The Motor Vessel "Once Around"

The Motor Vessel "Once Around"
The Motor Vessel "Once Around" in the Florida Keys

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Panama City, Florida (Not Panama)

If I had a nickel for every time someone came up to Once Around, saw the “Sacramento, CA” hailing port, and asked me if I’d brought her through the Panama Canal, I would be rich.  Maybe now I’ll just say, yeah, I brought her through Panama…
We were the only Looper boat to pull into Shalimar Yacht Basin on Thanksgiving.  In fact, we were the only sign of life in the entire place.  We knew they would be closed so had gotten our slip assignment from “Vito” the day before.  Shalimar is very well protected, and the cold and brisk north east wind we had in our face all morning, was nowhere to be found.  It was actually warm and sunny.
Carrie whipped up a mini-feast for Thanksgiving.  We had Turkey, dressing, gravy, cranberries, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts (brussel sprouts???) and pumpkin pie for desert.  She remarked how strange it felt to cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner in a galley where only two steps got you from one end to the other.  About the only thing we missed (besides the kids and grandkids) was football, as the cable TV on A dock seemed to be on the fritz, and the one air TV channel we received seemed to be stuck in a “Charlie Brown (Peanuts) Thanksgiving” time.  No matter, we had a quiet, but wonderful evening.
Friday we left early (never did meet Vito), because we had a fairly long cruise day ahead of us.  As we pulled out into Choctawhatchee Bay, which would consume the first 30 miles or so, we almost immediately heard from Something Special over the VHF radio.  Sid had left the other two boats he had been with behind and knew we were planning to travel on Friday.  We met up about an hour later, and Something Special followed us the rest of the way to Panama City, Florida.  Our mileage that day was 72 miles, one of the top ten longest cruise days since we started in May.
On the Bay we came up behind a slow sailboat... it possibly be???

Of course!  Lolligag again!  They may lolligag, but they keep getting ahead of us!
We are really enjoying being back in the salt water and its’ marine life.  We had many dolphin sightings, some very close to the boat.  I’m not sure if Carrie’s camera finger was quick enough to catch them, but the dolphin show was pretty impressive on occasion.
She swears there were dolphins here a second ago...'ll have to settle for the house of the day...
When we got to St. Andrews Bay at Panama City, Something Special headed north to the Panama City Marina and we headed south to Bay Pointe Marina.  Greg and Kate from Grianan met us on the docks.  They had first gone to the City Marina and had moved over to Bay Pointe the day we arrived.  Without going into great detail, they led me to believe I made the right choice. 
Some of the boats in Bay Pointe

Lots of them are pretty serious sport fisherman

And then this suppose he ever gets his wife to go boating???
I wonder why not???
After topping off our fuel, we went to our assigned slip and I was beat from the long cruise.  But, the Admiral wanted to wash the boat.  So, we washed the boat.  Finishing about dark, we showered and headed for Grianan for cocktails with the crews from Boreas and Spirit of Whitby.  There was some comedy stage show playing at the marina at 6:00 PM, but we managed to cocktail right past it.  After leaving the party, Carrie and I had a quick salad at the marina pub, relaxed for an hour or so listening to a live country singer playing in the bar, and crashed.
Saturday morning became “laundry morning” as it had piled up this week.  I have been catching up on my route planning.  It looks like (keep your fingers crossed) the Gulf might calm down enough for us to cross around Wednesday.  We will be keeping a close eye on the weather reports, and if this forecast holds, Monday or Tuesday we will move down the panhandle another 60 or 80 miles to Apalachicola or Carrabelle, both good jumping off points to cross from.  We will cross to either Tarpon Springs or Clearwater, Florida.   Our crossing will be about 140-150 miles.  The Gulf can get cranky in a hurry, so we want to be sure and catch a calm window.
We received some great news and some crummy news from other Loopers yesterday. 
First, on the happy side, Jolly Tolly has entered Mobile Bay and could catch up with us here in a few days.  It would be great to cross the Gulf with Captain Ron and Jan (The Pump-out Queen).  Our boats are happy at similar cruising speeds and capable of much faster comparable top speeds, if needed.  Besides that they’ve done this crossing before, although that was not one of the highlights of their Loop, to say the least.  Mostly it will be great to see them again.  It’s been three months since we cruised with them on Lake Michigan.
On the downer side of things, two boats I mentioned (awhile back) that we hoped to see soon, Algonquin and Abreojos, are both down with mechanical problems.  I haven’t yet confirmed this, but ironically I think they both may be at Aqua Marina.  That is above the Tenn-Tom, some 400 miles above Mobile Bay.  It’s getting cold and probably lonely up there, and we wish them both good luck with their repairs and safe cruising coming down the waterway.  Remember guys, boating is fun!
Well, the laundry is about done.  So I better get moving.  I’m not sure what the Admiral’s plans are today, but you can bet it’s not sitting here on the computer!

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