2009 – Florida to Chesapeake Bay

***** STILL NEED TO FORMAT AND ADD PHOTOS *****

 

On The Move Again…

January 21, 2009 2:28 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We survived about a month traveling around to visit our families and friends for the holidays, putting lots of miles on the car and having a lot of laughs with everyone.  It was very nice, but we were glad to get back home to the boat after so much time away.  We stayed in Palm Coast for almost a week after we got back so we could catch up with some friends there;  “the girls” spent some time at the bead stores and “the boys” went to the HAM Radio store.  We still hadn’t finished putting everything away and catching up with all the mail, but it was time to get the boat moving towards the Keys so we left on Sunday.  The tide has been unusually low lately, and we had to wait for the little bit of rise to escape the Palm Coast neighborhood canals so we made a relatively short run down to Daytona Beach where we anchored and settled in to watch the football playoff games.  It felt very good to start moving again!

Monday we cruised into the area known as the “Space Coast” near NASA – we could even see the Space Shuttle on the launching pad in the distance.  The water has been sparkling and we see dolphins and fuzzy-headed pelicans every day.  We saw a bald eagle getting harassed by an osprey near New Smyrna, and now we see flocks of white pelicans more ofen.  Yesterday we had a flock of sea gulls following our wake – we must have been stirring something up that interested them.

We’re slowly getting back into our normal underway routine.  Although we prefer to anchor, we’re having a few very cold nights with temps in the mid-30’s so we tucked into a marina so we can have plenty of heat and to give us time to fix a few things that need attention.  We’re due to arrive in Marathon in the Keys on 1 February, so we’ll keep watching the weather and we’ll try to work our trip around weather windows for offshore travel.

 

The Right to Bare Arms

January 27, 2009 10:39 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We’ve traveled a lot of miles from the last posting a little over a week ago, but it only really warmed up over the weekend when we paused in N. Palm Beach.  Short sleeves feel foreign, but it’s a relief to shed all the layers!

We stopped in the Space Coast area to visit friends and to check into a marina for two nights since the nighttime temps were in the low 30’s.  Normally we prefer to anchor, but sometimes it’s nice to have plenty of electricity for heat all night long!  We cruised down to Ft. Pierce to anchor for the night and ran into another DeFever 49 that we last saw in the Chesapeake in late November.  We had a beautiful week of traveling weather with light winds, and we made it to N. Palm Beach by the weekend.  We visited with two DeFever couples while there, and had a grand time and lots of laughs.  Everyone is getting excited for the DeFever Rendezvous next month.

After two days of visiting, we got a good weather window to run outside from Lake Worth down to Key Biscayne, avoiding the many bridges and heavy local boat traffic in the relatively narrow ICW.  I think this was our 6th trip through the area, and it was the first time we’ve been able to get good weather and avoid the bridges.  We have to wait for 18 bridges to open on the ICW just between the Lake and Ft. Lauderdale, so it’s a real treat to go outside!  We traveled on a Sunday so there was a lot of small boat traffic – fishing and diving – but it was an easy day.  Here’s a photo of Port Everglades and some of the Ft. Lauderdale skyline – notice the huge cruise ship.

We’re finally on the doorstep to “paradise”, anchored in Bill Baggs State Park at the bottom of Key Biscayne.  It’s a very pretty park and the anchorage is surrounded by mangroves and highlighted with white ibis and the occasional dolphin in the harbor.

We’re waiting for a weather window for the run to Marathon, and it looks like Thursday will be a good day.  In the meantime, we’re tackling some chores and catching up on little errands.  We walked into town to the grocery store yesterday, and we toured the Cape Florida Lighthouse here in the park – it was never open when we were here last year.

We got a great view of the Miami skyline and the reefs off Key Biscayne, as well as the famous Stiltsville – some old homes out in the water with no external power or water that have survived many hurricanes and storms.

 

 

Settled in Marathon

February 2, 2009 10:36 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We had a very nice three day stop in No Name Harbor on Key Biscayne, catching up on some chores and taking long walks into town and on the nature trails around the park.  We found a large bee’s nest and I got to use my new telephoto lens to check out the action.

The park is surrounded by mangroves and we saw some iguanas, herons, and lots of white ibis rooting around for food.

The weather was going to be settled on Thursday, and more fronts were due through the Keys on Friday so we left before sunrise Thursday for the 90 nm ocean run to Marathon.  The seas were a little lumpy at first, but they settled down nicely after about two hours, and we had a really nice trip.  Jim shot the first rays of light from the sunrise, and once the sun was up the water turned a beautiful turquoise color.

We arrived in Marathon to the same marina where we stayed last winter.  We got in well after dark, but we were familiar with the approach and the crab pots weren’t too bad this year.

We were surprised to find some DeFever friends at the marina (and a friendly voice on the radio), as well as our MTOA friend Betty waiting to catch our lines.  Several other DeFevers are staying for a week or two at the other end of the harbor here, so a party was quickly arranged, and hosted aboard the gorgeous SEPTEMBER SONG.  It was a fun reunion of friends we last met in Maine in June, as well as friends we last saw in North Carolina.

Now that we’re settled for a bit, we’re diving into our big projects and to-do’s with a vengeance.  There won’t be much time for lolling about – we need to get things accomplished while we’re sitting still.  We’ll head up to the Miami Boat Show next week with a list of technical questions and parts that we need to get.  This is what cruisers do – they fix the boat in really nice places.  Luckily for us, there are some friendly faces and nice neighbors here in the marina to lend a hand or watch the sunset with.

 

 

It’s a Keys Thing…

February 8, 2009 12:03 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

I thought I’d share some thoughts about what makes the Keys such a special place.  Not everyone understands the Keys, but those who do are smitten with them!

Driving south from Miami you pass through some mangroves and cross the bridge at Jewfish Creek – now you’re officially in the Keys.  It starts with a feeling that you’ve switched from “regular” to “decaf”.  Things move a little slower, and there are very few chain restaurants or big box stores; there’s probably only one Starbucks in the whole 100 mile string of islands.  You can spot the locals – they drive more slowly and actually stop to let you make a turn or let you into traffic in front of them.  The tourists drive like they’re still in Miami or New York.

The Keys have many faces: the ticky-tacky side of things – tourist shops along Rt. 1 and Duval Street in Key West, but that’s not what this place is really about.  Wander into the neighborhoods and it’s quiet and interesting and beautiful and sometimes funky.  For instance, the gingerbread trim on the Key West houses is all different – history tells us that ship captains came here and they brought their shipwrights along to build their homes.  Each shipwright carved the gingerbread trim in a different pattern – all gorgeous.  There are restaurants in the neighborhoods away from Rt. 1 that cater primarily to locals, though anyone who can find the place is most welcome.

No Name Pub on Big Pine is a perfect example of a funky place that (unfortunately) was “discovered”.  It was featured in a book or two and a movie, so now it’s packed with tourists and aging bikers (black leather can’t hide the ravages of time).  Good thing the light is pretty dim in there.

The DeFever “gang of 12” packed into two cars and we showed them how to find No Name.  The weather was still cold so you can see we’re pretty bundled up for a tropical paradise!

The walls and ceiling are covered with dollar bills (somehere north of $50,000), and the bar sign celebrates the local wildlife – the diminutive Key Deer.  Thanks to Rick from RICKSHAW for the great No Name photos!

After lunch we took the gang to see our house under construction, and they gave us our first housewarming gift – that was pretty special.

Just to continue the theme of how the Keys are “different”, here are a few more examples:  The police here in Marathon wear crisply pressed white police uniform shirts with all the usual patches and badge, the impressive Batman Tool Belt, and ratty sun-faded blue cargo shorts and nasty old sneakers.

There seems to be a pretty high ratio of kooks per capita here.  Some are locals, some are snowbirds, and a few are even tourists.  The Keys seem to bring out the best and the weirdest in our fellow humans.  The DeFever gang got together again last Sunday for cocktails and a book/DVD exchange, and we headed over to Dockside to hear a local band.  There is just no way to explain or describe the strange people and the gyrations that pass for “dancing”… but it’s entertaining.

It’s the Keys…  fun, funky, different.  Aside from the different pace though, the wonderful things are the birds and underwater critters and the ever-changing blue and turquoise water colors.  That’s the part that we really love, and why we love to be here.

 

Contrasts

February 14, 2009 7:00 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

The contrast between the Keys and so-called “civilization” was really brought home over the last two days.  I finally stopped doing chores long enough to put my kayak in the water, and it felt wonderful to get back out on the water and to see my old friends – the birds and the sea critters.  In the first hour I saw small nurse sharks, stingrays, baby barracuda, jellyfish, crabs, tiny snails, various kinds of herons and egrets, ibis, pelicans, and kingfishers.  I took my camera with the new telephoto lens (THANK YOU JIM!!) and had fun trying to charm the birds.

The pelicans are one of my favorites – they are the most amazing flyers despite their ungainly bodies and beaks.  They can take off with just a few flaps of their wings, and they cruise just an inch or two above the water on a cushion of air.  Appearances can be deceiving.

So where’s the contrast?  We drove up to Fort Lauderdale and Miami yesterday to go to the watermaker dealer and to the Miami Boat Show – we had a specific list of to-do’s and things to get, and it was a long but productive day.  We left the Keys at 0630 and fought heavy traffic on the highways all morning, with crazy drivers, construction, and just plain old congestion.  Horrible!  It took us almost an hour to travel about 20 miles.  “Civilization” is not civilized!

The Miami Boat Show is quite a spectacle – it’s a big international show that caters to everything from high-end megayachts to canoes.  The boats are spread among a number of different marinas in the area, and the entire convention center and grounds are filled with vendor booths.  This is just one section of the convention center.

The show was smaller than last year, and the crowds were noticeably smaller – not surprising.  Testosterone is alive and well though – the big tricked-out racing boats with fancy paint and huge engines still turned heads and drew lots of lookers.  The trend of putting more outboards on the back of bigger T-top style boats continues.  I saw one boat with four large outboards, but this one with five 350 hp engines just took the cake!

We met some friends at the show (I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it – it’s a very small world!), we got some ideas and useful information, and we got some decent deals on a few purchases we needed: small water separator filter for the dinghy fuel system, a replacement engine room blower, and some electronic and paper charts for the Bahamas.  The watermaker folks also fixed us up with a new valve assembly, chemicals, and some very helpful advice – so the trip was worth the time and hassle.  We didn’t get back to the boat until almost midnight, but it felt good to escape the city craziness and return to the nicer pace here.  Now we go back to our chores and projects, and of course a little paddling.

 

 

Adventures in the Everglades

March 1, 2009 10:46 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We left Marathon on the 23rd, heading for the DeFever Rendezvous just north of Ft. Myers on the west coast of Florida.  On the way, we tucked into the Little Shark River in the Everglades for two nights to wait out a bit of weather.  We were traveling with our friends on GYPSIES IN THE PALACE, so we had a little company in an otherwise remote area.

The Little Shark River is a winding warren of thick mangroves and forest, with no signs of humans except for a few navigation markers here and there.  There is no cellular voice or data connectivity at all, which was kind of nice – it makes you focus on other things for a bit.  The River is full of wildlife – dolphins, sea turtles, snapping turtles (big ones!), pelicans, cormorants, herons, and white ibis.

One evening we were sitting on the flying bridge aboard GYPSIES IN THE PALACE around sunset, and huge flocks of ibis flew past us, towards the Gulf – there were so many that you heard nothing but the soft whooshing sound of them all flapping their wings.  We wondered where all these ibis came from, so we put the dinghy (“Beastie”) in the water to do some exploring.  Eventually we found their daytime hide-out, in the trees farther up the river.  They were everywhere!

It was almost spooky back there in the mangroves, with the swift tidal current flipping us to and fro as the tide changed.  In addition to the River’s surprises (a big sea turtle poking his head to look at us, right next to the boat), the final treat was the night sky.  With no civilization anywhere nearby, we were treated to a wonderful sky chock full of stars.  Hopefully we’ll stop in there on our way back to the Keys after the Rendezvous for another dose of nature.

Good things often come at a “price”, and our departure from Little Shark River was a little more eventful than we prefer.  The tide was running out so the current in the river was rather brisk as both boats started pulling up our anchors.  Ours tripped rather quickly – which is unusual.  When we got it to the surface we could see why – some of the anchor chain got wrapped around the anchor, probably as we reversed direction twice a day with the strong tidal currents.

Fortunately Jim is a wizard at untangling problems, and he was able to use a second chain hook to flip the anchor and help it untangle itself.  It was a little exciting since we had to keep the boat pointed into the current and try to match the speed of the water so we could remain relatively still while Jim sorted out the anchor.  The excitement continued for a while since the water is shallow at the mouth of the River, and we departed at dead low tide.  By evening we were tucked into the canals of Naples, anchored among the mansions.

The next afternoon we anchored between Cabbage Key and Useppa Island for the DeFever Rendezvous.  The boats are starting to gather, and it’s exciting!

 

 

DeFever Rendezvous

March 7, 2009 1:43 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

130 people and about 40 boats gathered around Cabbage Key and Useppa Island on the west coast of Florida for the annual DeFever Cruisers Rendezvous.  That’s what boaters and cruisers do – they “rendezvous” any chance they get!  It’s a great opportunity to share current information about cruising destinations, provisioning, technical issues (there are countless on a cruising boat), communications in remote places, etc.  It’s also good to meet new DeFever owners and to see our long-time friends.

DeFevers are known for their high flared bows…

And here’s part of the group who came for cocktails at Cabbage Key on Friday night…

While catching up over a drink and a snack, we saw an otter climbing up onto the smaller fishing boats around the marina, trying to get into coolers.  She was pretty bold, moving from boat to boat and really working hard to find something fishy to eat!

Historically every DeFever Rendezvous has had a good storm, and this year was no exception.  The winds came up on Sunday and kept most of us out in the anchorage aboard our boats making sure our anchors didn’t drag.  After many hours of consistent winds though, we all braved the choppy water and came into the marina for the farewell dinner.  You could tell the people who took dinghy rides by their wet legs and funky, salty hair!

When the Rendezvous was officially over three of the boats headed to nearby Cayo Costa Island – Pelican Bay to anchor on Monday, and seven more joined us on Tuesday.  The winds were still a bit frisky but the protection was much better tucked up in Pelican Bay, though we could only enter at high tide.  We had spaghetti and meatballs aboard SEPTEMBER SONG on Monday night… scones, fresh fruit, and mimosas aboard ADVENTURES on Tuesday morning, and cocktails aboard TIDE HIKER on Tuesday night.  In between all that I got some time to kayak and explore a bit – the water was just gorgeous and the shell collecting was neat!

On Wednesday we all took our dinks to the Cayo Costa state park and brought picnic lunches, and we walked on the beach and had one last hurrah with the group.

We needed to get fuel and the price in Punta Gorda was excellent ($1.65), so we headed over there for a night to see some Power Squadron friends (Al & Elaine) and to fuel up and fill water tanks.  Tonight we’re tied to a free dock at a little restaurant in Marco Island.  We just got the boat tied up when a 19′ boat came over – it was a couple from the Rendezvous visiting friends here.  Small, small world!

 

Marco Island and Some Funny Coincidences

March 7, 2009 8:53 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Friends on GYPSIES IN THE PALACE found a little restaurant with a dock (if you eat at the restaurant the dock is free) in Marco Island, so we decided to give the place a try.  The dock is small – about 30′ long, but we managed to secure the boat even though the bow is hanging out in space!  We had a chance to relax a little this afternoon, and were sighted by new DeFever friends (from Connecticut) in their 19′ runabout.

We headed over to the restaurant for dinner around 6:30 and saw that our favorite Keys musician happened to be playing here – tonight (Terry Cassidy from Big Pine Key)!  The world is shrinking as I type…  too many familiar things converging in strange places…

Tomorrow we’ll be back in the Everglades, stopping for the night in spooky but beautiful Little Shark River.  Rod Serling (Twilight Zone – for you youngsters)… here we come!

 

A Typical Day

March 11, 2009 7:40 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Because we depend on the boat to provide us with safe, reliable transportation and all the comforts of home, we spend a lot of time doing maintenance on various systems.  We need to be self sufficient in remote places because parts and repairs can be impossible, difficult, or just very expensive… so we try to stay on top of things.  Remember that when we’re cruising we are like a floating city – we have to supply all our own water, power, and handle waste – so those systems need care and attention as well.

Fortunately we like working on the boat – it’s challenging, we’re always learning, and it’s gratifying to enjoy the fruits of a hard day’s work.  In other words, we’re not sitting around here sipping fru-fru drinks and working on our tans!

Yesterday was a good example of a typical day.  Jim was working on his own long project list, and I try to take care of simpler things so he can do the complex electrical and mechanical things that I’m not good at.  We were out of bread, and we make our own aboard – it’s easy to run to the store here in Marathon, but not when we’re cruising.  Bread takes up a lot of valuable space in the freezer, and the bulk of a bread machine is a small price to pay for the variety of fresh bread anytime we need it.  So, I got the bread machine fired up with some nice ricotta cheese bread…

And while that was running, I changed the oil in the dinghy outboard.  The bread finished just about the same time I was cleaning up my mess on the boat deck (3 hours)!

This photo doesn’t do justice to my afternoon – it’s when I was just getting things set up.  First I have to hoist the dinghy with the crane about 2-3′ so I can drop the engine to a vertical position.  Hook a water hose up to the engine so I can provide cooling water since I have to run the engine.  I did both the engine and the lower unit, so there was plenty of mess, oily, slippery tools, and oily footprints since I had to get Jim to help me remove the oil filter – it’s in a tight spot and hard to turn.  It took longer to clean up than to do the changes, but it was good to cross some things off the list.

We had a nice surprise finding our friends on ALGONQUIN here in the harbor.  We spent a winter or two with them up in Annapolis, and we both suffered through a number of major boat projects.  It’s so nice to enjoy our boats now, meeting in the kind of warrm tropical places we used to dream about (while freezing and living with fiberglass dust).  They came over for dinner, by dinghy of course – since the dink is a cruiser’s “car”.  They brought their friends along, and we had a fabulous evening…

 

March in Marathon

March 21, 2009 3:28 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We’re conscious of the approach of spring as we see the sun marching steadily northwards – we have an unobstructed view of the sunset so it’s something we notice every day.  A few snowbirds have left the marina to begin the northwards migration already, and a few eager folks think they’re leaving for the Bahamas any day now – though the strong north winds say otherwise.  The divers are busy in the marina cleaning boats that will leave at the end of the month…  but the idea of staying on here a bit longer (to wait for the house to be completed) is nice.  We have tons of projects that we won’t be able to finish even if we had all the time in the world, so we’ve been keeping uber-busy and hope we cross more jobs off the list than we add.  The weather is beautiful, and things will start to quiet down a bit.

On Mondays one of the marina guys works the length of the dock with the pump-out cart.  It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s not as bad as it sounds either.  Every boat has a holding tank for human waste, and Monday is the day to get the tank pumped out… an all-day affair for the fellow running the cart.  The cart has a motor that drives a vacuum pump (yes – the job sucks!) and fills the cart’s tank.  Then he connects the hose to a dock fitting and pushes the contents into the main wastewater system… then on to the next boat.  In Paradise!

This has been one of those messy weeks.  Jim ordered new membranes for our watermaker, and he had to take a ton of stuff out of the lazarette (large storage area under the cockpit) just to get to the membrane vessels.

The watermaker is a reverse osmosis system, and it uses a high pressure (800 psi) pump to push sea water through a membrane to produce potable fresh water.  The membranes are so fine that viruses and bacteria can not pass through.  The long tubes in the photo above are the pressure vessels that contain the membranes, and the photo below shows the old membranes (15 years old) and one of the new ones.

Jim also got the chest freezer up and running, after a little re-wiring.  He’s still monitoring it, so all the crates and boxes from the freezer cabinet are piled on the floor.  We’ll use that freezer for secondary storage, and only dig into it every few weeks to refill the main freezer.

To escape the mess, I took the kayak out to see my bird friends.  The tide was very low, and some abandoned lobster pots were visible.

I watched a beautiful snowy egret fishing in the shallows.  Egrets have black legs, but the snowy has bright yellow feet, which he shuffles to flush out prey.

 

 

Farewells and Projects

March 30, 2009 5:22 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

The end of March signals the end of the winter season for many boats, and the northwards migration is about to begin – TOMORROW!  The winds have been blowing hard for over a week, and the crews are ready to start moving.  The wind changed direction and started to ease yesterday, and continues to clock around this evening and into tomorrow.  The weather is looking pretty good for people to travel, and we’ve been busy saying good-bye to lots of folks.  It’s about to be a ghost town around here, compared to the busy, happy chaos that’s normal in season.  This is the dinghy dock for the Marathon City’s mooring field on an average morning… dinks almost as far as the eye can see.

It will be interesting to see what the City dink dock will look like after the Grand Exodus.

We’re still waiting for the last items on the house to be finished, and we’ve been keeping very busy with projects.  Our dock neighbors give us a hard time because we’re always working on various things, but it’s a great opportunity to accomplish some projects while we’re sitting still for a change.

We got a great deal on a waterproof computer monitor for the flying bridge, and the installation turned into a multi-day project for Jim.  All the wire chases are packed tight, and he had “fun” working all the wires down to the pilothouse and under the bridge… plus drilling holes, etc.

Our friend Larry (from ALGONQUIN) came over several times to get some help reassembling the fuel pumps for his generators.  It’s a job that requires more hands than one human has, and he and Jim got pretty quick at the reassembly after doing it a few times!

In the meantime I’ve been working on some fiberglass projects – tackling a few small cracks and repair of one of the outside stair treads.  It’s messy work – grinding, then sanding, then filling and fairing with epoxy and more sanding.

I’m nearly finished with the repairs, and this week I’ll start prepping all the areas for repainting.  I have touch-ups to do in each of the three colors on the boat (white, black, and tan on the decks), so that will probably take all week.  The paint is very fussy and I can’t skip any steps in preparation, priming, and sanding.  It’s not the most fun way to spend a day, but it’s gratifying to improve my rudimentary skills and to tackle a big project that’s a little scary.  Getting the repair to look cosmetically perfect is very challenging.

It’s been too windy to kayak, but tomorrow looks good and I’m definitely going for a nice long paddle for a change.

 

 

Living in a Washing Machine

April 7, 2009 3:32 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

The marina is about half-empty and traffic is a little lighter on the roads.  We had light south winds for the last two weeks, but a front came through yesterday afternoon and now it’s like living in a washing machine!  The winds are gusty and the water around the boat is just churning and quite noisy.  Luckily I finished my fiberglass and painting work before the big winds returned, and we got everything all cleaned up and stowed.  We were getting tired of looking at the mess.

We’ve been continuing our work on the project list, making good progress.  The list is still longer than there will ever be time for, and sometimes we need to remember that and try not to do it all.  Jim got the weather fax installed and working (see photo for a glimpse of the installation process), and now he spends hours looking at weather maps and text data.  It’s some of the same data we can get on the Internet, but we cruise to places where we don’t always have ‘net connectivity and weather is something we pay attention to all day, every day.

A lot of our DeFever friends made it safely over to the Bahamas, but they have been pinned down by wind, which has been the trend this winter.  We hope to get over there, but are still waiting for the house to be finished… so we keep working on projects to keep from pacing.

 

 

Sad News

May 22, 2009 12:37 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Robin’s Mom lost her battle with cancer on May 7th.  We were shocked at how fast her condition changed once her doctor told us to start hospice care.  It has been a very hard month for us, but we have a close family and good friends who have been helping us get through this. The blog was written to Mom but many people have asked us to continue, so we will – with broken hearts.

 

 

 

 

A Time for Remembering

June 3, 2009 1:18 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

In an odd coincidence, just a few days after Mom’s funeral we attended a memorial ceremony at the Harlem Yacht Club.  As part of the annual Going into Commissioning the club honors members who have passed.  Six months ago I arranged for memorial stones for my three ancestors who were also members of the club around the turn of the 20th century.  Jim and I took Dad to see the ceremony – the stones were for his Father, Uncle, and Grandfather.

 

 

Odd Things in the Keys

June 16, 2009 1:18 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We love the Keys because of all the nature and because they’re just a little different.  One example of how they’re different is the boating season.  Normally this is the time of year when everyone is just launching their boats that were stored up on land for the winter.  In the Keys, many people haul their boats for the summer storm season before they head north.  It’s just all backwards.

People in the Keys march to the beat of their own drummer.  On Big Pine, there’s a hair cut place in a bar.  You can’t make this stuff up.  Read the sign – carefully.

Sometimes nature comes in contact with humans just a bit too much.  Our friend Heidi was driving past the Bank of America on Big Pine and saw a key deer coming out the front door.  The diminutive key deer also wander into the Winn-Dixie grocery store now and then – they head right for the produce section.  It’s sad to see wild animals so close to humans – it’s never a good outcome for the animals.  We’re always careful driving in our neighborhood since we’ve seen deer there any time of the day or evening.

 

Starting a New Chapter

September 1, 2009 9:22 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

I’m sorry that we haven’t blogged in such a long time, but it has been a hard summer for us.  We’ve been busy taking care of family things and a few boat chores, and we haven’t had much time for ourselves.  We’ve been camped out in Baltimore for the summer, and (when we’ve actually been here) it has been an unexpected delight.  We’re staying in a marina in the Canton area, next to Fells Point and the Inner Harbor.  It’s a nice neighborhood with lots of little cafes within walking distance, as well as a wonderful knitting shop (A Good Yarn) that specializes in teaching.

The Inner Harbor is only a 2 mile walk…

…but despite the tourist attractions, this is still a busy working harbor and the tugs going by occasionally give us a little rolling wake.  This is the city pier where some of the Moran tugs are docked, and it was also used as a police station in a TV series a few years ago.

We managed to cruise to one little rendezvous a few weeks ago, but the highlight was this Bittern (which looks like a small heron) fishing from the back of our boat.

Next on our to-do list was to get hauled out for new bottom paint.  We’re using better paint so we only have to haul out every two years.  It’s always interesting to see something so large and heavy (about 32 tons) lifted out of the water.  This yard had an 80 ton lift, so it was no problem.

Jim worked hard putting wax on the entire hull (all the black), and I did some minor fiberglass repairs and paint touch-ups, and cleaned the engine room.  We’re back in the water now, and won’t have to do this again for a while – thank goodness.

Our plans are to leave Baltimore in about a week, heading for the big MTOA Rendezvous down in Crisfield on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake.  After that we’ll cruise around the southern Bay for a few weeks and then begin our meandering trip south to the Keys for the winter.

 

 

Segs in the City

September 8, 2009 7:08 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

I did not make that title up – it’s the name of the company that offers Segway tours in Baltimore.  Jim has been fascinated with Segways and has wanted to try one for a long time.  He’s been such a saint helping me get through this difficult summer that I wanted to surprise him with something that he would really like.  We got our friends Heidi and Peter from SPARTINA in on the scam to get him over to Little Italy, and we were all excited since none of us had ever tried one before.

The tour guide gave us all a little orientation to the Segway and some training and practice, then we were off for an hour-long zip around the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

Our guide had a degree in history so he was very interesting to listen to, and he gave us wireless earphones so we could hear him even while we were cruising along.

We started out on wide sidewalks and empty side streets, and eventually graduated to cobblestones and crowded, narrow sidewalks with lots of pedestrians.  The Segway is very intuitive and it doesn’t take long before you find that it just seems to do what you want it to.  We were all grinning from ear to ear, and I think Jim was pleased.

The tour company offers rentals and tours in Annapolis and DC, so we’ll probably find more opportunities to play with the Segways in the future.  I’m sure Jim has already looked up the weight and dimensions so he can ponder where to stow a pair on the boat.  He never stops dreaming!

 

 

MTOA Rendezvous

September 26, 2009 1:44 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

After leaving Baltimore on the 9th, we headed to Mid-Shore Electronics in Cambridge for some warranty work on our autopilot.  As usual, our friends at Mid-Shore took great care of us and they fixed our problem.  The weather was a little too windy for a sea trial, so we got a nice quiet afternoon aboard to get ready for the big MTOA Northern Rendezvous the following week.

We headed down the Bay towards Crisfield, meeting up with our friends on FOOTPRINTS (another DeFever 49) and anchoring in the Honga River.  We wanted to be close to Crisfield so we could get into the marina early so I could settle in to watch the Giants game.  A gal has to have priorities!  Crisfield is the self-proclaimed Crab Capital of the World, and a perfect place to hold a big trawler rendezvous since it has a huge protected basin with plenty of slips.

We had 73 boats and about 176 people for the Rendezvous, and it was an exhausting few days catching up wtih old and new friends.  Jim gave a presentation about “Docking with Spring Lines in Heavy Weather”, and he had a good crowd in attendance (about 70 people).

We had a marvelous time as usual, but it was good to wrap up some of our volunteer obligations for a while.

 

 

Smith Island

September 26, 2009 2:15 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

After the Rendezvous, we linked up with our friends on FOOTPRINTS and GOT THE FEVER to take the tour boat over to the famous Smith Island – it’s the only inhabited offshore island in Maryland, home to an insular crabbing and fishing community.

The island was first charted by John Smith in 1608, and it is impressive that the community continues to thrive since the island is primarily low-lying marsh, with little protection from strong weather.

We were lucky to have an unusually high tide on the day we took our tour, and the boat showed us some of the other small communities on the island that are not normally accessible by deeper-draft boats.  The islanders have a hard life – everything must come in by boat, and winters must be challenging.

The unusually high tide also meant that many of the streets on the island were flooded with about 4-6″ of water.  Luckily we brought our bikes, and they made it easier to get through the water.

We stopped at a little local cafe for lunch and a slice of the famous Smith Island cake – made with many thin layers with icing in between.  The area is also well known for soft-shell crabs, but I don’t like the idea of eating something with little legs sticking out.  The cake was great though – the best Smith Island cake I’ve had.

 

Cruising again…

September 26, 2009 2:44 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

After the Rendezvous, a group from the MTOA Chesapeake Bay Cruisers headed out for a week-long cruise.  We joined them for the trip to Onancock, along with FOOTPRINTS and GOT THE FEVER.  The anchorage is a little small, so the three DeFevers rafted together about a mile from town.  We call this an “inverse Oreo”.

I was able to watch the Giants beat the Cowboys in the first game played in Dallas’ new stadium, so the week started out perfectly.  We tried to explore Onancock on Monday, but a lot of things were closed.  The husbands were smiling at the wives frustrated attempts at shopping…

Our next port of call with the cruise group was Kilmarnock, VA on the Northern Neck (just south of the mouth of the Potomac River).  The other two DeFevers peeled off to start heading south, but we had about eight other boats to keep us company.

Kilmarnock is the home of the famous Bob Smith (Mr. Lehman engine) and his family-run company American Diesel.  We brought our bikes ashore and made the trek to a place we trawler folks consider to be “Mecca”.  It’s pretty incognito – probably to keep the groupies away.

Gail kept us laughing, and Bob and Brian gave us the Grand Tour.  Pistons and parts, machine shop, and a number of old engines with interesting stories to tell.

We loaded our bike bags with some parts purchases, and headed off to Savannah Joe’s BBQ for lunch with the rest of the MTOA gang.

The MTOA folks left on Thursday to continue their cruise northwards, and we’re staying at anchor in this area for a while to visit some friends and to enjoy some quiet time after a busy summer and the flurry of the Rendezvous.  We miss all our cruising friends, but we’ll see them along the waterway, here or there…  that’s just how it is:  lots of waving hello and goodbye.

 

Visitng Friends in the Northern Neck (aka We Missed You, Al)

October 5, 2009 10:53 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We enjoyed our time in Kilmarnock and getting to visit an old friend there.  A week ago we headed around Windmill Point into the Rappahannock River to spend a few quiet days hiding from some heavy winds.

We tucked up into the Corrotoman River, where we found nice high banks thick with trees and pretty homes.  We didn’t even put the dinghy down, but I got the kayak out and paddled a few miles around the different creek branches.  I usually get up early in the morning, and the sunrise is a nice treat to enjoy with coffee.

Thursday the winds settled down and we moved around the corner to Carter Creek to visit some friends.  This is another gorgeous area with lots of branches off the creek, all with high wooded shorelines and lovely homes tucked in the trees.  We met up with Gale and Evelyn – old friends from the Power Squadron, and ended up spending the entire afternoon and evening chatting and watching the birds and deer around their home on Windmill Point.  (Forgot my camera!)

On Saturday and Sunday we caught up with our friends Charlie and Barbara – they have one of those lovely homes tucked in the trees on the creek!

It was great to finally get a chance to visit them – we’ve been trying to get to the Northern Neck for a while, but it seems that we’re often trying to make miles and don’t have the time.

Charlie and Barbara came out to us in the anchorage in their spiffy Boston Whaler, visited for a while, then took us on a little tour.  We’re used to traveling at about 10 MPH on our boat, and it was great fun to go FAST for a change!

It was great to catch up, and even better just to see people like us – who are just happy to be out on the water.

We enjoyed the sights around the area – we were treated to a front-row seat when a bald eagle tried to steal a fish from an osprey right over the boat.

 

 

It is a Very Small World

October 5, 2009 1:53 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We’re heading south on the Chesapeake today, and have had a few interesting sightings.  First, we saw the trawler BLUEWATER tuck in behind us as we came out of the Rappahannock River this morning.  The folks on BLUEWATER are good friends with Suzie and Bill Roberts – who we were just visiting in Kilmarnock last week.  We called BLUEWATER on the radio to say hello, and after some conversation they mentioned that they ran into another DeFever this past week up in Solomons Island.  It turns out that they met our old friends Jeff and Karen (and puppies Dyna and Dylan) on ACAPELLA (developers of our favorite cruising guide – ActiveCaptain – www.activecaptain.com).  Too funny.

A few hours later, after making plans to see our friend Kit (who’s in medical school in the Norfolk area) for dinner tomorrow, and to meet some new DeFever friends (aboard MARJORIE GRACE) tonight…

We see a beautiful schooner passing by us.  It’s the schooner Virginia, and the last time we saw her was in Halifax last summer.

We discover unexpected connections in the strangest places.  The Eastern Seaboard is a small (but long and skinny) world.  It’s a nice easy ride down the Bay today, and while one of us stands watch the other of us is usually online to keep up with email and to research things on the web.  Long boring days in open water give us a lot of time to get things done.

 

 

Commerce, Defense, and Migrating Boats

October 15, 2009 1:05 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

As we headed from the Chesapeake into Hampton Roads – the area around Hampton, Norfolk, and Newport News, VA – I was struck by the incredible amount of activity on the water.  This harbor is a major hub for military ships as well as commercial cargo, and it’s also the beginning of the Intracoastal Waterway (the ICW).

We rounded Thimble Shoal entering Hampton Roads, hugging the north side of the channel as much as possible since we had this Coast Guard buoy tender right behind us, and he was increasing speed to get out of the way of a very large freighter.

All the while there were Navy ships moving around – some had just passed through the narrow entrance heading for sea, and some were farther up the river heading out.  Helicopters and aircraft buzzed over head, and pleasure boats – big and small – zipped around.  The radio traffic was quite lively – we run at least two radios tuned to different channels so we can hear the normal traffic as well as the commercial ship announcements and the bridge tenders.

We were quite happy to turn north into the Hampton River for a few days to explore, walk around, and to see some new and old friends.  The Hampton River is just beautiful, with the Virginia Air & Space Museum on one side, and the lovely grounds of Hampton University on the other.

 We met up with new friends aboard the DeFever 60 MARJORIE GRACE – we made contact with them via email, and they invited us to stop by.  A brief visit turned into a wonderful evening of conversation and a boat tour, and Bill and Irmajean came out to see us in the anchorage the next day for another visit.  The next day Heidi and Peter on SPARTINA came into the marina across from the University, so we picked them up by dinghy and walked around town a bit.

After a few days stretching our legs, it was time to move south again.  We headed down into Norfolk and Portsmouth, passing about a mile of Navy ships at the ready, tugs and barges going by, and joining the growing stream of pleasure boats making the migration south for the winter.

Farther along the Elizabeth River are some work yards and dry docks for Navy ships, and it’s neat to see what the ships really look like.

 The run through Norfolk is always tiring with so much to pay attention to, but it’s endlessly interesting.

 

Friends Along the Waterway

October 19, 2009 11:29 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Although the ICW offers an ever-changing array of sights to see, the highlight is still seeing friends along the way – visiting with old ones and meeting new ones.  So often we’ve been in a rush to make miles, but this trip we don’t have a schedule and we can take a little more time.  We decided to stop at the free dock at Great Bridge, Virginia just below Norfolk for two nights.  We met some nice folks on sailboats on the dock, and they invited us to an impromptu cocktail and dinner gathering.  Some of these folks will be heading down the Caribbean island chain, and some have already been and are going back.  We remember our sailing days fondly, but I wouldn’t trade the boat comforts we have now for a long-haul sailor’s more spartan lifestyle.

Heidi and Peter on SPARTINA passed by…

…as well as a few other boats we recognized.  Our DeFever friends Mike and Jane Ross, and Miss Godiva (the chocolate Lab) and Jane’s son Andrew drove up from Kitty Hawk to visit us – it was wonderful to catch up with them and get my dog fix!  I always keep dog treats under the galley sink, and any friendly woofers are always welcome aboard.

We headed down to Coinjock, North Carolina – a narrow but famous waypoint on the ICW.  We got tied up early so I could settle in to watch the Giants game, and a sailboat pulled in behind us later that afternoon – it turned out to be Rob and Julie who were neighbors of ours all summer in Baltimore.  We never got to know them very well over the summer – we were all too busy running around, but we had a great visit with them and enjoyed getting to know them.  I’m sure we’ll bump into them again along the way.

We seem to be on the early side of the southern migration, and a lot of the boat traffic consists of big yachts with professional captains – they filled the dock at Coinjock Marina.

We pressed on the next day since the weather was favorable for crossing the infamous Albemarle Sound, and we ran two long days all the way to New Bern.  We left the boat at the marina there so we could rent a car and drive up to New Jersey to visit Robin’s Dad for the weekend, and then stop in Baltimore for Jim’s dentist appointment – last one for his implants.  When we get back to the boat tomorrow we’ll hopefully meet up with Jim and JoAnn on LONGHAUL, and then we’ll drive over to Oriental to see friends we met in Baltimore this summer.

We love the nature and the changing fall colors…

…but all the wonderful people are really what makes our days sparkle.

 

Everybody Waves

October 28, 2009 9:14 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We cruised into New Bern, NC to see the town and also to leave the boat so we could drive up to New Jersey to see Robin’s Dad and to Baltimore for Jim’s dental appointment.  Of course we had to drive north just as a wicked cold snap hit – we had to dig under the bed and get out some of our winter clothes!  When we returned, the weather warmed and we had a little time to walk the town – it’s very sweet with little shops and restaurants.  The local church set up a pumpkin patch, and the tree-lined streets were overhung with spanish moss.

New Bern is the sister city of Bern, Switzerland and the symbol is the bear.

…and one of the antique shops celebrates the pirate history of the Outer Banks just to the east.

We visited with Jim and Jo Ann on the Grand Banks LONG HAUL, and the timing worked out for us to travel together for a bit.  We had a nice glassy-smooth ride down to Morehead City, but the weather was turning and we had the choice to either stay in Morehead for up to a week waiting for good conditions on the ocean, or brave the skinny water and annoying bridges on the inside route in order to continue on.  It’s the only stretch of the ICW that we’ve never been on in all our trips, so we figured we’d give it a try.  The waterway runs through a firing range that belongs to the Marines at Camp Lejeune – fortunately they weren’t shooting that day.

Next time, we’ll wait for good weather on the ocean – there were too many skinny spots and the few bridges, in the middle of nowhere, were on very restricted opening schedules!  We arrived in Wrightsville Beach during happy hour on Friday afternoon, so the local boat traffic added to a long day.  We decided to anchor there for the weekend to visit Pat and Chuck Berry on GOT THE FEVER – another DeFever 49.  The Berry’s boat is getting some work done in a yard in nearby Wilmington, and they gave us a nice tour of the area.  Wilmington is a very well-kept secret!  It’s a lovely town with a pretty waterfront and rich history.  We’ll have to visit there again!

Regardless of the bridges and the shallow water and fishing boats crowding the channels, it’s still pretty nice on the waterway – everyone waves to one another.

 

Spooky Beauty

October 31, 2009 7:39 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We tucked into a creek off the Waccamaw River just below Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few days to catch up on things and to kayak and explore.  It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, but we haven’t had the time on previous trips.  The Waccamaw is a river that runs through a thick cypress swamp, with gnarled tree roots sitting in the water and spanish moss draping the branches.  It’ has a spooky feeling to it, but it’s also very beautiful.

Because of the swamp, the River feels very remote (do I hear banjo music?), yet local boats with fishermen and hunters zip by now and then just as a reminder that civilization is somewhere nearby.  Kayaking is a great way to appreciate the sounds of the swamp and forest – and to get close to a shoreline full of fallen trees to see what’s really going on.

There are water lillies and bright green water plants that look like curly romaine lettuce, swarms of water bugs dancing on the surface, and hundreds of little land crabs – each with one oversized claw.  The water is murky – some from the tannins that give it a coca-cola tinge – so it’s hard to see things, but there are lots of big splashes when fish jump.  I saw one fish at the edge of the shallows – he was pretty big, just gently fanning his tail in the brisk current.  There are also lots of turtles sunning themselves on logs, but they’re impossible to get close to – it sounds like someone dropping large stones in the water when they plop in.

Delicate wildflowers grow on tree roots sticking out of the water…

…and a closer look reveals even more treats…

Birds are everywhere – kingfishers along the water, turkey vultures high overhead, and beautiful hawks hiding in the trees making the most awful screaming racket from time to time.  One morning I heard some very loud sounds coming from shore – it was a flock of wild turkeys.  A large flock of grackles invaded a little side creek, splashing at the water’s edge and jumping from perch to perch making noises that sounded like a bird party.  When they flew by me later in the afternoon out on the river, their combined wings made a weird whooshing sound.

With the tinge of fall color in the trees, it was a wonderful little pause that gave us some time to get better acquainted with one of the interesting places we cruise by.

 

Georgetown, SC

November 6, 2009 4:03 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Since we’re able to take our time this trip, we decided to stop somewhere new and do a bit of exploring.  We’ve always heard nice things about Georgetown so we thought we’d give it a try.

The area has a rich history as a thriving seaport – with indigo and rice as its primary export, and later lumber and steel wire after slavery was abolished.  There is a small Rice Museum that does a great job of explaining the history and technology of rice production in the mid-1800s, and how the region was able to recover after the Civil War (or The War of Northern Aggression, as it’s known here in the south).  Very impressive!

We found the town to be a well-kept secret – it was warm and lovely and down-to-earth.  Everything is so clean and neat, and the homes and streets looked like the Chamber of Commerce had just made a sweep through – gardens well tended and lawns just so, nice shops and little restaurants – more of a real community without being too touristy.

Of course we had to stop at a shop named after Jim – Sweetie’s Chocolates… and he’s wearing his Halloween “costume” – a t-shirt that says “I Am the Treat”.

Since we were in town for Halloween, we were lucky enough to catch the annual Mutt Strutt – dog costume parade.  The morning started off rainy, but it stopped just in time and mother nature put a rainbow up over the street.

 

Charleston

November 9, 2009 7:09 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We left Georgetown and headed to Charleston – another wonderful place to stop and explore.  We decided to try the Maritime Center marina on the Cooper River side since it’s closer to the historic downtown, groceries, etc.

We got to watch a crane dredge working along the marina bulkhead the whole time we were there.  When it was close to the basin opening, we’d get rocked a bit by the wake from the huge (40′ or bigger) scoop hitting the water.

Our first day was cool and cloudy so we went to the post office and grocery store, then we spent the rest of the day at the aquarium.  We love aquariums – with all the diving we’ve done, we know the names of so many of the fish and critters.  The aquarium did a good job of showing the regional ecosystems, so that helped us understand more about the areas we’ve been traveling through on the waterway.

The next day we walked around the historic downtown, with the market and the vendors that sell the regional baskets made from sweetgrass.

We took one of the horse-drawn carriage tours – it’s a great way to learn about some of Charleston’s rich history and see some of the gorgeous homes.

A Charleston traffic jam…

The palmetto palm is a classic symbol of South Carolina…

This plaque located on the tip of Charleston, at the convergence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers at the Battery, shows some of the significant historical events and places.  Our short little visit barely scratched the surface of all that’s here.

 

West of Pittsburgh

November 14, 2009 5:03 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We stopped in a few places in the tidal marshes of Georgia, including St. Simons Island to visit our friends Grady and Dottie, and Grady pointed out that we are actually west of Pittsburgh here on the Georgia coast.  The shape of the land acts as a funnel for the incoming tide – which explains why the tides in Georgia are so great (9′ or so).

We anchored in a number of little salt marsh creeks and since we’ve been running for shorter days I’ve sometimes had the chance to put my kayak in the water and go exploring in the tidal shallows.

The marsh grass is simply beautiful – tan at the base, then gold, then green, then tipped with gold again.  It’s no surprise that this area is known as the “Golden Isles”.

The marsh is full of birds – herons, egrets, hawks, redwing blackbirds, and little sanderlings and plovers skittering around at low tide.  We’ll occasionally hear a dolphin blow nearby and we see their fins as they cruise around, and the shallows are full of tiny translucent shrimp and interesting fish.

Our next stop was Cumberland Island National Park, just across the St. Marys River from the north end of Florida.  Cumberland is a barrier island with a variety of ecosystems: salt marsh, maritime forest, intertidal dunes, and beach.  The island has a rich history starting with early Spanish explorers in the 1500’s, and eventually becoming a winter resort for the ultra-weathy like the Carnegie family.  The biggest mansion is in ruins, but there are other smaller family mansions on the island that have been preserved to some extent.

We loved the variety of the landscape and nature, particularly the maritime forest with live oaks that have grown gnarled and windswept, with masses of saw palmettos on the ground.

We saw wild turkeys foraging along the shoreline and the edge of the woods…

Sanderlings, semipalmated plovers, and red knots on the beach…

And a big flock of royal terns.

The dunes were also quite beautiful with berries and plant life, and sun-bleached tree trunks..

We only spent two days exploring, but we’ll definitely be back for more!

 

 

Space Shuttle Launch

November 20, 2009 8:30 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We’ve been paused in Palm Coast, Florida for a week to visit friends and to bring our car down to the Keys so it will be waiting for us when we arrive there in another week or so.

Earlier this week the Space Shuttle Atlantis was scheduled to launch.  Our local friends suggested driving over to the beach to see it, and we were really glad we did!  It’s just a thrill – so exciting to see such great human accomplishment.

It was a perfectly clear day, and we could see the separation of the two solid rocket boosters from the main shuttle.

It was over all too quickly, but left us feeling excited and very glad we took the time to go where we could see it best.  Godspeed Atlantis!

 

 

Arrived in the Keys

November 26, 2009 9:32 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

After our nice little pause in Palm Coast, we decided that we were ready to just get down to the Keys and settle for a while.  We have a big list of projects that we’re anxious to start, so we left Palm Coast early on Saturday morning (after a very nice send-off from a few friends there) and ran to Titusville, near the Space Center.

White pelicans are unusual, but there’s a colony just north of Titusville and I finally had a chance to shoot a few photos of them in the fading afternoon light.

It was a long day down to Titusville and another one down to Fort Pierce, and it was dark by the time we got the anchor down both nights.  We’ve been spoiled by our meandering pace so far this trip, so we weren’t used to running long days!  The next day we had a shorter run to N. Palm Beach to visit our DeFever friends Hank and Nancy for an evening.

Tuesday morning was another early one – we left just after sunrise, through our last bridge, and out into the ocean for an 85 mile run down to Key Biscayne.  The ocean was a little lumpy all day, but it was a decent ride and we were treated to the Goodyear Blimp right overhead for a while.  We dropped the anchor just outside of No Name Harbor after dark, and we got to see Miami light up as the sun was setting.  Nature still has the best light show.

Some weather systems were moving in on Thursday and would persist for a while, so we decided to make the long run to Marathon in one shot yesterday (Wednesday).  We knew we would have some lumpy conditions for a few hours in the morning and we expected some rain and cloud cover – an advantage for the later afternoon when we’re pointing directly west and trying to dodge crab pots.

We left in the dark through the narrow Cape Florida channel, and the shallow water and brisk wind directly on our nose gave us a lively ride for a while, until we could get to deeper water and turn southwards.  The dawn sky was fiery red with billowing clouds, but our ride was too lively to try to get a photograph.

The seas settled down nicely for most of the later morning and early afternoon, though we had a few rain showers – some quite hard – to rinse the salt spray off the boat.  We kept watch on the weather radar online as well as with the boat’s radar, and we could see squalls well to the west and north of us.  Unfortunately, we coudn’t avoid the last squall line – though we could see that most of it would pass while we were out in Hawk Channel, before we made the approach to the marina.  We named this simply “The Ugly”.

This photo was taken about 10 minutes before the leading edge hit us – the temperature dropped by 10 or more degrees and the wind piped up at 5pm to 30-35 knots sustained.  We were in touch with friends at the marina, so they confirmed that the worst of the front had already passed.  We got into the marina after dark, but also after the storm – winds were 10 knots and we just had a bit of spitting rain.  We were tired but glad to be settled, and Heidi and Peter were waiting to catch our lines and feed us a nice lasagna dinner – perfect!

 

 

Shifting Gears – From Traveling to Projects

December 2, 2009 10:03 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We left Baltimore on September 9th and arrived here in Marathon on November 25th, putting 1405 nautical miles (1616 statute) under our keel.  We had a good trip this year – we left early so we were ahead of the migration herd, and we kept nicer, temperate weather throughout the trip.  This is the first trip south where we’ve had a chance to meander a bit, and we really enjoyed shorter underway days and stops in some new and familiar places.  We spent a lot of time visiting friends along the way, and that was the highlight!

Now we’re shifting gears from running the boat every day to working on our big boat projects – electrical upgrade including second charger and bigger alternator, moving batteries and wiring; some interior varnish, painting and repairs.

Monday started with a bath for the boat, oil changes for the main engines and transmissions, and fuel filter changes – primaries and secondaries.  This is the cart full of oil to be recycled (14.5 quarts for each engine and 3 liters for each transmission).  We have so many projects and repairs going on that we have to maintain it all on a spreadsheet.

Once we get into “project mode” we tend to forget to take some time to play, so we’ve been making note of art and music festivals and other fun events.  We bought tickets to the Marathon Community Theater for Friday night, and we’re going down to Key West this afternoon.

Nature is still the best reason to be here – this big dragonfly landed on the boat – he’s even wearing the local color… “key lime”, and we’ve had a green heron on the stern lines.

I had to put my kayak in the water right away – I missed all my birds and underwater critters.  I paddled for about an hour until the sun set, and saw lots of stingrays, a small bonnethead shark, a 5′ shark cruising along Boot Key, herons, ibis, pelicans, and kingfishers.

The marina is still somewhat empty, but boats are starting to arrive for the season, and the sunset gatherings on the dock are a good way to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones.  We’re trying to take the time to stop whatever we’re doing and watch the sun set every evening.

We’ve put a few Christmas decorations around inside the boat, put up our wood “boat tree”, and strung some colored lights in the cockpit – so we’re ready for the holidays!

 

Christmas in the Keys

December 13, 2009 2:00 PM

Posted By Robin & Jim

We’ve put just a few Christmas lights around the boat and we have some decorations out – including our 8′ inflatable snowman.  Some other boats in the marina also have lights, small lighted trees in a cockpit or cabin window, a tree in the marina office, etc.  The Chamber of Commerce has put up lighted decorations along Route 1 – a holiday dolphin, lighthouse in holiday colors, and a palm tree with a bow are the common themes.  It’s a bit different getting into the holiday spirit here where it’s 80 degrees every day (this is a very good thing).  No one has shorts with a sleigh or holly motif… people aren’t wearing red hats with white fuzzy trim (too hot!)… though the local real estate office has a mailbox in the shape of a manatee and it’s always wearing something appropriate for the current holiday (an elf hat; you should see the red teddy it wears in February).

The other interesting thing about the Keys is that shopping isn’t a big deal because we don’t have malls and lots of chain stores.  I don’t miss the eroding of holiday spirit from fighting parking lot traffic and crowds in malls.  But it’s harder to wrap things when the wrapping paper is damp from the humidity.  It’s all a trade-off, isn’t it??

Last night was the annual Holiday Boat Parade here in Marathon.  I’m sure the one down in Key West was much bigger, but we decided to stay put and cheer for the local crowd.  Many folks from the marina decided to make a party of it all.  We had cocktails and snacks before parade time, then we all trooped down to the fuel dock to sing carols and applaud the parade boats.

The parade started with the Coast Guard and two other boats, but then there was a bit of a delay when a boat ran aground outside the channel and TowBoat/US had to come to the rescue.  We cheered for them when they came by too!

There were only about a dozen boats, but everyone’s spirit was great and the efforts ranged from fabulous to interesting.

One of the Customs and Border Patrol boats brought up the rear of the parade – probably making sure that Cuban Santa didn’t sneak in.

All in all, we decided that watching a small parade with about 40 people when it’s 75 degrees and the sky is full of stars beats watching a bigger, fancier parade with 30,000 people when it’s 30 degrees and there are too many city lights to see many stars – no offense, Annapolis.  Maybe next year, we’ll get our boat really dressed for the holidays and enter the parade!

 

An Ode to Socks

December 28, 2009 9:46 AM

Posted By Robin & Jim

Christmas tradition holds that our “stockings are hung by the chimney with care”… so in the spirit of the season, this post is about socks.  Maybe some of you even received some for Christmas?

Living north of the Keys, we took socks for granted.  We all owned them… we rarely thought of them, but we wouldn’t consider getting dressed without them except for the occasional trip to the beach or the pool on a hot summer day.

Annapolis was a little different since it’s such a boating town.  People love to wear their deck shoes without socks, but when the cold weather comes everyone dons their socks and waits until the First Day of Spring when the Maritime Museum hosts the annual “burning of the socks” party to signify the arrival of warmer weather (usually more theoretical than actual) and the ability to once again wear one’s deck shoes sans socks.  We have been known to wear our socks long after the Official Sock Burning since thermal comfort outweighs the fashion statement of bare feet in deck shoes… until summer, at least.

Living in the Keys it’s easy to forget about socks since virtually no one ever wears them.  We were talking to several locals just before we left for the holidays, and inevitably the topic of socks was raised by people who had to trek north to visit family for the holidays.  These people didn’t even own a pair of socks.  Their ankles hadn’t been covered in years.  One fellow was heading to Pennsylvania to visit his sister, and she asked him what he wanted for Christmas.  “Wool socks”, he told her.  Just give them to me as soon as I get there.  The lady at the Library said that she and her husband have a big lumpy parka that they can use when one of them goes north to fetch their grandchildren… but they didn’t have any socks.  Seems strange, but it’s a common problem in the Keys.

So the real question is:  what does Santa do when he doesn’t find any stockings hung by the chimney?  No socks… no chimney.  Makes you wonder…

 

 

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