Pensacola -2004

The Log of the Crew of Rhapsody on their Pensacola Charter

July 2004

In the early spring, the Admiral (Sandra) and I discussed our plans for the summer.  I was newly employed by a public school system but I was still a 12 month employee and thus only had two weeks to use.  After much charm and persuasion I was able to convince the Admiral it would be neat, fun and educational to charter a boat in the panhandle area of Florida and spend some time in salt air.

After a little research, as there were few options for chartering, we settled on Emerald Coast Yachts (ECY).  While their selection was somewhat limited, they were good to work with and we ended up on a Hunter 36 (I know, I know.  See pic later in the log).  We would be a crew of four which included Grand children William (7) and Alisa (11), the Admiral and me.  Able bodied seamen one and all.

Now this was not to be an ordinary “charter and trip to salt air”.  As mentioned earlier certain measures were taken to “persuade” the Admiral that this trip was a good thing.  Bribery will get you anywhere.  The “sum” offered included stops along the way (down and back) at local gambling establishments in Louisiana and Mississippi, a small price indeed.  The kids and I swam and watched movies, the Admiral supported the local economies along the way, and everyone was happy, most of the time.

To compound the “drive down”, Sandra and I were in Washington D.C. from July 12-15 for an education conference and we were scheduled to leave for Pensacola on the 15th.  Talk about cutting it close.  Well that’s just what we did.  The flight back was typical post 9-11, security hang-ups, flight delays and you take this flight and I’ll that that one sort of thing.  Anyway, the Admiral beat me home and completed final preparations while I languished in the airports until I finally got home at 1500.  One hour later, we were on the road.  First stop Shreveport, LA, a bed for the night and a happy Admiral.

At the Slip in Sabine Marina

July 16 – We were up and in route for Pensacola by 0720, this being no small feat with all of the available distractions for the Admiral, in particular, and the younger crew in general.  Anyway, the kids wowed away the hours watching movies and yes you guessed it, being siblings, but at last we arrived in Pensacola Beach and Sabine Marina at 1545.  We were met by the crew of ECY who gave us a quick systems check/introduction of the boat (S/V Eagle) and then we were off to dinner.  Shrimp!  Following dinner it was back to the boat where the kids watched a movie and the Admiral and I finished the stowing of gear and provisions.

Capt & Crew Outside NAS Musuem

July 17 – We awoke this morning to intermittent heavy rain and winds from the northwest.  What a way  to start the trip.  The forecast was for continued rain and wind throughout most of the day.  After some consultation with the locals and taking into consideration that the kids had been cooped up in the truck for the last two day, we decided that a day of “indoor” sightseeing would be good.  We had planned to visit the Pensacola Naval Air Museum during the trip and what the hell; this was as good of time as any.  It was time well spent as the rain and wind continued until mid afternoon.  Wm and Alisa in NAS Musuem

On our way back to the Eagle, we stopped and topped off our provisions list.  After stowing the food, I took Wm and Alisa over to the beach and went for a swim.  The skies were still overcast, but the rain had stopped and the temperatures were just fine.  We returned to the Eagle for a fine dinner of white wine (Admiral and Capt) and yep, shrimp (just a different style).

July 18 – We awoke to fair weather and finally got out checkout by the staff of ECY.  It is looking like a fine day and I for one am excited to be shoving off.  So after discussions about anchorages and navigational hazards we’re off.  The wind is SSE at 10-13 knots and life is good!  We are heading east along the ICW on Santa Rosa Sound to the anchorage at Range Point some seven or eight miles distant.  All is right with the world because the wind is building (a good thing) and we are clipping along nicely.  Santa Rosa Sound is a narrow waterway protected by the barrier islands from the open Gulf and for the most part has sufficient water as long as the Captain pays attention to the charts.

Following lunch it happened.  The Admiral’s level of enjoyment is decreasing in direct proportion to the increasing wave height and wind speed.  Within a few minutes she is sick and dysfunctional (no I mean more so than normal).  After some consideration and discussion and compromises we decide to head back to Sabine Marina for the night.  Not exactly a day according to my plan, but at least we are sailing in salt water.

We topped off the day with a wonderful dinner and following galley duty we settle into nice little Uno Tournament.  Females against the males.  It was not pretty, but they were graceful losers.

Pensacola Light House from NAS

The Beach at Sand Island

July 19 – The Admiral is feeling much better today and so we are going to head for the “Sand Island” anchorage just to the west of Pensacola Inlet.  The folks of ECY have assured us it is a great anchorage.  The weather is clear and little or no wind (frown), so we are motoring sailing across Pensacola Bay.  We pass Old Fort Pickens, under the Pensacola Lighthouse and into the anchorage.  What a great little place and there is another old fort, Fort McRee.  We’ll explore it later.  The one down side to this anchorage is the presence of  jellies (Sea Nettles) and in copious numbers.  We are being careful while we swim and so far so good.

Wm, Alisa and I head for the beach, cross a small neck and are presented with some of the most beautiful water outside the Caribbean.  Beautiful water and the sand is sugar white and just as fine.  We swim and stroll the beach, and swim some more before heading back to the Eagle, dinner, and a game of “Farkle”.  Yours truly being the victor that night.

Sandra, Wm & Alisa at the table in the salon.

July 20 – The Admiral (being the early riser) is up with the dawn and has the coffee waiting for us when I shake the cobwebs out of my head.  It is a beautiful morning, with light southerly winds and about 75 degrees at 0800.  Now you have to picture this anchorage and you have to know that we are new to the area.  So we are setting here doing our somewhat usual morning routine, when all of a sudden JETS GO SCREAMING overhead.  What the hell was that?  Then a couple more go screaming by and this time we identify them.  It’s the freaking Blue Angles and they are practicing their air show.  We find out later that when they are not on tour, they practice on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.  It was great!  Our own personal Blue Angles Air Show.

This is the Life

Well by noon, we are ready to move on and decide to sail in Big Lagoon before heading for the “South Wind Marina” for the night.  W have been aboard for three nights and the dirty clothes are piling up as was the trash.  The winds on Big Lagoon were fine, SSE about 12 kts, and we sailed for several hours, before heading in.  Upon arrival, Larry the manager, assisted us in pulling into the slip and the ladies did laundry while the gentlemen bummed a ride from Larry to the nearest store (which was not close) to re-stock the larder.  Dinner that night was in the Marina’s restaurant and the Shrimp was divine.  Wm also discovered a new lizard (actually it was an Anole, which is still a lizard, but we had never seen one).

Motor sailing along Big Lagoon, Alisa at th HelmNow this was no small feat, as Wm is the Lizard King!  He catches the damn things with lightning quick reflexes.  I can’t believe it some times.

July 21 – We are up, the coffee is hot (all indications are that the day will be just as hot), we’ve topped of the tanks, filled the ice box, and everything is stowed for “sea”.  Oh, yeah, it’s Wednesday morning, and although not as up close and personal as Tuesday morning, the Blue Angles are at it again.

Wm & Alisa relaxing after a swim at Sand Island.

Our destination today is Ingram’s Bayou, a little cove, just west of Josephine, AL.  We were told that it is a beautiful anchorage as well, so we’re heading that way.   We sail along to the west end of Big Lagoon and then head into the cut that separates Perdido Key from the mainland.  On the western end of the cut we enter Perdido Bay and it is as smooth as a new born’s butt.  Our lunch destination is a place called Pirate’s Cove, refuted to be one of the best “burger joints” on the coast.  The guide book tells its location, but we are having difficulty raising them on the radio.  About this time the Eagle is hailed, we respond, and the hailer informs us that Pirates Cove doesn’t monitor the radio.  He is nice enough to give us the phone number and we call ahead to a) find out how to get there and b) to see if they have a transient slip we can use for the afternoon.

The entrance to the cove is very narrow, but carries plenty of water for the Eagle.  After securing the boat we are chomping on some of the best hamburgers I have ever eaten and the kids, having eaten, are swimming and playing on the nearby beach.  All is right with the world.  After a respite at Pirate’s Cove it is time to shove off for Ingram’s Bayou which lies several miles on to the west.  Upon exiting Pirate’s Cove and entering into the main channel we spot our first dolphins of the trip.  They are the neatest animals I have ever seen.

Alisa and I Swimming in Ingram's Bayou

Following this encounter we continue west and find the entrance into Ingram’s Bayou and we are awe struck.  All along the way we have seen nothing but development, bridges, boats and houses.  But here, there is nothing but forests right up to the water’s edge and not another boat or being, save the wildlife.  What a place!

NOTE:  Since leaving Pensacola Bay the water quality has began to decline.  The further west we go, the murkier it gets.

The kids and I have been swimming and while there are fewer jellies than before, they are still present.  After our swim we head out for a dinghy ride up bayou.  Ingram’s Bayou continues on and we make it well upstream and witness an Osprey attempting to “entice” her/his offspring to leave the nest and fly.  They are truly beautiful birds and while Wm is impressed, his older sister receives the sight with a ho hum attitude.  Our peace and solitude are briefly disturbed by a tourist boat loaded with people looking for dolphins, but in that regard we are all disappointed. On our way back to the mother ship I informed the kids that we’re eating chili dogs for dinner.  This evokes a mixed reaction.  Alisa is pleased as she isn’t that much of a shrimp fan and Wm is highly disappointed.

Sandra Lou

July 22 – My Admiral and I are enjoying our surroundings this morning.  She comments that this place reminds her of some of our camp sites we had while canoeing the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.  I agree.  The children are up, breakfast is over and done.  Regrettably it is time to weigh the anchor and head back east (not downeast that’s another log).

Now this is what I call an Aid to Navigation, albeit somewhat of station.Upon re-entering Big Lagoon we again decide to sail for a while before returning to “South Wind Marina”.  On our “outbound leg” we purchased some ice there and couldn’t use it all, so we stopped by to pick up the rest.  After an afternoon of sailing we returned to the “Sand Island” anchorage for more swimming, beach combing and a trip to the Gulf side of the barrier island.  The walk was good for everyone and took several hours round trip.  The local radio stations have been broadcasting shark warnings and commenting on the larger than normal numbers being spotted along the coast, so we decided (being flat landers and all) not to venture forth into the foam, plus the drop off seemed to be a bit much for our comfort.  Anyway, it was an exciting walk.  Later in the day we did our Fort McRee tour which is an old and abandoned.  It was never completed but it was used during WWII as well as the Civil War.  The primary purpose of both Pickens and McRee was to protect the entrance to Pensacola Bay.

Admiral and Crew at Fort Pickens

July 23 – Our plans today are to visit to Fort Pickens (a national historic site) and then sadly return to Sabine Marina.  After breakfast, and following a swim, we departed the anchorage under motor heading for Fort Pickens.  After looking at the chart we chose to anchor just off the fort and dinked ashore.  The old fort was neat and the kids enjoyed crawling around on the walls and in the old powder and gun rooms.  It was also pretty hot and we enjoyed being in the shade as well.  After our visit we returned to the Eagle and had some lunch.

This was our last full day afloat and I wasn’t too keen on leaving but I knew we had to, so we sailed back to our point of origin.  Prior to returning to Sabine Marina, we had to fill up with diesel and get a pump out.  We finally arrived in “home” port at 2030 and settled in for the evening, knowing we had to move everything off the boat the next morning and head home.  Shrimp for dinner, YUM YUM.

The Unknown Charterers.  After all it was a Hunter!

July 24 – We need an early start and so the Admiral and I are barking orders to the children as we unload the boat and re-load the truck trying to remember where everything went.  Finally we are all packed and depart Pensacola at 0930.  Now remember the “persuasion” mentioned earlier, well you guessed it, we had another stop to make in Shreveport and arrived there about 1815.  William, Alisa and I went swimming and watched movies, while the Admiral contributed to the local economy again.

July 25 – We left Shreveport at 0800 headed for the house and we arrived there at 1230.  We traveled 1479.7 land miles and had a wonderful trip.  Pensacola is a beautiful area and I for one, plan to sail there again, but hopefully in my own boat.

Fair winds.

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