Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay

With 64 miles to cover, today would be our longest run and day so far. Once out of the waterway you are in the open Mississippi Sound. The channels at that point zig and zag until you are north of Cat Island, then the trip is pretty much east. So until about 12:30 PM we motor sailed with the engine running at low RPMs to conserve fuel. At 12:30 the forecast winds of 10 to 15 from the SW kicked in and we were actually able to put up those big white pieces of cloth and, I think the term is, "sail" most of the rest of the day. It was really a good sail for the first time in a long, long time. About half way to our anchorage destination we had a visit from Homeland Security. I noticed a go fast boat coming up astern of us but did not think much of it. We were seeing lots of small boats out for the day. As it approached we noticed it was also slowing down and not trying to make a slow pass. Once we saw the decals on the side, we gave them a big wave and a friendly hello as they pulled along side and announced that they were Homeland Security. I mentioned that I figured that from the big sign on the side of the boat that said Homeland Security. They kind of got a kick out of that and asked where we were coming from, where we were heading and how many people on board. We told them, they wished us a safe trip and went on their way. It was all very informal and friendly and we wished them a good day also.

As we approached Horn Island and our anchorage stop for the night the winds began to build to 15 to 20 knots. We reached our turning mark at about the same time as 3 or 4 tugs and barges and the winds were now 20 sustained. The ICW channel makes a turn to the south and that turn is where we planned to continue to the anchorage spot for the night. Naturally the wind was from exactly the direction we needed to go to anchor. We fired up the engine, got the sails down and motored into the wind and substantial chop until we were just off the beach on the island. We dropped the hook in 20 feet of sand close to shore and in a bit calmer water. The wind was still blowing pretty hard but the anchor set right away in the sandy bottom. At least the wind generator would be cranking some amps most of the night. There is a current that runs parallel to the shoreline so we were sitting sideways to the wind. We hit a couple of milestones today, albeit small ones. We crossed the 500 mile mark which is about ¼ of the way on this leg of the trip. We are finally out of Louisiana and are past the half way point in crossing the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay.

Our SW 10 knot winds turned out to be SW17+ for the entire night making our anchorage a bit rolly. It was not terrible but more of a nuisance. In the morning we got the news that our ideal forecast of SW 10 to 15 for the day had been tweaked to SW 15 to 20 with small craft advisories and winds and seas building during the day. What a surprise, since we have so much faith in the forecasts. Sea Trek's ketch rig makes sailing with just the mizzen and headsail ideal in moderate to heavy winds. We had changed from our 120% genoa that we have used for years to the original working jib for the boat. We have always felt she was over powered with that larger headsail. It has proven to be a good decision so far and we are pleased with how much easier she is to handle. Additionally, the autopilot struggles much less in heavy conditions. The waters in the sound were like a washing machine as we left the anchorage, moved back on our course and crossed the Pascagoula Ship Channel. I hate this point of sail in sloppy seas since it is Sea Trek's worst point of sail, wind directly on the stern and seas coming from all directions. We tend to roll all over the place and there is nothing that can be done about it. Not much traffic in the ship channel, a couple of tugs with barges and a ship plus us and that was about it. Once across the ship channel the seas did settle down a bit and we sailed on our course a little more comfortably. But within a short period of time the machine kicked in to the next wash cycle. We only needed the engine to get the anchor up, set the sails, and get us on course. Then we shut it down and started sailing again. We just love saving that fuel, especially since we were not able to fuel up at our usual stop in Lafitte.

The winds continued to build early in the day to 22 sustained with higher gust and the seas just got sloppier. We sailed on without a problem until the channel turned and we had to head dead down wind. In those cases we did use the engine to keep us from yawing with each passing swell. Then the channel would head east again and we would shut the engine down. Once past the Dauphin Island Bridge we left the Mississippi Sound and entered Mobile Bay. The lower Bay is littered with oil platforms and we saw very few other vessels. Who else would be crazy enough to be out on a day like this? Our winds at the point were blowing in the 26 to 27 knot range, but hey, at least they got the direction right, yeah. We reach our final waypoint to enter the waterway again at Gulf shores at 2:15 PM and once inside the tree line the winds dropped right off.

Our first priority now was to find fuel and decide where we would anchor for the night. Within a short distance inside the waterway is Lulu's Restaurant and Homeport Marina and fuel dock. Since it is right on the waterway and has a long floating dock, we decided to stop for fuel since we know just getting to some of the other fuel docks in this area are challenging. They were mostly designed and located in spots that are a bit difficult to maneuver in and out of and they are mostly used by smaller boats. The attendant was on the dock as we approached to take our lines and help get us tied up. We received great service and everyone was very friendly. Fuel prices were $4.50 per gallon and although this is the highest we have paid so far it is cheaper here in Alabama. A bit further along we will be in Florida and the additional $.40 taxes will increase the price considerably. We made sure we took on as much as we could.

The winds were still blowing 25+ knots and finding an anchorage in this stretch of the waterway from the SW to W winds is not all that easy. We first tried a couple of spots but did not feel too comfortable. We finally headed back down the waterway a mile or two to a nice spot called Ingrams Bayou. It is very protected from anything but south winds and with a high tree lines makes for a comfortable spot. There were two other boats already anchored as we came in but still plenty of room for us. Once we dropped the anchor and did our usual procedure to set it we were relieved and ready for a long rest. We had already decided that no matter what, tomorrow was going to be a rest day. And the winds were expected to stay at about 25 out of the west for the day. This is another one of those great anchorages that we have not used before. This makes the about the 6th new anchorage we have used so far that differs from our trip west.

We covered 71 miles on this leg in 11 ½ hours counting our fuel stop and a couple of changes in anchoring locations. It was the longest day for us so far, but worth it since we have the Sound and Bay behind us. It appears we will be here for a couple of days since our next move will be a jump off shore from Pensacola to Port St. Joe Florida.

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