So here’s a map of our stops, right down to our actual slips. We’ll keep it pinned to the top and hopefully fairly current.
The day finally arrived. We couldn’t hide from The Crossing* any longer. Eddy’s Weather Wag said don’t go if you want a pleasant—or even acceptable for Eddy and Linda—22 hours on open water. So of course we went. At least we went prepared.
After provisioning up with all the unhealthy snacks we might need, after filling the ditch bag with our most valuable possessions, and after preparing Mini Pearl for quick release in the event Misty Pearl sank under us, we left Carabelle at 2:30. Lewis came along to help, while Terri graciously drove the boys around to Clearwater.
Wednesday night folks from about a dozen boats or more had met up to organize. The biggest group was going to Tarpon Springs. That’s about 20 miles shorter than the trip to Clearwater, which doesn’t make them cowards or anything no matter what some people might say behind their backs. Mostly they all wanted Greek food. Opa! Four boats were going the long way. One of them dropped out. So Wander, Quid Pro Quo, and Misty Pearl made up the second fleet. We were so nervous about leaving that we took no pictures of the departure. Ridiculous.
In fact, we took no pictures at all until sunset, by which time we were well beyond sight of blessed land.
By this time we had 1 foot waves. Nothing at all for an ocean-going boat like Misty Pearl. We were having a good old time. Looking forward to fireworks at midnight. Well, 2 of us were looking forward to fireworks. One of us hastily was jamming notes in bottles so that someday someone might finally learn what happened to our bodies. And to make sure whoever found the notes would know that Dana’s warnings of dire consequences were justified, because what could be more dangerous than launching fireworks from the bow of a suddenly-very-small boat bouncing around in the ocean impossibly far from any meaningful help. And she wanted the world to know that Doug and Lewis are idiots.
By about 7, we were bored enough to launch the show. Again, we forgot to take one stinking picture. Actually Dana took one shot just before the Tarpon Springs bunch faded away off our port side, but not of the fireworks. That’s Wander and Quid—or at least their stern lights—off to the right. The smaller lights are from the other folks. Who as discussed below enjoyed much better conditions.
Anyway, Wander tried to get GoPro video but it was too rocky and rolly. Trust us though. The fireworks were awesome. At the last minute we sort of feared the Coast Guard might mistake them for distress flares and then be mad that it was just a boat of buffoons screwing around, but then we figured we were in international waters so what could they do to us? (The notion that they might refuse to come back if we launched real distress flares didn’t occur to us until later.)
By 8, our radio communication mostly turned to discussions about how slow the clock was moving. Surely it’s nearly midnight. No? Crap. At 12:44 Friday morning, we hit the half way point. Distance, not time. Because from about that point forward time slowed to the proverbial crawl.
Just after the halfway point, the wind started whipping up 3- to 4-footers. Right on the beam. That’s getting pretty nasty. Experienced boaters probably wouldn’t flinch, but we’re pretty much weenies. Then it got worse. By 3 am we were seeing the occasional 5+. Wander was steering from the flybridge and saw waves higher than their bow, which is 6 feet above the waterline. Just 10 miles or so north of us the Tarpon Springs bunch was missing all the fun.
At least we were making good time. Until Wander lost a fuel pump. Ted tried to fix it, to no avail. We can’t believe he even tried. We’re guessing his engine room was about 120 degrees. It must’ve been like trying to do needlepoint inside a hot oven while that oven is tumbling down a steep mountain. While sleep deprived and queasy. No fun. Fortunately Wander is a twin engine Cris-Craft. Unfortunately we all slowed to 6 knots to stay together as she limped along.
The positive side of new-moon pitch-black darkness is that the stars were spectacular. We easily could have navigated using them, except, of course, we have absolutely no idea how to do that. Thor Heyerdahl proved that ancient Polynesians could have traveled across the Pacific on bamboo rafts, presumably using celestial navigation. Bully for him and for them. No way they would have made it from Carabelle to Clearwater without drowning in the waves or freezing in their loin cloths and coconut bikini tops. The point is that the stars were pretty cool.
Proving again that Little Orphan Annie was wise beyond her tender years, the sun indeed did come up directly ahead of us, despite our hard-knock night. The waves even subsided to something between pleasant and acceptable.
By about 10 am Friday morning, things were back to as normal as possible for having last slept more than 24 hours earlier. Wander did what we mostly didn’t do. Took a picture.
Sometime after noon we docked in Clearwater Beach. Back to the world of shorts and t-shirts. Woo Hoo! Basically we collapsed. And forgot to take pictures. Except for one of a bird on our 50A power cord.
After sleeping the sleep of the righteous—or perhaps the sleep of the almost-dead—we bid farewell to Lewis and Terri and rallied for the cruise down to St. Pete. Saturday morning in Clearwater Beach was picture perfect. Which reminded us to take a picture as we left.
This is what cruising is all about. Dry and warm. Sunny. Flybridge. Light wind blowing through what what would be Doug’s hair if he had hair. Awesome.
Even the return to drawbridges couldn’t dampen the mood.
More bridges than we’ve seen in a day since Chicago. We waited for a few of them to open, but not a big deal at all.
Down the ICW the water was smooth. In spots we could see over into the Gulf.
Poor bastards in that sailboat probably think they’re having fun. We, however, hope to never again be farther out in the Gulf than we can wade. Although that might change in a few days as we head to Boot Key.
On the way into Tampa Bay, we swung up to Eckerd College to wave at Shannon, who we’re sure otherwise would’ve been preparing for final exams.
Around the bend St. Pete looked like a pretty dang inviting place to stay for a week or so.
Shannon popped back over last night with some friends.
We have the boys aboard. Shannon will move back on Friday. Mallory arrives Saturday. Their cousin Grant is in a soccer tournament in Sarasota this weekend so we’ll get to see him and Liz and Eddie.
We’ll be spending the week doing work in our Clearwater Beach condo, so nothing to blog about until next week. The plan is to be to Faro Blanco by Christmas Eve.
All in all, The Crossing was the worst 24-hours of our Loop, by far. However, as The King of Modern Country Music observed, “The road less traveled ain’t for the faint of heart.”*
It also also of course may be that the folks who travel the road most traveled are the smart ones and only morons veer off the safe and proven path. Either way it’s sunny and dry so we’ll enjoy the day. Actually it’s rainy and windy and gray, but we’re tied up nicely so no complaints. Unless it stays this way. Then we’ll complain.
* Not to be confused with Crossing Over, that absurd show where some charismatic fraud did cold reading psychic nonsense where he pretended to comunicate with dead people. Although Dana was pretty sure the fireworks were going to send us all to “the other side.”
** Contrary to one school of thought, as great as he is George Strait is not the overall King of Country Music. That would be George Jones. Which makes Tammy Wynette—and not Loretta Lynn—the Queen of Country Music. You’re welcome.
Today and for the foreseeable future we’re back on east coast time. That meant what otherwise was a reasonable 7:15 departure required us to be up well before dawn, which is not how we prefer to roll. But off we went across St. George Sound to Carrabelle.
At Carabelle we found more leftover damage from Michael.
We also found our sister Selene Crosssroads tied up at C-Quarters right next to where they put us for the night.
On our walk to lunch we passed by “The World’s Smallest Police Station.” Readers of this blog know how we feel about such claims in general. Not surprisingly, we’re skeptical. Plus, if nobody actually is “stationed” there, isn’t the claim by definition bogus?
But it did get us to thinking about the phone booth we saw on the Tenn-Tom and figured it might be some sort of interpretive art. Maybe we were wrong. Maybe it’s just some other governmental agency. “The World’s Smallest Game and Fish office,” perhaps.
No blog post tomorrow. Hopefully one on Friday or Saturday. Also hopefully no slobs like us are cruising around next month and taking disaster porn photos of Misty Pearl’s mast at a cock-eyed angle barely above water. Because tomorrow we’re doing the dreaded Gulf crossing. The crossing that strikes fear in every heart. The crossing that alone dissuades numerous Planners from becoming ln Progress.
The best thing about today was getting our boys back, sort of.
Lewis and Terri are the Angels of The Crossing. Lewis is traveling with us, and picked up the fireworks we hope to launch in the middle of the Gulf. Terri is taking Oscar and Benny around to Clearwater Beach by car so they can avoid puking and pooping and peeing during the 22 hours we will be bouncing around. The boys have been staying with Lewis, Terri, Jake, and Lucy—all of whom have gone beyond the call of duty—but we’re all ready to get back to normal. Incidentally, that means the boys don’t get Loop credit. If you don’t travel, on your boat, across the Gulf, you didn’t do the Loop.
Anyway, tomorrow we face 2-footers or 4-footers, depending on who you trust. Nothing the Misty Pearl can’t handle, but some Divine intervention on the luck front would be ok by us.
* From the REK version of the Steve Earle classic. By the way, is it plagiarism to steal a prayer?
Finally! A video for all those people who never asked about the Gulf ICW (or Gulf IWW depending on who you ask). Maybe everyone else in the world already has boated through the narrow stretch between Panama City and Apalachicola, but maybe not. If we can make a difference in one life, can make just one life a little bit better, it’ll all be worth the effort and we can die satisfied. Or maybe we just need to prove that Doug still has what it takes to make his iPhone work.
Although today was a gorgeous day for cruising, mostly we noticed the destruction.
We took way more pictures but you get the idea.
Mariners immediately will recognize the problem depicted in this photo:
Actually toddlers whose parents share this blog with them will recognize the problem depicted in this photo. Six numbered channel markers that were supposed to sit nicely to starboard as we navigated a treacherously narrow channel all were clumped together in the middle. Fortunately with skill and bravery we avoided mishap, but just barely.
Dana multitasked by photographing eagles while talking on the phone. Mad skills.
The saddest part of this post is what’s missing. We docked at Apalachicola Marina. A short wall was all they could offer because Hurricane Michael blew the rest of the place to smithereens. Doug worked in the engine room to prepare for the Gulf crossing, and Dana organized the rest of Misty Pearl for the same purpose. By the time we took off for town, it was dark. So no photos. Apalachicola is a way cool little place struggling to recover but we can’t really do it justice in this post.
Actually we did take one photo—and only one photo—in Apalachicola. It requires no explanation.
Remember all those people who didn’t ask us about the ICW from Orange Beach to Pensacola? They also didn’t ask us about the stretch known as “The GICW Grand Canyon.” But we’re from The Grand Canyon State. We’ve hiked to the bottom and back out of The Grand Canyon. We know the majesty of The Grand Canyon. Heck, even the lesser canyons of Arizona are awesome. In anticipation of spectacular vistas that we’d need to share with everyone, Doug set up the time-lapse video again. And again it didn’t work.
Question: Can something with 10-foot walls that passes through “swampy areas” be considered a “canyon?” For that matter, can it be considered “grand?” Before answering those questions, of course, we had to get there.
About 5 am the rain started up again, but if we want to voyage across the Gulf this week we better get moving. Gotta get to Panama City today. By 7:30 when we departed Fort Walton Beach, it actually looked like promising weather.
Then the clouds darkened. Then the rain started again. Oh well, it’s a long day so let’s get comfortable in the pilothouse. At about Destin the dolphins joined our wake right beside the boat. Dolphin photos soon may become a staple of every blog post if Dana’s skills remain intact.
Back to The GICW Grand Canyon, which we reached midday. Its actually pretty interesting and in places just plain pretty, despite the absurd nickname.
The rain finally stopped just about the time we started seeing hurricane damage. And this isn’t even close to the bad stuff.
The Lighthouse Marina (or “Thouse” as the sign now says) was hit, but not as devastatingly as most of the others in the Panama City area. They put us next to the pirate ship.
Today was long and wet, but any day cruising is a good day. Tomorrow Apalachicola. Wednesday Carabelle. We hope.
This was going to be a post about crappy weather. Remember those spinning bouncing puke-inducing rides at Disney? They have nothing on riding out the storm that hit us at Fort Walton Beach. All Friday night and all last night we bucked around the cabin like numbered ping pong balls in the Lotto picker machine thingy. Tornado warning in effect. Impossible to sleep, just like when the tree-climbing alligators were haunting us. It was less windy during the day on Saturday but still constant rain and thunder and lightning. We didn’t travel. We barely left our pajamas. Thank goodness for DirecTV and football.
Instead, this is a post about serendipity and what certainly will be a top-five highlight of the Loop. Last night we intended to eat at the Shack, located about 100 feet from the boat. Given the weather we didn’t feel like walking far. The joint has a 10% discount for marina people, which we learned would include us. What’s this BS? “Closed for a private party” what? Grrrr. This turn of events required a good deal of cursing by one of us—but only one of us—as we slogged the half-mile down the road to Sealand, a restaurant that seemed inviting to weary travelers who had just slogged a full half-mile.
Turns out Sealand is named for the ship that rescued the owner just before he drowned as he fled communist Vietnam. His wife served us at the bar while we watched the SEC Championship. Food was delicious. An excellent experience that completely foiled the Shack people who tried to hose us. Ha.
Just as we got up to leave, an old bald dude started chatting up Dana. When he learned we live on a boat, he said he lives on a boat. Actually it’s not just A boat. It’s The Boat.
The dude introduced himself as Jim Tucker. Said he’s 85. We’d seen a hulking boat behind a big dinosaur way less than a half-mile from our dock. Both The Boat and the dinosaur are his. He gave us his number and invited us to come visit him on Sunday, likely assuming we’d never actually show up.
So of course we did.
The Boat is a concrete monstrosity that will be 100 in 2021. Originally it was some sort of army vessel. There are a bunch of articles about this thing. Here’s one of them. Jim has spent years researching The Boat’s history from before he bought it 40 years ago. He showed us his photos from various events. Like the time a navy battleship rammed it.
(The navy refused to pay for the damage.)
Now he and his wife and dog and cat and pigeons and ducks and geese just hang out there.
Basically Jim took us through The Boat and showed us more cool memorabilia than we found in most of those museums we’ve referenced in past posts. He didn’t brag, but the photos and articles and our subsequent internet stalking made clear he could’ve. Jim earned just about every medal possible during his stint in the Army Rangers, and ultimately was the commander of the Army’s Ranger School in Florida.
Doug tried to keep up with Jim’s lines but they came too fast. He punctuates every sentence with profanity, which he says is “probably why I don’t have many friends, but then at my age they’d all be dead anyway.” He’s an avowed atheist, who looked over the Ten Commandments at one point and discovered there was one he hadn’t broken. Since this is a family blog we won’t share the details, but with the help of a willing cousin he completed the decathalon. He served on the city council but they “ran me off” after eight years and two censures. (He voted to censure himself one of those times because what he did was “really bad” but he can’t recall what it was.) Then there was the time he a shocked a command staff with his description of former classmate Norman Schwarzkopf, who by then was the General in charge of the Desert Storm coalition forces. An episode recounted in an article about Jim’s induction into the Ranger Hall of Fame rings pretty true based on the time he shared with us.
Anyway, it was an epic afternoon. Doug wanted to get the new drone out—yup, there’s a new drone in the family—which Jim was all for. Unfortunately Doug botched the video he shot with Jim. Fortunately he realized the situation in time to fly back over just before sunset and just before the battery died.
We left with Jim’s autographed book and a really cool story, all thanks to whatever losers booked the Shack last night. The sun even peeked out just as Crossroads passed by. Robin snapped a picture of us after we waved to her and Barry on our sister Selene.
Tomorrow off to Panama City.
But wait, there’s more. Remember the post about the Glover Wilkins Lock?* GLOVER STINKING WILKINS WAS JIM TUCKER’S STEP-FATHER-IN-LAW! Turns out the whole mess of family is from Columbus, Mississippi.
* Doug and other Loopers hijacked the Glover Wilkins Lock Wikipedia page by adding the names of Looper boats passing through, but some officious intermeddler removed it all. We’re not sure, but it may have been the same guy who booked the Shack out from under us.