We spend a week in Gulf Shores at LuLu’s waiting for our friends on Brand New Day to return and their boat to be fixed. We are also waiting out some rough weather. We then make a stop in Shalimar, FL, where we catch up with Wandering Winnie. Then, it’s on to Apalachicola, FL, where we get adopted!

Day 221 – Monday, 01/01 – In Gulf Shores, AL

The Frog At LuLu's
The Frog At LuLu’s

We planned a 10-day stay at LuLu’s. Our friends Steve and Edie on Brand New Day went home for a family event, and while they are away, their boat is being fixed at Saunders Boat Works, which is right next door to LuLu’s. They have been having a series of issues with their boat on the trip, and the latest is that their bow thruster died and needs to be replaced.

Some very strong storms are also predicted for later in the week, and LuLu’s is a very protected marina, so it’s a good place to stay out of the storms.

During the day, Brenda did laundry, and we made a Walmart run for groceries. I worked on the blog and did a couple of boat maintenance projects. In the evening, the wind started picking up, and it was getting cold, so we had dinner on the boat.

Day 222 – Tuesday, 01/02 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Tuesday was sunny and cold, so we stayed on the boat and did projects.

New Thermostats
New Thermostats

In November of last year, when we were getting our boat ready for our Loop 2 trip, we had our A/C systems replaced. We didn’t order new control panels, as they were working fine. For the past month or two, they both started to act up, not responding to button presses. The old ones were just little bumps covered with a sticker, so I’m surprised they lasted as long as they did. When we were in New Orleans, one of them finally gave out, so I called our mechanic, Michael, at A&M and asked him to order two new controllers. The latest version is all digital with a touch screen. We had them shipped to LuLu’s. UPS delivered them on Monday, so I decided to install them.

As with all things boat, it’s not as easy as it seems. The new controllers use a different cable and are flush-mounted. To install them, I had to cut out some of the woodwork for the panel to fit in. The original cables were installed when the boat was being put together, and they had lots of access. Running the new cables, especially in the front bedroom, involved fishing wires under the cabinets and bed. What should have been a 1-hour job took half a day!

Our friends Tim and Brenda on Indigo arrived during the day. We caught up with them, and the four of us went to dinner at LuLu’s in the evening.

Day 223 – Wednesday, 01/03 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Wednesday was pretty much a washout. It rained intermittently all day, and we had some pretty strong winds. Brenda did some laundry and worked on her cross-stitch kit. I did some end-of-year cleanup on our accounting to get prepared for taxes.

That evening, we got together with Tim and Brenda on Indigo for dinner on their boat.

Day 224 – Thursday, 01/04 – In Gulf Shores, AL

New Marker Light
New Marker Light

Thursday was a little nicer. We had clear skies, and the wind had dropped off a bit. We jumped on the bikes and rode to Publix for a few things and to see what was in the neighborhood.

I got a package with some new running lights in the early afternoon. These are the Red and Green lights that allow other boats to figure out what direction you are headed at night. Our old ones were original to the boat, and the plastic was starting to crack and had discolored.

Again, it was more of a job than expected, as the old lights were recessed into the boat, and the new ones were surface-mounted. I had to make filler panels to cover the old holes and mount the new lights. I made a run to Home Depot to pick up a few parts to do the installation and then spent most of the afternoon putting them in.

We had some leftovers from LuLu’s and we had those for dinner.

LuLu's at night
LuLu’s at night

Day 225 – Friday, 01/05 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Friday was a bright and sunny day. It was still quite windy, but the sun warmed it up a bit. We needed a few things from Walgreens, and Brenda needed some more floss for her cross-stitch. We took an Uber up to a shopping plaza with a Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and Walgreens. We walked around and did a bit of shopping. It was more like something to do off the boat than anything. After shopping, we stopped at Five Guys for lunch and then returned to the boat.

Dinner was a salad with cold chicken on the boat.

Day 226 – Saturday, 01/06 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Saturday was a nice day—windy but nice. I decided to take a walk up the road to Saunders and check on Steve’s progress on Brand New Day. I found it in the boatyard but could not tell if they had made any progress.

Right next to them in the basin was a 100-ish-foot yacht called “Dirt Poor.” Ha, ha… If they have to make payments on that and maintain it, I’m sure they are!

After checking out the boats, I continued down the road which runs along the runway of the local airport, checking out the planes.

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While I was out walking, Brenda finished up one of her kits and made Nachos for dinner.

That night, we got torrential rain, but it warmed up a bit to 60°! Tropical!

Day 227 – Sunday, 01/07 – In Gulf Shores, AL

As many of you know, we (especially Brenda) are avid Geocachers. If you have not heard of Geocaching, click here to learn more. Sunday was Sunny and 55° so we headed up to the parking area and discovered our 500th Geocache! We have been Geocaching since 2005 and we try to find a Geocache in each area that we visit. It’s fun and brings us to places that we would otherwise never find.

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Geocaching.com User Profile
Our Geocaching Profile- We’re Up to 512!
(Click to Enlarge)

For dinner, we went to the beach side of the ICW and had dinner at the Original Oyster House Boardwalk.

Day 228 – Monday, 01/08 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Overnight, the predicted storm arrived. We had 50 mph winds with higher gusts and thunderstorms with torrential rain. We heard that a tornado had touched down in Panama City, Florida, just three stops ahead. One of the marinas was directly in the path. The marina and several Looper boats were heavily damaged.

The wind and rain continued for most of the day, so we stayed hunkered down on the boat. Aside from a bit of rocking and an exceptionally high tide, there was no damage where we were. Everyone at the marina pretty much did the same.

Day 229 – Tuesday, 01/09 – In Gulf Shores, AL

Rain and high winds continued through the night and into the morning. The airport next to the marina recorded 62 mph gusts, and we got 3.5″ of rain overnight. We walked around the marina to look at the high water in the ICW. The water was up over 3 feet. This was mostly storm surge from the high winds. The docks at the restaurant across the channel were underwater!

In the late afternoon, our friends Steve and Edie, on Brand New Day, returned from their trip. Their boat wasn’t quite ready to go back in the water, so they checked into a local hotel.

They still had their rental car and picked us up for dinner. We went to Cobalt, the Restaurant in Orange Beach, AL. This is a local favorite, and the food was excellent! Their logo is the “Tree Frog” (blue, not green), so we felt right at home. In the lobby they have a large fish tank with some beautiful fish and coral. None of it is on the menu however.

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Day 230 – Wednesday, 01/10 – From Gulf Shores, AL to Pensacola, FL – 34 miles, Travel Time: 3hrs 45min

Gulf Shores, AL to Pensacola, FL
Gulf Shores, AL to Pensacola, FL

The weather was great on Wednesday, and it was time to move on. We had hoped to travel to Pensacola with Brand New Day. Our reservation at LuLu’s was up, but their boat was just being put back in the water on Wednesday, so we had to travel to Pensacola alone.

The Intra Coastal Waterway here is a dug canal, so it is not that wide. Due to the high winds, lots of tug boats and barges tied up to the shore to wait out the storm. As we headed out, they were re-supplying and getting ready to start moving again.

As we neared Pensacola Bay, we saw Bryan and “Wandering Winnie” on AIS. It’s a sailboat we met in Hammond, Indiana, and traveled partway down the rivers with. Bryan was just turning north off-shore. There were some predictions of another round of high winds coming, and we hoped that he and his dog Raco would make it into a safe port.

We arrived at Palafox Pier Harbor marina just before 2:00. Because of the predicted high winds; the dockmaster put us away from the entrance and behind a finger dock so that we would have some protection. He also reserved a spot next to us for Brand New Day who was scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

Once we got settled, we walked up to the office to check in and then had a late lunch/early dinner at Jaco’s, a very nice restaurant just above the dockmaster’s office at the Harbor entrance.

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Day 231 – Thursday, 01/11 – Pensacola, FL

Thursday was another beautiful day. We chatted with Brand New Day first thing in the morning, and they were just leaving Saunders Boat Yard and heading our way. After breakfast, we took an Uber to the local Publix grocery store to pick up some supplies for dinner. Our Uber driver grew up in the area and gave us a narrated mini-tour of downtown Pensacola.

Just after noon, we saw Brand New Day on AIS on our chartplotter. They pulled into the marina and stopped to fuel up at the fuel dock before tying up next to us. We got them settled, and then we went up to Jaco’s and had some appetizers.

For dinner, we had Steve and Edie over to the boat, and Brenda made a Chicken Bog.

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Day 232 – Friday, 01/12 – Pensacola, FL

The winds kicked in on Friday. We were getting 20-knot winds, with higher gusts from the East. This pushed up the waves in Pensacola Bay and caused some “heavy chop.”

I won’t say Big Waves because Internet Trolls can’t look at things in relative terms. To be “Big Waves” for the Trolls, they have to be 40 to 50 feet tall. They don’t seem to understand 3 and 4 foot waves in an enclosed bay with a boat instead of an aircraft carrier ARE “Big Waves”. Go boating and stop leaving stupid comments, Jerks! (Sorry for the rant!)

The waves were crashing into the breakwater and causing a roll in the harbor. The Frog was bouncing around and even some of the bigger boats in the marina were rolling. The harbormaster said that last week (when we had the high winds LuLu’s, it was so bad in the harbor that they had to move boats to the marina on the other side of the peninsula to keep them from being damaged.

Palafox Harbor

Palafox Harbor Pensacola Florida

Palafox Wharf, located entirely south of Main Street, served as one of the main docks in downtown Pensacola during the late 1800s and hosted a large variety of these lumber and fishing vessels. Named after the street that leads to it, Palafox Street, it was and is a central part of Pensacola’s downtown. The name Palafox comes from José de Palafox y Melci, 1st Duke of Zaragoza, a Spanish patriot during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1781 while Pensacola was under British control, the Spanish laid siege and took it over. When they did, they renamed the main street from “King George Street” to “Palafox Street” in honor of José Palafox. Of course, now Pensacola is known for Naval Air Station Pensacola home of the Blue Angels, and Pensacola Beach, a great vacation destination.

Steve has been having issues with his auto-pilot, and ended up replacing pretty much everything except the hydraulic pump, and it STILL was not working right. We worked on it for a couple of hours trying to get it to talk to his Garmin Chartplotter. It’s the same setup that I have (Simrad auto-pilot and Garmin Chartplotter), and mine works fine. The only difference is that both units on Steve’s boat are newer models. We thought we had made some progress, but needed to wait until Steve was underway to run the calibration and testing.

In the afternoon, we had had enough of the rocking and rolling of the boats, and we walked into town. Pensacola has a very nice and vibrant downtown with lots of shops and restaurants. We walked around for a while, then went to Bavaria of Pensacola, a German Restaurant for dinner.

My mother was German, I grew up with German food, and Brenda learned to cook some German dishes from her. Our expectations for German food are quite high. We are frequently disappointed in the offerings at German restaurants but are willing to give new places a try.

Bavaria of Pensacola was disappointing. The schnitzel was just a deep-fried Pork Chop—it hadn’t even been pounded thin. The spaetzle (German noodles) were lukewarm and had not been crisped up enough. It was the first time that Steve and Edie had tried German food, and it was a poor first impression.

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Day 233 – Saturday, 01/13 – Pensacola, FL

The first thing in the morning, I took an Uber to Auto-Zone to pick up 8 gallons of oil for the boat. It was about time for an oil change, and while I was somewhere that had 8 gallons of the oil that my mechanic Michael says I MUST use in HIS engines available, I better pick it up.

While we were walking around downtown yesterday, we walked by Parlor Doughnuts, took a peek through the window, and promised ourselves that we would come back in the morning for breakfast! After I got back with the oil, we walked to downtown for breakfast.

Parlor Doughnuts is a national chain, but to call them “Doughnuts” is not doing these delectable pastries justice. When I was in high school, I worked for two years as a baker’s assistant in a doughnut shop. To this day, I avoid doughnuts, I’ve had too many of them. These, however, are different. The dough is a regular yeast donut dough that has been rolled and folded, similar to Filo pastry dough. It’s then fried like a traditional doughnut, then filled and topped with a huge variety of unique, high-quality fillings and toppings. It’s light, airy, and absolutely delightful! Check to see if there is a Parlor Donught Shop near you!

More Donuts!
More Doughnuts!

After breakfast, we called an Uber to go to the National Naval Aviation Museum. The museum is on the grounds of the Pensacola Naval Air Station and you have to go through a security checkpoint to get onto the base. Our Uber driver had a Department of Defense ID card and was able to get us onto the base through the main gate. Normally, you have to use a back gate that’s near the museum, but an extra 5 miles from downtown.

We arrived at the impressive complex of buildings that is the museum, bid our Uber driver goodbye, and went inside. The first stop is another security checkpoint. (In 2019, there was a terrorist attack, and several people were killed at the Air Station. Ever since then, security on base has been very tight). It was cold out (30° when we woke up), so we were wearing jackets and had a small backpack to carry them in. “No backpacks except diaper bags.” we were told by the security guard. “You will have to leave it in your car.” “Err… we came by Uber so we don’t have a car,” I asked if I could just leave it outside, and the guard said sure, just put it out of sight. We took out the jackets, and I tucked it behind a sign near the entrance.

The museum is amazing. It’s on a par with the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, except that pretty much everything inside is somehow related to Naval Aviation. Part of the entry fee includes a movie in their giant screen theatre. Our movie time was an hour away, so we joined a guided tour that was just getting started.

Most of the staff are retired Navy volunteers. Our guide was “extremely knowledgeable” and “passionate about Naval Aviation”. After about 30 minutes of tour, we had seen three aircraft, and could tell you where they were built, how long it took to build them, most of the flights they had taken, how many screws were used to put them together, and the name and life history of every pilot that flew them! The detail was great, but we only had one day, so we broke from the group and did a “self-guided tour”.

There is too much to try to describe. Take a look at the photos, and you’ll get an idea of how extensive the display is. One of the highlights is a display of Blue Angels aircraft hanging from the ceiling in formation. Impressive! They also have a number of flight simulators that you can get tickets to ride in. We watched a mother and daughter go for a ride in one of the simulators. There is a monitor so that you can see the riders inside. We could hear the mother screaming and the daughter cheering as they did dives and barrel rolls. The mother came out a bit green, and the daughter wanted to go for another ride. They should have a Navy Recruiter standing by!

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When we finished our tour, I went outside to retrieve our backpack. Not only was the backpack not there, but the sign I had put it behind had been moved. While I discreetly looked in the trash cans and for the security guard I had talked to, Brenda and Edie went to the front desk to see if they had it.

Yes, they had it. But we got a lecture about how “You almost caused a lockdown of the entire base.” and “We should arrest you and throw you in the brig.” We explained that we had been told to put it outside, but it appears that the guard had gone off-shift, and had not passed the message along. In the end, we got our backpacks back, and the front desk staff (again retired volunteers) got to feel important.

We looked on the website to see if there was any mention of backpacks. Buried way down on a sub-page, there was a reference to no backpacks or coolers. It was next to no firearms and drone usage subject to countermeasures.

After being released on parole, we called another Uber and made a hasty retreat from the base and back to the boats. That evening we went back to Jaco’s for dinner. We really liked that place and the view of the harbor and by is excellent. The wind had died down, and it was a pleasant evening.

Day 234 – Sunday, 01/14 – From Pensacola, FL to Shalimar, FL – 46 miles, Travel Time: 5hrs 50min

Pensacola, FL to Shalimar, FL
Pensacola, FL to Shalimar, FL

Sunday morning was a bit warmer and the wind had died down almost completely. It was a great day to travel. Our next destination was 2 Georges Marina in Shalimar, FL. At 8:00 we left with Brand New Day right behind us. The first half of the trip crosses Pensacola and East Bay and is pretty much open water. After that, you enter a narrow dug canal. We saw a couple of Towboats and barges on our AIS system headed in the same direction we were going and opened up the throttles to see if we could beat them to the canal entrance.

We beat both Towboats, so we didn’t have to deal with passing in the narrow channel. As we were passing near Fort Walton Beach, we saw the boat “Manatee.” Manatee is a Kady-Krogan Manatee painted bright orange. It flies a small sail with a manatee on it and tows a bright orange dinghy. You can’t miss it! Sarah, Ted, and their dog Patches are on their “34th!” Loop! They live on their boat and just go around and around and around! At an average Loop distance of 6,000 miles, they have traveled over 200,000 miles on Manatee. It makes our 21,000 miles look like a day cruise!

We arrived at 2 Georges just before 2:00 and stopped at the fuel dock to top off with diesel before going to our slip. As we were approaching we saw that Bryan and Raco on Wandering Winnie were docked there. We were glad to see that he had made it back into a safe harbor before the storms. After getting tied up, Brenda and I walked over to chat with him. It seems that he did make it back off the open water, however, he was not in a protected area, and the high winds caused his boat to slam into some rocks causing severe damage to his rudder. He was at 2 Georges to get his boat fixed. (I am writing this on May 3rd, 2024, and checking today, it doesn’t look like he has moved.) At least he and Raco were safe.

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That evening, Steve’s sister Pat and her husband Gary came to visit. They travel by RV and were “parked, camped” (whatever the RV equivalent to “docked or anchored” is), nearby. We had docktails with them on Brand New Day, and then we drove into town for dinner at Agaean, a Greek restaurant. The food was pretty good and the servings were huge! We all went home with leftovers.

Day 235 – Monday, 01/15 – From Shalimar, FL to Panama City Beach, FL – 69 miles, Travel Time: 6hrs 20min

Shalimar, FL to Panama City Beach, FL
Shalimar, FL to Panama City Beach, FL

Monday was another nice day, and after a one-night stay at 2 Georges, we headed to Point South Bay Marina in Panama City Beach with Brand New Day.

The first section of the route is along Choctawhatchee Bay. With two boats creating a good wake, the dolphins headed toward us to play in our waves.

When we got to the canal section, we slowed down. In the canal, we passed three tows, two coming toward us and one headed east like we were. Thanks to AIS, we saw them (and they saw us) a mile or more away, and we chatted by radio to arrange a pass. It was basically, “You pull over and wait until I go past, or I’ll squash you like a bug.” But in a polite Mississippi drawl.

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We arrived at Point South Marina in Panama City Beach at 2:15. As we were coming into the bay, we saw the Treasure Island Marina, which had been hit by the tornado. It was a mess! Their main boat storage building was torn open, and the Travel Lift (used to lift boats out of the water) was on its side.

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Many of the Loopers who had been staying at Treasure Island had moved to Point South Marina as the docks at Treasure Island had been torn up. Two Loopers that we had traveled with on our trip had significant damage to their boats. Los Gatos Locos, with Jodi and Karen, lost its canvas, had the windshield on the flybridge shattered, and had some scrapes and scratches.

Rick and Jamie on Dirtless fared worse of all. The tornado picked up their boat and slammed it sideways into a dock. Their windshield was shattered, allowing lots of water in and smashing everything inside. Their hull was cracked, and one of their cleats that was holding the boat to a piling was torn out along with a good chunk of the fiberglass. They found the cleat still tied to the piling on the other side of the bay. Their boat was totaled. Rick and Jamie are from Ontario, Canada. We chatted with them, and they had had enough. They were taking their insurance money and had already bought an RV to continue their adventure on land.

Fortunately, the weather service had issued stern warnings, and most of the boaters (including Los Gatos Locos and Dirtless) had decided to go to a hotel for the night, so while the boats were damaged. No one at the marina was injured.

We had Docktails with Dawn Watch, Dirtless, Los Gatos Locos, and Brand New Day to try and improve everyone’s mood, or at least give them a beer to cry in.

Day 236 – Tuesday, 01/16 – Panama City Beach, FL

This is Florida! We were thinking that we’d be back in warm weather! But NO! Tuesday was another cold and windy day with temperatures in the 40’s. Brenda did some laundry in the morning, then got together with Edie on Brand New Day to play Scrabble. I spent most of the day puttering on the computer doing accounting, working on the blog, and watching YouTube videos.

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In the evening, we got together with Steve and Edie from Brand New Day, Jodi and Karen from Dos Gatos Locos, and Jim and Dawn from Dawn Watch. We walked to “The Tides” restaurant, which is located in the resort next to the marina. It was a cold and windy walk; when we got back to the boat, it was only 42°.

Brenda made one of her Frog “Panic Slowly!” cross-stitches for Jodi and Karen on Dos Gatos Locos (or “The Cats” as we call them). She figured they could use some sage advice after going through a tornado, so she gave it to them while we were at dinner.

(For those who don’t know, Geoff Gow was our training captain when we first bought the boat. He was with us for 10 days, going from Palm Beach Gardens, FL, to Murrells Inlet, SC. One of his best pieces of advice was “Panic Slowly!” He got us to the point where we weren’t “Panicking” anymore! (See our post about our trip home with Geoff)

Dinner Group
Dinner Group – Left to Right:
Jim, Dawn, Tom, Brenda, Jodi, Karen, Edie, Steve

Day 237 – Wednesday, 01/17 – Panama City Beach, FL

Wednesday was another cold 29°, but sunny. We got a ride to the local grocery store to pick up some supplies and then spent the rest of the day on the boat, where it was warm!

In the evening, we went across the dock to Brand New Day for Docktails with Edie, Steve, and Jodi.

Panic Slowly! on Brand New Day
Panic Slowly! on Dos Gatos Locos

Day 238 – Thursday, 01/18 – From Panama City Beach, FL to Apalachicola, FL – 67 miles, Travel Time: 7hrs 3min

Panama City Beach, FL to Apalachicola, FL

We left Panama City Beach with Brand New Day at 8:00 am for the trip to Scipio Creek Marina in Apalachicola, Florida. Once we left Panama City Bay, most of the trip was in the dug canals. Just as we were getting to the start of the canals, we passed Eastern Ship Building. They make the ferries used in New York City. On our last loop, we were passed by one of the fast NYC Catamaran Ferries. This time they were building one of the huge Staten Island Ferries.

When we got into the canals, we saw two Tug boats headed toward us on AIS. The Canal here is very narrow, and we were worried about clearance and hitting bottom if we moved over too far. We called the Tugs, and found out that they were not pushing any barges, so it was an easy pass.

As we got to the cut-off to Port St. Joe, we saw our orange friend Manatee docked at the White City Public Dock.

Shortly after that, we lost an hour. It was 11:25, and then, an instant later, it was 12:25! Where did the time go? It went to the Central/Eastern Time Zone border! Our change into Central Time happened while crossing Lake Michigan so it was less noticeable. On our last Loop trip, there was a sign where we crossed, but we didn’t see it this time. Must have gotten blown away by a hurricane.

We arrived at Scipio Creek Marina at 3:03 PM CST, 4:03 PM EST. We tied up to our slip, and were getting the power cord out when the Marina Welcoming Committee arrived and jumped on the boat. It was a cat, a double pawed cat!

We carry cat and dog treats so that we can spoil other peoples pets. It’s just like spoiling grandchildren (all we have is a grandcat), you hype them up on treats, then send them home! After a handful of Temptations Laced with catnip, we were adopted! Miss Double Paws, made herself at home on the boat, napping on the bow, sitting on the bikes and peeking in the windows, meowing at the door.

For dinner, we went to Half Shell Dockside restaurant at the marina. Hanging over the door, they have one of the largest crab pot buoy collections we’ve seen. Almost as many crab pot buoys that we had to avoid coming across the Gulf!

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Kiss Some Frogs To Find Your Prince
Thanks for visiting! –Tom & Brenda

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