Anticipation has been rising as we’ve tooled closer and closer to Florida. We had an exceptionally pleasant overnight at the Wharf Marina in Gulf Shores, AL. Attached to the marina was a mall with restaurants, a putt-putt, a Ferris wheel, and movie theaters. They even had a light show at night down the main drag of the mall. We were in great moods: we’d had an uneventful day and although we weren’t too sure about getting into the slip we had been assigned, we inched in with barely a scrape. While we were headed in I saw people in the outdoor café watching, people in the park watching, people on their boats watching. I overhead a lady say something to the effect that “he’ll never get that big boat in.” The man with her said “he most certainly will” and proceeded to commentate, like a golf announcer, Rick’s every move. I complimented Rick later on about keeping his head with everyone watching. He hadn’t even noticed.
At any rate, we had fun that afternoon and evening, and seriously thought about staying a little longer; but the window of good weather was closing a little tighter every day and we were anxious to make it to the Florida shores.
This run’s goal was Panama City. We had stopped there on a drive between North Carolina and Arizona and wanted to explore it a bit more. It was a farther than we were comfortable with in one day, so we anchored at Joes Bayou. It was a beautiful night, a gorgeous sunset,
and an exceptional sunrise. I slept like a rock straight through, 9-5. We were a bit concerned when the local weather girl said possible fog in the morning, but woke to none. A little over an hour after waking, we were on our way.
The terrain changed dramatically and it felt almost as if we hadn’t left the river system. We made great time for most of the trip. Heading into West Bay, the wind became intense, increasing from the predicted 5-7 mph to almost 20 mph. Our trip was getting rockier the longer we rode. The waves were splashing up; the entire bow of the boat was soaking wet. Good thing Rick fixed the windshield wipers back in Little Rock!
We found the marina and headed in. It’s always a little scary going into a marina for the first time. You aren’t sure if you’ll have high or low docks. You aren’t sure if it will be crowded with less maneuvering room. You aren’t sure if you’ll have to do a tight turn or not. Rick takes it in stride, but for my part, I start to think of what could go wrong. The only way to alleviate it is to sing. I’ve found “Jingle Bell Rock” is the best for some reason. I sing quietly so the looky-loos don’t get the wrong idea.
So as we passed the entrance to the marina, we saw a long pier that was meant for the transients. There were permanent slips on our port side filled with beautiful, expensive sailboats and yachts. Our tie-up was on our starboard. We had to turn around so our electric and water hook-ups were astride the pier. There were two sailboats in the last two slots of the transient pier. Now, I’m going to stop right here and say if I were driving, we would have taken the first slot to stay as far away from the possibility of hitting the other boats as possible. The wind was whipping which makes parking the beast a little more unpredictable. Rick had other ideas. He wanted to be as sheltered as possible, so he wanted the spot right before those sailboats.
As mentioned in previous posts, turning in tight spaces can lead to a great deal of anxiety in the calmest of weather. We were looking at high, unpredictable winds here. I was standing at the rail with a forward line in my hand singing, “Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock…jingle bell rhyme and jingle bell time…dancing and prancing in jingle bell square, in the frosty air!” (You just sang it with me, didn’t you?) I have to look to be ready to jump off and/or tie up, but I can’t look too hard or I freak out because I have bad spatial reasoning. I foolishly stopped singing; I started talking to myself. “Why is he going so far in? When is he going to turn? He’s gonna hit that sailboat if doesn’t turn soon.” Thankfully, he started his turn. We were, what seemed like inches, from the other boat. I glanced at the dock. It was pretty low. Great. I’m gonna have to jump. I gathered my soaking wet line and started to throw a leg over the rail. And then…Nautical Dreamer slipped, just like butter, right into place. I threw the line over a piling that was right in front of my face and tightened it onto the clamp at my feet. Rick was out of the cabin with the back end looped on a piling by the time I looked up.
Wait. What? That’s right, folks. I have no horror story today. No sad tale of woe. Nothing to make you say, “Thank God that wasn’t me.” I got nothing for you except an excellent day on the water. Time to rest. All that singing really got to me.