect for a comfortable crossing of about 220 miles. As it turned out it was only 210 miles and I use the term only very loosely.

Winds just happened to stay north to northeast at 15 knots all day. Given our direction, that is almost the worst point of the winds because we can make pretty good speed motor sailing, the rolling of the boat with 3-4 foot seas spaced closely together makes it uncomfortable. We were rolling through about 20 degrees down on the starboard to 20 degrees up. The period was only 3-4 seconds between the waves so it was a quick roll verses the kind we get in the ocean. Is it sounding like fun yet?

Then just before dark the winds shifted to the northwest and that was just the direction we happened to be going. Before this, we were motor sailing and making an average of 6.3 knots for the past 12 hours. When the winds shifted north, I had to take down all sails and we motored all night into 10-15 knot winds. Our boat speed slowed to 5.2 knots on average although at times we would see 4.8 and others 5.4. This was going to be a long night.

So far we had kept to our 3 hour on and 3 hour off watch schedule instead of the one Deb initially proposed. However, Deb hadn't been laying down on her off time because it was so rough. By 1:15 am, just past midnight, I told Deb to go to bed and I would take it the rest of the night. Otherwise I could just see her calling the Coast Guard and claiming some sort of illness and getting airlifted off our boat.

We have a timer on board which I use on offshore crossings. We hadn't seen a single boat on this crossing and as it turned out didn't see another boat until we were 5 miles from turning into the Panama City Pass. I guess they knew something we didn't!

I set the timer at 10 minutes and I got into a great grove. Timer goes off, I hit the button and then get up, scan the horizon for other boats, look at the gauges for the engine, then check the GPS to make sure we are on track. I then go back inside, lay back down and hit the timer again. Then I check to make sure the timer is counting down and nod off for about 8 minutes of a light sleep. Time to do it all over again.

The moon didn't come out until after 3 am and even then it was behind the clouds so it was dark out there. Dark is good for seeing other boats but not for obstructions. Thank goodness we have the GPS because I set up our course to miss all marked obstructions by 5 miles. Of course you always worry about the unmarked things floating in the water. With the banging on the flat space between the two hulls and the rocking and rolling, your dreams just naturally turn to collision at sea with an unmarked object.

Deb had those dreams in the few hours she said she slept. I on the other hand kept dreaming I was in the movie Groundhog Day and waking up every ten minutes to do the same thing over and over never seeing anything different.

The pictures you've seen above are of us arriving at Panama City with the BEAUTIFUL white sand beaches. We really like this town from a water perspective and of course one of the other reasons are the people we know there. Back in our 2006 logs you met Larry, Susan, Mike and Cheryl. Larry owns a Gemini and he had invited us to stay at their dock run by Mike. Well, Larry wasn't around but Mike and Cheryl upon hearing we were heading their way just wanted to get together. Thanks for the dock space again and as you can see we had a great dinner. You can see Mike, Cheryl, Deb, me and our waitress Jackie. No, Jackie didn't have dinner with us but we just needed some more new faces for the picture on our website.

We had a great time talking about the Bluegrass Festival Mike is putting his entire life into at Panama City for the Shiners. They have some great bands coming this year and it is too bad we will miss it.

Thanks again for the wonderful time and friendship.

We left on Friday morning, picked up fuel at the City Marina and then were off motor sailing towards the canal towards Destin. I figured that was the best approach since Deb hadn't mutinied yet and I really didn't want her too. Our wind instrument has died as a result of what I'm not sure but I'm hoping it is a connection problem. In addition, the autohelm is a bit of a problem now and I believe the belt needs to be replaced. Such are the way things go on a boat.

The picture to the lower left is one of a Coast Guard helicopter landing at their base and the one to the right is of a gravel unloading operation on the canal just before we got to the end.

While we were in the canal I saw a cool old trawler and gave him a call. We had a great conversation however learned that he had just come down the Tenn-Tom as it was starting to flood. This gave me something I just had to check out as soon as we got to a free wi-fi site. As it turned out, at anchorage we selected which was near some houses had a wi-fi signal and I was able to do some research. The lower Tenn-Tom is flooded and it will take about 6 days for it to clear out. Given we were going to spend 4 days getting past Mobile, that means we have 2 days we have to see the roses. Had we known this a couple of days earlier we would have spent some more time in Panama City. Oh well, you can't know what you don't know.

Yesterday was perfect for sailing although it is cold up here! We are getting down into the 50's at night and high's are in the lower 70's late in the day. For us, that is COLD. Regardless, the winds were directly from the east and after pulling our anchor we were able to sail the 20 miles on to our free dock at Ft. Walton Beach. The city provides the dock and as long as you call in advance you can stay one night. With grocery stores so close this is always a stop for us.

We passed Destin under sail and then headed on to the Bridge at Ft Walton Beach.

In the picture to the left I had just taken down our sails as we approached the 49 foot bridge. Good thing our mast is less than that distance. Still, we were watching as we went under along with 3 other boats who I think were taking bets.

After securing the boat, Deb and I were off for the store. We spent about $140 bucks which should last us for the next week and a half or so. As soon as we got back Tony arrived. Tony pictured below helps out with a Gemini all the time and loves being out on the boat. As it turns out Richard owns the boat and it is kept right across from where we are tied up. You can see a part of the Gemini in the picture to the lower left.

We had a great conversation and in our tradition, anyone coming aboard the boat just has to be on the website.

We had some more people stop by to ask about the boat and Deb said I should be in boat sales. Oh wait, I just happen to be now.

As it approached dark we walked up to the cinema you see to the right and we almost always go here for a movie. They have a great setup. It only costs 3 bucks a piece for the movie and you sit at tables where they will serve you food and drink.

We saw the movie Marley and Me which was the first movie on a "big screen" we've seen in probably a year. By the way, it is a movie about life and a real tear jerker in the end.

Well, now that I'm up to date on our website, it is time to upload the site and get out of here. We are going to Pensacola today and the winds are from the east again. That means we will sail most of the way there if not all the way even through the narrows. Tonight we will anchor and tomorrow we will go into a marina for two nights. I really need to clean the boat and then we will get to see my father again before heading for our positioning anchorage by Mobile Bay. We should be moving up Mobile Bay on Wednesday and if the winds are right we will have a south to southwest wind.

Now all we need is for those flood waters to get out of there early.

 Mar 23 - Yesterday we had one of if not the best sails ever. This is what cruising is all about. I know you are almost tired of hearing about our asymmetrical but here is another round. Sorry, no, I'm very happy about it. We love sailing and with the right sails, life is good, very good!

We left Fort Walton Beach and our favorite free dockage at 9:40 am. We motor sailed until about 10:30 through the winding narrows and then turned back into the wind and raised the mainsail. I couldn't get the genoa flying and I told Deb, "This is what we bought the asymmetrical for." She then came out for five minutes and I had it flying and we were flying after that. To say that this was a great day is an understatement.

When you look at the picture below you will see the most favorite part of my life. NO MOTOR RUNNING!

Next look at the picture at the lower right and I didn't catch the highest speed. I only caught a picture of 7.7 knots and the top speed according to the GPS was 8.2 knots. I only wish I knew what the wind speed was? As you know our wind speed indicator bought the farm before and during the crossing. I'm guessing it was about 15 knots apparent. Regardless, it was great!!!!

We saw speeds of 5 knots to 7.7 knots and they were at times higher. The boat was wonderful during the entire experience.


Now why are the waves coming from behind us when the flag is flying to the starboard side? This is a real question and it has to do with the apparent wind.

Bottom line is that when you are making such great forward motion, you are in essence changing the wind form aft to a beam reach. The asymmetrical is not good from an aft position so they say. However, my experience is that you never get an aft wind because the asymmetrical makes so much forward motion along with your main sail that you are essentially on a beam reach when the wind is at about 170 degrees on your port side.

Below you can see us as we approach Pensacola Beach and the bridge which we sailed through. We traveled about 35 miles today and sailed 28 of that. It was a WONDERFUL day even though the high temperature was only 68 degrees.

Trust me, you won't have to hear about our new sail much longer because we will be heading up the Tenn-Tom as soon as the flood waters drop. Even so, think about getting the drifter on a new Gemini which easier but if you are cheap like me, get a sail from Bacon Sails and have a great time with it.

I have a confession to make. I accused Deb of spilling perfume when we were in that canal between Panama City and Destin. Today I just happened to notice that we are covered with Pollen. I'm not talking some pollen, I'm talking POLLEN. In case you don't know, I'm the most allergic guy you've ever met and pollen isn't in my best dust category. Now we just need to clean this boat and decrease the allergy medicine.

Last night we anchored about 3 miles from Palifox Marina. We are planning on hauling the hook at about 10:30 a.m. and heading in so we can get there at 11ish. If you are purchasing a couple of nights at a marina, you might as well get your money's worth!

I'm planning on washing the boat big time and fixing a few things.

The flood waters are supposed to be down at the Coffeeville Dam on Thursday. That means they should be still flowing down to Mobile until Saturday. However, we will be heading up past Mobile on Thursday and anchoring about 10-15 miles north. Then on Friday we will start our trip up. I think we will be playing that new video game - Avoid the floating junk in the river. Just think of the possibilities, it could be refrigerators, suitcases, trees, or even something bigger and worse. I just want to avoid whatever comes down and get up the waterway before the next big storm.

Next update before we leave Pensacola.


 Mar 25 - Guess what I'm doing for Deb's birthday? Yes, today is her birthday and I'm taking her on a boat ride. Oh, you think we do that everyday. True but today is special, we will be going in the rain.

It looks like the worst of the rain will clear from Pensacola by 8:30 or 9 so we will be off and probably get a late lunch/early dinner at LuLu's just to do something else before the trip up the waterway. All the gauges are down on the Tenn-Tom to about half way between normal water and "normal flood water." This is good because the bridge heights are listed as above normal flood. We should clear just fine but will check it carefully as we approach the first one in a few days. Today we will anchor at the base of Mobile Bay and tomorrow will probably go up to mile 12 where there is a nice anchorage. Friday on will be 10 or so hour days against the current trying to get 50 or so mile days out each time. We have 2 locks in the first 220 miles or so and then come the days were we will have 3 or 4 locks a day if we are lucky. Wi-fi like phone service is bad on the lower Tenn-Tom so don't expect an update for about a week.

Also, do me a favor - Send Deb a happy birthday email. She rarely gets email and what a surprise that will be when we get a wi-fi signal again.

Pictures of the trip are coming.

 Mar 28 - First, THANK's to everyone who sent Deb an email. By the way, if you didn't send one you still have time. After all, after 50 birthdays last a month don't they?

When we were in Pensacola, we spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with my father. We didn't think we would see him this year but the Sailboat position at Green Turtle Bay changed all of that. We went to an early dinner at McGuire's which is an institution in Pensacola along with the fact the owner is a friend of my father's. After dinner we headed over to Pitt's Slip which turned out to be a major disappointment. Years ago we would rent a Gemini 3400 out of here. Since one of the Hurricanes years ago, the place is more like a ghost town. It is really too bad because all they need is a good breakwater and this could be a thriving marina. I guess between permits and money that just isn't to be.

Below right you can see we joined back up at the boat for our last farewells before we head up the Tenn-Tom. Of course that is what we thought then, the question is what really happened?


We left out of Palifox Marina on Wednesday and passed the Pensacola entrance. Not a place you really want to be entering on a day like today with the winds blowing in while the tide is running out.

We motored down the intercoastal and stopped at Lu Lu's restaurant for a late lunch for Deb's birthday. The mast in the background of the picture on the lower left is our boat. I was practicing sailboat sales guy and showed 3 different people our boat. As it turns out, we may be on the radio with travel radio in a few weeks or month. I guess we will see what happens.

Deb and I had a great lunch and then decided to move on to our positioning anchorage at the base of Mobile Bay.

We had left Pensacola with a forecast for the rivers that said we would be fine all the way up. As it turns out, I actually had a free wi-fi connection at my anchorage and I checked the forecast for the lower Tenn-Tom again. It changed. You would actually figure it should since there is a big storm in the area although they've known about this storm for a couple of days. Regardless, they finally put the numbers into their forecast for the river stages. As it turns out, we are in for an adventure. It looks like we can make the Coffeeville lock and then the question will be if we can get through Demopolis before the highest waters hit. We are going to have LONG days and probably slow speeds avoiding logs and other debris as it floats down the river. We don't know where we will get stuck and if it will be at a place where we can tie up or we will be anchored in 30 feet of water when the highest parts of the floods hit. My plan is to play it by ear and see what happens. Now I know why I went up the river last year in June and July. The question for us will be will our shade over the window make a real difference for us to see in the rain or will we have to stop. I'm figuring we will only be making 4.5 to 5 knots average because of the increasing currents. At the same time, if we don't make the 210 miles before the five days are up, they will probably close the Demopolis Lock which means we will be stuck at an anchorage. Doesn't cruising sound like fun?

The picture to the right shows the front as it was just about to hit us. Below you can see there are Tornado Watches in the area. After I saw this, I put out another anchor while it was still dark. Like I said, fun don't you think?


 So after we pulled both anchors at 9:15 in the morning, after the tornado watch ended, we headed up Mobile Bay. Of course it was in the rain.

The picture above right is taken through the main window and the shade cover I made for the window is working very well. The picture to the right is through my enclosure and if you didn't notice, it is raining.

Below left you can see we are in the bay and the water is no longer the beautiful color of the ocean. Instead, it is of the Tenn-Tom mixed with saltwater.

Of course in the lower right is a picture of Mobile which we are approaching.


 As we are getting closer we started to get debris from the river system. This is just one of many logs we avoided that were coming down the system. Regardless, we moved on thinking our forecast was pretty good.

Bottom left we are saying hello to Mobile, AL and the Tenn-Tom waterway while below right we are saying goodbye to the wonderful ocean.

We probably saw 25 dolphins between the time we left our anchorage and now and I think they were all saying, come back soon. I just didn't know how soon!


 We moved on up the river system and were still missing small logs and of course a number of larger ones as well. You can see to the right the size that were easy to miss. However, some of the logs are submerged and aren't as visible as the one to the left. Such as the one we hit! Yes, bang and boom. Oops, that might be a problem. Deb went to check the hulls beneath the floor boards and in the port side there was water. Not just a drop, there was water. She took over driving after sponging out a bit and I then got down to some serious water removal. As it turned out we removed 8 gallons and then came time to figure out where it came from. In the end, I found out that I have a problem with a leak in the pivot bolt for our port board. No leaks in the hull but that bolt is leaking. Darn.

I called my friend Larry who also has a Gemini 105 and he put out a message to the list serve for the Gemini's. He called back with what he found so far and also told me that the weather had changed. The front was backing up. Something he hasn't seen before but it was happening and more rain was on the way for the next two days. In the end, we both agreed that based on the rain tonight, I should probably turn back tomorrow.

We had anchored at mile 12 in the Tenn-Tom after fighting a 1.5 knot current going up. I think we actually anchored under a waterfall which ran all night and a wind turbine that turned on at about 3:30 in the morning with a gust that knocked our boat sideways and then turned the rain horizontal. If you go cruising, go with a Rocna anchor. We never moved!


I've learned more that I ever thought I wanted to know about the river and the maps and the forecasting systems. I will explain it all in the next few days on a project page because you should know it too if you are going to travel the Tenn-Tom. However, I am just going to give you a brief intro here. There is a website that will provide a very good graphic of information of what is history - great info - and what they project - not so great info. Of course you have to go with what they give you.

If you look at the graph to the left, you can see that when I left I thought I could make it through the Coffeeville Dam without going over the Flood Stage. This is very important because all the bridge heights are based on Flood Stage. However, you will see in the graph to the right, they were wrong. Two days later, the water at Coffeeville, was what they projected for five days later. That is a problem.

Of course I didn't have this information when I made the decision to run out of the Tenn-Tom and get back to Mobile Bay. One thing you should know about me is that regardless of my decisions, I always review them when more data is available and try to learn from them. In this case, my decision was correct. Perhaps is was because of the waterfall on our boat! 


The chare below is the most dramatic in changes. We were planning on getting through the Demopolis Dam by Sunday afternoon. Monday morning at the latest. Based on the chart on the left which we had when we left, we should have been able to accomplish the trip. However, the chart on the right which I downloaded after getting back into Mobile Bay shows there was a 25 foot increase in water level in a day and a half. That was a problem and it was a good thing we decided to turn back.

Again, I am going to spend about four hours in the next couple of days explaining all the charts and where to get these graphs so you can have this info should you ever decide to travel the Tenn-Tom.

So here we are avoiding logs heading back to Mobile and I see something swimming in the water. I call for Deb to take the helm and I run for my "good" camera. As it turns out the water must be rising because these two deer are swimming from an island that is going underwater for the shore. Deb and I just thought it was pretty poetic that there was a buck leading the doe across the river. I guess everyone needs a captain.
Then again, there were these logs or should I say trees that we needed to avoid.

Going back through Mobile was just like I've been here before.

Now here we are trying to avoid logs, trees, junk and of course the occasional barges along with container ships coming in from the sea. This was the most stressful steering I've done in our cruising so far. I really don't want a hole in our boat or to crack the yolk on our outdrive. At the same time, I want to experience what life has to offer so I guess I'm in that experiencing mode right now.

We made it through Mobile and were just south slamming into the waves when we got approached by a Coast Guard ridged inflatable who told us to stay away from a cargo ship. This was the first time I've seen a cargo ship that was being escorted by a Coast Guard Cutter along with an inflatable. Perhaps this was Homeland Security really at work! Hooray for our guys. They called me and made sure I would stay away from the cargo ship and I told them I would and also complemented them on everything they do for us out here. They said "thanks." Truly, I really do appreciate people who put their lives on the line for us. Thank you each and everyone of you who are out on the boats in this crummy weather and doing it to protect our lives!

Right now we are at a marina and will probably be here forever. I have no clue when the water will go down and I am going to start looking for a car to rent for the trip up to Kentucky and the boat show at Green Turtle Bay. You know, an obstacle is only an obstacle until it is overcome.

More later, there is thunder banging and waters seem like they are rising. Besides, I still have to get to that port leak.

 Mar 29 - I mentioned that we had some water in our boat. This is a problem when you arrive at an anchorage and discover 8 gallons of water in your port hull. I have to confess that I've had a bit of water in the port hull from time to time over the last 6 months. I, mistakenly, thought it was coming from one of two sources. When we shower, we sometimes get the water a bit out of control and some goes forward towards the head which in turn runs down my the thru hulls and into the port hull. We've tried to be more careful and it appeared that it was less. In addition, when I replaced the front window last summer, I ended up getting a bad batch of silicone. Who has ever heard of a bad batch of silicone? In the end, I thought I had finished fixing that window before we left Key West but found some screw holes that needed patching which I did in Pensacola. With that fixed, we hadn't found much water in the hull and I'm talking about a 1/4 cup in 3 days.

Fast forward to us passing Mobile Bay when we hit a submerged log on the port side. Deb went to look in the hull and found water. She started getting water out and then I finished it up mopping it out with a synthetic chamois. Eight gallons is quite a bit of water and I checked thru hulls - dry, then used the flashlight up and down the hull and saw nothing. Wow, what happened????

Then I found the port pivot bolt was leaking. This pivot bolt supports the board and as you can see it had both rust stains and also mud stains from being in Mobile Bay and also in the Tenn-Tom. I called a fellow Gemini owner, Larry, and asked if he remembered people having this problem and what they did to fix it. He called back while I was still in cell range and told me that the only other person that responded simply had to tighten up the nut and their leak stopped. In addition, he told me about the change in weather forecast that helped in our decision to turn back around.


When we got to Fairhope, I started picking away at the 5200 and as I got to the head of the bolt, it simply came off. I didn't even have a wrench out yet to see if it was the right size for the head and if I had two wrenches to tighten up the bolt. Then head simply fell off when I pushed on it.

Great! Like every other problem your brain goes into fast forward at this time. Should I haul the boat immediately? How will I get it out? What caused this? How long has it been a problem? What caused it to start leaking so much right now?

All these questions a few answers. I suppose this has been a problem for awhile since the corrosion is so bad on the broken head. I also suppose that our crossing probably finished the job since I had the port board down during the first and roughest part of the crossing. I'm thinking the bolt loosened up in the case and the leak really got bad.

I ended up cleaning up the mess you see above and using a tube of underwater epoxy I started putting it on in phases. Right now I have two layers on and it is down to leaking about a 1/2 cup in 24 hours. I have another layer to put on to finish off the leak. and hopefully it will be dry.

I'm not worried about the bolt coming out because I won't use the board going up the Tenn-Tom. I was just more worried about the leak. Now to figure out how to actually fix the problem. I will be emailing Performance Cruising and calling them on Monday to get their advice. I'm sure I will have to drive it out while supporting the board when the boat is out of the water but I really need the size of bolt and a few other pieces of information while I'm at it. You will know the results as we fix this problem.

Fairhope is a wonder place to visit and we've only been here a day and a half. Ignoring the six inches of rain night before last. One of the coolest things that happened was we were pulling into our slip at Eastern Shore Marine and a guy came out of a Gemini in front of us and said, "Hi Deb. How's your bruise." That is how we met Bob who had been following our website. He helped us dock and gave us great information about the town and where to find some items we would need. Then on Friday night we had the rain of rains with six inches coming down on us. This further solidified that we had made the right decision to leave the Tenn-Tom and return to Mobile Bay. I ended up being happy in a sick sort of way that it rained that much because I was able to see some new leaks. That crossing really stressed some things and we developed some new leaks on a window and also the starboard chain plates. So Saturday was a boat day until about 2 when I re-bedded all the chain plates and fixed the new crack in the silicone on the starboard side window aft. Hopefully we have all these fixed now.

When we got up on Saturday, I had a phone message from Arla and Tom who we had met in Longboat Key last year on the way up the west coast.

Then as I was working on the chain plates, up walked Mary and Dick who said, "Hi Jim." This always amazes me because I look up and think I will see an old friend and instead, I see someone I've never met. The reality is they are old friends but I just have never seen them. It ends up that Tom and Arla had given them our website and they had been following us for the last year. So, it was a reunion of sorts. They invited us to the Fairhope Yacht Club on Saturday for their buffett dinner after the sailboat race. We of course accepted and it was going to be a reunion for all of us. In the picture to the right meet Tom, Arla, Deb, me, Mary, and David. They were wonderful to us all night and we talked about sailing, more sailing, the yacht club, sailing and just enjoyed a wonderful night out.

Katrina destroyed their yacht club and the new one reopened a year ago. Below you can see the porch overlooking the bay and of course the wonderful sunset that sets across the bay. (Garry, I put this sunset picture in just for you! - For everyone else, Garry wants to see the sunsets in person and is tired of my sunset pictures so I'm doing it just to have fun with him.)

By the way, the water came above our docks on Friday night and nobody had seen that since Katrina. I guess we are getting alot of water when they are comparing this rain to a hurricane.

We took a tour of their new yacht club and it is wonderful. You can see to the left the bar area with all the burgees flying. Then below is a picture of the dining area.

I didn't take a picture of their ballroom but it makes a great multifunction area along with a wooden floor dance hall.

 They never expected the water that would come from Katrina and lost quite a bit of their history. However, these are a few of the sailing awards from the old club that were saved.

Overall, the Yacht Club is beautiful and it is truly a sailing club. The races had many divisions ranging from the childrens sunfish, lasers, and two other types of boats not to mention the divisions for all of the adults that either were on a team or owned their own boats and were out sailing today.

It was reminded me of the Commonwealth Cub in Kentucky except they had a large contingent of children through teenagers participating in the Yacht Club boats. Children from the age of 8 on up were on the water in fairly fresh conditions at about 15-20 knots in the afternoon. I just happy I was here to watch the commitment and organization of this club.


 That evening, the part we were participating in was the banquette and party. They had arranged to have Elvis come back for a performance. Elvis is looking pretty good don't you think!

Honestly, I'm not an Elvis guy but this Elvis was pretty good. They all have costumes but this guy could also sing and he had down the movements along with the vocal intonations indicative of Elvis.

We had a great evening and will probably get back together again while we are stuck here in Fairhope. Actually, we made a wonderful decision to see Fairhope for the first time. We are really enjoying our stay so far!

 I decided to write up my education about traveling the Tenn-Tom waterway. I like things that are straight forward and I've found that the charts, guides and the website's aren't all speaking the same language. After research, I hope I'm able to interpret all of this and give you some guidelines for your decision making as you choose to navigate the waterway. If you are interested, you can visit my tutorial or should I say decription of what I've learned on the Tenn-Tom part of my projects page.  

 Mar 30 - Do you get the feeling that Jimmy Buffett is worried? Deb was doing laundry and this cat followed her back to the boat. Of course with a bird shaking on it's claws yelling "Jimmy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett," it was time for her to run off the cat. Afterall, the cat followed her back to the boat.

As you could tell, I spent most of the day working on my update on the Tenn-Tom and also drying out the inside of the boat from all of the moisture and a few leaks we got after that crossing. In the middle of our projects, I heard a knock, knock on our boat.

I know I just talked about this in the last update but I am still amazed at the wonderful people who have stopped by to say hellow after following our website. On Sunday, we met Susan and Reggie. They were down in Gulf Shores for the weekend and saw that we were in Fairhope so on their way home, they tracked us down. They have been following our website since "the beginning" or to everyone else, when we started cruisings. Unfortunately, the boat was torn apart with all of our projects so we owe them a tour when we bring the boat back down in the fall. As it turns out, they also have a bird and they brought it down for us to meet him. His name is Bob Marley so I'm sure he and Jimmy Buffett could hold an event and draw bunches of people. Imagine the promotion, Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffett perform together in a one time event. You just have to leave out the details of what they will be doing and you shouldn't be sued for false advertising.

We had a great visit and will hopefully get together next fall.

My leak is almost stopped and I'm fine with leaving the boat with someone checking on it every few days. I also think it will be fine to bring up the Tenn-Tom so we are ready when this water goes down. Speaking of the port board bolt leak, I've emailed Performance Cruising and will talk to them today to see what their recommendations are. Of course, you will know as soon as I do!

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Jim and Deb's Adventures