Rhonda here….Yes, I’ll admit it….the thought of a 180 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.
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 some four footers crashed over our port bow, blinding us at the flybridge windshield, and splashed up over the flybridge canvas (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 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
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
Snging 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!).
*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 a bit of Chinese torture! Rick finally stopped it by clipping the wires. (Add to boat chores!)
*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.
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!