Pictured below is a synopsis of the weather conditions as I traveled from Mobile Bay to Apalachicola, Fl. That morning, I left Dog River Marina (Mobile, AL) at daybreak and headed for the Mobile Commercial Shipping Channel. Two huge tanker ships were in the channel and I motored in between them. My job was to stay patient while we all headed toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The waves were rough and due to my lack of experience, I thought it was OK. After a few minutes in the channel, I found out that we were in a Small Craft Advisory. And worse, “no ship-to-ship communication” was to occur except for emergencies on the 2 way radio set to Ch. 16. That caught my attention. Winds were 15-20 knots. Seas were 5-7 feet with occasional 9 footers. There were no other recreational boaters out there and I learned a lesson about checking the seas before departing.
Back to the Channel: I wanted to get out of it ASAP. To do so, I increased my speed to pass the ship in front of me on her port side. I literally felt like a gnat getting smacked around as I passed this vessel. The ship’s captain and crew probably never saw me. I stayed far right of it’s wake and ran as close to wide open as I could. Honestly, I couldn’t tell what was his wake and what was the rough choppy water as I passed him. It was all rough as hell. The pounding on the water made my Tritoon sound like a tin can hitting granite. It was humbling to feel the power of the water against my small boat. Anyway, I made it as far in front of that ship as I could and then crossed her path. I continued up the channel and found a smaller waterway that led to a barrier island.
After getting to land, I tied off at the first dock I could find. That was at Fort Morgan, just across from Dauphin Island. Once on land, I considered ending my journey. More of my luck was used up. While at the dock, I met a fisherman and told him about trip. He encouraged me to continue and said that I had made it through the hard part. If I would go back about a quarter mile and turn east, I could get into the smaller intra-coastal waterway heading to Fort Walton, FL.
He was correct and that’s what I did. My navigation chart took me down these intra-coastal waterways and into the center of some huge bays (Perdido Bay, Big Lagoon, and Pensacola Bay, Santa Rosa Bay, and Choctawhatchee Bay). These wide bodies of water were as rough as what I experienced in Mobile, Alabama but there were other vessels to contend with.
Then, in the late afternoon, the day completely changed. The water became as smooth as glass and I got to travel through some of the most beautiful waterways in the panhandle of Florida. It was like God thought I had suffered enough and now it was time to see the beauty in life. I watched birds flying over, families swimming along beautiful beaches, fishermen fishing and an ever changing incredible landscape. As the sun was setting, I made it to my destination of Apalachicola, Florida!
Interestingly, my pontoons would at times spear the waves and I would get doused with water over the helm. In hindsight, that was actually a thrill and part of a hero-ing, crazy experience.