Wednesday, March 21, 2018

On the, water again! Nice to be moving again! March 4-21, 2018

You will see a bit later that we are officially Looping again!  Our departure from Stuart on March 13 marks the start of the northern trek to finish.  A three year trip for us....
From a AGLCA Facebook feed....we agree.

We said our goodbyes to all our friends at Longboat Key Club Moorings on Saturday night March 3 at a happy hour aboard Sum Escape and cast off lines on Sunday.  We already miss the comradery but it is so good to be moving again too!   Safe travels to all our friends at LBKCM!!  Betsy and Dave (Frye Daze) Diane and Ed (Coaster) Bonnie and Jon (Bon Voyage), we are missing you!  We hope to see you again soon.

First stop was an anchorage at Don Pedro State Park near Cape Haze. 

We have anchored here previously but never took the time to explore the area.  So we launched the dinghy and went over to the park docks to explore the beach and facilities there.  So, first issue was an almost dead battery on the dinghy.  Sitting for over two months was not the battery's friend.  The first couple tries it just would engage and not turn over. But finally it had just enough power to get a couple weak cranks in and the Yamaha fired!  Hooray!  So we rode the dinghy through the canals and viewed the houses nearby for an hour or so before stopping at the state park so the battery would have time to recharge.
The park is very nice with about 8 small boat slips for tying up and a collection box for the daily $2 a person state park fee.  We took a nice long walk along the shore.  Lots of shells and very few people!

Day two we had a very short trip over to Gasparilla Island.  While enroute to the Boca Grande Marina, when we were approaching Cayo Costa, we passed Larry and Lena (Hobo) who were our slip neighbors at Ortega Landing in November.  Yet another small world cruising sighting! Safe travels to you Larry and Lena!
Boca Grande is a very nice place!  Definitely some money on this island! 

We took our bikes out and rode to the south end of the island to take a look at things there. 

Stopped at South Beach restaurant and had a beverage and watched the activities there before riding back downtown. We did not go to the museum but will likely do that the next trip as it does look interesting.  As we were enjoying the view at South Beach, Larry and Karen (Dream) texted us and said they were at the restaurant at Boca Grande Marina, having taken a slip at Uncle Henry's on the north end of the island.  They were out on a week long cruise and were spending the night on the island as well. Another small world story. We were able to chat with them aboard Sum Escape when we returned from our bicycle trip.
The island has a lot of history.  Phosphates were a huge business until approximately the 70's and the last of the trains left the island in 1981.  But the rail bed has become a bike/golf cart trail and the island is very nice.
On Tuesday morning we were having breakfast on the aft deck and a gentleman stopped to say hello as he noted we were from Michigan.  He asked if we knew anyone from Harbor Springs.  We of course told him we bought the boat in Harbor Springs, and we did know some of the same folks.  As our conversation ensued, he was telling me how he would be going to the Bahamas, asked about our two trips there, etc.  Well, he will be flying there but meeting August Busch (yes the beer family) in the Bahamas to board their 100 foot Ocean Alexander.  He will be seeing our friends Vicki and David from the Great Lakes Grand Banks Association there.  We miss seeing you in the Bahamas this year Vicki and David!  He also (in a friendly way) reminded us that we should get the salt from our travels off the teak.  We shared that we tried to get the boat washed (remember, I am not supposed to use my right arm for anything strenuous) but could not get anyone.  He immediately picked up his phone to call "his guy" that cares for his boat but we told him thanks but we were leaving soon.  Such a friendly place!
We had dinner at the famous Pink Elephant restaurant. 

We got there early as all reservations were taken in the dining room and only the outside and downstairs were available on a first come first served basis.  So we got a nice outside table at around 5:30 and watched people arriving in their golf carts for dinner.  It was fun to watch them hop out of the cart and sit on the back seats of the cart sipping a beverage and watching the sunset before they went in for dinner.  We were probably a bit under dressed but they still took our money....  Food was great and service was wonderful.  Note the wind vane.

The famous Gasparilla Inn.

And the beach during our morning walk.

We do want to return to this island and will hopefully do just that in the winter of 2019/2020.
Next stop was Fort Myers, the Edison Ford Marina near downtown. 

On the way there, our upper helm Raymarine chart plotter screen went almost dim.  This is a known issue with these E120 Classic models. I made a few phone calls to local dealers and also found a repair place on the internet as I am not ready to spring for all new electronics.  This is a vintage 2006 electronics package and depth sounder, radar, auto pilot and displays (2 of these) will all need to be replaced.  Charts are still available, everything works, and we hope to keep it running for a while yet.  Maybe Santa will be good to us and new electronics could be in the cards while the boat is stored in Michigan for the winter.  After talking to these dealers and the repair facility we decided to pull he unit out and send it in for repairs.  We will have it shipped to Stuart where I can reinstall it prior to moving north. 
In yet another small world story, Clark and Evelyn (Sunset Delight, formerly Sea Moss) pulled in to the very same marina.  We travelled and ran into them in various spots along our 2015/2016 journeys...the river system, Faro Blanco in Marathon, Pete's Pub in the Bahamas, Bald Head Island, etc. We got a nice tour of their new boat which is a 52' Krogen Express.  A beautiful vessel.
Clark bringing her into the marina.
We compared notes on repairs, etc and commiserated a bit but concluded all things can be fixed and repairs are just part of the lifestyle.  You pay your money and take your chances!  It was great seeing you again Evelyn and Clark.  Perhaps our paths will cross again as we both head north this Spring.
We had dinner plans with our friends Pat and Tim on Wed evening and we had a wonderful time visiting with them.  They will be headed back north soon so it was fortunate we could see them prior to their leaving.  And thanks so much Tim for taking me and my dead chart plotter to the UPS store...sometimes things just work out.
Thursday we got some groceries and I went to a AGLCA charting and information session at Legacy Harbor Marina with Ev and Clark (Sunset Delight).  Not much new learned except a couple new anchorages but it is always fun talking with other cruisers.
Friday morning we cast off lines early headed for the world famous Roland and Mary Martin's Marina at Clewiston.  The sunrise as we are leaving Ft. Myers.

Good cruising with nice scenery along the way.

And some sugar cane field burning as well.

Also had a long wait at Moore Haven lock as another eastbound vessel had just cleared the lock when we arrived.  But we got to Clewiston in time to take a nice long walk around some of the residential community.  We also listened to the band a bit but retired early as we want to get an early start on Saturday to get to Sailfish Marina in Stuart.  We want to have time to walk to the local seafood store and get some fresh fish!  No big bass fishing tournament as there was last stay here, but the place really has character.  Cold day, wind screens are down at the tiki bar.

And we had to "break into" the parade of bass boats rounding the curve from the boat launch just before the Clewiston lock...I will admit that I used the law of gross tonnage a bit to our advantage to "break in" to the procession.

We had a nice ride to Stuart.  Only one lock was operating and we idled right on through.

As we were just under the bridge to the east past Sunset Marina Julie was piloting and I was below.  She said "this boat is going to wake us!". It is a very nice brand new Back Cove 37.....and when it passed in the opposite direction honking its horn, we could then see the name "Otter" on the stern.  It was Martha and Parker in their new boat!  We are meeting them on Sunday night for dinner!   What a small world.  And as planned on Sunday, they did come to our boat for a beverage and then drove us to the Dolphin Bar and Shrimp House restaurant where we had a great time catching up and enjoying a great seafood meal together.  Some of you may recall that Martha and Parker were the former owners of Sum Escape and we have seen them in the Bahamas and elsewhere boating since.  It is such a small world.  Thanks so much for the hospitality Martha and Parker.  We'll see you in Harbor Springs in August we hope!  Given that is where we bought the boat, our Great Loop will be complete there too!
Monday we caught up on a number of things in preparation for casting off the lines on Tuesday. This included reinstalling the upper helm chart plotter which came back on schedule from the repair shop in Bradenton.  All appears to be working well again. And the $775 repair beats the multiple boat unit replacement cost of the whole system.  It may be old and slow (Hmmm, that sounds familiar) but it does all we need it to do for our travels.  We think we will wait for a major failure or when chart updates are no longer available before we replace all the electronics.
Hmmm, what boat does not "fit" in this marina?  Closest marina to the Atlantic for sport fishing...can you tell?  Who's little trawler is that on the end????

Tuesday morning we took a nice long walk in Stuart prior to departing around 10:30 or so as it was a short trip to the anchorage just north of Vero Beach.  This departure marks our resumption of the Great Loop as we are now heading north with a destination of Harbor Springs to officially complete the Loop (but we will likely continue on to Muskegon/Grand Haven to store the boat for the winter).

Upon entry into the anchorage we spotted Sunset Delight already anchored.  Our view to the west.

Later in the afternoon Clark came over via dinghy to invite us for cocktails but we declined as we had things to attend to. We chatted for a while and agreed that we would likely see one another on the way north.
Making chile...another cold snap in Florida. 

In the 40's in the AM as I pull the anchor!  Noote the ffogged up windows from running the heat.

Wednesday we anchored at Cocoa.  Just an overnight stop so we did not disembark. The anchorage we used on a prior trip between the power lines and bridge is shoaled so we anchored south of the power lines.  The free dock was also destroyed by the recent hurricane. 
All these boats arrived after us and we passed many of them along the way.  We will pull anchor early again so I don't have to pass them again!

Thursday we proceeded to Rockhouse Creek anchorage in New Smyrna.  As we passed the Port Canaveral area we noted two cruise ships in port on the AIS, the Disney Wonder and Carvival Liberty.

We have stayed in this anchorage before and we got in with time to launch the dinghy and walk an hour on the sandbar that appears at low tide.  We had a nice walk and then enjoyed the sunset aboard prior to a nice grilled dinner.
Leaving early again.

Friday we headed out to the Marina at Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast. 

It is a very nice marina and includes a shuttle over to their sister resort on the, restaurants, beach etc all there.  We took a shuttle ride over there to orient ourselves with the area. We had dinner aboard and retired fairly early as a gentleman (Gary from Affordable Yacht Service) will be washing the boat early on Saturday (still trying to follow doctors orders and rest the golfer's elbow tendonitis).
Saturday we broke out the folding bikes for a short 2 mile one way trip to Publix to replenish.  There are some very nice bike paths that keep one off highway A1A.  A nice ride really, we will be going back one or more times before departing (haven't decided when we will leave).  In the afternoon we did laundry while lounging at the much quieter marina pool (versus the kids pool at the beach resort).
We had reservations for St Patrick's Day dinner at the Atlantic Restaurant. 

We had a wonderful meal overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  Julie had macadamia encrusted corvine and I had the classic corned beef and cabbage. 

Very good food.  As we were walking back to the hotel lobby for our shuttle, we saw the drive in movie.  They had lined up golf carts in a perimeter around the outdoor movie screen and were showing Moana on the lawn...a "drive in" movie complete with a popcorn stand! Too cool.
This is a very nice stop and we highly recommend it to all travelling looking for a nice reprieve from ICW travel fatigue.
Sunday we took a long dinghy ride through some of the canals around the area.  The marina condos from the dinghy on the ICW.

Wow, what an expansive waterfront lot area this has grown up to be! 
Monday was a "Spring cleaning" day.  Curtains drying after a thorough washing.  Curtains with pleats not a problem for that resourceful Julie

...just hang the curtains after washing with pleats intact on a hanger and use a hair dryer...who needs a iron??!!  Julie did every curtain in the boat.  She is so resourceful living in a small space.
And a pizza for dinner!  Note the new cauliflower crust Julie used.  Thanks again to Phyllis (Corkscrew) for the tip and to Ed and Diane (Coaster) for the transportation to Trader Joe's in Sarasota to purchase it. We miss all of you!

We also started to plan our next few weeks heading north. We found a Jimmy Buffet concert in Charleston SC so we purchased tickets and now have another commitment.  We will stay in Charleston for a few days to attend this April 6 concert.  Another checkmark for the bucket list!  We'll see him while he and we are relatively young!
We stayed for weather issues for a few days here at Palm Coast.  A thunderstorm moving through on Tuesday.

We took the opportunity to do some Spring cleaning on Wednesday too.  Tom waxed the bright work (using left arm only) based on the varnish guy recommendation that it will extend the life of the varnish job. Julie continued to wash and rehang curtains.  Good progress on maintenance in spite of the high winds on Wednesday.
It looks like a Thursday departure for points further north given the weather forecast for T-storms and wind advisories.   More soon....

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Longboat Key continued. February 1- March 3, 2018

The weather has finally warmed up into normal Florida winter time temperatures. We have been taking nice long walks, enjoying our friends at the marina, attending cocktail hours and pot lucks,  managing maintenance tasks on the boat and working with my siblings on Mom's living arrangements.  Mom will soon be moving to an assisted living arrangement where she will get the care and safety she deserves having cared for herself for 94+ years.  I will fly to Michigan for a few days to facilitate the move along with my sister Pam and brother in law Steve. Thank you to Mom and all my siblings for working together to make this all happen.
Beach photos from various days.

On Feb 1 we took the bus to Sarasota

and went to the Blue Rooster, a local live music venue/restaurant and saw Braille Blues Daddy Brian Lee.  He is in his 70's, was blind from age 8 and is a really good blues musician.  We will go back to see him again before we leave Sarasota if possible.  Great comfort food, a cool venue and as a bonus, the band was not so loud so we could actually converse!  
And Uber was there when it was time to return to LBKC Marina.

The Sarasota farmer's market has become a Saturday habit with Ed and Diane (Coaster) handling the driving into downtown Sarasota each Saturday morning.  Here is the double decker bus coffee shop we always stop at to have a great cup of coffee.

The market is excellent with all kinds of produce and even a local fish monger with wonderful fresh fish offerings.  We have enjoyed pompano, snapper, grouper, hogfish, mahi-mahi, scallops and shrimp thus far.  All was excellent but get to the market early as the fish sells out fast! We also went to The Rosemary for lunch one Saturday which was excellent.  Thanks so much for chauffeuring us each week Ed and Diane!

We walked to meet 5 other couples from our marina at the Dry Dock for lunch one day. They had all dinghyed to the restaurant but we decided to combine it with our daily walk routine. It was almost a 6 mile round trip and it was fun to meet some other marina guests at the lunch.  And as always, the food was great too.

Friends Nan and Kevin (Bottom Line) from Michigan stopped by for a great short visit and lunch at the beach club on the 8th.  They were travelling (by road) from Tampa to Fort Meyers Beach and took the "scenic tour" through Longboat Key to stop and visit.  Thanks so much for stopping, it was great to see you.  And we hope you choose to do the Loop in a few years when you retire....your boat is a great one for it and you will have a blast.

Julie's brother Kevin and sister in law Deb stopped by on Saturday the 10th to spend some time visiting at the marina pool before we went to their house for a great grilled dinner to celebrate Julie's upcoming birthday and checking out all the remodeling they are doing. Great job!  Thanks so much for the hospitality Deb and Kevin!

We have also been spending a fair amount of time planning our 2018/2019 boating and other travel plans.  Our rough plan (as our friends Scott and Brigitte on Putz'n Around always say... a rigid plan subject to infinite revision) is to return to the Great Lakes aboard Sum Escape this summer and then store the boat in Michigan for the winter season.  We have rented a condo in Florida for mid Oct to mid Dec, (Here is a photo, it is the end unit and is directly on the beach)

then will visit our children scattered across the US for a couple weeks.  Then, given we already had a cruise planned for February with a group of our ole crusing friends, we will fly to New Zealand and Australia late December.  Thinking is, if we are going that far already might as well make it a longer tour.  Then we will meet up with our cruise buddies for an Asian cruise Singapore to Japan in February.  After that....undecided but will need a "home" from late February until the weather warms in Michigan (late April) and we can launch our boat (home) again in Spring 2019 for a summer of Great Lakes exploration prior to heading south aboard Sum Escape for the Winter 2019/2020.

We toured a few condo open houses one Sunday just for grins.  Nice places and a great way to get a feel for the local market.  For now, our cruising lifestyle is the one we prefer.  We'll sign up for a slip here at Longboat for winter 2019/2020 before we leave in early March.

Julie found a Coast Guard Auxiliary posting in the laundry room so we scheduled a safety inspection.  Tom noted expired flares before the gentleman arrived so those have been replaced and both boat and dinghy have their 2018 safety inspection stickers proudly displayed.  He did ask about Kidde fire extinguishers recall.  We had already replaced all seven on board courtesy of Kidde!

On Julie's 60th birthday (Valentine's Day) I scheduled Julie for her first ever massage session at the Resort Spa.  She really enjoyed it and joined me at the beach shortly before noon. 

We walked back to the marina along the beach and got ready for a fun evening.  We joined a number of other boaters at the Longboat Key Club event center for a Valentine's Day dinner/dance.

Betsy and Dave (Frye Daze) organized a table for 10 and also had a sash that said "60 looks good on me" and tiara for Julie to wear!  It was a really nice party and 60 does look good on you Julie....I love you! 

The Key Club members were welcoming and friendly, the food/drinks were good and the band was good too.  We had a lot of good laughs and a great time.  Thank you Betsy for organizing!

Here is Tom removing the boarding plate after the varnish crew had installed it backwards! It's hard to get good is installed correctly now.
Yet another beautiful sunset on the marina.
Just a random "walking" photo.

I (Tom) flew to Michigan to move Mom into assisted living, leaving on the 16th and returning on the 21st.  Here is the "you click, we pick" car we scored at Enterprise!  Not bad for paying $38 for a compact car....2018 Mustang convertible!

We think Mom is settling into the new living arrangement well.  We know the food is much better (I personally had two meals there to prove it), the social interaction opportunities are much improved and the care and help she needs is available 24/7.  So we pray that God continues to help her adjust and she is happy, safe and comfortable there.  Many thanks to my sister Pam and brother in law Steve for being there to help pack and move Mom.  It was a large undertaking and the team worked well together.  And thanks to my brother Larry and sister in law Eileen for the accommodations while I was in Michigan. A thank you to my sister Betty for her numerous winter travels to Muskegon from Chicago.  And a thanks to Deb for all her help with the hospitalization and related and to Larry and Eileen for all their support over the past few months with Mom. This has been a significant "siblings project" for sure and I think we all worked together well to make it happen!
The new apartment.

Julie and her brother Kevin and sister in law Debbie picked me up at the airport when I returned on the 21st.  We took a road trip together to Key Largo where we were able to visit with Julie's cousin Denise and her husband Dave who were in Key Largo on vacation from Washington (state). 

We had a great time catching up with everyone.  You may recall that Denise and Dave joined us aboard Sum Escape in the Bahamas two years ago.  And they were also kind enough to have us in the summer of 2016 at their home in Washington. It was fun spending some time together again.  Thanks to all for a great time!
Our group of four was upgraded to a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite!!  Old, but clean and nice.

And the tiki bar restaurant was right next door.

And thanks for the key lime pie Dave and Denise.  I think I can get enough whip cream...

Dave and Denise's houseboat accomodations.  Really a cool little spot!

We planned another outing to the Blue Rooster to see the same band.  Diane and Ed (Coaster), Karen and Larry (Dream) and Debbie and Kevin joined us there.  A great venue and great company!

The diver came as scheduled on Thursday March 1.  He noted zincs in good condition, scrubbed the bottom and removed a 10 foot line from the port side shaft.  Hmm, not sure when we picked that up! He also noted a ding in one blade of the starboard prop.  Have not noticed any vibration and we hope we don't once we get underway.  Hopefully this can wait until winter storage for repair....

On Friday we rode out bikes 4-1/2 miles to the UPS store to deliver a package for Brett. Yes, it is his pre school through 8th grade scrap book Julie has been diligently working on to complete.  It will arrive just in time for his 31st birthday!  We are sure he will appreciate it more at this age than back in the high school days!
We'll post again after we get on the East coast of Florida and begin our migration north.  Thanks for following our blog.

February statistics.   See January, we did not move the boat!  But we do enjoy staying at Longboat Key.  We are signed up for December 2019 to March 2020 to prove it!