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by Pat Johnson - Pensacola, Florida - usa

Part One - Part Two - Part Three

Day 2 = 45 miles for "½ Fast"

Wednesday morning found everyone up early preparing for the day's adventure. The group gathered to discuss the weather and the options. The wind was going to be 10-15 mph out of the east which happened to be exactly where the second night's Round Island anchorage was. The fetch to the east was about 60 miles and the winds/seas had been coming from that direction for days making the seas "Lumpy(?)".  The smaller boats were going to have a tough time making the 20+ miles directly into the wind and still arrive before dark.  Travis and John Votaw in Pilgrim decided to head directly to Round Island and Robert Hardin was going to sail his Potter 15 directly there as well.  Duff in his Hobie Tandem Island decided it would be more prudent for him to recover at Biloxi and trailer to Point Park in Pascagoula where he would relaunch and sail out to Round Island ensuring he got there before dark. Murray White decided he was going to sail his 12ft Widgeon due south to East Ship Island and wait for the group to catch up on Thursday. 

I  decided to do more of an indirect "recon" route to Round Island by going out to West/East Ship & Horn Islands first.  I ended up scouting West Ship, East Ship and the western 1/3 of Horn islands before motoring north where I saw Travis & John on Pilgrim (using the Life360 app).  I chatted with them a minute and then proceeded on to Round first scouting the new sandy Spoil Island just to the north of it enroute.  Sometime during the day Robert Harden's phone stopped working and he decided to continue back to Point Park where he could assess his communications issue before proceeding further in the event.  While Robert was at the Point Park ramp where his vehicle was, he met fellow sailors Steve Spanogle, Harry Garcia and local resident Riley Smith who had planned to join us but couldn't.  Harry Garcia Launched his Macgregor 26 and made for Round Island.  Riley graciously offered Robert and Steve a place to stay at his home nearby so they could further prepare and launch Wednesday morning.  Steve had asked Robert to crew with him on his O'Day Mariner to alleviate the lack of communications Robert's phone had created so they spent the evening with Robert planning and repacking to sail together.  Harry Garcia,  in the meantime, sailed out past Round Island and on to the eastern tip of Horn before returning to anchor with us at Round Island.  Just before dusk Travis & Kathy Rayner, who had launched at Point Park in Pascagoula, slipped into the Anchorage in their Macgregor 26.

We had a great night at the island renewing friendships or getting to know each other.  This day's Captain's decision making with regard to individual versatility, routes & planning was to remain a common theme during the entire event and that reassured me that the group was going to be a good one.

Day 3 = 20 miles for "½ Fast"

Thursday morning was a busy time as everyone at the anchorage prepared to head south towards Horn Island, our 1st offshore "Barrier Island".  The wind had shifted and was blowing lightly from the northeast, but the waves were still coming from the southeast making the seas once again "Lumpy(?)" but at least it was going to start off as a downwind sail.  The winds were forecast to swing around through the day to become Southeast in the afternoon making their direction near perfect for our intended route.  Robert Hardin and Steve Spanogle were launching from Point Park just 4-5 miles to the north of us.  I decided to motor on out to the eastern tip of Horn Island and explore the coastline in great detail while the less fast sailboats made their way out.  I quickly covered the 5 miles between Round Island and the eastern end of Horn Island only to discover a lee shore with big enough waves washing the shoreline that it was not going to be a very hospitable landing.  Any north in the wind tends to have this effect on the islands, but I had hoped the light winds had not had enough time to change the wave patterns.  I motored along the southern shore about 100 yards off looking for any kind of nook or cranny where I might be able to duck in out of the small but crashing surf.  I passed the Government dock where the Ranger Station and cross-island trail were but no shelter was to be found there.  Finally, about 2/3 of the way towards the western tip, I neared the Chimney area and where the large Bayou emptied into the sound.  I could see the entrance to the Bayou had a shallow bar across the entrance, but it looked to be a foot or two deep.  There was a small spit of sand on each side of the entrance with calm, and what looked to be, deep water behind it.

While the small surf made the shoreline unattractive as a stopping point, it was not fierce enough to be scary.  I thought I would motor in close trimming the engine up as I went and if everything looked good I would simply tilt the engine all the way and slip over the side to walk the boat over the bar.  I could tell I would be able to walk her back out into deep enough water to get under way if I had to so there wasn't much danger.  As I slipped over the side it was indeed nearly 2ft deep and sandy.  I easily walked the boat over the bar and off to one side behind the low sandy spit of land.  It turned out to be a near perfect hidey hole Anchorage.  Because the Bayou lay directly over some small dunes behind me, it may have been a mosquito hell at night but when I arrived it was near perfect weather and no evidence of bugs.

After anchoring and making a video (posted on the Mississippi 110 Facebook page) I explored my little hidey hole with an eye towards its suitability for a group anchorage.  It was nearly high tide so I can't say for sure, but it seemed like it would offer at least a foot of depth even at low tide.  The boats would have to be waded over the bar, but there was plenty of anchorage space for 10-15 boats.  The bayou had two entrances, one directly in from the sound and another 100 yards to the east with a long spit of sand 100 yards long parallel to the beach forming a kind of river/stream.  I was between that spit of sand and the mainland in that stream.  The mainland had dunes about 10ft high separating the bayou from my anchorage. After ensuring my anchor was set well, I waded across the 50 ft of water that formed the entrance to the bayou to the other side of the sandy spit on the Chimney side.  The Chimney ruins are little more than concrete slabs right at the water's edge and can be seen easily from passing boats.  The ruins were only 150 yards from my anchorage and begged my attention.  I walked the shoreline to the Chimney and saw a single small sign saying "area closed due to hazardous asbestos in the sand." I walked up onto the concrete slabs and sat for a time watching the seas for my fellow boaters.  I saw Pilgrim off in the distance, but too far for them to see me.  Then I saw Duff in his Tandem Island and I tried to catch his attention because I know he could make the landing.  But alas he didn't see me on the shoreline. I began to feel like "Castaway", no one could see me even though I could see them!  Harry Garcia slipped by and I think he saw me, but he wasn't going to try to make a landing on what looked like a lee shore.  The wind had shifted more to the east and maybe even a little southeast by then.  I decided to wade my boat along the shoreline to a point 150 feet to the west of the Chimney's concrete slabs that looked to be a nice and sandy Anchorage with the appropriate depth.  It was only a couple hundred yards of wading and it was indeed good depth and sandy bottom all the way.  I waded anchors out fore and aft in about 3 ft of water and took my chair to shore for a shadetree vigil as I waited for the remaining sailors to pass.  There are small pine trees on sandy mogle-like mounds of sand near the Chimney and the one overlooking my Anchorage was about 20ft high with a pine needle blanket beneath.  After a while I decided to get my sheet and take a nap in the shade with the breeze to cool me.  I had found a new favorite place on the Barrier Islands.  I stayed for a couple more hours before loading up and leaving my little paradise.

As I motored along towards the end of Horn Island I passed what we had been referring to as the "hidey hole" on the east side of the northward angled tip or Horn Island.  The tip is actually kind of a "Y" shape with one part stretching a couple hundred yards to the west while the other stretches about the same distance to the north.  The inside of that "Y" shape is the standard Anchorage for Horn Island. However, there is a very small bayou on the east side or the northern part of that tip that provided an anchorage for us in 2015.  The "Hidey Hole" was still a possible anchorage, but not big enough this year for larger boats due to the change in shoaling at its entrance.  There was a single boat there anchored there as I passed. I slipped around the tip and into the anchorage where I was greeted by Travis & John Votaw, Duff Basset, Harry Garcia and Travis & Kathy Rayner.  I anchored and walked up to join the little group.  Travis had caught/cast netted a large Mullet and a Redfish somewhere along the way and was grilling it.  The others were setting up tents and generally enjoying the late afternoon.  We watched as Steve & Robert arrived soon afterward.  That evening a few of us gathered in Travis & Kathy's cockpit and shared a multitude of homebrewed beers & beverages before going our separate ways for the evening.

Now for the horror story of my trip. Other than me, only Murray White had any real trouble with insects during our outing although there was the typical talk about a few "noseeumms" and flies you would expect in the warmer months. Murray White had traveled to East Ship Island from Deer Island on Wednesday morning while the rest of us converged on Round Island.  Here is Murray's input about his only night on a Barrier Island during the trip.  His story, musings on the large, slow, hungry, swarming mosquitoes of the MS Barrier Islands.  As soon tent up, it filled with a swarm of mosquitoes even though entrance minimized.  Became frantic as they assailed me, so stripped off and hid under sheet.  Thousands of bites through sheet for an hour or so, serenaded by singing in my ears.  I put my hand over my head to prevent head bites, so my hand swelled up with all the bites.  Don’t think these man-eating females would have responded to repellent, even if I had any.  Tent zipper would not stay shut so reinforcements came.  During the farce of trying to sleep, pondered things like:- Pity the raccoons; Should I run for the water like the arctic caribou driven loco?  Do the mosquitoes get satiated and quit biting? (not tonight);  They gorged so much of my blood they could not stand up, let alone fly.  (Pat said he had a famous idea to dig himself a hole and cover with sand;)  My famous idea was to put on foul weather gear which did stop a lot of biting, but they still sang in my ears and went up my nose and sweat ran flood.

By now, I must have mozzy toxosis, dehydration due to running sweat and anemia due to blood loss. Unable to stand it anymore, I got up and went in the water to escape.  Then I trudged up and down the shoreline, hoping breeze would shake off a few of the mozzies, in my sweating, protective, foul weather gear, by the light of the silvery Pehr Jansson moon for hours until the eventual sunrise.  Daring to approach the formidable foe in the tent, I transported, piece by piece, gear to the boat and swatted off the mozzy assailants.  Folded up the tent one hand for the tent, one for the swatter and got folded tent full of mosquitoes to boat.  Figured the tent out of action until mosquitoes expire (How many days?) and needing a night’s sleep, I sailed back to Biloxi to camp in the truck cab, being fearful of unfolding the tent full of mozzies.  I confess, I was ill prepared for the brutal Barrier Island insects.  After a few days, the swellings reduced, but not the memory.  Only thing I did right was to bring a fly swatter. Tent is still folded." Murray camped on the mainland till Saturday of that week.

As Murray pointed out, I had a similar experience on the western tip of Horn Island Thursday night.  I had forgotten my insect repellent and figured I'd just cover up with the sheet and use a mosquito helmet thingee that resembles a mesh bag to slip over your head.  By the time I found out that the mosquitoes were much more numerous & vicious than previously experienced or expected, everyone else was probably asleep.  By the time I figured out they were penetrating the sheet and not going away it was near 11:00pm. By the time I had been driven to think of departing the boat, it was nearly midnight. I grabbed my sheet and got off the boat.  After carrying the sheet to shore I swam and was relieved by the moonlit water and wanted to stay in it but couldn't without slipping under due to the steepness of the shoreline.  My next survival tactic, I decided I would walk the moonlit shore like Murray had and travel to the southern shoreline where the onshore breeze might be driving the mosquitoes back into the vegetation.  I probably resembled a "Zombie" by that point as I staggered along all bloody and naked.  A half mile or so away, I was on the extreme western tip and the southern side of it.  It was pure sand with no vegetation so I lay the sheet down and attempted to sleep.  While it was better than the boat there were still hundreds of bloodsucking, buzzing parasites looking for a host.  As Murray White pointed out, in my panicked survival mode I thought of things like digging a hole and pulling sand over me, going back and getting my snorkel and using that under the sand or trying the water again.  At least on the southern shore the breeze was more apparent (unobstructed) and cool.  The moonlit night made it easy to see and it would have been a beautiful night had I been able to enjoy it.  About 5:30 or 6:00 when the dawn's early lights began to show themselves, I was able to get some reprieve.  Maybe I was simply out of blood at the skin's surface?  Or maybe the bite's swelling had covered the entire surface of my body and tightened the skin too much to be easily punctured?  In any case, I lay there like a beached whale pretending to sleep till it was late enough that I knew the others would be stirring.  I was naked so I folded the now polka-dotted (with blood) sheet into a kind of Sarong (read that as "so-wrong") and made my way back to my boat.  There were a couple others moving on the beach, but as I was the furthest anchored towards the tip I was able to keep the sheet above the water as I waded into the knee deep water and retrieved my bathing suit.  I put the boat between me and the others & slipped it on and swam/waded around washing off the bloody evidence.  I waded in the water, to say my good mornings and act as if I had slept well and just gone for a swim. I hoped I hadn't swollen up and appeared as though I was a giant puffer fish.  The water quelled the itch somewhat, but I'm still feeling it a few days later out of the water. Note to self (I may tattoo it on my body somewhere) bring a small tent in the boat even if you don't plan to use it.  Carry more than one bottle of repellent and remember to bring them with you.  Ask others to put their repellent on the back of their boats if you do forget, so you can access it without waking them. Wait till at least October to visit the islands hoping the cooler weather keeps the mosquito attacks to dusk & dawn. 

I had no bug issues at Deer or Round. Maybe they spray the mainland and include those islands when they do?  The one night on Horn was the only one that caused any problem, but it had left a never-to-be-forgotten memory that will help remind me to be better prepared in the future.  Had my experience on Horn taken place on Wednesday instead of Thursday & I had looked westward with binoculars I might have been able to see my fellow pin cushion (Murray White) 5 miles away on the eastern tip of East Ship Island as he staggered around in the moonlight.

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