Date: 08 Feb 97 17:22:55 EST
From: Nellie Gruender <104675.2134@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: We're really cruisin"

As you know we did pull into St. Petersburg. We got into the ship channel about 0400 on Thursday.

We had sailed to Pensacola with our friends Randy and Carolyn Adams. They met us in Biloxi, Miss. Gene had helped Randy Deliver their boat "Money Vac" to Biloxi in June. Gene and Carolyn had gone to high school together in Columbia, Mo., and we have shared the dream of sailing for some time.

After leaving Biloxi we sailed to Dauphin Island, a little south of Mobile, Alabama, where we anchored for the night. The crew of Rainbow Chaser spent the next night in one of the most beautiful anchorages we've been in. It was a small place called Ingram Bayou. It was a short distance off the Intercostal Waterway at Orange Beach, Alabama.

The "Bayou"is a circular area that is surrounded by beautiful pine trees and sandy beaches. There were no city lights, no music (other than ours), and nothing to listen to but the quiet evening. It was a marvel to really escape. I even dropped in a fishing line, but I guess the fish liked it there too much to be caught. The only time that the silence was broken was when Gene tried to put our dinghy together.

The cool air then became BLUE with Gene's expletives about the poor construction, the pathetic design, on, and on. He finally pushed the dinghy over the side, half inflated, and pretty limp. He then jumped in the dinghy and began bailing water. After saving it from totally sinking, Gene got out of the dinghy and took a short nap, and later did finally get the dinghy inflated, but it was too dark for us to go exploring. We slept listening to the loons, and other assorted birds talking to each other in the wild.

One interesting side note to Ingram Bayou. As we were going in a large sailboat was coming out. Zach immediately said 'Mom, I've seen that boat before." I told him there was no way he had seen that boat. We were in Alabama, and it was very unlikely that the boat had been where he could have seen it in the past. He was sure he knew the boat, I was sure he was imagining it. Later in the night he came to me and said "See, I have seen it". As it turns out it was the same boat that was pictured on the front of one of our cruising books. Zach has always had a very acute visual memory, and I guess I won't doubt him in the future. He had indeed seen the boat before!

The next morning we met up with Randy and Carolyn who had stayed at a Marina a few miles from us, and we took off for Pensacola. We got to Pensacola on Saturday and stayed at the Pitt Slip Marina. We got to meet some e-mail friends Amanda, and Lonnie, and their sons, and did just a little exploring in the historic district. We also met Marty and Lila who had sailed their boat from Minneapolis, Minn. On Sunday Rainbow Chaser left Money Vac in Pensacola as we started off to St. Petersburg.

Because we left late in the day, we ended up after dark going through a very narrow, shallow channel to get to Big Lagoon, where we wanted to anchor out for the night. Getting though the channel, I think, speaks to the synchronicity that Gene, Zach, and I have built from working as a team on the boat. When Gene got concerned that he couldn't find the right marker, Zach and I assisted him in reading the chart, using the light to pick out the buoys, and calling off how deep the water was. It was truly a group effort. Who said the family unit was dead?

On Monday morning after the fog lifted we set out for St.Petersburg, about 280 nautical miles away. Since Gene had done all of the night sailing the last time, this time I took all of the night watches. It is an amazing feeling to be sailing in the Gulf with the sky full of stars. I listened to my walkman, ate Altoids (the really strong mints), to stay awake, and we sailed. We ended up doing about 8 hour watches so we could get some sleep.

Zach got seasick only once, and the cat did much better this time. The seas were choppy, but not horrible. The first couple of days the weather was overcast, but then Wednesday it was beautiful. I know that in a past life I was a Sun goddess (or god if we're allowed at least one gender switch) because when the sun comes out I come alive!!!! It was a glorious day. The water was blue, and we even caught 2 fish (bonitos that we threw back). At one point we had a school of 20 dolphins playing next to us. They jumped, and swam under the boat, and seemed to want to get a good look at us.

Another time, Zach yelled that there was something big, and brown sitting in the water. Before I could look it dove under. We speculated about what it might have been. A few miles later, we found out. There was a sea gull sitting on what appeared to be a little brown island, but the water was 150 ft deep. Suddenly the island dove. It was a sea turtle that was at least 6 feet long, and the sea gull was sitting on his back. We saw several more during the day, and were amazed how big they were. We also saw hundreds of Man of Wars. I kept waiting for Jacques Cousteau to pop up at any moment.

Since being in St. Petersburg we have met up with our friend Ed DeBee's parents - Lou, and Una. What fun. They have kindly lent us a car to do sight seeing, and running around. We plan to go sailing with them on Sun., and to a boat production place on Mon. (Precision Boat Works - the company which built Ed's boat)

We also met Doran Cushing, who is the owner of Southwinds, the magazine we're writing for. (my first article is in the Feb. issue).

We have met another couple from Ohio who have a boat also named Rainbow Chaser.

Friday night we went to a Yacht Club party where the speaker was Claiborne Young, who is a well known writer about cruising. He signed a copy of his cruising guide that we have been using for the past couple of weeks. He knew right away that it had been used, because all of the pages were still wet from the voyage.

This week Zach and I are going to the Salvador Dali museum. I'm not a Dali fan, but we're studying the Renaissance artist, and I thought it would be a good contrast for Zach to see. We're also going to see an exhibit from the time of Alexander the Great. Wed. we all plan to go to Busch Gardens to do the tourist thing.

We'll leave the marina on Thurs., and may anchor out somewhere until Friday. Then we're off to a place called Captiva, that's reported to have a wonderful resort. After that we will sail to the Dry Tortugas, and then the Keys. We plan to be in the Bahamas by the first of March so we can meet up with our nephew, Jason, for spring break.

I've come to the conclusion that cruising can hover at either end from misery to ecstasy. The salt water spray that seems to come in buckets when I'm at the helm is the misery. The rest, meeting new people, and seeing new things by far makes up for it and swings the pendulum to the ecstasy end of life. All in all we're having a great time.

More as we go

Nellie (Gene and Zach too)
aboard Rainbow Chaser