by Scott Widmier - Kennesaw, Georgia - USA

The first Florida 120 went surprisingly smoothly with a bubble of good weather accompanying the fleet. The event primarily attracted small boat skppers seeking a long-distance cruising challenge in their small boats. These boats ranged from a 10’ sailing dingy and a sailing Grumman aluminum canoe to a SeaPearl and Norseboat. Ember’s Watch of Texas 200 fame and Oracle of the Everglades challenge fame were two of the more recognized boats in this class. We did have some larger boats join us for the trip ranging from Catalina 22 to a J28 all of which were welcome as some needed carrying capacity for the smaller boats and reassuring safety boats.

Justin Pipkorn
Grumman canoe trimaran

The goal of this trip was to cover as much ground as possible in four days without resorting to the use of outboard motors. I am very happy to say that everyone stuck with this goal leading to the unusual sight of some skippers rowing their boats in slack winds despite a motor hanging off the transom. The amount of tacks everyone did trying to get under the Perdido bridge against the tide was remarkable!

Precision 16

We started at Pirates Cove, classic laid back Florida, and fueled with world famous hamburgers, we set out across Perdido bay on Thursday morning. The winds were coming out of the east in our face on both Thursday and Friday mornings shifting to the Southeast in the afternoon giving us beautiful one-tack sailing across Big Lagoon (Thursday) and Santa Rosa Sound (Friday).

We crossed state lines
Little Gem

Boats and skipper had to be able to sail to windward and some learned a lot about their boats abilities on this trip. Some about needed changes to their boats to improve windward performance but most about how to get the most out of the windward performance their boats had. The windward sail along Pensacola bay was very enlightening in itself as many of the small boat skppers learned to hug the shoreline to stay out of the worst of the momentum stopping chop.

Arriving at Sand Island

Exiled to the cockpit

Our overnight stops were wonderful at Sand Island (Robertson Island), Navarre, and Sailboat Cove (or there about). A full day of sailing encouraged everyone to turn in at sundown most nights and anxiety about making the distance the next day had most people getting up at sunrise and the fleet off and sailing around 7am each morning. The exception were some of the larger boats that had to wait for tides to float off the beach.

Lunch Break at Surf Burger in Quietwater
Didn't push the boat out early enough

We didn’t make Spectre island and won’t set that as our destination on future Florida 120 trips. The distance has a little bit of influence on the decision but also we have been invited for a free drink and some smoked birds at Wanas Pagoda next time we are in the area. How can we resist?! Besides, this reduces the amount of provisions necessary to carry on the small boats for the future as we can re-supply at Navarre.

Camped out at Navarre

Sailing back east on Saturday down Santa Rosa sound was made easier by a persistent east wind. Unfortunately, this wind petered out when most folks were crossing Pensacola bay and Bob n Bake in powerboat wake was the result. Still, most resisted starting their outboard and stuck it out until they reached sailboat cove.

Smallest boat on trip, 10' dingy
Martha Jane

Sunday was supposed to be the easiest day but ended up being the toughest both physically and mentally. We were surrounded on all sides by ominous clouds spouting rain, thunder and lightening but our pocket of good weather held. Well, all but the wind which died as most reached Perdido bridge. The remaining 7 miles to pirates cove was covered by a combination of ghosting, paddling, and rowing. Most folks were able to stick around for lunch and the results of the poker run.

Mark Milan and family
Sunset at Navarre
Last night on the trip at Sailboat Cove

Please join us for the 2010 Florida 120 May 13th to 16th.


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