“Schwarzkopf is a p——y”

img_6257

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.

img_6246Instead, 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.

img_6249

img_6248The 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.

img_6250

img_6261

img_6258

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.

img_6263

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.

img_6264

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.

Aren’t there supposed to be only 12 days of Christmas?

img_5397Many years ago the Pensacola newspaper sponsored an exhibition of pelican statues, which were placed around the town.  Less than half of the original 41 still are in place.  Dana scavenged and found some of them, so we scattered them around the blog as our own little art exhibit.  Anyway, we docked at Palafox what seems like a year ago.  It rained.  And rained.  It rained so much it felt like Ludington, minus the Badger.

 

img_6158

img_5400-1At least the rain gave us time for some essential work inside the boat.  Dana productively went through drawers full of stuff we didn’t know existed. img_5395-1 Doug even more productively watched full replays of Tennessee’s two SEC wins and basked in a warm glow not experienced since about 1998, never anticipating the two steaming manure piles that would be the last games of the year.  The point is that living on the boat in Pensacola was like living in your car in a car wash.

img_5412-1So we left for a couple of weeks.  Which was long enough for us to remember why we love Arizona.  Not only did we catch up with many of our favorite people, literally every day was clear and 75.  We’re happy that New Yorkers retire in Florida, but don’t have any idea why they do.  The worst thing about our Thanksgiving was that the boys stayed with their fuzzy cousins in Chattanooga.  It’s questionable whether they’ll want to return to us after being spoiled by their Aunt Terri, but they have no choice.

img_5409-1All that said, we were anxious to get back to Misty Pearl and underway.  We want to be to St. Petersburg to scoop up Mallory and Shannon on our way to Marathon (Florida, not Greece) for Christmas.   Surprisingly, we didn’t return to rain.  There must have been at least a couple of other dry days in our absence because Pensacola was able to bust out the Christmas decorations.

img_6202

img_5396Nice.  Although one of us doesn’t understand the need to start with the Christmas stuff before completely giving thanks for a bountiful harvest, or beaver pelts, or whatever the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoags. img_5404It seems unlikely that the first Thanksgiving morphed into nonstop radio carols until at least the football games were over.  And what’s up with the “modern” Christmas music anyway?  It’s all either funeral-dirge slow or some nonsense involving holidays in the hood or some such crap.  As Lucy annually reminds the gang, Christmas is all about Ho Ho Ho and Santa Claus and mistletoe and giving presents to pretty girls.  Let’s keep it that way.   Let’s not start until December.*

Today was a good day—with a crappy weekend looming—so we bolted for Fort Walton.

img_6227

img_5402img_5399For the most part the cruise was uneventful.  Except we had dolphins ride in our wake next to the boat for 20 minutes or so.  That was way cool.  They surfed instead of jumping, but either way Dana was able to take some pictures so we now can prove that we aren’t inferior to all the other Loopers who have a bunch of dolphin photos.

7CEC9726-EF55-4BC1-A61B-C568B1E21C72

We also started to see vestiges of the hurricane.  Or maybe just bad boating skills.  We also started to see Santa Claus.

 

img_5401Fort Walton is home to Eglin Air Force Base.  The rumor was that the base is bigger than Rhode Island.  A simple google search seemed to debunk this claim, but it’s still pretty big.  As we approached the marina huge transport planes swarmed over us like a flock of very large and noisy pelicans.  We assume they’re just training since there isn’t much logic to transporting stuff in circles.

27D334B8-C052-4687-A919-BCA4BCC3B77C

img_5398The Fort Walton Yacht Basin proved to be a tad more spartan than we had imagined. And exposed.  To high wind.  After a series of figure-8 maneuvers that the untrained eye might wrongly associate with cowardice or incompetence, we finally backed into a very narrow slip to await the wind and rain promised to arrive any minute.  The dock dude said that other people have given up and gone elsewhere.  Maybe he was lying, but we’ll take it.

There probably is a pretty part to Fort Walton Beach.  Hopefully we’ll find it.   Today mostly we found tattoo shops.  And an axe throwing shop.  Seriously.  A place where you can throw axes for the low low cost of $25 per hour.

img_6233

Maybe it’s extra cool because you throw indoors.  Who knows?  What we do know is that nobody was inside throwing axes.

Before the rain started we sat up on the bow and enjoyed the calm before the storm. And yes, we put lights up.  Before December.

img_6234

 

 

* Dana does not approve of this message.

That’s why they call Orange Beach “The Windy City”

Blue skies Saturday morning, but 25-knot wind gusts.  The beautiful Orange Vol Navy flag was snapping like a bullwhip.  Not a chance cowards like us untie a single line.  Oh well.  Nothing at all wrong with a day spent watching football.

This morning we took off for Pensacola.  Out of the marina at cruising rpms we inexplicably were stuck at about 6.8 knots.  Ugh. That’s slow even on the speed continuum between total engine failure and walking on the beach.

Eveyone always asks us “What’s the ICW like between The Wharf and Palafox Pier in Pensacola?”  Actually nobody asks that, but Doug set up the time-lapse again just in case someone does.  Dana says nobody bothers watching the videos we post, but it’s nice to have them even if just to remind us of the tows we dodged and the time we spent outside the marina in Pensacola waiting for the boats ahead of us to dock.  And since we have video, no need to take many photos.

Damn.  Doug screwed up the video AGAIN.  Turns out if you forget to turn off the screen, the battery drains faster than you can say “Hey look there’s a dolphin I hope we get it on the video.”

We did eventually speed up.  And we confirmed by signage that we’re now in Florida, which means progress.

003a3351

Basically there wasn’t anything else to see along the way.  Except some really cool houses.  Which we didn’t photograph.  And a lighthouse.  And the navy base, where a Coast Guard ship was tied up.

We’ll hang around Pensacola for a few days before heading out for Thanksgiving.  Unless plans change yet again.

img_6151

img_6152

img_6154

Okay we know it’s a weak post.  Sue us.

We’ll report in on Pensacola before we leave on Wednesday.

 

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead

Once again, plan change.  Rather than hang around The Wharf at Orange Beach until after Thanksgiving, we decided to knock a couple more days off.  Unless things change again—and the wind forecast makes that a real possibility—tomorrow we’ll motor on over to Pensacola.  Lola’s rainbows, Frankie’s sheep, the lifeguard’s Jeep, and all that.  Pensacola is the home of the Blue Angels, which makes it the holy opposite of Durham, North Carolina.  The last air show of the year was last week, which is about right since we seem to miss almost everything by a hot minute one way or the other.

Almost, but not always.  For example, a few days ago the World Food Championships set up a 2-minute walk from our slip.  Everyone was asking the obvious question:

img_6133

We didn’t stick around to find out, but we did pop in for a bit of the opening round of desserts.  They looked to be making some sort of tart but frankly we found it rather slow-paced so we left before anyone actually produced anything.  There were a lot of people cooking and watching, however, so we surmise it’s a big deal for some.

Since it’s a competition, there must be officials.  As in “Cheferees.”  We ran into one of them at the hot pepper store, where he was taking the challenge to eat the ”hottest pepper sauce in the world.”  An hour later we saw him back at the competition, but he wondered aloud whether his stomach would allow him to continue.

While docked at The Wharf, we did some non-cruising stuff we won’t bother detailing.  Like errands.  We also did some boat chores.  Shortly  after we bought Misty Pearl, Doug found a security system replete with sensors and cameras and other cool stuff.  It all came in a spiffy cardboard box which was just the size and shape to fit—unopened—nicely under a small electric fan in the bedroom.  Doug finally remembered that there was stuff inside the fan pedestal.  If we accomplished nothing else in the past two weeks, at least we’re now fully secure.  Plus when we leave the boys unattended we can check in remotely and watch to make sure they aren’t up to any funny business.

The highlight of our non-cruising activities was a trip up to the Smokey Mountain foothills with Lewis and Terri to meet the girls for UT homecoming.  GBO.

img_6134

On the way to our VRBO cabin we passed through Farragut.  Farragut, Tennessee, was named for native son David Farragut, who may or may not have actually used the torpedo line with which history credits him.  There is a most awesome and satisfying Tennessee gear store in Farragut.  And a Pei Wei.  We stopped at both of them.

img_6113On Thursday we took the ferry across the entrance of Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island, site of historic Fort Gaines.  The sign says Fort Gaines was named after General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, which is interesting since Doug handled many litigation cases in the Maricopa County courtroom of one Judge Pendleton Gaines.  Seems probable that the guy we knew as Penny Gaines’ parents either were huge history buffs or there’s a family connection.  Pure coincidence seems unlikely.  We thought about asking our family genealogy guru—Cousin Wendell—to look into it for us but then we realized it’s not that important.

The sign also says General Gaines captured then-former Vice President Aaron Burr after he was indicted for treasonously conspiring with Mexico.  The charges didn’t stick, of course, as evidenced by the fact that just a few months ago we saw Burr on the Hamilton stage in Chicago.

Fort Gaines was a critical fort guarding Mobile Bay during the Civil War.  The blockade to prevent supplies from heading inland was orchestrated by that same David Farragut, who added insult to injury by forcing the surrender of the CSS Tennessee after decimating the rest of the small Confederate fleet.  Come to think of it, Farragut doesn’t really deserve a Tennessee gear store.

During our time here in the Mobile Bay area we also walked through a portion of an Audubon Bird Sanctuary.  Actually we didn’t really walk much.  It was more like sniff, pee, repeat.  (It wasn’t Doug.  The boys came along.)

The main excitement was when we spotted a gator in the lake along the trail.

img_6120

The one we saw wasn’t quite as bad as the drug-dealing, gang-banging, Odin Lloyd murdering kind of gator infesting the swamps of Gainesville, Florida*, but he still was socially unacceptable.  Which triggers the old joke about how to tell the difference between an alligator and a crocodile.**  Thankfully he didn’t eat a boy.

Friday we went to the beach.

It’s quite probable that all of our river pictures have started to look the same.  It’s equally probable that we are at the front end of a leg that will yield a bunch of nearly-indistinguishable beach pictures.  Regardless, after spending some time in Gulf Shores and neighboring areas of Alabama, Dana allowed that she might not mind living here.  WAIT WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?  ALABAMA?  If we owned Edvard Munch’s most famous work, this would be the place to insert it.  But we both do agree the beaches are pretty cool.

Since this post is replete with coincidences, here’s another one.  Mallory’s roommate’s great-aunt and uncle—Jo and Jack—are Loopers.***  We’ve not met them, but they docked their Grand Banks trawler at the marina around the corner.  Their boat’s name is Trust Your Cape.  “Trust your cape” is a line from a Guy Clark song.  We love Guy Clark.

Guy Clark was from Texas.  Dana is from Texas.  Downright spooky, isn’t it?

We spotted Trust Your Cape on Nebo and popped by their marina to meet them.  The lady in the office said they were storing the boat there but had just left.  For the winter.  We texted them.  They were headed east by car, but stopped at a Waffle House.  We love Waffle House, although that one was in the wrong direction for us.  Double spooky.  The point is that we missed them by mere minutes.

Fingers crossed we can move tomorrow.

 

 

* Gainesville also was named for the original Penny Gaines, who seems to have gotten around back in the day.

** One you will see later and the other one you will see in a while.  (Punchline added as a courtesy to anyone who missed out on the bad-joke phase of life.)

*** Mallory and Shannon also have a great-uncle Jack, although he’s no longer with us.   We concede that the name Jack isn’t quite as uncommon as, say, the name Pendleton, but still.

 

Mother, mother ocean, we have heard your call*

img_6055

Dog River Marina may not have been quite consistent with the marketing campaign they ran at the Rendezvous but it was adequate and we got the t-shirts they promised us.  After collecting said shirts, we were ready to get on across Mobile Bay.  You know, magnolia leaves, warm rolling seas, and sweet Rosalie.  (Since we’re homeless and have nearly frozen to death in Flagstaff, we can identify with Cal Smith.)

Very surreal to be back in salt water again.  The Bay was flat and blessedly stress-free, which we badly needed after a long string of decidedly-opposite-of-stress-free days covering 499.8 nm.  We’re ready for something more than Little Debbie Nutty Bars for breakfast.  And about that, we don’t at all approve of Little Debbie changing the name to Nutty Buddies.  Nutty Buddies are those stale ice cream cones that you get from the freezer at Circle K.  These are Nutty Bars.  We actually—and quite agitatedly—complained to a McKee Foods corporate officer not only about this atrocity but also the decision to stop making the chocolate pies that Dana just discovered and already has come to love.  Doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

img_6057-1

After the mini-crossing—not to be confused with The Crossing (Gulf of Mexico) we face in a few weeks—we reached our entrance into the ICW.   Very exciting.  Maybe not exciting to read about, but very exciting for us to reach a new part of our Loop.

003a3307Speaking of Jimmy Buffett, his sister Lucy has a restaurant right on the ICW.  We called to see if we could stop for lunch.  Lucy needs better help.  They weren’t too interested in us using their dock so we passed on by.  Lucy’s loss.

On to the Wharf.  Brent and Karen talked up the joint all summer so we had high expectations.

003a3314

Expectations met.  There are real restaurants and shops.  Nice floating docks.  Everything we need.  They even put us in a slip right next to Second Wave for what surely will be the last time.

Brent and Karen cleaned out Second Wave for prospective buyers.  We got one last meal with them before they headed back to Texas this morning.  Note the minivan.  They were snobs about minivans before we convinced them.

img_6076

Anyway, the Wharf is pretty cool.

That’s a good thing, because we’ll be docked here for a month.  During that time we’ll be traveling some—by car not boat—so probably no more blog posts until we head back out in December.  Nobody wants to read about standard old car trips, as in “Today we stopped at The Home Depot after a nice sandwich at Goldstein’s Deli.”

In the meantime, here’s another sunset.

img_6063

And here’s another heron.

img_6064

 

 

* CCR was the soundtrack for Lake Michigan, but we’re back in Jimmy Buffett country now.