Panama City, FL

16,17,18 November

Short summary: Very windy and cold but crews from Sundowner, Leslee, Free Bird, Serenity, Estrellita and Quo Vadimus have a great dinner.

Up early and off the dock at Destin to head east to Panama City, Florida. Another 60 mile day ahead of us and we want to get there before the wind and rain kick in.

It’s an easy drive and Susan attracts Dolphins so that was fun. There is a pretty long canal stretch that reminded both of us of the “Divide Cut” on the Tenn-Tom waterway.

At the end of the Canal the Department of Homeland security had a fishing boat pulled over. We cruised by wondering what they were doing so far into the interior, the gulf was over 10 miles away. About 10 mins later they came by at full throttle about 20′ from the boat and tossed us around with their wake. Nice job, thanks guys.

About a mile later they stopped at a bridge. We cruised through at “no wake” speed and went under the bridge. About 3 minutes later they came by, again at full throttle, and again we get tossed around. /sigh

But we soon forgot about it with the influx of new dolphins to entertain us. That went on until we got into the main waters of Panama City.

Got into the marina OK, got fuel at a $3.27 per gallon dropping our overall fuel price to $4.18 per gallon for the trip. I expect that this will be the low price until I get on the other side of Florida and into the Carolina’s. I’ve been getting fuel more often than I need to. I’ve been getting fuel in 150-175 gallon loads. I could have made it through Canada without buying fuel. On the other hand I’ve been fighting the bad fuel load that I got in Rochester, so my attitude has been to keep diluting it to keep the filters from clogging as much. It seems to have worked, I put 200 gallons through before they needed changing. I’m still a little worried about the upcoming leap across to the Florida mainland. It will be more bouncy, so what is stuck to the bottom of the tank will come floating up.

Docked at the marina with us is Freebird one of the few sailboats. We met them briefly in Grafton. We last saw Serenity in Parry Sound the 14th of July almost exactly 4 months ago. We were soon joined by Estrellita who shared the last part of our run down the Tenn-Tom.

I headed off downtown to watch the last NASCAR race. The Panama Ale house was a nice pub, they had the Packer/Eagles game on (Go Pack GO!) and the race. I was excited by both, Packers were winning and up until lap 8 Jeff Gordon was in the lead. Packers won, and Jeff finished 10th But I got to try three new beers, so all in all it was a good day.

Sunday night was the start of the wind and about 3AM to 9AM we were smacked a few times by rain cells. Turns out there was a tornado watch up, and a tornado touched down about 10 miles north east of here.

Monday was cold and very windy. Susan and I walked a few blocks into town for lunch. It was pretty uninspiring, what I though was a cool little diner only had a lunch buffet. There was a used book store in town that we stopped in, but the shelves were ½ empty and there were tons of boxes and piles on the floor. Not sure if they were doing a major re-sort / re-stack / re-shelve, but it was a “re-mess” and we left.

The temps dropped and the wind kicked up, so we bounced around most of the day and night. The high point was Susan’s dinner of jambalaya.

Another cold windy and bouncy night.

Tuesday’s forecast was better, with the trend for the wind to stop. They are going to shut the water off on the dock, so I made sure that our tanks were full. I also called to see when the marina store will be open, we want to get pumped out before we go and sit in Apalachicola for 10 days.

I got invited to go shopping by the crew of Leslee a sailboat from Texas. I remarked on their home port of Warwick DE, it’s small world. We did a quick dash to Publix and I got restocked. Tonight we will be walking into town for dinner. Looking forward to it!

Lunch was Susan’s take on muffaletta sandwich. Very good but she was hampered by not having the right bread.

Naps and planning the next set of places filled my afternoon. From the start of the trip we were going to go the “long” way, up around the panhandle and then down the west coast. It would be 4-5 easy days. The alternative is to do a big jump from the panhandle across to the west coast. It’s 150-160 nautical miles. At our normal speed it would take us about 17-20 hours. That means leaving at 3PM, driving all night and then most of the next day. It wouldn’t be a big deal in the summer with the short nights. In November it means about 14 hours of dark.

We also need a good weather window. December normally wouldn’t be a problem, but as you’ve noticed, winter has come early. As of this writing there may be a window next week on Thanksgiving. It would give a new meaning to “Black Friday” for us.

Plan C is to across to Steinhatchee on Thursday (65 miles) and then do three short days of 30 miles a day. That would put us there on Thursday, rather than leaving on Thursday. (Rain will be in the area on Sunday) It’s all weather depending, so keep reading to see how we make out.

Dinner started off with beers at the Panama Ale House. We had a full complement with the crews from Sundowner, Leslee, Free Bird, Serenity, Estrellita and Quo Vadimus. Not as big as the Mississippi Flotilla, but a great group. I added a new beer – 1554 Black Ale – to my list, a new one for the top 5 beers outside of Canada. The big news item was two of the crews finding out they had a common ancestor! Shows what a small world it really is.

We took over Maddie’s Las Casita (well we had about 40% of the seats). The food was very good and in huge portions. In my quest for the perfect chiles rellenos I ordered that. I got both a steak and (since we are in the gulf) a shrimp. They were very very good. Not the classic where the poblano pepper is stuffed, breaded and fried. These had been grilled, peeled, split and then the contents put in the pepper halves. Then under the broiler for a few minutes to cook, add cheese and another minute to melt the cheese. The steak was good, but the shrimp were the best.

Lots of great conversation as with all Loopers, we have so many different backgrounds and experiences.

Tonight the temps will go below freezing. Can’t wait to get the next 300 miles south to real warm weather.