Arrival, Carrabelle! This port town of 2,800 is known as the Gateway to the Gulf. From here, boaters doing The Great Loop (who are known as Loopers) prepare for “the crossing” … into the Gulf of Mexico, to Florida’s west coast.
Here, we ended our exploration of the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. Arrival here is a milestone, similar to arrival in Chicago after the big lakes and Mobile after the big rivers. Arriving safely on the other side of that crossing will be another big milestone. Jeff doesn’t seem worried: for her maiden voyage, he took this boat across Lake Superior at night, so I suppose this is doable too. But before looking forward, let’s look back a bit.
The Mainship Many Moons has traveled 2,400 miles to get here … through two Great Lakes, seven rivers, and nearly 300 miles of intercoastal waterway. We left Lake Superior in mid-summer and it is now nearly Thanksgiving. We’ve learned about locks and currents and tow barges and anchorages and weather windows … how to stay healthy while under way, use two radios at once, pull into a tight slip in a stiff wind, share 34 feet of living space, and make decisions as a team.
That’s a lot to learn in 115 days.
Once you start The Great Loop, there is a certain pressure to continue it and finish it. The focus is always forward. But I think it’s important to recognize what is behind, too.
Our 30-mile cruise from Apalachicola to Carrabelle was interesting from the start. As Jeff pulled up the two anchors, we began to drift quickly backwards as the tide had just shifted and the current was strong. I was at the helm while Jeff was on the bow. I made a judgment call, took an action meant to keep the boat safe, and while doing that, missed an important detail that may have damaged it in a different way. (I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee, so that’s my excuse. 😉 ) It was a brief episode, and no harm done, but we had a few tense moments and a few “words.” I’ve learned that almost all couples on a long boat trip have “words” now and then. I’ve overheard some of them! 🙂 You just expect it, learn from it, assume everyone is doing their best, and move on.
And so we did, under the John Gorrie Bridge and into the wide Apalachicola Bay. The current propelled us for awhile, well above 9mph. (Our usual cruising speed is about 8.5mph). We ran into white caps and beam seas, prompting Boo the Boating Cat to complain loudly and me to locate the seasickness medicine — which we didn’t need, as it calmed again pretty quickly. I took the helm while Jeff showered, and was immediately waked by a much larger boat, passing much too close to us, at a much faster speed. (Getting “waked” means rocked by the wake of a passing boat.) This bay was shallow and the navigation channel quite narrow, so maybe that’s why he passed us so close, but that’s no excuse for his speed. I turned into the wake aggressively to put the bow into it, and nothing fell over or flew off the counter. Again, no harm done. But, whew. Really??
We passed through some brief rain squalls, and the salt-water spatter on the windshield reminded us that the big salty gulf is close by. We caught up with two other Mainships and followed them into the port of Carrabelle, where we have joined 13 other Looping boats all waiting to see when the weather will be favorable enough to cross. It will probably be days. Plenty of time to explore another inviting north-Florida port town.
See photos and captions below.