December 29 - The weather was still a little rainy and blustery the Saturday morning we left Fairhope. Wayne had put waypoints in our GPS system for the course down the east side of Mobile Bay to the point where we would enter the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway). We made our way into the "ditch," as the ICW is sometimes referred to, and proceeded to pass by some beautiful areas of the Gulf Island National Seashore. On a prettier day we might have stopped in for a stroll on the beach...
We had planned to travel about 50 miles that day, but with an early start that morning we decided later to add a few more miles. We called Bob Riggs and ask him about any recommendations. He put us on to the Palafox Marina in Pensacola and that's where we went. Really nice, new marina...right downtown in historical area of Pensacola. While we had talked to the marina office to arrange the night's stay, there was no one physically stationed at the marina that night. The regular dockmaster was off on funeral leave. We had no trouble getting in and secured for the evening.
December 30 - We woke up Sunday morning to thunder storms early. They cleared out by sunrise, but the skies were still cloudy and a little threatening. Checking the weather we saw that the stormy weather seemed on it's way north, so we took a little walk up through downtown Pensacola and set out again at about 10 AM. Here we are in the marina, bow out, facing the camera, second from the left end.
As we headed out of the Pensacola harbor, looking south towards the ICW, the sky clearly showed the stormy weather to our west and clearing skies to the east. At least that's what we we counting on...
The afternoon found us near Ft. Walton Beach, FL, and we decided to tie up for the night at the City Dock. The dock runs parallel to the waterway, but traffic was light that day and we knew we could get out and away quickly the next morning if we stayed closer to the ICW. The dock doesn't have an electrical hook up, but it does provide water and pump out facilities. And did I mention...it's free? Bob and Laura DeFever were docked there with their sailboat, Deja Vu. Bob helped us tie up and we chatted with him for a while about their trip from Ft. Pierce, FL, to Mobile, AL, where they planned to live and work for the year. The Dock is right next to a city park and within easy walking distance of a Publix supermarket so everyone (Lucy included) was pleased with the arrangement. Lucy discovered pigeons...and how they can be just slow enough on take-off to nearly allow her to get up close and personal.
We spent a cozy evening there, Wayne and I catching
up on reading and communications...
Lucy content to hang out.
December 31, New Year's Eve, brought the prettiest day of travel we've had in weeks. (Considering short time we've been gone, that's saying a lot!) The skies cleared up, the sun came out, the temperature warmed...now THIS is what we're here for! We left Ft. Walton Beach early. Going through areas like the "Grand Canyon" and Choctawhatchee Bay we saw beautiful sky, water, and wildlife. We rolled up the bridge curtains and took off the coats!
Got some great closeups of birds....I used the red eye reduction on this one, it was so close.
And...this "bird" did a close fly by as well....
We had just gone under the West Bay Creek Bridge when Wayne said, "You know, it looks like that plane is coming right for us!" We watched this little sea plane come right in front of the bridge windows and make a hard turn coming abeam our port side. By then I'd grabbed the camera and got this parting shot as he went on down to land near the bridge. Wayne said there were two people in the plane. Wayne waved at them and they waved back.
OK, the one that got away: We were sitting on the bridge, enjoying the ride, when we hear a slapping sound. We heard it 5 or more times and Wayne kept saying it was the back windows on the bridge flapping in the breeze. I kept looking for that action to accompany the sound and it never happened. I decided I'd better check things down on the back deck to make sure we weren't about to lose something. When I stepped onto the deck I was met with the view of a porpoise...about 5 or 6 feet away from our port side and completely up in the air! On entering the water, I heard the slapping sound. That porpoise had been with us for some time, and we were oblivious! I ran back up to the bridge and grabbed the camera, but it was gone. Darn! I've been assured we'll see more.
The weather on New Year's Day was supposed to turn bad for travel: high winds and rough water. We made reservations at the Panama City Marina with plans to arrive Tuesday morning so we'd be tied up fast for the winds. The marina would be "closed" for the holiday, but they gave us instructions on where to tie up and were leaving a packet for us to pick up. But New Year's Eve was so pretty we really wanted to anchor out that night. We had chosen a place (very near the marina) called Smack Bayou. Both of our water guides highly recommended this anchorage for it's beauty and security in winds. When we got to the bayou it was filled with boats. Many may have just been there for the day, but there wasn't room for our boat to get in among them and wait them out. We went, instead, to a nearby anchorage called Watson Bayou and anchored among a scattering of sailboats tied to mooring balls. We settled in for the evening and made some Happy New Year calls....
January 1, 2008 - The next morning at about 4:30 we both woke up to the sounds of wind whipping around the boat. The tide had gone out...and with all the swirling around going on in that little pocket of water we decided to pick up anchor and get away from the nearby sailboats. Following our course in...we slowly made our way out and back onto the bay. The marina was only a short distance away, but when we got there we couldn't quite make out how to get into the area behind a seawall...so we just circled around a while in the bay until the sun came up and we could see our way in. We fought the winds to get tied up, then came back in and crashed for the day. We plan to spend several days here until the winds die down.
Wayne called a contact from the Trawlering discussion group, Rich Gano, who had been very helpful when we were going through the replacement of fuel tank. Rich is coming over on Wednesday to see the tanks and, after we go to lunch, to take us to a grocery store for provisions.
Panama City Marina is very nice. It's within walking distance of downtown, including the public library. I'll have to make a visit there before we leave. The area around the marina has a park which makes Lucy happy. Here's a shot of the sun setting on New Year's Day from our position on Pier 6. Happy New Year!!