Day 65: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Port to Port: Fort Walton Beach to West Bay Creek

Underway: 7:20 am     Motor Off: 3:33 pm      Miles Traveled: 45      Stayed At: Anchor

First Things First: First live ammunition bombing practice.

Mile 223 to Mile 268: Finally we have been able to get moving again. It was cold this morning – MN cold actually – with temps only a few degrees above freezing – brrr. What’s the deal – we’re supposed to be in Florida.

Fort Walton Beach was an interesting stop but since we were staying at a free city dock without security we had to do everything separately. It doesn’t take many days to run out of interesting things to do or see in these small towns especially when you are transportation challenged (no car, bus or bike). I spent a lot of time at the library though catching up on the blog (again) and charging all of our technology the quick and easy way (Ipad, Macbook, camera batteries, GPS hotspot and phones).

We got a hold of Bruce on Tango today. We wanted to find out where he was to see if doing the Gulf crossing together would work out. We misplaced his email so I had to be creative in reconnecting – first choice is ask Google. So I searched “Bruce”, “Tango” and “Sailboat” to see if I would get lucky. Believe it or not, the first hit was a blog by a pastor who did 1600 miles of the Great Loop on sabbatical earlier this year who had travelled with and written about Bruce on his blog. So I found the pastors email (Google again) and sent him a note explaining our situation. Surprisingly, he emailed us back the same day with Bruce’s email address. He sent another email later with Bruce’s telephone number. Amazing (and a little scary) it’s that easy to track someone down. Bruce is at least 4 good travel days behind us which translates into at least a week or more just to catch up to us here. We’ll keep in touch but we may be crossing the Gulf alone or with another boat we meet along the way.

We crossed Choctawhatchee Bay today. Conditions were perfect for a crossing – calm to light chop, sunny, no boat traffic and occasional dolphin visits to break the boredom. Choctawhatchee Bay is bordered on the north side by a huge military training base – Elgin Air Force Base – which was entertaining to say the least. Fighter jet flyovers were a common sight – we never get tired watching, hearing and feeling them fly by, over and around us. Its always awe inspiring to see what those pilots and planes can do.

We experienced a new twist too. We were motoring along minding our own business when suddenly there was a loud thump and boom. I was driving and my first thought was that I had hit something. We looked around trying to figure out what had happened and noticed off to the north a large plume of black smoke – someone had just blown something up using live ammunition on the Air Force base. Wow! This happened intermittently all afternoon – more free entertainment I guess.

After a long 30+ mile big water cruise across Choctawatchee Bay we finally reached the far east end where we entered a narrow channel leading us through a remote and scenic part of the ICW. This part of the ICW is called the “Little Grand Canyon” because the banks of the channel are high and steep with trees just hanging on for dear life at the top lip of the banks. We really like the river and channel passages better than the open water – time seems to pass faster and we can see our progress easier than when navigating big bays.

We had another busy day on the ICW – in 44 miles of travel we saw a total of 4 other boats. We still can’t believe how quiet it has been on the water. We’re not complaining though – just amazed that we have all this water and great scenery to ourselves most of the time.

We are thankful to be doing this trip now versus even a few years ago. The resources available online for planning this kind of trip are amazing. One extremely useful website is call Active Captain. Anyone traveling on the Loop can share information about interesting places, towns, anchorages and marinas in an online database that anyone can search and use. You can even overlay this data on a chart to easily see fun things to do and safe places to stay along your exact route. It’s kind of like Wikipedia for cruisers. In the “old days” you had to depend on finding local knowledge to find this information. We are using this information to help us plan every leg of the trip.

After a long and enjoyable cruise we decided to anchor for the night in a narrow little river inlet called West Bay Creek – its very well protected but only about 5’ deep – perfect for Aurora. Hopefully the tide won’t go down too much farther overnight – we don’t want to get stuck until the next high tide (this happens to cruisers more often than you would expect). Another quiet and peaceful night on the ICW.




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