Days on cruise: 242
Distance traveled: 67.0 miles
Travel time: 7 hrs, 33 minutes
Total trip odometer: 5,425 statute miles
This Alabama/Florida Panhandle journey has not gone as anticipated. We didn’t expect it to be mostly so cold, nor fully grasp how eager we would be to get the Big Gulf Crossing behind us! Other Looper friends spent two weeks in warmer times traveling this segment, and we covered 268 miles in five days since leaving Mobile, compared to our Loop average of 150 miles per week. We’re not sorry we did it this way given the circumstances, just surprised. Today’s journey was unusual.
We pulled the anchor at 7:30 a.m. in morning twilight, having crossed into Eastern Standard Time, so daylight began later than recent days in Central Time. It was misting lightly all morning, but temps were in the 60s, and there was no wind or waves as we wound our way through narrow channels.
We saw more boats as we approached small towns, including this one being towed, and eventually had VHF radio conversations with two Loopers we passed, including Sareanna who we met last summer and expect to see in Carabelle tomorrow.
Cypress swamps lined both sides of the route all morning.
Halfway through the day, we left the narrow channel at Apalachicola and entered the very large Apalachicola Bay where a bank of fog hung heavily, obliterating visibility which quickly dropped to 150 feet. We spun up the radar to help guide us as we couldn’t see the next red or green marks in the distance until we were about to run them over. But the waves were 2 feet or less, and wind 10 mph or less, so conditions weren’t otherwise bad, though this foggy travel continued for 3 hours before dissipating. Our view out of the windshield:
Finally at 3:00 we entered the side channel leading two miles to the tiny town of Carabelle, the jumping off spot for the Gulf Crossing. After calling ahead on the VHF radio, we were met by half a dozen friends at our slip. Everyone caught our lines, gave us hugs, and made us feel so welcome.
Friends Craig and Barbara from “Blue Heron” left their boat here before Thanksgiving and will return a couple days from now, so it was nice to see their boat, though it looked lonely without the two of them and their sweet dogs Joey and Bailey.
The Zone, our Big Sister Ship, is just down the dock from us, and it’s great to see Ross and Laura again.
At 5:00 a dozen boats worth of Loopers gathered in the Commons Room for docktails and appetizers (superseding dinner, of course) and a couple hours of lively conversation ensued. It’s great to be back among the Looper crowd, and we met some really nice folks tonight, new to us.
The group spans the spectrum from those who just began the Loop a few days ago in Pensacola to folks who are almost finished, and one couple who has lived full time on their boat for two years. Not surprisingly, different ideas for when and how best to cross the Gulf abound.
We all agreed to meet tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the current weather forecasts, Crossing options and Buddy Boats, and hopefully make plans. We remain uncertain whether to do an overnight crossing with slow trawlers who are already here, currently planned for Friday night (“Bird in the Hand” and all that), or wait for other fast trawler friends who will arrive this weekend and hope a daylight crossing window remains sooner rather than later. Stay tuned!