We left Pensacola with Scaliwag heading for Destin which was 50 miles away. When we had covered just 35 miles we decided to stop at Spectre Island even though it was still early afternoon. After a week in Pensacola we were craving a quiet place and Spectre Island would deliver on that. We had stopped here last year and enjoyed it so stopping again this year was an easy decision.
A few hours after we had dropped the anchor Forever Friday (Mike & Mary) pulled in. They had been a few weeks behind us for about a month or more but the extra time we spent in Mobile (weather related), in Orange Beach (weather related) and in Pensacola (boat work related) meant they had caught up with us. We all enjoyed a nice happy hour on Scaliwag swapping stories.
The next morning we all motored the short 13 miles into Destin. As you pull into Destin harbor it is a bit overwhelming in a Disneyland sort of way. Large towering condos, jet skis rentals line the waterway, and beach themed restaurants with large decks over look the water. You can imagine how crazy busy it is in the high season. We were coming through after the crowds and the weather was cold and wet which meant it was even less busy than usual. And when I say cold, I mean we have been wearing our puffy jackets and jeans sort of cold. The Panhandle of Florida is not as warm in the winter as you would expect.
We all decided to stay 2 nights in Destin primary because the first day/night was windy and rainy so we did not do/see much. The following day we played tourist a bit.
From Destin we pulled anchor and moved 65 miles to the Panama City area. We decided on St Andrews anchorage as it was the best protection from the wind that night. Along the way that day we had a lot of dolphin sightings.
Video – Dolphins playing in the bow wake.
For the past week we had all been watching the weather for favorable conditions to cross the Gulf of Mexico in order to make it over to the west coast of Florida. We assumed we would cross from Apalachicola as we did last year (which makes the trip 170 miles). But with a weather window opening up quickly we decided to cross from Panama City instead (making the trip 235 miles). We loved our stop in Apalachicola last year and were disappointed to miss it this year but there are not that many weather windows to cross so you take it when you get one.
For our crossing of the Gulf we all left Panama City area at 10:30am, averaged 8 knots and arrived just outside of Tarpon Springs the following day at 12:30pm. Due to the distance it is the only overnight trip on The Great Loop. You can see our path under the Track Us button at the top of the blog.
Kent and I have done several overnight trips before on our old sailboat Hiatus so we were familiar with the process – cook meals in advance so they are ready to eat, be sure everything is secured (to prevent damage/chaos during rougher seas), agree on a watch schedule and share a float plan with at least one friend.
We do a 3 hrs on / 3 hrs off watch rotation. We made up the guest bed which allows one person to try to sleep nearby while the other person is at the helm.
Having stopped in Tarpon Springs last year we were looking forward to spending another few nights here again. Our first visit was to Costa's for a large and delicious Greek dinner to celebrate Parker's birthday, We were all a bit tired from the lack of sleep the previous night so we called it an early evening once we had stuffed ourselves full of Greek food. Like last year we ended up spending a bit more time in Tarpon Springs than we had expected. This time it was 3 nights but we stayed at the same place Turtle Cove Marina which is walking distance to almost all that we wanted to do.
We said goodbye to Parker & Leslie in Tarpon Springs as they will fly to Texas for the next 6 weeks. They have been a great buddy boat to go down the rivers and into Florida with both on and off the water. We hope to reconnect with them down in the Bahamas in a few months.
From Tarpon Springs we moved 30 miles slowly. With a lot of no wake zones along this portion of the route you simply cannot be in a hurry. We dropped the hook in Reddington Shores which is a sheltered cove off the GICW. It was another one of those anchorages we stopped at last year and liked. After eating/drinking all the way throughTarpon Springs this is a nice place quiet place to just hang out and buy some fresh fish for a healthy dinner on board.
From Reddington Shores we moved just 12 miles to Gulfport. This was a new stop for us. We anchored, took the dingy to shore and walked the waterfront area and main road. Not sure how to describe the town, it's got some of the classic Florida beach bars but then there is a quaintness and artsy theme of the area. Some call it a very small St Pete. We enjoyed the town and would have spent another night but the wind was predicted to change and be "out of the wrong direction". Meaning our second night at anchor we would be unprotected and it would be quite rolly.
No major boat projects for us in the past week (yeah) so I'll provide an update on the "garden". The good news is that the Aerogarden is still going strong. We have harvested lettuce for several salads from just the one head, the basil plant has been providing us one of our favorite herbs for months now, the oregano has taken off and the mint is finally spreading out and taking over like mint tends to do. Hoping to get a few peppers from the plant in back and still keeping fingers crossed that the thyme will decide to flourish instead of die (50/50 chance). This has been a fun item to have on board. It does not draw a lot of power and the base is filled with water so it stays put in even pretty rough seas. I have a feeling we are going to appreciate it even more down in the Bahamas where fresh greens and herbs are tough to come by.
Our next stop will be St Petersburg. We enjoyed this city last year and so we are going to take advantage of the weekly rate and hang out for a bit. It is a short week due to Thanksgiving but we have arranged to have a Northern Lights mechanic come to St Pete to continue troubleshooting why we have smoke when we first start up our generator. The generator seems to work just fine but we do want to make sure we get to the root cause of the smoke before we are in the Bahamas and are relying every day on our generator with limited professional services. Fingers are crossed we find the answer (and that it is an affordable solution).
Wishing everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving!