Florida Keys – Winter Retreat


We are now leaving the mainland of Florida and heading south to the Florida Keys. Very excited. This will be our southern most port. We will spend the rest of the winter in the keys.

The painting is of our first sighting of the keys as we crossed Florida Bay.

Jan 5 – Heading to the Keys – Lv Shark River going to Long Key

Up before day break and ready to pull up anchor at first light. We have a long day ahead of us crossing the Florida Bay. It was a beautiful passage. We found that as long as we stayed in the park boundaries there were no crab pots. WooHoo!!

We arrived at Long Key anchorage at 4pm. Anchored and jumped in the 78 degree water for a quick swim and Joy bath. It was refreshing after a long day of travel.

Jan 6 – URGENT heading to safe harbor, Faro Blanco Marina, Marathon, FL

Up at 5:00am preparing to move…A storm with 35 knot winds will be moving in on Saturday. Since we are unfamiliar with the area, we decide to find a marina in which to weather the storm. Luke called many marinas and only found space at Faro Blanco in Marathon. Another long day going 30 miles to Marathon. Crab Pots everywhere.

The high winds were supposed to pass by Monday but stayed for a week. We were unable to leave this marina for 10 days ($$$). Hey, they gave us free ice and use of the gym at the Marriott. Our boat was the little dog at the dock and the only one that needed at bit of TLC. It is a great facility and the dock crew were excellent.

Jan 7-13 – Faro Blanco Marina, Marathon, FL

We weathered the storm. I got whiny on a couple of days. I need rest, exercise and sunshine or my mood shifts. After the nights of anchor dragging and moving to safe harbors then sitting on the boat due to weather, I was a moody mess. Yes, even in paradise you can have cranky days.

Luke started making an effort to get me off the boat more. Oh, did I mention, I could not leave or get on the boat without Luke’s assistance. The boat was tied too far off of the dock and it was a rockin in the waves.

The wind was too stiff to comfortably take a walk or ride my bike so I went to the hotel lobby to read or to the gym. I also did the laundry and a couple of Publix runs. Laundry in paradise is still better than a day at an unrewarding job.

Anchors Away at the End of the World

Goodland Anchorage

We spent Christmas in Marco Island, Smoke House Bay. Trevor, our neighbor cruiser on White Pearl, joined us for a little Christmas Eve cheer. Later, we continued south to Goodland. The only businesses in Goodland are a marina and 5 restaurants. There is no place in this town to buy milk or bread, but if you want to drink beer and do the Buzzard Lope at Stan’s Idle Time bar, you are in like flint.

The painting of the green sailboat is from Goodland. This boat dragged on its anchor and ended up on the other side of our boat. We have no idea how it could have moved past us without bumping into Nice Lady. Must be the magnetic vortex.

Dec 26 – Dec 31, Goodland, FL

We stayed in this location for about a week. Great out of the way spot with services not too far away (3 miles in Marco Island). Local marina is not cruiser friendly, so there was no dinghy access to shore except at the city park.

goodland-sunset

GoodLand Sunset

Jan 1st, New Years Day – moved to Hog Key

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Hog Key

We stayed here one night. Anchor held well. It felt good to be on the move again.

Jan 2nd –  Lv Hog Key to Russell Pass close to Everglade City

We pulled up anchor and sailed across the bay to the beach at Panther Key. We took the dinghy ashore flipped it and scraped off the barnacles. Returned to the boat cooked breakfast. Then decided to move on to the next anchorage. The Gulf water was flat with a slight cool breeze and NO CRAB POTS! A perfect relaxing day on the water.

The islands are pretty and a few have sandy beaches. People kayak out to these islands and camp on the beach and fish. If you like remote deserted islands this is for you.

Our passage was pleasant and we anchored in Russell Pass about 5 miles outside of Everglade City, home of the Rod and Gun Club. No SeeUms sent us indoors early.

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White Pelicans

Jan 3rd – Everglade City

We dinghied into Everglade City for fuel and water. We navigated our way thru the 10,000 islands with an app on my phone. Many spots were too shallow to cross. We finally made it out into the channel and continued our trek. We found a fuel dock at an exclusive gated RV park. Each RV site had pavers and was landscaped. We filled our gas and water tanks and cruised back down river. We stopped at the Rod and Gun Club for an early lunch. The seawall does not accommodate small boats. There was another boat there. The captain of the boat, Jim, offered that we could tie off to his boat and crawl over to the seawall. Very nice gesture. He is a merchant marine and on his way to the Dry Tortugas to snorkel. His boat is made by the same folks that made ours except his boat is a very low slung trimaran.

The Rod and Gun Club is an old historic building. The food and service were excellent. President Truman had a private lunch here the day he dedicated the Everglades National Park. These photos are still on Luke’s phone… Argh!

Jan 4th –  Russell Pass to Shark River

Anchors Away… 4:30a a small storm blew through causing our anchor to start dragging. Our boat was heading down river at about 3 knots. YIKES! Luke woke me up this is an EMERGENCY! We are in the mangrove swamps and could run aground on oyster beds, run into the trees, or worse.

In the pitch black, Luke started the engine, pulled up the anchor and I was on the front deck in the rain with a spot light. I was trying to guide us out of the mangroves, but Luke kept turning into the swamp since the Garmin Chartplotter was indicating something different from what I was seeing. We must be in some magnetic vortex that is confusing our equipment. To communicate to Luke I had to go from the front of the boat to the rear to give instructions (in the dark and stormy rain and wind). He continued to turn towards the swamp. The current was fast and the boat was difficult to control. Luke could not see anything from the helm and was dependent on me for guidance, but was not listening well. 🙂

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Wrapped in Foulies for Storm

After about 30 minutes of this type of blind navigation and fighting rain, wind, current, and magnetic vortex, we made it out into a marked channel. The Gulf was probably another mile out from our current location. We continued down the channel towards the Gulf always aware that we could be heading into very rough seas and bad weather. We kept an eye on the weather radar monitoring an approaching storm.

Once out in the Gulf, the waves were not too high but there are approaching storms. With no moon or stars to light our way we are concerned about the ever pre

passing-storm

Approaching Storms passed around us

sent millions of Crab Pots which could damage our prop leaving us stranded! We continued motoring south while monitoring the incoming storms. The radar indicated that the worst part of the storms should pass north of us. Fortunately, this was the case. Phew!

6:30am we began seeing the light from the sun peaking over the horizon. Most anticipated and welcomed sunrise of my life! Oh No Mr Bill! Wait, Luke finds something that he must do that requires hanging off of the stern of the boat. Lordy! The plug in the dinghy needed to be pulled out. The dinghy was filing with rain water. This can cause problems with weight on the back end of the boat and problems if we have higher winds and following seas.

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Amazing Grace Sunrise!

At this point in my day, I have not had any coffee or gone potty. I need a break from all of this morning joy.  I rested for a bit and had some cold coffee. The rest of the passage was routine, arriving at our Shark River anchorage at 1:30pm.

Shark River is amazing. It is located just north of Cape Sable at the bottom of Florida in the Everglades National Park. It is at the end of the world, absolutely isolated and beautiful. In just a few hours I saw many birds, a few shark, a ray leap out of the water, dolphins and a manatee. Perfect end to an exciting day.

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Shark River Sunset

That evening I was unable to get to sleep, Luke is peaceful snoring away. I was concerned about the anchor holding through the night due to the swift current. I attempted to sleep in the salon with one eye on the chartplotter which shows the distance from where we dropped the anchor.

The ChartPlotter is a GPS used similar to the one in your car. When we put down an anchor we mark that spot in the chart. Luke keeps track of how much chain (anchor rode) he lets out (scope). You should put out 7 feet of rode out for each foot of depth. As the evening goes by you can watch the ChartPlotter track the path of the boat the moves with the wind/current/tide. This should correspond to the amount of scope you have. If this changes the anchor could be dragging. The boat made several complete circles around the anchor which I had not seen before. WELL… about 1am the Chartplotter showed that we were moving. I woke up Luke. We monitored the system and our location. The boat stopped moving so it appeared the anchor was holding again. Where are my tranquilizers? Not much sleep…

To be continued.

Call Me The Cat Lady


Catfish that is… All my attempts at fishing produce multitudes of catfish.
Our journey continues south with a few delays, but we are still moving.

Nov 24 – Thanksgiving

We have moved out of Gulfport to Snead Island. Had Monte Cristo sandwiches for our turkey day dinner. They were marvelous.

We stayed in this anchorage for a couple of days. We were waiting for mail to arrive general delivery.

Snead Island is a wonderful park that was someone’s homestead. Hundreds of acres of trails and wildlife. I saw a rosette spoonbill. The last time I saw one of those in the wild was probably on a camping trip with my family.

Snead Island Sunset

Snead Island Sunset

Nov 26 – DeSoto National Memorial.

We moved across the bay to DeSoto National Memorial. This is another nice park with a visitor center and hiking trails. Ozzy and I took full advantage of this park.

Nov 30 – DeSoto National Memorial, Bradenton

My mail has arrived, so I took a LYFT to the post office and Winn Dixie.

Dec 1 – Thursday, motored to Sarasota

Sarasota

Sarasota

Oh my, FOG. This was my first experience in dense fog. Thank God for Radar! We took it slow and followed our GPS charts and watched the Radar for other boats. One boat must not have

Fog

Fog

had any GPS, because when he saw us he turned and tailgated us until the fog lifted.

Fog rolled back in and we were due to go under a bridge. Whoa! We knew it was there somewhere, but it just appeared large a looming before it was expected.

We made it to Sarasota safely and took a mooring ball at Marina Jack.sarasota-map

Dec 2 – Friday – Sarasota

My cousins, Marguerite and Tom Hankins took Luke and I took lunch. Great time catching up on family happenings. Then they gave us a ride to the grocery store. We filled their car with food and wondered how it was all going to fit into the dinghy. Magically, it all fit, the next challenge is to get it all in the boat.

Many thanks to Marguerite and Tom for a pleasant visit.

Cousins

Cousins

Now, it is time for laundry. Due to a line, it took way too long to finish. As I was finishing, it was almost sundown and I still had to get back to the boat to get Ozzy to shore for potty time.

Met a nice guy named Russ in the laundromat. He has been in the mooring field since May and shared much useful information about Sarasota and other areas that we might visit.

Goceries in Dinghy

Groceries in Dinghy

Dec 3 – Sarasota

Luke and I went to the farmer’s market and splurged on brunch at a cute downtown café the strolled through the market. It was a nice relaxing morning. Later in the day we had the boat bottom cleaned and I had a marvelous long and hot SHOWER! I washed my hair multiple times. Great showers at this marina.

Recently, a hair dresser told me that you can buy products that make your hair look like you have been in the salt water. REALLY!!?? Ain’t nothing glam about itchy gummy salt water hair.

We went to the Sarasota Christmas Parade. We only had to walk a block from the marina. It was a real treat. Tons of tiny dancers, Shriners, marching bands and veterans. Then it was back to the boat for blueberry pie and whipped cream! Another pleasant day.

Dec 4 – Sunday – Lv Sarasota motored to Englewood/Manasota Key

28 miles on the ICW, took longer than expected due to outgoing tide. We were averaging about 3.5 knots. We could have walked faster.  We made it to our anchorage in time to get Ozzy to shore. We begged someone for dock access and climbed up on the dock, stepped over a fence and made it to a road where we could walk Ozzy. Along the way, a fisherman had some smoked fish for sale. We snatched that up and that is what we had for dinner. Yum.

Dec 5 – Monday – Manasota Key and Stump Pass State Park.

At sunrise, we moved Nice Lady about a mile further up the pass and anchored. Luke was concerned about the wind. I got Ozzy in the dinghy and we went to Stump Pass State Park for potty time. When we returned a woman on shore called to me. I headed towards her, I was concerned that she was going to reprimand me for going to fast or something… I was wrong. She was very sweet and offered that I could walk Ozzy in their back yard and bring any trash we had and put in their cans.

Later that day, she and her husband took us for a sunset cruise and made dinner for us. I cannot say enough about how we appreciated their generosity.

When moving the boat, we had more engine problems. This begins a whole long saga.

Dec 6-Dec 19 – Engine problems, towing and Olsen Marine.

Trying times for all. Engine decided to not work while we were going down the ICW. Fortunately, we had been motorsailing and the wind was in the right direction.  We continued to sail and called for a tow to a boat yard for repairs. When it was clear that the repairs would take a few days Ozzy and I went to Orlando to spend time with my family.

I returned a week later, boat work was still not completed so Ozzy stayed in Orlando. We were finally able to get back on the water the next Monday.

 

Dec 20 – Leave Ft Myers Beach arrive Marco Island

Smokehouse Bay is tucked in the middle of the island. It is surrounded by condos, but it is quiet and breezy. We enjoyed our stay here and met a fellow named Trevor on S/V White Pearl. He was having engine problems, so Luke assisted.

Dec 25 – Marco Island

We took Nice Lady out in the Gulf for a Christmas Day cruise. The weather was perfect. Later we had our Christmas dinner and a well deserved nap.

Dec 26 – Leave Marco arrive in Goodland

Goodland is a cute little fishing village in the 10,000 islands. There are two marinas and 5 bars and that is it. No groceries not even bread or milk. There is constant dolphin activity in the bay and low boat traffic. I attempted fising (again). Just call me the Cat Lady. All I every catch is catfish.

It is very pleasant here, in fact, a couple we know is staying here in the marina for the season and they got local employment. We considered staying for a month, but we get too antsy and want to move. We are staying here until after Friday – predicted high winds and cold temperatures.

As the Wind Blows and Blows


We are still moving south trying to stay ahead of the cold weather. Stalled in a marina for some more repairs, but plan to be further south for Thanksgiving. My suggested Thanksgiving menu is Monte Cristo Sandwiches and a salad – still to be determined.

Nov 15 – Tuesday – Destin, FL – on anchordestin-anchorage

The anchorage is nice, not too much fast traffic and waves. It is close to the city marina and services. Dunedin is a very clean, interesting town. Artsy Fartsy and the bike path runs through it, along with the Jolley Trolley.

We had our first experience with Uber. We hired Uber to take us to Luke’s aunt’s house in Top of the World. We had a really nice visit with Aunt Grace. Talked about old times and family vacations. Luke’s family drove from Ontario to Clearwater during Christmas Holidays. The family car was a Ford LTD station wagon. This is the equivalent of a current day mini-van and required for the family of 9.

We found Poochies, a dog supply and grooming salon. It is two blocks from the water. Ozzy’s tail and ears were getting knotty so off to the groomer. They did a great job and even offered to keep him while we ran errands around town. Nice folks. We took this opportunity to go out to eat at Sea Sea Riders.

Uber, grooming and restaurant – not on the original budget. Oh well…life is short!

Nov 16, Wednesday, Boca Ciega Bay and Gulfport – on anchor

We traveled down the ICW about 20 miles to Boca Ciega Bay. We chose this anchorage due to the north wind protection. Forecasts of 25 knot winds and a cold front coming our way. We anchored close to the dinghy dock at the City of Gulfport so Ozzy’s trips to shore would be short rides.

Nov 17, Thursday – on the hook

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Luke  getting ready to  make coffee

Gulfport is a cute small town, with shades of Micanopy. Somehow this little town has not been torn down and replaced with high rises and McMansions. Pleasant and friendly atmosphere with the two main streets catering to tourists and snow birds. We found a salon and Luke and I had our grooming. Now, the whole family is clean and neat.

Nov 18, Friday – Gulfport Municipal Marina

Well… the head has decided to not work so well. This is not something that you want to mess with at anchor just in case it cannot be repaired without replacement parts. Got to have a working potty. Heading to a marina.

We are in the Gulfport Municipal Marina. Luke worked on the head and I rode the bike to Save-A-Lot, Advanced Auto for parts, Family Dollar for T-Shirts and one load of laundry. The best part was that the rides back were all downhill.

Luke got the potty working splendidly!!!

Nov 19, Sat -Gulfport Municipal Marina

We went to the Gulfport 3rd Saturday event. Street musicians filled the air with interesting tunes and there were many vendors selling their wares on the street and most of the shops and restaurants were open. I love poking my toes into the waters of new places to see how it feels. This could almost be home.

Nov 20, Sun -Gulfport Municipal Marina

Laundry – Luke and I took a Lyft and hauled all of the laundry to the laundromat. Later I rode the bike downtown and cruised around.

Nov 21, Monday – Gulfport Municipal Marina

Ray Rodriguez, boat mechanic, worked with Luke on our generator. It had stopped pumping water, the impeller needed to be replaced. Then they worked on the heater and plan on labeling and streamlining some of our water system hoses. Looks like we will be in the marina one more day. Hmmm maybe more. Seems like a “special” nut on the generator has fallen into an inaccessible cavity.

As the Wind Blows…

Brenda


The twerking cult let the dogs out. Just kidding. It has been an interesting few days.

Nov 10 – Shell Island- over night anchorage

Nov 11 – Anclote North Sand Bar – outside of Tarpon Springs

We pulled up anchor at Shell Island about 6am heading for Anclote. Our Gulf passage was smooth and uneventful except for the crab pots. Argh! We had to be constantly vigilant with watch to navigate around the dang things, constantly changing course.

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Passage to Anclote

Arrived at Anclote about 4pm. This is a sand bar on which people camp and fish. There were quite a few campers here for Veteran’s Day weekend. The water was clear enough for us to see the grassy bottom about 12 feet deep. Took Ozzy to shore for potty/run time. There were hundreds of birds on the shore. People would chase them and take photos. I am sure years ago after a few beers, I would have done the same thing. Now, I feel sorry for the birds. Funny how our perception of things change.

Nov 12 – Saturday

The sunrise was the most amazing that I can remember seeing . It filled the sky and water with color. We decided to move from this spot due to incoming high winds. It would be very rocky in this anchorage. Luke needs to do a repair to the hydraulic lift on the out drive. We are headed to a marina.

Tarpon Springs City Marina is full, so we are looking a moving further south maybe to Clearwater. Then the marina called back, they had a cancellation. We are heading into downtown Tarpon Springs.

Arrived at the marina about noontime. The town is ramping up for their seafood festival so the marina is fill and the boat slips are very tight. The boats are about 10-12 inches apart, just enough for a bumper between. This was our first experience of 4 point docking.

Soon after docking, the folks in the next boat woke up and came on deck with music cranked up playing “Who Let The Dogs Out”. I normally keep a bark collar on Ozzy because he is loud. However, considering the song and the decibel level. I took off his collar and let him sing along with the music. It was pretty funny.

The festival was an interesting diversion, but I never found the seafood???  We did run across the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile and joined in with a few others singing the Oh I Wish song… The festival vendors were all resellers, no original art (bummer). We got a couple of items and yummy desserts from the local bakery. Also, at the suggestion Mike, the dock master, we went to the takeout Greek restaurant. I had the best gyro ever!

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Sponge Docks

As we returned to our boat our neighbors in the marina were in full party mode. LOUD music and large older women twerking each other in front of their husbands (?). Very interesting. There was a time when we would have been the loud drunks on the block, but we changed our ways. I reminded Luke so he would not say anything to dampen our neighbor’s fun. It gets better… the next door outside bar started their live music. So, we had our neighbors music and the bar music competing with each other. This was our lullaby and goodnight till midnight.

 

Nov 13 – Sunday

I assisted Luke with the out drive repair. We were able to fix it without new parts. One of the lines had become pinched. Problem solved, so we can leave the marina tomorrow.

To prepare to leave we need to decide where we are going and do we need anything. I need to get some mail from my sister so we looked for a post office near to the water in Madeira Beach. Ooops! Sister is on a week long cruise and cannot mail my stuff. Hmmm, another plan B. Good thing we are flexible.

Plan B – go to Dunedin.

Sunday afternoon, I took the Jolley Trolley for a ride. It went from Tarpon Springs to Dunedin and through downtown Clearwater. The oddest thing I experienced was Fort Harrison, the headquarters for the Scientologist (cult). The members were walking in lines between buildings all dressed exactly alike like little robots. The Jolley Trolley is an open air bus and they would not even look at us. I had read the book “Beyond Belief” by Jeanna Miscavige Hill describing her life and escape from this group. Wow! Those poor souls.

The Tarpon Springs dockmaster, Mike, took us to Winn Dixie on his Kubota. Fun! Thanks Mike.

Provisioning

Winn Dixie front door service from Mike, dockmaster at Tarpons Springs City Marina

Shout out to Brian and Gerri on Raven! Great to meet you. Looks like you had a fun sail!

Nov 14 – Monday

I had a meltdown this morning… still trying to adjust to our new living quarters. All is good, it is just difficult sometimes.

Nice Lady got a well-deserved bath and so did we! High tide is at 12:30 so we left about that time so we had an outgoing tide on the river. Getting out of the slip was tricky with the wind and the current. The slip was maybe 15 feet wide and our boat is 14 feet. Every boat I watched leaving that marina had troubles getting out. Just part of the daily life.

We traveled down the ICW to Dunedin. In the channel we did not have to worry about the crab pots. Luke has contacted Aunt Grace to see if we can meet for lunch.

We anchored out from the Dunedin City Marina. We are within walking distance of the shopping district and a bike path. Looking forward to exploring Dunedin and seeing Luke’s family. Thankfully, I have not seen anymore twerking.

 

 

No Wake, No More And More

Sunset at Shell Island

Our adventure continues…our stay in King’s Bay at Crystal River was very peaceful. It is a no wake zone so no fast boats or jet skis! Just calm waters and beautiful scenery with a few manatees.

Nov 8, Tuesday

After yesterday’s chores, I decided that today would be a day off to relax. I read and napped. Ozzy and I went exploring in the canals to see the springs and took a long walk. We saw a few manatees in the bay. Over all it was an enjoyable day.

Nov 9, Wednesday

Started the day with a cool morning and another beautiful sunrise over the bay. Listened to the water ripples hit the side of Nice Lady saying, it is time to get up and out! Coffee made and appreciated. It is going to be another wonderful day.

Yesterday’s walk with Ozzy lead me to a different laundromat on Citrus Avenue in an area with nice little shops and eateries. This one is in walking distance, maybe a ½ mile. I loaded up the sheets and towels in my very large back pack. Luke, Ozzy and I piled into the dinghy and headed into the public dock. Ozzy and Luke took a walk as I ambled down the road to do the laundry.

I was the only person in the laundromat and was able to pick the brain of the owner about local history and happenings. Very pleasant man and willing to assist his customers. His place of business was flooded during Hermine and he is still trying to recover. I wish him the best and so many customers that he cannot count.

Kim and Bonnie Heath came to Crystal River today. We met them at Crackers Restaurant, which has a decent dinghy dock. They skies were overcast and there was an occasional drizzle of rain, otherwise known as heavy humidity. With the exception of my foreign born husband, we are all native Floridians, probably by several generations. I mention that simply because heavy humidity is not something we concern ourselves over.

Kim’s family lived across the street from mine from the time we were born until we were in Jr High School. Kim and her sister Stacey were dancers. My sisters and I also danced. We all attended dance lessons at Gloria Norman’s School of Dance.  We danced in many recitals with glitter sparkling on our tap shoes and colorful tutus and dreams of one day being allowed to dance in toe shoes. Oh, toe shoes with the beautiful pink ribbons tied up your ankles.

Kim has always loved horses. We used to pretend we were horses and jump over obstacles we placed in the back yard. Running around for hours neighing and jumping. Fun stuff and no internet or video games required. We played outside until we were forced to come in. When it was hot, Kim’s mother would give us Kool Aid in little paper cups. At my house we drank out of the hose, but the water was good and cool.

Today, Kim continues her love of horses at their farm, Bonnie Heath Farm, which is centered around the Thoroughbred industry. www.bonnieheathfarm.com. Take a look and see where a childhood passion can lead you.

After a long lunch catching up with each other, Kim and Bonnie took us to Winn Dixie and graciously waited while we did some shopping for provisions. This saved me a trip on my bike.

Back at the boat with the groceries all stowed, now it is time to take Ozzy for his walk. We loaded up in the dinghy and went back to the public dock. We seem to be on the same schedule as a handicapped man in a wheelchair with his overly aggressive dog. That dog will escape from him one day. Yikes! We avoided them again and took a walk down to the historic shopping area just to get a little extra exercise for the boy. Since it was cloudy, nightfall was creeping up on us sooner than usual. Ooops! We do not have a light on the dinghy and need to get back to the boat. Just like cars with headlights, all boats must have running lights.

We made it back safely. Time to rest.

Nov 10, Thursday, noon

No Wake, No More – End of No Wake Zone. Oh my peaceful journey is being rocked, literally. Boats speeding by in a narrow channel going somewhere very fast.

We fueled up, topped off the water tanks and battened down the hatches for our short trip to Shell Island. Shell Island sits at the mouth of the Crystal River at the Gulf. We are moving back to Shell Island so we can leave at the crack of dawn Friday for Tarpon Springs.  We finally were able to plan our trip around the tides. The currents in the river are very fast so leaving on an outgoing tide helps to push the boat along.

Tomorrow the Gulf passage to Tarpon Springs is about 40 miles. We should be able to make it before dark. The winds should be out of the NE and NW with 0-2 ft seas. I hope the forecast is correct this time.

 

 

 

 


 

October 28, Friday

Nice day. We had our morning coffee and showers. Cleaned the boat, filled the water tanks, walked the dog. At noon, we moved the boat from the Apalachicola Marina to the anchorage across the channel. I started a painting which reinforced to me the need to do color studies. It takes me way too long to create the color I want. This would be like practicing scales on a musical instrument. Not fun but necessary.

October 29, Saturday

Today we are preparing the boat for our Gulf passage tomorrow. The passage will be approximate 21-30 hours. Think of it as driving a car, someone will always be driving. Once an hour we will need to plot our position on a chart. One of us will be sleeping and one manning the helm.

We woke up this morning to find no gas for the stove and refrig which means NO COFFEE! Soon resolved switched gas tanks, however, that means we have to find a refill today. No biggy if you have a car, but we will need to take the gas tank in the dinghy to shore carry it 4 blocks and back.

October 30, Sunday

Woke up early to hit the high seas at day break. Winds should be out of the NE with 0-2 foot seas. We broke anchor and motored through the bay for a few miles, then through the Government Cut to the Gulf. Hmmm, forecasters were wrong again. East Winds with the largest waves I have ever been in in a boat. Ok, now I have a knot in my stomach from fear of the unknown – are we safe… and is it going to be like this for the whole trip? I consulted with the Captain about our safety. No problem with safety, but it will be a rough ride to our destination.

A mile or two out, one of the lines holding the dinghy davits in place breaks free. Luke decides he is going to fix it NOW! YIKES! He puts on his PFD and straps himself to the boat and proceeds to lean off the back end over the motor in the highest waves I have ever experienced. I put the boat on autopilot and grabbed hold of his PFD (personal floatation device) and held on to him. He fixed it and returned to safety.

We motor sailed the whole way, meaning we used the sails and motor to increase our speed. Most of the time we were at about 4.5 knots. At one point, the wind did shift in our favor (midnight-3am) and we were able to run at 7knots.

At the furthest point offshore, we were about 60 miles off shore. No land insight. Occasionally, you will see a boat of fisherman. The seas were so rough that I would never have been out in one of those small fishing boats, yet there they were.  We also saw many different jelly fish and a few sea turtles. One turtle was humongous with seaweed growing on its back. His head was larger than a cabbage. Huge! Pink Meanie jelly fish look like very large pink beach balls. I expect from their name they should be avoided. We also so the V tower which is there for the Dept of Defense, interesting.

We setup a blowup mattress in the salon so whoever was not on watch (driving) could sleep close by just in case of emergency. It worked well because it cushioned some of the bouncing from the waves. I never slept more than an hour when off watch. So I had about 3 hours sleep in 36 hours. Luke was able to sleep from 3am to about 6a.

OH MY STARS! THE STARS!  Until you have seen the stars on a moonless night many miles from other lights you have not really seen them. Amazing! My father taught me about constellations and the north star, but I could not remember much of that, but it was a nice to remember my dad while cruising through the Gulf. My dad loved the water and had wanted a sailboat. Here’s to ya dad! He gave me my love of the water, boating and instilled the need for caution and safety. Luke and I both wore our life jackets and had our ditch bag ready with water and food to go to our lifeboat if necessary.

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October 31, Monday

Still in the middle of the Gulf – 4am Ozzy decided that he needed to GO! He was determined to go to the fore deck to pee. No way, that is not happening. He pulled on his leash and moaned and moaned. I kept putting him on his pee pad in the cockpit and finally, he let loose. Ozzy’s emergency (he had been holding it for 20 hours) was happening when I saw red flashing lights and the wind was changing direction. I was getting stressed because, red flashing is a marker for a channel, but we are miles from nowhere. Then the light seemed to move around as if it was floating in a circle. Yikes! Am I seeing things? It has been a long night staring into the distance where you cannot even tell where the horizon is located.

The boat is on autopilot, so I go below to consult the charts. The only marker it could be it Cedar Key or the outer channel marker for Crystal River. Whoa! This is above my pay grade, so I roused the captain to take a look. We figured out that the floating lights were actually 3 different markers that were lined up in a way that when they flashed it appeared that one marker was moving. Phew, thought I was crazy.  We are still on course.

Now back to the wind, argh, yes it changed which meant we went down from 7 knots to 4 knots cruising speed. The sails had to be adjusted. Luke took down the jib and then went back to sleep.

Daylight arrives and the seas start to calm down. Luke wakes up and he decides to mess with the fuel tanks. Good Lord, we are in the Gulf, can we not wait to fix stuff when we stop? We were concerned that we might run out of fuel. When running on the starboard fuel tank that engine dies. Lovely. That was resolved.

We are now heading to the outer markers at Crystal River, but we need to change course to avoid a reef. The fog is rising and a morning shower is building. I see large images on the radar in the middle of our course. Luke thinks it might be rain. I put a special marker on the images so we could track their movement. They stayed. We were now watching the distance for what this could be when out of the fog at about a ¼ mile appears a huge barge. Thank you radar! There were two of them anchored just off the channel.

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Barges appearing out of the fog. Fortunately, we have radar. 

Crab traps everywhere and we were asked to leave the channel to allow room for the barges. We are now navigating around crab traps and going directly into the sunrise. Fortunately, the crabbers have placed the traps in long lines so we were able to get between them and continue on course.

3pm We made it to Shell Island at the mouth of the Crystal River. We anchored and relaxed. Ozzy was happy that we were close to shore. Got him in the dinghy and went exploring on the island. Later a quick dinner and a well deserved good night sleep.

Nov 1, Tuesday

Rested at Shell Island. Painted and read. The scenery here is absolutely gorgeous.

The painting is a color study of a small island across the river from Shell Island. the photo is of Shell Island.

Nov 2, Wednesday

Moved to a couple of miles up river to Twin River Marina so JD, the mechanic, can check our fuel tank issue. The marina had limited services, but they did have ice cream and friendly staff.

Nov 3, Thursday

Moved to Kings Bay in the town of Crystal River. Very pleasant here. Anchored in a no wake zone for the manatees. We have seen one manatee off the bow of our boat.

Nov 4, Friday

Got up early and prepared to go to shore. Laundry and grocery shopping are on the list. We all loaded up in the dinghy with my folding bike and laundry. Luke walked Ozzy and I biked to the laundry mat with a load strapped to my back. It worked well. When the laundry was done. Luke met me at the dock to pick up the load. I then turned around and went to the grocery store, about 2 miles. I found that the top basket of the small two basket buggies is all I carry back to the boat.  I also found that I will be carrying my bear spray. A woman walking her dog lost control of him when he decided to chase me. Why do people have animals that they cannot control.

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My Citizen folding bike and a load of groceries. 

 

 

Our friends for Micanopy, Bill and Eileen, came to see us. We had a nice dinner and the next morning they graciously took us to Walmart, Walgreens and Winn Dixie. They also helped us find somewhere to dispose of our trash.

Nov 5-6, Saturday and Sunday

Very busy in the bay over the weekend. Tourist renting pontoon boats to motor around and look for manatees. Also, lots of kayakers and paddle boarders enjoying the bay. Later Saturday, the Stone Crab Jam ramped up. The music from the festival wafted over the bay until about 10pm. Ozzy and I explored a couple of the springs and had fun just putting around in the dinghy.

Nov 7, Monday

Laundry day – I biked to the laundromat forgetting that Monday is wash day. Very busy today. Luke and I decided that we may have brought too many clothes. Too much to wash. I will have at least one more load to do before we leave Thursday. Later in the afternoon, I biked to Winn Dixie to start provisioning for our next passage to Tarpon Springs.

More next week.

Your Friend Brenda

Front Row Seat


Living on a sailboat has given us a front row seat to the day. Each day we see the sunrise and sunset. We did not have that opportunity living in a house.

Facebook has also given all of us a front row seat to witness parts of each others lives… sometimes the things that others say or experience stick in our minds. Sherry Nicols, whom I have never met but is the wife of a FB friend called a sunrise a cotton candy sky. I now think of her and that term when I see the pastel pink and blue morning sky. Thanks Sherry.

Kindness and cooperation also come forward when living in the public view. As you move to/from anchorages or marinas, you receive assistance from others for your dock lines, locations of supplies and services, etc. Living in a house you can close your door and not need to reach out to others.

So far, our liveaboard experience has been better than expected. So, now if we could just get the boat organized… I may need to give up on this. When living aboard you are carrying everything you may need such as extra boat parts, tools, water, fuel, dinghy, bike, food, computers, dirty laundry, trash, books, blankets, coats, etc, etc. Unlike a house where everything has a place and can be put away, things are stowed on a boat. When you want something it must be retrieved thru layers of other things. Getting everything back to its position in the boat takes time and being a contortionist helps. I am developing great core muscles and balance just by cooking dinner.

Have a great day!

Brenda

 


Our time is now based on the weather and the sun. Activities based on temperature and battery power or fuel requirements.

Saturday morning we were awakened by the arrival of about 15 bass boats all idling along side us. It was dark and about 5:30a. They were waiting for the start of a tournament. Soon the official called each of their names and they shot off like rockets into the dark.

Saturday afternoon, the community of White City had community picnic at the park. We were invited to have lunch. Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and the best peach cobbler I have ever eaten. Very nice people. It was great to see many children running around catching minnows, fishing and throwing rock in the water. Not one cell phone in sight, even with the adults. Family time supreme.

One little boy walked out on the dock and poked his head in the port hole. I scared him when I said, “Hi!”. He jumped back. A few minutes later he came back and wanted to know how I got in there.

We retired early due to cold weather. It was a chilly night but we made it through with a few extra blankets.

Sunday was very quiet. A few people fishing from the dock. We walked to the local country store and got some worms, buck urine, banana cake and ICE CREAM. We had ice cream cones for brunch! We had run out of desserts.

The worms are for our next stop at Saul’s Creek. We will be here until Thursday. I hope to catch a bass or some other edible fish. This site is very isolated with no docks and probably no beaches. The buck urine is an experiment – hoping to encourage our dog’s potty time and placement.

Oh No! The Worms are Escaping…Somehow the worms are escaping from a closed container. Really odd. We found one, but due to the trail of dirt we know that another did get out. Escape artists.

Monday afternoon. Arrived at Saul’s Creek. Wow! Beautiful spot. Anchored in the middle of the creek, surrounded by cypress swamp and palm trees. Did a little fishing, did not catch dinner so we had grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches.

Saul’s Creek is very remote, there have been two fishermen pass us all day. The night sky is amazing and the quietness unreal. If you want to be alone, REALLY alone, go to Saul’s Creek. Hunters and fishermen bring in small house boats and leave them tied up to the shoreline. You could live off of the grid with a couple of solar panels, water maker and small boat. The ultimate tiny house.  It is about 5 miles to Apalachicola by water.

Ozzy’s potty training was successful! Now we can do our 2 day Gulf crossing without worrying about him.  I am not sure the STINKY Buck Urine helped, it was probably just necessity that started things flowing.

Thursday we cruised to Apalachicola. After refueling and checking water levels our next job was to get to the grocery store to provision for our passage to Crystal River. We walked to the store with our back packs. Bought too much. Luke just had to have a gallon of milk, but we do need it for pudding. We stepped outside of the Piggly Wiggly and proceeded to move our groceries to our back packs and sacks. As we were doing this a couple from Wisconsin stopped and asked if we needed a ride.  Oh Happy Day! And Hallelujah! YES!!! We piled into their car. The lady sat on the tailgate since we had a 10 block trip and only room for two passengers. They were so nice and helpful. Unfortunately, Luke and I both forgot their names. It had been a long day already. (Nice couple – if you read this, please send me your names.)

Later, we picked up our general delivery mail (boat parts) and had a dozen oysters, Yum! Ozzy and I got a good long walk in to stretch out our legs from Saul’s Creek. Then showers and reading. The weather is perfect and folks around here are friendly.

We are still trying to get the boat organized and we are leaving items behind that we have decided will be of no use. No matter what you want to do or use, it is guaran-dam-teed to be buried at least 3 levels deep. This works well if you are dieting, since it takes a lot of work just to dig out the cookies or chips, by then you have forgotten what you were looking for in the first place. Luke and I are both loosing weight

My hair is an issue. Today I tried pig tails with 1/2 french braids along the sides. This worked very well. Stayed in place and out of my face and still looked decent at the end of the day. So, will I have the patience to do this every day.

The painting is from Saul’s Creek. It is one of the hunting/fishing house boats along the creek.

Next stop will be Crystal River. We hope to be there by Tuesday.

More next week.

Brenda

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Saul’s Creek Anchorage

My Coffee Pot Has A Seat Belt!


Yes, when making coffee on a sailboat when the winds are blowing and you are rocking, cooking requires seat belts for the pots and pans.

It has been an exciting few days. We left our dock, Saturday, October 15. Headed out into the Choctawhatchee Bay and spent the night.

Sunday, we motored down the Intercoastal Waterway to Panama City. We anchored at Redfish Point. Being very close to shore it was a short dinghy ride to take Ozzy for his potty breaks. During low tide we were able to take long walks on the beach. We enjoyed this site for two days as we waited for the winds to cooperate to move to St Joseph Bay. I had my first salt water bath here. Oh the Joy! (you use Joy dish soap – it bubbles in salt water).

Tuesday morning the winds were still not in our favor, so Luke decided we would motor. So, we motored for 8 hours directly into the wind and waves. This was like sitting on a balance ball for 8 hours while someone randomly moved the floor underneath. Quite a workout. We were tired when we arrived at our destination.

Tuesday night – SHOWERS!!! The Port St Joe Marina is an excellent facility. We decided to stay here until our water pump issue was resolved. Of course, the first night we had restaurant food ($$). We were on track to blow our budget wide open in the first week of travel. Yikes!

Wednesday – Luke quickly resolved the water pump issue so we decided to move out into the bay the next day. That night I went to Kim Heath’s beach house for an evening with the girls and fresh caught/cooked red fish. Yum!  Luke stayed at the boat with Ozzy and rearranged our schedule, which he does everyday. We really do not know where we are going or when.

Thursday morning – prep for leaving the marina – laundry, fuel, dog bath, groceries, SHOWERS! We left at noon for the bay. Friday and Saturday are supposed to have high winds from the north, so we anchored for protection from the winds/waves. However, the wind turned to the WSW and battered us all night with waves.

Friday morning we decided to leave this location and cruise up the ICW. We could not make it to shore in the dinghy due to the wind and waves, so poor Ozzy had to wait to do his business. We got to the mouth of the ICW and Luke decided he would hold the boat in the channel while me and Ozzy went to shore in the dinghy. WELLLLL… I will not go into the details, but Ozzy and I were being pushed out into the Gulf by the rushing tide. Ozzy was barking his head off and I was trying to start the motor and failed.  I grabbed the oars and started rowing to shore. Ozzy is still barking like crazy, Luke is watching us disappear under the bridge and I am rowing like crazy. Did I mention that we had an audience? There were several local guys on the shore fishing. I can only imagine what they were thinking.

It all ended well. I got to shore, walked Ozzy and then one of the fishermen asked if he could help me. We got back to the boat safely and Luke has prepared a lesson to give me about the motor. :-<

We cruised up the ICW to the small town of White City, FL. There is a free floating dock that is open to the public. I was able to do a painting today. We will stay here until the north wind calms down. Our next stop will be Apalachicola. Luke has ordered a rebuild kit for the head. Just like a house, there is always something to fix.

The image above is the painting I did today. It is what you see along the coast line between Panama City and Mexico Beach. The beach was so white it created an optical illusion that it was a white line drawn and floating in air.

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Dock at White City, Florida

More in a few days.

Brenda