Thursday, December 15, 2011


We tried sailing from Panama City Beach to St. Joe's Bay but once again the wind was right on the nose. We tried tacking back & forth but that would have taken us forever. Plus it was pretty lumpy further offshore, so the heck with it. We sailed back in and then motored east, close to shore, in easy 2 foot seas. We entered a canal at St. Joes that connects to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. A short way down the GICW is the small town of White City. They have a small cut in the waterway with some space to tie up. No services, nothing around except a boat launch ramp and a bunch of Black Vultures. It was free, Perfect! This was all a flashback to our river cruising complete with fog at dawn. We waited an hour before getting underway with still a fair amount of fog hanging low. Sure enough, a half mile up the ICW we encounter the only barge within 50 miles looming out of the fog bearing right down at us. No problem, call him on the VHF and discuss passing. After 4 tries on 2 frequencies and him closing fast he finally responds. With thick Louisiana drawl he casually agrees on a starboard to starboard pass. No problem. The rest of the morning was quite scenic as the fog lifted, including the largest Bald Eagle we've ever seen. He looked every bit the part of a BALD EAGLE sitting atop a tree overlooking the waterway.
Freedom arrived in Apalachacola early afternoon. We topped off the diesel tank & the spare jugs too for the long run upcoming. We then anchored across the river from town to settle in, get a few preparations done for tomorrow and relax.
Tomorrow is the much anticipated crossing of the Big Bend corner of the gulf. There is no good place to stop for a deep draft boat between Apalachacola and Clearwater, a run of about 160 miles. At 6 knots, that's about 27 hours. We've had rotten luck every time we've headed out to the open waters of the gulf. Friday & Saturday sea conditions look good...we'll see!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pensacola to Panama City Beach

We took a first stab at this run on Friday 12/2. We aborted after a few hours because of steep, sloppy seas and wind on the nose. After waiting several days we departed a second time on Tuesday 12/6 around 3pm. The seas were rolling from leftover southerly winds but not too bad and the forecast was for it to settle down. It did for a while. But around 3 AM it swung around to the north much earlier than predicted and started blowing in the high teens. That switch stirred up the southerly swell and made things very uncomfortable once again. The boat can handle it fine, can the crew? Well, nobody barfed! That's something. By dawn, the wind reached 30 knots. We had to run cross wise to the seas to get into the inlet which created quite a bit of rolling. This is one place where a sailboat does much better than power as the sails act as a huge roll damper. It was quite a wild roller coaster ride into the inlet in 10' waves. The inlet is plenty wide and deep so there was no real danger, just more 'entertainment'.

I'd made arrangements to shoot a video for a local marina in Panama City, so that was the destination. It was 6am and the wind was blowing like stink. So we dropped anchor in the lagoon inside the pass to wait for the marina staff, wait for the wind to die down a bit and take a well deserved nap.

That front blew in some chilly overnight temps. But that has passed and now we're looking forward to about a week of hi's in the 70's and lows in the 50's. I successfully completed the video and we're ready to continue on. We'll head for Apalachacola over the next few days and then another overnight to Clearwater and Tampa/St. Pete's.

Video: Cruising from Chicago to Mobile

Here is a longer compilation video of our river cruise from Chicago to Mobile. Some shots are reprieved from previous videos but there is plenty of new video as well.