New Years Eve is spent with two other looper boats at Dog River Marina. Nearly Perfect, with
Jack and Patty, is just beginning her loop. Saturday will mark the first day on the loop for them. They invite us to a pot luck aboard their boat along with Manatee, another Krogen, with Ted and Sarah aboard. We enjoy listening to all of the cruising tales Ted and Sarah have experienced. They have now completed the loop 22 times. That has to be the worlds record. They have also cruised extensively in the Caribbean. It is a fun evening with good food and new friends.
Day one : Dog River to Ingram Bayou:
New Year’s Day finds us pushing away from the docks. Low tide was at 8:30 this morning so we give the tide a few hours to rise before leaving. The two mile channel from Dog River to the Mobile ship channel is shallow . Our depth finder shows six feet, which gives us only one foot under the keel. The bay is calm today and we have an easy trip out the ship channel and are soon back on the ICW heading east. The Dolphins escort us throughout the day. They always seem enjoy the free ride that our bow wake provides. Our anchorage for the evening is Ingram Bayou. Several other sailboats are already in the anchorage so we anchor just inside the mouth of the bay.
Total miles Traveled Today: 48
Day 2: Ingram Bayou to Joe’s Bayou :
The Dolphins are out feeding in the anchorage this morning as we prepare to leave. It is a grey cold day outside. We see very few boats out on the water. We are now in the land of high rise condos sitting on barrier islands along the Alabama Gulf Coast. It is another easy day of travel on the Gulf ICW. Just past Destin, we reach our anchorage for the evening. The entrance is narrow but marked with a red channel marker. Reports say if we stay close to the marker we will have 8 foot depths but stray too far and it quickly shoals to two feet. As we enter, there is a small fishing boat blocking our path. The two fishermen look up as we approach but go right back to fishing. Several blows of the horn and they finally get with the program and move out of the channel. The anchorage is basically just a cove with houses all around. Nothing special but a nice protection from the winds. Another trawler joins us around dusk. All night long we can hear our wind generator churning away.
Total Miles Traveled Today: 67
Total Miles This Year: 115
Day 3: Destin to Panama City:
Fog is the word for today. We can barely see the two red channel markers that mark our deep water passage out of the anchorage. We had recorded our track on the shipboard computer when we came in the narrow entrance, so we retrace our steps into the safety of deeper water. It is pea soup as we work our way down Choctawhatchee Bay. Being about 30 miles long and five miles wide, the bay is lumpy with these 20 knot winds out of the southeast. Our fog horn plays for the next few hours and we keep our eyes glued to the radar. Visibility is about 10 feet. Half way down the bay, the fog lifts and the sun tries to peak through the clouds. Reaching the end of Choctawhatchee Bay we enter a 16 mile land cut known as the Grand Canyon”.
Thank goodness we have no traffic except for a lone sailboater as we transit this narrow cut. Exiting the land cut, we enter St. Andrews Bay to find another lumpy body of water. The winds are cooking at about 20 knots. A few miles down the bay is St. Andrews Marina and our home for the next few days. Rick the dock master is on the dock to grab our lines. After getting secure, he confessed that he was a little worried about us docking in these high winds. He complemented Jeff on his docking skills.
We had a very pleasant experience here at the marina. Jeff was talking with Rick about how to get over to West Marine. There is some engine oil there that we need to pick up. John, ” a want to be” Krogen owner was walking the docks and overheard Jeff’s conversation with the dock master. He graciously offered to drive us to West Marine if we would give him a tour of the boat. Easy decision, and we are soon giving John a tour of IT. Then off to West Marine to pick up the oil. Thank you very much John!
Total miles traveled today:58
Total Miles this year: 173
Day 4: Panama City to Apalachicola:
Our one night stay in Panama City quickly turned into three nights. The winds blew like stink for several days so we decided to stay put here at the city marina. Even the local fishing fleet remained at the docks. We now have a one day window of calm before another front rolls over us so we decide to work our way to Apalachicola and wait out the next few days there. Our travel today winds through the narrow Wetappo Creek. Crossing the shallow Lake Wimico puts us into the Apalachicola River. Travel today is easy being in these protected waters. The only worry we have are shallow depths just outside the dredged channel. We can not wander from the channel even for a moment or we will run aground.
Approaching Apalachicola, we call the marina for docking instructions. Their directions are more than a little confusing but we continue up Scipio Creek in search of someone in a red hat to show us our dock. Just after passing the fleet of shrimp boats, we see a our home for the next few days. Jeff, with the red cap, waves us into the long face dock along the creek. Nothing fancy, just a wooden dock behind an empty warehouse with water and power. But the location couldn’t be better. We are in the heart of historic and quaint little downtown.
We find Apalachicola to be a great spot for waiting on a weather window to cross the Gulf. For the next week we enjoy our daily walks peeking into the many shops and enjoying the local flavor of this little fishing village. Daily sampling of the local fresh caught seafood is a treat. Apalachicola is famous for their oysters and Jeff does his best to try try these in many different combinations. The local bakery just a block from our marina is another must stop each day. What more could you want.
Sandpiper, a 32 foot Grand Banks, is another looper boat docked just behind us. Aboard are BC and her niece Gabby. Several interesting and enjoyable evenings are spent aboard IT getting to know them. They will follow us as we cross the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs. We have daily weather discussions together as we wait for the weather window to make our 22 hour night crossing.
While waiting for the seas to calm down Jeff finds a salon that will cut his now 8 inch long hair. For the past 18 months he has been letting his hair grow long so that he can donate it to a children’s charity that makes wigs for kids who have lost their hair due to illness. He is much relieved to find that it is now long enough to be eligible for donation. It turns out that Patti, owner of the Edge Salon, has done this many times for local patrons and is pleased to do so again for Jeff. After a few snips of the scissors, he is once again clean cut. Thank goodness!!
We continue to patiently wait for the wind and seas to loosen their grip on us for a safe passage across the Gulf. We can’t complain, Apalachicola is a great place to be waiting.
Total Miles Traveled: 64
Total Miles Traveled This Year: 237