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A Cruise to Carabelle and Apalachicola Bay: Carrabelle Teachers and Son Set Sail for the Holidays By Cyndi Perkins


Oystermen farm the abundant beds on St. George Sound between Carrabelle and Apalachicola.

52 April 2013


he McGovern family has a small sailboat but is perfecting the art of living large as the trio travels Florida’s Panhandle region in their cheerful, red 25foot O’Day, Recess. Dave is a fourth-grade teacher; Ivy’s an upper-grade biology instructor. Son Mico, 7, rounds out the crew. From their Carrabelle, FL, home port, the sand-kissed stretches of Gulf Barrier islands and dolphin-blessed waters provide fine sailing, shelling and seafood. Hauling in the catch of the day—and surplus for the freezer—is regular recreation for this fishing family. During school vacations, the McGoverns expand their horizons beyond St. George Sound, which runs west-to-east adjacent to Apalachicola Bay on the upper reaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Taking advantage of a nine-day break over the Thanksgiving 2011 holiday, the trio embarked on a vacation loop that took them west on the Panhandle to Destin. The loose and flowing itinerary driven by the wind—and determined by morning fog, or lack thereof— encompassed stops in Shalimar, Panama City and White City before heading back to Apalachicola, down that great brown bay and across St. George Sound to their base at The Moorings Marina a few miles up the Carrabelle River. We met the kind and knowledgeable Recess crew when they docked next to our 32-foot DownEast sailboat, Chip Ahoy, at Panama City Marina, where we were celebrating Thanksgiving en route to the Florida Keys. Along with many other blessings—including a turkey breast roasting in the oven and the Packer-Lion football game on cable TV—I was grateful for the opportunity to find out more about Carrabelle. Despite two America’s Great Circle Loops and several winters cruising south from the Panhandle, we’d yet to dock or anchor in Carrabelle. Many cruisers and America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA) members stage there because it’s a convenient jumping-off point for traversing Florida’s Big Bend. The southbound pack often buddies up to compare forecast notes and travel in company from the Forgotten Coast around the Big Bend to the loosely defined “warm line,” which lies somewhere around Clearwater. Carrabelle and Apalachicola are exposed to all that the Gulf of Mexico has to offer as hurricane season is drawing to a close in late fall. In November and December, frost is common; the north wind frequently bites briskly. Mariners familiar with these waters know that settled weather windows for the 170-mile or so Gulf of Mexico passage from Apalachicola or Carrabelle to the Tarpon SpringsClearwater area on Florida’s west coast come few and far between at this time of year. Timing is everything; there is no place for impatience or ignorance. A prevailing northerly element can make for fine sailing if wind speed and wave

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