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Archive For: NORTHERN GULF – All News

  • Sailboat Fire at Dog River Marina (Dog River, off Mobile Bay)

    Must be the time for boat fires. I never remember hearing of so many is such a short period of time. And, we are all sorry to hear of Captain Sonny Middleton’s hip problems. Sonny is a true friend of the cruising community, and deserves our prayers and good wishes.

    It is sad to report that a sailboat caught fire on the Dog River Marina transit dock last night. The good news is the fire was isolated to a single boat. The exact cause is not known but reports are the newly purchased boat was in transit from Florida to Kentucky by a Mississippi owner who moved the boat from Florida to Mobile and returned back to Mississippi leaving the boat unattended and tied to the dock. The weather has been unseasonably cold – below freezing – and several electrical heaters may have been in use which overheated and caused an electrical fire which ultimately caused the boat to burn to the waterline and sink at the dock. Thanks to skilled first responders, the harbor patrol and fire department the fire did not spread.
    Please make sure your electrical heater(s) are plugged into a properly sized outlet for the heater wattage with proper size circuit protection.
    One final comment – several of the liveaboard owners sleep through this multi-alarm fire – every marina should post a fire response plan and a marina “status” board (i.e. watchman cell number, freezing weather water turn off date/times etc.) – responsibilities need to be assigned, i.e. as simple as the dock staff going boat to boat and make sure no one at risk sleeps through a fire. Preparation is critical to mitigating the unthinkable consequences. If there was a marina fire – how quickly could your boat be underway to get away from the dock? Seconds count.
    FYI – Sonny Middleton, owner of Dog River Marina fell yesterday and broke his hip – he will be in surgery today. Our prayers and wishes are with him.
    Douglas Pohl

  • Do-It-Yourself Boatyard Recommended on the Northern Gulf ICW, Between Panama City and Apalachocola

    This yard must has sprung up during the last several years. I have no memory of anything but a public launching ramp at the White City Bridge. Then again, it’s been at least six years since I researched this portion of the NG coastline.

    If you’re traveling the GICW near White City, you should consider the free dockage at the White City boat ramp. This facility was recently rebuilt with approx. 150 ft of side tie dockage with 5′ plus depth. There is 15 amp service available and fresh water. They have a covered picnic area with tables and BBQs for off boat relaxing. This facility is beneath the White City/St. Joe bridge.
    Bob Dorman s/v TC too

  • Dockside Marina in Carrabelle, FL Now Open

    Cruising News:
    Dockside Marina in Carrabelle is now fully functioning. They got their travelift in late last week and Marine Systems has moved their shop onto the Dockside Marina grounds.
    Doug Cole

    They are a do-it-yourself yard. Nice people. Just put my boat back end the water after twos ashore. 6-2-12.
    Kenn Bass

  • Good Times at C-Quarters Marina in Carrabelle, Florida

    C-Quarters is one of two marinas in Carrabelle, which cruisers can patronize with confidence, The other is the Moorings at Carrabelle, which is found upstream of C-Quarters.
    Carrabelle is, of course, the perfect port of call to wait for good weather before making the jump across the waterwayless Big Bend region of Florida, shooting for Anclote Key or Clearwater.

    We also had one of our best stays at C-Quarters about a month ago. The slips were a little shallow, but they made sure we were in one that was deep enough. And the seafood store was wonderful! And there was always a gathering every night at the marina.

    For those of you who are nearing your Gulf crossing, be sure to look at C-Quarters. While The Moorings has more amenities perhaps (cable and wifi), you can’t beat the prices for both dockage and fuel, especially if you need to spend longer than a couple days. Capt’n Kim is there to help and is a delight to visit with. They have showers and laundry, but no pumpout. You can walk a block to the library for their open WIFI. Diesel price was $2.80 a week ago at C-Quarters. Both the Moorings and C-Quarters are equal distance to the cross the street IGA and hardware store.
    Be sure to make the trip to Millenders Seafood. Great local seafood prices.We bought a half bag (~5gallon bucket) of fresh raw oysters and had a grilling party at the dock. What we didn’t use, we kept in the burlap bag and put back into the salt water for a couple days till the next feeding a couple days later.
    Dorothy and Larry Rand

    I absolutely agree with everything said here about C-Quarters, Kim and everyone else that helped us during our 4 day stay. The crew and the local towns folk made us feel like we’d been a part of their sweet little town for years! Be sure to bow into any slip there but know that you are safe and among friends.

    Just wanted to update we have pumpout working for a few weeks now and cable at the slips at the office. Thanx knot home for a super review! Happy holidays all!
    Captain Kim and Rover and the gang

    Just to comment on the updated diesel price is currently 2.95. We also have non-ethanol mid grade gas at 3.10
    Happy holidays all!
    The gang at C-Quarters

  • Palofox Marina (Downtown Pensacola) and Bahia Mar Marina (Bayou Chico, Pensacola)

    Palofox Marina is located in the heart of downtown Pensacola! There are many restaurants, and even one small grocery store within walking distance.
    Bayou Chico kind of sits on the western outskirts of the city, but, as noted below, there are many facilities lining this stream, including the Pensacola Yacht Club, where I have been privileged to speak on several occasions!

    We have docked our Monk 36 13′ beam 4′ draft at Palafox Marina downtown and Bahia Mar Marina on Bayou Chico just west of town both are managed by Marina management both are fine, there are several marinas on bayou Chico but we have only stayed at the Bahia Mar there sorry I don’t recall the prices.
    Steve Willett
    Monk 36 Gumbo

  • Free Dock (Fort Walton Beach)

    The question was asked, where is the free dock in Ft Walton Beach. It is located between R6 and R8 on the north side of the ICW, just west of the Brook Bridge. The 3 deepest spots are on the SW corner of the dock, 1 being a lay along and the other 2 being the first two slips. Avoid blocking the pump out station as boaters do come to use it and then leave immediately.
    Stay safe,

    For all those [cruisers] who have used the free dock at Ft Walton Beach, consider writing a personal note to the city c/o Carol Jones at If you went ashore during your visit and spent money, especially let her know. Feedback like this is what will keep that dock available in the future.
    For those considering the use of this dock, remember it is without electricity and only for a single night. Other private marinas in the area want a chance at your longer term business.
    Stay safe,

  • Turner Marine (Dog River – Mobile Bay)

    Turner Marine will be the first facility to come abeam to starboard as you enter Dog River from Mobile Bay!

    This marina seemed to keep coming up when I was looking for a place to get some work done on my Pearson while I was in the area. With the economy being the way it is, though, I still called around checking rates for haulouts, blocking, etc. and theirs were actually the cheapest by a good bit. I think to haul her out was $7 a boat foot, and that included putting her back in the water whenever they’d finished the work.
    They did an incredible job as well, really, really good work. I was very pleased. The Turners are all very nice and accommodating, and Roger (who runs the yard) was always willing to answer any questions or concerns I had.
    I also stayed as a transient docker a couple of nights on another trip, and again, their prices were the cheapest, which I really liked. I didn’t qualify for the Boat US discount, but even still it was less than a dollar a boat foot, like seventy-five cents or something. Not to mention anything I needed they pretty much had: laundry mat, Wi-fi, clean bathrooms and showers, they even had a courtesy car and small movie book library up in the office which was really nice of them.
    Anyway, just wanted to throw out my recommendation since I didn’t see it on the list. They’re really good and I always make a point to stop in whenever I’m down that way. They’re right there at the mouth of Dog River and Mobile Bay, so it’s really easy to get in and out of.

    I would echo the above comments. I stopped there on my Way to Pensacola, to have my mast put back up after taversing the TennTom from Ky Lake. After a week on the hard and talking to other people I just stopped there and decided to stay. Roger is Great, I never had any problems and was treated very well. I had a lot of bottom work done and left under $3500. That inclued haul out pressure wash, bottome job some minor repairs to the keel and rudder, stepping the mast tunning rig and fixing a problem with the spreaders that they found that no one ever notices untill the boat was under the watchful eye of the Turners, so its a great place. Only down side is the water is a bit thin, they were haveing some unusualy low tides, but outside of that its great and I staying to join the gang.
    Captain Bear

    I arrived at Turner Marine a little less than 2 years ago, coming down from Manitowoc, WI. Our boat needed repairs and a slip before “moving along.” We found the Turners (owners) and the staff to be professional, honest, hard-working and “affordable” (relative to marine costs and valuations). Work on any of a boat’s many systems can be done. I recommend Turner’s Marina without question. If I have a criticism, they are busy enough with their maritime & marina workload, that sometimes work orders take a while to get completed.
    Mark Middleton

  • Good Times at Orange Beach Marina (Orange Beach, Alabama)

    Orange Beach Marina in Orange Beach, AL is continuing their winter special this year…$525 a month for under cover in a fully protected marina with two restaurants, two transient cars, an on-site boatyard (Saunders) and tons of amenities off-site, including great shopping, condos, bike and walking trails, public workout facilities (not for free, though) and super weather. Call Jimmy or Donna at 251 981 4207 for the particulars and to make reservations.
    Cyndi and I are going when we finalize our “new” boat purchase, so we’ll see y’all down there. We had a wonderful winter last year. No…we don’t work for Orange Beach Marina…just spreading the joy.
    Jim and Cyndi McKay

  • Important – Inner Harbor Navigation Canal CLOSED in New Orleans

    The heavily industralized “Inner Harbor Navigational Canal” (also known as just the “Industrial Canal” in New Orleans, provides access from Lake Pontchartrain to the lock which leads to the Mississippi River, and points west on the Gulf ICW. Cruisers have to contend with a steeple chase of bridges to make this passage, but it’s still far more direct than the alternative.
    And, with the canal closed (see below), cruisers heading west from New Orleans, or even those east bound, and wanting to reach the marinas on the southern shores of Lake Pontchartrain, will have to traverse the ICW to the Rigolets, cruise through this impressive inlet to Lake Pontchartrain, and then back west across a significant portion of often rough Lake Pontchartrain to reach West End, site of most of New Orlean’s marina facilities.

    Cruising News:
    This is from the USCG’s local notice to mariners:
    Berwick Duval

    Effective immediately, the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal at the Seabrook Bridge will be closed to navigation due to construction of a cofferdam for the Seabrook floodgate structure. The channel will remain closed until approximately the Fall 2011. To ensure public safety during construction, all mariner traffic should avoid the area beginning at the north end Slip No. 6 to the Ted Hickey Bridge. For up-to-date information, mariners are urged to call the construction impact hotline at (877) 427-0345. Attached is the Marine Safety Information Bulletin

    I spoke with the Coast Guard N.O. district, it is the Seabrook Bridge which is closed down for repairs and will be for a long time, according to the USCG about 6 months. This blocks the Industrial canal but the lock and the ICW remain open. So if you are heading east and don’t need to get into the lake you can continue as usual along the GICWW.
    Steve W.

    Beginning September 22, 2010 and continuing through the fall of 2011, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers will be constructing a floodgate structure across the Inner Harbor – Navigation Canal (IH-NC) approximately 540 feet south of the Ted Hickey Bridge, and there will be no marine vessel access to or from Lake Pontchartrain via the IH-NC. Vessels should exercise caution and maintain a safe distance in the vicinity of the construction site, which is identified by light towers and advance warning signs. Additional information can be obtained by calling the Corps of Engineers’ Construction Impacts Hotline at 877-427-0345, U. S. Coast Guard Waterways Management at 504-365-2282 or 504-365-2284, or the Vessel Traffic Center (24 hours) at 504-589-2780.”
    Therefore, to get into Lake Pontchartrain from the Mississippi River or from west of New Orleans, you will have to go around and come in through the Rigolets.
    Coleen Barger

    We keep our boat on the N shore of L Pontchartrain at Mandeville. Actually, going W, the distance is shorter and much faster because of no Industrial Canal bridges going W from the MS Sound and L Borne through the Rigolets and then SW across the lake to W End in NO, as opposed to going through the ICW and Industrial Canal. Going E, the distance is much longer because you have to go E through the ICW into L Borne and then W all the way through the Rigolets then SW across the lake to W End.
    John C. Blackman

    Although the closing may be in-convenient–we never stop in New Orleans. Stop on the Gulf coast the day before and then cross the Mississippi and enjoy one of the anchorages or marinas just on the other side.
    Bob Austin

    Just have a comment to make. From Mobile, Al going west to Padre Island, Texas, bridge and lock tenders were so helpful, unlike those along the east coast. We ran into alot of snotty ones who were just so unhelpful coming down from Baltimore, MD headed to FL. However along Mobile, AL and south every tender was just so nice and most would even open the bridge if you were early. The same can be said about the lock masters, as they were so helpful and seemed genuine in their desire to make your passage safe.
    aboard “Dragonfly”

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To An “Alert” Position at the intersection of Lake Pontchartrain and the northern mouth of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Intersection of the Gulf ICW and the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal

    Click Here To Open A Chart View Window, Zoomed To the Intersection of Lake Pontchartrain and the Rigolets

  • Good News! Dockside Marina in Carrabelle, Florida has Re-opened

    Boaters in the Florida Panhandle will certainly be glad to hear this news from Paul! An earlier posting here on the Cruisers’ Net told us that Dockside Marina had closed, and lamented that now there was no pleasure craft haul-out facility in this section of the Florida Panhandle, east of Panama City. That problem HAS NOW BEEN REMEDIED!!!

    Good News, Dockside Marina in Carrabelle, FL has re-opened. The official name is “M.S. Dockside Marina”. I was told that “M.S.” stands for Marine Systems which has long operated a mostly engine repair facility across the river. Even better news, they are getting a boat lift and expect to have the full boat works up and running by late Fall. Yahoo!

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s North Florida All News Listing For Dockside Marina

  • Baytowne Marina at San Destin (Choctawhatchee Bay)

    Baytowne Marina is easily accessible off the Northern Gulf ICW’s run across the lengthy of Choctawhatchee Bay. I have always thought this facility to be a bit exposed, but a partial breakwater helps.

    I have to agree with Dick. We enjoyed spending time with Captain Ron in Baytowne. The Marina is a vibrant community unto itself, complete with a friendly Golden Retriever. Great facilities, Laundry, showers, BAR!, and all the Clubs, Restaurants, and Golf you could possibly want. Like Arnold said, “I’ll be back”.
    Paul Kelly
    On the Dot.Calm

  • Sabine Marina (Little Sabine Bay, Pensacola Beach)

    The marked channel leading to Sabine Marina cuts to the south, immediately west of the Pensacola Beach Bridge. Observe all markers carefully and heavily favor the eastern shores after entering the Bay.

    Was just at the Sabine Marina this past December in 09. While I was there that had a dredge working in the pass coming into the Marina so its plenty deep now. Great little bar and nice shower and laundry facilities.

  • Do It Yourself Boatyards – White City to Panama City, FL

    Thanks Captain Paul for some very useful information which all Northern Gulf cruisers can use!

    I have done some digging around and found some information. Panama City and Port St Joe (actually White City, FL) have DIY boatyards. These are: Bay County Boatyard on the Watson Bayou and Port St Joe’s Boat Works located just off of the GICW near White City, FL.

  • Uninvited Passenger

    Here’s a little story from Ted Jones, former editor and co-owner of the late, great and much lamented “Coastal Cruising” magazine. This tale signifies to me why we all cruise. Who else could have such an experience but cruisers, and Ted has written it so very well!

    As dusk settled over the ocean on April 29th a land bird suddenly flew into the companionway and landed on Malla’s head as she was working in the galley. Reflexively, she brushed it away, and it flew out over the ocean again only to return, determined to find a suitable perch before nightfall. Malla identified it as a swallow. It had most likely been blown out to sea by the strong westerly winds of the previous several days. Swallows, she said require a perch before dark where they can safely spend the night. Ted was not surprised, having been visited by land birds on several occasions. They rarely survive the experience, and there seems to be no way one can help. We have tried, but the end always seems to be the same despite good intentions. Our little swallow eventually found a roosting place on the extension cord used to connect Ted’s computer equipment when we are dockside.
    Both of us were mindful of our passenger throughout the tumultuous events of the wee hours of Friday morning and were concerned for its safety. Amazingly, it put up with the contents of the ice box counter crashing to the cabin sole at one point and the noise and vibrations of the engine sometime later. It clung to it’s tenuous perch despite the constant motion.
    An hour or so after sunrise, with a “thank you” chirp, our little bird suddenly took flight, out of the companionway, and with a quick orientation circle disappeared toward land, several miles away. We hope it made it to shore. We will never know, although we told it to say hello to Dorcas when it gets to Vermont.

    Ted’s story about the bird that took refuge reminded me of a similar incident around 1982. While wrapping up a dive trip on the wreck of the City of Richmond some 30 miles or so off the Georgetown entrance a sandpiper landed on the instrument panel…and refused to budge. We knew right away the poor critter must have lost it’s bearings and flew out to sea. About the time we approached the Pee Dee entrance it got reoriented and flew away to the beach. Sigh.
    Bill Norris
    (Nobody You Know) Hatteras 40DCMY

  • Exploring St. Marks (St. Marks River, near the easterly genesis of the Florida Panhandle, and east of Carrabelle)

    Enjoy exploring St Marks on foot and by dink as we wait for he gulf to settle down before moving on to Steinhatchee.
    A lot like s Louisiana with palmettos. Kid told me they filmed the Tarzan movies on the St marks River above where we’re tied up. No condos, no frills. Just raw beauty.
    You don’t need to know the name to find the BBQ joint and my friend, Lisle, swears it’s the best he’s eaten outside his native Texas. Make a mean crab cake sandwich as well. Passable if not exquisite key lime pie at the Riverside Cafi. Bo Lynn’s grocery and hardware is limited but a one for one book exchange replenished the ship’s library.
    Diesel and corn-free gas, maintenance, 70 cents/foot transient available at Shields Marina, a first class operation and the only evidence of the 21st century in the town that time barely remembers. You don’t accidentally get here by land or sea on the way somewhere else; you have to choose it as a destination.

    Click Here To View the Cruisers’ Net’s Western Florida Marina Directory Listing For Shields Marina

  • Watch Out For The Cape San Blas Shoals Cruising Between Panama City and Port St. Joe

    The cruise discussed below is clearly an offshore passage between Panama City inlet and Port St. Joe (or the other way around). The real message here is to stay hell and gone away from the shoals in and around Cape San Blas. After reading Captain Wayne’s description below, I say “Amen” to that!

    Numerous boats have gotten into trouble on the Cape San Blas Shoals that are just a little southwest of Port St. Joe.
    When going to/from South Florida from/to Port St. Joe or Panama City, FL, be sure to go within a couple of hundred yards – or less – of the sea buoy off Cape San Blas. Currents in this area can be treacherous. I have seen confused and/or standing 4-6′ waves over the shoals when the Gulf, in deeper water is virtually calm. Because of the currents, the shoals move constantly. One should not attempt any short cuts, using any charts, as the bottom simply is not like that on the charts. The charts indicate that there are several places one can take short cuts, or greatly cut the corner near the buoy. The last time I went via Cape San Blas, I was headed north, I ran to within about 500-600 yards or so of the buoy, all was well until the bottom came up, and up and up. The last solid depth reading was about 10′ (boat had a 6.5′ draft). Shortly, my fathometer read 0′ (because of sand in the water column close to the bottom), but the keel never hit anything solid that I could tell. The shallow area was only about 100 yards wide, but it sure got my attention!
    The first time I went via Cape San Blas, I was also headed north. The Gulf’s seas were about 1.5-2.5′, with few breaking waves. The shoals looked to be no different. I foolishly cut the corner by over a mile (chart showed plenty of water) and seriously endangered the boat for what seemed forever (4-6′ confused seas, very strong currents – seemingly from all directions – so progress over the bottom was tortuously slow — all the while the fathometer indicated 0′ due to “blowing” sand. Fortunately, I was in my old sailboat, which had a rudder the size of a barn door, so I was able to keep from broaching and kept it heading in the right direction. It was really strange – looking UP at a wave front, as stern of the boat was in the bottom of a trough, and seeing king mackerel by the hundreds, swimming down the wave face. It looked like they would just swim into the boat. The next few times, I went all the way to the sea buoy, where there is lots of water. The last time, I got over-confident and was under pressure due to heavy weather closing in.
    Both times I cut the corner, it was close to high tide, so I ‘knew’ that there would be plenty of water. After I moved back to Panama City, I became acquainted with several Gulf shrimpers, who advised me to never ever go over the shoals at Cape San Blas under any circumstances – primarily because of the currents.
    Also, when approaching the shoals from the south, the water often looks calm, if the Gulf is calm. But what you can’t see are the breaking waves caused by the southeast-flowing current over the shoals, creating standing waves.
    Port St. Joe is readily accessible from the GIWW via the Gulf Canal – a straight dredged ditch from the GIWW to Port St. Joe. When the seas
    on the Gulf are reasonable, we often go via the Gulf Canal. I even did that with the sailboat because it could not go under the bridge
    at Tyndall AFB, on the GIWW. The only ‘iffy’ place was Lake Wimico, where depths sometimes approached 6.5′ in spots. The keel never
    actually hit bottom that I know of. That was about 10 years or so ago, so I do not know its depths now.
    Take care and be safe.
    Albin 43 Sundeck

    Wayne wrote ” The only ‘iffy’ place was Lake Wimico, where depths sometimes approached 6.5′ in spots. The keel never actually hit bottom that I know of. That was about 10 years or so ago, so I do not know its depths now.”
    We helped friends deliver their Krogen 42 from Port St. Joe to Clearwater just last week. We took the ICW down to Apalachicola and left from Government Cut the following morning. Our trip through Lake Wimico was uneventful. The chart shows the controlled depth to be 12′. Certainly, the SE portion of the lake is very shallow and any departure out of the marked channel would likely be a bit of an adventure.
    Randy Pickelmann

    I’m getting ready to cross for St. Pete to Panama City in a few weeks so I read this post with great interest as that route requires a turn around the shoals. Studying the charts I see two greens, numbers 1 and 3 that seem to mark the east and west sides of the shoal. My currently planned route keeps me south of these but very close to #3. The only other mark I see is one south of the saftey area. Is staying south of greens 1 & 3 sufficent or should I set my waypoint elsewhere?
    Reed Estabrook
    M/V Cahoots

    I am preparing to depart Bradenton on Saturday, April 3, 2010 heading for New Orleans. Any idea on Your departure date planned?
    Ray Blanchard

  • Free City Dock at Fort Walton Beach, FL

    I think, if memory serves, and sometimes it does not, we have had an earlier posting here on the Net concerning the free city dock in Fort Walton Beach, described below. Sounds like a wonderful municipal resource for the cruising community!

    Subject: Ft Walton FL free dock
    Cruising News: We stayed at the Ft Walton city Dock January 18, the water on the way in was 8 to 10 feet deep, the slip about 6 feet deep. The slips are fine and the park is nice there is a Publix supermarket a short walk away. About 10PM I heard a clatter outside. I pulled back the curtain to see a man standing on the finger pier of the next slip to my boat, when he saw me open the curtain and the light he ran up the dock to the parking area jumped into a car which was parked and the car took off. There was an aluminum skiff tied to the pier he was standing on, I think he was getting ready to steal it or the outboard motor. The next morning I saw the skiff tied to an anchored boat near the dock. The owner must have arrived later on and used it to go out to his boat. I went by and warned him of what I had seen.
    I would warn anyone stopping there to be very careful of their boat or if walking around the area after dark.
    Steve Willett
    Monk 36, Gumbo
    Thibodaux, Louisiana

  • Port St. Joe Marina (off ICW between Apalachicola and Panama City)

    The Port St. Joe Marina is at the heart of Florida's Forgotten Coast, on the eastern shore of pristine St. Joseph Bay on Florida's northern Gulf Coast. Located between Panama City and Apalachicola, FlThe message below is, as you undoubtedly noticed without my telling you, copied off the AGLCA mail list.
    We have always found Port St. Joe Marina to be a superb facility, and they are a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR! It’s well worth a trip down the Gulf County Canal to St. Joseph Bay, the home of Port St. Joe Marina. Tell them we sent you!

    We pulled into Port St. Joe December 31 at 1600. John, the harbor master, was there to show us where to tie the boat as well as give us a hand. All this is expected when pulling into a marina for the first time. However, also in attendance and helping were AGLCA harbor hosts Ray and Patsy Whitney. They made sure we had everything and anything we wanted or needed. They offered to let us use their car. They made us feel very “welcome” and introduced us to other “loopers” at the marina. I could go on forever praising Ray and Patsy as well as John and the rest of the marina staff for their very efficient and well run marina and for making all loopers feel like this is a “home away from home”. We have cruised the entire loop and many places loopers usually don’t get to in our ten years of cruising and this is one of the friendliest marinas we have stopped at. If you are cruising the panhandle don’t make the mistake of bypassing Port St. Joe.
    Jim & Sharon Angel
    Aboard m/v BLUE ANGEL

  • Crossing Florida’s Big Bend Experience

    The posting below is longer than what we usually put up on the Cruisers’ Net. However, it is such an excellent account of the often memorable (for good AND bad reasons) experience of crossing Western Florida’s waterwayless “Big Bend” region, I’ve posted the text below in its entirety. Note that this posting is copied from the AGLCA mail list with Captain Quince’s permission

    A fellow cruiser has inquired about our Gulf Crossing so I thought I’d chronicle it for him and share it.
    We arrived at Dog Island hoping for anchorage as the trip across St George Sound Bay had been a rough ride. We started east okay in one footers but after starting to fight the tide at the bridge, the next bit of open water continued to build until we met the confused waters between Dog Island and St George Island. Waves coming from both directions really kicked us around. Then the Shipping Cove turned out to be too rough to anchor so we turned and cranked up the engines heading to Carrabelle.
    The next day brought heavy fog and about noon, a flotilla of Loopers left in a short clearing window. We wondered if we should have gone but the rough water the day before made us wonder. We disconnected power and threw off our lines about 3 0-clock to head out to the anchorage again and abruptly stopped as the fog moved back in. Listened to Hank on Queen Anne’s Revenge come across the bay and up the channel in thick fog. The talked to Mint Julep who anchored in the cove but neither boat ever saw the other. The Fog never lifted.
    We contacted Queen Ann and agreed to leave the following day about 1pm to head out to Dog, thinking we’d pick up Mint Julep as well. (never did as they had moved on the night before) Heavy fog stayed with us the whole day so at 1 we headed out anyway, slowly down the channel from the Moorings to Pick up Queen Ann at C-Quarters. They pulled out and led the way as Hank had good
    experience the previous day but more likely his experience with using radar as a pilot! It was interesting going out the channel as we met a 90 foot research vessel coming in and a couple of other boats as well. Not really a problem going slow, watching radar and working your way out. After Dog Island, Twins took the lead on a waypoint at Clearwater Pass. Queen Ann intended to drop off about 4 am and head to Tarpon Springs.
    The advice we’d received from various sources recommended you be 2 to 3 hours offshore at daybreak so you can see and avoid the crab pots. There are also mileage from the coast guidelines and depth guidelines that help guide where you will start finding them. Like 20-30 miles and less than 30-40 foot depth but I’m not particularly sure of those numbers. So we set a course and started out at 8 knots, later cutting back so we didn’t arrive too early.
    The fog stayed thick and with us for quite a while, about half the way. Boats were about a half to a mile apart and we could see their lights most of the time. Sometimes disappearing into the fog and other times more clearly. We turned on Christmas lights on the bridge to help light the way, 5 strings of white LED lights that draw less than 20 watts total. We also turned on the inverter and settled into our salon for most of the trip. About 8 0-clock I turned on the TV and we had satellite reception all across the bend.
    How to stay awake for 22.5 hours crossing. Yes, it’s a long day..normal wake up at 7am, departure at 1pm, arrival to private dock on Treasure Island at 11:30 am and then up until about 8pm..what’s that, about 37+ hours! We had rested fairly well at Carrabelle. Vaughn bought a 12 pack of diet pepsi to help stay awake. I make some coffee. You’re wired at first with the fog. Then darkness descends. You set the autopilot and stare at the radar screen. The best part of the crossing may be the other boat nearby. Waves were rolling us for the first few hours, then it seemed to calm more about midnight and the crossing eased.
    Vaughn and I took turns at the wheel (actually the radar screen). We ran the boat from above at first and then moved below after darkness. You can pretty well see miles ahead of you with the radar so staring at the screen seems useless. One of us would take the helm, the other watched TV and/or snoozed. We each had about 3 cat naps, the longest was probably an hour and a half. We
    snacked on sandwiches. I had a coffee about 10 pm and Vaughn had a few pepsi’s. About 3:30 am Queen Ann slowed down and turned off toward Tarpon Springs, and we redirected for John’s Pass..they would not arrive at their destination until 11:30 due to very heavy fog..Hank’s now the expert!
    Stars were first seen in the wee hours and a welcome sight, then more fog. We were lucky in that the fog lifted at daybreak. We never saw any crab pots until sunrise, then we saw a new line every minute. Daybreak and the sunrise are especially welcome after such a passage. My wife, Vaughn get’s to see so few sunrises anyway! We never saw any other boats on the crossing either. It’s possible that one or two targets on the radar were other boats but they were never closer than about 5 miles.
    It was a fairly comfortable crossing but at some point I’d reset the autopilot to go to Clearwater and thought I’d arrived at John’s Pass. Took us a little time and phone call to our friends to understand our mistake, then we just motored down the ICW, an enjoyable ride. That afternoon we baked in the sun until we jumped in their pool..freezing at 70 degrees it was not..very refreshing and just what we needed!
    So, in hindsight, I could have probably just relocated to Shipping Cove in the fog but you do get a good night’s sleep at the dock. We could have started later and maintained our 8 knots but that would only make about an hour or two’s difference or so. Longer or shorter travels don’t matter that much over such a time and distance when on autopilot (The boat and the crew). Our trip was 195 miles. The waves and winds treated us fairly. Fog sucked but what can you see in the dark anyway? No moon so it would be dark.
    Next time I want clear skies, a full moon and the millpond sea!
    All that to say we did it with caffeine and cat naps.
    Bring on the Keys and Bahamas
    Forget Hell!!

  • The Living’s Easy in Panama City

    I like spending time in Panama City myself, and, you can’t do better than coil your lines at the Panama City Municipal Marina, a SALTY SOUTHEAST CRUISERS’ NET SPONSOR!!

    The cost for living here is outrageous- the money that has to be spent on sun tan lotion and sandals takes a big bite out of the budget. Then when you have to buy socks to wear with the sandals, you know, for when the temperature plummets to below 60. Thank god for global warming, not only will we be able to eliminate the cost for socks, but there will be many more places to cruise!
    Rudy and Jill
    Briney Bug, Panama City, Fl

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