November 12-18, 2012
We left Panama City and continued east.The Intracoastal Waterway wound its way through a few open shallow bays and a long manmade ditch. We scenery was unexciting but pleasant. We passed a large ship-building facility and several sunken boats.
Eventually we came to another cut ditch, the Gulf County Canal, that heads off at a right angle to the GIWW and leads to Port St. Joe, our destination for the night. The entry to Port St. Joe was littered with several fishing boats that had seen better days. But there were some better looking boats, too.
We pulled into Port St. Joe Marina around 2:00 p.m. and after tying up and washing down the boat, we took a walk around town. This is a very convenient port for provisioning, as there is a large grocery store and a Walgreens right next to the marina. We stopped into a few shops and found a nice restaurant, Provisions, for dinner that night with Seaquel.
The next morning started out fairly windy and we thought about staying another day. But by midday the winds had calmed and we decided to move on to Apalachicola. So we backtracked up the Gulf County Canal, returned to the GIWW and turned east again. We passed a couple of commercial fishing boats and several bald eagles.
Our course took us the length of Lake Wimico, a wide but very shallow body of water with an extremely narrow navigable channel. The winds on this wide lake can easily blow a boat out of the channel if you aren’t paying attention, and the cruising guides recommend looking both forward and behind to make sure you’re really in the channel. We got through with no problems.
Arriving at Apalachicola, we pulled into the Scipio Creek Marina, tucked away off the GIWW. The dock staff weren’t the most helpful we’ve ever encountered, but Seaquel and Blue Heron got ourselves safely docked in a pretty location overlooking the marshes across the creek. As it was getting late in the afternoon, we watched a parade of fishing boats returning to port.
After getting the boat tied up and washed down, we walked into town with Joe and Edie. It’s kind of a cute town, old and picturesque with quite a few interesting shops and restaurants and lots of local color. Most of the shops were closed or closing for the day, so Edie and I started lobbying to stay a second day.
While walking around town, we were surprised and happy to run into Gary and Christelle of Time & Tide. We joined them for a drink at the Owl Café Tap Room. They had been in Apalachicola for a couple of days and were planning to leave the next day for an overnight Gulf crossing with two other boats. Like so many Loopers, they have a slow trawler and have to cruise overnight to make it across in one shot. We heard from them a couple of days later that they had a rough crossing and it took almost 30 hours. In contrast, with our fast trawler we hope to cross in under 10 hours, in daylight. Bless you, Blue Heron!
We walked back to the boat and ate dinner at the marina restaurant, Papa Joe’s. I had some of the famous Apalachicola oysters, and they were good! They also serve crabs, apparently.
The next morning, the waters of Apalachicola Bay were rough, so Edie and I got our wish to stay another day and do some shopping. We really liked the large and interesting Grady Market. Craig and Joe opted for a bench on the porch.
After lunch, Craig and I took the dogs across the street to walk through the Chapman Botanical Garden. It was very pretty and there were lots of monarch butterflies.
Attached to the gardens is the Orman House, a 19th century Greek Revival home. It wasn’t open that day, so we walked around the grounds. I’ve never seen cotton used as an ornamental shrub before, but what would a Yankee like me know?
The next day we took the short trip to Carrabelle, our staging ground for our Gulf Crossing, which we hoped would be the next day. Our cruise that day was a wildlife lover’s dream. As we left the port and entered Apalachicola Bay, we saw a flock of white pelicans, which we hadn’t seen since the Tennessee River.
Just past the pelicans, we noted two dolphins following alongside us. One got very close, rolled to its side and looked us straight in the eye!
And along the way, we saw numerous bald eagles perched on channel markers. We saw some osprey, too. It was a short, enjoyable ride.
This is the Moorings Marina in Carrabelle, from which we hoped to leave before Thanksgiving.
These were two of our neighbors in the Moorings. The sad boat on the right was burned out in a marina in south Florida and was in process of being towed to Mobile for salvage.
Since we really hoped we would be in Carrabelle for just one night before leaving to cross the Gulf the next morning, we decided to walk into town to see what there is to see. The answer is, not too much.
They do have a small war memorial with little statues of military men. The idea is nice but the tiny men just felt kind of odd. The memorial was personally dedicated by President Nixon in 1970. There must have been a powerful Congressman from this area back then – this is a pretty out-of-the-way place for a presidential visit.
Next to the memorial is a clock made by the Verdin Company in Cincinnati. Reminded me of the one in the Glendale village square.
But the big attraction in Carrabelle is the World’s Smallest Police Station – a phone booth near the main intersection. In the days before cell phones the police used to park the squad car next to the phone booth and take calls from citizens while doing paperwork, catching speeders, eating donuts, whatever. The police chief was a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the booth has been featured on the Today Show and a variety of quirky TV shows. And to think we were here to see it in person!
We had a very good lunch at Carrabelle Junction, a 50s style diner with all kinds of memorabilia from the era. We were pleasantly surprised.
By late in the afternoon we were starting to get skeptical about the crossing conditions for the next morning. We ate dinner across the street from the marina at The Fisherman’s Wife and agreed to meet at 5:45 the next morning to check the latest conditions. Before we went to bed we stowed all breakable or loose gear and went to bed hoping for the best.
The next morning, conditions had worsened and we reluctantly agreed to abort the trip. What a bummer! We went back to the boat, did a few projects, and decided to treat ourselves to breakfast back at Carrabelle Junction when it opened at 8:00. When we got there the owner said, “If you’re here for breakfast, I don’t do eggs, meat or toast.” They had some bagels and that was about it. He sent us across the street to the café at the back of the BP gas station. Breakfast there was about what you might expect. That was a first for us – sit-down breakfast in a gas station.
Later that morning, realizing that the weather forecast for the next several days showed no possible window for crossing until after Thanksgiving, Joe and Edie decided to get a ride to the Tallahassee airport to rent a car to drive to Tampa for their family holiday gathering. We decided to do the same thing. Craig rode with them to the airport and I stayed behind to begin packing and getting the boat ready to leave for seven or eight weeks while we went home for the holidays. Bailey said, “I’m ready. Please can we go home?”
That evening we had a clean-out-the-fridge wine time with new friends Scott and Rachel, who live in Tallahassee, keep their boat at the Moorings, come to their boat virtually every weekend, and hope one day to do the Loop themselves. They very kindly offered to keep an eye on our boat for us while we were gone and to let them know if we needed anything specific checked on board during that time. We left a key with the marina office just in case. In fact, Scott did fix a minor water leak for us while we were gone. Many thanks!
By 11:30 the next morning, on November 18, we had the boat prepped, the car packed, and we were ready to go. We still felt disappointed that we hadn’t been able to get the Crossing behind us before the holidays, but were excited to start driving home to see family and friends and our house after such a long time away.
Next: Home for the holidays and then back to Carrabelle for Round 2!