The route from Mobile to Carrabelle takes you (surprisingly to most) into and
across some of the most beautiful beaches in America. In season, this area becomes the
boaters playground. Heading south along Mobile Bay's Eastern Shore; there are several
Marinas to choose from, including the Marriott's Grand Hotel Marina, Fly Creek Marina and
Fairhope Marina, all three of which are located near Fairhope.
From Fairport, it is a short distance to the Gulf ICW or GIWW as it is most often referred
to, and your first stop on the Gulf ICW is most likely to be LuLu's.
For Great Loopers the Gulf ICW starts in at the Harvey Lock just south of New Orleans,
on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Here, the miles are also defined in terms of statute miles as
opposed to nautical miles and are measured east and west of Harvey Lock. The Hathaway
Harvey Lock is mile 0 (zero) on the Gulf ICW just as Norfolk, VA mile 0 (zero) on the Atlantic
ICW. While heavy barge and commercial traffic can be very stressful near the New Orleans
and Louisiana and East Texas portion of the Gulf ICW, at least you can boat the full length of
the Gulf ICW with little fear of getting lost. There are signs to follow, rules and guidelines, still it
is common sense, (not secrets) that will make your journey successful. As a Looper, the Gulf
ICW provides an inland protected passage for all of us voyaging from New Orleans and Mobile
Bay to Carrabelle, FL.
Cruising the Gulf ICW (especially in a sailboat or deep draft vessel) can be very stressful. (I
am not holding back any punches here.) The commercial traffic, narrow channel shallow banks
around New Orleans simply does not give a pleasure boater much time for carefree boating in
this area. Since the commercial traffic does NOT move out of your way... You must move out of
theirs. At times, this may seem difficult if not impossible to do - but it is - as long as you plan
your voyage and always plan ahead for your escape from on coming or passing traffic.
Sometimes the GICW runs along the Gulf, other times it will take you a surprising
|The Gulf Intracoastal
is an incredible voyage
all unto itself.
It takes you from Texas at
the border with Mexico
to Carrabelle Florida
and you never have to
go out into the sea.
Carrabelle & Steinhatchee
you have a short
70 mile daytime tun across
a portion of the Gulf
where the ICW is picked up
again and takes you to
Ft. Myers & beyond.
This leg of your journey is 218 miles from Mobile Bay to Carrabelle. Aside from
the brief trip down Mobile Bay's eastern shore to the Gulf ICW, your next 200 miles is on a well
protected inside route.
The area has been described as the "Forgotten Coast" and "the road less traveled", but
that translates into fewer tourists, where you would think more tourists would be. Fact is, you
are about to cruise through some shockingly beautiful beaches with astonishingly aqua-tinted
gin clear waters and white pristine sandy beaches this side of the Caribbean.
|Crossing the Gulf of Mexico - click next.
Apalachicola is a small Florida town, known in modern times for its oyster industry. It used to be one of Florida's largest ports in
the 1800s, due to cotton shipping. It's along the western bank of the Apalachicola River
Apalachicola Bay is wide, runs approximately east-west, but is very shallow in parts, so pay special attention to your chart.
Getting into and out of Apalachicola from the bay almost invariably requires motoring, because there's a good half hour's worth of
dredged channel you have to motor down, with depths of only a few feet on either side. Watch your depths, and your markers. Very few
sailors who home in Apalachicola haven't run aground from time to time.
There's a very protected anchorage spot just north of the US 98 bridge, east of the intercoastal waterway, dinghy distance
from the Apalachicola riverfront.
You can anchor really just about anywhere in Apalachicola Bay, but very little of it is well protected, especially from a north
easterly or south westerly blow. Your best bet for anchoring in the bay is to pay attention to the weather and anchor leeward of a barrier
island. Also, the whole bay is tidal, so dropping a second hook is a good idea, and pay attention to dragging. Bottoms are pretty
uniformly mud, with some oysters. The Cove offers some of the best anchorage in the area, with 20 foot depths swimming distance from
shore, and a view of the gulf over very low dunes.
Your route along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway will take from Mobile (mile
134 EHL) to the Gulf ICW where your first stop will most likely be Lulu's which is mile 155 EHL.
From Lulu's and Homeport Marina, it is 12 miles to Orange Beach Marina.
If you want to visit the beach at Orange Beach, between mile 167 and 168 there is a
marked channel off the GIWW through Bayou St. John to Perdido Pass, on the way you will
cruise past a gauntlet of marinas, and waterfront restaurants. The area is a great place to visit,
and of course (as you will see) the beaches are pristine sandy and beautiful.
Blalock's offers local seafood, oysters, shrimp and crayfish.
Ft. Walton Beach (mile 224) is another beautiful area with a lot of charm. Sandy beaches and
crystal clear waters are a delight. All the water and the beaches from Pensacola, Orange Beach,
Panama City, Ft. Walton, and Destin are simply great.
If you are in the mood for some great off shore fishing, all the area from Pensacola to
Panama City offers simply fantastic charter fishing. So, while you might not be so excited as all
those "land-lovers" over the boat ride, the fishing makes for a fantastic day. Just remember to
give away the fish you can't eat or can't safely store until you can eat it.
Boss Oyster is one of the essential places to eat at across the entire Forgotten Coast. Quite possibly the best
oyster bar in the entire country. Very homey, open air, looks out over the river. There are some private slips for fishing
boats in front of it, but nowhere for transients to tie up. You can dinghy in pretty easily though, or just go ashore and walk.
The Tin Shed, is another must visit, with its large collection of maritime artifacts.
|:: The Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway ::
|:: The Great Loop Route ::
"Bring Your Own Boat"
and take the voyage of a lifetime
America's Great Loop
|Cruising the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway