05/01/2013, Tied to dock in at the Palm Harbor Marina
Star Wars tower on Santa Rosa Island near Manatee Point
The weather forecasters hit the nail on the head with today's forecast. The predictions for the next several days said that the Pensacola area would see high winds and rain, and sure enough, that's about what we woke up to. The wind was blowing 10 to 20 knots out of the east under completely overcast skies. We were lucky on the rain part of the forecast. We only had the occasional light drizzle through the day.
The east wind had us set up for a fast sleigh ride to Pensacola. A crew of 30 something sailing jocks would have piled on all the sail Jascat can carry and probably run 10 kts all the way there. Being a tad more conservative, we reefed the main while still in the anchorage and kept our standard little jib. We still managed an average speed of just under 7 knots, plenty fast for us.
Well that wraps up Jascat's travels for the first half of the year and the last entry in this blog for several months. We intend to sail locally here around Pensacola through the summer then set out for horizons unknown in the fall.
As I write this, the rain has finally started to pour down. It's good to be in port.
04/30/2013, Anchored off Manatee Point, Santa Rosa Island
GIWW scenery between West Bay and Destin
We made a short hop today over to an anchorage called Manatee Point. It is about 12 nautical miles west of Destin on Santa Rosa Island just off the GIWW. Our intention was to spend the afternoon there swimming and exploring the beach. We arrived at Manatee Point about noon only to discover that the beach all along there is marked off limits by the military. Elgin Air Force Base is just to the north and there are numerous radar domes on Santa Rosa Island visible from the GIWW (including one tower straight out of Star Wars) so I suppose we should have guessed. It's a nice place to anchor so we decided to stay for the night anyway.
The weather appears to be breaking down on us. The forecast for the next several days has high probabilities of rain and increasing winds so we have decided, reluctantly, to head for port, which for us in Pensacola is Palm Harbor Marina.
That will end our current voyage. We had intended to stay out a few more days trying out some of the local anchorages but that will have to wait until this summer. Pensacola is just 26 nm from here so we should arrive there, in pouring rain if the forecast is correct, around mid afternoon.
04/29/2013, Anchored in Destin Harbor
On alligator watch in the GIWW, none sighted
The winds were too light to sail today so we motored all the way from West Bay to Destin Harbor (42 nm). A rising tide gave us a favorable current most of the way. At times the current was pushing us along as much as a knot and a half. Still though, the trip took seven hours and 15 minutes. Thank heaven for ear plugs.
One reason we came into Destin Harbor was to eat out at one of the many restaurants that cover the north side of the Harbor. So, after resting a little, we prepared the dinghy for the ride over to shore. After climbing in, however, we discovered that the engine wouldn't idle. It would start up ok but would die as soon as the throttle was brought back to the idle position. Since the engine has to be in idle to shift into gear, that meant we had a real problem.
Fortunately, Destin Harbor has a water taxi service. The water taxi is a motor boat seating 8 people or so that for a $5 fee will take you to whatever dock you want. The service exists because the restaurants and curio shops are on the north side of the harbor while the hotels and condo's are on the south. The streets are terribly congested and parking lots few, so many vacationers prefer to use the water taxi rather than drive themselves around. The taxi was happy to pick us up at our boat and our evening out on the town was saved. The Mahi (Ann) and Grouper (John) at AJ's Restaurant was expensive but worth it.
The dinghy engine wasn't the only thing that failed today. About midway through the afternoon, the wind speed and direction indicator began to give erratic readings and finally quit altogether. The list of things that need fixing is piling up. Luckily, we are only two or three days out of port.
Jascat tied up in the Port of St Joe Marina
While the fact that we had to motor nearly the entire crossing from Clearwater to Apalachicola was disappointing, it did afford a unique opportunity to verify the fuel burn characteristics of Jascat's Westerbeke 30b engine. During the crossing, the engine was run at a constant power setting of 2650 rpm for 24.2 hours. The distance traveled during that time was 143 nautical miles. Total fuel used was 18.2 gallons.
Those numbers give the following:
Fuel burn rate: 0.75 gallons/hour at 2650 rpm
Fuel mileage: 7.9 nautical miles/gallon at 2650 rpm
Avg speed: 5.9 nautical miles/hour at 2650 rpm
Note that the mileage numbers are uncorrected for the effects of current and wind.
04/28/2013, Anchored in in the SE corner of West Bay
Typical scenery along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near White City
The distance from Smack Bayou to our next destination, Destin Harbor, is around 55 nautical miles which is a little further than we typically like to sail in a day. So to shorten the distance to a more comfortable 40 nm, we left Smack Bayou at 9:30am this morning to sail over to West Bay arriving there three hours later at 12:30. The sail over there through the upper part of St Andrew Bay and West Bay was super with smooth water and 10 to 15 kt winds over the rear quarter.
That left us with the whole afternoon to do nothing but relax. We took the first part of the afternoon off, reading and resting. Then at 3pm we went for our customary end of the day swim off the back of the boat. (Incidentally, we skipped our swim yesterday because Smack Bayou looked too much like alligator country).
The water in West Bay is chocolate colored so I managed to swim around for several minutes before noticing that the water was full of little jellyfish. My first thought was to jump right out of the water but since no harm occurred while I didn't know they were there, I assumed no harm would occur while I did know they were there. Still, the knowledge that I was swimming in a pool of jellyfish took most of the fun out of the swim. Ann reluctantly got in long enough to cool off but all in all the afternoon swim was a bust.
Tomorrow we are off to Destin
04/27/2013, Anchored in Smack Bayou just across the GIWW from Panama City
Swing bridge between Apalachicola and White City on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
We got in two good sails today. First, in the morning as we left St Joe and then in mid afternoon as we were coming into St Andrew's Bay (Panama City). In between, the wind fell off to less than 5 kts around noon forcing us to motor for a couple of hours before picking up again in the afternoon. Still, it was good to be out in the open water of the Gulf again after being cooped up in the GIWW yesterday.
Our anchorage for the night, Smack Bayou, contains what is known as a "hurricane hole". About midway down the bayou is a pond twice the size of a football field that is completely enclosed on all sides except for a narrow little entrance. The shore around the pond is undeveloped but that doesn't mean we have the bayou to ourselves. There are six other boats anchored with us of which about half look like they may spend the night. The boats are pretty widely spaced so we have had a quiet, peaceful late afternoon. That is until the boat behind us fired up a generator to charge his batteries. Hopefully, that will be done by dark so we can all get a good night's sleep. [he ran it till about 11pm]
The picture of the Apalachicola Northern Railroad Bridge shown above was taken yesterday during the motor from Apalachicola to St Joe. The Waterway guide book says that the bridge is "usually open" as it was for us. Looking at the rust on the bridge, my guess is that the last time it was closed was around 1923.