There’s No Place Like Home

We did it. We are HOME!!

Our house is on the hill behind us…..we both need some grooming but the smiles are genuine.

We left home on September 23, 2018 and returned to our mooring on the river in front of our house on June 8, 2020. The 525 days we spent on this journey took us through 21 states, two countries, three of the Great Lakes and 8,586 nautical miles (about 10,000 statute)!!

People have asked us what we liked best about the trip, and it’s really hard to say, but right now I’d have to say it’s the feeling of accomplishment. There are so many highlights – we cruised by the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor three times, and past the Arch in St. Louis. We spent six weeks in Canada and anchored in some of the most pristine areas I’ve ever seen. We cruised Lake Michigan and loved exploring the little towns along the shore. We trudged through The Mighty Mississippi, Illinois and Tennessee Rivers and we crossed the Gulf of Mexico. We spent two months in Key West over the winter. We met hundreds of boaters and shared many, many docktails. We made really, really good friends who we will probably know forever.

We saw so many, many beautiful places on the oceans, rivers, lakes and creeks we traveled, but the coastline from the Cape to home on our last day is just as stunning as any other we’ve seen. We love New England and appreciate it’s beauty even more having been away for so long. I am so superstitious that I wouldn’t allow myself to really believe we were going home until we turned from the ocean into The Merrimack. Our river. When we arrived home on Monday, Danny opened a bottle of Prosecco and we sat on the bow looking at our house and just felt so happy. So proud.

Gloucester, MA. Our last cruising day was absolutely perfect…..sunny and calm seas

The little gold flag is us on Nebo, an app that tracks boaters. Here we are just after turning into the Merrimack.
Captain Dan ready to celebrate at the completion of our journey.

Before we started The Loop we attended a couple of rendezvous to learn about the route and the journey and I remember a speaking saying “When you’re finished you’ll need three things – Weight Watchers, Alcoholics Anonymous and Marriage Counseling”. 😂. She’s definitely right about Weight Watchers and the nightly docktails haven’t stopped even though the trip has. As far as the marriage counseling …….. well, I asked Danny if he thought our relationship is stronger, or weaker having done this trip. In true Danny fashion he said, “we’re fine”. For him that’s a good thing. What I can tell you is that we sat side by side at the helm day after day for 21 months of travel, and I don’t know anyone else that I could spend that much 1:1 with. We talked about the trip, our families, our house, our past and our future, and sometimes we just didn’t talk at all. We argued sometimes (By the way, I learned it’s really hard to “storm” down the stairs on a moving boat when trying to make a point! 😬), but most days we were really, really happy. The fact that I’m writing this in the time of a global pandemic and amidst protests over systemic racial injustice is not lost on me. While we celebrate, many suffer. We are blessed and grateful.

Done Diggin’ on her mooring in front of the house. She needs a bath

So…..what’s next? We are looking forward to boating locally this summer with friends and family and have lots of work to do on the house….Danny’s already at it. I suspect if I said “let’s do it again”, we’d be out of here in no time, but once was enough. I look forward to more travel on the boat – but not yet – and not for so long!

Danny busy putting together the table and chairs we ordered from Key West. The goal is to sit in them and remember our epic trip.

So, this is my last blog entry. I started it so that friends and family could follow our journey and I’m surprised at how much I’ve loved writing it. I’ll miss it. I hope someday long after I’m gone that my kids will enjoy reading it and getting a sense of what this experience meant to me.

Thank you for following along with us. Peace and Love,

Jodi & Dan

Underway and Making Way

Danny spent two and a half days in the engine while we were stuck in Solomon’s Island and was finally able to diagnose and fix the problem with our port engine. Apparently the transmission cooler broke; he was able to repair vs. replace it since it was Memorial Day Weekend and nothing was open.

This is what the boat looked like for two and a half days…….believe it or not I didn’t complain……much!
Danny even went under the boat to check to make sure there wasn’t some kind of obstruction

While we were frustrated to be stuck for so long, we were excited when one of our first buddy boats texted to say they’d like to come and visit. We traveled with Kris and Rick on Eagle One when we first started our loop last spring and said goodbye to them when they finished in Virginia, so we were thrilled to see them. They drove the 90 minutes from their home and brought a delicious take out lunch. It was great fun to reminisce, it was like no time had gone by at all.

Social distancing with Kris and Rick from Eagle One 😃

So, on Tuesday morning we pulled out of the marina and made our way out to the Chesapeake Bay. As we got closer it got more and more foggy; by the time we were fully in the bay we probably only had about 100 feet of visibility in any direction – at the most. It was the densest fog we have ever traveled in and we were both pretty nervous, though neither one of us wanted to turn around and return to the dock – again – so we forged ahead VERY, VERY SLOWLY. We have radar and AIS which allow us to see other boats on our Garmin when we can’t physically see them, and we had our running lights on and hoped like hell others could see us! We kept thinking the fog would lift; we’d left the dock at 7am and we were sure the sun would burn it off. Well, it never lifted until 12 noon. So we had 5 nail biting hours of dense, dense fog. That was a first. And I hope we never have to do it again!

Pea Soup on the Chesapeake Bay

We traveled to Rock Hall, MD that day and stayed in a very small, very sweet marina called Swan Creek. We awoke to fog the next morning as well, but waited in the marina until it had pretty much lifted and got back out on The Chesapeake. As pretty as the Chesapeake is, I was happy to leave it behind us and keep moving closer to home. Our next stop was Delaware City, Delaware where we ended up staying for three nights because of – you guessed it – WINDS!! From Delaware City we needed to go down the Delaware Bay to cross over to Cape May, NJ and it’s really important to do that on a good weather day. The marina hosted a nightly Captains Meeting (virtually, of course) to look at the charts and the forecast which was very helpful. While we waited, Danny worked with a mechanic there to order a new transmission cooler which we were able to have shipped overnight and he replaced his temporary fix with the new part. I didn’t know that he was nervous we wouldn’t make it home without the new part and I’m just as glad he didn’t tell me.

We spent three nights here waiting out weather before we could cross the Delaware Bay

Our trip this morning from Delaware City, DE to Cape May, NJ was sunny and uneventful, just the way I like it and gets us one day closer to home!

Captain Dan taking a break and enjoying the calm waters on The Delaware Bay
A very cool lighthouse on The Delaware Bay

So, tonight we are at South Jersey Marina in Cape May, NJ. It’s a pretty sea-side town we’ve visited a few times before, and we hope we’re just here one night. We’ve looked at the forecast and made a reservation for a marina in Atlantic City tomorrow, about 40 miles north, but we will look at that forecast again in the morning. The rest of the trip is all ocean – so we have to pick our days! I keep reminding Danny about an older Looper couple we met while we were still in the planning stages saying that their rule was “it takes two yes’s and one no” when making a go no/go decision. Let’s just say, Danny has never been that “one no”! We’ll get there. As another Looper friend once said “I can practically smell home from here”! Soon….

Done Diggin’ at the dock for the night
Thanks as always for following along our adventure.
Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

Social Distancing

So…….we WERE making some great progress and enjoying the stops despite the restrictions the pandemic brings to all of our lives. But now it seems that DONE DIGGIN’ has decided she wants us to social distance ourselves from home and family and has us stuck in Solomon’s Island, Maryland.

After traveling from New Bern to Belhaven, Alligator River, Coinjock and Norfolk we finished up the ICW portion of the trip. That means our last lock (this makes 104 I think) and entering the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake is a big, beautiful body of water that can be as calm as glass as it was on our first day from Norfolk to Deltaville, or rough and rolly as it was on our last travel day from Deltaville to Solomon’s Island.

Underway making way…….wish this was today.
Deltaville, VA was a pretty stop for a night
Norfolk was starting to open up when we were there, we even had dinner outside of a restaurant!

We knew when we pulled into Solomon’s that we’d have to sit at least a few days because winds were predicted to be gale force which made travel a NO GO! Then two days went to three….to four….to five. We took a couple of bike rides to the grocery store (and liquor store to restock the beer and wine 😃), which we do when every we’re at a dock for more than a night. Like everyone else, we are eating most of our meals at home (boat) now, I feel like all we do is grocery shop, cook, clean up, repeat!

Danny got a trailer that he can hitch onto his bike. Here we are on our way to provision – it comes back to the boat full!

While we were stuck, I decided to catch up on laundry. I’ve done laundry in many, many marinas at this point and have usually found the facilities to be clean and comfortable. Not the case at Solomon’s Yachting Center. The trash was overflowing, the floor hadn’t been swept for weeks, and I had to wipe down the tops of the machines with Clorox wipes before even touching them. But I got the laundry done without any clothes touching any surfaces, all the while whining about how much I miss my washer and dryer. Another way we pass time in bad weather is watching Netflix or Hulu. WiFi has honestly been hit or miss along our travels and of course the connection at SYC was awful – Strike Two for Solomon’s Yachting Center. We did know the pump-out there wasn’t working but thought we’d be ok until we got to the next port, but as time went on we NEEDED a pump out. Strike Three you’re out SYC, we moved on day 6 to Calvert’s Marina where the pump-out and WiFi work nicely and it’s $20 cheaper per night. We should have come here in the first place.

The laundry room that put me over the edge

So, Saturday morning we were up and ready to leave the dock by 6:45 as the sun came out over a beautiful, calm bay. We were looking forward to being another day closer to home when the port engine alarm sounded. Danny went down to the engine to see what was happening while I steered the boat – he came back up and said “we’re going back to the dock”, the engine was overheating. We came back in on one engine (he docked beautifully by the way), tied up and he started working. That was yesterday, and he’s still at it. A hose from the transmission cooler came apart in his hand while he was trouble shooting, so at the very least that needs to be replaced, though he’s still not 100% sure that’s what caused the problem. As our luck would have it, it’s a holiday weekend and none of the boat part shops around here are open until Tuesday. Until then he’s down in the engine chasing the problem (and swearing quite a bit – I stopped asking “what?” every time he bangs something and swears because I got yelled at this morning 😉). Our Looper friend Kevin has been calling and giving him ideas which has been helpful. If he can fix it, he will, he’s very determined – some might even say stubborn! If not, we are hopeful a nearby mechanic can lend a hand. Can you say 💵 💵 caching!?!

It’s so tight in the engine compartment that he literally comes out bruised sometimes.

So, here we are. We really thought we’d be very close to home or home by now, so it’s disappointing. We literally have only 9 travel days until we pull into the river and our mooring is waiting for us, but as of this moment we don’t know when we can get going again. But this is really the first time we’ve had a problem that has delayed us this long, and we are tied up safely and trying hard to remedy the situation. It’s a pretty area, we’ll make the best of it when Danny’s not in the engine. We’ll get there.

This is a replica of the famous buoy in Key West at the southernmost point of the US. We haven’t had any “phun” here yet, but we are totally open to the idea!!!!

Happy Memorial Day to all of our friends and family. Hopefully we’ll be home soon. Love to all,

Captain (Mechanic) Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

Where in the world is Done Diggin’?

New Bern, North Carolina, that’s where, a scenic little port town a bit off the Intracoastal Waterway on The Neuse River.  We wanted to visit New Bern on our first trip down the coast in 2018, but the town was recovering from Hurricane Florence at the time.  As is the case with other towns we’ve stopped at, most of the restaurants and shops are closed now because of COVID-19, but the closures don’t take away from the charm of this historic town.

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Quaint New Bern, NC. I feel like I could live here, it feels New Englandy

There are some restaurants doing take out and a few shops are starting to open (if they sell wine, they’re considered “essential” we’re told), and our friends Bruce & Grace on Seas Today live here at the marina, so we’ve been here relaxing and visiting for a week now.  The marina is just outside town so it’s easy to walk and bike around the town and adjacent park, it’s as good place to be as any as we wait for restrictions to decrease and temperatures to rise as we move north. Our plan was to leave today, but there are big winds predicted out on the rivers we’ll need to travel tomorrow, so we decided to sit until Sunday when the winds die down.

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So good to see Grace & Bruce again – their flybridge is a good place for socially distant docktailing

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Sunset from the deck of Done Diggin’

Before this pause we moved north enjoying mostly sunny days and smooth waters.  We’ve stayed in marinas all except one night, we anchored out in Mile Hammock Bay which is pretty much in Camp Lejeune; boaters need to check the firing schedule for the marines in training before committing to anchoring there – for obvious reasons!  We get off the boat to walk or bike and take trips to grocery stores when transportation is available, careful to wear masks and gloves, and there’s not much more to do!  Other boaters at the docks are always friendly and respect each other’s space and we’ve run into a few loopers along the way.  At a stop in Morehead City, we were introduced to “little beers”; which is a Looper thing.  We’d heard of them but never tried them before.  They look like little beers and taste like vanilla ice cream.  Yummy.  And one is enough.

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Shopping attire – note the OJ in one hand and the wine in the other. We are staying hydrated.

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Little Beer shots…..we will be sharing these and the recipe on our front porch at home….when and if we are allowed to be together!!

So, not much more to say really.  We still hope to be home around Memorial Day or shortly thereafter; I talked with the people that manage our mooring and they’ll get it ready for us soon.  I hope all our friends and family are staying healthy and as happy as possible in this strange time we’re living in.

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Turning to calendar to May made me feel hopeful……better days are ahead

Until next time,

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

 

Headed Home…….Carefully

Have you heard that there’s “something going around”?  Yeah, me too, and it’s made the last month so difficult for all of us.  I hope everyone is doing ok – as for us, we are still on the boat, still social distancing, but not in Florida anymore.

After much discussion, worry and deliberation, we decided it was time – and more importantly safe – to leave Titusville, Florida where we were when this all got serious.  We’d been there for a month, first for Danny to recuperate from his pneumonia, which he’s done, and then to watch what was happening with places to fuel and dock for our trek north.  Last weekend we did some research and decided there’s enough open that we made the leap, and I’m glad we did.

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Our view most days these days

On Monday we traveled to Daytona Beach, Tuesday to St. Augustine,  and on Wednesday to Fernandina Beach, FL.  On Thursday we left Florida!  Our boat has been in Florida since November 5th of 2019, so more time in that state than any other this year.  We went to Jekyll Island, and on Friday to Kilkenny Creek, both in Georgia. Today we arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a total of just over 280 miles traveled this week.   This brings our rolling total nautical miles traveled since leaving home somewhere around 7,380!  Wow!

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We left the dock early most mornings this week, mostly to hit the tides right at shallow areas in Georgia. The reward is a sunrise.

This is the third time we’ve traveled this coast and I’m truly grateful that we were able to visit so many spots in the Fall of 2018 and last Spring during our first two trips.  Although we haven’t had trouble finding dockage so far, it’s really sad to see familiar and favorite cities like St. Augustine “closed up”.   The exception to that experience so far has been Jekyll Island, Georgia, one of my favorite stops from last year while we were looping.  Jekyll Island is mostly undeveloped and has miles of beautiful live oak trees, palm trees and fairy tale-like beaches with lots of driftwood and trees that the tide has taken over the years.  We rode our bikes all around the island as we did last year, but this year there were hardly any other people which made the bike path that much more enjoyable.  It was a beautiful, fun day, and the first day I’ve felt anything near to “normal” in quite a while.

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This is one of the busiest tourist areas in St. Augustine. So sad to see it so empty, all the shops are closed.

 

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Danny said I took this same picture last year at Jekyll Island…..just so beautiful

 

Moving was a good decision (so far) and has been good for us.  It’s really nice to legitimately have something to do every day – the charting, the cruising, and general maintenance of the boat fills our days.  There were more dolphin sightings than other boat sightings for the first few days, but as we got closer to the weekend and through Savannah today, we really saw a lot more boat traffic.  We’ve seen a few other Loopers that we met last year and have been more or less traveling with a fellow New England couple, Scott & Donna on “Aleka”; they’re bringing their boat back to Portsmouth, NH so we are hoping we’ll continue to see them as we travel north.  We chatted on the dock in St. Augustine with them and another loop couple (Tuscarora) the other night, being sure to keep at least 6 feet of distance.  The docktail experience, at least for now, is a thing of the past, we are all trying to follow the guidelines.  We are making the best of it when we can, though. We just got back from another ride here on Hilton Head.  We’ve never been here before, it’s really pretty and we rode to a beach where there were more people than we expected.

 

How the guidelines are being followed differs from port to port, as I’m sure it does at home with places you go from day to day.  Most docks require that you go to an office to register, I’ve worn a mask when asked to do so; sometimes the dock master is wearing one as well, and in St. Augustine there was a plastic shield between them and me.  In Kilkenny Creek, it was the same as it always was – just the old guy that works there and a pen and a log to “sign in”.  Today the dockhand took our information at the dock, so we weren’t required to go to an office.  We both wash our hands every time we handle the lines that a dockhand has also handled, or a pen, or a pump – just about anything.  Danny actually wears gloves when he pumps fuel or operates the pump out; he does NOT want to get sick again!

We’ve been eating way more meals on the boat than we have in the past which is good for the pocketbook, but we were also doing a lot of snacking while we were sitting, so bad for the waistline!  We have gotten takeout a couple of times along the way and had great meatball sandwiches (take out of course) tonight.  There’s often wine.  When in Rome right?  Or Florida, or Georgia or South Carolina or………

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So, that’s where we’re at.  Looks like storms coming late Sunday into Monday, so we may move on to just south of Beaufort early tomorrow and then sit out the weather.  If we keep moving at this pace we’ll get home when it’s still cold – did I hear it snowed there today?!?  Time to slow our roll!!

In spite of the lack of snow and really good weather, and the privilege to travel and see beautiful spots, I really wish I was home.  We’re on our way.

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Thanks as always for following along our journey,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

Travel delays, toilet paper and other travails!

I saw a meme on Facebook that said “What a year this week has been”.  Ain’t that the truth?  Like everyone else we are watching the news, social distancing and worrying – well the worrying is mine, not so much Danny, he’s still taking everything one day at a time.

This blog has been about our travel, but today it’s about so much more! I’ve found blogging to be a good way of journaling and a bit of therapy for the soul, and since people are probably bored and anxious to read just about anything, maybe this is as good a time as any for an update.

When I last updated our blog we were about to leave Key West having spent two months there over the winter.  We traveled with our friends Grace and Bruce on Seas Today from Stock Island to Fort Lauderdale over four windy days.  Two of the days we traveled “outside” which means out on the ocean vs. on inner or intracoastal waterways, and one of those days the winds were way too much for my liking, there were gusts up to 35 and there were 3 to 4 foot waves with an occasional 5.  That was more than a month ago now and I still get shivers up my spine when I think of that day.  We were safe, the boat could handle that and more, but I was petrified.  Danny wasn’t afraid, but banging on waves like that for a few hours really beats you up, so he was as relieved as I was when we came inside.  Hindsight being 20/20 we will never do that again – we knew it was going to be rough and thought we could handle it for a couple of hours, but there really was no need to do so.  Never again will I say “yes” to going out in winds like that.  Our rule of “two yes’s and one no” on a go/no go decision still stands.  Other than that horrible day, we anchored out in three beautiful locations and had a great cruise to Fort Lauderdale.

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Seas Today as they continued on to their home in New Bern when we reached Fort Lauderdale. We still miss them!

 

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A view of Miami from our anchorage

When we decided not to travel to the Bahamas after leaving the Keys, Fort Lauderdale for a month was our Plan B.  We were looking forward to spending time on the beach, walking to our favorite bars and restaurants and riding our bikes around the city, and for the first week or so we were able to do so and enjoy the beautiful weather.

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We met Amy & Rommel at an AGLCA rendezvous in 2018 and kept in touch via FB. They let us know when they were in Fort Lauderdale and we had way too much fun!

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Cindy and Andy on Aquaman crossed their wake in the slip beside us in Fort Lauderdale! 🥂

Unfortunately, though, Danny ended up being sick almost the whole time we were there.  In fact, he was sick for most of the time we were in Stock Island as well, so virtually all of the winter months.  Despite several ER visits and one visit to his home doctor in February, antibiotics were not making him better.  When we left Fort Lauderdale on Thursday the 12th of March he wasn’t feeling well at all; we traveled four days to Titusville, FL (near Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Space Center) and I actually ended up doing most of the driving – or piloting or captaining, whatever you choose.  He was so exhausted and short of breath that he actually slept on the bench behind the helm while I drove – I woke him to dock the boat, but otherwise it was all me.  Anyone who knows us knows that this is NOT how we boat.  For him to sleep while I’m driving, something has to be wrong.  So long story short when we got to Titusville I rented a car and drove him two hours north to Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, at the suggestion of a local oncologist that my nieces husband put us in touch with (and our buddy Tex from TxAu)! I am so glad we landed there, the care was outstanding.  The good news is he tested negative for COVID-19 (phew), but he did have a pretty stubborn pneumonia that required 3 days and nights of IV antibiotics.  Being at a world class hospital during a pandemic was an interesting experience – there is no fooling around.  I had to leave him in the ER after they decided to admit him and was not allowed to visit the whole time he was there; in fact by the time he was discharged they weren’t even allowing visitors in the ER, only the patient.  I stayed in a hotel on the campus for a couple of nights, then took the trek back to to the boat until he was discharged; we kept in touch by phone in the meanwhile.  It took a couple of days before he started feeling better – when he began to complain about the food, I knew he was starting to recover.

So now we are back on the boat in Titusville trying to determine our next move.  First he needs to get stronger; he’s definitely better than he was but not fully recovered yet.  Because of the pandemic, marinas all around the country have started to close, and although we can anchor out for several nights in a row, we will need to come to marinas for fuel, to get  water, to pump out and to get to grocery stores once we start running out of food.  Right now it looks like we would be ok, but everything is changing daily, so we are monitoring all of our boating sources regularly (and compulsively on my part).  We still have the rental car, so I’ve been going to stores to stock up on non-perishables and filling the freezer with meats and vegetables in the event of a total shutdown where we can’t leave the boat, or if we are out on the water not able to come to a port.  Our reservation here is until April 16th so we don’t have to leave yet, but we are looking at all of our options while this uncertainty continues.  Oh, and shopping for toilet paper!!  Every day this week!!  Fortunately a very kind stranger in front of me in line today let me have hers, she got the booty before me and felt bad for me!

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The kindness of strangers! Happy to have this on board, we were getting low!!

To say this has been stressful is an understatement.  Having Danny so sick is bad enough, but during this unusual time it has felt magnified X10!!  Social isolation was easy for me this week, I am not near anyone I know or love.  BUT – we are so unbelievably lucky to have had phone calls, recommendations and moral support from the best family and friends anyone could ask for.  The fact that our families and  friends from home care so much is not a surprise at all, they have been there for us before.  I’ve been in constant contact with my sister, my friend Robyn and my kids and have talked to my brothers and sisters – in – law regularly as well.   What’s a little remarkable to me is how our boating buddies have been there for us – constantly, and I have to say Laurie from The Laurie Jean has been such a rock for me. They all understand the challenges that come with long boat trips like this, and have offered to come get us, have us stay with them, drive us home – you name it, they’ve offered it!  Every Gold Looper we’ve met says that the people they’ve met have been the best part of the journey, and I couldn’t agree more.  I’m pretty sure our Looper buddies are the best buddies ever, we truly have made lifelong friends.

So, here we sit, wondering what’s next just like everyone else today.  I truly hope everyone is staying healthy and as sane as possible, and I pray for those who have been really affected by this horrible virus.  I really miss home and my people and can’t wait to get there.

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We renewed our vows with many other couples on the beach on Valentines Day 💞

Until then, sending hugs from Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

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Winter in Key West

What a wonderful winter this has been.  We’ve been docked at Stock Island Marina Village just five miles from downtown Key West since December 8th.  If weather agrees (which is 50/50 at this point), we will pull our lines tomorrow morning and head to our next port.  I’m sitting on our “back porch” leisurely drinking coffee as I have every morning for the last two months, and reflecting on the things we’ve done and the memories we’ve made here in Paradise. 🌴

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Done Diggin’ sitting pretty….hopefully she’ll be moving again soon

After becoming Gold Loopers in Fort Myers, we traveled with our buddy boat Seas Today here to Key West.  We anchored out for three nights (that’s a lot for me!) and arrived here at Stock Island on the fourth day.  There were several other of our Looper buddies here and at the downtown marinas, so there was always something to do before we flew home for Christmas, and some of our Gold Looper friends came for New Years Eve.

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Our friends and travel buddies Bruce and Grace.  We’ve spent a lot of time with them here in Key West and have loved getting to know them.

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Sophie!!! She’s our buddy dog (lives on Seas Today with Bruce & Grace)

 

Being home this holiday was exactly what I needed, but unfortunately the germs on the plane got to Danny and he started feeling lousy on Christmas Eve and he’s been sick off and on since we got back to the boat.  He’s seen the doctor a few times and is now on his third round of antibiotic to treat the pneumonia they finally found on his second ER visit.  We are flying home for his 6 month oncology check in on February 18th, and he’s scheduled to get an immune system “booster” treatment, so hopefully he’ll soon be well.  He was generous enough to share his germs with me 😞 and I was sick for a bit too, but recovered much more quickly.  Apparently, this cough and cold has been going around the island and is referred to as “The Key West Crud”…..thanks Key West!!

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Note all the meds on the table…..this is Round 3, but he’s still smiling ❤️

Despite Danny not feeling well, we did our best to see the island and make the most of our time here.  Since we’re about five miles away from downtown and don’t have a car, our bikes sometimes became our transportation to downtown, grocery shopping, errands and restaurants.  The marina is part of a resort that offers a free shuttle to downtown Key West, which has been super convenient as well.

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Hogfish restaurant on Stock Island

This is a unique place and I feel fortunate to have spent so much time here.  Stock Island is much less developed than Key West but has a few good restaurants and we grew to love how much quieter it is than downtown.  Downtown is filled with old southern style homes and quaint shops and a thriving waterfront district with marinas, charter boats and restaurants and bars on the water.  Then there’s Duval Street!  I was told that there are over 90 bars on Duval, which is about a mile long; lots of them have live music and they’re usually pretty full any time of the day or night you pass by.  When there are cruise ships in port you can barely walk down the street.  We spent a little bit of time there (and NO, we did NOT visit all 90 bars!), but soon found that we preferred other places that were a bit off the beaten path.

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The table in the middle is where the “vibrator races” take place. Yup, you read it right – every Thursday night at MaryEllen’s Bar in Key West…..we only went once!

Key West was originally populated by Native Americans and then people from Cuba and from The Bahamas, so the food and the way of life has been influenced by those cultures.  Locals proudly refer to the island as “The Conch Republic”, a nod to their effort to secede from the US in 1982.  Key West and Stock Island are heavily populated by roosters and chickens!  They are everywhere you go, and you get really used to seeing them and walking or biking around them!  They really do say “cock a doodle do”!

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One of the many, many roosters that call Key West home

 

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The site of the end of US Route 1! Very different topography from the Route 1 I traveled every day to Cambridge for work!

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This buoy is at the southernmost point of the Continental US. People wait in a long line to take pictures of themselves in front of it. We did not, this was on a “drive by” from Danny’s bike. Very cool spot.

When we got here, we thought we’d be doing more kayaking and some boating out to a nearby reef for snorkeling.  Unfortunately the winds were too strong most days and we all pretty much stayed on the dock.  We did go out on The Lucky Me with Susan and Greg for sunset a couple of times, otherwise we were land lubbers. The weather has been in the 70’s and 80’s for the most part and the sun has been shining most days.  There were a handful of days that were in the 60’s and the wind was really strong – that’s when you can truly distinguish the locals from the tourists – the locals were wearing hoodies zipped up to their noses and even some down parkas!  The tourists didn’t give up their shorts and flip flops, they were here to experience tropical weather in the winter, and they were sticking to it dammit!  I have to say, having been in Florida for two winters now, my blood has thinned, and I pulled out the sweatshirts!!

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The highlight of our time here was having my brother Jack and sister-in-law Linda, and my sister Brenda and brothers-in-law Mike come to visit.  The six of us stayed on the boat and we had SO much fun.  I was worried about them getting used to sleeping, showering and generally maneuvering around our space; we’ve gotten really used to living on a boat, but it is very different than being in a nice house!  Danny kept telling me it would be fine, and he was right, by the time they left they’d really gotten it all down pat!  We rented a minivan for the week they were here so we could play tour guides – I really wish I’d gotten some pictures of Linda and me getting in and out of the third row where we ended up most of the time – that was a sight!  We brought them to Duval Street and to the Seaport, to a couple of our favorite restaurants and to Sunset at Mallory Square, which is an iconic Key West event, and we toured the home of Ernest Hemingway.  We even hosted a Looper Docktails evening and we all got to meet some new Loopers. I think my favorite part was sitting on the back porch drinking coffee with everyone in the mornings. I just keep thinking how lucky we are to be able to spend time together, and I’m so happy that they wanted to share a part of our adventure.  Here we are senior citizens,  🤩 and we’re still making memories……we are blessed.

 

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Brenda and Linda wanted to experience Looper “docktails” while they visited, so we did! They fit right in.

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So…..what’s next?  When the weather allows we will venture out to the Gulf again and travel north with Bruce and Grace, taking 4 days and 3 nights (on anchor again!) to Fort Lauderdale.  We seriously considered a trip to the Bahamas, but for a few different reasons we’ve decided against it.  Maybe next year!  We have a reservation at the same marina where we spent time last winter and hope that the weather will allow us to spend some time on the beach – Danny wants to find more toys to add to his collection from last year.  We plan on being there for a month, then in mid March we will slowly start heading HOME!

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One of the many beautiful sunsets in Key West

We have traveled  SO many miles and have many to go before this adventure is over.  Looper friends who are home now tell me that I will really miss this when it’s over…..I don’t know…..we’ll see.  I will blog from time to time on this last leg of the journey and know that someday it will be fun to read it and remember winters like these.

Thank you for traveling along with us.

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

PS – I hope we remember how to move this boat!!!  Oh My!

Merry Christmas from our “Dirt Home”

That’s what Loopers call their houses – many have sold everything and are “all in” but we are blessed that we have our home and that we are here on this Christmas morning near friends and with family.

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Merry Christmas from our home

Even though we officially completed The Great Loop just before Thanksgiving, we continued to travel from Fort Myers Beach south and we arrived in Stock Island on December 8th. The marina is about five miles from Key West and we will be there until February 14th after this boating sabbatical. 🏝 I came home a week before Danny so I could decorate, shop and “be” in Christmas. Unfortunately that included “being” in cold and snow – which was exactly what he was trying to avoid for as long as possible! Christmas really isn’t his thing ( think Scrooge, The Grinch, etc) 😉 but I really missed it when I was on the boat last year so away I flew while he biked all over Key West and found lots of places he wants to take me to when we get back. I got to spend some time with my favorite person in the world; if you want to get in the Christmas spirit, spend some time with a four year old in December! She’s been jumping out of her skin and is so joyful and loved and her energy is contagious!♥️

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Happy Grammy

 

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Spending time with our granddaughter Lilah has been the best part of the trip

I’ve also loved being with my kids – Shannon and Evan have been here a lot and we had our “Family  Christmas” on Saturday. Christmas Eve was at Ryan and Amanda’s and was filled with lots of food and fun.

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My Daughter-in-law Amanda and Daughter Shannon took ugly sweater Christmas Eve to a whole new level

Funny thing though – as much as I’ve loved being with my family, my Looper family is on my mind this morning. I’m the first one up, presents are under the tree waiting to be opened and I’m sipping coffee from my favorite mug and who am I thinking about?  My Looper buddies!!!

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Can’t wait to get back to more fun with Susan and Greg from Lucky Me and Bruce and Grace on Seas Today.

Who knew this time last year that we’d know so many new people this year? I’ve loved getting Christmas greetings from my new friends via FB, E-cards, real cards and lots of texts this morning.  It is a Merry Christmas indeed!

Peace On Earth,

Jodi & Dan

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Christmas Key West style

 

Done Diggin’ is Done!! (Sort of) 😊

Well, we did it.  We have come full circle – we’ve finished the Great Loop – we crossed our wake!!

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A happy moment! We did it!

We have traveled about 6,500 miles since leaving home in September of 2018 and 5,200 of those were Great Loop miles.  We left the Fort Myers Yacht Basin in Florida on February 14th and cruised back to where we started yesterday – November 25th at about noon.  A little over 9 months filled with watching weather, charting courses, cruising through oceans, lakes and rivers, meeting hundreds of people and some new good friends, docktailing, laughing and crying (OK just me on that last one).  We boated in 2 different countries and 15 states.  We went through about 110 locks including The Big Chute which was a rail car that picked us up over a road, and Lock 45 on the Trent Severn which was about 18 inches wider than we were.  We had our picture taken in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Arch in St. Louis in our own boat.  We saw West Point from the Hudson River and ate at the Culinary Institute of America.  We anchored in the Georgian Bay of Canada and saw beautiful little towns along Lake Michigan.  We did the rivers…….man, those were rough.  We crossed the Gulf of Mexico. We’ve lived together on a 43 foot boat for 14 months so far and most days we still like each other.  We did it, we did the Loop!

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Done Diggin’ is DONE with the Loop!

When we pulled into the Yacht Basin yesterday I almost cried when I saw Greg from the Lucky Me running down the dock in front of the dock hand to catch our lines for us as he’s done so many times before.  He and Susan took the photos of us changing out our white (in progress) burgee to our gold (finished!) burgee and we drank champagne along with Bruce and Grace from Seas Today, some newer Loop friends who will travel south with us from here.  It was an incredible day, Danny and I will never forget it.

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Reunited (again!) with Susan and Greg from The Lucky Me

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Bubbly with “newer” buddies Grace and Bruce from Seas Today

So, today we will cruise 17 miles back to the Pink Shell Beach Resort Marina where we will stay and RELAX until about December 4th.  It’s a great marina with access to all of the resort amenities.  Plans include walking on the beach and sitting under an umbrella on the beach drinking an umbrella drink.  When we leave Fort Myers we will travel to Stock Island, just north of Key West and spend most of the winter there before starting the trip home.  We are so happy and so blessed.

 

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The famous pier at Fort Myers Beach on our morning walk

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Pink Shell Beach Resort

Thank you for following along this epic adventure with us.  I will probably continue to blog when we start traveling again – I started blogging as a way to keep family and friends aware of where we are and it’s turned out to be something I love doing, it’s cathartic and cheaper than therapy!

Until next time,

Gold Loopers Danny & Jodi

 

What a week!!!!

After a rocky night at anchor near the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico we made our crossing on Monday and it couldn’t have been better! It was sunny with very little wind and almost no waves at all. We were as far out as 30 miles offshore and couldn’t see land for most of the 60 mile run from Alligator Point to Steinhatchee, FL. We traveled with 5 other boats and celebrated with a docktail when we got to the marina – that’s a surprise, right?!?

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Celebrating our crossing with other Loopers. And a stupid cat. Not sure why he was on the table!

Day 2 of the “rim route brought a little bounce at the start of the day, but smoothed our nicely for the 50 mile run out in the Gulf again to a pristine anchorage in Cedar Key.   I don’t love to anchor, but this was spectacular and my favorite anchorage of the Loop. We watched the dolphins swimming around our boat, took the dinghys to the quaint little town for a little walk and got back in time for an amazing sunset!

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The sunsets on the West Coast of Florida are spectacular

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After an equally beautiful sunrise the next morning we headed back out in the Gulf to travel to Crystal River. It was a short run out in the Gulf and a long inlet to the marina where we were greeted by a mother and baby manatee! Maybe it was a father, I didn’t verify 😳 Even though we spent the winter in Florida I’ve never seen a manatee up close before and I was stunned at how big they are; I understand why they’re referred to as sea cows. They were captivating to watch and after getting settled we loaded Peter & Susan from The Answer on our dinghy and joined Laurie & Kevin from the Laurie Jean for a dinghy ride a few miles away to see the manatees up close and personal.  It was phenomenal, they are really beautiful creatures.  We headed back to the marina with a pit stop downtown for a drink and an appetizer before heading back to our boats.  Our dinghy is always slower than Kevin & Laurie’s and with 4 people aboard it was even slower……but when it slowed and then stalled at dusk we knew something was up! We’d run out of fuel!  Danny kept saying he should fill it – he was right – he should have.  We called Laurie on the cell and they came back and towed us to safety.  Loopers helping Loopers.  It’s a thing.

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Being rescued at sunset by Laurie and Kevin!

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Not a great photo, but it’s a manatee. They’re really cool to see.

The next day we went back out on the Gulf to cruise to Tarpon Springs.  I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been so far this week, another beautiful day.  We got in at about 3:00 and had just enough time to walk around “Sponge Town” and have dinner at a Greek restaurant.  Apparently when diving for sponges was a thriving (or semi-thriving) industry, divers from Greece emigrated to the area and there’s a strong Greek presence to this day.  It was a cool little fishing village reminiscent of Rocky Neck in Gloucester.

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We said so long to our buddy boats after dinner and traveled alone the next day.  We have more or less been with Laurie & Kevin since the middle of June and now that we’re both getting close to crossing our wakes, our routes and schedules have changed.  It was bittersweet, really; so many of our Loop memories will always involve Laurie & Kevin.  We also said farewell to new Looper friends Kurt and Deborah on Honey Badger; we’ve only known them for a few weeks but have really enjoyed traveling with them.  We will see them all again in the Fort Myers area soon before going our separate ways for the winter,  but for now we’re on our own.

We traveled about 60 miles to Bradenton Beach on Friday.  What a great area!  We walked the beach, Danny took a quick swim and we had drinks and appetizers at a fun little beach bar before returning to the boat for an early bedtime…..as usual!  We’ve been getting up really early every day this week to make some time and we’re exhausted at night.  Plus we’re old!

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Just before he dipped in….a beach day in November…..we are back in “The Real Florida”

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Look how happy we were before we ran out of gas!

Today we traveled 60 miles mostly in the intracoastal waterway.  All week long we’ve been out in the Gulf – that’s five days a row in the ocean.  We have NEVER done that before.  We’ve traveled several days in a row and traveled out in the ocean, but never both.  The weather this week has been phenomenal and has given us the push we need to get to Fort Myers – to cross our wake – to capture the GOLD!!!!

Tonight we are in Boca Grande, FL.  This is a very upscale marina in an upscale community.  The dock hands (there were 3 – for the last week we’ve pretty much docked ourselves) literally put out a WELCOME mat outside our boat after they helped us dock.  We walked to town, explored a little, picked up some groceries and then came back to the marina for an early dinner.  We’ll have an early night – as usual – and head to Fort Myers early tomorrow morning.  We will go to a marina on the beach tomorrow and then on Monday travel about 20 miles to the downtown area where we started last February.  We are just “THIS CLOSE’ to crossing our wake!

It’s an unbelievable feeling and as much as I don’t want to jinx us, I’m pretty excited. This has been an incredible 9 months.  The last couple of days I can’t help but think that as cool as it is for me, it must be incredible for Danny.  He’d learned about this trip and decided he’d do it long before he and I got together.  I remember him telling me that he was going to get rid of everything, buy a boat and do this trip called The Great Loop.  I had no idea what that meant really, and said it sounded cool.  When we started getting more serious he told me again that he was serious about it and I said “sure”, not thinking it was something I’d ever really have to do.  But he wasn’t kidding.  Aside from the getting rid of everything part of the plan (We really like our house and aren’t ready to get rid of it yet), he was true to his word.  He worked hard all his life.  He saved. He beat a serious illness.  He found this boat which we decided to commit to and he puts blood (literally), sweat (literally) and tears (no wait that’s me!!) into it every day.  He has done all of the heavy lifting – the daily preventive maintenance, the charting, the weather tracking and almost all of the driving while I do what I can to support him.  I’ve gotten better at taking over at the helm when he needs me to and I do look at weather – I’ve learned to chart a little, but honestly the stuff that matters has all been on him.  He’s even honored our “it takes one NO and two YES’s when it comes to travel/non-travel days because of weather.  He leaves it to me if there’s a question – mostly because the less freaked out I am, the happier we both are.  This has been his trip, and I’m blessed and better for having been here with him.  He’s the best.  ♥️

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So……..tomorrow Fort Myers Beach if all goes well.  Looks rainy and windy, but we’re gonna get up early and go for it.  Then on Monday we’ll get back up on the helm and go cross our wake.  We’re “THIS CLOSE” to the Gold……when we get there I will share and can’t wait!!

Thanks as always for following along with us,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi