Saturday, February 16, 2019

Resort Living!

What’s not to like about living life on vacation!  We used to save up and take a whole week off work to enjoy a warm resort in the winter.  Now we can just pull into a resort marina and have it all to enjoy for as long as we choose.  We have chosen 2 months for Longboat Key Club Moorings and glad we did.  Initially we were assigned “O” dock which was out in the “back 40” so we had a 1/4 mile walk to the bathroom, showers, laundry, pool and anyone we knew on boats here.  That got old but we put up with it because the facilities were great.

We were way in the back of this picture until we were allowed to move at the beginning of February to the dock right in front on the left of this picture.  Our red canvas is peeking out above other boats.

This was the view along our walk to and from “O” dock looking out over Sarasota Bay with beautiful mangrove trees.  

And at sunset, the mangroves filled with all kinds of birds hunkering down for the night.  It was fun watching more aggressive birds chase other birds from primo spots on the branches.  Interesting to see how varied species from pelicans to cormorants share the same trees.

We have split our time between the long list of boat chores and also having some fun.  Amazing how the Captain can wiggle around to get under the flybridge helm to do some wiring!  Thanks to that new hip and daily walks for exercise! 

The marina shuttle has taken us to the Gulf side part of the resort where we can access beach chairs, towels and a wonderful, flat, hard packed beach for long walks.   

This blue heron must have been very used to humans which allowed me to get so close for a picture. 

We have enjoyed some breakfasts and a lunch at our favorite Blue Dolphin Cafe in St. Armand’s Circle which we can access via either the marina shuttle or get some exercise using marina bikes.  

The pool is heated so has become our late afternoon respite for floating and stretching, followed by time in the hot tub before showers in the very nice marina facilities.  

And sometimes, after a walk, just sitting on the beach and listening to small waves ripple on shore is a treat not to miss.  Al’s feet were resting while his eyes were gazing at the tranquil water. 

Later in January we had overnight company as Al’s college roommate Randy and his wife Nancy came for a visit.  No need for fancy restaurants for the four of us to enjoy a great lunch overlooking the Bay.  

Then while Al went home for annual medical appointments, I enjoyed a visit from my good friend Vanessa!  Unfortunately for her, she unpacked shorts and repacked more long pants before coming because the weather turned from lovely and warm, to down right cold at times!  But we still walked the beach and Vanessa went home with most of the shells on Longboat Key! 

We walked close to the marina under banyon trees mixed with palms and live oaks. 

We ventured over to Lido Key for an art show and bought real Maine lobster rolls at the funny little concession stand at Lido Beach.  

The tastey lunch made up for the bone chilling, damp afternoon!  

Vanessa even experienced galley cooking in my “one butt” galley.  

We spent our rainy and cold Sunday at the extraordinary Ringling Circus Museum.

We had fun despite the constant downpour.  (Which BTW has been the only completely rainy day since we got here!) 

One Saturday we became honorary Kane’s by taking my college roommate, Mo and some of her siblings, their spouses and a nephew for a lunch cruise around Sarasota Bay.  We were grateful the weather warmed up and the north wind laid down.  Fun day! Then we had another fun Saturday last week when John and Nancy Behr came for a days visit so we could catch up about life events and explore the area.  John and Al worked together at the great company that is sponsoring our retirements, thank your Firestone!!

So here sits InSpeyered 2 in a gorgeous setting that we have enjoyed so far. 

There are always the dramatic sunsets to savor as well. 

Or the picturesque Gulf shore to relax on and forget about the world’s problems.  Living on a boat has many positives that are hard to beat; we are lucky people and appreciate what we have together.   

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Swinging on the Hook for the Holidays

As of 12/3, InSpeyered 2 has been happy to be in Florida.  Our stay at Stuart Yacht Basin extended into 4 weeks, longer than we wanted, but the outcome was yet another “makeover” to add to the beauty of the boat.

She was hauled out a week after arriving at the boatyard to have the bottom checked and much to our dismay, both props were found to have dinged up edges and the port prop shaft was slightly bent.  Typically a vibration can be felt when the props and shafts have misalignments but we had no clue that we had any prop problems and no recollection as to when the damage was done!  Oh well, better to find an unknown problem before it grows into a much bigger problem.  

Our main reason for being in the yard was to replace the splintered stern rail.

And while up on “the hard” a new rail was installed and eventually shined up to look better than the old rail.  

Now she looks like she was never in a scuffle with a mega yacht!  Plus she has a newly painted bottom, nicely waxed hull, all the rails have 2 more coats of finishing epoxy with some of the dings repaired, the battery charger was replaced by Al and Erik and the props and shaft are straight.  But the down side to having all that work done was that she was up on the hard for 9 days and we had to find somewhere else to live.  Ahh, but the Marriott points came in handy, placing us in a lovely room overlooking the Hutchinson Island Beach for 6 of those days. 

Not a bad way to spend some time in December, sitting on this deck, watching the sunset, taking walks on the beach and enjoying good wifi!  Of course we made daily visits to the yard and did some boat chores of our own including marking the anchor chain with paint marks every 10’.  That is a chore that seems to need redoing every 6 months or so.  We also met up with our boat buddies on Free To B for dinner and again for a lunch.  3 of the 9 nights off the boat, were spent with Erik in Fort Lauderdale, relaxing in his very clean apartment and checking out some of the local restaurants.  

An added pleasure was the annual Christmas boat parade on the New River where we saw many mega yachts decked out for the holiday.  We had a great spot to watch the parade on the docks of Bahia Mar Yachting Center.   Rudolph looked perfect atop this mega yacht.  

Being in Stuart allowed for another opportunity to meet up with my college roommate, Mo, and have some Christmas cheer with her.  

And while we were on the boat at the yard, we took daily walks in the neighborhood and occasionally spotted what looked like a very old Loggerhead turtle.  


Finally on 12/23 we were free to leave the boatyard and cruise to Peck Lake to enjoy some peaceful time on anchor with access to a lovely coastal island beach.  We had planned to leave the day before but our rails needed more sanding and coating.  So while that was being done, Al and Erik updated the Garmin and discovered the depth sounder on the bow was not picking up a signal.   The guys doing the rails were the same ones who painted the bottom so after a quick query it was discovered that the sounder was taped over to avoid getting painted and no one thought to pull it off before splashing the boat!  It was late afternoon when it was all figured out so no time to pay a diver to clear the sounder.  So before we left on Sunday, the boat was hauled out again, tape pulled off, lowered back into the water and off we went with the second in charge, Erik at the helm.  With serious concentration, he skillfully drove the boat in the narrow and shallow water of the St. Lucie River.

But just like his dad, he is always happy to have the helm under his command!  

“Elf” and mom enjoyed together time on Christmas Eve Day when we opened presents which was not our tradition but then being out on anchor on Christmas was not one of our traditions either!   We were just happy to have presents to share because several days before, Erik’s truck was broken into and our gifts for each other were stolen.  Erik truly was the elf this year because he did shopping for Al’s gift to me, my gifts to Al and his very special gift of Garmin cameras for the boat that he gave to us.  All stolen and replaced at the last minute!

Captain Al was happy to have the proper hat to wear on more formal occasions.  It is helpful to have a son in the marine business who can access things like official nautical uniforms.  And we were lucky that this gift was already hidden on the boat before Erik’s truck was vandalized so the hat did not need replacement.

Perhaps family walks on a beach will be a new tradition for us!  We had a wonderful Christmas on anchor and will gladly do it again next year.

Peck Lake was surprisingly popular as a Christmas destination.  

We headed beck to the boatyard on Christmas Day with “Elf” driving once more.  It turned out that we had to return to the yard because the rails had clouded over from moisture.  Stuart Yacht Basin was previously owned by Gregg and Nancy Burdick, who over the years have become our personal friends and they continue to live next to the boatyard and own some of the dock space.  So we were grateful to have them offer space on their docks for part of the earlier time in December and then from Christmas on, until the rails were redone.  They also treated us to a Boxing Day gathering which was fun and filling.  Our last night in Stuart, we met up with friends from Hendersonville, Marie and Mike Sigalito for a great Italian dinner. Finally, with the rails redone and all the boat maintenance behind us, we untied lines and left to cross Lake Okeechobee on Saturday 12/29.  

The water level in the lake was slightly low so we breezed right through the Port Mayaca Lock which saved us some waiting time.  It was a very calm day on the big lake.  Easy cruising!

Gators were abundant along the Rim Canal which took us to the Moore Haven City wall for the night.   We completed 67 miles of travel with 3 locks done and had 30 mins to spare to get through the Moore Haven Lock before closing time.  From there we continued on the Okeechobee Waterway and went through 2 more locks, negotiated bridges low enough to lower whippers and encountered plenty of holiday boat traffic! We stopped at Fort Meyers and enjoyed the Legacy Marina which is a favorite of loopers and one we wanted to check out for future stays.  

From Fort Meyers, the Gulf ICW begins with several long stretches of no wake zones so boat traffic backs up and since the channel of deeper water is narrow, it takes some serious concentration to avoid collisions.  Thus it is named the “Miserable Mile” but actually is several miles long.  

The 40 miles from Ft. Meyers to our destination of Cayo Costa anchorage was not all that miserable since we had boat buddies to entertain us along the way.  

This was our fourth time to anchor at Cayo Costa and what a perfect spot to be in for the last day and night of the year!  This anchorage is always popular and well used but shoaling is making the entryway very shallow so we found ourselves on a soft grounding on the way in but made a slight correction and we made it in with 2-3’ of water below the keel.  We enjoyed 2 days of more walks on the beach, a little wading in the chilly Gulf water, and just peaceful swinging time on anchor.  Happy New Year to all as we begin 2019; the year we finally will finish the Great Loop!! 

On Wednesday 1/2 we headed north on the GICW to Longboat Key Club Moorings where we will stay for 2 whole months!  That will be a first for us, to stay in one place for such a long period.  So far it looks like we will have plenty to do with access to the beach, a pool, bicycles, a shuttle van to places nearby, and a Publix in walking distance.  This is a big marina so just getting to the bathroom is exercise.  

And to end this posting, the best named boat so far that we have seen in 3 1/2 years of cruising is “Sorry Kids”. I guess it would be to long to name a boat “Spend The Kid’s Inheritance Now” and not make sense to many with just “S.K.I.N.”   So this boat name says it all!! 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Winter Destination, Stuart, Florida!

We have arrived at our December home port of Stuart, Fl., and we are sitting in the Stuart Yacht Basin, aka, a boat yard.  We have been in this boat yard several times before and all of those were extended stays.  This time we hope for a 2-3 week turn around so we can go have some fun somewhere else. For now we are having the broken stern rail replaced and the battery charger replaced under warranty. So where have we been along the way?

We headed out from Beaufort, SC on a windy, cold day after Thanksgiving and had a busy kinda cruise. There were many serious shoals to find safe routes through, lots of current to contend with and we used the high tide to get through an area that at low tide would have given us a few feet of water beneath the keel.  The tide was so high at the point of this picture that the channnel marker barely poked out of the water.  That tiny red triangle is on a post likely at least 9’ tall!

The clouds were thick making it feel like evening instead of daytime.  We passed this odd little house boat anchored seemingly on a permanent basis, just off the channel.  That would be a cold place to live!  We covered 63 miles and dropped anchor in Breakfast Creek off the Vernon River.  Anchoring was done in a cold light rain!

Saturday, 11/24, we continued our journey with fog following us off and on through the day.  Behind us are 2 sailboats we have passed every day of cruising since leaving Southport, NC.  

It seemed the gulls thought we were a fishing vessel so they followed, hoping to pick up the scraps thrown over board, but eventually they left to find a more productive boat. With fog adding to the challenge we traversed a short cut, known as Hell Gate, that is impassible for us without most of a high tide and we were lucky that we could hit it just at the highest point of the tide without having to purposely slow down or speed up.  Sometimes hitting the tide right is just pure luck as to when it happens during the day!  (Well we do check all the tide charts to know when it changes so it isn’t luck to find high tide, just luck when it is a good time for us!)

We anchored after covering another 55 miles in Duplin River, where we could access a ferry dock and take a walk on shore.  The cold and fog lifted to allow for a walk with shorts on.  But we started the day with several layers top and bottom!  The next day was the same, cold in the morning with calm seas.  Again we traversed several known shoaling areas using the tide that served us well.  Once more we passed the same two sail boaters but this was our last day to see them.  It is interesting to travel with the same boats day after day and not actually meet the people.  We stopped on Sunday, 11/25 at one of my favorite anchorages across from Jekyll Island early enough to go to shore for a late lunch at Tortuga Jack’s!

And had a nice walk along the empty beach (Al has our left overs!).  There was still a chill in the air and at this point we were in Georgia, when will we get to a warm latitude? 

When we got back to the dingy at the town dock, we were relieved to find some water under Victory Lap.  We left the dingy at high tide and the Captain tucked her into the inside of the dock because of a strong current and only realized on the walk back, that the 8’ tide would be low and the dock could have been in mud.  But she was floating, thank goodness! 

InSpeyered 2 is all by herself in this anchorage.  

We woke on Monday to rain with some thunder and lightning so we waited an hour before pulling the anchor with the rain still pelting the boat but no lightning in sight.  Thank goodness the anchor came up clean and easily so it wasn’t a soaking wet experience. Plus the temps were only low enough for a jacket, not a sweatshirt plus a jacket.  The day remained dark but we had some interesting sights to pass and more shoals to negotiate.  Not sure about the paint job on this boat.  Every evening, once we are stopped for the day, we both start the research on the next day’s travel, looking at shoals, tides and currents, plus weather and where to stop.  But wind is not as big a factor in the ICW so that is a plus.  Our plan for Monday was to stop at the Jacksonville free dock provided by the town and it was also the same plan for lots of boats.  When we got there, the boats were tied up 3 deep to each other and there was not an inch of dock space and a near by anchorage was also full.  Because we left late and traveled 60 miles to get to the northern border of Florida, we had to work fast to find an alternative place to stop before it got dark.  I called marinas and while Al searched and found an anchorage, yeah, a quiet spot to drop the anchor only 4 miles off the ICW, up the St. John’s River.  No place for a walk but one day off is ok.  

Tuesday was a better day, with sun, a fairly easy cruise with minimal shoaling, and no crazy currents and the tide changes in Florida are 3’ or less.  Our destination was a slip at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina which we made into a 2 night stay. But getting into the slip against a strong cross current in a narrow fairway made for a harrrowing  situation which pinged us into a cement piling but Al was able to power InSpeyered 2 out of the fairway without hitting another boat for a second try at a much easier to access slip.  This town is a Christmas destination because they have beautiful decorations, “the night of lights”, which is very special and lots of places to shop. Santa was driving this carriage around town, entertaining the many tourists.

When the darkness descended, the lights were spectacular! 

This park was a short walk from the marina.  And beyond this park, is a favorite pizza stop for us! 

This stop over not only put us in the spirit of Christmas, it also allowed us to get more shopping done for family presents.  

This sailboat went out at night, taking tourists around the harbor to see all the town’s lights from the water.  We had a nice surprise also in St. Augustine as a boat that has completed the Great Loop pulled in next to us.  The boat is Velomer and Pat and Bob are folks we met the fall of 2015 going down the rivers in Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.  The boating world stays small!  
Thursday, we timed our departure from the marina for slack current to avoid any mishap getting out of the slip and with Pat and Bob shipping lines for us, it was an easy departure.

It was another cold cruising day that gradually warmed up but look who we have escorting us!!  The dolphins are back in high numbers and entertained us the rest of our cruising days.  We got lots of video but posting videos on this blog is not in my skill set.  On Thursday 11/29 we covered another 54 miles and pulled into a slip in Daytona.  There was no good place to anchor and get to shore so we chose a slip for walking purposes for both that afternoon and the next morning.  That way we could anchor on Friday near Titusville and not try going to shore.  We were in travel mode, slowly eating up the miles to get to Stuart.  Only 3 days left of 50 mile travel days.  

There is not much we won’t do to get to shore for a walk! On Saturday 12/1 we cruised to this wide area just off the ICW in order to access a boat ramp dock in very strong wind that made for a very choppy dingy ride and challenging tie up at the dock.  But we could walk to a Publix after walking to the beach and got just what we needed for 2 more meals on the boat before Stuart.  

This very sad boat was on the bottom, not far off the boat ramp dock.  Perhaps it succumbed to Hurricane Irma.  

And look, we are finally far enough south in Florida to don shorts and tee’s with windows open!  On Sunday we made it a “no walk” day and easily dropped anchor near Ft. Pierce at Harbour Isles, a place we’ve anchored before.  Always easier to get into places we know.  On the way, after passing Vero Beach, we passed a sailboat going north and I recognized it as the boat belonging to an old friend from Canton, Ohio days, John Miller.  Again, this boating world is amazing.  We chatted on the radio briefly to catch up a bit and went on our opposite ways.  

It was a warm and quiet night near Ft. Pierce.  Only 37 miles left to cruise to Stuart Yacht Basin where they expected us to arrive mid afternoon on Monday.  

Stuart Yacht Basin is down the south fork of the St. Lucie River and it is a curvy, shallow waterway with a full U turn in a tight area to get to the boat yard.  But the sky was blue, the air was warm (a bit too humid, but this is Florida) and we were both happy and sad to end this long journey.  As the crow flies, we are 1500 miles from Tadoussac, Quebec and about 4 months of travel since we were there this summer.  I haven’t done the math to see just how many water miles we covered from there to here but it is likely double the straight line of travel.  We are looking forward to time with Erik while we watch the work get slowly done on the boat.  It will be some weeks of sitting here before we start moving again and may be that long before there is much to post on the blog.  Merry Christmas to all!!