Thursday, May 3, 2012

Exploring the Florida Panhandle

A new adventure – Spring 2012!  Yes, it’s been 10 months since we posted in our sailing blog. 

Three Catalina sailboats, members of G3CCC who are also members of the Pensacola Yacht Club embarked on a 2 week cruise to explore the bays, anchorages and interesting waterfront towns along the Gulf Coast of the eastern Florida panhandle.  We met at Ft. McRee, just instead the P’cola Channel and headed out into the Gulf for a 21-hour afternoon-night sail.   We sighted the entrance buoy into St. Joseph Bay about 7:15 AM.  Eagle Harbor anchorage is inside the San Blas State Park, where Arkeoo (Connie & Wally Conway) and Sea Shell (Kay & John Sheehan) rafted up to Zephyrina (Helen & John Caffrey).  The seabed at this spot is rather muddy, murky and sticky; so one anchor down gives the two other sailboats a reprieve from the slow weighing of the anchor with a wash down spray from the bow when departing the otherwise great anchorage.

The beach sands here collect a different variety of shells than at our Pensacola Beach.  This is due to the configuration of Cape San Blas.  She has an elbow out into the Gulf with her forearm stretching 15 miles NNW.  This cape creates the inside of St. Joseph Bay whose shallows provide excellent scalloping and fishing.  What glorious spot for exploring, holding a potluck dinner aboard and a much needed long night’s sleep.  While relaxing we hosted a fellow sailor from a Panama City on his sailboat for a sun downer and learned of a great anchorage at Crooked Island, which we’d like to visit on our westerly sail home. 

Across the bay is an excellent marina in the town of Port St. Joe.  It has been a convenient and favorite stopping spot for us as we make a crossing of the Gulf to south Florida.  Our folding bikes were assembled easily on the dock and the six of us toured the PSJ Nature Bike Way, stopped at the local museum to learn about the PJS and Apalachicola town rivalry of the 1830s and the subsequent yellow fever outbreak that devastated town’s population and it’s “up market” resort attractions for the wealthy from New England and Europe.   We highly recommend the Sisters Café, the No Name Bookstore and “of course” Joe Momma’s Pizza. 

The Plen Air Artists are in both Port St. Joe and Apalachicola this week, May 3 – 13.  We saw their terrific Art Show last year, when we were returning from 6-month cruise to south Florida and the Keys.   Yes, that was the trip on which we stopped posting in the blog at Venice.  We were so busy enjoying the activities and visits with friends we made but a few brief entries directly on Facebook.

This post was written as we motored on the cross county canal and ICW using Lake Wimico and the Apalachicola River a waterway cut in the Impenetrable Swamp to Sipico Creek at St. George’s Bay.  The Spanish explorer, Desoto is said to have lead his troops through this swamp.  Just think of the snakes, bugs, 8’ tall saw grass, razor sharp palmetto bushes, Yaupon Holly, slash pine among the soggy underbrush.  It’s amazing he made it to the Mississippi!

We expect to visit the Gorrie and Raney Museums, check out a butterfly garden and explore the old maritime antique warehouse.   We never pass through the area; on even a one-night stop with out have the gourmet delight of Apalachicola Oysters accompanied by a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc.

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