Cruisin' The Loop Aboard Kibon
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Wednesday and Thursday, October 2 - 3, 2002
Heeeeer's Lili... deja vu all over again! .  Kay sent an e-mail message tonight to many  of our friends and relatives that sums up these days beautifully. For those of you who have already read it, skip over... everyone else, read on!
"When we originally made plans to do this Loop and marked some places and dates on the calendar, we didn't really think much about weather. So it's hot, it's cold, it's sunny, it rains. A boat and the people on it deal with it all. We did have to think about the potential for seas greater than I was willing to venture out in, but with advice from the locals in Canada and Michigan, we traveled along Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on days of little or no waves. We never really thought about being on or near the Gulf of Mexico during hurricane season. Yes, we did make sure that our boat insurance covered all aspects of trip and weather, but that's all we thought about it.
Now that we have been close enough to two hurricanes while traveling on a boat, we are looking at them in a different way than we did while living in a house when threatened by a hurricane. Those of you who live in hurricane vulnerable areas know what we are talking about -- lay in a supply of batteries, candles, water, packaged food, secure all outdoor furniture, move the cars into areas not threatened by falling trees, secure the boat so it won't be bashed into pilings, etc. I have stories to tell about the hurricanes I've been in, as do most of you.
So, what is different about being on a boat? Well, we already have a supply of batteries, etc. because that is what you need when traveling in your self-contained house. What we learned from the experience with Isidore (call ahead to secure a place to stay before you head out), we should have applied to Lili. We decided to leave the marina in Fairhope, Alabama, because Mobile Bay was flat but would become untenable as the storm approached. Our first idea was to enter the Intracoastal Waterway and travel for 20 miles or so. There were quite a few marinas in that area, so we didn't think we would have any trouble finding a place to tie up. Then we decided to go further along the Waterway to Pensacola where, according to a boat owner familiar with the area, we could find a more secure dock. Pearce also thought that Pensacola would offer something to divert us while waiting out the storm. Unfortunately, all the marinas in Pensacola said they were full. The manager of the Pensacola Yacht Club, while offering us a slip for one night, explained that this area of Pensacola Bay had already suffered great damage during Isidore. He helped us find a slip over on Pensacola Beach. Now, wouldn't you say that the barrier beach would be vulnerable to storm surges, waves, and winds? We looked at the chart and decided that it was a "safe port."
This marina, Beach Marina, has charter boats that range from 26 to 60 feet. The day we arrived most of them were bringing in happy fishermen and large catches. The next day some of them began to leave with only the crew aboard. Where were they going? Up the same bayou where we had tried to find a marina! They were anchoring in a quiet place to ride out the storm. Those who decided to remain in port came down to add lines and fenders. We looked at the boats in adjacent marinas and decided that more boats were staying than leaving. This marina has stable docks and fifteen foot pilings. Pearce added lines, repositioned the fenders, and moved the bicycles (which we rode to view the Gulf) onto the shore. The Weather Channel was locating Lili every minute. (Yes, the satellite TV is working very well.) So we had a bird's eye view of the whole Gulf.
We watched the Weather Channel, we watched the clouds gathering over and around us, we watched and felt the waves hitting the bow of the boat, we even watched the watchers who came down to the marina to watch the boats. During the day we rode our bicycles out to watch the waves on the Gulf -- they were crashing onto the beach. Huge signs warned people to stay out of the water. Riding our bicycles into the wind was invigorating, sailing home before the wind was delightful. After dinner we watched the sunset, which was beautiful, and we snuggled down into the boat and became accustomed to the bounce and rock of the waves. Even the sound of the wind became part of the evening. There was one banging sound that we could not identify until bedtime. The periodic metal rap-rap was finally identified as the fish net loosely secured to the forward port railing.
During the night we listened to the wind and the water. We watched the water rise up more than a foot. In the morning we could see the high water line along the shore, but we were thankful that there was no surge and no significant water rise. We were so much further to the east of this storm than we had been during Isidore that there was no real consequence. We walked over to the bayside and watched windsurfers take advantage of the special winds. A catamaran skidded along the crest of the waves. The Gulf was still surging with multiple white waves and few people were visible along the beach. Even the "longest pier" that stretched into the Gulf was deserted.
I've never been on a boat during a hurricane. I was not sure that we would be secure and safe. Fortunately we were not in the direct line of either Isidore or Lili. I am glad that we were safe in harbors beyond the reach of the destroying winds and waves.
On the way to the rest of Florida -- Kay and Pearce"

We're off tomorrow toward Destin and Panama City and, eventually, Carrabelle, where we plan to stay for a week or so to visit Aunt Frances and Coota in Georgia. Then south along the Florida west coast enjoying every mile... What itinerary??? Forget it; we have!
Friday, October 4, 2002
Gooood Bye, Lili... she went over the hill last night and is wetting all over middle America. We settled up at Beach Marina and headed east. Surf was up. Signs all over the beach still said, "Dangerous Surf -- Stay Out Of Gulf." The Bay, however, was almost a mill pond... a little chop, but the southwest wind was on our back, so Kay stayed happy, even without a pill.  We found the wind behind our backs to be very cooling.  The spray was blown back into the aft window on the bridge.  The ride down Santa Rosa Sound was pretty.  There are some fantastic homes lining both sides of the waterway, but the most spectacular are on the mainland.  We found the docking of the boats to be most unusual.  We are accustomed to see small boats on lifts suspended over the water.  What was most unusual to see were big boats -- 45 foot aft cabin cruisers -- hanging out on lifts!  It obviously is the way to protect the hulls from the bouncing that occurs when all the water traffic roars up and down the waterway.  The water was higher than normal so we looked at many docks awash or close to being inundated.  Because the docks had to extend so far out into the waterway to find decent depths, most of them were permanent and not floating. 

Much of the barrier beach is National Seashore.  The dunes are beautiful -- white sand piled high with nothing to break the view except grass.  The white sand is quartz that came down from the Appalachian Mountains eons ago.  Normally quartz has a pinkish hue, but the white quartz of this coastline lost its coating somewhere along its trip.  It is said  that this quartz "squeaks" when you walk on it because each grain of sand is ground into a perfect oval.  Whatever the explanation, the sand is beautiful.  There was some traffic out on the waterway, one barge and some pleasure craft.  We passed a huge fleet of 50 or more Hoby Cat Sailboats gathered across from Fort Walton Beach on Okaloosa Island, which is part of the barrier beach.  It looked like they were getting ready for a weekend regatta.

After a short trip of 40 miles we turned into the harbor of Destin which is also on the barrier island.  This is on one of the inlets (outlets) to the Gulf, but it is very well protected by jetties.  We could see the surf crashing out in the Gulf, but there were only small wavelets as we crossed into the harbor.  We tied up at Harbor Walk Marina and went in to register.  Forget about it!  At $2 a foot it was more expensive than Chicago!  Docking was stern in, and with our dinghy mounted onto our swim platform, it was in peril from the nails and hooks mounted under the dock.  The tour guide said that the harbor opened up and provides plenty of places to anchor.  So we headed further into the harbor, docked at Harry T's where we had lunch and spent the afternoon.  The Florida Fish & Game person came by to visit us while Pearce was fishing off the back deck.  After ascertaining that we were Florida residents and Senior Citizens, he said Pearce didn't need a fishing license.  (We were unaware that you needed one to fish in salt water.)  He also told us that we could only tie up at this dock until midnight.  So, after dinner, a movie, and another sunset, we moved 100 feet out into the harbor and anchored.

Saturday, October 5, 2002
Dawn in Destin this morning is easily  as magnificent as sunset was last night. A good omen, the natives say... 
And we're off again.  Choctawhatchee Bay was flat as a pancake.  So was the Gulf.  Pearce suggested an outside run down to our next destination, Panama City.  Kay demurred.  A bay with the wonderful name of Choctawhatchee should not be passed up.  It deserves some attention.  It is over 25 miles long and 3 to 6 miles wide.  It's outlet to the Gulf at Destin was created in 1927 by four fishermen.  The Bay was at flood level when the men, armed with shovels, dug a ditch two feet wide across Okaloosa Island.  Within two hours, the ditch was 100 yards wide and had created the East Pass to the inlet.  As we headed east, we passed many fishing boats heading toward the inlet.  It was a beautiful day to be on the water, and we hope it was a fruitful fishing day.  At the eastern end of the Bay, the Intracoastal entered an 18 mile long canal that the tow operators call the Grand Canyon.  We passed three tows in rapid succession.  The canal reminded us of the Rivers -- banks lined with trees, no homes or people, logs and limbs floating in all the wrong places.  We were happy to get to the other end.  We spotted a pod of dolphins heading across the next bay.  Pearce put the engines in idle while he tried to photograph them, but they were too quick.  They didn't seem to be in a playful mood.  We drifted within several feet of a group of pelicans who were happy to be photographed... so was the Great Blue Heron who decided to rest for a bit on our dinghy. The open bays made up in wildlife for the complete lack almost anything moving in the waterway's ditches in between. No, we haven't even seen an alligator yet!

Soon thereafter we arrived in the Panama City Marina where we were pleased to see Baron Rose and her crew of Barbara and Norm ..... who live in Fenelon Falls, Ontario and Wendy and Bill.... who live in Penetanguishene, Ontario.  Our paths had crossed several times along the Tenn/Tom. We sat out Isidore together in Demopolis and last heard of them on the VHF calling Eastern Shore Marina in Fairhope, Alabama, about an hour after we had left there and were headed down Mobile Bay to the Intracoastal Waterway.  They are preparing to store the Baron Rose here while they return to Canada to spend the holidays.  We drove with them to West Marine where Kay tried to trade in the weather station that doesn't work.  The temperature is always on 80, the barometer always points to fair weather, and the clock is on time twice a day.  Although the West Marine on Long Island had the Weather Station in stock, the other stores only carry it in the holiday catalogue.  We'll wait until we get to Boynton Beach to exchange it. Bon voyage to our Canadian friends... we exchanged boat cards and hope we can get together again somewhere in South Florida next year.

Sunday, October 6, 2002
Not much we can say about Sunday in Panama City... We walked all over town and other than a really pretty park with Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss and a fountain in the middle, the town was just about altogether closed. Reminded us of the great W. C. Fields line, "I went to Philadelphia once, but it was...", you finish it. One little excitement happened, though. As we strolled past the Opera House/Community Center, which appeared to be closed, we peered through the doors to see what was playing and, lo-and-behold, one of the doors opened. Well, how about that? We went in to check out the schedule. Thirty seconds of checking and, screechingly, an alarm set itself off! Seems like that door should not have opened. We eased out and moseyed on expecting to be arrested any minute. After keeping a low profile around town for a while, we felt we would maybe not be arrested, so we retuned to the docks and had lunch at the floating restaurant there. Oyster sandwiches and draft beer... wow! Made up for all the closed up places we'd passed by uptown. 

Monday, October 7, 2002
Dawn... no wind, the Gulf  is flat. The best route east is outside in the Gulf. Kay says,  "Okay. let's go." We wave goodbye to the Canadians and head out past the breakwater. The Gulf is calm; Kay is happy! Twenty miles later we turn into St. Joseph Bay.  While we were running off the coastline we could see the fishing boats out on the Gulf and the condos in on the beach.  Pearce said he saw a group (is it a pod?) of dolphins frolicking way off to starboard.  Just as we were entering the sea buoy approach to St. Joseph, we passed a small sailboat (about the size and shape of a Mariner), towing his kayak, and headed west.  It was a beautiful day for a sail, but he appeared to be traveling somewhere.  St. Joseph's Harbor is deceptive.  The entrance from the Gulf is close to a sand spit.  Once around it, the harbor opened up to a very large bay.  While we were still out in the Gulf, Pearce had suggested we continue on to Apalachicola, but Kay said, "Don't press your luck."  Once inside the Bay we headed to the Gulf County Canal which connects the Bay to the ICW.  Shortly after we rejoined the ICW, we stopped at what one of the guide books calls a "rustic dock" in White City at mile 329 just east of the route 71 bridge.  There's a double launch ramp for the local fishermen, two piers for tie up, a fish cleaning station, a park with picnic tables,  and a children's playground.  There are no amenities, but the place is pretty and the price is right.  While it is just 50 feet off the ICW, there is little wake because the traffic slows down for the boats and docks on both sides of the bridge.  We watched a tow and several pleasure boats pass off our stern.

We walked up the road to where the bridge traffic comes back down to land, looked all ways down the roads, and decided that this was definitely an outpost of civilization.  We discussed taking the bicycles down to ride to White City, but it was too hot to do anything more that relax in the shade.  We talked to the fishermen and admired their catch.  Pearce thought about fishing for dinner, but he couldn't figure out how he could fit his pole through the cabin window while he stayed in the cooler air conditioning.  Instead Kay planned a shrimp and scallop dinner from our freezer.

Tuesday, October 8, 2002
It's just a few miles down the ICW to our next stop in Apalachicola.  We plan to leave Kibon here for a week, rent a car, and drive up to Fitzgerald, Georgia, to visit Aunt Frances and Cousin Coota.  We had originally planned to go to Carrabelle, but we discovered there is an airport in Apalachicola where we can conveniently rent a car.
About half way from White City to Apalachicola the ICW runs through five-mile-long Lake Wimico. This stretch is rated by the Waterway Guide as one of Florida's most scenic and it sure lives up to its reputation. When we came through there this morning the was no breeze, the lake was a mirror and only the line of Cypresses, Live Oaks and Cedars along the shore separated the sky from its reflection. It felt like we were floating in a sea of clouds. Shortly after Lake Wimico, the Waterway flows into The Jackson River which soon joins the Apalachicola River. All the rivers around here seem to get wider as they approach the Gulf, but they do not get deeper. So much of this land is so flat there's not much current to dig deeply.

We arrived at Deep Water Marina just about noon, but that was on Central Time.  The time zone runs down the Apalachicola River, so we were really arriving at 1 pm.  Dick Clinton, the owner of the marina drove Pearce over to the airport while Kay made lunch.  We then drove around the town looking at the various styles of homes, ranging from antebellum to turn-of-the-century cottages.  There doesn't seem to be much industry or business around, but there sure are some beautiful homes, especially those overlooking the bay.  We will make a point to visit some of them when we come back from Fitzgerald.

 

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