Swing Set

Sep 12, 201201:45 PM

Swing Set: Cruising Full Time

Orange Beach to Destin, Florida

I called Nancy over at Sportsman Marina on Monday morning and got the bad news that the air filters were not ordered last Tuesday, but Middleton Marina fouled up and didn't order them until Thursday. Middleton Marina is a local Walker Airsep dealer, and the filters had to be ordered through them. UPS tracking had them scheduled to arrive early the next morning, so all we could do is spend another night in Orange Beach.

There is a lesson to be learned here. It was a lesson already known by me, but I didn't follow my own rules. The lesson is to order anything yourself; don't rely on anyone else to do it. In the future, we will follow our rules and order items and have them shipped somewhere we are going to be later on. The trick is to find someone to accept the items, and that is not a hard trick. The other thing is that we can track the shipment that way and also know what the item is going to cost going in. More on that later.

There was not a whole lot of wind on Monday, so we took a run offshore, past the three-mile limit. Once we got past the dirtier river water coming out with the tide, the water was a deep blue and very clear. I jumped in for a picture, but the look on my face said, "Quit fussing with the camera and take the damn picture already," so I'm not posting it. It's a look I commonly have on my face when Rosie is operating the camera.

We went back in through Perdido Pass and anchored back near Robinson Island. This big catamaran pulled up, and all the tourists got out and paddled around in kayaks and standup paddle boards. You could just tell that the tour boat operator just wanted to get the whole thing over with. But these are things that tourists do. We refuse to be labeled as tourists and will attempt to avoid the tourist traps, but we failed at that on Monday night.

If anyone recognizes Flora Bama Package and Liquor, here's Rosie posing inside under another RiverBills.com sticker, just above her and to the right. We figured that since we had to stay over another night we would go there to see what all the fuss is about. We thought they might have a good crowd for Monday Night Football.

We had avoided going to Flora Bama earlier because the route there by water was iffy for Swing Set, and after our near beaching of our boat previously, we didn't feel comfortable leaving it on the hook and taking the dinghy. I noticed on the chart that Flora Bama was accessible from the east end of Ono Island, so we went all the way around and approached it from that direction. I had called Happy Harbor, a marina of sorts, just across the street from Flora Bama, and got permission to park our boat there to visit the bar. We tied the boat to the end of a pier and walked across the street and noticed quite a few cars in one of the many parking lots and thought there may indeed be a few patrons out on a Monday night.

Well, if they had a big crowd, you wouldn't have known it, because the place is so huge any customers in there were all spread out and every nook and cranny had a smattering of folks nursing a beer or two. We had two beers and an order of chicken wings and decided that we'd have more fun on the boat. On our way back across the street, we popped into a package liquor store and bought a case of good old Busch beer and stowed it in the fridge when we got back to the boat and proceeded to put a dent in it.

The sun was heading down when we pulled out of Happy Harbor, and I decided to go directly back west on the Old River instead of going all the way around Ono Island, back the way we had come. We inched along real slowly with a keen eye on the depth gauge. I had obtained some local knowledge of how to navigate this section of the river, but still my Navionics App on the iPad came through with flying colors. The clearance of the bridge we had to go under was another questionable issue, but our chart advertised 24 feet vertical and the tide was going out. After we went through, Rosie claimed that we had "about another 15 feet" before we ran out of room. Folks, please believe me when I tell you that I had little faith in that particular tidbit of information.

We got safely back in Terry Cove and anchored near Sportsman Marina for an early visit on Tuesday morning. We were out of the tidal current and settled in for some TV and then a quiet night.

I called Nancy at Sportsman again on Tuesday morning after waiting a fair amount of time for her to get her day started. Our filters were in, and she was just waiting for an invoice to be faxed from Middleton Marina, so we headed over to the fuel dock. When I got to Nancy's office, she was still waiting for the fax, so she called Middleton. While we waited together, we talked a bit until we heard the "beep boop beep beep boop" of the fax machine. I got a look at the invoice and saw a total price that about knocked my socks off had I been wearing any. I quickly noticed the price per filter, and it was about 50-percent higher than what I knew the list price to be of those filters. Add the shipping and the 10-percent sales tax that the nice folks in Orange Beach charge everybody, and the result was a gouging I had not experienced in a long time.

I mentioned the cost per filter to Nancy, and she said she questioned it, too, but was told that it was "what they cost." I determined her to be not entirely at fault, but if you remember, I did ask her to find out a cost before ordering anything...and she didn't. Note my opening statement, your honor.

 

I zipped my lip, thanked her for all her help and made my way back to the boat, just seething. As soon as I got aboard, I called Middleton Marina and was connected to Sam, who was in charge of ordering our filters. I won't give you a play-by-play of the conversation, but once Sam found out that I knew the list price of the filters and was satisfied with paying that, what were we going to do about the extra 50-percent charge? Sam admitted to not ordering from Walker Airsep in California, but from Racor in Virginia. I allowed him an escape by suggesting that Racor gouged Middleton, so what were we going to do about it? Well, Sam said he would deal with Racor in Virginia, and he lowered our price to something resembling a fair price, and we closed the deal. He then emailed a new invoice and showed the credit on our VISA card. The ace in the hole is the VISA card. Always pay for something like this with a credit card, so you have someone backing you up if you are overcharged.

I tried to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt, but never again will this happen. It keeps everyone honest if you question all the details, whether they like it or not. I called Nancy back and let her know what had transpired; letting her know that Sam over at Middleton treated us fairly in the end. She appreciated the call, and I think we left Orange Beach on good terms with everyone.

We headed east on the GIWW into a pretty stiff easterly wind. When we first entered Santa Rosa Sound, we were bucking two-foot waves, but once we passed Pensacola Beach, the wind had died down and the going got easier. We were looking at our Waterway Guide for an anchorage, but there was nothing promising for many more miles, so we just pointed our bow to the south, pulled off the channel and tossed an anchor in near the sand dunes that comprise Santa Rosa Island.

Look how pretty our sunset was as we grilled some chicken breasts on our Magma grill! The wind had all but died down, and we were looking forward to a quiet night.

I had to throw this last sunset picture in. This is actually the first "big water" sunset since our trip began over four months ago. Our tranquility lasted until almost midnight, the wind kicked up again, and in a big way. I had enough scope out, and I knew we had a good bite on the sand bottom, but Swing Set was bucking like a Hobby Horse. Yes, I said Hobby Horse. We both wound up sleeping in the salon, where it was quieter and the bow couldn't be felt rising and falling so much. Did I mention previously that I now understand the attraction of an aft cabin?

We managed to get a significant amount of sleep, if not an adequate amount, but after bouncing around during morning coffee, we yanked up the anchor and headed east again. It was an overcast and uncomfortable ride towards Fort Walton Beach and then on to Destin. We passed a westbound vessel, a beautiful Grand Banks trawler, and the captain stepped out of his pilot house and gave us a salute! Made my whole day, that did.

Once into Destin Harbor, we checked a couple of places for a replacement stern anchor but came up with nothing. We were tired from lack of sleep and a nearly four-hour stint at the helm, so after finding a good spot in a crowded Destin Harbor, we settled in with our books, hoping a nap would slip in there, too. It was still overcast and breezy, so the nap did come, for a few minutes at least.

After getting woke up from a nice afternoon nap by our resident monster barking at passing vessels, we uncoiled the water hose and gave Swing Set a rinse down. While Rosie mopped up the rinse water, I got out our new air filters and gave them a coating of filter oil, so they would be dry tomorrow. I'll put them on once the engines are nice and cool and see if they don't help our performance.

I'm not getting into detail on our engine performance here because I don't want advice from armchair mechanics. While we're at it, don't send any suggestions for places to visit here in Destin unless you want to supply your credit card number too. If we are still here tomorrow afternoon, we'll go to AJ's for old time sake and then head to Panama City on Friday.

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