Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fall in Fort Pierce

Time sure flies by quickly in our world and we've been here at Harbortown Marina for over three months.  One of the first celebrations we had was for Steve's 60th Birthday.  Out at a local fancy restaurant, the Quilted Giraffe, with Hobart and Linda. 

We were grateful to be in air conditioning that night and throughout the first six weeks.  We hope to never be in Florida in September again.  It was sooo hot, we ran our AC 24/7 and even a walk from the parking lot to the boat made one break out in a sweat.  No work outside was possible for us, I dunno how folks live here in the summer, so we worked in our forward guest cabin.  Most of the teak was refinished and Steve painted the walls and ceiling for a new fresh look.  He also did some other minor work like replacing our old aft toilet and both bathroom faucets.  It was during this time frame that it really hit us hard that we are basically restoring a 30 year old boat, one system at a time ....  almost a "project boat" .... but thankfully we get to cruise and enjoy the boat and the lifestyle while we constantly make improvements. 
In mid October the heat started to moderate, so Steve went to work on replacing two of our most damaged salon windows.  As you can see in the picture, the plastic layer in the safety
glass has melted in the corner.  Removing the old windows was brutal, pulling all the glued and screwed trim and eventually cracking the window up pretty good.  Thanks to the lamination, the glass doesn't shatter. 

 We brought our patterns in to a local glass company and had new windows made.  Steve was unable to find trim to match exactly so he had to spend hours perched on the gunnel (no finger dock here), fiberglassing, attaching trim, sanding and painting.  Looks great ... pilot house windows are next on the list, maybe in the spring. 

Susan and Brett, aboard Once Upon a Time, arrived in early November.  Here is their beautiful 42' Jefferson backing into their slip.  We are thrilled that they are on our dock (F dock, the best dock) this year. 

We have really grown to enjoy our time in Fort Pierce.  They have one of the best Farmers Markets we have ever been to.  Susan and Brent are selling her paintings, prints and greeting cards in the art section of the market.  We think she is the best artist ever.

Susan and I love to plan a party, so we had an "organized Pot Luck for Thanksgiving.  Jeff and Kathy came over from Pensacola Beach and stayed with us.  Of course, we had to show them our favorite Atlantic beach.  Kathy gathered up some sea grass and other pretty finds and she and Susan had a great time decorating the tables. 
Steve cooked a 19 pound turkey in our little propane boat oven, one of three that we needed to for the 35 people that attended and brought traditional Thanksgiving dishes. 
Everything was delicious and as you can see in this picture of Susan, Kathy and me, the weather cooperated for our outdoor meal.  yes, i got a very short hair cut, love it.

We've made some interior improvments in our salon, new upolstery for our dining settee and a great new teak folding chair for Steve's TV time in the evenings.  His current project, almost done, is installing a 500 watt of solar sytem with the panels on our pilot house roof.  It's been incredibly complicated, tying in all the electrical and battery components.  Here's the panel he made with the regulator, battery charger and other switches that is now installed out of view under the aft cockpit.  There's a remote display in the pilot house that shows how much electricity the panels are making.  They are cranking it out and enough is stored in the new batteries to run the frig, our biggest power hog, through the night.  We will still have to run the generator for hot water and AC if we need it, but this will be quite wonderful for anchoring and mooring ball living.  It will take many years to get our money back compared to buying power or even making it with the generator, but there is a large "nifty factor" to it all. 

Downtown Fort Pierce has a wonderful light display, the colors dance up and down the palm trees in time with the music.

Last Saturday night was the lighted boat parade, every waterfront community in Florida has one.  This one comes right into and past the outside pier of Harbortown Marina, so we get a great view. 
This big cruiser had a "Frozen" theme, great music and dancing lights. 

And here's a great shot of the tug boat that always participates along with a very nicely done smaller boat. 

 Our plans are to leave here shortly after Christmas with Susan and Brent (Once Upon a Time) and Bev and Em (Quimby).  We will cruise across the Okechobee Waterway to the Fort Myers area, then south to the Keys for a month or two.  Have a very Merry Christmas and a great 2015.  We are grateful, blessed and enjoying it all. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

We are back aboard

It was recently pointed out to me by a loyal blog follower that I left a few loose ends out in the blogosphere when we returned from the Bahamas.  Quick update:  our remaining time at Harbortown last spring was filled with welcoming home other sojourners and sharing tales of the high seas at nightly dock parties.  In April and May, the boats go up on the hard and the cruisers return to the north country .... to mow our lawns and weed our gardens and order boat parts for the next season.   At our house, the Mississippi rose to the highest level in 13 years.  Here's just a sample of the massive log jams that floated past, not yet at crest, the water came almost up to the base of the flagpole.

At the Upper St. Anthony Lock, water poured over the falls, and both lock doors were opened to allow as much water as possible through.  It was an impressive sight from the Stone Arch Bridge. 

We had decided over the winter that we wanted to become "full time cruisers".  Not quite ready to sell our house, we found a ready renter in a close friend of the family.  Thus began the long crazy process of liquidating 27 years worth of "stuff" starting with our 15' Boston Whaler.  Steve says this is the only thing he was sad about selling, but we're sure her new owner will take good care of her.
I became a Craig's list expert and we held the requisite garage sale in July for the small stuff.  VVA picked up most of the rest, and we finished with weekly Goodwill trips as we did the final cleansing of each room.  We rented a climate controlled storage locker for a minimum of furniture and memorabilia and offered family what we thought they might want.  What a lot of work !!!  Steve had to store his "complete since Issue 1" collection of Passagemaker magazine, so here I am sorting by year to box them up.   

Steve did some home repairs that were probably a bit overdue.  The flood had destroyed most of the plants in the two perennial gardens on our river bank, leaving bare ground, fertile for weeds.  Not wanting to leave this mess for our renters, I got some estimates on rip rap placement.  When I explained this plan to our new neighbor, he jumped right in and volunteered to use his 12 ton dump trailer and his brothers Kabota tractor and we could DYI it.  "It'll be fun", he exclaimed.  His enthusiasm was hard to resist, so we had to accept his offer.  First of two loads.
Jeromy was an expert with the tractor and we just had to spread out the loads by hand. 
Whole job done in about 4 hours at less than half the cost, even with a gift to the workers.  Such a relief to never have to worrry about flooding or weeds again.  Not as pretty as the flowers, but not too bad looking. 

Right before we left, a couple of cruising boats made the long journey up the Mississippi.  Young America came up last summer and was joined by Carolynn Ann this summer.  The two Great Harbor N37's made an impressive site as they approached our dock. 

Our last week was filled with last minute lunches and dinners and lots of good-byes.  "When are you coming back?" we were asked.  "We don't know, that's the beauty of it", we answered.  With the van packed full and Lucy lounging on top of it all, we were off.  Our first stop was at Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's Spring Valley Wisconsin home and studio.  The tours are well organized, fun, and informative.  Of course, no pictures are allowed inside, but here's the outside of the building called "Hillside".  The room seen on the left of the photo is the "Assembly Hall", first stop on the tour.

The tour we took according to the website .....  is a rich overview of the Taliesin property’s finest architectural jewels, beginning with Hillside’s expansive Assembly Hall, the Fellowship Dining Room, the 5,000 sq. ft. "abstract forest" Drafting Studio, and the delightful Theater, after which you’ll drive across the estate to Taliesin and enjoy Wright’s personal Studio, the Living Room, his Guest Bedroom, the Blue Loggia, Mrs. Wright's recently restored bedroom, as well as Mr. Wright's bedroom.
The drafting studio is especially impressive as there is a graduate level school of architecture present on the grounds.  The students live in this building and work and study in the studio at drafting tables designed by Mr. Wright.  Very competitive program and the students come from all around the world. 
Back on the bus, we admired the incredibly gorgeous views of the property and surrounding hills, and then toured the Wright's private home.  A couple of outside pics of the home.

Taliesin is an American Treasure and I highly recommend a visit.  Our next tour stop was the Cherohala Skyway, a scenic drive through the Smokey Mountains.  Only 37 miles long, with many switchbacks and awesome views, we saw lots of motorcycles and took a little side road to this lovely waterfall.   
Next up, we visited a home that was a bit more ostentatious. 

This is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, the largest privately owned home in the USA.  We did a well organized audio tour that gives you a look into the main living and sleeping areas along with the servants rooms and kitchens.  The home has about 40 bedrooms and bathrooms, so you only get a glimpse, but there are more indepth tours also offered.  George Vanderbuilt completed the home in 1895, but died young at 51.  His widow opened the estate to the public during the depression and it is still owned, preserved and managed by his heirs.  Again, no interior photos allowed, so I copied this view of the library from the website.  The art and architecture are phenomenal ...
Chair in front of the fireplace

 ... as are the acres and acres of gardens.  Again, a recommended bucket list experience.

 Our final stop before Florida was at Brunswick Landing Marina where Once Upon a Time is berthed for the summer.  Many insurance companies want their insured boats out of Florida for the hurricane season, and Brunswick, Georgia serves this purpose well for a few of our cruising friends.  Brett and Susan rented a studio for her art where we got to see some of her amazing work. 

We stayed on their boat for 2 nights, Lucy included, and had great meals and lots of laughs.  They drove us out to St. Simon's Island, where we did our usual tourist drill:  climb the lighthouse, eat ice cream and walk on the beach. 
Finally, after a week of car travel, we got to the boat yard.  We had the boat shrink wrapped last spring, so we wouldn't have to worry about leaks with the torrential Florida summer rains.  We have one extremely elusive leak and were afraid others would crop up over the summer. 

It was late in the day, so Steve set up the portable AC (it's still hot summer here) and we got enough of the interior put back together to sleep.  It felt GREAT to be in our own beds, even on the hard, even living with only 15 amps of electric, ie. no refrigerator.  The next day Steve replaced 4 bolts that hold the rudder in place.  When you have a 30 year old boat, you almost have to have a sixth sense about what's gonna wear out next, and he does.  When we were hauled out last year, he decided to check these bolts and it's good he did.  Here's one of the old ones, looking quite corroded. 

The sealant had to sit overnite, so another night on the hard in the yard.  Spent the day unloading the van and organizing inside and the next day Steve tore off the shrink wrap and we launched by noon.  The minute we pulled off the dock, we had a beautiful cooling breeze coming in through the pilot house window and a total feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.  Our 2.5 day cruise to the marina was mostly uneventful except for getting caught in a bit of a thunderstorm just as we approached the lock coming off Lake Okechobee.  We could see about 5 of these storm cells to our north, and finally one caught up with us. 

 We called the Lock in the middle of it, looking forward to getting into a more sheltered environment, but were informed that they were on a "lightening hold" and wouldn't lock us through until the storm passed.  There was enough lightening around us that we unplugged all our electronics and I called him on the cell phone rather than the marine radio.  He said they didn't want to be liable if we were hit by lightening in the lock ... we thought maybe they might be more liable if they left us sitting out in the middle of the lake, rather than getting us into the more sheltered river ... but I did not make that argument to him.  We waited a half hour, and when he finally opened the lock, they had both doors open and we cruised right through.  A lockmaster further down the waterway told me it's really up to the the lockmasters descretion in these cases.  Interesting .... 
Anyway, we are now safe and sound back in our same slip at Harbortown Marina.  Today, we are doing Absolutely Nothing, except writing this lengthy blog.  We have a rental car for the weekend and will go back to retrieve the van tomorrow.  Then the annual "boat project marathon" begins. 
Thanks for reading if you made it this far, it was a long one.  I promise regular posts, not as frequent as during the Great Loop, but I do enjoy it and appreciate all your support and comments. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Back in the USA

We made it.  The wind kicked up during the night before our crossing, causing noise, worry and insomnia.  We got up early and followed a 49' Defever to the small inlet that leads directly to the Atlantic.  Watched him tip about 45 degrees up and down going through the breakers, so we turned around and tied back up at the dock.  The west wind against the outgoing tide had set up a bit of a rage.  "You made the right decision" said an old salt in a 49' Grand Banks, so we sat and felt the wind die down for about 2 hours.  Watched another group go out and decided to go for it.  It was definitely a ride, but after we were out just a couple of miles the ocean started to lay down and it got calmer and calmer.  What a pleasant experience to be able to walk around the boat, make a sandwich, etc, without holding on for dear life.  BUT, about 10 miles from the inlet at Lake Worth, the wind turned hard to the south and began to increase so the rolling motion began.  We can do the up and down, but we hate the side to side.  By five miles from shore, we were in some of the biggest waves we have ever experienced, right on the beam.  Steve had to tack diagnonally about 4 times to get to the mouth of the inlet.  We had a crazy hour, bracing ourselves for each impact, but Steve really appreaciated the way the boat handled.  At last, we scooted sideways into the inlet and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

Back at the great anchorage in North Lake Worth, we felt at home.  A call to customs, a meal and off  to bed.  The next day was an easy 50 miles up the ICW to Harbortown.  So the old girl made it, and the boat performed well too.  Steve admits there was stress involved in having this old boat so far away, we don't have the confidence in it yet that we had in the Mainship, but we are getting there.  The only thing that broke was the anchor windlass, which is not the greatest anyway.  Designed for rope only, Steve makes it work with our 30 feet of heavy chain (kind of a lift assist), but it bit the dust and he had to lift 45 pounds of chain and 45 pounds of anchor by hand four days in a row.  At GTC, he tore it apart, and cleaned up the ground connections and it worked again. 

Back at our home marina, we were greeted by our good friends here.  Arriving just an hour after we did, Brent and Susan came in on Once Upon a Time having completed their Great Loop.  Last night they introduced us to another delightful Looper couple and we all celebrated together.  The boat needs a scrub, covered with salt.  A grocerty shopping marathon today and then more celebration and gaming tonight.

We plan to stay here a month to recuperate and prepare Shingebiss for her summer storage, so more later ... thanks for reading. 

Monday, March 10, 2014


A few pictures of Green Turtle Club, this is the office, gift shop, and restaurant.

The screened in part of the restaurant, where we had the best lunch we've had in the Abacos one day with our new sailor friends.

The beach, in front of the rental cottages.

The pool.
The resort lounge, decor is old school elegant.
And, finally, the bar, with the "dollar bills on the wall" and "yacht club burgees hanging from the rafters" from visiting sailors theme going  strong. 

We hung out here the evening before we left in these lovely chairs, telling tales and trading stories with the sailors.
It's a two day journey to Old Bahama Bay (OBB, aka West End) which is the jumping off point to cross back to Florida.  First day was eight hours of rolly seas. We dropped anchor at Great Sale Cay, a well known, very protected, and strategically placed island.  With almost unlimited room for boats, there were only about 10 others in this quiet, isolated anchorage, with no phone or WiFi. 
The following day, we had a smoother and shorter cruise to West End.  This is a very fancy resort and marina and they charge accordingly, but their location, just on the edge of the crossing, means almost everyone stops here on their way in and way out of the Abacos.  The sailors we had met at GTC skipped it and did an overnighter from Great Sale to Florida, but I (the Admiral) have nixed nighttime cruising and Steve (the Captain) wanted the assurance of another weather forecast before we crossed.
Well, sure enough, the weather had changed a bit, so rather than crossing today, we spent the day here and will go tomorrow.  A group of sailboats went today, but many of them need about 20 hours to get across at their motoring speed, so they really needed  today and tomorrow.  About 8 power boats came in today, and they all reported an easy crossing.  So we find out tomorrow if we made the right choice (the models all say tomorrow's seas to be less than today's) and/or if we are really just a couple of woosies who aren't cut out for this ocean stuff.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Another Beautiful Beach"

On a calm sunny day, we set off in the dinghy's to find the blue hole.  The lagoon behind Snake Island was filled with marine life.  Hard to photo, but here's some coral ... 

... and there were plenty of large (at least a foot across) starfish.

We were told to go on a rising tide, but we were still too close to low, and found ourselves paddling through some shallow water.  When it got deep again, we started seeing sea turtles, at least 25 of them, but they swim really fast and are impossible to photo.   Using his small hand held GPS, Buck lead us right to the blue hole.  We put on our snorkel masks and leaned over the edges of the dinghys to see this amazing phenomenon.  It looked like a big underwater bottomless cave, and I was quite impressed.  We  tried to dinghy further into the backwater, but kept running into shallows, so we turned around.  Linda stopped us all to look at the sea urchins, which somehow end up with shells stuck to their spines. 

On the way back, we had lunch at Lubbers Landing, a very charming beach restaurant.  Bahamas lesson #1:  have a dinghy that is easy to launch and can get up on a plane with your crew ... so much to see by dinghy.

A few days later, it was finally time to leave Sea Spray.  Buck and Linda were also ready for a change of scene.  First stop was of course Marsh Harbor to go to Maxwell's for the good groceries. We had a tour of the Jib Room, a popular marina for cruisers located on the "far side" of the harbor and spent the night in the safe protected anchorage.  The next day, we had a short cruise across the Sea of Abaco to Great Guana Cay, where we dropped the hook in Fisher Bay and dinghy'd to the dock at the settlement.  We walked across the hill to the famous "Nippers" on the Atlantic side ... also well known as being one of the most beautiful beaches in the Abacos, so we walked to the rocks at one end.  Wide and flat, a great walking beach.  There's also a large coral reef fairly close to the shore and on a calm day, you can swim to it from the beach.
Alas, this was not a calm day. 

Meanwhile back at Nippers, the party was in full swing, it was "pig roast Sunday". The views from the upper levels of the bar are great. 
As you can see, Nipper's is a popular hangout for the party crowd, here's the view of the pools. 

We dinghy'd around the corner to the other bar, Grabber's ... seemed like a more grown up kinda place to us ... where we had beverages and the best conch salad we'd had in the Abacos.

Later that evening, we had dinner with Linda and Buck on their beautiful Oasis III.  The next morning, we took the big boats just three miles up Great Guana to Baker's Bay for a day stop.  Disney's Big Red Boat used to anchor in this bay and we took a cruise on on it in about 1991.  We recall that they trolley'd us across the island for some great snorkeling, so we wanted to see if we could get there by dinghy.  We went north on some beautiful water. 

In recent decades, the developers have moved in building big houses, a golf course, and private clubs. We wanted to see if we could still get to the reef as we remembered it being right off the beach.  At the end of the island was the clubhouse and a beach with chairs.  We saw some open sand (to the left in the photo) and beached the dinghy's ... no one kicked us out, actually the place was deserted except for the bartender. 

Behind the resort was, yep, you guessed it, another beautiful beach. 

Huge luxury homes were built on top of the sand cliffs you see, one has to wonder if/when they will topple into the ocean.  It was finally time to part company with Buck and Linda, we will miss them, and are so glad we met them.  Our destination for the night was Treasure Cay, back across the Sea, actually on what they call the "mainland", Great Abaco Island.  Treasure was developed as a resort and marina about 20-30 years ago, and it's still quite lovely, if a bit worn. The protected harbor charges you $10 to anchor and you have use of all the facilities.  There are canals where you can build a home and dock your boat and the whole complex is "self contained" with a small shopping strip for groceries, bakery, etc., pools and three restaurants.  The beach is billed as one of the top ten "in the world", so we had to see it.  The sand is not sugar sand, it's powdered sugar sand in a perfect 3 mile cresent, calm (because it's on the Sea of Abaco, not the Atlantic) and a beautiful turquoise color.  It was cloudy, so you'll have to take my word for it. 

 The next day, we crossed The Whale, which you may recall, is a short open ocean jaunt to get around Whale Cay.  It was smooooothhh this time.  Since the calm weather was continuing, we decided to anchor for the night at No Name Cay, right after The Whale.  We dinghy's around the corner to ....
No Name Cay has a band of feral pigs: 2 large and 3 small ones, so we had to take a look and a picture. 

They wade out into the water when they hear a boat approach, but since we didn't have any food for them, they lost interest in us quickly. We spent the afternoon relaxing on Shingebiss, watching at least 6-8 small boats come in to feed, pet, and photo them. 

Next day, we came into Green Turtle Club Marina and Resort on Green Turtle Cay, White Sound, across from where we stayed (Bluff House) on the way down.  Just our opinion, but this really is one of the nicest places we've stayed at plus very friendly folks on the docks.  We've been here through a front that produced alot of wind (30 mph +) and rain over the past two days. 

The internet is a bit iffy right now, so I am going to close for now, and hope to get back to you in a couple of days.