July 17 – Nov 25th
17 weeks in Apalachicola. Small once cotton town turned oyster town, now tourist town and a few oysters. After returning from our honeymoon we spent about a week getting moved onto the boat. Our first stop was Destin Harbor where we docked at Adeline’s friends the Sherrod’s dock. We had a great first night away from Pensacola and enjoyed a nice Mexican meal at La Paz. Second stop was Panama City, we chose to anchor here because the town is still in tatters a year after hurricane Michael. We anchored at Bonita Bay aka Pearl Bayou which is a nice protected anchorage right before Tyndall AFB on the south side of east bay at MM 295. From here we had a nice run into Apalachicola the next afternoon. Coming into Apalachicola we saw a water spout over the bay. We were able to get fueled up and docked before the late afternoon storm came. We spent the four months in Apalachicola at a great marina called Scipio Creek Marina right off the Apalachicola river up Scipio creek. This is the only place that sells fuel from Panama City to Carrabelle. We saw many boats come and go while docked here. We became friends with the owner Trey and all the staff here are great knowledgeable and friendly people. There is also a great restaurant on site called Half Shell Dockside where we enjoyed many delicious meals and live music.
We planned to get a custom pilot house enclosure built on our flybridge while in Apalachicola. This month-long job ended up taking 4 months and a week! I always dreamed of piloting the Pura Vida and looking out actual glass windows and not the flimsy, blurry and over-priced Strata glass most yacht enclosures use. Adeline my lovely wife was so patient during this construction project that took far too long. She kept me calm when things were stressful during the build. I was so glad to design and have a dream enclosure built on our beloved Pura Vida. This was exciting every step of the way for me but being held back so long was trying on the nerves and we were more ready than ever to begin our adventures. We spent many days on St. George Island, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Tate’s Hell state forest, Eastpoint and Wakulla Springs. The forgotten coast wasn’t so forgotten anymore. I’m blessed my parents brought me and my sister down here so many times growing up so that I could have these memories from when I was younger and notice all of the changes that have occurred over the years.
I feel very protected and safe piloting from the flybridge now, it is completely weather tight and as comfortable in the cold as it is in the heat. Visibility from the 44” tall windows is excellent and way better than before. It’s like we have an extra weather proof room on the boat now. We started off by mocking up the whole enclosure with thin wood to figure out the dimensions for the hard top that we wanted to build. Once the top was built we set it into place on temporary supports so we could build the walls and then set the top onto the walls. The walls have an inner and outer skin with framing in the middle to support the roof. We started with the outer skin. Next we made our framing to hold the roof. We then fiber glassed it all together and fiber glassed the inner walls to the structure for a super solid one piece look. After the walls were done we lowered the roof a 1/2” to rest on its new walls. From here we installed windows, custom built a ladder and radar riser, installed my antennas, primed and painted everything, wired my roof top A/C, ran all my wires and finished it off with a nice headliner with a teak trim. No one in Apalachicola does canvass enclosures so once we get to Cape Coral I will have Scotties marine canvas company fit a tinted back curtain to the pilot house to finish off the project! The front windows have a slight forward lean to them. I love this look because you don’t get any glare on the glass and rain won’t hit the glass unless it’s a blowing rain. You will notice every commercial boat will have windows like this and the commercial guys know how to do it because they go out on the water day after day in every type of weather.
We left Apalachicola Monday at 4pm est. November 25th, we literally were putting the last screw in the headliner as we left the dock. We had decided Adeline would drive as long as she could letting me take a nap after dinner and I would wake up and relieve her the rest of the night after she got tired. This crossing was supposed to be amazing weather 1.5’ waves max which should have been a following sea. 90 miles into the 183 mile crossing Adeline wakes me up telling me she can’t stay awake. As soon as she lays down to get some sleep the 1.5’ waves grew larger and larger until they were 5-6’ and hitting us on our port quarter. Not a nice ride. And the wind had picked up to 17-18 out of the east. Weather reports were still relaying a 5mph ENE wind reading that was way wrong. For 8 hours we were at the mercy of the gulf.
The Pura Vida pitched and rolled giving the new enclosure a run for its quality. It was hard to move around the boat. No matter what I did whether I changed the speed or the direction, nothing would give us a better ride. Once we got about 15 miles from land it started to finally calm down and when we were 7 miles out we were back to a smooth ride. Once we were entering the pass the excitement of making it to the west coast quickly surpassed the thoughts of our miserable overnight crossing. We arrived in Clearwater Tuesday- 19 hours after leaving Apalachicola. Clearwater Yacht Club was a perfect first stop with a heated pool, outside bar and they are dog friendly. Pura Vida was covered with 80lbs of salt so I got her rinsed down and we took a nap until dinnertime. Melanie and Russ, Adeline’s parents stopped in Clearwater to see us on their way to Longboat Key.
After two nights in Clearwater we motored 58 miles to Longboat Key. Most of this part of the ICW was narrow with gorgeous real estate to feast your eyes on. The water was clear leaving the sandbars visible to the eye. Ran the motors up to 2250RPM for the first time since adding the pilot house. She laid right down on plane with the extra weight of the pilot house actually helping. Melanie and Russ treated us to 3 nights at a super fancy marina called Longboat Key Club Moorings. It is in a gated neighborhood with a beautiful golf course, 291 slips, pools, hot tubs, spa, private beach and many places to get a bite to eat. Adeline’s family was staying directly across the street from the marina on the beach so we could walk over easily. There is a Publix next to the marina which was great for stocking up. This marina was like resort living!
We left Longboat on the 1st and traveled 8.3 miles south to Sarasota YC. Another really cool west coast yacht club with the fanciest club house I have ever seen. There is a big rookery next door so lots of cool big birds are all around but when the wind changes direction it’s a bad smell. It is a short bike ride to St. Armand’s Key a small key with tons and tons of food and cool stores to check out. We are sitting out some high winds today in port. It has been a really fun week having left Apalachicola. Venice YC, Useppa Island, Cabbage key and then Cape Coral are our next four stops. In Cape Coral I will dive into my long list of repairs before we head to the Keys and Bahamas. We are so thankful to be living this life of travel as newlyweds and are eager to explore, learn and grow together. Living aboard Pura Vida we feel like we are experiencing the true beauty that this life has to offer.