Panama City Marina

February 3 & 4, 2018, Saturday and Superbowl Sunday

The bay calmed down a bit after the previous day’s excitement and we began our journey eastward again. At first it was a little rough and we piloted from inside, slightly hampered by salt on the large windshield. Can you see the swells?


The winds died down during our travels through the next long canal, which is locally called the Grand Canyon.


Since these canals and bays are salt water there are dolphins living here and seem to enjoying following boat wakes now and then. I caught one dolphin on film, just his fin, and I was happy to get that. And then later another dolphin joined us for about 15 minutes, just surfing on the port side of the boat, either just barely under the water or popping up for air. Wow!


We had planned to anchor out on Saturday night, but saw rain & wind in the forecast for Sunday morning, so we pushed ahead to our planned Sunday night marina a day early – the Panama City Marina. We were happy to be in port and have electricity again (and heat) and to walk around and get some exercise after three days on the boat. We found a great family Mexican restaurant and relaxed in quiet warmth  for the night.

Superbowl Sunday started out rainy but cleared up by noon.  It was a good day for chores so I did laundry and bought a few provisions in town (mostly snacks for watching the superbowl)  and Dirk changed the oil in the engines. Here are some photos from the town (including a crazy, fun store) and the marina at sunset – just before the game.

We were hoping to watch the game at a sports bar in town, but there weren’t any open. So we relayed on the marina wifi streamed from NBC, but it stopped many times and we were missing plays. Finally we gave up, tethered the iphone to the ipad, and used our Verizon data. It was worth it – what a game! We should have won (2 questionable touchdown calls) but it was worth almost running out of data for the month. I called verizon wireless this morning and upped the data enough to get though the month.


Were caught by the north wind!

February 2, 2018 Friday;  Rocky Bayou Inlet off of Choctawhatchee Sound, FL

We have been hearing about the evil north wind and felt it on the docks in Mobile, but yesterday it caught up to us on the boat in the huge Choctawhatchee Sound. We had anchored the night before in a calm area on the south shore since the wind was coming at a few knots from the south. We woke up at 4am with the boat tossing us around, a bit more than just rocking the cradle, though I tried to convince myself of that so I could get back to sleep! The north wind was blowing across the bay and there we were, anchored on the southern edge of the sound, getting the full force of the waves.

We waited until daylight and started heading northeast toward the next protected river, hoping the waves would improve but we were in 3-4 foot waves with a 15-20 knot wind. It was going to start hitting us broadside if we followed the GCICW chart, to we changed course, headed straight north to Rocky Bayou Inlet and (thanks to Active Captain) found an amazingly calm little bay where we spend the rest of the day reading and napping!


Anchoring out near Pensacola Bay

Thursday, February 1, Anchored off of Santa Rosa Island near Pensacola Bay

We finally left Turner Marine after docking the boat there for over 10 weeks from just before Thanksgiving. The temperature was finally in the 60s and the wind was just a breeze (after two days of blowing). We waited until the tide was rising around 11am, got a pumpout and fuel, and off we went for a 3+ hour cruise across the large Mobile Bay. It was getting towards sunset when we finally entered the Intracoastal Waterway, called the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Water Way) now. Fortunately there was a recommended anchorage not too far from the entrance where we stayed the night.

Photos: Last morning at Turner, heading out to the bay, and first night anchorage…

Today we traveled on the GIWW through Gulf Coast towns in Alabama and finally entered Florida in Perdido Bay. The weather started out warm but turned chilly in the afternoon – in the 50’s – which is cold when boating outside. But it was interesting as we are now in the area of cute summer cottages, impressive summer villas and huge condo buildings as we move along the waterways. There are also working marinas and construction barges.

The first photo has interesting structures – not sure what they are for. The boat that looks like an RV is exactly that! Never saw one of these before.

In Perdido Bay, beyond all the tourist area, the sand dunes are on both the inside bay and Gulf coast.



Visiting family and friends in Florida

January 30, 2018 Mobile, AL

We’ve returned from our week and a half visit to Sarah, her husband Chris and our grandson Arden in Lantana FL. Dirk and I did the daycare for Arden for a week and a half and happily spent wonderful days with him. He’s 2 yrs, 3 mos now, and learning and understanding so much more on a daily basis. So amazing and fun…

So just a few of the many Arden related photos follow…

We left Lantana on Sunday the 28th and were fortunate to be able to stop and stay overnight with boat friends in Apalachicola – John and Dodie of Barefoot Lady, now of Apalachicola. What a lovely town that is, and I’ll take some photos when we cruise there in the coming week.

We traveled much of the way back to Mobile on scenic roads along the gulf coast and stopped a bit for a rest and photos. It’s a beautiful area…





Mobile area before visiting Lantana, FL

January 14 & 15 in Mobile, AL area

On Sunday we went to the Unitarian Fellowship church in Fairhope across the bay (by rental car). Dirk came because the ‘service’ was a discussion about solving the mystery of aviator Amelia Earhart’s disappearance over the Pacific ocean eighty years ago. Dr. Lew  Toulmin is a world traveler and highly interested in discovering Amelia’s actual crash landing site in the Pacific so much so that he went on an expedition to the uninhabited Nikumaroro island in the Republic of Kiribati last year which he believes is her final resting place. It was a fascinating hour and while we chatted with people afterwards I also learned that the church has a ukulele group that plays weekly at the church!

It being so continually chilly, we’ve decided to visit Sarah and family in West Palm Beach for a week or so. Before we left, I took some photos of the marina surrounds.

Walking around the marina area…

I visited the  Fairhope church the day after the Amelia service to play with their Ukulele group

We also watched some new boater friends (Kris and Roger) leave the marina after their boat was stuck in shallow mud for a few days  – they were just barely free of it.

And then we left Tuesday the 16th for the 9-10 hour drive to Lantana, with a stop over in Ft Pierce so we could arrive by around 9am on Wednesday and take care of our grandson while his parents worked. A entirely different adventure!

Cold Weather and our Marina

January 13, Saturday; Turner Marine in Mobile

While we were gone for a month+ our air conditioning system which also provides heat was worked on. We have heat and AC!  Today we confirmed that the heat in the boat works wonderfully and that’s good, because the high today was 40 and it’s going down to 29 tonight. Not only that, but the wind is blowing from the north, and when that happens in Mobile Bay the water disappears – blows south out to the ocean! Some boats are now partially sitting in mud and our boat is at least a foot lower in the water than yesterday. Weird – but normal around here I guess. Here are photos of the bay across the road from the marina. All the mud you can see was fully covered by at least a foot or more yesterday.

As I walked back to the boat I decided to take a picture of our laundry – it’s probably not what you imagine when you think of a marina laundry – it’s outdoors and in a little nook. The marina office is upstairs across the way and a comfortable and warm place to visit this week.

Did I mention that it is pretty challenging to climb on the boat? We are next to a finger pier – a very short pier that just barely reaches the boat. So we balance one leg on the ledge and climb over the canvas railing to get on board. Good thing we have long legs. It’s tricky but we are getting good at it.

Yesterday was even colder so we checked to make sure we had enough water in our tanks for the weekend – we didn’t! We started using the marina water to refill the tanks and the hose soon started spitting air – they were blowing air through all the water systems to prevent frozen faucets, hoses, etc. since the temp was going down to 20 degrees overnight.  We went to the office to request that they put the water back on for us, but instead they were able to connect our hoses and some additional ones they brought down to one of the owners houses nearby and let us get water that way.

We brought out our favorite cookies – dark chocolate stars from Trader Joes and Maple Leaf cookies from Canada to the four guys that were helping us and they liked them as much as we do. We really appreciated the marina doing that for us.



Naval Air Museum in Pensacola FL

January 11, Thursday

While still based in Mobile Alabama, we drove our rental to another Air Museum (surprise!). Fortunately I usually find some areas of interest besides the actual airplanes while Dirk enjoys seeing and learning about the history and unique features of the planes. We joined a tour at first, and then I left to watch one of the excellent movies presented at the museum – this one about the Marine training programs, narrated by Gene Hackman, a former Marine. Pretty amazing what the men and women go through in training.  There was also a moon landing lunar module on exhibit and a run through of all the Apollo missions which I enjoyed.

Of course I checked out the store but saw no cool airplane items – it was all Navy, Army, Blue Angels… But there were some “interesting” (as in goolish I thought) legos for kids. Let me know your favorite!

We took the coastal road to Pensacola along the Alabama Gulf beaches. They are beautiful sand beaches just like we’ve seen along the east coast – I was surprised for some reason. A couple that had just arrived from Illinois with their RV to spend a few months in the area took my photo. There were going to enjoy the beach no matter how chilly it was.

We also stopped at a famous night club called Flora-bama on the state line between Alabama and Florida. It’s a huge rambling shack with multiple bars and live music most of the year. We could imagine how it must rock in the summer. (It was in the high 50s during our visit).



We’re Back in Mobile!

Monday, January 8 Boston to New Orleans to Mobile

We arrived after dark at our marina in Mobile Alabama after flying from Boston and driving from the New Orleans airport. Wandering Star was still floating (!) and the water was still running (I was worried about frozen pipes) but it was cold and damp. We heated up the salon and then our cabin with our space heater and went to bed early.

Tuesday, Jan 9, still in Turner Marine in Mobile

This was a day for settling in and sorting out next steps. We did laundry in the marina washers, walked around and met some new looper friends, exchanged our rental car, and enjoyed dinner with new friends on their 40 foot+ sail boat – nice.

The only rental car Enterprise had available yesterday was a bright yellow, low-slung Camero. Just the thing for retired folks! But we made do until we could trade it in today for a more comfortable model.

January 10, Wednesday

We needed to decide whether or not to restart our trip, given the forecast of colder weather coming in. First we need a relatively calm day to cross Mobile Bay, which is shallow and challenging in windy conditions. It looked like this would be the best day for at least a week to 10 days, but then the temperatures will be dropping to where it’s no fun to be boating outside during the day. Do we move ahead and hole up in a new location or stay in this more affordable marina for a while? We decided to stay put and travel by rental car until the weather improves.

So we took off to the eastern shore of Mobile Bay to the lovely town of Fairhope, where we enjoyed an interesting town with unique shops and history. The town was founded as a single tax colony with the goal that the land would be owned by shared corporation that provided 99-year leased land for homes. The plan worked well home owners and the town, but the town’s growth outside the original boundaries changed things after a while. The theories around land ownership are interesting and fair-minded and worth reading about ( . We toured their history museum, walked around the attractive town, visited the wharf and enjoyed a good lunch in town.

In the past, boats doing the loop would come to the Fairhope town marina, but it has since closed. We saw that there is another marina close to town, but don’t know much about it and we won’t need to another marina in the area when we start cruising again anyway.

Here’s a map of Mobile Bay. Our marina is on the west side (green dot) and Fairhope is on the east (red dot). When we begin traveling again we start on the bottom right going east near Oyster Bay purple dot.

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A Day in New Orleans

Thursday, November 16, Mobile to New Orleans

We locked up our boat and left it for the rest of the year. It will be in good hands at Turner Marine, but was hard to leave it knowing we’ll be gone for so long (until after the Christmas holidays).

We drove right to the French Quarter in New Orleans,  parked and walked around the area for about 4 hours. The Market area was full of enticing goodies – especially attractive after doing very little gift-type shopping this year.  I also realized that this was the first time I’ve walked around New Orleans during  daytime – my trips here were always for conferences and we only had the evenings off so it was it was great to walk down so many streets and enjoy the French architecture. Dirk’s priority was to have a beignet and latte at Cafe du Monde and we enjoyed that treat.

We fly home tomorrow, so no more boat blog for a while – until January 5th or so. Thanks for following along with us. Happy Holidays!

A Few Days in Mobile Alabama

November 12, 13,14 Mobile Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

We spent a few days cleaning up, doing some laundry, walking around the marina area (it was rainy at the time) and borrowing the courtesy car at the marina to get a few supplies we needed.

There aren’t any stores, restaurants or shopping sites nearby, and since we are renting a car to leave Thursday morning to go to New Orleans, we decided to pick it up a few days early so we can visit some Mobile area museums and sites.

Today’s destination was the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Dirk is very interested in older military boats and planes, and I usually enjoy stories of people who have worked with them. The museum on the Mobile harbor includes the massive USS Alabama Battleship, an airplane museum and the oldest American submarine on public display, the USS Drum, as well as a number of other planes, boats, helicopters and tanks on the lawns.  The airplane museum also had a few exhibits on WWI and WWII planes and was running films on the Tuskegee Airman of WWII and the battles Pacific campaign so we spent about an hour there before going into the submarine.

The USS Drum was very active in the Pacific in WWII and was decommissioned after the war, and later donated to the museum (without funds for maintenance as I understand it). Walking through the submarine was interesting but then we found two notebooks to look through in a small mess hall. One contained trip reports with maps of their paths. The other was by a former sub mariner, Tom Bowser, who began volunteering to help restore the sub starting in 2000 and has practically devoted his life to it since then. He and the one employee responsible for the sub museum (Lesley…) along with other volunteers and donations they have raised,  have practically rebuilt it from inside out and the notebook shows before and after photos of rooms, huge metal sidings rusted out and repaired, and so much more. To put that much very hard work (sandblasting, bending metal – themselves !) and dedication and fund raising effort into a project – well, amazing.


Example of before and after work…

After a quick lunch in the museum we started our tour of the USS Alabama. Fortunately a self guided tour guide is provided to help us find our way around and up and down the ship. We went up about 7 levels and down 3 and still didn’t see all we could have before it was time to leave.

We found a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner and are back on the boat now.