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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.