The (Dreaded) Gulf Crossing

Rhonda here….Yes, I’ll admit it….the thought of a 200 mile, 11 hour trip from Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs without cell coverage and out of sight of land made my heart worry just a bit. But it’s the only way to get across the Gulf of Mexico, so when we got the weather window we needed, we headed out at first light Sunday morning with four other Loopers, and by 5:30 p.m. were safely tied up in our slip at Turtle Cove Marina in Tarpon Springs.

Goodbye, Water Street Hotel/Marina!

Rick had planned our route using the Navionics Boating app and uploaded the route to our Chart Plotter so we could track our progress along the “Magenta Line” and sometimes have Auto Pilot take the helm while we kept a lookout.

Since all boats run at different speeds (we ran at about 18 mph), we were on our own for most of the trip, out of touch even by VHF radio. Unfortunately, the waves and wind exceeded all forecasts. We were heading SE and the wind/waves were coming from the NE, so four-foot waves splashed over our port bow, blinding us at the flybridge windshield, and even splashing up over the 19-foot-high flybridge canvas top (that was thrilling!) We never felt scared, just a little uncomfortable from the rockin rollercoaster ride! Have I told you my captain is amazing?!? He handled the seas expertly and never once seemed overwhelmed by the conditions.

You might wonder how we occupied our time.  Well, we played the alphabet game.  Without roadside signs, you have to get creative.  The first round was something for which we are thankful for every letter.  That was easy!

Since it was a Sunday morning and we weren’t in church, and not even able to stream a worship service, we played the ABC hymn game, singing as much of the first verse of each hymn as knew:

Abide with Me
Blest Be the Tie that Binds
Come Thou Fount
Deep and Wide
Eternal Father Strong to Save (tune of Navy Hymn)
Faith of our Fathers
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled my Soul
In Christ Alone
Jesus Loves Me
King of Kings
Let All Things Now Living
Nearer my God to Thee (hoping that did not foreshadow the result of this trip!)
Onward Christian Soldiers
Praise Him, Praise Him
Q (stumped!)
Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim it
Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling
Trust and Obey
Under His Wings
Victory in Jesus
When Peace Like a River
X (stumped again!)
Yes Lord Yes
Zion Founded on the Mountain

Singing along yet??

Then we started the List Game—list of boat chores that need to be done, list of things we need to bring back to the boat when we’re home for the holidays, list of things we love about our boat, Christmas lists, marina lists, list of lists….. And then Rick started with “20 Bottles of Beer on the Wall!”

Our long day was often boring, punctuated with moments of “wow, didn’t see that wave coming!” And we learned a few things about ourselves.

*Contrary to popular opinion, I can sit in one place for hours (afraid to stand up!).

Guess I wasn’t too worried! Trying to catch a nap, but not to be!

*I can hold my bladder much longer than I thought (only made one scary trip to the head the whole day).

*Our boat can handle more than we can.

*A windshield wiper that is stuck in the “ON” position for 10 hours becomes Chinese torture! Rick finally stopped the runaway wiper it by clipping the wires! (Another R&R part that Rick replaced.)

*We became expert crab-pot-float spotters. Bit of an explanation…starting about 30 miles offshore of Tarpon Springs and all the way to shore, professional crabbers drop crab-pots in lines of 5-10 pots per line. Each pot has a line attached to it with a float attached to the top of the line. Each crabber’s floats have unique colors.

Try spotting that white crab pot float in a sea with whitecaps

If you happen to hit a crab-pot float and its attached line, it will stop your trip and require professional help for your props and/or prop shafts.

All in all, it was a day….not a fun day, not an exciting day, not a scary day, just a necessary day and now it’s behind us.  Thankful for that and saying prayers for all those Loopers who will be crossing the same path over the next few weeks.  It’s a “rite of passage” in the Looper community, I guess.  I likened it to a hazing ritual.   🙂 But we’re better boaters because of the experience and there’s nothing ahead to dread! 

6 thoughts on “The (Dreaded) Gulf Crossing

  1. Yikes, that’s quite a day indeed! I enjoyed hearing your hymn selections. Glad this is safely past you!

  2. Amazing story! We wonder why loopers can’t just follow the coAst South. Must be a reason.
    Keep on boatin!

  3. Congrats on making the crossing without too much difficulty. You can relax for a while now. By the way, we have about four inches of snow on the ground in Delphi.

  4. Sounds a bit exciting,so proud that you are now in Tarpon Springs,interesting little town,we ate at Rusty Belles . It was excellent, then dessert at a Greek restaurant down the street. Also really great. Have fun. (Just a note Jayna is in Bronson Hospital not doing well at all.) so glad you had a safe crossing.

  5. So, as I read the blog I waver back-&-forth w/ “Oh Rick! That IS interesting if you are on a boat……” & “Stay focused! You could learn something useful!” Then I on & continue the interchanging thoughts & BAM! He mentions restaurants/food/meals & I’m IN! This is the good stuff!
    Since I last saw the Spykman’s in August (💭I think) I feel like I’m missing Rhonda😕a bunch & that I’ve visited w/ Rick at his office or professionally in the community regularly🤷🏻‍♀️ So I feel peace about the Spykman’s happiness & safety, but not the♥️cherished love that is typically comes with any interaction with them☺️Now that you are in FL, that’s a familiar language.✔️I lived & worked just a few minutes from Tarpon Springs & that water is where we’d go scalloping every year!
    And, here we are at this 11/11 post & it’s written by RHONDA😍 I love your detail, wit, sarcasm, focus/story. I have some fulfillment…..I feel like a sat w/ Rhonda & visited for a moment. Much needed♥️And when I’m missing Rhonda again I’m going to reread Nov 11th🤓 Now to continue catching up w/ your journey & then I’ll pray to be able to visit w/ you guys in person sooner than later🌟Hugs!!!!!

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