Oct 20 to 26th

October 20-Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL

Our day started with a 6:15 alarm and 56 degrees. It was sunny, but cool. We cleaned up, ate breakfast, and got ready to take the boat to the haul-out slip. Two mechanics came on board to diagnose the oil leak and they will work on that today with the boat in the water. The people at Middleton Marine who will be working on our boat are very professional and we were impressed at how careful they were to keep the boat protected and clean as they worked. We were introduced to Orlando, the mechanic who will be working on the boat. Bob chatted with him for awhile about his concerns and then we left him alone to do his work. We were given a car to use while the service work is being done and we can stay on the boat while they work on it—an added plus. The yard is a full service yard, doing boat restoration, painting, and repairs on every part of the boat, so we left her (Justavacation) in good hands. We took a drive downtown

and through the George C. Wallace tunnel under the Mobile River

to Battleship Parkway where the USS Alabama stands.

The Alabama is in the water at Battleship Memorial Park which has many exhibits on display—a B-52 bomber, Tuskegee Airmen P51D Mustang, Blackbird Spyplane, Kingfisher Scout Plane, Vietnam “Huey” helicopter, 19 other aircraft, 9 tanks and armored vehicles, and the Submarine USS Drum.

On the grounds, is a flight simulator and Vietnam and Korean Veteran Memorials. It is quite an impressive place. We took a self-guided tour of the Alabama and spent about 3 hours, seeing every part of the ship from top to bottom, stem to stern.

We didn’t get to climb up in the crow’s nest high above the ship, but that was OK with Bob. He did get to see the engine room and that was even better.

They have a section of the crew’s quarters set aside for scout groups to come and spend the night on the ship for the “real experience”. That would be cool! The USS Drum was just as interesting as we climbed around through every hatch and hole in the submarine.

We walked through the aircraft on display in the hangar. By the time, we were through we had spent about 4 hours touring the facility and our legs and bodies ached. For more information on the USS Alabama, go to www.ussalabama.com. On the way back, we stopped at WalMart for some needed items. When we got back, Orlando was still hard at work in the engine room.

He worked for another hour, gave Bob a report on what he had done, and then left for the day. We collapsed out of exhaustion, accumulated over a couple of busy days, had a cocktail, and relaxed. We decided to eat leftovers-easier for both of us, and we were too tired to go out to eat. We stayed awake until about 9:00 before we cashed it in. Tomorrow would be another busy day.

October 21-Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL

Our day started at 6:15 again with the alarm. We got ready for the boat to be lifted out at 7:30. They were prompt and moved the boat from our location around to the lift-out slip, next to us, by hand without starting the motors.

(That’s the best gas mileage we’ve had this whole trip.) Then the Travel Lift operator put the straps under the hull and lifted her out of the water.

The servicemen examined the props and discovered that one blade on each prop was out of alignment and one shaft was slightly bent.

Bob discussed with them what needed to be done and then we left with Murphy to take the props to be realigned in Southport, FL near Panama City, FL. Yes, I said Florida. That wasn’t part of our original plan for the day, but it would have to be now. We took the 150 mile drive, leaving at 9:15 and arriving at 12:15. We crossed Mobile Bay towards Pensacola, the home of the Blue Angels.

We dropped off the props at Marine Wheels, part of Miller Marine and stopped for lunch, before heading back to Dog River.

The ride on Interstate 10 was very pretty through the panhandle of Florida towards Panama City.

The courtesy car we were using was very comfortable for driving long distances. (If we had known it was as far as it was, we could have spent the night.) It was a beautiful day for a ride with clear skies and temps of 75 degrees. Traffic was light and the ride went pretty fast. We got back in time for Bob to talk to the mechanics about what they had done today and what still needs to be done. Murphy and I took a walk to stretch our legs after the long ride today. We gave Murphy a bath to get rid of any dead fleas that might be hanging around. We relaxed a little after the workmen went home, before going out to dinner at The Mariner across the river.

It was our treat to ourselves after another long day. Once everyone goes home, the yard is pretty quiet, except for a few die-hard workers. We have it pretty much to ourselves. We found out yesterday that this marina and others around here, had sustained a lot of damage from wind and water in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina. They had a lot of pictures to show from it, hanging in the restaurant. We had a great seafood dinner and came back to relax with some TV, before going to bed. Since the boat is on the “hard” now (land) we would need to use a ladder to get in and out. So this is for our sister-in-law, Jenny.

Murphy got his last walk and we turned in. We found some really cute boat names here in the marina. Cute boat names #42, 43.

Say the last one really fast and begin with the word “well”. It cracked me up!

October 22-Mobile, AL

We got up a little later today because we didn’t have to vacate the boat. We had breakfast and hung out in the boat as we waited for the mechanics to arrive. Bob worked on repainting some sections of the hull. Some of the bottom paint had worn off and he wanted to make sure it was covered. Around 10:00, Orlando arrived to finish working in the engine room. We had to leave about that time to go downtown to do a driving tour of the historic districts in Mobile. That would give us enough time, before we would have to leave for Southport to pick up the propellers at 3:00. We started out at the Fort Conde Welcome Center.

Fort Conde served as a military center of Louisiana Territory. The fort was occupied by the French, Spanish, and the English troops. It was partially restored to its 1702 appearance and houses a museum displaying artifacts recovered from on-site excavators. It is also the official welcome center for Mobile. From there we took the driving tour of the 4 historic districts. We started in the Church Street District which is the most diverse and picturesque. We found the large 23 room Ketchum House

and the small Victorian shotguns (thin houses).

It is called Church Street District because churches are an important component in this district. It also includes the Church Street Graveyard where a large number of people who died from the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1819 are buried. Church Street is also known as Queen Anne Row.

The homes display a marker which is an award for restoring or maintaining the architectural past of Mobile. (Note the marker on the left side of the door.) It denotes buildings that contribute to the City’s character and history, and honors the owners of the property. To receive a marker, the building must be 75 years old or older, have retained its original architectural character and is well maintained.

The Rapelji House is part of this district and was constructed in 1865 at the end of the Civil War.

Next we moved into the Oakleigh Garden District where sidewalks and massive oaks line the streets. The name comes from the antebellum mansion, Oakleigh, constructed in the 1830’s. Here we saw a number of American Foursquares, 2 or 3 story box-like homes with the decoration concentrated along the porches.

The next area was the Old Dauphin Way District. During the 19th century, these homes housed middle class merchants. The smaller cottages were the homes of the servants who worked in the grand houses on Government Street. The district is known for its excellent collection of fine Bungalows and contains approximately 2000 buildings.

The last area was the Lower Dauphin Commercial District. It is characterized by a high concentration of closed-spaced, 2 or 3-story brick structures. The eastern end features the early skyscrapers. Dauphin Street is one of the oldest streets and served as the core of the business district since the earliest days.

In the late 1830’s, a series of fires destroyed many of the framed buildings. Beginning in 1839, all structures were required to be built of brick. We spent about 90 minutes on our driving tour and learned a lot about the city. We grabbed some lunch and hopped on the Interstate for Southport to pick up the props. It had been cloudy in Mobile when we left this morning, but as we drove east the sun was out and the skies were clear. We saw a cool memorial to the Blue Angels at a wayside.

The road took us over a lot of rolling forested hillsides.

After picking up the props we headed back to the marina. On the way back, we stopped for dinner at Wintzell’s Oyster House.

The walls were covered with a kazillion “sayings” or phrases. It would take you all day to read them all. The food was great and Bob was able to get his dozen raw oysters on the half shell at Happy Hour prices. We got back about 6:30 and took a walk before settling in to watch some TV. I went to read before falling asleep. Bob gave Murphy his last walk and came to bed later.

October 23-Dog River, Mobile, AL

Bob got up early….(too much on his mind, I guess) and I slept in until 7:00. We cleaned up and got everything ready on the boat so it could be put back in the water. I took a walk out to the water’s edge to watch the sunrise.

It was windy out of the east and the waves were crashing against the shore.

The mechanics worked on putting the cutlass bearings and starboard shaft in the boat and attaching the props. Orlando had finished what he needed to get done in the engine room with the oil leak yesterday. Then we played the “waiting game”, while they had to take care of some other business first. It’s one of those “hurry up and wait” scenarios. They worked on it for awhile and then, of course, it was lunch time. After lunch, they returned to finish the assembly and that was completed by 2:00. Then it started to rain. The plan was to do a sea trial in the Dog River and not on Mobile Bay because the bay was too rough to see if the vibration was gone. The weather was a cloudy, a cool 60 degrees, and breezy. We all had to get off the boat so they could put it into the water.

Murphy and I sat in the courtesy car while Bob, a captain, and 4 mechanics came on board to do the sea trial. By this time, it had started to rain hard and it got windy. I was happy to stay dry and just watch. They lowered the boat in the water and pulled out of the slip. The captain was driving because he was familiar with the river and Bob wasn’t. I watched them come down the lane to the pumpout dock, stop and get a pumpout, and then head off down the river.

They were gone 20 minutes and came back to a slip on the far side of the marina. I thought that the boat was still not working right because the test drive was so short, but everything proved to be ok. Bob said that it was interesting to go out on the boat and not have to drive.

Murphy and I met Bob back at the boat and it continued to rain heavily. We had a cocktail and relaxed before dinner. Tomorrow the mechanics would be back to do a few finishing touches. We need to provision the boat for the arrival of our friends, Bernie and Barb, in Pensacola and do some wash. Tomorrow the forecast is for rain in the morning with clearing skies later in the day. The winds should calm off so our plan is to leave on Sat. morning if the weather is right. We had dinner and watched some TV. It continued to rain most of the night, but we were snug in the boat and enjoyed our evening.

October 24-Dog River Marina, Mobile, AL

Today was a laid back kind-of-day. We woke up without an alarm and had breakfast. Bob did some work on the computer. I did some deep cleaning on the boat and the wash. The mechanics came back to finish a few things, tidy up, and were gone by 11:00. We took the car and went to the grocery store for a few items. When Bob tried to return the car, the owner, Sonny, refused to take it back and said we should keep it until we leave tomorrow. They have bent over backwards to make us feel right at home. It had rained heavily since about 3:00 yesterday and all through the night. By morning, it had stopped, but everything was drenched right to the core. It took all day to dry everything out.

The sky remained cloudy most of the day, with the sun peeking through for a brief moment now and then. It was a little cooler than yesterday, but the wind had died off. Bob worked around the boat and went to pay our yard bill (Ouch!) while I did some research on the Internet for the places we would visit on the way home. I baked some blueberry breakfast bread as I finished the wash and just relaxed in-between. We had dinner and relaxed with some TV after the sun went down. We called it a night at 9:00 because tomorrow we would be on the move across Mobile Bay to Pensacola, FL. We’re on our way home!

October 25-Dog River Marina to Pensacola, FL

The alarm went off at 6:15 and we got up to get ready for our crossing of Mobile Bay. The water was good, the wind was right, but then there was……FOG.

We had breakfast and hoped that by the time the sun came up, the fog would be gone. Not so. We listened to the marine forecast and it might be awhile before the fog lifts, so we just hung out. Crossing an unfamiliar body of water in the fog is not a good idea. The temp. today was supposed to be in the upper 70’s with sunshine, so it would be a good day for travel. I was a little nervous, as this was our first “bigger” body of water crossing since Lake Michigan in July. I guess we’re spoiled having traveled on protected rivers for so long. About 8:15 we pulled away from the dock to go across the river to Grand Mariner Marina for fuel. Diesel was $3.60, the cheapest we’ve paid on the whole trip. (I hope the prices continue to drop.)

We untied lines and left the fuel dock by 9:00 and motored slowly out the river channel with 8′ depths, to the main shipping channel. Here we took it up to cruising speed (23 knots) because the shipping channel is a more comfortable 45′ depth. (In Florida we’ll have to get used to boating in shallower depths.) Coming into the channel a tow crossed right in front of us pulling a barge (That’s a first!)

Going south we passed some shrimp boats working the shallow water off the channel.

Someone told us that if you go see a shrimp boat after it comes in from fishing, they will sell you fresh shrimp right off the boat. Yummy! The fog burned off right around 9:00 like the forecaster said. Right ahead of us a hole in the clouds opened up and the sun shone through, sparkling on the water.

At the Mobile Bay mid-channel marker, we charted a course southeast for Pensacola.

It was a short 20 miles diagonally across Mobile Bay.

Note: Mobile Bay is a large, but shallow body of water so winds against the tide can result in serious waves, which build very quickly. Once we leave southern Mobile Bay, we will be entering a protected waterway called the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, or GIWW. This is an area of wide sounds and bays. Some islands of the Gulf Island National Seashore lie between us and the Gulf of Mexico. Along this seashore there are beautiful white sand beaches, coastal marshes, and thick forests. The GIWW is 11′ deep from Gainesville, TX to Carrabelle, FL. Later next week, we’ll reach an open-water gap between Carrabelle and Tarpon Springs, FL where we will jump off the GIWW and cross the Gulf when the weather is right.

We entered the GIWW from Bon Secour Bay and met a passing tow.

We didn’t really expect to see as many barges and tows here in the GIWW. After we passed through Oyster Bay, we continued east on the Intracoastal through Portage Creek.

Numerous oyster beds can be found in some of these shallow bays. We saw dolphins swimming in circles near the shore. The first time we saw them on this trip was when we entered Mobile Bay last Sunday. We passed a waterside restaurant called Lulu’s. Lulu, the owner, is Jimmy Buffet’s sister.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop to have lunch because we didn’t have time, but it looked like a fun place to stop and eat. The GIWW at Portage Creek is very narrow passing through residential areas with nice homes and very close to the highway.

We passed a really cool development called The Wharf with a huge marina, restaurants, and hotel on site.

Moving across Perdido Bay it was a little breezier and rougher with winds out of the northeast. There was a large area, 58 miles, along the GIWW that still showed damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2005.

There were many properties for sale. We even saw some marinas that had started development, but never finished. The crystal white sand beaches were evident as we crossed the “water border” into FL.

There were some very colorful cottages along the beach on Perdido Key, which is part of the National Seashore and one giant sand dune.

(OMG, I just saw a dolphin leap high into the air!) There were many people anchored on the lee side of the key who were camping and walking the beach.

We passed through a narrow cut before entering Pensacola Bay.

The Pensacola Lighthouse graces the southern side of the waterway.

We could look out at the Gulf as we passed Middle Ground, the opening to the Gulf. On each point of land there was an old fort–Fort Pickens and Fort McRee guarding the entrance. The Gulf looked perfect for crossing today–calm and smooth..

The Naval Air Station at Pensacola is located at the entrance to Pensacola Bay where you can watch the Blue Angels practice on Tuesdays.The Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard aviators start their training here. Pensacola is called the “Western Gate to the Sunshine State”. Pensacola Bay was a little choppy as we crossed. As we approached the entrance channel to the marina, we could see the skyline of the city of Pensacola.

We took a slip along an outside pier and got help tying up. Our trip today was 71 miles.

It was a new, beautiful marina that had been rebuilt after the hurricane.

Note from Bob: If you look at our current position on the map you will see the marina is all torn up from Hurricane Ivan. Obviously a dated photo.

We had about an hour before Bernie and Barb would arrive, so we did a few things to get the boat ready for their arrival. I took a walk down the piers and saw a cute boat name. Cute boat name #44:

(Bernie and Barb drove from Ft. Myers to Pensacola with a rental car to meet us. They would ride with us from Pensacola to Palmetto on the boat. Then we will take them back to their home in Ft. Myers and pick up our other car that they have been storing for us in their garage.)

About 4:00, Bernie and Barb pulled up in their rental car and we met them at the gate to help unload their gear. Then Barb, Bob, and I relaxed a little, while Bernie took the rental car back to the airport. Bernie had surprised Bob with a gift to celebrate our cruise together. Now he’s official!

We had cocktails before dinner and then took a walk downtown to the restaurant.

It was a nice evening and there was a beautiful sunset. We had a delicious dinner at The Fish House and took a slow walk back to the boat. We watched a DVD before turning in for the night. We were all tired after a long day.

October 26-Pensacola, FL

This was our first morning together on the boat-Bob, Bernie, Barb, and I. We woke up to blue skies and chilly temps. We took our leisurely time to have breakfast and get cleaned up. Each of us took our turn on the Internet checking our emails and doing business. Bob and I made phone calls home to our moms and then we got ready to explore the downtown area. We started by walking down the piers to check out some of the boats.

We walked up Palafox Street to the Downtown Historic District. The area is being rejuvinated with many storefronts being renovated and new business being encouraged to take up residence there. We passed some buildings with beautiful architecture like the Empire Building,

Museum of Art,

and the Saenger Theater.

The architectural designs reminded us of New Orleans with the ornate iron railings and balconies.

There was a huge pendulum clock in front of the old courthouse that was very unique.

We stopped for nachos and beers at Jackson’s and sat outside at a cafe table along the sidewalk.

As we walked along the sidewalk we heard a loudspeaker and saw people gathering in the park square. We stopped to check out the activity that was going on. It seemed they were having a rally for some of the local people who were running for office, so we stopped to listen for awhile. Bernie fit right in with the crowd there.

They had people who were setting up their smokers and grills to sell ribs and burgers. This one looked like a bomb.

There were also a lot of volunteers on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse who were working to get people to vote early. It was a busy place.

As we neared the Seville Quarter, a group of bars and restaurants all located in one building,

we stopped to let Bernie and Bob play on an old fire engine as we walked toward the waterfront.

We walked along the waterfront back to the boat and put our chairs on the pier to relax and talk in the sun.

We enjoyed each other’s company and visited with one of the locals chatting about the City of Pensacola and its development.

He was a fellow boater who had a boat in the marina and a city councilman. Murphy got himself comfortable as we whiled away the hours of the afternoon.

As it got later, we started to prepare dinner before darkness came. Some people came by to talk about boats and boating. They even got a tour of the boat. After they left we had dinner, cleaned up the dishes, and chose a DVD to watch. We were all ready to settle in with a good movie.

October 27-Pensacola to Panama City, FL

The howling winds and slapping waves on the hull woke us up around 6:30. Bob took Murphy out for his walk and later we went to the shower at the boater’s lounge. It was sunny, warmer morning, but a windy 20 mph out of the north. We had breakfast and got ready to untie the lines at 8:30. The plan was to undo the lines and motor backwards (with the help of the wind) to the gas dock for a pumpout. It was only 100′, but the wind was pushing hard against us. We threw 2 lines to the guys on the dock. The guy at the stern tied his line off, but the guy holding the midship line didn’t cleat it off and was losing control of the line. Bernie jumped off on the dock to help with the lines, but the wind was blowing the bow away from the pier and I couldn’t get a bow line to shore. We would have to abort–and QUICKLY! They threw back the midship line and untied the stern line just in time to release us from the pier before we yanked out the pelican pole or the cleat. The wind blew us away from the pier and we cleared the dock without hitting anything. Whew! Unfortunately, we left Bernie standing on the dock. So I pulled in all the lines, Bob drove away from the pier, and we tried the approach again. This time Bob drove the bow to the pier into the wind, I threw the bow line to Bernie on the dock, and he tied us off. It was easy to bring the stern to the dock after that. We got a pumpout and were ready to be on our way in no time. We pulled away from the dock at 9:15. Once we left the protection of the harbor breakwall, we motored, with the 20 mph wind and 3-4′ waves behind us for a few miles south to the bottom of Pensacola Bay.

Then we had to turn east and the waves were now on our beam (side).

No, that’s not rain on the window. It’s salt. Bernie helped Bob to navigate while

Barb sat back to enjoy the ride.

We got a lot of salt spray over the bow and up onto the bridge. It was a pretty rough ride. The water seeped in through the seams and zippers in the bridge enclosure, so Barb and I got wet sitting in the front seat. We ran that way for about 20 minutes until we got into Santa Rosa Sound, a smaller body of water with wind protection from the shore.

It was a little choppy there, but much calmer than Pensacola Bay. Soon we passed into a section of GIWW called “The Narrows”, a narrower body of water where it was calm. That was sweet!

Santa Rosa Island was on one side and the mainland was on the other. The island was one giant sand dune.

We saw a line of cabanas on the shore and farther down the channel there was an interesting tower and what looked like an observatory behind the sand dune.

There were still reminders of the last hurricane that came through a few years ago.

We heard an SOS call to the Coast Guard on the radio for a party fishing boat or maybe a crew boat for an offshore oil rig that had 35 people on board and was taking on water. The Coast Guard sent a plane and a helicopter carrying a water pump. We could only imagine what they were going through on the Gulf. We passed slowly by Fort Walton Beach.

The Narrows opened up onto a large body of water called the Chocktawatchee Bay where the waves were 1-2′ with winds blowing 15 mph, gusting to 25 mph. On the north shore is Destin, FL which is considered a sportfishing headquarters. We crossed under a bridge which opened up into Chocktawatchee Bay and we saw whitecaps ahead of us.

The strategic plan was to get close to the northern shore and be blocked from the wind and waves. Once we got near to the north shore, we turned and headed east. We went 28 miles from one side of the bay to the other in 1-2′ waves on the beam (side). It was a little rolly, but not a bad ride at all. We got sprayed a few more times on the bridge by waves, but that was all. We reached the end of the bay and entered the next section, which is really a ditch, called “The Grand Canyon”.

It is 20 miles of narrow, CALM water. It reminded us of the river system we had traveled on. The shoreline consisted of steep, sand banks dotted with pine trees.

We passed 1 other boat going the other direction and saw 3 dolphins swimming along. We were surprised to see a tow going the other direction.

We couldn’t imagine where he could be going. Once we left the “Grand Canyon” we entered West Bay, where we saw a seaplane sitting at the dock.

The channel opened up into West Bay, a smaller body of water 10 miles long. We passed another tow and found the bay choppy with 1-2′ waves on the stern which made for a smoother ride. Another boat going the other direction came by as we neared the end of West Bay and entered St. Andrew Bay crossing St. Andrew Inlet.

Saint Andrew Inlet is a deep inlet, sometimes called Panama City Inlet and provides access to and from the Gulf of Mexico. St. Andrew’s is a busy little port town.

We crossed the bay heading for Panama City arriving at 2:30. Panama City is a laid-back city with lots of shops ad restaurants in town.

We docked along the wall in strong winds, but there were 2 guys to catch our lines, so we had no trouble tying up.

We got all settled in and gave the boat a total washdown from all the salt spray. A 90′ boat pulled in shortly after we did and we recognized the captain from Green Turtle Bay.

We chatted with him for awhile. What a small world! We walked up to the office to register and look around. Darkness came quickly. We had dinner and watched some TV before going to bed early. It was a tiring day of 108.7 miles. Justavacation received her baptism into salt water today.

Challenge: I haven’t been able to figure out what kind of insect this is. It does fly. Can anyone tell me what it is?

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