May 7, 2014:
If we were trying to avoid an aerial bomb strike, you would think coming in under nightfall, might be a good idea. But, I’ve said it several time before and don’t mind repeating it — we do not like to come into a pass at night, and we try to avoid it on every occasion. Unfortunately, with the absolute lack of wind and continued motoring throughout the night, we were slated to make it to the East Pass into Apalachicola Bay a little earlier than we had intended – around 4:00 a.m.
Not yet daylight. So, we bobbed around in the Gulf for about an hour to allow the sun to rise, so we could safely see all of the markers and make it into the Bay.
There she comes! And, see?? With the sun, we can SEE the markers!
We could see land, too! We had left Venice around 10:00 a.m. two days prior and had made it safely once again across the Gulf of Mexico. No small feat.
It was unfortunate that we’d had to motor most of the way. 36 out of the approximate 43 hours were spent with our engine churning away under the cabin. Ironically, that’s about the exact same way we made the Gulf crossing the last time from Clearwater to Carrabelle. An approximate 36-hour engine run, and the heroic hacking-off of the dinghy mid-Gulf. Like I said — crossing the Gulf without issue — no small feat. But, this time we were determined not to the let the 36-hour motor-crossing get the best of our old Westerbeke. If you recall, the year prior, the daunting motor across the Gulf of Mexico had unexpectedly drained our engine of her last drop of transmission fluid and she locked up the next day as we were trying to motor out of the Carrabelle River … the tight, narrow, obstacle-lined river. Fine time to lose engine power. We vowed this time once we got her docked safe and secure in Carrabelle, the first part of that boat that was going to get some good ole TLC was the engine! That is, of course, after the crew got some sleep.
We made it into the river just fine this time during the day. It was nostalgic for me to come back in and see it now, as a somewhat experienced sailor, and remember how I had viewed it then during that first Gulf Crossing and my very first passage on a sailboat, period. I realized how oblivious I had been the year before to everything that was going on. Markers, depth, wind, current. Not that I was sitting around painting my nails or anything, I had spent a good part of that trip taking care of our overtly sea-sick Second Mate, helping Phillip to the best of my ability and cooking and cleaning, but I didn’t really have much involvement in the actual sailing. Well, this time I did. It was Phillip and I. That was it. And, we were coming in to dock once again at the Moorings Marina.
I knew this time, as well, from our first entry into the Carrabelle River, that you have to stay to the right of the river. And, by right, I mean waaaayy over to the right, almost hugging the docks on the starboard side. Last time, we had come in under nightfall and run aground just after the bend in the river. Right … about … here:
I know. The Carrabelle River had not been good to us last time. We were hoping for some better River karma this time around.
And, thankfully, the River welcomed us with open arms.
We made it in around 9:00 a.m. stayed to the RIGHT of the river and clear of the bottom, fueled up, docked up and went immediately to sleep. We’d been two days at sea, on two-hour night shifts two nights in a row, had survived multiple encounters with creepy Gulf alien vessels and an aerial bomb strike. Needless to say, we were tired!
But, the minute we woke, our first order of business was the engine. That run across the Gulf had certainly burned up a good bit of her precious black gold. Our faithful Westerbeke got a complete oil drain and change that day, which, thanks to the nifty hand-pump canister we picked up from the Back Door Marine Supply Guy in St. Pete, we were able to do easily and cleanly on the boat.
Our previous owner, Jack, also converted the old horizontal oil filter mount to a vertical one to avoid the messy oil dump into the bilge when the filter is removed.
Now ours spins in vertically and sits upright, making the entire process easier and cleaner.
We also checked and topped off all of the other fluids, the transmission fluid – of course! – we check that now before every crank, and the coolant. It felt good to give the Westerbeke some love after she’d carried us all the way to Carrabelle, yet again. We also gave the boat a good scrub-down from bow to stern. While we had motored most of the way across the Gulf, the half-a-day we’d spent trying to get out in the Gulf initially in 4-6 foot, head-on waves had laid a pretty thick coat of salt on the boat. You could see and feel salt everywhere – on the deck, the lifelines, the stanchions. It was like Plaintiff’s Rest, on the rocks. We scrubbed every inch and polished her up, head to toe.
After tending to the boat, we then turned our attention to the crew. It was time for a feeding. We showered up and hit the town. Yes, the hustling, bustling big city of Carrabelle! We knew, from the multiple weekend trips we had made to Carrabelle last year when our boat spent six weeks in the River having a new transmission put in, that the happening spot in Carrabelle was Fathom’s.
Or, we were at least partial to it. Our mechanic, Eric’s, family owned the bar/restaurant and we had stopped there for some incredible fresh oysters and beer before heading out last time to make the trip from Carrabelle home to Pensacola.
Can’t believe I said “I’m not really an oyster person” in that post … The Keys have changed me!
Fathom’s has a great custom-built boat-bar and the perfect outdoor deck seating right on the waterfront.
Last time we were there, we could see our boat right across the way!
Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? No, you haven’t.
And, we had occasionally heard some great live music streaming across the River from Fathom’s when we were there, working on the boat. We knew the next time we made it back to Carrabelle on our boat, we wanted to spend at least one evening eating our fill of fresh oysters and catching the live band at Fathom’s. We figured it would play out very much like a scene at Pirate’s Cove – a lot of local riff raff providing some high quality, free entertainment.
The Riff Raff cast from the Cove – November, 2013.
Since Fathom’s was on the agenda for the evening, we popped into the first restaurant we came across on our Carrabelle outing – The Fisherman’s Wife – for lunch. A fitting name for your typical quaint country restaurant. It reminded me of the little diner my grandma (Big Mom) used to take us to on Sundays – Doris’s Diner. The kind of place that keeps heaping condiment baskets on the table, complete with a sticky syrup dispenser, because they always seem to serve pancakes, and the waitresses can pull pens out of their poofy Peg Bundy hair like magic to take your order on a flip pad. I felt right at home! And, the Fisherman’s Wife did not disappoint. They served us up some incredible onion rings, a heaping salad and sandwich combo for lunch.
We walked lunch off down the main strip and found some pretty interesting highlights along the way. Like this little gem – the Carrabelle Junction!
An old fifties-style ice cream shop chock full of antique toys, trinkets and signage.
I love stuff like that. You’re always bound to see an old toy you used to play with sitting on the shelf and the memories flood you.
This one reminded me of the old Gumby & Pokey figurines I used to play with. You know, back when toys didn’t need any bells or whistles or lithium batteries.
Hours of entertainment …
Which is exactly what we found poking (and gumbing!) our way along the downtown Carrabelle strip. It doesn’t take much for us, though. We seem to find just about the same level of entertainment in tiny little rustic towns like Carrabelle and Apalachicola as we do New York City. It’s all in your level of expectation and your openness to truly explore new places – the quaint or the common. As fate would have it, we found something in Carrabelle that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. The world!? Yes, the world. Without Googling, do any of you faithful followers know what it is?
11 thoughts on “The Whole World … and Only Carrabelle’s Got It”
Thanks for your blog. I am enjoying it and it’s helpful in planning my cruise to Florida and the Bahamas two,years from now. Question. Why do you, and so many others, go from Clearwater or Venice to carabelle in one long passage? Looking at the map, there are marinas and anchorages along the way if you follow,the shoreline instead. Just curious…. Thanks!
Hi Claudia. Thanks for the kind words and following along. We love cruising the West Coast of Florida and if there was one big takeaway from our trip to the Keys, it was that we could have spent three times as much time just getting down there as we did. There are so many charming and unique anchorages and inlets all along the way. Regarding the trek across the Gulf (typically from Carrabelle to Clearwater), my guess is most cruisers make that big jump to cover ground. They either have a short window of time (I know – WORST thing you can have on a boat) to get South, if they’re headed to the Keys, or get North, if they’re headed home. That’s the shortest jump across the Gulf to make it past the Big Bend. We also had heard the anchorages and inlets in the Bend were shallow and may prove difficult for us to get in, but we met a veteran cruiser in Apalachicola (you’ll meet him soon on the blog) who has been cruising every inch of the West Coast for decades and takes a floatilla up and down the coast every year, never making a jaunt more than 12 hours, so it can definitely be done, and there is definitely a lot of beautiful coastline to explore. I’m excited about your upcoming trip. What kind of boat will you be cruising and how long will you plan to be gone? We’d love to make it to the Bahamas in the next year or two!
Wow! Sooooo many great guesses already! (4 days after the post…zzzzz). Barely avoided the denial of service shutdown of the site with the overwhelming responses! Ha! You know me. I kid. I’m a kidder. Actually, I have some spare exclamation marks I have to use before they expire at the end of the year, so I figured I’d use a few here!!! And here!!!! Anyways, so what’s my guess on the only thing that Carrabelle has that the rest of the world doesn’t? Hmmmmm, let me think… I’m going to say…… the left over pieces of your vessel’s old transmission! Ha! What did I win?
The Have Wind Black Humor Prize. That’s what you’ve won. The busted up pieces of our old transmission … you say it as if the memory doesn’t instantly bring me to tears. Such heartlessness!!!!!! (It seems I have a few extra exclamation points I’ve been saving up too). And, BTW, I’m going to take your “gotta use them before they expire” line and call it my own. That is classic. I literally LOL’ed. Literally …
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, smallest phone booth…
Ahhh, ahhhh. So close. It is the smallest of something and it is in a phone booth … Oooh, is the suspense killing you now?
Pregnancy brain speaking. I meant to say POLICE STATION! durrrrrr
Ha ha. I have to say I was surprised when you said phone booth. Figured you being from Carrabelle, you’d be able to represent! The old preggers brains strikes again!
Technically, I’m from Panacea. My mom is from Carrabelle. =) You guys ought to look at Alligator Point, Panacea, Shell Point, and St. Marks. You might be able to do some gunk-holing that way.
Thanks. We definitely plan to spend a lot more time in/around the Big Bend next time. We met a guy on our last trip (you’ll meet him soon in an upcoming post) who has been cruising the West Coast of Florida exclusively for decades and claims to know all of the little inlets. Says we can get to far more places in our boat than we realize, keel and all. Can’t wait to get back over that way. Hope you’re doing well preggers! Can’t wait to see the next generation kiter! : )