Post #36: TURN LEFT AGAIN – Day 183, November 3, 2015 – on board: Paul Coates, Jake Mycofsky, Jim K.
You may recall from earlier posts that my friend Bill Burke explained that navigating the Great Loop was simple – looking at the diagram of the route, it’s like a big rectangle – just head up the Hudson River, he said, then take four left turns at the appropriate time and you’ll be back in Boston. So we just made our third left when we left Mobile, Alabama, and are now heading East – another major milestone! Depending on where we go in Florida, we are now about half way through our journey.
Everything has changed, once again. Instead of river banks and river currents, we have sand dunes, beaches, and tides:
Much of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway is just a few hundred feet from the beaches of the Gulf, separated by barrier islands which consist mainly of sand dunes
We experienced a very special treat as we ran down Mobile Bay on a perfectly calm, sunny day. A pod of about 8-10 dolphins descended upon us and proceeded to play in our bow wave for about 15 minutes:
The dolphins would dart back and forth from one hull to the other, breaking the surface periodically as they played. The white form on the right-hand side of each of these pictures is the starboard hull of the Joint Adventure
Notice the dolphin under water just to the left of the hull while the other one jumps through the surface
Another duo –
Actually, this is the port-side hull where I’m standing, so the dolphin is immediately below me by about 4 feet
So our first stop was for lunch at Lulu’s Restaurant on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in Orange Beach, Alabama. Lulu’s claim to fame is that it is owned and run by Jimmy Buffet’s sister, and supposedly he stops by from time to time (we didn’t see him). The ambiance is exactly what you would expect for such a place – open-air, laid back, friendly. It’s a large place with several separate pavilions where different bands can be playing at the same time. Here are a couple of images:
Lulus from the water – we arrived at the same time as 4 other loopers, but there is plenty of dock space for visiting boaters
Wide open on the waterside, the Intracoastal Waterway can be seen in the background. There was no live music when we were there for lunch on a Tuesday, but you can tell that it’s a hoppin’ place at night, especially on weekends
I think I’ll pass on this one….
We stayed at a village/marina resort in Orange Beach that night called The Wharf. It is the off-season here, so there was not a great deal of activity, but the beach was beautiful. Some pictures:
Jake enjoying a walk on the beach on the Gulf Coast at Orange Beach, Alabama
I couldn’t resist a swim in the still-warm waters of the Gulf
So Paul & I watched a Thursday night football game while we had dinner at the bar in a waterside restaurant at the Wharf. A big guy came along and started to talk to us, eventually sitting down next to us to chat. It turns out he owned three restaurants at the Wharf, and at the end of the conversation we learned that he was Bob Baumhower, former Pro-bowl nose tackle for the Miami Dolphins for 10 years, playing under Coach Don Shula and along with Bob Greise and Dan Marino. For those who really know their football, he was a member of the “Killer B’s” defense in which the names of all of the defensive linemen started with the letter “B”. He then spent a half hour taking us around telling us stories and showing us autographed pictures on the wall of him with various other celebrities, like Joe Namath, Bum Phillips, Cheryl Tiegs, and many others. He then ordered a desert for each of us, on him. Another chance encounter! By the way, Paul is 6′- 3″ tall – that will give you an idea of the size of this guy. (I almost come up to his shoulder…)
Our next stop was Pensacola – Florida! Our 12th state! We planned to spend two days in Pensacola, but gale force winds were predicted for Saturday, so we stayed an extra day (only one boat left that we know of). Pensacola is home to the US Naval Air Station, and is home to the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Blue Angels. The city is smaller than I expected, with the downtown area comprised almost exclusively of three and four story buildings. However, it is one of the most vibrant cities we have visited – a city of young people, undoubtedly driven by the presence of the large naval aviation base about 8 miles from downtown. Here are some images from our visit:
The Navy, not surprisingly, has a major presence in Pensacola, although we saw few people in uniform in the downtown area
We were here for Halloween weekend, so they closed about 8 blocks of the main downtown area to vehicles in the late afternoon/early evening on the day before Halloween and catered to small children trick-or-treating. The restaurants and commercial establishments all accommodated the trick-or-treaters, and there were games and music for the kids. It was packed! I was told that, on the third Friday of every month, they close the same area to vehicles and from early evening to midnight, the entire area becomes an entertainment district in which alcohol is allowed to be carried and consumed in the entire area, so you can wander from establishment to establishment or just hang out and party in the street.
Located downtown is the Historic Pensacola Village – an area where many small, original 1800’s wood frame houses have been preserved and restored, and several museums have been added to tell the story of earlier times in Pensacola
One of the historic streets in the Historic Pensacola Village
Did you ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? This gal is holding up an enormous tree branch, and apparently has been doing so for quite a long time. By the way, I’ve been trying to get a good picture of a Live Oak, a magnificent species of tree that is quite prevalent in the south. Some have trucks which are 4 or 5 feet in diameter and are several hundred years old. You often see them in classic pictures from the south with Spanish moss hanging from the branches
A restaurant/tavern/entertainment center called the Seville Quarters seems to be ground zero for the younger generation, although several other places were overflowing as well on Halloween Weekend. Entertainment over the weekend included a Michael Jackson show (every Friday & Saturday throughout the year), a dance club, a karaoke bar, a sports bar, a costume contest, a separate sexy witch costume contest, and dualing pianos in the piano bar (featured every night all year). On Halloween night they closed the street in front and the party and dancing spilled onto the street as well
The inside of the dance club portion of the Seville Quarters in the afternoon before people arrived for the evening
Dueling pianos – they take turns playing and singing requests from the audience, so the music is virtually non-stop – they claim that there isn’t a song that they cant play, and the requests ranged from Frank Sinatra to current top 40.
Every Thursday, Friday, & Saturday, they put on a Michael Jackson “Thriller” show in which they flood the stage with haze from a haze machine and the dancers, made up as zombies, slink along the floor barely visible, then slowly emerge from the haze and perform a half hour dance routine – very well done and very cool – obviously professional dancers
The full dance routine after the haze has mostly cleared –
In addition to all the entertainment options at the Seville Quarters, another Club downtown featured a unique band called the “MarchFourth Marching Band”. They have about 15 members and they don’t actually march (except marching in place at times during the performance). They are dressed sort of like a marching band and they incorporate a great deal of dancing and some acrobatics into their performance. I had never heard of them before, but apparently they are quite well known and tour nationally. It was a truly unique performance – here are a few images:
The MarchFourth Marching Band –
Each performer was quite a showman….
A unique acrobatic portion of the performance –
These two guys on enormous stilts danced better on the stilts than most people I’ve seen dance with their feet on the ground. After the obligatory encore, everyone thought they were done – instead, they came from backstage, instruments in hand, and sang, played, and danced (including the two guys on stilts) with and among the audience
Of course, the crown jewel of Pensacola is the National Naval Museum located at the Naval Air Station. It would be easy to spend two entire days just in the museum, which includes various simulators where you can experience flight, including a Blue Angels simulator which actually turns you upside down, forwards, backwards, sideways, etc. as if you were in the jet (no G-forces, however). Here are some images from the museum:
Called an NC-4, this is an early Navy “flying boat” – Jake is standing in front of it so you can gauge the massive size of it. Three of them departed to try to fly from New York to Portugal (this was well before Lindbergh did it non-stop). Two didn’t make it due to mechanical failures, but this one made it, taking 19 days (most of it on the ground on islands, including the Azores). There were no seats for the crew of three, and its cruising speed was about 80 mph
This is an early seaplane developed by the Navy – the large pontoons were made of plywood and had to be drained of water after every flight
Another Navy “flying boat” – in the early days, the Navy did not view these things as aircraft that could take off and land on water, but rather as boats that could fly
An interesting recruiting Navy poster from World War I
So we had heard of a famous bar located on the Florida/Alabama state line called Flora-Bama, and decided we couldn’t be this close and not go. It was lunchtime on a weekday in the off-season, so there was not a lot going on, but it was clear to see that it would be a wild place when it gets hoppin’. Here are some pictures:
Jake and our friend Tim from the vessel “If” in one of the many bars in Flora-Bama
The floors and walls are finished with plywood and patrons carve their initials in the walls and wood railings – obviously there are some wild nights here –
As seen in the picture, above one of the dance floors are clothes lines upon which patrons apparently deposit their bras when their no longer needed – I’m just the reporter here, reporting the facts….
A view of the same dance floor from above
We continued east about 50 miles to Destin, Florida, an upscale resort town with an incredible white, sugar-sand beach. Here are some images from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and from Destin:
The scenery along the Gulf Intracoastal is sand dunes and palm trees –
More GICW scenery –
The harbor front as you turn off the Intracoastal into the narrow mouth of Destin Harbor – it is clearly a destination resort harbor with waterfront boardwalk featuring restaurants, bars, shops, etc. lining the waterfront, and a beautiful Gulf-front dune beach across the harbor
The white sand dune beach directly across from the boardwalk
One of the Jimmy Buffet “Margaritaville” restaurants is on the waterfront in Destin
The sunset from the boardwalk in Destin Harbor
We tied to the boardwalk then launched the dinghy and took it to the beautiful beach directly across the harbor – Paul, enjoying the beach!
The dinghy pulled up on the beach across from the boardwalk
The Joint Adventure tied to the boardwalk, as seen through the dune grass on the beach across the harbor
The birds enjoying the scenery as well
A lesson for us all….
We moved on to another gulf-side resort marina in Sandestine, Florida. It seems they have gotten themselves into the Guinness Book of World Records. Some pictures of our stay in Sandestine:
The world’s largest fishing lure
So as we walked through the resort village, Jake & I came upon a zip line – in a weak moment….this picture is taken from the top of one of the towers, looking across the pond to the other tower. YIKES!!!
Jake, making his zip line debut – does he look scared?
A picture of grace, holding on for dear life…
Tomorrow we continue our journey east, with our next destination being Panama City, 70 miles away.