B.E.E.R. - 2009

by Ed Combs

I got lucky and the new principal at my school said that as soon as I got checked out I could leave on Friday.  I was first in line for his signature, drove home, hooked up Blue Bayou, and we got on I-75N at 9am.  It is a little different towing a Sea Pearl as opposed to a Potter 19 (12 inch tires versus 14 inch tires) couple with a new tow vehicle (we went from a Dodge Ram Quad Cab Hemi to a Jeep Wrangler 4x4).  I found that 60mph was comfortable, but I still had to watch out for trucks and RV's pushing me aside as they passed.  I need to play with the winch post position to fix the tail wag problem.  We took our time driving, that's for sure.  We pulled in to PMSC around 5:30 thanks to the time change for a total driving time of 9.5 hours.  Not a lot of people from past BEERs, but I make friends easy.  We decided to rig and stay on the trailer for the night since we would have been outboard of another boat and we only had the umbrella tent for sleeping quarters.  The big tent (9x9x8) requires the amas to be fully extended so we rigged everything behind all the action and then went to the Pig Roast.  Another good meal by John Roddy.  I wandered around the docks, checked out the other boats, drank a few beverages, and got to bed around 10.

 Woke up around 5:30 local time, made coffee &endash; fresh ground Starbucks in a French Press is heavenly on a sailboat, even on the trailer &endash; then took our showers before most people got up.  I cooked bacon and pancakes while we planned our day.  We got antsy again &endash; time changes are horrible things &endash; so we launched around 8am local time.  The ramp was pretty busy so we went ahead and motored out into Pensacola Bay planning on sailing to the Spanish 4 master that was visiting Pensacola.  There were one or two other sailboats out ahead of us &endash; probably victims of the time change too, and we saw the Spanish ship we were looking for to the NE a couple of miles away.  We sailed toward it at 4kts or so and finished another cup of morning coffee.  We sailed to the oil booms around the ship and saw no one on deck nor any preparations for getting underway so we turned around and sailed back looking for BEER Cruisers.  A few diehards were coming out so we sailed by them and got a few pictures.  More started coming out and about 10 local time Becky decided we should start sailing to Perdido Key and the anchorage.  When Becky decides something there isn't any sense arguing &endash; we had a whopping 5 miles or so to the anchorage &endash; so we used the wind we had and sailed ESE at a steadily slowing pace.  When our speed dropped below 2kts we discussed the 2kt rule for this cruise &endash; do something besides bob when the boat goes slower than 2kts &endash; while listening to several other boats fire up their motors and take off.  We were sailing near/by 2 Potter 15s and a Sea Pearl monohull so instead of motoring we hoisted our new Mizzen Staysail.  We luffed a few times and started a steady rock/luff motion that had us doing 1.8 &endash; 2.4kts thus circumventing the 2kt rule.  The staysail is really cool and we used it several more times on the cruise in light airs (less than 8kts).  We sailed slowly around the Naval Air Station on the point, dropped the staysail since the wind was wrong for it, and picked up the current going out the cut into the Gulf.  I still remember getting in the middle of the stream &endash; you can actually see it in the middle of the bay when it gets ripping &endash; and passing Ted Jean's Hunter 19 with my Potter 19 a few BEER Cruises ago when the current had us near 8kts under sail.  I love passing Ted no matter what he is sailing!  As we neared the cut N of Sailboat Cove we fired up the motor to get through since the dunes block the wind and the powerboats rip through at full throttle.  Cleared the cut and killed the motor.  The wind was now off the Gulf from the SW and we sailed west to clear the anchorage and then turned to sail through all the anchored yachts on the cruise.  2 or 3 boats over 30 feet this year, more Macs (D,S,X,M) than I can ever remember seeing, 5 or 6 Potters, and everyone else.  There were 20 boats or so anchored and we enjoyed sailing easily through them saying hello.  We chose a shallows to the east of everyone so we would ground out with the tide that night, and be out of the wind thanks to the dunes separating the ICW from the Gulf.  Two or three other boats tried to motor over near us and turned away because the water was only a foot deep.  The other Sea Pearl sailed in an hour or so later and we met Dave and Helen from Tennessee.  They beached/anchored 20 yards or so away.  We took stock of our situation and decided to put the tent up, set up our chairs on land, and start partying (Becky seldom drinks so she doesn't count when I say party).  Our 9x9x7 tent went up easily, everything in the forward cockpit went up on the side decks, and Becky got our bed ready for the night (air mattresses, 3 inch memory foam, 2 quilts, and sheets &endash; I always feel like a princess).  I was already ashore doing the meet and greet with everyone.  I was impressed by the red hull catamaran &endash; nice bunch of people onboard and a good-looking boat - albeit a little rough on deck.  Too bad its 10-foot beam was too wide to trailer legally.  I helped a few people anchor and couldn't get over how many people were just motoring &endash; of course that was probably me with the other boat, but BB just sails so well we only use the motor in restricted waters (narrow channels and bridges).  Allen, Potter 19 Joy, came in and we compared notes and talked about the Sunday sail.  He sails his boat well and knows how to make his Potter move.  We pulled out a fake log for the evening bonfire, lucky we did since there wasn't a lot of wood available on the beach &endash; and spent a few hours circled around the fire listening to 4 or 5 musicians play and sing.  Mike, Potter 15 1/2 Pint, has a beautiful voice.  They didn't know any of the music I know for sing-alongs &endash; Jon Prine's Illegal Smile is one of my anthems, as is nearly anything by the Beatles - but I did manage to hum along with most of the songs.  One thing about Allen sharing a couple of shots of Espresso Vodka is you don't care how you sound.  Some kind soul finally pointed out that I still had my sunglasses on about 9:30 &endash; I thought it was really dark out &endash; so Becky drug me off to the boat.  We slept well!

  Sunday morning I made big cups of good coffee, made eggs and sausage, had more cups of coffee, took showers using our bug sprayer shower, found out that one of the fiberglass tent poles had cracked/broken but the tent still stood up, and still left the anchorage before 90% of the other boats &endash; the time change is horrible.  We tried to sail out but the wind was really light and pushed us toward some mangroves to the east so we fired up the motor, ran through the cut, kept motoring past the cut to the Gulf since it was ripping, and pulled in to Santa Rosa Island for a morning swim.  While sitting in the tepid water along the beach we watched a dozen or so boats motor by and heard that two boats were dropping out with engine problems.  That reminded us of the Sea Pearl couple that did the BEER Cruise without a motor a few years ago &endash; his name was Bud Tristlser and they sailed a Sea Pearl monohull for the entire cruise without a motor, and they were in their late 70's or early 80's.  Anyway, we motored off the beach looking for wind.  There was none and rather than drift we employed the 2 kt rule and motored for 30 or 40 minutes toward Quietwater Bridge.  I hate the sound of a motor in my ear.  I had bought a pair of AM/FM sunglasses for this eventuality, but they hadn't arrived when we left.  We kept stopping and testing for wind and finally got some 2 or 3 miles from Deer Point.  We popped the staysail out and moved along at 2kts or so while watching a lot of sailboats power by us out in the channel.  The Drascombe Lugger came motorsailing by and we got to admire her lines.  With the light winds and no spinnaker or genoa he pretty much had to motor, like most of the boats.  We sailed to 100 yards from the Quietwater Bridge, dropped the staysail, fired up the motor, and powered under the bridge rather than get beat up by all the big powerboats wakes as they screamed under the bridge.  There was a guy with a camera on the pilings under the bridge (is that a rampart) that took our picture as we motored under, ran like a madman to the other end, and took our picture again.  I got an email from him with a nice picture of BB under power sail mode a couple of days later &endash; his name was Murray White, experienced sailor who heard about the BEER Cruise and thought it would be a good idea to take some pictures.  We cleared the bridge enough to turn SE away from the channel, killed the motor, and popped the staysail back up.  We were passed by a few more sailboats under power but the wind was starting to slowly build.  Our speed started climbing over the next couple of hours until we were doing 4.5 kts with the staysail up.  We decided it was time for a swim, so we tried to strike the staysail and that is when we had a problem.  I untied the halyard from the starboard aka and felt the tension on it but ignored it.  I handed it to Becky, who was also manning the tiller very capably, turned to grab the sail and lower it while releasing tension off the tack.  Becky gave a yelp and released the halyard after a gust hit causing the staysail to fly behind us into the water and the halyard to run up into the mizzenmast block.  I made sure Becky was ok, hauled the head and clew in together, released the tack and stuffed everything into the sailbag.  Becky put a little salve on her palm and berated me for handing her the halyard with that much load on it.  I guess I need to mount a block and jam cleat on both akas for the halyard on the staysail.  We beached and swam/sat in the water for 20 minutes or so waiting on other boats to show up.  We finally saw several boats coming our way, and they were sailing.  We pushed off the beach, sheeted in a little, and went ripping toward them at 5kts or so.  It turned out to be Allen on Joy, Dan on Ol Geezer, and Catara &endash; a beautiful Drascombe Coaster we had admired the day before.  We zipped by, turned and sailed between Dan and Catara to take pictures and began slogging after Allen on Joy.  Allen did not want to get passed, so he set his autopilot and went forward on the bow to get some extra speed out of his Potter 19.  He kept ahead of us for a half hour or so before we went by him (actually Becky took the tiller and caught up with him, I was staying even with him).  We continued on toward Navarre and listened to some of the boats already there discuss channels and anchorage issues.  One guy confused everyone by talking about restricted areas when he meant shallow water.  We sailed blissfully onto the sandbar the WCTSS always uses, set a fore and aft anchor, hopped out into 8 inches of water &endash; an hour or so before low tide &endash; and went in for dinner along the row of bigger boats backed onto the narrow strip of beach.  Several people told us the water was really shallow where we were, so we thanked them each time and told them we sleep better aground than bobbing from the wakes the boat ramp causes.  Had another poor meal at Juana's, I think we are going to cross them off our list of dining venues, but the Bushwackers were great.  We sat out on the porch and watched some of the dock wankers, walked to the far end of the anchorage with Allen Russell, and yelled at the Grits bunch hanging out on 2 Beers boat.  We wandered back to BB at dark and crashed.  I woke up around 3am with some wave slap so I pulled a few feet of aft anchor line in and that put us stern into the tidal wake.

We woke up about 6:30 local time (5:30 ours), and had coffee and healthy oatmeal for breakfast.  Becky had decided that we were going to pull out today and make a few hours on the road before getting a room.  I agreed, albeit grudgingly, since 9+ hours behind the wheel is killer.  After only having a couple of Bushwackers on Sunday I was primed for Quietwater.  We struck the tent, dropped the mizzenmast to retrieve the staysail halyard, and motor sailed off the aft anchor out past the docks to the west.  We turned to the west and got a light breeze off the starboard side, hoisted the staysail and took off at 2kts.  A few motorboats with masts passed us and the wind became even lighter but showed signs of shifting to the WSW as NOAA predicted.  We were becalmed for a short time and then the wind kicked up to 3kts or so out of the west, on the nose.  We dropped the staysail, sheeted in, and started trying to reach as high as we could.  Whoever said that gentlemen don't sail to weather was right.  If you look at the track on the main page you can see why.  The wind kept picking up slowly and would swing a good 20 degrees at times.  When we were on a port tack and it would get more S to it we were happy, but when it got more W we were not happy.  We were moving along at 3kts+ when we saw Ted's Potter 19 sailing off the south beach.  We sailed by and yelled at each other as we took pictures.  Ted kept up with us on a couple of tacks (the wind was still settling down &endash; on one of our tacks we were going back toward Navarre by 10 degrees or so) before the wind settled in and picked up a little allowing us to go a little faster and sail higher and longer on a port tack.  One funny thing happened involving some type of Mac, probably an M, who came powering up to about a half mile behind us just before the wind shifted, popped his sails and started talking smack on the radio about sailing past all the little boats ahead of him.  He blew a couple of tacks from our perspective, but it wouldn't have mattered &endash; we smoked his butt.  Within an hour they were lost in the haze astern of us.  I don't want to slam Macs, since I think it depends more on the sailor than the boat, but most of them motored nearly the entire time we saw them.  Our speed kept increasing as we neared the Quietwater Bridge, but I still opted for motoring under it.  We cleared the other side and the wind and waves increased a lot.  We were probably in 10kt winds and 1-foot waves before the bridge and after it kicked to 15kts of wind and 2-3 foot waves.  We popped into a starboard tack to try and clear the shallows at Deer Point after the turn, but that didn't happen.  We had to give it a half tack again to clear the marker.  Once that was done we kicked up to 6kts on a port beam run with only a little stress from the confused waves in the relatively shallow Pensacola Bay.  We sailed into the cut for PMSC and wanted to keep sailing as far as we could but some dumbutt in a speedboat got 10 feet off my starboard quarter and kept us from tacking, so Becky furled the main and mizzen while I fired up the motor for the short run to the ramp.  One of my latest "improvements" fizzled out at the ramp.  I was getting tired of cranking BB out of the water (we don't even dip the trailer) with the single speed winch I had so I bought a 2,000 pound electric winch from Wally World, mounted it on my winch bed, put a flat pack connector on the battery wires, and figured I was good to go.  Becky still looks at me a few times a day and goes, "rrr, rrr, zzzzzz".  Anyway I hooked up the winch to BB's bow, kept tension on the cable as I tilted the trailer and mashed the "in" button on the remote for the winch.  The motor started making mighty noises, but BB wasn't moving very much.  Becky started making comments from the dock where she was holding the stern line to keep the boat lined up for the trailer.  There might have been 50 pounds on the stinking winch and it was groaning like it was pulling the Queen Mary.  After 5 minutes of rrrrrr noise and still 3 or 4 feet left to move the boat the winch just shut off and made that solenoid sound &endash; zzzz &endash; and BB was not moving.  I grabbed the handy crank that came with the winch, put it on, and started cranking the boat in while sweating profusely and keeping my mouth shut, something Becky wasn't doing.  She asked me a half dozen times if the motor was supposed to do that and if I had done something wrong to make it do that.  With just over 2 feet remaining to recover the Chinese &endash; I don't really know for sure where it was made but it's my story &endash; frigging stripped off the winch.  Now we had 2 feet to go and no way of getting there.  Fortunately I had kept the old single speed winch in the Jeep and figured I could change everything back around once I got off the ramp.  I put a couple of ratchet tie downs on the bow and carefully pulled BB up the ramp.  We parked and noticed a rather quiet couple next to us unrigging their full keel boat, that was on a big trailer, who didn't look too happy, so I just nodded and started working on my problem.  Becky, I'm not sure if she was trying to be helpful or was just trying to piss me off, kept offering her input, completely disregarding my growled responses of, "Thank you, dear" after each of her insightful and knowledgeable opinions.  I finally decided to put a vice grip on the shaft and do what I could.  I had Becky push the button on the winch as I turned the crank/vice grips.  We managed to get BB all the way up and Becky informed me that the winch didn't seem up to pulling the boat onto the trailer.  You know, I believe those people that say that more divorces happen at the boat ramp than anywhere else.  We unrigged, took a shower, and hit the road.  We stopped an hour or so later on I-10 at DQ for a foot long chili dog and Blizzard to celebrate another successful BEER Cruise.  An hour after that we stopped at a basic, no frills hotel for the night, got up the next morning and made it home by 1pm.

Lessons Learned:

Mount a block and jam cleat on each of the aft akas for the Staysail

Fix the tent pole that broke and take a spare in the future

Take that cheap A** winch back to Wally World and spend the money on a real one

The Mizzen Staysail paid for itself on the cruise &endash; I hate to motor, and with the 2kt rule, we would have had at least another 3 hours of it

Play with the winch post position to get rid of the tail wag when semi's pass me

When Becky gives input just shut up, I really like having her sail with me!