Last Leg of the Gulf of Mexico Crossing

Ep80 Cadence Sailing up and down ocean swells - Florida 2021

With the tropical storm diversion, the Gulf of Mexico crossing really got divided into three legs:

  1. Kemah, Texas to Pensacola, Florida (about 500nm).
  2. Coastal Cruising The Panhandle of Florida (about 150nm).
  3. Offshore sailing from St. George Sound to Clearwater, Florida (about 150nm).

It’s this third leg of the journey that is the focus of this week’s TFJ episode (watch below) and the topic of this blog post.

Another Offshore Sail

And this time it was easy – not like the first leg of crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s a simple 145nm sail from St. George Island to Clearwater, FL (view our maps of the journey here). We breached the St. George Inlet at noon, and the afternoon was a simple 14-18 knot close reach straight to Clearwater.

Ep80 Cadence Sailing up and down ocean swells - Florida 2021
Sailing from Apalachicola, FL to Clearwater, FL

At sunset a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon, and we lost wind. But that just meant a simple motor. The only thing was we were still going into the waves left behind from the wind.

So it was a bit slow.

A Storm Strategy Near Clearwater, Florida

What we didn’t know about Florida in the summer were the daily thunderstorms. Literally, every afternoon.

Just as we were arriving to the Clearwater Beach inlet, a gnarly cloud front appeared about 20 miles away.

Usually, 20 miles is enough space to race the storm, but this storm was moving fast, and we were on a clear intersection with the storm, the port, and our heading.

Good thing is, we were only 3-5 nautical miles from shore, and used this as an opportunity to practice our storm strategies.

Fore-reaching with Motor and Main
Fore-reaching is a strategy that requires the sails to be tightly trimmed (close to the centerline of boat) and the boat pointed high into the wind (20-40 degrees off the wind). This is less than a close haul, but just enough off the wind to inch forward at a snail’s pace. The benefit: Ride over the waves and move through the storm shortening it’s time over you.

Clearwater Beach Marina

Clearwater Beach Marina was a great stop, and it was a massive contrast to the peace and quiet of the ocean. It felt like full-on spring break! The people, the bars, the lights, and the energy! It’d probably be a great marina to stay at if you’re looking for some beach time, restaurants, and shopping.

For us, it served its purpose.

Here’s a picture of us coming into the marina.

SV Cadence as seen from the marina livecam.

So yeah, the marina docks were a bit busy and loud…and a bit tight.

But the marina did have two really solid restaurants: Marina Cantina and Crabby’s Dockside Seafood. A third, the Bait Shop, was closed early on the night we wanted to go.

Brunch at the Marina Cantina with The Foster Journey - in this picture, a burger, egg tacos, and french toast.
Brunch at the Marina Cantina
Crabby's Dockside Seafood Good Food in Clearwater Florida - The Foster Journey
Crabby’s Dockside was a touristy but yummy seafood restaurant.

Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, FL

Clearwater Beach, the town, had a nice stretch of ice cream shops, shops, cafes, breweries, and restaurants. We went to the Social Pub and enjoyed a flight of beers. Everything was walking distance from Clearwater Beach Marina.

Clearwater Anchorage Options

The best part of our time in Clearwater, FL was the anchorage. There were a couple options, but we stayed just east of the bridge to the mainland. The sunsets were lovely, and the occasional boat wake was just enough to remind us we were on a boat and not a small apartment. :)

The picture below was the eastern shore at sunrise looking over the mainland of Clearwater, Florida.





2 responses to “Last Leg of the Gulf of Mexico Crossing”

  1. Marie Rocheleau

    Lovely adventure and yummy food !

  2. Nice story… enjoyed the video and the pictures.

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