Sunday, November 28, 2010

Panama City to White City, Florida

Tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 3rd is our big crossing day.  We've waited 10 days for a good weather window and we're preparing now to journey almost 200 miles across the Gulf of Mexico from Apalachicola to Clearwater, Florida.  This is a stretch of the Great Loop Route that is no longer inter-coastal waterway (protected waters) and usually done with an overnight crossing.  This time of year it is crucial to wait for a long weather opening to make the run. 
There are many many other boats that will be traveling in the same direction.  Although we will have no cell phone tower and our VHF will not be able to reach shore for help, we will have the company through the night with our friends scattered around.  We hope for a safe passage and good seas!  Once settled on the other side, we will be spending a month in Treasure Island, Florida where many family members will be meeting us for the holidays!    
Heard Michigan had snow! We actually had icy docks when we woke up!  Miss all of you (but not the snowy weather)..

The following post is from the past week:
Ryann’s big fishing lure find!

 You can always find washed up pieces of boat wreckage on the beach. 
Ryanns super powers saved the day with this falling palm tree!
Port side clear view of the friendly dolphins!
Kids had a riot catching baby sand crabs on the beach. They were disappointed to find out that it’s impossible to keep them as pets due to their plankton diet and way of ocean living.
Across St. Andrews Bay we took the dinghy to the Gulf of Mexico for a long walk of “shelling and crabbing.”
Port St. Joe inlet from the Gulf of Mexico had a beautiful secluded beach (rated #1 by Dr. Beach in 2002) nd it was a steamy 80 degrees and full of large shells, huge stingrays, tons of crab and this trail….which made it perfectly clear that we weren’t alone and these fresh alligator tracks lead right to the swamp 100 feet away.  YIKES!       
 It’s as if they’re dancing for the camera!
 20 feet from our little inflatable dinghy raft.  The kids know how gentle they are and weren't scared at all.  However, the following day (in the 10 ft. dinghy) we were in the river near White City and were 20 feet from an alligator and everyone moved to the center of the boat and Morgan said "it's not as much fun seeing alligators in the dinghy."  I laughed out loud b/c no one wanted to move a muscle (except Craig driving)! 
 White City (near Port St. Joe) has been our resting place for nine days.  Although we didn’t have phone or internet tower, there’s a free dock with power, water and plenty of action.  The tow boats come fairly close and fisherman are buzzing around all day.  Everyone has been very friendly and a local family even invited us for Thanksgiving dinner. 
 Morgan is the #1 appointed baker of the boat.  Her specialties include: pumpkin pie, apple crisp, brownies, cooking and quickie cherry pie.            
 Jaxons “lighter” collection consists of only those found on the beach that don’t work.  It’s amazing how much he likes to clean, organize colors and arrange in special ways. 
Thanksgiving Day was a great opportunity to spend some quality time playing games, doing crafts and making lots of good food all together.  Jaxon, Craig and Ryann were all recovering from minor colds so we took it easy and enjoyed the day. 
Left is an alive crab and on the right is the one we already ate.
The first boat, Arianna, is a couple from Mobile, AL that’s taking their boat to Guatemala (where my niece and nephew are from)!  The boat in the middle is “Chip Ahoy” from Houghton, Michigan and joined us for many days. Scott and Cyndi have looped many times and were fun to talk to.  Cyndi is a journalist and ended up writing an article about us for the Key West newspaper.  
 Ryann befriended this little lizard on Daddy’s shoulder and brought it aboard to potentially have as a pet, which lasted about 5 minutes until she lost him.  Two days later he showed up on the dock (it had to be the same one - haha)! 
The picture does not do it justice on how extremely large this grasshopper was. 
Anna and Mark from Arianna brought crepes over for breakfast one morning.  So sweet of her to think of us.
A cool, windy seven mile dinghy ride into Port St. Joe ended up being a fun day.  We had lunch, walked the town, met up with some looper friends, found a playground, provisioned and made it back before dark.     

We just can’t get enough of these sweet dolphins.  We’re convinced that they’re smiling at us and can hear our screams when they come.  They’ll swim next to the boat for so long and tilt their heads slightly to look up at us.  Each and every time the kids leap from whatever their doing to watch them in awe. 

I’ve had several people ask why there aren’t any pics of myself (Danielle) on the blog… here are my feet on the bow pulpit!

 This blog is really a keepsake for my children in hopes it’ll refresh their memories of all of the great times we shared together.  I don’t take enough pictures or document the many things we do each day, but what I do here will suffice. The girls love playing “store.” When there is free time to be had, the food comes out of the cabinets and the pretending begins!
Massalina Bayou in Panama City was a great anchorage completely protected through a narrow little drawbridge right next to town.  It was quiet and peaceful (until we came haha) and we were able to dinghy up to a local restaurant and enjoy the town. 
 Across St. Andrews Bay we took the dinghy to the Gulf of Mexico for a long walk of “shelling and crabbing.”

More to come for this blog update....I only have a tiny bar of service for phone and internet if I sit far from the boat and don't's taking a long time!  We will hopefully be leaving here on Friday as our weather opening looks pretty good.  More to come..

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pensacola Bay to Fort Walton Beach

Each week that I post to my blog I want to take the time to tell stories about our adventures.  It seems that every time I sit down and actually find time to do it....I run out of time for long stories and details.  So hear I am on a Saturday night working on the kids school curriculum for this week.

My favorite part about this adventure is that everyday is something new.  After our fun day seeing dolphins and swimming in salt water last week we were faced head on with a huge storm, including strong winds/waves.  Before the brunt of the storm we found an anchorage and were hoping to secure ourselves before the onset.  However, plan B took effect when the front cleat (that holds the anchor chain) broke off and ended up in the water.  God was telling us to get to a safe dock, and boy are we glad we did.  For two days the wind howled through the canvas and waves slapped the hull.  Luckily we were still able to take in the sites around Sabine Bay Harbor, south of the Pensacola area.    

Kids played center stage at Quietwater Beach.
 Clean up crews for the BP oil spill lined the beach on the Gulf of Mexico....the high winds and "danger/red flags" didn't stop them.
 A great view of the action, but very windy day.

 We were amazed to see so many jellyfish and stingrays every day.  It's only solidifying Ryanns desire to not enter the water again. 

 Fort Walton Beach Park was next to the city dock we stayed at for many days.  The kids were overjoyed to have a playground, kids to play with, sand, trees to climb and grass to run in!

 A fun visit with Great Grandpa Wes and Great Grandma Toni (who is celebrating her 90th bday this week).  We were all excited to seer family and enjoyed good conversations, dinner and a couple days with them.   
 I'm quite sure Morgan got her blue eyes from Great Grandpa Wes and Grandma Yvonne.
 The water temperature read 63 degrees, but that wasn't going to stop Morgan from going in the water with her dad.  Craig wanted to check out the "damage" done from running aground (luckily there wasn't any!)
 The anticipation of swimming with all the swim creatures in freezing water made for a giggle fest prior to jumping in.  Needless to say, it was short lived and he encouraged fearless Morgan not to join in.  

 Bike rides every day lead us to new and fun places.  We were able to provision at a nearby Publix, by some new educational things for the kids and went to the largest West Marine store to replace the cleat.  This playground was in the middle of shopping center!
A local band played at the City Park next to our boat one evening and there was a bounce machine and more kids to meet!  Two of our boating friends Ed and Lucy from "I Love Lucy" and Stacy and Paul from "Sea Sea" joined for the fun. 
 This particular boat was flooded from the rain and since the battery was dead the bilge stopped working and down went the vessel. 
 The scooters are a hit when you enter a flat town!
 I was on the phone with my mom one night and she said "can you see the beautiful sunset"?  It was fun to watch it go down together and feel like we're much closer than what we are. 
A local antique store was selling a crab cage so we took the opportunity to catch some "blue crab" for dinner.  
The kids are pictured here with their new friends Lucas and Nolan making dirt cakes!  We met their sweet parents, David and Ana, a few days before and all got together at the park to play and have some adult conversation!  Fun for the whole family!  They've been contemplating doing a cruising adventure too.
 Biking a few miles to do laundry on the bikes.  Ryann can't reach the peddles anyways, so she ended up holding the laundry, some groceries, etc.  After taking the kids out to dinner (which is a rare treat for us) at our favorite spot "Five Guys Burgers and Fries," Ryann and Jaxon acted like my sister Michelle and I did after dinner out when I was little.....giggling like crazy, singing, hugging and holding hands laughing the whole way home.  It made me laugh and miss my sister....  
 Our first Blue Crab was quite big and very aggressive!
 He clamped on to the dock pole and would not let go.  It was amazing how strong he was.
One full crab boiled and ready to eat......well then you have to scrub the slime off him and pull his legs and shell off and in the end you get about 15% of the meat to eat.  After one bite Morgan said "now I have crab breath" and Ryann said "that was disgusting."  Anyone want to buy a crab cage?  No, Craig and I liked it and want to get creative with our new purchase!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Alabama

We left Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama on Sunday and had a fun first day in salt water! Upon leaving you could smell the change in the air and it was interesting to see passing shrimp boats loaded with birds preying around and dolphins falling behind searching for escapees.
In the middle of Mobile Bay stood this 'home' that was abandoned (land was around ten miles away).  

 Morgan's first jump into salt water.  No hesitation, happy as could be to jump....and then came up spitting out the salty taste!
 Ryann was hoping to swim with some dolphins.  No luck there and the swim didn't last too long.  75 degrees and sunny all day.
We saw around two dozen dolphins our first day.  We saw them jumping and playing in front of the boat and when we went up for a closer look we could see them swimming under the bow.  Four of them stayed there for around 15 minutes.
 It made the whole boat scream with excitement, great videos and tons of laughter!
 The fun day ended with a cozy anchorage in a quiet cove with a great sunset.