Keep those cards and letters coming!
After several unsuccessful attempts at aligning the moon and the stars, not to mention tropical storms, three boats all captained by crews who are old enough to know better set off one hot day in July for a cruise from our home port in Gulfport Florida through Pass-A-Grille Channel into the Gulf of Mexico heading south to Bunce’s Pass bound for Mullet Key Bayou.home of Ft Desoto.
|Ft Desoto - No Wake Zone Enforcement Squad|
Not an epic journey perhaps, nonetheless a Google Earth photo taken at the entrance to Bunce’s Pass featured a nicely found sailboat heeled over on the beach without the slightest trace of water to be found. Bunce’s Pass, you must understand is not maintained nor does it feature markers. Water depths vary from Heron Knees to
Davie’s Locker in scarce a beam width.
Of the three participants, Miandros, HideAway, and Smooth Sailing, only the shallowest draft boat, HideAway at 28 inches had an electric depth finder. Miandros used her handy lead line while Smooth Sailing took soundings several times with her always dependable keel. While all three depth finding methods are accurate some have less desirable outcomes than others.
|Sailing HideAway's Course Plot|
Sailing a course of 215m from Pass-A-Grille channel marker 7A HideAway tacked towards Bunce’s Pass north shore when the Ft Desoto Park water tower was 120m. Depths of 12 -15 feet abounded. The north tower of the
framed the channel’s entrance as we closed on the shoreline. Skyway Bridge
A radio broadcast from Miandros called us back to lead the rest of the fleet in. In the process the HideAways somehow employed a five year old way point that put us well south of the new channel in 4 feet of water. Not cause for great alarm but we ended up showing the rest of the fleet good places not to go rather than a good path to nirvana. Eventually the best navigational aides proved to be fishing boats anchored on the edge of the channel, larger power boats coming out and the bright green color of the water.
Once you are past the beach the channel is marked but be advised the depth of the water on the marker’s northern edge is more suited to fiddler crabs than sailboats. No mistakes are allowed. HideAway experienced a main sail malfunction that required a stop over at the Ft Desoto boat ramp and those wonderful floating docks while the rest of the fleet searched the southern reaches of the bayou for the best anchorage. The channel going into Mullet Key Bayou is well marked and at pretty high tide is 6-8 feet deep. Miandros, the largest of the three became the anchor boat with Smooth Sailing rafted to starboard and HideAway to port. The waters around the point are 8 feet at high tide in a large area. The crews rested during the hot afternoon. The coolest place on HideAway proved to be below decks in the wind-sock cooled breeze.
|Sunshine Skyway Bridge viewed from Mullet Key Bayou|
Story telling and snacking had hardly begun when Dan, the best weatherman around, announced that we had two minutes to leave the raft and maybe another five to drop the hook as far away as possible. Dan noticed that the big US flag flying at the park’s entrance had changed directions indicating to him a tempestuous wind was close at hand.
We barely had our anchor set when the severe storm covered the bayou with two and three foot breakers. (See the video “Small Boat Big Storm on the Sailing HideAway You Tube channel). The rigging howled, the rain pelted and HideAway did a rock and roll dance to make any hippie proud. Eventually the storm passed and the rain cooled air provided a treat for the adventurers. After building the second raft, story telling went on well into the night with much joy and laughter; a proper sailor’s party at a great gunkhole.
The morning brought with it a forecast grimmer than the previous day. Instead of waiting for the afternoon tide as planned, the crews decided to risk low tide to beat the coming storms. HideAway lead the way, but unaccustomed to following channel markers was forced to make an abrupt course change as her rudder smelled the bottom and a green marker appeared to starboard. Miandros steamed straight down the middle of the channel followed closely by Smooth Sailing. Moments later Steve declared his depth finder – the keel mounted one – had found the bottom.