Days 59 thru 64. The Panhandle

The trip across the Florida Panhandle was a 210 mile, 6 day voyage that was driven by the weather (Again!) and I really wanted to explore Mobile Alabama and see some of it’s Southern culture and Maritime history. We arrived in Dog River on the 10th of November. I thought going to see the Warship USS Alabama on Remembrance Day would have been a fitting time to see the ship, but again my poor planning and adverse weather conditions changed my plans. The Dog River courtesy car was already booked and $75 to take an Uber. Because it was only about 7 miles across the Bay from us, it was a good 40 minutes by car. I considered taking the dinghy but was unsure whether it would be accessible from the water. Since it was a nice calm day and the future forecast was for big North winds starting on the 12th, our next good weather window to cross Mobile Bay was possibly 3 or 4 days away. So we decided to head out and try to beat the bad weather.

So we, unfortunately, left our friends on Outta the Loop and Sea N Stars, who were both waiting on engine parts to be delivered, behind and set out across Mobile Bay.

Mobile Bay is a wide open expanse of water and is rumoured to get pretty rough with high winds, just like the Great lakes. Most of it is only 10 o 15’ deep and now tides play a major part in our decision making. All was smooth and pleasant until we passed the Middle Bay Lighthouse.

Here we left the shipping channel and set a course across the shallow areas toward Bon Secour Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway. Originally we planned to follow the shipping channel all the way until it met the Intracoastal path, but we saw other Loopers cutting the corner and decided it was safe enough for us. It was a good plan because we skirted the edge of a squall and if we had continued south we would have gone right through the middle of it.

That small white dot is Knot Diggin who took a slightly different path but still managed to miss the squall.

That night we stayed at Homeport Marina which is adjacent to Lulu’s.

We took a bike ride to see the Gulf Shores Beach.

It was our first real view of the Gulf of Mexico! The beach was awesome, white powder sand, it really looked and felt like South Florida.

After that we had dinner and drinks with the Watson’s at Lulu’s.

The next day the predicted North winds hit so we stayed at the dock and worked on projects. Bill had to change out his water heater and I rewired the Radio and electronics on the flybridge. One item off my to-do list!

After that we deserved dinner out so we went to a local Seafood restaurant for dinner. I had the all you can eat steamed shrimp and would have made my Buddy Brian proud by getting my money’s worth…

November 13th we left the Gulf Shores.

We made a short trip to Pensacola Fla. where we met up with Paul and Jacqui from Outta the Loop. Here long time friends and residents (Debbie and Allen) met Jacqui and Paul. As we were introduced, Debbie instantly invited us all to their house for a meal of the best gumbo, crawdad dip and crab dip we have ever tried – all made from fresh, locally caught seafood. True Southern hospitality.

Debbie and Allen bought this house on the Intracoastal waterway years ago while Alan was stationed in Pensacola. They kept the house and rented it out over the years. After retirement they cruised on a Ketch sailboat for a number of years, but have moved back ashore. They had many cruising stories and were quite interested to hear of our adventures on the Loop.

It was one of those nights where we started to leave at 8PM and finally got out the door at 10:30.

That night there were record cold temperatures all across the area. We were glad to be plugged in so we could run the electric heater.

The next day was cold and grey as we cruised across Pensacola Bay and through the barrier islands for another 41NM, stopping in an anchorage by an Airforce base, Hurlburt Field. We were almost lined up with the end of the airstrip so we saw lots of planes coming in to land. I’m not sure what was going on over at the base, but there were some pretty loud “hollow” sounding booms regularly going off. That all stopped when we heard Taps being played at 10PM, I assume lights out at the base.

Friday, November 15th, the north winds were still strong as we crossed Choctawhatchee Bay which made for some uncomfortable beam seas. It has been a while since we traveled waves.

This is the “Sweet Stuff” passing us on the Bay because I can’t keep up to those Grand Banks boats…… or the Carvers for that matter. Bill and Marilyn got tired of the rolling and went up on plane to shorten the trip and smooth out the ride. I hate to admit it, but sometimes it would be nice to have that option.

We arrived at Panama City and again I was surprised by the amount of Commercial traffic.

Panama City was hit hard by hurricane Michael last year and it was hard to find an open marina. I was planning to meet up with my friends, Markie and Donmor, who were in the area travelling in a motorhome. I found a place that was close to the trailer park they were staying at where we could meet. When I called they said they were still rebuilding and didn’t have any services available but they had a dock we could tie to for $40. When we arrived it was more like a Marathon gas station/deli with a few broken docks. There were boats still sunken at the docks. It was a scary dock to get into because of the north winds and current but we made it. When we went in to pay the woman now wanted $75. I said we were quoted $40. …. and her answer was “There’s no where else to go Honey”. So we went across the bay and anchored out with Knot Diggin in Pearl Bayou. I ended up taking the dinghy back across the Bay to visit with the guys. It was a cold bumpy ride but we had a good visit.

The weather window was looking good for an overnight Gulf crossing on Sunday until Monday morning so on Saturday we were on the go before sunrise again to make the 75NM run to Carrabelle to be staged for the Crossing Sunday.

All day we saw the effects of the hurricane, snapped off palm trees, sunken boats and destroyed boathouses.

It was a long day of boating for sure. The trip across Apalachicola Bay was particularly long. The bay is very shallow and there is a narrow dredged channel to travel on. I don’t know who decided on the path but they didn’t get the idea that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. For some unknown reason the channel went due south and then took a sharp left and went east.

We arrived just before sunset and were greeted by our friends aboard Two Loons who hosted a spaghetti dinner for us and the Watson’s. It was very nice to have dinner made for us after a full day of boating. Thank You again Catherine and Chris.

Don McCulloch
  • Sue Young
    Posted at 18:13h, 28 November Reply

    I know i keep repeating myself but wow what a trip ood on you. Love following

  • Leona McCarthy
    Posted at 08:35h, 30 November Reply

    what an adventure and a life time of stories to tell. Leona

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