St. Marys, GA ICW MM 715 and St. Mary’s River

March 31st, 2009

Well, I have finally gotten “off my duff” and started back with updating my journal entries.  Hard to believe that it is 4 months since we left the boat to go home for the Christmas holidays.   With the help of two very dear friends (and great boaters) we got the Emery El to Fort Myers, FL and her temporary home at the Legacy Harbor Marina.  We got the boat into her slip, cleaned her down, secured her for a month’s rest and took off for home and the holidays!

The month of December flew by.  We celebrated the birthdays of two grandchildren:  Oliver’s on 12/7 and Emery’s on 12/9.  We visited with friends, hosted a Christmas party for the US Coast Guard Auxillary and another for the Memphis Sail & Power Squadron, had some polyps removed, celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas day with family, then off to Houston, TX for a wedding  followed by a trip to Gulfport, MS for a birthday!  We returned to Fort Myers in time to ring in the New Year.  It was great sitting on the top deck, watching the stars, drinking Champagne and being with our old friends the Mylers and Morines.  What a great way to start off the year!

For the next ten weeks we spent our time working on the boat.  All those things we kept saying we would get to once we were at Legacy!  Observations I have made: 1) all repairmen in the area (whether plumbing, A/C or electrician are named “Joe”.  This made for interesting communication on work tracking and follow-up.  2) If a female is out on the dock with a work tool in her hand the male species feel driven almost compelled to dispense information on a) the appropriate way the job / task should be done, b) the proper tool(s) and products to use for the task and c) how to assess the finished product of the task/job.  In all fairness I had learned a great deal from these gentlemen who gave of their knowledge and experience.  It just became difficult to keep alternating the method and products used depending on which “advisor” was coming over to check up on my progress!  Thanks to Mike, Don, Pete and Donnie the rub rails came out great!  3) happy “hour” on the dock usually ran for 120 minutes and 4)boating people are among the nicest, sharing/caring and helpful people on earth.  We got to know many during the dock outings and Pot Luck dinners.

While in Fort Myers we entertained friends, Drew and Mary, Lin and Sue, Gary and Maggie.  We dabbled in beading and macramé and learned all about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.  We attended “Biker’s night”, “Riverdance” and Art Festivals and saw the beautiful annual “Parade of Lights”.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Fort Myers but now it was time to move on, the Okeechobee lake (second largest natural fresh-water lake in America) started to drop in water level.  We needed to cross the state over to Stuart FL and we needed to do it now.  So on 3/13/09 (a Friday no less) we said our goodbyes and took off.  First stop was Moore Haven, FL a small town known for its honey.  A one night layover at the City dock which consisted of one long stone wall with cleats.  (We had the company of one other boat at this dock.)  Across from the dock were the library, town hall bldg and a small park.  When we pulled away from the dock the next morning, there was a small flea market fundraiser going on at the library.  Our next stop was Indiantown.  On the way we saw white horses, cattle, ranches, alligators, and even an eagle.  When we pulled into Indiantown Marina we were greeted by a man with raven hair and high cheek bones wearing a black felt cowboy hat and a large silver belt buckle!  This was Seminole Indian country.  History has it that after the last Seminole uprising (1858) The Indians were rounded up and delivered to the federal authorities.  With their leader, Billie Bowlegs, they were then transported to Oklahoma.  The few Seminoles that evaded capture hid out in the vast swamps and everglades.  They settled in what is now known as Indiantown.   We arrived in time to partake in a “Bar-B-Que” pot luck dinner with all the other boaters.   To contribute I attempted to make cornbread.  I say attempted because somehow the bread did not rise!  But the cornbread muffins came out great.  We discovered that most of the boaters here were from Canada.  They were at the end of their sailing/boating time.  Note:  I am all confused with seasons and time.  Since for months we have had 70 and 80 degree sunshine weather my brain refused to acknowledge that it was “winter” and now when my body tells me it is really time to enjoy the sun and water people are pulling their boats and saying the season is “over”.   WHAT!!!!  Oh, hurricane season is around the corner, boats pulled and/or stored, heading North where winter is ending and another “warm, sunshine climate awaits”.

After Indiantown we moved onto Stuart, FL.  Harborage Yacht Club and Marina…. another marina, another atmosphere, this was a  “Marina” with a capital “M” for ambience.   High rise condos surround the boats in their slips, large clubhouse with restaurants, band playing live music.   Of course we had to try out the bar and their drink offerings.  We also had the exceptional opportunity of watching the Space Shuttle Discovery 19 launch.  It was a truly awesome sight, sitting on our upper deck and watching the rocket blast through the night sky.  The power, the energy, the light, and the courage, the courage of the astronauts sitting on top of one hellacious roman candle!

Next day, we headed to Vero Beach.  This is where we had arranged to meet Jason, Heather and the 3 grandkids.   Boat settled in, cleaned and readied, then, “Nana, Pappy, do you have the gangplank out?”  echoed down the dock.  The family was here!  The Emery El was equipped for the 5yr old, 3 yr old and especially the 15 months old.  It was Nana and Pappy that had the hard time stepping over the gates on the stairs up to the pilothouse and down to the sleeping quarters.  Blockades were placed at the aft starboard and stern in over to prevent TM (AKA Oliver, AKA TroubleMan) from making his escape down the side walkways to the gangplank!  This was going to be fun!!!  After the first 24 hrs we got into a rhythm of meals, sleeping quarters, sleeping rituals, baths, playtime etc.   During the next week (cruising to Vero Beach, Melbourne and Titusville) we saw dolphins in our harbor, manatees next to our boat, horseshoe crabs and stingrays at dockside, many alligators in the wild, Shamu at Seaworld, a GPS satellite rocket launched at Canaveral, the history of space shuttles/rockets and beautiful sunsets.  The kids, both big and small experienced feeding the dolphins, riding the roller coasters, climbing a humongous obstacle course and blowing the conch shell signaling the day’s end.  It was a fabulous week and as with all good things it was over too soon.

We left Titusville (Jason and family headed back to Memphis) destination Daytona.  Halifax Marina was so large (and beautiful) it would take almost a mile to walk to the dock master’s office.   We didn’t walk there but did walk to downtown Daytona, taking in the sights and eating great Pizza at Stavros! 

From Daytona we went on to Palm Coast Marina at Palm Coast.   Nice small marina, friendly people, surrounded by breakwaters (seawalls), manicured lawns and well kept homes.   We walked to a small European styled villa with plaza/shops.  Good to get out and stretch the legs.  I purchased a good looking beaded scarf.   We just learned that there is a bridge between this marina and our next stop that will be  closing for an entire week . We need to get on our way so we are not delayed, hope that the storm weather will hold off for a few more hours.

The next night we stayed at the Camanche Cove Marina, St. Augustine, FL.  Here we spent three days, two nights exploring old St. Augustine.  The flags of Spain, England, Spain, the Confederacy and the USA , in that order, have flown over this city.  St. Augustine is the oldest continuous European settlement in the US and Canada, 1564.  What a sense of history!  What a dent into our pocketbooks!  We are truly trying to help with “Supply and Demand” economics.

From St. Augustine we cruised to the Beach Marina in Jacksonville, FL.  Here we had dinner with the man’s fraternity brother Jim and his son, Jamie.  It is always special when you can meet up with someone from your past and renew old friendships.  It was delightful spending time them hearing their life experiences and adventures.  This is what makes this trip special.  We hope to connect again with Jim in the DC area.

Today, 3/31/09, we arrived at St. Mary’s, GA from Jacksonville.  We are finally out of Florida!  Psychologically that is a boost.

The river names of Caloosahatchee, Tomoka Basin, Halifax, Indian and Matanzas are some of the ones we experienced so far.    Florida has so many distinct yet truly interesting personalities: the Gold Coast, the cattle region, the everglades, the fishing villages.  We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to see and experience them.  Now onto Georgia!

 St. Mary’s is a quaint town (second oldest, via Spanish colonization, in what is now the USA), dates its “modern” heritage from an English land grant in 1787.  Storms on the horizons, we will stay put for the duration.  Hopefully to be able to get out and sightsee.

Arriving safely at all these marinas and docks has required an increase in the knowledge of tides, currents , winds, weather, charting and boat handling.  All have come into play in planning this journey.  Since Georgia does not have the money to maintain the Intracoastal Waterway, shoaling is now an additional factor we have to take into consideration.  Shoaling is the buildup of sediment, sand, whatever , that decreases the depths of the channel we must cruise.  (Georgia does not dredge the channel).  At some points it can be as low as 2 feet at low tide.  We draw 5 feet.  So now it is crucial to know where the shoaling is occurring and when medium to high tide is occurring during daylight hours at that point.  This is needed to avoid grounding, this would be a “my bad, my bad…”  So we have to plan the day’s trip according to the tide tables.     To me it all gets kind of scary:   the tides dictate the time and length of the day trip,  cruising out onto open waters with no markers to guide you, the “magenta line” on your electronic map disappears.  Your praying that the GPS and the backup GPS stay up and functioning.  The man handles it all in stride.  So far all has been going well! 

 

The” Lessons learned” to date are:  1) keep alert, 2) know your charts/prepare for each leg of your journey, 3) discuss the docking and undocking procedures in advance,  4) make sure that the batteries are always working in the two way radio headsets  5) do NOT, under any circumstance, start asking fifty questions when the boat is being brought in for docking , 6) be part of the solution and not part of the problem and 7) do NOT upset the first mate.  She has a “three day mad” and knows how to use it!

Here’s to discovering Georgia!

Log Date 081202

December 2nd, 2008

Tuesday.  I figured it out, it is Tuesday…   One can really get caught up in “boat time”.  I know the time of day by the ship’s bells (clock) and I know the date (off the Garmin GPS) but the “day of the week” eludes me. 

After leaving Clearwater we anchored out on the Manatee River, DeSoto Point.

(In May, 1539 Hernando DeSoto and nearly 1,000 soldiers and opportunists landed by the mouth of the Manatee River.  They were met by sticky heat, mosquitoes and American Indians.  Here, it is told, DeSoto met Juan Ortiz (captured Spanish American who had been looking for de Narvaez.)  Ortiz convinced DeSoto that riches were in-land.  Three years, 4,000 miles and eight states later they had discovered the mouth of the Mississippi River but no fortunes.  )

  My thesaurus does not contain enough words to describe “beautiful”.  Anchoring out in a place like this, watching the sunset , birds gliding overhead and the inhaling the fresh clean air is a balm for the soul, peace for the mind and joy to the heart.  What wonderful gifts to be given.  For this Lord, I am most grateful.

Next morning we weighed anchor and set out for Sarasota, famed for the legacy of John Ringling of the Ringling Brothers Circus.   Not only did Ringling make Sarasota the winter headquarters for the circus but he developed many other ventures including  St. Armands Circle (upper-crust and fashionable shopping area) and a large art collection in his Venetian Mansion.  Sarasota has the Ringling Museum, local ballet, theater and symphony.  What a jewel.  Due to bad weather we spent an extra day here, walking downtown and taking in the sites and food.   The man and I walked to St. Martha’s Catholic Church for Sunday Mass (payback time).  St. Martha’s is a small, well kept traditional church with stained glass windows and an intricately wood carved altar (reminded me of the one at my alma mater, Felician College, built by craftsmen and shipped over from Europe.)  Father Patrick was a very personable man (hey, he was Irish, what more can I say!).   The afternoon brought dark clouds, rainstorms and wind.  It was nice staying put.  Cable TV provided John White his afternoon football games.  All is good.

On Monday, we got an early start out heading to Gasparilla Marina.  I am getting spoiled having JC and John White on board.  They are doing my usual chores of getting lines ready (either for docking or undocking), setting the lines, fenders put out or stowed, bow and deck maintenance / cleaning.  I could get accustomed to this!  But as with all good things it will come to an end all too quickly.  Gasparilla is our last stop before reaching Fort Myers Beach and their stint with us completed and also our ultimate destination for this leg of the Loop.

After docking at Gasparilla, we secured the boat and took time out to enjoy the scenery.  At five we walked to the “Fishery” Restaurant.  All looking forward to a great meal (JC is still on the hunt for the perfect Grouper sandwich) only to find it is “closed” on Mondays.  No problem, the Chez Emery El still had enough provisions to provide a decent meal.  There is nothing quite like sitting on the aft deck in the dark, stomach’s satisfied, a good cabernet in hand, listening to the occasional bird call, the splashing fish in the harbor and the quiet conversation with good friends.   It doesn’t get much better than this.

Today, we left Gasparilla heading to Fort Myers Beach.  The weather and seas call for some wind and seas of 1 to 3 feet.  Will be an interesting ride.  To be continued.

Log Date 081126 – 081127 The Crossing

November 27th, 2008

We were up early.  While eating breakfast (of scrambled eggs, sausage, English muffins, jam and juice – not too shabby for a boat breakfast!) we heard rumblings that the weather window of opportunity  was quickly closing.  Before the appointed meeting time, Buddy stopped by the boat to say after reviewing the new data that if we wanted to have a good crossing we should leave “now” and not wait till early afternoon.  The men folk discussed the plan of action while I did a quick run (rather walk) to the nearby grocery store for needed provisions and to the laundramat to collect the laundry started earlier.   Within 30 minutes we had the plans finalized, provisions stowed, laundry put up, engines checked and started; we were pulling out of our slip.  The Crossing had officially started!

The helm was being well managed.  John White is a retired Meterologist  and JC Kennedy is a retired Air Traffic Controller.  Both are ex-military, active in the Coast Guard Auxillary and the Memphis  Power Squadron and they have previous experience doing  the Crossing.  Not being stupid, I took the rare opportunity to sit on the aft deck and just soak in the sun and the surroundings.   We made good time, the winds and seas were in our favor, the sky looked great.  As the hours wore on the clouds started to accumulate behind us.  Beautiful to look at but our own private, on-board weatherman was describing what they truly meant, increase in wind and wave action.  We were trying to stay in front of the system.

Prayers and deals were offered up to the Almighty!  I even had a running conversation with my Dad and Brother Jim going.  Asking them to see what goods with the angels and saints they could put in for us to  help out with this crossing!  

The work load and watch scheduled was divided up, I did galley duty and the Midnight to 4 AM watch.  Galley was easy.  When in stress, eat!  Food was kept available and the fare was light on the stomach ( well almost light, the Southwestern baked potato may have been the exception).  The night watch went quickly.  The seas remained calm, the starboard side was dark and a little ominous but the bow and port was bright and clear.   We were able to verify our position with the occasional buoy.  So far so good, we were out in front of the system and the seas were 1 feet, wind helping to push at 8.9 to 9.2 knots.  It was heavenly.  Did you heard that Dad and Bro Jim!

We made such good time we had to slow our speed down due to “crab pots”.  You do not want to enter the Clearwater area at sunrise, crab pots are everywhere.  After such a great and successful run we did not want to end the trip with a snagged line and fouled prop!  JC and the man did an excellent job of avoiding all the pots!  We made it into Clearwater without incident.  Hey, chalk that one up for the good guys!  Note to self: in the future when working look-out detail with a retired air-traffic controller keep the information clear, precise and concise.  Pick up copy of Coast Guard Reference Manual.

In Clearwater we noticed the change in the temperature.  It was actually getting warm enough for shorts and sleeveless tops.  This was the Florida I was looking for.

As we secured the boat I started to feel like I was floundering.  Not like the boat was rocking or swaying while standing on terra firma, rather, what’s next.  Since the start of the trip all I heard about was two difficult scenarios:  the long trek from Bobby’s Fish Camp on the TennTom to Mobile and  the “difficult” crossing.  OK, we did it, I did it….   Now what? But part of the emotion I was feeling made me question .  whether I had really earned my stripe or bragging rights for doing the crossing?  I feel somewhat guilty that I didn’t have to “tough it out!”  That is what over 14 years of a parochial education will do to you!   The other emotion was OK we completed these goals, what was the next hurdle to get over.  

Instead of stewing on it (one thing I learned on this trip so far was that my snits or “three day mad” as the man would call it, just doesn’t cut it.  There is no way you can keep a snit or mad going when you have to depend on each other (which includes talking) for your safety and well being.  So I am learning to just “suck it up” and move on.  With that said… Clearwater was a wonderful surprise.   We rested then made reservation at “Shephards” for our Thanksgiving meal.  The walk to the restaurant built up our appetite so we could feast on salmon, shrimp, crab as well as the traditional turkey meal at the sumptuous buffet.   The walk back gave us the opportunity to see the beach and pier and view all the snowbirds (two legged kind) visiting from up north.  We were most thankful to be able to share this holiday with our two friends who helped us with the Crossing.

Log Date 081125 Carrabelle

November 25th, 2008

We arrived at Carrabelle to find another opportunity for the man to test his skills at docking stern first with a narrow and short pier (what is it with Florida and their wood poles and short piers).  We thought the previous days slip was narrow!  This one didn’t leave but 6 inches of clearance on either side.  There was someone from the Marina waiting patiently at the slip for me to pass off the lines to whenever we got the boat in the slip.  Again, the current and wind (and my lack of depth perception) played a big part in the multiple tries to get the boat into the slip.  The dock hand finally started to call out some instructions (and I was smart enough to relay them to John from my headset to his headset)on how and when to throttle,  when to turn, etc and we finally got the Emery El into her home for the night.  The dock hand then very courteously asked if he could give some helpful hints, based on his experience, of what we did wrong and what we might try in the future.  Always willing to learn, at least the man is (sometimes my “Jersey” gets in the way), we got a free lesson in docking.  Turns out this dock hand was not only the owner of the marina but the famous (or infamous) Buddy.  The crossing “guru” we were told to seek out and value his opinion on the local conditions, water and weather for when to do the crossing.  He has a reputation for accurately predicting the best time or windows of opportunity to make this leap across the Gulf.  Not being stupid, the man spent the next hour or so talking, reviewing charts and weather maps and systems with Buddy.  Me, I got to work on getting our Thanksgiving turkey thawed and ready to cookl.  The word from Buddy was that the next day around  noon or 2 PM was going to present a good weather window to make this trip.  But being cautious and wise men they agreed to meet again in the morning to re-review all the data before making a final decision.  This is great, JC Kennedy and John White were due in this evening, with a departure time of 2 PM that would give them time to rest up from their long drive from Memphis before shoving off.  John and JC arrived at 9 PM.  Plans discussed, turkey cooked and put up for the next day we retired to get a good night’s sleep.

Log Date 081124 Apalachicola

November 24th, 2008

Log Date 081124  Apalachicola 

Arrived to this quaint town, once famous as a thriving fishing village.  Today it is known for their oysters.  Ate at “Boss Oysters” where they have 17 different ways to prepare oysters, even Bar-B-Que’d.  John said they were the best oysters he has ever had.  That is saying a lot considering the man has eaten his fair share over the years in many a town and city.  The town also has some boutique and shops to browse.  The man especially liked the “The Tin Shed” with all their nautical hardware. 

We stayed at the Deepwater Marina.  A misnomer at best!  Had to go in stern first.  With the current running against us and the not too generous width of the berth, the man used all his talents and skill to get us into the slip!  He is amazing at handling the boat!

Weather report for the following morning showed cold and winds, a weather front coming in.  If we left early and made a run for it we can make it to Carrabelle and hopefully the weather window for THE crossing either on Wednesday or Thursday.  We had coordinated with two friends to come from Memphis to help with the crossing.  The trick was to have them here in Carrabelle when it was optimum conditions for the crossing, but not have them come and have to wait for that window of opportunity.  Plan was set in motion for them to drive from Memphis on Tuesday and meet us in Carrabelle Tuesday night.  The cruise on the Apalachicola Bay was no easy ride.  The winds and chop made for an exciting ride.  It was very important to stay in the marked channel, challenging when the winds wanted to push you out of it.  As large as the Bay was it became shallow in many an area, easy to run aground! 

We arrived at Carrabelle to find another opportunity for the man to test his skills at docking stern first with a narrow and short pier.  (what is it with Florida and their wood poles and short piers).  We thought the previous days slip was narrow.  This one didn’t leave but 6 inches of clearance on either side.  There was someone from the Marina waiting patiently at the slip for me to pass off the lines to whenever we got the boat in the slip.  Again, the current and wind (and my lack of depth perception) played a big part in the multiple tries to get the boat in the slip.  The dock hand finally started to call out some instructions on how and when to throttle,  when to turn and we finally got the Emery El into her home for the night.  The dock hand then very courteously asked he could give some helpful hints, based on his experience, of what we did wring and what we might try in the future.  Always willing to learn, at least the man is, we got a free lesson in docking.  Turns out this dock hand was not only the owner of the marina but the famous (or infamous) Buddy.  He was someone we were told to seek out and value his opinion on the local conditions, water and weather for when to do the crossing.  He has a reputation for accurately predicting the best time or windows of opportunity to make this leap across the Gulf.  Not being stupid, the man spent the next hour or so talking, reviewing charts and weather maps and systems with Buddy.  The word was the next day around  noon or 2 PM was going to present a good weather window to make this trip.  But being cautious and wise men they agreed to meet again in the morning to re-review all the data before making a final decision.  This is great, JC Kennedy and John White were due in this evening, with a departure time of 2 PM that would give them time to rest up from their long drive from Memphis before shoving off.  John and JC arrived at 9 PM, plans discussed and we retired arounf ten to get a good nights sleep.

We were up early.  While eating breakfast (of scrambled eggs, sausage, English muffins, jam and juice – not too shabby for a boat breakfast!) we heard rumblings that the weather window of opportunity  was closing quickly.  Buddy stopped by the boat to say after reviewing the new data that if we wanted to have a good crossing we should leave “now” and not wait til early afternoon.  The menfolk discussed the plan of action while I did a quick run (rather walk) to the grocery store and collected the laundry started at the laundramat.   Within 30 minutes we had the plans finalized, provisions stowed, engines checked and started and we were pulling out of our slip.  The Crossing had officially started!

The helm was being well managed so I took the rare opportunity to sit on the aft deck and just soak in the sun and the surroundings.   We made good time, the winds and seas were in our favor, the sky looked great.  As the hours wore on the clouds started to accumulate behind us.  Beautiful to look at but our own private, on-board weatherman was describing what they truly meant, increase in wind and wave action.  We were trying to stay in front of the system.

Prayers and deals were offered up to the Almighty!  I even had a running conversation with my Dad and Brother Jim going.  Asking them to see what good word with angels and saints they could put in for us to  help out with this crossing!  

Our work load and watch scheduled divied up, I did galley duty and the Midnight to 4 AM watch.  Galley was easy.  When in stress, eat!  Food was kept available and was light on the stomach ( well almost light, the Southwestern baked potatoe may have been the exception).  The nightwatch went quickly.  The seas remained calm, the starboard side was dark and a little ominous but the bow and port was brighter and clear.   We were able to verify our position with the occasional bouy.  So far so good we were out in front of the system and the seas were 1 feet, wind helping to push at 8.9 to 9.2 knots.  It was heavenly.

We made such good time we had to slow our speed down due to “crab pots”.  You do not want to enter Clearwater area at sunrise, crab pots are everywhere.  After such a great and successful run we did not want to end the trip with a snagged line and fouled prop!  JC and the man did an excellent job of avoiding all the pots!  We entered Clearwater Municipal Marina at 9:26 AM.  The crossing was a beautiful, glorious experience.  And now I will spend the next twenty years paying back all the bargains made with the Almighty, and that is just fine with me.

We spent the rest of the day, this Thanksgiving Day, doing just that.  Giving thanks not only for a great crossing but spending it with friends who gave up time with their families to be help us with this endeavor.

We are all pretty tired, tonight it is rest time, tomorrow is yet another day.

Log Date 081123 Panama City, FL St. Andrews Marina

November 23rd, 2008

We weighed anchor early and headed out to Panama City, the St. Andrews Marina (MM 287).  We traveled approximately 55 miles today.  Sun was out but not all that warm.  We cruised across wide and open Bays (Choctawhatchee, West) and transverse d narrow canals (of course this is where we encountered our one and only tow and barge today).  I actually kept my hands on the helm the entire meeting and passing but the man was right next to me (and for this I give thanks.)   This canal is part of the Intracoastal Waterway and has a strip known as Florida’s “Grand Canyon”.  

Not much of an elevation in this part of the country!

We had a great escort into Panama City.  Two dolphins rode our bow and playfully cruised along with us.

We ended a great day by video conferencing with our grandkids!  First time since we left on the trip.  It was great!  On this Sunday, Lord, I give thee thanks!

Log Date 081121 Bluewater Marina, Niceville, Florida

November 21st, 2008

We arrived at the Bluewater Marina yesterday afternoon after a beautiful cruise through the Narrows viewing Santa Rosa Island, Fort Walton Beach and Destin before entering the Choctawhatchee Bay.   The sun was bright, sky clear; it was warm sitting on the boat’s bow breathing in the clean, crisp, sea air and catching glimpses of the dolphins swimming by.

During our cruise we saw a naval exercise in progress.  We were just leaving Pensacola.  The area being used in Pensacola Bay was cordoned off by naval patrol boats and orange markers.  The exercise seemed to involve a navy vessel, parachuting into water, and liferaft scrambles.  Being a military exercise we knew better than to get too close.  After witnessing a brief portion of this, I am truly in awe and humbled by what our servicemen and women have to learn and be capable of for us, our freedom and liberties.  I was glad to have our American flag flying at our stern, saluting them.

I spent part of the day increasing my knowledge to read the charts, matching them up to the Garmin GPS (1st rule, always know where you are on a paper chart.  GPS has been known to lose signal or connection.  This is “very bad, very bad!”).  It is very interesting what all the little symbols and numbers mean on the Garmin screen.  It can be displayed in several ways; like, a small movie reel next to the wording “subm piles” or just wording in BIG CAPITAL LETTERS “Danger, unexploded bombs”.   When I saw that message on our course line my eyes went big, the man just said, “don’t worry, we aren’t dropping an anchor”.  Well, I mean to tell you, I turned that wheel and altered our course, just a wee bit….

The Bluewater Marina is in the town of Niceville, Florida.  I must admit it weirded me out, just a bit – Niceville.  The name reminded me of a couple of B grade movies.  But since I did not see any signs of the “Stepford Wives” I was OK.  The town is actually beautiful, Spanish moss hanging from the oaks, seagrass lining the marina and bayous, homes well landscaped and manicured.  (OK, so I did keep my eyes out for those Stepford Wives…)

We spent the next morning reviewing the weather forecasts and debating whether to stay here or weigh anchor and go across the Choctawhatchee Bay in 25 knot winds, 6 foot seas and temperatures forecasted to be in the 20’s – 30’s.  When we started this trip we agreed that we would not be on an absolute timetable and we would take weather into consideration.  We extended our stay for 2 days (the length of the cold front).  We rented a car and headed into Destin.  The man actually agreed to visit the shopping malls (I mean, really, one month on a boat and no visits to a mall.  My credit card company must have thought I had fallen off the face of the earth!).  Now I know why he agreed, they are outdoor malls and it was the coldest day Destin has had all year!  It was a very short shopping excursion.  After we saw some of Destin’s sights, watched a beautiful sunset, and had a dinner of oysters and shrimp we headed back to our home away from home, our Emery EL.

Log Date 081119 Palafox Marina, Pensacola FL

November 19th, 2008

Smooth cruising into Pensacola.  The Palafox Marina is really in Palafox, FL, a part of Pensacola.  Pretty little harbor, from our raised pilothouse we could see over the breakwater wall into Pensacola Bay.   We walked into town to sightsee and eat at the Fish House!  Great food and the walk felt great.  Not enough time to get to the Naval Air Museum and I was not quite back to 100%, next time.

Log Date 081117 The Wharf, Orange Beach AL

November 17th, 2008

It was not a Strut!  For this Lord I am most grateful!!!

We paid our maintenance tab or rather we left them our credit card number and they would call us with the total.  (The tides and time waits for no man, we had miles to go before sunset.)  Emery El did great!  We pulled into The Wharf at Orange Beach, AL bypassing the more popular “Lulu’s”.   The man wanted to try this site out.  Lucky for him he did, he discovered a great Pizza place.  I laid low due to a stomach bug, we stayed an extra day.  Me due to hugging the porcelain goddess and he, to iron out problems with the secondary GPS system and to catch up on some business work.  

Log Date 081116 – Mobile

November 16th, 2008

Today is Sunday and we have been at Joanne’s new home in Gulfport, MS (rebuilt on the same site as her home that was destroyed by Katrina) for the past two nights.  Visiting, catching up on family news, reintroducing ourselves to some of her grandchildren have been the order of the day.

Last Tuesday we pulled into Mobile’s Dog River Marina, had dinner with Mary and Bill Russell from Harbour Reach.   They are retired college professors from the Rhode Island area.  They knew since the 1960’s they were going to do the Loop, they started it several years ago, doing 3  months increments during their summer’s off from teaching.  This year they are at it full time.   Mary is also known as the “Plant” or “Tomato” lady, having the distinct honor of growing her own tomatoes and fresh herbs in a specially designed self contained vegetable garden box up on their  fly bridge (plant height now over 5’).  Mary was kind enough to share the garden box instructions with me.   I think I will try my hand at the herbs; basil, mint, oregano and parsley!  At least until we get to the Canadian borders.

Our stay in Mobile has been extended due to the starboard stern  ”noise”.  We were notified that the boat lift was being repaired and the Marina was waiting for parts for it.  Approximate date to be hauled, 081113, Thursday.  Thursday came and was filled with dense fog and the unfulfilled promise of the parts being delivered.  Now it will be Friday.  We filled our time meeting other Loopers, sharing travel stories and tips on “how to”, boat maintenance and meals of fresh shrimp and crab.   “Harbour Reach” set course for Fairhope, AL and then points south, “Carry Forward” was pulled and put into storage, Gracie and Tom heading back to Autin, TX,   The moon was full over the Mobile Bay.  All in all, not a bad to spend a respite.

On Friday, the boat lift had been repaired and put to work.  By 1 pm, The Emery El was in the bay, sling in place and gently lifted out of the water!  The guys were great, an awesome tasks seeing 60,000 lbs being hoisted up and put on blocks.  With anticipation we went to check the starboard prop, no damage visible, the cutter OK….  But, there was a stick, a thick stick wedged vertically between the hull and the shaft.  Heads came together, discussions ensued, experience and knowledge concurred, it was the stick causing the problem.  Whew! Were we lucky or what!  Stick removed, prop blades inspected closely, measured, etc.  boat bottom washed,  water sprayed  through the prop to dislodge any possible sandy residue, boat placed back into water for a trial spin.  The marina’s captain and John navigated her back into the channel, my job was to listen at the stern.  Our optimism and relief was short lived for the high pitched noise was still there, faint at times but it was there.  I called Captain down to the stern for a second opinion (yes, nurses always like second opinions…) and yep, he heard it also.  Headed back to the marina, our window of opportunity for the day was closed.  They were hauling the 80’ “Chateau Lady”.  It would be Monday, 081117, before they could haul us out again.  Later, I discovered that the Maintenance crew admitted that they should have “filed back the trailing edge of the props” before putting her back into the water.  Many times they get dulled and Captain says this was probably the cause.  So she is being pulled and worked on Monday, another trial run, and with fingers crossed, she will do fine.  If not, then another pull and possible strut replacement may be in her future.  Now I know the true meaning of what the word BOAT, Break Out Another Thousand.

So we closed up the Emery El, packed a bag (and dirty laundry) and John’s sister drove out to pick us up.  I took solace in a dinner of fried gulf shrimp, crab claws, cole slaw served with an icy Gin and Tonic! 

Today we will attend church as a family, giving thanks for our many blessings and believe me there are many.  After Mass, brunch at the GYC (Gulfport Yacht Club – our first trip back, she was just rebuilt after hurricane Katrina!)  Then back to Mobile and the Emery El.

While dressing  and getting ready for church I realized that in a few short weeks my toiletries and accessories certainly have changed.  I turned in my Blackberry for a pocket knife(soon to be a bigger, sharper pocket knife), my business suits for blue jeans and t-shirts, high heels for docksiders, a bag full of make-up for just moisturizing cream and a computer rolling cart for a duffel bag.  My color of nail polish has changed from clear coat to a shade of brown Mississippi mud silt (just around the nail edges, thank you).  And you know what, it is all just fine with me….

So today, Lord, I will loudly give thanks for our many blessings and a whispered prayer, “Please, Lord, not a strut!”