Saturday, February 25, 2012

While in Carrabelle

I am sure the Texas Parks & Wildlife has nothing even close to this in their fleet. I think the State of Florida is pretty serious about enforcing fishing laws!
A day trip to St. Marks River National refuge was like going to a Staged Walt Disney Nature show. This Little gator was just hanging out with about 30 more of all sizes.
The wild pigs wern't scared of the gators, there was a whole family including 4 little baby pigs but the Admiral missed the opportunity to get the pic of the little ones rooting about since she was shooting all the other wildlife.
Gators everywhere.

Of course there is a Light house with all kinds of Civil War History. From Louisiana to Florida the Civil War happened like yesterday.

Pine forest with palm trees, magnolia, cypress, and lots more.

This Woodpecker kept us entertained for a long time.

We finally got a picture of a Kingfisher, we have seen lots of them but they are so busy fishing you can't get a shot of one.
Another reason to stay in port, if it is not a front passing through then it is the fog, this fog lasted most of the day, we went for a walk on Carrabelle Beach anyway.

For some reson several Sting rays were swimming really close to shore, we assumed they were feeding.

Finally a weather window opened to make the jump across the 200 Nm. from Carrabelle to Tampa Bay. These two Motor Vessels came in alnog with 2 other sailboats and 2 power catamarans. All 7 vessels (including us) planned to make the crossing the next morning.

1 last sunset in Carrabelle.
Taking advantage of the time we had in the Carrabelle area we started making day trips to area wildlife refuges and we hit the jackpot at St. Marks National Refuge. There was a very large pond there named Headquarters pond and I am telling you it is as if Walt Disney had hired all the wildlife to show up and put on a show. We saw no less than 50 species of birds, probably more, wild pigs and piglets, big buck deer with huge antlers, lots of alligators of all sizes. The only thing we have not seen is a black bear. There are lots of Bear crossing signs everywhere in this part of Florida and everyone else has seen them but we have yet to see one.
I started researching the weather every morning and afternoon looking for that opportunity to make the crossing to Tampa Bay since we really need to get there since the Admiral has tickets to fly out of the Tampa/St.Petersberg Airport March 5th. There was a two day window approaching but the Great Loop Cruisers Association weather Guru for this part of the Gulf advised against a overnight crossing. I kept looking a the NOAA Marine forecast and it looked like it was certainly possible. I had tentivily arranged with a friend of ours from Corpus, Bill, who now lives in St. Pete to come crew to help me make the crossing while the Admiral drives our truck to Tampa. He could only commit to the end of Feb. and I knew this would cut it way to close for comfort. Then I met a Carrabelle local who said he had heard I was looking for crew to cross and he could help me out. This was perfect if we could go before the end of Feb. since he had commitments then. I began to lose sleep leading up to the departure since everything was so tentative and I really did not want another plan B that ment delaying getting to Tampa. If this 2 day window did not work out it meant 5 more days waiting for the next front to get through. On the day before the weather window I went down to talk to a couple of cruisers who both had a 44' Endeavour Catamarans. They planned to depart and head for the Tampa area but if the seas were to rough they would just duck into Steinhatche River. I consulted with the local Boat US tow captain, Rusty, and he said it would be good to go, also the C-quarters harbor masters Kim and Millard agreed. Then late that afternoon 2 sailboats and 2 more motor vessels came in and said they were planning on taking advantage of the weather window. So I called Doug up and told him we were on, be on the boat at 0630 and we would be out by 0700. Carrabelle is definitely one of the places we want to come back to if at all possible. It is the really neat environment and especially the people that makes this a special place.

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