Friday, May 19, 2023

Forgotten Coast Rally/Destination Cruise

Who said: “you have to go to the Bahamas for great beaches and anchorages”?  “Have you been to the Forgotten Coast? Do you know where it is?”  Boats rallied in the Josephine/Pirate’s Cove area located on the Florida/ Alabama line.  We had a great turn-out of 13 boats registered plus one RV!  Unfortunately, one boat did have to withdraw at the last minute due to mechanical issues.  Nonetheless, 12 boats left the area on or about May 1.  The weather window was looking good after a stormy few days preceding.  Our posse consisted of 7 trawlers/power boats and 5 sailboats (3 mono’s and two cats).

As expected, people had different schedules and different tolerances of weather – but this had been built into our Rally plans.  So essentially there were a couple of ICW groups and a couple of offshore groups with each skipper selecting his route and speed.  Several of the trawlers convoyed along the ICW sharing anchorages and stopping points.  We went offshore from Ft. McRee (Pensacola) to St. Andrews Yacht Club for our first leg, making the approximate 88 mile trip non-stop in 13 hours – which was real good going for us and we were able to complete our first leg in daylight hours (just).  We had a fast crossing with winds up to 25 kts and the typical lumpy Gulf seas of 4 -5 ft at 4-5 second period.  But the saving grace was that the wind and seas were behind us.

Midnight Sun III at Cape San Blas

The following day, we took a “down-day” and explored St. Andrews. Meeting up with one of our trawler buddies on “Lady of Leisure” to explore the downtown area which had some quaint watering holes. A glass-blowing studio and other unique sights.  We then continued on to Cape San Blas and enjoyed a night at one of our favorite anchorages.

Anchored in the beautiful St. Joseph Bay, nestled between Cape San Blas and Port St. Joe.  It was a serene night with a full moon.  Sailing Vessel Midnight Sun III was back to her wonderful self.  After being struck by lightning almost a year ago near this location, it seemed appropriate to “return to the scene” on the first significant voyage we have made since that heart-sinking day.

Even Salty, our sailing dog, took a moment to sit and admire the view, as the sun started to set.

Lightning Tree - Cape San Blas

This area, known to locals as “Florida’s Forgotten Coast” is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and near pristine  coastal areas of the US, and certainly Florida.  The best areas to visit are towards the far (north) end of St. Joseph’s State Park.  It is most easily accessed by boat; but can be accessed on foot from the state park entrance.  Wildlife includes deer, brown bear, and the occasional alligator.  In the clear bay water, we have observed dolphin, rays, manatee, and sharks just to mention a few.

We were joined at the Cape by one of the other sail boats in our fleet, SV Patricia Ann, crewed by the Chapman Family.

Chapman Family

Port St. Joe Marina
After a gorgeous night at the cape, we made the short trip across the Bay to the newly opened Port St. Joe Marina, where we got almost the full group of our travelers together for a “Cinco de Mayo” celebration. 

Everyone brought dishes to share, and some of our members made tacos with a selection of meats.  We were happy to meet and welcome fellow SSCA members Jim and Nancy Hegland who had joined us for this gathering in their newly acquired RV.  A great time was had by all!

Apalachicola Marina

At this point, some of the boats in our group had reached their planned destination, while others elected to continue onwards farther towards Florida’s Big Bend.  The following day, we took a leisurely motor along the ICW which becomes part of the Jackson and Apalachicola Rivers before crossing Lake Wimico and transiting by Apalachicola.  Some of us that made this leg of the trip stayed at the Apalachicola Marina located close to the downtown area.  Others stayed on the City Seawall.  We picked the marina as this spot has a large dock area that we used for our next gathering.  We had surprise guests during our stay with a visit from SSCA Board Member, Kingsley Ross and his wife Sue and our good friends John and Jody Horner who caught up with us by land. 

Kingsley, Sue, Janet , and Neil

Apalachicola is a wonderful Florida fishing town that so far has managed to strike that fine balance between attracting sufficient tourists to stay vibrant, while still maintaining its “Old Florida” feeling and local characters.  Our favorite bar which happens to be immediately across from our dock is now called the “High Five Dive Bar” and was previously named the “Bowery”.  They have the best live entertainment, combined with local characters and a selection of interesting beverages and bar signs.  One can always guarantee an evening of entertainment and I’m sure our group with its sailing stories added to the entertainment that night! 

High Five Dive Bar

Midnight Sun II, Lady of Leisure, and Monark all continued on to either Dog Island or Carrabelle for a couple more nights.  We anchored at Dog Island for a night and then at St. Vincent’s Island.  The Anchorage at Dog island was great and we enjoyed walking the narrow beach that separates the sound from the Gulf.  At. Vincent’s we found strange currents that spun us on the anchor.  It was also buggy and many alligator tracks on the beach – which always makes for a cautious dog walk!
Dog Island

This then became our turning point, and we started our separate ways back home, For us, we made stops in Apalachicola once again, Port St. Joe, St. Andrews, then Redfish Point (near Pensacola Pass) before returning home.

The weather had been spectacular for us with near no rain and just some distant afternoon thunder – we were happy for that!  It turned out to be a wonderful trip!

St. Vincent's Island

Participating Vessels:

SV Midnight Sun III

SV Tinamarie

SV Kanaloa

SV Kee Kat

SV Patricia Ann

MV Gracie

MV Lady of Leisure

MV One Love

MV My Bonnie Lass

MV Monark

MV Gitana

MV Slo Motion

RV Laughing Buddha

St. Joe Marina

Florida's Forgotten Coast

Time flies!

 Time flies when you are having fun..........but it moves slowly when the boat is out of the water!

Midnight Sun III was re-luanched in February 2023 after repairs from the Lightnig Strike