Rollin’ Down The River!

Over the past week our trip has really changed as we leave the waters we’ve traveled previously and enter a whole new stage of the Great Loop.  This week we reached The Hudson River and it’s been pretty exciting.

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Sunset on The Hudson

After 3 nights in Chesapeake City waiting out wind and rain (what else is new?), we traveled with two new buddy boats, Taitan Princess and Miss Understood to Cape May, NJ.  Last time we ran the NJ coast we had to wait several days for weather, but we were lucky to get two good days to go from Cape May to Atlantic City, and then the next day from Atlantic City to Staten Island, NY.  Danny and the captains from the other two boats looked at weather conditions to include wind and wave predictions for quite a while before deciding to go, though I was a bit hesitant, it really worked out well.   I told one of the women we met, Lynn, that I was starting to refer to Danny as “Danny Ants in The Pants” because he’s been wanting to GO GO GO so that we can leave the boat in a good location to go home for a bit.  She told me that her grandkids call her partner, Byron “Poppa Dangerous”, so decided that we can’t leave the two of them alone for long!  They’ve been fun to travel with and Byron diagnosed a problem we started having that was resulting in black smoke coming out of the boat (dirty air filter, taken care of!)

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Taitan Princess
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Miss Understood

On Friday morning we went past the Statue of Liberty – again.  This is the third time we’ve done so, but this time we were much closer than previously since we were heading for the Hudson River vs. the East River.  It was a really sunny morning and seeing the sun shine on Lady Liberty up close was really, truly impressive.  Our buddy boat took photos of us in front, we did the same for them (that’s a Looper thing!) and I took a ton of pictures of the statue.

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Lady Liberty
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That’s us!!

After traveling up the Hudson through the city we went under the Tappan Zee bridge and the change of scenery was dramatic.   All at once it seems like you’ve left the city and you’re out in the country.  There are cliffs on the sides of the river with lush green trees, some waterfalls and majestic mansions high on the hills, and we also passed by West Point which looks like a giant fortress.

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West Point from the Hudson River
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Going under the Tappan Zee Bridge
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The Catskill mountains in the distance

Last night we stayed in Poughkeepsie, NY and had dinner at the Culinary Institute of America, this was a bucket list item on the trip for us for sure.  The CIA prepares its’ students to lead restaurants and boasts of many famous graduates such as Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and Cat Cora.  We’ve always wanted to go there and it did not disappoint.

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Chances are that some of these chefs will someday open a restaurant we can’t afford to eat in!

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So tomorrow’s travel will be by car and will bring us HOME for almost three weeks.  I’m beyond ready to see my family and friends, take care of some appointments and spend some time in our dirt house.  When we return we have one more day on The Hudson then we enter The Erie Canal, the next big step on our big adventure!

Thanks as always for traveling along with us.

Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

 

 

Time to put my big girl pants on and be brave!

It is 52 degrees, windy and rainy as I write this on Mother’s Day morning.  I’ve had face time with Ryan and Amanda and Lilah, and with Shannon and Reina, and a phone call with Evan (he hates face time the little goober and he confessed he doesn’t read my blog so I’ll get away with calling him that), so I know the weather is similar at home, but I still wish I was there with them all today.  I’ll be home soon for a much needed visit, but enough of the poor me stuff!  Despite the miserable weather and missing my family, it’s still a remarkable trip and we’re lucky to be doing this.  I decided this week to put my big girl pants on and be brave.  No, this isn’t a reference to weight I’ve gained, I think I covered that already in the hush puppies blog!

We are in Chesapeake City, MD in the C&D Canal, which connects the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. We traveled through The Chesapeake for the last week with stops in Urbanna, VA, Tangier Island, VA, Solomons, MD, Annapolis, MD  and now here to Chesapeake City.

The conditions on the Chesapeake were different every day; it ranged from “dead calm” to “bouncy” to “lumpy” to downright “ROUGH” which it was for a while yesterday.  Please note these are not official nautical terms 😉.  Before we leave port each  morning we check on the weather, waves and wind on a few different apps so we knew it would probably be choppy when we got out in the bay yesterday. None of the apps predicted the 4’ waves that we were taking on the bow (front) of the boat about every 4 to 5 seconds.  To add to the drama, I’d gotten a text from a boater we’d met at the last marina telling us how bad it was getting and that if we were close to shore we should consider turning back!!  Ahhhh!!!  To be honest I started to panic, my hands were shaking and I was starting to google nearby marinas so we could consider bailing.  But then something happened –  I literally talked myself down!  I’ve learned a few things that I kept telling myself:   #1 – I trust my Captain.  Danny could handle those seas easily, in fact he enjoys it when it’s like that.  #2 – The boat can handle it, actually the boat can handle much more than I can.  And #3 – I could handle it!  We’ve been in conditions like this before and although it was uncomfortable it was temporary, and it was fine.  So, we hung in there and after about an hour or so the seas calmed down, I started talking in coherent sentences again, and all was well.  This is not to say I didn’t cross myself compulsively and I do literally thank God for a safe voyage every time we arrive at our destination.  God has been good to us and although I don’t consider myself religious, the beauty of the shore, the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met makes me more and more grateful all the time and reminds me that I am faithful.

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The Captain and I often enjoy an after voyage cocktail !

The towns we visited along the Chesapeake were as different as the sea conditions.  Urbanna was remote and quiet, there are just a few shops and restaurants and an IGA for shopping!  We walked there to “provision” (boat talk!) one morning, and as we checked out the cashier asked if we’d like a ride back to our marina.  Mind you, we hadn’t told her we were in a marina!  When I asked how she knew, she said she saw us walking, Danny had a backpack….in reality she probably recognizes everyone who shops there and we were new!  It started to rain just as we were leaving, so we took the ride.  Such hospitality and kindness- this has not been uncommon on this trip at all!

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Peaceful Urbanna Creek

Tangier Island is probably the most unique stop so far.  This island in-between Virginia and Maryland is only 3 miles long with a population of 400.  There is a small school, a hospital which a doctor travels to once a week, a post office, a couple of restaurants and that’s it.  The only work is fishing and crabbing.  People travel around the island in golf carts and everyone knows each other.  We had a great fish dinner at one of the restaurants at the “intersection” in town, and were amazed at the activity and the community, and especially the number of kids just running around and playing!  It’s like a town time forgot.  We stayed at the one dock in town, Parks Marina, where 88 year old Mr. Parks helped us tie up and told us some stories.  I’d have liked to hear more, but the mosquitoes were biting, so we rushed back to the boat.  The island is actually being taken back by the sea, so it won’t be there forever.  We walked on the beach, it was a beautiful day – I’m really glad we stopped there.

 

 

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88 year old Mr. Parks helping to tie up another Looper boat. Someone described him as a treasure and I’d agree.

We spent 3 nights in Annapolis this week, this has been another highlight of the trip for me.  Annapolis is rich in history, patriotism and beauty.  We walked a lot to explore the city and took a tour of The Naval Academy, guided by a 70+ year old retired Naval aviator who was commissioned there many years ago.  We were docked right in the heart of the city in an area called “Ego Alley”, where boats cruise up and down just to see and be seen.  It was a fun stop.

 

This week I’ve had text time with people as usual, but also phone time with my sister Brenda, my good friends Doreen and Robyn, my brothers Rick and Jack and my sister-in-law Linda.  It’s always so good to hear the voices of the people I love. So, now we wait out another cold front which creates this wind and rain that makes travel unwise.  The next hurdle is The Delaware Bay to Cape May, NJ, we’ll take all this on as soon as weather allows, and I will continue to be brave and wear my Big Girl Pants like I did yesterday!

Happy Mother’s Day to my family and friends.  Love and hugs,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

Reflections from our Floating Home

Today is Saturday, May 4th and we’re in Urbanna, Virginia.  We left Southport, NC on April 21st and traveled north through North Carolina, stopping in Surf City, Beaufort, Oriental, Aurora, Belhaven, Columbia (Alligator River), Elizabeth City and Coinjock.  Yesterday we arrived in Hampton, VA and today here to Urbanna.  I keep a journal of each day’s launch and departure so we can track mileage and keep track of where we are.   There have been more sunrises and sunsets, beautiful days on the water and some days where it’s a little less comfy – more on that later!

 

Arriving in Beaufort NC was beautiful – we’d been in neighboring Morehead City in the fall and it was great, but we were happy to stay in Beaufort this time for 3 nights; it’s a cute port town with some good restaurants and shops.  We took a dinghy ride to a beach on a barrier island and walked to the end where we surprised and delighted to see wild horses!  I’ve heard there are places where this is not unusual, but had never seen it before.

 

Beaufort was a great stop, but also where we said goodbye to our friends Kris and Rick on Eagle One.  They were just days away from finishing their Loop and were on a bit more of an aggressive schedule than us so they moved ahead.  We were really sorry to see them go, but also grateful that we got to meet them and spend so much time with them.  We had a delicious dinner on our last night together and we talked about how different meeting people and making friends is on a trip like this.  We’re meeting people we would never meet in any other space or time, who are on a journey that most people really don’t understand.  You become “kindred spirits” pretty quickly.  The night we left Beaufort we ended up having dinner with a couple we met on the dock that morning.  It’s funny really – how many times have you had a 15 minute conversation with someone and invited them for dinner that night?  Something about this shared experience lowers inhibitions and allows you to be more open.  I’m really enjoying this aspect of the trip and look forward to meeting more people along the way.  Danny is too.  He’ll tell you I’m the icebreaker and the chatty one, but he’s holding his own!

 

So, I realize that when I blog I highlight all the great places we’ve been and the fun things we’ve done.  But on this trip, as in any part of life, there are days and moments that aren’t perfect.  We’ve had to travel through some pretty big bodies of water to get here and when the wind blows more that 10 knots it can really make for a “lumpy” ride.  I swear I hate it less than I used to, but I still get nervous when it’s rough.  One morning we were in a big river with winds and waves building and still had a long way to go, I wasn’t having fun.  I remembered that a Gold Looper (someone who’s completed the Loop) had offered their dock at their home on a Creek in Aurora, NC, which is between Oriental where we left and Belhaven where we were going and sent her a FB message.  She answered within minutes with directions to their dock; she and her husband met us there, helped us tie up and couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful.  And it was free!  It was a beautiful spot and I was happy they joined us for a docktail in the evening.  Danny was disappointed that we had to “bail”, but we were both so thankful for the kindness of strangers.  It was such a pretty spot, and we rode our bikes to a shrimp dock to get fresh shrimp off the boats that day.  It was delicious. That bad day turned out pretty good in retrospect!

 

There have been a few times that I didn’t want to leave a dock when we did, and some times we stayed when Danny wanted to leave.  And then there’s pulling into a port; although we are WAY better at this than we were in the beginning, it’s nerve wracking. Most of the time docking goes very smoothly, but it’s not unusual for us to be swearing under our breath at each other while doing so. We have to remember that those new headsets we bought so we can communicate without yelling while docking, pick up even a whisper.  So if you get sworn at -and we do – you have to get over it – and we do. Danny always thinks everything is going to work out fine, and I always think we’re about 10 seconds away from a big killer wave!!  It’s about finding balance – we’re working on it.

So, yesterday we left the ICW.  We were reflecting on how excited we were when we got to the ICW last fall and on how much we’ve learned and experienced since then.  We’ve been gone for 7 months and have traveled almost 3,000 miles!  And we still have a year to go and thousands more miles before we complete the Loop.  I get pretty sad when I think too much about being away that long and will instead focus on the day, planning for the next day and my next trip home!  We’re planning a two week vacation from our vacation at the end of May and it honestly can’t come fast enough!

Thanks for following along with our adventure.  We have room for you if you want to come aboard to share some of it with us.

Until next time,

Captain Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

 

 

 

Windy with a chance of Hush Puppies

So we have been eating, I mean making our way North; we’ve traveled through Georgia and South Carolina and now we’re hunkered down waiting out strong winds and rain in Southport, North Carolina.

 

Our last stay in Georgia was Savannah which is definitely one of my favorite cities on this trip.  We’d planned on two nights, but the winds were stronger than we’re comfortable with on our scheduled travel day so we decided to stay an extra day. It was warmer and sunnier than when we visited in the fall and Kris on our buddy boat, Eagle One, is a great tour guide and planned a fun day for us. We went on a trolley tour and learned a lot about the history and culture of the city and ate lunch and ice cream at Leopold’s, reportedly the 5th best ice cream store in the world! Or maybe the country, I can’t remember – but it was great.  Dinner was at The Olde Pink House, an 18th century mansion that had a line around the building because it was their first night open after a fire.  We took a table in the “cellar” so we could get in and the service and the food were fabulous.  For a place that had just reopened after a devastating fire, it seemed strange that the only lighting in the cellar were tapered candles burning on each wooden table!

After leaving Georgia we traveled to Beaufort, SC – it’s pronounced like “beau-tiful vs. Beaufort, NC where we’ll be soon, that’s pronounced Bo-fert.  Danny keeps mixing them up and confusing me!  Not difficult to do these days, since I really have to think about where we are and where we’re going constantly.  The highlight of our stop in Beaufort this time was our tour of the kazoo factory.  That is not a typo, we literally visited a kazoo factory.  It was a hoot (pun intended).  We also walked around a short nature trail and saw beautiful birds and a couple of alligators!

 

Next stop – Charleston.  We stayed at Charleston City Marina, home of the famous Megadock.  It literally took us ten minutes to walk from our boat to the shore.  We did lots of walking and Kris planned a horse and carriage tour as well as a food tour called Savor The Flavors – we did.  I love all of the old homes and cobblestone streets, it’s a charming city that I hope to visit again and again.

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Let me pause to talk about low country cuisine – there’s a phrase that I’ve gotten to know all too well on this leg of the trip.  We’re talking barbecue, shrimp and grits, Mac n’ cheese, cornbread, biscuits and hush puppies!!!  A waiter put this basket on our table when we went to lunch yesterday and I said “Dear Lord, what are those”.  They were hush puppies.  Then he said “OK, my next question is, where in the North do you come from”?  These southerners take comfort food to a whole new level.  I am seriously afraid to stand on the scale!!!

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We spent hours before leaving Charleston trying to figure out the best time to do so.  Traveling north on the ICW on this leg of the journey requires passing through McLellanville, SC a notoriously shallow part of the waterway.  We were lucky in Georgia to be able to navigate through Hell Gate and Jekyll Creek, other shallow areas, during high tide.  This time the timing of the tides didn’t work, so after MUCH discussion with each other, Rick and Kris and lots of other boaters on the dock, we decided on a 6:30 am launch which brought us through there almost 3 hours before low tide.  This was a nail-biting day, I’m not gonna lie.  We didn’t bump bottom like we did here when we traveled south, but we saw some really “skinny” water.  I’m glad that’s behind us and even happier we don’t have to talk about it anymore.  That brought us to a one night stop in Georgetown, SC and then one more night in Myrtle Beach before moving on here to Southport.

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We will travel to Surf City, NC on Easter Sunday, which is also my birthday!  We need to figure out our stops from there to Norfolk, Virginia where we will end our ICW journey and begin the next leg of our Great Loop.

We’re doing well.  I miss home and love connecting with my family and friends frequently.  Remember that we’re happy to have visitors travel and stay with us – and thanks again for following along with us!

Happy Easter everyone from Captain Dan & Cruise Director Jodi

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Georgia On My Mind

I heard someone in Florida say that the further north you go, the more southern the country becomes.  Having been in Georgia again for five days now, I understand what this means and I’m loving it – y’all.

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We cruised over the Florida/Georgia line on April 4th on a calm, sunny, warm morning. We are now traveling North on the ICW, the same waters we traveled back in November and December.   As we were approaching St. Mary’s Georgia we got a call on the radio from an official sounding person, asking us to stop until a Navy vessel passed. We are traveling with a “buddy boat”, a couple we met in St. Augustine and they’re both retired Navy.  The captain of our buddy boat was a navigator on a navy bomber and told us that it was probably a submarine going out to sea.  He said that the guys in jets called the subs “bubbleheads”; sure enough a few minutes later we watched the bubbleheads go by accompanied by a navy ship.  It was really cool to see, and we were lucky to have the narrative from our friend giving us some more detail.

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So this time on these waters it’s all a little more familiar and I’m a little less nervous!  We’ve learned to be more mindful of whether a tide is outgoing or incoming as we navigate the many shallow “trouble spots” on the ICW. We went through one in St. John’s River, another in Jekyll Creek, and yesterday’s was Hell Gate; all of those felt really challenging in the fall, but this time we were able to pass on a rising tide and it was a much better experience!

We are feeling like “Loopers” now, for sure!  We fly our AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruising Association) burgee on the bow of the boat and it turns out this is a magnet for other Loopers!  In St. Augustine we were invited to docktails every night for the week we were there, and left the marina with new friends that we’re traveling with and/or seeing at other marinas. This new routine is so much fun and goes kinda like this:

  • On a travel day we’re up early and off the dock by 7:30 or 8:00 with engines checked, warmed and lines tended.  If we’re staying in port the plan formulates over coffee with the goal of seeing the spot we’re visiting – by bike, by foot, or sometimes by golf cart!
  • We’ve traveled anywhere from 30 to 60 miles in a day.  Since we generally go about 8 or 10 knots per hour that takes anywhere from 4 to 7 hours.  Since the ICW can be challenging, it requires careful attention; we have a course charted on our Garmin and I track the buoys and markers on a paper map as well.  We keep an eye out for crab traps and floating logs (we hear this is really going to be important when we get on the river system later in the Loop) and love seeing dolphins, pelicans and lots of other cool birds.
  • Here’s one of the the best parts of looping and a big change from the fall – at 5:00 it’s Docktails!  We’ve hosted a number of times, but we’ve also gone to other boats and once at a restaurant since there were so many of us.  Docktails usually go until about 6:30 then everyone goes back to their boats for dinner or out to a restaurant.
  • ”Looper midnight” is 9pm.  Honestly, I barely make that most nights – between the walking, the sunshine and the wine, I’m exhausted at the end of the day and usually the boat rocks me to sleep by then!

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We spent two nights in a place called Jekyll Island, Georgia, it was absolutely beautiful.  The island is only about 35% developed and will never be more so; the streets are lined with live oaks and Spanish moss and birds were singing everywhere.  To me it felt like a perfect early summer day from my childhood, I was so happy. We rode around the island on our bikes and visited a cool beach called Driftwood Beach.  It’s named that because the ocean has literally taken over the shore over many years and the result of the driftwood on the beach is both eerie and beautiful; so different than the beaches at home.  We loved it there and I really want to return someday.

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The next day we traveled to Kilkenny Creek, a remote marsh area where we stayed for a night in the fall as well.  There were several other loop boats on the same course, though only two of us pulled into Kilkenny Marina where we stayed and had a great meal.  The shrimp is amazing here and we often see huge shrimp boats getting the days catch.  I’m starting to feel like Bubba Gump!

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Today we are in Savannah and we plan on touring the downtown area with our buddy boat crew; we’ll spend the day and have reservations for dinner at a place called The Pink House.  We were here in Savannah in late November on the way south for just one night – it was so cold out that there was ice on the dock so we didn’t explore much, this time is different.  Before we leave we need to figure out which marinas we’ll stay in for our next stops in South Carolina – Beaufort and Charleston.

So, although we’ve been traveling for six months, it feels like we’re just getting started.  Danny is loving every minute of the trip.  I’m having fun and getting more comfortable every day, but I don’t like to think about how long it is until we’re home for good.  I’m trying to take it just one day at a time.  Captain Dan continues to try to toughen me up and has picked up the Navy Seal motto “The only easy day was yesterday!” 

Remember that if you’re reading this you are welcome to join us for a cruise!  Thanks for traveling along with us!

Captian Dan and Cruise Director Jodi

The Journey Continues

A few days ago, March 23rd, marked our six month anniversary of the day we started our journey.  Since then we have traveled about 2000 miles down the East Coast to the south of Florida, across Lake Okechobee to the West Coast of Florida and have traveled through many different waterways, lots of bridges and a few locks.   Our boating skills and confidence have improved and we have lots more to learn.  My bravery has improved a little too, sometimes I even find that I’m enjoying myself while we’re under way, not just when we’re at dock!  We’re disappointed that we didn’t make it to the Bahamas this winter, it just wasn’t in the cards, but there’s always next year! We thoroughly enjoyed the Florida weather; we were able to walk, bike, kayak and saw some beautiful parks and trails.  We also spent  quite a bit of time at the beach  and could actually swim in the warm water. Danny walked the beach just about every day and has acquired quite a collection of toys – he swears they were all left behind and that he didn’t steal them from any little kids – but there are no corroborating witnesses!

 

So, now we have officially started the Great Loop!  Although the East Coast from New York south is part of the route, most people loop in a counter-clockwise direction so as to be chasing the warmer weather.  As we move north we are beginning to meet some other “Loopers” on the same route.  We’ve shared “docktails”, dinner and lunch with a few and always exchange boat cards with one another – our collection is really growing.  It’s fun and interesting to exchange boat stories (good and bad!), share experiences about places to visit and things not to miss and to have a community of like-minded people.  We’ve met couples who didn’t have a lot more experience than we do and others who are “old salts” with years and years of boating under their belts.  People who’ve completed The Loop always comment that this social part is one of the best parts of the trip. Danny tends to leave the ice breaking to me but has really enjoyed meeting people as well.

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We are in St Augustine, Florida again and will be here for a week. We arrived two days ago and yesterday there were gale force winds, we are very grateful that we were safely docked before the winds started howling. We spent a couple of days in Fort Pierce on the way here, that’s a beautiful place nicknamed the “Sunrise City” and it did not disappoint. We spent an awe inspiring afternoon at The Navy Seal Museum while we were there as well. The last week of cruising was perfect, we had sunny clear skies, warm temperatures and smooth waters. If only it was always like that.

We spent a week at home so Danny could have his check in with his doctor and we are thrilled that all is well; he’s feeling great and living his dream. I was so happy to see my family and especially sweet Lilah, missing days with her is the worst part of this trip. We plan on bringing the boat as far as New York by the end of May then coming home for a coupe of weeks before continuing North to the Hudson River, Erie Canal, Canada and beyond!

 

We are blessed to be on this trip and love hearing from people at home. We love company! If you have some time off and want to go for a boat ride come join us for a few days. There’s rarely a dull moment and I alvways have lots to say!

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Thanks for traveling along – Dan and Jodi on Done Diggin’

 

We may be getting good at this!

And by THIS I mean the whole snowbird thing!  Since leaving Fort Lauderdale on January 10th, we’ve done less cruising than the first three months of our trip, and have enjoyed the sun, warmer climates, friends, family time and each other; I’m happy to say that 4 months into living on a 43’ boat we still like each other :-).

Our friends Robyn and Terry  came to visit in Fort Lauderdale over New Years and a good time was had by all!  The weather was incredible; in the 80’s and sunny most days, so we had plenty of beach time and plenty of fun!

We struggled with a “next step” decision for the trip after the first of the year.  We were planning on waiting for a weather window to The Bahamas but decided to put that off at least temporarily and cross from the Atlantic Coast of Florida over to the Gulf Coast.  So we headed north on the ICW with overnight stops in Boynton Beach, Palm Beach and Stuart Florida.  Danny’s brother Al met us in Stuart and did the Lake Okeechobee crossing with us; having hiked around the lake as part of the Florida Trail, it’s something he’d always wanted to do.  We had to pass through four locks during the trip and I was really happy to have him there to help man the lines.  I’d only done one lock prior to these, so I was nervous, but by the end of the trip Al and I were high diving each other on our progress.  In true to Al leadership fashion, he actually taught me a better way to hold the lines – this will come in handy when we pass through the 160+ locks on The Great Loop.

So, now we’ve been in Fort Myers for a little more than a week and are scheduled to stay here until February 8th.  The weather has been cooler; some mornings have been in the 40’s and the highs have been in the 70’s.  I know it’s WAY better than the temperatures and snow at home and try not to complain!  One morning I texted my kids to tell them to be careful driving on the ice; Shannon responded “be careful not to get a sunburn” and Ryan said “nobody really wants to hear from you today, Mom.” Evan ignored me completely! Today it’s raining and cold, Danny put his jeans back on, but we’ll make the best of it.  Bottom line is, winter is better in Florida and we are enjoying some Symes time in Fort Myers and on Sanibel where Al and Barbara live.

We’re still trying to decide what’s next.  We will likely continue West to Marco Island and then down the coast to the Keys before heading north again.  Meanwhile there’s always something to work on so we keep busy. Also we are now on The Great Loop route; we actually have been for most of the trip, but in the wrong direction.  Many “Loopers” start in Florida, so we have decided that when we start moving again we’ll officially  join the 2019 Fleet.

So far we’ve traveled about 1800 miles on Done Diggin’ and we’re just getting started!  I’ve adjusted to this new chapter of life but I miss my family. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone when we come home at the end of February for Danny to check in with his doctor.  If you want a break from winter, come visit, we will make room for you!

Thanks for traveling along with us and stay warm!

Merry Christmas from Florida!

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This is a very, very different Christmas this year.  So, why are we in Fort Lauderdale for Christmas, you ask?  Was that the plan, you wonder?  Well, we’ve asked the same questions as we continue on our adventure.

We got here on December 12th with the intention of staying for three days to work on a couple of boat projects and do some provisioning for a crossing to the Bahamas.  Well, 13 days later – here we are!  Although the weather has really been wonderful for walking on the beach, sitting in the sun and exploring Fort Lauderdale, it hasn’t been the right weather for a crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini, Bahamas.  It’s about a 60 mile trip, not long really, but ideally, the winds should be from the south and we’d be happy with waves at about 2 – 3 foot height (Danny wants me to add that it all depends on the wind direction, but you get the drift – pun intended).  That hasn’t happened; in fact there have been a lot of gale force winds out in the ocean, not our kind of boating!

We decided a few days ago to move further south to Dinner Key in Miami, in the Coconut Grove neighborhood; we heard that a lot of people stay there to wait out a weather window and we thought we might meet a “buddy boat” to cross with – safety in numbers.  So we left our spot on the New River in Fort Lauderdale and started south.  About an hour into the trip the port engine alarm sounded (NOT a pleasant sound when you’re underway) and Danny discovered that there was oil spilling into the engine.  Long story short, we had our first tow from Boats US – they showed up really quickly, towed us to a marina and somehow turned our big double-wide around to stern into the slip!  They were amazing and surprised it was our first tow, they said “sooner or later everybody gets towed”!  Danny spent the last day and a half trying to find the problem, and he’s pretty sure he did; apparently when he changed the air filters he put a tube too far into the filters which caused back pressure in the motor and all the oil to come out.  Ugh.  Although my heart was beating pretty fast as we shut down the engine, waited for the tow boat and tied onto them, it could have been much, much worse.  We were in the ICW not far from where we started, there wasn’t too much boat traffic as Danny turned the boat around on one engine, and we avoided the GIGANTIC cruise ships that were docked nearby.  I keep thinking how frightening it would have been if we were halfway across the open water on the way to Bimini and this happened.

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So, Christmas is in Fort Lauderdale this year.  Over the past few weeks we’ve seen SO many decorated boats and homes and palm trees along the intercoastal, we saw a Santa parade in Titusville, FL and a boat parade here in Ft. Lauderdale.  Boating and Christmas still kinda crack me up.  Not New Englandy.  I’ve tried to get into the Christmas spirit, but without my kids, my Lilah, my sister and our good friends it’s just not the same.  Today we are eating a bad, unhealthy breakfast, we’ll go for a walk on the beach to try to walk some of it off and make room for a dinner at a nearby restaurant later.  We had a little face time with Brenda and family yesterday, I have a video from Lilah (which I can’t insert here for some reason) and hope to face time with everyone else later. Not the same, but we will make it a Merry Christmas.

So, what’s next?  We are excited that our good friends Robyn and Terry were able to change their flights to Nassau to flights to Ft. Lauderdale, so they arrive here on the 30th.  We will celebrate New Years Eve here with them and maybe do some cruising toward The Keys for part of their stay.  We will figure out The Bahamas when we figure out The Bahamas.  As Danny keeps saying, we don’t have a curfew!! Meanwhile, coffee in the mornings and wine in the evenings on the bow of the boat enjoying being together and on our adventure.

Merry, Merry Christmas and much love to our family and friends.  If you’re lucky enough to see this little angel today, please hug her for me. Enjoy the season wherever you are!

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Finally in Florida!

 

After two months away from home and over a month of travel days, we finally made it to sunny Florida on Friday, November 30th.  It was 68 degrees and sunny when we docked at The Amelia Island Marina and we felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement that we’ve come this far.  Now we’re in Saint Augustine for a few days;  this is another of the “destination” towns we had in mind, it’s beautiful here.  We’re staying in a marina that’s downtown and we can easily walk the cobblestone streets with shops, restaurants and beautiful Spanish style architecture.  It feels like a bit of a vacation!

While we’ve enjoying some down time, I’ve had time to reflect on things that we’ve noticed or learned so far.  I’m sharing them in no particular order at all!

This is not beginners boating!!  Although Danny has always been confident that we can handle this trip, we’ve realized that compared to a lot of the people we’ve met along the way, we have very little experience!  We have learned SO much and have MUCH more to learn.  It keeps us on our toes!

There is not a lot of water in South Carolina, Georgia or Florida!! Our boat has 4’ keels, the part of the boat that you can’t see under the water.  There have been LONG stretches on the ICW where we only see 6’ on our depth finder, and there have been two times (so far) that it’s suddenly down to 2’ and we’ve bumped!!  Both of those times Danny was able to back off, find more water and carry on, but we’ve seen several boats that have run aground.  They say there are two kinds of boaters – those who have run aground and those who lie about it.  If it happens you either sit and wait for the next incoming tide or call a tow service.  The problem with either of those options is time since boating in the dark on the ICW isn’t wise and the days are short this time of year.  We try to follow the charts, stay in the center of the channel or follow boats with bigger keels but that’s not always possible.  Sometimes it’s pretty lonely out there on the ICW – and sometimes here comes a big barge!

Preparation is important!!  Danny’s joked that it looks like we’re preparing for a moon landing while we’re underway.  Each night he charts to our next destination on the Garmin (our electronic chart plotter) and also charts on Aqua Maps (another chart application) on the iPad.  Both of these, along with good old fashioned paper charts, and a few other books we’ve purchased are all around us at the helm.  In addition to showing the way, they also alert to shallow water, hazards, where marinas can be found, etc.

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Sunrises, sunsets and dolphins make us smile!!  Especially the dolphins.  Every time.  They’re just so beautiful and we see them almost every day, sometimes in the marinas when we’re sitting on the boat.  I’ve tried to take pictures but they’re fast, no luck so far.  I’ve taken a lot of sunrise and sunset pictures and to tell the truth they pretty much all look the same, not sure which is which!!

We usually don’t know what day it is, but we’re always “home”!!  Not only does one of us ask the other that question daily, we NEVER know the date and sometimes I forget what town we’re in.  Somehow, that’s OK, though, the boat really does feel like home.  It requires a lot of organization to make it work, but it’s comfy.  We love our boat!

Sunshine, friends and family make everything better!!  We’ve run into a lot of weather this fall, but on the sunny days it all seems OK. We’ve also been thrilled to spend time with loved ones along the way – we spent a day with Jack & Linda, my brother and sister-in-law way back in PTown, another day with Barry & Pam my ex-laws 🙂 in Beaufort SC, had a fun day in Fernandina Beach with some New England boating friends, Bruce & Shani, and had lunch with my friend Fran and her husband Jack in St. Augustine yesterday.  It’s just so nice of people to make time for us as we pass through.  Danny has family on the west coast of Florida, we look forward to seeing them later in the winter.

We are blessed!!  A little over two years ago we weren’t certain we’d be making this trip – or any trip to be honest.  I thank God for this every day, we are so lucky to be having this adventure and to be enjoying the people, the places and each other.

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If you’ve managed to make it to the end of this long blog entry, thank you!  Now out to wash the boat then some shopping!

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Charleston, SC

 

Hello from Charleston where we were at the intersection of King and Queen yesterday afternoon!  This is a beautiful city and we’re looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner at High Cotton, a restaurant downtown where Danny had “the best shrimp and grits in the world” when we visited last year.  It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he ordered it today.  He’s such a traditionalist!

After a few days of a rest here, we’ll continue to head south.  We estimate we’re at least 3 weeks behind schedule, but one of the many things we’ve learned on this trip so far is that the best Boat Plan is No Plan, there are just too many variables. We’ve traveled about 1100 miles so far, through 10 states (including the one we’re in) and have cruised the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay, Chesapeake Bay, Cape Fear River and about a dozen canals and rivers including the Alligator River!  We come into a marina every night and have really enjoyed some of the towns, especially Belhaven and Beaufort in NC and Southport and Georgetown in SC. There have been beautiful sunrises and sunsets, cold mornings, sunny afternoons, too much rain and even a tornado!  Although we did see 70 degrees a couple of times a few weeks ago, it’s been relatively cool, todays high will be 60.  We’ll take it – but keep cruising South “until the butter melts”!

 

We took a short trip home from November 8th through the 12th so we could celebrate Lilah’s third birthday.  She loved every minute of her troll party and I loved  seeing her and smooching that adorable face.  We spent time with our friends Robyn and Terry, Brenda and I went to see “A Star is Born” (sob!) had a fun lunch out with Ryan, Amanda and Lilah,  and we watched a movie and had Chinese food with Shannon and Evan.  I loved spending time with everyone and miss you all again!

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Our cruising schedule has been a little more consistent since we left NY a few weeks ago, though we were held up a few days in Beaufort, NC for weather.  We met some other cruisers at a “docktail” party one of the boats hosted and have learned so much from the experience of the people along the way.  There are many resources for first-timers like us in addition to the other boaters.  We typically look at 4 weather apps daily; Danny charts our trips on two different devices, and we use good old fashioned paper charts while we’re under way as well. We’ve been in the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) since Virginia and parts of this journey are challenging for even the most seasoned sailors and cruisers.  We went through an area called “The Rock Pile” in NC the other day, and a particularly shallow area in McLellanville, SC where we actually bumped bottom it was so low.  Luckily Danny was able to back out and keep moving but two other boats weren’t as lucky and were stuck until the tide changed or a tow boat service came.

So, the adventure continues and we are thankful for this experience. Thanks for following along with us!