Now in Panama City, FL


Winnie in her first saltwater anchorage.

In the last couple weeks, we raised our mast (by ourselves), had some much needed hospitality and showers from our friends in Bon Secour AL, pilfered a half sunken boat, sailed Winnie for the first time, and got in with the local vagrants.

Just 20 miles from Mobile, a cold day following our warmest yet, Kyle spotted an abandoned hand crane and barge pilings on the banks of the Black Warrior waterway. For the previous two weeks, we had searched for the perfect opportunity to raise our mast. We knew marinas could do it for us–roughly $300. But sailing is a sport of self-reliance and ingenuity, we wanted to save that money for later, more necessary expenses.

We had seen it done in boatyards before, sure, but still didn’t feel confident we could do it without breaking something. The crane, used in its previous lifetime to pack barges, could actually turn, despite the rusted drum and frayed wires. Calculating necessary risk here was tough. As we pulled Winnie alongside, minding the depth, Dylan climbed the pilings to the platform where the possible crane sat. Kyle noticed a frayed wire, and yelled up to Dylan.

How does the rusty cable look?

One of the strands is broken.

Out of how many?


Split decision, but with each of the strands capable of holding (likely) a few hundred pounds each, we went for it and slowly slowly hoisted the mast off the deck. Kassie and Kyle guided the base of the mast as Dylan cautiously cranked on the crane’s winch. As the mast reached 45 degrees, we realized that even though we tied the straps around the spreaders (3/4 of the way up the mast), the crane would still not be quite tall enough to stand it vertical.  We attached as many side stays as possible, and then used the halyards and the winch on the mast itself to raise it the rest of the way.  It worked out just as planned, but with a bit more energy and 6 hours of time. Once underway again, we felt relieved we could now operate as a sailboat, but bummed we wouldn’t make it to Mobile for Fat Tuesday.

Once in Mobile, the weather was a littler warmer to us, record lows for them, and we were ready to slow down our pace. We took a day to walk the town and finish a couple boat projects: wired the solar panel frame, attached the boom, unattached the boom, unwired the solar panels, cut down 6 inches off of our solar panel frame, re-attached the boom, and bent on the sails.  We called it good and were ready to sail the following morning.

We departed Mobile, unfurled the jib midway out of the ship canal, and headed south for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GICWW). As soon as we were properly sailing downwind at 7 knots, dolphins started playing in our bow wake, and pelicans were landing on Winnie and in our dinghy–everyone hitching a ride on the energy of the wind. In contrast to our steady motoring down the river system, we were now rolling and pitching naturally with the waves. Our diesel engine silent, we could now hear the creaking lines and Winnie’s hull pushing through the water.

We pulled in for our first saltwater anchorage, surrounded by white sand beaches near an abandoned military fort. We pressed on to Ft Walton, FL where we found a free public dock that we stayed at for 2 nights. In Ft Walton, we all stretched our legs on long walks. Dylan played guitar in the park, ran, did some yoga. Kyle and Kassie, out pilfering some wood scraps to build a new oar, came back to the park to find Dylan mid-LARP match, foam sword and shield in hand.

We finished the day fashioning our new oar out of a wooden dowel and a cut up fast food tray (the original went afloat somewhere around Mobile). We were interrupted multiple times throughout the day by local sailors who lived aboard their boats within stones throw of the dock. These salty vagabonds, who enjoyed talk and dream and live on boats reminded us we are living life at a slow steady pace of 6 knots an hour. In the evening, we stumbled across an open mic night at the The Green Door Lounge where Dylan brought out his tiny guitar to play some original renditions and Harry Belafonte. We stayed up late, and left a few hours later at first light.


Dylan entertaining a late night audience at an open mic night with his tiny guitar.

And here we are, in Panama City, anchored in a bayou just north of the city marina. Panama City still awaits its high season as we quickly slip by unnoticed. We grab fuel, showers, and a new furling line.

We spotted an abandoned sailboat, hard aground on its side, and heard that it had been there for about a year.  Dylan and Kyle decide to take the 15 minute dinghy ride over to the cove to check it out, tools in hand. They returned with a large winch, a few cam cleats, companionway hatch (to make into our helmsman seat), and random hardware.


Dylan and Kyle rummaging around an abandoned boat in Panama City, FL.

We now check the weather, and plan to depart on our gulf crossing tomorrow morning. It looks like good weather and strong wind, hopefully making the 280 mile voyage into Tampa Bay comfortable and easy. It will be Dylan and Kassie’s first time out of sight of land–an entrance exam into their salty seafaring lives.



  1. Captain Red Beard and Crew,
    May your sails be full and port’s be full of pints.
    Good Luck to all. 🙂
    Captain Rob. Owner of your previous boat and she is still Sailing strong



  2. Captain Red Beard and Crew,
    May your sails be full and port’s be full of pints.
    Good Luck to all. 🙂
    Captain Rob. Owner of your previous boat and she is still Sailing strong.



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