L.T. and I finally caught up with warm weather and the rear end of the 2019 Looper fleet in Florida. As we made our way along the Gulf ICW and Florida panhandle, I began to appreciate that each section of the Loop is different. After lakes, rivers and locks on the Tennessee and Tenn-Tom, I now had to relearn the tides, coastal weather, inlets, navigating, and open water from my youth on the Chesapeake. The different challenges that each section present is one of the things that make the Great Loop special. But it took a while for L.T. to get used to the salt taste.
Most Loopers make a 170 mile jump across the NE corner of the Gulf of Mexico from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs, Florida. My urge to explore took L.T. and I around the Florida Bend instead, including the ‘Forgotten Coast’, coined by a savvy Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce. The Gulf is shallow here, so we had to stay 20 plus miles offshore and then feel our way through poorly maintained 3-4 mile long, 50’ wide, 5 foot deep (supposedly) channels to get to the fun little towns of Steinhatchee, Suwanee, Cedar Key and not so little Crystal River.
After a week of refitting and R&R with my other brother in Hudson, Florida, we picked up the Florida West Coast ICW from Tarpon Springs to Fort Myers. Up the Caloosahatchee River/Canal, across Lake Okeechobee, down the St. Lucie Canal/River to Stuart on the Florida east coast. Many Loopers wait out winter in the Florida Keys; L.T. and I hope to explore the Keys and Everglades on a future Loop.
North on the Atlantic ICW to Jacksonville and a flight home to Colorado for family affairs. My son returned with me for a week exploring the St. John’s River during his school’s spring break. Then north to Georgia.
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Sunset, Pensacola Bay
Manatee Springs State Park
Cemetary on Atsena Otie Key
Second Oil change
Port Mayaca RR Drawbridge
St. Augustine Florida