Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mobile Bay

November 2-5, 2012

This will be the first of a few very belated postings from November. We went home for several weeks over the holidays and I had good intentions of getting the blog caught up, but it never happened. Now we are back on the boat, in Carrabelle, Florida, waiting for a good opportunity to cross the Gulf.  More about that later.  For now, back to Mobile Bay.

After exiting the Tenn-Tom Waterway and entering Mobile Bay, we had a short trip to Dog River Marina, on the south side of Mobile. Dog River is an AGLCA sponsor and we had heard good things from prior Loopers, so it seemed a logical stop. It was a good location, but we’d describe it as more of a boatyard than marina – the amenities are sparse.  But the people were nice, there were several other Loopers in port, and it was a good place to transition from the last few months on the rivers, back to big, salty waters again. Dog River looks like a fun waterway to explore – maybe by dinghy – if we had a few more days, but at that point we were still anxious to keep moving east with hopes of crossing the Gulf of Mexico before heading home for Thanksgiving.

One of the best things about Dog River is that our friends Greg and Jan Matney, formerly of Cincinnati, recently relocated to New Orleans, keep their boat there, and they drove over from New Orleans to see us. They drove us into the city where we had a dinner at a fun place called The Royal Scam.


They stayed on their boat that night and the next morning we had a quick breakfast with them on our boat before they headed back to New Orleans.


After Greg and Jan left, we charted a course across the Bay to Fairhope, a lovely small town on the eastern shore.  We had visited briefly two years ago when we looked at a boat in Gulf Shores, AL, and we knew we wanted to return to Fairhope to spend a bit more time.  We had a short and smooth trip across the Bay and were excited to see dolphins again.


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When we arrived at the Eastern Shore Marina, Joe and Edie from Seaquel were there to catch our lines. They had also arranged to borrow the marina’s courtesy car, and since we were the only transients in port, we were free to use it all afternoon.  So we drove into downtown Fairhope and had a wonderful time.

This is a great town!  It’s popular retirement destination, and it’s easy to see why. It has a beautiful location right on the Bay, a thriving downtown, flowers everywhere, and a charming small town appeal. It would be a fun place to live, except it is Alabama, and I’m sure that upon becoming a resident you are required to pledge allegiance to either the University of Alabama or Auburn, and we’d have a hard time with either of those. But that’s about the only downside to this place.


After a delicious outdoor lunch at an Italian restaurant, Edie and I explored the many very nice shops, and Joe and Craig spent time successfully hunting down wine and gourmet food shops. We all met again at the corner coffee-ice cream-book store that seemed to be the center of this small community’s social gatherings.

Later we enjoyed exploring the combination mayor’s office/history museum, which was featuring an excellent World War II exhibit.  We stayed until it closed at 5:00.


Then we hurried back to the boats, gathered wine, snacks and beach chairs and walked to the small beach at the end of the marina to enjoy one of Fairhope’s famous sunsets. Once again, we felt to fortunate to be able to experience such a perfect day and wrap it up by sharing a beautiful sunset with good friends.

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The next day we stayed in port doing some boat projects and running a few grocery/drug store errands. Later in the day friends Bob and Cathryn from Next To Me arrived in time to join us for sunset time at the beach again. They planned to stay in Fairhope another day or two, then head across to Dog River, where they would leave their boat while they flew home for the holidays.


The next morning, Seaquel left early, but we stayed around until late morning, waiting for some stainless steel strips to arrive and be installed on our teak rails. We left at about 11:00 am and headed south down Mobile Bay, heading for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway (GIWW), which we would ultimately follow all the way along the Panhandle to Carrabelle, where we would prepare for crossing the Gulf.

But that day we went only as far as Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores, Alabama, a short way up the GIWW. We had a smooth ride down Mobile Bay, and enjoyed watching dolphins following in our wake.

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Our first experience travelling an intracoastal waterway was pleasant and uneventful. We saw more dolphins and of course our friends the blue herons.

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It was fun pulling into Homeport Marina, as this was the same marina we had visited two years ago when we were boat-shopping.  We were docked just opposite the slip where the boat we looked at had been. We were happy to be back with our own boat. We had a glass of wine on our sundeck, joined by a handsome blue heron who perched on a dock piling just a slip away from us.

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The big draw at Homeport (besides the fact that it is well-appointed marina) is LuLu’s Restaurant on the premises.  LuLu is Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett’s sister, and her establishment has an appropriate Margaritaville feel to it, with live music every night. We enjoyed sitting on their outdoor deck, eating huge peel-and-eat shrimp, a Cheeseburger in Paradise (of course) and a mango margarita. We were there off-season, but it’s easy to imagine a very hopping place at busier times of year. It was a fun stop.



Next: On to Florida!

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