Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas in Bimini!

Happy New Year to all of our blog followers!!  Yes, we made it to Bimini on 12/24 with Erik and his friend Austin to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, aqua blue waters and warm sun of the Bahamas.  But it was a very rough ride for me!  So we had several easy days cruising our way to Ft. Lauderdale and then spent some time buying even more food and supplies for a fun Christmas week.  The wind refused to die down and in fact increased slightly as we tried to find a weather window so the boys would have a full week in the Bahamas.  So after looking at the buoy and wind reports we decided it would be doable, just not great to leave early Saturday morning.  The guys arrived on Friday and were psyched they could travel over with us.  So before the sun was up we departed with good thoughts.  But I made two huge mistakes.  I assumed I could tolerate 3-5 foot waves with the guys taking care of everything on the boat because we had easterly winds and would take the waves on our bow.  NOT!!  The Gulf Stream makes a mess of the waves so they came in all directions and were unpredictable and of course higher at times than predicted.
Second mistake was to have everything ready to throw Mexican casserole together in the crock pot so we would have dinner cooking during the crossing.  Only I took too long to get it together and half way through we hit the inlet out to the Atlantic and "all hell broke loose" with crazy waves.  So I had to suddenly abandon the galley to keep from getting sick and left an open salsa jar, dishes of chicken and onions all carefully cut the night before and perched myself at the salon door, thinking I could get back to the galley as soon as we passed through the inlet.  But no, I never left my perch the entire trip (7+ hours) and sadly listened to stuff crash all over the galley!  What a mess when we landed at Brown's Marina in North Bimini!  Oh well, here are the pictures to document our adventure this week.
Heading out the New River in Ft. Lauderdale to reach the inlet to the Atlantic.

Our path up to the beach side of Bimini, lots of small pastel colored building which are homes and businesses.  

Sunset Christmas Eve, always peaceful!

The Speyer family at the beach on Christmas for our first Bahamian swim. Not a wave in the ocean! 

Erik and Austin happy to be on vacation!

Joe's Conch Shack where the guys enjoyed  freshly made conch salad, not for me!

Sapona dive and snorkel sight that the guys enjoyed as a stop over on our way to anchor out for a few days.  Erik's head is the tiny dot in the middle of the picture.  

Austin looks happy to have a fun place to explore! 

And look who has the helm!  Calm waters that day as we went south to Gun and Cat Cay.

This is a working light house on the south side of the uninhabited Gun Cay. 

While on anchor, Austin got busy with fishing and caught a few unidentifiable fish to grill up for lunch.  The fresh fish was rather tastey but that skinny one got thrown over board with a foul taste! 

We found decent sized conch as we walked around shallow water at the Gun Cay beach so the boys experimented with opening the shell to extract the fresh meat.

The trick is to whack off the top point of the shell and scrape the conch out in one neat twist of the knife. 

Looking down the shell, the conch awaits its demise. 

Conch out and ready to be diced up for some chewy but tastey snacking. Only the white part is eaten. 

The beach we took the dingy to had lovely warm shallow water at its edge and was full of sting rays that float by.  They were curious and came up to us to check out our feet.  Later we saw kids feeding squid to them so likely these sting rays were used to being fed so actually were coming to us to beg for food.  

On the way back from the beach to the peacefully anchored InSpeyered 2.  Later that day, Thursday, we learned that the winds were changing and strong northerly winds were on their way.  So we up anchored and headed back into the marina earlier than we had planned.  Right now we are snugly tied  up for the New Year's weekend.  Tonight we will go to a special festival for New Year's Eve.  Fun times to end the vacation for our special boys!  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Getting Closer to the Bahamas

On Thursday 12/15 (my sister's Birthday!) we pulled into Old Port Cove Marina in North Palm Beach.  We arrived middle afternoon so had plenty of time to take our walk and check out the area.  It turns out this is a very nice marina and is convenient to places to shop and to rent a car.  So Friday we got our car and headed to Miami for Al's one week follow up eye appointment.  Driving to Miami is horrible because the closer you get, the more cars there are and the highway loses lanes, becoming more narrow and traffic stops!!  Unlucky for me, I did the driving because Al, with one good eye, wasn't supposed to drive and he didn't need to stress his vision before the check up.  The wait for the doctor was long because she is so thorough and is always behind.  But it was worth the wait.  All good news at this visit.  Al's vision is much better than just one week ago and beyond the expectations!!  The gas bubble is dissipating fast which also helps with his vision.  The doctor only said very positive things and reduced the drops we have to remember to put in his eye.  So we left feeling elated and knowing we can really go to the Bahamas!
See how happy we are?  We had a great dinner with Mo, my college roommate and her husband, Harry to celebrate the good eye news.  The rest of the weekend we spent shopping for new stuff for the boat as our Christmas.  We bought real exciting stuff like bed pillows, towels and a fry pan.  Doesn't get much better than that!  We also found a wonderful Italian market and went crazy buying up treats to take on our trip.  So we are stocked and psyched!  Erik flies down on Friday and his good friend Austin is our special guest for the Christmas week.  Right now it looks like the best day to cross with the right winds and low wave levels is Friday so we will have to go without the boys and they will have to fly over to join us.  But weather changes and we are hoping to wait until Saturday. 
So today is Monday and we went a whopping 11 miles but it took way too long because of bridge openings and our poor planning.  The only excitement was seeing Coast Guard gun boats patrolling an area just before our last bridge for today.  Al put the throttle into high gear to get to the bridge for a scheduled opening and then suddenly we see the gun boats and one circled around and followed us closely for several heart stopping minutes.  Then it pealed off and we proceeded slowly to the bridge (just making the opening time).  Turns out, we were in the Trump property area and since they are present for the holidays, the security is high all over.  (It would have helped to know about the high alert area and not be scared of our imminent arrest!!)
It is a beautiful and quiet night.  This is the view off the stern in the direction of where Mr. Trump is spending some time.  Off behind the Mangrove trees is his palatial Florida home.  We didn't see it from the ICW but we also didn't know to look for it!

And looking West is another beautiful sunset.
Tomorrow we continue the slow journey to Ft. Lauderdale.  There are 14 more bridges between here and Ft. Lauderdale, a distance of 40 miles and lots of "slow, no wake" zones.  So we will only cover 20ish miles over each of the next 2 days.  At that point, we wait patiently for our weather window to open the way to Bimini and Christmas! Next blog will be of the crossing and landing in Bimini.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Looper Magic Prevails!!

Having a lead buddy boat, namely Short Vacation lowered the stress of traveling south so we are now only 50 miles from North Palm Beach. We will travel that distance tomorrow (Thurdsay) and that means a bit over an hour drive to Miami for the eye recheck on Friday.  We had an easy 12 miles of travel from Pine Island Anchorage to arrive at the lovely city of St. Augustine this past Saturday.  Not to complain to those of you in very cold environments, we had 2 chilly days of travel so were forced to don some winter type clothing.
It was blustery as we tied our boats to mooring balls.  This is the stern of Short Vacation as she points toward Castillo de San Marcos the oldest masonry fort in the US.

The tall building in the middle is the ornate Flagler College.

In town we walked the streets and found a great place to have a late lunch.  We passed "Al's Pizza" restarant which seemed so appropriate since that is one of Al's favorite food groups!  But we chose a place called Columbia instead.

The wind kept the chop up in the Mantanzas River with Short Vacation positioned in front of InSpeyered 2. When we got to shore via water taxi, we learned that more looper magic was bestowed upon us because not only was St. Augustine dressed up in lots of lights and Christmas decor, it also just happened to be the day of a Spanish festival and later the Christmas boat parade. 

We enjoyed listening to music as thes flamingo dancers entertained the crowd. We also enjoyed some free ice cream treats as we watched.  And just as the sun was setting, we made it back to our boats and prepared to watch the parade that circled around us at least 3 times so we enjoyed the perfect place to view the spectacle.

You can see that St. Augustine spares no expense in lighting up its waterfront shops, hotels and restaurants.  The view put us in the festive mood for Christmas! 

Amazingly the wind died down in the night and we had a pleasant night of peaceful sleep! Sunday was a calm day of travel with little wind and much warmer temperatures so the shorts came back out of the drawer! We headed to Daytona and stayed at the Halifax Marina where Al and I had another treat given to us by Short Vacation.  They had a certificate they bought in a silent auction at a boater function that covered all expenses for 2 nights at Halifax and they shared the second night with us.  So we stayed for a much lower cost, splitting what they paid for the certificate.  The looper magic goes on!  But funny thing as we approached Daytona.  I misjudged the timing and got into doing boat chores like cleaning toilets, and suddenly Al is calling me from the bridge on the intercom letting me know he had the boat lined up with our slip and I was not getting the lines and fenders ready!  That is a first for me to not be prepared for a dockage and I promise it won't happen again!! 
Monday we again traveled following our lead buddy boat and split off as we chose to anchor 10 miles sooner near Titusville.  
We had this Titusville anchorage all to ourselves for a very calm and warm night. 

The moon rise was as spectacular as the sunset. It doesn't get any better than this!

This was taken last night from the pier we tied to in Micco, Fl at Sabastian River Marina which takes me to the last part of the looper magic story.  We have had a problem with the generator for the past several nights.  It seemed to have a fresh water leak in the cooling system because it would run and then suddenly shut off.  A BIG problem when planning a trip to the Bahamas to anchor in beautiful places. Last night we were close to an anchorage chosen because it seemed we could take the dingy to shore to get a walk in when I called the nearby marina, Sabastian River Marina to ask if we could bring our dingy in to tie up.  Well, after having a jovial conversation with a very generous and friendly guy, it turns out, he has been a Grand Banks dealer and must have a special spot in his heart for Grand Banks owners.  So rather than allowing us to bring in the dingy he offered a "gratuitous" slip in the marina!!  And the marina is a full service boat yard so we not only got to stay in a marina for free but the generator was fixed this morning and we took our walk both last evening and again this morning without dropping the dingy into the water.  For us that is a "hat trick" or 3 wishes met at once!!  So now we have our boat working well again and are only 50 miles from our destination.  Life is sooo good for us, hope all our readers are also finding happy times.  Thanks for following our adventure!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy, happy to be Traveling again!

Yup, Captain Al is back on the bridge with the helm under his control!!  We are both so happy to be back on the boat and moving south!  We managed to march through too many medical appointments and too much cleaning of the "dirt house" in Hendersonville.  We enjoyed seeing friends and enjoyed our lake view.  We also had a great week with Erik and a peaceful Thanksgiving.  Then it was time for Al to fly from Nashville to Miami for his preop check up for the surgery to remove the oil bubble in his eye.  He "passed go" and surgery was set for December 6th.  I flew to Jacksonville on Friday December 2 so we met up once again on the boat that Friday.  Much to our chagrin, the work scheduled on transome teak wood at Lambs Yacht Center never got done but the marina helped us with a rebate on part of the cost of our slip there and then today, surprised us with really nice jackets for colder weather with their logo, (some of the wearables that they sell in their marine store).  So we left feeling much less upset with their lack of service.  
But the best part of the story is more Looper Magic.  Al has very little vision in his left eye, so we planned to leave and do short days of travel with the first mate at the helm more often to give the captain time to rest and heal.  Then yesterday we got a call from old friends on Short Vacation who had some engine problems and came up to Jacksonville for professional help.  The magic happened when they called to see if we were still in Jacksonville and ready to leave.  Yes to both questions and today we had a very easy day of "follow the leader" with Short Vacation being the lead boat.  We moved about 50 miles, 25 on the St. John's River and 25 going south on the ICW, with very little effort or stress and are happily on anchor next to Pine Island.  Tomorrow we will have a fun Christmas experience in St. Augustine with lights, a boat parade and a beautiful city to explore with friends.  This is a great start to moving south despite Al having limited vision in his left eye.  But as a follow up to his surgery, his surgeon was very happy with the outcome of removing the oil bubble and some scar tissue and putting in a naturally dissipating gas bubble.   All is well so far and Al is on the last lap of the retina detachment surgery.  Now on to heading to a warmer environment, an eye recheck on 12/16 and then meeting up with Erik in the Bahamas for Christmas! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Home and Missing the Boat!!

Here we are back in Hendersonville and living in a house.  The good parts include convenient washer and dryer, easy access to long, hot showers, a car to go to the grocery store when needed and the best is seeing some friends and sharing really good pizza.  But the bad parts come from leaving a house empty for a bit over 10 months.  Driving down the driveway and seeing weeds, no mulch where it used to always be and bushes desperate for trimming started the uneasy feelings.  Then walking into the house and seeing dead spiders and other exotic Tennessean bug critters all around heightened the worry.  But opening the closet downstairs where jackets and shoes are stored, all covered in a thick layer of mold sealed the deal!  Let's turn around and go back to the boat!!
This is the kitchen floor as seen by Erik when he came home in October.  He thought that sending me a picture of dead bugs on the floor would be helpful and I suppose it was good to know ahead of time just what I would be seeing!  But I was still shocked to see just how many thousands of the tiny beetles had infested our kitchen!  So we flew in on Saturday and I have done nothing but clean since arriving!  Every cupboard and drawer has been emptied in the kitchen and almost all food not in a can was pitched!  But as of today, only a few dead beetles exist in the kitchen.  Problem #1 managed!

And we do have a beautiful view of peaceful water from all the back windows in the house so that helps!  Yesterday was spent vacuuming bugs up in all the other rooms of the house so problem #2 is mostly contained.  

Had to look out again to enjoy the late afternoon view to keep from packing my bag and heading back to the boat!!  This morning was spent gratefully with my cleaning lady, wiping mold off every surface in the "racing room" where all of Al's gifts, awards and racing paraphernalia are nicely displayed in the open just to collect the mold that descended upon the room because we had turned off the dehumifier (didn't want a leak), turned down the air conditioning (didn't want to waste money on electricity) and didn't think to place "Damp Rid" refills where someone could refill the canisters.  Lesson learned the hard way.  Things will be different when we leave the house in a few weeks!  

So now I am remembering the losses so many endured because of hurricane Matthew and trying to count blessings and not feel sorry for myself that there is still much to do around this house.  This shot was taken as we passed Amelia Island in the Fernandina area.  Boats on shore that were once floating peacefully in the water!  We saw many boats washed ashore all along our way south through Georgia and northern Florida. 

We stopped for two nights just before flying home at this free marina that sits in front of the Jacksonville Jaguars stadium.  It is a lovely setting for fans to enjoy if they arrive to a football game by boat.  When there are no games, the marina is free to anyone to use and there is even electricity for a nominal charge.  Why can't Nashville improve its waterfront dockage?  So on Friday 11/11, we moved InSpeyered 2 from this marina into Lambs Marina further up the St. John's river in Jacksonville to have teak work done while we fly home for Thanksgiving. 
 Thanksgiving at home will be nice once all the work to get the house in order is finished! We are especially looking forward to having a week with Erik and hopefully some relaxing time!
Hope you all have a Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving.  No more blogs until we get back to the boat.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Jekyll Isand: A Nice Place to Visit and Maybe Live on!

We are in sunny but windy Georgia!  We left Charleston and South Carolina behind us as we continued cruising the ICW on Tuesday 11/1.  Actually we stayed in South Carolina two more days anchoring in Tom Point Creek and Bull Creek along the way.  The first was quiet but the second stop, unknown to us, was in a creek that tour boats use.  Much to my chagrin, one of the boats had live country music and they breezed by twice to share their very loud tunes!  Should have realized that Bull Creek is just past Hilton Head which is still enjoying tourists looking for a warm beach.
This is just to give perspective of what the ICW looks like on a calm Monday!  I took this from a causeway connecting Mt. Pleasant, SC with Sullivan's Island which was part of our daily walk to Sullivan's beach while we stayed at Toler's Cove Marina.  The few boats on the left side are in the canal that leads up into the marina.  This waterway is one of the "roads" to Charleston.  

The colors along the way are so beautiful with golden marsh grass and dark green low trees and bushes.  We have continued to have a lot of blue sky days and
 calm waters.

Then on Thurdsay we crossed the state line into Georgia and entered the Savannah River intending to take a sharp turn to port (left) to enter a narrow cut between rivers.  But dead ahead was this big cargo ship and since there are no traffic lights, the big boats get the right of way.  

So we patiently waited for her to pass and close by she came.  This is probably as close to a cargo ship we have been. Once she passed, we made our turn and went a few miles past Savannah to a marina in Thunderbolt, GA.  We stopped there for an over night to have a meet up with our friends on California Lady and their friends (our new friends) Kenny and Bill on Daybreak.  Another reason to stop on land was our need and desire to walk daily and those two creek anchorages had no place to walk nor did  the next anchorage on Crescent River. 
Sometimes we pass by homes just sitting on their own in a small hammock of trees amidst acres of marsh grass and wonder how did the house even get built and how can folks dwell in such a place with no evidence of a road access.  I think it could get lonely in a place like that but also peaceful and a bit scary when storms come by!  Interesting. 
So here we sit along the side of the ICW across from Jekyll Island Harbor Marina where we can take the dingy to shore and borrow bikes from the marina after paying a modest tie up fee.  Because we are across from a marina, most boats adhere to a no wake rule so it has been fairly calm here except for the wind.  But the strong current points us into the wind so we have hardly felt the rocking. 

Another beautiful sunset on a Saturday night in Georgia. 
This is probably the last night to grill because the time changes and we loose the evening light. The master chef is hard at work while enjoying the sunset.

We have stayed 2 nights and will stay tonight (Monday 11/7) to enjoy the beauty of Jekyll Island and the great bike trails.  Yesterday we visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center which serves as an educational facility and a rescue hospital/rehab center for turtles found injured or ill.  This one is just barely raising its head out of the water to take a breath.  One of the "patients" was found with a deep laceration of a leg due to fishing line tightly wrapped around it and will likely suffer a complete amputation.  I was interested to read that the turtle receives physical therapy as part of its rehab.  Perhaps if we choose to live near a turtle rescue facility, I could find my calling as a volunteer for turtle therapy!  

We biked to all the beaches on the island but found Driftwood beach to be the most interesting. 

This was yesterday which was cooler and windy so I had to put on my fall clothing!

Wind whipped trees make for interesting pictures!  Jekyll Island is a beautiful place with cute shops, good eats and great beaches.  We biked past two condo places we could easily buy into.  Who knows where we will land after this boating adventure! 
So tomorrow we head south to an anchorage further into Georgia.  We wanted to return to that cool island with feral horses, Cumberland, but access is limited because of the damage from hurricane Matthew.  Our plan is to travel 3 more days to get to Jacksonville, FL and put InSpeyered 2 into a one month rental slip while we head home for Thanksgiving.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sunny South Carolina!

I shouldn't say this but it was almost worth sitting through a hurricane to have this glorious weather.  One day after another of blue skies, mild breeze and cooler nights.  We have been cruising along doing 30-40 mile days and enjoying quiet anchorages.
This was our quiet night at Bird Island which is on the very south side of North Carolina.
 Along the way, we have passed through areas that had the double whammy of hurricane force winds followed by horrific river flooding as the waters poured down from inland Carolina.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 On 10/27, we chose to get an earlier start to the day knowing we would pass through some shallow areas that we need extra water to pass so we had to time our day by the high tide.  We entered an area badly flooded and followed the No Wake zone for 10 miles of slow gliding so as not to push more water into people's yards.  We could see the water had risen several feet into the first level of the homes positioned lower toward the water, leaving them with stinky river water and mud to clean up.
I empathized with the owners of many of these homes, remembering our own cleaning out process after the Nashville 2010 flood.  We covered a bit under 40 miles in 6 hours because of the flood and also shallow areas that require slow going.  We stopped at a new anchorage for us, Cow House Creek.  Just the name deserved a look into the creek!  But we also chose it because it is right across from the country club where my niece was married 2 years ago.  We decided it would be fun to walk the grounds but of course it was all fenced off so we had to be happy with neighborhood walking in the afternoon and next morning.
This ship appears to be permanently on anchor just at the entrance to our creek anchorage.  Al liked the fact that is has a black, daytime anchorage ball which is rare to see.  We have one and get all kinds of questions as to what it is used for.  Guess that means it is not an effective communication tool to inform other boaters that we are on anchor.                                                                                                                                                                           
Right up in that sunny grassy spot is where Becky and Jackson were married and now they are expecting my first grand niece!  Yeah! 

Look at the glassy water in Cow House Creek; it couldn't be more lovely!
On we went, stopping in Minim Creek to enjoy another quiet night.  It was chilly so we went inside early.
And just popped our heads out to see the sunset and snap a photo only to be attacked by tiny gnats! 

And look at what the boat looked like in the morning! This shot is looking down from the flybridge to the mid-deck behind the dingy at a pile of dead and half dead gnats.

And this gives you an idea of what every surface looked like on the boat!  We are still finding a few here and there despite thorough cleaning.
And as always, we can find those anchorages with a nearby beach to walk and explore.  This is Bull Island on Saturday 10/29.   

We were here last May in Price Creek which is an inlet between Bull and Capers Islands.  Capers Island is the location of the "Bone Yard" which I blogged about already.  This time we just walked on Bull both in the afternoon at low tide and again on Sunday morning at high tide.  The beach on Bull goes on forever and has only a handful of visitors this time of year.

This is looking out at the inlet to the Atlantic.

This is looking out across our anchorage creek lined with marsh grass that looked like a prairie field. 
Leaving here was hard; I could live on our boat in this spot for a long time!  But we did leave and cruised 14 more miles to a marina in Mount Pleasant which is across the river from Charleston.  Time to stop for 2 nights, do laundry and hit up Publix to restock! Oh and clean the decks again to wash off more dead bugs! Hope you all had a Happy Halloween!