We left Fairhope on a windy morning, heading to Florida and warmer weather. As we turned east into Bon Secour Bay, the clouds cleared and the temperature rose to 52 degrees. We entered the narrow canal that leads past Orange Beach and Perdido Key toward Pensacola, Florida.
I know that I have been whining about the cold and the travails of winter cruising, but this is now Sunny Florida, land of orange trees and perfect weather! Just to prove it, Porpoises arrived, jumping at the bow and leaping through the Traveler’s stern wake.
Just west of Pensacola is Big Lagoon, and at its east end there is a spoil island created from sand and mud piled high using the deposits of channel dredging. Just south of the island is a delightful anchorage that will hold several boats. We arrived at the anchorage at 1600 and were the only boat finding refuge there for the night. A full moon rose over the Pensacola skyline.
Early the next morning the sky was clear and the temperature was 30 degrees. On cold nights the cabins chill down quickly, making it necessary to run the generator to power the heaters. We have electric strips which warm air as it is blown over them. While I don’t like running the generator so much it does give us a chance to charge all of the electronics. There is a small inverter that plugs into a 12 volt socket but it is not a very efficient use of electricity. We are looking at a better inverter/charging system to enable us to charge the precious Apple gear from the alternator while cruising.
At 0700 we raise the anchor and continue east 73 miles past Fort Walton Beach and Destin, and into Choctawhatchee Bay. We lower the anchor in 9 feet of water by the bridge at the east end of the Bay.
From Choctawhatchee Bay, it’s an easy 50 miles to Laird Bayou, located east of Panama City. There are several good anchorages in this area and as we were expecting strong winds from the north and west, we chose one with plenty of protection from that quarter.
The approach to Laird Bayou is tricky with shallows galore. We negotiated the sand bars and shoals and entered a delightful pool with plenty of space to swing on the anchor.
When anchoring in stormy situations we are up and checking our position many times during the night. We also utilize the anchor drag alarm function on the Garmin GPS. The holding bottom at Laird Bayou is great and while the Traveler veers quite a bit at anchor, she held steady and the ground tackle did not budge.
The Traveler’s bow is equipped with a 35-pound stainless steel CQR with 20 feet of chain and 250-feet of 3-strand twisted nylon line as her rode. Many cruisers utilize all chain and there are many arguments within the various internet forums praising the attributes of one anchor type over another. It’s analogous to figuring out who has the prettiest dog in the dog park.
Our anchor and rode came with the boat and gets a stamp of approval from the boating bible, Chapman Piloting and Seamanship. We have two spare anchors, a 25-pound Danforth for the stern, rigged and ready to deploy, and a 15-pound lunch-hook stowed below. We have held through 40+ mph winds and find that the trick is to deploy enough rode to keep the seabed to boat angle as flat as possible.
Enough on anchoring in a blow. Nice thing about storms is that the sky paints a pretty palette at the end of the day.