Saturday, November 20, 2010

Steinhatchee to...

Saturday, November 20...continued
So what, you might ask, does one do in Steinhatchee on a Saturday night when the no-seeums come out at 5PM? Did I mention we can't pick up one station on the TV? Most of the time in these out of the way places we can at least pick up a couple of educational channels and we catch up on episodes of Rick Steves. No NPR on the radio, either.

Tonight we resorted to our good old standby...National Lampoon's European Vacation. Oh, that's not all we have in the DVD genre, mind you. The reverse side has National Lampoon's Vacation! Holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oad, holiday ro-o-o-o-o-o-oad. Love that Lindsey Buckingham. The good news is that we just discovered there's a "comments" version, too. We were tempted to watch it tonight but decided to pace ourselves. Something to look forward to tomorrow, honey!

All I want for Christmas is Monty Python's All Time Greatest Hits.

Sunday, November 21-
We were restless today. We'd checked out the diesel prices at Sea Hag yesterday and they are $3.95/gal. for diesel. We paid $2.79 in Carrabelle...and calling down to Clearwater we got prices in the low $3 range. Hmmm. We decided to look around at the other marinas here in Steinhatchee to see if someone else might have a better price. River Haven Marina is on the same side of the river as Sea Hag...just under the 25ft. fixed bridge.

We decided to take a walk this morning, then, up to River Haven and see what the price was...and see about whether we could get in there or not. What a fortuitous decision! We walked up and talked with Shari Powell, one of the owners, and found out that 1) price of diesel is $2.89, 2) dockage (including power and wifi) is $25/night and 3) there's enough water around for us to get in here. Guess where we are tonight???

After the marina visit we walked on up to Fiddlers, a local restaurant that has been recommended to us by several different people. Turns out they were having a Sunday lunch buffet that began at 11AM. We were there waiting on the doors to open...and we weren't disappointed. For $10.95/person we had fried chicken, brisket, black eyed peas and rice, a variety of side dishes, 3 soups, salad bar, and a delicious peach and cherry cobbler. We'll be back!

Then we walked over to the grocery store and bought a bag of dog food for Lucy. (BTW, Lucy got a little razor burn at her last grooming (not unusual) and developed what looked like an infection in that area. [I know, I know, TMI!] This morning I called our dear veterinarian, Denise Frazier at Northshore Animal Hospital, and talked with her about the situation. Denise had put together a great first aid kit for Lucy when we went out on the first trip and updated it for this round. I have an antibiotic in the kit that she suggested I begin giving Lucy. Thank you Dr. Frazier!! :-)

So...our new location is great. It's like being off the main drag and in a quiet, more intimate neighborhood. The marina is great, the owner dropping by the boat this evening to tell us about the proximity to Fiddlers Restaurant. We'll be here tomorrow, at least. Our aim was to move on down to Cedar Key asap...but there's a full moon this week and a phenomenon called the "negative tide."

Monday, November 22-
What is this negative tide, we wondered? Our charts show depths and those depths are expressed in feet to represent the mean low water. So when we go into a channel that's showing 6 ft. (with our 4.5ft. draft)...we're expecting that most of the time the water is at least that deep. With a negative tide the water will be below that charted amount. Notice a tide chart sometime and look at the days when there's a full moon. Often those days will indicate a negative tide expressed with a negative number like -0.6. The full moon is responsible. We know the full moon makes people we know it makes the tides crazy, too.

This morning we spent several hours figuring out the tides for this location, Cedar Key, and Tarpon Springs...charting the course for each leg of the weather resources for information about wind and waves tomorrow and the next day. After a nice breakfast at Cackleberry's (adjacent to Fiddlers) we made the firm decision to go on Tuesday to Cedar Key and anchor out...then to Caladesi State Park (near Tarpon Springs) on Wednesday. Both days we'll need to be on the water by 6:30AM to avoid being around for a negative tide period. Tomorrow's trip will take around 7-7.5 hrs. and Wednesday's will take at least 9 hours. By Wednesday night, though, we will be back in the ICW and, therefore, in more protected waters.

A few pictures of Steinhatchee before we leave. First, Wayne sitting at the colorful bar at Sea Hag Marina..."it's five o'clock somewhere."

And a view from our dock looking up Steinhatchee River on the last evening here.

BTW, a little factual info on the town, the name (pronounced STEENhatchee) came from Native American words meaning river (hatchee) of man (esteen). A big improvement over the community's original name, Deadman's Bay.

Apalachicola to Steinhatchee, FL

Thursday, November 18-
It was cold last night! We woke up at around 5:30 and turned on the heat to warm up the place before we crept from under the covers. It was in the 40's. We're going to go to Carrabelle today because the conditions are favorable (we'd still be in sort of protected waters) and it will get us a bit closer to either a "run" across the Gulf or a run around the rim.

You know, we came out on this trip thinking we would definitely do the rim route instead of the "all at once, 20-hour, up all night" crossing. Then we started looking at the details of the rim route and questioned whether there would be enough "water" in Steinhatchee...and whether we could have a good anchorage in Cedar Key. Well, this week we've checked all those issues out and have decided we can do the rim. And (unless a TOTALLY CALM day comes in the meantime) we really would like to do the rim route so we'll have a comparison for when we have to make the return trip in the spring.

Just a few more pictures of Apalachicola. I can't get enough of these shrimp boats against the marsh and water...

Lucy and I visited a botanical garden within walking distance of Scipio Creek Marina and watched (well, I watched) monarch butterflies milling around the flowers.

Cloudy weather coming up in Apalachicola...

Papa Joe's Oyster Bar, connected to the Scipio Creek Marina and right beside our dock...

Speaking of oysters, we went back to the Papa Joe's Tuesday night for another round of oysters (Wayne) and steamed shrimp (me and Wayne.) On the way out of Apalachicola this morning we saw oyster boats at work harvesting a bed. In case you're wondering what's involved in oyster harvesting, here's a piece from the website

Apalachicola Bay, including the waters of St. George Sound and St. Vincent Sound, provides an ideal environment for oysters. The 210 square mile estuary is wide and shallow; depths in Apalachicola Bay average only six to nine feet at low tide. The estuary is dominated by the Apalachicola River which provides nutrient rich fresh waters vital to the Bay's natural productivity. Oysters grow rapidly (the fastest in the country) in these waters reaching marketable size in less than two years.

Oystermen harvest oysters in Franklin County from more than 7,000 acres of public oyster "bars" and about 600 acres of private leased bars in the Apalachicola Bay area. Public bars are divided into "winter" bars which can be harvested from Oct. 1 through June 30 each year and the "summer bars" which are harvested from July 1 through September 30.

There are more than 1,000 people employed by the oyster industry in Franklin County. And there are a variety of jobs associated with harvesting the mollusk. Tongers (traditionally called "oystermen") harvest the oysters from small boats using tongs which look somewhat like two rakes attached in a scissor style. Tongers generally use a small wooden boat, 20-23 feet long, equipped with a culling board near the bow and sometimes equipped with a "dog house" or small covered area to provide shelter from bad weathers. Tongers are accompanied usually by "cullers" who separate the oysters by size (oysters must be at least three inches in length to be considered legally harvestable). Out on the bay, oysters are stored in burlap sack and shaded until they reach the shore. On the shore, seafood houses employ "housemen" who sort the oysters and package them for sale either in bags or boxes or pass them onto shuckers where they will be shucked, washed and sold generally either in pints or gallons.

So here we have a tonger and a culler at work, with a mound of oysters on front of the boat.

The trip from Apalachicola to Carrabelle went far quicker than we thought it would because we had a nice boost to the speed from current. It was mostly an open water situation (though still somewhat protected).

We're at C-Quarters Marina in Carrabelle. The folks are really nice and we have ready access to grocery, bank, hardware...and library. We're considering a move to St. Marks tomorrow. We'll decide in the morning.

Friday, November 19-
This morning we talked and looked at weather sites until we decided today would be the day to go from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee, across the Apalachee Bay. It sounded like the winds might gust up a little above 10mph (9-13, in fact)...but waves looked like 1-2. By 8 AM we were on the water, headed for Steinhatchee. Carrabelle was beautiful this morning, all calm and clear....

Well, we got kicked around for the first 4 hours of this trip! The wind was from the east, which we thought might somehow be blocked by land. Not! We definitely had 1-2 and 2-3...on the nose and hard to block. We altered course several times trying to find an angle that would lessen impact, but it was like the waves were coming from an "easterly" direction and no matter where we turned they were there. We'd go through a spell of nearly smooth water then get slammed by a series of 2-3ft. waves. It was weird. I took a little snippet of video on my little camera during the very first part of the trip...when the waves were just a little rough. (Later on, we were rocking and rolling!) If and when I figure out how to post it on here, I will.

Meantime, this is how the water looked shortly after noon when it laid down to a bathtub slosh.

We got into Steinhatchee 9 hours later and are tied up to a dock at Sea Hag Marina.

Saturday, November 20-
We were in bed last night by 7:30 and slept until 6 this morning. Needless to say, it was a stressful day. We learned, again, that we don't like traveling in winds over 10mph...even if for a part of the trip. We're also thinking the guy from Tallahassee Marine Weather Station was right when he said "the east is the beast!" But at least we're over on this side and maybe our trips on down the coast to join the ICW will be easier.

We were really impressed with the look of Steinhatchee as we came in last night.

We were here by car in the fall of '07 and it definitely looks better from the river. Very pretty...and activity everywhere. This is a place that takes its fishing seriously! There are fishing boats everywhere. And here they fishers are weighing in the day's catch...

The only really bad thing about Steinhatchee is the no-seeums. Yep. And, in case you're wondering, those OFF personal insect repellent fans you can wear? They don't work on no-seeums. Nope. I just observed (from inside the boat, since it is the time of day when no-seeums roam) that the folks over at the marina are rubbing down their exposed body parts with some sort of repellent. I'll have to ask what they are using. :-)

Next move is to Cedar Key...but it looks like we might be here a few days before that can happen. We have 4 days worth of dog food left right now. Wayne suggests we let her fend for herself here after the miniature schnauzers do in the "wild." Me, I'm thinking we'll go ahead and pay a king's ransom for a small bag of dog food at the local grocery, Maddie's.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Port St. Joe to Apalachicola, FL

Saturday, November 13 -
We really did think we'd stay a few days at Port St. Joe. We liked the marina - brand new looking - and the area held potential for some good beaching. There's a Piggly Wiggly right next to the marina, too. What more could a cruiser ask for!

But, like I said yesterday, I think we are ready to start preparing for the Gulf crossing. This morning we looked at options and decided to move on over to Apalachicola...knowing we might be there for 5 or 6 days. If we were ready, tonight would be a perfect night for crossing. We talked yesterday to Blue Angel and they were headed to do the crossing tonight. We're not ready yet. We need an oil change and a few other maintenance chores done before we feel ready to go. Looking at the weather it will probably be next weekend before the waters calm down enough for us to go. So we left Port St. Joe after a trip to the hardware, auto supply, and grocery store.

The trip out of St. Joe down the County Canal on a Saturday (Veteran's Day weekend, at that) took an hour to cover about 5 miles of water. There were a lot of boats out fishing and enjoying the weather and we have to slow way down when approaching other boats because we throw off such a large wake.

We traveled across more interesting water, including Lake Wimico.

We keep commenting to each other that all of this looks new to us. I know it's been 3 years, but some of this waterway looks so different I'd swear we came a different way. It's really very pretty...and I don't remember being impressed with this area the last time. (Note to self: read the blog.)

We reached Apalachicola around 2:30PM and cruised down to look at the Municipal Marina (aka, town dock) before deciding to spend the first few days, at least, at Scipio Creek Marina. A walk around town showed a lively, prosperous looking community with LOTS of art, antiques, collectibles to ogle. Back at the marina we went to supper at Papa Joe's...shrimp and oysters.

Sunday, November 14 -
Another beautiful day! Wayne is changing the oil and I am catching up on some laundry. I plan to walk into town this afternoon and see if some of those shops are open... :-) Right now I'm sitting in the shade on the marina office back porch (best place for wifi reception) and enjoying the sunny day while laundry "does." We'll be in Apalachicola until we cross, which will likely be next weekend. Ta-ta for now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fairhope, AL, to Port St. Joe, FL

Monday, November 8 -
Time changed yesterday and so we were up this morning at 5:30...and out of the marina by 6:30. Mobile Bay was gentle so the trip (18 miles) down to the ICW was easy. On the intercoastal waters we had dolphins playing in the boat wake.... This was what we'd see at first...

Then, ta-da!

Also spotted this set of buildings. Now, if you did a watercolor painting of this some might say it was just not realistic... WAY too colorful. :-)

We anchored in the Big Lagoon, just before the Pensacola area, at Red Fish Point. Our aim was to dinghy in to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and do some walking/exploring. Unfortunately we were anchored in a spot that held lots of shallow water and weeds between us and the shore. Our dinghy motor started coughing and we turned back. On the way BACK to Tennessee, we'll anchor in a bit different spot there and go ashore! Still, a beautiful place to be..

Tuesday, November 9-
Slept 'til 6 this morning...we're getting better. Left the anchorage around 8 and headed for Palafox Pier in Pensacola. The marina is only about 10 miles away. This is a strategy we learned the last trip: get close the night BEFORE going into a marina and take advantage of every part of the next day when you tie up. :-)

On the way over to Pensacola we were treated to the Blue Angels practicing their maneuvers over the water. It was an amazing show! We've seen them before in air shows, but felt like we actually got much closer today! Between the dolphins yesterday and the Blue Angels today I've probably taken over 100 photos!

We also saw some people involved in what we thought might just be the Gulf Oil Recovery Project.

Going to the National Naval Air Museum today. Catching a bus from downtown. Should be lots of fun! The area is so nice here I think we'll end up spending two days instead of the one we'd planned....

Wednesday, November 10 -

The Naval Air Museum was good, even if we did miss a large part of the collection due to renovations and their moving the era from Vietnam forward to another building. The new area opens in late November. A cute thing of interest was a sign defining a "navy shower," which is what we do when we're anchoring out for a series of nights and need to conserve water.

The bus trip to and from the museum was entertaining, too. We went onto two military bases, showing our ID's at check points, and got to see a lot of the Pensacola area.

This morning Lucy and I took a nice long walk through downtown before we left. (Yes, we decided to leave today. I finally came to understand today that we are probably not going to be content until we get across the Gulf to "the other part of Florida.") As we were walking in one of the parks downtown I noticed a man standing still with one arm outstretched in front of him and the other arm slightly held out from his body. His back was to us...and it occurred to me that this was probably someone taking advantage of the park setting and a beautiful morning to do some Tai Chi. Probably some pose named "plucking the bird from bush," you know. (Apologies to Dana and Joan. :-) As my perspective changed, I realized that he was texting on his cell phone.

So, anyways, we left beautiful Pensacola and headed out for Ft. Walton Beach town dock. We arrived at around 3:30 PM and there was room on the outside dock for us to stay. Here's a view from the park nearby of Segue tied up to the dock (far left, outside.)

Walked around town and saw this hotel. A picture really IS worth 1,000 words.

The sunset that evening brought a gorgeous sky...

Thursday, November 11 - Veteran's Day 2010
We're off to Panama City today. We're going to meet up with friends from a group that Wayne shares information with concerning trawlers and trawler-ing, Jill and Rudy Sechez. We went through an area dubbed "the canal"...but it was really pretty.

Rudy and Jill live aboard a boat they built, Briney Bug. They came over to the marina that evening in their boat (we got a tour and it's an amazing, comfortable home!) and we went to dine at an Italian restaurant nearby that makes great pizza.

Friday, November 12-
We were on the blue highway by 9 this morning...kinda took our time. Rudy and Jill came over to wish us a safe journey. We caught this shot of the Briney Bug.

Great trip to Port St. Joe along the Wetappo Creek (yeah, I know: Itchycoo Park comes to mind.)

Saw a couple of eagles and caught this one on "film"....

We're in Port St. Joe for a few days...then on to ready for the leap into Gulf waters. More later...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fairhope, AL

Saturday, November 6-

I painted all day today!

OK, we've gotten a lot done here while waiting on Mobile Bay to calm down. Today we put varnish on all the teak and will do a second coat tomorrow. We'd originally planned to leave for Florida tomorrow, but the weather report looks better for Monday.

When I walked Lucy to the "beach" area here at the marina this morning I saw that the beach was very exposed...water "out." Our boat has probably been sitting on the bottom of the bay today. We watched a sailboat across the way trying to get out. They finally gave up around 2:30 and left. A fellow here to pick up a chartered sailboat said he'd never seen the water this low in the area. But a power boat we talked to said the water in the channel coming in is just fine...6-8 feet.

We had breakfast in town today at a restaurant boasting to be Fairhope's oldest. Good omelets! I've found a great walking trail here that runs for miles along scenic Hwy. 98. Fairhope is a neat town. Some really pretty homes. Yesterday I went down and visited the library and several retail establishments. My favorite was the Page & Palette, a combination art supply, book store, and coffee shop..

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Columbus, MS, to Fairhope, AL

Wednesday, October 27 -

After six days at Columbus Marina, Columbus, MS, we've moved on down the Tenn-Tom to a lovely anchorage at Sumter Landing. (Some of you may remember our last experience at Sumter Landing in December '07. This was our way of "getting back on that horse.")

The weather was fickle today. We ran in and out of rain...sometimes MAJOR rain. Tomorrow morning we'll set our sights on Foscue Creek below Demopolis, with a stop at the Yacht Basin for fuel.

Thursday, October 28 -

Beautiful day on the rain! The night was very peaceful and we were up and heading out into the main channel by 7:30...just as Bulldog Sally was passing by our anchorage. (They anchored a few miles up the river.) We had about an hour wait to get through the Heflin Lock. For the rest of the trip the scenery held our attention. Last time we passed this way it was dark, so we were really impressed with the cliffs along the water.

We were docked at Demopolis Yacht Basin fuel dock by 3 PM. Fueled, watered, and walked (Lucy), we left the dock at 3:45 and found our way down to the Foscue Creek anchorage right before the Demopolis Lock. Bulldog and Crossroads were already in the creek...and we were later joined by a fourth boat.

We anchored pretty much in front of the dock that belongs to a Coast Guard Cutter, "Wedge." That evening one of the employees at the Coast Guard station came out and said he thought we'd be fine there for the night...that the cutter wasn't due back until around noon the next day. He did say that if the boat came back, we'd have to move because it needed all that space to turn around and get docked. We'd stayed out that far because one of the boats in our group had touched ground not too far into the pocket of water beyond the dock. The night was calm, though, and the cutter didn't come home before we left.

Friday, October 29 - Up early and headed for the Demopolis Lock, we were in the lock by 7:25AM. We had four boats in the lock that morning and we were the last ones on the starboard wall. What a show!

Today we're headed to an anchorage at Bashi Creek, mile 145. No locks today after Demopolis, so it made for an easy trip. (BTW, there aren't any more marinas down the way, either. There's a place called Bobby's Fish Camp where you can tie up to a dock alongside the waterway, but we did that the last time and decided to do anchorages this time.)

We arrived at Bashi Creek by 3:30...and proceeded to take another hour and a half to get comfortable with the anchor placement. The wind was blowing straight into the creek, and there was a current running opposite that. We ended up setting a stern anchor and having Breaking Away, another boat anchoring there, help straighten the bow of the boat with their dinghy. I kinda liked the place...very "Heart of Darkness." Wayne, however, wasn't crazy about the place because of the difficulty in setting anchor and positioning a boat of our size in the channel.

There's a recreation area near the creek with boat ramp, small dock, picnic tables, trash can...what more could a cruiser (with dog) ask for?

Saturday, October 30 - Foggy morning! But so pretty....

It took a while for us to be able to pull up anchor and move.

As we left Bashi Creek we met Blue Angel and Sea Estate who had anchored a couple of miles up the river. We traveled with them to the last lock on the Tenn-Tom, Coffeeville Lock. Unfortunately, when we got to the lock we had a tow going down and one coming up. We were there by 12:15, but didn't get through the lock until 2:15. We only had about 20 miles to go to our anchorage for the evening, Old Lock 1 at mile 100. As we came through the lock at Coffeeville we saw that the water gauge was up by 3 feet. Good news for anchorages down the way that might, otherwise, not offer us enough water.

Another great anchorage at Old Lock 1. We joined our neighbors that evening for a sharing session...and learned how to make "little beers." Yummy!

Sunday, October 31 -
Shout out to all the goblins out there! Alex is going to be an astronaut and alien.

It looked awfully cloudy this morning when we got up. Blue Angel and Sea Estate were out way before us...we got a dog. :-) We'd originally planned to anchor at Bates Lake, but were hearing that the entrance was too shallow. Blue Angel called back later in the day and confirmed the shallow conditions. They were going to the Alabama River Cut-Off to anchor. We were thinking we'd try an anchorage we'd heard about on the way down: David Lake. See, we had visions of motoring through Mobile harbor on Monday and the further down we could get, the better.

[Here's where we're seeing that your days would be a lot different if you were living aboard a boat, as Blue Angel's crew, Jim and Sharon, do. For us it tends to be a push to the next destination. For them it's less urgent. They tended to travel fewer miles a day than we...and they ended up sitting out the weather in the Alabama River anchorage with Sea Estate. They planned to take their dinghy's back up the river to Bates Lake and explore by boat that way. We're trying to loosen up, but I think we both look forward to being in Florida so much, it hasn't happened yet. We'll see if it DOES happen.]

The sky cleared up and the ride was pretty good. We got down to David Lake and opted not to stay. The setting was, Kay, "soul crushing." Murky surroundings with a rusty old building and deserted industrial site. We went on down to the Tensas River anchorage, mile 39, and were pleased with the decision.

Monday, November 1 -

We thought we would take 21 days to get down to Mobile Bay...and today we made it! We had to wait until after 9:00AM to leave due to fog. The trip through Mobile Bay was quite different this time. Last time was Christmas Day 2007 and very cold and crisp. The Bay was deserted. This time, there was plenty of activity around.

Our aim was to get to Eastern Shore Marine in Fairhope, AL, for one night, then head on down to the intercoastal on Tuesday and wind up at Bear Point Marina. The trip across the Bay was so easy. There were no waves and no wind. We got into Eastern Shore around 3PM. I took the courtesy car to the local Publix and brought home steamed shrimp for supper. (Thanks to Sea Estate for that little tip!) Life is good!

Looking at the weather forecast, we decided to stay at Fairhope for a few days. Rain, wind, and waves were coming...and we were ready for another break. We'll be here probably until Sunday and will get back with you when something happens. :-)