Cruising on Last Dance


This blog archives the adventures of Glen and Jill Moore and provides a means of communication for friends and family. Exploration and adventure have been synonymous with boats and water for centuries. The joy of adventures shared while exploring new places and meeting new people has built a strong bond for Glen and Jill. Last Dance is the platform for the exploration.

"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St. Augustine, 354 - 430

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain, 1835 - 1910

"There is nothing -- absolutely nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats." The Wind in the Willows, 1908, Kenneth Grahame, 1859 - 1932

"I've never believed speed and ease are conductive to living fully, becoming aware, or deepening memory, a tripod of urges to stabilize and lend meaning to life." River Horse: a log book of a boat across America, 1999, William Least Heat-Moon,1939 -

The Great Loop -- The current adventure is a circumnavigation of the Eastern United States, cruising north up the east coast through New York into Canada, across the Great Lakes to Chicago, navigating multiple river systems south to Mobile, along the Gulf coast to the Florida Keys and back to St. Augustine. This trip by boat is commonly referred to as the Great Loop. Progress and current location are indicated by the red line on the map to the right. It was titled the Traceless Path in recognition of a German sailor we met in St. Augustine who published booklets of his travels with hand-drawn, detailed maps describing his travels across the water as the Traceless Path.



Friday, January 27, 2012

Crossing the Gulf


For many, the most daunting task on the Great Loop is crossing the Gulf of Mexico.  On most of the journey, there are many places to stop along the way, allowing each day's trip to be as short or long as one desires.  Not so the Gulf.  Between Carrabelle, in the Panhandle, and Tarpon Springs, on the west coast north of St. Petersburg, there are no options for most boats to stop.  There are few protected anchorages or marinas in small communities along the Big Bend area of Florida, but due to lower than normal tides in the winter, many cruising boats (including Last Dance) have more draft than there is water depth.  So, a long, long overnight passage is required.

Last Dance left Apalachicola at 10:00 am on Saturday, January 7 for a planned 24 hour trip to Clearwater inlet.  The 10 am starting time was chosen because the earliest you should arrive at Clearwater or Tarpon Springs is 10 am.  The coast of west Florida is littered with crab traps, particularly at this time of year as it is Stone Crab season.  If you head east into either of these two ports before 10 am, the sun is in your eyes and reflecting off the water, making it impossible to see the crab trap floats.  You do not want to hit a crab trap float, since it can easily wrap the line and trap around the propeller and cause great and expensive damage, not to mention ruining your day.

The winter season short daylight hours created a 14 hour darkness for the journey.  That is a long time staring into darkness as you travel.  The pitching and rolling of the boat adds to the fatigue caused by lack of sleep.  It was a long night.  Lightness did finally begin on the horizon (photo above).  While nothing was visible except water, it was great to be able to see again.  Then, the sun peaked over the edge of the water.



A few more hours travel and land emerge along the horizon.  At 10:20 am, Sunday, January 8, Last Dance was at the sea buoy marking the Clearwater inlet.  Not one of the journeys that will be remembered for a fun highlight, but the challenge was addressed and overcome.  It is good that this piece of the Loop is behind the crew.




Thursday, January 26, 2012

Florida Panhandle - Miscellaneous Ramblings

Critters

One of the joys of being on the water is the opportunity to interact with many forms of wildlife.  The most exciting are the encounters with dolphins, the mammal variety sea creature.  As we entered Florida waters, two dolphins swam to Last Dance and escorted her toward her home state.  They continually leaped from the water in front of the boat. There is something about dolphins running along with the boat that is impossible to ignore. Jill talks to them and they respond by rolling on their sides and looking up at her.






In St. Andrews Bay, near Panama City, a family of dolphins joined the boat for quite a distance.  The baby was very playful, leaping completely out of the water many times.

















The last body of water transited in the Florida Panhandle was Apalachicola Bay.  The dolphins there made sure they put on a display to bid us farewell.











They joined the boat throughout the bay.  As Jill photographs a dolphin just under the bow, another dolphin swims to meet the boat.












Just before leaving Apalachicola Bay and entering the Gulf of Mexico, two dolphins ran in front of the boat, much like the two who greeted Last Dance as she entered the state.









Loons -  The intricately plumbed loons with their multiple melodic songs kept the Last Dance crew entertained throughout Canada.  These normally solitary birds grouped together in the North Channel as Last Dance cruised out of Canada to return to the U.S.  After spending the summer in pairs, raising their young,  they join together for their flight south.  Where do they winter?  Some come to the Florida Panhandle.




 They are easy to miss since their winter plumage in not as showy as their summer outfits.  From a distance it would be easy to mistake them for Cormorants or Anhingas.  One key to recognizing them is that they tend to be alone.




Grebes, another diving bird that is a close cousin of the Loon, kept the crew entertained in Port St. Joe.  These guys are amazing swimmers, but none were ever observed flying.








Jellyfish were plentiful during the cruise along the Florida panhandle.  The one on the right, Portuguese Man-O-War, is one you do not want to meet in the water.  The long, purple tentacles can reach from 50 to 200 feet from the jellyfish and are very poisonous.  The poison is easily absorbed through the skin.  This is one of many that high winds pushed up on Perdido Key.









The cannonball jellyfish is common along the panhandle, sometimes in dense populations.  These are edible and have become a new cash crop for fishermen along the coast.  Cannonball jellyfish are exported to Asian countries where they are considered a delicacy, often added to salads.








The moon jellyfish - easy to see why it is so named.













Spectre Island






This small island, in the bay between the barrier island Santa Rosa and the mainland, lies within Eglin Air Force Base.  It provided a quiet and interesting anchorage.











After a walk on the island, Bonnie jumped in the dinghy and looked as if to say, "time to go back to the boat."
















Eglin is obviously a training post for C-130 pilots and Osprey pilots.




























In this sunset/moonrise photo, an Osprey is heading back to the landing strip.


























Panama City


Much work and effort had been invested in downtown Panama City to create a viable retail, office, and entertainment area.  While some interesting architecture remains and a large auditorium is located near the waterfront, commerce has seemed to not return to downtown.  Still, and interesting place to visit.




























One new retail establishment is a wine store, aptly named "Winos."  The sign was made from letters cut from copy paper and stapled to a piece of board. Not sure that sufficient capital has been invested in this new business venture.






Port St. Joe



Once a grand shipping port, with a large shrimping boat fleet, and a paper mill in town, Port St. Joe is now a small, sleepy, quaint town dependent mostly on tourism for commerce.  This port was home for Last Dance for 3 weeks as projects on the boat were completed and the daughters were hosted for Christmas.  Port St. Joe recognized the Last Dance crew by having a fireworks show right at the marina.  These photos were taken from the deck of Last Dance.  Port St. Joe proved to be a great place for an extended visit.

































Changes in Scenery

Much of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway along the Florida Panhandle runs along barrier islands and through bays - beautiful beaches and sand dunes.  But the some of the eastern portion has much different scenery as it follows rivers and crosses inland lakes.  The Florida Panhandle has some beautiful scenery, the diversity of which adds to the overall experience of nature's display of beauty.














Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Florida Panhandle - Apalachicola



Apalachicola is one of the most famous towns along the Florida Panhandle.  Its fame comes in a large part to the seafood products harvested there.  The Apalachicola oyster is arguably the best in the U.S.  The brackish waters of Apalachicola bay are perfect for the growing of the bivalve culinary delicacy.  Apalachicola has a large shrimp and fishing industry, also.


















Unique, hand-built small boats are used to harvest oysters.  These oyster boats ply the waters of the bay every day.












Oysters are still harvested by hand.  Long tongs are used to capture the oysters, which are lifted onto the boat deck and sorted.











The town of Apalachicola provides many opportunities to eat the produce of the Bay and Gulf.  Every restaurant features seafood.  And, it seems, that every restaurant does a great job in preparing the fruits of the seas.











The locals fill the Seafood Grill for good reason.  Their fried oysters have the thinnest, crispiest batter coating, lightly cooked to a steamed oyster consistency.  Delicious.





In the early 1800's, Apalachicola was a buzy port, the largest in the state of Florida.  While the city is not as large as it was then, it retains some of the old architecture and charm.












The restored Dixie Theatre brings live theater to this small community.  After many near misses by a day, the Last Dance crew finally got to take in a play, Florida Girls, a one-woman show.











And, there are fun places.  At the Tin Shed, you can get everything from nautical antiques to cypress stumps.
































Along the water front, near where Last Dance was docked, was a pole labeled with colors and numbers.  What do they represent?














The height the water will reach by hurricane category.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Florida Panhandle - Cape San Blas Christmas

Port St. Joe, Florida, is centrally located among our daughters, so it was selected as a stopping place for Christmas. Melissa stopped by a week before Christmas, spending some time catching up and looking into the future. Amanda and Brittany, left early on Christmas eve morning so they could help crew a trip to Cape San Blas.

A skinny spit of land, that would be a barrier island except that one end is attached to the mainland, Cape San Blas lies north/south along the Florida Panhandle creating St. Joesph Bay. Port St. Joe is on the mainland in the middle section of the bay.  The northern 8 miles of Cape San Blas is a Florida State Park.

Click here and zoom out for a Google Map of Cape San Blas


A short cruise across St. Joesph Bay brought the extended crew to Eagle Harbor, a cove along Cape San Blas that has a skinny piece of deep water providing an anchorage.  The shoals are clearly visible in the photo above.  Get near the green water and you are aground.











The long Gulf-shore beach provided many shell treasures for the ladies.  Again, the Last Dance crew found another beautiful beach that seemed to be a private enclave.  A private beach full of shells; a treasure trove for beachcombers.









Well, the crew did have to share the beach - with the full-time residents, many shore birds.











Including one who complained about having to share the beach.































Back in Port St. Joe, the girls found a quite different tandem bike at the Port Inn, where they stayed.  Both riders shared the steering duties, a formula for problems which, fortunately, they avoided.
















A multiple-course, seafood-based, non-traditional Christmas dinner was enjoyed on Last Dance, to benefit from the fresh local fare of foods.  A different, albeit savory meal, nurtured conversation and family time together.  It will be remembered as the Cape San Blas Christmas.