Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fort Walton to Panama City

Brenda motoring the Grand Canyon.
Entrance to the Canyon is dead ahead.

We left our anchorage near the Choctawatchee Bay bridge at 7 a.m. in an attempt to beat some forecasted high winds and rain to Panama City. The weather was expected to arrive by 2 p.m. which didn't sound like great anchoring. So, we decided to head for the St. Andrews Marina in Panama City as it looked like it was pretty well protected from all directions.

We were able to sail the 3 1/2 miles to the entrance of "The Grand Canyon" which is a 16 mile long section of the ICW. This narrow stretch is very pretty, but not somewhere you want to meet a barge or break down in. There just aren't any areas to pull over and stop for a while. The wind of course decided to join the current in slowing us down by going the wrong way all day. We managed to maintain about 5 knots most of the way, but for the last hour we dropped down to 4 knots against the growing current. Since it was cold and windy, Mike went below and made coffee and tea using the hot water heated by the motor. It wasn't steaming hot, but boy did it hit the spot. The Grand Canyon offers sand and rock formations and some very rustic fishing camps. (Think Deliverance) The only traffic we ran into over the three hour motor was this one single kayaker. He is solo kayaking across the U.S. and he had stopped at Bear Point Marina in Orange Beach along the way. We knew he was heading this way, but it was a nice surprise to meet up with him. If anyone knows the name of his website or blog, please let us know what it is. We'd like to forward a couple pictures to him?


Once we popped out of the Grand Canyon we were greeted by 15-20 knot winds and an ugly chop on the nose. Lovely - gray skies, wind and waves to look forward to for two or three hours. We only had 10 miles to our marina, so we just bashed ahead dodging all the crab pots that were strewn right in the ICW route. West Bay is probably a nice sailing area when the weather is cooperating. This was not that day. By the time Brenda called the marina to notify them we were nearing our arrival, Wrinkles was struggling to maintain 3 knots.

As we pulled into the protected waters of St. Andrews Marina and saw the easy access to our side tie berth we both instantly began smiling. Yes, a nice protected spot to wait out this nasty front while we explore Panama City. We chatted with several people as we secured and tidied up Wrinkles. Everyone is so friendly and genuinely interested in us and our sailboat. Surprising, since we hadn't had a proper shower in four days now.

Wrinkles all tucked in.
Fishing boats staying in today!

The next day (after luxuriously long hot showers) we wandered the nearby area which is the historic section of St. Andrews. Lots of small shops and restaurants and some beautiful parks. This is going to be a nice stop.

250 Year Old Tree

Tomorrow we are getting the $4 all-day pass to the local trolley system. We plan on spending some time just trolley touring and then stopping somewhere on Panama City Beach for a waterfront lunch.



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