Monday, December 24, 2012

Sandestin and Panama City (part 1)

We left Pensacola under close to ideal conditions. It was a beautiful cruising day. Our course took us through large pools between the quays and mainland which where bordered by white sandy beaches. Our original destination was a marina in Fort Walton called Boat Marina but when we arrived there we were disappointed to see that it was not in good shape at all. The docks looked very rugged and there were even a few partially sunken boats in slips. Not good. So we moved onward to our alternate destination, a world class marina at the Sandestin resort.

The area we were in was comprised of Fort Walton and Destin, Florida which are very built up and very resort-y. Sandestin is very hoighty-toighty and expensive but the facilities are tremendous. One funny thing that happened is that the dockmaster, a fellow named Dick, saw that our home port was St. Louis. He asked us what part of St. Louis we were from. I told him that we lived in Brentwood (a central suburb) and asked him if he was familiar with St. Louis. He said that he was from there to which I asked “The St. Louis Question” which is, “What high school did you go to?” He replied that he went to Ladue HS, which amazingly is where I went to high school.  We laughed and shook hands. I came all the way to Sandestin Florida to run in to a fellow alum of Ladue Horton Watkins High School. (Note: We St. Louisans don’t care where you went to college or what you do for a living. We want to know what high school you went to. We can tell a lot about a person by that. It’s weird but that’s how we roll.)

Nearby Destin is a major shopping mecca and Lisa was beginning to have withdrawals from not being able to do any power shopping since back in St. Louis. This was going to be her stop to shop. But reality was getting in the way. First, Ross and Laura from the Zone were going to move on to Panama City and they are major buds of ours and we wanted to stay with them. Second, this beautiful marina is very expensive to stay at. Third, the cruising weather gods were being difficult as there would be one more good cruising day (Wednesday, Dec. 19th) before things close down for a few more days. Furthermore, there looked like a good window to cross the Gulf of Mexico was appearing shortly and we wanted to be in Carrabelle, FL to be able to make the jump. So we decided to cut our time here short and move on to Panama City after only one night in Sandestin. Lisa was disappointed and I was sorry to see that. There was one other complication. For some reason my right knee was killing me and I need to get off of it for a day or two to see if that helps it at all. Panama City would be a better place to do that.  So we would cruise on Wednesday, let the storms roll on through on Thursday, probably stay put on Friday to let the conditions settle down and continue onto Apalachicola and Carrabelle on Saturday and Sunday and be ready to make the crossing. (Fyi – Lisa has found the perfect solution to her shopping dilemma. She would rent a car in Panama City and drive the relatively short distance back to Destin, which would also be cheaper than staying in Sandestin and having to rent a golf cart to get around town. Perfect!) 

Our destination in Panama City was a beautiful marina called Bay Pointe Marina – first class all the way at a reasonable price. Most marina’s staffs are nice and friendly but the people here are a step above the rest. The Zone and Why Knot were tied up safe and sound on a nice big wall and that’s a good thing. The weather deteriorated for a couple of days with high winds, rain and even a reported water spout just off shore on Thursday.

Another reason this was a good stop was that we caught up with some other loopers. Bill Bob (oops) and Ivie on Karma, Mike and Gay on Irish Attitude, Bill and Joyce on Carried Away, Bill and Joy on Proud Lady, and several other loopers (whose names escape me as I write this) and non-looper boating buddies. They have been at Bay Point kind of hanging out either waiting for an opportunity to head to Carrabelle to get ready to do the crossing, taking care of some repairs or both. From Bay Pointe the next stop is Apalachicola then Carrabelle, a total distance of about 100 miles. Carrabelle is the unofficial jumping-off point across the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater on the peninsula of Florida.

On Thursday Lisa rented a car and she and Laura hopped out to do a bit of provisioning. I stayed behind and did the laundry. As already mentioned the weather was harsh. This was the same storm system and lashed across the rest of the US on Wednesday dumping snow much of the way. The bay we were in was well protected so the boats didn’t rock around too much at all.

Things began to change weather-wise on Friday and Saturday. The weather here was beautiful. Carried Away and Irish Attitude took off for Apalachicola, then Carrabelle. Nothing wrong with that, but I (and Ross) were looking at the weather for the next week to make the crossing and it was not a pretty picture. Wave heights and winds would put the kibosh on making the crossing any time during the week of Christmas. So we all decided to stay put. We had a car a nice town and decent weather, at least for the weekend before Christmas. Like, why push ahead to get nowhere.

(Ed. note: Carried Away and Irish Attitude did make the crossing in a window that opened up from the morning of 12/23 on into 12/24. Conditions looked good from here but as of this writing on 12/24 we are still waiting for a report from them on the other end.)

On Friday Lisa and I drove to Destin, Florida, about 50 miles west of Panama City. It is very much a tourist town with lots of shops, restaurants, major stores and a very large outlet mall. That was our destination. I dropped Lisa off at one end  to do her shopping things and I set out with a small list of items to pick up as well as giving me the opportunity to toodle around the area. We enjoyed it so much we went back on Saturday with Ross and Laura.

12/24/12 - We are getting to know the route to Destin by heart as we have gone there three days in a row. Great place. Lots of fun. 

It looks like we will be here until Thursday the 27th.  There is a slight chance of a crossing window over the weekend.

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