The Fantastic Journey Continues

The run from Apalachicola to the docks at White City is a short one. There were a couple of potential anchorage spots we wanted to check out, including one that was a regular for us on our sailboat, Sea Trek. The White City docks are located in a basin surrounded by a park with a boat ramp. There has never been a lot of activity here whenever we have visited. The dock next to the pavilion was under repair and closed off with caution tape. There are 20 amp outlets at the pavilion that can be used for limited power. A new floating dock has also been added on the canal front. The floating dock is better for deeper draft boats since depths along the fixed docks are 6 feet or less. There is a 24-hour limit at the docks, but if bad weather is in the area, a longer stay would not be a problem. A short walk down the road to the east brings you to a gas station and convenience store with basic staples. This is a favorite stop for us and most other boaters that pass this way. But we did find a problem on board that needed our immediate attention.

Our shifter has always been stiff on the boat, especially at the upper helm. While docking, it began to stick in forward and took a great deal of pressure to get out of gear. It also made a loud popping sound when it finally shifted into neutral. The pressure needed was such that in the process, the shifter knob broke off the threads from the handle. Once docked, the quick determination was that the problem was the shifter cable that runs from the lower helm station to the transmission. The cable had to be replaced immediately. One thing about White City is that it isn't a city and is little more than the convenience store and a handful of private homes; not exactly a place to find parts or make repairs. It became necessary to formulate a plan and it needed to be done without needing to travel very far given the problem.

The first requirement was to take an accurate measurement of the length of the cable. Knowing the exact original make helped, too. The original is 30 years old and was made by Morse. It is now made by Teleflex and they offer an exact replacement, but of different lengths. We needed a 19-foot cable to reach from the helm to the transmission. We have wifi via our Verizon Mifi (more on that in another post) and were able to find the exact cable needed online. But it couldn't be shipped to a public park so we needed to find a place to have it shipped and to be able to do the replacement. Apalachicola was too far in the wrong direction so we chose Port St. Joe Marina, which was only about 8 miles away. The order was placed and we added overnight shipping to lessen our delay. Even though overnight is expensive, it's less than paying for extra days of dockage at a marina. The next morning Beach House left the dock and headed for Port St. Joe.

We called and made a reservation and gave them a heads up about the part. The marina staff was very friendly and professional. From White City, the trip to St. Joe requires taking the long and straight Gulf County Canal to St. Joseph Bay. Once in the Bay, as you exit the canal, the marina is beyond a well-marked channel just to port. The basin is surrounded by a breakwater and the entrance is narrow. Someone from the marina met us at the dock and helped with lines. Fortunately, the shifter worked well enough to get us into the slip without incident. Timing was perfect and shortly after we arrived our cable showed up. Removing the old cable, pulling the new cable through and making the proper adjustments took maybe an hour. A quick test proved the shifter was now working smoothly and perfectly. We love it when a plan comes together. The crew still had time to explore the town and get in a little shopping at the grocery store across the parking lot from the marina. The town is a quaint beach side village with shops, bars and several restaurants. The marina itself is a very, very busy place with boat rentals, snorkel and dive excursions coming and going and lots of tourists visiting the tiki bar and restaurant. After being out in remote locations for weeks this was almost a bit overwhelming to us.

Once repairs were completed we were ready to leave the next morning. The plan was to explore the St. Joseph Bay anchorages, then return to White City to spend another night and be on our way in the morning continuing westward. During our next nights' stay, we were treated to our own private fireworks display put on by some local residents. It was, after all, getting near the 4th of July. A peaceful night and a feeling of accomplishment on how quickly and easily our repair went, and off we went the next morning. The following days were filled with exploration and side trips for our Gulf Coast anchorage book. Nights found Beach House anchored behind barrier islands with white sand beaches or tucked into beautiful bayous enjoying the peace and solitude. We needed peace and solitude on some days after being buzzed by hundreds of small boats running in every direction at full speed. One day we were surprised by a call on the VHF while in Watson Bayou near Panama City. Getting a call on the VHF isn't surprising; we get them all the time from folks that recognize Beach House, many from this blog. The surprise came when the caller announced that they were standing on their dock as were passing by and invited us to pull in and tie up. We looked around to see them waving from the end of their dock. As we pulled in and tied up, Carl and Greg Vernon introduced themselves and told us they were AGLCA (Americas Great Loop Cruising Association) Harbor Hosts. We were invited to stay at their dock, which had power, water and cable TV to which we could connect. They kindly took us on a shopping trip, invited us into their home and went out of their way to help and assist in any way they could. It's always wonderful to experience this kind of hospitality and friendship.

Beach House said farewell the next day and our exploration and research continued. There were still a lot of anchorages to cover and many miles to go. Another issue we began to experience and had to deal with were the daily afternoon thunderstorms. For quite a while the weather had cooperated and the days were dry with light winds. But now we found we needed to be anchored by 1 or 2 PM and looked for sheltered locations. By 2 or 3 PM, the storms would roll in and some came with serious winds. If caught in an open anchorage, it would mean having to deal with the high winds and choppy seas as well. Each day we needed to plan for the afternoon and the direction from which the storms would be coming. Once the pattern was established, there was no let up. Our routine would be to get underway early, anchor by 2 pm, prep for bad weather, enjoy the quiet evening after the storms passed and then do the same the next day. The Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast of Alabama are some of the most fantastic cruising grounds that we have experienced. It was almost a disappointment when we reached Mobile Bay and turned north toward Mobile, but we needed to get out of the hurricane box for insurance purposes. The plan was to make a stop at Dog River Marina to regroup and resupply in preparation for moving up the Tombigbee Waterway and into the interior river system - the next chapter in our ongoing adventure.

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