Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Carrabelle, FL, Round 2

January 12-19, 2013

After our wonderful Christmas break at home, we arrived back in Carrabelle late in the morning of January 12. It was good to be reunited with Blue Heron, and she looked great in her slip just outside the Moorings marina office.


We quickly unpacked and settled the dogs, then jumped back in our rental car and headed for St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, not far from Carrabelle and more or less on the way back to Tallahassee. I had read about St. Mark’s in several of my birding books and wanted at least a brief visit while we were in the area and had a car. We drove and walked around the refuge for a couple of hours.  Not nearly long enough – you could easily spend a full day here – but we did identify 19 different kinds of birds (mostly water and shore birds) plus a few alligators and a huge eagles nest.

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We got to the Tallahassee Airport before 4:00 p.m. to return our rental car, and were picked up by our Carrabelle friends Rachel and Scott, who drove us back to the marina. We had dinner across the street at The Fisherman’s Wife restaurant and spent quite a while talking with the fisherman’s wife herself, who told us all about her husband’s shrimping business, down to the Keys and back.

The next day we spent most of the day unpacking, resettling and beginning to get ready for our Gulf crossing, which we hoped would take place on Wednesday, January 16.  That night we took Scott and Rachel to dinner across the river at the Fish Camp Restaurant to thank them for all they have done for us while we’ve been in Carrabelle.  What nice people!

On Tuesday we took the boat out through East Pass and into the Gulf of Mexico to test all the systems after the boat had been sitting for two months. This also gave us an opportunity to leave a “bread crumbs trail” on our chart plotter, out of the harbor and into the Gulf, that we would be able to follow when we left Carrabelle in the early morning darkness when we did our Crossing. (We would leave before sunrise so we would be sure to arrive in Tarpon Springs before dark at the end of the day. It’s easier to leave a harbor you know in the dark than to enter one you’ve never seen in the dark.)  The boat performed beautifully, but we were a little unhappy to realize that what the reporting stations were calling 2-3 foot waves included lots of 4-5 footers and it was very uncomfortable! Fortunately, this time we were able to say “enough” and head back into port, but it gave us a sobering taste of what we might encounter if we crossed in supposed 2-3 foot seas.

We had some very good news that day, though.  First, we learned that our friend Greg Matney – formerly of Cincinnati, recently of New Orleans – was driving to Carrabelle to join us on our trip.  Greg is an experienced boater and it would be both fun and reassuring to have him on board. We also learned that our friends Stephen and Charlotte on Jackets II were picking up their pace from Panama City in order to arrive in Carrabelle by Tuesday night so we could do the Crossing together.  It will be great to have a buddy boat!

That night we had dinner at The Fisherman’s Wife again and talked about what were starting to look like deteriorating conditions for the next day.  Here are Craig and Stephen with the fisherman’s wife herself!


By the time friend Greg arrived, about 9:30 p.m., it was not looking good for a crossing the next day. When we woke at 5:00 in the morning to pea soup fog and an email from our friend and Gulf Crossing guru Tom Conrad saying “go back to bed,” we decided to call it off.  So disappointing! This was the second time (first time was in November) that we’ve gotten ourselves and the boat ready to go and then had to call it off at the last minute.

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Greg was going to head back to New Orleans, with a stop or two for business on the way back, but he drove us all across the bridge to the 2 Al’s restaurant for breakfast before he left. It’s named after two guys named Al, but the locals pronounce it “2 owls” and in fact they have two owls on the front of their menu. They also had this classic line on their menu and the backs of the waitresses’ shirts:


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We spent the next few days waiting out a nasty weather front by doing boat projects, relaxing and enjoying Carrabelle's simple pleasures. Another visit to Carrabelle Junction for lunch with Stephen and Charlotte was a highlight.

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Stephen painted his anchor lines. Charlotte supervised.

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One night Charlotte cooked a great meal on board Jackets II for the four of us. A fun evening!


We were still there the following weekend when Scott and Rachel returned to their boat, so they offered us their car to go to the Apalachicola Oyster Festival. Jackets hadn’t stopped there on their way through, so it was nice for them to get a chance to see a bit of that interesting town.  Stephen and I enjoyed the oysters.

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Our boat was tied up opposite a long mostly empty dock in mid-river that was the adopted home of hundreds of birds, mostly pelicans and cormorants, and a few great white herons. Every morning they would fly off to do their fishing for the day, and starting around 4:00 in the afternoon, they would begin returning to the harbor.  The pelicans typically would arrive in squadrons, fly low past our boat and circle to land on “their” dock. It was fun to watch this daily show.

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Finally, we got strong indications that Sunday, January 20 would offer a brief, good window for our Crossing.  Greg and Jan Matney made plans to drive 7 hours from New Orleans – again! – and we made preparations to leave. We had docktails on our boat with Stephen and Charlotte, Greg and Jan, Scott and Rachel, and their friend Brian, followed by one last dinner at The Fisherman’s Wife.

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We went to bed hoping that this time we would really be leaving in the morning!

Next: The Crossing!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Home for the Holidays

November 18, 2012 – January 11, 2013

We left Blue Heron in Carrabelle, FL at around noon on November 18, and after a stop for the night north of Knoxville, we pulled into our driveway early afternoon the next day. It felt great to be home, and our house looked wonderful, but both Craig and I had the same reactions: “This house is so big, and we have too much stuff!” Living on a 43’ boat for seven months changes your perspective quite a bit.

We spent almost two months at home and had so much fun spending time with family and friends and enjoying our favorite holiday traditions and outings. We cut back on the Christmas decorating this year, but in addition to our regular tree, we put up a small tree in our bedroom with ornaments we had collected along the Loop. As he does every year, Craig set up his dad’s old Lionel under our family room tree. He and Karen always build a little Lincoln Log tunnel over the tracks.

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In addition to spending the holidays in our own home, we visited our daughter’s new apartment in Indianapolis after Thanksgiving and spent a few days after Christmas with my mother in the suburbs of Chicago. We took my mom to the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago to share a meal of lutfisk, a traditional Swedish holiday fish that pretty much no one but Swedes enjoy. We also stopped by the house my grandfather built and that my mother grew up in. 

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Both of my brothers and their families joined us for part of the visit. 



We had a beautiful snowfall the day after Christmas. It was so pretty and festive, and we enjoyed it because it is probably the only snow we will see this winter.  Joey loves the snow!

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Bailey spent most of her time at home curled up in her favorite bed. I know she was hoping that we had come to our senses and given up on the boating life!


We stayed home long enough to celebrate New Year’s Eve with good friends (although we didn’t make it long past Looper Midnight – 9:00 p.m.!).

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Soon after New Year’s we started getting ourselves and the house ready for our return to the boat. Just as we left last spring with raccoons in the ceiling, this time we left with squirrels in the attic.  Thank you friend Mike and the critter guy, for taking care of this for a second time!

I had become pretty comfortable at home, and felt a bit melancholy about leaving again, but Blue Heron was calling and we needed to get back to Florida to prepare for our Gulf crossing. So on January 11, we set off on the drive back to Carrabelle.

The drive was uneventful, and we experienced some local color on the back roads of southern Georgia and the rural Panhandle – such as hunters hunting deer from the backs of their parked pick-up trucks while their hounds chased the deer through the woods. I’m happy to report we saw no action, just a lot of pick-ups nose-first into the woods, waiting for something to happen. We stopped for the night in the small town of Blakely, Georgia and had a tasty meal at a lively local pub in the “Peanut Capital of the World.”

We arrived back in Carrabelle before noon the next morning.  Blue Heron looked beautiful after two months on her own, the weather was sunny and warm, and it felt good to be back.

Next: Carrabelle, Round 2 and The Crossing!

(Real-time update: on January 22, we are in Tarpon Springs, FL, having crossed the Gulf two days ago.)