Newly Married

July 17 – Nov 25th

17 weeks in Apalachicola.  Small once cotton town turned oyster town, now tourist town and a few oysters.  After returning from our honeymoon we spent about a week getting moved onto the boat.  Our first stop was Destin Harbor where we docked at Adeline’s friends the Sherrod’s dock.  We had a great first night away from Pensacola and enjoyed a nice Mexican meal at La Paz.  Second stop was Panama City, we chose to anchor here because the town is still in tatters a year after hurricane Michael.  We anchored at Bonita Bay aka Pearl Bayou which is a nice protected anchorage right before Tyndall AFB on the south side of east bay at MM 295.  From here we had a nice run into Apalachicola the next afternoon.  Coming into Apalachicola we saw a water spout over the bay.  We were able to get fueled up and docked before the late afternoon storm came.  We spent the four months in Apalachicola at a great marina called Scipio Creek Marina right off the Apalachicola river up Scipio creek.  This is the only place that sells fuel from Panama City to Carrabelle.  We saw many boats come and go while docked here.  We became friends with the owner Trey and all the staff here are great knowledgeable and friendly people.  There is also a great restaurant on site called Half Shell Dockside where we enjoyed many delicious meals and live music.

We planned to get a custom pilot house enclosure built on our flybridge while in Apalachicola.  This month-long job ended up taking 4 months and a week!  I always dreamed of piloting the Pura Vida and looking out actual glass windows and not the flimsy, blurry and over-priced Strata glass most yacht enclosures use.  Adeline my lovely wife was so patient during this construction project that took far too long.  She kept me calm when things were stressful during the build.   I was so glad to design and have a dream enclosure built on our beloved Pura Vida.  This was exciting every step of the way for me but being held back so long was trying on the nerves and we were more ready than ever to begin our adventures.  We spent many days on St. George Island, Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, Tate’s Hell state forest, Eastpoint and Wakulla Springs.  The forgotten coast wasn’t so forgotten anymore.  I’m blessed my parents brought me and my sister down here so many times growing up so that I could have these memories from when I was younger and notice all of the changes that have occurred over the years.

I feel very protected and safe piloting from the flybridge now, it is completely weather tight and as comfortable in the cold as it is in the heat.  Visibility from the 44” tall windows is excellent and way better than before.  It’s like we have an extra weather proof room on the boat now.  We started off by mocking up the whole enclosure with thin wood to figure out the dimensions for the hard top that we wanted to build.  Once the top was built we set it into place on temporary supports so we could build the walls and then set the top onto the walls.  The walls have an inner and outer skin with framing in the middle to support the roof.  We started with the outer skin.  Next we made our framing to hold the roof.  We then fiber glassed it all together and fiber glassed the inner walls to the structure for a super solid one piece look.  After the walls were done we lowered the roof a 1/2” to rest on its new walls.  From here we installed windows, custom built a ladder and radar riser, installed my antennas, primed and painted everything, wired my roof top A/C, ran all my wires and finished it off with a nice headliner with a teak trim.  No one in Apalachicola does canvass enclosures so once we get to Cape Coral I will have Scotties marine canvas company fit a tinted back curtain to the pilot house to finish off the project!  The front windows have a slight forward lean to them.  I love this look because you don’t get any glare on the glass and rain won’t hit the glass unless it’s a blowing rain.  You will notice every commercial boat will have windows like this and the commercial guys know how to do it because they go out on the water day after day in every type of weather.

We left Apalachicola Monday at 4pm est. November 25th, we literally were putting the last screw in the headliner as we left the dock.  We had decided Adeline would drive as long as she could letting me take a nap after dinner and I would wake up and relieve her the rest of the night after she got tired.  This crossing was supposed to be amazing weather 1.5’ waves max which should have been a following sea.  90 miles into the 183 mile crossing Adeline wakes me up telling me she can’t stay awake.  As soon as she lays down to get some sleep the 1.5’ waves grew larger and larger until they were 5-6’ and hitting us on our port quarter.  Not a nice ride. And the wind had picked up to 17-18 out of the east.  Weather reports were still relaying a 5mph ENE wind reading that was way wrong.  For 8 hours we were at the mercy of the gulf.

The Pura Vida pitched and rolled giving the new enclosure a run for its quality.  It was hard to move around the boat. No matter what I did whether I changed the speed or the direction, nothing would give us a better ride.  Once we got about 15 miles from land it started to finally calm down and when we were 7 miles out we were back to a smooth ride.  Once we were entering the pass the excitement of making it to the west coast quickly surpassed the thoughts of our miserable overnight crossing.  We arrived in Clearwater Tuesday- 19 hours after leaving Apalachicola.  Clearwater Yacht Club was a perfect first stop with a heated pool, outside bar and they are dog friendly.  Pura Vida was covered with 80lbs of salt so I got her rinsed down and we took a nap until dinnertime.  Melanie and Russ, Adeline’s parents stopped in Clearwater to see us on their way to Longboat Key.

After two nights in Clearwater we motored 58 miles to Longboat Key.  Most of this part of the ICW was narrow with gorgeous real estate to feast your eyes on.  The water was clear leaving the sandbars visible to the eye.  Ran the motors up to 2250RPM for the first time since adding the pilot house.  She laid right down on plane with the extra weight of the pilot house actually helping.  Melanie and Russ treated us to 3 nights at a super fancy marina called Longboat Key Club Moorings.  It is in a gated neighborhood with a beautiful golf course, 291 slips, pools, hot tubs, spa, private beach and many places to get a bite to eat.  Adeline’s family was staying directly across the street from the marina on the beach so we could walk over easily.  There is a Publix next to the marina which was great for stocking up.  This marina was like resort living!

We left Longboat on the 1st  and traveled 8.3 miles south to Sarasota YC.  Another really cool west coast yacht club with the fanciest club house I have ever seen.  There is a big rookery next door so lots of cool big birds are all around but when the wind changes direction it’s a bad smell.  It is a short bike ride to St. Armand’s Key a small key with tons and tons of food and cool stores to check out.  We are sitting out some high winds today in port.  It has been a really fun week having left Apalachicola.  Venice YC, Useppa Island, Cabbage key and then Cape Coral are our next four stops.  In Cape Coral I will dive into my long list of repairs before we head to the Keys and Bahamas.  We are so thankful to be living this life of travel as newlyweds and are eager to explore, learn and grow together.  Living aboard Pura Vida we feel like we are experiencing the true beauty that this life has to offer.

Huntsville, Lake Guntersville and Chattanooga

Ditto Landing is a great marina at MM334. They have lots of walking and biking trails and great docks. The overnight dockage is free if you get 80 gallons of fuel or more. This is pretty much the only marina in Huntsville and is a great stop. It’s good for taking advantage of the free slip and the perfect place to stretch your legs. While we were staying here Adeline’s brother Matthew drove down from Nashville for the night and brought us dinner! We had a great time grilling out and catching up!

 

Ditto to goose landing anchorage MM377 was 43.5 beautiful miles with only one lock, Guntersville L&D. We started to see more hills on this stretch. Guntersville Lake is extremely beautiful, deep with relatively clear water. We loved seeing all the interesting homes on the lake. The only action on the lake was a bunch of bass fisherman. There was some neat wildlife including bald eagles hanging out on the floating logs. Our anchorage for the night was at MM377 through a narrow 6’ deep channel to a 13’ deep basin in front of The Docks Restaurant. We took the dinghy in for dinner and realized it was part of a big golf course that was pretty cool. There was a great musician playing that we enjoyed talking to who actually used to live in Pensacola! We even met a couple who remembered seeing our boat at Ditto Harbor from their home in Huntsville! We plan to stop and have dinner with them on our way back through Huntsville. It’s such a small world and people are so friendly when you’re out on an adventure.

Goose Landing to Chattanooga MM464 was 85 breath taking miles with one lock Nickajack L&D. Waking up at the Goose Landing anchorage was beautiful but we were totally socked in with fog until around 10am! Once we got going it was smooth cruising. We passed a handful of southbound loopers. Erwin marine is your best option for boat slips in Chattanooga. They run 5 dock sites all in the same one mile of riverfront. We chose the commercial dock that only has one transient slip and two tour boats that share the dock. We liked this because it was more private compared to the other docks. This was my first time in Chattanooga and I thoroughly had a great time! There is so much to do within walking distance. There are friendly people, an active riverfront and beautiful natural wonders to enjoy and explore. Ruby falls, Lookout Mountain, Rock City, Forest Ave Bridge and many more things to see. This will definitely be a place I would like to go again next fall and hopefully will be able to go even further on into Knoxville.

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MM377 anchorage

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American Queen ferry, we saw this boat from Florence to Chattanooga

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looper boats

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Florence Alabama, Muscle Shoals and Joe Wheeler state park

After enjoying Grand Harbor Marina, Adeline and I headed to Florence, AL. We stayed at Florence Harbor Marina, MM256. This is a great marina right before the Wilson Lock. They have a restaurant that is part of the floating docks, a three mile long bike path along the river which goes through a neat little RV park, and a courtesy vehicle. Florence is a quaint town with all types of local food and sites to see. Across the river on the southern side is Muscle Shoals. This is an area filled with music history with several famous music studios that we were lucky enough to tour and learn some history from. The music that came from this area is rich in soul and funk. You can’t tell if the singers were black or white because of the soul they put into every lyric and beat. We have been listening to the CDs we bought here and both agree it is perfect music for cruising the Tennessee River.

            The first lock after Florence Wilson L&D was closed during the day due to repairs so we left around 6 PM and headed through the first lock at sunset. We decided to keep going the 20 miles and make it through the second lock Wheeler L&D.   This was a new opportunity to be driving the rivers at night. I paid close attention to my navigation systems and radar and used my ARC spotlight when buoys were in sight. We made it smoothly through the two locks, luckily this night wasn’t as cold as the night before.  We anchored at Joe Wheeler State Park. This was a quiet anchorage and it was nice to be back with nature after staying at marinas. The anchorage was one from Active Captain called MM275.8 which was the first little cove past the Wilson lock. Depth was 18 feet 100’ from the bank ¾ of the way back with plenty of swing room. Today we are headed to Huntsville, AL. The weather is nice and cool yet beautiful. Enjoy the pictures and we will be standing by ch. 16

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the Yamaha piano freebird was recorded on, plus many more
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Fall cruise up the Tennessee

When hurricane Maria was bearing down on Florida in early September, Adeline and I decided to take Pura Vida up to Demopolis, Alabama. This kept us out of harms way during this active hurricane season. We rented a slip for a month and decided when we went back up to bring her home we would first cruise up to Pickwick Lake and then enter the Tennessee river to do some sight seeing. What a great way to see the leaves changing color. Today is our first day on the Tennessee. I must say it’s beautiful. The temp is 60 and it feels refreshing out. We stayed two nights at one of my favorite marinas, Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake mm450. We met some cool people there and also enjoyed some good food. We stocked up on provisions and completed a service on my hard working engines and generator. Life is a blessing and I couldn’t think of anywhere I would rather be. Tonight we will be stopping at Florence Harbor Marina. We plan to check out the famous Muscle Shoals music studio! God bless you all and thanks for being a part of the journey.

Homecoming, life back in Pensacola

My first Great Loop is complete, this was truly a life changing experience!  It has made me realize the good that is always around us.  There are helpful people everywhere you go willing to give you a hand.  For the most part when you put out good vibes, you get good vibes in return and this is humbling.  When no one is around its natures beauty that keeps everything on a even keel.  The experiences, stories and courage this trip has given me will forever help make me a better person in my daily works.

I proudly flew my Pensacola Yacht Club burgee into every marina I stopped at.  PYC was so gracious to recognize me at a couple events for being one of only four members to complete The Great Loop.  They also granted me with Power-boater of the year!  2016 was a incredible year, Thank you so much to my family and friends who have helped make this trip a success for me.

Dog River Marina helped me with a few things I wanted to get done before I brought Pura Vida home.  Which include a bottom job, sending my propellers off for a balance, applying prop speed to the props.  Installed a new refrigerator/freezer and installed a front deck box.   My raw water impellers had right at 1,000 hours on them and still looked good!  This is very impressive because they have pumped tens of thousands of gallons of water through my cooling systems.  Its best to be safe than sorry and change them every 3 years.  Impellers go bad faster from lack of use because the rubber they are made from drys out and gets memory in the blades, affecting how well they pump water.  Chris with Expert Boat Detail got the hull shiny and protected for me once the boat was hauled out.

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“You do not grow on a secure path.  All of us should conquer something in life.  It needs a lot of work, it needs a lot of risk.  To grow and improve you need to be there at the edge of uncertainty.” -Francis Mallmann

134 miles to Mobile Alabama

We had a great night at Bobby’s Fish Camp.  From Bobby’s to the Tensaw River anchorage it is 79 miles, with the LAST lock of The Great Loop Coffeeville L&D at MM 117.  The Tensaw river anchorage is at MM 39 on the Tom Big Bee waterway, this is one of the few anchorages between Bobby’s and Mobile Bay.  We motored about a 1/2 up the Tensaw river and it is around 12′ deep where we anchored just around the bend.  We saw a few alligators swimming around when we entered the Tensaw.  We cooked some fillets and joined Inspiration for dinner.  Phil made home-made pasta sauce and we brought the steaks.  What a great feast!

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The Tensaw River anchorage to Dog River Marine is 55 miles.  Going through Mobile ship channel was very cool,  many ships from other countries, and new state of the art military ships being built by Austal.  Mobile has a neat skyline, handful of tall buildings and the beginning of the salt water !  Dog River Marina had a welcoming for me and my mom when we arrived 2:30PM on Monday October 31st.  Technically Pura Vida has been to Dog River Marina a few times and well she’s completed the Great Loop in under 1 year.  I will let her rest at Dog River a couple of months, do some maintenance to all the hard-working machenery and get some fresh bottom paint.  Hoping to bring her home to Pensacola after Christmas!

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Legendary Sonny Middleton and I after arriving at Dog River Marina where this whole dream got started with Pura Vida back in 2014.

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150 miles to Coffeeville, Bobby’s Fish Camp

Heading to Demopolis was smooth we had only one lock to go through called Heflin Lock.  This leg was 54 miles, Demopolis sells lots of diesel fuel so I fueled up here with about 224 gallons.  This will be the last time I fuel until I make it home.  We saw some beautiful limestone bluffs on this section of the river, and lots of big alligators.

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Passing a tow on the inside of a turn.

Passing on the “1” whistle

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Clotilde signed this bollard a few weeks ago and our friends behind us in their boats happened to see it and added on to the signatures.

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Demopolis water-tower

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Demopolis Yacht Basin fuel dock, there is also a nice man made basin owned by the same people with about 100 covered slips adjacent to here I wasn’t able to find a photo of

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Demopolis to Coffeeville AL, Bobby’s Fish Camp.  This was a long day at 97 miles and one lock, Demopolis L&D.  Bobbies is the last stop on the river until the Mobile Convention Center 119 miles south of here, and the first marina is Dog River which is another 14 miles past the convention center.  Bobby’s is a land mark on the river, the tows slow as they pass the small marina to keep from waking anyone.  The ladies in the restaurant make the best fried catfish around, people stop just for this!

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When I first bought Pura Vida Bryson and I came down these rivers from Nashville and I found my entry in Bobby’s guest book from 2014

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Marcus, Mom Caroline, Phil, Pam and I at Bobby’s getting a late dinner.  Connie, Marcus’s wife was nice enough to take this picture!

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Reggie, my friends Marcus and Connie’s dog from “At Last”

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Leaving Bobby’s “At Last” and “Inspiration” about to depart the dock

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Arial of Bobby’s, small joint with a huge heart .  Sometimes they tie the boats up 4 and 5 wide when there are lots of people passing through.  They also rent out camp sites.

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