New Orleans was a great experience. Bourbon Street with James and Denise was really fun. We had regrettably bid James farewell after a mildly crazy evening on Bourbon Street. James actually fled directly to the Airport in the cab that dropped us off at the Marina after our revels. He was concerned he was being “Shanghaied” — in the very best sailing tradition.
The Seabrook Marina where we were staying was incredibly friendly and hospitable. We’d met some really nice people, but, we had to leave.
On April 19, Denise and I untied the dock lines and headed east along the GIWW headed for Pass Christian, Mississippi, along with Jack and Sharolyn of Heaven’s Island, and Bob and Ellen of Shibumi. While Denise and I were all for anchoring out, the other two boats who’d been traveling together from Kemah, TX were less enthusiastic about doing so. Pass Christian, MO it was.
Pass Christian is a cute little harbor. I realized why it was so named when after entering the marina: the entrance was so shallow that by the time you tied up, you’d found religion. Besides that, the most notable feature of Pass Christian for me was the food at Shggy’s Beach Bar. It was outstanding. I have yet to eat a better tuna tartare.
Since there seemed to be an acceptable weather window — low pressure system was moving into Boloxi the next evening — I decided that we should take the opportunity and head off for Tampa rather than wait around.
Denise and I headed off under clear blue skies, dolphins played in Pearl’s bow wave, it was warm and humid, Denise decided it was bikini time. We had wind pretty much on the nose as we headed out so we didn’t even bother to raise sails. We just motored.
As we passed Ship Island and the Fort that was on it, Denise and I chortled at all our friends who were back freezing various parts of their anatomy back in Portland. This was the life! We finally had warm, blue water, and dolphins. Ship Island receded into the background. We were about to be “at sea.”
That was the easy bit. The rest of the trip proved to be quite eventful. As evening drew on, we started to see lightening to the west, behind us. That was a bit unsettling as Pearl’s mast was the tallest thing for miles. Denise, who was at her best early in the morning, took the early watch while I got on email via the ham radio to my fiend Joe. Joe confirmed my worst suspicions by looking at weather radar: we were being boxed in by weather behind us and to the south of us. Decision time: head for Tampa or redirect to Pensacola or Panama City. We chose to head to Panama City.
As it turned out, that was a good call. On the one hand, we got pounded by the weather. On a couple of occasions it rained so hard that visibility was reduced to less than 100 ft. Fortunately, our previous experience on the GIWW had prepared, so the storms that hit us weren’t as unnerving as they could have been. When we finally made it into Panama City, it was raining so hard we had trouble distinguishing where the city marina was located. We finally found them, and tied up at the fuel dock as is was late and the harbor master had taken off for the night.
Denise and I spent a couple of days in Panama City recovering from our joust with the weather and waiting for things to get more settled. While the part of Panama City we were in seemed pretty depressed, I took the opportunity to chat with local tackle stores, and purchase some fishing gear that I was assured would work on our trip through the gulf. The best advice I got as it turns out came from the harbor master at the Panama City Marina. The lures he recommended kept getting hit over and over as we sailed down from Panama City to “Tampa.”
The trip from Panama City down the coast was the best time we’d had yet. For the first time since leaving Portland and her last sail on January 01, Pearl had all her sails up, and was flying along on a beam reach. We moved down the coast at a pretty good clip and arrived in Tampa late evening on the April 26. This was a bit unexpected. We had planned to get to Tampa around daybreak.