Jan 312022

We need provisions and will be stopping at Ft Myers to pick up groceries, receive deliveries from various vendors and see the sights. We actually have never been to Ft Myers, either by car or boat. Considering we spent many March breaks vacationing in Florida while Aiden was small, we’ve seen so much.

Pickleball, pickleball, pickleball. We found a park with 12 courts and great players. Brook’s Park is the place to be if you are interested in learning, brushing up your skills, or having great matches. Every caliber of player can be found on the courts from about 7:30 AM till after dark. Well maintained, dedicated courts as well.

Downtown Ft. Myers has an old town feel with shops, restaurants, grills, bars. There is a trolley that will take you where you want to go. Uber is a 5 minute wait for anywhere you need to be. The downtown area is beautiful at night with all the lights and warm atmosphere.

Legacy marina is a well kept marina but can be a long dock walk to land depending on where you are. We definitely made our steps count while here. The marina has everything except fuel which is available at the City Harbour. Wifi is very good too. We sat on the front deck and watched a spectacular sunset then went to the back deck of the boat and watched a SpaceX launch all in the same evening.

Scott ordered and had our bridle shipped. Also the pesky mercathode fault is still there. Scott has been trouble shooting this for weeks. He has been studying up on the odd fault. He has come to the conclusion that Prestige put the anodes on as aluminum and zinc. They should all be the same so he thinks it may be the combination that is throwing this odd fault. So he ordered the aluminum anodes to be shipped to the marina. Of course once they came in he got the wetsuit on and proceeded to freeze his buns off while changing them all to aluminum. He did get so cold that after a couple hours he had to get out with only half the job done. The Calooshatchee River drains from the Everglades to the ocean. This area is brackish water, lots of tanins and really cold in February. This year is particularly cold. The Florida Power Plant is running warm water and feeding manatees lettuce so that the lose of manatees is hopefully not devastating as it has been. The beautiful creatures need warm and their only source of food is seagrass which is being destroyed or unable to grow. It has become devastating in the number of malnourished and dying manatees.

Scott also spent time picking up a salt water reel and casting rod for our trip south. He has a lot to learn about catching the elusive mahi mahi and other reef fish in season. I made screens for our windows to keep the noseeums away that are coming our way on the trek to Marathon this week. They aren’t pretty but working with what we have will be a temporary solution until we dock home in the summer. We end up staying a full week enjoying Ft. Myers and preparing for our month in the keys.

Jan 302022

Another blow is coming through. We are getting pushed into marinas with all these winds at over 20 knts. Scott decided to buy a proper bridle for better anchorage and is looking at a larger anchor. Our anchor is a day trip, fair weather anchor, a bit undersized for a good wind. The bridle protects the winch, or winless, from the jolts of the boat and anchor chain being tossed around in the wind. This wind does not seem to be letting up.

We decided to cruise the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal WaterWay) on this trek south. It will be a longer day but more to see. The waters are skinny sometimes seeing 5 ft depths. We draft just under 4.5 ft. Scott has pretty focused and stressed the entire way. There are many bridges with around 23 ft heights but we only needed 3 lifted as our bridge height is around 18 ft. Many beautifu homes are along the path. Lots of mangroves too. We are glad we did the GIWW but this section is not for the weary.

The Crow’s Nest is a marina and restaurant at the south jetty of the inlet at Venice. Power and water is available, diesel and gas as well. There are a lot of beach goers that enjoy the sunsets. The water is cold these days so not much swimming is happening. The Venice beach is known for its abundance of fossilized shark teeth. If you look hard enough you will find some. It takes some patience and luck but we did find a full tooth and some partials. The fossils are black amongst the shells and sand. It is a long beach with gorgeous sand but the wind today makes this a cold journey to walk to the pier about 3 miles south.

Crow’s Nest is a nice stop in a southerly or easterly wind. A northern or westerly will cause large waves so do not attempt to stay here at that time. In fact the dockmaster will tell you when you call that it is not the place to be if you happen to ask for a slip during those winds.

Jan 272022

Scratch the anchorage, again. Winds to pick up to over 30 Mph. Looking for marinas in 2022 is proving difficult. There are an abundance of purchased boats due to Covid and the northerners have brought their own boats down to Florida to “get away”. Add that to the fact that our boat is a larger size for a transient and it culminates into having a hard time finding storm dockage. We did find this great marina in Palmetto, across from Bradenton, FL. Riviera Dunes has a deep anchorage at a whopping 15 ft, floating docks, a restaurant called Dockside, power, water, and 360 degrees of protection. We are placed on the T dock which is fine for us.

Since we will be here a couple nights we find pickleball play and grab an Uber over. Great folks to play and decent games. They are building brand new courts, 20 of them under a roof. This will be the place to be in a year or so. There are condo units at the marina but not part of the marina that have 2 courts but not open to the public unless you become friends with a tenant.

It is a cold day with the Nor’easters constantly passing through bringing in the winds. It is only 46F or 7C here today and dropping to 37F or 3C tonight. We are following the sun but these temps are following us. It is cold here and the locals are not happy about it. It should be in at least the high 60’s at this point, and more.

We were invited to lunch with “KayDee”, fellow gold loopers (those that have completed the loop at least once), and joined a couple from the vessel “Online”. We have questions on local knowledge of getting to Marathon in The Keys and Online is heading that way too. So Mark and Karen from KayDee offer lots of local experience as they are from this area. Lunch at Dockside was good. They have a lunch menu til 3 which offers smaller portions including an all day breakfast.

The winds are slowing as we head back to the boat and start planning our departure for 7 in the morning. Scott gets a memo that his packages are coming in after the marina staff have left. Here they show the car and where it is as well as how many more stops til your drop off. At 5 dropoffs before he heads off to the front of the marina to meet the car so that we don’t have to wait until the staff comes in in the morning making us wait til at least 9. Bingo, it works. So now we plan for the skinny water that awaits us on the inside GIWW from Palmetto/Bradenton to Venice, FL.

Jan 252022

Calling all Scientologists or wannabes. We had no idea what Clearwater has become for this belief. Their “Flag” building is located here.

The Flag Building, also referred to as the Super Power Building, is the largest building in Clearwater, FL. It is owned by the Church of Scientology and was built principally to deliver thesuper powr rundown, a high-level Scientology training course intended to train Scientologists to use what Scientology describes as all of their 57 “perceptics” or senses. The interior of the building contains training suites, course rooms, theaters and various devices intended to test these “perceptics,” including a “time machine”, an anti-gravity simulator, an “infinite” pit, and a pain station.

The complex occupies a city block at 215 South Fort Harrison Avenue. It includes a 15-story tower topped by a bronzeScientology cross visible from much of Clearwater. Construction began in 1998, was halted in 2003, and was ultimately resumed to reach substantial completion during 2011. The long delay in construction led to substantial fines being levied by the city authorities. The building is valued at $80 million and at least $145 million was raised by Church fundraising towards the project. It covers at least 1 square block. Scientologists and their companies have purchased many other buildings around The Flag. Many are left dormant and empty. It is their idea to create a Scientology City and they have picked Clearwater to be that city. We wander around through the city and see busses of young people going into the building. All wear the bus boy look with black pants, black vest and white shirt. There is a donation area for used items from the public as well.

We head to the beach for awhile which is across the causeway from the marina. On the beach there is the typical touristy bars, restaurants and shops all busy for a beautiful afternoon in the sun. The sand is a crystal white which is one of the reasons folks flock here.

We also find a few places to play pickleball. We uber to one area and find decent playtime with fun folks. There is a basketball/pickleball area near the beach that becomes our choice of play spots. We can get “Otter” out and dingy to the free day dock, walk across a small pedestrian bridge and the 3 courts are right there. The play is better than the other place and offers many more players. We did have to wait our turns to play more here but coming later has proven to be better to get those elusive “good” games.

Scott is still working on the mercathode fault. I think he knows more about pod faults now that are above the waterline than the techs do. Have I mentioned how brilliant this guy is? Narrowing it down he discovers that we have zinc anodes on the boat but aluminum on the trim tabs. Another design flaw with Prestige. This creates a problem with mixing the two metals in anodes. So now he will order aluminum for the entire boat and see where the fault takes us after that. Also we developed a problem under the floor in the front stateroom from crossing the gulf and being pounded for so many hours. He will likely tear up the floor to check what the sound is. Stay tuned for that fix.

We leave tomorrow for an anchorage at LongBoat Key just south of Sarasota.

Jan 202022

We made it but not without a challenge. Waves were low but the rollers were high. We were going less than 7 knts for about 6 hours hoping the seas would calm. The wind was fairly low at 10-15 mph but the creation of those pesky built up waves on open seas was more than our girl could handle for a fast crossing.

We found things on shelves that we didn’t know where there. Stuff was tossed about even though the entire boat was bundled up tight. Pillows on the floors, that sort of thing.

By the time we were about 7 hours out the water settled for us to run 22 knts. We ended up coming into Clearwater Bay after nightfall. Watching for crab pot floats is always difficult at night. They are of various colours about the size of a bowling ball, attached to a rope, attached to a cage with goodies in them that crabs can’t resist. Those ropes will do damage to your props and our pods if we catch one rope. With Scott at the helm and me on the bow we ever so slowly make our way into the bay. We have noted that coming into the area that there are significantly less crab pots than in 2017. It may be that they are “fished out” or that the reef is now protected. Either way it made for an easier passage for us. We notice right away that the temps are now in the 70’s even though it is after 8 pm.

We are met with a guide boat helping us meander through the tight channel at the entrance to Clearwater Bay. With Scott having plotted our way directly to the marina, the full moon and the lights from the city it is very easy to find our way, albeit slowly. Pulling in we are exhausted. We prepare the boat for the night, have an easy pasta dinner and turn off the alarm for morning. We feel like we have made it to our destination. Tomorrow we breathe, enjoy the sun, and discover Clearwater.

Jan 192022

The staging for the Gulf crossing proves to be a calm, no wind night with a full moon beaming. We recommend staging here but not with a north wind as you are open to the bays. A tornado came through here while we were at Panama City waiting out the storm. That same storm produced winds here enough to take down a cottage on Dog Island and cause damages in Tennessee and put all of the main part of Florida on alert for a tornado. However today is a calm evening where we prepare our “ditch bag”, EPIRB, life jackets, food stuffs because there will be no prepping while crossing, engine and pod checks, etc, etc, etc.

We head to bed around 8ish to be prepared for leaving just prior to dawn.

We are ready to leave the chilly temps of the 50’s here in the Panhandle and move to warm sun in Clearwater.

Jan 182022

We believe that Apalachacola is one of the cutest cities on the Loop. It’s eclectic simplicity and rustic charm offer old town flavour. The architecture of old shrimp and fisheries located along the wharf area, small town bars and shops located along the main street invite guests all year round. In summer it is the playground of south Florida with lots of beaches and entertainment.

The Municipal Marina is a 150 ft wall with 30 and 50 amp, water and close to the provisions you need. The old restored shrimp factory lays at your feet just steps away. It has been restored as an open area to events. We just missed the big shrimp fest this past weekend with thousands of people in attendance here at the waterfront.

We are only staying long enough to get moving and wait out another storm. January in The Panhandle is known for its rain and usually strong winds but normally you can still cruise comfortably.

As we leave it is low tide. We must pass through another open bay but stay in a very narrow channel. As we approach we read less than 6 ft at times. It’s a long passage this channel but winds are comfortable and not much boat traffic. We follow Weeble & Wobble, a Ranger Tug, through this passage. The depths do get better after about an hour but still skinny waters at 9 ft. It takes Scott’s full attention at times like this because just swaying to one side of the channel you are beached and with the water so low it is nerve wracking.

We are heading into Carrabelle for a top up of diesel as we head to Dog Island anchorage for the passage across the Gulf. We just need about 80 gallons or so since St. Andrews Marina at last fill. Crossing the Gulf will not take the full tank but we are always prepared to cross with completely full tanks. We topped up on water at Apalachacola.

As we head to the anchorage the trawlers who run about 8 knts are just heading out. Amy Marie, Jackpot and 1 other that I can’t remember. They will run from 4:00 pm to around 12:00 pm the next day. It’s an overnight and crossing fingers and toes for an easy and safe passage for them.

Jan 172022

As we prepare to leave this great marina we say goodbye to our newest friends who either live here or are passing through in the coming weeks. Everyone is a friend here. We can’t say enough about the hospitality of these great people.

Scott was having his coffee watching out the window. He darts out the boat, grabs a rope and runs off the dock. I have no idea what is going on. Turns out he watched a fellow boater fall off the bow of his boat trying to get off and the fellow was clinging to the lines hanging down. By the time Scott got to his boat he didn’t see him til he turned up at the back of the boat hanging onto his swim ladder. Water is a bit chilly in these parts at this time of the year. They had a good chuckle and became instant friends.

We push off after 2 nights here in Panama City and head to Apalachacola, FL where we will cross the time change bump and push ahead an hour. We’ve had cold temps up here, but still within normal for January. Temps run about 55+ during the day and drop to 40’s at night, sometimes into the 30’s. The heater has been great and working overtime during this trek in the north of Florida.

The winds are not favourable to stay on the hook so we will stay for a night at the local municipal marina. We meet Cheri Baby, Blue and Rebecca James here.

Jan 152022

It is a slow run to Panama City, FL through the canal. The winds are picking up and a large storm is coming in. We will not be anchoring as it is calling for 50 Mph winds from the west. We found Emerald Bay Marina had 1 available spot for us. As we trek along to the slip the dolphins make appearances at our stern and jump in front of us as we travel about 8 knts. The current becomes in our favour and we run a couple knts faster for awhile.

We entered the canal from Choctawhatchee Bay and traveled about 20 miles along the canal. Entering the West Bay the chop is getting more prevalent. The storm is still predicted for later today and full bore overnight. Tomorrow the storm is at its worst but at least we will be awake for that. We head into St. Andrews Bay and stop at St. Andrews Marina for a fuel stop and top up, along with a pumpout. Then continue throgh St. Andrews Bay to the bayou.

We stayed at the Panama City Municipal Marina in 2017 but it is gone, completely gone due to Hurricane Michael. The construction is continuing but they are a long ways off for completion. So many homes destroyed in this area as it was close to the eye, which hit City of Mexico Beach, just a few miles east of here. The trees are barren in some areas. Tops of palm trees are starting to recover.

We head up Watson Bayou to Emerald City Marina. There are great folks that just purchased this marina. It is not on Navionics but we would recommend this marina every day. The docks are in good shape but aqkwardly cut. They are working on what will work for future but for now this is one of the only marinas still in operation in Panama City. We meet up with 4 other Loopers here.

The mairna has free laundry, restrooms, showers, 50 and 30 amp power. We pull out every fender we own to get ready for the storm. It takes us the next 2 hours battening down the lines, getting the right spacing for the fenders and tying down anything on deck. Seth, the owner, then offers to drive us into town for groceries and provisions from the liquor store. It’s going to be a long night folks.

The night sets and for the next 24 hours we battle against heavy westerly winds, rain and fender positioning. We were both up for a few hours just fixing the changes of the boat from the swirly winds. In the morning the rain had passed but the winds stayed. By tonight the winds will pass and we will all come out of our boats with a sigh of relief.

This was one of the worst wind storms we have been in while on the boat. The only other one was in Tobermory, Ontario in 2015.

Jan 142022

I will apologise for such a delay in posting. No internet and no wifi make it more than impossible to stay up to date. However we are back at it.

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year and hope that you remain healthy, wealthy and wise.

We are heading off the dock finally after a much desired break with family and friends. Making our way east along the Panhandle and then a crossing of the Gulf in the next few days. Weather is very unpredicable in these waters, in January but hoping for a weather window as we get closer to the staging.

Hurricane Michael came through these parts in 2018 and you can see the prgress as well as the destruction. Many marinas are still not open. Combine that with the shortage of material due to covid and construction is taking longer than usual. The trees are fallen, dredging is still in operation, as it usually is anyway, and shorter standign trees. There are more houses and boats that were destroyed too.

The anchorage is a safe and easy place to drop the hook. It is just prior to the canal heading to Panama City by the Bay Bridge on the east side where water is at least 12 feet. Lots of room to swing but open to westerlies and south westerlies. They are calling for easterlies to we will be tucked in nicely being on the east end of the bay.

A nice start for the journey to Carrabelle, FL.