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Free Range Human, Sailor, Writer, Artist, Videographer  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mullet Key Bayou Cruise The Long Story

After some viewers asked on why the movie is so long and the blog is so short it is time to make a short story long.  So here is the famous or not so Mullet Key Bayou Cruise- The Long Story for your edification.
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 Skyway Bridge framed the channel’s entrance as we closed on the shoreline.   

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.  

Sailing HideAway After the Storm
While Linda called out depths of six feet at HideAway’s bow her Capt. had to raise the rudder to get close enough to throw Steve a line.   We pulled and tugged Smooth Sailing quite awhile before admitting defeat.  No sooner than our tow line was stowed Steve announced he was free.  The he wasn't.  More tugging ensued with no noticeable effect. Apparently small boats make poor tow trucks. 

While we contemplated anchoring choices Smooth Sailing again began to float free.  Steve motored another hundred feet before his outboard motor prop suddenly became airborne and he proclaimed that he was “Surely aground now”.   More tugging and pulling followed and another white flag rose.  We all concluded the best form action is inaction and prepared to wait out the tide. Another moment passed and Smooth Sailing was free at last and a new procedure of pulling someone off a mid channel sand bar discovered.

That would be one explanation, but it could have been Myrtle

The timeless legend, fashioned moments ago, has it that a mullet grew to such enormous size that it could not escape the confines of Mullet Key Bayou.  Despite the various tales of over-served locals attempting to explain baffling malfunctions, trips over the board and the odd grounding, it should be pointed out that no one has actually seen The Mullet Myrtle.
A growing number of mariners know Myrtle is partial to the narrow channel leading from the bayou where she is inclined to sleep away the night at low tide.  After all who would be foolish enough to navigate the narrow channel at low tide in first place?  

Myrtle, the Great Mullet Spirit, likes nothing better than to play a game of catch and release with the unsuspecting sailor much like the local fishermen do with her brethren.  Need I say more?

Once free of Great Mullet Spirit shenanigans, the three amigos motor sailed under jib alone to the Gulf of Mexico, safely crossed the far offshore 5 foot shoal and set a course for home ending a fine, if far too short gunkhole cruise.  

Bunce's Pass- Sailing HideAway