We returned via a red-eye flight from Sea-Tac to Mobile and were graciously picked up at the airport by Don (sister-boat). We re-provisioned at the local Publix grocery store, said our good byes to the dock locals (and, paid the marina for the steering column fix—ugh!) and pushed off for a short hop just 30 miles out Mobile Bay to push on towards Florida where we will winter up, down, around and beyond its coasts.
Although it was sunny, the air was chilly, the wind was up and the water a bit more like our chop in Puget Sound (in fact, even a bit more than a chop…it was rolling 1-2 feet waves but coming in off the stern so it was a bit like surfing w/ occasional nose dives. And although we had had a few days at the marina dock after leaving the river, we never really got much of that “salt water boating feel” other than that big expansive vastness of the Bay on our exit from the rivers. However, we were reminded quickly of all the joys of salt water: the briny smell of life-giving water, the unexplainable feel of freedom/never-ending horizons and “pathways,” the happy-go-lucky dolphins (or are they porpoises? …anyone? I think they are dolphins), the methodical pelicans, the dependable tides, the hint (perhaps pavlovian) of a vacation from daily life and routine. And then, of course, we were reminded of the pitfalls: the crappy/crapping seagulls, potential for sea sickness, the salt spray (and related grains of salt ALL over the boat, railings, windows, etc. But honestly the pros of the salt water far outweigh the cons and it certainly felt more “at home” than the muddy rivers. So B promptly fell asleep on the upper fly bridge (and avoided any seasick issues) as Nick handled all navigation while under the influence of a 5 Hour Energy drink!
The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW ) is partly man-made canals but most sections are natural bodies of waterways like bays, rivers, and lagoons ( some of which are dredged for depth) that make up an inland waterway that is about 3000 miles long and goes from Texas, around the tip of Florida all the way up to Boston—with a few gaps requiring travel in full, open water exposure. Downside(s)? Probably…we’ll let you know.
We spent the night at modern, clean and friendly Wharf Marina tucked in an architecturally soul-less “community” that had a big condo building, a variety of nice shops (if you like that kind of thing), a movie theater and some restaurants. The place was basically a ghost town though and was just trying way too hard to be a destination.
The next morning we woke to a brisk sunny day. Once we got rolling after some salt removal/boat cleaning and walks (N and Ziggy walked all the way to the West Marine store…yay…another pair of $12 shorts!), we only went about 13 miles (not counting the 3 miles or so of going in a big circle once we self-corrected (twice) our chart reading ). It turns out this ICW is nicely dredged….but not everywhere. So again, like some of the big “lakes” between the dams and locks up on the Cumberland and the Tennessee Rivers, you can really get yourself messed up. We watched in horror as the depth-finder dropped suddenly to 2 feet a couple of different times. We limped out super slowly and avoided any trouble. We started paying better attention to the charts, markers, etc!
Inquiring minds might want to know why it seems we are slacking on our speed, distance and progress. It isn’t because we are sleeping in; but rather because one of the gaps in the ICW is coming up shortly and we need to wait for a weather window to go out and through the open big sea. THE guy (yes, there is a guy, Eddie, who everyone relies on for the green light to make the crossing out of Carrabelle, Florida) says we are at least 5 days out before any chance of the weather clearing enough for the crossing. So we decided to just hop slowly along and see more little and different spots along the way. So, therefore last night we were technically in Orange Beach, Alabama and we are still there tonight too…just a different marina.