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Warm weather chasing with s/v Joyce Ann

11/11/16 Clearwater, Florida
By Brandon Patrick
Posted on 11/11/2016 4:04 PM
A long overdue update.  The past 48 hours were the portion that I knew going in was going to be one of the most difficult portions of the adventure.  It's a difficult and painful trip around 'the bend' from the panhandle into the lower part of Florida, so most folks go directly 2 different panhandle cities to the Tampa area.  At 11:30am this morning, I dropped anchor in Clearwater after a 29.5 hour passage from Apalachicola.  It was long and painful, but it feels great to be in SW Florida.
After the awesome anchorage at Pensacola, it was a 9 hour run the following day to a small anchorage close to Destin, Florida called Joe's Bayou.  The entry to the anchorage was very narrow and you have to use your Florida water knowledge to know where the deep water was located.  I did fine, but the boat that was traveling behind me for the day ended up running aground as they misjudged the entry.  They were able to get off a bit later as the tide was rising, but it shows the very difficult nature of traveling around the skinny waters of Florida.
The next morning it was an early start for a 10 hour run to Pearl's Bayou anchorage near Panama City, Florida.  The beginning of the trip was eventful, as the boat the had been traveling with me for a little over a week ran into several sensor issues with their engine, and they told me to go on without them.  I was hoping to do the crossing that I just completed with them because their boat traveled at roughly the same speed as mine, but they have now left the boat in Destin after having it towed there and are trying to figure out what to do.
The following morning it was a small craft advisory for even the protected waters around Panama City.  The advisory was supposed to expire at 11am, so I left my very protected anchorage later than normal to try and get some miles in.  I was greeted by crazy seas for semi-protected waters.  It was 3 footers and 25+ mph winds.  It was about 15 miles plowing into those conditions which left me a salt soaked sailor.  I brought the day to a quick halt after 6 hours by sliding into a free city dock in White City, Florida.
The free dock at White City was a life saver for me.  At this point in the trip, you had to wait for a weather window to make the big crossing, and at the time, there was no window in sight.  Fortunately, here was a free dock which was amazing because it contained my favorite traveling word, 'free'.  They had public bathrooms, electricity, and water for filling jugs, tanks, and cleaning my very dirty/salty boat.  There was nothing in the town but a gas station that had a few odd and end groceries, but they had an ice cream counter.  I needed nothing more than a place to stay for free and daily ice cream.  In all, I spent 4 nights there until it was time to move for the approaching weather window.  Below is a picture of some of us boat at the docks and a shrimp boat that came in to do some sorting one day.  Sadly, no shrimp could be bought off of them.
On the 9th, it was a pretty easy 4.5 hour run to Apalachicola, Florida.  It has been my favorite spot so far.  A small little town in the panhandle that doesn't see a whole lot of tourist traffic, and it's known as Oyster City.  This is big to me, as I happen to love all things oyster.  It was a cool looking older fishing town, and I took a few pictures around the area.
The first picture above is of my boat and Mark and Anna's boat at the free city dock.  Yet another free city dock.  After getting some groceries, I found a gift equally if not better than oysters which was the Oyster City Brewing Company.  The beer was cold and fantastic, and it was mostly a mix of locals, so I got the lowdown on the best places to go get oysters.  The last picture shows a few of the beauties pulled right of the water of Apalachia Bay that day and brought to my plate.
I needed those happy memories of beer and oysters, because at 6:55am on 11/10 I began the way too long journey that got me swinging at anchor here this afternoon.  I was just a lot of open Gulf of Mexico water without another boat in view for the majority of the trip and a mix of good and bad wind.  Reefing my mainsail during a sudden blow at 1am in which I also dropped one of my winch handles into the Gulf, I can tell you for certain is an experience I will try to forget.  Not much fun, but those are the events that get me here sitting at anchor in Clearwater in the sunshine with 80 weather.  It should be 2 full days, and a real small day, to get my boat to it's slip in Fort Myers on Monday.  It leaves me whole 1 day to relax and get the boat squared away before catching a flight back to Indiana to celebrate the holidays.  Yep.... I ended up cutting it real close.
I'll update later.
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