heights are within safety and comfort zones. Apalachicola has for many years serviced all our needs, albeit with a laissez-faire attitude toward visiting sailors. The cold shoulder—complete with cold showers—is balanced by some very pleasant amenities, including the wellstocked Piggly Wiggly grocery store several blocks away with an excellent Chinese buffet across the street; meandering and browsing in the picturesque downtown with its Spanish moss-draped graveyard and tin-roofed, red-brick facades; and mainly, scarfing succulent oysters at Papa Joe’s restaurant on Scipio Creek. Apalachicola is an Old Florida town well worth tying up in for its history and cuisine. When wallets deplete before fierce winds abate, budgetminded cruisers often run back to the Saul Creek anchorage. The secluded creek is a time-tested hurricane hole with generous depths and Jurassic Park scenery. Give yourself or your boat a freshwater bath here. The only drawback to Saul Creek is no Internet, a buzz-kill for my husband, Capt. Scott. Meeting an enthusiastic local sailing family inspired us to divert from the usual stops and make time for Carrabelle. Mariners approaching Carrabelle from Apalachicola follow the channel south under the 65-foot Gorrie Bridge. The channel is well-marked and regularly dredged, but watch for tidal side-set and stay well to the middle. Should you spot a working dredge, radio well in advance, and the operators will assist in safe approach and passage. Water depth improves before and after the turn for the straight-line course east across Apalachicola Bay. This bay is a most unpleasantly exposed body of water in anything but dead calm, slack-tide conditions. Contrary to some reports, in the aforementioned conditions. it is possible to exit or
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The Panama City Marina docks overlook wide-open St. Andrew’s Bay and its Gulf inlet but offer full protection via a massive concrete pier and breakwall.
enter the Gulf using Government Cut. Most cruisers choose the turn to port that will lead them under the St. George Bridge delineating the entrance to the Sound. The channel under the 65-foot fixed highway bridge and into the Sound was carved out of the profusion of oyster beds that grace this area. This is a prime spot to watch oyster harvesting in the justifiably proclaimed “Oyster Capitol of the World.” Negotiating the Sound is not difficult; shoal and spoil areas are well-marked and the barrier islands, St. George and Dog, are known for their exquisite beaches. Just don’t plan to be in protected waters because a very thin line of barrier islands is the only thing between you and the Gulf. Carrabelle is on the mainland side off Dog Island, with the channel markers picking up shortly after clearing East Pass, located between the Sound’s two islands. The pass is considered easy to run in settled conditions. On rough days, it generates enormous waves and swells. Southbound cruisers may instead choose to enter the Gulf around the east end of Dog Island, taking care to stay well off its considerable shoals. The McGoverns should get a commission from Carrabelle for positive and enthusiastic promotion of their town. Recess motored out of her Panama City slip a few minutes ahead of Chip Ahoy on a blustery late-November morning, Ivy expertly hoisting the sails as Dave cleared the Panama City Marina breakwall and nearby Massalina Bayou channel. Their teamwork is impressive; we would later learn they’ve done some racing. Both boats were bound for White City, where the town park at the foot of the highway bridge provides complimentary dockage along with boat ramps, fish-cleaning stations and other amenities. An otherwise uneventful trip through the twists and turns of the ICW was temporarily halted at the juncture of East Bay and Wetappo Creek when an inattentive Circle Looper ran hard aground. A half-dozen trawlers and assorted motor yachts deftly maneuvered in tight quarters on a blind curve in skinny water, awaiting word from the power vessel captain coming to the aid of a fellow Looper. After 20 minutes of jockeying, a panicky female voice broadcast on 16, “We are anchored in the middle of the channel with 80 feet of chain out,” advising all to sit tight until the grounded boat was extricated. Recess sailed up behind the roadblock as jaunty as you please, running alongside the waiting vessels. We explained the situation as the McGoverns passed. A few minutes later, SOUTHWINDS April 2013