Travel Log - Gulf Coast Trip

July 02, 2014

Saturday, June 14

We left Slidell at 6:00 AM under a cover of bugs. It's been a long time since we've hung with so many gnats and mosquitos, and they stuck with us for at least an hour. Then, in a scene right out of a cartoon movie, and army of dragonflies showed up and ran them off. The dragonflies stayed around for a long time too, and there must have been a couple of dozen flying along and resting on the lifelines. We didn't mind them, and the boys got out the net to practice insect catch and release.

We sailed all day, nicely if not quickly. We went South of the Mississippi barrier islands, and spent the day ducking and dodging the fishing fleet. We had a couple of groups of dolphins come check us out, but none of them stayed around for very long. It was a very pretty sail.
V at Sea

I discovered one problem with sailing East: The afternoon sun dips below the bimini and hits you directly in the back. I was actually not planning to wear a shirt for several days, so having to put one on was most unwelcome.

V got seasick late, so at dusk, we slid behind the last of the barrier islands and dropped anchor for the night. Dinner was a box pasta dish and a frozen pizza.

Sunday, June 15

We motored behind Petit Bois island and turned out into the Gulf. We sailed along pretty quickly for most of the morning. In contrast to the beaches, the Alabama waterfront isn't nearly as pretty as Mississippi's. We only had to avoid a few fishing boats, but the rigs were all over the place. The final few hours of the day, we motored to Pensacola, as V was getting seasick again, and we wanted to stop at a marina and feel the ground under his feed for a little while.
The pictures aren't really matching up with the narrative in this post, but here's one from Monday of both kids and a heron.

I had been feeling pretty good about my boat handling skills, and I pulled up to the fuel dock like a pro. But then when we tried to take our slip, I fucked it up as badly as anyone really can. We didn't sink, so there's that. Perhaps it will be a funny tale one day with the passage of time, but for now, I'll leave it untold.

We had a pretty good dinner at a restaurant overlooking the marina. Kolya experienced something similar to falling in love when he tried the twice-fried fries that they were serving.

After that, I took a walk to pick up Dramamine -- an egregious oversight from our onboard first aid kit. Our marina was in an area that they apparently refer to as "downtown", but it isn't the business district with the tall buildings that any other city would call downtown. This was the original and oldest part of the city, and it was full of cool streets with old buildings turned into shops and restaurants.

I passed two wedding receptions, which I thought odd on a Sunday night. One looked to be a classy affair. I passed just as the young couple was cutting the cake. The bride smeared some on her husband's nose, and his facial expression said, "I can't believe how cute she is!" Bleh.

The second wedding was more of a redneck affair. Most of the people were well dressed, but there was the guy who just put on his "formal" coboy hat. Kids dragged each other by their legs across the dance floor while country music blared. To top it off, a bridesmaid stood outside drunk and bawling around the corner from the front door.

I'm very perceptive while I walk.

The cool part of town ends suddenly, and there's just the crappiest city in the world right beyond that. I ducked into the first convenience store, make my buy, and got back to the boat.

Monday, June 16

We're getting good at living aboard, After leaving without incident, Mrs. theskinnyonbenny manned the helm, while I made eggs, hash browns, and coffee for everyone. Breakfast was served just as we pulled out of the bay into the flattest, glassiest ocean that I've ever seen. We got everyone dressed, teeth brushed, and settled into a couple of hours of motoring toward Destin. V and Mrs. theskinnyonbenny are taking a nap, and K is using the iPad to draw pictures. I've been able to get some work done and to update this text file. Perhaps I'll even go ahead and post it!

Playing tourists in Destin.

We spent the evening and night in Destin Harbor, a good anchorage that is packed full of fishing charters, rentals, vacationers on jet skis, etc. Had a good meal at one of the tourist traps on the water, then dinghyed over to the sand peninsula that protects the harbor and checked out wildlife. We went back over there again after dark to look for crabs. The kids caught a few hermit crabs, but we didn't see any biggies in the water.

That was a fun afternoon. V spent a lot of time figuring out the nuances of the motor. He's becoming a real seaman on this trip. Since our docking mishap, he's asking about affects of the wind on the boat. He's watching for other boats and taking care to avoid them by great margins. I'm proud of him.

Tuesday, June 17

It occurs to me that it might be hard to figure out what we're doing during the day. There isn't really much to it.

We've been getting up at 5:00, stowing gear, and getting underway by 6:00. We sail or motor or motor-sail for a while. Kids wake up after an hour or two and appear sleepy-eyed. I usually fix them breakfast, and then we all go up in the cockpit and watch the Florida coast slide by for many hours. We read, listen to music, take naps, and just do our thing.
All set for that storm on the horizon.

The kids' moods generally dictate the morale onboard. When they're bright and cheerful, it's hard not to be the same, and when they're tired and whiny, the innate fatigue and whininess can be drawn out of any of us.

We had an easy sail today to an anchorage behind St. Joseph island (or is it a peninsula?) to the west of Appilachicola. It couldn't be any nicer. We anchored in clear, aqua colored water and dinghyed over to a deserted pristine beach lousy with wildlife. I need to get a book of sea life to help me identify all of the things we saw. There were a couple of other boats anchored together far away, but we didn't see or hear a soul.

(I was going to stick the video in about here, but the pictures have this post all cluttered up. I'll tack it on to the end of the post.)

At dark, we came back to the boat for hot dogs and noodles, followed by movie night on the laptop. Our early mornings have meant that we don't spend much time after dark sitting up on deck and exercising our livers until the small hours. We'll have to setp that up over the end of the trip.

Wednesday, June 18

Well, I guess I'm not going to get this posted promptly, as I haven't done it yet, and now we're out in the ocean without service. You wouldn't believe how flat and calm it can be out here. Motoring most of the day, as there's almost no wind, and what wind there is is right on our bow. We saw a few more dolphins and some flying fish. Nothing else really exciting to report for now.

Our generator shut itself off last night with a warning about raw water intake. It wouldn't be a big deal, except that the boat is still new, and I'm not 100% sure where its raw water strainer is. While I'm searching, I need to find a piece of electronics that cotrols our AIS signal and get it configured. Right now, we show up on our plotter as "0". I found the sofware that does the configuration, but not the haradware that needs to be configured.

On a more pressing boat note, the vacuum that sucks the nasty bits out of the head has given up on its very short life. Out here, I can pump it overboard instead of having it sucked into a tank, but it's a cumbersome process, and I'd like to just let everyone flush away their own "black water," as the manual calls it.

I've just about finished reading All Fishermen Are Liars, by John Gierach. I like fly fishing a lot, even though I never actually participate in it. If we were just drifting along slowly, I'd throw a line over to see if we could get anything. I'd call it a must-read if you like fly fishing. A should-read if you just like outdoorsy stories in general.

This passage is expected to last through the night. We're planning to do three-hour watches. I'm really hoping for watches under sail instead of with this wretched motor noise.

...but I need more!

Lots more pictures from these days are over here.

I'll do another post to finish out the trip one day soon.