Seeing the Panhandle the IWW Way

Days 147-155; November 21-29; Add an eighth state: Florida. We left Turner Marina; crossed Mobile Bay; stayed at Lulu’s; Pensacola Beach; Destin; Panama City; White City and ended in Carabelle. Total miles traveled: 1,980

After an interesting week at Turner Marina in Dog River at the north end of Mobile Bay the masts were up, the rigging set, the sails on and we were prepared to cross Mobile Bay heading for the eastbound IWW (intercoastal waterway). It was early on a gorgeous, calm but somewhat cloudy morning with no rain predicted. This is a shallow bay so we meticulously followed the channel down the bay and then cut east. Dolphins danced, shrimp boats quietly passed, and the pelicans swooped so low at our bow that I occasionally feared a potentially messy collision. Rain clouds appeared out in the Gulf but we never experienced a drop.

The mouth of the IWW was a welcome sight as we were excited to arrive at Lulu’s restaurant and the Homeport Marina. We had seen pictures of the place and this level of civilization and entertainment was anticipated. It was a lovely marina (if a country mile to the showers) and Lulu’s did not disappoint. It is owned and directly operated by Lulu, Jimmy Buffet’s sister. There was an enormous ropes course that appeared as a stairway to the sky; acres of sand with toys and fountains for children; great trinket shopping and of course a beach restaurant/bar exactly as you would imagine it. We missed Jimmy singing by one night as he had been there to celebrate Lulu’s two granddaughter’s birthday the day before. Yes, we bought a CD! The two days we were there were crystal clear but very windy and cold (into the low 30’s at night) so we pretty much owned the place. Oh yes, we watched “The” Michigan State University beat Ohio State sitting at Lulu’s bar.

The following day we left Lulu’s and Alabama crossing the state line into Florida, complete with an official welcome sign. Palm trees and beautiful white sand beaches greeted us all along the IWW. We bounced along the bottom coming into the Sabine Marina in Pensacola Beach but Captain Jim is good at maneuvering off the sand shoals and we were free within seconds. Tides will take more of our attention from now on. The Sabine Marina wasn’t a Lulu’s but it was in a great location for walking out to the Gulf and enjoying the spectacular Pensacola Beach while later dining at the world famous Hemingway’s.

Our next stop was Sandestin Resort and Baytowne Marina, a huge, high-end establishment where there is everything imaginable to do. Here we paid the most for dockage yet ($2/foot/night) and again the showers and fun stuff were so far that you had to rent a golf cart at another $70/day.   So, after a long cold travel day, gumbo for dinner at the marina bar, and a good night’s sleep, much to Jo Ann’s disappointment, we cast our lines and moved on. It was still cool and day after tomorrow would be Thanksgiving with no real plan. Maybe turkey sandwiches onboard?

It was windy and rough in the lakes and bays we traversed but we made it to the Panama City Marina where we celebrated Thanksgiving the next day with eight looping boats and their families. We had a prime docking spot although Vickie and Ron had their beam to the bay with significant rocking and an unstable and difficult to maneuver finger pier. Slip assignments are surely luck of the draw! Fourteen of us took cabs to the “Po Folks Sea Food, Chicken And So Forth” restaurant where we feasted on a traditional turkey dinner and Arnold Palmers at $12.99 per person. After returning to the boats we gathered on the marina picnic deck for drinks, snacks, sunset, and a full moon rising. There is an interesting story here not fit for the blog so ask me about it f to f sometime. The weather had turned beautifully warm. While we all missed and talked nonstop about family, I am certain I was feeling the most homesick missing a wonderful gathering at Mike and Veta’s. At the same time we felt fortunate to be together enjoying our new friendships and this pretty place. We’ll be home for Christmas. . .

After two nights we headed out for White City, a city park with FREE docks, bathrooms, power and hot weather but no showers or wifi/cell signal. The IWW has been river-like and narrow with mostly cypress swamp shores but every so often it opens up to a bay or lake that feels like it could be anywhere in Michigan on an inland or great lake. We are back on EST and it is getting dark later, a real plus!

A word from Sammy: These eagles (three in two days) are scary as they eye me from aloft but at least we have seen no alligators or snakes. Please let Gio, Gillie and Aunt Missy know that I am mostly doing fine. The run on Pensacola beach was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c except that the hoped for refreshing drink turned out to be no unsalted Lake Michigan. Most overnights allow for some good smelling walks, and the sleeping is peaceful as I am always tired after a hard day at the helm. The downside was the burrs I got into yesterday that took hours for the staff to remove, as I lay like the princess that I am. It is a tough life!

Boat Name of the Day: (1) Tiller U Lubber (after our beloved Tiller) and (2) O Sea D (for my therapist friends and yes, the boat was immaculate)

Bad Boat Name of the Day: Nasty Habit

 Quote of the Day: “People who were young in the 60’s are cooler than anyone.” – Natalie Portman

Update: Cedar is reportedly flourishing and “chill”. We enjoy a new picture every day to keep us company on our phone screens. Thanks Brooke!


LULU's Restaurant, Bar and etc.!LULU’s

Acres of sandy play areaAcres of Sand and Fun

The Bar Where we Watched MSU beat Ohio State!The bar where we watched MSU beat Ohio State



Sunset over Destin FloridaSunset over Destin FL

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner, well not all that traditional.Traditional Thanksgiving dinner in Panama City – well really not all that traditional.

Thanksgiving dockside celebration.Dockside Thanksgiving Celebration

IMG_2709 Don’t miss the Eagle

IMG_2700Typical view of the Panhandle IWW

Favorite pictures of the Panhandle IWW. Don't miss the Eagle!Early morning travel to reach Carabelle for the weather window to cross the Gulf!

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