Sunday, June 12, 2016


We are under way, crossing Choctawhatchee Bay on our way to Fort Walton Beach. This morning found us anchored at the east end of the bay (map), just after we entered from the ICW cut. So many blackwater rivers empty here, including the eponymous Choctawhatchee, that the water is the color of chocolate. That did not stop me from jumping in for a cooling swim; at 88° the water is finally warm enough to be comfortable yet still refreshing.

While we are still in Florida (and some would say, the real Florida), we are, and have been since about Apalachicola or so, in Lower Alabama, which Alabama natives refer to simply as LA. Not the one that proved too much for the man. Whereas south Florida, including up to the Tampa Bay area, is culturally in the North, we are now firmly in the South. The Choctawhatchee has its headwaters deep in southeast Alabama.

Mr. Roboto kept us comfortable enough yesterday that we did not run the generator under way. We did, however, deploy for the first time the curtain we made to separate the pilothouse from the galley. We made this to keep the pilothouse dark on overnight passages if anyone needed to work in the galley or watch TV in the salon, but we've yet to use it for that purpose. It's doing a great job of keeping the cool air corralled in the pilothouse.

Our "darkness" curtain. It does block the pilothouse camera, unfortunately.

I expected to run the generator shortly after anchoring, but a storm cell blew in and dropped the outside temperature ten degrees while providing plenty of overcast. The rain itself missed us completely, but we had pleasant conditions to grill a steak and eat on the aft deck for the first time in a great while. We ran the generator in the evening after the storm had passed and temperatures went back up, just in time to also keep the bugs at bay.

Today's cruise, a relatively short four hours, will take us to Fort Walton Beach, something of an old stomping grounds for us. We stopped there several times in the bus, for varying lengths of time, including a full month once while waiting on Red Cross deployment orders. We're pretty familiar with the town, including the free city dock which is walking distance from several restaurants and a grocery store. It's a six-hour cruise from there to our final destination in Pensacola.

I forgot to mention here in my last post an interesting encounter we had en route to Panama City. As we transited the East Bay, we were buzzed fairly close aboard by an otherwise nondescript patio boat -- the sort with two aluminum pontoons and an outboard motor -- going wicked fast and piloted by a lone individual wearing a racing helmet. That boat was followed close behind by a small, older center console, also going wicked fast and helmed by a helmeted helmsman.

We scratched our heads awhile, as these two boats did circles around us, and a short distance later came across several racing-type boats painted identically in yellow paint with blue numbers, and more racing helmets. Louise did some Googling and we learned that Mercury Marine has their test and development center nearby on one of the bayous; every day, rain or shine, helmeted test drivers take boats out for engine testing. They always travel in pairs, because blown engines are not uncommon, which explains the center console following the patio boat. We've seen a lot of weird things on the water, but a patio boat driver wearing a helmet is a new one on us. I'm sorry I did not get a picture.

Louise loves our new crewman.

We should arrive in Fort Walton Beach early this afternoon. I expect we'll be running the generator from the moment we arrive. For now, Mr. Roboto is doing a fine job of keeping us comfortable. When we arrive in Pensacola and plug in, I will remove my kludge, which is decidedly not weatherproof, from the window.

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