After leaving Mobile, we headed east towards Pensacola and ended up in a beautiful wide open anchorage. We set up in the middle of the anchorage, where the water was around 5 feet under the hull. All three of us were working, with David in his office, me at my desk in the central area, and Nick set up on the upstairs table. We had no problems with all three of us on calls throughout the day. We had a lovely low-key evening and Nick and I played board games while David played D&D online. Nick would be flying out of Pensacola, which wasn’t that far from where we were, so we decided to stay for another night in the anchorage.
On Thursday morning, we pulled anchor and headed to a marina in Pensacola. We knew we were back in Florida when we were accompanied for a while by some dolphins riding in our wake – which was lovely for Nick to see!
After finishing work for the day, we pulled the scooters off the boat and rode into town for a sadly disappointing sushi dinner. There is a running joke with my family now that every time we are in a town marina, we are always separated from the town by a bridge. This means that not only do we have to use the scooters to get to town, but that we have to drive across a bridge in traffic, which is sometimes scary! The joke started way back on the Hudson, where for two marinas in a row, the pedestrian/bike portions of the bridge were closed and we were forced to ride on the highway! Pensacola continued in this tradition for our scooter ride with Nick, but luckily this bridge had a separated bike section :).
As you know, we have been having trouble with our starboard engine for a while now (since Lake Michigan). David has been in communication with many shops, technicians, Yanmar experts etc, and we had been thinking that we may need a replacement of the entire injection assembly. Recently however, David learned that Yanmar just released a new protocol which would allow for replacement of a particular portion of this system, which would be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than replacing the entire system. We were finally able to get in contact with Yanmar techs in Pensacola who had the necessary computer that would be required for calibration after the replacement AND they would be able to fit us in their schedule.
They arrived in the morning and since David had the day off, he was able to oversee the work. Amazingly they were able to replace the part on both engines and perform the calibration, plus confirm the fix with a quick test voyage all before the early afternoon! They also were able to identify that the starboard engine was not aligned, which is the likely cause of the persistent vibration and poor engine numbers. This has also destroyed our brand new shaft seal which is the likely source of most, if not all, of the water issue on the starboard side. (We believe we’ve had this problem since Virginia, when the techs in Deltaville did not bother to check the engine alignment after we had all the work done on the props). Since the engine numbers were looking better and we know the bilge pumps on that side can keep up with the water coming in from the seal, we decided to keep pressing on and push to find a shop that can deal with the engine alignment somewhere on the east coast of Florida after our gulf “crossing”.
Nick’s flight was on also Friday morning, so we said our goodbyes. We had also heard from some Looper friends just east of us, so with the engine work completed we headed out of Pensacola and to the marina where they were staying. When heading to our dock, we were instructed by the marina to enter on the left side of the covered dock – which we did. However, we quickly discovered that they had given us the directions from the perspective of land – so we had to do a tight circle to head back out to the right side of the dock!
David executed the maneuver perfectly and we got tied up just in time for an amazing sunset view.
We met up with our friends for a this-time-not-disapointing sushi dinner. While at dinner we were talking about our plans for making the gulf “crossing”. Loopers typically cross from Carabelle to Clearwater, where at 8knots (the average looper boat speed), it can be made in a ~20 hour all-day-and-overnight stint. Since our planing speed is 15knots, we are able to go much further. We had been somewhat nervous about this leg of the trip, since it requires a full day, plus a weather window, which is hard to plan around work schedules. While our friends needed to stay put another week for some dingy repairs, we looked ahead and the weather for the weekend and discovered there was little to no wind or waves predicted for the crossing. Though we had been planning to continue towards Carabelle and make the crossing there next weekend, we decided instead to cross this weekend!
We needed to fuel up, and had arrived at the marina after their fuel dock was closed, so our plan was to get fuel in the morning and head towards St. Joseph, going outside of the ICW for the day, to anchor for Saturday night. On Sunday we would wake up early and make our crossing.
On Saturday we had a gloriously uneventful outside passage toward St. Joseph. Completely calm seas, warm with a light breeze, and just some light clouds. As we were getting closer to St. Joseph, we realized it was still pretty early in the afternoon – there was plenty of light and if we went a little further, it would cut off time from our long day tomorrow. Since the weather was so calm and no wind was predicted over night, we decided to do something a bit crazy…we’d anchor in open ocean a few miles off shore. This was minimally risky since were not in a high traffic area, the depth was less than 20ft, and we had the holiday lights up on the boat, so we are REALLY visible. We set the alarms for 4:50am and settled in for the night.