It's very early Sunday morning and the orange sun is barely managing to peak out from behind the clouds that blew in gently overnight. It was a very quiet night at anchor as the water was nearly still until the wind shifted from S to E around 4 a.m.
The beach is deserted this morning except for a few shore birds and some abandoned deck chairs surrounding the now dark fire pit. Yesterday the anchorage easily accommodated 25 plus vessels - mostly power. This morning only five of us are left and no one else seems to be awake. It's a chilly (55) with a little breeze and I'm wrapped in my pink fuzzy robe and covered with a wool blanket as I sit in the cockpit. The cockpit looks a bit like a cross between a Chinese laundry mat and a leftover party - with beach towels hanging from the lifelines and a nearly empty container of Captain Morgan on the floor. I can look past the white sand of the bay side beach all the way to the Gulf. The surf is quiet too and were I not so lazy I would row over and take a closer look.
We started the weekend early as I had a v-day on Friday. Mike gave us a ride to the grocery, fish market, liqueur store and bait shop. I got a Florida fishing license for $45 - good for a year, although I doubt if I will ever catch more than $5 worth of fish, especially after learning that I have all the wrong kind of gear - freshwater vs saltwater.
We took a detour to St Andrew park to see the reputed - worlds only 4 headed palm tree. The tiny fish market was a first for us and I was surprised to see they even had mullet (our dinghy catch). There were more kinds of fish than I had ever seen.
We left the marina around noon after a pump out and fuel run. Now another lesson learned. Remember how I was so worried about running out of fuel on my to Panama City - turns out I had 11 gallons in the tank! I wasted way too much energy worrying about that!
The NOAA guy was calling for 10-20 winds with protected waters choppy to rough. We put in a double reef before leaving. Need I even say that we shook it out within 10 minutes and sailed full sail on smooth waters the whole way! It took about 2 hours to reach our anchorage off of Shell Island Beach. We motored in the last mile. I asked Mike to take the helm while I dropped the hook in 13 feet. After laying out 100 feet of rode I hollered for him to back down hard to set the anchor. All of a sudden I heard the most horrible noise! He quickly shut down the engine as the floating dinghy line was wrapped in the prop. Arrgh! Mike immediately got in to dive under and fix it until Brett hollered that he had fins and a mask. He dinghied over to get them. A few minutes later Mike was in the cold water and I heard Kyla yelling "YOUR DINGHY!" I looked out and it was quickly drifting and was already a 1/4 mile away. About that time Mike came up for air and quickly took off swimming. I wasn't sure how he would manage to get in the dinghy but he climbed over the transom and rowed her back. I tied her up this time and Mike finished unwrapping the line from the prop. It was no harm/no foul - but I figured I'd better make him something to eat after all that!
Kyla and Brett came over and we had the first Pina Coloda's of the season with fresh pineapple, grilled sausages and my yummy homemade coleslaw with little bits of diced apple. After that we piled the dinghy nearly past capacity with blankets and beach junk and I rowed us over to the beach in the dark. We should have brought shoes as Shell Island is rough on the feet in the dark. We spread blankets and had a great time looking at the stars while Kyla and Coleen searched for shells with a flashlight. All too soon it was time to head back as the first mate was tired.
Saturday morning we rose earlier than planned as the crew was hungry. We made bacon, eggs and Kyla brought her famous banana bread and special coffee to go with it. After breakfast, I cleaned up and make a picnic lunch while Mike entertained us with some guitar music. Brett rigged up their dinghy with a sail and we all laughed while watching Mike sailing backwards in it. Brett finally rowed our dinghy over to rescue him and they had a dinghy race on the way back.
We spent the whole afternoon at the beach. I decided that Mike reminded me of "Fun Bobby" from the Friends tv show. He kept us in stitches most of the weekend and I haven't laughed so much in years. It was a perfect weather day - blue skies, 70's and a beach breeze. I should have worn a hat though as I managed quite a sunburn on my head. Coleen and Mike went for a swim in the cold water. We had a kite sailor playing in front of us . It looked like fun - but too fast for me.
Around 4:30 that crew was hungry again! We headed over for a dinner of grilled pork chops, sweet potatoes, zucchini, yummy bread, Italian salad and Kyla's chocolate chip cookies. That grill took forever to cook as the wind kept blowing it out. Mike and Brett rigged up something to block the wind - yet I think it was still almost sunset before we got to eat.
Kyla and Brett left early this morning as Brett was out of cigarettes. We were going to wait until noon, but decided to head out after breakfast as the weather was looking iffy. We put in a double reef as the wind was howling. We sailed all the way back under just the double reefed main on a run - averaging about 5.5 knots. It was a fun ride and I'm starting to get used to the bumpy, lumpy action of the following seas.
Of course the bay was really rough when we arrived at the marina so we called for a few deckhands to help with the landing. It turned out to be not that bad and I didn't even crash - although it was the most challenging situation so far just due to the wind/waves and this place not being very protected. Still all was good.
We cleaned up a a bit and then headed over to pick up my new autopilot from West Marine. Hungry Mike had to detour at the Chinese buffet on the way. In addition to the autopilot, I got a snap shackle so I can rig a preventor from the boom vang, another new dress, and more hardware for my bimini.
Kyla and Brett came over to check it out - as Brett is going to install the autopilot for me this week. After that I cleaned the boat top to bottom to get rid of all the sand - and then had a much needed quite relaxing evening.