Sep 15, 201211:42 AM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Destin To Panama City
Thursday morning in Destin Harbor, the sky was threatening rain, but we had things to do and secretly wouldn't have minded any rain as we figured it would help wash the salt off the boat from our trip from Orange Beach. The first order of business was to get our new air filters installed, but like everything else, nothing is straightforward and usually includes a detour or two. Preying on my mind was an issue of the Walker Airseps installed on the Caterpillars were done in such a fashion that the air filters were rubbing against engine components and holes had been trying to wear through the filter elements.
I had initially intended to pop-rivet some guards on the Airsep housings that would protect the elements from damage when I installed the new ones, but once I took the old air filters off, I could see an easier and better solution. It was a simple matter of pulling each Airsep housing up and away from the engines with some heavy-duty cable ties. When I then installed the new filters, they didn't come in contact with the engines anywhere.
Once that chore was done, I called around for diesel fuel prices and found the best price at the place I wanted to go to anyway. It was the Fisherman's Co-op, where I wanted to pick up two fuel filters, the secondaries that mount right on the engines. We went over and topped off our fuel tanks and our water tanks and headed out for a test drive.
Prior to the new air filters, I couldn't get Swing Set to run over 12 mph and both Cats would smoke horribly. Now, you have to be patient with these 3116s, as the throttle response is abysmal, but I kept nudging up the throttles until Swing Set was cooking along at nearly 29 mph, and that's with full water and fuel, plus all the other junk we have on board. I never was able to get more than 34 out of her with hardly any weight aboard, so I called installing the new air filters a success and we headed for the barn.
Rosie and I dropped anchor in practically the same spot in Destin Harbor that we had already been setting, in between two of the six or so derelict boats scattered around in there. We grabbed Holly and set out in the dinghy for some sightseeing. We cruised the canals and looked at houses and didn't happen to see anything we wanted to plunk down some cash on, so it was back to the boat we went.
We chilled out for a while until cocktail hour and then took a couple of Busch Lights to the bow and watched the tour boats go by, and let Holly bark away at them. Someone cruised by in a pontoon boat and tossed us a tennis ball, and we promptly made a gift of it to the dog. Holly had never seen a ball before, and things were going well until she first saw it bounce. Every time I would bounce it on the deck, Holly woud bark and cower in Rosie's lap. It was pretty funny to watch, and after a couple of beers, it had us entertained.
Towards sunset, we left Holly in charge of the boat and took the dinghy over to AJ's Oyster House. You can see Swing Set in the upper middle of the above photo, which I took from the deck at AJ's. We went to AJ's for old time sake; we hadn't been there in years. As an indication just how long it had been since we last visited, oysters then were $1 per dozen. Yes, I said one dollar. We don't know what they are now, and we don't care because we don't like them, but there aren't any fresh ones to get anyway.
I got tired of the tourist trap that AJ's had become, and we motored over to a place more suited to us, a very seedy place right on the water. We met some nice folks there and had a couple more beers and decided to call it a night.
By sunrise on Friday morning, we were leaving Destin Harbor, headed for Panama City. It's a long run inside through Choctawatchee Bay, nearly as big as Mobile Bay. At the eastern end of that is a narrow canal the locals call the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is mostly straight and boring. We thought that we'd see a gator or two, but no such luck. We did see a few dolphins, but nothing else. In fact, during the whole trip through Choctawatchee and the canal, we only saw one other boat.
We were headed to the home of Greg and Carl Vernon, who live in Panama City and are AGLCA Harbor Hosts. Greg had emailed us and said that she and her husband would be happy for us to stop by on our way through and help us re-provision, and we took her up on it. We called them once we entered West Bay, still nearly three hours away, and said we were coming. We got good directions to their home on Watson Bayou and found it easily after entering the coordinates to their home into our chartplotter.
You pass the Mercury testing facility on your way to Greg and Carl's, and that's as specific as I'll get as to where their home is. If they want you to stop by, they'll let you know. It's a fool who doesn't take them up on an invitation to visit them, as we would find out.
Greg and Carl met us on the dock as we pulled in, and they gave us a warm welcome. Once we got settled, they invited us to dinner and gave us some time to take showers and rest up after eight hours of travel. We walked up to their nice home at the appointed time of 5 p.m., and all we took with us was a plastic bag of cold Busch Lights. Greg was already cooking up something that smelled wonderful, and by 7 p.m., we sat down to dinner. I had sworn to keep quiet about it, but on the way to the table, the pan of lasagna got a little too hot for Greg to handle and she dropped it. Now, she didn't just drop it, she gave it a flip and a spin, a bit reminiscent of the summer Olympics, and that pan of lasagna did a somersault on the way to the floor and barely spilled a drop of red sauce on the hardwood. No harm, no foul, they say...and after asking us if we would still eat it after the mishap, I just gave her a "you gotta be kidding" look and said to bring that pan right on over so we could dig in. I know Greg was mortified, but I also knew she'd be telling this story for years, and for that alone, the accident was worth it.
We talked and traded boating stories until 10 o'clock, late for us on such a long day, and we then headed for the boat.
Today, we got up and gave Swing Set a much needed bath after the trip through mostly coffee-colored saltwater. While Rosie finished drying the boat, I went up to see if Carl would give me some tips on getting across the Gulf, and he certainly did. I planned a route and entered it on our Navionics app and will also put the coordinates on the Garmin. I feel a whole lot better about our plan, even though it may change depending on the weather.
Once we got through with that, Rosie went with Greg to get groceries and I went with Carl in search of an anchor. Rosie and Greg fared better in their expedition; Carl and I came up empty handed, but I now have some leads on what brand of anchor to focus on. They say progress is made in baby steps, so that being the case, we made progress.