Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
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Tuesday and Wednesday, October 16 & 17, 2002
We returned to Deep Water Marina to find Kibon very content.  DickClifton had checked her daily, and we were happy to be back home.  Even Lucky appreciated returning to her spot on the counter.  Pearce went in to check the weather on Dick's computer which showed the conditions at each of the buoys in the Gulf.  The prediction was for the winds to be 15 to 20 knots and seas for 3 to 4 feet.  Since the rain was already down-pouring, we decided that we could spend another day in port.  We can't say enough good things about Deep Water. The marina is a short bit up Scipio Creek off the busy channel, well protected from any surge, but still an easy walk into town. Actually, we spent two more days in port and had a chance to spend some time talking with Dick and Nancy.  Since Kay did not want to cross directly to Clearwater, Dick suggested we continue along the ICW to Carrabelle and cross to Steinhatchee.  He had heard some bad information about the docks at Cedar Key, so he suggested we then go on to Suwannee or Crystal River.  We decided to think about the next crossing.

Since the weather in the Gulf was decidedly unfriendly,  we felt lucky to be able visit the town. Apalachicola  was founded in 1831 as a port to ship cotton from the plantations up river.  After the Civil War (there are still those who call it The War Of Northern Aggression), lumber replaced the cotton, the railroads supplemented the ships, and the town grew into an important port along the Panhandle Coast.  By the time the lumber industry had cut all the pine trees, a third industry was growing.  Shrimp and oysters were being shipped to ports throughout the nation.  Today 90% of the oysters harvested in Florida and 10% of the entire nation’s oysters come from the waters around Apalachicola.
Some of the buildings date from the early days.  Trinity Episcopal Church was founded in 1836.  It was built in three parts in White Plains, NY, shipped by schooner, and assembled on the site in 1837.  They call it the “first prefabricated building” in Florida.  The Raney House was built by a businessman for his wife and children in 1838.  The City purchased the house in 1973 and it was recently restored.  Trinity Church and the Raney House have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Another home we visited was The Coombs House Inn where we met Estella Banta, Resident Innkeeper. Estella gave us a guided tour of the inn which has been restored and furnished in the late Victorian style.
St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was organized in 1845.  Unfortunately the original “ornate wooden structure with elaborate stencil work” was replaced in 1929.  The First United Methodist Church, originally built in 1846, was destroyed by the 1900 fire which also destroyed many other downtown buildings.  The Orman House, also known as Magnolia Hall, was built in 1838 of wood cut to measure and shipped from New York.  It was recently purchased by the State of Florida and will become a museum.  Many of the other homes have been converted into bed and breakfasts or other commercial buildings.  When we visited Apalachicola, it was after the summer season and before some of the annual events that bring many tourists to town. 
We were unable to visit the John Gorrie Museum because it was closed, but it would be an interesting stop.  Dr. Gorrie invented an ice machine in an attempt to keep his yellow fever patients cool.  It was the basis for the ice industry and the development of air conditioning. 
The coastline along the Panhandle from Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe to St. Marks and Wakulla Springs has been called the Forgotten Coast since the early 1990s when a Florida tourism group skipped the area extending from Panama City to Tallahassee in their promotional literature.  Two of the most beautiful and pristine beaches (and listed in the Top Ten Beaches in the nation) are at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and St. George Island State Park.  The towns are proud that they have no parking meters, traffic jams, neon lights, and few traffic lights. In Apalachicola, for instance, in many store advertisements, directions are given as, "one block past the traffic light" or "turn left at the traffic light." Makes it real easy when there's only one traffic light in town, doesn't it?

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The weather was favorable for a crossing -- sunny, clear, winds from the northeast at 5 to 10 and the seas were 1 to 2 feet.  We got diesel at Miller's Marine for $1.066 and headed into the Bay.  Just as we made the turn to head toward St. George Sound we heard Howard Burdick of Seaburds calling Miller Marine.  We turned around and headed back to spend an hour catching up with where Jane and Howard had spent the weeks since we last saw them.  They planned to spend the next two nights in Apalachicola and Carrabelle, but maybe we'll meet again in Tarpon Springs.  We headed back out to East Pass opposite Carrabelle.  Pearce then ran the 10 meter depth line to Steinhatchee.  We went up the River looking at marinas.  We went under the bridge and bumped something 30 feet past it.  We later heard that when the new bridge was built the old one was just dropped in the water!  There is a narrow channel through there, but you have to be local to know it.  We turned around, went back to a bend in the river and anchored out of the channel.  Pearce put out a small stern anchor so he could set up the TV dish.  Before we went to bed, he pulled that anchor so we could swing in the wind that had come up.  We swung onto a lump of oysters and got hung up at low tide the next morning. Tide! Oh, yes, that thing that goes up and down every day. We haven't seen much of that for so long we had forgotten... Luckily it was coming in, so in an hour or so we were off the bottom.

Steinhatchee was a fishing village and its 1000 residents still depend on the fishing industry.  It is "beginning to wake up" and become a tourist town according to one local who moved here a few years ago and bought a marina.  Gary Estes says the property values have increased 400% and are still climbing.  His Gulfstream Motel and Marina is only two years old and is growing.  It's not in the guidebooks yet, but can be reached by phone at 352-498-8088 or VHF channel 9. He has new docks with 15 feet of water, a restaurant, gas ($1.79) and diesel ($1.29), and a courtesy car.  Steinhatchee has  restaurants, a grocery store, gift shops, a bank, a post office, and no traffic lights. Well worth the stopover, fellow Loopers!


Friday, October 18, 2002
As soon as the tide came up we headed back out into the Gulf.  The wind was a little stronger (10 to 15) and the waves a little higher (2 to 3 feet).  Pearce had bought some new lures and tried trolling for a while.  No luck, so he kicked Kibon up on a plane, and we headed for Cedar Key.  We had been told in Apalachicola that the people on the dock at Cedar Key were unfriendly and stole things off the boats.  Gary in Steinhatchee said he hadn't heard any stories like that since he's been here.  We came into the dock which was full of fishermen.  While no one helped us with our lines, no one made any threatening motions either.  There were two boats here already and several more came in before evening.  There are two electrical hook-ups.  One is on the end of the dock with 2 50 amp outlets, and there is a 15 amp outlet on the side of the restrooms.  The only water is in the restroom from the spigot under the sink.  We tied up, locked the boat just in case, and walked up the street next to the dock.  There are motels, restaurants, and gift shops on this street.  We met the dock master, "Baby" Stephens, when we came back after an early dinner.  He comes by the marina once a day to collect the fees: $3 for boats under 26 feet, $5 for boats up to 40 feet, and $10 for boats over 40 feet.  No charge for electricity.  He told us that it is more comfortable to be on the inside if the winds are from the south, but since the prediction was for winds from the northeast we stayed on the outside.  One of the spots near the 50 amp outlet was occupied by a fishing boat that had loud music and beer drinking occupants.  We preferred to stay away from him.  By the way, Baby's grandfather called him Baby, and the name stuck -- he's a grandfather himself now.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

After all these months of traveling and seeing posters for special events that have just happened or are scheduled in the weeks to come, we found that Cedar Key's Seafood Festival was scheduled for this weekend.  So we stayed another day, and walked through the town visiting the craft and food booths.  We visited the Historical Society and found that the town was established in 1845 by Augustus Steel on Atsena Otie, which is a derivation of the Creek Indian name for Cedar Island.  The area had already been a supply depot in the 1830s.  A railroad was built from Fernandina on the east coast to the present site of Cedar Key.  The dock and the adjacent street are built on the old railroad foundations.  The Faber Pencil Company and Suwannee Lumber Mills were among the many businesses that flourished during the second half of the nineteenth century.  Fishing, oystering, boat building, and tourists were industries that grew during that time.  A hurricane in 1896 destroyed the pencil and lumber buildings on Atsena Otie, and the key was abandoned and has since become a National Wildlife Refuge.  Cedar Key became the site for homes and industry.

Tourism is growing here as in many of the towns along this "Nature Coast."  Another industry that is growing is Shellfish Aquaculture.  This county produces the greatest number of hard clams in the state.  A record of 100 million harvested clams was established in 1997.  Seed clams are protected from predators with cover nets and take from 12 to 18 months to grow to harvest size.  The favorable weather of Florida produces clams more quickly than other eastern states.  We tasted some of these small succulent clams which were steamed at the Festival.  Although they needed no dip or topping, Pearce had had them served with marinara and  garlic bread last night.  He declared they were very good, too.

Cedar Key has a grocery store with fresh meat and produce.  It's a several block walk from the dock -- a nice bicycle ride.  Bicycles are a good way to tour the Key, but there are also golf carts for rent.  We saw a small transit bus but forgot to ask where, when, or how much.  We stopped at the Island Hotel & Restaurant for lunch.  It was constructed in 1859 from seashell tabby.  Perhaps because it is several blocks in town and does not sit out on the docks, it has survived all the hurricanes that have come through this area.  We visited the many art galleries and were tempted by several items.  We can always come back by car when we decide what our wall space is in the condo. 

Sunday, October 20, 2002
The weather report in the Gulf is 4 knots of wind and seas less that 1 foot.  Since we also see some showers and thunderstorms coming over from Louisiana, we filled our water tank and left.  We definitely recommend a stop in Cedar Key.  There's no apparent limit on a stay.  Baby, the dock master, was reluctant to take our money.  He said the University students used to leave their boats here for the winter, so the town had to impose some kind of fee.  They're happy to see people come in with money to spend.

We traveled 10 miles south and then drifted while Pearce fished.  One of the fishermen on the dock had given him a bag of shrimp last night, so Pearce had to try it.  He caught several fish (six) but he decided they really needed to grow up.  Then the coral started eating his line, so we took off again.  When we came into Cedar Key Friday night we bounced three times in the Northwest Channel off Piney Point between buoys #17A/18 and #19/20.  We draw 4 and 1/2 feet.  It was a falling-just-past-mid tide.  When we left Cedar Key we went out the Main Ship Channel to bouy #1 where Pearce headed south 10 miles to the entrance to the channel into the Withlacoochee River.  We followed that for four miles and then cut across to the entrance buoys for Crystal River while watching the depth sounder for shallower areas.  It is 20 miles from the entrance buoy #3 in the Gulf at the Withlacoochee River to the head of the Crystal River in King's Bay.  The depth sounder briefly showed 3 feet under our keel, but it was usually 6 or more feet.

We're tied up at Pete's Pier Marina, $25 a day, $100 a week.  No size differential.  Gas is $1.79 and diesel is $1.25.  We are very well protected from winds if they should come up.  There is a restaurant nearby, and the town is somewhere.  We didn't travel very far today because we spent several hours bobbing gently in the Gulf, so if we decide to stay through tomorrow, we'll look for the town.  The guide book talks about "spectacular caverns" where you can look down from the surface and see "springs 60 feet under."  We saw a boat that advertised Scuba Manatee Dives.  This is a winter haven for Manatees and there are many restriction speed signs off the main channel.  We've seen Dolphins out in the bay, but no Manatees yet.

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