Monday morning we said goodbye to Port St. Joe, and headed back up the channel that joins the Intercoastal Waterway (or ICW). The weather was nice – sunny with a few clouds and low wind. The ICW in this stretch is a very narrow waterway, boggy with very few homes. Eventually this opened up into a beautiful shallow lake with 3 bays. It looked like something from ‘up north’, total wilderness without cabins or homes, surrounded by pines. We saw a few small fishing boats, but met no other travelers on this stretch.
The lake then joined a river, which joined the Apalachicola River, and eventually led to the town of Apalachicola. We decided to continue on to Carrabelle, but had to go through the St. George Sound in the Gulf. Although somewhat protected by St. George Island, the chop was medium, with 3-foot waves common. It was a little rough going, but we encountered no real problems, and arrived at The Moorings at Carrabelle in time to get fuel, fresh water, pump-out and a slip for the night. We tied up using the cross-tie method because of the tide. The boat across the dock was decked out in Christmas lights, with a dolphin santa on the bow.
That evening after dinner we planned our next stint across the Gulf. The Big Bend, as it is called, has no Intercoastal Channel. This requires you to plot your own route using the navigation charts and your GPS. It was the first time we had done a whole route, and because of fuel needs, decided our next port would be Steinhatchee, about a 90 mile drive. You can’t just cut straight across, as there are many shallows, reefs, and shoals to navigate around. The National Weather Service forecasted a light chop, which is about as calm as it gets, so we decided to head out in the morning.
The crossing went very well, although we spent a good while dodging crab pots. It was sort of like maneuvering through a mine field, as the locals say. The metal crab pots are attached to chains, with small buoys on top so you know where they are. These chains can rip out your lower unit if you run one over. It was a little mesmerizing looking for them in the whitecaps, with no land visible.
The chop got a little rougher, with waves splashing up over the boat. At one point, we went over a shoal, and had to drift off. But otherwise, all went well. We made it to the Steinhatchee River, and followed the channel up to the River Haven Marina. Wonderful local folks, and they have floating docks. Yeh! After fueling, we got a slip, then had dinner at ‘Fiddler’s’, a short block away.
It became apparent that we had taken on some water during the trip across the Gulf. We had to dry out some of the holds and cushions on the boat. After inspection, Jim realized that the water was coming in where the top and bottom sections of the boat are put together. This type of construction is called “Clam Shell” as the top and the bottom of the boat are joined together. Duct tape (really?) was his choice for sealing, but luckily he met a fiberglass guy who suggested he use silicone!
Jim worked on the boat, siliconing all the spots that had deteriorated over the years. Meanwhile, I went to the liquor store, and took a long walk up the road that follows the river toward the gulf.
It’s amazing to me that it’s Thanksgiving, a little surreal. But the locals invited us to share Thanksgiving dinner on the deck (about 15 feet from our boat) at the marina. What a spread it was! All the fixings, with a few southern twists: okra with bacon bits and bread crumbs, stuffing with corn bread, and Hawaiian cranberry sauce (nummy with coconut and pineapple). The food was fabulous, and just the fact that we were included in the dinner was so appreciated! Southern hospitality is alive and well in Steinhatchee!
I learned at dinner that Steinhatchee is pronounced Steen (long e sound) instead of Stein (like the German beer mug). The funniest thing is that Tim (the marina owner) has a dog named Ellie May. I informed him that although he is very fond of his follower, my grand-daughter had his pooch beat in no uncertain terms.
It was an enjoyable Thanksgiving, even though we have never before missed spending time with family. We connected via phone. I must say it was weird sitting on a deck at 73 degrees. I had to go get my sun glasses! Later we went to the American Legion with Noah and Maria who keep a boat in the marina full-time. It has been a fun stay in Steinhatchee!
Tomorrow we will be starting phase 2 of the ‘Big Bend’, and hope to arrive in Crystal River where the manatees call home. It is a freshwater river, and the manatees have recently given birth out in the gulf, and should be coming into the freshwater of the river. It will be another 90-mile trek across the Gulf of Mexico! We have our course planned and plotted, and hope all goes well! ARiverDerci!