Archive for November, 2010

November 8-17 Cruising the Florida Panhandle

Saturday, November 20th, 2010


We left Mobile, Alabama behind & spent the first 3 hours just crossing Mobile Bay, a big shallow body of water.  Heading east on the Gulf ICW we crossed back into Florida, a state we had left 7 months ago.  The “Redneck Riviera” turned out to be very enjoyable, especially by water, which we’ve learned can create an entire new picture.  We had heard of some of the most beautiful beaches in America, but we also discovered some very interesting history & great fishing villages.  Pensacola seems like a town with all the infrastructure in place, ready for the next economic boom & hoping it will be sooner rather than later…  Settlement there first occured before even Jamestown & St. Augustine were established.  Continuing through the “Grand Canyon” part of the ICW we ran into our dolphin friends again.  Dugan & Dylan were captivated on the edge of the fly bridge watching as many as 6 of them put on an amazing show…  After a night in Fort Walton Beach we cruised on to Panama City where we were fortunate to dock right downtown.  Fun town with good energy & very few empty shops, something we had not seen very often.  Downtown had parks & fountains & great places to walk the pups.  We saw one of the most beautiful sunsets of the trip right at the marina!  After more dolphin shows along the way we arrived in Apalachicola, in the middle of what they refer to as Florida’s “Forgotten Coast”.  Seems like a title the locals like.  We docked along the waterfront right in the middle of all the shrimp and oyster boats.  We liked it so much that we spent an extra night here.  Reminded us of Key West 25 years ago.  It’s a great fishing village with lots of historic homes, one of the most attractive cemeteries we had ever seen &, of course, world famous Apalachicola Bay oysters.  I think we had oysters for every meal except one.  We then left for Carrabelle, noted for having the world’s smallest police station.  It is also the jumping off point for boats leaving the Panhandle & on to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  Next stop, across the Gulf to Tarpon Springs.

November 2-7 Cruising the Blackhawk Tenn-Tom Waterway to Mobile

Thursday, November 11th, 2010


Our first stop was Pickensville, AL where we borrowed the courtesy car at the marina to check out the energy in Carrollton & Aliceville as well.  Not so much!  We did enjoy the visitor’s center for the Tombigbee Waterway.  The following day we passed amazing white granite cliffs lining the side of the waterway & that night we anchored out & enjoyed the solitude of a beautiful cove near Demopolis, AL.  The next night we stayed at Bobbie’s Fish Camp, a perfect example of a river fishing camp in southern Alabama.  We had dinner at the “lodge” & enjoyed their specialty-fried catfish & hush puppies!  The next day we cruised on to Mobile & experienced our final lock for the Great Loop which also had a spectacular spillway.  60 locks in all!  Whew!!  Cruising under the “Dolly Parton Bridge” was a treat.  We had our longest run of the trip (12 hours), arrived after dark & stayed on the south side of the city in the beautiful Dog River.  Mobile proved to be a pleasant surprise.  Very cool downtown, a mini version of New Orleans.  It’s Mardi Gras celebration predates New Orleans by over 100 years.  We spent a half day at Bellingrath Gardens, a must see for anyone visiting Mobile.  We had lunch downtown one day & met 2 great guys, Criss & David, who later had a tour of Tally-Ho & dinner with us.   

October 25-November 1 Cruising the Tenn-Tom Waterway through Tennessee & Mississippi

Friday, November 5th, 2010


We learned that prior to 1985, if you wanted to cruise from Chicago to the Gulf, the only option was “The Muddy Mississippi” full of barges, dangerous currents, whirlpools & major floating debris.  The 12 year, 234 mile long, 2 billion dollar project called the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway(“The Tenn-Tom”) connected those 2 rivers.  More dirt was moved to build it and it’s 10 locks than the Panama Canal.  Only 2 manmade projects can be seen from outer space & that is this waterway & the Great Wall of China.  Who knew?  After leaving Nashville we reboarded & headed south on the Tennessee River with it’s cliffs & beautiful fall foliage.  Our first stop was Clifton, TN (with floating docks that can lift over 30′ for spring flooding) where we visited Savannah, TN & toured the Tennessee River Museum.  Clifton is home to the Cherry Mansion where General Grant stayed during the Civil War & the battle at Shiloh.  The next stop was on Pickwick Lake at Grand Harbor Marina. This is a very special area where Tenn., Miss. & Al. all meet…  An evening at Freddy T’s restaurant was capped with a stop along the road where a group was enjoying the “Porta Party”, a karaoke stage on a trailer.  As one of the gals said “you are now in redneck hell”.  The people couldn’t have been more friendly. Who knew our Capt. Steve was such a good singer and great Johnny Cash entertainer!!  We really enjoyed it.  The next day included a trip to Shiloh battlefied where the harsh realities of the Civil War hit home.  23,000 died at Shiloh, over 600,000 in the entire war.  Obviously it had to happen but what a price to pay!?!  The next day we went through 3 more locks (biggest was a 85′ drop) & the next stop was Fulton, MS & Midway Marina.  We were invited to celebrate Halloween in the clubhouse with about 100 other locals & fellow cruisers.  Thank God for costumes a-la-Walmart.  The Tenn-Tom created an amazing display of environmental & natural wildlife sites thanks to the conscientious planning & engineering on the part of the US Army Corp of Engineers.  The next cruising day included another 3 locks & a stop in Columbus, MS.  Columbus was where we toured the home of local boy Tennessee Williams (his birthplace) as well as other historic homes.  It has 50+ homes on the National Register & is well worth a visit.  On into Alabama…