Last week was my MIL's 60th birthday and when we asked her what kind of party she wanted she told us that she wanted to spend Sunday in the boat with the whole family.
We got together with the Island King's brother to make plans and realized that while we have a boat sitting in our driveway and he has a boat sitting in his driveway neither boat actually runs.
So we have boats but will need to rent a boat if we want to go farther than the driveway. That seems to be the norm with boats - they never run when you want them to.
Sunday came and we rented a pontoon boat from Boogies on the harbor and we were off.
My MIL wanted to go across Choctawhatchee Bay and cruise around in the bayous around Fort Walton where she grew up.
As we were leaving the harbor we were amazed at how many jellyfish were still floating around. Big, stinging jellyfish that were here on the 4th of July and that haven't left yet.
We were about halfway across the Bay when we spotted something floating in the water. We slowed down and we motored over to see what it was.
As we got closer we could see that it was a sea turtle. It's shell was about as big around as a car tire and it was just floating on top of the water. We were able to get pretty close to it before the turtle spotted us and dove for the bottom. It was a beautiful turtle and of course I couldn't get to the camera before the turtle dove out of sight.
A few minutes later we spotted several dolphin but they were too far away to see much more than their fins.
We were almost across the Bay when the inevitable happened. The boat is full of children and we hear a voice say "I have to go to the bathroom!"
It was my niece and she insists that she must have a "real bathroom" or she "can't go"
As it turns out we are close to a small boatramp in Shalimar that I happen to know has a Port-A-Potty in it (hunting geocaches in every park around pays off!) so we pull up to the beach at the boat ramp so she can use the "real bathroom".
This is a neat little boat ramp/park that sits out on a little point in the Bay where you can launch a small boat and go swimming OR use the bathroom.
The Island Girl said "Uncle T is different from Dad - Dad would have given us a bucket and said "nobody look".
I laughed and told her that's what my dad would have done too.
We left the park and went under the Shalimar bridge and into Garnier Bayou.
The old homes along the bayou are beautiful! I saw MANY that I would love to have.
We drove by the house that my MIL grew up in and she told us stories about water skiing in front of the house and living on the bayou.
By now everyone was getting hungry and the kids wanted to swim so we drove to the mouth of the bayou where another little park sits on a spit of land overlooking the bayou. This park has a roped off shallow swimming area and a nice covered picnic shelter with tables on a slope overlooking the water.
We ate boiled shrimp and smoked salmon dip and fried chicken along with strawberries, cantaloupe and watermelon. It was overcast so it wasn't too hot and there were no jellyfish here so we unloaded the boat and stayed all afternoon.
An interesting thing about this park is that the Island King and I found a geocache here one night while we were out on a date/cache hunt night but we had no idea the picnic area and beach were here.
The park is at a dead end and the cache is behind a post at the end of the road. When we were here at night we parked at the end of the road and could see the bayou but couldn't see the picnic shelter and beach so we thought the park was just a scenic spot.
I wondered why the cache log sheet suggested bringing your bathing suit.
We played in the water all afternoon and I tried to teach the Youngest Island Boy to float. He tried and tried and seemed to be doing everything right but that kid just doesn't seem to have any natural buoyancy at all.
He sank like a rock every time. He had fun trying but unless I was holding him up he was heading for the bottom.
Late in the afternoon the Island King said "I think it might be time to go" and pointed at the sky behind us.
There was a good sized storm moving in and we would need to move quickly if we were going to get across the Bay before the rain got here.
My SIL is terrified of storms (and not real fond of boats either) had that boat packed and everyone loaded up before you could say Boo
We headed across the Bay towards home and were SO thankful that the wind was at our backs because there were whitecaps kicking up all over behind us.
Since we had the wind it was a smooth ride and we only caught one big wave over the bow which landed smack on top of the Island Girl. She was totally soaked but there wasn't a drop of water on the people around her.
That one was all hers - and she was the only one who didn't think it was funny.
We saw the sea turtle again but since we were trying to beat the storm we didn't slow down to get a good look.
A couple of minutes later we saw some dolphin off to our right. The Oldest Island Boy and I were in the front and were watching the water to see if they would come up again and all of a sudden a dolphin surfaced right next to the boat and we got a good clear look at his face before he went under again.
I looked at the Oldest and said "Did you see that?" but I didn't really have to ask because his eyes were as big as dinner plates and he was grinning from ear to ear.
"He looked right at me Mom!" he said. It was definitely one of those moments we'll both remember forever.
We continued on hoping we wouldn't get rained on. We were traveling as fast as the pontoon boat could go but we never could get too far in front of the storm.
We must have been traveling about the same speed as the headwind and we could see it raining on the land on both sides of us but we did manage to stay ahead of the rain and luckily there was no lightning.
We got back to the harbor and had just finished loading our cars when the bottom fell out and it rained long and hard.
We went home and showered and then went over to my MIL's house to finish off the food from lunch and let the kids play with her husband's new ferrets.
They played and we ate some more and finally it was time to go home. It was a long day but we really had fun. We're going to have to get our boat fixed so we can do this more often.