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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