Leg 2 Log

The Cosmic C at Midway

The Cosmic C has been waiting patiently at the Midway Marina in Fulton, MS for the past two and a half months, while we returned to Pennsylvania for Mary’s work, Patrick’s many obligations, and the hurricanes that never came to pass.  After attending our big (51-strong) family Thanksgiving reunion in Platte City, MO and taking in a little Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, we arrived back on board on November 26, a little worse for wear due to a 24-hour stomach bug that attacked many in the family over the holiday. Midway’s Monica (with Lou and Patrick in the picture above) very kindly drove in convoy with Patrick to Tupelo airport to return our rental car. When we got back to Midway, we discovered that Patrick had left our computer in the trunk of the car, and Lou even more kindly drove Patrick back to the airport to get it. Thank you so much Lou and Monica for your help and patience!

Midway to Demopolis

The weather has been almost perfect as we cruised south on the Tenn-Tom Canal. Yesterday we stopped at Columbus, MS, where we visited Tennessee Williams’ birthplace and strolled past beautiful antebellum mansions. Today we toured the Tom Beville Visitor’s Center where the US Snagboat Montgomery rests. The Montgomery was the last steam-powered sternwheeler to ply the inland waters of the South, and for nearly six decades helped to keep seven of the South’s major rivers navigable. It is now a National Historic Site. Arriving in the Demopolis Yacht Basin and Marina, we were delighted to see Floyd and Della (Freddy Freddy) again, and to meet Mike and Bev on their home-built sailboat Walkürie. Floyd and Della had been at Demopolis for six weeks giving Freddy Freddy a new coat of bottom (and top) paint and doing other maintenance. They hadn’t expected to be there that long, but the weather did not cooperate.

Demopolis to Pensacola

Wednesday morning dawned with heavy fog, so we couldn’t get an early start. We delayed even longer in order to watch Freddy Freddy being launched. Nevertheless we reached Bobby’s Fish Camp early in the afternoon. We had been looking forward to eating catfish at Bobby’s restaurant but were disappointed to find that it was open only on Thursday thru Saturday at this time of year. Spent the late afternoon writing Christmas cards. Late at night, tows rocked us as they passed by, flashing super bright searchlights back and forth to light their way. 

On Thursday we had an easy run down to Mobile but then ran into rough water in Mobile Bay as we headed down to Grand Mariner Marina on the Dog River. A front came through with its rising winds, dropping the temperature from the seventies we had been enjoying to the forties and low fifties. Friday was sunny but windy, so we spent the day doing errands and touring Mobile.

The wind abated on Saturday, the sunshine (and chill) continued, and we had a enjoyable run down the bay and into the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. Shortly thereafter we saw our first dolphin. After stopping for lunch at LuLu’s (owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister), we headed up Perdido Bay to visit Bob and Marie Austin. We had never met them before but had corresponded occasionally on both the C Dory and Great Loop web sites, and they had invited us to stop by and stay at their dock. What hospitality they showered upon us! They invited us to the neighborhood party they were throwing that night, insisted that we borrow one of their cars for the next couple of days in order to visit our friends Bob and Eneida Smith who live nearby, and regaled us with many stories of their transatlantic cruising experiences. Thank you so much, Bob and Marie.

It was great fun bringing our friendship with Bob and Eneida up to date and seeing Pensacola and its surroundings with them. We were especially keen to hear about their sons Phil (in Iraq) and Mark (in Paris) and their families. We dined at McGuires, where the ceilings in the many dining rooms are covered with over $700,000 of signed dollar bills. Thank you too, Bob and Eneida, for your hospitality. 

Meanwhile, another cold front came through, the sun continued to shine, but the temperature still struggled to reach the fifties during the day. Our visit to the Naval Aircraft Museum was well timed!

Pensacola to Steinhatchee.

We had planned to leave the Austin’s early in the morning to beat the tide, but at 6:30 a.m. a loud rap on the roof of the Cosmic C motivated us to jump out of bed. Bob Austin had been down to the dock at 4:30 a.m. to check the water level and, because of the drop since then, told us we had better leave immediately or risk getting stuck. He led us out of the bayou and over the sand bar in his 19-ft Century, and indeed we dragged the bottom at the shallowest point. Another half an hour and we would not have made it. Bob said later that he does not usually kick out his guests so abruptly, but we took it as another example of his outstanding hospitality.  Thanks again, Bob!

Another front had passed through while we were docked at the Austin’s, and again the sun shone brightly but it was COLD. The last night had been below freezing, the coldest of the whole year in Pensacola. Pensacola Bay was still quite rough, but the rest of the cruise to Panama City was delightful. We’re seeing lots of dolphins now, and some came alongside the boat to check us out. The next day we took off for Carrabelle via Apalachicola, where we stopped for a superb lunch (at Tamara’s Cafe Floridita) and a walk around town.

While getting gas at the Moorings Marina in Carrabelle, Buddy was full of advice on the weather and precisely when we should leave for Steinhatchee.  Yet another front was coming through tomorrow (Thursday), and we had planned to stay in Carrabelle at least two nights to wait it out. Buddy, however, said that the front wouldn’t come through until the afternoon and that we could easily and safely reach Steinhatchee by noon if we left at first light. He also assured us that he is correct much more often than NOAA. As it happened, the early morning forecast from NOAA was quite close to Buddy’s predictions, and we did leave at first light, making it to Steinhatchee well before the front came through Thursday night, considerably later than forecast.

Before stopping at the River Haven Marina, we cruised several miles up the Steinhatchee river. Even in this rural part of Florida, called the “forgotten coast”, new development is underway and some condo complexes are starting to pop up. Last night was again very cold, but our heater keeps us snug and warm if not always dry; condensation inside the boat is a real problem.

On Friday the small-craft advisory was still in effect for the Gulf, so we finished and mailed most of our Christmas cards, strolled around town, and attended “Christmas in the Park” at the Steinhatchee Community Center. We had noticed the park decorations being installed the day before, mostly by prison trusties in their red tops and striped trousers. The trusties participated in the festivities, and we all had fun “cake walking” together. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived by boat, little kids chugged around the park on a cheery little “train,” a DJ played bouncy Christmas songs, and we sipped hot chocolate and chatted with the VFW ladies who organized the festivities. A good, if chilly, time was had by all.

Steinhatchee to St Petersburg.

We timed our departure from Steinhatchee on Sunday so we would arrive at Suwannee just before high tide. We knew the approach channel to Suwannee was shallow but were still surprised to find a depth of only 2 feet at one point. The fabled Suwannee River is, however, deep, wide, and unspoiled and we enjoyed exploring it for several miles before stopping for the night. No houses, and no “Old Folks at Home.” The next morning we were off at dawn to catch as much of the high tide as possible, but this time we actually touched bottom as we followed the channel.

We stopped at picturesque Cedar Key and walked around town before continuing on to Crystal River. Despite its reputation, Crystal River seemed less clear than our own St Lawrence River and, although it is a haven for manatees, we saw none. Parts were unexpectedly shallow, and we touched bottom in King’s Bay. In our effort to back out quickly, we ran into a crab pot, whose rope got tangled around our propellor. Adding insult to injury, the water tell-tale on our motor ceased flowing, possibly indicating a water pump failure. More than a little concerned, we anchored out, and at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning the Cosmic C was lifted out of the water at the nearby Twin Rivers Marina for service. Fortunately, there was little damage, Justin put all to right and did our needed scheduled service to boot, and we were soon on our way again.

The next night we moored at the City Marina in Tarpon Springs, where we sampled Greek food and the local Greek culture. We also enjoyed walking through the Golden Crescent, a well-preserved collection of homes built by “wealthy Northerners” in the 1920s. 

On Tuesday we cruised to St Petersburg, where the we enjoyed staying at the Yacht Club. The facilities were first-rate, and we were even treated to a newspaper delivered to our boat every morning! Tuesday night our friends Eileen and Sophal Thai, whom we had met at the Midway Marina, drove over from Tampa, where they are living for the winter.  We enjoyed dining with them at Cerviche and then touring the town.

On Wednesday we rented a car and drove to Sarasota to tour the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and estate, now run by the University of Southern Florida. The world’s largest circus model was fascinating, but the real jewels are the Ca d’Zan (the Ringling’s Venetian home), the historic Asolo Theater (first constructed in Asolo, Italy in 1798 and reconstructed in Sarasota in 1948), and the Art Museum itself. Back in St Petersburg, we had a delightful evening dining at Cafe Alma and reminiscing with Nancy Vann, a neighbor of ours in Doylestown twenty years ago. 

St Petersburg to Cape Coral

After leaving St Petersburg and passing under the graceful Sunshine Skyway bridge, we were joined by playful dolphins as we cruised south. They played around the boat, swam on their sides in order to get a good look at us (we think), and dallied so close to the propellor that we were concerned for their safety. When we reached docks near Venice, we walked into town along its wide boulevards with beautifully planted median strips. Not a single strip mall along the way! That night we dropped anchor in the Boca Grande yacht basin, thus annoying a nearby osprey on its nest. We enjoyed seeing the mega-yachts of Boca Grande, including a 75+-ft boat that entered the narrow channel and then turned within its own length to back neatly into its mooring.

After breakfast the next morning we explored some of the Boca Grande canals and, having found a small restaurant dock, moored there and walked into town to mail some of our last Christmas cards. Boca Grande is a lovely small town with an “old Key West” flavor. In its center is an old railroad station tastefully converted to stores and a restaurant.

Shortly after midday we navigated the canals of Cape Coral to arrive at the dock of Captain Len Susman, who had very kindly offered to let us leave the Cosmic C there until we return in late February to begin Leg 3 of our trip. That afternoon, we rented a car and visited the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Ft Myers and, in the evening, dined at the Rum Runners restaurant in Cape Coral. The food was excellent and the setting superb, with gaily decorated boats moored right next to our table...all in all a fitting finale for Leg 2. 

On Saturday we flew back to Philadelphia and were relieved to find the house and garden in good shape, despite a month of neglect. We also appreciated an e-mail update from Capt. Len assuring us that the Cosmic C was resting contentedly at his dock back in Cape Coral.

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