Mobile Bay, AL to Carrabelle, FL

1/30/07

We are up at 4:30 checking the water depth. We can not leave until daylight which is about 6:30. We are almost aground again. Jeff pushes IT away from the dock to get her off. The tide is still going out so it is only going to get worse. We decide to move to a dock across from us. This dock actually belongs to the Fairhope Yacht Club. It seems a little deeper. At this dock we have 8ft. versus 5 ft. where we were. We wait here until daylight to leave for Pensacola. The wind has died down and the bay is calm so it should be a good run. Bill and Sue Shafer on Unchained leave with us.

While going thru the bay, we are very careful about our depths. It is still extremely shallow in the bay and we draw 5 feet. We are showing a depth in the bay of 9 foot. We see several dolphins playing in our bow wake.

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Just before entering the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), we have only 6 feet of water. Once on the GIWW at mile 150 our depth goes up to 9-10 feet. From here we have about 32 miles to the Pensacola shipping channel. Just after leaving Mobile Bay, we go thru a canal section of the GIWW which looks very similar to the canal section of the Tenn-Tom. The difference being there are house all along the canal here and also a major highway running just off our starboard side. At mile marker 155 we pass Lulu’s restaurant which is run by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy. You can dock your boat alongside for lunch.

After going thru the canal section, the GIWW opens up into very pretty bays with houses and condos lining the banks.

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We have over fifteen dolphins riding our bow wake. They stay there for about 10 minutes just playing. 527516 Unchained also has dolphins all around. We pass several tows just like on the Tenn-Tom usually in the curve but it is at least a little wider here and the tows don’t seem as intimidating.

About 10 miles from Pensacola, we say goodbye to Unchained as they are going to anchor tonight in a very pretty anchorage just off the beach.

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The ocean is just on the other side. We reach the Pensacola Ship Channel which we will follow in for about 6 miles to the inner harbor. We pass a Navy boat, Bay Lander, in the bay. A helicopter is practicing landings off the back of the ship. There are also dolphins all around playing in the bay.

We arrive at the marina about 3:00 PM. Although we only traveled 60 miles today, it took much longer than on the Tenn-Tom. There are many areas along the GIWW which are a “No Wake Zone” and we have to go idle speed (6 mph). We are docked right next to another looper boat, Island Fever, which is owned by John and CeCe MeGrue. They are from S.C. and will finish their loop this spring. They started the loop last May.
We are staying at the Palafox Marina which is in the heart of downtown Pensacola. This marina has been rebuilt since Hurricane Ivan in 2004 destroyed much of the waterfront.
We enjoyed a great dinner at McGuire’s, a local Irish Pub. It is located in the original old firehouse and has over 500,000 one dollar bills which customers have signed hanging on the ceilings.

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They have been in business since 1977 and are one of the best steakhouses in the South.

We will enjoy touring Pensacola tomorrow. We will visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation. It is one of the top three aviation museums in the world. Pensacola’s nickname is the “City of Five Flags” because throughout its history they have been under the rule of the Spanish, French, English, Confederates and Americans. In 1513, world explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed at what is presently known as Pensacola Beach and named it after the Indian tribe living there, the Panzacola. King Ferdinand VI later changed the name to Pensacola.

2/01/2007

We have enjoyed our visit in Pensacola. Yesterday we spent the entire day at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

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This is probably one of the best museums we have visited. There are restored Navy aircraft from all eras. You really need two or more days to tour the entire facility. There are over 100 restored aircraft inside a huge multi story building.

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An Apollo space capsule is also on display. Jeff and I flew in the F-14 flight simulator. We did dog fighting, touch and goes, and carrier landings. This is the same trainer that the Navy pilots use to train in. Jeff was a good pilot and we did not crash.

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There is a trolley tour which takes you on the back lot to see over 50 different aircraft on display. The US Navy Blue Angels flight team is also based here. They do their practice every Tuesday and Wednesday but they are now in California and we did not get to see them. The museum is one of the top three tourist attractions in Florida with over 1,000,000 visitors per year.

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We had planed on leaving this morning for Ft. Walton Beach. The boat rocked and rolled all night in the marina. The wind was blowing 25 mph and the bay was rough. We were up at 3:00 AM looking at the weather. There are thunderstorm warnings for this AM so we have decided to stay here another day. This gives us a chance to catch up on some of the maintenance items. Jeff changes the air conditioner filters, cleans the raw water strainers, fills the water tanks, and cleans the bilge in the engine room.

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The rain lets up about 2:00 PM so we decide to take the dogs into town. We stop at the Central Bark Bakery and let the dogs pick out some treats.

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They have been good and deserve a special treat. The owner of the bakery even lets them sample some of the goodies. This place was a hit with Daisy and Sebastian. We then take a walk thru the Seville Historic District. There are several nice parks in this historic district. Pensacola has been named a Tree City USA every year since 1990 and boasts nearly 100 city parks. The Historical Pensacola Village features furnished period houses, museums and archaeological sites spanning from the earliest Spanish explorers to the 1920’s.

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Many of the houses had huge orange trees in their front yards.

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The Seville Historic District is also home to the oldest church in the state, Old Christ Church. The rain returns so we head back to the boat for the evening. Daisy and Sebastian decide to share one of their treats with Nate and Homer. They did not want anyone to think they are selfish. And if they don’t, Nate and Homer can bite really hard.

The weather should be good for leaving in the AM.

2/02/2007

We say goodbye to fellow loopers John and Cece aboard Island Fever before pulling away from Palafox Marina. We pick up the East Channel in the Inner Harbor, which takes us to the Pensacola shipping channel. From here we pick up the Intracoastal Waterway at mile 182. Following the GIWW we are traveling between Santa Rosa Sound (on our Port) and Santa Rosa Island (on our starboard). About 10:30 we pass under the Navarre Bridge. Houses and condos have lined both sides of the waterway since leaving Pensacola. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is now to the south of us. Since Pensacola all of the beaches have very white sand.

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This gorgeous white sand is made of quartz washed down from the Appalachian Mountains over the centuries. You can see many areas of shoaling just outside of the channel. The watercolor changes to a lighter shade of blue in the shoaling areas. At mile 212 we pass a military radar tower. It looks very out of place along the empty seashore.

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The military uses this area of the gulf for bombing practice. The Coast Guard had warnings on the VHF this morning about military bombing exercises today 20 miles offshore. We sure don’t want to go out there today.

At mile 215 someone hails us on the VHF. It is Island Fever and they are right behind us.

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It turns out that John and Cece decided to leave Pensacola today also. They are headed for Destin. Even though they did not leave until 10:00 AM they are able to catch up with us as their boat can go much faster. I am sure they are burning a lot more diesel fuel but I guess that is the price you pay for speed.

Wouldn’t you know? We enter a section of the GIWW called the Narrows. The name explains it all. The only barge we have seen all day long meets us in the curve in the Narrows. The Marathon is a four-barge tow that has a helper barge tied to its bow.

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This unmanned unit has an engine and propeller that can be controlled by the tugboat remotely. It assists them in tight turns. They had it on for this turn.

As we reach Ft. Walton Beach area, we see several boats which have run aground.

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You have to stay within the channel in this section, as it is only 1-2 ft. deep just a few feet outside the GIWW. The Narrows open up into Choctawhatchee Bay. We set our new course for the Ft. Walton Yacht Club that is located on Smack Point in Choctqawhatchee Bay. We dock at the yacht club and there is a stiff breeze pushing us against the docks. We set out all of the bumpers to hold us off. We should be fine tonight on the rising tide. It is 17 ft. deep here so we won’t have to worry about sitting on the bottom at low tide like at Eastern Shore.

After checking in at the marina, we went for a three mile run with the dogs. They were glad to have the exercise. Dinner tonight is at the yacht club. Every Friday the restaurant is open for dinner. With 450 members, they usually get a good turn out.

2/03/2007

Daisy’s Diary:

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For those of you that I haven’t had a chance to play with, my name is Daisy and I am IT’s Security Officer. I am a nine year old Sheltie. I am new to boat security. It is quite fun being the security officer at home chasing all the birds and squirrels. I am quite good at that. Here on the boat, I have yet to see much to chase .As IT’s Security Officer, my job has been pretty easy so far. I have alerted the crew several times about strange sounds at night. I don’t know what these sounds are but Dad gets up sometimes to double check me. I have had to sound the alarm twice when strange dogs have appeared on our dock. Quite a few other boats also have dog security officers aboard. We do make good security officers. Most of my day is spent sleeping in the pilot house.

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There is not much for me to get excited about on the water. I have not seen a single squirrel. I dream of my backyard and all of the squirrels that I used to chase. I did see some strange birds one day. Mom said they are called pelicans. They are much larger than the blue herons that I chase back home. I know what they are now so I will chase them next time. The food here is the same as we had back home. We did get special cookies one day from a store in Pensacola. We had never been in a store like that before. It was like Christmas. Sebastian and I have never seen such goodies. We know there are still some of these cookies in our food drawer. Sebastian saw Dad put them there.

Today Mom and Dad say we are moving again to Panama City. It is really strange how we move everyday. They say we will be at a very nice marina with grass and lots of places for Sebastian and I to explore. At the beginning of our trip they tried to take us out on the side of the boat deck and expected us to use the bathroom on the boat. Sebastian and I did try this once by using the hatch cover on the front deck. It was green so it looked a little like grass to us. They praised us and gave us lots of treats for doing this. How strange can humans be? Since then, we have learned to listen to Mom and Dad when they are planning out the day. Once we hear them say we will be going to a marina we know we can hold out. I think Mom and Dad have figured us out and they don’t even bother trying to “walk us” because they know we are holding out for the marina. They keep telling us that when it gets warmer we will be anchoring instead of going into marinas. They must think we don’t remember last summer when we used the dinghy to go ashore. It is still up on the top deck, so I know we could go ashore in it. Sebastian and I have both discussed this and have decided to hold out for the dinghy ride if we do anchor out. We know Mom will get worried and give in.

That’s all for now. I will let you know if we have any security situations.

Daisy

2/04/2007

We left Ft. Walton Beach early yesterday morning and headed for Panama City. It is a 65 mile run. The seas are 2-3 ft. and the wind is blowing 15mph. After crossing Choctawhatchee Bay, we enter a 16 mile land cut section called the “Grand Canyon”. This is basically just a man made ditch cut through the land. About ½ ways thru, we see a sailboat coming our way. It turns out that it is Unchained with Sue and Bill Shafer. They are headed for Destin. Their mast height is too high to get under the Navarre Bridge so they had to go out into the gulf at Pensacola and back around to the GIWW. They said the seas were 6-8 ft. out in the ocean. Let’s hope they calm down before our gulf crossing. A few miles later, we see a dredge up ahead of us.

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We call on the radio and he says it is o.k. to come around him. There is only about 5 feet from him to the shore. How does he expect us to get around? A few seconds later we see a tug boat come out and lasso the dredge head with a line and move it towards the other bank so we can pass.

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We exit the “Grand Canyon” about 1:00 PM and enter West Bay. We have dolphins on our bow again.

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Susie goes outside to cheer them on. We discover that if she shouts encouragement at them they will jump out of the water for her. Jeff tries this but they are not affected by his voice. It must be something in the pitch of the voice. They stay on our bow for almost an hour. Just before our turnoff for Grand Lagoon, someone hails us on the VHF. It is the enormous container ship behind us. He asks our speed as he does not want to run over us. We explain that we will be turning out of the channel and it should not be a problem. Once in Grand Lagoon we see the entrance to Bay Point Marina. The marina is in a Marriott Resort Complex which has a hotel, condos, and houses. It is quite a nice place. We enjoyed a nice seafood dinner at Capt. Anderson’s.

This morning we borrowed the marina courtesy car and did some grocery shopping. We moved the boat this afternoon to the St. Andrews Yacht Club which overlooks St. Andrews Bay. Downtown Panama City is only 2 miles away so we decide to walk the dogs into town.

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There is a nice park overlooking the bay. The city dedicated the park to the memory of those who perished in 9/11. There is a plaque and granite benches for each of the airplanes which crashed on that tragic day.

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We wonder back to the yacht club thru some very nice neighborhoods overlooking the bay. Many of the streets have a canopy of huge live oak trees.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the boat and scrubbing the bumpers. The bumpers had become quite filthy after traversing all of the locks. We enjoy the evening watching all of the boats passing by on the GIWW.

2/05/2007

Today we are traveling to Apalachicola which is 65 miles to our east. While traveling thru east St. Andrews Bay, we have Eglin Air Force Base on our Starboard side for almost 10 miles. We see many F-18 fighter jets practicing overhead. They were so close Jeff could see the pilots in the cockpit with his binoculars.

At mile 312 we enter Wetappo Creek. This is another 20-mile man made cut-thru of the land by the Corp of Engineers. We almost feel like we are back on the Tenn-Tom again. There is very little here. We see no house or boats on this section. The water has a very brownish color from the tannin coming from the roots of the trees.

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This leaches into the water and creates this brown hue. The water itself is very clean. At mile 327 there is a split in the channel. The southern split leads to Port St. Joe, which is 5 miles to our south on St. Joe Bay. It is a large deep protected bay with a state park on its outer shore. We continue on the eastern split. At mile 328 we come to White City. Here the time changes from Central to Eastern Standard Time. As we get closer to Apalachicola, the landscape changes from pine trees to mixed hardwood and cypress swamp areas. As we leave Lake Wimico, we enter the Jackson River. The cypress trees and palmetto line both sides of the riverbanks.

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We see entrances to several side creeks that disappear into the swamp. You wonder what it would be like to explore these remote creeks. The Jackson River was named after Stonewall Jackson when he was governor of the territory. At mile 345 we see a railroad swing bridge in front of us.

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It is open so we do not have to call the bridge operator. A few miles later, we see a fleet of shrimp boats lining the entrance to Scipio Creek our home for the next two days.

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We are docked right on the main boat channel in back of Papa Joe’s Restaurant. The marsh is off our port side. It is very enjoyable watching the pelicans and other birds nesting in the marsh. We take the dogs for a walk into town which is about three blocks away. Daisy and Sebastian eye a dog store and head straight there. They are both given treats by the owner. Sebastian spies a new nautical dog collar and just has to have it. He looks very spiffy in his new collar.

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We make a quick stop at Papa Joe’s on the way back and Jeff quickly consumes three dozen raw oysters. We enjoy sunset on the boat listening to all of the birds settling down for the night in the marsh.

Security Alert: Last night there was a minor breach in security. We left Daisy in charge of IT while we were at dinner. We came back to the boat to discover a banana (peel and all) was missing from the fruit bowl. The stem of the banana was found on the couch. Daisy is conducting a through investigation and will report back to us.

2/06/2007

We have thoroughly enjoyed our day here in Apalachicola. It is such an interesting place. This morning we took the dogs for an early morning run thru town and along the city docks. Afterwards Jeff and I walked back into town to tour some of the sights. Our first stop was back to Petunias Dog Store. Even though Daisy would not come out and say it, we could tell she really wanted a nautical dog collar like Sebastian’s.

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They had one just her size. We also did a historic walking tour of the town. The town is very charming with many preserved historic buildings. Many of the older buildings and homes are in the Victorian style and a number of the restored antebellum houses have been turned into picturesque bed and breakfasts. We toured the Trinity Episcopal Church.

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The building was shipped in sections by schooner from White Plans, New York, and assembled with wooden pegs in 1838. We stopped next at the John Gorrie Museum. Dr. Gorrie invented a machine hat made ice. He used it to create an air-conditioned sick room so his yellow fever and malaria patients could be more comfortable. Although Dr. Gorrie was granted the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851, he never realized any return from his invention. There are also several antique stores in town which were very interesting. Jeff even enjoyed some of the nautical collections which were on display.

We enjoyed lunch at the Apalachicola Seafood Grill downtown. Their claim to fame is the world’s largest fish sandwich. It was just that. Even Jeff could not finish the whole sandwich. Although, he did also have a dozen raw oysters, fried oysters, and seafood gumbo for an appetizer. After lunch we walked along the boat docks admiring the local fleet of wooden shrimp boats.

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While walking downtown we saw several hurricane/high water markers throughout town.

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This afternoon we walked to the Apalachicola Nature Center. They have numerous interpretive displays, a small aquarium, and an elevated nature trail out into the estuary.

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These waters open up into Apalachicola Bay which is one of the cleanest and most productive in the nation. Apalachicola Bay oysters are among the most delectable and nutritious seafood in the world. Today Franklin County harvests more than 90% of Florida’s oysters.

We enjoyed another evening watching the sun set over the estuary. The shore birds use the Scipio Creek as a fly way for catching fish.

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We watched several pelicans fighting over a fish for 10 minutes. There are about 20 shore birds that use an abandoned crane barge just 100 feet away for their nightly nest.

Second security alert: When returning from lunch today we found another banana sitting on the table ½ eaten.

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Daisy has again promised a full investigation. We are becoming a little suspicious in that she might have something to do with this. The apples, oranges, and pears.

2/07/2007

We are able to enjoy the early morning at dock. We only have 35 miles to travel today so we don’t have to shove off at first light.

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We enjoy a run into town with the dogs. I am even able to get a cappuccino at the coffee shop downtown. We would have enjoyed staying here several more days. We have really liked the town and the people here. It is however a beautiful morning for cruising. The seas are dead calm and the sun is out in full force. It is the first day that we have been able to wear shorts and open the pilot house doors.

As we enter Apalachicola Bay, we have four dolphins on our bow. They stay with us for about 20 minutes. They seem to enjoy riding on our bow wake. You can see them roll over to one side as if they are looking up at you.

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They seem very inquisitive. Several others ride our side wake. As we cross under St. George Bridge which leads to St. George Island, we see several oystermen.

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They harvest the oysters today in the same manner they have for a century. They are in small wooden boats 20-23 feet long. They use tongs that look somewhat like two rakes attached in a scissor-style to bring the oysters to the surface. There are more than 7000 acres of public oyster “bars” in Apalachicola Bay. They are divided into “winter” bars, which are harvested from October through June and “summer” bars which are harvested from July through September. St. George Island is on our starboard side for about 20 miles. There are many exclusive vacation homes on this barrier island. Just after leaving St. George Island we have Dog Island on our starboard. The only way to get on Dog Island is by boat. We see the entrance to Carrabelle River off our port side. The Moorings, our home for the next week is one mile up this river.

After docking, we spend the afternoon cleaning the boat. The dogs take a nap on the front deck enjoying the sun.

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Sebastian is definitely a Florida dog. He likes the sun. The birds enjoyed their afternoon on the stern deck. They seemed to be happy here as they did not make a lot of noise.

Two of Jeff’s college friends, Chris Teaf and Robert Cowdery, drive down from Tallahassee. Chris loans us a car for the next week. We enjoy visiting with them and very much appreciate the use of the car.

2/08/2007

Homer’s Handout #1

Let me make one thing clear- I didn’t want this job. As a 49 year old Blue Front Amazon Parrot, I’m too old for this sort of nonsense. They put me in charge of Guest Relations- can you believe it! Bah humbug.

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I don’t want to see anyone or even try to be friendly. I can’t stand the dogs (they’re always so happy!) and I barely tolerate that suck-up Nate, my Amazon parrot roommate. Dad (or I have to now say “The Captain”; this boating thing has really gone to his head!) is the only one I let near me. I don’t even let Mom (or should I say “The Admiral”) get too close. At our staff meeting the other day, Dad (oops- The Captain) said I had an attitude problem and I need to work on my anger/aggression issues. I don’t know what he’s talking about. I’ll show him real anger!!! The other day Dad (ah, The Captain) was speaking with Chris Teaf, one of his old FSU friends- that really go me fired up! More on that later. I really dislike that Teaf guy. But I digress. Now where was I?

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Oh yeah. Anyways, I should have gotten the Security Officer job. But noooo! Daisy got it. She thinks she’s so cool running around barking at every little thing. Everyone likes her. Little miss social butterfly. Give me a break! Besides, I have eyes like an eagle (a close relative I’ll have you know) and I can yell a lot louder. I practice my yelling every morning and night just to keep in shape.

I really am better suited for that Security Officer position. I can show off my bright red, yellow, blue and green feathers at the smallest sign of danger making sure everyone notices me.

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I’m quite the show bird if I do say so myself. I’m certainly better looking than Nate- a plain ‘ole yellow head Amazon.

What the heck should Guest Relations do anyways? Fix hors d’oeuvres? Serve beer and wine? Turn down the sheets? Give boat tours? Just the thought of it makes my crop turn. Just let me hang out in my cage, preen myself ( to keep up my fine appearance), eat lots of fresh food that Dad (darn it- The Captain) prepares for me daily and take baths in my water bowl. Now that’s the life! I can’t be bothered with Guest Relations. That job is for the birds (pun intended). Wait- I forgot, I am a bird.

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If you want to visit, go see that weenie Sebastian – he’s always hunting a lap to crawl up on.

I know. I could be a Pirate. Yeah, that’s it! A Parrot Pirate. I could ride around on Captain Dad’s shoulder, say “aaarh matey!” to everyone and play Jimmy Buffett real loud on the stereo. The lady parrots would really notice me then. I’d be a parrot chick magnet. Way kewl.

I wonder if there is a job opening as a First Aid Responder? I could then bite the fingers, make ‘em bleed and bandage them up. Talk about job security! I think I’d like that job. I’m going to ask Dad (uh- The Captain) right now.

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Later,
The H

2/14/2007

We have spent the last week here in Carrabelle at the Moorings Marina. We have enjoyed running along the bay each morning with the dogs. We have a four mile loop that goes thru town and along the bay. The bay is very pretty in the early morning with the sun coming up. We have seen dolphins in the bay on several occasions. We run by a pond on the other side of the bay and I wonder if there are alligators in it. There is not much else here in Carrabelle.

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There is one main street with a grocery store and a restaurant. That is about it. It is a fishing town with boats coming and going each day. Several boats have come back to the docks with large grouper. We purchased our fishing license for Florida in anticipation of our Gulf crossing.

It is only a one hour drive to Tallahassee so we have made several trips visiting with Jeff’s FSU friends. Jeff worked at the FSU Marine Lab here in Carrabelle for several years many years ago. We made a trip there to see their facilities and catch up.

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We were able to tour the facility and Jeff showed me where his old office was. It seems that things have really not changed much at the Marine Lab in the last 20 years.

We were able to put Time Out,

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our dinghy, in the water one day. We took the dogs and traveled up the Carrabelle River to the New River. The dogs are getting quite used to boats of all sizes. Sebastian is always eager to ride in anything that moves.

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It is a very pretty river with many marsh areas. There is State Forrest on one side so no development will occur there. Once we traveled about a mile up river, we saw very few houses. There are a few docks coming out into the water. We see an occasional house. I wonder why it is not more developed. It is such a scenic river. After about an hour we decided to turn around as the river seemed to continue for many miles.

On Saturday, we took IT over to Dog Island. Jeff’s friend, Chris Teaf, owns a house there. Dog Island is about 5 miles from Carrabelle and is a barrier island. The only way to get there is by boat or plane. We followed Chris in his boat as the harbor is very shallow and we let him pilot us in. Once in the harbor, we anchored IT. Just as we set the anchor, a large boat came flying thru the channel and went right across our anchor chain about 10 feet from IT. I was sure he was going to hook our chain. It is also suppose to be a “No Wake Zone”. I don’t know what he was thinking. We shuttle everyone to the island by Chris’s boat. The island is still very primitive. There are no paved roads. Everyone travels by “Island Cars” or golf carts. There are about 100 houses built on the island and another 130 lots which have yet to be built on. Chris has a beautiful house with gorgeous views of the ocean. There is a great beach with lots of shells. Daisy and Sebastian had a grand time running on the beach. Daisy also discovered star fish. She would pick them up and carry them in her mouth.

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She was so proud of her find. After she started to eat one, we took it away from her. She did not like this at all. She would just go find another one. Finally we just gave up. There are star fish everywhere. On the trip back from Dog Island, we saw star fish again, in the saloon (all over the couch)! Star fish do not agree with little dog’s stomachs. Luckily, the cushion covers are washable and no damage was done.

On Sunday, we drove up to Tallahassee for a cookout with “The Gang”. We took a drive through the FSU Campus on the way. Jeff could not believe all the changes and new buildings since he left. We enjoyed the cookout and bonfire

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with everyone before a late night drive back to Carrabelle.

On Tuesday, we drove to Eastpoint. This is a small town between Carrabelle and Apalachicola. Eastpoint is where many of the oystermen harvest their catch and bring it to the processing houses. The oysterman pulls up in his wooded boat and they load the oysters in large burlap sacks which are taken to the processing houses.

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Inside the processing house, there was an assembly line of people shucking the oysters and packaging them for shipment. We purchased oysters, shrimp, and grouper for Jeff to take back home for our best friend’s, Tom Crum’s, birthday.

Jeff drives back to Chattanooga on Wednesday, an 8 hour drive, to take care of some business, check on the house, and attend Tom’s birthday dinner. Tom does not know that he is coming so it was a great surprise. The oysters were a big hit.

We are now getting ready for our Gulf crossing. Jeff changed the oil and filters in the main engine. We have filled the water tanks. IT is ready to go. We have decided to go from here direct to Ft. Myers. It is 264 miles and will take 29 hours. Several of Jeff’s friends are going to make the trip with us. It will be good to have an extra hand so we will always have two people on each watch, and we can all get some sleep on the crossing. I am very relieved as I was not looking forward to the crossing with just the two of us. The manager of the marina here at the Moorings, Buddy, is an expert on the weather for Gulf crossings. We have heard from other boaters that you need to listen to Buddy. He has been here for many years and knows the weather patterns of the gulf. If he says go, you go. If he says stay, you stay. You do not want to be out in the Gulf when a front comes thru. I have heard horror stories from other boaters who left because they were in a hurry and did not respect the ocean or Buddy’s opinion. We have told Buddy we would like to leave on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. He said he would start checking the weather for us. Now we will just wait and see. Right now there is a cold front coming thru and I don’t think we will be leaving any time soon.

2/16/2007

Sebastians Story Part 1

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Hi. My name is Sebastian. As an 8 year old Jack Russell Terrier, I’m perfectly suited for my job as Cruise Director (CD). When Dad assigned me this position, I immediately suggested that we head south (as in Florida south). He and Mom agreed with me and so we did.

The first part of our trip was pretty cold and miserable.

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I spent most of my time snuggled deep under my blanket pondering my CD duties. I wouldn’t even stick my nose out.

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Lately things have been much better since we’ve arrived in Carrabelle, FL. Warmth and sun.

I’ve been working on my tan every day.

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After all, shouldn’t all CDs be tan and fit? Well, that’s me! I will spend hours on the front deck doing my job. What ever it takes. I’m still just as white as before but I’m trying hard. If it appears that I’m asleep, that’s not so. I’m just in deep concentration. This job is very demanding you know.

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Food:

Only a few things will ruin my concentration and Food is one of them. When Dad breaks out our food bowls, I get sooo excited. I will patiently wait while jumping rapidly in place, sometimes up to 3 ft high. Boiing, boiing, boiing.

I did happen to see some special treats Dad bought us in Pensacola hidden in our drawer the other day.

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I told Daisy about them. Every day I spent a few moments in deep concentration intently focusing my brain waves so as to will the treats to jump into my food bowl.

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So far, no luck but I’m working on this.

After spending a maximum of 30 seconds savoring my meal, I will usually wait until Daisy is through and check her food bowl to make sure she is eating properly.

Lately that has been a problem for Daisy. I’m not saying anything about the Great Banana Incident but since Dad is an ex-FBI Agent and Mom is smarter than all of us combined, I think they have solved the mystery. I heard Dad say “Case Closed, no further investigation needed”. Well, that’s that I guess. All I know is that it wasn’t me.

The other day when we were out visiting friends on Dog Island, Daisy and I were having a great time rolling on all the dead starfish washed up on the beach. They smelled sooo good!

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Suddenly Daisy got this weird look in her eyes and picked up a starfish in her mouth.

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She walked down the beach drooling on the sand. I told her not to do it but she bolted for the nearest sand dune. When Dad finally caught up with her she had eaten half of that starfish. He took the remainder from her.

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She was not a happy camper. Sure enough, about 5 hours later, during the ride back to the marina aboard IT, up comes the starfish all over the saloon seat cushions. Little bits of starfish. Sort of like chunky starfish salsa. She swore to me that she would never do that again but just yesterday she spotted another starfish up in the cabinet and she started to get that glazed look again. I thought I also saw a little drool on her lips. What am I going to do with that girl! She’ll never learn.

Laps:

Another thing about as great as Food is Laps. Nice warm Laps. I consult with Mom several times during the day in her Lap about the progress of our trip. Mom Lap Time is quite frequent and always available.

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When Marj visits me I always get to log some serious long-term Lap Time with lots of hugs thrown in. Marj Lap Time is highly desirable and is always enjoyable. I hear that Marj may visit us in April. I’ll get hours of Marj Lap Time then. I can’t wait!

I tried the same technique on Dad but he will mostly tell me to get down and calls me “A Big Lap Weenie”. Dad Lap Time – close to zero.

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I don’t care though because that’s just how good Laps are.

I also can’t wait until we get to St. Augustine. I’ll be able to log Grandma Lap Time and Aunt Sue Lap Time. Two in one city! It will be spectacular! I’ll rack up the hours then. Grandpa Lap Time will probably be like Dad Lap Time – zero. Oh well.

Beds:

About as good as Laps is Mom and Dads’ bed. As they get ready for bed, I’ll usually burrow down to the bottom of the bed and wait for Mom. If it’s cold, I will usually stay to help out for several minutes. When Dad arrives I’ll usually get The Evil Eye and The Big Frown. That’s my clue to quickly evacuate to my own bed. Dad says that there is to be only one male in his bed at a time and he’s not sharing. Not to worry because when Dad gets up in the AM to make coffee, I quickly tunnel my way back under the sheets. I can usually remain there until Mom gets up and makes the bed. By then my cover is blown (pun intended). It’s not a problem because now it’s time for Food, Laps and to begin my CD duties. I know, I know. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

Our Next Trip:

Dad says we’re waiting on a weather window before leaving from Carrabelle and motor overnight directly to Ft. Myers. He said the trip is 265 miles and 28 hours. Mom’s already worried about Daisy and me. During the last long stretch aboard IT, after 30 hours, Daisy and I decided to use the hatch cover on the bow to do our business. Dad gave us lots of treats and I got some Mom Lap Time. I think for this section I’ll go sooner and more frequently. This way Dad will give us those special treats in our drawer. That just might do the trick. Quite splendid! I’ve got this CD job all figured out.

Bye for now. I’m wanted on the bow. Sebastian.

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2/17/2007

We are still in Carrabelle waiting on our weather window to cross the Gulf. We were hoping to leave this weekend, however seas in the Gulf were forecast to be 10 ft. on Sunday. We have been monitoring the NOAA weather on the VHF. We also get data direct from sea buoys located 20 to 60 miles offshore. You can access this information over the internet from NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center at www.ndbc.noaa.gov. Ultimately, Buddy’s opinion will be the deciding factor. The admiral will not leave the dock until he gives us the green light. Buddy has been doing this for over 20 years. He is the weather guru around this part of the country. He thinks the weather should start improving on Tuesday. Our crew, Chris, Robert, and Dan, should all be able to go with us if we wait until Thursday to leave.

On Friday we woke up to find IT two feet out of the water. The North wind had blown all the water out of Apalachicola Bay just as it did in Mobile. Once the tide came in and IT was floating, Buddy helped us move IT to the end of the dock where there is deeper water.

On Friday afternoon we drove around Carrabelle looking at houses, property, and the countryside. We discovered that the local BP gas station also serves fresh local seafood in their back of the store restaurant. We also stopped by Captain Joe Barber’s house for a visit. Captain Joe is now 84 years old. For over 30 years he was the head boat captain at the FSU Marine Lab. Jeff learned a lot of his boating knowledge from Captain Joe while working at the Marine Lab. We are looking forward to him visiting IT on Sunday and going out to lunch with him.

Today we drove up to Tallahassee for a wonderful brunch at Jan and Dan’s house. We visited with them for four hours catching up on old times. Afterwards, we drove to Wakulla Springs.689 Back in the 70’s, Jeff was a substitute lifeguard there. He also began his cave diving career at the spring. He was a support diver for Universal Studios when they filmed Airport 77 there, staring Jack Lemon and Brenda Vacarro. We took a boat ride to view this pristine and beautiful river that has been left untouched by the hand of man.

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This 45 minute tour cruises three miles to see alligators, native birds, turtles, snakes, and other wildlife up close.

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We saw several alligators, a bald eagle, and many other species of birds.

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Wakulla Springs is one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. It is a pre-ice age sinkhole connected to an underground cave. In 1850 skeletal remains of a mastodon were recovered here. The cave is over 300 feet deep. Jeff said he has dove in this cave down to 225 feet. The spring’s normal water flow is 400,000 gallons per minute. At times of high rainfall it has been as high as 900,000 gallons per minute. Wakulla Springs is now a Florida State Park and is designated as a National Natural Landmark. Edward Ball purchased the property in 1934 and developed it as an attraction that focused on the preservation of wildlife and conservation of natural features.

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Mr. Ball was also the owner of St. Joe Paper Company and at one time he was one of the largest private land owners in the U.S. When he died in 1981, the State of Florida acquired the property.

We picked up Lindy’s friend chicken on the way back to the boat. Lindys is a Tallahassee landmark for fried chicken and should not be missed if you are in the area. The dogs and birds were happy to see us.

2/18/2007

Special IT Update:

The combination of a new moon and very strong North winds created an exceptionally low low tide this morning. All of the water was blown out of the bay.

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Many of the boats in Carrabelle were aground. We had moved IT to the very end of the dock yesterday in order to have enough water underneath her. Even with this, IT was out of the water 6” this morning.

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Normally there is 7 feet of water where we are located at low tide. The dolphins came up river this morning to hunt for fish because there was no water in the bay.

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We watched the dolphins fishing right in front of our boat this morning for over an hour.

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2/19/2007

Nates’ Notes Chapter 1

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Hi ya’ll. I’m Nate. Nate the Great. That’s just one of the things I can say. I’m perfectly suited to be the Engineer aboard IT. As a 30 year old yellow nape Amazon parrot, I can easily unlock the clip on my cage door and unscrew all sorts of things with my beak. I’m vertically mobile, bilingual and a quick problem solver. Let me explain further.

Woodworking 101:

Among my many projects and hobbies is woodworking with my beak. At home, I have remodeled our pine base boards, adjusted the china cabinet bottom and shortened the oak roll top desk legs. When I get a chance to be on the floor, I’ve been secretly working on the underside of our leather couch. Usually, just as I get going, Dad comes along and makes me stop. No respect for an artist and his work.

I also like working the wood on my t-stand at home. Almost daily I will reshape my stand until Dad gives me Cheerios or peanuts to make me stop. Stupid human tricks. My PVC t-stand aboard IT has proved to be much more of a challenge (that PVC is tough stuff) and the yellow plastic rings are so frustrating to get off the bar that I usually just end up throwing them around.

Lately aboard IT, I’ve been admiring all of the nice teak and mahogany woodwork and was thinking of starting a new project. At this point, Mom gets nervous and carabineers my cage door (I haven’t figured out how to undo the carabineer yet but I’m working on it).

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Dad warned me that if I ever laid a beak on any of the wood aboard IT, he would kill me, stuff me with sea weed and make me the official IT feather duster. I think he’s joking but I’m not 100% sure on this point.

Beautiful Beaks:

Let me tell you, a beak is a great thing to have. It’s like having a Swiss Army Knife attached to your face. Mine is a screwdriver, knife, pliers, saw and vice-grip all moulded into one neat package.

One day Homer showed me something new to do with my beak called The Teaf Technique. He perfected this many years ago while living with Chris (male) and Pat (female) Teaf for several months. It involves biting, holding, chewing, twisting and turning all at once while rendering flesh from the bone. He and Chris used to practice this daily on Chris’ hands and arms. Homer said it produces a surprising amount of blood. And bandages.

I tried The Teaf Technique on Dad one day and he got really angry. He put me back in my cage, locked it with the carabineer and turned off the lights for half of the day. I also learned some new 4 letter words that day. Later, Dad told me to never, ever repeat those words. I’m just waiting for the right moment.

Talking:

Like most parrots, I’m bilingual. I am fluent in parrot-speak and human-speak.

Before I was one year old, Mom made sure I had a varied and proppa’ southern education. She taught me how to answer the phone, sing opera, say “Whatcha’ doin’ huh?” and “I can talk, can you fly?” (I know, I know – the truth hurts). Grandma Gwen would feed me hot, fresh biscuits and taught me how to call their dogs. I swear every time I did this, those chow-hounds would come runnin’. They never did catch on. Stupid dogs. Miss Maude even taught me how to crow like a rooster. Very cool. Grandpa Van, a connoisseur and aficionado of Budweiser, taught me to say “Bring me a beer Van!”. He would crack up every time I said this but he never would share any beer with me. Too bad.

When Dad and Mom were engaged, Fiancé Dad, as he was known then, taught me to say “Halt! FBI!”. He said it was a phrase the guys used at his work, a place called The Bureau (what’s a Bureau?). He said this salutation was best yelled when meeting and greeting new acquaintances for the first time. Kind of weird but I liked that phrase a lot. One day I was out on the back porch visiting with the gardeners when I decided to practice my new phrase. My gosh! I’ve never seen humans run so fast. Those five guys disappeared in seconds – one into the woods, a few over the fence and a couple went down the street. From then on they were always real nervous and jerky-like while working in our yard. Always lookin’over their shoulder. I thought it was hilarious. Fiancé Dad said it was because they probably didn’t have their green cards with them (what’s a green card?). Boy those guys sure couldn’t take a joke.

Wonderful Wings:

Wings are great. Everyone should have a pair. Mine are red, black, yellow and green. Back when I used to fly, they were long and strong. Now, I’m kind of like a C-5A Galaxy on final approach – I don’t fly well. Homer, on the other hand, is like an F-18 with both after burners on – a lean, mean fightin’ machine.

Homer told me a story about flying around one time for two weeks! Way back when he and Dad were bachelors, Homer was out on the back porch one morning soakin’ up some rays. He decided to kick the cage door open and explore to the top of the roof. Homer said Dad got real nervous and promised him all sorts of special treats if he would come back down. But Homer didn’t.

While up there, Homer fell into the company of a gang of crows (the wrong kind of birds, let me tell you). They taught him all sorts of new moves. Homer said he even got to soar with a couple of eagles one day (I think he might be exaggerating a little about this point). After a couple of weeks, Homer said he got tired of hangin’ with his crow buddies ‘cause he couldn’t meet any nice parrot lady friends while the crows were around. They’d be all rude to the ladies and would say crude crow things.

One day Homer flew down into a neighbors’ yard, used his Teaf Technique on the guys’ Rottweiler and started yelling “Feed me! Feed me!” at the top of his lungs. The terrified neighbor quickly called Dad and he came right over. After accepting a peanut from Dad, Homer quietly walked into his cage and asked to be transported home. The next day, Dad introduced Homer to Dr. T.

When Mom and Dad got married, Dad introduced me to Dr. T also. She’s a very nice lady and a great bird vet. She clips my wings, reshapes my beak and trims my toe nails. She’s been doing this every April and October for the past 17 years. Homer really hates going to Dr. T and tries to use his Teaf Technique on her but she’s onto him like a duck on a June bug. So far Homer hasn’t had any success but he keeps trying.

The Mutual Grooming Society:

Every Sunday morning, Dad lets me get up with Homer for a grooming session. We switch off preenin’ each others feathers. You know those hard to reach places on the back of the head and neck as well as in-between your wings. (Mom tries to do the same but you need a beak to really do a good job; especially when we have new pin feathers coming out).

After preenin’, me and Homey will usually start talkin’ trash (in parrot-speak of course). We discuss improvements we’ve made to ‘da crib, new beak techniques, proppa’ food choices, etc… Yo brotha’, you know what I mean! Just me and my Home-boy talkin’trash and chewin’ a little wood.

After this, we’re usually sooo excited that we both break out into loud songs and begin stompin’and hollerin’. Dad shortly appears and tells us to hold it down because the neighbors are still sleeping. We don’t care at this point and keep gettin’ all worked up. We’re just two good ‘ole boy green necks (I ain’t no redneck ya’ll) just wantin’ to have fun. Sometimes I’ll even yell out “Bring me a beer Van!”. Can you imagine? Me, Homer and a 6-pack of ice cold Bud. We could really raise some hell then!

Food:

Overall I would have to say the food at home and aboard IT is quite good. Dad will fix us a wide variety of fresh food every day.

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My favorites are pizza, pasta and snacks. I like these things so much that Dr. T said I had to go on a diet (what’s a diet?). Dad now calls me “Fat Boy”. Homer and I both like raw spinach and we always eat all of it. It was tough on us during the e-coli outbreak. Dad gave us Romaine lettuce but it just wasn’t the same. I usually try to throw all my fruit and veggies over to Homer.

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He always eats his fruits and vegetables and mine if he can reach it. He says he needs to stay lean and mean. The other day I saw him practicin’ up on his Teaf Technique. He said he heard that Chris Teaf was comin’ to visit and he wanted to be ready in case he and Chris got into it again. That’s Homer. Always lookin’ to rumble.

Well, that’s about it for now. I’ve got to fly, ugh… I mean run, ugh… I mean walk. The water in my bird bath is gettin’ cool. Yo!, See ya’ lata’ dude. Nate.

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2/20/2007

We took the dogs for our usual four mile run along the bay this morning. The dogs really look forward to this each A.M. We never knew Sebastian had so much energy. We have started giving Sebastian a noon day meal. With all of this activity, he was getting too skinny. On the way back we saw that the shrimp boat had come in with fresh shrimp (Key West Pinks). We purchased 10 pounds at $3.50 per pound for our freezer.

We talked with Buddy this morning about leaving on Thursday. He seems to think things will be O.K. for leaving at that time. We will check the weather again tomorrow to make sure. Chris, Dan, and Robert can all go with us on Thursday so this will work out good. When we got back to the boat, Capt. Joe Barber was there with Bobby Millender. Bobby was the chief mechanic and first mate aboard the FSU boats with Capt. Barber. Capt. Joe wanted to show Bobby our boat. Jeff enjoyed seeing them again.

After lunch we road our bicycles to the Crooked River Lighthouse, which is about five miles outside of town.

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This lighthouse was originally built in the 1800’s on Dog Island. After it was destroyed by a hurricane in 1958, it was moved to Carrabelle. It was rebuilt and is now standing along Highway 98.

We then rode to Tate’s Hell State Forest.

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We took the Coastal Hiking Trail into the Forest for a six mile loop. This State Forest covers over 202,000 acres. It is named after a local farmer named Cebe Tate. In the late 1800’s Mr. Tate ventured into the swamp to track down a panther that was killing his livestock. After several days of wondering aimlessly into the swamp, he lost his shotgun and dogs and was bit by a water moccasin. When he finally stumbled out of the woods near Carrabelle, he was asked his name and where he came from. He replied “My name is Tate and I’ve just been through hell”. This area is a combination of coastal swamp, palmetto, and pine forest. It is one of the few places in Florida that the Pitcher Plant is found. Our bike route took us along high coastal sand dunes. I was sure we were going to be attacked by a bear or bitten by a snake. This place is really wild.

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While riding our bikes thru here, I can see that the name of the park is very fitting.

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We arrived back at the boat after a five mile ride back along the bay. Two large boats had arrived while we were gone. One is a 58’ Grand Banks (hull #2),” Ring- N-Wet”, from Memphis TN. We had seen this boat at Aqua Yacht Harbor on the TN River when we stopped there overnight in Jan. This boat is operated by a captain who is taking her to Key West for the owner. The second boat, “Martini Time” is a 50 ft. Carver. We noticed that they had a Great Loop burgee also. They said they began the Loop yesterday starting in San Destin, Florida. I am sure we will see them many more times on the loop. They are leaving tomorrow for Clearwater.

Tomorrow we will spend the day making sure everything is ready for our crossing on Thursday. We will also make a trip to the grocery store for fresh produce. We will leave at first light on Thursday if the weather holds. We should be at the Ft. Myers Yacht Club on Friday around noon.

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