Log #7d Watapo Creek to Tarpon Bay

December 28, 1998 in Log Series 02 - 07, Logs by Series, Series 07 Gulf Coast, The Logs

Subject: Log #7d Watapo Creek to Tarpon Bay
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 06:23:25 ‑0500 (EST)
Limehouse Basin, London
Feb. 6, 2000

Hi Folks,

Here is the next log from our trip across the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway in Dec. of 1998. It is interesting as I write these up from our ship’s log that the whole experience floods back into my mind, and I can relive the experiences and emotions of the moment. I realized this especially as I was describing our heavy sail to get out into Tarpon Bay.

Things are fine here in Limehouse Basin. I am working half time at a local high school, and am beginning to wonder if I need the hassle of it. The school is supposedly one of the better ones, but after my experiences this week of being responsible for some classes as a substitute teacher, I am wondering what kind of zoos the other worse schools must be. Most of the students lack any self discipline.

I have signed on to help students with specific academic difficulties (such as learning difficulties, language or behavioural problems) in the classroom, while the class is being conducted by the regular teacher. I have yet to attend one of these classes conducted by regular teachers where the teacher did not have to yell at the kids to behave. The students continue to talk while the teacher is giving instructions, throw things, move around the classroom, punch and clip other students, try to listen to walkmans or play games on their mobile phones. I have been used as a substitute by myself for several classes, and it was not pleasant. The school is not well organized for substitute teachers. There are no seating plans so the teachers cannot even name the miscreants. There has not been a single case where the missing teacher has written out in any detail the class assignment for the substitute to follow. Of course the kids try to get away with all they can. Although they are supposed to speak English in the classroom, most talking is in Bengali. The teacher has no idea of the taunts or insults the students are hurling at each other. The kids will look right past a teacher talking to them to continue their diatribes against another student. The students get up to walk around the room as they feel like it and will have to be told at least three times to sit down or to keep silent.

The students are of average intelligence, but the atmosphere does not permit them to apply themselves. Most students were born in England and speak English, but the language at home, in the school grounds and in the community is Bengali, thus limiting their vocabulary and fluency with English. The actual work that is done in a one hour class could easily be done with ten or fifteen minutes of concentration. I have found this with the few students I have been working with individually. That the work can be easily completed does not matter as over half the students at the end of the period will have only their name and a few scribbles on their pages to be handed in. This is with their regular teachers! I think that if I were to be requested to take a regular teacher’s timetable of classes for the next two months, I would decline. I am prepared to work with the individual students assigned to me but would not want to put up with the hassles I see the poor classroom teachers having to put up with every period. The majority of these kids are condemning themselves to the ghetto by wasting their opportunities to educate themselves. The system seems to have no consequences for these kids, and the kids know it. The few good kids are dragged down by the others. These classes are worse than my worst classes of over 30 years teaching in Ontario schools.

Oh well, only six more weeks to go.

Good news, we will be coming back to Canada for nine days from Feb. 19 to 28th, the mid winter break over here. I want to see my boys and my brother and sisters, some of whom are not in the best of health. Judy of course wants to see her folks and possibly get down to Buffalo to visit her sister and family there. Other things I want to do is some snow mobiling and cross country skiing, and to get a newer laptop computer as my 3.5 floppy disc drive no longer works, and I would like more memory and to be able to hook my laptop up to the mobile phones over here. We will be staying with Judy’s parents in Toronto when we are not off visiting my family or her sister. If you want to phone us while we are in town, you can reach us at (416)
421‑2668.

I hope to see or hear from some of you in the Toronto area when we are back.

Take care,
Aubrey

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(NOTE – this covering letter was written three years later on one of our return visits to North America. The log was picked up by the british Cruisaing Associatiopn and published in their Bulletin of Spring 2002.)

Panama City, Florida
Jan. 14, 2002

Hi Folks,
I wanted to send this log of our voyage three years ago at the end of the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway, as we went down to Apilachicola a few days ago by car. We enjoyed a delicious seafood meal of oysters on the half shell, shrimp and grouper. We wandered out to the dock where we were moored and looked across the bay to Government Cut where we went through some heavy standing waves before exiting into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The shorelines down here are miles and miles of white sandy beaches, and shallow bays and estuaries. Even though there are wide expanses of water, the depth is only a few feet, treacherous outside of the channel markers. The town itself is a sleepy backwater fishing community, more active in the tourist season and features a sea fest every fall. It is interesting being able to drive around areas we have sailed through. We drove out to Georges Island, the barrier island with the tumultuous Government Cut. It was also one of the few nice days we have had down here in the Panama City area.

We are heading back today for the colder weather of Toronto. I’ll resume my logs of the Greek Aegean when we get back. I will also be speaking at the National Yacht Club in Toronto on Jan. 17 at 1900 and showing slide4s of our trip. If any of you in the Toronto area can attend, you would be welcome.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Log #7d Watapo to Apalachicola and the Gulf of Mexico

Written – Feb. 6, 2000
Covers the period Dec. 3 to 4, 1998

We awoke early the next day to a silent dull morning, ready to get under way by 0800. It was foggy as I was hoisting Sprite up on the Dinghy Tow ready for another day of motoring up the Gulf ICW, hoping to get to Apalachicola. The fog lay in a thick bank about 50 feet high. We could see blue sky above, but visibility at water level was only about 50 feet. Hauling up the anchor created a rattling sound that disturbed the marshy, windless, fog shrouded silence of the backwater creek. We almost wanted to tip toe and whisper so as not to disturb the early morning tranquility. We wended our way down the creek towards the opening, but noticed the fog getting thicker. We decided to re-anchor before getting into the main channel, as the fog was so thick, we would not be able to see any approaching vessel until it was about 20 feet from our bow.

By 0900, the fog was thinning and so we set off again. It was eerie, slowly parting the mist still rising from the water as we reverently made our way through the hushed marshes, out the creek and into the channel. We could see an occasional small cyclonic swirl at the sides of the channel as some warmer air wafted the fog in a slow whirlpool of white mist. The water was glassy calm, disturbed only by the ripples made from Veleda’s quiet wake. As the mist started to clear, we could see the trees along the shore mirrored in the water, the grey colourless reflection interrupted by the occasional fall-painted leaf slowly drifting by with its interestingly subdued red, orange and yellow plumage passively mocking the monochrome shoreline.

By noon, it was a bright sunny day, as the channel widened to be contained by low lying fields of marsh grasses. There was the occasional house or factory enroute, but the civilization of the area was not along the waterside. Following the channel was not difficult. By mid afternoon we were coming in to Apalachicola, where we refueled at Miller Marine before seeking an anchorage. There did not appear to be any ÒgoodÓ anchorage sites sufficiently out of the main channel, and we knew there were fishing boats plying the waters at all times, so we went under the bridge to the end of the town dock where we jockeyed Veleda, unassisted, into a space between two boats at the outer end of the dock. There was no one around to advise us about dockage, and when we went to the pavillion on shore, it was closed with no notices about dockage, so we went back to Veleda and had a pleasant late afternoon drink before going ashore for supper.

The town of Apalachicola is starting to regenerate itself since the slump in the fishing industry. They were trying to attract tourism, and had some nice seafood restaurants shoreside, often overlooking docks at which would be a variety of fishing boats and pleasure craft, both sail and power. We had a delicious meal starting with raw oysters, and shrimp, then scallops for me and mahi mahi in white wine sauce for Judy. The kitchen was open, and we watched as the chef shucked the oysters and cleaned and prepared the other seafood being cooked. It was a pleasant evening, completed by a stroll along the docks (of course) and a walk around the town befora heading back to Veleda. This was the first time we were alongside for an evening since Pensacola a week ago.

The town dock is at the outer end of the Gulf ICW, facing a narrow buoyed channel which goes out into a large open  shallow bay bordered on the far side 10 miles away by George and Little George Islands. Between these islands is a narrow cut about 100 yards wide leading out into Tarpon Bay, the open stretch of water separating the Florida panhandle from the west coast of Florida. The town dock however juts out into the tidal stream which flows in  and out the channels in this delta area at the east end of the Gulf Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW). The tides were six feet, and the current 2 to 4 knots. During the night we could feel the current forcing us against the dock as it surged in. We felt a few other bumps in the early morning around 0600, and were aware that we were starting to touch bottom.

We faced a difficult time to get off the wall as the current was surging us back to the boat only a few feet astern of us, and also pressing us into the wall, as the dock was not a solid wall, but just a surface pier, allowing the tide to flow under it, pinning us against it. People in the boat astern helped us to get off. We were starboard side to, with our bow facing out into the channel. We had a spring line from our starboard quarter leading forward to a cleat on shore so we could control ourselves from drifting into the boat astern. We put the rudder over to port hoping it would push our bow out. Judy poled off at the bow, pushing it to port as I applied power to the engine. We finally got the bow off, and had to quickly get out into the channel to avoid drifting back on the boat astern and not hitting the one ahead. We then slipped our shoreline, and were off in the grey dawn, out the narrow buoyed channel to cross the shallow bay towards George and Little George Islands.

While crossing, we had to stay in the buoyed channels as the bay is quite shallow. However, I was able to unfurl the genoa, and we had a pleasant motor sail the ten miles across the bay as we had breakfast under way. The skies were grey and there was a 10 to 15 knot wind from the south that appeared to be increasing as we approached George Island. The waves started to increase as we got closer as well, from the wind blowing across the long fetch of the shallow bay. I furled the genoa before we approached the Government Cut between George and Little George Islands, wanting to motor through it and not wanting to take any chances on a wind shift.

As we approached it, I thought the waves were increasing, and that there might be some rougher weather outside the cut. We were still in the narrow, shallow (12-15 feet) channel as I approached the cut. Judy was down below doing breakfast dishes. The cut appeared tranquil from our perspective from the inside of the islands. There were quiet sandy beaches along both islands leading to the cut. However, as I entered the cut, I realized there was a strong 4 knot flood tide current coming through the gap, and breakers bashing against rocky outcrops of the cut and a series of several 8 to 10 foot standing waves in the middle. I increased the revs on the engine to power my way through and yelled down to Judy to hang on as I was going through these high standing waves.

It is times like these that I am really thankful for upgrading to a 30 horsepower engine to plow through these 10 foot waves against a four or five knot rip tide current. The waves were spaced close together, and Veleda buried her bow on four or five of them in succession, sweeping water over our anchors and washing down our side decks. I couldn’t alter towards the slightly quieter waters at the edge of the cut for fear of the shallows and being swept into the rocky outcrops. As it was, I was concerned that we would hit bottom in the troughs of these waves, as the depth on approach was only 12 feet. Needless to say, I was not able to focus on our depth sounder as it was all I could do to power through this maelstrom, keeping to the middle of the 100 foot wide channel.

Armchair logic after the fact tells me that if I was in 12 feet of water (chart depth) with 10 foot waves, that at the bottom of the trough, the depth would still be seven feet, not adding the pitching and plunging of the boat which could easily consume the 2.5 feet left below our keel (even though we draw only 4.5 feet). Further armchair logic suggests to me, that since we did not notice any cautions in our pilot book about this narrow cut into open water, that I should have more actively sought out local knowledge regarding it. Had I known there would be ten foot standing waves at maximum current, I would have anchored off one of those quiet sandy beaches until slack water before making our exit. The waves and current through that cut were worse than those in Active Pass in the Gulf Islands off Vancouver Island.

It was a relief to get through into wide open, deeper waters, even though we were now into 20 knots of SE wind and six foot waves, with only 150 miles to go (SE of course) to Tarpon Springs across this northern corner of the Gulf of Mexico.