Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Here are a few images from my sailing trip on Element last weekend. I left Biloxi and first sailed to East Ship Island, where I anchored for the first night. The next day I sailed over to West Ship Island and went ashore to visit a friend who is one of the captains of the Ship Island Excursion boats. West Ship is the only island in the Gulf Islands National Seashore with regular excursion boat service, and as a consequence it is usually crowded with sunbathers and beachgoers this time of year. I didn't stay long before pulling up the anchor and sailing to Horn Island, where I spent the next two nights sleeping aboard at anchor. Horn Island is the centerpiece of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is a designated wilderness area, over 12 miles long and approximately 1 mile wide in most parts. It is superb wildlife habitat with forests, marshes, interior lagoons, dunes and beaches, and is home to such creatures as alligators, raccoons, otters, rabbits, ospreys and many species of wading birds. The photo below is from the north shore of the island, about half way between the east and west ends.

Horn Island offers miles of usually deserted white sand beaches and pine forests

Marshes like this are found throughout the interior of the island, making it difficult to hike across the island except in a few places.

Here's a shot of the "galley" on Element, a two-burner propane stove on deck. This worked great even in the 15-20 knot winds I experienced the first night anchored out, due to the windscreen formed by the stove's lid. Dishes were easily done in a bucket of seawater, followed by a fresh water rinse. Stainless steel cookware is the way to go.

Every night of the trip I had perfect sunsets like this. I anchored far enough out to avoid the mosquitoes that are thick at night on the beaches, so at night I burned a white L.E.D. anchor light just in case any powerboaters cruised through the area. This portable L.E.D. light was great. I burned it all night for three nights without having to replace the AA batteries. When I get to the point of outfitting Element II for cruising, all navigation and interior lighting will be L.E.D.

The water can be quite clear around the barrier islands, such a contrast to the murky waters off the mainland coast in Mississippi. This photo was taken just off the beach at East Ship Island. The next day while sailing across the same area of shallows on the way to Horn Island, I saw a large shark, approximately 10 feet long cross my path just ahead of my bows.

Element anchored off Horn Island.

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