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by Pat Johnson - Pensacola, Florida - USA

Hopefully there will be others who will write and provide some personal perspectives on their individual experiences from the 2014 "Florida-120" event. The event this year had so many people scattered, delayed, forced to use anchorages that weren't planned for that there is no single detailed overview of the 2014 Florida 120. I have attempted to provide a loose description from my perspective of what happened to cause folks to be spread out so much.

The "Florida 120" occurs in the Pensacola Florida area each May. It is intended to be a low/no-administrative event where few if any rules are put forth and even those get neglected. The event is always held in the Pensacola area. The official dates are Mid May on the Thursday-Sunday after Mother's Day. The rules if you want to call them rules are simply a list of where folks will likely be anchoring each night and nothing more. Many folks start or finish the event by adding a day or two or more to their sail. Others join in late or drop out early depending on their personal preferences and time-lines. The proposed anchorages cause folks to sail back & forth past or near the official launch site allowing for folks to join in, drop out or resupply from the recovery vehicle. The nightly anchorages all allow for tent camping as well as sleeping aboard. The boats generally range from less than 10' and some are as long as 26'. There are every imaginable style of boats involved. Motors are used on some although sailing motor-less is encouraged. The first official meeting takes place at the end of the first official day which means anyone participating will have to, at the very least, be capable of launching and sailing the 25-30 miles to the 1st night's anchorage on their own. People launch from various launch sites although the official launch site results in the 120 mile route for which the event is named.

There is a Facebook Page for the event at:

and a Yahoo Group at:

A requested (encouraged but not required) sign up database is on the Yahoo group site and some useful info for potential participants but it is incumbent upon the participant to do the due diligence needed to be prepared for the event. In a nut shell, the Florida-120 event is simply an announcement of some folks who intend to go sailing in the Pensacola area during mid-May and where they will likely anchor if someone wants to join them. The vast majority of the participants come from other parts of the country as opposed to being local. Some have participated from as far away as Canada and Colorado and typically we have a Texas contingent as well as Tennessee & South Carolina and all points in between. I think there are fewer than 10 from less than 200 miles of the 50 who typically sign up. I am typically the only motorboat in the crowd. I tag along cause I'm local and like to watch all the real sailors do their thing. No one should expect help/assistance but it is generally provided along the way by other participants when needed. Lots of folks buddy up with one another and provide each other with some sense of planned security.

Sooooo, about the 2014 event that just concluded. Disclaimer -I delayed launching until Friday the second official day of the event due to the weather forecast Wednesday before the official start. The Wednesday before the official start was a near washout with rain most of the day and heavy rain in the afternoon/night. Wednesday is the day that is typically used to set up and rest up before the event. It was also the day some of the early arrivals would typically get together at an unofficial anchorage named "Big Sabine Point". Anyway, it turned out that Wednesday was unavailable for most participants as a prep or launch day. Several participating friends camped out at my man-cave in Downtown Pensacola while they waited for the rain to pass so they could launch without being wet from the get go.

Thursday 1st Day

Typically the event's winds are around 10 mph (give or take 5) from the South or Southeast and the temps are in the mid to low 80s in the daytime and around 70 at night with water temps warm enough to swim comfortably. This year the winds following the Wednesday rains were from the Northwest following the front and continued to be westerly on Friday as well. Those Northwest winds on Thursday were also much stronger than is typical. For most of the 1st day the winds were in the 20+ mph range and gusty. The temps were also nearly 10 degrees cooler than normal due to the cold front. This caused several of us to delay launching till Friday but the majority launched and did the down wind slog to Spector Island or as far as they were able to make it towards that anchorage. Shoreline Park, the official launch site, was protected by a hill and trees that made things look deceptively calm and likely caused some folks to launch who might otherwise have delayed. Pat Jackson who had started a couple days early and was anchored at Big Sabine was blown aground in his 23 ft Mirage keel boat during the Wednesday night rains & winds and had to stay there all day Thursday and finally got back into things when he swam a kedge-anchor out on life jackets and was able to kedge off the lee shore where he had been stuck. Some of the others tried to stop at Juana's (near the Navarre Bridge) for lunch. Juana's was on the lee shore and many of the boats could not get off the lee shore after landing and had to spend the night there. One of the larger boats drug anchor and was actually blown ashore and onto the dry and had to wait till the following day to be re-floated by some helpful fellow sailors.

The rest of the group made Spector Island (Official 1st anchorage) but found themselves in the minority due to the delayed launches and folks that dropped off at Navarre and other areas. By Thursday night the participants were scattered from Sand Island to Spector Island and all points in between (about 35 miles). After looking at the forecast a decision was made by those who had made it to Spector Island to shorten the course and make Juana's (at the Navarre Bridge) the 2nd night's stop with Sand Island being the final stop and skipping Grassy Point/Scull Island altogether. This would allow folks to regroup and to rest up a bit. The route change was spread by Facebook, the Yahoo group page word of mouth. This seemed to work for almost everyone although there were a few who didn't find out till the following day.

Friday 2nd Official Day

Friday was a relatively short sail for the folks at Spector Island and although the winds were out of the west most made it by there between noon and mid afternoon. I had launched from my neighborhood ramp in downtown Pensacola and cruised downwind to Juana's before noon. I stayed for an hour or two but decided to move back to the west rather than stay anchored on the lee shore at Juana's. The conditions at Juana's turned out to be reasonable for the group but I had already left and wouldn't know that till the next day. The winds were westerly with miles and miles of fetch allowing them to build into a chop that made progress uncomfortable at best. Charlie & Isy sailing Good JuJu were en route to Juana's and decided to return to the safety of Peg Leg Pete's slip where they had spent the previous 2 nights. They had a rough trip back and were drenched from the spray coming off the chop. I was tired of the pounding and ducked into the lee of Big Sabine Point where I spent a comfortable night with 4 other Florida 120 boats and 4 very large power cruisers.

by Stan Roberts. Rows very well. Fairly narrow hull but stable enough to stand up and sail the boat to give my bottom a rest. Scott Widmier


Saturday 3rd Official Day

The weather was more normal on Saturday with sunshine and 10 mph winds. Everyone was able to get back to the Shoreline, the official launch, and most went on to Sand Island near the Pensacola pass. Generally the Sand Island/Fort Mcree anchorage is a busy one because it is arguably one of the best anchorages on the Gulf or Mexico. Crowded anchorage. We generally don't stay there on Saturday nights and the Sunday night crowd is much smaller. But since we had shortened the route and skipped the Saturday night at Scull Island/Grassy Point, we were forced to squeeze into the crowded anchorage with about 100 or more other boats. There's plenty of room but trying to be able to stay together is tough with that many additional boats. After shoehorning everyone into a relatively concise group we had our first large group meeting witch was also the conclusion meeting for the event. Lots of stories were told from the perspectives of those who had so many different experiences and anchorages along the way.


Sunday 4th and Final Official Day

The weather was great although the winds were light. Some people started heading out right after sunrise in an effort to get back to the vehicles and recover their boats in time to begin the trip home. I waited around till nearly 9:00am and then towed a couple boats for a few miles of nearly no winds to give them a head start on the their way and then I too headed for home.

In summary, although the event was unusual and folks were spread out for most of the event, all seemed to agree that it was a successful event and a good time was had by everyone. I guess we were due for some weather related issues since all the previous events experienced relatively predictable conditions and other than a short periods of contrary winds, tides and rain had great sailing conditions.

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