C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, FL to Turtle Cove Marina, Tarpon Springs, FL — November 23, 2013

Well I got up early to walk Candy and read the Weather Musings and see if they were still good for the crossing today.  The Weather Musings were still good with the caution to be off the water early because the weather window was closing later today and there were no more weather windows in the foreseeable future, at least thru Thanksgiving.

We cast the lines off at 6:45, almost 1/2 hour before sunrise and started out the harbor from Carrabelle.  The wind was non-existent as you can see in the pictures.  The sunrise was beautiful over the Gulf as we set out east of Dog Island with the Tarpon Springs waypoint some 156 miles southeast.

The water was really nice and flat with no breeze for the first 70 miles and then it was a light breeze just enough to put a ripple on the water.  We did see dolphins about 4 different times but the best ones were the 1st group.  They were in the wake for a couple of minutes and the younger one actually was jumping out of the water.  We were actually to fast for the dolphin pictures we would like. The other groups we spotted off to the side of the boat anywhere from 100′ to 300′ and they never appeared in the wake or did any serious jumping.

We did see a lot of fishing boats scattered about. There were probably at least 2 to 3 dozen boats scattered over our course but once we got to about 40 miles to Tarpon Springs they all were gone. The fishing must be pretty good because the closest land to where they were was 40 to 50 miles to the east. It was Saturday morning so they probably had the day off.

The crab trap markers were fewer this year than last.  We were on essentially the same course as last year when we ran into them about 34 miles out.  This year we did not see the crab trap markers until 21.6 miles out of Tarpons Springs.  And the actual number of markers was less.  Of course we are much more experienced in what to look for and better at dodging them.

We arrived in Tarpon Springs at Turtle Cove Marina just a little under 8 hours from leaving the docks at Carrabelle.  The wind did come up for about the last 20 miles but it was only maybe 8 to 10 mph.  We never saw any waves over 1/2 foot.  What a great ride.

We arrived at Turtle Cove and our slip was between 2 other Loopers that had crossed with the overnight passage last night. We did get invited to a crossing the wake celebration at the Turtle Cove Marina Tiki Hut.  Crossing your wake is completing the Loop. Several of the overnight Loopers that finished the crossing in Clearwater or Dunedin were able to show up for the celebration.

We were able to see Pete and Carolyn from Humbug.  They were on the water for 26 hours yesterday and last night from the time they left Apalachicola to Dunedin.  Their friend Jim that was on board for the crossing was already in Tampa with his daughter and would be flying home to Colorado on Monday. They were tired and not in the mood to stay too long but it was good to see them.

The weather thru Thanksgiving will be very windy with a little rain so we may be here in all likelihood for Thanksgiving Day.

 

Scipio Creek Marina, Apalachacola, FL to C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, FL — November 22, 2013

Good report today on the weather musings, tomorrow should be a good day for a daylight crossing to Tarpon Springs.  Last year we waited 11 days for a weather window so this will make up for that.  We still need to read the latest musings tomorrow about 6:00 to verify that nothing has changed.  I also looked at NOAA and Windfinder and they appear to confirm the Weather Musings.

We left in a cloudy, dreary morning with some heavy looking clouds.  Once out in Apolachicola Bay things started to brighten up.  There was a lot of VHF radio chatter about crossing the golf today.  Boats needing an overnight crossing window will leave today sometime between 2:00 and 5:00.

the wind was up this morning with whitecaps on the bay so it was blowing at least 15 mph and maybe a little more.  It was nice that we turned into the wind after about 3 miles so there was no more rolling.

Some boats had already left for their crossing and there were reports that the waves were 3′ just south of Dog Island near Carrabelle. I m sure the waves probably were 5′ if you were further south in the Gulf.

We arrived in Carrabelle and needed to wait for some of the departing Loopers so we could get a slip right near the fuel dock.  Probably 5 boats left from C Quarters and there must have been another 4 or so that left from The Moorings Marina up the bay.  I hope they all have a good crossing and things are not too uncomfortable. It was quite a site to see all these boats leaving together going out the river to the Gulf.

We had a nice relaxing afternoon and renewed some of the acquaintances from last year.  The people are just as nice as I remembered and still as friendly.  We walk the 2 1/2 blocks to the IGA to do some re-provisioning. The weather turned out sunny and about mid 70’s.  The wind did die down some so I am hoping the waters on the Gulf are settling down for the boats out there now and for us tomorrow.

 

 

Panama City Marina, Panama City, FL to Scipio Creek Marina, Apalachacola, FL — November 21, 2013

The day started with about a 10 minute rain shower while we were on the dock.  Pete and Carolyn’s friend Marti needed to fly home and she was just getting off the boat when the rain came started.

We were at an Italian restaurant last night.  They are hard to find along the river system and it has been Chattanooga since the last good Italian.  It was a good time by the 6 of us present and the food was good.

Panama City Marina appears to be in the flight plan of a Air Force/Navy air base.  They come over fairly low and of course the jet engines are really loud.  While we were on the water today we had a chance to see the fighters making touch and goes about 5 miles east of Panama City.  We could not see the actual touch down but the drop behind the trees and then the acceleration up into the sky.  Some even looked like they might be practicing carrier landings with a tight turn right into the runway path.  Pretty neat to watch.  Look close at the photos to see the fighters.

We left about 9:00 with the skies starting to clear. and it did not take long before we had another sunny day.  the VHF today was busy with Loopers planning their crossings of the Gulf to Tarpon/Springs/Clearwater for tomorrow. The weather musings are that tomorrow will be the start of approximately 36 hour window to go with overnighters tomorrow and day lighters on Saturday. It has been stressed to be off the water by sunset Saturday because that is when the next weather front comes in and the crossing window will shut for at least 4 or 5 days.

No real traffic except for the 3 Looper boats we passed during the day.  We also passed 1 sailboat that was under power.  East Bay out of Panama City is pretty long, approximately 30 miles and it starts out fairly wide and gradually narrows down to a river that ultimately turns into an Army Corp ditch.  After the ICW ditch we entered Wimico Lake which is about 5 miles long by 1 mile wide an about 3′ to 4′ deep.  They have dredged a channel about 8′ deep straight thru the center of the lake.  This is the only are where we saw some wildlife today.  I think they were cormorants but Lenore did not agree but there were hundreds floating on the water and just trying to stay out of the boats way.

We did ass back into the Eastern Time Zone about 16 miles from Apalachicola.  We will now be on eastern standard time for the rest of the trip.  It took the Verizon Towers about 12 miles to finally recognize the Eastern Time Zone.

We arrived at the marina late in the day because of our later start and the loss of an hour.  Was not that bad and we were able to get tied up quickly and about an hour later two of the boats we had passed early in the day came in.  We had an impromptu docktails into the early evening.

We will go to Carrabelle tomorrow and if the Musings Report on Saturday is still good we will make the crossing.  Humbug wants to start on Friday about 4:00 and they are looking for 1 or 2 boats to travel with.  They will make the crossing to Dunedin at about 8 mph. Dunedin is between Tarpon Springs and Clearwater and is the site of the current sink hole in the news.

Fort Walton Beach City Docks, Fort Walton Beach, FL to Panama City Marina, Panama City, FL — November 19, 2013

Well the cold front went thru last night and it was in the mid 40’s this morning.  There were lots of clouds around this morning, but they cleared early and with the sun, the temps slowly moved to the low 60’s for the afternoon. The winds were pretty strong out of the north.

We left early because this was going to be a relatively long day if the tides were against us.  As it turned out they were not but the winds on Choctawhatchee Bay we problematic because the Bay just west of Fort Walton is about 4 miles wide and the Bay is about 30 miles long.  There were small craft warnings out for the morning.

Because of the rougher water we favored the north side of the bay to limit the fetch for the waves to build.  We had 2 bridges to pass under and needed to move back toward the center for these bridges. After the first bridge there was a boundary on the north side of the Bay that indicated the area was a prohibited area.  I looked at the notes on the chart and then at the shore and saw a lot of development on the shore.  We stayed between 1 and 1.25 miles off the north shore and then crossed out of the prohibited area for the 2nd bridge. Nobody was on the water so we did not see any kind of a patrol boat.

The 10 to 12 mile section of the ICW is really just a ditch dug by the Army Corp.  There have been some problems when they had torrential rains earlier this year.  One are of the bank wash out and the Army Corp has done some repairs but they still have more to do.  The one picture is of the Army Corp work boat taking soundings of the water depth in the area of the breach on the dike.

When we exited the ICW ditch to West Bay in the approach to Panama City there were some dolphins in the area.  The pictures are from Humbug.  The dolphins appear to like the wake from a Nordic Tug and not a Sea Ray.  Still great pictures and Lenore and I did see the Mom and Baby jumping in our wake, just no pics of it.

We did see some kind of a Military Vessel in Panama City Harbor.  Did not look like any Military Vessel I have seen before.  It had been moving pretty good and he slowed as he was nearing his dockage area.  There were also 2 black inflatables with 3 men in each with camouflage clothing on.  There must have been simulating a night activity because in the bright sun they were not too hard to spot.

This was the second day I a row of travelling that we started out with cloudy skies and ended up in the bright sunshine. It must be a good sign.

The Wharf Marina, Orange Beach, Alabama to Fort Walton Beach City Docks, Fort Walton Beach, FL — November 17, 2013

Not a good looking morning to travel.  It had rained overnight and it misted some as Candy and I diod the 6:00 walk around the marina.  The Wharf is a good place to walk with Candy. Even in the area where the stores are she has grass that they have put in as part of the landscaping.

Humbug had come in yesterday and they had Jim and Marty on board.  These are friends of Pete and Carolyn from Colorado.  They will help Pete with the overnight crossing from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs.  Carolyn would not be able to stay up to do  a “watch” for the crossing and Humbug does not have the speed to do a day crossing.

We departed at 7:30 this morning with really gray skies and some heavy clouds.  One of the islands we passed early had some tall condo buildings and the tops of the buildings were in the clouds.  For all the ominous signs we did not have any rain.  In fact as we
crossed into Florida the sun came out and for the rest of the day we pretty much left the clouds behind us.  The Midwest and Illinois in particular were being hard hit with heavy thunderstorms and tornados so for us it was really a nice day.

The Gulf of Mexico must have been pretty rough today.  As we passed the Pensacola  Inlet there were 4’ and 5’ rollers coming in thru the inlet that made the ride uncomfortable for about 15 minutes until we were behind Santa Rosa Island.  It was interesting to note that there were several fishing boats fishing inside the inlet and not  out in the Gulf.

We did have quite a few dolphins around the boat today and they seemed a little lethargic. They would swim in the wake for a little while but we did not have a lot of jumpers and then they would fall behind.  Humbug seemed to have better luck with the
dolphins and they got a lot of good pictures.

We thought about where to stay.  Last year we had stayed at the Shalimar Yacht
Basin and we thought the docks were a little run down.  We discussed the Fort Walton Beach Docks (free) and the Fort Walton Yacht Club.  I called the Yacht Club but they only had one slip.  We decided to stop and take a look at the Fort Walton Beach Docks and then decide if we would go on to Destin.  The docks had a free pump out machine so we both used it. We decide to stay because it was easy access to the Publix grocery store and a liquor store in town.

The docks for all practical purposes have no power. They do have one duplex outlet for  20 amp power so I ran my dock line over and put on my 20 amp to 30 amp adapter.  I also split the power at the boat so both sides of the panel were powered.  We turned off the HVAC units, the water heater and the microwave.  Things are fine with the refrigerators and TV being powered.

The docks are located at a city park and that works out really nice for Candy.  We are just hoping that tomorrow when we leave that the water is not to skinny under the
boats.  Low tide is at 8:00 and we are planning on leaving about 7:30 again tomorrow.

Fairhope Yacht Club, Fairhope, AL to The Wharf Marina, Orange Beach, Alabama — November 11, 2013

It was a great morning with light winds and cool temps that warmed with the sun.  I went to the office at the Yacht Club to pay the bill and talked to the manager about the forecast weather.  The winds tomorrow are supposed to be out of the north about 20 mph with gusts to 33 mph.  I was concerned about any surge in Fly Creek.  She called one of the members and I talked to him for a few minutes and decided we needed to move.

We originally planned on 4 days in Fairhope and then a 1 day stop at Lulu’s before spending some time at the Wharf in Orange Beach.  Lulu is Jimmy Buffet’s sister and we stopped there last year for lunch.  There is a marina right next door but not much else.  It is real touristy.  We decided to skip Lulu’s and go directly to Orange Beach.  I called and they were able to assign us to a slip in the main basin right in front of all the restaurants and shops.

We got underway about 10:00 and it was a great cruise on Mobile Bay.  The wind was light and then it pretty much died.  There was a lot of traffic on the ICW and a couple of boats we have seen along the way and talked to (Sun Drum and Sanctuary), were at Lulu’s for lunch.  They waved as we went by.

We are starting to get used to seeing the pelicans again.  They like to sit on the pilings looking for fish.  There is also an abundance of herons around.  They make a loud screeching sound when they take flight but graceful to watch.

We arrived at the Wharf in the early afternoon and the temps were in the mid 70’s.  After we were tied up Candy and I did a walk thru the complex to get a lay of the land.  Last year we stopped for 1 night and it was later in the day that we arrived.  We tallied 6 different restaurants, a cigar bar and a whole raft of boutiques style shops.  There is also a 12 screen theater complex and a ferris wheel. Not sure what the story is behind the ferris wheel.

I did get a call from a friend of ours in the Detroit area.  He was lamenting the weather and wanted to know where we were and what it was like outside.  He said there was a hint of snow in the air in the Detroit area.  We chatted for a few minutes and he was able to find Orange Beach on his road map atlas as we talked. We are going to feel some of the effects of the weather that is in the Midwest.  The wind coming in tomorrow and on Wednesday the high is supposed to be in the mid 50’s.  They also say that it will be 70 again on Friday.

We are waiting for Pete and Carolyn on Humbug.  They are having some work done on their boat and they went to New Orleans for a couple of days.  They should be back on the water Friday or Saturday so we will hang around the Wharf and enjoy the place a little.

Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL to Fairhope Yacht Club, Fairhope, AL — November 9, 2013

The day started with a pretty cool morning but warmed nicely with the sun out.  Wind was light from the Northeast so we would be headed partially into it as we went east to
Fairhope on the other side of Mobile Bay.

The most stressful part of the trip was undocking at the Dog River Marina.  We had been tied up at the lay along dock on the inside, bow in. There was no place to turn around and we needed to back out.  There were boats on both sides and a set of what they called hurricane piles down the middle.  We had a guy on his 56’ Sea Ray sit on the boat to fend us off if need be.  We were backing into an outgoing tide so I think that helped us maintain some control but we probably backed up 800’ before we had a chance to turn around.  Overall it went smoothly.

During the trip on the bay we saw the Active Captain Boat, Accapella, as they were getting ready to enter the channel to Dog River.  They are in a 56’ Defever Trawler.  We had seen them previously at Green Turtle Bay.  These are the couple who maintain the Active Captain site. It is a great site for a cruising boat.  All the information regarding marinas and anchorages is provided by the users. I do not think I go a day without looking something up on the site.

It was not a long trip today but we found out that Mobile Bay is probably 8 or 9 miles across and following the channels we went 12 miles. I saw some crab pots just out of the channel near Dog Rive but no other ones which is good.

As we were getting tied up at the Fairhope Yacht Club (FYC) another boater advised me to make sure there was power available on the dock before I got everything setup.  He was also a transient.  They only have room for about 4 transients.  FYC is a private
club and will only extend dockage to those with reciprocal privileges.  We have those thru the Great Lakes Cruising Club.

The FYC was heavily damaged during Katrina in 2005 and was rebuilt and re-dedicated in 2008.  One of the oak trees that died as a result of Katrina was carved by a sculpture and I took a picture of it.  They have a restaurant and a bar and it was busy last night with an awful lot of people rooting for Alabama in the Alabama-LSU football game.

FYC also had a wedding on the lawn yesterday late afternoon and then the reception was in the club. They had a live band and the groom (at least we think he was the groom) was dressed fairly casually as were a lot of the guests.  The band did not play the kind of music you would normally associate with a wedding. They played several Johnnie Cash songs and many other country songs. I guess we need to take into account we are not in the Midwest now.

The other boater that we talked to the dock is a Gold Looper.  They did the Loop 7 years ago and have been traveling on the boat ever since that time.  They have done most of the side trips and taken most of the rivers as far as they are navigable.  I had a few questions for him and he was happy to answer them. One of the questions was about navigating Mobile Bay outside the marked channel to get to the ICW. He gave me a photo copy of a chart with the course marked on it the he has used in the past. They are leaving tomorrow.

Bobby’s Fish Camp, Bladon, AL To Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL — November 6, 2013

Well we were ready this morning and actually off the dock at 6:00.  We had called the lock and the lockmaster did not seem very helpful.  He said he was clear at this time but it could change by the time we got there.  Fortunately it did not change and the lock doors opened as we approached the lock.

This is the Coffeeville Lock and it is important in that it is the last lock we will see until next spring. We are now in brackish water headed to Mobile Bay.  We will get into the delta area near Mobile at about 30 miles out of the Bay.

There were the usual fishermen out and we even had one person pulling their boat out of the water and it was before 8:00 in the morning. Tow traffic was light on the upper end of the river and got a little heavier when we got closer to Mobile.  We also were in an industrial area so they were loading and unloading barges.

The river scenery changed also as we moved south.  We went from the sand banks to the trees and bushes being right down to the water’s edge. Lots of greenery and no fall color at all.  There were areas along the shore that the fir trees were growing right down to the water and these were long stretches of bank.  The fir trees really stood out from all the deciduous trees in the area.

A couple of other rivers joined the Black Warrior River, the Alabama and the Tensas rivers. The river widens when the other rivers come in.  There were sections of the river
that were probably ½ to ¾ of a mile wide. The normal river was only a couple of hundred feet wide.

We passed several sailboat headed south.  We were real close to 2 of them as we approached the 14 mile railroad lift bridge. It made it easy because the bridge tender already was raising the bridge when we approached and he left the bridge open to get the 4 boats thru.  He must have had a big break in the train schedule.

The delta area has a lot of saw grass type areas with many cypress trees in the water.  No development in this area as it is mostly marsh. You can tell when you are getting close to Mobile because the barges are parked along the side.  Most of the traffic is in the last 3 miles of the Tenn-Tom. Mobile is ranked 8th in the amount of inbound tonnage into the US and 16th in outbound shipments for an overall ranking of 12th.  The numbers are pretty impressive if you were unaware.

There are also some Navy vessels along the east bank.  One of them is the USS Alabama and they have tours of the boat.  I know some of the Loopers are going on the tour.

Humbug is getting a little work done on the boat and the boat will be out of the water for about a week. We will stay at Dog River for a few days and then go across the bay to
Fairhope before going down to the ICW to Lulu’s and then the Wharf Marina.  Lulu is Jimmy Buffet’s sister and has a restaurant on the ICW.  We will wait at the Wharf for Humbug to catch up for the trip to Carrabelle.

Bashi Creek Anchorage, Campbell, AL To Bobby’s Fish Camp, Bladon, AL — November 5, 2013

We had a leisurely start today because we only had 26 miles to go to Bobby’s Fish Camp.  The temps last night were pretty much as predicted and it was not too cool in the boat this morning. The sky was overcast and it did not warm right away.

We got underway and there were several tows on the river.  We passed one going southbound and 2 more going northbound. One tow were passed that was upbound was really turning up the water and right behind the tow the water was churning 3’ in the
air.  He set up a pretty good wake also with wave probably 2’ and the roll in the water lasted for about 2 miles after we passed the tow.

The river was relatively quiet, other than the tows.  We arrive at Bobby’s at about noon.  We both wanted to get just a little fuel to make sure we had enough for the run to Mobile tomorrow.  We plan on an early start and being in Mobile by the end of the day, about 138 miles to Dog River.

We sat at the fuel dock waiting for Lora Jane, Bobby’s daughter.  Bobby died 3 years ago and she is running the place now.  We waited for about 2 hours.  We had called and she knew we were there but she had told me she needed a little time.  We each added a little fuel, Champ III took 50 gallons and Humbug took 60 gallons.

We were hoping that a couple of more boats would come in.  Tuesday is not a normal day for the restaurant to be open but if there are enough people they will cook for
them.  They did that last year when we were here.  It did not happen tonight.  No other boats showed up so we did not even ask them about the restaurant. We have plenty of leftovers on the boat and that is not the problem but we thought the restaurant would be nice to do.

It is strange with the time change from daylight savings to standard time. It is getting dark at 5:00 now and although the actual daylight time is not getting much shorter now the daylight ends an hour sooner.  We are going to try and get on the river tomorrow at 6:00.  We will see if that happens.

Kingfisher Bay Marina, Demopolis, Alabama to Bashi Creek Anchorage, Campbell, AL– November 4, 2013

I was out on deck this morning getting ready for a 7:30 departure.  It was about 6:50 and I noticed 2 boats leave.  I talked to Pete as we were going to travel with Humbug to Mobile.  I then called the lock and asked about the lock status.  He said they we getting
ready to take a group of pleasure boaters down.  I told him we were at Kingfisher Bay getting ready to depart and asked if he would hold the lock for us.

Well we went into high gear and were on the water in less than 10 minutes.  The lock was 3 miles away and we were part of a 4 boat flotilla headed to the lock.  It ended up with 8 boats in the lock and I was sure that a few of them were trying to get an early jump to get to Bobby’s Fish Camp for the night.

The lock master was very particular in his operation and what you did.  He assigned the floating bollards to the boats as they entered and made sure to warn everyone that no wake was allowed in the lock.  He asked every boat for it registration number or Coast Guard Number.  One boat tried to get a jump on the other boats when we were exiting the lock and he came on the radio and told the boater to wait to exit as there was no passing in the lock.  He then told each boat when to leave the lock.

The sun was out and the temperature warmed considerably to about 70.  We started he day at about 40 so the warmer temps were really nice, especially considering we were going to anchor out tonight.  The forecast were for temps to be about 10 degrees warmer tonight.

We had a variety of scenery today with a lot of sand banks but there were also some stone bluffs. Nothing like the Epes Bluffs we had seen a few days ago above Demopolis.  We did pass a trawler called Osprey that Pete and Carolyn has talked with before and they had gone thru the lock at 6:00 and had a bet on when we would pass them. The captain won.

We arrived at the anchorage Bashi Creek.  A lot is written on this anchorage, both good and bad.  The good is that it is easy to get into, the water is not too deep and it is pet friendly.  There is a boat ramp and it goes back off the river quite a ways.  The real problem is it is narrow and you need to use a stern anchor in addition to the bow anchor. Although it goes in quite a way, the trees hang over the channel and it is
really narrow.  There is a boat launch area and while we were anchoring one of the locals drove up and waved to us.

The launch area was pretty nice and Candy liked being able to walk around without a leash on.  I did put the leash on when it was dark but the other times, no leash.

We had a nice cocktail hour on Humbug and a dinner cooked by Pete and Carolyn.  While they were underway today Carolyn had baked a blueberry pie.

In the morning we had a tow stop on the river and they changed crews at the launch area with the help of a small tender from the tow.  We do not know how many days the crew stays on board but we know they change crews.