12-03-09 Fort Walton Beach, FL

[Rick] After two very nice days visiting Tom and Patsy Conrad, we decided it was time to move on and make some way. We packed all our stuff, released the boat and left the Conrad Dock ‘N Dine about 1100. Our destination was the FREE dock at Fort Walton Beach. We passed through Pensacola Bay and passed several inlets from the Gulf of Mexico. Looking out at the Gulf, we could still see huge waves and we were glad we were not out there today. Again, we passed several dolphins and we never grow tired of seeing and watching them. There is just some attraction to them that makes one watch. Along the way, we entered Florida from Alabama.

After 54 miles, we arrived at Fort Walton Beach and called City Hall to get directions as to the location of the FREE dock. The young lady had no idea how to tell us where it was from the water. She knew it was beside the park with the Christmas tree and the trees that have snowflakes in them. Unfortunately, the snowflakes are not visible in the daytime from any distance. But, we saw the dock and pulled in. The dock has about 10 spots for various sized boats. There is no electricity or services but there is a FREE pump out station.

Another boat tied up about the same time as we did. It is an old steel hulled vessel with 4 New Zealanders aboard. There are two parents and two teenagers. It is about 32 feet long and they are looping. They started in Ft Myers last March, have been to Canada, but we have never seen them before. They bought the boat to do the loop and will sell it when they return to Ft Myers. They fly out to New Zealand on Jan 17. The boat has no generator, refrigerator, hot water, air conditioner, or microwave. It has a cooler to keep stuff cold and a propane stove for cooking. It is basic. The owner told me that go about 9 mph and that they have really enjoyed the loop trip.

We walked around town and visited the park with the Christmas tree. We went to Publix, the grocery store, for the first time. What a nice store and the employees were very helpful. On two occasions, as we stood trying to figure out what aisle to go to, employees actually volunteered to ask us if they could be of assistance. I was stunned, having shopped in many other stores along the way, and getting very little assistance. For supper, we visited our favorite restaurant, Waffle House, and enjoyed a very good meal.

We cannot stay at this FREE city dock more than one night, so tomorrow we leave for Panama City, and the Bay Point Marina. There is not a weather window to cross the Gulf until at least Monday, so we are in no rush.

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