We left Dog River marina and crossed Mobile Bay entering the Gulf Intercostal Waterway (GICW). The GICW is a protected waterway along the coast of Florida. You can travel all along the panhandle of Florida without going out into the open ocean by using the GICW. We will be on the GICW until we reach Carrabelle and cross the BIG Bend which is the Gulf of Mexico. We will wait at Carrabelle for a favorable weather window once we get there.
After being accustomed to Lake Michigan, is was humorous to hear there were small craft warnings on Mobile Bay with a 1 foot wave prediction. It usually takes much more than that to have a small craft warning on our big lake.
On the way to Orange Beach, Alabama we arrived at the talked-about Lulu’s restaurant. Lulu is the sister of Jimmy Buffett. We tied up Sanctuary at the dock directly in front of the restaurant and had lunch. What did we order: Cheeseburgers in Paradise, of course! We landed in the middle of a musician songfest, so we listened to songwriters and players while we ate. If you are in the area of Gulf Shores, you should stop at Lulu’s. It was strange to consider that the boat we were tied up behind on the dock at Lulu’s (Captain’s Choice) was the same boat we were tied up behind in DuSable Harbor in Chicago—only 65 days and 1,400 miles earlier. We have seen them on and off again along the way numerous times.
The Wharf marina in Orange Beach became our next overnight stop after leaving Dog River (where we were excited to renew our friendship with Jaycie Lynn). Just as we were about to pull into the marina, we spotted dolphins frolicking in front of our boat. After tying up, we went ashore and discovered The World Championship Food Cook Off was being held at The Wharf. They had numerous competition categories and each category had a $10,000 prize. The winners of the individual categories went on to compete in the final event for a $100,000 prize. The amount of preparation and planning by each participant was incredible. Set up and infrastructure for the event was amazing. Individual cooking areas provided tables, stoves, and refrigerators, but each contestant brought their own needed pans, utensils, ingredients, and much more. All of the individual contestants’ paraphernalia was removed after their event and the next group then set up their area all over again. One of the events was BACON—just imagine a whole group of people all cooking BACON. There were also dessert, steak, seafood, and more categories. This is really a life style for the contestants not just a hobby. To compete at this event, they had to win other local events to qualify.
The marina had a shopping area that would rival many malls. Teresa got her hair done at the salon on main street. Alyce did an excellent job and is also now the owner of one of Teresa’s books. She’s excited to read Life is: Good, Fragile, Precious and claims, “it’s just what she needed!” A huge Ferris wheel tempted us at the end mall, so we had to go for a ride in the dark making this 2 Ferris wheel rides since we began our trip. One morning we saw a Sea Otter on the dock near us.
After leaving Orange Beach; next stop: Pensacola, Florida. After 1400 miles, we FINALLY arrived in Florida!!! On the way to Pensacola, we saw and heard the Blue Angels overhead practicing for their upcoming air show. In Pensacola, we walked through “Old Town” and saw lots of interesting historic buildings.
We left Pensacola and docked in Fort Walton at the free city dock just in time to capture a couple of home-grown tomatoes and a jambalaya rice mix from the Farmer’s Market. We walked the town with Captain’s Choice who docked right next to us. The town also was in the midst of a charity drive, so we sampled delicious chicken/andouille sausage gumbo. The chef was really interested in how we liked the gumbo. When we told him it was delicious, he replied,
“That’s a pretty good compliment coming from Yankees!”
They sure know how to do spicy down here. Teresa had to double up on the rice and pieces of bread to swallow hers.
From Fort Walton, the plan is to continue traveling east along the GICW until we can make the big crossing of the gulf from Carrabelle to potentially Tarpon Springs. We’re loving the ever-changing scenery including white sands, small, medium, and huge McMansions with fancy dock structures, high-rise condominiums, pelicans, herons, and playful dolphins.
The World Championship Food Cook Off was being held at The Wharf
Old Town Pensacola
Sailboat America at Pensacola
Tomorrow we plan to continue traveling east on the GICW along Florida’s panhandle.