We left Pensacola on the 8th, going offshore overnight to avoid the bridges that would not accommodate our mast height. The weather was clear, the moon was full (a rarity for us!) and the temperature was 29 degrees! We have a full enclosure, a small propane heater and blankets but WE WERE COLD. This is Florida after all....where are the nice warm temps we had been promised?
We arrived in Panama City in time for breakfast at a local diner. Then we took a nap and our friends Frank & Peggy Walker came down to the boat to visit. One of the best things about cruising is meeting great people and making lasting friendships. We met the Walkers in the Exumas about 4 1/2 years ago and have kept in touch ever since. It was wonderful to see them again. Don and Frank repaired/replaced/retrofitted at least three different projects in Frank' stupendous workshop and Peggy and Maryann toured around Panama City. (For the shoppers among us: Panama City has great consignment shops!). Many thanks to the Walkers for their friendship, hospitality and generosity. We hope to see you down island!
Sadly, we left our friends and went briefly offshore to Port St. Joe to re-enter the ICW and head to Appalachicola. We really enjoyed the pristine Jackson and Appalachicola Rivers and found a nice anchorage to spend the night. Today we got to the city of Appalachicola, which by all accounts is the Oyster Capitol of the World. It is a quaint little town with many restaurants to choose from---all featuring oysters to die for! The town is not overdeveloped and features many restored homes that are beautifully kept.
Tomorrow we head for a barrier island and plan to anchor there before heading offshore for the longest leg of our trip so far. We hope to cross from Dog Island
to Tarpon Springs on Friday-Saturday.
Bottom line: this part of Florida is beautiful, not over developed, has pristine waterways, white sand beaches and very friendly people. We just wish we had more time to spend here. It is truly a marvel to discover "Old Florida" right under our noses. That must be why they call it the Forgotten Coast.
We arrived in Pensacola last Friday. Yippee! We made it to Florida in 2 weeks (from the time we left Galveston). We were psyched. Then the weather stopped us from continuing on. Today is Wednesday the 7th and we are still here. The weather rules our lives and we have to go out into the Gulf from here because our mast is too tall to go under the bridges. So.....we wait.
In the meantime, we have enjoyed spending time in Pensacola. Quite frankly, we were surprised how much we like it! The town has a lot to offer: a vital downtown with LOTS of restaurants and stores. We even visited a store that specializes in custom ceramic mugs for the military worldwide. They were just completing an order for the French Navy! Who woulda thunk?
The top 10 things a cruiser does in Pensacola include:
10. get a haircut
9. enjoy a meal and live blues at Five Sisters Blues Cafe
8. clean the boat, stem to stern, inside and out
7. see a movie
6. go christmas shopping
5. tour the historic village downtown
4. socialize with fellow cruisers who were completing the Great Loop
3. have the enclosure repaired
2. go wild buying fabulous food at Joe Patti's Seafood, Sushi Bar, Deli and Gourmet Store
And the number one thing cruisers do in Pensacola is
visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation!!!!! This museum was very enjoyable and huge. The planes, the engines and their history far outshone those at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum in D.C. No kidding. Don had a blast in the 360 degree 3D Flight Simulator! Maryann chose to watch it on the TV. We enjoyed a great IMAX film on the Hubble Space Telescope. It was a serendipitous treat which we will be sure to tell others to put on their must-do list. And, best of all, it was free!
The crew spells it like this: COLD!!!!!
The morning after Thanksgiving we departed our great anchorage and headed for Gulfport, MS to wait out a cold front. We left the relative shelter of the ICW and entered the Mississippi Sound, a long, open, shallow bay. The wind built on our nose, the waves built to around 4 feet with a 2-3 second period and our speed plummeted. We shipped green water over the bow, over the deck and occassionally over the enclosure.
Velcro wished he had died. Even the sink threw up! The thru hull on the sink in the forward head was not closed and when we slammed down hard enough through a wave salt water came UP the drain and drenched everything from the headliner to the walls and floors.
After 9 hours of sloppily slogging to windward we arrived at the Bert Jones Small Craft Marina in Gulfport. It is a very nice, very new and very empty place. It was built with post Katrina money and has about 500 slips which are currently less than 5% occupied.
While in Gulfport we rented a car, did errands, saw 2 movies and drove to Gulf Shores, AL to see our friends Drew & Stephanie. They left League City about when we did and are about 2 days ahead of us by boat. We had a lovely time socializing and eating at the iconic LuLu's Restaurant (Jimmy Buffet's crazy sista).
In the meantime, the cold front went through leaving plenty of cold behind. Last night it hit freezing. Tomorrow night it's supposed to get down to 29 degrees.....and we have to anchor out for the next 2 nights. So, we think Mississippi is COLD and we look forward to getting to the Sunshine state, where it had better get warmer.
Crossing the Mississippi River can be challenging in a small boat with lots of commercial traffic, swift currents, locks, bridges and other obstacles. We had heard reports of it taking all day. So we left our comfortable anchorage early to do battle with the River.
We chose Thanksgiving Day to cross, our rationale being that there should be less traffic. And, in fact, it was a very quiet day on the waterway. We went right through the first lock and bridges, then out into the mighty Mississippi (which was only flowing about 1.5 knots) and only had to wait an hour at the second lock. Life was good. We got to an early anchorage in an industrial canal and had Thanksgiving dinner mid-afternoon. In honor of our last night in Louisiana we had Shrimp Etoufee and French bread! Yum.
Tomorrow off to Mississippi...
We arrived in Houma in time to tie up to the City Dock in the one slip that was deep enough for our 6 foot draft. Whew! Our friends Drew and Stephanie, who are ahead of us on the waterway and providing us with invaluable up-to-the-minute information, said get to the slip first or you won't be able to get in!
We are tied up on a bulkhead in between 2 highway bridges on the edge of a city park. We were told not to be put off by being across the canal from the City Morgue. It's pretty quiet over there so it hasn't been a problem.
We spent 2 nights in Houma and just to prove we are cruising, we took public transportation to Wal-Mart and then a very nice grocery store to re-provision. By noon we were back at the boat for a fine lunch then walked about 4 blocks to a laundromat lugging 2 heavy wheeled carts full of nasty dirties. My mom would be proud---I can keep Tide in business for awhile longer. The whole laundry experience is rarely mentioned in the books and magazines that paint a rosy picture of cruising life. It's a reality though and we were glad the laundromat was so close.
Tomorrow we leave to anchor out in the Barataria Waterway to stage for crossing the Mississippi. We will then spend Thanksgiving day maneuvering through the various obstacles, locks and bridges to "get to the other side.".....of the River, that is.
In the meantime, the cats have been particularly happy to have a layday.
We set our alarm clock early the next morning because we had a long day ahead of us to get to Morgan City before dark. As luck would have it we awoke to dense fog. We waited until 8:30 to let it lift. We decided we could see enough to leave so we dashed out into the ditch and a short while later it socked back in. At times we could only see 1/4 mile which isn't too bad unless large steel moving objects are moving toward you in a confined waterway.
We thanked the gods of AIS (the electronic gadget that "sees" boats and identifies them by name on your chart plotter). We use AIS heavily when traveling to get information about the boat or ship which really helps when calling them on the VHF radio. Of course it doesn't help much at all when the boat doesn't transmit an AIS signal. So we had 8 of our eyes peeled (yes, even the cats) until about 10 AM. It turned into a beautiful day and, in fact, we did get to Morgan City before dark.
Next morning up before dawn, left in the dark (and fog, again) to get through some locks before they closed down for maintenance. It was a warm, gorgeous day most of which was spent in a large wildlife preserve. We passed floating islands of water lilies too numerous to count, saw flocks of white cranes flying by, even a bald eagle catching a fish! No sign of human habitation, just us and the tugs/barges. THEN we saw it......in the middle of the Louisiana swamp. A huge double sided billboard advertising a personal injury attorney firm!! Ugh. Lawyers are certainly an insidious species.....at times a scourge on the land.