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Mobile, Al to Clearwater, Fl

Dec. 4th, 2023 While Nancy visited New Orleans, Jason moved the boat by himself from our marina at Fairhope, AL to Saunders Boatworks. The plan was to have the boat hauled and have new saltwater zincs put on to prevent corrosion, and change the oil in the engines and on the generator.

Lots of big boats docked there. Went to Jimmy Buffet's sister's restaurant just around the corner--good food and good company. We went with Kris Sea. While it took a little longer than planned, our work list got completed.

Dec 8th-Anchored behind a cool island by Fort McCree. An old fort from the early days of the United States to protect Pensacola Bay. Was also used during the civil war. The Blue Angels were practicing as we entered the anchorage.

It was super foggy the next morning, and we waited until 10 am and the fog seemed to lift some, so we took off expecting the fog to break up. Heard Coast Guard on the radio say the fog was supposed to last all day. The first half an hour was concerning with boats suddenly appearing out of the fog, but while it didn't lift for a couple more hours it did thin enough to see markers and other boats.

Dec. 9th- Went to a Safe Harbor in Niceville, where we became members in Mississippi because they have reduced fees for transients and sell members diesel at cost. Then we skipped over Pensacola City to go to a marina on the farther side that was supposed to have a great restaurant. However the restaurant was closed that night, and are slip was too short and no power since their two 30' amps were on two different pedestals 15 feet apart, while we only a 3 ft splitter. There was an excellent state park, Oaks by the Bay, across the road on the beach for Radar to walk.

The Gulf Intercoastal Waterway had long stretches of no development (in fact the chart said the shore was "impenetrable forest") After motoring through the forest for many miles, a random collection of stuffed animals popped up on the north bank. Turns out that the local hunting club put them up to amuse passing boats.

They called this stretch, Florida's Grand Canyon. Who would know that Arizona, Tennessee and Florida all had grand canyons?

Dec 12, headed down the Gulf ICW to Appalachicola. We missed the weather window to cross the Gulf of Mexico to Clearwater, Fl by 2 days, but the crossing was reportedly very rough, with the four ft seas turning into 6 ft seas. Sydney, Colin and Jason's mother, were scheduled to fly into Clearwater on the 20th. However, there was not a weather window predicted for the following week.

Apalachicola was a cute town, with a good bakery/chocolate store. It was nice it was such a pleasant stop because not only did we not have a weather window to cross the Gulf, we didn't have one to go along the Big Bend Route either. In fact, we didn't even have one to go to the next town up, Carrabelle, where Nancy had her prescriptions sent! There was no car rental advertised (although we found out later there was one at the local air strip).

Someone said one of the stores was owned by a former Looper and she might be helpful. So we walked down the street and went into the store with the Looper flag hanging out front. The owner was super nice and when we explained about the medicine being a 30 minute drive away, she just handed us the keys to her car and said to go get the medicine and stop and have lunch at the local diner. Didn't even ask us for our names or driver's license!

We drove along the beautiful beachfront road, past Tate's Hell Forest (supposedly one of the early settlers who explored the swamp got bit by a snake, managed to make it back but when asked where he had been, he answered "Hell" then promptly died.

The diner was true quirky small town diner, with great milk shakes. The kindness of people we have met has been incredible.

Many times we had dolphins playing in our wake. Here the parents seem to be teaching their children how to leap.


Not only was there no weather window to cross the Guld of Mexico, there was barely a window to go up the coast one town to Carrabelle, the closest jump point to Clearwater Beach.

We were crossing our fingers that the weather window forecasted for the 17th would hold, although the 11-17ft seas between us and Clearwater indicated elsewise. We ended up renting a condo for us and the kids at a premium price Christmas week to be on the safe side.

When we pulled into Carrabelle, we found out about a lady who was starting a business doing errands for boaters, everything from walking their dogs to running errands. We hired her to drive us an hour to the closest rental car place which was at a local airport.

We packed up all the Christmas decor (including a 4ft tree), Radar and clothes and drove 5+ hours south from the airport where we met Sydney and Colin at the condo rental . Poor Margo got locked out of her condo but Sydney and Colin came to the rescue (thankfully since we were out of cell range).

We picked up the Christmas gifts our friend's had been collecting for us. In one way it turned out to be good that we couldn't cross, the storm that had kicked up such high winds had actually damaged the marina (and the dock where we had reserved a slip)!

The next day the weather window opened for the following day, so early on the 20th we drove the 5+ hours back to the airport, where we were picked up and driven the hour back to the boat. We left the marina around 2pm for the 20 hour over night crossing to Clearwater. We hoped to catch up with the portion of the fleet crossing to Clearwater, since we could go several knots faster. However, we never did because they never went.

The crossing was very lonely especially at night. Jason and I alternated 4 hr watches. There was one boat about 12 miles to the west of us, but they did not respond to our radio hails. Conditions were 2 ft seas at the start and picked up to steep 3 ft seas, providing an irritating ride. We adjusted course eastward to be on the safe side and the seas calmed back down after a few hours.

We had been told that there were 20 miles of crab pots off Clearwater beach that were impossible to see at night and eye watering staring into the rising sun. It had been cloudy most of the night, so instead of waiting until 10 am as suggested we timed our 20 mile out arrival for sunrise. Of course, the clouds cleared just before sunrise. The good news was that we only went through 10 miles of crab pots but unfortunately sunglasses did nothing to help against staring eastward.

We arrived at our marina in Clearwater Beach at 10 am, exhausted. Sydney had moved her and Colin from the condo to the cottage we had rented for the rest of the week.

The unseasonable cold weather continued and while the weather was nice, it was windy, requiring jeans and fleeces. We had some nice family walks on the beach, which had good shells and ate at some good restaurants.

Poor Radar got an ear infection but a quick trip to the vet got him some ear drops.

Santa Clause managed to find us at the cottage and we had a pleasant Christmas morning despite a somewhat spirited and loud family discussion the night before! Nancy made London Broil, a favorite of Julie's recipes the entire family likes for Christmas dinner.

Thomas, Ashley, Harper (9), Corbin (7) and Jameson (5) flew down. They overlapped one night with Nana, Sydney, and Colin and we enjoyed a fun night out with all four generations of Sullivan's.

Sydney and Colin joined us on the boat for their last night. Sydney and Colin left around 4 am for Colin's early morning flight. The baggage carousel broke down and Colin almost missed his flight. Nancy Ubered to the airport just in case but Sydney got him on board. Nana left later that day.

We had a great time with the grand kids. Went to the local aquarium and dolphin center where they had a dolphin with a prosthetic tail. Their town house was really high end, much much nicer than the photos on Air BnB. It had a air hockey table and a large scrabble board on the wall.

Took everyone out overnight on the boat. Anchored out at Honeymoon Island and dinghy'd all to shore for a beach exploration.

Radar loved having lots of attention (even if he did have to wear a sweater).

Celebrated New Year's in the boat. The grandkids wanted to stay up to watch the ball drop, but soon gave up and fell asleep. Corbin loved driving the dinghy. Spent the night out by some mangrove islands. Dolphins were a huge hit.

Jan 2nd, 2024 Everyone managed to fly out and we got a couple much needed down days. Nancy met up with a high school friend from Brusssels that she hadn't seen in 25 years. He and his partner adopted 5 kids, who came and got a tour of the boat.

Nancy went to get her teeth cleaned and ended up needing to get a double root canal and her gums de-scaled.

Jan 5th, 2024 Nancy celebrated her 50th birthday and Jason took her up for a romantic evening and some jewelry shopping in Dunedin.

It was a wild few weeks at the turn of the year, one could even call it adventurous! Next destination: Florida Keys.



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