Monday, November 14, 2016


     Saturday morning we get up late. We were thinking everyone said it was a no travel day as there was a "small craft warning" for Mobile Bay this Saturday. Which is where we need to travel. We check, and have an early morning text from "Somewhere In Time", asking about leaving this morning. Barbara and I motor our now reliable  dinghy since new gas over to discuss plans with them. We call "The Wharf" at Orange Beach, AL to arrange docking with them for the night. We tell them we will be there about 5. After all it is only about 38mi. Barbara and I go back to fuel up, and secure everything for traveling. On the way back I notice that two other looper boats have already left Grand Mariner. We are all supposed to be underway by 11:30. The sailboat "John B", a sloop by definition, will be traveling also. We have a hard time getting SummerTime away from the dock. We are sitting where there is an angled direction change in the dock. The wind is pushing us against the dock, and there is a wide sailing catamaran immediately in front of us. It takes three attempts, and smacking the dinghy on the pier to get away with the help of 3 other persons on the dock. We get around to the fuel dock, and tell the others to go on as they motor by. We put in 150 gallons, including 3 gallons in the yellow storage can. Less the generator fuel used, it means we used 135 gallons to come the 350 miles from Columbus, MS. This is the lowest we have ever run the tank. We had 40 gallons left in the tank, or about 1 days worth. We get away from the fuel dock, and go under the Dog River highway bridge at 12:29pm. We head out the narrow, direction switching channel to the ship channel. Once in the ship channel, we program the GPS to get us to "The Wharf". It says we will make it by 4:30. Surprises me, as SummerTime is not as fast for a given rpm with the new bottom paint. I was expecting to get 2-3kt more speed out of the clean bottom. We cut across the bay using directions Chuck had received at "The Rendezvous". As we come to the point to intersect the Gulf Intercoastal WaterWay, GICW from now on, we see a sailboat to the west headed to the east. It turns out to be the "John B". We do not catch "Somewhere In Time", and they do not answer the radio until we are nearly there.
We get to "The Wharf" just after 4:30. It is an impressive place, with lots of modern floating docks, and two high rise condominiums on the harbor. And when we get off of the boat, there is a large shopping complex inside just as described in the Guide Books.

Barbara and I walk around the shopping complex in the evening after dinner aboard. I am looking for, what else, an ice cream parlor. They have a light and sound show going on in their "Main Street Boulevard". "The Sugar Shack" is closed (early), but "Southern Grind" is open late, and I get a coffee chocolate chip gelato. It is good, but having no cone takes away from it.
      We find out the nearest church is nearly 3mi away, so we will not make church this Sunday morning either. I decide to make good on the Doctor's request, and go out for an early morning jog and walk. Exercise is something I have not done since we left Port Clinton on 3August. I surprise myself by being able to jog a full mile without running out of wind. A decision is made in a morning meeting for a group of us loopers to dinghy back to "LuLu's" for a "Cheeseburger inParadise". Her brother is a famous singer with a song of that name. There are 9 of us in 3 dinghies that do the 3 mile one way trip.

It is worth the ride, and getting wet by the go-fast boats that wake us. I wonder if there is a "points system" for wetting people in small boats. The cheeseburger is great.
         On Monday, the 5 of us walked to West Marine, 1.5 miles by Google maps. We score a couple of charts for the waterway, and a replacement set of oars for our dinghy. Hitting the dock at Grand Mariner we apparently broke a blade on one of our oars. Barbara and I walked around the stores at "The Wharf" shopping complex on Monday afternoon.

It started raining on Monday night, the first rain we have seen since Columbus, MS near the end of October. And it rained all day Tuesday. I replaced the hose on the small bilge pump. The old hose was way oversized, had several adaptors and splices, and had developed a leak in its seam. Barbara did laundry in anticipation of leaving on Wednesday.
        Wednesday we left about noon, right after the rain stopped. We are only going 25 miles to Pensacola, FL. There is supposed to be a performance by the "Blue Angels" at the Pensacola Naval Air Station on Veterans Day, or Friday, 11Nov. We want to get there and get a good anchorage spot for that. It takes all of 3 hours to get there. It is cool. I wear jeans all the way there, and a wind breaker. The water gets clearer as we pass by the Perdido Bay inlet. We get to the little cove at Fort McRee across from Pensacola about 2:30. We motor in between the spoils island, and McRee Point.

The water is much deeper than the chart shows. By over 10'. I put a stern anchor for SummerTime out about 20' from the tide line. It is 5' deep there, but quickly drops to 12'. We arrive just in time to catch the end of the Blue Angels practice.
       Thursday is cool. It is 52F outside when I wake per the weather service over the phone. The boat is 62 inside, the coolest I have seen the inside on this trip. I crank the genset to charge the batteries, and to heat the boat. It is very windy, about 15-20mph from the ENE, and the wind is cold. I go for a dinghy ride with Chuck. We are scouting for places to watch the air show. Barbara and I go over to the Fort McRee historic site. Fort McRee was washed away years ago, but there are ruins there from military installations in the early 1900s, and World War II.

We get back to SummerTime as air show practice resumes. We are at a nice anchorage, and the number of boats has  tripled from six to over 18 at the end of the day. We have a heron land on our boat, and later on our dinghy to fish. And right at dusk, the channel is filled with a pod of dolphins that are feeding.

       Friday is a chilly morning when we awake and get up. More generator time  to charge batteries and to run the heat on the boat. It is 49F at 8a.m. I thought I was south and should be warm. We meet with our friends, and decide we are not leaving our anchorage after the 1pm performance of the Blue Angels. There is a fireworks, afterburner show that is going to happen from 4-6pm. We are going to hang on the hook for that show. Barbara and I go back to SummerTime for lunch after meeting with our friends. While we are there, a sailboat comes in next to us to anchor. He goes almost to shore, and drops his anchor straight down expecting it to hold him. And he is trying to get out a stern anchor, while his bow anchor has never been set. He is towing a plastic one man kayak, which he manages to pinch against SummerTime as his anchor is not keeping him in position. He has a friend show up behind him, and he also appears to be a rank amateur at anchoring. I launch the dinghy and help the first guy reposition his boat off of SummerTime and raft up to his friend. And then a third boat joins them. The two women crewing it are doing a much better job of getting their boat on anchor.

The 1pm show does not disappoint. First there are the conventional aerobatic prop planes. There are the singles, a dual team, and a team made up of four former warbirds, A-6 Texans. They are all deploying smoke and doing precise flying maneuvers. Barbara and I have gone up on the hills of the spoil island to watch. The Blue Angels do some of their runs right over our heads. It is hard trying to video them with the little Olympus point and shoot. It struggles with the auto focus function. Barbara uses the digital SLR and get some good shots in.


For the 4pm show, Chuck and I go back to the GICWW side of the island, and climb up on a dune to watch. Again the single prop planes start the show with smoke runs. There are two privately owned, former warbird jets performing. They do the afterburner displays, and provide bright lights in the dusk as they accelerate with the afterburner on. The Blue Angels disappoint, as their afterburner shows are on the ground. But they are bright there. The the dual aerobatic team flies. They have flares or some other pyrotechnic device on their wing tips. They are impressive with the wide trail of sparks that the two of them leave in the air. A little after 6 it all ends, and Chuck and I take the dinghy back to the mother ships. It is a cool ride as the temperature dropped quickly when the sun went down. Barbara and I are sitting on SummerTime, winding down, and I think I hear a diesel. And then I think I see lights out the starboard cabin window. I pop my head out the aft glass door, and there is a catamaran backed in and anchoring beside us. Remembering the events of earlier today, I bring attention to the guy I see that we are anchored stern to the hill, and will not swing on tide or wind change. He notes that he observed that, and that he has two stern anchors out. There is also a boat in next to him. I am inpressed that they both backed in to the space they are in after dark, and did a good job of anchoring. I go to bed later and sleep good. Barbara is worried about all the boats that have gone to anchoring close, and she will not sleep good this night. Where there were 18 boats on Thursday night, there are now over 50 boats. Way more than we saw in Crystal Lake when we anchored in the little bay off of the Detroit River in our first week of this adventure.

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