Monthly Archives: November 2015

Finally Florida!

Monday (11/2) – Orange Beach, AL – The day started with excitement to be moving on, and a little anxiousness (Denise’s) about crossing Mobile Bay.  Before we could leave the dock Glenn from the Marina Boatyard came to check on the inline water valve and discovered it was still leaking. He knew we were trying to leave, so he put two guys on it who had to go get more parts before it could get fixed. However, a very thick fog had rolled in and no one was moving. You could barely see into the river and could not see the other side for a few hours.

Monday morning fog on Dog River

Monday morning fog on Dog River

Eventually, the fog lifted and the repairs were completed, so we pulled up to the fuel dock and filled our tank. Alabama has some of the cheapest fuel with our diesel price at $2.34 gal; regular car gasoline was around $1.90 gal. We said good-bye to Ricky (Dock master) and thanked him for all his assistance during the storms and our stay.

Ricky - Dockmaster at Dog River

Ricky – Dockmaster at Dog River

We left Dog River and entered Mobile Bay to traffic common to the area; passing a large cargo ship being escorted in by 3 tugs, a shrimping boat, and eventually other pleasure craft.

Shrimper on Mobile Bay

Shrimper on Mobile Bay

We cruised for a little more than an hour and half in mostly flat seas with some waves, but they were on our starboard side so it wasn’t uncomfortable.   Eventually we turned into the Gulf Intercostal Waterway (GICW) and headed east towards Orange Beach.

IO on Mobile Bay

IO on Mobile Bay

Along the way we passed some homes and condos and the waterway narrowed to a canal. Despite this there were a few tows (much smaller than those on the Tenn-Tom) and a few “hot spots” known to locals and few Loopers. Two of these include “LuLu’s” (waterside restaurant with an amusement park beside it), and “Tacky Jacks” (a waterside bar/restaurant).  There were also a few marinas that had good reviews on Active Captain,

LuLu's on GICW

LuLu’s on GICW

Tacky Jacks on GICW

Tacky Jacks on GICW

We eventually came to the marina at The Wharf at Orange Beach, and we were amazed at how big and nice this place was. It has beautiful docks and the people who run it are so friendly and helpful.  The marina sits aside two very large condominium towers, and there are shops, restaurants and bars on the opposite side of the condos.  There is also a movie theater, Ferris wheel and a family adventure park that includes miniature golf and zip lines.  From the moment we tied to the floating docks, we kept wondering why we couldn’t have gotten stuck here for a week instead of Dog River!

Fuel Dock at Wharf Marina

Welcome Looper Sign – Fuel Dock – Wharf Marina

Wharf Marina

Wharf Marina

We tied up and with the help of marina staff, settled the boat and checked in at the marina office. This place is first class all the way.  They have a big flat panel monitor that is linked to cameras pointing towards the GICW; this way they can see the boats coming into the marina and better direct them to their slip.

IO at the Wharf in Orange Beach

IO at the Wharf in Orange Beach

Although this place is not directly on the beach, it has a total beach theme and is full of fun. There is a bar/restaurant called Bimini Bobs that is located between the two condo towers.  It has an outside bar in the shape of a fishing boat that even has outrigger poles flying fish burgees.  It has a bunch of Adirondack beach chairs to sit in, and several games for playing like corn row and King of the Ring. In the summer time this place is packed and I am sure many folks enjoy the place. But it is the off season and very quiet; the only excitement was watching them put up the foundation for the Christmas tree.

Bimini Bob's

Bimini Bob’s

Bimini Bob's corn row

Bimini Bob’s corn row

King of the Ring Game

King of the Ring Game

Bimini Bob's

Bimini Bob’s

We spent the rest of the day working on cleaning the boat; Mark washed off the salt from the Mobile Bay crossing, while Denise tackled some interior areas.

Mark cleaning salt off boat

Mark cleaning salt off boat

When we were done we walked to the “Market” and picked up some pizza for dinner. It had been a long time since we had had some and it tasted really good.

Tuesday (11/3) – Orange Beach, AL – It was so quiet we hardly moved all night long and woke to a beautiful morning on the GICW.  Denise went for a run all around The Wharf area. It is a lot larger an area than we originally thought. In addition to the marina, condos, etc. there is an amphitheater where they have concerts, and they are building a Marriott Springhill Suites on the western part of the property.

Mini Golf - Beach style

Mini Golf – Beach style

Sharky's Adventure Park

Sharky’s Adventure Park

The Wharf Amphitheater

The Wharf Amphitheater

Pool & Beach Volleyball at The Wharf

Pool & Beach Volleyball at The Wharf

Several months ago knowing we would be in the Mobile, AL area, Denise made a commitment to speak at the Mobile chapter of APICS; a professional organization she is involved in. However, our timing for being in Mobile was expected to be slightly later, so now we had to return to Mobile for the evening event.  We rented a car from Enterprise in Foley AL and spent the afternoon getting picked up, and then returning back to the marina (long story not worth repeating).

We then drove to University of Mobile campus and Denise delivered the presentation to a small group; Mark found a Wintzell’s Oyster house and grabbed some dinner. It was 9:30 by the time we drove back from Mobile and got back to the marina, but we were happy to have made the trip and done so without incident.

Wednesday (11/4) – Orange Beach, AL – Today was a day to just hang out and complete some boat chores. There were several things we had been wanting to get done like change our fender covers back to the nice ones with our boat name on them (taken off for the 101 locks so they would not get destroyed).  While this might seem like a simple task, everything on a boat takes 5 times as long as you think it is going to.  Therefore, the whole morning flew by in a flash.

After lunch we used the rental car to go explore a little of the beachside of Orange Beach. It is filled with high rise condos and hotels, and looks like any other beach town USS. Nothing unique, and a bunch of shops and restaurants catering to the beach goer (i.e. surf shops, pizza joints and seafood places).

Water tower - beach side

Water tower – beach side

We then had to return to the rental car to Enterprise but not before making a quick stop at Home Depot for a hose connection. Oh how we have loved the big box stores on this trip, and how we cannot wait to not having to go there for a boat thing in the future.

One of the other happenings around The Wharf was the housing of SEC college girls’ soccer teams. For a tournament they were having in the area. We encountered teams from Vanderbilt, University of South Carolina and Auburn.  They were all very nice and we enjoyed talking with them. We were also amazed at how they managed to be staying in the condos that are “rental units”; sure beats the heck out of hotel rooms that other college sports have to stay in.

Also today, we learned our friends on “TiKa had made it safely home to Ft. Myers and officially “crossed their wake”; completing their Loop Adventure. Congratulations Tim, Karen & Mark – the younger. We miss you!

TiKa crosses their wake

TiKa crosses their wake

Once back at the boat, we walked around all the shops and venues around The Wharf. We also decided to eat dinner at the Villagio Grille where we had a delicious meal of salmon.  We hung around the town square to see the light show they have every night which lasts about 15 minutes. It was a fun day and a great place, and we are glad we came here.

Villagio Grille

Villagio Grille

Last night at The Wharf

Last night at The Wharf

Thursday (11/5) – Ft McRee Anchorage near Pensacola, FL – Today was a terrific and fun day!  Sadly we had to leave the Wharf marina and bid our farewell to the great team there.  But our travels were not taking us very far; just a short 18 miles to an anchorage near the Pensacola Naval Air Station – Home of the Blue Angels. This is air show weekend and we had selected an anchorage to spent our first night so we could watch them practice for the show.

Along the way we crossed into our home state of Florida and Denise was excited to see was her favorite sign on the Loop!

Favorite sign on The Loop!

Favorite sign on The Loop!

Here we found a beautiful area between the barrier island housing the old Ft McRee, and an island south of the GICW but north of the anchorage that was nothing but high white sand dunes and sea grass. There is tons of wildlife and we saw dolphins as well as this feathered friend who perched on our dinghy for a little while.

Visiting heron

Visiting heron

After settling the boat we launched the dinghy and motored over to the beach on the southern barrier island. We encountered a group of men with an annual tradition to camp out and watch the Blue Angels perform for their last show in the flying season. They had their boats tied to the shoreline, a large bonfire, chairs and coolers at the ready for their planned fun.  For 17 years this all-guy event has been taking place, and they have plans to bring in the generators, flat panel tv screens and tents to watch college football all day Saturday as well.  We had a fun time talking with them and hearing about their plans.

Party guys

Party guys

Party guys campsite

Party guys campsite

Afterwards we walked the shoreline of the cut out to the Gulf of Mexico and encountered more campers and others who were setting up for the weekend. We walked some of the dunes and collected a few shells. Denise was elated to finally put her feet in the soft sand of the Gulf of Mexico!

Denise at Ft McRee

Denise at Ft McRee

Gulf Beach Sand

Gulf Beach Sand

Ft McRee marble on beach

Ft McRee marble on beach

About this time the Blue Angels team started their “practice” for the air show on Friday & Saturday. So we stayed on the beach with other boaters and watched in awe as they maneuvered their powerful aircraft through some amazing acrobatic moves. We even got excited when #6 pilot (Ryan Chamberlain) flew right over our heads. This is a great anchorage to view the show as the jets fly right overhead and you can see far in all directions.

Blue Angels practice

Blue Angels practice

After the flying was done, we walked back to the dinghy and motored back to our boat, but noticed Looper friends on “Morningstar II”- whom we met while at Dog River Marina – had come in and anchored near us. We stopped by to talk with them for a bit and then went back to our boat for cool drinks and to make dinner plans.

Because of the time change, it gets dark really early here, especially since we are so close to the Eastern Time Zone. By the time the sun set we had barely started dinner, but saw some of the most amazing stars.

Friday (11/6) – Pensacola, FL – The morning in the anchorage was so peaceful and calm, it was very inviting to want to stay.  The fact that it was foggy made it even harder to leave.

Foggy Anchorage

Foggy Anchorage

We had not explored the remains of the old fort, so we decided to do that before it was too late.  Unfortunately this civil-war era fort had not been preserved and there are lots of overgrown bushes to get though.  We had tried to get to it yesterday from one side of the island, but tried it from the anchorage side and was more successful.  Unfortunately, there is little to see except some old gun turrets and part of the wall around the place. Everything else has been filled in with sand or has crumbled into oblivion.

Fort remnants

Fort remnants

After exploring the fort we went back to the boat, secured the dinghy and headed to Pensacola. It was none too soon as at least 3 other boats were coming into the anchorage and it was still morning. By the end of the day the place was going to be very crowded!

Here are other pictures of this wonderful anchorage:

Fort McRee Anchorage

Fort McRee Anchorage

IO at Ft McRee

IO at Ft McRee

Boats in Anchorage

Boats in Anchorage

We arrived at Palafox Marina and were assigned a slip in a great location. We were close to the fuel dock, and Jaco’s, the on-site restaurant and bar. But more importantly we ended up being right across the dock from Looper friends the Chamberlains – we met them in Annapolis in May, have remained in touch, and planned to connect while they were here for the air show.  They are here staying on their son Ryan’s boat (“Terraphobic”) while theirs is on the hard in the Chesapeake for the winter.

In the afternoon Denise did a few loads of laundry and we watched what we could of the air show from our dock. A little while later the Chamberlains came back from the show and we discussed plans on the opportunity for VIP tickets for tomorrow’s show. It wasn’t looking promising so we decided to remain open and maybe do one of the many other activities going on in town this weekend.

Later that evening, Claire (Denise’s sister) drove over from Tallahassee and her daughter Marie drove from Mobile and all four of us went out to dinner at “Shucks” – a restaurant within walking distance from the marina. After dinner we stayed up talking for a bit and then crashed as we all were tired.

Happy Marie

Happy Marie

Saturday (11/7) – Pensacola, FL – The morning started off really nice and made for good exercise weather.  Claire and Denise went for a long walk around the Palafox Wharf and downtown Pensacola, past the farmers market which was just setting up.  We saw the “Pelicans In Paradise” art project and took pictures of the three that adorned the major square downtown.

USGC Pelilcan

USGC Pelican

Marine Pelilcan

Marine Pelican

Navy BA Pelican

Navy BA Pelican

Our walk took us past the Florida State Museum and part of the Archaeology trail and into the Old Town area that was hosting a very large juried art festival over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was too early to see anything as most of the tents were still closed.  We decided we should try to come back to the show before the weekend was out.

First Nations Pelican

First Nations Pelican

Mural on Old Firehouse

Mural on Old Firehouse

When we got back to the boat, Marie and Mark were now awake and we made plans to go to Publix (where shopping really is a pleasure) and get a few things we needed. When we returned we had a chance to connect again with the Chamberlains and decided we would spend the day with Claire and Marie and forego the air show.

One of the things we decided to do was get some fresh shrimp for lunch. Since Claire has spent a bit of time in Pensacola over the years, she took us to Joe Patti’s Seafood – an institution in Pensacola.

Joe Patti Seafood

Joe Patti Seafood

This very large fish market which sells to all the restaurants in town also has a deli, bakery and gelato counter. We got a couple pounds of fresh already-cleaned shrimp and had them steam them for us, which they then immediately put on ice.  We also got some fresh snapper for our freezer and a future meal, as well as a big loaf of fresh bread.  Marie got a delicious gelato that she promptly ate, and we took some back to the boat for a future dessert.  Joe Patti’s is quite a place and an adventure into itself – you can learn more about it here.

Joe Patti's

Joe Patti Seafood

At Joe Patti's

At Joe Patti’s

Joe Patti's Shrimp lunch

Joe Patti Shrimp lunch

After lunch, we all went to West Marine to return a brush we previously purchased but was the wrong size for our boat pole. We spent quite a bit of time shopping their Veteran’s Day sale; Denise tried on a bunch of clothes with Marie, and ended up buying a skirt and a dress on sale.

When we returned to the boat Marie decided she needed to head back to Mobile as she had lots of prep work to do for student teaching and some school work to address.  Shortly thereafter Claire also left neither one of them wanting to get caught in the terrible weather that was headed our way. Later we spoke with the Chamberlains and made plans to go to church with them in the morning; it is so nice that we share the same Catholic faith.

Pat & Mark Chamberlain

Pat & Mark Chamberlain

We walked around the docks to see other Looper boats in the marina, but everyone was off their boat – probably exploring all that this area had to offer. Soon thereafter it began to rain and get very windy. We stayed close to the boat for the rest of the evening and ate a light dinner onboard as we were still full from lunch.

Sunday (11/8) – Pensacola, FL – The rain never let up all night; it poured and poured.  Fortunately, this marina has floating docks and we didn’t have to worry about flooding here.  In the morning we did get a little reprieve long enough to go to mass at St. Joseph’s with the Chamberlains.  What a mass it was – with a mixed racial congregation and a very lively chorus.

St Joseph's CC

St Joseph’s CC

Due to the ongoing rain, the rest of the day we stayed holed up in the boat; Mark doing some work related activities and Denise with her nose in an excellent book she couldn’t put down (“Boys in the Boat”) – instead of working on the blog. Needless to say the rain also kept us from going back to see the art festival we wanted to see.

In the evening we had cocktails with the Chamberlains aboard “Terraphobic” and ended up going to dinner with them at Jaco’s. The pouring rain which had given us a brief respite, started again and we didn’t want to venture too far in those conditions.  The food was pretty good and the company was exquisite. We enjoyed talking about our families and our respective Looping adventures.  Of course we discussed all about the Blue Angels and the experiences they have had following Ryan all around the country and the wonderful people they have met and made friends.

Jaco's

Jaco’s

Dinner with the Chamberlains

Dinner with the Chamberlains

Monday (11/9) – Pensacola, FL– The rain finally subsided and brought clear skies, but we had an adventure planned for the day.  The Chamberlains offered us the use of their car and we used it to visit the National Museum of Aviation at NAS Pensacola.  What a fabulous place and what fun we had.

Chamberlain's Car

Chamberlain’s Car

We watched an IMAX movie about aviation and walked through the main part of the museum to see all the different airplanes.

Mark rode the flight simulator where you can pilot of an F/A 18 jet like a Blue Angels pilot. He enjoyed the 4 minutes of fun where he rolled the plane from side to side, and flew at supersonic speed.

Mark in Simulator

Mark in Simulator

Mark in simulated roll

Mark in simulated roll

Denise got to watch his flight (via monitor) from the outside as she is not one for such motion – we didn’t want the morning’s breakfast left in the cockpit.  We did however enjoy the aircraft carrier adventure and touring all the other exhibits in the museum.

Then we went to the second building where there are even more planes, an exhibit with a Lunar Module from the Saturn flight days, and the “Blue Angels Experience” – a 4D movie that is very Disney-esq.  It is a fascinating place and a great spot that everyone should visit.  You can learn more about this very cool museum here.

BA in Hanger Bay One

BA in Hanger Bay One

Lunar Module Hanger Bay One

Lunar Module Hanger Bay One

Naval Museum

Naval Museum

We spent all day at the museum and got back to the boat just before dinner time. We had identified two restaurants we wanted to go to that were near the marina, but we discovered that both were closed on Mondays.  So, we made the decision to eat again at Jaco’s as they had a varied enough menu with good food, and it was convenient.  This also allowed us to get in and get out so we could get back to the boat and ready it for leaving the next day.

Here are some other pictures from Pensacola:

Palafox marina

Palafox marina

Denise preparing for docking

Denise preparing for docking

Palafox Wharf

Palafox Wharf

Palafox Ave near Marina

Palafox Ave near Marina

 

Tuesday, (11/10) – Baytowne Marina Sandestin Resort – Miramar Beach, FL. – The rain was gone and the cool air came with the front that passed over the weekend.  When we awoke it was 56 degrees with a slight wind, a little fog and overcast skies. After a quick breakfast we said good bye to our friends the Chamberlains, and left the dock at 8:00.  It took us no time at all to cross Pensacola Bay and make our way back into the Gulf ICW.

Here are a few sights from along the way:

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Water Tower & marina near Ft Walton

Water Tower & marina near Ft Walton

By noon we had arrived at Baytowne Marina with a side-tie to the main dock. We got the boat settled, ate some lunch, and checked in at the marina where all the amenities were explained to us, including renting a golf cart to get around ($75/day – a rental car is cheaper). Sandestin is a large resort with lots to see and do, and some really good restaurants all around. There is golf, tennis, beaches, fishing, dinner cruises, kayak and SUP rentals, and great walking/running trails.

In the afternoon Mark had some work conference calls, and Denise got two loads of laundry done, then continued to read (and finish) her book. Eventually the skies cleared and we found ourselves in a really beautiful spot with lots of wildlife around. We even watched a float plane take off right near the marina.

Float Plane in marina

Float Plane in marina

About that time Looper friends on “Lady KK” and “The Bucket List” came into the marina and we had a chance to talk with them. Come to find out they were at the Wharf in Orange Beach when we were, but because the place is so large, we did not see them. We asked if they wanted to go to dinner, but they had plans to eat on their boat, so we ended up going by ourselves.

Since it was just us, we opted for to eat at the bar/restaurant on-site at the marina as they had a “Happy Hour” special with half-price off all their appetizers. Sharing these is a fun way for us to try a bunch of different items on the menu and not eating too much or spending too much on food.

Here are some sights around the marina:

Baytowne Marina

Baytowne Marina

Baytowne marina

Baytowne marina

Sunset at Baytowne Marina

Sunset at Baytowne Marina

Wednesday, (11/11) – St. Andrews Marina – Panama City Beach, FL. – Again we woke to an overcast sky which burned off quickly.  We went for a walk around the entire marina area, taking a raised wooden path through a marshy area into the village they call The Wharf.

Walkway to Baytowne Wharf

Walkway to Baytowne Wharf

Here there were lots of shops and restaurants, as well as a mini golf challenge, a bungee adventure for kids, and a zip line.  Since it was so early nothing was open except the Broken Egg Café, but it had us wishing we would have ventured past the marina and into the village for dinner last night.

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

Baytowne Wharf

During our walk we also saw where they have a display where the Guinness World Record was broken for the world’s largest fishing lure. Unfortunately, the wooden lure had been taken down (off=season), but all the photographs were on display documenting the event.

We continued walking around the docks and looking at all the boats. It is a pretty big marina and there are some very large yachts that come to this place.  We also saw lots of different kinds of birds and witnessed our first manatee swimming around the docks.

This is definitely a place we would like to come back to and would recommend any other Loopers to plan on staying here one or two nights as they head east.

We left the area around 11:00 am and headed to Panama City through the GICW. It was a beautiful day to be on the water as there was light winds and the Chocktawhatchee Bay was very flat.

Chocktawhatchee Bay

Chocktawhatchee Bay

During parts of the journey we traveled through a very narrow canal with a high levee on both sides; kind of reminded us of parts of the Tenn-Tom River, but with white sand instead of rocks and dirt.

We arrived at St. Andrews Marina at 2:00, pulling into the fuel dock for a fill-up and a pump out. The fuel dock here is a bit challenging as it is a series of 3 short non-connected low fixed docks with high pilings in between.  Additionally, there were people fishing from the docks and it is self-service, so there is no one there to tell them to move while you are trying to dock. But we negotiated through it all and tended to the needs of our boat.  Mark went to the marina office to pay for the fuel and get our slip assignment, which was just around the corner from the fuel dock; again a side-tie to the long pier.

IO at St Andrews Marina

IO at St Andrews Marina

Once we were settled in our slip, Mark immediately washed all the salt off the boat – oh how we miss the fresh waters of the great lakes!

During the afternoon, a helicopter was making its way through the St. Andrews Sound towing what we believe to be a mine-sweeper. It was amazing the amount of prop wash that the helicopter created when low to the water. We now feel for those who have experienced a rescue-at-sea situation as the prop wash from the helicopter would be almost as bad as the rough seas. There was quite a crowd watching this maneuvering and Denise managed to get some pictures, as well as others around the marina.

Air Force practicing in Bay

Air Force practicing in Bay

FSU Underwater Forensic Boat

FSU Underwater Forensic Boat

Shrimp Vendor at St Andrews

Shrimp Vendor at St Andrews

Back on the boat, Denise worked on cataloging pictures until it was time for dinner. We walked up the street to a very popular restaurant “Uncle Ernie’s” which everyone raves about.  We ate lightly (fish sandwich and tacos) so we cannot attest to their entrée’s, but our food was good.  They were not at all crowded and we were in and out of there quickly.  It had been a great day on the water, and we were happy to be in the FL Panhandle.

Thursday, (11/12) – St. Andrews Marina – Panama City Beach, FL. – We spent a good part of the morning planning for our future stops, putting us in Dunedin for what hopefully would be the weekend before Thanksgiving.  We already had reservations at a marina there (Marker 1), but the weather for the next week was not looking good for a Gulf of Mexico crossing before Friday.  This did fit in line with our plans so we went ahead and made reservations for Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, and Carrabelle.

During the day the winds picked up; we were thankful to be tied to a dock and not sitting at an anchorage. We spent most of the day working in the boat, or just hanging around the dock. Mark changed the fuel filter – first time since Liberty Island in NYC and did some other maintenance items. Several other Looper boats came into the marina, including Jeff & Susan (“Act III”) that we had dined with in Demopolis, AL and we had a chance to talk with them for a bit.

In the evening we had dinner with an old high school friend of Denise’s who lives in Panama City Beach. Staci and her husband Todd joined us at Huck’s Oyster Bar where we got some delicious oysters and were able to catch up on many years of not seeing each other. Staci is also a childhood friend of our neighbor and good friend Mark Medei, so it was so fun to share mutual stories. She is also a great wildlife photographer and you can check out her work here.  We had a great time and was so thankful that they were able to meet with us.

Staci & Denise

Staci & Denise

St. Andrews marina is a nice place. Even though their shower and restroom facilities were under construction we still liked the location and the floating docks. There are several restaurants and shops within walking distance, and there is a beautiful pavilion with tables and swings. It’s a nice place to enjoy the view over the St. Andrews Sound and to just people watch.  This is also the “home” marina to numerous commercial fishing vessels, charter boats, TowBoatUS, and the FSU Underwater Forensic vessel.

Here are some pictures from the area:

Commercial Fishing boat dock

Commercial Fishing boat dock

St. Andrews Marina

St. Andrews Marina

St Andrews Marina Office

St Andrews Marina Office

Friday, (11/13) – Port St. Joe, FL – We woke to blustery winds, but they started to calm down mid-morning as forecasted  Denise visited with Loopers on “ACT III” and “Job Site” – whom we had originally met on the wall in Joliette, IL – while Mark had a conference call.  At this point, the long-range (7 day) weather forecast does not look like there will be an opportunity for a Gulf crossing within a week, so everyone is trying to decide where they should spend their time.  The dilemma is do you spend time in places that have more to offer, or do you move closer to Carrabelle – where there really isn’t much to do but positions you to take advantage of good weather when it comes about.

We had already decided that we would spend more time in Port St. Joe or Apalachicola if we had time to burn as we love that area and it is more familiar to us than Panama City. It also would bring us closer to Tallahassee where we have family and could visit if we really had to wait longer than a few days. So, when the winds dropped down at 11:00 we left Panama City and headed out to Port St. Joe.

It was an uneventful cruise for 42 nm in mostly protected ICW water. The most common thing we saw the whole time was a large number of derelict boats that have been left to deteriorate.  Some were washed up on shore, while others sunk while tied to now decrepit docks.  Most likely these were destroyed in a storm or hurricane and never salvaged.  What a sight!

ICW on way to PSJ

ICW on way to PSJ

Derelict vessel

Derelict vessel

Derelict #2

Derelict #2

more derelict boats

more derelict boats

More derelict boats

More derelict boats

To get to Port St. Joe, we had to leave the ICW and cruise 5 miles down the Port St. Joe canal passing a boatyard and a seafood processing plant before coming into the bay.

Sign on ICW

Sign on ICW

Old Port operations

Old Port operations

Port St. Joe Canal

Port St. Joe Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

Derelicts on PSJ Canal

PSJ Seafood Processing

PSJ Seafood Processing

From there we navigated to the entrance to the marina.  It is also along this canal that we entered the Eastern Time Zone – at least for a few days. We will go back on Central Time on the GICW when we leave here, but pick up Eastern Time again in a few short miles.  Now the sun will come up almost an hour later in the morning and set almost an hour later than it did just 40 miles to our west.

Almost immediately after tying up the boat we met Danny who owns the 70’ cruising Hatteras (“Big Wave”) that was at the dock in front of us. He and his wife Vicky just purchased this older model yacht after selling their 60’ Hatteras that was several slips away.  They were in the process of moving all their stuff from one boat to the other, and did so all weekend.  They immediately offered us their car for use while we were here and offered suggestions on good restaurants.  Once again we are impressed with boaters showing such kindness as we have seen all along this whole trip.

The marina here is on a very pretty piece of land that overlooks St. Joseph’s Bay. Directly across this bay is a state park (St. Joe’s) and the land known as Cape San Blas. We have stayed on the Cape several times and absolutely love this area. It is one of Denise’s favorite beaches in FL as it is relatively undeveloped with mostly private homes and no hi-rise hotels or developments. It is like old FL in these parts, but unfortunately, it is being discovered and we fear is going to change.  Tonight we saw an awesome sunset and delighted in all that God gave us in this beautiful place.

Sunset at Port St. Joe

Sunset at Port St. Joe

Taking advantage of the “loaner” car, we drove up the street to Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza.

Joe Mama's Woodfire Pizza

Joe Mama’s Woodfire Pizza

We were sick of eating seafood and decided we needed a change, so this was the perfect place.  The food was excellent and the service was terrific.  We highly recommend this place to anyone visiting Port St. Joe.

Pizza Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza

Pizza Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza

Unfortunately, our meal had a cloud over it as just before we left for dinner we had heard of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  We spent a good bit of the dinner and the rest of the evening watching and listening to the story unfold.  We were most grateful for our nations safe-keeping, but fear it is just a question of time before this comes to our country.

Saturday, (11/14) – Port St. Joe, FL. – Another cold morning in the FL panhandle with temperatures in the high 40’s when we woke up.  It took Denise another 2 hours before it was warm enough for her to venture out for a run.  It had been days since she ran as earlier in the week she fell on the stairs inside the boat and really hurt her behind.  Fortunately, it was much better and she was able to get in a decent run and felt good about it.

During the day we looked at the long range weather forecast and decided to stay another day here, and cleared it with the marina. Mark called the marinas in Apalachicola and in Carrabelle, adjusting our planned arrival accordingly.  It was sunny, cool and very windy, so we were not going anywhere anytime soon.

We also listened on the radio to the FSU-NC State football game; it was blacked out on TV in this area since it was a home game for the Seminoles and we are so close to Tallahassee. Meanwhile Denise worked on this blog post and Mark cleaned and reorganized all the stern lockers on the boat.

Later in the afternoon we borrowed Danny’s car and went to the 4:00 mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. We had been to this small community church a few years ago and Mark recognized the priest.  Mass was done in 45 minutes; such a difference from last week’s service at St. Joseph’s in Pensacola.

Danny's Loaner car

Danny’s Loaner car

St Joseph's Catholic Church

St Joseph’s Catholic Church

On the way back to the marina we stopped at the Piggly Wiggly (“The Pig”) and picked up a rotisserie chicken and salad fixings for dinner aboard our Island Office. Amazingly the wind had stopped blowing and we spent a quiet evening watching a Netflix movie (“The Way Out”) and an episode of FL-Keys-inspired “Bloodline”

Sunday, (11/15) – Port St. Joe, FL – It was really weird to wake up and have nothing planned to do today; we were not moving and had already gone to church. This is what cruising is really supposed to be about!   And that is how we spent most of the day; just hanging around on the boat, talking to other boaters and yes, Denise working on this (now very long & overdue) blog posting.

Enjoying PSJ and the sun

Enjoying PSJ and the sun

In the evening we rode our bikes to the park that forms the barrier protection for the marina to watch the sunset. We talked with a bunch of locals and took pictures.

Ready to ride

Ready to ride

How do we stack up??

How do we stack up??

Selfie at Sunset

Selfie at Sunset

Sunset with perspective

Sunset with perspective

We then rode our bikes to Peppers, the Mexican restaurant downtown.  The food was good and we got to watch some of the Patriots & Giants NFL game on their numerous TV screens.

Pepper's

Pepper’s

Pepper Mexican Cantina

Pepper Mexican Cantina

Back at the boat we continued watching two episodes of the Netflix series “Bloodline”. At this rate we should be all caught up by the time we get home for Thanksgiving.

Monday, (11/16) – Apalachicola, FL – This morning it was overcast with a brisk breeze blowing and a cool 55 degrees; perfect running weather.  So Denise took off for a run through the neighborhoods of Port St. Joe and around the park near the marina.  By the time she was done the sun was shining brightly and it was hot!  Here are some pictures from her run:

PSJ CIty Hall

PSJ CIty Hall

Downtown PSJ

Downtown PSJ

PSJ Lighthouse Park

PSJ Lighthouse Park

Fountain at PSJ Park

Fountain at PSJ Park

Beach at PSJ Park

Beach at PSJ Park

PSJ Marina from park

PSJ Marina from park

While she was gone, Mark repaired the brackets on our slider windows that were coming loose and on the verge of breaking.  It is so nice that he can fix anything!

As much as we like this area, we wanted to get closer to Carrabelle in case the weather forecast did change in our favor later in the week. Therefore, we said goodbye to Danny & Vicky and headed out to Apalachicola.

We had to cruise the 5 miles back up the St. Joe canal to the ICW and then another 20 uneventful miles; we only passed one boat the whole time and it was a Coast Guard working barge.

We pulled into the Water Street Hotel & Marina to a very narrow slip, aided by Loopers on “Sadie Too”. After we tied up and made introductions, we checked into the marina – at the front desk of the hotel. It is a hotel first, a marina second with a limited amount of boat slips.  It is not as convenient as the Apalachicola Mariana, but it is only a short walk to the downtown area and much better protected from the wind and the passing fishing boats.

Water Street Hotel & Marina

Water Street Hotel & Marina

IO at Water Street

IO at Water Street

One of the Looper boats that had arrived before us had organized a Looper get together at Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar, so we went there for drinks and dinner. In total there were 7 couples, all who are at various stages of their Loop experience.  It was fun to hear their stories and where they would end their adventures.

Papa Joes

Papa Joes

Looper dinner

Looper dinner

We left there and walked back to the boat, where we then watched two more episodes of “Bloodline” before turning in for the night.

Stay tuned for more adventures!

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New friends and old acquaintances!

Despite our best attempts, we can’t seem to update the blog posts as fast as we want to. It is really hard when we are moving the boat every day and it takes a lot to get all the pictures and writing done. But we will keep trying.

We have had a lot of fun meeting new Loopers and connecting with ones we have not seen since the start of our journey. What stores and experiences we all share.  Here are some of the adventures we have been up:

Monday (10/19) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – We were able to secure the loaner car from the Marina to take Mark to the airport to fly to his client site in SC.  On the way back to the marina, Denise discovered an Ulta store and stopped in for a new hair blower. Her current one had been on the fritz for a while and she wanted one similar to it, but not the same model. She found what she was looking for pretty fast and got back to the marina on time for other Loopers to use the car.

Marina Loaner Car

Marina Loaner Car

The rest of the day for Denise was spent cataloging pictures, working on the last blog and doing some work. She hunkered down and stayed on the boat the entire day, barely talking to anyone in the marina. A few new Loopers came in, but all were on the main docks and a bit of a distance. Our slip in this marina is in the next to the last row of docks and is quite a hike to the marina office, showers and ships store.  Therefore, it was easy to hang out and not be interrupted or bothered by anyone and get a big part of this done. This was a nice reprieve for a day and afforded some needed quiet time.

Meanwhile Mark traveled to Columbia, SC where an old client needed him to do some work. He had the luxury of a nice hotel bathroom and shower for the next two days.

Tuesday (10/20) – Columbus Marina – Columbus, MS – It was really cold this morning and didn’t warm up to the mid-50s until mid-morning. Denise used this time to go for a run at the park that overlooks the Stennis lock less than a mile from the marina. We will go through this lock tomorrow immediately when we leave Columbus marina.

Here are some pictures of the area around Columbus Marina:

Marina office, facilities & fuel dock

Marina office, facilities & fuel dock

Columbus Marina

Columbus Marina

Again today was mostly a work day, but as Looper friends started to arrive in mid-afternoon, Denise was able to catch up with them and hear about the AGLCA rendezvous. Included in the group were boats “Tika”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified”, “Divali” and “Act III”.  We all got together for docktails that evening until the sun started to go down and the bugs started to come out.

Later the folks from “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, “Sassified” and Denise all went to dinner. As the loaner car had already been spoken for, we were given the keys to the pickup truck owned by the General Manager of the Marina (“T”). So we crammed all 8 of us into the two rows of seats in the cab and drove the 5 miles into downtown Columbus to eat at “Hucks”.  This is a local restaurant that offered good food at a reasonable price, that we both have eaten at when visiting our client in Columbus. It was unfortunate that Mark was not with us to enjoy the experience.

Sassified, Endoxi & TiKa at Huck's

Sassified, Endoxi & TiKa at Huck’s

Wednesday (10/21) – Sumter Recreation Area, – Aliceville, AL – In the morning, Denise was up and out the door to use the marina loaner car for a quick run to Walmart to buy paper products and salad fixings for the evening dinner. She was back in a flash and then cleaned the interior of the boat and shortly thereafter Mark arrived from his morning flight back into Columbus.

When Mark phoned to say his plane had landed and he was in route to the marina, Denise checked with “T” about our planned departure as he stays in contact with the Stennis Lockmaster. He had advised that a boat was just entering the lock and it would be an hour before they locked him down and turned the lock for us. This meant we would not leave before noon.

When Mark arrived back to the boat we put on the radio and heard a tow that was still several miles out calling for a lock opening. Immediately afterwards we called the lock and asked if we could get in with or before the tow. The Lockmaster advised us he could get us in if we got there in 5 minutes.  So we made a mad dash to untie the dock lines & electric cords, and get out of the marina and up to the lock.  Fortunately, we made it in time and the doors closed behind us locking us down all by ourselves.

This set us up well as we knew we had 56 miles to cruise on the river to get to our planned anchoring destination for the night. Earlier in the day our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified” had all left and we were planning to join them if we could, however, they had a 4-hour head start.  Even with our go-fast boat, it would be a push to get there before dark. It all depended on getting through the next lock.

The water on this part of the Tenn-Tom is not nearly as pretty as the Tennessee River, but we still got to see some interesting sights along the way. We were particularly thrilled when we went under the US82 Bridge; when visiting our client here we used to state “someday we are going to take our boat under this bridge”.  Well today was the day!

Going under Columbus Bridge

Going under Columbus Bridge

We were also thrilled to enter the state of Alabama; our 17th and final state before returning back to The Sunshine State in a few weeks.

After passing several other pleasure craft (two of whom were Loopers we did not know), we arrived at the Bevill Lock and had to wait 30 minutes before we were let in. It is a quick lock down, so in no-time we were on our way.

Here are some of the other things we saw along the way:

The Alligator Hilton

The “Alligator Hilton”

DSCN4504cc

Bird on a stick – with fall foliage

Volleyball on Tenn-Tom

Volleyball on Tenn-Tom

Western shore dunes

Western shore dunes

We arrived at Sumter Recreation Area (state park) with the intention of anchoring.  However, we ended up rafting to “TiKa” as “Endoxi” and “Sassified” were rafted together not far from us. This enabled us to easily get together for socializing without having to put our dinghy in the water.

Sumter Rec Area Anchorage

Sumter Rec Area Anchorage

Anchorage Sumter Rec Area, AL

Anchorage Sumter Rec Area, AL

Tim and Karen had us all aboard for “rafttails” (it is really not docktails if you are not at a dock). We were divided up with the guys on the top deck and the gals in the stern cockpit; it felt like high school all over again.  We had a great time and enjoyed getting to know our newer Looper friends, as well as time with Tim, Karen & Mark-the younger.  We stayed as late as we dared, but finally went back to our boat for steaks on the grill and a salad. Of course TiKa is our good friends and Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) and Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) whom we met at Green Turtle Bay are now our new friends.

Thursday (10/22) – Demopolis, AL– The Sumter anchorage was 3 miles north of the only lock (Howell-Heflin) we had to go through today.  So our plan was to call the lock at 7:30 and then report back to the other Loopers about our opportunity for a lockdown.  Denise called and was told that we would need to be there in 45 minutes. So at the appropriate time we pulled our anchors and headed to the lock 3 miles away.  When we got there we were able to go in, but we had to wait tied up in the lock for 30 minutes for some other down-bound pleasure crafts.  Once they arrived and were securely tied up, we were locked down in 10 minutes.  As this was our only lock of the day, we were then able to take off and cruise at our usual 15 – 18 kts, slowing only for the fishing boats that were along the shores.

The cruise down the river was somewhat boring, but there were a few areas with interesting and beautiful sights. We passed by the white rock cliffs of Epes, several homes and RV parks, an environmentally friendly power plant and then some more cliffs about 10 miles from Demopolis.  It really is amazing how the terrain changes from very hilly to flat land, to cliffs, and then back to flat.

Here are some pictures from the journey:

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs near Epes

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

White cliffs near Epes

White cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

Cliffs on way to Demopolis

Locals along Tenn-Tom

Locals along Tenn-Tom

Island Office on Tenn-Tom

Island Office on Tenn-Tom

We arrived at the Demopolis Yacht Basin and first filled the boat with diesel fuel, then got a pump-out. While we were awaiting for the dockhand to assist us, the tug part of a tow we had passed earlier came in for his diesel fill. We took on 150 gallons, he took on 20,000 gallons!  Mark went over and talked to the Captain as he had been kind enough to let 7 of us boats into the lock ahead of him earlier; something he did not have to do.  It was a very nice gesture and indicative of southern hospitality; something we have missed for the last 6 months!

We were assigned our slip at Kingfisher Marina (Demopolis is now only fuel) and settled in by 2:00. Within the hour our friends on “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified all showed up and put in near us.

This marina is fairly new and is very nice for transients. It has lots of slips, some covered and some not covered.  It has a terrific laundry facility that has a flat panel TV in it and adjacent showers and rest rooms which are really nice and clean. Above the laundry facility is a deck that has tables and chairs; perfect for Looper pot-lucks or docktails.

Cruisers facilities

Cruisers facilities

Cruisers laundry & restrooms

Cruisers laundry & restrooms

Laundry facilities

Laundry facilities

Cruisers patio above facilities

Cruisers patio above facilities

The marina also has golf carts that you can use to drive around the complex (pool area, other docks, etc.) and is what you really need to use to get to the Demopolis marina office and fuel dock as it is almost ½ mile away.  Fortunately the marina also has a loaner car that can be signed out in 2-hr increments.  Of course this is what is needed to get anywhere in the town of Demopolis which is too far away from the marina to walk.

In the late afternoon, all of us on the 4 boats got together as a group and had docktails on the back of Island Office.

Doctails on Island Office

Doctails on Island Office

Doctails on IO

Doctails on IO

Rodney & Sherri (“Sassified”) had signed out the Loaner car and we all went to dinner at a local place called “The Red Barn” (no affiliation with the one in Graton Beach, FL) that was about 5 miles from the marina.  Since there were now 9 of us, we could not all fit in one trip, so Mark agreed to be the DD and did the 10-minute trip to and from the restaurant, and then repeated it after dinner. Then Mark- the younger got the golf cart to follow him to return the loaner back to the marina office/fuel dock, and then come back to the boat slips. This kind of reminded us of the logistics nightmare in Grand Harbor, but it was much shorter distances.  However, it was all good and Mark got have a dinner favorite – southern fried chicken – and he tore it up!

During dinner the discussion turned to how long we were all staying. Our original plan was to stay here only one night, TiKa was planning to stay either 2 or 4 nights, and the other two boats through the weekend. But a little peer pressure ensued and since we had an extra day in the schedule before we had to be in Mobile, we relented and decided we would stay one more day.  This also gave Mark a work day in port to handle some client items and Denise a chance to get a run in before two or three very long days with anchorages and no running areas.

Other pictures of the marina:

Kingfisher Marina

Kingfisher Marina

IMG_5902c

Island Office at Kingfisher

Pool at Demopolis Kingfisher Marina

Pool at Demopolis Kingfisher Marina

Dockmaster Terry

Dockmaster Terry

Friday (10/23) – Demopolis, AL – This was a pretty unexciting day. Denise ran in the morning to the downtown of Demopolis and back and was happy to be able to do so.  Mark worked for most of the morning while Denise started on this blog post.  There was a little pow-wow with “TiKa” and the other two boats; the weather is going to get ugly next week, and no one wants to be on the water especially on Mobile Bay.  Collectively we all decided to leave together in the morning and go fast (20 Kts) to get to Mobile by Sunday night or Monday morning.  We also made plans for docktails and dinner together again, and secured the loaner car for another night of 2 trips back and forth to the restaurant.

In the afternoon there were boat chores to do and planning for our departure in the morning. “TiKa” had a rental car and used it to go to the store, while “Endoxi” and “Sassified” took their boats and topped off their fuel for the trek to Mobile.  We had all agreed we were going to go fast in the next two days, and that meant we would burn some fuel.

Later we gathered on the upstairs patio at the marina for docktails and were joined by Jeff & Susan (“Act III”), who came in earlier in the day. Between “TiKa’s” rental car and the marina loaner car we all were able to go to dinner at a newly opened restaurant called “The Bistro”. The owner (Mike) is also the Mayor of Demopolis; a town with a population of about 7,500.

Mayor Mike at The Bistro

Mayor Mike at The Bistro

The menu was limited, but the food was good and our waitress (Natasha) had a very good sense of humor.  The restaurant is on the second floor of an old office building and the dining area is spread across several of the rooms, with the hall being used as the “bar” area. In one of the small rooms there was live entertainment with a 2-piece ensemble. However, the room was small and crowded so we were not able to fit in our whole group, otherwise we may have stayed for a set or two.  The restaurant had filled up and it was good to see a new place be patronized so well.

Dining at The Bistro

Dining at The Bistro

Hallway bar at The Bistro

Hallway bar at The Bistro

It was just as well as “TiKa” had to return their rental car. So once we were all dropped off at the marina, Mark followed Tim to Enterprise and Rodney met them at the marina office with the golf cart so they could drop the loaner there; another successful coordination of logistics.

Other pictures from Demopolis are as follows:

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

Downtown Demopolis

The Bistro - downtown

The Bistro right next to Wine & Hoof – downtown

Saturday (10/24) – Anchorage – Three Rivers Lake, AL – At 6:30 am Denise called the Lockmaster at Demopolis Lock (3 miles down the waterway) and confirmed that there were no tows in or waiting on the lock. So six Looper boats all left the Kingfisher marina and locked together with another local boat.  We were so happy to have this lock behind us as we had a plan to go all the ways to Bobby’s Fish Camp, some 95 miles down the river.

Sunrise over Demopolis

Sunrise over Demopolis

Along the way, there were a few tow boats to pass and some small fishing boats that we had to slow down for, but we still made pretty good time.

Our fleet – TiKa, Sassified, & Endoxi

Shortly after lunch we were approaching Bobby’s and made a decision to press on to an anchorage that had been identified earlier as a possible stop for us on Sunday night.  There was one other possibility to anchor further up the river should we not make it to this one.  But all of this would be dictated by how long we had to wait for the Coffeeville Lock which was just past Bobby’s. We slowed our speed heading to the lock to enable “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to take on more fuel at Bobby’s.

Endoxi & Sassified at Bobby's Fish Camp

Sassified & Endoxi at Bobby’s Fish Camp

Then once we got to the lock we had to wait about 30 minutes for it to open; just enough time for “Endoxi” and “Sassified” to catch up to us.  We all went through without issue and we celebrated with “TiKa” as this would be the very last lock for both of us! YEAH!!!

Leaving Coffeeville lock

Leaving Coffeeville lock – Our last lock!! Yeah!

After leaving the lock, we continued cruising until we came to the targeted anchorage at “Three Rivers Lake”. The entrance to the anchorage was like the Disney Jungle Cruise; we had to pass through a very narrow channel that eventually emptied onto a small lake. There were already two Looper boats anchored ahead of us, but plenty of room for the four of us to anchor and dual-raft together for the night.  It was just after 5 pm when we settled our boats, making for a very long day.  We cruised 134 nm today; our longest single-day distance on The Loop.

After celebrating our journey aboard “TiKa” for cocktails, we ate aboard our own boats and called it a day. The entire anchorage was quiet by 8:30 pm and we had a beautiful sky of stars to look at.

IO rafted to TiKa at 3 Rivers Anchorage

IO rafted to TiKa at 3 Rivers Anchorage

Three Rivers Anchorage

Three Rivers Anchorage

Other sites from today on the water:

Home made tube slide on BWTB

Home made tube slide on BWTB

Patriotic buoy on river

Patriotic buoy on river

Typical bass fisherman on river

Typical bass fisherman on river

Home on River

Home on River

Cliffs on river

Cliffs on river

Logging operation near mm 88

Logging operation near mm 88

Sunday (10/25) – Mobile, AL – We were up early and under way by 7:00 as we were all anxious to get to Mobile before the remnants of pacific hurricane “Patricia” hit the bay. It was already overcast and the wind picked up along the way.

We passed under the Dolly Parton Bridge and eventually into the Port and downtown Mobile.  This is a very active port with lots of tows, container ships and military vessels, including the new hi-tech stealthy ships built by Austal.

Dolly Parton Bridge

Dolly Parton Bridge

Tanker in Mobile Port

Tanker in Mobile Port

Austal Ships

Austal Ships

Downtown Mobile

Downtown Mobile

By the time we passed through the port of Mobile and into the bay it was a bit choppy and not a fun ride. Fortunately, the journey to Dog River was short and we were tied up to the Dog River Marina by early afternoon, logging another 68 miles.

There were several other Looper boats that were in the marina, including Anne & Jeff (“Harvest Moon”), with whom we had fun with in Nashville and anchored with in the IL and MS rivers. We had them over for drinks before dinner to get caught up and to hear about the rest of their travels down the Tenn-Tom waterway. We also ran into Vicki Stapleton (“Patriot”) our friends we met in Norfolk who completed their Loop and are now home in Mobile.  They recommended this marina/boatyard for the work we wanted to have done.

Eventually, the rain began but it did not keep us from going to dinner with “TiKa”, “Endoxi”, and “Sassified”. We borrowed the loaner car and went to the other side of the river to the Grand Mariner Marina and Restaurant and had a delicious meal of very fresh seafood.

Mariner's Restaurant

Mariner’s Restaurant

IO on dock at Dog River

IO on dock at Dog River – from Mariner’s Restaurant

When we came back to the marina, the water level was rising and all the cars were moved from the parking lot near the docks to higher ground near the office. The moon was rising to full status and high tide was not until near midnight.  We had no idea what we were in for.

Monday (10/26) – Mobile, AL – It rained all night long and the wind was really blowing.  When we awoke in the early morning we realized the power to the boat had been cut off a little earlier. Come to find out the marina had prophylactically cut the power as it the water had risen and was near the top of the dock and they didn’t want it to short out.  Fortunately we had battery and generator to keep us comfortable, but it would have been nice to be told in advance that this was going to happen.

During the day it continued to rain and the wind continued to blow from the East, pushing all the water from Mobile Bay into the Dog River. The marina was flooded and the docks were under water for almost the whole day.  We watched large logs and pieces of debris float down the river, and prayed they didn’t foul our prop or hit our hull.  Everyone hunkered down and didn’t go anywhere (not that we could) and the boatyard/marina was closed – meaning no work would be done on our boat.  It would not have been that bad, except the WiFi at this marina stinks so we were not able to stream any movies. Add to this the fact that there is no cable TV on the docks and the aerial antennae could only pick up 5 stations, so we were kind of bored.  Denise worked on cataloging pictures and writing the blog while Mark did what work he could.  This was the first day in a long time that we also got to take naps!

Mariners Marina - fuel dock under water

Mariners Marina – fuel dock under water

Dog River Marina parking lot

Dog River Marina parking lot

Ducks on the dock - Dog River

Ducks on the dock – Dog River

Grand Mariner Marina - Fuel dock under water

Grand Mariner Marina – Fuel dock under water

Dock under water

Dock under water

In the late afternoon the rain subsided some and we got out and walked around, sloshing down the dock. We removed a 12’ plank that had washed itself between our boat and the dock, and we adjusted our fenders & dock lines. Island Office now sat way above the dock and there was a big step down now to get on the dock; even from the swim platform.

Mark - walking on water

Mark – walking on water

Since, there was nowhere to go as the whole parking lot and drive up to the street was totally flooded, we got back on the boat for the rest of the day. It was a good thing we had leftovers in the freezer as that is what we had for dinner.

Tuesday (10/27) – Mobile, AL – The morning brought a reprieve from the rain and high water, which receded with the low tide and we were now able to move off the boat again.  We checked in with all our Looper friends and was hopeful that today they would haul our boat for the detail work and maintenance items we had planned to have done.  However, it was cleanup day in the marina and the boatyard people were not coming in.

We had previously decided to get a rental car from Avis where we had 3 free days that were going to expire. So, we used the marina loaner car to go to the airport with Tim & Karen (“TiKa”) to go get some lunch, then get our rental, and then they used the loaner car the rest of the afternoon. We used the rental car to go to Costco and to Publix (where shopping really is a pleasure) for some boat provisions.

In the evening a large group of us decided to go out to Benjas, a Thai restaurant that was about 8 miles away that had received good reviews. It took 3 cars to get all 11 of us to the restaurant and we were the only customers in the place.  However, the food was good, the service great, the company was outstanding, and so no one cared.  We all laughed and had a good time with all our Looper friends.

Wednesday (10/28) – Mobile, AL – In the morning there was lots of activity in the marina and the boatyard was back in action. The first thing we did was go to the boatyard office to see when they would start working on our boat. While waiting for Linda (the scheduler) to arrive we met Sonny, the owner and talked with him a bit.  Shortly thereafter Linda arrived and told us she would check on the schedule and let us know.   The work we had scheduled included a wash & wax of the hull, replacing zincs on the shaft and thrusters, installing an inline water connection, and touch-up painting of the bottom at the waterline level only. Most of this was “preventative” in nature to protect from the salt water we were now back cruising in.

In the meantime we watched “Endoxi” get a haul-out to confirm that in fact they had damaged two of their props when they hit a log coming out of Mobile Port. Now they had to get that repair scheduled before they could move on.

We went back to our boat to wait for word from Linda when several dockhands showed up to tell us that they were ready for the haul out. So we untied from the dock, moved the boat to the sling and watched them haul Island Office out of the water and put her “on the hard” in an enclosed hanger.

Hauling out IO

Hauling out IO

Knowing there was nothing we could do while they worked on the boat, Denise used the rental car to go to a local laundromat and get the laundry done. The marina laundry consisted of a single washer and dryer, and the pump to support the entire facility was knocked out of order from the flood. So, it was easier and faster to go where multiple washers and dryers could be used.  Mark stayed on the boat to oversee the work.

When Denise returned, it was obvious that staying on the boat for the next several days was not going to be an easy thing to do. To get on and off, there was a 10 foot climb up a latter and any water from the boat had nowhere to go without rigging a hose-to-bucket drainage for the sinks, showers, etc.  So we rented a hotel room at a Hilton Garden Inn for the next two nights so we could sleep and shower in comfort.

IO - "on the hard"

IO – “on the hard”

We had been invited to dine with TiKa aboard their boat for the evening, as a final meal together (they were leaving in the morning) and to watch the GOP Debate – they have satellite TV aboard. We offered to bring the salmon so it was back to Costco to get it and then back to the marina to drop it off at TiKa.  While there we checked on the progress of the boat and learned “Endoxi” would be waiting on new props to be delivered and installed; they would be here through Friday.  There was not enough time to check into the hotel and make it back for dinner, so we hung out at the marina visiting with Loopers, then headed to TiKa for a terrific meal.  We stayed and watched most of the debate, then headed to the hotel for check-in and a good night’s rest.

Thursday (10/29) – Mobile, AL – We wasted no time getting over to the marina in the morning to see about their work for the day. Although they made progress yesterday, it seems like no one works past 3:30 in the boatyard, even though they lost two days this week due to the storm.

We answered some of their questions and talked with some of the other Loopers in the marina before leaving for a few errands, lunch and a pedicure for Denise. We also made dinner plans with Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”), and Sharri & Rodney (“Sassified”) to go to Wintzell’s Oyster House for dinner later that evening. Then we headed back to the hotel for a few hours of working with a good internet connection in a quiet environment.

Leading up to this week we had been in touch with our niece Marie who attends Spring Hill College in Mobile. She had been away traveling, but got back into town, so we made plans for her to join us for dinner, which she did.  It was great to see her and we all enjoyed a fine meal at one of Mobile’s most famous restaurants.

Dinner at Wintzell's

Dinner at Wintzell’s

Friday (10/30) – Mobile, AL – Today was a day we were hoping to leave Mobile.  We had been in touch with our insurance company for our FL-Bahamas and to make sure we were covered if we went further south before 11/2.  We received our amended coverage in the morning, so there was nothing keeping us from leaving Mobile…..except the boat was not ready.

After checking out of the hotel we went to the marina to check on the progress. The team was working hard to get the job done, but it still had a ways to go. We watched “Endoxi” have their new props installed and said good bye to them and “Sassified” as they were heading out.

Since we were not leaving with them, we used that time to borrow the marina loaner car and return our Avis rental back to the airport, which was all the way across town. When we returned to the marina they were still working on our boat. It would be 3:30 before they put it back in the water, and into a new slip. Unfortunately, they still had some work to do and never finished until well after 5:00. Needless to say this meant we were not going to be able to leave Mobile, but at least we were able to stay back on our floating home.

Putting IO back in water

Putting IO back in water

IO in 2nd slip at Dog River

IO in 2nd slip at Dog River

While waiting for the boat to be completed, Denise walked the docks and discovered several other Looper boats had come in. Included in the group were Pam & Mark on “Sea Bear”, whom we first met in Deltaville, VA, and had not seen since April. We saw their boat in Brewerton, NY in June, but they had left for a trip back home.  They had just finished their Loop (i.e. crossed their wake) from this very marina on this very day, so a celebration was in order. Denise called Mark to come down to their boat and we ended up talking with them for several hours.  We got back to our boat and had no plans for dinner. So we were grateful for leftovers in the freezer that could be ready in 15 minutes.

In the evening we reviewed the weather forecast and made plans to leave early in the morning, but only if the waves were calm in Mobile Bay. It appeared that we would have a window in the morning before the wind kicked up the seas and we wanted to be able to take advantage of it.

Saturday (10/31 – Halloween) – Mobile, AL – Denise was up at 5:30 to look at the weather and it did not look good to leave.  For several hours we debated, looked at several sights and decided to stay put.  We are in no hurry to get anywhere, so we don’t need to get beat up crossing the bay. The problem is that we knew the weather would be bad for at least two days and if we stayed it meant staying through Sunday as well.

Given the decision was made to stay, we then tried to reconnect with Marie to see her school and her dorm. We borrowed the loaner car and drove to Spring Hill College where we got to tour the campus.  Here are some pictures of the campus:

Spring Hill College

Spring Hill College

St Josephs Chapel - SHC

St Josephs Chapel – SHC

Inside St. Josephs Chapel at SHC

Inside St. Josephs Chapel at SHC

SHC Library

SHC Library

Unfortunately, we were unable to connect with Marie as it was a very big weekend for her, so we went on to Shoe Station, grabbed some lunch and then back to the boat.  About this time it started to rain again.

We made plans for dinner at the Mobile Yacht Club located adjacent to the Dog River Marina. They serve dinner on select nights and even though they are a members-only club, they allow guests of Dog River to dine there.  We were joined by Mark & Pam (“Sea Bear”) and had a chance to talk about their post-Looping plans and moving back to the Sonoma, CA area where they are from.  They will have their boat trucked back out to San Francisco in the coming weeks, but they are leaving here on Monday to make the trek home.  We made a promise to look them up the next time we get out to Sonoma Valley or the Bay area.

Mark & Pam ("Sea Bear")

Mark & Pam (“Sea Bear”)

While we were at dinner the pouring rain began. When we walked to dinner we knew this was a possibility and brought our umbrella. But the amount of rain coming down made this a worthless tool as we would have gotten drenched anyway. Mark was able to get a local from the yacht club who was also finishing dinner at the same time to give us a lift back to the marina and we were spared the waddling through mud & puddles of this area.

This was not an ordinary Halloween and we missed seeing trick-or-treaters at our Winter Park home.

Sunday (11/1) – Mobile, AL – The rain that started last night continued all night long.  We were fearful of flooding again, but fortunately there was not the heavy east wind and high tide of last week to flood the docks.

Yesterday we had reserved the marina loaner car so we could go to 8:00 am mass at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, leaving a note on the reservation that anyone who wanted to come could join us. We had been contacted by the folks on “Odyssey” they would like to go, so we started the day meeting new Loopers and going to mass together.

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

By the time we got back to the boat the wind was picking up again. We had considered leaving even if it was raining, as long as the waves were not that bad. Unfortunately the buoy and NOAA weather reports were not favorable so we hunkered down for another day of staying on the boat.

All day long and into the evening it poured with few moments of relief from the constant rain. We watched NFL football on the one network TV channel we could get (CBS), while working on emails, cataloging pictures, and updating this blog post.  We ate leftovers for dinner and didn’t move from the boat except for a short walk up the dock just before dinner.

Later in the evening, the rain stopped, but more is forecasted throughout the night. With a little luck tomorrow it should break by noon, and then we will head across the bay and make it to Orange Beach.

Stay tuned for more adventures!