Thursday, March 31, 2016

Back "Home" Again at Stuart Yacht Builders

InSpeyered 2 has now been at Stuart Yacht Builders for almost 2 weeks, our third extended stay here since we bought the boat.  It seems Al is trying to make an older boat brand new!!  Since the last blog, we continued the 3 day trek from the Ft. Meyers area and crossed lake Okeechobee with easy waters and nothing special to report.  I didn't even take pictures since it was a repeat of what we did in mid-December.  Our days here are a mix of walks, chores, meeting up with workers and my almost daily visit to Publix since it is less than 1/2 mile away.
We were pleasantly surprised to find a brand new pathway near the boatyard to enjoy so our walk has some variety now.  You may notice that all the walking is allowing Al to slowly shed some pounds. Last week we rented a car to take some day trips.  We had a great time visiting our travel buddies on California Lady who were docked in Titusville and we were excited to see an unmanned rocket launch from Cape Canaveral at around 11pm on 3/22.  We stayed over night on their boat which is a first for us to sleep on someone else's looping boat!  

We could hear a distant rumble and then watched the big ball of flame rise up and disappear into the clouds and then it was over is just a few minutes.  But it was a once in a life time opportunity and great to be sharing it with fellow looping friends.  The next day we drove to Canaveral National Seashore and walked part of the 24 mile, undeveloped beach with a gorgeous Atlantic view.

Just footprints in the sand and lots of birds and shells! Then we had a wonderful slow drive along Black Point Wildlife Drive and saw alligators, many species of birds including a baby eagle and parent eagle, and more roseate spoonbills.  The pictures tell the story.

This alligator is sliding into the water keeping his eyes on me perhaps thinking of his next meal!  There is no picture of the eagles because we could only see them through a telescope.
Because the winter is over, generally looper boats are beginning the trek north so we also had the pleasure of meeting up with our travel buddies Sandrobber right here at Stuart while they had some repair work done.  We have also met some new friends presently doing the loop and ones that have completed a loop so are "Gold Loopers".   That makes for some nice docktail time to swap stories and advice!
We hate to see old friends sail away but we know we will meet up with Sandrobber again since we are all on the same path of travel!
Our naked boat waiting for new burgundy canvas and screening to enclose the flybridge to ward off the mosquitos and allow more viewing of the never ending sunsets!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Running in "Pea Soup"

So we have explained how weather plays into our travels especially wind.  But today we woke to dense fog that was completely unexpected!  We are in the process of retracing our steps from St. Petersburg to Ft. Myers then across the Okeechobee and back to Stuart where we will have canvas replaced at the boat yard.  So yesterday morning (Tuesday 3/15) we were back in a cove between Lido and Otter Keys near Sarasota.  We made the best of the foggy conditions and went to shore to walk a beach trail and hit up a restaurant for a yummy breakfast.  (Pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup for me!!). The fog slightly cleared so we ventured out slowly.  But the day only got more foggy.
About 3/10ths of a mile ahead is a channel marker that you can just barely see.  Normally we line up with those markers and the ones we have passed to stay in the narrow ICW channel.

We are less than a 1/3rd of a mile away from a bridge we went under 
that is now invisible.
To add to the issue of visibility, are crazy Floridians who know the water, so they zipped through the fog and suddenly appeared coming straight toward us or flew past us.  It is common along the Gulf ICW to have a narrow channel that is dredged with "skinny water" (depths of 3'or less) on either side so space is an issue when you need 5'+ under the boat.  

At this point we could only see less than 2/10ths of a mile ahead of us.  So Al drove with the auto pilot following our "mouse tacks" on our wonderful Garmin GPS while I watched ahead and behind with our new stabilizing binoculars that we got each other for Christmas!  Thank you technology!!  Since we have already recently run along this part of the GICW, we have little tracks of our pathway that we took a week ago, just like Hansel and Gretle left bread crumbs to find their way home!!

Then very late in the day, around 5pm, the wind picked up and began to blow the fog away and the sun burned through and Voila!
We entered our old friend Cayo Costa anchorage with a pristine blue sky and smooth water at just after 6:15, a bit weary but pleased that our updated electronics and our team work paid off to land us just where we wanted to be!! We have now been on this loop adventure for 6 months as of 3/15!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Adding IndyCar to the Great Loop-Another Kind of Adventure!

We went backward on our loop to get to St. Petersburg for the first race in the 2016 IndyCar series, parking our InSpeyered 2 among a line of major yachts with staff and catered food!!  We were the odd ball boat to not have a basket for shoes for people invited to come aboard.  We allowed our guests to keep their shoes.  (It is customary to remove shoes when boarding megayachts).
This is the view from the flybridge looking at the strip of grand stands along the front straight where the hot pits and the start/finish line are.  Between the grand stands and our pier was a strip of water and the back straight which is marked by cement blocks that are gray and white.  So if you can understand this description, it should come to mind just how close the cars raced by our boat causing a deafening  whine of engine sounds and a blanket of oily, black dust!  It was both exciting and annoying!!  But since we are race fans, so the excitement took precedence!
We had the privilege of being in the first slip so next to us was the beer garden and the red topped security area that wanded us just like in an airport before we crossed over to the actual track area.  And that security kept all fans except invited guests off our pier.  Pretty cool!  The bridge is our path to cross over the track when the cars were running.
 This picture was taken from atop those grand stands where we had passes to the special suite for the race promotor.  InSpeyered 2 sits proudly in slip 1 just to the left of the red canvas.
This may give you an idea of what our pier looked like with increasingly longer boats toward the end of the pier.
The Firehawk inflatable (bird with helmet dressed in red suit) was Al's idea to have a mascot at races just like at other sports events and has been a unique and awesome addition to the marketing of Firestone tires so I had to include this photo of inflatable Firehawk in front of the yacht pier where our special (smaller) InSpeyered 2 sits. The real mascot was not spotted by me at this race so no picture of the real guy but he will be front and center at the Indy Motor Speedway this May for the 100th running Indy 500!
This picture was taken of the Stadium Super Trucks because I like to watch them fly in the air after jumping over barriers.  IndyCar racing is the feature event but a race weekend like this includes many other series races and this was a fun one to watch.  Plus it gives you a perspective of our viewing.
This was taken race day with Al in his boat clothes and all sorts of relaxed, looking down at pit lane and the red Firestone timing stand just below, where he spent a good deal of his time while working races.  So nice to have him up in a suite and enjoying the day rather than working the long days at the races back when we were younger and working stiffs!!

 The winner of the IndyCar race passing the finish line under the checkered flag. Not my favorite driver but an exciting race finish.  Another race in the record books.  We then enjoyed a peaceful night with our guests, Ann and Rob before they departed on Monday 3/14.
On an aside: we had a wonderful surprise guest couple on the Thursday before the race visit us for the day.  Jean and Page Mader just happened to be taking a weeks vacation in Ft.Lauderdale and drove up to spend an afternoon and night with us.  Page was a Firestone race tire engineer and Jean was one of the best speech therapists I ever worked with so it was a special day.  More looper magic!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Traveling with Friends On Our Way to a Race!

I have been busy and distracted by people and places so am a bit slow with this blog.  We spent 3 nights in Ft. Myers Yacht Basin.  Al inspected our leak with the help of his smallish wife and after too much time and effort, we agreed to pay to have it repaired.  So Thursday 3/3 Al hung around watching guys work and I went to explore the Edison and Ford winter homes.  They of course were good friends with Harvey Firestone who is a special historical figure in our lives since Al made a living working for his company so it seemed proper for a visit to the estates.
I took lots of pictures but will only post these two.  The above is the office for Edison where he matched his brilliant brain with Ford and Firestone to work on finding vegetation that would produce latex for rubber efficiently.  After studying thousands of plants and trees they agreed on Goldenrod, a plant I consider a weed.  The tree in the picture below was imported from Southeast Asia and while it is an amazing tree, it grew too slowly to produce latex.  It was planted by Edison in the early 1930's.

On Friday 3/4 our Nashville friends Ann and Rob joined us to begin the journey north to attend an IndyCar race at St. Petersburg.  Al has worked that race for many years, longing to have his boat moored at the Yacht pier, brought in just for the race.  An invitation from the track promotors cinched our attendance and that is where we are as I write this blog.
We began the trip north in heavy Saturday boat traffic in the Ft. Myers/Cape Coral area.
Rob's agility and balance helped us decide if we could safely get under the many bridges in the GICW. I am too chicken to stand where he is to see over the top, so in the past we likely have requested some bridges open that we probably could have traversed under.  We think we are about 21' tall but measuring exactly is tricky and htting a bridge  is a definite mistake to avoid!  
Checking out the bow for Dolphins. 
We did have several dolphin shows and this guy was likely the winner of the high jump contest! We returned to our favorite beach area on Cayo Costa for one night and then enjoyed a more urban anchorage between Lido and Otter Keys near Sarasota.  We were surrounded by beautiful homes and it seemed invasive to take pictures so there are none for this post.  We also anchored a night off Snead Island on the Manatee River which runs into Tampa Bay and enjoyed a long walk on Emerson Point Preserve. This creepy boat was permanently anchored in the cove and made us think of ghosts!
So we took a lap around on Victory Lap to make sure none would get us in the night!!
Then we watched another beautiful sunset over Tampa Bay and ended the day with the plan to head to St. Petersburg, a short 3 hours away.  Next will be a summary of our race experience. Who would have thunk it that we would include an Indy race in our Loop, but that is the core thinking;
 do what you want,  when you want!! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Boating is Good for Appreciating Wild Life

Well by Friday, 2/26 we deduced that the wind was more tolerable, not calm but maybe doable, so we left our protected anchorage in Russell Pass and headed back out into the Gulf.  We had a 40 mile journey to get to a marina on Marco Island.  It started out choppy and moved into seriously wavey, so with the help of Dramamine I survived and we traveled to Marco with no problems.  The only bummer was that we passed 6 Loons floating in the Gulf but I could not move fast enough to get my iPad ready for a picture so the moment passed.  It was sooo cool to be within 30 ft of those beautiful water birds in their natural habitat!
Once we arrived at Rose Marina on Marco, it was on to the chores!  The marina was just OK and it was not worth a picture so the only pics we have are of birds we saw on the beach taken on Sunday and on our boat.

This is an Osprey having a leisurely fish lunch atop this pole.  After finishing chores on Saturday and finding wind predictions to be uncomfortable for cruising on Sunday, we spent the day walking to a public beach and poking around the beach.  After experiencing so many unique beaches so far on this journey, the extensive one on Marco was just average. Funny how 6 years ago when we spent our 30th anniversary at the Mariott on Marco, we thought the beach was fantastic.  Guess we are spoiled now!!  Not so bad to be spoiled! 
While I was up on the flybridge enjoying the view, this little buddy perched over my head on Sunday evening. A boat neighbor alerted me to the event so I could snap this picture.  He was so quiet, I never would have known he was there without the neighbor's comment. 
 We have continued to have lots of wind but Monday showed to be a much calmer day so the plan was set to head further North to Sanibel Island. We have lots of apps and websites for wind predictions. The Internet has made this trip so much more easy to plan. 
So here we sit in the J.N. "Ding" Darling Bay next to the Wildlife National Refuge in a beautiful cove looking at the juxtaposition of the mangroves of natural Sanibel Island against the high rise resorts of Ft. Myers beach.  We were very lucky today to be allowed to dock Victory Lap at Tarpon Bay Recreational Facility so we could rent bikes and slowly cruise along the roadway in the Wildlife Area.  It was a beautiful day and a wonderful bike adventure to see the pristine mangrove preserve.

So you have to click on these two photos and focus in on the middle pink spot.  It was the small spot of pink that caught my eye in the dense mangrove forest and it was not easy to get a clear shot of this Roseate Spoonbill using just a phone camera. But it was a rare find so here it is!
And here we finally have our first sighting of a real alligator!  It was so still; no danger?
Heading back to InSpeyered 2 leaving Sanibel in our wake. We have a fresh water leak in a water pipe to the sink in our stateroom head. (Bathroom in our bedroom)  So back to a marina tomorrow so we can make the repair on land.   Always something on a boat.  But we had a glorious day!  
Al is raising Victory Lap back onto the mid deck into her secure nest so we can be on our way into a Ft Myers marina tomorrow morning.