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Old 03-06-2011, 07:50   #1
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Gulf Shores , Alabama

As part of our progress to a cruising lifestyle, my wife is about to take a job in Gulf Shores, Alabama., and we're looking at moving that direction.

I was wondering how much anyone knows about this area for sailing and/or live aboarding.

How's the sailing in this area?
How's the sailing community, any recommendations for places to boat shop, crew positions, or just a good sailing community to join?

Anyone know the Alabama laws for live aboard? As I understand it, no live aboard anchoring, but possibly allowed living in a marina, but I could be wrong?

What marinas in the area would you recommend?

Thanks for any advice about the area.
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Old 03-06-2011, 09:57   #2
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Re: Gulf Shores, Alabama

You are about to move to one of the most wonderful area in the country. Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Magnolia Springs, Point Clear and Fairhope are some of my favorite places. All kinds of little marina/dock options in and around the area. Perdito Bay, the Fly Creek area. You need to explore via car and decide where you want to base. Great food, really nice people. Cut at Orange Beach to the Gulf. We also like Mobile Bay. Fairhope is great, but it may be further than your wife wants to commute.
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Old 03-06-2011, 10:10   #3
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Re: Gulf Shores, Alabama

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You are about to move to one of the most wonderful area in the country. Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Foley, Magnolia Springs, Point Clear and Fairhope are some of my favorite places. All kinds of little marina/dock options in and around the area. Perdito Bay, the Fly Creek area. You need to explore via car and decide where you want to base. Great food, really nice people. Cut at Orange Beach to the Gulf. We also like Mobile Bay. Fairhope is great, but it may be further than your wife wants to commute.
Thanks, this is very encouraging. We'll probably base out of an apartment in Gulf Shores for 6 months to a year, while I boat shop and marina shop.

Any recommendations on marinas. I've googled and found a few:

Holiday Harbor Marina, Gulf Shores Marina, and Homeport Marina.

I'm sure I'm missing several. I'd love to be able to find a boat down here to live aboard at one of these marinas, within an hour of Gulf Shores, but I'm betting that will take me some time.

Not sure what type of liveaboard situation these have, or others have, but the costs seem pretty fair.
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Old 18-01-2012, 16:53   #4
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We are planning to move down to the Orange Beach / Gulf Shores area in 18 - 24 months. What do you think of the area for sailing so far? We have a condo down there, but we will be looking for another place that has a boat slip.

Mike and Brenda
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Old 18-01-2012, 18:17   #5
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

Point Yacht Club Home Page Nice low key club. Call us when you get down. We're in Bon Secour on the river. 251-979-7065 Phil Turner
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Old 18-01-2012, 18:59   #6
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

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We are planning to move down to the Orange Beach / Gulf Shores area in 18 - 24 months. What do you think of the area for sailing so far? We have a condo down there, but we will be looking for another place that has a boat slip.

Mike and Brenda
We ended up moving away in November, but I recommend Bear Point Marina. They seem to have really low rates in comparison to others and very nice people around there.

Lots of good sailing near that area. Mobile bay, especially the Eastern Shore/Fairhope area are really pretty. The bay surrounding Bear Point has dolphins surfacing most nights following the shrimpers as they haul their nets.

Pirates Cove is a little burger dive/ tiny marina on the opposite side of the bay from Bear Point. It was one of our favorite places to hang out.

I don't know much about the other marinas as far as costs/amenities go.

I can name a few others though: Homeport (where Lulu's is located) and The Wharf both have slips on the ICW. I think there's a marina at Fort Morgan, which would put you closer Mobile Bay.
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Old 18-01-2012, 19:39   #7
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

A second recommendation for Bear Point Marina. There were some live-aboards there the last time we visited and the staff is some of the friendliest folks we have met at a marina. The restaurant was great and the dockage was very reasonable. Chuck
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Old 18-01-2012, 19:44   #8
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

Our dock is close to the Perdido Pass bridge in Orange Beach. Perdido Pass opens into the Gulf. The winds in the area are generally reasonable and usually from the southeast/east which is fine if sailing in the Gulf. Perdido Bay is fun to sail but is about 45 minutes from the pass and often because of the prevailing wind direction and narrow passage you have to motor either there or on return.

I tend to go into the Gulf if the wind is east or west and go to Perdido Bay if north or south. However, a limitation is the pass can be exciting in heavy weather but with some motoring on those days, Perdido Bay is usually fine.

There are restaurants and protected places to overnight that are close which I think a real plus as compared to other areas I have sailed.

Hurricanes and the very hot summers are the real downsides of the Gulf area.

Hope that helps. David
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Old 18-01-2012, 19:50   #9
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We went down in October for our 30th anniversary and toured Sailboat Bay. It is located on the ICW just as it enters Bon Secour Bay / Mobile Bay. Maybe we'll sell our Orange Beach condo and buy one of those condos, as they each have their own slip.

Thanks for the suggestions. We'll be researching some of them.
(Although I don't think I could use the marina behind LuLu's. They pour the Drambuie too quickly for me to keep vertical.)

I read one review of sailing in Mobile Bay and it was surprisingly negative. It sure looks like a fun cruising area.

Mike and Brenda
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Old 18-01-2012, 20:40   #10
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

We have our boat up in Fairhope. We've found Mobile Bay to be a great cruising ground - lots of places to go, good anchorages on the ICW and Mississippi Sound. Perhaps the only thing to be careful of is draft - you wouldn't want a draft of more than about 5', most of the Bay is around 7-8' and there are some much shallower areas.
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Old 18-01-2012, 20:55   #11
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We visited Fairhope while we were down in October. It is a really interesting town. Nice marina there too.

We are working on our short list of boats to cruise in and a draft of around 4' or less is definitely required. We have been looking at boats in the 24' to 31' range. Our current short list is on our blog.

Really glad to hear that Mobile Bay and Perdido Bay are good sailing grounds. We aren't racers by any stretch of the imagination. We prefer lazy days on the boat with frequent stops to enjoy the little hidden coves.

Mike and Brenda
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Old 18-01-2012, 21:17   #12
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

I posted this awhile ago on another forum, some info on cruising Mobile Bay and environs. A little long:

As you come down the Tensaw River, you’ll need to come through what locally they call Government Cut west into the Mobile River – sailboats can’t clear any of the bridges at the Mobile delta (I-10 and the Causeway), except for those on the Mobile River. There’s a large bridge at Africatown (so-called because it’s where the last load of African slaves to America, established a homestead after they escaped from the slave schooner that brought them into Mobile Sound) that has plenty of clearance, and I-10 goes thru a tunnel under the river.

Through Mobile proper there are no recreational marinas or service points, so make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel before you get into the Delta. Stay to the marked channels as you leave the Mobile River and enter Mobile Bay, depths come up quickly outside the channels.

Once you clear Mobile, on the western shore of Mobile Bay you’ll first come to the Dog River. There are two yacht clubs here (Mobile Yacht Club and Buccaneer Yacht Club), both have some transient docks if you’re a yacht club member. There are several marinas inside the river, including Sundowner, Turner’s (no relation; fuel and pump-out) and Grand Mariner. Transient rates in the entire area seem to run $45-50 a night for boats over 30’. There are good restaurants at Grand Mariner and also at the River Shack [on the south side of the river just after you pass under the Dog River Bridge (clearance 73’)] – I recommend the latter; you can tie up for lunch or dinner but there’s no overnight docking. For anchorage, continue upriver about a mile past Grand Mariner and anchor just off the middle of the river – be aware that there’s a fair amount of fishing boat traffic up through here. There are more anchorages further in but if you’re just passing through you probably don’t want to get too far out of the bay.

Continuing south along the west shore of the bay you’ll come to the Fowl River. You can’t clear this bridge with your air draft [45' maximum]. There is some limited anchorage just to the east of the bridge – you’ll see some fair-sized boats moored out just south of the channel. There is also a restaurant on the north shore just east of the bridge that has some limited transient dockage.

There aren’t any other marinas or anchorages along the western shore until you get to Dauphin Island. At Dauphin Island, there are two small coves along the north shore of the island just to the west of the Dauphin Island Bridge – check the charts, it’s a long channel to get in there, with shallows all around and limited anchorage once you get inside. If you continue out the mouth of Mobile Bay, you can then turn west along the southern shore of Dauphin Island – there is an anchorage as the outer barrier island (Pelican Island, locally called Sand Island) comes up towards the main Dauphin Island shore. Watch for the golf course on Dauphin Island and anchor in the small cove before the barrier island comes up to the main shore.

Along the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, the Fairhope Yacht Club (my club) is on Fly Creek along with two marinas, Eastern Shore (fuel) and Fly Creek Marina. There’s a decent burger joint at Fly Creek, and a Mexican restaurant within walking distance, but not much else – it’s about 2 miles into Fairhope, the nearest town. No anchorages up here except in the bay off the beach in front of the yacht club, and then only if it’s absolutely calm, there’s no protection. For that matter, there are no anchorages period all along the eastern shore. Further south from Fly Creek is the Fairhope Municipal Marina, a man-made harbor that’s good for normal conditions but very exposed if it gets bouncy. Several good restaurants within walking distance. Further south is the marina at the Grand Hotel Resort (pump out), limited transient but can handle larger boats, nice restaurants at the resort.

East thru the ICW from the mouth of Mobile Bay, there’s a refurbished marina, Fort Morgan Marina, about 2 miles east of Fort Morgan Point. Look for the large “boatel” storage building, and be sure to stay to the marked channel going into the marina. Transient fees are $35/night below 24’, $45/night above that, extra for electric. This marina is somewhat exposed in western winds. I noticed on the chart that immediately east of this marina’s man-made harbor, depths are about 6’, so good for anchoring. Within the marina, there’s a good restaurant for breakfast/lunch/dinner, “Tacky Jack’s 2,” and there’s also a new marina store for provisions, and restrooms/showers.

Further east is Navy Cove, another popular anchorage but exposed to north and west winds. As you reach the easternmost entrance to the ICW, exiting Mobile Bay, you can follow the marked channel that cuts to the north into the Bon Secour River. This is a very picturesque area, home to one of Mobile Bay’s last commercial fishing/crabbing fleets. Stay to the marked channel and go about one mile or so past the Bon Secour Fisheries – you can anchor in about 6-8’ of water immediately to the west of the last channel marker, I think it’s daymarker #37. When you first enter the river, there’s a cut off to the south – there’s a marina down there and a restaurant, although I haven’t been up in there. If you go up the main river, you can buy fresh seafood at Billy’s Seafood, you’ll see their buildings and can tie up at there docks.

Into the ICW there’s LuLu’s Homeport Marina and restaurant (this is Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s place, always jumping and good food). Fuel and pump-out at their docks along the ICW to the east of the restaurant. Across the ICW there's a second restaurant, Tacky Jack's, with a few docks (no overnight). There’s a new marina further on, just entering into Big Lagoon, Barber Marina – brand new, floating concrete docks, fuel dock and pump-out station, a new marina store but no restaurant. Just east of Barber is Ingram Bayou, said to be one of the prettiest anchorages on this stretch of the ICW – good anchorage in the lower part of the bayou, and an all-weather hole in the upper part of the bayou. Beyond Ingram’s is Pirate’s Cove, a very popular stop for burgers – anchorage both out front of the restaurant, and in the bayou behind. which I also assume you’re familiar with (if not, a great place to stop for a burger). On the south side of the lagoon across from Pirate’s Cove is another popular marina, Bear Point (fuel and pump-out). A bit further east you’ll also come to another good marina at Perdido Key with a good restaurant, but be sure to follow the channels in.

There are plenty of people that can give you better advice on the section between Pensacola and Apalachicola than I can,we’ve so far only been through there one time. At Fort Walton Beach we stayed at Shalimar, good site but a bit of a hike north of the ICW. At Panama City I highly recommend the Panama City Public Marina (fuel, pump-out), very nice facility and walking distance to plenty of good restaurants, places to provision and marine supply stores. Below Panama City you can either stay in the ICW, or jump offshore in the Gulf to Port St Joe – good marina there (fuel, pump out, restaurant) and places to reprovision. Then back into the ICW to Apalachicola. At Apalachicola we stayed at Scipio Creek Marina, which I also recommend.
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Old 19-01-2012, 06:33   #13
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

Mike, very nice review of the area. Thanks for posting it. I have not been further west than the Wharf, so it contained a lot of useful information for me.

David
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Old 19-01-2012, 07:54   #14
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Re: Gulf Shores , Alabama

Great comments on a great area. While I am just a few miles east in Pensacola, I agree all that has been said + our area is also super.

Call a place paradise - kiss it good bye. ;_)
Tom
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