Monday, January 30, 2006

Sailing the Ditch, Chapter 3 Part 3, Pensacola onward

Robin and Neal McGill's adventures "Sailing the Ditch" on Spirit Song
Chapter III, Part 3, Pensacola to Panama City, Days 15 – 20

March 29, 2002 (Fri.) – Day 15, Good Friday
This was another great day of sailing. We started the day watching the Navy’s Blue Angels go through their practice. We could hear them but not always seem them because of the approximately ten mile distance between the marina and the Naval Air Station. This was exciting to watch. We then walked to a local French bakery where we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a cranberry scone. We then walked 1-1/2 miles to find a store where we purchased some salami and crackers for future lunches while sailing. We departed the marina after 11:00 am and headed east once again. We motored about one hour until we rejoined the I.C.W. where we were in a position to sail. The wind was steady and we let auto (autopilot) do most of the steering. We traveled about 21 miles today most of which was in the Santa Rosa Sound. We found a suitable place to anchor about 200 yards from Santa Rosa Island. We dropped the anchor at about 4:00 pm and decided to go to the beach in the inflatable raft. It was wonderful walking along the pure white sand in our bare feet. We must have walked ¼ mile each way from where we beached the raft. Then we returned to Spirit Song, divided a can of chili beans for dinner and settled in for the night.

March 30, 2002 – Day 16
We were up at 6:30 am after a quiet night. We had coffee and a bit to eat and readied the boat for travel. We pulled the anchor up at 8:00 am and motored for the entire day of travel which was about 5 hours. We were traveling east and the wind was coming from the east. We traveled 29 miles before reaching our destination for the day which was Destin, Florida. We found the harbor at Destin very busy. There were boats traveling in all directions. We found a somewhat secluded facility to spend the night. The owner of the facility gave us a tour of his 76 ft. motor launch, which was built for a daughter of the wealthy DuPont family in 1927. It was a treat to see the superior woodwork of the boat.

March 31, 2002 (Sun.) – Day 17, Easter Sunday
In the middle of the night we heard male voices and around 3:00 am somebody boarded Spirit Song at which time Robin sprang to his feet to find two young men probably college age. They were fishing and had managed to tangle their line with the stern of the boat. Robin helped them untangle the mess. We were eventually able to go back to sleep until about 7:30 am. It was foggy. We walked to a local café for a hot breakfast and then walked another 3 blocks to a Presbyterian church. When we arrived they were just starting Sunday school. After Sunday school we attended their regular worship service. After church we picked up a few groceries and topped off the fuel tanks and headed out of Destin Harbor. Shortly after leaving we put on our foul weather gear as it was starting to rain. Soon it was raining very hard with lightning and thunder all around us. We decided to leave the ICW and head for a safe harbor. We tied up at a 2400 acre resort called Bay Towne Marina at Sandestin, Florida. This was a distance of only 16 miles of travel for the day. It was nice to take a hot shower and get out of our wet clothes.

April 1, 2002 (Mon.) – Day 18
Today was a day for doing shore activities. We were up by 8:00 am and took advantage of a shuttle bus service here at the resort to take us to a resort restaurant for breakfast. As a result of yesterday’s weather, Robin had some concerns about the ability of the small outboard motor for the inflatable to start properly. We had the resort mechanic work on it. The motor is now running fine. We then did a much-needed laundry. We dock walked and talked with other boat owners.

April 2, 2002 (Tue.) – Day 19
We were up at 7:00 am and took advantage of the resort shuttle bus once again to provide transportation to and from breakfast. We readied Spirit Song and said our goodbyes to the several new friends we had met here. We left the marina at about 9:15 motoring because of no wind. In fact the water had a glass like surface. We proceeded east on Choctawhatchee Bay. After about 2 hours of travel there was enough wind to put up the jib which increased our speed only a mile per hour. With the motor and the jib we were traveling about 6-1/2 miles per hour. We motor sailed in this fashion for about forty five minutes until we entered a land cut which lasted for 17 miles. We then entered West Bay and anchored for the night about 3 miles south of the I.C.W. We motored for 8-1/4 hours and traveled over 40 miles today. When we entered West Bay we observed many sea birds diving into the water to catch fish.

April 3, 2002 (Wed.) – Day 20
Robin and I were up at a little past 6:00 am this morning. An amusing thing occurred this morning when Robin brought the inflatable to the boat in preparation for starting the day of travel. A little black sea bird about the size of a duck came flying out of the raft. Apparently she had been in the raft all night long. She stayed near the raft and did not seem willing to fly away. We watched her for a while as she slowly swam closer and closer to her raft. Finally she was standing on the edge of the raft. She would not leave until we motored off. We also watched a number of dolphins patrolling the waters. Robin also untangled the two anchor lines because the boat rotated 360° during the night. As we were motoring toward Panama City we were aware of a large thunder storm several miles to the south of us. As it turned out, we did not tangle with it. We traveled 16 miles before reaching Panama City Marina and securing Spirit Song into a transient slip. We ate lunch and dinner at a local restaurant, walked around town, and visited with other boaters. It was hot here this afternoon.


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