Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tarpon Springs

The first thing we did when we tied up in Tarpon Springs was to take Chloe for a potty walk and after that we tried to take a nap.  I think we had so much adrenaline still going we couldn't sleep.  So, I washed down the boat to get the salt off and poured myself a celebratory drink.  Later in the afternoon three other boats, that left Carrabelle the Wednesday before we left, arrived here at Turtle Cove and we all got together and celebrated making here.  The three boats that left on Wednesday did what is called the "Big Bend", which is going due East from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee, then South from Steinhatchee to Crystal River, and Crystal River to Tarpon Springs.  It's long day trips but pulling into a marina for the night.  You still have to watch the weather and be careful of the water depth pulling into these marinas.  Thought it was ironic we made it here before they did.  That night I took Chloe out for her final potty walk before going to bed and on the way back she tried to jump from the dock to the swim platform on the boat and didn't quite make it.  I pulled her back up and got a towel to dry her off.  By this time I was completely exhausted but knew I had to give her a bath to get the salt water off.  Finally got to bed and we all slept for about 12 hours.  Next day it was 75 degrees which called for shorts and sandals.  First time in a long time we've had warm weather since leaving Seabrook Texas.  Our new friends Barb and Ross joined us and we all walked into Tarpon Springs for lunch and sightseeing.  I may have mentioned the Tarpon Springs is the sponge capital of the world.  At least that's what the sign said.  We had a nice time walking around a seeing the many shops and sponge boats.  That night all us loopers got together for a pot luck bbq.  Everyone brought their own meat and some sort of side.  We stopped at the local fish market and got a couple of steaks of Amber jack.  Never had it before but turned out great.  Leaving tomorrow for Clearwater.

First nice day we wore shorts and sandals
Just hanging around

Sponges sponges everywhere!

Typical sponge boat

Dedicated to the divers
Steve and Meredith's boat.  They are almost done.
Ross and Barb,  They went across the Gulf with us in their trawler

Fellow loopers at Turtle Cove Marina having a BBQ pot luck

Bye Bye Carrabelle

Finally the time came when the weather and the experts said Sunday is the time to cross the Gulf of Mexico.  With our fingers crossed all seven boats waiting to go over were excited of the thoughts we would be 170 miles from here to the Western shores of Florida.  We had been in Carrabelle for twelve days now and have met many fellow loopers, some of them almost done with their loop.  We all met the night before and had a pot luck with chili, corn bread, salads, and adult beverages.  After going to bed I couldn't sleep with the thoughts of all the scenarios of the next day.  We met in the morning for coffee and it was still looking good and everything was a go. Four boats were going to leave at 10;00am and I decided to leave at 12:00pm.  The other two boats were at a different marina and one of them was a sail boat that left real early, because of speed, and the other boat was a trawler with a couple, Ross and Barb, from Michigan, we met when we were in Seabrook Texas who were going over with us.  At 12:00 we were on our way.  It was a beautiful day and we all had high expectations of calm seas.  We started out at about 7 knots and had about 2 foot waves but the swells were hitting us from the beam at about three to four feet giving us a rock and roll affect. To Jan and I we thought it was right up there with some of the other conditions we have encountered since leaving San Francisco which means it was uncomfortable.  For Chloe it was another "Chloe weather advisory", in which drugs were evolved, she also had to keep her paws crossed because she had to wait 23 hours. Speaking of 23 hours, it was a real challenge of endurance and continuous conversation to keep us awake.  Crossing the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs is the hardest part of the great loop and one of the things you need to do is to make sure you are at least 15 to 20 miles off the coast of your destination in day light because of the crab pots that are everywhere.  With our coarse heading and time of arrival to cross the crab pot area we were too early of an arrival and had to slow our speed to 6 knots and go further South before turning in so we would be able to see the crab pots.  As daylight broke we were greeted with, non other than FOG!  Really!  Thankfully we made it thru and tied up at Turtle Cove Marina at 11:30am Monday.  YEAH!!!!!!

 Bye Bye Carrabelle

Great staff at The Moorings Marina
Dog Island, an outer barrier island from Carrabelle
Sunset on the Gulf

Sunrise on the Gulf before the fog

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stuck in Carrabelle Again............

We have been here a week since last Tuesday and everything was looking good for leaving today to make the crossing.  When we got here there were five boats.  One couple had their boat trucked over and one couple hired a captain and went balls to the wall and made it over on a good day.  Another couple rented a car and went home about three days ago and haven't seen them since.  Which leaves us and two other boats since we got here until yesterday when five other boats arrived.  Two of the boats we met in Norfolk last May, when Jan and I flew in to attend our first rendezvous held by the Great Loop Cruisers Assoc, were among the boats that arrived.  It was great to see them again, since we all were from California.   So now we have a total of ten boats.  Everything was looking good for the crossing until we continued to check the weather and made several calls to the weather experts who told us not to go, which included experienced captains.  Some of the boats decided to leave tomorrow and go to Steinatchee which is a marina about 80 miles due East and wait there for a weather opportunity to go to Crystal River and then Tarpon Springs or beyond.  We decided to stay put and wait for the next weather window with two other boats.  Last Saturday the other two boaters who were Mike, Lois, John, Diane celebrated Chloe's third birthday.  She enjoyed ice cream, treats, playing, and being pampered.  John and Diane, are from Kentucky with a car, and volunteer to take us places when they go some where.  Oh, did I mention John plays golf?  Soooo, yesterday we went to the St, James Bay golf coarse and played eighteen.  We got our butt kicked.  Tough coarse, but always fun.  I only lost seven balls.  Not sure how long we'll be here but we will keep you updated.

Starting to feel like home..........NOT
Carrabelle Police station

Cool memorial for all the fallen from Carrabelle in the military
Lois, Mike, John, and Diane getting ready for Chloe's Bday
I love vanilla ice cream
This is the "club house" at the marina every one gathers for docktails or potluck

Next city up from Carrabelle

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Carrabelle, FL

Ever since we left Seabrook, TX are short term goal was to make it to Carrabelle.  This is the farthest East on the gulf you can go on the ICW and where loopers meet to wait for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs, a distance of 170 miles.  It is the only time on Americas Great Loop you are in open ocean water for a long period of time of about 21 hours, which means traveling over night.  If you have a fast boat you can make it all in one day.  Either way it's all about the weather.  Gulf waters are all about wind, moon phase, and tides.  There is no wave interval like in the Pacific Ocean.  Here it is like a washing machine and waves can get very steep.  We only had a 25 mile ride from Apalachicola going thru the St. George Sound and Apalachicola Bay, where the oysters are harvested.  It was only uncomfortable for Chloe so we had to give her a happy pill to make her feel better.  We arrived in Carrabelle yesterday at 12:30 and had to get fuel to save 50 cents a foot a day for slip fees.  We took on a total of 55 gallons.  After we arrived we found out that 5 boats are here waiting to cross.  Most have been here two weeks.  Some have tried to cross but had to turn back.  Since we've been here it doesn't look good until after this weekend.  Our slip is next to a fellow looper and we were invited to a pot luck dinner last night in the club house with the other loopers.  The marina staff and amenities are good but the docks are a little rustic.  There is a grocery store, ACE Hardware store and a boat supply store just across the street.  We walked over to the grocery store to buy dessert for everyone last night.  We were the newbies doing the loop, while others were half way or getting close to finishing.  Tonight we are getting together for dessert.  Someone seems to volunteer to bring the main dish and invite everyone to get together.  Super nice people.  When something happens I will update the blog, but in the mean time it looks like we'll be here a while.

Entering the Carrabelle River


The Moorings Marina at Carrabelle

That blue dot is where we are
Happy puppy

Apalachicola FL

After we left Panama City on Monday, the ride to Apalachicola was mainly either a large body of water or tree lined waterways.  We had a nice day with sunshine and traveled about 45nm.  Many loopers go to Port St. Joe because there is not many places to tie up in Apalachicola.  We stayed at the Water Street Hotel and Marina that has about 10 slips.  We had to back in when we got there because the finger pier wasn't that long and it was the only way we could get off the boat.  Naturally I had a heck of a time because the current and wind were going sideways to me as I tried to pull in a slip that wasn't much wider than we were.  After several attempts we finally made it and couldn't get plugged in fast enough to enjoy an adult beverage.  If you like oysters this is the place.  We also crossed over to the eastern time zone, so we lost an hour.  Soon after we arrived it started to rain and continued through out the night and early morning.  The only thing we did here was take pics of us arriving and leaving. 

Lots of trees were blown over laying in the channel

My GPS says I'm driving on land

Stay in the channel!

Looking into Apalachicola

Leaving Apalachicola heading to Carrabelle

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Panama City, FL

We left Sandestin at 7:45 am and what a beautiful day.  We had a great ride all the way to Panama City trying to make it before the 49er game was over.  Nautical miles traveled was 52.8.  We pulled into the fuel dock at 1:30 and took on 250 gallons.  We're good to go for another month.  After tying up and plugging in we got to watch the 4th quarter and victory.  The docks here are a little rough but the staff and location were worth it all.  As always we wish we could spend more time here but need to get to Carrabelle.  Tomorrow is expected to be rain and thunderstorms but the wind is not going to be that bad.  I'll let you know tomorrow after we get to Apalachicola, where ninety percent of Florida's oyster production is harvested.

Leaving Sandestin

This part of the ICW is called the Grand Canyon

Name that bridge?  Why it's the Choctawhatchee Bridge
Tied up against the wall on the left, fuel dock right behind 
9/11 memorial at the marina
Sunset looking from our boat to the entrance of the Gulf of Mexico

Go Niners!!!!!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sandestin, FL

Today was one of those days you're glad you updated all the electronics on the boat before you started this adventure.  We left Pensacola at 7:00am and the fog wasn't that bad but before long you couldn't see anything.  We went 52 nautical miles and saw the shore maybe for only 3 miles of the time.  The rest was relying on radar and the chartplotter.  We arrived at about 2:00pm and plan on staying here until Sunday because tomorrow there is a storm coming.  Baytowne at the Wharf is a resort that covers 12,000 acres and has four golf courses and plenty of restaurants, condos and shopping.  We walked over to what is called the village and explored the many restaurants.  Very cool place.  I was going to play golf tomorrow but with the storm coming in I don't think it's going to happen.  Tomorrow we'll be cleaning the boat while it rains and hopefully leave on Sunday for Panama City.

What it looked like the whole day
After getting here I was the happiest boater in the world.

Looking at the marina from the village
Loves to say hello

The walk over to the village
They have a blues place here!

The Village

Worlds largest fish lure