Apalachicola to Panama City

Ambler Isle
V and S
Mon 13 Jun 2011 12:03
Left the anchorage in Apalachicola and were out in the Gulf by 7am.  The seas were 2' on our beam, but not uncomfortable.  After we turned NW past the huge shoal area off Apalachicola the seas were behind us and got lighter.  Valt fished, but caught more fish we don't eat.  Even a new species called Frigate Mackerel.  We are not fond of mackerel, so we released them.  By 4pm we approached the inlet to Panama City.  A huge sea turtle surfaced for air and his head was the size of a football.  We'd gained an hour as it was now Central Daylight Time.  Boats of all descriptions roared thru the cut.  Pontoon boats, jet skis, cruisers, ski boats, even a huge shrimp boat, decked out with its rigging.  The tide was slack, and we eased our way in to our favorite anchorage at Shell Island, several miles southeast of Panama City.  Part of the park system here, it is uninhabited.  But on the weekends, many boats come to party.  We launched our dinghy and went ashore.  New signs were everywhere:  "Caution, Shallow Seagrass,"  "Critical Wildlife Area......"  We walked across the narrow island and soon reached the Gulf side.  What a pleasant surprise!  The water from the distance was very blue.  But up close it was cleaner and clearer than we'd ever seen it.  We waded in and jumped in the surf like children.  We could see our toes, we could see bottom.  A couple of crabs scurried away as we neared them.  Walking back the shore was littered with hundreds of shells.  Years past we saw few shells.  There were also restricted areas where sea turtles or seabirds laid their eggs.   We dinghied the cove and stopped at a Mainsail, Moondance, and chatted with fellow cruisers for a while.  From Lousiana, they'd just returned from Abaco and were heading home.  A couple of larger boats were anchored in close to shore already.  Saturday and Sunday the place would fill with boats of all sizes as a weekly party began.  We were anchored out of the way, but could watch the festivities.  Like pirates in search of treasure, we were always looking for firm, level walking surfaces.  So on Saturday we headed over to Panama City.   The old town is beautiful, nicely landscaped and in full bloom with flowers.  Few shops were empty, lots of antique stores, furniture shops, clothing stores.  Art galleries, theaters, dance and music shops abounded.  Even a school of fine arts.   We power walked the town on both sides, then ended up at a local grocery where we bought a few things.  Back at the Amber Isle, we donned swimsuits and drove back to the beach.  Our "out of the way" anchorage had filled with maybe 100 local boats, and most folks were standing in waist deep water.  Umbrellas, coolers, lounge chairs were everywhere.  Lots of big dogs romped in the sand.  Surprisingly, there were no dog fights.  We again walked to the Gulf side.  No one was there.  We waded into the warm, clear water and played our old game of surf jumping.  Tired from our day's walk and the water play, we went back to the anchored dinghy.  A local couple in a nearby boat showed us her collection of sand dollars she'd uncovered right under her boat.  After standing in the water to chat with them a while, we dinghied around the anchorage.  As evening approached, boats started heading home.  As quickly as they'd come, the anchorage was nearly empty.  Only a dozen or so hearty boats remained.  At sunset we heard the old familiar sound of a conch horn.  Several dogs joined the chorus.  Valt could not help himself.  He grabbed his well worn conch horn and returned the call.  Silence.  Could that big power boat be the source?  We raised the dinghy to its cradle uptop.  Then we removed the windshield sun cover.  Tomorrow would be an early start, hopefully at sunrise, 5:30am.  We were ready to move. 
Sadly, on June 17, 2011, this mailasail account, both the email address and the blog site will expire.  I will try to stay up to date until then.