We were up early, as usual, but Bob & Gail still managed to beat us out of the anchorage by 30 minutes. They were heading out at 0550, we followed at 0620. It was looking like another beautiful day.
As you head east from Panama City there is another long, narrow stretch of the ICW. It is very scenic, and we usually don't see any tows in this section. And we did not today, I am happy to say. We made good time, and passed the Gulf Outlet Canal by around 1215. This is the canal that leads down to Port St. Joe. On our normal cruises we would divert here to spend a night or two at the marina there. It is very nice, there are big grocery and sporting goods stores within two blocks. Better yet, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants is only about six blocks away. But we are on a mission to get down to the Keys, so no diversions this time.
We passed White City a short while later. There is not much here except a big highway bridge, and a public boat launch with a small park. There is room along a bulkhead for a couple of larger boats to tie up, for free. But it is very basic, no power or water. Still, I had considered stopping here for the night when I was planning the trip. However, it was only 1230 and I did not want to stop that early. We had plenty of time to make it to Apalachicola.
I checked the weather forecast to see if there was any chance we could make the crossing from Apalachicola or Carabelle to the west coast of Florida. The big bend area is too shallow to stay close to shore, so you just have to cut across over to Steinhatchee, Cedar Keys, or Tarpon Springs. Depends on how long you want to run.
The wind was forecast to start blowing Friday, 20-25 knots, and do that for the next several days. I decided we would anchor in Saul Creek, just off the Apalachicola River, about 5 miles north of Apalachicola. Great protection from wind. It is in the middle of the swamps, very isolated, and beautiful,
Bob abandoned his plan of staying at a marina in Apalachicola when friends staying there told him what they were paying. Since he would need to pay to stay for up to a week before the wind subsides, he opted to anchor out with us.
They arrived first and anchored at the mouth of the creek waiting on us. We arrived about 45 minutes later, at 1300. I eased past them and led them back to where the creek splits and is big enough for two boats to anchor. We were secure by 1320 and settled in for the duration.
Bob immediately launched their dinghy to head into Apalachicola. They wanted to go visit their friends, make a grocery and liquor store run, and check out the town. They had not returned by dark and I was concerned. They had never been here before and would be running down an unfamiliar river in a pitch black night. They finally made it back at 2100, more than a little tipsy. We had asked for some limes so they motored over to deliver them. They also brought a gift for Duke, a large box of Milk Bones. Duke approved!
They retired to their boat. I watched to be sure they made it aboard safely, then went to put the limes to good use. Dark & Stormy's, here I come! :)