Freedom Chips!

The last two days of our cruise to St Pete was calm and uneventful. The sunset of our last night anchored at Cortez bridge near Anna Maria Island produced a spectacular sunset. We got an early start and made two scheduled bridge openings the next morning and then it was a short cruise across Tampa Bay. We were unable to sail this last leg of this portion of our trip as the winds were on the nose. So we set Mr Perkins (the engine) at a comfortable setting and motored across the bay. The bay channel had a few large commercial vessels in route to and from port that caused us to stand down for a bit until they passed. The Sunshine bridge at the mouth of Tampa Bay is a beautiful bridge and we marvelled at the size and design of this structure as we passed below. The vertical clearance of the Sunshine bridge is 175' and our mast height is about 50'. We had over 125 feet of clearance as we passed under the bridge but it looked more like 20 feet. I am amazed at how difficult it is to judge the cleared distance when you pass under a bridge. The plan for the next twelve months will be preparing for a 2-3 year voyage that will cover several thousand miles and take us half way around the world to the far south pacific and back. The list of things to prepare for and work on is very long right now but will gradually shorten as the time passes. We need to re-wire all of the electrical systems on Mary Rose, caulk all seams and decking to make her water tight, learn celestial navigation, install some new navigation equipment, build a rack to secure an inflatable life raft on deck, install a solar charging and energy management system, install a reverse osmosis water making system, install a new energy efficient refrigerator system, considering installing a second fuel tank for back up if the primary fails, order and install new sails and running rig, replace the lazy jack system, replace 12 volt lights with energy efficient LED lights. This is the short list. This seems like a lot of work but I really enjoy doing this type of work. It is really not much different that the type of work one faces when they own a home. This is my yard work and home maintenance. The one big thing on the list is to create and store a huge pile of "Freedom Chips". Freedom Chips are simply United States Dollars. Yes we will still need some dollars, even though our expenses will be very low when we push off for our next voyage. So the Admiral and I will be taking on gainful employment and creating the "Freedom Chip Fund" that will allow us to continue along the way.

My son Shane, posted a comment on this blog asking what it was that I thought about while sailing. He proposed that I share deeper thoughts on this blog. He was wondering if I had thoughts of designing a better ketchup bottle or creating plans for world peace. So here is a bit of reflection and some thoughts to share with you on these subjects. When sailing on the ICW there is almost zero time to think about anything else but keeping the 5" hull in the deepest water you can find. Remember the ICW is a ditch with salt water in it for most of the way around Florida. If you lose focus you will be aground! So the time spent in the ICW was generally searching for the next channel marker, avoiding inconsiderate large boats with big nasty wakes and watching the depth sounder for maximum depth. The ketchup came from small foil packets and they worked just fine. When we were finally able to punch out and do some coastal sailing my attention turned to learning to sail Mary Rose in bigger water with more sail than I have ever set before in my life. Thee were still some big boats with very big wakes to avoid as well as fishing vessels. When at sea there are also other concerns that take a higher priority than when you are motoring in a ditch. Every hour one of the crew on board must do a complete check of the cabin below to make sure that all port lights are still sealed tight, no water is getting into the boat from any place, check all electronics for proper function, monitor you progress and indicate your position on the paper charts and make sure that everyone is properly nourished and hydrated. Tracking yourself on the paper charts is critical and often overlooked in the age of modern electronics. However if your electronic navigation equipment fails then all you have is your compass and your charts. You can continue to your destination if you have a recent known and confirmed position and know your heading, course and speed. If you have not been tracking your position on the paper charts when a failure occurs then the chore of making way to your destination becomes much more challenging. The foil ketchup packs were still functioning well at this point. The next challenge was the Hawk Channel on the outside of the Florida Keys. Much wider than the ICW but not much deeper is spots and the markers and miles apart. It was critical that we monitor the course and heading and known positions along the way as well as the off shore cabin and systems reviews since we were technically off shore. Foil packets still doing their job! Then came the all niter, 26 hour, 126 mile leg from Boot Key to San Carlos Bay. One would think there would be a lot of down time to think, ponder, design and dream. Well this was my first all night sail on this boat. My first all night sail as Captain. My first all night sail with only two crew total on board. The darkness magnifies the importance of making sure that ALL systems are working. I did have some time of reflection during the night and my thoughts turned to the stars and the heavens. I had some time to reflect on loved ones, both present and past. I gave a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to be there doing what I was doing, thanks for the ability, wisdom and knowledge to work through the issues at hand. I also thought about my dear wonderful children and grand children. Hoping that they know how much I deeply love each and every one of them. I asked our creator for continued safe passage and then I had a brief conversation to my mom and dad. I owe them both a great deal of gratitude for the gift of life and the support that they gave me while we were all together in this space we call earth. I was in awe of the fact that we are but a tiny spec on the sea in relationship to the universe that glowed in the heaven above me. I was reminded that all this was preparing me with the skills and experience to take a much longer voyage to more distant places. In those places we will do charitable work and deliver medical supplies to clinics, school supplies to local schools and my all time favorite, shoes for small children. So there you have some of my deeper thoughts! But the foil packets of ketchup are still working just fine! Now I am off to start on that pile of Freedom Chips!