Copy Write 4/15/2000 © Updated 12/17/2005
This trip came together thru the hard work of several folks at the Trailer Sailor Gang! All thru the months leading up to this event I was terrified to even think the "Weather" word not to mention saying it. Monday before launch I was in a panic the weather forecast was all over the place, I had serious doubts about even going. After a call to Uncle Tom (a Pensacola sailor and BEER committee member) I realized one way or another everything would work out. After all there were many folks in transit to Alabama and Florida from all over. I know they would have been disappointed not to see my homemade bimini cover.
After dropping my daughter off at school it was time to make the run for last minute supplies go home and cram everything into the car then out to the boat.
By 10 am stuff was loaded and motoring out to Perdido Bay it started to rain. Not much wind, with mild rain to drizzle, motoring south I reminisced previous times in the rain. It usually takes about 1-½ hours to motor south to Dupont Point, once south of the Lillian Bridge the wind, on the nose of course, picks up considerably.
Anchoring for lunch I decide it may be best to try the #2 jib I borrowed for this cruise. The jib sheets were set up for a South Coast 22 with cabin top cleats. As I run everything back the jib sheets were too short. I floundered around for a bit before finally giving up. My original plan was to just fly the # 2.
After raising both main and my working jib I find I have placed one six-gallon water jug near the keel trunk head, should have placed it further aft. Another 6-gallon water jug was moved back to the companionway prior to launch. With everything stuffed into the V-Berth, "Don't Ask" is bow heavy. She sails OK but could do better.
I borrowed a 3 person dingy and was towing it. This dingy has a square bow and as it slapped thru the waves made a lot of racket. Didn't seem to make much difference in the noise if I let it out behind about 25' or brought it up to the stern. After some experimenting keeping the dingy as close to the transom as possible seemed to allow "Don't Ask" to sail better than all the way back.
Sailing in mild rain was almost pleasant, I wouldn't say it was fun just one of those things you gota do and try to make the best of. Anticipation of the weekend kept me in good spirits. By 3:30 PM we arrived at Pirates Cove Marina , this time rather than dropping sails in the turning basin behind I dropped anchor and stowed sails. Then proceeded to find my usual spot on the beach. Winds were blowing pretty good trying to pin "Don't Ask" on the beach, I wanted deeper water close enough to wade ashore. It took a bit to find the right spot that would allow me to balance the beach against the wind.
Once anchored, I find John and Tammy from Texas have already arrived and watched me sail in. They trailered an Oday 20' over and had it launched by the time I pulled in to Pirates Cove. Never ceases to amaze me no matter where you go nor how well you plan a trip is needed to Wal-Mart. So off to Wal-Mart the three of us went in John's pickup. From Pirates Cove the trip in is not a quick one, I showed them the Road Kill Café in Elberta Alabama. The painting on the front of the building says it all.
Later that evening rafted up in Roberts Bayou. Tammy insisted we dine on their boat using official color coordinated plastic boat china and goblets, with real knives and forks. WOW fine china aboard a boat. Paper plates and plastic forks and knives rule the day aboard "Don't Ask".
Dinner consisted of great conversation and what they called "hobo dinner". Take a large hamburger patty dump in some potatoes and other veggies wrap in aluminum foil, cook on the Magnum Stainless Steel grill so common among boaters. Tammy is relatively new to sail boat customs, like a pro sailor she even made a sacrifice to King Neptune. Peeling potatoes she knew instinctively one must be scarified so somewhere in Davy Jone's Locker there is a ½ peeled potato.
Tammie's sacrifice to appease King Neptune was enough to give us a break from the constant drizzle and rain that had been going on all day. The rain stopped, much later that night we could see stars. Sometime before bed, the floorshow started.
First there was a big splashing sound, no mullet could make that much noise. While we were looking thru the dark tying to figure out what was going on I heard a familiar snort. Apparently John recognized it quickly as well. Soon there were many other snorts all over the Bayou and lots of water thrashing around. Dolphins had herded fish into the bayou and were enjoying dinner. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a look or photo.
Two oil lanterns were carried aboard, lighting them the Citronella torch oil did an excellent job of keeping the critters away. We hung the lanterns in the cockpits of both boats.
Breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs sausage, bagel and cream cheese for me and honey buns for John and Tammy. Once again Tammy brought out her best china. Man I could get used to this, beginning to wonder if I may need to invest in my own fine plastic boat china.
Coffee aboard falls into those who do and those that don't believe in real live coffee. I brought my burner and had planned to buy a bigger aluminum pot. John assured me their DC powered drip coffee maker would be just the thing. Friday morning it is revealed the DC powered drip coffee maker takes 60 to 45 minutes to brew a pot of brown "elixir of life". No way any of us are going to wait that long. Lighting the burner steaming hot coffee is passed around and the second pot is brewing.
With nothing to look forward to but more rain the raft up is split, John and Tammy find a spot at the dock. "Don't Ask" once again reclaims her spot on the beach in front of Pirates Cove. We hang around and watch other trailer sailors arrive, launch then mill around greeting each other.
Around 11 am time was spent with Jerry H and his wife, owner of a South Coast 23; he brought another 20' Oday for this trip. Of real interest to me was his recent trip from the Florida Keys to the Dry Tortugas.
12:00 am was hamburger in Gulf Coast Paradise by 1:00 pm a nap was just the thing to do. Around 2:30 or so the wind was blowing rain into the raised pop-top between the plastic tarp boom tent and the bug screen. Also it seems the tide had drifted out some. Raising the stern anchor, motoring out then resetting "Don't Ask" a bit further out.
Back in the cabin under my sleeping bag I was just about asleep again when I heard a loud "Hey Wayne". Walter and Alicia from Memphis Tennessee owners of a South Coast 25 finally made it in. Sitting in the restaurant while they ate a tactical decision needed to be made. Original plans called for anchoring out using the dingy. With all the cruisers pulling in dock space was filling fast, if I was going to get a decent spot the time was now. Space at the dock is available right next to John and Tammy. Before the evening is upon us all slip spaces are taken and we are stacking additional boats behind those of us tied at the dock. The rain had not abated and the forecast was not good for Saturday. My slip was not far from the back door of the restaurant. It would rain a while and stop for a bit then rain some more. The boom tent tarp was working well, another tarp was stretched from the pop-top to the bimini, and it was older and leaked a bit, still better than nothing.
The 7 pm skippers meeting was a lot of fun. We all introduced boat, crew and ourselves. Some awards and door prizes given, everyone had a good time. Ben Allen the cruise director promised everyone the weather would get better and we could hold him responsible otherwise.
With intermittent rain most everyone hung around the restaurant. The folks at Pirates Cove were most accommodating and kept things open much later than usual. By 11 pm I was ready to hit the rack.
Not too long ago I had the bright idea to cut some ½" plywood to fit between the cabin seats and the keel trunk effectively converting the aft part of the cabin into a big bed. Walt and Alicia on the port side and me on the starboard. I was a bit unsure how well this arrangement would work, never had this many adults aboard before. Turns out it seems things went smooth and everyone was reasonably comfortable.
Spent most of the early morning keeping the coffee pot brewing and talking with the neighbors. Untangling the cabin and converting it back into a boat again was handled by Walter and Alicia, man I could get used to not doing everything myself. Grabbing a good size pile of wet cloths (mine) a trip to the bathhouse is in order. While in the shower cloths in the washer. Settling my slip fees I suggest we take a tour of Roberts Bayou, pick up dry cloths and head out into the great beyond.
Dolphins once again showed up feeding in the bayou, with daylight they were easy to spot. Everyone enjoyed the show.
Apparently Ben Allen (cruise director) successfully completed some kind of secret anti-rain ritual because by morning there were patches of blue between the clouds, wind was already sporting pretty good. It was obvious the rain was breaking up. Sailing fever swept the fleet and everyone got a silly grin on their faces and a gleam in their eyes. We all felt better.
John and Tammy were buried behind other boats but their neighbors were able to slip out leaving room for John to slip his 20' Oday out well before I could even think about moving. His parting words were "catch you later". Not a trace of remorse for his sailing buddy stuck for a bit longer.
Ross Point protects Pirates Cove from south to south east winds, what seems mild in the lee of Ross Point can get rough beyond it. As a precaution I set a reefed main and full jib. Sailed around long enough to get a feel for the wind and to give Alicia a chance to grow comfortable with my 22' over her usual 25' boat. Then shook out the reef. Alabama Point and Perdido Pass was our destination, most of the cruisers sailed east across Perdido Bay.
The trip was a gentle southwest broad reach, all concerns about sailing with 3 three adults and a ton of stuff melted as "Don't Ask" held her own. Just before the bridge separating Perdido Key from Orange Beach a series of islands make ideal spots to anchor for lunch. Robinson Island was our spot in the sun and sand. Strangely enough there was a for sale sign posted.
After lunch cranking the motor it was time to explore Perdido Pass, from a distance it looked a bit rough. As we motored under the bridge it became apparent between wind and waves a trip outside into the Gulf of Mexico would be possible but more than a bit rough.
Motoring back up the ICW then east along Inerrarity Point my second destination is one of five small sand islands, located where Old River dumps into the ICW. Spending some time wandering the beach by 3pm or so it was time to head to Ingram Bayou.
Ingram Bayou is one of those rare unspoiled anchorages that make cruising the Gulf Coast so delightful, deep water and plenty of room, nothing but woods and water. The run from Old River to Ingram Bayou was a lot of fun broad reaching real easy ride. Once again I was impressed with "Don't Ask" and her ability to take a load of folks and gear yet still sail well.
Once in Ingram we snaked along under sail other BEER cruisers ahead of us like a string of pearls. Coming in almost last I was lucky to end up with an outside position in the raft up. Even better right next to John and Tammy. Pulling into a raft up was a new experience for me, balancing the wind from the south against the other boats on the lee side and keeping my speed down as to avoid ramming the other boats dead ahead was a challenge, Turns out my seamanship was up to it and I did not embarrass myself or give any other boat a brown gelcoat racing stripe. Once in it was decided I needed to set a stern anchor, in order to get a good set I backed out dropped anchor then came back in.
About the time I thought we were done the powers to be decided it was best to set a starboard side anchor. We were already snug and with a muddy bottom I doubted just tossing it would be enough scope for a good set. Over the side with the anchor I find the raft up on my end was in 5 ½ feet of water and I can walk the anchor out. The water was cool and comfortable after a hard days sail.
There was a bit of adventure before dinner. The boat port of "Sunshine and Kisses" decided to pull out of the raft up before settling down for the night. The skipper was concerned about tangling the rigging should the winds turn against us. With a practically brand new boat I guess he had a valid concern, although the rest of us did not share it. So as the blue-hulled boat slid out in reverse John tried to make fast to the next boat in line. As he is hauling in pulling "Sunshine and Kisses" port. Tammy is trying to cross from their boat to "Don't Ask" keep in mind my bow is firmly tied to the boat ahead of me and I have two snubbed well set anchors holding my stern in place. Right about the time Tammy has one foot on each boat the distance between them starts widening. Tammy is a little bit of nothing anyway and it doesn't take much to put her in an awkward situation.
Meanwhile Walter is sitting at the stern and I on the starboard side of "Don't Ask". If I get up to help Tammy my weight will shift my boat and she will fall in the water. Walter is blocked by the bimini hardware and if he moves too much same thing will happen. Meanwhile Tammy is hanging on for dear life. John oblivious to our calls to stop what he is doing and help his damsel in distress continues to haul in the line linking his boat to the next. Like a bird of prey Alicia swoops down on Tammy grabbing her at the last moment, pulling her back aboard "Sunshine and Kisses". About that time John turns around and is asking what all the commotion is about.
We planned a special raft up dinner. John and Tammy brought beef kabobs marinated in a sauce so secret they threatened death for just asking about it. Alicia contributed large mushrooms and cherry tomatoes to the cause along with sections of a mild pepper (name escapes me). I brought 4 lbs of shrimp. There was not enough room for everyone to visit on one boat so the girls cooked kabobs on the 20' Oday and us guys supervised from "Don't Ask". It was a tough job telling the women folk how to do every little thing but between the three of us keeping the women folk in line. The kabobs were cooke and the meal prepared.
Kabobs were taking longer than anticipated so we broke open the shrimp. Once word got around the fleet we had shrimp I quietly loaded my flare gun and kept it at the ready, you never know when Shrimp Pirates may attempt to overrun your defenses.
As the beef and mushroom kabobs cooked those two were passed around. With plenty of food some of the mushroom kabobs were passed around to satisfy the natives.
A fellow South Coast sailor in Crestview Florida couldn't make the trip but was kind enough to donate a bottle of homemade wine to the cause. After everyone ate far more than they needed, Tammy once again passed around the fancy sailboat plastic goblets for the toast. p; There was just enough for all five of us to have a decent serving, we toasted each other, the raft up and everything else we could think of.
Now that the rain was gone we had a real pleasant evening ahead, socializing. Different things were going on at each boat and everyone seemed to have a good time. Around 10 or so I was sleepy and once again "Don't Ask" was magically transformed into a luxury hotel suite, well sort of anyway.
This night I didn't bother to put the bug screen over the raised pop-top. Lanterns were lit in both our boats to keep biting things away.
Somewhere around 3-4 am I woke up and out of habit decided to check the anchor rodes. Pulling on the starboard anchor a familiar sparkle lit up the water I disturbed. With out thinking of my crewmates I said in a not so hushed tone "COOL". Apparently Alicia was not sleeping deeply because that one word woke her up and out of bed to see what was going on.
Previously I had told them of another trip crossing Big Lagoon at night watching phospherecence dance in my bow and stern wave under sail. I thought the water needed to be a bit warmer for the plankton that bio-luminance when disturbed, apparently April was warm enough. So as I crawled back into the warmth of my sleeping bag Alicia like a little kid was happily playing in the water.
I wasn't in my sleeping back long before I heard Alicia scramble quickly to the other side of the boat. It seems she had an encounter with the Perdido Bay Sea Monster. A strange looking creature, the body of a large fish and the head of a deer it can be seen swimming across Perdido Bay early in the morning, evening or at night rarely during the day.
All Alicia could tell me, she saw a big white eye floating by. I knew it couldn't be an alligator, no big white eyeballs. Puzzled I asked some questions, which she couldn't answer because at the time she was not wearing her contact lenses.
So the only conclusion was the Perdido Sea Monster has big white eyes. I doubt, the white foam fishing float bobbing in the water nearby could have been mistaken for a big white eye by someone needing contact lenses to see clearly. I have discussed this incident with the Sea Monster Watch Committee and they are most appreciative of Alicia's sighting and the additional information she has provided. Who knows we may even induct her as an honorary member.
I was rudely awakened by the sound of a rooster crowing.
Crawling out of the cabin what to my wondering eyes should appear. Our BEER Cruise Social Director, flapping his wings and crowing. I knew he could sail but was not aware he could fly. I guess that is why he has the nickname "Wildman"
Now that everyone is up, time for coffee brigade. John and Tammy brought a DC powered drip coffee maker that seems to use a lot of juice takes about an hour to perk a pot and generally is good for nothing but taking up space. As this is last day they decide it is time to use it. Meanwhile my burner is going and "elixir of life" is soon passed around then the second pot is set to bubble. By the second time the pot is passed the DC drip coffee maker is almost finished.
Last day is when you try to burn up un-cooked food because your ice is down to cold water and you don't want to buy more. All the sausage I brought is cooked and some ham provided by Tammy, bagels and crème cheese for everyone. The word is passed thru the fleet, lots of folks heading back to Pirates Cove for a hot shower. Some folks need to leave and can't make the luncheon at Wolf Bay Lodge.
Quickly the raft up disappears, just a few hard-core sailors left. John and I decide we need to spend some canvas time on Wolf Bay. Motoring out to the ICW sails are raised and a down wind run. Wolf Bay starts wide at the bottom and narrows further north. Good wind blowing from the southeast. Tacking around some the tiller is handed off to Sir Walter. Walter has a real easy way about handling a boat and soon I get the impression he knows what he is doing. We spend several happy hours tacking about, Walter riding every puff for what it is worth. Other boats are rounding the point into Wolf Bay, they seem intent to get there rather than hang around and play with the wind.
Eventually it is time for me to man the helm and steer a course for Wolf Bay Lodge. Raft up time at the dock consists of two groups. Bigger boats further back in deeper water and us smaller ones forward. Tying up to "Sunshine and Kisses" I think a bowline to a tree will keep us from wandering around too much.
Wolf Bay Lodge has a busy Sunday lunch crowd with the addition of another 30 hungry sailors things ended up a bit confused. I started setting up a table for the mob, about the time that was done we found the table next to us already set up was supposed to be ours. So we moved, the other table was not big enough so folks moved back again. In the process folks spread out enough so the five if us South Coast sailors could not sit together. We decided to stay put. Then it was decided to shift everyone so we could free up five seats at the end of the table for us. Meaning we ended up right back where we originally started. Hmmmmm Ordering went smooth as one waitress worked each side of the table, between the normal Sunday crowd and our gang of 30 it was about a 1-½ wait for food. We had fun sharing BEER Cruise adventures and other tall tails of daring do.
I have always found the food at Wolf Bay Lodge delicious and the fried oyster plate was no exception. Everyone else seemed to enjoy as well. The slow service on food delivery put our timetable behind so once everyone was finished there was a mad dash to pay and launch.
Returning to Pirates Cove it was deemed expedient to motor although one side trip was required. Pulling into the turning basin behind Pirates Cove one of the largest cruising catamarans I have yet to see sat at anchor. All the UV stripes were a bright red along with the mainsail cover. We all went a bit nuts lusting after her, and we just had to take the time to motor around.
Back to Pirate's Cove the basin was a madhouse boats milling about waiting for their turn at the ramp. I spotted an empty slip next to the ramp, perfect for my crew to unload. I had grown so comfortable with Walter at the helm I thought nothing of going forward and man the bow.
Approaching a fixed object under motor preferably at slow speed involves balancing the wind, waves, current, boat and motor against each other. Quite often I do all this without thinking about it. Normal procedure is to throttle down as low as possible, throwing the motor running in neutral as needed to slow down even further. Most important to keep the motor running in neutral in case you need it.
I never once gave it a thought that Walter was accustom to a bigger heavier boat that once it gets going continues. So instead of throwing the motor in neutral, Walter kills it expecting to drift right in. Standing on the bow I know immediately we are not going to make it. By the time we switch places the wind has pushed us back out. With me at the helm the second try works perfect. I pulled into the empty slip to unload Walter and Alicia. Never had a chance to say bye to John and Tammy.
Backed "Don't Ask" out and headed for the channel and open water. Picking up a dingy I left at Pirates Cove the big catamaran was working her way thru the channel, I looked kind of small in her wake.
Alicia was standing in the dock jumping up and down admiring the catamaran and photographing me as I motored by around 3 pm. It was Sunday and the ICW was crowded rather than sail past the point I decided to motor into South Perdido Bay there by avoiding all the boats using the ICW. At anchor east of Ross Point preparing to hoist the sails the Daedalus was out on one of her tourist sailing excursions. Loaded down with sightseers I guess I made a good diversion for the tourists. Seems to me the Daedus altered course to swing by a bit closer to get a good look as she sailed by under full canvas.
All my fears of a rough passage back melted with the sunshine. Wind was around 15 miles per hour possibly a bit higher perfect south east direction mild chop on the bay looked to me an easy fast ride home. Remembering my trip over a six-gallon jug of water was moved back to the keel pendant area. Another 5 gallons or so in a smaller jug was brought into the cockpit. The dingy was cinched up as close to the stern as I could manage.
"Don't Ask" was in her prime element under ideal conditions at ¾ keel and loaded for cruising the extra weight compensating for the higher wind. I had shifted the water just right and she was sailing, as close to hull speed that dragging a dingy will allow. Next time I think the dingy will stay home.
The land seemed to fly by balanced just right heeled over about perfect. Beam reaching my way northwest across Perdido Bay I wished Walter was aboard to help. We would have had fun working together making "Don't Ask" stand tall. For the uncounted time I wondered what she would do with new canvas. Mainsail is original 20+ years old, jib is relatively new.
Before I knew it we were past Red Bluffs and time to start setting up to sail into the "chute". Perdido Bay system is roughly dumbbell shaped, I have sailed here many times and know the route to take if conditions are right. First point to Dupont Point and ride the wind as far northeast as you can go. Use every puff to head up higher as the wind starts to give the illusion of moving east. Actually the lay of the land shifts. Somewhere between Red Bluffs and Manuel Bayou you make every attempt to point to Blue Angel Navy Park or Brunson Field (where seaplanes launched many years ago).
Once past Manuel Bayou a tactical decision is needed change to a low broad reach or continue sailing northeast as far as you dare. Sailing northeast will take you north faster but then you will need a downwind run thru the bridge. Changing to a low broad reach allows you to sail directly thru the bridge, but at considerable slower speed.
The last option works better if the wind is more south than east so I continue in my merry way gradually changing into a broad reach then a downwind run thru the bridge. Once thru the bridge the "chute" takes a jog to the east and orientating "Don't Ask" puts me on a broad reach again. Back on a broad reach I hike up the traveler a foot, works just like afterburners on a jet engine. Keel pendant picks up a higher whine (not quite full speed sound) still dragging the dingy. This section of Perdido Bay gives the illusion of wind coming directly from the east tree line. Winds real steady the puffs are there and push hard but don't hammer you with their arrival. As some of the bigger puffs hit I struggle to keep "Don't Ask" from rounding up. After about three times, the traveler is lowered back to center not quite as fast but no time is lost managing the sails.
7:00 pm Sunday evening, at anchor off the mouth of my home bayou. Sun falling down to a perfect sunset. Yea I took a few photos as sails were lowered and stowed.
One interesting side note, all weekend long the biting bugs weren't bad, almost non-existent. Not so once I entered homeport, just about carried me off. Lit the citronella candle in the cabin and sprayed myself good with bug spray. By 8:00 PM "Don't Ask was put to bed and only essential items loaded in the car.
Time to go home.
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