Monday, January 23, 2012

Day 57-63 Pensacola to Destin Harbor

Our first passage in the Gulf of Mexico, looks smooth out there doesn't it. Strange thing about taking pictures in a seaway, the pic never portrays the real sea conditions. Just out of the Pensacola Jetties we have 15-20 E winds and 3-4 seas with occasional 5's and one 8 after came out of nowhere. Very short wave period so it is choppy.

Here you can see the bow of the boat is higher than our heads and this is just a 4 footer.

Finally as we near Destin the winds turn South East so we some head sail out, the winds have calmed to 10-15 SE and 2-3' seas. The bow is no longer rising so high.

AHH! Land HO...Destin is nearing.

We were so busy navigating in to the East Pass that we did not have time for pics. We took these on a trip to the beach. The small rock Jetties are very short at the entrance. You can see waves breaking in over by the Green 3.

On rougher days the locals say the waves can be breaking across the entire mouth of the entrance.

There is shoaling near the Green 3 hence the waves breaking over there on that side. You can see the darker water over there so when you enter here you Hug the East Jetty, the one on the starboard or red side.

After clearing the jetties you look for the bridge and head for the center to stay in deep water making sure to keep the Green on the piling well to your port side.

These 50' bridges are why we have to go n the outside for this portion of the trip. Locals advise you to get very close to the bridge before making a hard right turn to starboard for the approach to the little bitty channel that leads into Destin Harbor.

So you stay Parallel to the bridge and come all the way to the Habor Walk Marina.

This is the Harbor Walk Hotel & Marina, easy to find and a great place to hang out for a couple of days.

After you make the turn to Starboard at Harbor Walk, you can finally see this very narrow channel. The sand bar on the right can make you a bit nervous bu the Admiral went up on the bow t take a look and she told me it was plenty deep close to the sand. Thankfully we did not meet another vessel here. The locals say there is plenty of room to pass but I think I would keep some fenders out on the port side Just in case?

As you see here, the distance from the outer most pilings of the Harbor Walk Marina are pretty close to the sand on the other side of the narrow channel.

Here is a relatively small vessel coming in through the channel. So you can see if you were in the channel and had to pass one of the many 60' or larger Sport fisherman in the area it could get dicey.

Just a pic looking out of the East Pass from Harbor Walk.

It was about a 2 mile+ walk to get to the beach but you want to be sure to see the Whitest beach sand in the world.

The water near the beach is a very clear emerald color and father out is a very clear blue.

It was a cloudy day around 65 -70 degrees
a great day to go down to the jetty and see it all up close.

Not 1 bit of trash on these Destin beaches, of course most of it is private, lined with rows of condo development, some private homes and very few hotels. We had to look hard for a access point to get to the beach.

The Admiral is always happy on the beach, she says she still likes Port A better. She has her binoculars and camera handy for all the local birds.

We had a great lunch at Harbor Docks Restaurant over looking the Destin Harbor.

WS at the Harbor Docks Marina, it is just a small marina with fixed docks, Water, elec, and WiFi. Big Sport fishing boats dominate this area.

Every day you can get a great Sunset in Florida, if you can see the sun!

The sea conditions would have made for a nice trip except for the forecasted am fog. This fog stayed the entire day in this harbor.

I consulted with the crew of the Lady Em, a charter Sport fisherman just next door to get some local knowledge since we would be leaving most likely on a low tide, so due to the shallow waters, and currents near the itty bitty Harbor channel I wanted to know what to expect and if we could even get out at our planned departure time.

Day, 57-63

Underway 9:01 hrs, 55.4 Nm., Avg speed 6.1 Kts. , 32-60 degrees, Sunny 10-15 NE winds. Seas 2-4.

Initially I wanted to make this not only our first passage on the outside but also our first overnight as well. After reading about Destin I just wanted to avoid navigating the East Pass and the small channel entrance to Destin Harbor. I thought it would be easier to just go on to Panama City. I overlooked however my first rule with the Admiral and to take all this in small steps. The concern with just going out into the Gulf was a big enough step without throwing in the overnight passage. As luck would have it a diver who we had survey our bottom in Pensacola introduced us to Captain Cook who we were able to meet with for about an hour and go over the charts for our several next destinations. He provided the local knowledge for us to get in at Destin so I was good to go and the Admiral was much happier taking just another small step. We again got out early as this would be a long trip. The 3-4' short chop as we exited the Pensacola Jetties did have the Admiral's concern, to me it was great finally getting WS into the Gulf. The ride is never as pleasant however when you have to motor right into it as the East wind was square on the nose. The forecast was for the seas and wind to subside around 1100 to 10-15 ESE and 2-3 seas. And it did so. About 2 hours out our route turned a bit more east so we could put out some head sail and the ride improved.

Even armed with the proper local knowledge for entering the Destin East Pass, I was using all my skills. I had the binoculars out early to find the sea bouy and then the 1. I adjusted our approach for a better angle to the mouth of the Jetties where you need to stay well to the red side and hug the East Jetty coming in. One thing the locals repeat is to do all this slow. I was concerned I may not have been far enough over but the depth was good. The approach toward the center of the bridge was easy enough since we were in much calmer waters but the flood tide was providing a bit of current. As I made the turn to starboard to run parallel with the bridge the current continued to take us toward the bridge, a little more RPMs and proper steering solved this. You are not able to see the small Harbor channel till you make the last turn and even then you question if what you are seeing is even a channel. The Admiral went up on the bow to watch for depth in the crystal clear water. She tole me there was plenty of depth all the way up to the little sand bar on the right side of the Channel. I was just hoping that we would not meet another vessel coming out since I definitely was taking my half out of the middle.

All is well, we were the only vessel moving about and we found the exact location of our Harbor Docks Marina with the Ipad Navionics. A quick call to the Harbor Master who is the Bartender at the restaurant and she gave us a choice of slip 12 or the L Head. We could not see any power on the L head so we took the slip.

The next day we walked to the beach. This is a great activity for the 1st day since anytime on the beach helps to get you into the groove of the destination. We had trouble finding a way to get on the beach since it is lined with private high rise condo's and some private homes. We finally found a small walkway which looked like it was constructed for those who lived across the street. The beaches are hard to access by the general public so no wonder there is absolutely no trash at all, I mean NONE on the beach. The Sand is incredibly white as it is reported that the unique sand of the beaches in the Destin area is among the whitest and most homogeneous of the world.Consisting of small quartz particles, this sand came from a process involving the Appalachian Mountains and the Apalachicola River 20,000 years ago. Click the title of this blog for a link to the complete description.

Everything you need is within walking distance so we did some provisioning 1 day and 2 days we hung out at Harbor Walk, we heard a some great music by a band called Hot Lava who played Bob James type Jazz...very cool. And watched all the Baltimore fans at a bar there become so hopeful and then leave so sad and rejected. We are now just trying to find a weather window to exit. There is some very weird weather around that is producing just enough rain of fog to find an exit difficult. After I post this I will see if there is any chance for tomorrow. We just need three more good travel days to get to our next long term destination which is either Apalachicola or Carrabelle.

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