We spend a week in Apalachicola waiting for a weather window to cross the Gulf of Mexico. When it comes, we move up to Carabelle, the jumping-off spot for our crossing to Steinhatchee, and wait for the weather again!

Day 239 – Friday, 01/19 – In Apalachicola, FL

Friday was much warmer than Thursday’s 27° start. The four of us decided to take a walk into town to see what “Downtown Apalachicola” looked like.

We stopped across the street from the marina at a State Park with three attractions. The Chapman Botanical Garden, Ormond House, and the Veterans Memorial Plaza. We started with the Botanical Garden. It’s small, probably a 1/2 acre. A paved walking path is around it, and it’s broken into sections based on plant types. Tropical, marsh, rose garden. Being winter, most of the plants were either dormant or frost-touched from Thursday’s below-freezing temperatures. At the entrance is a small pond. The turtles were enjoying the warmer temps and were out sunning themselves.

The tropical plant section was heavily hit by frost. We don’t think that the papayas are going to make it. The section that was blooming was the rose garden, which had some very nice blooms.

The garden is named after Dr. Alvan W. Chapman, physician, scientist, eminent botanist, and Smithsonian Fellow, whose research and writings on the flora of the South received international recognition. Dr. Chapman came to Florida in 1835 and settled in Apalachicola in 1847.

Right next door is the Chapman House. It was closed for tours, but we walked the grounds.

In front of the Chapman House is the Veterans Memorial Plaza. There is a reproduction of the Three Soldiers bronze statue by Frederick Hart. The original is in Washington, D.C. The sculpture’s three soldiers represent the diversity of the US military by including a Caucasian, African American, and Latino American whose service branch is intentionally ambiguous.

From there, we walked into downtown Apalachicola. As we were passing the Raney House Museum, we decided to go in for the tour. The house was the 1800s home of a cotton trader, David G. Raney, and now houses a museum of local historical artifacts. The collection was more for the girls, as there was a lot of vintage women’s clothing, lace, and other fabric items. There were some interesting firearms and period furniture for us guys.

After our tour, we were all a bit peckish, so we went to the Apalachicola Seafood Grill for lunch. Their menus are just flip cards on the tables, and you order at the bar. The food was pretty good.

After lunch, we wandered the streets of downtown. For a remote fishing village, there were a surprising number of shops and restaurants. They are definitely pushing for the tourist trade.

In the evening, we went to the restaurant at the marina called “The Half Shell.” The food was excellent and we had a great view of the Scipio Creek and the ICW.

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Day 240 – Saturday, 01/20 – In Apalachicola, FL

Saturday morning was sunny but cold. 39° with 14-18 knot winds. There were signs for the local farmers market, which was supposed to be down the road. However, no one at the marina knew any information about it. Before we all froze walking the mile to it, I decided to jump on the bike and ride down to see if it was worth the trip. Just as I was getting to the end of the marina parking lot, I saw a couple of boaters walking back and asked how it was. “There was no one there,” they said. So, scratch the Farmers Market!

Instead, we walked back toward town to The Biscuit Factory for breakfast. This little breakfast stand is a local landmark. They are open 6:30 – 11 am, Wednesday -Sunday. They serve, well biscuits! Bacon, Egg, and Cheese or Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit – $5. Big Honey Butter Chick Biscuit – $6. Country Fried Steak and Egg on a Biscuit – $8. The seating is picnic tables outside. The order window is painted up to look like an old VW bus. We each got a Biscuit and sat in the sun out of the wind while we ate. The Biscuits were tasty! The coffee, not so much.

I planned to do an oil change on Sunday and needed a couple of quarts of transmission fluid. I looked on Google and saw a NAPA Auto Parts store about 2 miles away. I hopped on the bike and headed there. When I arrived, there was a sign on the door. “We are closed. We are not coming back. Don’t Call!” The next closest auto parts store was 6 miles across a bridge on the next island. With the wind, I wasn’t going there.

On my way back to the boat, I passed the Piggly Wiggly supermarket. I checked with them, and they had a couple of quarts! Then I decided to check the CVS across the street, and they had two more. Just enough!

In the evening, we went back to The Half Shell restaurant on the dock for dinner.

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Day 241 – Sunday, 01/21 – In Apalachicola, FL

No Photos, Cold Windy, 33, Oil Change, Groceries (Piggly Wiggly B&E), Dinner on BND.

Sunday was oil change day. I did both engines, transmissions, the generator, and a full set of fuel filters. This is a 5-6 hour job when you pump out the old oil, change the filters, and pump in the new oil. To get to the oil filter on the starboard, you need to crawl behind it and work in cramped quarters. After the oil has been changed and the engine compartment has been cleaned up, you have to get rid of the old oil. Fortunately, the marina is also a repair facility with a waste oil disposal tank. I usually spill (or spray) some oil in the engine compartment, which involves more of a cleanup. I did well this time, and aside from a drip here and there, there was no major cleanup. I was so proud! Until I went to dump the oil, and the tank “burped” all over me. I’m going to get a funnel with a vent since this is the second time it’s happened.

While I was working on the boat, Brenda and Edie went to Piggly Wiggly to get some extras for dinner. She knows to stay out of my way as I get “focused” while working on the boat.

It took me awhile to shower all the oil off of my arms. The shirt went into the trash. Once I was cleaned up, we went down the dock to Brand New Day for dinner with Steve and Edie.

Day 242 – Monday, 01/22 – In Apalachicola, FL

We were originally scheduled to leave Apalachicola on Monday, but the winds were still gusting over 20 knots. Our next stop is Carabelle, which is 30 miles away along an open bay. On our last loop, Brenda and I got the snot kicked out of us on this bay, so we were cautious. The weather forecast said that the high winds would continue for a few more days. We talked with the marina and extended our stay.

Brenda and I took the bikes for a ride around town to mail a package and see if we could find a Geocache. We rode to the bay side of town and saw that our decision to stay was well-founded as the bay was very choppy. We found a Geocache near some anchors in a park where they hold their annual Seafood Festival. We then rode along the riverfront, where the old fish canneries and cotton warehouses are.

We came across a huge pile of oyster shells! Across the street was an oyster packing house with an oyster shucking machine. You could see the sacks of fresh oysters being dumped onto a conveyor belt, going into a rolling cage to be washed, and rocks sorted out, then carried into the building. On the side of the building was another conveyor belt, where empty oyster shells came out and were piled to be transferred by a loader across the street to the big pile.

Given the rate at which the oysters were moving through, there must have been a machine shucking them inside. We’ve watched oysters being opened by hand, and this was MUCH faster. The seagulls have figured out that there are still oyster bits on the shells as they climb the conveyor belt and dive down to grab them.

We watched the oyster shucker for a while, then continued down the river front. When we got to the town dock which overlooks the entrance to the creek from the ICW, we saw a tow boat pulling on a cruiser that was stuck hard. If you are going east on the ICW, you have to go about a quarter-mile up the ICW to a channel marker, then turn back west into the creek to get to the marinas. Like so many places, it LOOKS like there is plenty of water to take a short cut, but there is not. This boat, tried the short cut, and got stuck on an oyster bed.

We watched for about 15 minutes, while the tow boat wiggled the cruiser back and forth to free him. It took several tries, but eventually, they got him off. (Later when we got back to the marina, the boat was on one of the outer docks. A short time later another tow boat towed him to the boat yard farther down the creek. We saw the boat the next day, and the props and one rudder were off. That was an expensive shortcut!)

After the drama of watching the boat get unstuck, we visited some more of the shops along the waterfront. Steve and Edie joined us and we went to the Oyster City Brewing Company for a beer. Then went to the Up To No Good Tavern for an early dinner.

When we got back to the marina we saw that they had delivered our new boat! A pretty Pershing 90 ft yacht! Unfortunately, the name on the back was “Lady K,” not “Lady B,” so we had to send it back. The boat was being delivered to Panama City. We talked to the crew who had brought it across the Gulf from Clearwater and they said it was very, very rough. Even in a boat that size. Further confirmation that we made the right choice by staying put!

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Day 243 – Tuesday, 01/23 – In Apalachicola, FL

Tuesday was a dull, grey, windy, cold day. Brenda did a couple of loads of laundry. I worked on uploading and sorting blog photos, took a nap, and generally goofed off. We had dinner on the boat.

Day 244 – Wednesday, 01/24 – In Apalachicola, FL

Wednesday was our last day in Apalachicola. In the morning, Brenda and I rode our bikes to the Breakfast Bisquit place, then to a hair salon in town. I dropped her off to get a haircut and while she was there, I rode a couple of miles down the road to the Ace Hardware to see if I could find some bolts. I got back just as she was finishing up, and we went across the street to the Piggly Wiggly to pick up a few things.

When we got back to the boat, Edie and Steve wanted to take one more walk downtown. We wandered around for a bit,and then Steve and I left the girls to sho. Thenp, we went to the Oyster City Brewing Company. We were surprised to see that the brewing tanks we had admired on our visit earlier in the week were all stacked up on the sidewalk and being loaded onto a truck. They told us they were moving the tasting room up a few doors closer to the main street, and that the brewing operation was moving to a larger location. They were having a moving sale, so we stocked up!

When we got back to the boat, we started getting ready for Thursday’s departure. We put the bikes back on the boat, gave the cat one more round of treats, and got our route loaded into the chart plotter.

In the evening, we met the other loopers at the marina for docktails and a look at the weather to see if we were going to head to Carrabelle. There were eight of us there, two each from Brand New Day, Living the Stream, Love on the Locks, and us!

In the end, we decided to head out in the morning with Brand New Day, and the others would wait to see how we fared and either leave later in the day or on Friday. Once things wrapped up, Steve, Edie, Brenda and I went to The Half Shell one more time for dinner.

Docktails on BND
Docktails on Brand New Day. (Left to right) Tim & Francie on Love on the Locks, Brenda & Tom on Kissed Some Frogs, Edie & Steve on Brand New Day, and Larry & Martha on Living the Stream.

Day 245 – Thursday, 01/25 – From Apalachicola, FL to Carrabelle, FL – 31 miles, Travel Time: 3hrs 30min

Apalachicola, FL to Carrabelle, FL
Apalachicola, FL to Carrabelle, FL

When we woke up in the morning, it was 62°, warmer than it had been for a few days. One downside of the warm temperatures was fog. We waited until 10:00 to give it a chance to burn off., then made one more check to be sure that the cat had not stowed away, and left Scipio Creek Marina.

As we headed down the creek toward the bay, there was almost no wind, and the water was smooth. Once out in the bay, we had 9-10 knot winds, with waves of one foot or less.

As we traveled the 30 miles to Carrabelle, the wind died down, and the fog came up. We would go into fog banks every now and then with visibility as low as 1/4 mile. All that fair weather practice with the radar came in handy!

As we neared Carrabelle, we caught up with some boats that had stayed at the other marina in Carrabelle or anchored out last night. We had a flotilla of 4 boats go into Carrabelle Harbor. A few of the Loopers were hoping for a weather window to cross the Gulf on Friday and decided to anchor out at Dog Island, right at the entrance to the Carrabelle entrance channel to get an early start in the morning.

We pulled into The Moorings at Carrabelle, our marina, and went to the fuel dock first to top off for our Gulf Crossing leg. The current was moving quite fast, and it made docking challenging. We pulled to the side of the fuel dock to make room for Brand New Day on the front dock which had an easier approach. As Steve came in, we ran over to grab his lines. Whenever he used his thrusters to get close to the dock, the boat would twist in odd directions. We thought that maybe he had hit the bottle before docking!

We got him tied up, and we both started to fill up with diesel. Brand New Day needed a pump out as well, and try as they might; they couldn’t get the pump out machine at our marina to work. So after filling up, we went over to our slip to tie up and Brand New Day went down the creek to another marina to pump-out.

We had an “exciting” time docking. A very strong side current pushed us down the row of docks. We had to line up parallel with the slips, about three slips upstream, and let the current push us to our slip. When we were lined up, we gunned it into the slip before we got pushed into the boat next to us. Once we were in the slip, the current pinned us against the pilings away from the dock, so we had to use the thrusters, and inch our way over.

We got settled and started looking for Brand New Day. They were still maneuvering to get to the dock at the other marina. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. They finally got docked at the pump-out station, and we called them. It seems that his brand-new bow thruster was not working! It had worked fine since Gulf Shores, first it started going in the opposite direction from the control, then it stopped working completely. Steve could hear the motor run, but no thrust.

After getting pumped out, Steve called our marina and arranged to go into a slip that would not involve backing or current. When he arrived, we went over to catch his lines. All we could think was that he had lost the propellers on the thruster. There are no boat yards in Carrabelle, so he could get the boat lifted to check. Steve called a diver who said he would come on Friday to check it out.

Steve and Edie had had a full day and were very discouraged, given all the issues they had had, so they decided just to chill out on their boat for the evening. Brenda and I walked across the street to a restaurant we liked from our first Loop trip called The Fisherman’s Wife and had dinner. It was okay, but not as good as we remembered.

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Day 246 – Friday, 01/26 – In Carrabelle, FL

Sunrise in Carrabelle
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On Friday, the winds came back up, and any thought of crossing the Gulf was out the window. The forecast was for strong winds and 3-4 foot waves for the next few days. The boats that had anchored out at Dog Island came into port to wait out the weather.

It was a nice day in Carrabelle, even though the wind out on the Gulf was strong. I decided to go for a walk to see what there was to see. I’ve been sitting quite a bit lately and needed to get some exercise. I walked a 2-mile loop around Carrabelle. It was mostly residential and, like many old fishing towns, was a bit run-down. As a reward for going for a walk, I stopped at Harry’s Bar for a beer before heading back to the boat.

AIS Data
Watching AIS for new arrivals
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While I was out walking, Brenda was working on her kit and watching Nebo and AIS to see who was coming in from the weather. As we were walking over to Brand New Day to check up on them, we stopped to chat with Darling Lee who had followed us in yesterday.

When I got back to the marina, I stopped at Brand New Day to see how they had made out with the diver. He was able to confirm that the propeller on the bow thruster had indeed fallen off. It appears that they never tightened the bolts when they replaced the unit back at Saunder Boatworks. As they used it, the nuts must have worked themselves loose, and it came off while Steve was maneuvering to get to the fuel dock.

Fortunately, Steve still had his old thruster and was able to take the propellers off of that unit for the diver to put on. Once in place (and the bolts tightened with Loctite), it worked fine again.

Day 247 – Saturday, 01/27 – In Carrabelle, FL

Saturday morning, I went across the street for a haircut. Like most of the haircuts on this trip, I was way past due!

While I was getting my haircut, Edie and Brenda went for a walk around town to check out the shops. They ended up at “Morning Bite,” a local eaterie. They called Steve and me, and we walked there for lunch.

When we got back from lunch, the boat Shamrock, that we had met at LuLu’s, had come in and was docked just down the pier from us, so we visited with them for a while. They said that the water out on the bay was bumpy!

It started to cloud over in the late afternoon, and by evening, after another stunning sunset, there was spotty rain.

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Day 248 – Sunday, 01/28 – In Carrabelle, FL

Sunday was windy but warm. It reached 70° by noon. Brenda and I jumped on the bikes and went for a ride to the other end of the harbor and the Carrabelle Bottle House.

Leon Wiesener created the Bottle House and Light House to keep himself busy in his retirement. He started them in 2012 and has been adding to them ever since. The house is shaped like a pentagon with 12-foot walls on each side. It contains over 6,000 bottles. The Lighthouse is 15-feet tall with the traditional rotating light at the top. There is also a compartment in the base that houses a Geocache!

We got to meet Leon’s wife who was out watering plants while we were there and she gave us some of the history.

That evening, we walked back to Harry’s Bar for dinner. Harry’s is interesting. They only serve drinks, but inside Harry’s is the “Marine Street Grill Walk-Up.” You can get burgers, pizza, and other bar food at Marine Street and your drinks at Harry’s. You have separate tabs at each establishment!

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Day 249 – Monday, 01/29 – In Carrabelle, FL

The weather for Tuesday was looking pretty good, so we started getting ready for our departure. We put the bikes back on the boat, and got anything that could fall or tip over put away just in case we got some waves on the crossing.

We planned to leave at first light, which coincided with the tide going out, so there would be a very strong current when we tried to get off the dock. I talked to the dockmaster and asked if we could move from our slip to a spot near the fuel dock in the evening when the tide was slack. He said it would be fine as long as it was after all of the boats came in for the evening. The fuel dock at The Moorings is open 24/7 so they don’t let you tie up on the fuel dock itself.

On our last Loop, C-Quarters marina had a Gulf Weather briefing for anyone interested. They stopped offering it during covid and have not started up again. So, we decided to have our own! Brenda reached out to all the Loopers in the marina and arranged a Docktails and briefing event in the boaters lounge at our marina.

We had quite the turnout, with 14 boats represented and some 30 people in attendance. We had crew from Amazing Grace, Brand New Day, Darlin Lea, Emprise, Interim, Kissed Some Frogs, Love on the Locks, Manatee, Margaret Gee, Paradise Bound, Shamrock, Surprise, Certitude, and Stay Golden.

Because Brenda arranged the meeting, I was nominated to lead the discussion. We talked about the weather forecasts from the various sources we each use. Several Gold and Platinum loopers (including Manatee with 30+ crossings under their belt) shared prior experiences. Ultimately, there was cautious agreement that tomorrow looked like a good day. A few were unconvinced and said they would wait another day before leaving. Sometimes, the Gulf of Mexico needs a day to calm down after heavy winds.

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After the meeting, Brenda and I went back to the boat and moved it to the basin near Brand New Day. It was an easy move as there was no current then. Once we were tied up, Brenda and I walked up to a little roadside stand that serves Mexican food called “Mexican Shootout.” Steve and Edie had eaten there and said that the food was excellent. It was!

Mexican Shootout - Carrabelle, FL
Mexican Shootout

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

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