To Part Two
For me, the FL120 started a couple weeks before the official start date. It wasn't that I had a boat to build or do any real preparations. LagunaUno was refit over the winter, sporting a fresh paint job and some additions like an anchor well and some added storage in the front cockpit. No, all I had to do was replace the leaf springs on my trailer, and get the whole family on the boat a few times before we headed for FL (we hadn't all been together on L1 since the Fall). The replacing of the springs went fine, but when we headed for the water to get some practice. Well let's just say the boat was untied for the trailer work and I may have forgotten to retie it. Yeah, it came off. Bummer. Now I had some repairs to do, and very little time to do them in! I re-finished the bottom, replaced part of a chine, and made a quick repair to the transom. All in 12 days while working 12 hr night shifts! UGH!!!!
But she got done and on the appointed day we were off. The drive was easy, for me at least. I had worked the night before, so my job was to get us to I-10 and Karen took over from there. Next thing I know we were in Alabama! We arrived at Pirates Cove just before dark, dropped the boat off and went to town for some food. After pitching the tent and finding the restrooms we were able to get a little sleep, though the anticipation was already working at keeping me awake.
I was up before the sun, and milled about waiting for some sign that I could safely make noise without invoking curses from my fellow sailors. Shortly thereafter the dogs that call that place home (I counted
5) sounded revelry and I was OFF!!!! Much clatter and banging occurred while I packed the boat and set the masts, at least I'm told so by my sleepy family! By 7am I was ready, and by 8 the rest of my family were as well, and we splashed LagunaUno about 8:15am, Thursday, May 12th. Then a fast run to the store for ice, beer, and some gas for a nice couple of ladies who thought they may need more after seeing my 5 gallons. The captain's meeting started around 9, and by 10:30 most of the fleet had set sail. A new friend was in need of a drill to repair a spreader so I hung around to help him as well as provided human bumpers for the nice ladies who we had gotten gas for earlier.
The first thing any Sailing Texan will say when they arrive in these parts is "LOOK!!! I can see the bottom!!!" Yeah, this water is CLEAR!! Several locals commented on the less-than-normal clarity, but for us it was like glass! As we headed East through the Perdido Bay and into the narrow parts of the ICW, we motor-sailed our way into the condo cluster at the base of the Hwy 292 bridge.
After a brief bathroom break at Big Lagoon State Park, we were off again. The wind was nearly on the nose as we left the park, but I knew relief was just around the point up there. Sure enough, after rounding the point and taking a hard turn to port, the wind was just forward of the Stbd beam and we were off on a close reach and making great time! Hugging the South shore we had smooth water and plenty of wind as the condos had given way to open sky and the island is very low here. This was Sailing!!! Big Lagoon was a great sail, with the only complaint that it is TOO SHORT!!! In about another hour we were at our destination, a small but very tall spoil island aptly named Sand Island. This Island sits between the mainland and the barrier island, with the ICW to the North and a narrow but very deep channel to the South.
By now the winds were clocking to the west and the temps were forecast to be warm overnight, so we opted for the west shore and set our tent to receive the best the FL night wind could offer. This also set us up on the side with the rough water, but since Laguna is easily pulled up onto the beach by my crew, this wasn't a problem. Many other boats were anchoring off the beach and most of them had to move due to the rough water. Since this first day was a short trip, we had quite a bit of time before dinner was served, so we opted for some added recreation. Just across that narrow and deep channel are the ruins of Fort Mcree, a storied locale of both the Civil War and WW2. While we were clueless of what we were looking at then, we learned later while visiting another nearby fort that Ft Mcree was once held by the Southern States, with the fort just across the Pensacola Pass being Union. We had some fun imagining them lobbing cannon balls across the pass at each other.
After exploring the ruins, we made great plans to circumnavigate the Kingdom of Sand Island. On the whole East shore was a sand flat with about 3- 4 feet of water out a good 150 yards. As we slowly drifted across this flat, still marveling at the water clarity, my wife spied some movement about 20 feet off to starboard. At first I labeled it a dolphin, but both Karen and my son Matthew quickly corrected me. There in plain view of all 5 of us, and the dog too, was a 4 foot Blacktip Shark. He swam there, parallel to our course, for 2 or 3 minutes before darting of for parts unknown. Several more passes showed no more of the scary finned creatures, but we did see MANY stingrays, some of them quite large (personally these I find more scary than a shark). A short sail out of the bay and into the Gulf just to say we did, and it was back to camp for a great meal of sausage and all the fixins prepared by Pat Johnson. A few beers and some laughs and day 1 was a wrap.
Day 2 started before the sun for me. Again. And a while later for my crew. Again. With the tent packed, the boat rigged, and most of the other participants already gone we set sail for a very short hop to the other side of Pensacola Pass to explore Fort Pickens. As you can tell, this was more of a stroll for us than a hardcore sailing adventure. The distances were shorter than the TX200 days and the civilization more dense, and my mantra was "I have a motor and I'm not afraid to use it!" We landed on the beach right in front of the Fort/Park and the kids were ready for some ghost hunting. Apparently this location was featured on Ghost Hunters and everyone but me knew that! The park wasn't actually open yet so we had the place mostly to ourselves. It was a great adventure, and as we departed a couple hours later I promised a second stop if we could get moving faster the next morning. (Day 3 is a repeat of day 2, in reverse).
To be continued...