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Into the Panhandle
By Keith Weitzman
Posted on 2/28/2016 8:14 AM
A line of vicious thunderstorms with heavy rain, wind, and tornadoes swept over the area two nights ago.  Sitting in the boat, having just finished a dinner of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, our phones began sounding an alert tone.  The message was "Tornado Warning! Take shelter now."  Not understanding the true meaning of "now", we thought it meant that we could take 15 minutes discussing it, getting dressed in dry clothes (dumb), and packing an emergency bag.  Stepping out through the hatch, we were immediately drenched by the torrential wind-driven rain.  Guiness ran back inside the boat and Keith had to go back inside to retrieve her.  Making our way along the dock, we went inside the guest boater lounge to find a half-dozen other boaters there, taking cover.  The storms passed eventually, but if you watched or read the news, you saw how the Gulf states fared.  I am just glad that we weren't anchored out at the time.

Speaking of such, we are anchored now, at Ft. McCree, in Pensacola Bay.  We have finally crossed into Florida after spending close to five months in Alabama.  The canvas work is complete, and though there are some adjustments to be made, we are able to continue along our Great Loop voyage.
Ft. McCree is a Civil War-era fort, mostly washed away by the battering seas of the Gulf of Mexico.  There are still some gun placements remaining, including some built in WWII.  It is overgrown and deserted now, and the views are beautiful.

We will spend the night here, hanging precariously on the anchor on a lee shore.  The anchor seems to be holding well, and if it does drag, at least the shore is soft sand with no surf.  
Update 2/26- We woke up right where we had planted ourselves, and after a leisurely breakfast, got underway. We anchored at Navarre Cove, on the north side, where the better wind protection was.  With the depthfinder indicating 11.2, we could have moved in another 200 yds.  From there, a brisk row in the dinghy got Guiness back and forth for her exercise, and mine.  A beautiful and peaceful evening was spent there.
Destin followed the next day.  Traveling through the Narrows and past Ft. Walton, we noticed three wrecked sailboats.  I don't know if they were victims of the last storm, or if they have been there for a while.  It is always sad to see someone's dream destroyed.  Entering Destin, we found it to be quite busy,with an almost circus-like atmosphere.  The docks are crowded, with few apparent services for visiting mariners of our like.  But if you are a fisherperson, this appears to be the place to be.  The anchorage is very nice, with plenty of room and depth, and the beach is beautifully white.  Finding a spot to land the dinghy on the north side is spotty, as development has fully enveloped this little harbor.
It was a beautiful night at anchor, with little wind and clear skies.  We shall spend the day here in Destin, motoring the dinghy along the north shore, searching for a landing and then a supermarket.  We will continue eastward tomorrow, Feb 29.  There is no major rush, as the weather has not been cooperating toward a safe overnight Gulf crossing.  When we get to Carrabelle, Florida, we will await a proper weather window of several days of calm weather before heading for Tarpon Springs.  Perhaps we will take the 73 mile shot to Steinhatchee first.  Capt. Eddy, please don't stop your reports yet.

Le Boat