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    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    We are still at Eastern Shore Marina in Fairhope.  After completing boat chores, we borrowed the courtesy car and we all went into the town of Fairhope which is an "artsy' tourist town.  We all enjoyed our visit there.  

    This is typical of the loaner vehicles.  Not snazzy, but get the job done.

    This is an example of Mancie's "Crab Sub" dinner that Bill enjoyed.

    This is just one small sample (thanks to our excellent photographer Bill Rogers) of Fairhope downtown.

    Friday, October 30, 2009
    9:00 Departed Eastern Shore Marina/Fairhope, AL
    1:30 Arrived Homeport Marina/Gulf Shores, AL
    Distance travelled:  34 miles
    Weather:  Low=77, high=88; winds 15-20 mph, very humid, clouds with sunny intervals

    The weather forecast was for rough seas in Mobile Bay and we were undecided about whether to leave or not; however, tomorrow's forecast was even worse.  So after discussion amongst the flotilla members we decided to try it and if we got out there and could not bear it then we would turn back.  Off we went.  We had waves of 3 to 4 feet and the occasional 5 footer thrown in.  At times, sea water sprayed up over the bow and onto the front window.  Ken went out on the bow to secure a burgee and one of the bigger waves hit just then and he experienced a salt water shower.  In spite of the roughness, all of the boats handled the seas well and the crew did not feel uncomfortable at any time.  In fact, we were quite proud of ourselves!  Once we entered the intracoastal 2-1/2 hours later we were in protected water and it was smooth sailing.  Tonight we had dinner at Lulu's restaurant which is adjacent to the marina.  Lula's restaurant is owned by Lucy Buffett who is Jimmy Buffett's sister.  We enjoyed the atmosphere but the food not as much.

    Shot by Bill Rogers of the bow of their boat in the waves.  Tellico Lady in the distance as minesweeper for crab pots.

    Here is the flotilla celebrating a boisterous Mobile Bay crossing at Jimmy Buffet's sister's restaurant "LuLu's"

    Here our intrepid trio of ladies celebrates their victory over the seas.  Turns out waves in the 3 to 5 foot range are not instant death after all!

Saturday, October 31, 2009
Homeport Marina/Gulf Shores, AL
Low=59, high=79

We decided we would stay at this marina for one more night.  The cold front moved through over night and into today bringing with cooler and windier weather; quite a change from yesterday's hot, humid day (shorts and T-shirt yesterday, jeans and jacket today).  We had a nice surprise today when Ray & Delila (Sundancer) drove over from Orange Beach Marina to visit us.  They have decided to spend the month of November at that marina and join us in south Florida later on.  Ben & Sharon (Last Dragon) left today for an anchorage about 10 miles farther on and we will meet up with them again in about 2 to 3 days.  Bill & Nancie (Watauga) also left today; they went to Pensacola as Nancie has a brother living in that area.  Ray & Delila had a courtesy car from their marina and took us to Lambert's in Foley, AL where we had lunch.  Lambert's is noted for their 'throwed rolls' and 'pass arounds'.  As soon as you sit at your table, a waitress or waiter serves rolls which they throw to you.  It is not unusual to see a waiter throw a roll across the room to another waiter who then throws it to a nearby customer.  After your meal arrives, waiters and waitresses stroll around the room with pans of fried okra, macaroni and tomatoes, fried potatoes with onions, and these are known as 'pass arounds'; they will serve all these items at no charge to you if you want them.  We waddled out of there and then visited the Bluewater Marine Supply Store.  Ken spent the remainder of the day replacing a bilge pump which he boat at Bluewater Marine while Brenda did banking and bill paying and then studied charts (with walks in between).  A pavillion behind Lulu's has been converted to a temporary haunted house for Hallowe'en so we have heard a lot of shrieking for the past 2 nights.  Tomorrow we will travel to Pensacola, FL where we will meet up with Bill and Nancie (Watauga).

Eclectic is about the best description of this restaurant.  It truly is an experience.

Yup, they actually throw their delicious hot rolls at you.  However they make the catches pretty easy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009
7:30   Depart Homeport Marina/Gulf Shores, AL M155
11:30 Arrive Palafox Pier/Pensacola, FL    M189
Distance travelled:  34 miles
Weather:  Low=49, high=74; windy but wall to wall blue skies

Today we entered the state of Florida.  It was windy most of the day and in the wider bodies of water there were a few white caps but we only had spray over the bow once and the choppy waters were quite acceptable.  The sun made the water sparkle!  Our depth sounders decided not to work today and tomorrow Ken will purchase a new one and arrange to have the boat hauled a nearby marina to have the new one installed.  Ken saw a dolphin when we first entered the ICW a few days ago but today there were several frolicking in the water beside us for part of our journey.  Unfortunately, their jumps were too quick for us to get a photo.  We met up with our flotilla friends Bill and Nancie (Watauga) at this marina and we all walked to The Fish House for dinner tonight.

Here we are beginning to see Pensacola's waterfront as we come in to the large bay.

Tellico Lady and Watauga in the Palafox Marina in Pensacola

Brenda found there are jellyfish in the water here at Palafox Marina.

Some very happy diners at the Fish House in Pensacola.

Monday, November 2, 2009
Palafox Pier, Pensacola, FL
Weather: Low=53, high=76; blue skies but somewhat breezy

Ken went to the local West Marine store and purchased a new depth sounder with transducer.  Since this transducer transmits through the hull, we did not have to have the boat hauled out of the water.  Ken worked all day installing the device; he had to run wire from the boat of the boat to the helm area, a difficult task as he had to drill through walls, etc. to keep the wire hidden.  Brenda washed all the boat windows and did other housekeeping tasks.  In the afternoon Brenda and Nancie took a 2-hour walk into old Pensacola and explored in the historic area.  We spent a quiet evening on the boat; after being a contortionist all day, Ken needed to just relax. The dockmasters, Ron and Drew, were 2 of the best we have encountered on this trip so far.  They gave information about the area and were willing to arrange a haul out at another marina if we needed it. It turns out the person who helped Ken at West Marine was also an excellent resource.  Ken needed an extension for the transducer cable and the man at West Marine went to a competitors location and bought it with his own personal credit card for Ken and then drove it to the marina as he knew we did not have transportation.  Ron came early this morning to our boat to make sure that our depth sounder was working and that all was well.  He helped both Tellico Lady and Watauga depart from the dock.  We highly recommend this marina!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
7:50  Depart Palafox Pier/Pensacola         GICW  Mile 183+6
2:00  Arrive Shalimar Marina/Fort Walton, FL   M225+2
Distance travelled:  50 miles
Weather:  Low=56,high=78: blue skies

Our new depth sounder worked like a charm!  We had another sunny day on the water and many dolphins playing around us as we travelled. As we left Pensacola we saw the Blue Angels doing some practising for their upcoming air show.  Most of our travel was in an area known as the 'narrows' which is the waterway between Santa Rosa Sound and Santa Rosa Island.  In this part of the ICW the channel is narrow and it is important to stay between the red and green markers.  The beaches along this area consist of white sand. There were very few boats on the water today - basically just our flotilla consisting of Watauga, Tellico Lady, and Last Dragon.  Tomorrow we will start early as we have to travel approximately 65 miles to Panama City where we plan to stay at least 2 nights.

After leaving Pensacola, we waited for Wautaga to take the lead today.  Here she is passing in the west channel leading from the Palafox Pier marina.

Getting a picture of a dolphin is hard despite the many that visit us daily.  They are fast, and my digital camera is slow to snap.  This is the best that I could do, but some of the moves they made are like ballet

Talk about your "white silver sands", this area sure has them.

Just a pretty shot of us leaving the area called "The Narrows" where one must pay attention to the convolutions of the channel lest you go aground.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
6:50 Depart Shalimar Yacht Basin/Ft. Walton, FL  M225+2
2:30 Arrive Panama City Marina/Panama City, FL M290
Distance travelled:  67 miles
Weather: Low=57, high=78; blue skies, light breeze

Today was one of our longer days.  The changes in topography also made it a very interesting day.  The first 2-3 hours were spent crossing Choctawhatchee Bay which is approximately 45 miles long and 3 to 5 miles long.  The winds were not strong so crossing this large body of water went smoothly.  We then entered the 25-mile unmarked and narrow portion of the ICW, often regarded as the 'Grand Canyon' because of the high sand banks. The sand dredged to make this portion of the waterway was piled on the shoreline and thus the high sand banks.  Brenda had her own private dophin show at one point in the canyon.  A dolphin swam along the side of the boat for quite some distance, then twisted and turned from side to side and through in the occasional jump. Of course Brenda was so enjoying the show she did not get many photos.  We then passed under the West Bay Bridge and made our way into West Bay and our marina at Panama City.  Tonight Ken & Brenda and Sharon & Ben (Last Dragon) walked to Ferrucci's for dinner.

Thursday, November 5, 2009
Panama City, FL
Weather: Low=52, high=79

It was a sunny and somewhat breezy day in Panama City.  After spending the morning doing laundry and other boat tasks, we walked about 1/2 mile to Bayou Joe's for lunch.  It was a unique experience - the eating area is on the dock at the back of the building.  The food was good and the atmosphere unique.  We overlooked at small bayou with small boats all around and birds hanging around to try to get some scraps.  Signs posted all around the restaurant warn against bird feeding.  We then walked around the town for about 1 hour before returning to the boat.  

Our boat looks pretty small compared to these first two at our dock in Panama City Marina.  This is a very nice marina and well worth the stop.

Later in the afternoon some friends, Bo and Carmen Johnson (their boat is "Old Grumpy") took our flotilla to their beach home on the Gulf of Mexico.  We met Bo and Carmen 2 years ago at the AGLCA rendezvous at Joe Wheeler and since then they have visited our home port by boat.  We sat on the deck overlooking the beach and gulf until after the sunset.  We saw people walking along the beach and witnessed the rescue of a pelican that had become entangled in fishing line.  The sunset was beautiful and we all watched carefully to see if the 'green flash' would occur just as the sun peeked below the horizon but it was not to be.  After a wonderful dinner and much good conversation and socializing, Carmen brought us back to our boats.  Tonight was truly a wonderful evening for all of us and we thank Bo and Carmen for their hospitality.

Bo and Carmen chatting with Nancy, Bill Sharon (hiding behind Bill) and Ben (the feet) on the patio of the lovely home that they own on Panama City Beach.  Wonderful hosts and truly good friends.

This is the great Pelican Rescue team.  Two Florida Wildlife officers and two local helpers.

Snacks, drinks, great conversation, and the gorgeous view into the Gulf of Mexico from Bo and Carmen's patio.  Does it get any better than this?

 Friday, November 6, 2009
6:50  Depart Panama City, FL    M290
1:15  Arrive Port St. Joe, FL   M328.5 + 5
Distance travelled:  43.5 miles
Weather:  Low=52, high=82: sunny but windy

After crossing East Bay we again entered a narrow but well marked section before finally entering Wetappo Creek.  Wetappo Creek is also narrow but with no markers - you just cruise down the center.  It starts out as low, swampy area with tall grass along the shore and then changes to a cypress swamp section with more trees along the banks.  After approximately 13 miles we turned to starboard into the Gulf Canal and entered into St. Joseph Bay and our marina, Port St. Joe.  It was windy when we arrived at the marina and we all had a struggle to get tied up - a good workout for sure!  We are now back in the eastern time zone.

This is part of "The Ditch" which is a man-made portion of the Gulf Intra-Coastal Waterway (GICW) on the way to
Port St. Joe.

Here is an arial image of our Port St. Joe marina.  

Saturday, November 7 to Monday, November 9, 2009
Weather:  Saturday:  Low=54, high=82; sunny with wind
                Sunday:    Low=59, high=83; sunny with gusts of wind
                Monday:   Low=67, high=72; rainy, windy, gusts to 27 mph (at 5:30 pm)

On Saturday we walked into the small but delightful downtown.  We came upon a farmer's market where we purchased some local vegetables and preserves.  That night we all took a taxi to participate in the annual Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola, FL.  It was busy with people everywhere throughout the town.  There was a carnival, booths with all types of crafts, and live bands; a real carnival atmosphere!  Of course, there were many booths featuring a variety of seafood.  While sitting on bales of hay, we enjoyed our seafood dinner.

Here is the sign on one of the MANY kiosks selling seafood.

Here is an example of one portion of the offerings at one of the food kiosks.  Check out the crabcakes.

Here is the intrepid flotilla members considering the purchase of a "bargain" boat.

Here is the interior of an interesting nautical curio shop that we visited.

On Sunday we walked around the town and then gathered as a group in the afternoon just to discuss our strategy regarding hurricane/tropical storm Ida.  We have been assured by the marina staff that if we need to leave our boats they will be sure to let us know in which case we will go to a local hotel.

On Monday we all walked into town where we had lunch at a small cafe called "Provisions". Since we expect to be confined to our boats for perhaps 1-1/2 days we decided to take advantage of the weather while we could.  It only rained with a few gusts of winds on our walk there and back.  Ken has our boat securely tied and we will keep a watch during the night. Many people who have boats at this marina have come either yesterday or today to secure their boats and in some cases the owners are staying overnight to guard their boats.  The biggest  unknown for us is whether there will be a surge and if so how much.  This is a fixed dock marina, and there is even some thought that the wind might blow water out of Saint Joseph Bay.  The following arial view shows you that we are reasonably protected by the barrier islands surrounding Saint Joseph Bay.  As you can see, the predicted strong easterly winds might actually tend to push water out the mouth of the bay at the north-west point.  We will let you know if we go up or down!

Note how protected Saint Joseph Bay is by the Saint Joseph peninsula.

We plan to stay at this marina until hurricane Ida has clearly left the area.  Brenda is trying to take Karen Klute's advice and consider this part of the fun of the journey. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
At Port St. Joe, FL
Low=73, high=77; mostly cloudy all day, windy all day with gusts to 31 mph, occasional patch of blue sky, intermittent rain

Hurricane Ida which was downgraded to a tropical storm passed through last night.  The winds were strong with a driven rain.  We rocked for most of the night in our slip but Ken had the boat securely tied.  Brenda stayed up until 1 a.m. and Ken stayed up until 3 a.m. to monitor the incoming tide and rising waters.  If the water came up too high he would have to readjust the lines.  Since the fixed dock could be underwater from the surge, the lines had to be adjustable from on board the boat.  Anyway we made it through the night.  Today we have seen mostly cloudy skies with wind all day long and again tonight.  The waters are choppy to rough because of the winds so we will bounce around again tonight.  Today we even saw the occasional patch of blue sky but not for long.  The marina turned the power off in the early morning hours as one of the docks was very close to being under water.  We will stay here another couple of days until the winds subside and the seas settle down, then make one fairly long run to Carrabelle -- the jumping off point for the 22 hour "crossing" from Carrabelle to Clearwater FL.  We will go to the marina there called "The Moorings".

Here are the flags flying to indicate that IDA is on her way.

Out our window, there is not too much to be seen of our dock, and faintly in the distance you can see the top of the sea wall. Compare that to the aerial view of the marina several pictures up, and you will get an idea of the surge depth.  One of these is quite enough for this trip!

Wednesday, November 11 and Thursday, November 12, 2009
Port St. Joe, FL - both days
Weather:        Wed:  Low=64, high=68; cold, windy, cloudy
Thurs: Low=54, high=74; windy but sunny with blue skies

On Wednesday we attended to boat activities (change filters, laundry, etc.) and then walked the trail along the beach.  The flotilla gathered in the evening for pizza and to watch 'Chicago' on DVD.

Today (Thursday) Ken removed the extra ropes he had used to secure the boat during Ida.  The flotilla met to discuss our 'crossing' plans and plot our route.  The marina has taken down all the warning flags and the seas are starting to settle down somewhat.  The day has been sunny but remains windy.  Tomorrow we will travel to Carrabelle our departure point for 'the crossing'.  Chuck and Vickie Smith will drive to Carrabelle tomorrow to meet us and stay on our boat.  Chuck is going to do the 'crossing' on our boat and Vickie is going to drive her car to Clearwater to meet us at our destination. We will probably begin the crossing on either Saturday or Sunday depending upon the weather conditions and depending upon the advice we receive from Buddy.  Buddy is the local weather guru at Carrabelle; loopers seek his advice regarding suitable weather and day to cross.  We probably won't update our website again until Monday or Tuesday.

Friday, November 13, 2009
7:00  Depart Port St. Joe, FL
2:10  Arrive Carrabelle, FL
Distance travelled:  55.5 miles
Weather:  Low=52, high=78; sunny

We travelled through more narrow but well marked waterways as on previous days and a good day of travel.  Carrabelle is our departure port to begin 'the crossing'.  Because there is no intracoastal waterway in the panhandle of Florida most boats travel directly across the Gulf of Mexico for a distance of approximately 170 miles and approximately 50 miles offshore.  It is possible to travel to ports along the panhandle if you have a boat with a water draft of 3 feet or less and you are willing to take 3 to 4 days to get to either Tarpon Springs or Clearwater.  We all checked the various weather and wave sources and conferred with Buddy, the weather guru at Carrabelle, and agreed that all indications were that tomorrow would be a good day to travel and the seas should be calm.  Vickie and Chuck Smith arrived around 4 p.m. and will stay overnight on our boat.  Chuck is going to travel on our boat and Vickie will drive to Clearwater to pick him up.  Nancie's brother will arrive tonight to travel with them on Watauga, and Ben's brother and nephew will arrive tomorrow morning to travel with Last Dragon.  This completes the Panhandle section of our logbook and the next entry will be the crossing.

Lake Wimico is part of the "ditch" route on the way to Carrabelle.  Very pristine "old natural Florida", rather beautiful in its own way.

This ends this portion of the trip, and the next portion will be the dread "Crossing".