From the Laird Bayou anchorage we crossed the short bay and traveled along the canal cuts, arriving in Port St. Joe, and stayed at the marina there for two nights.
The Port St. Joe Marina is a lovely and safe haven, close to good restaurants, fun watering holes, and a grocery store with plenty of fresh produce to help us stock up for the next leg of the journey to Sanibel Island. But before getting to Sanibel, one must first accomplish crossing the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf crossing is 170 statute miles over open water. At our trawler speed, it takes us from 17 to 20 hours to complete the trip, necessitating an overnight cruise.
It is important to approach the other side at Tarpon Springs or Clearwater during daylight in order to see and then avoid the crab pot buoys that litter the waters off the west coast of Florida. There are hundreds of these small markers and the cables/lines which attach them to the traps are a great hazard to propellers and shafts. An entangled propeller can render a boat dead in the water, far from land and help.
Crab pots aside, the real trick to the crossing is catching a favorable weather window. The Traveler is a stout boat and can withstand rough seas, but her crew deeply believes that recreational boating should be recreational; not a rodeo. The Traveler has a semi-displacement hull which is a nice way of saying that she is round bottomed. There is not much keel to keep her steady. A bit of chop is fine. Cruising downwind with following seas of moderate height is just ducky. Spending 17 hours hanging on as the boat rocks and rolls through seas, tossing gear and crew about, falls outside of our parameters of fun.
Mostly though, we want a perfect weather window because we love the crossing. We want to always look forward to it. There is something magical about being far away from and out of sight of land. It appeals to the independent spirit in us and allows a special time for musing and introspection. The wildlife is somehow different – you are in their element and it is a very foreign environment to our every-day experiences. There is no din of civilization, no radio, no cell service, no internet. It is just us, the wind and waves, and our sturdy boat.
So here we sit, anchored in beautiful Saul Creek, waiting and watching the weather.