Saul Creek provides peace and beauty.
The sunsets are ever-changing.
After five restful days at Saul Creek waiting for an auspicious weather window, we said goodbye to the serene views, weighed anchor and powered east 36 miles to Shipping Cove, a fairly well protected anchorage off the northwest corner of Dog Island. I remember from my childhood that it was named Isle de Chien, and I always wondered why it was named that. I never imagined that it would be such an important spot on a chart for me in the future.
Dog Island is where we stage the Traveler to cross the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico when heading south, and it is our point of landfall when crossing that same corner when heading north.
Sunday morning was clear and the temperature was 54 degrees. At 1245 we turned on the engine, raised the anchor, and headed for East Pass, following the buoys out through the channel and into the Gulf of Mexico. By 1600, we were out of sight of land. Our course was set for the Anclote Key buoy, just off the coast from Tarpon Springs.
Through the afternoon and into the night the clouds came and went. A light rain fell for two hours at 0200 and then we saw the stars. The clouds returned and by 0500 a patchy fog began to form. The fog thickened as we approached the coast. When we were 30 miles offshore we decided to head south rather than to risk piloting through crab pots in the fog. We checked the NOAA weather on the VHF radio and noting that the winds would remain light, we changed our destination from Anclote Key to further down the coast to Clearwater or Tampa Bay.
The wind and waves were kind throughout the night. The seas ran one to two feet with the occasional three footer thrown at us. The changing wind direction often made it a bit sloppy. At different times the wind and waves were quiet and there were only unbroken swells to raise the hull and then lower her again. The wind ranged from light to 15 mph. Mostly it stayed in the five to ten mph range.
The Traveler took it all in stride as did most of her crew; Beulah was her typical grumpy self, but even a bit more so. When she wasn’t sulking in the aft cabin, she was complaining loudly at the change in her schedule and the ever-changing angle of her resting spot.
At 1015 we were 15 miles west of Blind Pass, and had traveled 184 miles. While it was mostly cloudy, the fog had lifted. We changed our course to a more easterly heading, planning on a landfall at Egmont Channel into Tampa Bay.
Fog returned as we neared the coast and by the time we arrived in the channel, it was as thick as pea soup. We picked our way into Tampa Bay, navigating with electronic charts equipped with a GPS to note our exact position on the channel. We sounded the horn at the appropriate intervals. As we rounded Egmont Key, we left the channel and approached the anchorage on the lee side. We had wanted to continue moving south, but the fog prevented us from going any further. For safety’s sake, it was time to anchor well out of the way of any other vessels.
Out of the fog a chemical barge appeared. It was not moving, and it appeared to be waiting for the fog to lift. We turned to port rapidly to avoid a collision. Ever more carefully, we eased behind the island to anchor amid several unexpected workboats. It was 1245.
We had traveled for 24 hours over 205 miles of open sea. It was time for a nap.
We often talk about purchasing a radar system to see for us in times of low visibility. I am now a believer.
Late in the afternoon the fog dissipated and this amazing tugboat from New York, NY could be admired for all its stately power.