Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Crossing my Wake

On Friday, October 24th, I crossed my wake. Here is the blog for the last few days of this adventure.

From Amelia Island, I headed off-shore to Jekyll Island. It was a beautiful day, and the temptation to go out into the Atlantic, instead of up the Intracoastal Waterway, was just too strong.  The waters were calm, and it was a peaceful day.  I arrived at Jekyll Island around lunchtime, and spent the afternoon riding my bike.  Offshore, in the Atlantic, it is easy to set the auto pilot to head a course, and relax.  I headed out as the tide was going out, and back in with following seas through  St. Andrew's Sound.  The breakers were fairly steep, so it felt like surfing.

Fishing ship in the shallow waters, near the inlet.
From Jekyll Island, I headed to an anchorage for my second, and last night in Georgia.  I had some birds following my boat for a while, like I have seen them follow fishing boats.

My first stop in South Carolina was Beaufort, after a very long day.  I stayed at Lady's Island Marina, where TJ, the dockmaster, was very helpful and accommodating.  When I called, he said that docking could be tricky with the strong current, but he would help in whatever way he could, including running someone out to my boat to help me.  I replied that I would see how it went as I approached the marina.  I checked out a picture of the marina on my iPad, then I explained my plan for docking to him.  I headed up into the current and crabbed my boat into the fairway sideways.  Docking went smoothly, and it was good to know that he was ready and available for anything I might need.  The following morning, he came down to my boat and helped with my lines, even though I left before they opened.

Lady's Island Marina

Sunset from Lady's Island Marina
My next stop was Charleston!  Another beautiful day, and another great day to go off shore.  As I headed to Charleston, I passed Folly Beach, where I purchased my boat, Annabelle, a couple years ago.  Although, I didn't technically cross my wake, I felt I had come full circle.
The lighthouse at the north end of Folly Beach
Although I have been through Charleston, I had never really taken time to be a tourist in Charleston.  I stayed at Charleston Harbor Marina at Patriot's Point, where I have friends, Tina and Doug.  I enjoyed having dinner with them, and Doug took me in the morning over to Downtown Charleston.  Throughout the night and into the morning, we had howling winds.  When I woke up, I quickly realized the current and winds would be too strong for my boat to leave the dock.  In the early afternoon, when we came back from downtown, the tide was slack and the winds had subsided.  I had already paid for my second night, but decided to take my opportunity to leave my slip and head north.  Almost Home!!!!  Three hours by car, but three days by boat!

I had almost four hours to head up the ICW, where I found an anchorage spot.  I cut it close, anchoring just as the sun was setting.  Two other sailboats were already in the anchorage.  The following morning as the sun came up, I was headed north and the two sailboats headed south.
Anchorage at Graham Creek
From the anchorage, it was a long day north to Myrtle Beach.  I could not make it as far as the famous Barefoot Landing Marina before dark.  I called around 4:45 p.m. to Grand Dunes Marina, asking if I could tie up to their fuel dock after they closed.  It turned out to be an easy place to tie up, the transient dock is an extension of their fuel dock.  I pulled in at dusk, which gave me enough time to rinse off my boat, before having dinner, on my last night.

Leaving at dawn, my favorite part of the day, I headed home to Southport!

Grand Dunes Bridge in Myrtle Beach, at sunrise.
As I approached Southport, Towboat John brought my son, Dean, to my boat, so he could be with me as I crossed my wake.  He boarded just south of town.  Southport Marina was not able to accommodate my boat, so we headed a couple miles further to Deep Point Marina.  We passed my neighborhood pier, where Glen and Beth took pictures, and headed to my new slip.  At the marina, I was welcomed home!  Officially, a Gold Looper!!!!

Random Thoughts:
People say, "Wow, you went fast!"
... Me and the older guy on the bike were going about the same speed. I only traveled on days, which I felt the weather and sea conditions would be good.  There were many days spent in towns along the way, waiting for a good weather window.
The older dude on his bike, and me trying to catch up to take his picture!

"You are so brave to have done this yourself."
... Brave is doing it with someone else!  I have been doing things on my own for over twenty years, I have it down.  Being with someone else is something I need to work on, and takes much more courage.

"Did you get lonely?"
... I guess I had my moments, but they were few and far between.  I had a lot of support, both on the water and off.  For the most part, this journey was done with other people, who share a similar passion.  There were times it was shared with people I met along the way. I am grateful for the handful of people who came on my boat during any part of this trip including my Mom (in New Jersey), my son (from and to Southport) , Joie (Annapolis), Jim (Waterford), Michael (Canajoharie) , Mike (borrowed from Shiver me Timbers) , random guy at the Big Chute Railroad Lock, Jim (Bluenoser), and Lolly (Knot So Fast).  Of course, I can't even begin to list all the people I met along the way, who gave a helping hand, advice and friendship.

"You should have a gun on your boat!  What will you do for safety?"
...  I didn't stay in places where I didn't feel comfortable.  I know I can be naive, but I also listen to my gut instinct.  Steve, from Atla, once texted me, "Tanya, are you intentionally avoiding the free places?"  I texted back, "Yes, sometimes I am."  Other people urged me to have mace or wasp spray.  I had a dive knife, which could have served many purposes.  Gratefully, I never needed it for anything.  Not only did I feel safe, I generally felt I was around people who were watching out for me and protective of me.

"It doesn't seem like you could have stopped anywhere along the way."
... There are many places I didn't stop, and certainly, I didn't stop at all the many places people recommended or that I had thought about going.  I found it easier to be flexible.  There were some great little towns, which weren't on my list of places to go, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  There were small marinas, which had great people.  It was all good!  In any given day, I might have picked a few options on places to stay.  I have always tried to have a plan A, B, C... etc... and sometimes the entire plan gets scratched.  There were places I stayed one night, and places I stayed a few days.

"What did you eat?"
... a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!  I also ate in restaurants, cooked on my boat, and generally ate the same kinds of food I would have on land.  The most different food I ate, was the gator empanada.  One of the most interesting restaurants was Henry's Fish House, up near Perry Sound, where the only parking was for boats and seaplanes.  If you ask where the best butter tarts are, I would tell you Campbellford, Ontario.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Heading Home

Tonight, I am at Amelia Island Yacht Basin. I will be out of Florida tomorrow, and heading up into Georgia.  I expect to be home in just over a week, weather permitting.

After I left the Vero Beach Mooring field, I had some electronic issues.  My chartplotter was turning itself off, and my voltage meter was reading a low voltage of 11, when it should have been reading over 12.  The engine should have been keeping the batteries charged.  I was worried about my alternator, so I headed to Loggerhead Marina, on the north side of Vero Beach.  I pulled into Loggerhead at 7:45 a.m. and was met by great staff, who were very accommodating.  I checked my alternator belt and tightened it.  I checked my batteries, and they were all good, with plenty of voltage.  One battery terminal had some corrosion, which I cleaned off.  Then, everything seemed to work well. It was a good day, no problems with the alternator!  I made the best of the situation, and enjoyed the company of a few Canadian boaters, who were on the same dock, preparing their boats for the Bahamas.

After my relaxing day at Loggerhead, I headed to Daytona Beach.  I realized I would be there for a couple day due to a storm coming in.  I stayed in Daytona Beach for three nights, waiting for the rain and winds to subside.  I arrived in Daytona just before Biketoberfest.  Basically, it is the fall version of Bike Week in Daytona.  Harleys line the streets.  One of the guys who worked at the marina, offered to show me around town on his day off.  He took me to the biker areas and I tried to understand the whole biker thing, but wasn't able to.  In the end, I just wanted to get back to my sweet boat.
Daytime, one day before Biketoberfest started, you can imagine what it looks like after dark!
 As I was approaching St. Augustine, I noticed an older man, John, standing on the hull of his capsized sunfish sailboat.  He was drifting down the river.  I pulled alongside of him, and we managed to get his sailboat tied up to my boat.  We used my crane to pull his sailboat upright.  He lost his centerboard in the process, but otherwise, was not hurt.  I towed him to the other side of the river, where he lives on an old trawler, in the marshes.
John has boarded Annabelle, and we have a good line on his sailboat to help turn it over.

The mast is out of the water!

John didn't lose his life jacket, it was tied to the boat.

John, paddling back to his trawler in the marsh.
Here are a some pictures I took along the way:

Pirate ship for tourists at St. Augustine

St. Augustine Fort

Bald eagle flying from ICW channel marker
Marshes near Amelia Island

Friday, October 10, 2014

East Coast, Here I am!

Today is a big, big day for me! I finished the locks, I arrived on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and I used my first mooring ball of the trip.

I finished the last of the locks for this journey coming through the Okeechobee waterway. There were five locks.  Now, one might think I am a pro at these locks, considering all that I have been through... Dismal Swamp, Erie Canal, Oswego Canal, Trent-Severn, Chicago and the Riverways from Illinios down to Mobile, Alabama.  I thought these locks should be simple!  The Okeechobee locks are a little different than the other locks I have seen.  They have hanging lines, like some of the locks in the Erie, which I had so much difficulty with.  There are only five locks, and each has a simple concept of just opening the gates to let the water levels stabilize between the rising or falling of the waterline.  If going up, the water is let in from the front gate, and if going down, it is released through the front gate.  Positioning my boat seemed simple enough... just stay away from the front gate, which acts like a drain in the bathtub.  The fourth lock, threw me for a loop.  I was only going down 1 1/2 feet, but the current was going to the back of the lock instead of the front, and I had to work hard at keeping my boat near the wall, by using my thrusters.  It was the longest foot and a half! I don't know why it was so difficult, except that the lock has ropes hanging from 20 - 25 feet above the water.  It is a tall lock.  The fifth and last lock, with a drop of 14 feet, was much smoother.  In these locks, they insist you take a bow and stern line.  I can't be at both the bow and stern of my boat.  In the last lock, they had me tie the bitter end of the line to my center bow cleat, and hold the stern cleat.  I had to leave my comfort zone of being at the helm for this, but it worked out well.  In general, it is a bad idea to tie any line to your boat, while you are dropping in a lock.  However, it worked!  The lockmasters were helpful. Even though I thought I had locking down, I learned new techniques for locking.  I think I could even handle the Erie canals better now.

The central part of Florida is very swampy.  One night, I anchored at Lake Hicpochee, just before getting to Lake Okeechobee.  I had a late start and a slow day, so didn't get as far as I had hoped.  However, as the sun was setting, I found a peaceful spot.  It was peaceful, until the guys with the swamp boat came out and ripped around at high speeds.  I tried to get a picture of the boat, but I think half the thrill for them was being out in the dark.  It was one of those boats that floats above the water, with a large fanlike apparatus at the stern, with the guys sitting up high.  I found a picture of a similar boat, only the boat flying by me, had two high seats, and was not taking a leisurely trip.  The lake, was really a swamp.  The opening was only five to six feet deep from the waterway.

Airboat picture taken from the internet.
Central Florida is an interesting place.  I am not sure I would want to live in such a swampy area, with as many alligators as they appear to have.  Last night, I stayed at Indiantown Marina.   One of the other transient boats, was an old, old trawler, which may have seen the best of it's years back in the seventies.  The couple who own her, may have had their best years in the fifties or sixties... hard to tell!  Anyhow, a few days ago, they found a rat aboard their trawler, so threw it overboard.  It was immediately snatched up by a hungry alligator.  Since then, they have continued to throw leftover food overboard.  Each night, they get a few small alligators hanging out around their boat.  The wife said, "I know I am not supposed to feed them, but I love animals!"  I love animals too, but they have these alligators trained well!

This morning, I was heading downstream, when I saw a water slide.  I was horrified to think about children, sliding into these alligator infested waters, where the alligators will wait around for anything to drop into the water to be eaten!  (OK... I was also starting to imagine that this could be a new Criminal Minds episode, and which gives me nightmares.)  Next to the house with the water slide, were Hummel-esque, yard art, statues of children, sitting on the wall.  It was just too creepy.  Here are the pics:
Little alligator, waiting for something to be dropped into water for dinner, at marina.

Waterslide... CRAZY... what are these people thinking?

Creepy yard art... this was next door to the water slide.
The other big thing for today, was arriving in Stuart, FL, on the East Coast!  I am now heading north on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.  It was great to get to the Atlantic, smell the salty air, and notice the change of color of the water.

The Atlantic Ocean, from the ICW at the Stuart, FL inlet.

I had places picked out to stay in Stuart, Port Salerno, and Fort Pierce, but was too excited about moving north to stop.  I finally took a mooring ball in Vero Beach.  Other than practicing my mooring ball skills in Southport, I have not used a mooring ball this entire trip. It was easier than anchoring.  From what I have read, this mooring field is usually full, and they encourage rafting as well.  So, one person might be on the mooring ball with up to two other boats rafted to the moored boat.  I must have hit this town at the right time, because most of the mooring balls are available. I anticipate a very peaceful night!

My mooring ball in Vero Beach
Sailboat ahead of me, on mooring ball... and sharing with a heron.
Merrill Barber Bridge to Vero Beach at Sunset from mooring field.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Down the West Coast of Florida

After a relaxing week and a half in the Clearwater area, I headed south.  Clearwater was a great place to stop and visit with friends.  Clearwater beach is beautiful! The day before I left, they were having soap box derby races, and next weekend is the Jazz festival.
Two racers heading down the hill towards the marina.

This little guy needed some assistance, but who doesn't love Legos?

After Clearwater, I headed to Sarasota.  First I had to cross Tampa Bay.  I was planning on going to a marina, but decided to anchor out and enjoy a peaceful night on the water.

Tampa Bay Bridge
Sunset just south of Sarasota at anchorage.

From Sarasota, I had a short day, docking in Englewood around noon.  I picked a marina across the street from the Englewood beach and spent the afternoon walking the beach and getting my laundry done.  The beach wasn't nearly as pretty as Clearwater.  Flocks of birds congregated on the beach.  The birds didn't seem too concerned about the people on the beach.  It was kind of weird.
Englewood Beach

Today, I came to Fort Myers. I arrived just before it started raining.  Throughout the day, I was keeping an eye on thunderstorms that were building up in the Gulf, and watching as they approached.  I have Sirius satellite weather on my chartplotter, so I can see how far the storms are from my boat, and try to avoid getting caught in a downpour.

From here, I head across the state, through the Okeechobee waterway.  Soon, I will be heading north towards home.  I think I have mentioned that all my "looper" friends are now behind me.  Many are headed to the "Great Loop Rendezvous", which starts next week.  Some of my friends also have insurance policies on their boats, which don't allow them to come this far south before November, because of hurricane season.  Since I have a trailerable boat, my insurance covers me.

A lot of people ask if I have been lonely on this trip of mine.  In general, I have to say "no", or at least hardly ever.  Now though, I feel like I won't be seeing other loopers for the rest of my trip.  I might see Tom, from "No Compromises", if he manages to catch up. I will be heading north when I get to the eastern coast of Florida.  Most of the other loopers will be staying in Florida or heading to the Bahamas for the winter.  Whether loopers, boaters, or random strangers, I have been fortunate to meet really nice people throughout this journey of mine.

When I started out of Southport, I thought I would be traveling with other loopers for most of the time.  I started this trip with Mark and Jane, from Average Looper.  We soon split paths, as my boat needed repairs in Norfolk.  Although we caught up a few times, our paths took us different directions.  I have been traveling alone for most of this trip, and sometimes, I meet other loopers at marinas.  I can honestly say, that when I see a "looper" flag, I have a friend... maybe one I haven't met yet.  I will miss seeing my looper buddies as I head towards home.  I will also look forward to spending time with my friends and family, when I get back.  I might just have more time than I was planning!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Crossing the Gulf

I headed out of Apalachicola earlier than I expected.  There is a narrow channel of water from Apalachicola to Carrabelle.  I spent the afternoon getting to the Moorings Marina.  I went inside and double checked the weather for the following day, bouncing my thoughts off the staff there.  They agreed with my research that the following day would be ideal to go, but if I missed the opportunity, I would be sitting in Carrabelle for a week, waiting for better weather and sea conditions.  It didn't leave much time for hesitation.  I spent the evening getting my laundry done and cleaning my boat.

I left Carrabelle at 5:45 a.m., fifteen minutes sooner than the deadline I set for myself.  I had 85 miles to go, and the only way to get in before dark was by leaving in the dark.  I had set a track on my Ipad to help me with navigation.  There was just a slight glimmer from the sliver of a moon on the horizon.  The channel marker lights reflected off my windows, making it difficult to keep track of which of the many lights I was supposed to be heading towards or between.  I was grateful to get out of the immediate town of Carrabelle, but still had a few miles to get out into the Gulf and away from the shallow coastal waters.  Outside the channels, the waters can be less than a foot deep.  It took almost a couple hours, going slowly and carefully, to get out into the open waters. I was very relieved.  I don't like being out at night, when visibility is so diminished.

The sun coming up on my way out to the Gulf from Carrabelle

The first crossing went better than expected, with glassy, smooth waters. At one point, I noticed dead fish floating in the water.  I found out later, there was a red tide in the area, which had killed the fish.  For a few days, people would ask me, "Did you see the red tide?"  I only saw the dead tides scare me!
Remnants of a Red Tide
I have to admit, I was nervous crossing the Gulf on my own.  I hit my "Spot" every couple hours, to let my family know where I was.  I wasn't sure why I was anxious, as I had crossed through the Great Lakes and made the offshore crossing around Sandy Hook in the Atlantic.  I assured myself that in reality, it wasn't anything bigger or more challenging than I had already done.  Despite my reassurances to myself, it still took a while to get into the groove of being so far off shore.  By the afternoon, I was entrenched in my latest novel, looking up occasionally to make sure I was still out there all alone, and not on some collision course with a random fisherman.  I like it when my auto-pilot is working well!

From Carrabelle, I went to Steinhatchee. I arrived just before the weather started to change.  I had planned on staying at Sea Hag, which had been recommended by other people who have done the loop.  As soon as I was in cell phone range, I called them, and they said they didn't have a transient slip available.  I went further up river to River Haven Marina.  At River Haven, I had one of my worst docking experiences, naturally, with the audience of a group of fisherman.  The current got my boat and I headed sideways into the propellers of center console fishing boats.  I am not sure how I managed to pull myself out, except the dock master was there to help me.  I was sure I was going to find a big scrape alongside my boat and possibly a damaged prop on someone else's boat.  I was fortunate, and the only damage was a hole in my dinghy, where it scraped against the propeller of the other boat.  Dinghy damage is very manageable with a patch kit.  During the time I spent at River Haven, everyone there made me feel like I was at home.  They kept joking that if I stayed a little longer, I would be staying forever.  Steinhatchee is a little fishing village, smaller than Southport and just as friendly.

I arrived as scallop season was ending.  Dan, one of the fisherman, who had fallen in love with the little town, was planning on buying a house.  I headed off with him to go house-hunting.  We did well, as the first and only house we went to see, was perfect.  He made an offer and it was accepted within an hour.  The following morning, after I left to head south, Dan came out and made a loop around my boat, that he might bring me the good luck he felt I had brought him. He had planned to be up and around when I left, but he had slept in.  I was heading to Cedar Key, about halfway between Steinhatchee and Tarpon Springs.

At Cedar Key, the water looks deeper than it really is.

I was looking forward to getting into Cedar Key and tying up on their municipal marina. I read about a low bridge, but I thought to myself it wasn't a problem, I can manage 13 ft of clearance.  Well, as I approached, I realized I could get in there with my dinghy, but not come close with my boat.  I anchored out.  There were 15 knot winds and higher, along with storms in the night.  I initially anchored in 7 ft of water, but when I checked out the tidal flow, and realized it was high tide, with almost 4 ft tidal range, I moved to deeper water. It was a choppy night, but the morning made it all worthwhile.  I left at sunrise, and was accompanied by dolphin for over 30 minutes as I headed back out into the open Gulf waters.

I arrived at Anclote Village Marina, just before it started pouring.  Every day, there have been afternoon showers, usually starting around 5 p.m. or so.  The marina was a little disappointing.  As much as I was looking forward to Tarpon Springs, the marina was not where I wanted to be.  The bathrooms were on the far side of the restaurant/bar.  They did not have any shower facilities.  My plan was to stay there for a couple days until my reservation was available in Clearwater on Monday. Clearwater municipal marina is one of the only ones in Clearwater with floating docks, but they were booked solid because of boat races.  When I arrived in Anclote Village Marina, I called Clearwater Municipal Marina and asked if they could notify me if there were any cancellations.  Sure enough, the following morning, I was called and told to head on down to Clearwater!  I can drive to Tarpon Springs!

I arrived in Clearwater yesterday, late morning.  When they said there was a boat race, I had no idea what they meant.  These are fast boats... the Nascar of boating... the races are today.   This is the Brighthouse Clearwater Superboat National Championship!  Raceboats with support boats, support trucks and trailers, and t-shirts!  Enclosed hulls, where helmets are warn, and it must feel like 150 degrees in this heat and humidity!

These boats are put into the water with a big crane, down the waterway.  Then, they head out into the Gulf for the actual races.  Here are some pics of a few of the raceboats:

The crane lifts the raceboat into the water... a busy weekend!
One of the benefits of being here in Clearwater, is there is a lot to do, and I have friends here.  Last night, I was picked up by Barb, a nurse practitioner, who works for the same company I do.  She invited me to her 50th birthday party!  It was a great time, with many of her close friends.  I have another friend flying out here for a few days.  I plan to hang out here for a week before moving south.  I will definitely get some beach time in.  Clearwater has beautiful beaches!  I also need to get back to Tarpon Springs for their sponge docks and Greek food... I have a list of things I need to do before I leave here!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Crossing the Panhandle to Apalachicola

I think I need to break this post up into topics, to include sights and sounds of this journey.

I woke up this morning thinking about the contrasting sounds one hears on this trip.  The night before last, I was at St. Andrews Marina, near Panama City Florida.  I had picked this marina because they have floating docks.  In general, I sleep better at night if I am tied of to a floating dock.  With incoming tides, or the raising and lowering of water levels, it is good to know that where my boat is tied up will move up and down with the water level. If I am at a fixed dock marina, I will wake up throughout the night and check my lines to make sure my boat is floating properly.  Lines which are too loose or too tight can cause damage to the boat.

So, back to St. Andrews.  Everything I read about the marina made it seem like a great choice, and it had the Active Captain 1st choice rating.  One of the benefits is the proximity to bars and restaurants.  However, in the middle of the night, when there is loud, bad, music playing into the wee hours of the morning, the proximity to bars and restaurants is not really the ideal choice.  At 2 in the morning, as they are wrapping up a night of partying, the DJ is yelling, "We are going  F'N party all F'N night!!!"  I thought they already had. Then, one notices the sounds of the the cars revving their engines and leaving.  Eventually, by around 4 a.m, even the bartenders and waitresses are leaving.  Then, it is getting light outside, and I need to get ready to go.  One Friday night was enough for me, I wasn't going to stick around to see if Saturday night would be any better.

When at anchorage, it is rare to hear anything.  Sometimes you might hear the sound of the anchor chain against the hull.  You don't want to hear your anchor dragging, and if it does drag and you don't hear it, that is another story all together.  If anchored near an overpass, like I was on the Mississippi one night, you can hear the traffic.  When anchored on the rivers, sometimes you could hear and feel the barges go by. Generally, they were not loud.  Hearing the splash of a fish jumping can be a good thing.  The quietness can also make the sound of a mosquito seem very loud.

Being tied up at a city dock can bring other sounds, including sirens.  Surprisingly, there were some small towns that had volunteer fire departments, which had their own sirens to announce to the volunteers to come running to the fire department.  I was surprised at how often the volunteer fire department sirens went off.  I have been tied up near railroad tracks, which can be quite noisy.  In one town wall along the Erie Canal, there were several of us having dinner, and we could hardly have a conversation because of the trains going by.  At one of the worst marinas I stayed at, in New Jersey, they had a railroad bridge next to the marina.  Every time they opened the bridge, they would sound a siren, which seemed like every 15 minutes to half an hour.  Locks have sirens to give notice to people of opening and closing the lock gates.

Here in Apalachicola, I haven't heard any sirens, or loud bar noises going on through the night.  It has been peaceful and quiet.  The only sounds I heard waking up this morning, were shrimp boats, with their low rumbling diesel engines, puttering by me, heading out to the Gulf.  It is a good sound.

I barely managed to catch this shrimp boat passing by.  I ran with my camera!
Apalachicola is a great little town.  After walking around last evening, I decided to stay another day.  Apalachicola is known for their great oysters.  Apparently, they ship oysters all over the states, and if you have had oysters, chances are, they may have been from here.  My first stop here was "Up the Creek Oyster Bar".  I ordered a half dozen "Mediteranian style" oysters, then ordered another half dozen steamed oysters with butter.  I also ordered a 'gator empenada.  I didn't realize people ate gators... I guess it makes sense, we seem to eat just about anything else.  The flavors from the sauces were somewhat overpowering, so it was difficult to really taste the 'gator.  I can now add 'gator to the list of foods I have tried!  As I was contemplating another half dozen oysters, the waitress came out and offered dessert, so I had to stop her immediately at the suggestion of Key Lime pie, one of my favorites.  It was definitely a meal of indulgence!

Since leaving Fairhope, I have seen dolphins every day.  They are really difficult to take pictures of.  By the time I get my camera out and get ready to take a picture, they have gone below the surface and disappear.  I did manage a picture of a fin.  I have not been surrounded by them, like I was for the few minutes coming down the Delaware Bay, where I felt there were dozens of dolphin.  However, seeing dolphin is one of those things that makes my heart feel joyful.

Here are some pics:

It is good to see the pelicans again.  Pelicans seem to hang out on the buoys or they are diving for fish.  Sometimes they just glide along the top of the water.

More sunrises and sunsets...
Sunrise leaving anchorage south of Pensacola

Sunset in Apalachicola from the back of my boat.
Other pics from Apalachicola:
On floating dock at Water Street Hotel & Marina in Apalachicola.  Dinghy is back... so I can anchor and head to the beach.
At the Tin Shed in Apalachicola, they have this net with buoys.  I first saw a picture of these on Debi's boat, Sea Fever.
A quick change of plans!  I was eating breakfast this morning, when I started looking at the weather.  I decided to head to Carabelle for the night, a half day's journey.  Carabelle is the jumping off point for crossing the Gulf.  This was the forecast for tomorrow in the area of the Gulf that I will be crossing:


As the week progresses, the weather gets worse and worse.  Tomorrow, I will cross over to Steinhatchee.  Then I can either weather it out, or if the seas are good, head down the Florida coast.  I will be leaving early in the morning, for the 85 mile crossing.