Monday, February 20, 2012

Apalachicola to Panama City and Fort Walton Beach FL

When it rains in Florida it rains in buckets and sideways. That's how it was when we docked at Apalachicola.  After one night in that hopping town, we left Apalachicola and motored up to Panama City where another 'severe' storm was set to kick up.  On our way we enjoyed more dolphins playing in our wake.

It was a nice quiet and easy river run to Panama City from Apalachicola so we were surprised to see the dolphins show up as we entered Big Cove and East Bay just east of Panama City.

We were told that a tornado watch and HEAVY winds and weather on its way that night and to double tie all our lines and hold on for dear life.  right.  Nothing happened Friday night so we had a get together with some "loopers" (cruisers doing the Great American Loop).  Loopers have their own cruising association, the Great American Loop Cruising Association and by being a member they get numerous discounts at marinas and fuel docks along the way.  There was even a GALCA host at Panama City offering them a car and any help they might need.

Well, we got up Saturday morning to nearly clear skies and beautiful day, all of us wondering where the big storm was.  "It's comin" so we decided to stay another day and go see Don Williams in concert Saturday night at the Marina Civic Auditorium. Pretty good stuff. Finally late Saturday afternoon the winds really got going.  No rain until we got back from the concert Saturday night (which was convenient).  A little thunder and lightning and the winds on Sunday were even worse.  So we stayed another day.  Finally this morning we were able to get out of there and move on to Fort Walton Beach. Another run up the river and now we actually have banks on the rivers.  It's sand but at least it's not swamp.

Not a lot going on in Fort Walton Beach.   Highlight of the evening was talking to Jen on the phone.  Tomorrow Pensacola.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Boca Ciega to Clearwater and across the gulf

We have now crossed the gulf from Clearwater to Apalachicola.  We picked Wednesday night to make this crossing with a forecast of 2 ft seas, winds 10-15kts.  That's about what we had and as the night progressed into early morning the wind died to almost nothing.  There's not much to show in the way of pictures as it was really, really dark.  No moon at all.  We made our way from Boca Ciega, just west of Tampa Bay, to Clearwater and exited the ICW at Clearwater Pass.  Then made a straight line from Clearwater to Dog Key just east of Apalachicola, ducked behind Dog Key and St. George Island to the Apalachicola River and stopped at Apalachicola after 24 hrs underway.  Molly had her legs crossed.  She was never so ready to get OFF the boat.  On our way to Clearwater we had more dolphins playing in our wake.  I tried to get more pictures but I got soaked by their splashing.  Here's a picture of dawn on the gulf.
The water color before sunset was incredible!

When we stopped at Apalachicola, the dockmaster said we could use his golfcart to go to the store if we liked, so we took advantage to pick up a few things, and, of course, Molly had to go, too
Anything to get off the boat.  Here is she waiting while we're in the Piggly Wiggly.  Such a good girl!  I think she's recovered now.  Even as the boat was rolling around, she wanted us to throw her toy.  Probably a ploy to keep her mind off of how much she had to go to the bathroom.  We offered her the back deck, but no go.  Well, now the worst is over.  Tomorrow it's off to Panama City.  We are looking forward to this part of the trip and the guidebook says that from Apalachicola to Pensacola is a very pleasant trip.  We're pretty tired after very little sleep last night.

We've decided that we're running out of time and will only go as far as Mobile Bay.  We've arranged for the trucker to come get the boat in Mobile Bay instead of Galveston.  We'll miss some fun parts but we decided that we wanted to enjoy the places we get to see rather than rush through and not see anything.

So we're in the final days but the boat has been very comfortable and we've enjoyed it all, inspite of the "skinny water".

Monday, February 13, 2012

Moorehaven locks to Ft. Myers and Venice FL

Went through the last 2 locks and arrived in Ft Myers with the wind blowing 25 kts Plus.
Patti docked the boat under duress as we were abeam to the wind and I was doing suicide lines.
Worked out without any major problems and we settled down for 2 days of wind.  Took off the bikes and went and saw the movie 'Safe House' with Denzel.  Talk about action.  A nice reprieve.

Finally this morning we took out and about 60 miles later made it to the crow's nest marina in Venice, FL.  We passed numerous beautiful beaches along the way but the most exciting thing we encountered was three dolphins playing in our wake.  We both tried with all our might to get pictures and Jon got the best ones, so here are a few.  The dolphins were right off our starboard stern.

We are getting ready for our passage this Thursday or Friday, weather depending, across the gulf from Anclote Key to Dog Key, about 140 miles.

Still lots of slow areas, manatee areas and not so much traffic.  When we got here three gents stopped by who knew the boat.  One of them has a boat in the same harbor where Manitou was in Annapolis before we took her over.  He recognized the boat, called the broker and they told him it was us and that they should stop by, so they did.  We had a nice conversation with them about their travels on Jack's 37.   It was real interesting talking to folks who really like these boats as well.  And they've taken theirs quite a few places.  Boy, it's a small world!!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Stuart Florida to Moorhaven locks FL little over 50 miles to Ft. Myers

Howdy ICW fans  Stuart FL is on the St. Lucie River.  We took a mooring ball at Sunset Marina so we could get an early start crossing Lake Okeechobee via 3 locks.  However... the genset took a time out and decided to run about 5 minutes and stop.  Genset is pretty vital so we stayed an extra day and got Adolf to get the genset going.  I called three numbers and all went to Adolf.  Pretty funny because I emailed our sales gun in Annapolics (Cary) and he also recommended Adolf.  Clearly Adolph is the man!  So Adolf got two guys on my boat within 30 minutes.  Figured out the radiator cap on the exchange heater was faulty and the genset did not have an overflow tank.  Patti and I walked about 4 miles to an auto parts store and got one.  Then we had a nice anniversary dinner at Sailor's Return and finally left one day later.Today we went thru 3 locks and are about 50 miles from Ft. Meyers FL on the west side of FL.  The Okeechobee Waterway winds through the marshes and the birds were prolific.  I tried to get some pictures of the birds, but it wasn't easy.

We crossed Lake Okeechobee under cloudy skies and sporadic rainfall.  It's about 25 miles across from lock to lock.

One of the locks raised us 3 ft and another 2 1/2 ft.  About the time the back door closed, the front door began opening.  The first one raised us 13ft.  so that was definitely worthwhile.  After the third lock, we decided to stop for the night and continue on tomorrow.  So we tied to the dolphins on the west side of the locks.  They put cleats on the dolphins so boats can tie to them and wait for the locks but overnight stays are OK. . . and free!

Here is Manitou tied to the dolphins.  Another new experience for us, trying to get this done.
One more thing.  The ICW is full of signs telling you where to go.  This is one example.  Gotta love the road signs on the water.  Don't miss the turn!
Steven,  Have fun in Maui!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cocoa Village to St. Lucie River

The trip from St. Augustine through Daytona Beach and on to Cocoa Village was nervewracking because of depths.  There was always lots of water around us just not under us.  We saw many, many manatee signs and we decided the signs lied because we hadn't seen a manatee, until our last day in Cocoa Village.  As we were getting ready to leave, a manatee popped his head up in the vacant slip next to us.  So now we've seen one.  We began to think the manatees were playing with us as we took the Halifax river , the cut to the Indian river and then the Indian river because depths would be 12 and then 4 and then back to 12!  It was a couple of stressful days spending all our time looking at the depth sounder.  Others in Cocoa Village were saying the same thing, so it wasn't just us.

We did three days in Cocoa Village FL.  This was a very friendly marina and they even had a super bowl party on Sunday night in their clubhouse, which is very lavish.  Good game and it was interesting to enjoy it with people you don't know.

Took a day to go see the Kennedy space center, which was real interesting.  We even got to go into a flight simulator which simulates a space shuttle take off.  Then we watched a 3D movie about life on the space station.

How would you like to drive this around the moon!

We also spent one day just cleaning the boat.  Over a thousand miles so far and it needed it.  The town is really fun and they had a park with a great frisbee area for Molly.  And it gave Jon a chance to get over a flu bug or something.  Then we provisioned and headed out to Vero Beach FL (Start of the Tropics) we are told.  It is illegal to anchor in Vero Beach so we stayed on a mooring ball provided by the municipal marina.

This is the most boats we've seen in one place since we started!

We are beginning to see a lot more traffic, lots of sailboats headed south now that the depths are reasonable.  We've seen depths of 10-15 ft pretty consistently for the last 2 days.  We also noticed this morning that the water is changing color to turquoise from the usual mud brown.  The dolphins are still with us, popping up in front of the boat periodically to let us know.  Weather is overcast, warm and humid.  Next couple of days we will be crossing the state of Florida via lake Okeechobee.  Watch for alligators!  We head down the St. Lucie river to the Okeechobee Canal/ditch from Stuart FL to Lake Okeechoobee (2 locks), across the lake and down the Caloosahatchee river to Ft. Myers for our anniversary.. yeah i remembered it.  Then we will be heading north towards Tampa Bay, Tarpon Springs and meander to Mobile Bay.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cumberland Island GA to Cocoa Beach FL.

Howdy to all you folks following our blog.  We really like all those colorful comments you send us. Keep that going as news of home is very welcome. Started the moring off with skeeters eating me alive as I took molly for her 'walk'.Hauled back to the boat loaded the dingy in record time and got out of there.
Left at 0815 and by 0830 we were in 4 feet of water backing off a shoal area.
I am sure we will get the ground hog award this year.
Then going up the south Amelia River clearly in the channel we hit 2 ft of water.
Thank God it was low tide and the tide was just coming up.  Hour later on the water again..  Finally in Nothern Florida.  We stayed at the muni dock in St. Augustine and tossed frisbee with Molly.
St Augustine was founded in 1565 and reeks of history.
Next morning we pulled out and headed for Smyrna Beach to rendesvous with Patsy Bolling.

We only made it to Daytona beach as there are numerous no wake zones, manatee zones where you can only go at idle speed.  Patti and I are in shorts and tank tops now.. wooohooo 70's and 80s.

Special thanks to Darsie Wells who is taking care of Mr. Charly and making sure everyone knows he is alright.  Some folks are wondering how the finger is doing.  All of the trauma is gone and soon i should be able to start bending it.  A part of the finger is gone and i have not been able to find it so the crabs probably enjoyed it.  Tomorrow is the space center and then away we go to Lake Okeechoobee and cross to the Gulf.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Walburg Creek to Frederica River to Cumberland Island

Well, never a dull moment.  The dolphins are still with us and the weather has been great!  We are switching to shorts, T-shirts and sandals and not running the heater as often.  Just enough to maybe take the edge off at night and first thing in the morning.  The afternoons have been warm and sunny.  Even the locals are commenting on the wonderful weather they've had.  Which is exactly what Farmer's Almanac said would happen this winter.  We left Walburg Creek and ventured further off the magenta line and tried our hand at "avoiding the charted shoals".  We made it through that and then went from river to creek to sound and back again.  We went through 4 sounds yesterday, Sapelo, Doboy, Altamaha and Buttermilk.  The water was maybe 20 ft deep.  We are, however, beginning to see deeper water.  Yesterday we did hit 60 ft for a brief moment.

Then we went off the magenta line again into Frederica River to anchor at the Frederica National Park.  We were able to dinghy to the dinghy dock and visit the park.  Frederica is a town that was settled in the early 1700's and then General Ogelthorpe and his regiment came and built a fort around the town to protect it from the Spanish coming from St. Augustine (who never showed).  It was really interesting to read the stories of the people who lived there and how they built the fort.
Molly played frisbee again until she dropped and found her new place on the swimstep
We had another wonderful night at anchor.  Calm and quiet.
Then we got brave again and continued down the Frederica River and exited it at the south end to meet the ICW.  We knew the water was thin there so we waited for the tide to come up a bit before venturing over the shoal. The tides peak in GA at 9 ft on our trip south.  From here the tides will be less. We made it through that one and then went through Jekyll Creek.  That was another story.  We spent the entire time in Jekyll Creek watching the depth sounder and I think at one point we skimmed the bottom slightly.  The guidebook said GA doesn't have any money for dredging but we've seen two dredgers. Just not in Jekyll Creek.  Anyway, made it through unscathed and hit our closest point to the ocean today in St. Andrews Sound.  We went right to the edge and then turned in towards Cumberland Island, which is the southernmost barrier island in GA.  We are now at Cumberland Island, the island with the wild horses, anchored in the Brickhill River at the Cumberland Island National Sea Shore Park, near the dinghy dock (makes it much easier to get Molly to shore).  I did find one of the wild horses, but could only get his butt.  He was busy munching on something.
Tomorrow by this time we should be in Florida.  Hoping to get to St. Augustine but that's a long day and it depends on who many NO WAKE zones we meet.  We're at Mile 703 of the ICW and that doesn't count the 140 or so miles we went from Annapolis to Mile 0 at Norfolk.  Mile 988 is where we turn to take the Okeechobee Waterway.  So about 285 more miles along the eastern seaboard!