Over a week was spent at Turner Marine as Louise morphed back into a sailing vessel. The first couple days, I will be completely honest, were quite overwhelming. We had this 34 foot THING that was awaiting our arrival. This THING, aka our mast, was packaged by Tari and Randy Smith who did a better than great job preparing it for shipping.
Katie and I spend two full days putting all the puzzle pieces back together. Thank god Katie labeled, and took photos of individual parts of the mast while we had it un-stepped in Michigan. For those of you who have prepared your mast to be stepped before, we understand this is not the most difficult process. BUT when you have never done, or seen it done before, this process is terrifying! If every little thing is not done correctly, you are only setting yourself up to be de-masted somewhere down the line. No thank you. So we took our time, asked lots of questions, and got helpful advice from people who have done this every year for decades. After three days, the stick went up successfully. I’m pretty sure throughout the whole process, that Katie was having a minor anxiety attack, while my head was throbbing. Time for a beer. We did it. Now we have to figure out the rest of the rigging. Time for another beer.
SO, before we put the mast up, we were smart girls and checked to make sure our anchor light and steaming light were operating beforhand. Sure enough, they were working great. Once the mast was up, we checked the lights once again. The anchor light did not work. Great. A nearby live-aboard let me borrow a self controlled bosons chair to get to the top of the mast. No success making the current anchor light work. So I rigged up a 5 dollar solar light that I hose clamped to the top of the mast. Now we will always have a anchor light shining. Thank you Walmart.
The rest of our time at Turner was necessary for re-arranging, cleaning, and preparing our home for unsettled seas, and unpredictable weather. Throwing out things we no longer needed, and placing now important items, in convenient locations. Most importantly making sure everything has a home, and will stay put when the boat decides to get horizontal. It was a “looper” rendezvous at Turner marine where nightly happy hour and pot luck brought us all together. It honestly felt like a family reunion. Except we were the only children, or grandchildren? We even had a movie night. Fifteen or so of us, sat on picnic tables and hooked up an old school 12 inch television. Since we were all done with the river portion of the trip, what could we possibly watch besides Deliverance? I will never watch it again, and am thankful to be alive after spending 2 months on an isolated river system.
Bad weather kept us all at Turner longer than we had planned. When the day was right, about 10 boats including Louise, left at the butt crack of dawn on a beautiful morning to cross Mobile Bay. Crossing Mobile Bay was awesome. It’s an oddly shallow bay, but Mobile locals informed us of a route to cross over that was deep enough and will take 2 hours off the trip. We set off on a course of 148 degrees, which intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway at the SE corner of the bay. Raising the Genoa (aka the “king sheet”) for the first time since Lake Michigan made us happy happy girls. Louise is a fast little thing. Sailing at last. Unfortunately this idea of sailing did not last long. When you jump back on the inter-coastal, you are again in a narrow channel that often turns, and not in a favorable direction with the wind.
Our course will now be east towards Florida until we reach “The Big Bend.” The big scary bend is a point of decision making. You either make a 150 mile overnight crossing out in the gulf, taking you to Tarpon Springs, or you can take several long hops from town to town inside the bend. Either way there is no more Intracoastal here, and you are exposed to whatever the open ocean brings you that day. Undecided at this point, Katie and I will wait to see how we feel when we get to Carabelle. You must have the perfect weather window to cross, and preferably buddy up with several other boats who travel at the same speed. We are not trying to get ahead of ourselves here, and will make a smart decision – we promise. If we end up lost in a storm and arrive in Mexico, at least we’ll come out with a hell of a story for you.