Log #7b Pensacola to Destin, Florida

December 26, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 07 Gulf Coast, The Logs

Subject: Log #7b Pensacola to Destin
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 08:53:06 ‑0500 (EST)
Limehouse Basin

Jan. 17/00

Hi Folks,
Well, I am getting caught up on my old logs from Florida that I haven’t done to this point yet. I enjoy going through our ship’s log as I key in these memories and relive them as I do so. I just wished I had some of the original pilot books here to help me with background information. Some of you will be getting a double dose of my logs as there are several new friends being added to my mailing list to whom I am sending earlier logs which they have not seen yet.

As we are here in damp, cold London for the winter, it is pleasant to remember the warm sunny days as we went through the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway of Florida last year. Actually, more than a year now.

This year has not started off well as Judy has been down with the flu bug for the last ten days, but is hopefully getting better now. We had to postpone our trip to Paris due to the flu. Judy contracted it when we were visiting some relatives in Nottingham, and spent three of the five days there, in bed. What is worse, Jo, our host caught it the day we left. A great way to visit friends! Sorry Jo.

I went to the London Boat show by myself as we were supposed to staff a booth for the CA. I was on duty for the afternoon, but had the morning to see the show. I showed great restraint, only buying three courtesy flags we will need in the spring.

In addition to this log, I have also written up a summary of all the upgrades we did on Veleda before leaving Toronto that I am sending to a sailing magazine. It is not overly technical, but I am not sending it out to my address list. If you would like a copy of this article, let me know and I will send it to you.

Our wood stove has sure come in handy burning coal. It, plus a small ceramic electric heater, keep us quite comfortable. We didn’t get the heavy storms France got over the holidays, although the winds were so high here they tore off one of my strings of flags I had up for the Christmas period.

Hmmm, I think I should start my next log of cruising down in the warm Gulf Intracoastal Waterway toward Destin and Tarpon Springs.

Take care, and enjoy the log.

Aubrey Millard

Log #7b Pensacola to Destin, Florida

Written at Limehouse Basin, London
Jan. 16/00

Covers the period Nov. 24 to 29, 1998.

Finding the entrance to Pensacola Air Station marina was tricky. It was not off the main channel as it passed the naval air base, so we altered to port to go up the channel into Pensacola Bay, with the air base on our port side. Finally about two miles up we saw some buoys marking what appeared to be a channel north of the base. We followed it in very carefully as there was only six to eight feet of water in the channel and shallows on either side of this narrow 20 foot wide cut into what we hoped was the base marina. It was a beautiful sunny day and we could read the water fairly well. We saw a marina and headed for it. Of course no one was around to advise us where to moor let alone whether this was the right place. It was called Grand Bayou Marina, but had that look of military functionality combined with a sleepy sun-parched large space of asphalt with a variety of dinghys and out-buildings in addition to the main clubhouse.

It was the right place. We were able to hook up to shore power, and use fresh water from taps on the dock. The docks were quite high, so that at low tide Veleda’s deck was about 4 feet below the dock level. The tide was only about a three foot range, but made getting on and off tricky. The office would not be open for a day or two as it was the weekend. I talked to a few of the locals who were retired military liveaboards, and were quite friendly..

One chap drove us over the base showing us the area and dropped us off at the Air Museum on Base. It was an extremely good free museum with vintage to the most modern aircraft on display. On a short bus tour around the hangars to see the aircraft stored outside we saw the Navy aerobatic team, the Blue Angels, land and take off in formation. In the museum there was a mockup of the flight deck of a WW II aircraft carrier complete with Dauntless Avengers and Corsairs lined up for take off. It was the best air museum we have seen.

On another day a friend took us into town (Pensacola) to a large outdoor flea market specializing in things mechanical. We bought a few more tools, and some fittings for the watermaker we bought in Melbourne, Florida at the Seven Seas Cruising Association meeting. Another chap had us over to use his telephone connection for E-mail.

We got many large and small maintenance tasks done while alongside. The main one was the installation of our watermaker. It was a complicated installation and bit of plumbing as we had to tap into the water intake line, lead this sea water to the watermaker, and from the watermaker run two lines up to the heads sink, one for expelling the brine solution and another for testing the fresh water made. Once the fresh water is running properly, we divert it with another valve into one or other of our water tanks. The unit fit under our aft settee, beside the water pump. We made a bracket to strengthen the mounting as there is a powerful cylinder/pump operating to force salt water through a semipermeable membrane separating out some fresh water and expelling the salt brine after each plunge of the cylinder. When working the watermaker will produce 1.5 gallons of fresh water per hour.

Other tasks accomlished included a bracket installed on the inside of the transom of the dinghy to hold bailer, sponge, collapsible anchor, and to serve as an attachment point to lash the fuel tanks and the handle of the outboard motor when it is in the raised position for towing. This allows us to tow Sprite with the motor in the raised position and the fuel tanks, life jackets, bailer, anchor and extra line on board, ready to be operational shortly after we have anchored. We made a stern anchor holder with a piece of 3” diameter PVC piping lashed with two large hose clamps to our starboard quarter stern pulpit, making it far easier to deploy when needed.

We installed a new ballcock through-hull fitting for our overboard heads discharge. Let me explain. First, as you know the toilet on a sailboat is called a head, and the compartment is referred to as the heads. This originated from the old sailing ships in which the hands would go up to the bowsprit at the head of the ship in order to have a bowel movement. Veleda was equipped with what is called a Y-valve which can divert the waste from the head in one of two directions. (Incidentally, these are illegal in the Great Lakes.) One direction goes to the holding tank where it can be pumped out at pump-out stations at most marinas. The other direction diverts the waste through an opening overboard called a ballcock, a device which can allow the through-hull opening to be open or closed. Any through hull opening is a potential source of flooding if it cannot be readily sealed off as required. Our ballcock had a small crack in it which leaked when in the open position. It was no problem to us in the Great Lakes as we only used the holding tank. However there were few pumpout facilities on the Mississippi or in Florida, and none in the Bahamas or on the ocean while crossing. We needed to have a way of pumping our waste overboard in appropriate circumstances, and needed a functional ballcock to do so.

To replace it meant taking off the old one and putting on the new one. No problem, except that when replacing it, there is a two inch diameter hole two feet below the waterline pouring water into the boat. So, Judy was inside Veleda ready to unscrew the old one and screw on the new one while I was in the dinghy alongside with some plastic sheeting to press on the opening. It worked! We got no water in while making the change. We were afraid if this didn’t work that we would have to have the boat hauled out of the water to make the replacement.

However, also while alongside at the marina dock I had the worst accident of the cruise. Trying to get on Veleda from the dock, my foot slipped off the toerail as I was stepping down and my shins scraped the edge, my head smashed into the coach roof, and I almost fell in the water, hanging on to the lifeline until Judy and someone from shore came to help me up. I cut my nose and bruised my cheek and forehead and scraped my shins and forearms. I was weakened in a state close to shock, but after lying down for an hour or so I was O.K. Judy was surprised that I didn’t go black and blue from the bruising and that I didn’t even have a black eye. But, a fall like that can frighten a person into being more aware of his mortality. We are lucky that this has been the worse, as accidents are the main hazard of sailing, otherwise sailors tend to be a healthy lot.

A few of the sailors we met there were a sad lot. Ex military types whose families have been broken up by the separations of the service, they were now living by themselves on their boats. I had a long sad talk one night with a Viet Nam vet who was on medical disability early retirement. He was an angry person who resented the lack of support he got from the military for his emotional problems, and the resentment he experienced from some of his fellow Americans who spat at ex servicemen home from that horrible conflict. He told me of some of the horrors he went through over there. It would be enough to dehumanize anybody. His family had broken up. He had two boats, a power boat and a 35 foot sail boat. He did not have a lot of sailing experience, but still would go out in all kinds of weather singlehanding his boat to wherever, almost tempting the fates to finish him off (especially considering the drinking problem he had developed.). I felt a sadness for him and probably several others whose lives seemed to have been destroyed by their experiences. As Canadians we have been spared these wars since Korea, although some of the experiences our troops are having on the supposed “peace keeping” missions could cause them problems on their return home too.

On Nov. 28, we settled up with the marina office before we left, only $10.00 a night with power and water. We only went about ten miles down Pensacola Bay into the main channel and anchored off Fishing Bend, a well-to-do community on the sand bar that runs parallel to the mainland providing such a convenient intracoastal waterway.  Where we anchored was right in the center of a Christmas nautical parade of lights the town was having that evening. We had a good view of the 30 or so sailboats, power boats, and fishing boats that circled arounf the waterfront. We sounded our air horn in appreciation of the more colourful party boats.

The next day we continued east, stopping off at Adventure Marina to get some fuel and a Florida fishing licence. (Hope springs eternal!). The motoring through the waterway was pleasant as there is plenty of room, and very little current regardless of the state of the small three foot tide. The main channel is well marked. The problem comes when wanting to go outside the channel to anchor or find a way into a bay or marina. We only went 32 miles to anchor off the sandy barrier just before Destin. We felt our way towards shore, uncertain of sand bars, and hoping we were far enough out of the channel. I dinghied in to shore and had an enjoyable walk over the sand dunes. They are a protected area for vegetation and bird life. There were warning signs not to climb the higher sand hills. The walk along the beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico was delightful. The seagulls, pelicans and herons were a joy to watch. I followed one heron as it walked along the shoreline, just staying ahead of me. I wanted to get a close-up picture of it without scaring it off. I could get to within 25 feet of it, then it would start walking the opposite direction teasing me to follow it. I saw some dolphins as well, out beyond the surf.

When I came back to the inside of the sand spit where I had left Sprite, there were two more herons walking in the shallows between me and Veleda. I got a good picture of one of them with Veleda in the background. It is a pleasant, tranquil picture to see your boat quietly at anchor off these sun drenched sands.  Cruising is a wonderful life!