Log #7c Destin to Watapo Creek

December 27, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 07 Gulf Coast, The Logs

Panama City, Florida
Jan. 27, 2003

Hi Folks,

I haven’t written a log since we left Turkey in December. The last log I wrote was when we finished our trip through the Greek Aegean in October. Since then we sailed back to Turkey, exploring a few of our favourite haunts on the SW coast of Turkey on our way back to Kemer for the winter, arriving there on Nov. 1st.

We returned to Toronto on Dec. 19th, and enjoyed a traditional white Christmas at my niece’s rural home, along with all the Millards of my brother’s extended family. We have made several presentations of our travels to different sailing groups using both slides and digital pictures from my laptop. It is very convenient to use digital pictures and the laptop to project pictures. Judy has scanned over 900 of my earlier slides onto digital so we can show our original slides from the laptop. However, it will be some time before I am able to afford an LCD projector for digital pictures. I just have to hope that wherever I show my pictures they have an appropriate projector.

We drove from Toronto, 2000 km down here to Panama City, Florida, to visit Judy’s sister and her family. It is not as warm as the Florida Keys, but 19ْ C (about 58ْ F) is still much warmer than the freezing weather we left in Canada.

Today we went to a USAF Museum at the Elgin air base and enroute went through Destin, one of the towns we passed when we came this way through the Gulf Coast IntraCoastal Waterway in December of 1998 with Veleda, just six months into our world cruise. Last year when we came to Panama City we went to Apalachicola, and I sent the original log I wrote at that location. So below I have copied the log I wrote as we passed through Destin and Panama City, immediately before going through Apalachicola. The covering letter for that log was written from London where we were for the winter of 1999-2000. I was a year behind in my log writing at that time. In the covering letter I wrote about getting my British passport and my going to teach at an East End high school in what is called Tower Hamlets. I hated it! I never encountered such undisciplined students in over 30 years of teaching in Ontario.

So enjoy this reproduction of my log #7c, Destin to Watapo Creek, covering part of our trip through the Gulf Coast ICW in December of 1998, even though it was not written until January of 2000, and reproduced for you now in January of 2003.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Subject: Log #7c Destin to Watapo Creek

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 05:37:16 ‑0500 (EST)
London

Jan. 24/00
Hi Folks,

Here is the next catch‑up log from our trip across the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Dec/98. I enjoy rereading our ship’s log in composing these catch‑up logs, especially as they are about our trip through Florida in nice warm sunny weather, as we hunker down here in damp, cold, cloudy London. Actually London is not as bad as Toronto is in the winter, and there is a lot to see and do here.

Speaking of seeing and doing, I am now a British citizen! I have been interested in doing some supply teaching over here, but getting a working visa is a long complicated process. So, as my dad was born over here, I am entitled to British citizenship, and to get such, applied for a British passport. Once I had the necessary documents, it was a same day application and receipt of passport situation. The passport is also an EU passport which will allow me to gain easy access and to work in any EU country. I may be starting the equivalent of a half time position at the Sir John Cass’s Foundation Red Coat Church of England Secondary School, a ten minute walk from Limehouse Basin, by Wed. Jan. 26. I will let you know of my reaction to it in my next E‑mail, after I have started working there.

Judy is better now, although she was under the weather with the flu bug for two solid weeks.

We have come into the 21st century with our first purchase of a mobile phone, so the school can contact me. We are still learning all the “bells and whistles” it has. Remarkable little devices! They are quite popular over here, and you can see people talking on them in all sorts of situations. However there are also many situations in which people use them inappropriately and to the annoyance of others.

Anyways, enjoy this log of the warm Florida Gulf Coast.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #7c
Destin to Watapo Creek

Covers the period Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 1998
Written at Limehouse Basin, London

Jan. 20, 2000

We weighed anchor from those sandy shores at 0930, and proceeded under a bridge making a sharp left turn to navigate a narrow poorly marked s-shaped entry channel into the Destin harbour. We touched once momentarily on our way in, proceeded without concern, but were then faced with a long narrow harbour with expensive looking condominium/restaurant jetties with large expensive yachts, but no one around to direct us to a short stay location. We saw one jetty with several open slips at “Harry T’s”, an upscale restaurant. We came alongside unassisted, and wandered into the restaurant late in the morning. We wanted to send our watermaker to the manufacturer for an overhaul and cleaning before relying on its purity, so we removed it and went by cab to a business courier location who packed it up and shipped it out for us. Upon returning to Harry T’s we had a pleasant lunch, then took off in the early afternoon, this time negotiating the entrance without touching bottom.

Back in the Gulf ICW we motorsailed about six miles down to anchor in Joe’s Bayou, a pleasant wide bay with large waterside homes all around it. It was a sheltered quiet anchorage, showing us a nice warm sunset and allowing us a good night’s sleep prior to a 0630 departure next day for Panama City.

When we weighed anchor next day we were escorted by two dolphins cavorting around us for about ten minutes. A few minutes later we saw a pod of about half a dozen dolphins breaking surface in a circular fashion 100 yards off our port bow. They didn’t approach us but seemed to be busily feeding on some school of shallow swimming fish. Even several seagulls got into the feasting.

As we approached Panama City, the shoreline and the water opened up into wide channels and bays confused by low lying islands with fields of tall waving reeds, no houses or buildings and few distinguishing features to aid our navigation. We were greeted again by a few dolphins curious about this lone sailboat venturing into their bays. Without marker buoys we wended our way around out of the main channel into what we identified as Johnson Bayou in West Bay, a few miles west of Panama City. We had to keep a close eye on the depth sounder as all the water outside of the main channel was only five to ten feet deep. This was an idyllic anchorage we had all to ourselves. The low lying land provided a wide vista and a spectacular sunset against a dusky pink and purple horizon.

The next morning, Dec. 2, we weighed anchor before 0700 and were alongside the Panama City Marina by 0900. We refuelled in order to justify staying alongside for a couple of hours to go into town shopping. The downtown stretch by the marina was a sleepy, Christmas-decorated boulevard with wide dusty sun-dried streets of used car lots, repair shops, small businesses, parking lots and a reasonably large decades-old grocery store just off the main drag. Judy did some grocery shopping while I found an auto repair shop for some rubbing compound, which I wanted to clean up Veleda’s Mississippi moustache, still adorning her bow at the waterline. If I didn’t explain it before, a Mississippi moustache is the dirty brown shadow left on the bow at the waterline from the muddy waters of the Mississippi.

We left by 1100 and continued past Panama City to a beautifully isolated low lying marshy area where Watapo Creek intersects the now more restricted channel of the ICW. We turned left into the narrow winding creek, wending our way about a mile from the main channel. The creek had eight to ten feet in the middle, and a slight current which allowed us to anchor without concern that we would swing into the bordering reedbeds, notwithstanding the width of only fifty feet.

As we were anchored by 1500, I lowered the dinghy and went for a long run several miles up the creek. I passed an elderly couple quietly fishing from their punt as they drifted downstream. Occasional hunting or fishing shacks came into view as I meandered slowly upstream in Sprite. I passed a rather sad looking house trailer with a derelict dock, a mangy hound, a couple of abandoned cars, and a school bus that let off a bouncy nine or ten year old girl, who gave me a shy wave as I slowly motored by. The trees were higher and the foliage thicker as I continued upstream. A bit further up I saw a long high bridge carrying a major highway across the marshes and the ICW. It was getting towards sunset and I found if I didn’t keep moving I would be deluged with mosquitoes.

On my return past the trailer, there was no sign of the little girl, but the hound had sauntered down to the dock and lazily looked at me as I went by. I waved to the elderly couple fishing, and as I got closer to Veleda there seemed to be more daylight as the trees were set farther back from the reed beds. I could see across them to spot Veleda’s mast sticking up before I rounded the bend where we were anchored. I actually motored past Veleda and went down into the main channel of the ICW, turning left and going up it a couple of miles until I came to that highway bridge again.

On the return I noted several camps and cottages dotted along the waterway, nicer than the ones I saw up Watapo Creek. Going back to the creek, I did not turn towards Veleda’s anchorage, but went to the opposite side where the creek continued south of the ICW. Again on this backwater were a few old run-down cottages with a few people on their rickety docks fishing now that it was dusk. The creek formed a large oxbow about a mile long before joining the main channel, which I took to go directly back to Veleda. It was almost dark by the time I got back, and the mosquitoes almost devoured me in the short time it took to tie up Sprite and climb into the cockpit. Judy had put in the hatch cover with mosquito netting, so we were safe down below.

That evening we were listening to the NPR (National Public Radio) station from Panama City, and were pleasantly surprised to hear “As It Happens”, a nightly CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news commentary that we enjoyed listening to when we were at home in Toronto. It was pleasant to hear those familiar voices from the radio. It made a very cozy evening at anchor in that primitive marshy area with the mosquitoes outside.