Across the Panhandle

I arrived in Destin late Tuesday night after a very scenic drive through central and northern Florida. Most people when they think of Florida immediately associate it with Miami, Disney World, or beaches, but actually a large portion of it is much different than just that. About seven hours straight of my drive was through a densely forested area that provided a beautiful sunset amidst the evening haze over the woods. 

The panhandle of Florida, where Destin is located, is at the very top of the Gulf of Mexico, smack dab between Panama City and Pensacola. My buddy moved down here last summer to work as a fisherman for the seasonal fishing months and returned again this year for a second go at it. Needless to say, it's an odd job someone from central Michigan, but nonetheless, here he is, the first mate of a fishing charter boat. 

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My friend worked early Tuesday morning so was out on the water hours before I considered getting up. Once I recovered from my lengthy drive the day before I headed down to the harbor to wait for my friend's boat to return from their morning charter. While I waited, I took a paddle board out into the harbor for a little while to get a lay of the land.

I'd had several conversations about what my friend's daily work entailed, so after a bit of paddling around, I figured I'd try and get a glimpse of at least a little bit of his job while I was there. I'd hoped to go out for a fishing trip while visiting as well, but with the price of a daily charter (a lot), and my cheap budget, I decided against it. 

Duties once back in port include cleaning the fish, cleaning the boat, cleaning the boat again, and getting all of the supplies and fishing equipment ready for tomorrow. I helped with the second and third on that list (doing it twice because my boat cleaning skills are clearly subpar and will need some work if I'm ever to work as a first mate). Once finishing up on the boat, we headed back in the harbor area and just walked around a bit and got lunch at an oyster bar on the water.  

Crab Island selfie

The next day was much of the same, waiting for Danny to finish up his work duties in the morning before heading out onto the harbor for some afternoon sun. We decided to rent a kayak for the afternoon and head out to Crab Island, a sandbar out in Choctawatchee Bay. The trip included paddling through some strong currents coming in from the Gulf and illuminated that I am not a very good kayaker when it comes to steering. We did, eventually, make it the 2 miles to the underwater island, and soaked up the sun for a while before heading back into port. 

All-in-all, Destin treated me well. A nice beach and fishing town, I think I'd have a hard time living here as it is much different than the rest of Florida. Destin has a more "deep south" feel to it that the rest of Florida (which feels more East Coast to me), and I think I'd have a hard time getting along with too many people who live down here where it seems there is still a strong sense of separation wanted from the rest of the country.