After we left Niceville, FL we had hopes to stop at Shell Island but the wind had other plans for us so we ducked into a protected anchorage called Pearl Bayou for a quiet night. We headed into Apalachicola the next morning. It was a favorite stop of mine on our first loop and I was excited to stop again. The girls still remember how much they loved finding oyster shells and walking around the cute town.
Along the way we passed through the hurricane damaged areas of the Panhandle. Most of the damage was on the Gulf side, not the ICW side, but we still saw quite a bit of devastation. Trees snapped in half. Docks and boats under water. It’s sad how much work it will take to fully recover from the damage.
When we arrived in Apalachicola we were greeted with one of the famous fishing boats there. I find them so charming.
We hopped off the boat and headed into town to explore. We found a neat Christmas tree hung with buoys and other nautical decorations. We explored some of the cute shops we remembered from a couple of years ago. And after looking at a few restaurants, we decided to head back to the new restaurant right above the marina. A sailboat we met in Niceville happened to be docked there. He had already eaten but agreed to come up and join us for a drink while we ate. We started with us and Wilsons so already a big group of 11 (Tim was with us as well). As we were eating, Brian came to join making us 12. And then two other boats arrived who we had been waiting on. Marshall and Judy on Let’s Go and Bob and Sandy on Plumb Fun. We added 4 more to our table and took over that part of the restaurant! We had a fun time and all hashed out our gulf crossing plans for the next couple of days.
The next day we were not in a rush at all. Our plan was for a daylight gulf crossing so all we planned to do was get to Carabelle in time to have dinner and go to bed the next day. So, that meant I had time for a long walk around Apalachicola that morning. I explored parts of town I hadn’t seen before. I found an amazing old cemetery and beautiful old churches.
After my walk I went back and got the girls. We were headed to the old time soda fountain we went to two years ago. Tim joined us as well as Wendy and her girls. We loaded up on ice cream and milkshakes!
Eventually it was time to head back and make our way to Carabelle. Getting out of Apalachicola was no easy task. It was extremely shallow (right around 5 ft) and there were huge work barges in the channel. I could all but touch the barge it was so close as we went past. We also passed another barge carrying sunken or destroyed boats. So sad to see.
We got all settled in Carabelle and caught a beautiful sunset as I walked to the store to grab a few ingredients for Tim. He cooked us his amazing chicken fettuccine alfredo for dinner. YUM! Wilsons joined us and then headed to bed as they were scheduled to leave at 2:30 AM and run through the night and next day, arriving in Tarpon Springs before sunset. We touched base with our buddy boat who we would be doing a daylight crossing with and all headed to bed full of nervous energy.
The next morning brought the usual excitement. Our buddy boat’s engine wouldn’t start. It’s always something! He said he’d check some fuses. Nothing. Ben was anxiously watching the tide and worried about getting out of our slip. The channel was plenty deep, but our slip wasn’t. He also didn’t want to cross without another boat. He and Tim eventually just jumped on the other boat. Ben was in the engine room and Tim suggested finding a mallet and hitting the starter (I may have that all wrong) to get it going. Sure enough that worked and was a relief to everyone involved.
The girls and I gave hugs and said our goodbyes for the day. It was very bittersweet and hard to watch Have Another Day pull away from the dock without us on it. Our plan was to drive our car around the bend and meet Ben and Tim in Clearwater in a few hours. The forecast was amazing. Sunrise was downright magical. I’m so thrilled Ben and Tim had such an incredible ride and a little bit jealous I didn’t get to be there for it.
The girls and I had a wonderful drive. I don’t often say that, as we spend way too much time in the car. But this time we hung to the back windy roads following the water. No interstate. No traffic. Small towns. It was downright charming. We didn’t have to do any of the big roads until the very end of the trip. We pulled into Clearwater and got all set up at the marina and waited for Ben and Tim to arrive. We got our boat tied up and helped get our buddy boat settled and headed to the beach!
We’d finally made it to mainland Florida!!! It was warmer. And sunny. And the beach felt AMAZING!!! We watched the street performers and sunset and headed to get some dinner and then all collapsed from exhaustion of the long day.