31 Steinhatchee views

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.

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