Sep 19, 201202:08 PM
Swing Set: Cruising Full Time
Incommunicado Near Apalachicola
I was finishing up my last blog entry while we were still at the home of AGLCA harbor hosts, Carl and Greg Vernon. Greg had been paying attention to my blog posts and knew how much I like fried chicken, so Rosie went up to the house before me and learned that Carl was out getting some take out chicken from Popeye's for us to have that night, and they wouldn't take any payment, no way, no how.
Before Carl had left to get the chicken, Greg had asked Rosie if she had gotten any rest, and Rosie said that she had played with Holly instead. When Rosie said it, they both looked at her kinda strange, and Greg said, "How do you play with Holly?" Now, I don't want this to sound unkind, because I don't mean to be, but some people are dog people and some are not. Carl and Greg fall into the latter category. Sure, they offered to have us bring Holly into the yard to do her business, and that was generous, but I could tell that they weren't pet people. Why I'm saying this is so that anyone who has a giant Great Dane or other large dog that they travel with doesn't make the mistake of thinking Carl and Greg are gonna get all mushy over their pet. When Rosie told me about it later, I thought it was funny. I could imagine Rosie going through the litany of how indeed she does play with Holly, when I would have just said, "How can you not play with Holly?" I'm still chuckling about it.
After dinner, we sat on their deck and Carl told some boating stories. After being reassured all day that with proper planning and forecast checking our crossing at this time of year should prove to be non-eventful, each story Carl told was filled with one calamity after another, and it became a bit unnerving for me. Telling horror stories about crossing the Gulf to people about to make the jump is like telling boogeyman and axe murderer stories to a child that is about to spend the night in a strange house. I wondered aloud as to why anyone would go through all the trouble of checking weather forecasts if it apparently didn't make a stick of difference in the end? Carl checked himself and again reassured us, saying that the tales he was telling took place during crossings later in the season when circumstances were different. Later on, I realized there isn't much entertainment value in telling vanilla tales; all the good stories are about mayhem and things gone wrong, but at this point in time, Rosie and I would rather not hear the horror stories.
Armed with a few new websites for forecasting wave and wind, along with a loose plan for crossing the Gulf, we left Carl and Greg on Sunday morning, exited the Panama City Pass into the Gulf and made way for Crooked Island. We were going to travel on the "outside" to Port St. Joe. It was an hour from their house to the pass, and another two hours down the coast to a cut through to St. Andrews Bay and to Crooked Island. The cut-through is not charted, but Carl gave us coordinates. Of course, things change, and my eyesight was the best tool for getting us over the bar...that, and our depth finder. I admit that it felt strange running into a cut when the chart reported land, but I guess it's something I'll have to get used to. It felt weird at first, but like strangling bunnies, it becomes common place over time. Please see the humor.
You can see Swing Set way in the background where Rosie and I took the dinghy over to the dune separating the Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. We walked some in the pure white sand before heading back to the boat.
By the time we got the dinghy back on the davits, five sailboats made their way into the harbor and made a nice backdrop for our sunset. We had a nice breeze for our dinner, and we were considering staying near Crooked Island for another full day, but I started looking at some of the wind and wave forecasts, and it appeared to me that if we didn't get to Port St. Joe by the next afternoon, we may be staying for the rest of the week right where we were.
The wind was already kicking up when we exited the pass and turned east along the coast to Port St. Joe. The going was a bit rough as we ran along the coast, and spray was coating the boat. Worse was the bouncing we were getting, but the waves were pretty much on our bow, or quarter bow, so it wasn't unbearable. I held off making the port turn into St. Joseph Sound because I knew we'd take the wind and waves on our starboard beam when I made the turn, but it was less than an hour before we were inside the sound and made another turn, which put us back into the wind, more or less.
We passed the sailboats on our way to Port St. Joe Marina, as they had left at sunrise, and made it to the entrance to the harbor just as the wind started really kicking up. We fueled up, and then I left Rosie with the boat to rinse off the salt spray while I walked over to Bluewater Outfitters to look for an anchor.
It's a bit of a walk to the outfitters, but they had an anchor that I thought would fit. It was made in China, and I could tell that it was of poor quality, but I bought it anyway and vowed to return it if it wasn't a perfect fit. Once back to the boat, I discovered that it wasn't a perfect fit and it wasn't worth modifying any part of the anchor or our chocks on the account of a piece of junk anchor. Rosie was finished hosing off Swing Set so we both walked back to Bluewater Outfitters and returned the anchor, knowing that we still had to check out an anchor made by Tie Down Industries; an 18 pound Super Hooker that promised to be a good fit, if I could find one.
By the time we had gotten back to the marina, the sky had opened up and it started to pour down rain, so we decided to have lunch there at the marina and see if we could get a break in the weather before heading up the canal back to the Intracoastal Waterway. It's just a hop from the Port St. Joe Marina over to the canal that runs for five miles back to the Intracoastal Waterway. Our run outside from Panama City to Port St. Joe was interesting, but we were glad to be back on the inside for our run to Apalachicola.
The waterway to Apalachicola is twisty and scenic, but the water is brackish, and each side of the channel is lined with impenetrable swamps. It says so on the charts and looks it. Carl had told us about an anchorage up Saul Creek, and once we crossed the wide and shallow Lake Wimico, we found Saul Creek just about 8 miles shy of Apalachicola. Saul Creek is a narrow waterway and in the midst of a swamp. Our channel forked off, and we took a left, as the right leads back to the Apalachicola River and the Intracoastal Waterway. We had 40- and 50-foot depths back up Saul Creek, and once we found 14 feet, we dropped the hook. I put out as few feet of rode as I thought we could get away with because I didn't want us to swing into the trees, and whatever might be climbing in them.
It was peaceful if nothing else in our secluded spot, but there was absolutely no Internet or cell service of any kind. We couldn't get calls, or make them. Forget about TV.
Rain dropped occasionally as we grilled some steaks, using our cast iron skillet set right on the burner of our Magma grill. Our dinner promised to be one of the best we've had on the hook, better than any meal we've had in a restaurant in quite a while. Lightening lit up the sky, and rain poured down all night. Swing Set swung around with the little wind we were getting, but mostly with the tidal current. I got up several times to make sure we didn't swing into the trees, and we made it through the night relatively unscathed, but we did find some wet spots in the salon where the heavy rain had leaked in.
We couldn't get a forecast in the morning with the newfangled tools on the iPad, but I overlooked the best forecasting tool around, the weather band on the VHF, so we pulled up anchor and headed for a spot where I could access the Internet.
We could see a structure through the trees from our anchorage, and we motored up to see what it was. Here is the picture. We saw several of these floating cabins along this route. The only way in our out is by boat. No one appeared to be home at this place.
No sooner did we get back out to the Intracoastal when it started pouring down rain again. I called a marina in Apalachicola, thinking we might get a slip, but not only was the price more than I wanted to pay, they had no laundry, and that's also one of the things we would have paid to stay at a marina to do. I did ask if they carried anchors, and I was told that they had an 18-pound Super Hooker in stock. I promised to be at their marina in the morning to buy it, and Rosie and I turned around and headed back up into Saul Creek to spend another night.
This time, we anchored in Saul Creek at the "fork in the road," so we could swing all around without bumping into any trees, but we still had no cell service. All day on Tuesday it rained on and off, but in between rain spells I found some potential spots where we might be getting rain water into the salon, and I think I found the culprit. The nuts on our spotlight where a little loose, and I suspect that the gasket was not sealing properly. We'll find out during the next rain storm if I'm right. Four months of lots of rainy nights, and only one time did we get a leak, so I don't think we have a major roof leaking issue.
While I was doing my thing, Rosie was in the salon cleaning, or playing with Holly, or both, when she hollered for me to come and get "something in our bedroom." I entered the salon, and there was Rosie with a wad of paper towels big enough to pick up a dead rat, saying that Holly found "something green" in a corner. I armed myself with the paper towels and went on the hunt. I picked up the "something green" and marched it outside to release it. The rescue came to late for the captured critter, as the little tree frog I held in my fist was dead as a doornail, stiff as a ritz cracker.
All day long we didn't see one boat, and barely felt a ripple. The night was eerily quiet, I mean not a sound! There were no insect sounds, bird sounds, not even fish jumping. I've never not heard anything like it. The temperature had dipped into the 60s, and after one of the best nights sleep we've had in several weeks, we woke before the sun came up and made ready to head to the town of Apalachicola.