Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fort Walton Beach & Thanksgiving in Panama City

After leaving Little Sabine Bay at Pensacola, we headed for the free dock at Ft. Walton Beach.  This dock is provided by the city for one overnight stay but has no power.  It is a chance to get off the boat without using the dinghy however and it does have water on the dock so we avail ourselves of it when we come through. We joined the boat Negotiator which was already there.  We noticed a number of people setting up tables and staging in the park next to the dock and went up later in the evening when a band was playing.  We found out that it was a church that was throwing a party for all of the volunteers that helped make the church function each week.  It was good to see this happening.

We had decided to try to run from Destin to Panama City on the outside just because we hadn't done it before and so we stuck our noses out at Destin inlet and found that the gulf had not calmed enough to be comfortable for that trip.  We turned around and came back in and traveled on the ICW on over to Panama City.  We did get a good view of Destin Harbor on our way by.

We arrived at Panama City and anchored in Watson Bayou next to Carl & Greg Vernon's house. wI Love Lucy rafted to us and we had dinner with RoyEl who was already there and tied up at the Vernon's dock.

The next day I went with Ed on I Love Lucy to drive back to Mobile Bay to retrieve their car.  That took most of Saturday and we had dinner with Carl & Greg that evening.  On Sunday we borrowed Carl's truck and went to the church we had attended last year while we were in Panama City over the winter.  They were having a combined service with dinner on the grounds and it was good to see people that we had met last year.  They had good music and the kids performed.  We were treated to a great lunch.  As the pastor said "Where two or three are gathered at the church a chicken will die". 

On Monday evening we drove to Bo and Carmen Johnson's beach house and had dinner there.  It was a pleasure to see Old Grumpy's crew again.  We are still so thankful that they shuttled our car back to Scottsboro last spring.

We spent the first part of the week taking care of boat chores and looking at web sites to determine the best time to cross the Gulf of Mexico.  We all have different sites to visit and looking at them all gave us a good picture of the situation.  We had a good time visiting with Carl & Greg, Ed & Lucy and Roy & Elvie.  Carl & Greg were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for any Loopers in the area and were expecting around 30 people.

The Thanksgiving dinner was great.  We had 25 Loopers there and Greg did an outstanding job of cooking turkey, ham, stuffing and whatever else.  We all brought a side dish and I don't think anyone went away hungry.

After Thanksgiving we decided to move to Massalina Bayou in downtown Panama City.  We wanted to get out of Carl & Greg's hair and get settled in for what appeared to be about a week of bad weather before we would be able to make a crossing of the Gulf.  We were able to tie up in some abandoned slips that Carl was aware of and it has been good to be able to wander into town.  We walked to the First Baptist church on Sunday and attended their service.

We think we will now be here until Friday when we will make our move over to Appalachicola and then to Carabelle to stage for crossing the Gulf.  We think the conditions will be right for a Saturday night or a Sunday night crossing.  We will know more the closer we get to that time.  In the mean time, we are having rain today and will have much cooler weather tomorrow.  Hopefully the gulf will calm down after this front moves through and we will have a good crossing to Tarpon Springs.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

AGLCA Rendezvous, Tenn-Tom, Bottom Paint & Pensacola

We attended the AGLCA Rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park where we got our usual spot and for the 4th year volunteered to handle the boat parking for 60+ boats that were coming in.  The marina would give us the list and slip assignments and we would be "traffic control" for groups of boats coming in from the lock and get them into their assigned slip.

We were there a few days early as boats come in early and socialize prior to the rendezvous.  We had two boats in early that had just completed the loop and we had a celebration party on the pool deck for them.

Later we had friends new and old gather on the back of SEASEA and share stories.  This would be a regular occurance for us during the week.

One boat came in that caught our eye.  It is a canal boat originally used on the Erie Canal.  It is 41 feet long and only 10 wide.  A professor at Penn State University owned it and had converted it to run on either electric or diesel power.  It was an interesting boat to visit for three reasons.  One is that we have two nieces attending Penn State, the second is that we have on our "bucket list" to charter a canal boat in France, and the third is that I was interested in the electric power system that was installed.

We left the AGLCA Rendezvous on Friday, Oct 29 and headed to the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway to go south to the Gulf. We anchored at the head of the Tenn-Tom (Zippy Branch) for the first night and then anchored at Bay Springs staging to go through 6 locks to make our way down to the Old Tombigbee River channel.  From there we went to Cochrane Cutoff and then to Foscue Creek at Demopolis. 

Along the way we saw the usual river sights.  Among them this all too common occurance - a house that once was along the river bank is now almost in the river.  The Tenn-Tom is constantly altering it's shore line and this is the danger of being too close.

We met up with our friends Ed & Lucy on "I Love Lucy" at Foscue Creek where they had a wonderful meal ready for us.  We had been running long days and it was good to see them again and spend a couple of days there before heading on down toward Mobile.  We rafted together at Okatuppa Creek, Alabama River cutoff and the Tensaw River cutoff. 

I had a good time playing with their new dog Brie. 

When we entered Mobile Bay we headed to Dog River Marina and Ed & Lucy headed to Fairhope.  We were going into Dog River to haul out SEASEA for bottom paint. 

We were hauled out on Monday November 8 and spent the week preparing the bottom and painting two coats of bottom paint.  We were very pleased with the condition of the bottom.   We had no blisters and it only took minimal prep to get the bottom ready for new paint.  We use ablative paint that wears away slowly as you cruise (like a bar of soap) so we don't need to do extensive sanding in preparation for new paint. 

 After leaving Dog River marina on Saturday we headed to one of our favorite anchorages at Ingram Bayou.  We could not get back in the water a day earlier at Dog River in order to get to Pensacola in time for the Blue Angels air show but did get quite a few boats in the anchorage that night that had come from the show.

We remained in contact with boaters we met while at Goose Pond (Bob & Ellie on "Sunshine Lady") that live in Gulf Breeze (Pensacola) and they suggested that we anchor at Little Sabine Bay so that they could come by car and let us use the car to go to the Naval Aviation Museum at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  We were not able to see this museum last year and we jumped at the opportunity.  We saw the entire history of Naval Aviation at the museum and it was very interesting to any gear head or aviation buff.

We had dinner with Bob and Ellie on at their beautiful home in Gulf Breeze and then headed back to check on SEASEA since we were in the middle of a fairly heavy blow and rain.

We are currently anchored at Little Sabine Bay waiting out the bad weather today.  We have winds of 20-25 with higher gusts.  We plan to leave here tomorrow and head on toward Panama City where we will plan to spend Thanksgiving with the Vernons.