Into Florida (Day 95)

Our 10th state on The Great Loop welcomed us in grand style — with a performance by The Blue Angels!

That’s how it felt anyway.

We passed over the border from Alabama into Florida just in time to watch the Navy’s precision flight team practice for its upcoming air show in its hometown. This meant leaving our peaceful anchorage at Ingram Bayou sooner than I wanted, but not before we saw a pair of dolphins cavorting nearby. Sweet!

A few hours after leaving our overnight anchorage, we anchored again in a perfect spot, alongside white sandy beaches, just a mile or so inland from the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. About a dozen other boats anchored nearby to watch. And what a show it was. I’ve seen the Blue Angels perform several times in my Navy career, and have met some members of the team. (I was the designated “date” for one of them, in the 80s, when we were both junior officers in need of a table partner. Unfortunately, it was a forgettable experience for both of us! 😉 )

But I’ve never watched them from a boat.

Again, sweet.

Another first today: arriving by water at a Navy marina. I took a sailing course in Newport (Rhode Island) years ago, and rented boats there, but this was different. I was in uniform then. Now, I’m a retiree and “a transient,” asking to stay overnight — and I’m not the boat’s skipper. Frankly, I wasn’t sure just what to expect. Would an armed vessel come out to greet us and ask to see my ID? (I’m joking.) I imagined somebody announcing “Many Moons, Arriving!,” the way I was announced when boarding a Navy ship. Nothing so dramatic happened, of course. The narrow entrance to the marina was somewhat dramatic, though Jeff handled it well — and finding our designated slip took some doing, since we had confusing directions. But all went well. No bells or whistles. The marina manager himself handled our lines for us. When he learned I’m not the boat owner, he made an exception to a rule I wasn’t aware existed and allowed us to dock anyway.

Because I’m the Navy officer and therefore the “sponsor,” we had to undergo a bit of rigmarole to produce documents and explain that the boat is Jeff’s and not mine. Jeff had to increase his boat insurance to meet the military requirements. I wondered for awhile if we should have gone to a marina in the city. But then we met some of the nicest people on the dock (which happens at almost every marina), and took a bike ride around the base, and decided to spend tomorrow at the National Naval Aviation Museum nearby.

Life is good, when you can roll with it. Photos and captions below.

Colorful waterfront homes along the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway.
We passed this boat en route to Pensacola. Was it “grounded” there on purpose or by accident?
We found a lovely anchorage to watch the Blue Angels. The Gulf of Mexico is on the other side of the dunes.
The jets pass over us as our flag flaps at the stern.
They flew right over us several times.
The smoke trail left by “the Blues” as they go straight up and then separate.
Three Coast Guard vessels were docked at NAS Pensacola. The black one is a buoy tender – a necessary if undramatic role.
Many Moons at Bayou Grande Marina, NAS Pensacola, a Navy vessel on the left and a C-Dory in the middle.

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