Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I didn't take any photos today because I forgot the camera when we went into town.

Yesterday, Joe went over the information available about the best time to do our crossing of the Gulf and it looked like Thursday would have the most favorable wind and waves.  Since we had a whole day, we planned to spend several hours in Apalachicola today exploring this interesting little fishing village.  We took the dinghy across the channel, tied up at the dinghy dock and prepared to start our explorations.  Before we ever got started, we happened to run into (not literally!) Michael Samway (m/v Muddy Waters, a 48' Kadey Krogen North Sea).  When Loopers get together in Apalachicola, they talk about when they will make the Gulf crossing and our conversation was no exception.  It turns out that there are a dozen or more boats that are going tomorrow, including Muddy Waters.  Most are leaving from Carrabelle and a few are leaving from Apalachicola.  We figured they must know something we don't and, after getting the bare essentials in town (a pint of oysters, a pound of scallops, a gallon of milk), we headed back to Paradise to start getting ready to leave tomorrow.  We didn't get to see the town at all.  =0/

After we got back to Paradise, Joe reviewed all the most current information and decided that we will go for it tomorrow.  The next window of opportunity is several days away and we're ready to settle down for a while in Dunedin.  Even if we won't be able to actually see any of the other boats, we may be able to pick them up on our radar or hale them with our marine radio so we won't feel so alone out there.

While I got bread dough started so we could have sandwiches tomorrow (I've finally nailed down a bread recipe that makes both of us happy), Joe made sure that everything was secure up on the flybridge (and he found bird doodoo all over up there--grrrrr), screwed down the chest of drawers in the salon, and strapped down the flatscreen TV in our stateroom.  I found a bungee cord to hold our bar stools in place by the breakfast bar, started stashing loose stuff into cabinets and the settee, and got the bread dough kneaded and rising.

Tomorrow morning we'll take care of last minute stuff like the salon table, the PC monitor and printer,  and anything else still loose and waiting to get thrown around
My brother, Bill, went to the municipal marina in Dunedin to see if we could get a transient slip there for the month of December.  The manager talked to Joe and said he can put us into a 43' slip that's wide enough for us; the price is right so we'll try it but we're not sure if it will work out because Paradise is 50' long and the dinghy off the back adds another 5' or so.  Also, there's only a "catwalk" on one side of the slip with posts on the other side.  We're not sure what a catwalk is, but it doesn't sound very wide.

 Seven weeks ago today, we waved goodbye to our daughters and cruised out of Stillwater.  Since then, we've stayed in marinas 9 nights, tied up at free docks 2 nights, and anchored out 37 nights.  We've enjoyed the privacy of anchoring out, but I'm hoping that the slip in Dunedin will work because I'm looking forward to being able to start the coffeemaker, the washer & dryer, and the vacuum cleaner without having to run the generator.

Also, all of our daughters are coming to Dunedin to spend Christmas with us and it sure would be a lot more convenient to be in a slip when we have company.

There won't be any internet connections out on the Gulf so the soonest I'll be posting an update will be on Thursday.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Today started out at 53 degrees with rain and we were on our way at 9:15 central time.

The wind was much weaker than yesterday and it had changed direction, so it wasn't much of a factor today--just the temperature and the rain.  We both went from shorts, T-shirts, and sandals just a few days ago to long pants, 3 layers on top, and shoes & socks today. 

Even the birds we saw this morning were hunkered down and waiting out the rain.



Eventually we left the rain behind and we saw blue sky and sun; the temp got up to about 61 degrees.

For nearly all day the GIWW was like a canal so it was easy cruising, but there were a few logs floating here and there that we had to avoid.

We came upon this wreck, probably from one of last year's hurricanes.

The red lettering on what's left of the cabin says "no trespassing".

We left the Central time zone and reached Apalachicola at 4 pm Eastern. 

This is the waterfront of the town and we're anchored right across the channel.  There's a dinghy dock (at the left side of the photo) where we can tie up and walk into town.

The wind picked up tonight, it's raining again and the temp is going down to the low 40s, but the next few days are supposed to be at least partly sunny with highs in the low 60s. 
It looks like now we can't cross the Gulf until Thursday because of the winds and waves so we'll have all of tomorrow to go into town and explore; Apalachicola is a major oyster harvesting area, so we'll be looking for a place to buy fresh oysters (YAY!), and there's a maritime museum, parks, historic downtown, plus we need some groceries and supplies--lots to do and see tomorrow. 
On Wednesday we'll catch up on laundry and make sure that everything on Paradise is stowed away and secured for our expected crossing on Thursday.
My brother, John, has business that requires him to be out of town on Thursday so Joe and I will be making the Gulf crossing by ourselves.  We've talked to several other couples who have done the crossing multiple times and they've all done it with just the two of them.  If they can do it, so can we!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We had planned to leave early today and make it to Apalachicola, a distance of 60+ miles.  But it was windy with gusts up to 40 mph...and we had our coffee...and we read the Sunday paper...and we hemmed...and we hawed about wanting to leave our nice comfy anchorage with its good internet connection to go out and battle the wind when it was already so late that we couldn't make it to Apalachicola today.  But there's rain in tomorrow's forecast and I suggested that perhaps doing one short day of just wind and a second short day of both wind and rain would be better than doing one long day of both wind and rain.
So we decided to leave today but it was nearly 11:00 before we got going.
We didn't really need fuel, but we did need water and a pumpout, so we decided to get all three at a place that has diesel for $3.70 a gallon, which is probably 50 cents a gallon less than we can expect to pay for it when we get to Florida.  We topped off the fuel tanks, got water, and got rid of our garbage, but the pumpout station wasn't working so we'll have to wait till we get to Apalachicola for that.
Although it was certainly windy, once we got going the cruising conditions weren't as bad as we had feared and we made about 20 miles today.

I was holding the camera horizontally in this photo and you can see how much we were listing to port because of the wind--it was like that the whole time we were out today.  We didn't see any other boats at all today, just birds and an occasional dolphin.
About 2 pm we anchored just off the channel by Farmdale Bayou.  We had to dodge our first crabpot doing it.  We'll probably see a lot more of those when we get to the Tarpon Springs area.
About 8 pm it started raining and it poured for about an hour, but things have quieted down now.
The National Weather Service is predicting rain for tomorrow morning with clearing in the afternoon. The strong winds will continue, but we only have about 40 miles to go tomorrow so hopefully it won't be too bad.  When we get to Apalachicola we'll get a pumpout, then find a good anchorage for the next few days until we make the Gulf crossing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

We had so much fun today!
The skies were mostly cloudy when we woke up and it was a bit windy and chilly, but by 9 or so  it was beginning to look promising with the sun and blue sky peeking through.

While we were having coffee, this interesting homemade sailboat passed us. It appears to be made out of plywood; we couldn't tell if the dark areas on the side are solar panels or windows, but since solar panels are usually horizontal, we decided that perhaps these are windows.

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a lighted boat parade planned for tonight, so I sent an email to the local Looper "Harbor Hosts" to ask their advice on the best place to watch the parade.  Harbor Hosts are folks who volunteer to offer some or all of the following: "...navigational aid, transportation, advice on restaurants, sights, marinas, repair facilities, etc, local history and interesting side trips, perhaps even a hot meal or glass of wine while swapping Looper yarns."
Panama City's Harbor Hosts are Greg & Carl Vernon and they go out of their way to offer all of the above assistance plus warm Southern Hospitality to Loopers; on Thanksgiving they hosted 28 Loopers for dinner at their home.  We hadn't heard about it because I didn't know enough to sign up for the Looper notifications (I'm sure signed up now!!!) and we weren't in contact with any other Loopers that we've met along the way.  But when we saw Ken & Pat (m/v 20 Buck$) at Bayou Joe's yesterday, they told us about it and said that it was a really great time.
Rather than just giving us the information we requested, Greg and Carl's response was to invite us to their home since we missed the Thanksgiving gathering.  They gave us the option of either going by dinghy directly to their home on the waterfront, or, if we preferred to take our dinghy to the Panama City marina, they would pick us up there.  The wind started blowing harder almost immediately after we got off the phone with the Vernons, and we debated about what we should do, but we thought it would be more fun to take the dinghy to a part of the town that we hadn't seen before.  By the time we were ready to leave the water looked like it was getting pretty rough, but Joe put on a water-resistant jacket and pants and I put on a mostly-water-proof jacket and off we went.  Well, about 30 yards from Paradise I started getting sprayed with water over the starboard bow, and it turned out to be a lot longer to Greg & Carl's than we thought.  As we entered the middle of the channel I was getting full-body sprays every few seconds, I was spitting out salt-water over the port side and my eyes were burning from the salt water.  By the time we entered their bayou I was completely soaked from head to toe and Joe was mostly wet, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  I love riding in the dinghy!!! 
Fortunately, our camera and the long sleeve shirt and sweatshirt that I brought all stayed dry in our tote bag that was stowed on the floor on the port side behind me and next to the steering console.  When we got to their house, Carl and Greg immediately made us feel welcome by giving us hugs, offering to dry our clothes, and bringing refreshments.  We had a great afternoon and also met Loopers Roy and Elvie Short (m/v RoyEl) who were staying with Greg and Carl for a few days.  During my conversations with Greg and Elvie, we discovered that both the Vernons and the Shorts are friends with Ken and Brenda Bloomfield (m/v Tellico Lady--a sister ship to Paradise) and Jim and Sharon Angel (m/v Blue Angel).  Joe and I have followed the blog of and/or exchanged emails with both the Bloomfields and the Angels since last year.  It's such fun to make these connections!  Blue Angel is currently at Caladesi State Park, near Dunedin, so we're hoping to finally get to meet Jim and Sharon in the next week or so.
We reluctantly left the Vernons and the Shorts, got in the dinghy and made our way back towards the Panama City marina to watch the boat parade.  When we got there we found that we had plenty of time before the parade started, so Joe fueled up the dinghy and I went in search of a place for us to watch the parade.  I walked over by the water and saw a bench that two folks were sitting on, but there was plenty of room for at least one more person, so I approached to ask their permission to sit next to them.  Before I could even open my mouth, the nice lady urged me to sit down next to her.  Pretty soon, Joe came over and he joined us on the bench.  They introduced themselves as Jim and Florence Fortier and we chatted for a while about the parade and boats, and they said that they're sailboaters.  During the course of the conversation I mentioned where we had been this afternoon and how much fun we had and it turned out that Jim and Florence are friends of the Vernons.  Panama City has a population of 37,000, what are the chances that this coincidence would occur?!

While we waited for the parade, we caught the moon and a planet and the last of the light.
 There were 11 boats in the parade and we had a great time, except when the "Betsy Ann" went by with people throwing candy into the crowd on shore. Some men on the boat were throwing candy as hard as they could and one piece hit Jim Fortier right in the eye; Florence said that Jim just had cataract surgery three weeks ago.  Hopefully, he'll be all right, but it certainly is worrisome.  I think just about all the municipalities in Minnesota have forbidden people in parades from throwing candy for that very reason.


 Next was a police boat...

 ...then a cruiser with a Santa in back

 then a fire department boat

...a sailboat celebrating the twenty fifth anniversary of the Panama City lighted boat parade, complete with "Happy Anniversary, Baby" by the Little River Band...

I couldn't tell if this boat, Island Dancer, is a private boat or an excursion boat.

I think this was my favorite because it looked so elegant.  The Governor Stone is a wooden schooner built in 1877 and is the last known survivor of a class of vessels once numbering in the thousands.  In 1991, the boat was designated a national historic landmark and is registered as a Florida antique vessel.

You can find more information about this fascinating ship at this website:

When this United States Air Force boat came by, everyone cheered.  Tyndale Air Force Base is just a few miles south of Panama City, so perhaps the boat came from there. 

Here's the St. Andrews Ferry boat that we saw yesterday at Bayou Joe's.

 And bringing up the rear was another privately owned cruiser.

As we left the marina in our dinghy, we were relieved to see that the water had calmed down considerably.
It only took a few minutes to get back to Paradise.
As soon as we were aboard, I headed into the shower to wash off all of the salt that I had accumulated earlier, and Joe followed soon after.

I'm so glad we stayed in Panama city for the boat parade.
Tomorrow we'll leave for Apalachicola with a stop on the way for fuel, a pumpout, and water.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Joe and I decided to sleep in this morning and not go to any of the Black Friday sales, ha-ha!  When we got up, it was another beautiful Florida day with bright sunshine although the temperature was in the 50s.  By afternoon, the temperature was in the low 70s.  Have I mentioned how much I love being retired?  And being in Florida??
I happened to be on the Panama City website this morning and discovered that there's a lighted boat parade tomorrow night so we changed our plan to leave for Apalachicola tomorrow morning and will stay until Sunday.  Many other cities on the Florida coasts have similar events this weekend.  I've always wanted to see one; actually I've always wanted to be IN one, but it's not going to happen this year since participating boats have to be pre-registered and anyway, we don't have any Christmas lights for decorating.

We made a trip into Panama City and went to Bayou Joe's again, but this time 
a passenger ferry came into the channel and

pulled right up to the restaurant as one of the servers slid the windscreen open

and passengers could walk right in if they wanted to.  It was hilarious!

This boat pulled up on another side and the family stepped right in and sat down at the table in front of the boat.

 Oooooo, and look who we ran into while we were walking around in town; I LOVE those guys! 

We were surprised to see this boat from Minnesota; Joe used to see it on the St Croix and the elderly owner (who apparently travels by himself) would occasionally come into the post office when Joe was working there.  We were told by Minnesota Loopers Ken & Pat (m/v 20 Buck$), who were also at Bayou Joe's today, that for the last couple of years he's been spending his summers in Red Wing.  It's hard to imagine making the trip from Minnesota to Florida alone in a boat that size...

Coming back from town, we made a little side trip up Smack Bayou and took this shot of Paradise.  It looks like we're right in front of Panama city, but we're way across the channel from it.

When we got back we sat on the aft deck and enjoyed the sunset.

I hope tomorrow night I'll be able to post some good photos of the parade of boats with their lights.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day--Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

We woke to blue skies this morning, but the temperature was in the low 50s and the wind was about 10-15 mph for a while.  The wind quieted down after a couple of hours and the temperature climbed to the low 70s so it was a really beautiful day.
I started pumpkin pie at 9:30, got it in the oven, then started mixing the dough for dinner rolls.  By 10:45 the pie was out of the oven, the dough was rising, and I was in the shower.
There was almost no traffic on the river today--I suppose most folks were watching football and getting together with family and friends for dinner.
Our daughters, Katy and Kris, and our two granddaughters, Erin and Sarah, all went to Amy & Karen's apartment for Thanksgiving dinner.  This is the third year that Amy & Karen hosted Thanksgiving for our nuclear family and Amy does a fabulous job.  Thanks to Skype, we were able to connect with and see all of them, and they could see us.  It was so great--I really, really love technology!
We'll talk to Josie in Michigan later this evening after she returns home from her friend's house where she had Thanksgiving dinner.  She's excited to be moving back to Minnesota the middle of next month.

After we finished our visit with our Minnesota family, I got the rest of our dinner going and Joe and I sat down to eat at 3:30. 

We had turkey filets, stuffing, mashed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, rolls, and a nice pinot noir.  Everything turned out great and we ate till we were stuffed--of course!

We finished off the bottle of wine, then sat out on the aft deck for a while to enjoy the weather.

After the sun went down, the temperature cooled off rapidly so we moved inside and cleaned up the kitchen.
About 6 pm we had pumpkin pie with whipped cream, so I think we're good for the rest of the evening.
Leftovers tomorrow.  =0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November 23, 2011

This morning we woke to cloudy skies, but by noon most of the clouds were gone and the afternoon was beautiful.  The humidity was way down, there was a nice breeze and we had all the windows open.

About 9:30 we saw this boat being towed down the channel.  Looking through the binoculars we thought the sign on the upper deck said "Danger"; we wondered what in the world made it dangerous!  When I downloaded the photo to the PC, however, I saw that the word was "Dancer".  =0)
In any case, that boat sure looks like it took a beating.

We needed ice for the cooler, so Joe took the dinghy to the Panama City marina.  I decided to stay home and take care of a few things around here.  After he got back we were lazy and just spent the afternoon sitting and reading on the aft deck.

At Joe's suggestion, dinner was leftovers from last night so I had minimal cooking and cleanup to do tonight.  Tomorrow the two of us will have our own Thanksgiving dinner on the boat with sauteed filets of turkey breast, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, homemade rolls, a nice pinot noir and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.  We'll be thinking about and missing all of our daughters, but we'll call them and maybe even use Skype if we can remember how to do it.

We wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!