Calumet Dreams
Chapter 12

November 23 - December 10
Thanksgiving * Tornado weather * Choctawahatchee * Panama City * Flags * Apalachicola * Museums * Oysters * 12th Birthday * Hitting the Gulf Back to Home Page

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Day 125 - Thursday, November 23 - HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Perdido Key, Florida
Mile 178 on the Intracoastal Waterway

Today the weather was nasty outside - cold, cloudy and windy. But we were in a nice, sheltered anchorage and we were safe and snug in our boat. In the morning we cleaned up while we watched the Thanksgiving parades on TV. I think it's the first time that the kids actually watched any of the parades. Back home there was always so much going on that they didn't have time to sit and watch TV. I did my best to make a traditional holiday turkey feast, especially since Tricia says it's her favorite meal of the whole year. The toughest part was making a pumpkin pie. My solar oven rarely gets hot enough to bake a pie crust even when the sun is out, so I wasn't counting on it. Luckily, none of the kids even care about the crust. They usually just eat the insides. In fact, when we are home I usually make the inside filling without a crust anyway. It's easier and a whole lot less calories. So my only problem was how to cook the filling. I found a recipe in my pressure cooker book for cooking bread pudding. I figured pumpkin pudding would be about the same thing, so I gave it a try. Basically, I had to put the filling into buttered custard cups, then wrap each cup tightly in foil. The wrapped cups were put into the pressure cooker on top of a steam rack and a little water. Then they had to be steamed at low pressure for 40 minutes. When I was finished cooking them, I set the cooker out into the cockpit to cool down slowly. While it was cooling, we pulled up anchor and went to the marina that was near us on the mainland. The marina was closed for the day, but we had a chance to use the outdoor pay phone to make some phone calls to our family back home. The doors to the showers were open and they were mighty tempting! We were thinking about using them and leaving some money under the marina door. Then we saw a sign that showers were $3 each, a little too steep for our family of four, so we headed back to our boat at the end of the dock. The wind was strong and blowing us into the dock, a bad situation when you want to pull away from it. Tricia, Zion and I were pushing us off of the pelican posts with all of our might while we were slowly backing up. Then Dan tried to pull forward to get away from the dock, but we didn't have enough clearance for our ladder that was hanging on the side. CRUNCH! The top two rungs of the ladder cracked, including the one that had the bolt through it connecting it to our boat. One end of our ladder fell into the water. The other end was still attached by a rope. We pulled it back onboard and backed away from the dock. Luckily, there was no damage to the boat at all. We just need two small pieces of teak wood to fix the ladder with. Actually, we all felt pretty good about getting through the accident with so little damage. And best of all, nobody got yelled at. It was a no-fault events that our crew handled well together, and we all learned a little from the experience. We quickly got back to our nice little anchorage and then it was time to prepare the big meal. With our sliced turkey, and stuffing mix, and instant mashed pototoes it was pretty easy to prepare. The cranberry sauce came from a can, as did the green peas (Tricia's favorite). We even had jello that I had made the night before. It was cool enough that it gelled while it was sitting out on the cupboard overnight. The sweet potatoes were made from scratch, and covered with honey and butter and walnuts. Actually, we have sweet potatoes quite often on the boat because they store well. The only thing we really missed was fresh rolls, but we didn't have room on the table for them anyway. But would the pumpkin pudding turn out? Or would it be pumpkin soup? We carefully unwrapped our pudding cups and found (to my surprise) that they had cooked perfectly. I gave Zion a packet of Dream Whip, some powdered milk and a whisk and he worked at it hard enough to end up with real whipped cream. Our feast was complete. Everyone agreed it was a great meal. When we were done we were so stuffed we spent the rest of the day sleeping it off, just like the rest of America.

Day 126 - Friday, November 24
Perdido Key, Florida
Mile 178 on the Intracoastal Waterway The weather turned really nasty today. The tugs even stopped moving on the Intracoastal Waterway. We could see a big one sitting in the Waterway all day without moving. From the radio we learned that they were running their engine real low to keep themselves sitting in one spot. We, and they, were in a very sheltered, narrow part of the Waterway. But just to the east of us was a spot where the Waterway was not protected by any barrier islands. The Gulf waves were coming in fast and high. We were listening to weather reports most of the day. About one o'clock in the afternoon we were getting reports of a tornado out in the Gulf about eight miles south of us. Dan and Zion got the video camera ready, but nothing ever came in sight. By evening things were calming down.

Day 127 - Saturday, November 25
Fort Walton, Florida
Mile 222 on the Intracoastal Waterway This was the day we had all been waiting for. A strong wind at our back! We were headed due east along the Intracoastal to Fort Walton. The waterway isn't very wide in some spots along this stretch, but the wind was so strong and steady coming from the west all day that we were able to fly our spinnaker. Our speed even reached nine knots every once in a while. We pulled into our old favorite dock in Fort Walton, The Boat, but it was closed and wouldn't be open until Monday. There wasn't much going on at the dock, but we did meet one boat captain who was entertaining guests who had come down from Chicago for the holiday weekend. They were sitting in the back of their boat, bundled up and keeping warm with hot coffee. Florida isn't supposed to be this cold this time of year! They were very helpful, even offering us a ride to the grocery store, but we decided to anchor nearby for the night and head out in the morning. The only thing we really wanted badly in Fort Walton was a chance to look at our e-mail and the library wouldn't open until Monday.

Day 128 - Sunday, November 26
East end of Choctawahatchee Bay, Florida
Mile 251 on the Intracoastal Waterway Thank goodness for strong, healthy, young men! Dan and I awoke early to pull up the anchor and head out, but when Dan tried to pull up the back anchor it was stuck tight on something. We woke up Zion and asked if he would be willing to jump into the very cold water for just a minute and untangle the anchor line. He did it, and he did it very well. The rope was caught around some old metal pilings. This is the same spot where Zion found the anchor several weeks ago, but there was nothing valuable under the water today. There were only light winds today, so we did motor-sailing. It was a good day to cross Choctawahatchee Bay because light winds meant light waves. The Bay is large enough to get rough if winds are strong. The Bay is also a great place for dolphin watching. We saw them several times, and we were even smart enough to get out our video camera when a large group came to play with us. We got a shot of six dolphin jumping out of the water at the same time, right in front of us, all in perfect coordination. How do they do that? We anchored on the east end of Choctawahatchee Bay for the night. There was a bridge nearby, but the surrounding land was mostly uninhabited grasslands. There were remnants of an old wooden pier (or bridge?) extending way, way out into the Bay. We were in the perfect spot for watching pelicans and cormorants dive for their dinner.

Day 129 - Monday, November 27 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAN!
City Marina in Panama City, Florida
Mile 290 on the Intracoastal Waterway Dan awoke to a table full of birthday presents. The kids had been secretly buying him gifts (with their own money!) for the last several weeks. Tricia gave him a gyroscope which has been very entertaining. Zion showered him with a variety of treats, like molasses cookies and malted milk balls and things like that. Of course he shared, and that stuff disappeared pretty fast. We travelled through canals and between barrier islands and the coast. We were able to do some sailing. In the afternoon we pulled into the City Marina in Panama City. It was gorgeous! We felt like we were back in civilization again. The marina was very nice and had lots of cool things in their very hip store. They also had nice showers and a laundry room. The docks were full of live-aboard boaters and some had decorated their boats for Christmas. One was decked out in evergreens and fresh fruit. The marina stretched along the edge of the coast and there were special Christmas lights along the lampposts that featured dolphins and shells pelicans. The city library was only a block away, so that was our first stop. It was a nice modern library with a large computer room and we each enjoyed having our own machine to work at. The marina seemed to be at the end of City Center. There was an aircraft on display, and a very large Santa Claus. The city workers were up in bucket trucks hanging light nets on the palm trees, wearing short sleeves and listening to beach music. We were hoping to see all of the holiday lights on at night, but it didn't happen. I think they were just getting everything ready for the big parade on Friday night, December 1.

Day 130 - Tuesday, November 28
Smack Bayou, Florida
Mile 291 on the Intracoastal Waterway Boy, did we have laundry! We had been wearing long pants and sweatshirts and turtlenecks and socks for the last ten days, so our laundry pile was much bulkier than usual. I started at 7:30 a.m., hoping to get done by noon. But there were only two washers and two dryers, and the dryers were exceptionally slow. There was even a sign saying it took a minimum of one hour to dry one load. Unfortunately, there was another couple that needed to do laundry, too. We were both trying to get it done so we could leave the marina before the end of the day. The other couple was from the boat Cracker Jack. They were just finishing their trip around the Circle of America. This wasn't the first time they were doing it, and they were much faster than us. They had gone up the eastern seaboard in September, through the Canadian locks and Great Lakes, and back down the rivers. They lived in Florida and they expected to be back home in 10-14 days. Since the trip had been colder and longer than they had planned, they were anxious to see home again. After listening to their stories, everyone in our family decided that we want to go back home through the Canadian locks. They are very unusual. One is like two big buckets of water that raise one boat while they lower another. Another lock slips a sling under your boat, pulls you out of the water, and carries you on train tracks over a mountain. If we go through these locks to get back home, it should be summertime and the weather will be nice. If you take the locks, you bypass the Great Lakes. We would end up in Georgian Bay, then we can follow the U.P. back home. If the lakes get too rough, Tricia and I can always catch a bus! We also got a chance to see an amazing set of flags that they had sewn themselves to prepare for their next cruise through the Caribbean Islands. I had always assumed that when you visited another country you would fly your own flag so people would know where you are from. It turns out that would be very bad manners. Proper nautical etiquette says that you fly the flag of the country you are visiting. Since the Caribbean is filled with dozens of islands that are each their own country, each one expects to see a different flag on your boat. It costs thousands of dollars to get a complete set of flags for all of the Caribbean countries, so the Cracker Jack's seamstress decided to make her own. She went to her local library to get all of the designs. Since most pictures of flags were the size of a postage stamp, she had to use a magnifying glass to get the details. Some of the flags have very elaborate pictures on them, and these she painted by hand. She also learned some neat tricks for doing a front and back applique that matches exactly (not an easy thing to do on five-point stars!) After a year of work, the complete set of flags was done. They put one up on their boat to see how it looked, and the captain decided the flags would look better if they were a little bigger. So the ship's seamstress spent another year making a new set that was bigger. By 11:00 the end of my laundry was not even close, so I gave up and turned the facilities over to the Cracker Jack's crew while our crew took a little walking tour through Panama City. We were thrilled to find a used book store, and we stocked up on some good titles. I got a great little cookbook on seafood of the Northern Gulf. It's full of diagrams and instructions on how to prepare crabs, clams, oysters and fish for eating. It even identifies all of the different fish that you can catch around here. With this, I now feel prepared to handle the creatures that Zion pulls in from the sea. The town was full of little buildings built in the fifties. Many of them were sporting various shades of bright pastel paint. We ate lunch at a little place called Tom's Hot Dogs. The kids discovered the joys of chili dogs. Zion had a smothered one, topped with corn chips. On the wall were license plates from every state. How would one go about getting a collection like that? When we returned to the dock, the Cracker Jack was preparing to leave and I went back to the laundry to finish our loads. We bought a nice filet knife in the marina so we would have the right tools to tackle the next fish we caught. Then we headed out but we didn't have to go far. We crossed the channel and found a lovely, secluded little bayou just one mile away from bustling Panama City. And guess what! The Cracker Jack was anchored there, too, along with another sailboat that looked deserted. This protected little place was full of dolphins and waterbirds. It was a very pleasant and peaceful night.

Day 131 - Wednesday, November 29
North prong of Wetappa Creek, Florida
Mile 314 on the Intracoastal Waterway This morning began with a mission. We had to get some teak wood to fix our ladder. Dan had made arrangements to pick some up from a shipbuilder. All we had to do was find his dock in one of the bayous. Dan found it with no problem. The guys got a tour of his woodworking shop while Tricia and I watched the boat. We all got a chance to see the interior work he was doing on a big old boat tied up to the dock. From the outside, the boat looked like a decrepit, rusty metal tug. On the inside, at least on the part that was finished, the wooden interior was exquisite. We were also treated to some great alligator stories about the big one that lives up the bayou, and some tips on good places to go in the Bahamas. He said we'll be eating lobster there until we're sick of it. We used to feel that our family's adventure this year was a bit unusual, but lately it just feels like the norm. We're mostly associating with boat people now, and most of them have been on, are on, or will be on adventures similar to ours. One of the Panama City marina workers that we met yesterday was a woman who had spent a year cruising with her eleven-year-old son. Like our kids, he kept up on his education by doing a lot of reading. Now she's looking forward to her next trip. The Jehovah's Witness who gave me literature outside the laundromat was also a former cruiser. Her sister was still cruising in the South Pacific on a marine research vessel. Our neighbor at the Panama City Marina was a couple from Chicago. She was retired and living on the boat, while her husband was still working and flying down every weekend to join her. After picking up the teak we continued motoring along the Intracoastal Highway. We went up the north prong of Wetappe Creek to anchor for the night. It was a little river going through acres of long grass. We didn't see another soul all evening.

Day 132 - Thursday, November 30
Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway We spent another chilly, cloudy day motoring along the Intracoastal Waterway. Much of today we were on the Apalachicola River, going through the long, golden grasses of the marsh. In the afternoon we reached our destination, the city of Apalachicola. Apalachicola is on a point along the Florida panhandle. The Intracoastal Waterway stops here, because there are no more barrier islands to hide behind. The next one hundred and fifty miles of the Gulf Coast are swampy. The Gulf waters are only one or two feet deep for miles from shore. Big boats can't follow the coastline anymore, so they have to make a hop across the deep waters of the Gulf. The next serviceable port along the coastline is Tarpon Springs.


Apalachicola Bridge
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
Apalachicola is protected by St. George's barrier island. St. George's is very long with only narrow openings to the Gulf. It encloses Apalachicola Bay, Florida's Number One oyster bed. Eighty percent of the oysters harvested in Florida come from Apalachicola Bay. They say that the water has a high level of calcium in it, and that helps the oysters grow quickly in the warm, shallow, protected waters.

Old building worth $68,000
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
Our first sight of Apalachicola was the fishing wharves. While Panama City had looked so new and modern, Apalachicola was charming and rustic. The river front was lined with shrimp boats and wooden docks and small commercial fisheries. We got our first chance to see oyster boats. Shrimp boats are large tugs with giant metal arms that can be put out to drag monster nets, but oyster boats are small. They look like flat-bottom little rowboats, just big enough for two people. They have a small outboard motor on back, and a raised work surface across the middle. The oysters have to be pulled out of the oyster beds by hand, using a giant pair of tongs that looks like two pitchforks attached together. Oysters grow one upon another, so the fisherman uses the tongs to pull up a big clump of them. They get set on the working surface where the second person separates them. Oysters can only be kept if they are larger than three inches. The small ones get thrown back in the water to grow some more.

Unique Christmas Wreath
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We anchored out in the swamp off of the river channel. We were hoping to catch some fish, but no luck tonight. It was too chilly to stay out long.

Day 133 - Friday, December 1
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway This morning we went in search of a place to dock so we could tour the town. We found a city dock on the other side of the bridge. There were about twenty other boats tied up there, and the Cracker Jack was on the end. It turns out that several boats were waiting here for good weather to cross the Gulf.


Civil War Cannons
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
Apalachicola was the perfect size for us - just several thousand people. Big enough to have everything we needed, like a grocery store and a post office and a library, and small enough so we could walk everywhere. Our first stop was the Post Office to mail our Christmas cards and presents. We had been working on making them for the past month, during the cool, rainy days of waiting for the hurricane season to end. I've never had all of my Christmas cards and packages done so early before. (Hurricane season officially ends on November 30.) It feels wonderful! The post office was a beautiful old building that used to serve as the customs office when Apalachicola was a big trading port on the Gulf. The postal workers were still behind oak-trimmed windows and they were extremely helpful and friendly. I don't know how they manage to stay so cheerful with lines of people waiting for their help all day. In fact, I've been impressed by all of the postal workers I've met along our travels. I guess it's time to throw my Cliff- Clavern-stereotype out the window.

St. Patrick Catholic Church
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
We decided to stay tied-up to the city dock for the night, since everyone else was, too.

Day 134 - Saturday, December 2
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Grocery day! The Piggly Wiggly was wonderful and gave me and my $250 worth of groceries a ride back to the dock. Everyone there was so helpful and friendly. Dan and the kids spent the day touring the town and meeting our dock neighbors. We've decided that for Christmas we want to give our captain a golden earring. It adds a little pirate pizazz to his long beard, long hair and safari hat. So they made the all-important trip to the jewelry store to find out which ear the earring should go on for that he-man pirate look. The jewelry lady was very helpful and taught us the golden earring rule: right is wrong and left is right. That was step one. Dan still needs a little time to work up his courage for the actual piercing.

Day 135 - Sunday, December 3
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Not only is Apalachicola the Number One oyster capital in the state, but it is also the home of the man who invented refrigeration and air-conditioning! Given how much we rely on those two things today, especially down here in the south, I think that is an amazing accomplishment. The inventor's name was Dr. John Gorrie and we spent the day at the little museum that commemorates his accomplishment. I expected to learn that refrigeration was developed to help them store and market their oysters, but the birth of refrigeration actually has a much more noble beginning.


Memorial to Dr. John Gorrie
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In 1850 Apalachicola was a major seaport on the Gulf. John Gorrie was the local physician. One of the biggest health problems in his community was yellow fever. At that time, no one knew that yellow fever was caused by the mosquitoes from the surrounding swamplands. Dr. Gorrie noted that yellow fever changed with the seasons. It came during hot weather and disappeared during cold weather. He believed that if he could put a patient suffering from yellow fever into a cool environment, the coolness would cure him. So he used some of the physics he had learned in his medical studies to design a machine that would create blocks of ice. The ice machine was based on the principle that a rapidly expanding gas creates coolness. speaking of coolness, isn't 'N Sync just the COOLEST!?! to find out more about 'N Sync go to "Tricia's Stuff" which is somewhere on this page & see cool pics of them and other celebs!!! It's like when you put your finger over the end of an air pump, the pressurized air coming out and expanding feels cool. So Gorrie designed a big machine that would heat air and then pressurize it in a tank. It would release the pressurized air into a slurry tank of ice water, making it very cold. Then there was a small hanging pot in the cold slurry. Fresh water would drip slowly into the pot and freeze. In an hour, he would have a block of ice the size of a brick. Dr. Gorrie also designed a special air-conditioned room for his patients. There was a metal pot hanging from the ceiling above the bed. The ice blocks would be put in that pot. There were also air vents at the bottom of the room. Since cold air sinks, the coolness from the ice would naturally descend over the patient and flow out of the room. All of this was done at considerable expense to Dr. Gorrie. He had to pay a machine shop in Ohio to custom-build his ice-making machine. But it worked! Not only did it make ice like he thought it would, but his yellow fever patients recovered when they were put in the air-conditioned room. He was curing yellow fever while other doctors were helpless. He received a patent on his invention in 1851. Then he went to New Orleans to find investors to produce more copies of his ice machine. Apparently, the potential of mass-produced ice scared the northern ice businessmen. To protect their own interests, they spread stories that Dr. Gorrie was in league with the devil. Obviously, ice was a natural creation that only God could make. If Dr. Gorrie was creating ice, it must be devil work. No one was brave enough to invest in his machine. So Dr. Gorrie went back home, continuing to make ice and help patients in the local area. He lived a long and happy life and never received a cent for his ingenious machine. All of the refrigeration and air-conditioning that we use today follows that same basic design that he created. How his neighbors could sit in the sweltering heat and not beg for their own air-conditioned room, I'll never understand. Based on our summer experiences on the river, I've concluded that air-conditioning is a necessity to survive down here. At the time that Gorrie was working on his machine, he shared knowledge of his project with the French emissary who kept a port office in Apalachicola. The Frenchman made huge bets with the local businessmen that he would give them ice-chilled champagne on Bastille Day, July 14. Without Gorrie's machine, the only way to get ice in Apalachicola in July was to have winter ice brought down in schooners from New England, an expensive proposition. Apparently, Gorrie kept his secret with his friend until the big day came and the town was treated to ice in summer. Today, Dr. Gorrie's resting place occupies a large peaceful square across from the museum. Nearby is the Episcopal Church that Dr. Gorrie helped build and it is still in use today. Outside the church is another large monument dedicated to Dr. Gorrie from the Ice Makers Association. It was erected fifty years after he died. I'm sure Dr. Gorrie appreciated his own accomplishments that were part of a full and active life in his community. It's too bad that he didn't get a chance to see how his ideas improved the lives of millions after his death.

Day 136 - Monday, December 4
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Tricia and I were sick today. We had bad colds, so we spent the day in bed, trying to keep each other mildly entertained in between naps. Every few hours we would put our heads over a steaming bowl of hot water. It helped us breathe better. Kleenex littered the bed like snow. The guys spent the day touring the town and meeting our boat neighbors at the dock. Several other boats were waiting for good weather to cross the gulf. One was a big power boat. The two men on board were members of the Power Squadron, a national organization that trains boaters. They gave Dan an oral quiz until they were satisfied that he knew his stuff well enough to debate the finer points of nautical law. They gave Zion a cassette to listen to as part of his first mate training. One of the other boats waiting to cross was a retired couple on a sailboat. They moved at the same speed we did, so we talked about possibly crossing together. Everyone else was ready to leave today, but not us. We were waiting for a package to arrive at the local marina. Dan had ordered a sea anchor. It's like a parachute that you drop from your boat into the water. It opens up and slows you down a lot, so that it's like having an anchor. You use it in really deep water, like the Gulf, when your anchor isn't long enough or strong enough. We wanted to have it before we crossed the Gulf. It would allow us to stop if we needed a rest, or to stay put if we encountered rough weather. As it turns out, no one left the dock today. The weather was cold and windy, with two to three foot waves on the Gulf. But our package did arrive late in the afternoon, making us ready for the big crossing as soon as the weather turned nice.

Day 137 - Tuesday, December 5
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway We awoke to find that St. Nick had visited during the night. He left goodies in our sandals. Funny, but he didn't stop at any of the other boats at the dock. I guess it was because none of them had kids onboard. Or maybe it was because none of them were German/Dutch and from northeastern Wisconsin. Another cool and windy day. Some boats headed out, and some stayed at the dock. We stayed at the dock because Dan was sick today. I was feeling a bit better, but Dan and Tricia spent the day in bed. Zion entertained himself by fishing off of the dock. The popular method here is to catch mullet by casting nets. Mullet is a very common fish here along the shore. They are long and silvery with big eyes. They are usually between ten and twenty inches long. This weekend a man fished all day for mullet. His young sons carried his catches from the end of the long dock to the ice coolers in the back of their pick-up truck. They filled about eight ice chests. The boys were pretty proud of their big, fat twenty-inch catch. Mullet are good to eat for humans. They are also a main ingredient in fish flavored cat food. Zion caught a few good-sized mullet for us, but I wasn't feeling well enough to tackle the cleaning job so we threw them back in.

Day 138 - Wednesday, December 6
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Dad and Tricia spent another day sick in bed, but I was back to normal and ready to out and about. Zion took me on a walking tour of Apalachicola. We saw the historic buildings on the waterfront, the piles of oyster shells behind the commercial fisheries, and the little shops along Main Street. One was a small warehouse full of nautical antiques, like flags and compasses and all sorts of boat parts. Another small store specialized in kitchen items. We had to stop there to get a nutcracker. St. Nick had brought us a bag of mixed nuts in the shell, and we had no way to crack them. They didn't have a regular nut cracker, but they had a great, sturdy crab claw cracker. We figured that would do us double duty, so we took that home and it worked great.


Seafood Company
(Click on picture for more detailed view)


Ola Greek-built Tug
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Shrimp Boat and Christmas lights
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Grady Market on Riverfront
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Inside old building
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Mary by Oyster Shell Pile
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
Right at sunset there was a big commotion out in the water between the docks. A group of dolphin had come in to dine on a school of mullet. They were jumping everywhere, the dolphin and the mullet. It was fun to watch.

Day 139 - Thursday, December 7
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Today everyone was feeling better and the weather was starting to clear up. The other boats waiting to cross the Gulf started planning to leave on Friday morning. But we didn't want to leave on Friday because it would be Tricia's birthday. The thought of spending her birthday at sea was too depressing to bear. So we spent the day getting ready for Tricia's birthday celebration.

Day 140 - Thursday, December 8 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TRICIA!
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Tricia was born at 6:00 a.m., so she set her alarm so she wouldn't miss the minute when she turned 12. Well, the batteries were weak and the alarm lost time and didn't go off. I woke up at 6:30 and roused her up to celebrate. We're not sure that we really missed the minute she turned 12 because we are now in the eastern time zone. 6:30 here is 5:30 at home so I guess I actually woke her up before she turned 12. Anyway, she acknowledged the moment and then went back to sleep. After breakfast and chores were done, we played cookie poker. Chocolate chip cookies were worth one point, oreos were five, and striped daisies were ten. We even had some real milk to wash them down.


Tricia with birthday cake and presents!
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
For lunch we had chili dogs, then Tricia opened the birthday present that Grandma Pat had sent with us when we left. It was money to spend on whatever she wanted, so she put it in her wallet and we headed to town. Our first stop was the library so Tricia could check her birthday e-mail. Then we went to the ice cream parlor. They sold lots of shells there, but Tricia decided that her shell collection would be only shells that she found herself on the beach. She's always preferred things that are simple and natural. Back at the boat we had shepard's pie for supper, then birthday cake for dessert. We had bought an angel food cake, then we frosted it ourselves. It had a smiley face on top, and bright flowers on the sides. We managed to eat a little cake even though we were pretty well stuffed after indulging all day. Then it was time for presents. I gave her the new Britney Spears CD and the Aaron Carter CD, along with t-shirt PJ's and a bottle of perfume. Dad gave her her favorite magazines - Teen Machine, Teen Beat and YM Happy. Zion surprised her with the N'Sync Christmas CD and that made her very happy. Then came the best part of her birthday. She got to call her friends back in Brillion from a pay phone. She got a chance to talk to Nat, but Abby wasn't home and Amanda was already in bed. Then the pay phone rang - it was Amanda calling her back! That clever girl used caller id to get the number.

Tricia at the Apalachicola dock
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Tricia on dock with boats
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Tricia on dock
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Day 141 - Saturday, December 9
City Dock in Apalachicola, Florida
Mile 352 on the Intracoastal Waterway Yesterday our friend, Bill Stanton, returned from his trip north. He lives in East Point, which is just across the bridge from Apalachicola. He came over this morning to pick us up and let us spend the day at his home. We took our laundry and shampoo along, of course! He has a beautiful new home that he designed himself. It is a square one- story, with a complete deck around the entire house. There are lots of sunny windows and doors, and the floor is all clay tiles from Mexico. They say the tiles dry in the sun down there and sometimes animals run across them, which must be true because some of the tiles had dog paw prints in them. In the afternoon Zion and I walked down to the nearby beach. This was our big chance to finally catch some oysters in the Oyster Capital of Florida. The oysters lie in beds out in several feet of water. Harvesting them is a wet business, and it's been so cold all week that we haven't had the chance to try. We took a rake along, but when we got to the beach it was high tide and the water was too deep near the oyster beds. We waded a little and found some great oyster shells. They come in a wide range of colors - white, pearl gray, rose and rust. We also found three horseshoe crab shells. The crabs molt out of their shells as they grow. Tricia spent the day listening to her new CD's on her headphones while reading her teen magazines. Zion checked out one of the magazines and counted 56 pictures of Justin Timberlake inside its covers. Bill grilled chicken for dinner and served it with potato salad. It was a great treat. It was very nice seeing him again. He was Dan's inspiration and guide for heading south in a sailboat from Green Bay.

Day 142 - Sunday, December 10
Somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico Today was the day we had been waiting for - our first chance to head out to sea for an overnight crossing. The morning was warm but foggy. The weather reports said that the fog was only along the coast, so we decided to head out. The waves were a bit rough and Tricia and I spent the day in bed feeling sick. She managed to keep everything down, but I wasn't so lucky. Meanwhile, Dan and Zion were having a great time sailing. It was a challenge getting through the narrow pass in the barrier islands out to the Gulf because it was so foggy. Another boater with radar could see us and helped us through. Once we were out farther, the fog lifted. Zion got his first chance to let out his trolling line. Within ten minutes, he caught a fish. It was a big king mackeral, about thirty inches long. It was a beautiful smooth shiny silver, with irridescent blue along its back and pink along its belly.


Zion with his King Makerel
(Click on picture for more detailed view)
That evening the waves got rougher, about two to three feet, and Dan started getting tired. Since I wasn't in any shape to pilot, we let the boat float ahull while we slept. It was very safe because we hadn't seen another boat all day since be left the coast. About midnight Dan woke and felt the boat was moving too far out of our path, so he and Zion lowered the sea parachute to anchor us in the 100 foot deep water. That kept us in one spot for the rest of the night. P.S. 'N Sync rocks!!!!!!!!! (if you're wondering who's writing all the 'n sync stuff, i can tell you it's tricia.) PEACE OUT!

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