Florida

December 21, 2016

After leaving Port St. Joe  we intended to take a slip at Apalachicola, but from the water the place was not inviting, plus we had rough water and stiff winds that make for laying alongside the docks a chore so we bypassed it and moved farther east on the panhandle to Carrabelle. Coming out into open water we encountered a channel dredge pushing a giant tube filled with the sand it plowed up to deposit elsewhere out of the channel. We were forced to hug tight to their process through a quarter mile of dredging in 2 feet of water. Harrowing.

Carrabelle is a beautiful harbor with numerous marinas lining its deeper east side. We watched a lighted boat parade and the marina fed us Low Country Boil, consisting of shrimp, sausage, red potatoes, and cob corn boiled together in seasoned water in a huge pot. Another sad town beaten by continuous hurricanes.  We spent two nights due to nasty weather in the open Gulf. The Gulf crossing is a serious matter to Loopers. Weather can quickly change so we all monitor sail flow, tide tables, winds and waves and when the sea looks favorable we take off. Sometimes it’s a night crossing.

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Carrabelle

We had planned to leave the panhandle and cruise across open water to Steinhatchee, but the water turned too rough and we pulled up short into Miller’s Gateway Marina at Suwannee River.

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From Suwannee River we drove our last leg to Marker 1 Marina in dense fog. It was a long anxious day! This marina is large and popular. We had reserved a slip 3 months prior to arrival, but it was not available so they put us on the outside wall where we are subject to rolling seas and fixed docks. Many mornings during extreme low tide we had to crawl out of the boat. Don had to lift Inky up and over. The dock was so high we could stand in Panacea and look under the dock to the boats inside the marina across from us. Marker 1 is in Dunedin, Florida, a lovely busy town with numerous shops displaying local artist’s creations. Very unusual. Great food everywhere. Lots of tourist attractions. Dolphins play around our boat.

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Marker 1 Marina
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Traveling South

12.1.16   Left Eastern Shores, Fairhope, Alabama on December 1st and headed into Florida waters. Spent 1 night at The Warf at Gulf Shores, then 2 days in Orange Beach, 2 days in Pensacola, then 2 days in Sandestin, 1 night in night in Panama City, 1 night in Port St. Joe, 2 nights in Carrabelle….Whew.

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Heading east out of Mobile Bay we entered the Intercoastal Waterway (ICW), a watercourse consisting of natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, and artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. This route can narrow into a sheltered, protected route that cuts inland through a constricted, shallow trough that is commonly called “the ditch” and goes through many miles of desolate sections without any sign of civilization on shore. Meeting or passing a barge in the ditch is tricky due to shallow water restrictions near shore. We rely on navigational aids which appear as green or red cans or Dayboards with red triangles or green squares mounted on submerged poles or pilings in deep water.

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Entering the ICW

12.1.16…The Warf in Gulf Shores was fantastic. Very modern. Lots of high-end shops and trendy restaurants. Few small boats here, most are million dollar yachts with full crews. Seeing dolphins regularly now.

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Marlin Circle at The Warf

12.2.16…Orange Beach Marina was beautiful. End of season allowed us to have the place to ourselves. Large marina with numerous sport fishing tower boats and each one immaculate.

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12.3.16…Palafox Marina at Pensacola was a great. We parked on the water’s edge and could see the Blue Angels overhead as well as numerous other aircraft doing maneuvers. Attended the Annual Christmas Pageant downtown just a few steps from our marina. Ate dinner at a Greek restaurant and hookah bar. Hilarious. Eat on one side and smoke on the other.

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Palafox pelican art

12.5.16…Baytown Marina at Sandestin, FL was very “salty” (fewer cruise ships, more shrimp boats). An older marina, but well-kept and beautifully maintained. There were a few giant yachts looking for entertainment in the nearby new mall with exclusive shops. The Marina village was charming with lots of cute shops and eateries. Christmas decorations festooned every inch of every street and shop.

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Very nice facility, but the docks were “fixed”, not floating, and that made it very difficult for Joan and Inky to climb in and out of the boat. Fixed docks do not move up and down with the tides so at high tide we might need to leap 2 feet up and over the boat rail, then jump over and down to get back in. Joan and Inky don’t jump too well anymore. It is not fun. No sooner had we arrived than a cold front moved in. We were under a severe storm watch all night with possible tornado. The winds harassed the boats while thunder rolled and lightening crashed. It was exhilarating, but rained so hard that Don continuously fought wind and driving rain to bail gallons of water from the dinghy throughout the night. Next day was cloudy, but still so windy we all had nausea.

12.7.16…50 miles to Panama City and St. Andrew’s Marina. Nice here with mostly fishing boats. Historic old town, fighting commercialization, are determined to keep their village small, and quaint.

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12.9.16….40 miles Port St. Joe. We entered another “ditch” and arrived on calm seas. Nice marina with good facilities. Fixed docks required Joan and Inky to climb out again. Harrumph. Cooler today. 58 midday will drop to 35 tonight. Locals say this is unusual, and according to them this entire year has seen weird weather in the south.

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12.10.16 Carrabelle, FL

Our final port before we make the crossing.  Stayed 2 nights waiting on a fair weather report before heading out to sea. We were treated to the annual Carrabelle Christmas Parade of decorated & lighted boats. It was delightful. Our marina also provided a “low country boil” consisting of shrimp, sausage, cob corn, and red potatoes cooked together in a huge pot with spices.

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Hanging Out

November 28

We are lying in Eastern Shores Marina, Mobile Bay, at Fairhope, Alabama. We have been here nearly 2 weeks and spent Thanksgiving Day with Don’s ex-wife and family; lovely home, lovely people, excellent food.

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Don with Marijo

We are experiencing tidal weather. Each morning I rise early and with Inky trot to the beach to see what treasures the waves have delivered. Today the shoreline was littered with dozens of pecans, and by sunset they had vanished to be replaced with shards of broken glass and polished stones. One sunrise I retrieved 20 golf balls, many with the insignia of the private club on which they were played. Here in the Bay we do not get the pretty shells seen on ocean shores, but every sunrise the sand reveals a new assortment of trophies. Golly it is fun. Many days are spent sitting on the beach gazing at the distant shore remembering the miles of river we traveled to get here.

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Dog River Marina across the Bay

Most boats moored in a marina are vacant; their owners visit occasionally, but every marina has permanent residents who live on their boats full time. Some commute to work. Most are retired. Most never drive their boats. Some decorate their dock with potted plants and hanging baskets while others never come outside. They pay a monthly fee based on boat length ( 1 or 2 dollars a foot). So, for about $400 they get power, toilets and showers, laundry facilities, use of a courtesy car, unlimited fresh water, and a private beach! I wonder if they resent having to share such comforts with us transients. One Local asked if we knew the difference between a Yankee and a Damned Yankee. Answer: the Yankee visits and then goes back home!

In the wee hours before sunrise owls begin their calls. We wonder what they might scare up for food. There are numerous oak trees that drop billions of acorns each day, but we see very few squirrels. Odd. Don ventures that Southerners eat them. We see marina cats, but by nightfall they are well hidden. Inky is quite agitated by one very old cat. Chuck is said to be 17 years of age and has spent his life here. Inky loves to run at him full force, but Chuck unimpressed stands his ground and Inky veers off at the last second before Chuck can deliver a slashing blow. Yesterday Chuck was fed up and charged Inky who slinked away like the true coward he is. The marina crew are quite entertained by this daily skirmish and cheer when Chuck gets the best of our fat Labrador.

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Chuck

Temperatures remain in the high 60’s. It is hard to imagine snow in Idaho, but I can see from computer down link of our Idaho news stations that it is truly winter. What comfort we take from access to the World Wide Web. We can “see” what is going on anywhere in the world. Some days, when I ache for home, I dial in my permanent address on Google Earth and look at my house. It gives me great pleasure to recall where I belong. We are on a grand adventure, but like Dorothy, “there’s no place like home”. Nights when sleep eludes me, I walk in my imagination through the rooms of my house or my grandparent’s house, recalling every detail on every wall.

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Sunsets over water on flat horizon are spectacular!!  The sun truly disappears from view and sinks below the surface of the earth. It is gone in an instant, but first it produces a fanfare of color; each evening more dramatic than the one preceding. The clouds above are colossal and quixotic revealing extravagant hues and shadow as they swirl and float across the darkening sky.

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