Monday, November 21, 2016


       Saturday morning it is still cool when we awake at our anchorage across from Pensacola Naval Air Station. We have a warm breakfast, and go over to meet and discuss with "Somewhere In Time" our plans to get to the Naval Aviation Museum. A call to car rental agencies, and marinas tells us we need to get moving fast. The rental agencies are not open on Pensacola beach on Saturday, or they close at noon. Barbara and I rush back to SummerTime to try to get to the Santa Rosa Yacht and Boat Club in time for Enterprise to pick us up (11:30am). We get our dinghy aboard in record time. The two boaters that backed in during the night before help us get our stern anchor in. We are on our way by 10:15. We motor out into the GICWW, setting our cruising speed at about 90% power. Barbara makes a call to the Yacht Club to reserve a slip for us. She tries to confirm with Enterprise, and they tell her to call when we get to the marina/yacht club. If we are there before 11:30, they will pick us up. We arrived at Santa Rosa, the only marina answering their phone at 11:20. We get tied up, and call Enterprise. They send a young driver over to pick me up. While I am at Enterprise, "Somewhere In Time" and "John B" show up at Santa Rosa. When I get back, we finish tying up "SummerTime", and connect up the power cord.
       We have errands to run, which is why the rental car is so important to get. "Somewhere In Time" goes to Best Buy to get their laptop looked at. It has quit communicating. Best Buy gets it going in 12 minutes. From there we got to West Marine. I am looking for more charts, and some replacement bulbs for our 12V lights. One of the anchor light bulbs burnt out, along with two interior light bulbs. From there the three crews go to the grocery store. And after returning to our boats with groceries, and putting them away, we head out to eat. We eat at Flounder's Chowder House. The food is great as well as the service. They have Orange flavored Cheesecake as a desert offering. It is fabulous.
       On Sunday, Barbara and I, after our normal Sunday breakfast, head off to church. We attend the Gulf Breeze United Methodist Church. They have a good attendance in their second of three Sunday services. I notice an unusual person at the church. Just inside the door to the sanctuary is a uniformed policeman, fully armed. It is a bad statement for our country's values that a church needs an armed policeman for their Sunday morning services. After church, and lunch, we all get in the rental car again. We are headed to the National Museum of Naval Aviation. We get there a little later than planned, and do not have all the time we want to see all the museum has to offer. It is a very nice museum, with a lot of well restored aircraft, some one-of-a-kind. We leave there and go back to West Marine on the way back to our boats. I have to swap some LED bulbs that I picked up wrong. We eat at "Whataburger" near the marina on the way back. It is the first Whataburger meal I have had since probably 2008. They do make good burgers.
       On Monday morning we have an impromptu captains meeting to discuss what we will do on this Monday. Or more pointed, where we will go. We decide on Fort Walton Beach, a run of about 35 miles. Don and I run some errands in the rental car on the way to return it. That goes smooth. We leave the marina a little after the others, or about 12:30.

We land at the city pier at Fort Walton Beach about 4:15. It is a nice pier, and there are places for all three of us at the pier. Another looper, "Rascals Retreat" is already occupying one of the spaces.  We get tied up with the help of Rascal's crew, and then we help "Somewhere In Time" and "John B" tie up when they arrive. We cook on the boat in the evening.
        On Tuesday, we decide to stay at Ft. Walton Beach City Dock. One of the boats has a problem that needs to be corrected. We hike to West Marine, about 1.2 miles, in the morning. I look for a chart, but they do not have the one I need. Walking back, I get an ice cream cone at the Baskins Robbins for morning break. I work in the afternoon mounting the spotlight I bought in Pensacola. It is a simple mount, as it only needs power. All its movement is controlled by a wireless remote. I check it out in the evening, and it is much better than the hand held spotlight we have been carrying. And three other looper boats arrive in the afternoon. We move SummerTime as one of the boats is too wide for the slip available at the free municipal pier. We are in a slip over 18' wide, and the slip available is not quite 14'. We fit in the narrower slip easily. On Tuesday evening we go a couple of blocks into Ft. Walton from the boat and eat dinner at a local grill/bar. Barb and I get a pizza,and agree it is not one one of the best pizzas we have had.
       On Wednesday morning, we leave early for Panama City. We have around 65 miles to travel, and want to get there before dark. It is a good test to see how we will do as a group traveling before we make the open Gulf crossing from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee. We pass more air bases along the waterway, and on the beaches. And we get into the dug canal section of the GICWW. It connects little bays together. In one of these bays, I get a real bit of excitement. A dolphin jumps at the starboard bow. He comes totally vertical out of the water, and high enough that we could drive SummerTime's bow under him if we had the acceleration. In one of the canal sections, we are caught by the two looper boats we left at the Fort Walton dock.

And two other boats catch us and pass us in this section just before we get to the bay at Panama City. We get to Panama City Marina a little after 4. We fuel up and it takes 55.7 gallons of diesel, which includes some generator running time for two nights and one morning, at the Fort Walton municipal dock. PC is a very nice marina, and the staff gives us a  welcome package. I find one of the charts (Big Bend corner of Florida's Gulf Coast) I have been wanting. In the evening we go to Bayou Joe's for dinner. It is a less than stellar looking building out in the bayou. The food is way greater than the place looks. I get a dessert called "Drunk and Ugly". It is excellent. It tastes like a peach cobbler on taste steroids (if there is such a thing). Panama City has a nice downtown. There is live music we can hear playing at several places on the walk back to the boat.
        We get off sort of early on Thursday morning. We make good time with the wind behind us across the sound at Pensacola. There is a shipyard building and modifying ships about 5 miles up the bay from the town.

It is surprising, as it is not on a deep part of the bay, though the channels to it are deep enough for a ship. It is good to see some industry going in our country. We travel a little way through a ditch today. Mostly it is bays and rivers. We are headed to a free dock on the GICWW just north of the Port of St. Joe. It was an Army Corp of Engineers Facility which has been taken over by Gulf County, and is a public boat ramp, dock, and recreation area. We get there a little before dark, slithtly after sunset. The three of us are on separate docks, but not crowded. There are lots of fisherman taking boats out as we arrive. We use the generator to cook on the boat. And there is no cell phone service. I assume it is because we are nearly under the high bridge that goes over the GICWW to Port St. Joe. The signal is blocked by the bridge I think.
        It is cool when we awake. The heat has come on automatically. And I hear noise on the dock we are tied to. I look out and see a guy walking off the dock with a nice size fish on his pole. I talk to him later to ask the type, and he tells me it is a striped bass hybrid that is stocked in this part of the waterway. Barbara, because of the cold, cooks oatmeal for breakfast. While I am programming the GPS for the day's run to Carrabelle, Chuck comes over. I find out that they have no cell phone service either. We go over to "John B" to see how Don is doing. He is changing out his outboard engine. The outboard on the motor mount is not wanting to run. Chuck and I help him complete the swap of outboards. It is 10:28 before we pull away from the dock. We have a long run today. The GPS says we will arrive about 5:30pm. It is a good thing we moved into EST time on Thursday, as that is only 9 minutes before sundown. We travel along a river that appears to run through swamps. There are a lot of fish camps along the route. And we see some eagles again. The river empties into the bay right at Appalachicola.

This little fishing village is known for its oysters. I think I can smell them being cooked as we pass through the village. I want to stop and get a plate of fried oysters for lunch. But we are still barely on track to get to Carrabelle before sunset. It is a long journey across Appalachicola Bay. We see an eagle up close as he is perched on one of the markers for the channel. He does not react to our presence other than turning his head to follow us traveling by.

And we see several pods of dolphins. Some move along with us. They appear to like to surf in our wake. More so if we pick up our speed from the 7mph we have been cruising at to the 10+mph we are capable of cruising at. We pass by an island, St Georges, and on it is a lighthouse. It is the first lighthouse we have seen since the Great Lakes.

 At 12 miles away from Carrabelle, I radio the other two boats to tell them I am going to speed up and try to get to the marina before 5pm to make sure that they do not close early. We cross the bay, and pass the inlet out to the gulf. There is a sailboat beached (washed up?) on the sand spit at one point of the inlet. We make the turn inland, and well before 5 we are at the river mouth. We get to the C-Quarters Marina just a few minutes before 5. They have a good staff who helps us dock. It is good as the tidal current is swift and makes pulling into a slip a challenge. Somewhere In Time arrives a few minutes after we tie-up. We help them get in position. Right at sunset, the sail boat "John B" arrives. We help him tie-up. And we all go to Fathoms for dinner, seafood of course. There is live music at this place.



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