Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Belle of St. Marks

We are underway in the Gulf of Mexico, threading our way between Ochlockonee Shoal and South Shoal on our way out of Apalachee Bay. We dropped lines at high slack this morning in St. Marks, and had a very nice push downriver and past the historic St. Marks lighthouse. Ebb current this morning was supposed to be negligible, but we had about a knot, due to ongoing runoff from the storm.

St. Marks light, from the river.

Tropical Storm Colin was a non-event for us. While the eye very nearly hit us, passing just a few miles to the south, this was a weird cyclone, with all the energy in the southeast quadrant. As a result, the peninsula got slammed, with boats breaking loose in Bradenton and Tampa Bay, high winds, and heavy flooding. Meanwhile, we had no winds to speak of at all. Our decision to depart Clearwater for St. Marks proved correct.

Our finger pier underwater. It came up over the step, too, but not the main dock.

What we got in the panhandle was a storm surge of two to three feet. At high spring tide, around 4pm or so, that brought flooding well into the town. Water was over our finger pier but not quite overtopping the quay where the power pedestals are located. The boat ramp was underwater, as were the quay and finger piers on the other side of it.

The boat ramp. That's the marina owner's daughter taking a photo of the iron ranger. Water came up another several inches after this.

I managed to make it to the post office first thing in the morning to mail some packages, but by early afternoon the road was impassable. The restaurant where we ate Sunday was flooded, as was the one across the street. Some youths were literally swimming in the intersection, in between beers on the flooded restaurant patio.

Most of the town centers around this flooded intersection.

Those beers came with them, or perhaps they bought them across the street at the small market in town, whose foundation kept it just about the floodwaters. I myself stopped in earlier in the day and ended up buying a spiffy new pair of galoshes, which let me get some of these photos without traipsing through dirty water or worrying about electrical currents.

By dinner time the waters were already receding, and we settled back in to await the windstorm that never arrived. Landfall was around midnight or so, and I finally went to bed at 12:30 when it became clear nothing would happen.

The fuel dock. Ramp is under water. Fuel pumps are high and dry on a pedestal to the right.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and you could hardly tell anything had happened at all. We might easily have shoved off, except the forecast out here on the Gulf was four to six feet, and we opted to wait a day for two to three. At this writing we've only seen one to two, which is perfect. We spent most of yesterday restoring things to their normal condition from their storm preparations.

The other thing I did yesterday was make some travel reservations. The buyer of the bus has contacted me and asked to finish closing the deal, now that things are a bit calmer on the family front. It turns out that the best airfares we'll see in the coming weeks are out of Pensacola (both Mobile and Tallahassee were 50% higher), and I've booked a flight to Richmond on Tuesday evening.

Now we have that most dangerous of all things on a boat: a schedule. Pensacola is a comfortable six days from here, and since my flight is not until 6pm, we have most of the day Tuesday as a buffer. If anything goes awry between now and then, we'll put the boat wherever we have to and I will find ground transportation to Pensacola.

I'll be flying solo, so Louise can mind the boat and the cat, who is still somewhat traumatized from her week "in jail." It's a surgical strike: I arrive in Richmond close to midnight, spend the night at an airport hotel, then drive out to the bus Wednesday morning. With any luck I'll be back at the hotel by cocktail hour. I have an oh-dark-thirty flight back on Thursday morning, and we should be back on our way to Mobile by Friday.

Today's cruise is the last open water we'll see until Mobile Bay. Dog Island is the first barrier island west of here, and once we are behind it we will be in protected waters all the way to Mobile. Tonight we will either anchor just north of Dog Island, or proceed upriver to Carabelle, which has the cheapest diesel we will see from here to Tennessee.


  1. Happy to hear the deal on Odyssey is finally closing.

  2. Well, at least on this trip you have already checked out the bus and it's ready to go. Hope the transaction is "smooth sailing". Steve


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