Monday, June 22, 2015

Pensacola to Apalachicola Cruise (PAC II) - Part 2

....continued from Part 1

We had a wonderful time in Apalachicola, starting off with drinks in the Bowery Station, located close to our mooring for the night.  Scenes below are from this great little watering hole!

 Local entertainer - Bowery Station, Apalachicola

PAC II Cruisers - Bowery Station

And later that evening a near complete compliment of the sailing and power boat participants in PAC II aboard Julie's amazing Tartan, s/V Night Sky.....Julie, I just love your boat!

 Ladies of PAC II.....and Ron?

Guy's of PAC II......and Belle

S/V Midnight Sun II and S/V TraSea made a day sail to Little St. George from Apalach and we spent a great time on the beach.  Salty got on the trail of a very large ghost crab and managed to dig it up, but then didn't know what to do with it.

In Apalachicola, we had the traditional "club brunch" by the pool of a local hotel and also great dinner of shared dishes on the wharf next to our mooring. The next morning, several of us set off back up the river towards Port St. Joe, starting our return journey.  S/Vs Midnight Sun II, TraSea, and Night Sky all anchored at Crooked Island for the night, located about 10 miles west of PSJ.  The entrance is uncharted and there was quite a swell, so navigation into the continually changing entrance is "visual".  A couple of the boats had a few "touch and go" moments, but the bottom is sand, so no damage was done.  if you have the right conditions and/or nerve to try it, Crooked Island is a wonderful anchorage.  other than a couple of small boats fishing, we had the place to ourselves, and it could have been anywhere on one of the remote islands of the Bahamas.

From Crooked Island, we said farewell to the other boats we had sailed with and ventured back to port St. Joe,  one of our most favorite spots on the Forgotten Coast.  We discovered a couple of new restaurants in the area that have recently opened.  Ever heard of a restaurant that has free beer and wine - yes, that's the current deal at Shipyard Cove in PSJ.  I say the "current deal" as I suspect its an interim situation until they get their license.  Right now, they are simply asking for donations to the wildlife fund.  The food and staff are good and owner Bill is trying to make a go of this, a gift shop, and ice cream.  I believe Bill is also a part owner in the development on Black's Island located in St. Joe's bay.  Anyway, if good food and free drinks is not enough to tempt you, a look at the interesting table tops made from salvaged wood from Wewahitchka is definitely worth the trip.  Seen below is the "Captain's Table".  Bill apparently got the wood from local "deadheaders" that run a mill in visit, we will try to track it down.

Captain's Table - Shipyard Cove 

Other places to try include: the newly opened Bin 411 (wine bar, coffee shop and sandwiches), Provisions (one of our all-time faves), Joe Mama's Pizza (first class pizza), and Peppers (good Mexican, but then they are the ONLY Mexican).

Before heading back, we had a couple of nights at our beach retreat on Cape San Blas.

the beach - Cape San Blas

Salty goes  fishing (his favorite sport!)- CSB

A little pool-side relaxation before headed home.

and of course a sunset at CSB!

But all good things come to an end and it was time for us to start the sail back to Pensacola.  The plan was a two-day trip reversing our trip out here and stopping the night at Panama City/St/ Andrews.  So after a little provision top-off, we headed out late morning to arrive in the early evening.  It was a superb sail - wind conditions, and some great wildlife sightings, including dolphins on the bow, and two brief sightings of a very large turtle (unfortunately not caught on film), that looked like the Loch Ness Monster!  But Salty did go dolphin fishing! - and that was caught on film....

Leaving Panama City and heading to Pensacola, we saw a few interesting Naval happenings....for instance.......
Look at the commercial salvage vessel in the background...he announced on VHF that he had limited maneuverability as was towing an "anonymous vessel".......looks like a submarine to me and he headed to the Naval base.  This was taken at daybreak, approximately 5:30am - long before the tourists were awake!

Then when we got to Pensacola, we saw a vessel on AIS doing 30+ knots.....that suddenly stopped.  Very strange - perhaps the AIS lost its fix...and what could move at 30+ then stop?  Well this did:

According to our neighbor, its called "No.5" and is an aluminum jet boat that was (perhaps still is) used as a minesweeper.  It was quite a breezy day and I think some naval commander was having the crew practice docking as he came in and out of the Pensacola inlet (docking each time), in the time that we took to sail on in.

But in summary - what a wonderful trip!  Thank you to everyone from PYC that participated and a special thanks to Julie and others that took lead roles in organizing things!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pensacola to Apalachicola Cruise (PAC II) - Part 1

The Cruiser's Group from Pensacola Yacht Club (PYC) organized a cruise from Pensacola to Apalachicola.  our "ad hoc" group of both sailing vessels and motor boats left from various spots around the Pensacola area between May 21 and May 23.  I think those with the flexibility to leave on the 21st hit optimum conditions, but because of work, travel, and other such less important matters, the larger group departed from Ft. McRee in the early hours of Saturday (23rd).

Taking the sound decision to skip all the madness at Destin, the first stop for the main group was a nice anchorage located within the entrance to Panama City/St. Andrew's Bay, known as Redfish Point.  After a day that fellow sailor Chuck described as "riding a horse named Fu Manchu", we were happy to reach the anchorage before dark and rest up.
 One of many of our wonderful sunsets

Motor-sailing very lumpy conditions

I seem to never get the camera out except on the calmest of days.....but this time I decided to risk an iPhone.  In this part of the Gulf, the water is not that deep (typically 20-40 ft), and while the waves were not that high, they were every 3 seconds making for a bumpy ride beating into 15 kts or so.

S/V TraSea

The next day, we continued on into more of the same to arrive at Port St, Joe marina, passing fellow PAC II cruisers Mike and Carol that had set off the day before in calmer conditions and sailed straight to Cape San Blas.  They were anchored on the Gulf side of the Cape.  We saw them at anchor on our way in down the channel.

Part of our group decided to stay an extra day in Panama City, while others decided to head for port St. Joe.  On our way over, we learned that fellow cruisers Chuck and Peg had experienced mechanical problems and were now searching for parts.  At first, I heard it was a broken steering cable, but that was later clarified to be a transmission/gear shift cable.  Ahhhh!!  I know something about that having broken one in the Bahamas!  The upside was that they were in a good spot to find parts and one was quickly located.  I understand that Chuck (S/V Point of Sail) with help from Ron (S/V Night Sky) spent the next day getting parts and making the repair.

Peppers - Port St. Joe

The next day as we were readying to reluctantly leave PSJ, I was filling the water tanks and noticed that the bilge was running...Hmmm   - am I filling the boat with fresh water somehow?.....after a rather frantic search, pulling up floor boards to locate the source of the water, looking in lockers etc, the leak was found.  The outlet pipe from the front water tank had separated from the tank.

Sure enough, I was filling the boat with fresh water.  An iphone can work as a handy substitute to a boroscope when trying to see what's going on in an obscure location.  It looked like the pipe was never seated too far into the threaded tank port, so rather than messing with it at this point, I let the tank drain, and isolated the pipe with the valve.  I was sure we could get by with one water tank and make a better more permanent repair when we got home.  It looks like the threads need a good clean  our before putting the pipe back in.  I am sure this connection was a victim of the previous two days of beating we had taken in the Gulf.  

So off we set for a more relaxing motor cruise to Apalachicola.  We decided to go via the ICW which actually makes use of the Jackson and Apalachicola Rivers.  For anyone that makes it to this part of the world, to me this is a short trip not to be missed.  With very little imagination, you could easily be miles up the Amazon with some wonderful river scenery, wildlife and tranquility.

The Captain Salty Shrimper - based in the mouth of the Gulf County Canal 

Our "First Mate" Salty....and Captain Salty

One of many Osprey Nest on one of the ICW markers

We saw some wonderful "Cyprus and Mangrove" anchorages on the river.  Some members of our group decided to anchor on the river, while we decided to continue on to Apalachicola.  Our decision was driven by a lack of shoreline suitable to land "Salty", and the likelihood of a bug invasion out here in the wilderness. Apalachicola was just an hour further.

We arrived in Apalach and tied up to the public seawall.  No power, but that was OK - it was only $30.  The instructions were to call the Chief of Police.  When we did so, we got a recorded message, but later received a call back.  When we told him we were two boats, he actually gave us a "two for one" special.  What a wonderful part of the world this is!

...........more to follow in Part 2

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Begins on the Lost Bay

The weather is warming up and jeans are yielding to shorts again!....Bring on the flip-flops!

There are so many activities going on both on and around the bay that its impossible for us to participate in everything we would like to.  As an example, on the weekend of April 25, we had two conflicting events.....the April PYC Raft up to Big Sabine and the Dauphin Island Race in Mobile Bay.  And then,  a contractor coming over to take down a tree that needed to be addressed before the summer months.  So unfortunately the tree took precedence.
The "Drinking tree" goes down

....but in fact, sometimes, things are just meant to be.  shortly after the old Drinking Tree hit the deck, the weather locally started to take on an ominous gloom......very strange, we are not in the typical "storm season".  Within minutes, winds picked up to 60+mph at the house.

I had not secured the boat well enough for a storm, and some minor damage occurred due to it rubbing on a piling.  The good news out of it all, was that it was minor, gel-coat damage and it gave me the opportunity to learn how to do a proper gel-coat repair.  Not something I had planned on spending my Sunday doing, but nonetheless, I have now figured it out.
Damage by piling

 During repair

Voila!  good as new!

The very sad thing about this day was that this freak weather event claimed the lives of 5 sailors in Mobile Bay that were participating in the Dauphin Island race.  This was publicized locally, and in the sailing press, but has not seemed to get very much air-time other than that.  I am posting a link to a video made by a friend who was there - I hope this link is still active as it is very thought provoking and moving.  I hope you can see it - Sean, the young man who made the video is in the movie and was crewing on a boat owned by friends or ours.  Please  take a moment to watch this.  At the time it was made Sean had no idea of thee severity of the storm or the lives that were lost.  Of course our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those that were lost and to their families at this sad time.

.......and a reminder to fellow sailors of the magnitude of the forces that nature can unleash.