We decided to stay an extra day at Ft. McRee due to weather. A huge front rolled through about mid-morning with some heavy rain, thunderstorms, and wind with gusts to at least 40 MPH, maybe higher. The anchor held just fine and there were no problems but at one point I was concerned enough to fire the engines up in case we needed them to hold our position. Things finally settled down and we actually had a neighbor join us later in the evening. We spent the day catching up on everything (there is always something that needs to be done on a boat) and I got a couple of special projects done.
Well, we've now had our first mechanical issue of the trip. We have three banks of batteries on the boat - cranking batteries for the 2 engines and the generator, one "house bank" for all the 12 volt stuff like bilge pumps/some lights/electronics/etc., and a single separate battery for the windlass (raises and lowers the anchor, it's heavy). The cranking and windlass batteries are relatively new but the house bank (8 deep-cycle 6-volt golf cart batteries) are getting some age on them. While I'm on the electrical stuff topic for non-boaters that may be reading this (over 4000 hits thus far), boats have 110V alternating current power systems just like your house, and separate 12-volt systems. The AC 110 system is powered by shorepower hookups or a generator (ours is a 7.5 KW). We also have a 3000 watt inverter that converts the DC power from the house battery bank to AC power if you want certain things to have 110 power when you don't have shorepower and don't want to run your generator. A refrigerator is an excellent example. Obviously, there is limited power available in the house bank of batteries and eventually they have to be charged and in our case, a 140 amp charger is part of the inverter equipment. To run the charger you have to have shorepower or the generator running. Hope all that made sense. There's more to the story like alternators on the engines but that's generally it. The point is, you are constantly monitoring all of the above to ensure you always have the right kind of power where you need it and when you need it.
So back to the mechanical issue. I replaced 2 of the 8 house bank batteries before we left Galveston and was hoping the other 6 were OK. Our 2-day anchorage confirmed they were all starting to lose their "uuumph" and had to be replaced. We are visiting some friends in Panama City starting tomorrow and Rich and I had planned to swap them out ourselves but this morning I began to worry a bit that they might not even last that long (when batteries go, they go quickly). So about 1 o'clock I made a phone call to one of the service yards in Ft. Walton Beach. It's literally called "Boat Marina and Boat Yard" which sounds more to me like "what they do" but it is what it is. They do not do electrical work but gave me the name of a guy that does the battery work for them, I called him, told him what I needed and within 15 minutes he confirmed he could get the exact brand/size/etc. of batteries I needed, we agreed on a price and he agreed to meet me at the marina (we were only about an hour away). Sure enough he was waiting at the dock when we arrived and he and his helper had the old ones out and the new ones in in about an hour. Folks, it does not go any slicker or faster than that. So, let me put in a plug for Glen and Ken at Best Marine Services. Definitely a "how else can I help you" attitude. The marina had slips available also so we rented one, put clothes in the washer, and headed to town to sightsee.
I have decided that as we travel we should continually update a priority list of "I could live here" cities that will change as we visit new places. If you recall, Morgan City, LA was the first one of those cities we chose but it now holds the #2 spot behind Ft. Walton Beach, FL. First of all the water is beautiful here (clean and clear vs dirty and dark) as well as the sand (white sand vs brown mud). The arrival by water from the west is absolutely beautiful with live oak trees and antebellum homes in abundance. Take a look.
Across the waterway is Santa Rosa Island which runs from Pensacola to Destin and is mostly uninhabited except for short stretches of beach towns. The rest is owned and operated by the military. Rhonda decided today that the the sand on some of the higher sand dunes looks like ski slopes. This is not one of those with the high sand dunes but you get the idea. The beach and Gulf of Mexico is just on the other side.
They make a big deal here of a pirate called Billy Bowlegs with an annual festival every year for the past 58 years. They have a beautiful waterfront park (which they just featured on the evening news).
There are some neat shops in their downtown area. This one specializes in guess what? Yep, The Buccaneer Gift Shop specializes in a variety of Coke Collectibles with bottles from the 1940s, signs from the 1920s, and a cooler from the 1930s. There's an almost infinite supply of everything "Coke."
In 1976 they did a restoration of the Camp Walton Schoolhouse that was in operation from 1912 to 1936. It was closed for the evening but looking inside they had things like a pot-belly stove and old-timey desks with chalk boards on each one, very nicely done. I bet the kids were well-behaved back then too!
There was a camelia garden with each bush sponsored in memory of deceased friends and family members from the area.
Here's one of many Christmas trees around town. It's in the park mentioned previously and will be lit tomorrow evening after the town's Christmas boat parade that starts at "Boat Marina and Boat Yard" and ends at the park with much ado about the tree I'm sure.
And how about the marina with peacocks, guinea hens, fruit trees, dinosaurs, and concrete boats for an office.
We had dinner at the Crab Shack. It says on the sign that it is the "original waterfront crab shack" and everyone that recommended it made a point of that. So I asked the waiter what was the significance of that, and being the smart-aleck that he was (not really, he just jumped on an excellent opportunity), he said "it means it was the first one." I have to admit, I set myself up for an easy one with the question but my point was how did that relate to places like the Joe's Crab Shack chain? It didn't change his answer so we moved on to things like ordering food and eating.
Anyhow, back to the "I could live here" cities. We saw all of this in about an hour of walking a few city blocks, the town just had a good feeling about it, and there's a reason they call it "The Emerald Coast." I'm sure there's more. #1 on our list for now.
One more interesting story for today, or at least I think it's interesting. Between Pensacola and Ft. Walton Beach is a town called Navarre. Never heard of it before today and still don't know how to pronounce it. The story goes like this - a US colonel from WWI met a woman in France (Noel) that he fell in love with and wanted to bring her back to the states. However, immigration laws at the time would not allow him to bring her here as a fiance' or wife, but he could bring her here as his legal child so he adopted her and brought her back to the Florida panhandle. That's pretty creative. The soldier, Guy Wyman, bought a large amount of land, Noel named it Navarre after a province in Spain close to France, and they platted the town in 1925. However, they couldn't afford the taxes in years to follow and ultimately were forced to sell the land. Here is a small portion of it today. Taxes are probably a bit higher but the locals call it Florida's best kept secret.
So, it's been a long day but a good day, even with the battery diversion - most days are while traveling on the water. We started about 6AM and went nonstop til dinner. It's almost 10 PM now and I still haven't had my tylenol and hot shower for the day. I'm not sure if this trip is going to get me in better shape or kill me. When we finished dinner, Rhonda asked "Are you ready to go?" I said "I'm not sure I can" as I was pretty tired and sore just about all over. As we were walking across the parking lot heading back to the boat, she needed to check something so she said "Stop just a minute." My response was the same - "I'm not sure I can." But we'll give it another go tomorrow, about 70 miles to Rich and Mary Gano's home in Southport, north of Panama City. Gonna bypass Destin even though we know it's a beautiful place also. Just don't have time to see them all.