Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trip to the Forgotten Coast

Back to Florida's Forgotten Coast

Florida's Forgotten Coast

Cape San Blas, Florida
If you read my blog on a regular basis.you may have seen several posts about Florida's Forgotten Coast.  Maybe that is because its one of my favorite cruising grounds.  Having now sailed from Europe, through the Caribbean, Mexico, Bahamas, Cuba......well I have to say, this is still one of my favorite cruising grounds.  Why? - white, deserted beaches; virtually no plastic debris; nice anchorages, blue water; friendly towns and locals........and its close to home.  All attributes that  go a long way towards making it a special place!

Our Trip

Our trip took us from home to Ft. McCree, Pensacola for an overnight stay.  We left McRee at around 8am with nice winds from the S, to SW.  The seas were a little big and confused due to the remnants of Tropical Storm Cristobal which came through the area over the weekend.  But all in all not bad and the south winds were perfect for our ENE sail to Panama City.

We made great time with speeds generally over mid 7s and regularly into the 8s and 9s.  We were able to fly our Code Zero sail all the way.  We did get a little close to its rated 20 kt apparent wind speed, but all was good.

I think the top speed that I saw for the day was 10.9kts.  Which is pretty respectable for a cruising cat in winds that didn't exceed about 18kts.

It was a great sail, and we made it into Panama City/St. Andrews Bay well before dark anchoring near Shell Island.
Shell Island, St. Andrews Bay

Salty enjoyed stretching his legs after a long 85 mile day-sail on the shore at Shell Island.and all was good for the night.

The following day (Thursday) we set sail again for Cape San Blas/St. Joe's Bay.  The wind was light and nowhere near as cooperative so it was a motor sail, but with full sail and one engine running, we were making a respectable 6.5 to 7 kts making it a sort 25 mile day to the anchorage at the  tip of Cape San Blas.

After a night at the Cape, we continued on to Apalachicola and spent a night at the Apalachicola Marina.  Well marina is a bit of a stretch - its a long side-tie dock with power and water, an that's the extent of the facilities.  But its a great location right across the street from Apalachicola Ice Company (Bar).  Salty enjoyed talking to the bar staff and listening to the band!
Salty orders drinks at the Apalachicola Ice Company

The following day, we moved on again and headed for Carabelle and Dog Island.  The first night we
anchored just off  Carabelle Beach for a smooth night at anchor.  The following day, we explored Dog Island.  We headed over to the east end first and explored the area around Tyson's Harbor.  I was surprised at the number of homes on this private island and cars - since there is no ferry service that supports the island..  There is apparently a water taxi available from Carabelle.
Anchored off East End of Dog Island

For the evening, we moved down to Shipping Cove on the west end of the island.  This proved to be a great spot with a nice beach that formed a narrow barrier between the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  The view from the anchorage was great, and the narrow sandy beach between us and the Gulf provided protection from any wave action.
Shipping Cove - Sandy Beach separating Gulf and Bay

Returning Home

The following day we decided reluctantly to start the return journey.  Looking ahead at the weather, we saw less favorable winds - not heavy, just with a west component making it "uphill sailing".  We decided that we would sail on the outside (Gulf) on the return.  Our boat-buddy, Tra-Sea indeed did this.  We set off out of the pass and conditions were not great.  We were hobby-horsing and the admiral  was not feeling great.  She had been a trouper as she is recovering from a bout of Shingles.  So, given the discomfort we elected to follow our outbound tracks and return via the bay and ICW to Cape San Blas.

We actually had a great downwind (dead downwind) sail across St. George's Bay before motoring along the ICW/Apalachicola River.  It was a nice comfortable trip and I think the admiral approved of the route!  Surprisingly, we arrived in St. Joes Bay just ahead of Tra-Sea and again spent the night just off Cape San Blas.

The following day we moved the boats and anchored just off the entrance to the old marina which as destroyed by hurricane Michael and to date has not been re-built.  It does seem however that a portion of the marina sea wall is actually public and is outside the fenced area.  We ere able to tie up our dinghies to the wall for a  visit into town.  There is also a fishing charter boat that seems to be operating from this spot.  We love the town of Port St. Joe.  It is so friendly and the town is not over-run with tourists (most of the time).  We had a great lunch at Krazyfish, got a few provisions from the Pig (Piggly Wiggly), and of course had "just one more" at the Haughty Heron.

St. Joes Bay
We decided to try a different anchorage for the night and new spot for us.  We moved the boats down
to the south end of St. Joes Bay to an area known as Lighthouse Bay.  We attempted to dinghy over to to a relatively new brew pub called Scallop Republic.located near Salinas Park.  Unfortunately we tried this at low tide and water in the majority of this end of the bay was less than one foot deep.  We got to within about 100 yards..........but the girls were not up for walking in the mud!!.....so it was drinks and dinner on the boat.

The following day we sailed back to St. Andrews and were able to dock at the St. Andrews Yacht Club.  even though still suffering from some storm damage, the club is open, and they have one floating dock available with no power or water.  The staff were great adn very helpful.  We actually stayed 2 nights making use of thier nice swimming pool.  We then headed onwards to Destin. for the night.

Lost Prop!

As we arrived in Destin, we discovered we had lost a prop somewhere en-route.  No idea how or where!  it was definitely on the boat as we motored out of the pass.  We then sailed; but when we headed to wind to drop sails, we had limited control and no drive from the port side.  After safely anchoring in Destin Harbor, a quick dip in the water confirmed that a prop was missing......Geez - no idea where that went.  its a folding Flexofold........so it will be $$$$$$$$$.   The following day we limped home on one engine...upwind.  We motorsailed as and when we could to keep a reasonable speed.   So now the search is on for a replacement prop.  It looks like it will have to be shipped from Denmark as none of the US prop shops seem to stock them.  Ugh......oh well - that's sailing!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

More Progress with our Sailing Videos - Atlantic Crossing!

Latest Video of our Atlantic Crossing Series

Covid lockdown has given me a little more time to work on the video series from our Atlantic crossing.  I really want to get this entire trip chronicled as soon as possible.

Well I am happy to report that I just completed Episode 8 of the series which takes us from Antigua to the Bahamas.  Here is a link to the lastst video in the series.

And if you are interested in viewing the entire 8 episode series.  Here is a link to the Playlist.  i think it will take one, possible teo more episodes to complete the documentation of the trip back to "Sweet Home Alabama"......hopefully I can keep up the motivation and complete that within a couple of weeks!  However, i am planning a sailing trip to Apalachicola........so that might add a delay!

Here's a link to the 8 Episode Playlist:

Friday, May 8, 2020

Social Distancing....Sailing...dealing with COVID

Trip to Chandeleur Islands

In these challenging times, we have decided to "social distance" on our boat and to continue to explore within the limits of the Local State Orders and with reasonable precautions.  Florida, Alabama, and neighboring Gulf States have not outlawed recreational boating and in fact consider it an "essential recreational activity".  To that end, we have been travelling with our closest friends Larry and Tracy (who we spend most of our time with), on our respective boats - SV Midnight Sun III and SV TraSea .

During the last 2-3 months we have explored some of the less well known anchorages around our local area which includes many of the bays between Pensacola Bay and Mobile Bay.  I must start by saying that typically when we explore the coastal areas in our area, we typically head east.  Why?  Well the water is clearer, the beaches are some of the best in the world........and some of our favorite destinations such as Apalachicola and St. Joes Bay are located to our east and within a day or two sailing.

But this time, to be different, we decided we would explore west.  We live (and keep our boat) just west of Pensacola, Fl on Arnica Bay, Alabama.  So a trip west starts with a ride down the Alabama Canal (ICW) to Mobile Bay.  Most local sailors (including me) tend to avoid Mobile Bay.  The water is shallow, the discharging rivers provide a high sediment loading, and there are a significant number of oil and gas structures.  It has a reputation for being a rough bay to cross - not huge waves, but under the wrong conditions, 4 ft waves with a 4 second period just make for an uncomfortable ride.

Notwithstanding this, we were looking at a week of terrific weather, and we decided this would be a good time to explore the rarely cruised Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana.  The islands are located in the Mississippi Delta and are known by fishermen as great fishing grounds.  The screenshot below shows our path and their position.  Sorry - I forgot to turn on the tracker until we were offshore, but you can connect the dots from our home (red flag), along the ICW , across Mobile bay, and along the coastal islands.

We spent the first night at Dauphin Island, just on the west side of Mobile Bay.  While this is often a forgotten anchorage, there were actually several sailboats anchored in what we consider the best anchorage on the south side of the island.  The approach looks shallow, but the instructions on Active Captain are good - basically follow the ship channel out to buoy 15; turn west and head for the 4 ft area shown on the chart.....don't worry, there's nothing less than 9 ft even at low tide.  Then you will see that Pelican Island has joined with Dauphin to create an anchorage (8-12 ft deep) that is pretected by low dunes on almost all sides.  It has best protection from north winds, but is fine for moderate blows in all directions.  There is a great little bar/restaurant called Pirates Bar......right now during the COVID Pandemic, they are only serving wings and pizza to go........but normally they have pretty good food and you can use their pool for a few bucks.  

Beach - Dauphin Island  - South Side

The beaches at Dauphin island are quite nice and generally clean.  The water is not great due to the sediment load from Mobile Bay.

There are some good views to be had - such as Middle Light in Mobile Bay.  Its really quite a sight and you can sail by it within a few hundred feet.

But then there are also the other extremes - the oil and (more likely) gas production platforms.  Some in operation, and some abandoned.....but all in all, quite a collection of rusting engineering "junk metal". 

But it is what it is......this is what Mobile Bay and the western Gulf have to offer!  They light up the sky at night with their gas flares, and its quite a sight.

From Dauphin Island we continued west with a short daysail  to Petit Bois Island (pronounced locally as "Pettyboy").  Here, the beaches were a little nicer, and the water a little clearer..  The view to the south was of the Gulf and a few gas structures, but to the north had the appearance of "Gotham City", due to the presence of refineries and shipping facilities in the port of Pascagoula.
But still - it was a pleasant place to be.

From Petit Bois, we headed SW towards the Chandeleur chain.  We had very settled weather.  once we got midway along the chain, we saw a number of "hotel boats" used by fishing guides to accommodate charter fishing trips.  Some were larger boats (50-70 ft) and another was a "pole boat" jacked up on spuds.  The guides use these as a base and take out their clients out on small skiffs......needed to navigate the shallow waters.

We spent a couple of nights here and did some dinghy exploring and fishing.....but unfortunately not much catching.  We are sailors - not fishermen, and we were either in the wrong spot at the wrong time, or had the wrong tackle.....or more likely, both!

So the Chandeleurs are certain beautiful in a remote way.  But I have to say, there's no protection in a blow;
Chandeleur Islands - near North Islands
land access is very difficult due to shallow water (even with dinghy), mangroves and few beaches. We took our dog Salty......he wasn't impressed by the one island we accessed which was comprised of broken shells and bird poop........with an alligator pond in the middle.  So after 2 nights - well Salty was ready to leave - and so were we.  We were so glad to have settled weather as this is not the place to be in a blow!.

Horn Island....Salty enjoys a swim!

We headed back along our tracks, but stayed the night at Horn Island.  To me, this was the nicest stop on this trip with very nice beaches, and pretty good water quality.  We stayed at the eastern anchorage marked on Active Captain -
and thoroughly enjoyed the overnight stop.  From there, we went back to Dauphin Island for the night and offshore to Ft. Mcree, near Pensacola Pass.

TraSea flies their Spin!

But Ft. Mcree, Florida.....still one of our favorite spots (but avoid weekends in summer!)

In Summary

We enjoyed our trip to the Chandeleurs.  We have meant to do this trip for several years but always favoured heading east.  I am glad we made the trip - the area is beautiful in a remote way....but I think we will continue to favor heading east on future coastal trips!  Horn Island was the nicest stop of the trip to me......I would definitely return there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

It's been a while ....dealing with COVID

Hello friends!
I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe in these very trying times.  Today is my birthday (April 15) and I feel so blessed that thus far, our family has not been seriously impacted by the COVID -19 virus.  I say "seriously impacted" a little tongue in cheek as we have many family members, in both the UK and USA that work in the healthcare field, and are dealing daily with patients and the very worrying risk of bringing something home.  My hat goes off to all healthcare workers that are continuing on a daily basis to take care of sick patients and help us through this time.

SV Shenanigans anchored in Tarkiln Bay
Janet and I are at our home on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.  I cannot think of a better place to self isolate - our county is reporting very low number of infections.....but who knows how many they are testing!  Outdoor activities (which includes recreational boating) is still considered an "essential activity" in both Alabama and Florida.  For the
Exploring Tarkiln Bayou by Dinghy
most part, I have seen most boaters (especially sailboats) being very compliant and sensible with maintaining social distancing.  But lets face it, if you anchor, you are typically more than 100 ft from your neighbor, and most people don't travel with over 10 people on the boat - heck 3 can be a crowd!.....So we have been exploring some little known/little frequented local anchorages.  Yes, we have seen power boaters on the beaches in larger groups......and I am not profiling "powerboaters", it just is what it is; and in Florida, FWC has been breaking up such groups.

So, we have been spending a few days on the boat, then returning home to replenish supplies, then we head out again.  The weather for the most part has been exceptionally good, with daytime temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s and 60s at night.

Salty takes a "Sand Bath"

We were happy to be joined for a few days by our friend and long-time crew-member Patrick.  He is a dentist and obviously his practice is currently closed - so he joinud us for some much needed outdoor recreation.

Solar Project

Framing and two 315 Watt Rigid Panels
Larry and Patrick also helped me finish off my solar addition project on Midnight Sun III.  I have added another 630 watts of solar giving a total of around 1kW.  And this seems to be working great.  A big thanks to Ron Bray for helping with the fabrications needed for the framing, and also to Gary Peaden for getting some of the fittings for me!   It took a lot more effort than I anticipated, but its done - and thank you to everyone that helped

solar controllers and wiring - almost complete!
So, in these uncertain times we don't know what the future will bring.  I do know that our plans for a Bahamas trip and a cruise up the NE coast of the USA are on hold.  To steal a phrase from our President,  "We'll see what happens!", but i think our cruising will be limited to local trips for the remainder of 2020.  Stay safe my friends! and keep in touch...

SV Tracy rafts to Midnight Sun III in our slip to ride out a Cold Front (boats not occupied!)

Monday, December 30, 2019

Video Playlist of the Midnight Sun III Story So Far!

I will  be releasing the video of our actual Atlantic crossing hopefully over New Year.  But here's a link to a playlist of the entire story so far for anyone that may be interested.


Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Merry Christmas! and New Video Posted

Well 'tis the season for coughs and colds and packing the car up ready to travel!!  We will be heading to the frozen north for Christmas to visit the oldest daughter in Tennessee for Christmas.  I just wanted to wish all my friends that read this a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

We will be starting to plan our next trip once we are back - likely Bahamas bound.  However - there are a couple of big projects to do before we head out.  I am adding additional solar to the boat and have about collected all the parts and fabricated the pieces to put it together.  The dinghy needs chaps.....so a big sewing project and we have hopes of getting an enclosure made......but that one may not happen for now.  We will see.

But for anyone watching the videos of our transatlantic trip - here is a link to the next episode, which is Episode 6.  This one covers our time in Funchal, Madeira and our trip to Cape verde in preparation for the longest leg - the Atlantic Crossing.  The Atlantic crossing will be Episode 7 and I hope to have that released over Christmas.  Hope you enjoy!

Episode 6 - Funchal Madeira  to Cape Verde

Friday, November 15, 2019

Apalachicola Cruise and Release of Ep.5 of the Transatlantic Trip

Apalachicola Cruise

It is November 15, 2019 and we are currently in the quaint Florida town of Apalachicola.  We came here as a "cruise" from Point Yacht Club.  Details of the cruise are below.  Unfortunately due to weather concerns, a few boats dropped out, but none the less, 4 boats made it to our destination.  We experienced a strong cold front which the weatherman called an "Arctic Front" bringing gusty winds from the north (we measured 22-34 kts).  But we bundled up, reefed the sails and had a great (and fast) sail.

Apalachicola Sailing!

All boats made it safely and we are having a great time!

Episode 5 of Transatlantic Trip

Episode 5 of out Transatlantic trip is now available on YouTube, or click on the image below.  In this episode, we take the boat from Cascais, Portugal to Funchal Madeira.

Cascais to Madeira - Episode 5