CHAPTER 11 NOVEMBER 17, 2007
GULF INTRACOASTAL WATER WAY (GIWW) Mobile Bay AL to Clearwater FL
Entering the GIWW, we spot our first dolphin! This is Alabama low country, hardwood trees give way to mangroves and cypress. We’re back in salt water for the first time in six months!
Nov 17 - Anchored for the night in Pirates Cove/aka Roberts Bayou (at GIWW Mile 165), with dolphins playing and swimming all around us. We, and several other "loopers" (aka other boats on the Great Circle Loop), took our dinghy’s over to Pirates Cove Restaurant – a funky and friendly local bar with excellent live entertainment and very reasonable prices. The wine flowed freely, and a great time was had by all!
Nov 18 – As we passed by some very colorful condos (see picture), I knew we had just entered Florida! Later in the day, arrived in Pensacola (on the panhandle) and stayed at the Palafox Pier Yacht Harbor for a week waiting for the winds to die down (see picture). During the week we spent lots of time shopping at the local hardware store and West Marine. We also visited the Pensacola Museum of Art, the TT Wentworth Museum (see picture), explored the Pensacola historic village (see picture), and the National Museum of Naval Aviation (see pictures) – which was fantastic! During our stay in Pensacola, I (Linda) celebrated my birthday at Hemmingway’s Island Grill. My dear sister Carolyn and her husband sent me (see picture) a dozen beautiful roses! We also celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with other "loopers" at Landry’s Restaurant, and enjoyed drinks at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (see picture). Another great spot was McGuire’s Irish Pub – 18 cent bean soup, and happy hour drinks for the six of us was $12! Of course, during the week we had many pot luck dinners and happy hours too!
Nov 27 – It’s starting to get cool in the panhandle, many nights we put the heat on in the boat! Tonight we arrived in Fort Walton, and stayed at the Shalamar Yacht Basin. Borrowed the courtesy car and drove to the mall for some shopping.
Nov 28 – Saw bald eagle and several kingfishers today. Every time I heard a splash and looked beside the boat, I saw dolphins (see picture) diving and swimming with us. They seem to like our speed (about 7 knots), and sometimes swim beside us for up to 20 minutes! Stayed at Panama City Marina (at GIWW mile 270) tonight. It’s sunny & in the 70’s again.
Nov 29 – While cruising today, we met up with another trawler "Salty Dawg". We decided to "buddy boat" and do an overnight crossing of the "big bend" - 120 miles straight across the Gulf of Mexico to Tarpon Springs, rather than following the coastline of the panhandle. The next few days were predicted to be really windy, and rather than just sit and wait it out, we opted to move on by crossing the big bend on this last day of calm weather. "Salty Dawg" and "Summertime" talked a lot on the VHF (to keep each other alert and awake), and also did radio checks every hour (mostly Sea Tow or fishermen would answer). We were 60+ miles out in the Gulf of Mexico, and there was no cell phone service, just the VHF radio and each other. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset (see picture), but then it was really dark until 11pm when the moon finally came out! The crossing took 30 ˝ hours, leaving Panama City at 7:45am and arriving in Tarpon Springs at 2:15pm the following day. We stayed in Tarpon Springs (at GIWW mile 150) for a few days – explored the area by dinghy, visited the shops, learned about Greek sponge divers, enjoyed delicious Greek food and developed a fondness for Ouzo J (see pictures). It’s back in the 80’s and hot and humid again.
Dec 3 – arrived in Caladesi State Park. We stayed for several days taking advantage of the beautiful marina, beach (took our Christmas card picture here), nature trails and wildlife (see pictures). Slips are $20 a night including power and water - quite a deal!
Dec 7 – arrived in Clearwater (at GIWW mile 136) and stayed at the municipal marina. Frenchy’s Saltwater Café makes the best grouper sandwiches! A short walk over to Pier 60 for a lovely sunset, craft booths, and street performers every night. We saw a beautiful Christmas Boat Parade of more than 50 boats pass by the marina (see picture).
So far we have traveled 3367 nautical miles on this trip, plus the previous 1000 miles when we brought SUMMERTIME up the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston SC to Old Saybrook CT in 2005. We look forward to hearing from friends and family – please keep the calls and emails coming!