We set off on our first sail in the Gulf of Mexico! After a day trip to Pensacola through the GICW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway) with Kirk’s pops, we visit Destin via car to inquire about Destin pass. We were keen on stopping with the boat because it seemed like a fun town to explore, but the pass is notoriously shallow with shifting sands. After heavy deliberation over our final destination, we depart Pensacola on a 90-mile overnight sail.
Hope you enjoy!
Lauren & Kirk
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Our camera gear:
We are about to head out on our first Gulf crossing.
I have some sailors here on my boat that were requesting some local knowledge.
We’re balancing leaving at a high enough tide with getting in at a high enough tide. It’s quite windy still, huh?
Yeah it is.
[Lauren Voiceover] Last time on Sailing Soulianis, we took delivery of our solar panels, slapped two of them on the Dodger, then left Mobile, Alabama, in our wake.
It feels new. It feels slightly weird. It’s been so long.
We are ripping downwind, under Genoa alone, doing seven knots, pretty much sustained. Surfing at eight, with about 16 knots of wind right now. This is a fantastic way to start our new sailing adventures down here in the salt water.
[Lauren Voiceover] After sailing across Mobile Bay, we popped into the ICW.
We are pulling into Pirate’s Cove right now.
[Lauren Voiceover] I traded with Kirk’s dad for the day so they could have a father-son trip to Pensacola.
We’re just coastin’ downwind. Doin’ 4 1/2 knots in eight knots of wind. It’s beautiful, flat, calm, cruisin’ down the ICW. Havin’ a good time.
Here we are in Jimmy Buffet’s waterlands. Perdido Bay on the way to Pensacola.
What do you have to say for yourself, Pops?
I’m just soakin’ in the beautiful sunny day.
Do you remember: was it just past that big motorboat or just before?
[Kirk Voiceover] My dad and I met up with Lauren and my mom. The four of us navigated the boat through a tiny channel, into a slip next to Peg Leg Pete’s, where my parents had rented the Airbnb upstairs.
Time for a drink.
To the islands.
Right now, Kirk is tapping a couple of new screw holes in our boom, so that we can attach some blocks, so that we can more easily adjust our lazy jacks. Exciting stuff. There’s a beautiful sunset behind you.
[Kirk] That is quite beautiful. Cool.
[Kirk Voiceover] The next day, we left the boat snug in her slip and jumped in my parents’ rental car to check out Destin. We weren’t sure if we wanted to stop there with the boat because the inlet looked pretty tough to get into. We figured maybe we could seek out some local knowledge, and see the town if we decided to sail on by.
runner. Hey, how’s it goin’?
[Man On Radio] Good, good, you got a trip?
No, I don’t, but actually I have some sailors here on my boat that were requesting some local knowledge and I have not ran a trip yet this year. They have a sailboat with a five-foot draft, and they’re coming in from Pensacola, and they’ll be coming in through the pass. Is there anything that they need to look out for? Or is it pretty straightforward?
[Man On Radio] It’s pretty straightforward. The sensibilities you’ll find.
Okay, great, all right. Well good to know, thank you.
[Lauren] What about…
[Man On Radio] Roger, roger.
[Lauren] Tide doesn’t matter?
I saw a little baby too, I actually…
[Man] Just follow your markers. Be careful comin’ out across the barge. I’ve heard…
[Lauren] So, what are you thinkin’?
We’ve been trying to figure out for the last couple days if we should stop in Destin or if we should continue on over to Panama City Beach, which would be a 90-mile trip, which would be an overnight, for our first sail on the Gulf. Versus stopping here, which would just be a long day. The problem we have is it’s a really shallow entrance to Destin Harbor, and it’s a really shallow exit through the little tiny channel we’re docked at right now, so we’re balancing leaving at a high enough tide with getting in at a high enough tide, and not getting in so late that it’s gonna be dark when we’re navigating this really tight channel to come in here and then anchoring in a marina, or a harbor, that we don’t really know, in the dark.
[Lauren Voiceover] In the end we figured, why risk it? Might as well do the longer sail into the safer pass. After spending three months stationary, the last thing we wanted was to find bottom, possibly cause damage, and end our sailing adventure when it was just getting started.
We’re about to head out on our first Gulf crossing.
Well, it’s not really a crossing.
[Kirk’s Dad] It’s a gorgeous day. The wind is startin’ to lull.
They’re saying 13 to 18 knots from the northwest. The waves are only, they said, three to five feet, but that’s 20 miles out. We’re not goin’ out quite that far, so I’m hopin’ we’re gonna have some pretty sweet calm water, fast sailing downwind. We just gotta get out of this tiny little hole that we’re in
[Lauren] We’re tucked away in a little channel inside Pensacola Bay, and we gotta head six or seven miles out to the pass–
[Kirk] To get to the Gulf.
[Lauren] Then we hang a U-turn.
[Lauren] And head back east towards Panama City.
Man, that’s shallow.
[Kirk’s Dad] Channel’s wide open.
I was a little too close on that side last time. Yeah, that was good. Lowest I saw was five-three, right here.
Adios, Pensacola Bay.
Where do we wanna go? Do we wanna go to Cancun, Cozumel, Havana?
[Lauren] We can go anywhere now.
[Kirk] Hey, guys. I think there’s two or three.
[Lauren] Oh, there’s another one.
[Lauren] What you got, love?
Some special treats. They’re quite good.
[Lauren] Pretzels and sea salt. Can I have one? What, you wanna split it?
Think we’re doin’ seven torque. Five. Eight.
[Lauren] SOG or through the water?
SOD; through the water is 6.7. Yowza.
Oh, that’s better. Now I’m toasty.
So it’s about 10 minutes before sunset. We just put in our second reef for the night, so that hopefully it would keep things a little bit slower and calmer, ’cause we’re still seeing 20-knot gusts. We don’t really wanna be going up on the foredeck in the pitch black dark because it is not quite a new moon, but it is… We’re, like, four or five days away, so we’re not gonna have much light out here tonight. It’s gonna be pretty dark. We’ve been cruisin’ along all day. Probably have an average speed of well over six knots, probably closer to seven. And our boat really only wants to do about 6 1/2 through the water, but we’ve been regularly seeing 7 1/2 and eight over ground, so either just with the following winds, which give us a little extra surface current, or something, we’ve picked up about an extra knot, knot and a half, this whole trip. We should be into Panama City Beach, like, 1:00 a.m. We were kinda thinkin’ we’d be there at, like, 6:00 a.m.
[Lauren] Means we can actually go to sleep.
Actually go to sleep. And we’re getting another 50 miles along the panhandle.
Highlight of the day was the dolphins dancing out the bow waves. Probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. That’s a sun behind you.
Ah, that’s gonna be a good sunset.
[Kirk] Yeah it is.
Wow, look at that. Pretty water colors.
[Kirk’s Dad] It’s quite windy still, huh?
Yeah it is. I’m glad you put that reef in.
Yeah, 17, 16, 17, jeez. Love, we need to get a smaller head sail.
[Kirk] Yeah we do. The helm feels a lot lighter now though, doesn’t it? It’s not weather-helming so bad.
[Kirk] Yeah, it’s ’cause we had so much headsail and so little mainsail up.
I think I, like, pulled a tendon.
[Kirk] Yeah, maybe.
This shoulder, like, cranking on the helm trying to–
[Kirk] It was pretty tough, I was cranking on it too.
[Lauren] Keep my course. First Gulf sail.
Yew! What’s happening, Lauren?
We got our man overboard device to work.
[Kirk] Well that’ll certainly wake us up. We’re about to embark on the longest open-water crossing we’ve done yet. That’s a big one right there.
Ah, are we even halfway yet?