We ducked into the Panama City Marina just as the sky was blackening. The wind had already picked up and we quickly tied up before it got unmanageable. The anticipated storm was supposed to bring high winds and torrential downpours. We noticed in our haste we had centered ourselves so that we took up two places on the dock. Our electric and water would reach and there were plenty of spaces, but still we felt we should move.
Normally, we would untie and walk it to where we wanted it to be. Rick would pull and I would take the back end pushing as needed to keep the boat from hitting the dock. With the wind blowing against us, we struggled to get the boat to go anywhere. We decided we’d leave it where it was until the next day with calmer weather. It was only then that we realized in our haste, we had forgotten to untie the middle line. No wonder it wouldn’t move! Well, good. At least we know it’s not because we’re weaklings.
Following, we had several beautiful days and spent the time sightseeing, enjoying every last bit of it. We rented a car and got some needed errands done, but that allowed us to use the car to visit the beach and enjoy the sunshine.
We planned to stay until the storm front passed and were second guessing ourselves, with the beautiful weather showing itself.
But soon we got what we’d expected with overcast days heavy with rain. The wind was high and reports were saying it would only get worse. The seas were fairly high and expected to become more violent. There was a tornado watch (although the skies didn’t look ripe for it and the temperature wasn’t right). We decided a movie might be a good distraction and called for a cab (we’d already given up the rental). The cab showed up much faster than anticipated and we raced around, grabbing necessities before flying out the door. As we reached the marina gate, Rick looked back and commented on the battering our bimini (a canvas type of awning over the fly bridge) was receiving from the winds. I hesitated for just a minute, about to suggest sending the cab away and securing it from the wind, but climbed into the cab instead.
Driving along the shoreline, we could see the waves increasing. We passed a sailboat at anchor that was rocking wildly and wondered if it would hold. Our cabbie regaled us with tales from her childhood of “things in the sea so big you’d never get ME in that water.”
We reached the theaters in record time. We were early so we had to stand in the wind for about 15 minutes, with no car to shelter us. As we were waiting for the movie to start in the virtually empty theater, Rick’s phone vibrated. There was a tornado warning in the area until noon (right when the movie would start). We left the theater to check the sky, himmed and hawed, and decided to stay put. (We learned later from our neighbors they spotted a twister about a mile the other side of the marina. They were sitting outside pushing against the dock with their feet to keep their sailboat from getting banged up. Glad I didn’t know that until later.)
Leaving the theater, we walked into sunny skies but still a brisk wind. Rick called for the cab; there was no answer. Terrific. Earlier, we had already tried and failed to find a bus schedule, so we decide to walk back. Thank goodness we had our all-weather coats to block against the wind. For five miles we battled the wind along with missing sidewalks and racing cars. I was freezing and dreaming of some hot cocoa. When we passed the anchored sailboat again, it was flopping around rail to rail.
The waves had gotten worse. By the next day, the sailboat had lost its mast and the following day it was gone completely, presumably being pulled out for repair.
Heading into the marina, we could see a section of our bimini flapping violently. No cocoa for me until we got that thing stowed. Approaching, we realized the first thing we needed to do was adjust the bumpers as the boat had shifted in all that wind. It was a struggle. Rick pushed with all his might against the boat to make room between it and the pilings. I untied the bumpers, readjusted them and attempted to shove them in place. The wind was so high at this point that it took both of us with all our strength to complete such a simple task.
Next, we went up to the fly bridge. We had to get the canvas off its metal framing, fold the framing, and secure it. Rick gathered up the loose section and asked me to hold tight to it and the section of frame where it belonged while he started unzipping. We hadn’t ever done anything with this bimini yet. It was just there keeping us shaded. So we weren’t sure what to expect. The wind was coming in bursts of higher and higher velocity. My fingers were numb from grasping so tightly. Starting at the back, he unzipped the first section. Chunks of dirt dropped down while other bits got caught up in the swirl of wind. The mud dobbers (I think that’s the name of these wasp like things) had done a good job of nesting in there. Disgusting but no time to think about it now.
Rick struggled more each time he unzipped a section. With the wind getting worse, he needed me to hold on to more than one section for fear if I didn’t, it would tear beyond repair. So I had a firm grip with my left hand on my original section; I had to reach across the width to hold onto the other section while he unzipped the final section at the very front of the frame. But it was stuck. He tugged and a section of the frame clattered to the ground. He started to explain, I grew impatient and snapped, “I won’t be able to hold it much longer. Hurry up!” which didn’t help the situation at all. He went downstairs to get pliers and tried again, breaking off the zip tab used to actually unzip. He cursed (always helpful). Using the pliers around the metal that holds the teeth together, he muscled the zipper open. We quickly pulled the bimini off its frame and shoved it down the hole into the aft deck. We folded the frame as best we could and clumsily tied it together.
Once we were inside, we checked the weather again and saw that there was another tornado watch. TV reception was spotty, so I went down to the office to find the weather radio. What I found was running water into and between the shelves. We pulled everything out (including our printer). Using beach towels, we dried everything and set up a system to catch the water. In checking the rest of the boat, we discovered water coming in under the doors and drips around several windows. We staid the flow of water there as well and waited out the storm.
But we had to figure out where the water was coming from. Rick had already caulked everywhere on the fly bridge. It became apparent over the next few days that we needed to remove the headliner in the aft deck to see how the water was traveling and where it was originating. It looked as if it was a new headliner and we weren’t sure we could save it, which was a pity.
After removing the edging, it was obvious there was no way to reattach the headliner once we removed it—it had been trimmed to closely. So we decided to go old timey and make the ceiling wood. I’m excited to see the outcome over the next week or so. We’ve decided to stay in Panama City to get the work completed. We shall see how THAT goes.
ADDED BONUS: I took a lot of pictures on our tour of Panama City and the beaches. Here are a few.
The city of Panama Beach:
The state park and beaches:
The Panama City Marina: