Week 46 – February 24-March 2, 2019, 19 Nautical miles this week, 4,181 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: I give Frankie his morning walk across the street from the marina on the beach. I also wanted to check it out so if we decide to go over later in the day, I’ll be somewhat familiar with the path, etc. After returning to Kailani, we have a nice breakfast and the day is started.

Today we must go to the office and register, but unfortunately, so far we’ve gotten bad feedback from others staying here. Things like for staying at the marina portion of the resort, we’re not supposed to be allowed to use the beautiful pool or any of the other resort amenities! That just seems too awful to believe but Tracy gets ready to go and do battle with the manager while I make a call to the next marina stop in Cape Haze and find out of they can take us as early as tomorrow. That gets us out of here and also, gives the marina service department an extra day to look at our little electrical gremlins causing the non-working dinghy davit and the ‘low voltage’ switch in the engine room. I’m thinking that the ‘low voltage’ issue might be causing the dinghy malfunction. We’ll just have to wait and see on that score. I finally get word back from Aquamarina that they have a slip available for us tomorrow, so Tracy goes up to pay for our two days and find out about the pool. When she returns, she has two pool wrist bands and an agreement with the manager the she will provide them with a letter describing the expectations of a transient boater pulling into their ‘marina’ and how to correct the issues.   All they really had at this time was a motel with private docks!  Grrrrrr –  tc

Then we meet a couple that is in the adjacent apartment from Michigan and the guy has led a storied life as he was a police officer for 32 years, then he worked personal security for an extremely wealthy and influential family for 9 years. In fact he has so many stories that he wrote a book and had it published. Soon he is walking back to his apartment and coming back with an autographed copy of his book for us. Really nice couple and great guy.

Joe’s tales of Police Stories

Later on, we take a walk on the beach and the water temperature in the gulf is pretty comfortable. Then we walk over to the resort pool and Tracy gets some sun while I start reading the new book about our new friend’s career as a police officer. While I’m reading about his life, he walks over to the pool and asks if we’re interested in having dinner with them and their other friends from Michigan. We accept and agree to meet at the grilling area at around 6:00pm.

Dinner is a simple hotdogs with macaroni & cheese and salad. We all bring our own hot dogs while we bring the mac & cheese and Joe & Nancy bring the salad. We enjoy some nice conversation with the two couples over the dinner, then all six of us return to Kailani so they can all see the interior. 

They are aboard until 9:20pm, then we relax for the rest of the evening and go to sleep ready for a move tomorrow to Cape Haze.

Monday: The winds are stronger than we expected, so we discuss staying here one more day. The discussion involves a call to the next marina to see if we can move our reservation and that goes smoothly, and it involves asking the marina staff here if they have room for us to stay one more night and that goes equally as smooth, so we relax and make a day out of staying here.

In mid-afternoon, we take a bike ride to a local beach and tackle store where we find new flip-up sunglasses for me along with new sun visors for Tracy and then Tracy gets to discuss local fishing strategy with the clerk who is a fish charter captain. She then picks up some needed tackle and live bait to fulfill the captain’s advice and then we return to Kailani.

Now that we’re staying this extra day, we can make arrangements to visit the local Italian restaurant which is owned by some Connecticut natives that moved down here over 20 years ago and are also related to our financial advisor. He had told me that his cousins operated three Italian restaurants down here, Gratzzi Restaurant in St Petersburg, Angelo’s here in Venice and Carmelo’s in Punta Gorda. Well, we didn’t get a chance to try Gratzzi’s because the day we could go was Valentine’s Day and they were completely booked up, so getting a chance to try this location is much anticipated for me and now we’ll be able to go. So I make a reservation and then we enjoy the afternoon with our new friends from Michigan, Joe and Nancy Dubois.

Uber comes right on time and soon we’re walking into Angelo’s Restaurant and Italian Market for our 5pm reservation. Tracy gets a caesar salad and Linguini with oil and garlic sauce while I give the lasagna with homemade noodles a try. The desserts are delicious looking, but the entrees leave us no room for extra treats. After dinner, I walk up to the market counter and ask if any of the ownership family is in the store tonight and I get to meet and chat with the son and his wife and we have a nice time here. 

Soon, we’re calling for another Uber to get us back to the marina and we sit with Joe and Nancy a bit before turning in to set our preparations for tomorrow’s cruise.  

Tuesday: The winds are almost non-existent this morning and we only have 19 nautical miles to travel, so we sit for a while on Joe & Nancy’s porch enjoying some coffee prior to our departure. After coffees, Joe & Nancy come down to our slip and give us a hand with the lines so we can depart safely. 

Leaving this marina is again, a plan based around high tide, so at 10:35 am we’re leaving the inlet with as much water under our keel as we’re going to get. Once we are turning out of the inlet heading south towards the Albee Road Bridge, we hear Hawley Rose calling for the bridge to open and they are also going south. The tender asks them to wait and call when they are closer, so I get into the conversation and let the bridge tender know that we’ll also be needing an opening, but we will accommodate Hawley Rose and wait for them to arrive before the tender has to open the bridge. That accommodation equates to less traffic jams and it goes appreciated by all. So we wait for Hawley Rose to cruise around the bend and the tender starts the preparations for a safe stop of the traffic and opening the bridge to give us more than the 14 feet available when the bridge is closed. 

As we pass thru the opening and we both clear, the bridge tender lowers the span for the traffic and I call Hawley Rose and remind them that we had met last week in Gulfport Municipal Marina and they remembered us from then. The remainder of the day for us would not require any more bridge openings because they were either 24 feet or 30 feet, so once we were clear of the Albee Road Bridge, the rest of the day would be smooth. 

Aquamarina Palm Harbor…Nice hey??? –  tc

We had planned for a 4 hour cruise and 5 minutes short of 4 hours, we were pulling into our designated slip at Aquamarina Palm Harbour. We immediately recognized a looper burgee two slips away from us and we introduced ourselves to them and they are a couple that started their loop from Lake Huron and they set their plan for a 4 month stay here, so they will be here until the end of March when we will more than likely meet them again on the waters of the loop. They also told us that there would be docktails at 4:30 this afternoon with Ed and Kyle joining us. That was good to hear because we had scheduled the stop here mostly to be able to meet Ed and thank him for his guidance with email information when we were trying to negotiate the Black Warrior River from Demopolis to Mobile Bay. He is so familiar with those waters that he was able to read river level reports and guide us safely down the river with go-no go feedback. 

Wednesday: We were supposed to get an electrical technician to troubleshoot our boat today, but they were extremely busy and when I talked with Renee the Service Manager, she told me that the tech would be aboard our vessel first thing Thursday morning, so that was fine with me. 

In the late afternoon, we went to the pool and hot tub to get refreshed, then we went back to Kailani for a Netflix movie as the internet service is very good here. We selected the movie entitled “The Last Castle” with Robert Redford and James Gandolfini. It’s about a three Star General (Robert Redford) who is sent to a military prison which is run by James Gandolfini and the plot centers around the strong wills of the clashing personalities. DSC_9317

We turn in knowing that tomorrow we will be getting our little electrical gremlins fixed and then be able to lower the dinghy for some additional fun opportunities.

Thursday: Playing around in the marina today. The pool and hot tub are a great place to relax here so we take advantage of the weather and water temperature. We lower the dinghy today in preparation for some exploring tomorrow. 

Friday: Today our new good friends Ed and Kyle are leaving for their northward trip back to Demopolis where they leave their vessel so they can drive up to their summer home in Canada. They have been very helpful ever since the time we reached Demopolis and I want to make sure I get over to their slip and say goodbye before they leave. In the forum this morning I’ve learned that the Black Warrior River is extremely high (higher that when we were there) and the Kingfisher Marina is currently closed because the water is three feet over the access road! But even with that knowledge, Ed and Kyle shove off and I do get to see them before they leave. 

With the dinghy in the water, Tracy is chomping at the bit to get away from the marina and do some fishing. So we load up her fishing gear and head north on the ICW towards Stump Pass and out into the gulf. Once we are out of the pass and in the gulf, we turn south and just ride the coast in about 5 feet of water and Tracy fishes.   Not a stinkin’ bite! -tc   After some good catches and quite a bit of sun, we start heading back to the marina for the afternoon. Yup, more sun at the pool.

Saturday: With definite plans to cruise tomorrow, we decide to do some dry goods shopping at WalMart and some produce and dairy shopping at Publix. For the Walmart trip, we’ll need to use Uber, so after Tracy makes an appointment at the WalMart based Regis Hair Salon,  YUP…Walmart for my hair  LOL -tc   we open up the Uber app and call for a ride. Once we’re at Walmart, Tracy goes into the salon for her hair appointment and I walk across the street to pick up some prescriptions at Walgreens, then walk back to WalMart and scour every aisle at least once while waiting for the hair dresser to finish up with Tracy. Finally she is done, her hair comes out real pretty and we grab a Subway sandwich before calling for a return Uber. 

Once we’re back at the marina, we unload all the groceries onto Kailani, then I take the cart and four shopping bags (2 for cold and 2 for regular groceries) and start walking down to the local Publix. See we haven’t had good luck with WalMart dairy and produce, so with a local Publix, I decided to break up the shopping today. I had previously checked real quick for the store location and had remembered that it was just a mile plus, down the street. So it shouldn’t take long to get there, shop, then return. Boy, was I foolish not to verify! The Publix was actually 1.8 miles down the street and the sidewalk was on the sunny (really hot sun today) side of the street. So it was a sauna walk today to get to the Publix. 45 minutes later, I was entering the cool confines of the grocery store where I filled our cart with milk, bread, cold cuts, steak, chicken, macaroni, sauce, and some fruits to round out the bill. I also bought a cold water bottle to hydrate on the return walk. 

The sun was a bit lower on the return trip so some of the walk was in shade and Google Maps said it would take 38 minutes to walk to the marina and it turned out to be exactly 38 minutes later when I was stepping onto Kailani to unload the groceries. 

After all the cold items were in the fridge and/or freezer, we loaded up the fishing gear for one last trip here before we leave tomorrow. As we came out of the marina, we went straight across the ICW to a small inlet with all privately owned homes along both shores and Tracy caught a few fish and we saw some pretty sights also. It was slightly dark when we returned to our marina but the ferry was still running, so we had to make sure we avoided the ferry when we crossed the ICW.

Back aboard Kailani, we made our final cruise pans for tomorrow’s cruise to Cayo Costa Island, home of Cayo Costa State Park and some beautiful anchorages. It will only be 14 miles to the destination, so we’ll be able to take our time without feeling rushed in the morning.

Week 45 – February 17-February 23, 2019,  37 Nautical miles this week, 4,162 Nautical miles to date 


Sunday: Regatta Pointe Marina is not on the ordinary path of loopers, however, there are two other looper vessels here in the marina. Truth be told, they are both wintering here and starting their loop in a short while soon. We also meet some of our neighbors in adjacent slips and this is a great place to spend a week.

Today, we are entertaining cousins, Chris and Marc Pegram who we look up every time we’re down here in  or near Sarasota. They come aboard around noontime and we visit for quite a while aboard Kailani, then we all go over to the Riverhouse Reef & Grill Restaurant on the pier here in the marina. It’s a nice place for a lunch right on the water so visitors that don’t get an opportunity for a ride, can at least enjoy some of the scenery being out on the water. We have a great time with Chris and Marc and soon, we are saying our goodbyes so they can get home and Marc can rest his back.20190218_185425

Monday: Today is another day of loafing around and enjoying the now very warm Florida weather. We’ve been looking for this weather for quite some time and now it’s here and we love it! Shorts, tee-shirts and oftentimes, barefoot. The marina is located quite nicely for Tracy to scope out some good fishing spots over by the bridge.

That’s exactly where we go as the sun is setting. We walk over to the pedestrian portion of the bridge from Palmetto to Bradenton and Tracy sets up her fishing tackle while I surf on my smartphone. Tonight is not a stellar night for her but she does catch a few catfish anyway. Then we walk back to Kailani for the evening.  

Tuesday: Today is a special treat for me as Dennis and I are going to George M Steinbrenner Field in Tampa for the New York Yankees opening day of full squad practice for Spring Training. The park is open to all fans with no admission required and everyone in attendance gets to see all the current and potentially new Yankees work out on fielding, throwing and batting practice.

Steinbrenner Field-Memorial Park

Dennis and I get a nice day out of it and walk the entire ballpark to avoid the sun as it moves in the sky.

Dennis & Nick-George M. Steinbrenner Field

We spend a few dollars in the Team Store and then leave around 3:30pm to avoid the rush hour traffic leaving Tampa later on tis afternoon. Dennis drives me back to the marina and when I get out, he confirms that Terry will pick me up in the morning to get me to the golf course. Tracy & I have a nice dinner aboard and then go out fishing for the evening again.

Wednesday: I’m up early as I prepare my golf stuff for a day on the course with some other men and women from Dennis and Terry’s community at Tropic Isles. There are usually about 16 people that show up on Wednesdays for the golf, and I’m able to get into one of the foursomes to enjoy the friendship and golf with Jim, Bruce and Fred.

My foursome at Terra Ceia Bay Country Club

We all have a great time on this hot Wednesday and after all players are back in the pub enjoying some cocktails, I find out that I had the best score of the day at 70 strokes over a par 62 course. I felt like I was playing fairly well and scoring a lot of pars, so it make sense to be close to the lowest score. Anyway, another bunch of guys drove me back to the marina and my game of golf was over for the day. 

The late afternoon was taken up doing some laundry and fishing again.

Thursday: This might be our last day here in Palmetto unless we decide to stay another day or two and as it comes time to decide, we agree to spend at least one more day here at Regatta Point. So we plan for getting a pump out on Friday, and doing some shopping at WalMart if Dennis will be available to take us tomorrow. Then we enjoy one more day in Palmetto Paradise.

Friday: Dennis comes at 10:30am to pick us up for a run to WalMart. We get a chance to stock up on some paper goods and snacks, then he brings us back to the marina to store the perishables while he goes home and picks up Terry and returns to the marina where we get in again and we head out to Bradenton and more specifically, Cortez Beach where we will take them out to lunch to thank them for their generosity and driving accommodations all week enabling us to enjoy so much of the Palmetto area.

They are targeting a restaurant called Swordfish Grill and when we get there, the wait is not too bad at 20 minutes, so we walk around the marina area of the restaurant and meet some Canadians who are aspiring to do the loop and Tracy and I tell them all about our experiences and the friends we’ve made along the way. After that, as we’re almost ready to walk into the restaurant, we see these five gentlemen walking out in identical light blue tee shirts with a ROMEO logo on the right breast. As soon as they all walk past us, we turn around and see on the back of their shirts: “Retired Old Men Eating Out”! That’s awesome and I want to get one of those shirts and join the club haha.

Retired Old Men Eating Out!

Anyway, we have a great lunch at Swordfish Grill

Terry & Dennis, Tracy & Nick

and soon, we’re talking about leaving tomorrow and having Dennis accompany us while Terry drives down to Venice to pick him up later in the day. We finalize that plan and agree to have Dennis aboard by 8am tomorrow. After the restaurant, we drive by the beach and take a short walk in the warm sand of Cortez beach, then back to the car and return to the marina. 

For our last night in Palmetto, we walk over to the Boater’s Lounge and use the better WiFi service to watch an older movie called Michael with John Travolta as an angel. It’s a nice way to spend our last evening here and afterwards, we walk back to Kailani and get her ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Saturday: While I’m walking Frankie this morning, Dennis and Terry show up, so Dennis & I walk back to Kailani where Tracy is getting this morning’s preparations underway already. Soon she has Dennis helping with lines while I prepare the helm for departure. After Dennis and Tracy have all the lines doubled back onto the vessel for departure and I have the helm read with NEBO activated and SpotGen3 turned on, we are ready for departure. At 9am we are backing out of the slip and headed back out the Manatee River towards Tampa Bay and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway south. 

Today’s cruise is anticipated to be 5 hours long and 37 nautical miles. We will have some ‘no wake’ zones to negotiate and only 1 of the 6 bridges we pass under will have to be opened. Just 5 miles before our destination, we have to pass thru the Blackburn Point Swing Bridge which is only 9 feet tall when closed. As we are approaching the area that has this bridge, we pick up some other vessels calling the bridge tender asking for an opening, so we jump into the conversation and ask if we will be able to clear the bridge in the next swing even though we are still a mile away. The bridge tender says he still has to wait for a safe opportunity to stop traffic for the swing to open, so keep coming and see how it all works out. As we are about a half mile away, we see that the swing is still closed, so we give Kailani a few more rpm’s and increase our speed and just as we are approaching the ‘no wake’ zone for the swing, the bridge tender starts his opening, so we made our timing just about as perfect as we could ever plan and soon we’re through the span with no delays.

4 miles after that we are entering the small inlet for Escape at Casey Key Resort and Marina. Tracy had called them earlier and we will be looking for slip #11 once we’re within the marina. The entry water is sort of shallow, so we slowly make our way into the marina inlet where the water gets deeper, then look for slip #11. After scoping out the best procedure for getting into the slip, Tracy takes Dennis down to the stern to help with lines as I prepare Kailani to back her into the slip. After the three of us have done our jobs and Kailani is tied up, we start working on hooking up the utilities and find that the power tower for our slip has both 30 amp receptacles used up by the boat currently in the adjacent slip. So Tracy checks in with the office and finds out that they have another slip available further down that has a 50 amp connection. So we move Kailani down to slip #3 and all is well once we’re finally all tied up.

Docked at Escape at Casey Key

After tying up, I try to get the dinghy down from the roof and we find out that the davit crane won’t work, so I have a new project to add to my to-do list, but at least we’re all tucked in and the air conditioning is on and cooling down the Salon.

We say our goodbyes to Dennis and Terry and we now will look forward to 3 days of relaxation in the Casey Key/Venice Beach area. Tonight will definitely be a ‘pizza delivered to the boat’ kind of night. 

Week 44 – February 10-February 16, 2019, 57 Nautical miles this week, 4,125 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: Beach Day!!! We head to Clearwater Beach for the day and enjoy spectacular sunshine and beautiful temperatures as Natalie and Brianna romp in the powdery white sands. The water temperature is still a bit cool, but both girls do get wet and enjoy some fun time on the beachside water slides. After we’re done with the water slides, we get a bite to eat, then go to the Clearwater Marina Aquarium to see all the rescued sea creatures including Winter the tail-less dolphin from movie fame. Everyone has a great time and its not hard to get everyone to sleep when we return to Kailani. 

Monday: Mickey Day. We all get ready for the early morning drive to Orlando and DisneyWorld.

You’d be all smiles too if you were headed to Disney World

The temperatures are a bit hot and the sun is high and bright, so sunscreen is applied liberally on all exposed skin and off we go. Once at the park and thru the entire process of having bags inspected and ferry boat rides to the Magic Kingdom, we are finally entering the park one hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the parking lot. Net we rent a scooter for Tracy so she’ll be able to make it thru the entire day, then we head into the park for rides.   Long story but all is well, I just did not want to hold anybody up.  -tc    Tracy try to get used to the scooter, but realizes that she has to spend so much effort watching for pedestrians, that she’s missing the sights, so we return to the rental area and switch from a scooter to a wheelchair and that makes all the difference as now she’s able to enjoy herself.

Nick and Dede had pre-arranged for certain times to get into certain rides, so our wait times were not that bad even though there were around 55,000 visitors on a school day! All six of us, from 6 to 66 have a wonderful time and it’s a great way to spend their last full day here in Tampa.

The group at the Magic Kingdom: NIck, Tracy, Natalie, Nick III, Brianna, Dede

After the Main Street Parade in the afternoon, everyone’s pretty tired from all the sun and walking, so we make our way towards the shops and finish the day in the park with some moments of the trip to Disney World. The 90 minute drive back to the marina is not entirely quiet as nobody falls asleep, but while we are driving, Nick and Dede start trying to decide about pushing up their departure tomorrow to try and beat a snow and sleet storm predicted for Connecticut tomorrow afternoon. Their present tickets will get them into CT right in the middle of the storm when the snow changes to sleet and freezing rain. So they end up deciding to try and get out early in the morning on a direct flight that will get them back into CT before the storm starts. If they kept their original tickets, there is a strong possibility they would get stranded in Baltimore later in the day. So once we’re back aboard Kailani, Nick calls Southwest and confirms tickets for the 7am direct flight to Bradley and now they must make sure everything is packed tonight because they will have to leave the hotel by 5am tomorrow so they can return the rental car and make their new flight.

Tracy and I help and stay out of their way all at the same time while the girls go to sleep and Nick & Dede complete the packing. I spend a bit of time setting up our cruise plan for tomorrow as we will be departing also for Gulfport Municipal Marina. The low tide window for the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge is 12:30 pm on Tuesday, so our departure will not conflict with getting the family out first. We all agree to wake up at 4:20 am and go to bed. 

Tuesday: The entire Kailani crew is awake and moving by 4:20am as planned and by 5am the flyers are outside the valet station waiting for the Ford Expedition to come out of the parking garage for their trip to the airport. After they are all packed up and we say our goodbyes, they drive towards the airport and Tracy & I return to Kailani for the morning. We will be leaving today so I work on preparing for the 11:30 am departure that will get us thru the fixed bridge at low tide. 

While we are preparing Kailani for departure, we get a text from Nick & Dede at 9:30am saying that they have safely landed at Bradley International and it isn’t even snowing yet! In fact the snow doesn’t start until they are pulling into their driveway and safely home. Amazing, they get back into their warm home in CT before we leave the marina today. Also, their fears of being stranded in Baltimore are realized as reality because when they landed in CT they checked the flight board and all flights from Baltimore to Bradley on Southwest were cancelled for today. 

We continue our procedures for departure and at 11:30am Tracy is taking us off the dock and thru the bridge.

Again, I am up on the roof verifying that we will clear the structure because today, the low tide is relatively high. In fact we clear the bridge with about 4” to spare this time and Tracy draws clapping and compliments from boat captains on shore getting their touring boats ready for the day’s customers.   

We expect today’s cruise to be 4 hours and in fact, we are pulling into Gulfport Marina after 3 hours and 50 minutes of cruise time. We stop at the fuel dock for a pump out because we haven’t had one since before the family arrived. Tracy does her usual great job and soon, we are storing towards our slip on the transient dock with 2 empty black water holding tanks. We are anxious in anticipation of hooking up to the marina’s shore power and getting good power with no tripping of the circuits. 

As hoped, once we are all secured and utilities are connected, we see that the power service has returned to our normal configuration and without the newer 3 milliamp ground fault breakers, our power stays good and active for the entire time we stay at this marina. It appears that our entire power issue at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Marina was a direct result of the 3 milliamp ground fault connections and the one cord we have that showed 4 milliamps was the tripper for the circuits there. It’s a welcome relief to be back to our normal. We will still have to have an electrician locate and correct our power leakage, but for now, as long as we stay at marinas with the 10 milliamp ground faults, we should be fine.

As soon as we are all settled in, we make contact with our Mississippi River friend(s) Bill Ackerman and Jim Tholen. Bill and his wife, Valerie meet us at the marina and we drive to O’Maddys on the water where Jim has met us and the five of us have a great time sharing stories and enjoying some great food. 

Once back aboard Kailani, we turn in for some well earned shut-eye.

Wednesday: Bill meets us at the marina and we head out to the Imagination Museum in St Petersburg. Here there is two floors of displays of glass artwork done by some of the most famous glasswork artists of the last fifty years. Its amazing what they can do with glass.

Afterwards after Valerie has met up with us, we go out for a quick lunch, then we bring Tracy back to the marina while Bill & I run some needed errands to West Marine, Home Depot and AutoZone. In the evening, Bill and Valerie return and pick me up and the three of us go to Boyd Nature Preserve to hear a free lecture on the origin and geology of Florida. I learn that the land known as Florida, was originally a piece of the western African coast and when the continents collided in the Pre-Cambrian era, the limestone peninsula of Florida attached itself to North America and when Africa receded, a bit of it was left attached to the continental United States. So again, Tracy has always loved Africa and has wanted to go to someplace like Morocco for the longest time. Now I can tell her that she’s been there! The lecture is over before long and we return to the marina. 

Thursday: Valentines Day and Tracy and I spend a nice quiet day aboard Kailani in the morning, then we take an Uber to do some shopping. While we are out we decide to have a late lunch at a TGI Fridays that we are walking past. This will be our Valentine Dinner to each other, then we’ll have a light dinner later aboard Kailani.

Friday: This morning, Bill and Valerie are back picking us up at 9am for breakfast and we go to downtown Gulfport to Stella’s and enjoy a nice breakfast on the sidewalk seating area. After breakfast, Tracy and Valerie do some shopping at the adjacent store and Tracy is able to find a dress that she likes and she will wear the new dress to Kim’s wedding. 

Soon, we are back at the marina where we say our good-bye’s to Bill and Valerie and return to Kailani to prepare for departure. I re-load the bikes aboard Kailani and we prepare the lines for departure. Again, we depart at 11:30am for a scheduled 4 hour cruise. 

We cross the Boca Ciega Bay and it’s shallow waters, then cruise out into Tampa Bay. There is a shortcut that is a narrow channel adjacent to the Sunshine Skyway Causeway that saves 10 miles on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, but we want to go the extra 10 miles and have an opportunity to pass under the span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. That’s exactly what we do and I’m able to get some great video of Tracy at the helm driving Kailani under the span right after a large commercial tanker has passed under the span coming from sea into the bay.

Tracy at the helm crossing Tampa Bay

Exactly 4 hours after departure, we are pulling into Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto, Florida. We have been assigned slip E52 and it’s a wide and deep slip obviously designed for a much larger vessel, but Paul says he doesn’t have any other more appropriate slips for us, so we’ll just have to get used to their southern hospitality. We are all tied up and meet some of our dock neighbors who are very friendly and anxious to hear about our adventures on America’s Great Loop. We always appreciate the opportunities to relate our adventure to others. 

Soon, Dennis and Terry Foley are approaching the dock and we must meet them at the security gate to let them in. After a few hours visiting on board, they leave to return home and Tracy & I look to get some dinner before the crowds get too large. We miss the opportunity to avoid crowds and after a sorta long wait, we are seated in theft marina restaurant facing out into the Manatee River. It turns out to be a spectacular view across to Bradenton. 

We share a calamari appetizer, then Tracy has a shrimp with Linguini and I get a Hawaiian Chicken. Afterwards, we take the short walk back to the dock and relax for a nice quiet evening and turn in early for the evening. 

Saturday: Our good friends Dennis and Terry will spend the day with us. First they pick us up and we tour the tip of Snead Island by car. Emerson Point Preserve occupies the entire northwest tip of Snead Island and there is beautiful scenery with some beach area, bird watching, botany,  butterflies and oyster shell mounds.

Oyster Shell Mound, Emerson Point Preserve, Palmetto, FL

We walk nearly the entire park except we save the observation tower for another day as we want to get back to their house for lunch.

Dennis and Terry have put out a nice cold cut sandwich bar for everyone to make their own sandwich and we have a great time chatting and  learning about retirement life in the Palmetto Florida community. After lunch and a lit of socializing, Dennis drives us back to the marina via the local Publix Market and we take the opportunity to restock our galley. 

Back on Kailani for the evening, we watch a DVD called ‘Now You See Me” and its very entertaining. Sleep comes easily after a full day in the Florida sunshine. Dennis has already gotten back to me with two activities for the week. First, he and I will go to George M Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday for opening day of spring training. Its the first day of training for the New York Yankees and there is no charge for admission. Also, he got me hooked up with a bunch of other residents of his Tropic Isles Community that are playing golf on Wednesday. He will pick me up, get me to the golf course, then one of the golfers will drive me back at the end of the round, so that will be fun. We go to bed looking forward to enjoying a week in this area.

Week 43 – February 3-February 9, 2019,  70 Nautical miles this week, 4,068 Nautical miles to date


Sunday: One final day in Tarpon Springs before moving on. We want to see the Cathedral of St Nicholas so since it’s Sunday, we’ll have to wait until after 1:30pm and the Sunday services are over.

Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Tarpon Springs

We ride our bikes down to the cathedral, visit the interior and study the stained glass windows with Greek writings.

Once were done there, we ride a few blocks over to Craig Park on Spring Bayou looking for Manatee’s. It’s a beautiful park surrounded with Victorian era homes, but the Manatee’s are not around. So its just a nice ride thru some beautiful greenery and scenery.

The rest of the afternoon is spent cleaning up some of the stuff we’ve unloaded off the boat after being here for 5 days. In the evening we are able to hear the roars of the bar crowds that are watching the Super Bowl and later we find out that watching the game must’ve been the equivalent of watching paint dry as the score ended up 13-3 with the Patriots beating the Rams.

Monday: Today we plan out our cruise day for a trip to Clearwater Beach Marina. It’s a short 18 mile cruise on the intracoastal waterway and the seas and winds will cooperate very nicely for the duration of the cruise. We confirm our reservation and Kailani and Wild Goose prepare for a mid morning departure. 

All our lines are doubled back to the boat cleats and I clear our bill with the marina. Its actually a very nice day so we open all windows on the bridge and sunroom for the first time in a very long time. This is a nice break for us as it signals much better weather. By 10:50am Kailani and Wild Goose are pulling away from the docks and headed out the Anclote Creek towards the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Waterway). This is a quite long no wake area before we’re out into the bay but its very comfortable today and again, we only have 18 miles to go today. 

Once were out into the channel of the GIWW, we decide to open her up for a little scheduled blow-by on the engines. And soon, we’re about a mile ahead of Wild Goose. As we are approaching the waters of Dunedin, we must verify the air draft (overhead clearance) of the Honeymoon Island Bascule Bridge, so I call the bridge tender on VHF 09 and he verifies that there is 24 feet below the bridge in the center. So I tell him that that’s plenty of air draft for us and we’ll just go slowly thru the span, but we will not need an opening. He thanks us for the info and we pass under with room to spare.

As usual, we have some nice runs with dolphins as they seem to be in great spirits for playing today. The boat traffic on the GIWW is not great with a few fishing boats, some trawlers, and a few go-fast boats, but not a lot of congestion in any spot of the trip. We try to slow down for most of the vessels as we are passing by them so our wake will not be problematic to the other vessels. Each vessel that realizes what we’ve done by slowing down gives us a wave of appreciation in return. Some of them actually slow down in kind.

By 1:00pm we are passing under the Clearwater Beach Bridge and turning to starboard to enter the channel for the marina. We negotiate the entire marina channel in idle speed even though we do not see any signs indicating ‘no wake zone’.

Once we are looking at our assigned slip, we seem to be being influenced by the local winds and current. It takes me four turns (see Nebo report) to get Kailani’s tail lined up with the pilings of our slip, but the 2 dock hands wait patiently for our 4 attempts at backing in straight in the wind. fullsizeoutput_1dd3After we’re all tied up and utilities attached, I spend about 30 minutes on the line with Larry O and he says that stopping to meet them at St Pete Beach would work for them on Wednesday, So we’ll stay here until Wednesday morning, then cruise down to St Pete Beach to spend the day with Larry and Carol. This is running into very dear friends that we met on the loop and here, nearly a year later, we’ll get a chance to catch up again in person at Larry’s American Legion Hall.

We make sure the boat is secure and suddenly, Barry and Carol are approaching our vessel in their dinghy. We wait for them to arrive, help them tie up and unload their bikes. They go out for a bike ride and we take a walk to the beautiful Clearwater Beach and Pier 60 for some sightseeing. The pier has street vendors and a bait and tackle shop while the beach and park area are loaded with sun worshipers and street entertainers. The show we watch is a father and son where the son is a double jointed contortionist who can climb completely thru a tennis racket frame! Then for his final act, he is put into a straight jacket, then wrapped in 50 feet of chain then the chain is double locked. Then his father describes that he will get out of this restraint in less than 3 minutes and Nick, the son precedes to wriggle and thrash about working himself free of the chain, then the straightjacket and he completes it all in 2 minutes and 45 seconds!

Straightjacket and 40 pounds of chain

Afterwards we meet Barry and Carol aboard Kailani and get ready for dinner. We walk up to the Salt Cracker Restaurant right here at the marina and have a delicious meal with Cuban Pork, Jumbalaya, Ribeye and double stuffed bacon cheeseburger. After this late dinner, Barry and Carol dinghy back to Wild Goose to get a good night’s sleep for their departure tomorrow towards Bradenton. We will stay one more day in port to get tons of laundry done before Nick & Dede show up on Thursday.

Tuesday: Barry & Carol depart in a mild fog headed for Bradenton while Rick & Kris aboard Eagle One depart for an outside run down the coast avoiding ‘no wake zones’. By the afternoon, Barry & Carol aboard Wild Goose are at their destination while Eagle One has returned to our marina because the fog was too thick over the ocean. 

We stay in port today to get all our laundry done and with the condition of the machines at the marina laundromat, it will take all day to get it done. After getting the first loads in, Tracy spends much of the day trying to nurse her shoulder while I return to the wash numerous times to get it all washed and dried. By dark we have all our laundry washed, dried, folded and put away!

In the afternoon two looper vessels show up, Sea Jamm with Alan and Sherry, who we first met last year in Utsch’s Marina, and Ron and Debbie aboard Carpe Diem who we first met in Demopolis last month. Both made an overnight crossing from Carabelle to Clearwater and both couples were anxious for a nap to catch up on much needed sleep. The Gulf weather is spectacular all week and our friends aboard the Journey and Red Pearl are leaving Carabelle this afternoon for the overnight crossing into Tarpon Springs on Wednesday afternoon. 

We spend a nice relaxing evening preparing for our cruise tomorrow where our goal will be to meet up with Larry and Carol of Sea Life for lunch in their homeport of St Pete Beach, then continue on around to the east side of St Petersburg in Tampa Bay to spend the evening at St Petersburg Municipal Marina. 

Wednesday: We fully expect there to be some fog this morning, but the temperature rises so quickly that there isn’t a chance for fog to drop in. This is a good thing because it means we will be able to leave exactly when we want to make our lunch meeting with Larry & Carol. Larry lets us know that it should take between 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get there, so we leave at exactly 10:00am and soon we are pulling into the American Legion docks in St Pete’s Beach with Larry waiting on the dock to grab the lines from Tracy. We find out that Carol will not be able to make it because she volunteers at tax time helping AARP members with their taxes. So Larry, Tracy and I enjoy a nice lunch, spend 2 hours together, then we cast our lines and head for the east side of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg Municipal Marina. We have changed our strategy to go a bit longer today, then tomorrow, we’ll be closer to our destination where we must be at the fixed bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide in order to fit under it. With low tide scheduled for 10:05am tomorrow, we feel the closer we are to the bridge, the better chance we have of timing it correctly.

So we cruise around the southern tip of St Petersburg and up into Tampa Bay to our destination. Many of the sites we see during this cruise are familiar to us as this is where we stayed four years ago when we were shopping for Kailani. 

At 4:30pm we are pulling into the marina and we go to the pump out dock to be completely empty for tomorrow’s guests, then we fill the tanks so Kailani will sit just a bit lower in the water when going under the bridge we mentioned. And at 5:20pm we are all tied up at our slip assignment for the night. We spend the evening doing some chores in preparation for Nick, Dede and the girl’s arrival tomorrow afternoon. We are looking forward to a great time with them. 

Thursday: I start my day a bit early today because we must leave the slip by 8am so we can make the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge in downtown Tampa right at low tide which today, is at 10:09am. So I’m walking Frankie at 6:30am to get his business out of the way before we start our pre-departure preparations. We’re getting real good at this because Kailani is pulling out of the slip at exactly 8am and heading east out of St Petersburg headed towards the Tampa Bay shipping channel. 

The bay is extremely quiet today and we do not see any other vessels until we are turning to due north and heading up into downtown Tampa. There two miles ahead of us is a large freighter with a tug behind and another tug on the starboard side accompanying the freighter out of the harbor. As we approach the freighter we are both giving up the port side for the pass, so with the Tampa skyline in the backdrop, we pass this freighter port to port and continue on our opposite courses. After that freighter passes, there are no other large commercial ships in the channel so we have a completely clean path towards downtown Tampa and the Tampa Marriott Waterside. 

Now to get into the marina area of the complex we must pass under a fixed bridge called the South Harbor Island Fixed Bridge. The charts all state that this bridge has a vertical clearance of 10 feet and Kailani is 16’-9”! However, the charts are incorrect and the bridge is actually 16 feet at high tide and 18 feet at low tide. Hence our strategy to arrive at dead low tide for the most headroom possible. As we are coming due north up the channel before we turn to starboard to face the bridge, Tracy takes over the helm and I don a PFD and climb up on the roof to watch for our actual clearance because they do not have elevation boards on this bridge. Our planning is spot on and actually, I’m able to stand up on the secondary roof, so we actually have more than 19 feet of clearance today. 

Once we’re under the bridge, we are turning Kailani around to back into our assigned slip #14. While we are securing our lines, a couple walks by on the Riverwalk and speaks to Tracy about how they envy our lifestyle and Tracy invites them down to come aboard and see our ‘home’. Turns out they are in town for an Orthopedic Surgeons Convention and the husband is exactly that. So we mention the soreness Tracy has been dealing with in her shoulder and he takes a look at it for her and confirms her suspicions that its all in the muscle tissue and will eventually subside and she will be better. The couple is from Odessa Texas and we have a real nice time with them aboard. 

After Kailani is all secured and they get back to walking the Riverwalk, we go up to the front desk for the check-in process. If any of you following us remember the issues we had staying last April at the Savannah Westin, today, here at the Tampa Marriott Waterside is the exact opposite as they really have there plan worked out for handling guests at the marina. We are assigned a room number (#114, the 1 for the marina and the 14 for our slip number) and issued three room keys for access to the pools, gyms, etc. and we can make purchases throughout the hotel and charge them to our room number. This is spectacular and we feel impelled to check it out right away as we are leaving the front desk, we walk over to the Starbucks and buy some hot sandwiches which we charge to our ‘room’ and it works perfectly!!! Now isn’t that simple. 

After we return to Kailani, Tracy decides to rest her shoulder and I take the cart over to the local Publix Market and re-stock some of our galley. The rest of the galley will be filled with the Amazon Now order this afternoon that Nick & Dede ordered yesterday. They found out that the service was available to the marina and wanted to try it out, so before leaving CT, they placed a food order of foods that the girls like and had it delivered to us at the marina prior to their arrival.

At 3:45pm I receive an email from Nick saying that the food order has been delivered, so I walk up to the Front Desk and ask for my food delivery. Absolutely everyone says that there has not been a delivery for Nick from Amazon Now. They suggest that I check with the UPS Business Center upstairs so I walk up there and they have the same answer. So I walk back to the boat frustrated and food less!

Tracy steps in and makes a call to Amazon in Seattle and she talks to a guy who apologizes for any inconvenience and offers to credit the cost of the food plus an extra $10 for the inconvenience. So with a credit applied, I tried one more time to find the food and at the front desk, they were able to determine that the food they thought was for ‘Drew’ was actually the food for ‘Nick” and I walked out of the hotel and back to the boat with three bags of free food. 

After we unpacked all the food from Publix and Amazon. Now, we got ready to go up to the front entrance and greet the arrivals from the airport. Unfortunately, there is a lot of construction around the area of the Tampa Marriott, so Nick had a hard time actually getting to the hotel. They were trying to find a road that would get them to our location almost as long as they were in the air from Baltimore to Tampa. Once they arrived they were very tired, but also very hungry, so we went right into the Waterside Grill and had the buffet so we could get food right away. 

After the buffet, we had the bags delivered to the boat and we all walked down to the marina slips to get the kids set up in their beds. Soon the girls were tucked in for the night and we were able to relax and enjoy Nick & Dede arriving safely for their vacation. We decided on our strategy of activities for tomorrow and all turned in early-early-is for the night.

Friday: Today we have decided to spend the day at the pool with its heated water and hot tub. We rent a cabana type chaises lounge and that gives us a chance to sit poolside without anyone getting sunburnt.


In the afternoon, we take a dolphin cruise on a boat right next to the marina and we end up sighting a few dolphins so everyone is excited that they got to see some dolphins. On the way back to the dock, the Captain takes us by Derek Jeter’s House. 32,000 square feet and mostly empty since Derek bought the Miami team and spends most of his time there.

Derek Jeter’s residence, Davis Island, Tampa-32,000 SF with 2,800 SF Master Suite

After the dolphin cruise, the kids got in a bit more swimming and we ordered pizza delivery to the boat for a nice dinner. We chose Eddy and Sal’s Pizza and when we went up to the front to wait for the delivery, all the valet drivers told us that it’s the best pizza in Tampa, so I guess we can still pick out a good pizza!

Saturday: Today we head to the Tampa Fun Zone-Grand Prix. We spend the morning riding go-karts and playing miniature golf. Brianna and Natalie also show off their skills on the trampoline. Luckily there’s a 125 pound limit so we don’t have to talk Nick out of going on!

Tampa Grand Prix Go-Karts

In the afternoon, we head out to Big Bend Power Station on Apollo Beach and visit the Manatee Viewing Center. This is a popular spot for Manatees in the colder water winter months because the manatees will all congregate near the outflow of the power plant where the water is extremely comfortable for them. We don’t have much luck viewing any manatees, but there are more dolphins, possibly some sharks and later the facility has a manta ray petting tank and the girls get a chance to pet a ray.


After returning to the marina, we take another dip in the rooftop pool to refresh. 

Week 42 – January 27-February 2, 2019, 165 Nautical miles this week, 3,998 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: Today is not a day that Eddy recommends to make the crossing, so we stay put in Apalachicola. We get a chance to meet Bill Z& Bobbie’s friends with a totally solar boat that live here, so we meet at the local tavern where there is live music, then we all walk down to the Up The Creek Restaurant for some seafood with Phil and Roberta joining our full crew. Then we break up for the evening agreeing that if weather stays as currently predicted, we will cruise tomorrow for Tarpon Springs. By the way, the sunsets here are quite spectacular!

Kailani with First Forty and Wild Goose in Apalachicola, FL

 Monday to Tuesday: We start the day with me walking Frankie and while walking him, George, the marina owner drops by to say that there will be two electricians at the marina first thing today to look over the electrical issues. I really look forward to that because I want to feel comfortable that the issue is with the shore power and not a vessel issue. They show up at 8am and immediately tell us they feel very comfortable that it is a marina issue and not a problem caused by any of the vessels. That’s a relief as we are looking at a 22 hour cruise starting later today and I don’t want to start off knowing that I have an electrical issue on board, so they have given me a warm fuzzy feeling that Kailani is okay and set for the journey. 

The remainder of the morning is used prepping for the upcoming long journey and the three women hit the town for some shopping and to fill the vessels with snacks for the overnight cruise. To explain further, we are traveling 190 miles later today into Tuesday morning and so we will be cruising non-stop thru the night. Therefore, snacks are a must for helloing to stay awake when each of us is at the helm.   Ice cream, cookies, peanuts, Slim Jims, strawberries and whipped cream, plus a whole pile more of “junk food”.  Who says you need to be healthy when you are undertaking a life threatening situation …LOL  Kidding.    -tc

Map of Gulf Crossing

First Forty, Wild Goose and Kailani are all set to depart and at exactly 2:00pm, we are all leaving the dock headed out to Apalachicola Bay where we will turn north to aim for East Pass. The trip starts out with issue as Kailani goes aground in some shallow area of the Scipio River. It takes us a bit of time to free her from the sandbar, but eventually we’re free and on our way. As we were stuck a fourth vessel starts heading out of the Scipio River in the same direction as us, so while we were stuck, it gave Bargein II a chance to catch up with us and as we are entering the Bay, he passes us on our starboard side and falls in to our flotilla between Wild Goose and us. After we are cruising for a while and it becomes obvious that he is staying in the same channel that we are using, I radio him and ask him he’s final destination for the day. He radios back that he’s going to Carabelle, then crossing the gulf tomorrow (Tuesday) and arriving in Tarpon Springs Wednesday. I respond by asking him if he’s aware of the forecasted seas for tomorrow and he says that he’ll look at that and check his fuel capacity then radio us back with a decision to possibly join our flotilla tonight. Soon he’s back on the air and asking us if he can join us tonight. We all welcome him into our group and as we are heading out to East Pass, the order of vessels is First Forty followed by Kailani, Wild Goose, then Bargain II. First Forty has auto pilot, so all we have to do is follow their stern light and we’ll stay on the correct heading to Tarpon Springs. 

Bobbie Bristow set up the plan and itinerary and her plan was to get to the R2 buoy at the gulf side of East Pass by 5pm and it was exactly 5pm when we reached R2 and turned slightly to starboard to set the heading of 138 degrees to R4 buoy 151 miles away at Anclote Key and the entrance to Tarpon Springs. An hour later is was dusk and the sunset over the open waters of the gulf were nothing short of spectacular. We were all traveling at 9 mph and we were spaced out at one quarter mile apart. 

Gulf Crossing-real easy, just follow First Forty for the next 22 hours!

Tracy turned on the radar and we were able to keep all four vessels on our screen in a row for the next 12 hours of darkness. Once the sun set it started to darken, but all we had to do was follow the stern light on First Forty and each vessel behind us did the same thing. The hardest part of this trip would be each person getting ample rest when not driving to be sharp and alert when at the helm. Bobbie had set up a system of hourly roll call(s) and First Forty would handle the roll calls until 10pm, then Kailani would take the top of the hour roll calls from 11pm to 2am, then Wild Goose would take us to sunrise at 6am. The roll calls worked splendidly as they kept us alert and able to detect if any vessel was running as a ghost ship (both crew asleep) which never occurred. 

We’ve talked about him before when we met him in Bluewater Bay Marina, but Eddy Johnsen who publishes Eddy’s Weather Wag for the AGLCA had given us the green light for this crossing and we had also checked with Marl’s Weather Service as a second opinion. Both were indicating that the Monday to Tuesday crossing would be uneventful as long as we didn’t stray into Tuesday afternoon on the gulf. Both were spot on with their forecasting and our crossing was literally 151 miles of gas smooth water. That’s nearly unheard of in open water crossings, but we were fortunate enough to take advantage of this weather and we all certainly appreciated the expertise that goes into the forecasting for loopers benefit. 

The crescent moon finally started to rise around 1:45am and the glow of the moonshine was a spectacular addition to our vision.    This picture does not do the night justice.  The moon was blood red as was the reflection in the water for over an hour.  I have never seen a moonrise this spectacular.  -tc 20190219_125036

The overnight hours were shared at the helm on each vessel and aboard Kailani, we switched around 10pm so I could get some rest. Tracy kept the helm until nearly midnight and then asked me to take over so she could get some sleep. I drove while Tracy rested, then we switched right after 2am so I could get some rest, then we switched for the final time at 5am and Tracy got some much needed sleep.    I was “falling asleep at the wheel”. -tc

Bobbie’s plan was to get to R4 at Anclote Key at 10am. That would give us daylight to spot and avoid the crab traps that are so frequent on the waters of the gulf from 30 feet of water into about 15 feet of water. We made the turn at R4 at 9:45 am and nobody hit a crab trap. An hour after making the turn towards the channel leading into Tarpon Springs, we had made the channel and when we intersected with the channel, First Forty declared their second loop a completed success! They had just completed a little over 12,000 miles in 2 years and 1 week. By 11am Tuesday morning we were all approaching our respective marinas and Jerry Coleman (our good friend from Makin’ Memories) was at the docks to greet us and help with lines. Wild Goose and us were staying at Tarpon Springs City Marina while First Forty and our new crossing friends on BargeIn II were staying at Turtle Cove Marina. After we were all tied up and registered, we all retired to our respective vessels to get some much deserved rest before our celebratory dinner later at Costa’s Restaurant. We had just completed 190 miles in 21 hours averaging almost exactly 9 mph which was our original plan. If you could look at our plot by our tracking device you’d see a track line that couldn’t be drawn straighter with a ruler. The seas were so calm, our vessels were easy to hold course. We had all safely crossed the Gulf of Mexico in 4 vessels over 21 hours each and cruising thru waters from 10 foot deep to 82 feet deep. This was a most special accomplishment for us on this great loop adventure. Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy for us!!! -tc

The dinner was set up by Jerry and Jean Coleman and we had a party of 16 people eating delicious Greek food for our celebratory dinner. Lenny and Louise (Then Again) had just completed their three-leg crossing so it was nice to see them at the dinner also. After dinner, sleep was not hard even though we had napped earlier.

Wednesday: Tarpon Springs is the Greek capital of the US which evolved from the large population go Greek sponge divers who relocated here.

Having some fun in the sponge capital of the US, Tarpon Springs, FL

Having some fun in the sponge capital of the US, Tarpon Springs, FL
There are Greek restaurants, Greek bakeries, Greek diver sponge factories, etc. plus the normal Florida resort location stores of WalMart, Publix, Winn Dixie, etc. Our marina is right in the heart of the restaurants and sponge factories, so a walk in any direction is full of touristy stops.

Tonight’s dinner is hosted by Jerry and Jean at their house. They grill up some salmon and we all brings appetizers and desserts. It’s a great time with the crews of all the looper boats in town. We have a great evening and get driven back to our marina by Roger Kay. Roger is a looper, film producer, author who has a book published about the naval battle(s) of the War of 1812. He has some copies with him and Tracy and I get an autographed copy of the book which is a very nice gesture.

Thursday: The weather is starting to warm up a bit and the forecasts call for temperatures approaching the 70’s the rest of this week. I’m anxious to get into sandals (or bare feet), shorts and a tee shirt and I think we’ll see that today or tomorrow. I may just wait for the warm weather to work for a day before going all island wear.

Today, Jerry and Jean are speaking at their Rotary Club about their loop experience, so Barry and I ride our bikes to the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club to hear their presentation and we sit with the other loopers.

Friday: Jerry takes me to the local WalMart for some much needed supplies and the weather in fact does start warming up. Tonight is the monthly ‘First Friday’ celebration in town here so we walk down to Tarpon Blvd. where the street is blocked off for about five blocks with vendors, music, revelry and amusement. We have dinner with Barry, Carol and Mary at Andros Diner, then walk the streets visiting booths and tasting local ice cream.

Saturday: Okay it’s now time for sandals, shorts and tee shirts to be the ‘all-day’ wear. I start off walking Frankie with that attire and stay that way as we board the Jolley Trolley and ride to Dunedin for some sight-seeing and clothes shopping for Tracy. When we get to Dunedin we find out that there is a local ukulele festival in the town square and walking the shops and restaurants is a load of fun with lots of people and music. There’s a short rain shower while we’re walking, but we’re able to duck into a shop while the rain is coming down and soon the rain stops. After a trolley ride back to Tarpon Springs, we get out our grill and grill up some steaks aboard for dinner.


Bobbie’s plan was to get to R4 at Anclote Key at 10am. That would give us daylight to spot and avoid the crab traps that are so frequent on the  waters of the gulf from 30 feet of water into about 15 feet of water. We made the turn at R4 at 9:45 am and nobody hit a crab trap. An hour after making the turn towards the channel leading into Tarpon Springs, we had made the channel and when we intersected with the channel, First Forty declared their second loop a completed success! They had just completed a little over 12,000 miles in 2 years and 1 week. By 11am Tuesday morning we were all approaching our respective marinas and Jerry Coleman (our good friend from Makin’ Memories) was at the docks to greet us and help with lines. Wild Goose and us were staying at Tarpon Springs City Marina while First Forty and our new crossing friends on BargeIn II were staying at Turtle Cove Marina. After we were all tied up and registered, we all retired to our respective vessels to get some much deserved rest before our celebratory dinner later at Costa’s Restaurant. We had just completed 190 miles in 21 hours averaging almost exactly 9 mph which was our original plan. If you could look at our plot by our tracking device you’d see a track line that couldn’t be drawn straighter with a ruler. The seas were so calm, our vessels were easy to hold course. We had all safely crossed the Gulf of Mexico in 4 vessels over 21 hours each and cruising thru waters from 10 foot deep to 82 feet deep. This was a most special accomplishment for us on this great loop adventure.   Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy for us!!!   -tc

The dinner was set up by Jerry and Jean Coleman and we had a party of 16 people eating delicious Greek food for our celebratory dinner. Lenny and Louise (Then Again) had just completed their three-leg crossing so it was nice to see them at the dinner also.  After dinner, sleep was not hard even though we had napped earlier. 

Wednesday: Tarpon Springs is the Greek capital of the US which evolved from the large population go Greek sponge divers who relocated here.

Having some fun in the sponge capital of the US, Tarpon Springs, FL

There are Greek restaurants, Greek bakeries, Greek diver sponge factories, etc. plus the normal Florida resort location stores of WalMart, Publix, Winn Dixie, etc. Our marina is right in the heart of the restaurants and sponge factories, so a walk in any direction is full of touristy stops.

Tonight’s dinner is hosted by Jerry and Jean at their house. They grill up some salmon and we all brings appetizers and desserts. It’s a great time with the crews of all the looper boats in town. We have a great evening and get driven back to our marina by Roger Kay. Roger is a looper, film producer, author who has a book published about the naval battle(s) of the War of 1812. He has some copies with him and Tracy and I get an autographed copy of the book which is a very nice gesture.

Thursday: The weather is starting to warm up a bit and the forecasts call for temperatures approaching the 70’s the rest of this week. I’m anxious to get into sandals (or bare feet), shorts and a tee shirt and I think we’ll see that today or tomorrow. I may just wait for the warm weather to work for a day before going all island wear.

Today, Jerry and Jean are speaking at their Rotary Club about their loop experience, so Barry and I ride our bikes to the Tarpon Springs Yacht Club to hear their presentation and we sit with the other loopers.

Friday: Jerry takes me to the local WalMart for some much needed supplies and the weather in fact does start warming up. Tonight is the monthly ‘First Friday’ celebration in town here so we walk down to Tarpon Blvd. where the street is blocked off for about five blocks with vendors, music, revelry and amusement. We have dinner with Barry, Carol and Mary at Andros Diner, then walk the streets visiting booths and tasting local ice cream. 

Saturday: Okay it’s now time for sandals, shorts and tee shirts to be the ‘all-day’ wear. I start off walking Frankie with that attire and stay that way as we board the Jolley Trolley and ride to Dunedin for some sight-seeing and clothes shopping for Tracy. When we get to Dunedin we find out that there is a local ukulele festival in the town square and walking the shops and restaurants is a load of fun with lots of people and music. There’s a short rain shower while we’re walking, but we’re able to duck into a shop while the rain is coming down and soon the rain stops. After a trolley ride back to Tarpon Springs, we get out our grill and grill up some steaks aboard for dinner. 

Week 41 – January 20-January 26, 2019,  108 Nautical miles this week, 3,833 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: Our first day with the rental car and we make our way across the bay to the Destin Commons. There are numerous shops including AMC theaters,

mary poppins
Lyn Manuel-Miranda!!  (and Emily Blunt)

So we head over to Destin, do some clothes shopping and some ice cream tasting, then we drop into the 3:00pm showing of Mary Poppins at the AMC theaters. 

Monday: Today is a nice pleasant day with warm sun and very little breeze. We’ll be spending a lot of time here waiting for crossing weather to arrive, so today, Barry, Carol & I take a tour of the Armament Museum at Eglin Air Force Base. This facility is free to the public and there must be 40 actual jets, bombers, helicopters, etc. on display both indoors and outdoors.

SR-71A at Air Force Armament Museum. Need to go from LA to Washington DC in 1 hour and 4 minutes? This is the plane to do it.

To me, the most amazing ships are the B52 Bomber and the SR71A Blackbird. The SR71A set all kinds of records for air speed and time records from point A to point B. For instance, the SR71A has the record for flight from Los Angeles to Washington DC completed in 1 hour and 4 minutes and a speed of 2,144 mph! Holy cow, that’s almost as fast as Scotty on the Enterprise.

After the museum, we went for barbecue at Kinfolks Barbecue and the meals were pretty tasty. Then we drove thru Fort Walton Beach and Destin to find a West Marine for Wild Goose and a Lowe’s for both of us. 

Back on board Kailani, Tracy had dinner ready and we enjoyed a quiet evening aboard.

Tuesday: Today the cold air starts returning with stronger winds out of the north, and it’s forecasted to stay this way for the rest of the week, so the comfortable temperatures were short lived. 

Wednesday: When I walk out to the Frankie for his morning business, the docks are coated with ice! Hey isn’t this Florida??? Oh well, soon the ice is gone and we can do more chores today as we are getting closer to cruising out of here. Today Tracy and I get dropped off at the laundromat while Barry and Carol take the rental car out for errands. 

Thursday: We are pretty sure that we will be heading out tomorrow, so we make our last full day in port a productive one completing some chores off our ‘to do’ lists including a run to Publix for re-provisioning the galley. As we are driving around town we see a restaurant called Jim and Nick’s Bar-B-Q. I forgot about going into business with my younger brother! img_3874-1.jpgAfter dinner, we visit Wild Goose for an evening of Act 1 of Hamilton, the Broadway smash musical. 

We finalize our plan to be ready to get to the fuel dock at 8am tomorrow morning for fuel top off and a pump out before heading out. The fuel dock opens at 8 and we want to be there right away so we can get on the water for the long journey to Panama City

Friday: As planned, Kailani moves over to the fuel dock first and the fill up and pump out take a little longer than expected before Wild Goose can pull up, so it’s 9:30 am before we are both ready to leave Bluewater Bay and head east to Pearl Bayou in Panama City. We have made plans to meet Bill and Bobbie of First Forty at the anchorage as they are cruising there from Fort Walton Beach. The commercial traffic today is again very light and we only experience one passing and one overtaking situation before the day is over. 

The first 25 miles are in the large Choctawatchee Bay, then we enter a man-made section of the GICW and the winds and waves are gone giving us an incredibly smooth ride. When we come out of the man-made section we are in West Bay of the Panama City area and once in that stretch of water, we just have to negotiate the bays of Panama City, then pull into Pearl Bayou right at the eastern end of the bays. Vic will be arriving tomorrow for a week of conferences with Team Rubicon. So we get a pic and forward to him.

Panama City is one of the hardest hit areas of Florida from Hurricane Michael and the remnants of the devastation are evident everywhere we look including some beached vessels in the bayou when we enter.

Hurricane wreckage-Pearl Bayou

First Forty arrived about 60 minutes before us and they are comfortably set in their anchorage, Kailani and Wild Goose negotiate the Bayou around 3 anchored sailboats and set our anchors near First Forty. We’ve arrived at just before 4:00pm so there’s still more than an hour of daylight before the sun sets. Tracy gets out her fishing tackle and I clean up Kailani from the day’s cruise, then study the charts for tomorrow’s trip to Apalachicola. 

The day was somewhat comfortable after early morning frost on the docks back at Bluewater Bay Marina, but as the sun gets closer to settling, the air starts to cool down and overnight might get into the thirties. Tracy prepares the pot roast, mashed potatoes and vegetables from yesterday’s trip to Publix and we have a nice hot meal at anchorage. The generator runs for the meal prep and then for a while afterwards to charge the batteries, but at 8:30pm when the generator goes off the beautiful silence of anchorage(s) is immediately apparent. The silence of being at anchorage is a very soothing lack if sound and sleep is very easy in these conditions.

Sunset at Pearl Bayou

Soon we will be taking our adventure to the extreme when we cruise the gulf crossing. That’s a 180 mile, 19-20 hour cruise that starts at around 5pm on a good departure day and ends around noontime the next day. So the majority of the cruise is in the dark from 6pm to 6am. So with that cruise on the near horizon, a very sound and deep sleep tonight will go a long way towards prepping us for the gulf crossing.

Saturday: Today we will lose an hour as we cruise eastward back into Eastern Standard Time. We’ve been in Central Standard Time since we left Michigan City, Indiana. It’ll be good to be back into our home timezone again, but today’s 6 hour cruise will therefore, take us 7 hours on the clock.

At 7:15am Wild Goose, Kailani and First Forty start raising the anchors and by 7:30am we’re leaving Pearl Bayou with the accompaniment of several playful dolphins. No matter how many we see, they’re still a wonderment to watch and photo. Once out of the bayou we turn east towards Apalachicola and immediately go under the Tyndall Parkway Bridge and into East Bay.


A large portion of today will be in man-made canal and after passing thru East Bay, we enter the 20 mile section that will take us to Lake Wimico. There is a slight head current most of the day and we are being slowed by about 1 knot during the cruise thru East Bay and thru Lake Wimico, but once we hit the Apalachicola River the river currents and the tide are both with us and we pick up nearly 2 knots of speed as we approach Apalachicola. Once we we can see the Route 98 Bridge over the Apalachicola River, we know we’re close to our destination. We must navigate past the bi-furcation buoy ‘A” then turn to starboard and go up the Scipio Creek to at the waterfront. We are staying at Apalachicola Marina but we will go past it and continue up the Scipio Creek to Scipio Creek Marina for fuel topping off and a pump out. After we nestle up to the fuel dock, we are told that their pump out facilities are still down from the hurricane and there are actually no pulp out facilities in the whole town! Well, at least we’ll have topped off tanks for the gulf crossing. 

After pulling out of Scipio Creek Marina we head back to our marina where Wild Goose is already secured to the fixed docks and we pull in right behind him leaving room for First Forty when they are done at the fuel docks. Everyone secures their lines and connects utilities. The manager of the marina, George, told Barry and Carol that there is a barbecue cook-off challenge in town today and he’s one of the judges, so after we’re all tucked in, we head out to the cook-out for some barbecue lunch. Funny for a small town, but to walk what should have been about four blocks in a straight line, we get directions from some locals and end up seeing half the town before reaching the location for the barbecue.

Appalachicola, Florida-still need jackets!

We all get a nice lunch and walk back to the marina where the ‘fun’ starts. 

I walk aboard Kailani to find the AC power not on and the house batteries drained to the level where the inverter does not have enough juice to create AC power. So Tracy and I go into troubleshooting mode and try to work out the issue. After a few ideas that our limited experience can come up with, we still can’t get AC power from the dock onto the vessel and in fact at one point, as I’m turning on the current from the dock, Tracy is looking at the circuit panel and the AC Main trips. We haven’t had that happen before, so we shut down the shore power and run off batteries for a while. Then I call George, the marina manager and see if he can get an electrician to stop by and check out our problem as we obviously have a short somewhere.

Then I go over to Wild Goose to visit and ask if they can print out a document I need to fill out and return to the Tampa Waterside Marriott to hold our reservation for when Nick & Dede arrive next month. While sitting on their sun deck, their shore power starts flickering and acting the same way ours did, so they shut down their shore power and First Forty walks over to their boat and disconnects shore power also, just to be sure it doesn’t occur on their vessel. 

After taking with Nick about this issue, we decide to try getting AC power from our generator to see if it’s a boat problem or an outside issue. I start up the generator and the power responds correctly so I think we’re okay but there still may be a problem with our shore cables or connectors, but since the other vessels experienced a bad power issue also, I suspect the global issue is with the power delivery and not the vessels. We’ll have to see when the electrician shows up. While the generator is running, we turn on the on-board heat and roast the cabin before turning in for the night under the electric blanket. Boy it’ll be nice when Florida weather actually plays nice with us.

Waiting for the thing that looks like this.   -tc   

Week 40 – January 13-January 19, 2019,  169 Nautical miles this week, 3,725 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: We start the week with our last cruise in fresh water as today we’ll get to Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. We have a 70 nautical mile day ahead of us, so we all plan to depart by 7am. All that is except, Buy the Book. They don’t want to push for the full trip in one day, so they’re planning to take their time today and anchor out one more night part way to Mobile in Big Bayou Canot.

So Then Again, Red Pearl and Kailani are all prepared to depart and at 6:40am Then Again radios us and says that he’s dragging his anchor so he’s going to just raise it now and get started down the river a bit early. We all wish him safe travels and I know we’ll see him at the end of the day because he’s going to Fairhope City Docks, same as us. Then at 7am Tracy’s on the bow ready to raise our anchor and soon we’re heading out into the river. Red Pearl is slightly behind us, so we proceed at slow speed to let Red Pearl catch up and take the lead since they have AIS and we don’t. 

Its a good thing they are in the lead today because there will be 2 overtakings and 5 passings. In fact there is 1 overtaking that goes right into a passing. Which usually isn’t that much of a big deal, however in this instance, we first run into the overtaking scenario and the tow asks us to pass on the ‘one’ whistle (our port side), then while we are in the process of overtaking him, the oncoming tow asks us to pass on the ‘two whistle’ (our starboard side). So effectively, we have to complete the overtaking of the first to cross in front of him then be prepared to pass the oncoming vessel from the other side of the river. This is a highly unusual situation, but is necessary due to the bends in the river occurring during the pass. 

Soon we are entering the last five miles of the river into downtown Mobile and Steve aboard Red Pearl lets me know that his AIS is showing 49 commercial vessels ahead in the harbor! The good news is that only about 10 of them are actually moving, the rest are anchored, being loaded, being unloaded, etc. One of the vessels actually moving turns out to be four vessels moving. The configuration is that there’s an ocean going freighter being pushed by a tug from the stern with two more tugs pushing from the starboard side to dock the freighter.

The rearmost tug, Trinity, asks us to pass on the ‘one whistle’ to stay clear of the pushing procedure which is fine except, for the two tugs on the starboard side to accomplish the push, they have to grind out serious rpm’s to get enough power to push the freighter sideways. So as we proceed behind and around these two tugs, the prop wash from the power almost turns Red Pearl completely around in the channel. That’s a lot of horsepower!

After we are thru the downtown ares, we are out into Mobile Bay and Red Pearl heads due south towards Dog River Marina and Kailani heads east towards Fairhope City Docks. The wind and waves in the bay are reminiscent of our travels through the Great Lakes as there is a wind just off our port rear quarter around 15 mph and the wind-driven waves are about 2-3 feet from nearly the same direction, so when we turn to make the run across the bay into Fairhope, the wind and waves are hitting us from basically the same spot and doing their best to throw us around. It is evident that we are now into southern salt water as the gulls start to flock around our vessels thinking they might get fed.

Soon we are through the bay and entering the Fairhope Bay Inlet and heading for the City Docks. Barry and Carol are out on the docks with Sean the manager to help us into our slip and with the winds blowing around, it is a delicate job to get Kailani into the finger slip. Soon we are nestled bow first into the slip and ready to relax after nearly 8 hours and 70 miles on the river. 

We spend the afternoon catching up with Barry and Carol and discuss departure strategies for heading towards the gulf intracoastal waterway. The manager, Sean is telling us that there will be winds out of the north for the next couple of days and that is the weather that blows water out of the bay and reduces the depths in the bay making it somewhat problematic to get out of the inlet safely. So we have some discussions about whether to stay or go tomorrow and Dream Quest (a gold looper), Then Again, Wild Goose and Kailani decide to make the run for Orange Beach and the gulf intracoastal waterway tomorrow morning. We also called Robbie Gwynn, the local Harbor Host and he provided much needed intelligence to help us determine that we have a great chance of making the departure without issue tomorrow. 

After all arrangements are completed for leaving tomorrow, Tracy and I get ready to go out to dinner with Barry and Carol. We call for an Uber and Jason, the driver takes us to McSherry’s Irish Pub and Restaurant. Its Sunday afternoon and NFL playoff football is on this weekend. As luck would have it, the Sunday afternoon game has the New Orleans Saints playing the Philadelphia Eagles and the place is packed with Saints fans. We get the only bistro table available and squeeze in for what are supposed to be the best burgers in Fairhope. Surprisingly our waitress is able to get us a regular table before the meal shows up and we’re able to eat in comfort. After dinner we take another Uber back to the marina and agree to meet tomorrow morning at 7:30 for departing Fairhope and heading down to Orange Beach. 

Monday: Harbor Host Robbie Gwynn’s feedback is spot on today! Our shallowest waters are right at the jettyied entrance to the harbor and as directed, we hug the red buoys and find our best water. Back to the start of the day. We had all agreed to depart around 7:30 am, but as we are all anxious to beat the dead low tide coming at about 8am, we all seem to be working our lines and utility hook-ups at 6:45am. In fact, gold loopers, Dream Quest are already leaving the docks around 6:50 so we will let them be the barometer for safe departure. As Barry and I work our dock lines, we keep one eye on Dream Quest and soon his navigation lights are turning south signaling that the inlet has adequate depth for us. 

Barry, Lenny and I are all ready at our helms for pulling out of the slips and it evolves that both Barry and Lenny are waiting for Kailani to be the next guinea pig. So with Tracy guarding the pylons and me backing Kailani out of the slip we are soon cruising out of the harbor and hugging the red buoys to get out into the bay. With the winds coming off our starboard beam we must be careful not to get too close to the reds on our port because the winds will push us right into the buoy pilings, so we favor slightly to the reds and let the wind push us into the favored side without getting too close to the pilings. We make it safely even though Tracy felt we were a bit too close. Anyway, I radio back to Barry and Lenny to be cautious of the same thing and Barry ends up nudging on of the pilings nonetheless. Overall, everyone gets safely out of the harbor and Barry just has to do a bit of clear gorilla tape repairs to one of his eisenglass windows later on when we dock!

Since we are heading nearly due west to exit the harbor, the north winds and wind driven waves create some havoc for about 2 miles before we can turn due south to head for the entrance to the GICW and avoid the shallow reefs marked by Clear Point Light and Mullets Point Light. But once we do turn due south the seas and winds are exactly at our stern and it abruptly calms our ride the last fifteen miles to the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. 

The bay is a bit shallower than normal due to the northerly winds blowing some water out of the bay, but we still have no less than 8 feet of water with a 4’ draft vessel, so no worries for today’s trip. As we are approaching about 3 miles to go to the intersection with the ICW we see a commercial tow already in the channel of the GICW heading east towards a meeting with us. If we maintain our present course and speed, we will intersect the channel less than a half a mile in front of the tow. So we agree to turn slightly to port and cut a bit of a more pronounced diagonal and speed up a bit to open up a safer and more comfortable distance between us and the tow to our stern. This strategy works out perfect for us and we’re very appreciative of Lenny’s calculations and suggestions resulting from his observations on his AIS screen. 

So by 10:30am we are officially back on the ICW with this leg being the Gulf portion of the ICW. We enter the ICW and cruise towards The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach. This leg of the cruise will take us right past Homeport Marina, home of LuLu’s Gulf Shores Restaurant. This is a popular stop for loopers and regular folk as it is run by Jimmy Buffett’s sister. So we are figuring that once we dock at The Wharf, we can either take a short cruise back to the restaurant, or get an Uber to the restaurant, but as we are cruising past we learn that it just closed today for about 2 weeks for some reason. Oh well another example of perfect (or not so perfect) timing on our part. 

At 11:15am we are docked in our slip and 3 dock hands are securing our lines for our stay. Once all three of us are docked (Dream Quest continued past here to a further east destination). We find that there are another 10 loopers here. We greet Bill & Bobbie aboard First Forty again and Eagle One shows up later in the day. Also, Miss Adventures, Rascals Retreat, Jet Stream, etc are all here. Some are here for the winter and others are just passing through. It’s a great feeling to pull into a new marina and be greeted by old friends. It just makes this 6,000 mile voyage feel a bit smaller.

Barry and I take a walk to the local West Marina in the afternoon and the walk is a bit chilly even though we’re eating ice cream to heat us up! So after shopping for some much needed items for Kailani including charts for the GICW, we call for an Uber to get back to the marina. First Forty organizes dock-tails aboard their vessel and after dock-tails, Barry, Carol, Tracy and I walk across the street to Villagio’s Restaurant for some ‘upscale’ Italian food. After dinner a leisurely but nippy walk back to our slips ends with goodnight and best wishes for their cruise tomorrow to Navarre Beach, Florida where they will spend the rest of the week visiting with a few of Carol’s cousins, then we’ll hook back up together at the end of the week. We’ve cruised over 250 miles in the last four days making this one of our heaviest cruise itineraries to date, so we are definitely going to stay put for at least another day before even thinking about going further east. In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m not bragging about the friendly, warm, comfortable weather yet because we haven’t found it yet! Here we are on the gulf shores of Alabama, only a few miles from the Florida panhandle and it was only 45 degrees today with forecasts for evenings in the thirties and possibly into the twenties. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. Last year at this time we were just returning to Belhaven from Christmas break and we had to endure two snowstorms there before we could eventually continue south from there. So I guess when put into perspective, yes, its a mite cold here but it could certainly be worse. 

Tuesday: We will spend today relaxing, fishing, visiting and having a large dock-tails at the end of the day organized by Scott and K.C. Calkin aboard Jet Stream. 

Wednesday: An extra day in port as Tracy gets a ride with Louise in their rental car for some provisioning at the local Publix Store. The weather takes a very comfortable turn for the better as the sun glows all day and really warms up the air quite a bit. We don’t get into the 70’s but compared to what we’ve been experiencing, this feels very comfortable. 

Later in the day we greet Dale and Merna aboard The Journey after they’ve come across from Dog River Marina where their vessel was docked since before Christmas. We also finalize our plans to cruise to meet Wild Goose tomorrow, then travel together on Friday to Niceville where we may have to stay for the entire weekend waiting for some high winds to blow by. 

Thursday: Florida here we come. We only have 43 nautical miles today, so we take our time and Tracy is pulling Kailani off the dock at 9am and we enter the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway heading east towards Florida. It’s a short cruise to the Alabama/Florida line and most of today’s cruise is in Florida waters.

The sign says it all

We haven’t been in Florida waters since Kailani came home for the first time with Tracy, Geoff and Steve in March 2016.

Tracy takes us off the docks of The Wharf at 9am right ahead of Lenny and Louise on Then Again. We travel most of the way together until they veer north into Pensacola and we stay on the GICW towards Navarre Beach and our rendezvous with Wild Goose. The cruise is completely uneventful with 2 tow passings and they both give us the ‘one whistle’ reply and we pass them port to port. However, the entire cruise is a scenic one as we are accompanied by dozens of dolphins playing in and around Kailani’s bow and stern wakes. This is a familiar sight for us but we haven’t experienced it for a while, so we are both entertained by the playfulness of these creatures. We are traveling right at 9 knots and when they ride our bow literally a foot in front of us it seems like we are being towed by them as they match our speed identically even while they frolic, dive and surface for a breath (see video). This is a mesmerizing sight no matter how many times we experience it!

At around 1:30pm we are calling Barry aboard Wild Goose to let him know we’re only about 4 miles out and we have them in our sights. We have to navigate thru a fairly shallow area on our way into Jauna’s Pagoda & Sailor’s Grill but Barry has made this pass and reported a minimum of 4-plus feet, so we should be good. However, we still have Tracy on the bow while I slowly make the pass into the docks. She can now see the bottom and hollars out when she sees shallow water ahead so I have enough time to react to the upcoming depths. Its our own version of forward looking sonar! Anyway, we safely pass thru this ‘skinny’ area and by 1:55pm we are docked with Barry’s help on the lines. 

Juana’s Pagoda & Sailor’s Grill is a beachside restaurant in Navarre Beach with beautiful white sand beach, a great restaurant, and an owner that really wants us to spread the word about his location to other loopers and in exchange for that, he provides free dockage for us.

Wild Goose and Kailani share a private marina at Juana’s Pagoda & Sailor’s Grill, Navarre Beach, FL

In exchange for the complimentary docking, we obviously must go up to their restaurant for lunch, so while Wild Goose pulls away from the docks for a little lunch cruise with Carol’s cousins aboard visiting them, Tracy & I walk up to the restaurant for nachos and burgers. Our waitress is Kendra and she gives us great service and the food is very tasty. We eat on the outside deck facing the beach and all afternoon, we are entertained by a group of 9 men and women playing beach volleyball on one of the volleyball courts provided by Jauna’s. They are playing series of three on three and as we are watching them, they all hit some spectacular shots, so it’s a lot of fun watching them while we indulge in our lunch fare.    And those muscles!  Yummmmy!  LOL   -tc

Barry and Carol return just as darkness is setting in and after I grab their lines on their approach, we sit and visit with them and their cousins for a while before the cousins depart to prepare for their trip back home to Alabama tomorrow. One cousin lives in Montgomery and the other lives in Enterprise, Alabama so they are very familiar with this area here and even give us some descriptions of our next destination, Niceville, Florida.   Niceville!!!   -tc     Niceville will situate us about 3-4 cruising days away from the gulf crossing staging port, so we’re very close to preparing for that important leg of our journey. The next marina even provides USCG Licensed Captains for advice on gulf crossings, so while we are there over the weekend, we will definitely try to arrange one of those sessions to learn as much as we can about this long(ish) leg of the adventure.

None of the four of us is very hungry for dinner as we all had late lunches, so we retire to our respective vessels and settle down for the evening. Except, around 8pm Tracy suggests that I walk up to the restaurant and get a couple of those frosted cinnamon buns that we saw in the bakery case during lunch. So I walk up to the cashier, pick up a couple of buns and we enjoy a dinner-less dessert aboard Kailani before turning in for the night. Our plan is to meet Barry and Carol for breakfast in the restaurant tomorrow morning.

Friday: Since we have to wait for the tide to come up a bit and it’s only a 3 hour cruise, we agree to wait until 9am to meet for breakfast. I walk Frankie on the streets of Navarre Beach and it’s sort of hard to find grass that he’s used to using for his business. It’s mostly sand along the roads instead of grass. In fact this is nice white sand and it’s really comfortable to walk barefoot. But Frankie finally does his business and I’m back aboard Kailani getting ready to go to breakfast. 

At 9:00 am, we meet Barry and Carol in the restaurant and order breakfast. Before our meals come, Carol’s cousins are walking in to say goodbye on their way out of town. They join us for coffee and after a delicious breakfast, they spend their last few minutes with Barry and Carol while Tracy & I return to Kailani. 

Its now 10am and Barry and I agree that noontime will be a good time for us to leave and the water should be deep enough to get out safely. So in the meantime, Tracy & Carol decide to take a walk on the beach with Frankie while Barry & I get our vessels ready for departure. At 12:00pm we are both untying our lines and leaving the looper-friendly establishment known as Jauna’s Pagoda and Sailor’s Grill. We will tell other loopers about this neat little stop and how eager they are to have loopers stopping at their complimentary docks. 

The GICW is very quiet today as there are no commercial tugs that we have to pass or overtake, but there are a few kayakers and SUP’s (stand up paddle board) and once we get into Choctawhatchee Bay we even see a parasailer! So obviously, we slow to idle for the canoes, kayaks and SUP and the parasailer is too far away to be affected by our wakes. That just gives you an idea how spectacular the water is today with a nice sun, great flat calm waters and a decent water temperature (at last) hovering in the high 50’s. 

Once we are in Choctawhatchee Bay we have about 8 miles of wide open, deep water to navigate with no designated channel thanks to the 35 foot damp waters, so both Wild Goose and Kailani run up the rpm’s to flush out the blow-by and after Kailani gets up to 1,900 rpm’s and 20 knots for five minutes we back her down to her normal cruising rate of 1,000 rpm’s and 9 knots for the last twenty minutes into Bluewater Bay Marina. 

We already know that the weather for the next two days will prevent us from moving closer to the gulf crossing so we’ll be staying here until at least Monday. Therefore as we enter the marina harbor, we take Kailani straight to the pump-out dock so we’ll have nice clean tanks while we R and R here in Niceville. The pump out has some issues and eventually, the two dock hands have to bring their pump out boat alongside Kailani and use it rather than the land based pump to do the job. After entering the marina at exactly 3:00 pm, it’s almost 4:00 pm when we are eventually backing into slip A-29 and getting tied up. There is a slew of loopers along with the two dock hands to guide us stern-first into our assigned slip. 

Right after getting all tied up and utilities hooked up, we hear that Jack & Patty Nickerson (the Niceville Harbor Hosts) have arranges for a land-based dock tails this afternoon and we are all meeting at their vessel, Nearly Perfect, to depart for Swen and Katja’s house. So Rick and Kris from Eagle One, Barry and Carol from Wild Goose, Eddy and Linda from Spiritus, Jack and Patty from Nearly Perfect and I gather and split into three vehicles for the short trip to Swen and Katja’s house. Tracy doesn’t make the trip because her shoulder has been bothering her and she’s medicated    HIGHLY medicated!   -tc   so she wants to rest her body and her arm. 

I get into Eddy and Linda’s car and ride with them the 1 mile to the house and shortly, we are all pulling into the driveway and meeting fellow loopers, Swen and Katja. Their house is large, magnificent and quite scenic since its located right on the bay waters. They even have a nice dock in their backyard, but the water is not deep enough for their Mainship 34, so they keep it in the marina. We learn that Katja’s family are part owners of the Bluewater Development and we also find out that Katja owns the Bluewater Bay Golf Resort, so during the dock tails, Jack, Barry and I make arrangements to play golf tomorrow, Hooray! 

Jack & Patty are gold loopers as are Eddy and Linda, in fact, the prime source of weather information we all use to determine fair seas for planning gulf crossings is a daily report published by Eddy called “Eddy’s Weather Wag’ and as I mentioned, it’s the gold standard for available weather resources to make go/no go decisions. He’s truly a master in interpreting the weather data and putting it into words understandable to all loopers. Another couple is there and they are shopping for a looper vessel. They are John & Ellen and they also serve as additional Harbor Hosts for this area. Meantime, our hosts, Swen and Katja already own their vessel a Mainship 34 called Rhyker and they plan to start their loop this coming fall from here. In the meantime, they are getting more familiar with cruising and their ship’s systems. We all have a wonderful time enjoying Swen and Katja’s hospitality and by 8:00pm we are getting back into vehicles for the return trip to the marina. Jack, Barry and I agree to meet on Nearly Perfect at 8:00 tomorrow morning and Jack will drive to the golf course. 

I return to Kailani and Tracy is still nursing her aggravated  shoulder muscle. I hope this resolves itself soon as it’s not nice to see her in such agony.    OMG. Agony is not the word.  I was reduced to crying for an hour every morning just to be able to loosen it up enough to put on my clothes.  This has been going on since before  Christmas and this is about the worst it has been so far!  -tc

Saturday: I must be excited about today’s round of golf because I wake up 20 minutes before my alarm is set to go off! So I take my time with my morning routine and I’m aboard Nearly Perfect at 5 minutes before 8:00am. Soon Barry shows up and we leave for the course in Jack’s car. It’s really a shame to see a nearly empty parking lot when we arrive. This is a warm Saturday morning and there is literally less than ten vehicles in the lot at 8:15am. Doesn’t anybody play golf anymore? At least it’’ll be easy for us to get a starting time. 

At approximately 8:30am we are teeing off on the first hole of the Lake Course and the entire day gives us very little wind and only two bouts of light sprinkle with most of the day being partly sunny and comfortable warm (I actually take off my over jacket and play most of the day with my short sleeve golf shirt). All three of us are understandable rusty from not playing golf in a while, but we each play reasonably well and enjoy the four hours together on the course. After our round, we go in the clubhouse for a nice lunch, then load back into Jack’s vehicle for the return to the marina. Jack offers that if we need anything else, just ask. He and Patty have been great Harbor Hosts for us here in Niceville and unfortunately, they will be leaving in the morning to drive to Fort Meyers, Fl for the annual Gold Looper’s Reunion. 

We have dinner reservations for this evening at the Tradewinds Italian Restaurant for 8:45 pm. There will be six of us going including Barry & Carol, Swen and Katja and us. The restaurant is highly recommended by all the local loopers and so we have to give it a taste. 

Week 39 – January 6-January 12, 2019,  140 Nautical miles this week, 3,556 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: Frankie’s walk is a change of pace today as I walk him towards the boat ramp which is on property, but directly on the Tombigbee River. It’s a slightly longer walk, but pretty nonetheless. We walk by a cotton field that is just stalks for the winter, but would probably be nice in the growing season. 

Flooded boat ramp-Demopolis

Once we’re at the ramp area I can see that the river is still high.  The boat ramp is completely submerged! I mean gone, not visible, not even an indication of where the boat ramp is other than the sign signifying that this is the boat ramp area.   Isn’t Frankie’s shadow cute?  -tc

By mid afternoon, First Forty and Eagle One are pulling into the marina and we walk over to their slips to greet them. Hugs and welcomes all around and it’s good to see them again. First Forty is on their second loop so their past experience is invaluable. After they register, we hear that the fuel dock over in the Demopolis Yacht Basin is completely blocked in and recreational vessels can not get fuel at this time. So I take a golf cart and ride over to check it out. Jimmy is on the fuel dock taking care of 2 towboats. When he gets a chance, he comes back into the fuel office and we chat for a while about the river conditions.

Waiting for debris to clear out for fuel and a pump out-Demopolis

He confirms that the pile of debris accumulating on the recreational vessel side of the dock will be there until the river recedes a bit and the lock opens more times. He explains that when the lock opens slightly downriver, it starts to draw the debris out of their basin and poof, it’s soon gone. “He’s got 2 towboats fueling and provisioning on the commercial side which is not affected by the debris. He tells me that one of the tows has just come up from Mobile Bay and used 20,000 gallons of fuel to go 230 miles! I find that hard to believe, but I have no basis of knowledge to refute his story, I’m just glad that we get better fuel economy (by a long shot)!

Most of the day is spent doing spring cleaning in the sunroom. We wash the ceiling, walls, floor and re-arranging the furniture, all to have a fresh perspective for the coming months and also to prepare for friends and family to visit starting at the end of this month. We just need to get across the Gulf to Tarpon Springs before they arrive because we told them both to use Tampa International as their flight destination(s). So hopefully, we’ll be able to get into Mobile Bay soon, meet up with Wild Goose and possibly The Journey, then compete the gulf crossing so we can be in the right area to receive friends.

Monday: We know that there will not be any departures today for a reasons that include the river conditions and the fuel dock being inaccessible yesterday. But today there does seem to be some room for at least one vessel at a time, so vessels that are trying to get out of here fairly quickly are rushing over to fuel up including Kailani. We all agree to meet at 4:30pm in the clubhouse to discuss departure strategies and to coordinate our departures because if 12 vessels all left on the same day, the available anchorage(s) would not accommodate everyone. So Bobbie Bristow of First Forty leads the docktails in discussing the conditions of the river going down and the available anchorages. We learn thru the looper grapevine that Bobby’s Fish Camp is not taking any tie-ups due to the river conditions. So anyone looking to leave must use Bashi Creek. 

Also, we’ve been in contact with Ed Ofshack for a week now discussing the perils and dangers of traveling in these conditions of high and fast moving water. Numerous buoys are submerged or out of place and hitting one of them would be instant sinking, not to mention the flotilla of debris to avoid. So Kailani drops out of the Tuesday morning departure, but First Forty and Eagle One are still planning on leaving. But it’s at 10pm when I get an email from Eagle One saying that they were changing their minds and would be staying in port tomorrow after all.

Tuesday: Everyone continues to watch the weather and river conditions improve slightly, but not enough for some’s liking, including Kailani, So Eagle One and First Forty make their final preparations for a Wednesday departure while Kailani hitches up with Then Again, Red Pearl and Buy the Book to sit longer and continue to wait for better conditions.

Kingfisher Bay Marina waiting for river to recede!

The waiting here has produced some tired emotions and the boat opposite us has a display that fits the mood perfectly as he has a skeleton lying on a hammock!

We make dinner arrangements with Lenny and Louise of Then Again for the Red Barn Steak House. We are all watering for a nice juicy steak prepared and cleaned up by someone else. 


Wednesday: Eagle One and First Forty head out early and by day’s end, they are reporting back to us that the anchorage at Bashi Creek is totally unusable.

Bobby’s Fish Camp 2 days before we got there. First Forty anchoring to a tree so dock won’t float away

Bobby’s Fish Camp is their final destination and they must dinghy to shore from the docks and tie their boats to trees so Bobby’s doesn’t lose any docks due to boats pulling on them in high river currents. Still not a pretty picture, but at least they’re 70 miles closer to the gulf.

Thursday: Today, we have another get together and the four of us make a decision to go for it on Friday as Louise has learned that Bashi Creek is now useable after the river has now receded quite a bit in the last two days. So we all agree to target a 6:30 am departure and shoot for Bashi Creek before sundown tomorrow. Since we’re getting an early start, we all turn in by 10pm.

Friday: I start my day at 4:50 am and at 6:00 am, Louise is calling the Demopolis Lock for status of dropping 4 PC’s early this morning. The lock master says that there is a single tow going downriver who hasn’t arrived yet so it’ll be first come first served if we want to get a move on right away. She radios the other 3 crews and we all jump to prep our boats for departure and by 6:30am all 4 loopers are out of the marina and headed towards the lock some 2 miles downriver. 

Lenny radios the lock and the lock master tells Lenny that the down river tug is ahead of us, but right now he has an upriver tow approaching the lock so it’ll be a while before we’re able to get into the lock. How did all this change in 30 minutes? Anyway, we all decide that better than hanging around in the current of the river, we should all go back to the marina and tie up to the docks while we wait this out, because if it’s 9am or later before we are given the green light, we should not try to depart. Otherwise we’ll end up dealing with anchoring after dark on the other end.

It all works out well as 8am we are getting the signal to proceed to the open gates of the lock. The water has gone down considerably since the beginning of the week as we will drop 18 feet today and on Monday the lower pool was only 2 feet below the upper pool. Once the four of us are out of the lock, we’re on our way to Bashi Creek. Today’s cruise is 65 nautical miles, so we need to make hay while the sun shines, but cruising at 10-11 knots will be sufficient to make it by 4pm. So downriver we go with Then Again leading the way followed by Kailani, then Red Pearl and Buy the Book. Then Again has AIS, so Lenny takes care of radioing the four tugs we will meet today. The first is an overtaking situation, being the vessel that preceded us into the lock going downriver, then we have 3 passing situations with upriver tows making their slow way against the current. 

Actually the current is only giving us a 2 plus knot push, so even the flow of the water has gone down somewhat. All in all, we have a cool, but sunny day on the river and we have to keep a sharp lookout for bridge clearances due to the high water level. In the first 15 miles, we pass the old Rooster Bridge. This bridge was in use and spanning the river up until the 80’s but in 1979, there was a tug, Calaba that actually got caught under this old bridge during high water and the fact moving water buried the tug under the bridge structure, then it got pushed thru and dramatically ‘popped up’ on the down river side of the bridge and righted itself. To see photos and more story of this incident, just Google: “Rooster, Cahaba, Tombigbee”. This old bridge has now been demolished across the river, but the piers and bridge coming off the land are still visible today. 

At 3:15pm, Then Again, Kailani and Red Pearl are at the anchorage and one by one, we enter the creek, set our anchors and watch the next vessel enter as we need to stay in single file to fit everyone into this creek. We set our bow anchors and deploy stern anchors to keep the vessel orientation correct through the night. We are all set in place and Then Again gets a call that the slower, Buy the Book sailing vessel is only about a mile upstream and will be entering the creek soon.

Baschi Creek anchorage with Then Again ahead of us

That’s awesome as we thought it was possible they wouldn’t arrive before dark. Once they are in the creek, we determine that the best way for them to secure the vessel is to bridle off Kailani’s stern cleats and drift down-current to the ends of the lines, then set their stern anchor to maintain orientation and just as daylight is disappearing, all four vessels are secure for the evening and tomorrow will be another long day to another anchorage. 

Tonight will be a nice cool but dry short evening so we can start early tomorrow with the same type of schedule and another fairly long cruise as we try to complete the 215 mile cruise to Mobile in three days. Hopefully by the time we get to the gulf shore, we can start thinking about shorts and short sleeve shirts again. I need to work on my tan!

Saturday: The end of week 39 and we’re one day away from Mobile Bay and salt water. Today we went thru our last inland waterway lock and we’re now at theoretical sea level. I say theoretical because we should be at no more than 2 feet above sea level (depending on tides), however, we are still some 25 feet above sea level. The Coffeeville Lock should be a 34 foot drop and today we only dropped 4 feet! So at the lock (60 miles upstream) the water was still 30 feet high. The cruise today was one of the highest for floating debris. 

Anyway let’s go back to the beginning. We turned in last night at 9pm and lights out by 10pm so I knew I’d be starting the day early. In fact we both woke up around 3am and Tracy actually thought that it would signal the end of sleep for us both and we’d be hanging around for 2 hours waiting for 5am but we both fell back asleep and I woke up to my 5am alarm, but didn’t get out of bed until almost 6am. I guess I really needed the sleep. As planned collectively last night we were outside and getting Buy the Book released from Kailani’s stern right at 7am so they could clear out the path for the rest of us to leave the creek. By 7:30am we were all out on the river and headed south towards the Coffeeville Lock and Dam which is 29 miles south of us. We weren’t sure of the vessel traffic so we agreed that we would call when we got close and see if there would be a long wait or not. As it turned out, when we were four miles upstream from the lock we learned that there was a tow going down the river already in the lock and four tows waiting on the other side for locking up the river!

Looper Famous Bobby’s Fish Camp-don’t stop here!!

This was not good news as the lock master told us to return further upstream towards Bobby’s Fish Camp (unusable for dockage) and wait for his instructions. As the PC Gods would have it, the lock master completed the down river tow, took the first up river tow, then as the first upriver tow was coming out of the lock, the lock master radioed us and said to come on in as he was going to lock us down while he was dropping the pool for the other up river vessels. Hooray for small favors! Our wait/delay turned out to be a reasonable 25 minutes, so no big deal. Soon we were turning our vessels around and heading back towards the lock for our previously described 4 foot drop!

After the gates opened, we passed the other three up river tows, thanked them for the accommodation and passed another three up river tows along the way. Today was a busy day on the river. And to top it all off, 7 miles before our destination we encountered Mr. David (we had overtaken him yesterday), another up river tow and an ‘ess’ curve in the river all at the same time! Since Red Pearl and Then Again have AIS they were able to anticipate the chance encounter and it was all worked out before any logjam occurred. Since Kailani is not equipped with AIS we rode in the middle of our caravan.

As a direct result of the high waters of the lower Black Warrior River there were more buoys missing today then there were buoys in place.

Some of the hundreds of buoys out of place by the high waters

We saw at least 20 red buoys stuck in the trees on the shores of the river. If you think that’s amazing, get this: all but one of the red buoys were on the right descending bank whereas when they are anchored in the river, they would be on the left side of the channel! How’s that for a strong current? Not only yanked out of their anchorage, but drifted completely across the river. Now that’s some strong water current(s).

With plenty of daylight left even on this overcast day, we were pulling into Three Rivers Lake inlet at 4pm and looking for a suitable spot to drop and set the anchor. There’s so much surface area on this normally small lake due to the high waters that we are all able to anchor with just the front hook(s) and let our vessels swing in the wind and current without hitting each other. This should be a nice comfortable evening even with the rain and cooler temperatures. But what makes it the best is knowing that once we raise the anchor tomorrow and leave this anchorage we will be ending the day in Mobile Bay at Fairhope City Docks and into the Gulf of Mexico thereby ending our portion of the loop in freshwater. We’ve been in fresh water since entering the Hudson River last June so getting back into salt water will be a long time coming. Hopefully the weather will be a long time coming also. Were totally ready for shorts, tee shirts and bare feet! 

Week 38 – Dec 30, 2018-Jan 5, 2019, 104 Nautical miles this week, 3416 Nautical miles to date.

Sunday: Today is our second day back aboard Kailani and we’ve already returned the rental car and re-provisioned for the upcoming leg, but we’ve made a decision to stay docked here because there is a bad forecast for Monday and if we were to leave today, Monday would be at anchor, so we’ll stay here for a few more days and look at leaving on New Years Day.
Monday: The rains make the forecasters look good and there are even tornado warnings, so we made a good decision staying tied up. We borrow the courtesy car once again and go shopping for some shelving that Tracy has been looking for lately. Lowe’s has a few of the shelves Tracy wants and soon we’re returning to Kailani and making sure we’re ready for an early departure tomorrow.
On the next slip is another looper boat that came in yesterday. Dave and Chris aboard Breathe First are cruising to Demopolis where they will pull the vessel out of the water and get an RV to travel to the west coast for the winter. So we agree to travel together and plan for an 8:00 am departure since we’re looking at a 57 nautical mile cruise including 2 locks. Even though today is New Year’s Eve we turn in early and the best we can do is stay awake long enough for midnight back home (11:00 pm here). Since we’re now in the Central Time Zone, we are 1 hour later and therefore, we miss the actual local midnight.
Tuesday: As has been the case throughout the entire adventure, every time I set my alarm clock for an early rise, I end up waking prior to the alarm going off. Today is no exception and with the alarm set for 5:30 am, I am fully awake at 5:00 am! Oh well, this gives me plenty of time to make sure Frankie is walked, the garbage is placed in the dumpster and Kailani is fully ready for the departure. Tracy wakes early and Breathe First is looking like they are ahead of schedule also, so after Chris calls the lock and tells the Lock Master that we’re ready to leave, he says to come right in and the gates will be ready for us, so at 7:40am we’re releasing the dock lines and pulling away from Kailani’s home for the last month.
As we approach the open gates of the Stennis Lock we cannot believe the sight in front of us as there is literally a wall of debris from wall to wall at the entrance to the lock. Using the binoculars we confirm that there are also some large logs in the pile, so we are extra careful entering the lock.

100 feet of debris at Columbus Lock

We pull Kailani right up to the starboard lock wall and move in very slowly so the bow has an opportunity to push aside some off the debris and to also make sure we don’t hit anything big. Once we’re past the debris field and into the somewhat clear water of the lock, we move over to the port lock wall for our tie up to the floating bollard. Tracy is giving the docking stick a try this morning while I drive us in and everything works out fine until Tracy’s nagging shoulder starts to ache, but we are already hooked to the bollard, so I go down and switch up with Tracy as I take the lock line and Tracy heads up to the bridge. Soon the lock is lowering and we come out 23 feet lower than when we started.
Breathe First pulls out and we fall in behind them as we cruise the next 25 miles to the next lock. We immediately notice that the river is providing a nice 4 knot push but it’s a good news/bad news situation as the current is also creating lots of floating debris and we must keep a sharp lookout as we enjoy the nice push. We now know that making the Sumter anchorage before dark will be a foregone conclusion as we are making 12-13 knots so we are no longer looking at an 8 hour cruise today.

USS Snagboat Montgomery at Bevill Lock. Last steam powered sternwheeler to cruise the inland waterways.

At the Bevel Lock there is a Museum with the USS Snagboat Montgomery exhibited in dry dock adjacent to the lock. She is one of the last steam wheelers to ply the waters of the southern rivers and is an interesting sight as you approach the lock from upriver. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is a little known waterway that when built in the 60’s was a larger canal project than the Panama Canal, yet very few Americans know about its existence. This waterway was designed and constructed to make the passage from the Tennessee River down to the Gulf of Mexico shorter and more friendly than the Mississippi River and today is shared by barges and recreational boaters 24 hours a day, year round. The lock masters are very accommodating to PC’s (pleasure craft) and the tows are usually not as large as what we saw on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The design uses parts of the original Tombigbee River and man made canals to carry vessels from the Tennessee River to the Block Warrior River, then into Mobile Bay.

Today, at one point of the cruise while traveling on the original Tombigbee River portion, we cross the Mississippi-Alabama state line 5 times in 2 miles! While traveling with Breathe First, we actually get to a point where the 2 vessels are no more than 100 yards apart in the waterway and Breathe First is in Mississippi and Kailani is in Alabama!
After 2 locks and 57 nautical miles, we are safely anchored in the Sumter Recreation Area more than halfway to Demopolis, our next stop. The weather today gave us a mostly cloudy and somewhat raw 62 degree day, so even though we’re moving south, we’re not seeing nice warm weather yet, but it will be soon.
20190113_070817The river is extremely high and in some respects, a bit dangerous. We’ve gotten some correspondence from locals cautioning us to be very diligent and careful cruising to Demopolis and that they would definitely not recommend going past there until the high water starts receding. So we’ll watch carefully tomorrow as we cruise to Demopolis, then talk more with the locals there and the AGLCA local members about the safety of the river going further down to Mobile. For sure, we are recreational boaters, not risk-taking boaters.


Since we are at anchor and do not get off the vessel after dark, the evenings end earlier than usual for us so we are in bed shortly after 9pm and fully expect to get an early start tomorrow accordingly.


Wednesday: We are in fact, ready to depart by 7:00am. We can see the crew of Breathe First preparing to raise anchor also, so we move into our positions to raise our anchor and start today’s careful journey to Demopolis. Tracy is on the bow controlling the anchor with the windlass and I’m at the helm taking directives from her for using the movement of the vessel in conjunction with the windlass to facilitate the raising of the anchor. Once Tracy can see the shiny Ultra anchor break the surface, she can see that the bed here is about 5 gallons of clay lighter because that’s how much clay is clinging to the anchor claws. We move Kailani back and forth for a while with the anchor just hanging at the water level and some but not all of the mud comes off. Finally, we decide to just leave the rest of the mud on and move out into the river to start the day. We have three miles to the Heflin Lock and Dam, so once we’re out on the river and cruising south, I radio the Lock Master and he tells us to keep on coming and when we cross under the highway bridge, he will be ready with the gates open for us. Since we are talking to him on VHF 14 which all the tows monitor, he gets a call from a tow that is about 5 miles behind us and traveling down river also. The Lock Master asks him if he’s okay with locking us first while the tow is approaching and both agree that we can precede the commercial tow. The Lock Master tells us that the drop today is only 17 feet rather than the usual 32 feet due to the high pool levels, so the lockage will be somewhat quicker than normal and he’ll have plenty of time to raise the lock and be ready for the tow after we leave the lock.
As I’m approaching from 2 miles up river of the lock I can see that the Lock Master has opened the gates and given us the green light to enter, so I coast Kailani into the lock (with very little debris) and Tracy hooks us up to the floating bollard. Once we’re secure to the bollard, we switch up positions with Tracy at the helm and me tending the line so she doesn’t aggravate her ailing shoulder. As promised, the lowering is rather short and soon were leaving the lock with the Lock Master alerting us to the strong currents that will be hitting the starboard side of our vessels coming from the dam spillway. Tracy compensates for the strong currents and we are safely through the rough water and into calmer river. I take over for the 47 nautical mile cruise and slow Kailani down to 800 rpm’s which produces 8.4 knot boat speed and the current gives us 11.5 knots speed over ground. So all I have to do is remain situationally aware for debris and tows and make our way down to Demopolis.
The total cruise is very comfortable and all the warnings and alerts we received prior to departure are all welcome and helpful, but the cruise turns out to be very comfortable until we are approaching the confluence of the Tombigbee River (which we are on) and the Black Warrior River which comes in from the left descending bank. As we are approaching this intersection, we see our first commercial tow of the day and after a radio call to the captain, he confirms that we can keep on coming on the ‘one’ whistle. I instantly see that I’ll be able to use the 600 feet of barges to effectively ‘block’ the water raging out of the Black Warrior River and pas the tow in relatively calm water. The calm is short lived as soon as we are clear of the tows stern and as we are looking at the entrance to our marina, Kingfisher Bay Marina, the water is a boil just as we would expect just a mile above the Demopolis Lock and Dam. This is our destination, so all I have to do is navigate through a little bit of rough water, then the marina inlet will instantly calm down as it blocks the river currents.
We are on VHF Channel 11 talking to Anna-Marie, the Kingfisher Dock Master and she is waiting to grab our lines at slip B13, our covered home for probably the next few days. Tracy is on the bow and between Tracy and Anna-Marie, we are quickly secured to the pier and shutting down the engines. We have travelled 47 nautical miles and one lock in just over 4 hours (7am to 12:15pm) so this is definitely one of the quickest cruises we have experienced on this entire voyage. The river cooperated, the currents were somewhat friendly (not too extreme) and the lock timing was perfect. All the stars aligned for today’s cruise and we now know that our safety will come first as we wait out the cresting of the river, followed by lowering levels or the water. It’s truly fantastic that after posting on the AGLCA forum that we were cruising out of Columbus Marine and headed to Mobile, a fellow member wintering in Cape Haze, Florida recognized the potential danger to our vessel since these are his home waters and reached out to us to provide a wealth of information and data that reinforced the need to be extremely careful cruising to Demopolis and to accept that we definitely shouldn’t go any further south for at least a few days. Well informed advice and it was surely reinforced when I made the phone call to the marina to let them know that we were about 30 minutes out from arriving and he said “you’re on the river today?”.
Once we were all tied up and we walked over to the office to register, we walked by at least a dozen fellow looper vessels with both familiar crews and new to us crews. Isn’t this looper community great? We will have a boatload of vessels to cruise with once the water recedes.
Thursday: So we are able to schedule some projects aboard Kailani once again. The prognosis for the river is presently sitting at mid next week before safe downriver passage should be contemplated. We will continue to monitor and start enjoying the area and the loopers here. Today is a wet rainy day so outdoor projects are saved for another day even though we are in a covered slip.
Sounds like laundry is a good project for today. The laundry and lavatory facilities are a covered walk from our slip, so we have a very nice arrangement here. The laundry and lavatory are in a common area including a captain’s lounge with cable TV so it’s a very comfortable chore doing laundry and showering at the same time. We also get a chance to discuss downriver cruising with a few other boaters that are not loopers. They’re just working on getting their vessels to Florida for the winter.
Friday: Rains are projected to stop today, so we can start some outside chores. The setup for Frankie’s morning walk are fairly convenient. There are some other dogs in the marina, but it all works out for being able to prevent Frankie from doing his ballistic dance whenever he sees another dog.
The marina store is at the old Demopolis Yacht Basin site and the marina provides golf carts for transient boaters to get form Kingfisher Bay to Demopolis Yacht Basin. So we take a golf cart and run over to the ship’s store to check out the merchandise. Tracy picks up a few supplies for cleaning, waxing and caulking and we chat with the staff for a while about the river status. It’s always good to glean local knowledge and these people live and work on the river, so who better to get some education.
We also discover through Nebo that First Forty and Eagle One are leaving Columbus Marina today and should be here by Sunday afternoon if all goes well. They check in with us and we confirm to them that Sumter Recreation Area should be their plan A anchorage for the halfway point to here and we caution them about the increasing debris on the river. Tonight, we dine aboard again as Tracy cooks up some steaks.
Saturday: Today is Sunday, a day early. The sun is finally out and the weather is warming up to the mid sixties! Everyone in the marina is commenting on being surprised to see that new fiery yellow ball in the sky!
We borrow the marina courtesy car and go out for dinner at the Red Barn, the local steak house. We just beat the big crowds, but the meal is a slight disappointment. Oh well, there isn’t a Ruth Chris’ Steakhouse in every city!
Back aboard Kailani we continue our 2 episode-a-night regimen of watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. We’re nearly complete through the second season so soon we’ll have to come up with a new series to watch, maybe Bosch.


Week 33 – Nov 25-Dec 1, 2018, 70 Nautical miles this week, 3312 Nautical miles to date 

Sunday: We awake fully expecting to depart today for Smithville where we have reservations for tonight. I walk Frankie in a slight fog and a check of the weather shows that the forecast for rain has been pushed up to noontime rather than 2 pm so it may turn into a worse day than expected. Upon return to the boat with Frankie, Tracy looks outside and asks if maybe we should stay put today and go tomorrow instead. We agree on that strategy and let Whisky Business know we intend to stay here today. Jerry and Jim are preparing for departure and as I’m wishing them well, Breathless is moving out of their slip 2 docks over, so Jerry tells Jim to step on it as they need to leave and I help Jim with the lines as Jerry takes Whisky Business off the dock and heads for the Whitten Lock. 

So today will be a chores around the boat day as we settle in for the day. With plenty of time, I make a French toast breakfast and we enjoy the morning. I go up to the office to let them know we’re staying, but nobody is here on Sundays, so I’ll have to talk to Chris tomorrow before we leave.

In the afternoon a beautiful 65 foot Marquis called Patty Time from Florence Alabama pulls in behind us and I help them with their lines. They are traveling from Florence to the Alabama Gulf Shores where they have rented a home for the winter. They will be leaving in the morning also so we make arrangements to look at a potential 8 am departure based on weather and the lock status. We’re still planning to get to Demopolis before next weekend and rent a car to drive back home for the holidays. So we have 200 miles and 10 locks to get thru to reach Demopolis, so if we have good luck with the locks and don’t get held up for commercial traffic too much, we should be able to make our goal. 

Monday: Today is a much better day for travel. To start, there are clear skies with no fog although the air is a bit crisp. As I’m walking Frankie, I see that Patty Time is readying the lines for departure and I tell them that we’re planning for a morning departure also and we’ll see them down the road. Well I start thinking about it and is seems like a better idea to depart together and not wait for the lock to re-fill the pool some time later, so I rush to let Tracy know that we’ll be departing soon and we should star preparing the lines and vessel for departure. In retrospect, it was a bit too quick for Tracy and it felt uncomfortable and not right, but we did it anyway. Actually Nick released the boat from the dock before I had thought through the departure and decided on a plan of motoring out of the marina.  We did have a rather intense “debriefing” after this.  -tc   7:30 am we’re pulling off the docks of Bay Springs Marina headed for the Jamie Whitten Lock. This is the first of four locks we will need to go thru today in order to make our planned destination of Smithville Marina and it’s the tallest lock we will travel thru with a vertical drop of 84 feet. As we approach the lock, Patty Time is already secured to the lock wall and Tracy nudges Kailani in on the port side right behind Patty Time and lets the lock know we’re secure. I’m on the port side holding the bollard with our new system that we put together last night. I’m using our docking stick line attached to a boat pole and as we approach the bollard, I drop the loop over the bollard while the opposite end it already fastened to the midship cleat. Then as the vessel continues to drift forward a bit, I’m able to bring in the slack and secure Kailani right up to the lock wall with the one line secured to the bollard. The process gets better as the day goes on and we pass thru all four locks. The team of Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick works very smoothly and our technique and communication get better and better Yayyyyyy  -tc   with each passing lock. So we now have a neat system for safe and efficient locking with floating bollards. 

Our cruise today is 33 nautical miles and the 4 locks are all in the first 20 miles, so after cruising together with Patty Time thru the 4 locks, we are wishing them a safe journey as they soon are out of sight after our last lock of the day. Then we have a nice leisurely cruise the last 13 miles to Smithville Marina where we see Breathless tied to the transient dock right behind us. We last saw them depart Bay Springs Marina on Sunday in the fog. The dock master, Jim is waiting on the dock to grab our lines and at 12:30 pm exactly 5 hours after we departed, we are secured to the old dock with real good 50 amp power and have turned the heat on. Smithville Marina has a courtesy car and Tracy immediately looks for a spot where she can get her hair cut and and streaked. She finds a Regis Salon in the Super WalMart and makes an appointment for 2 pm. So we borrow the marina courtesy car and head out. While Tracy is in the salon for 90 minutes, I walk over to the Huddle House and have a quick bite, then walk back to the WalMart and do some snack shopping and as I’m finishing up the shopping, Tracy is paying for her service and we return to Kailani for the afternoon. 

I check with Columbus Marina in Columbus and confirm availability for tomorrow night as we firm up our plans for tomorrow’s cruise, then we relax in our heated space while the air temperature outside drops into the 20’s! Tomorrow should be another cool but clear day for cruising with light and variable winds.  

Tuesday: As predicted, the air temperature is cool, but there is no fog and waters are flat and calm, so by 7:30 am we’re starting to prepare Kailani for a departure and I’m calling the Glover Lock to check status of traffic. The Glover Lock is within our first quarter of a mile on today’s trip, so I’d like to know the lock status before we untie our lines so if there’s a long wait for commercial traffic, we can simply stay at the marina instead of floating out in the river. The lock master describes that he knows that there are a couple of pleasure craft coming down from Fulton and they will be at the lock within 30 minutes, so our preparation for 8 am is right on the money and we will be able to get a nice start to today’s cruise plan of 37 nautical miles and 3 locks. 

So at the top of the eight o’clock hour, we’re dropping the lines and pulling way from the docks with a bit of frost on the decks of Kailani. Again, we’ll pass thru today’s locks just like yesterday with Tracy at the helm and me on the midship with the docking stick. It’s just a bit colder than yesterday, but every minute at the helm is another minute farther south, so eventually, we’ll be in warm territory. Come to think of it, we’re already way ahead of last year in terms of our southern migration. Last year at this time, we were still in New Jersey chasing marinas that were shutting off their water and pump outs as we travelled south. Here we have full operations at every marina we get to, and other people to meet with and chat. Today, we should run back into Paul and Diane of Sea Wolf as they are still docked at Columbus Marina. 

We pull into the lock and the vessel already in the lock is Tortuga Verde, or Green Turtle. We’ve seen this vessel already and it was docked the whole time we were in Green Turtle Bay and we suspect that it’s the Owner’s vessel, but the voice doesn’t sound like him, so were sort of sure, but not really sure. Anyway, Tortuga Verde is a 17 mph vessel and we’re making 11 mph today (9.6 knots), but at each of the subsequent two locks today, he’s waiting patiently for us to arrive before locking down. So together, we drop a total of 78’ thru Glover Lock, Armory Lock and Aberdeen Lock.

After Aberdeen Lock we have 22 more miles to each our destination, so we wish Tortuga Verde a safe trip and again, a faster vessel is soon out of our sights ahead of us. The rest of today’s trip is quite picturesque with campgrounds, parks, small river cut-offs and as we are approaching the Columbus area, we are in the air space of the Columbus Air Base and lots of planes flying overhead on training maneuvers. This makes for interesting sights and the sounds of the aircraft will soon be a familiar sound for the remainder of our stay at Columbus Marina.

With 5 miles to go to our destination and a nice straight section of the Tenn-Tom ahead of us, we run the rpm’s up to 2,000 and proceed with our normal period of taking care of ‘blow-by’ on the diesel engines. Kailani handles the additional rpm’s beautifully and soon our gauges are telling us we’re traveling at 23 knots! In a few short minutes, we have the Columbus Lock and Dam in our sights and the cut-off entrance to port for the marina. As described by Steve in an earlier conversation, he instructed us to check with him on VHF-09 as we were approaching, so we follow orders and I call the marina on Channel 09. Steve has been following us on NEBO and is already prepared for our arrival. He talks us thru the entrance to the marina and Jim, the dock master is waiting at our covered slip to receive our lines as I pull Kailani into the slip right between Sea Wolf and Destination. We’ve never been docked in a covered slip before, but it’s quite nice and it will be especially nice if we decide to stay here rather than continue down to Demopolis for our Christmas trip home. 

Tracy has done some research and first impressions are telling her that this is a very nice marina and we should consider this location as our home base for the month. Then to ice the decision, during the check-in process, Steve Arndt, the General Manager tells us that the monthly rate for AGLCA Loopers has a $3 per foot discount of their normal rate, So our decision is made, we’re staying here at Columbus instead of moving to Demopolis. The weather is virtually identical her and there and we are already situated in a covered slip so we won’t have to worry about rains over the course of our trip home. Its a win-win situation and there is an Enterprise Rental office within 3 miles of our location, so we’re now docked until 2019! Oh by the way, the power is great, they have slip-side pump outs and the Wi-Fi is very strong here, so the only downside to staying here is that in a town called Columbus (possibly named after one of the most famous Italians in American history), there is not one single Italian restaurant in the entire town! Apparently, the town is named after Fred Columbus, not Christopher (haha).

We make arrangements with Enterprise to pick up a month long rental on Thursday and start heading home on Friday morning. We’ll spend the next two days preparing Kailani for hibernation and getting ourselves ready for the minimum three day drive back home.

Wednesday: There’s lots of activity here at Columbus Marina and some familiar faces. Today, Sea Jamm pulls in with Alan and Sherry Johnson. We haven’t seen them since we were in Cape May in May. They hosted Dock Tails on their boat and we were introduced to Bruce and Buffi Miller’s delicious donuts. Well we had a nice time reminiscing and talking cruise plans together. They are now sporting the Gold burgee as they have crossed their wake already. For dinner, we get the courtesy car and head over to Harvey’s with Paul and Dianne. The meal is tasty but Tracy’s meal is delivered lukewarm I like my food hot, hot.  -tc    and she has to send it back for heat. Other than that, it’s a good meal and on the way back to the marina, we spot a Krispy Kreme and Dianne has never had one, so we are compelled stop in and get some to donuts for breakfast. However, a few of the donuts are missing from the boxes before we reach the marina and there are now less than the original total come breakfast time the next morning.

Thursday: We spend today picking up the rental car and getting as much packed as possible so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow morning. Paul and Dianne get a courtesy car and bring me to the airport, then head off to do some shopping of their own since they will be cruising by Saturday morning. At the Enterprise counter I sign the documents and the clerk tells me he will be giving us a free upgrade from the compact car we reserved and he gives us a Chevrolet Malibu. It turns out to be fortunate for us because once we’re finished packing the car, there’s barely enough room for Tracy, Frankie and me!

For dinner tonight, we have Paul and Dianne over so we can use up as much food as possible before we leave. The less food we have, the less food we’ll have to carry home with us. So Tracy makes a delicious spare rib dinner with beans and macaroni and cheese, all preceded with a garden salad. We have a nice meal aboard Kailani and the crew of Sea Wolf turns in for the night as we spend our last evening aboard Kailani for at least a month.

Christmas Holiday home at Columbus Marina-first time in covered slip

Friday: We wake to a rainy day but since we’re in a covered slip, we stay perfectly dry while we get a final pump out before departing. Our plan for a 9 am departure is off by 90 minutes as we don’t officially leave the marina until 10:30 am so the 8 hour drive to Ashville, North Carolina will end in the dark since the days have shorter daylight now and that’s exactly how it goes down and it’s dark and rainy when we pull into the Comfort Inn-Biltmore at nearly 8:00 pm. Our actual driving time was an hour less, but I had erred in neglecting to include the change back into Eastern Standard Time Zone. Oh well, the room is spacious and comfortable and we get all unpacked and settled into our room for the next two nights. We even had a bit of luck checking in when they had a sign promoting discount tickets for the Biltmore Estate. So we saved ten dollars buying the tickets here rather than waiting until we got to the estate tomorrow.

Saturday: The day is spent touring the Biltmore Estate where George Vanderbilt built the largest private residence of it’s time in the United States and amazingly, it still holds that distinction today with nearly 180,000 square feet of space spread over 250 rooms including an indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, 65 fireplaces and 43 bathrooms! So that’s how we could spend nearly the entire day at one house. 

Directions Scratched into Parking Lot Pavement. Maybe George ran out of money when house was completed???

We did feel that for the opulence of the estate and the price required to get in, they could have done better than paint on the blacktop of the parking lot for directions.  -tc

Dinner is a nice relaxing meal at the Cracker Barrel and amazingly, we simply can’t resist buying some Charles’ Chips and Moose Tracks candy on the way out. Hey, you gotta have some snacks available when you’re in your motel room. Tomorrow we’ll get up and travel again to Harrisburg, PA where we’ll rest for a night before finishing our travels back home for Monday. Weekly blogs will take a holiday break now and we’ll get back to posting travel blogs when we return to Columbus, Mississippi and continue our loop voyage in January, 2019. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!