Cruising the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway – Fort Walton Beach to Pensacola

Last weekend, we got a chance to make our 1st ‘distance’ overnight trip of the 2007 boating season in our Regal 2760 ‘Southern Comfort’. South winds made for calm water in the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway as we cruised west to Little Sabine Bay in Pensacola Beach. Our boating weekend would include camping out with friends Travis and John and their family members Friday night, followed by a beach-side church shrimp boil on Saturday.

Travis recently joined the Legendary Marine Legacy Boat Club to get access to their 28′ Chaparral express cruisers. We met him off Oriole Beach and cruised over to Little Sabine Bay where John’s boat is docked. Following some afternoon watersports fun, we cruised around the corner from Little Sabine Bay to the T-dock at Quiet Water beach to grab ice cream and enjoy the evening. Once everyone got their sugar fix, we caravaned east about 4 miles to anchor just north of the Portofino Condos.

This area is protected to the east by a low sandbar jutting north into Santa Rosa Sound and is well south of the ICW channel. Dawn found us in the company of a few fishermen out after speckled trout. Nothing beats a sunrise breakfast on the water and this morning didn’t disappoint.

Once everyone was up and about, we cruised back to Quiet Water Beach, this time anchoring stern to the beach to prep for the shrimp boil. Other church members brought in 3 more run-abouts to join the raft up while all the kids had fun rowing our aqua glide windsurfer around with a paddle. John and I took turns on the aqua glide. I managed to go downwind easy enough, but John used his previous experience to show off on upwind sailing.

After filling up on shrimp, it was time to get Southern Comfort back to Ft Walton. Travis had to get the Chaparral back to Destin so we cruised back in loose formation. The weather continued to hold and we had calm cruising and not a lot of traffic except around Spectre Island and Hurlburt Field.

All told, we covered 87 miles, 75 or so at cruising speeds of 31-33mph and the rest at idle. Total engine time was just over 5 hours with another 2 hours on the genset. Estimated fuel burn was 55 gallons for an average of 1.6mpg. This seemed a bit higher than our burn rate out to the Oriskany last year so we were likely running a bit over optimum RPM given the calm seas. The Chaparral managed better gas mileage (~2mpg) likely due to less weight, shallower deadrise, and the newer 225HP 4.3EFI engines.

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