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.
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.
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:
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.
Stephen painted his anchor lines. Charlotte supervised.
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.
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.
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.
We went to bed hoping that this time we would really be leaving in the morning!
Next: The Crossing!