Venturing into New but Charted Territory

February 1-12, 2018

Miles Traveled: 51

Total Miles Traveled: 3651

Namaste departed Indiantown marina on a gorgeous February 1st.  There were a couple of bridges to pass under and a lock to manage, all of which we had done coming the other direction in Spring 2016.

kuLnJ+5lTky7tZmx6lHZow

Railroad swing bridge in the foreground followed closely by a highway bridge

 As we exited the St. Lucie River turning left onto the ICW (Inter-coastal Waterway) we passed through the “crossroads” (where the St. Lucie River, ICW,  St. Lucie Inlet, and Manatee Pocket all come together) into new territory for the first time in 20 months!  We are back in the land of sunrises where our adventure grows a new leg.

  Because it was 51 miles to our destination of Fort Pierce FL, we decided to make an overnight stop at the Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart and enjoy the incredible hospitality on the docks and the lovely River Walk into town.  We were asked to say hi to friends of friends on the “Free to b”.  We walked the docks, as we always do, but didn’t see the boat until the following morning when we discovered she was two boats down the dock out of hundreds docked and moored close-by.

Coming into Sunset Bay Mooring & Marina, Jim waving from the River Walk, and the Namaste Too nestled at the dock with “Free to be” two boats to our stern.

The trip from Stuart into Fort Pierce was relaxed except for slight concern about current in the marina.  We had calculated slack-tide (the time with minimal water moving in or out and thus the lowest current) and timed our arrival accordingly only to find that the marina used the tide charts of the next station north instead of the Fort Pierce readings.  Thus, the current was stiff but we managed to dock for fuel and a pump-out in preparation for our month-long stay.  As we re-boarded to move into our slip, Captain Jim turned the key to a soft click instead of a robust roar.  After just having spent $800+ for new batteries there was no good explanation for why the engine wouldn’t fire up so the busy fuel dock requested that we move as soon as possible requiring a hip-tow from another boat into our assigned slip.  Nancy and Mike on “California Lady”, friends from Faro Blanco two years ago, were awaiting our arrival to assist, commiserate and serve up a chili supper on their back deck, better known as the porch.

Lunch and fancy drinks at Cobb’s Landing with Debbie and Tom

Happy Hour supper aboard the Namaste Too adding Mike and Nancy

Now, neither the engine nor the air conditioning were working!  Over the next few days the engine issue was diagnosed as a starter problem which was removed from the engine room, a solenoid replaced and a fork adjusted at the nearby alternator shop and then reinstalled by the captain.  When the key turned this time it was music to our ears.  We had to wait a few days on the air conditioner guy but eventually we connected and that issue was an easily replaced fuse that we would never have found ourselves.  Back in business just in time for Debbie and Tom, our Great Lakes boating buddies, arrival from Michigan.  But first, we were treated to watching the Space X – Falcon Heavy Rocket take-off from the Kennedy Space Center.  From 94 miles away, the pictures aren’t as dramatic as the feeling of watching live as the 27 rocket engines lifted into the air.  If you haven’t seen the pictures taken of Earth through the windshield of the Tesla aboard the spaceship, you are missing something.

Space X – Falcon Heavy Rocket

Now back to a word about Debbie and Tom.  We cruised Lake Erie with these guys for about 8 years when we were both new to the big boat thing making many buddy trips to Put-in-Bay, Pelee and Kelly’s Island before we moved Namaste to Lake Charlevoix.  They have visited us three times while on the loop (Gulf Port, Marathon and now Fort Pierce) and report that they are in favor of the Namaste Too as much improved accommodations.  While they were here we stopped working and began to explore Fort Pierce, a slightly tired but rejuvenating, inter-coastal city whose claim to fame is hosting the Navy SEALs beach reconnaissance training ground during World War II (1943-46).  Think preparing for the invasion of Normandy!  We toured The National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum commemorating the work of these amazing men.  I just learned that the SEALs also train for winter weather water operations in Alpena, MI.

In addition to our educational experience, we also had two trips to the State Park beach where we watched Tom play with his favorite Christmas toy, a drone camera.  Next was lunch at the Disney resort on Hutchinson Island, the barrier reef protecting Fort Pierce from the Atlantic.

A beach. . .a drone. . .a captive audience!

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0024.JPG

Drone picture of the Namaste Too at rest

We walked through town and had a memorable Tappas dinner listening to singer and pianist Antonio York.  Two Tiki bars, a trip to Best Buy, lady shopping in Vero Beach and getting our smart TV set to watch the Olympics (thanks Tom!) were rounded out with a trip to the most amazing Farmers Market 100 yards from the boat and creating a Debbie feast of roast pork tenderloin (cooked in the insta-pot), sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, pea-pods, a green salad++, roasted tomato/rosemary bread, and red wine with strawberries for dessert.  It was sad to see them go off into the abyss of snow awaiting them in Grand Rapids but more visits are promised!

Jim has found a true captain’s shopping extravaganza called the Marine Connection right here in Fort Pierce.  It is a liquidator of marine supplies, both new and used. Housed in huge barns with helpful staff, they sell anything and everything a boater could  possibly need except for the ridiculously expensive davit system we need for our dinghy.  Pictures tell the story best!

A basket ride, buildings, biminis, and benches

I joined a three-time-a-week jazzercize class with Nancy (no pictures available).  It seems I am getting better at the jazz part but my feed don’t always follow what my brain suggests.  What I know for sure is that I was hot, sweaty and tired at the end of the hour today so I am sitting on the fly-bridge looking out over the inter-coastal to Hutchinson Island in a cool breeze drinking La Croix, eating trail mix and feeling quite healthy thinking about all those amazing Olympians!

A question you might ask, why are you staying a month in Fort Pierce?  Well, there are many answers depending upon the day but mostly to savor the perfect Florida weather (average high temps vary between 79 and 82) and the low slip fees which are cheaper by about 25% on a weekly or 50% on a monthly basis.  When we begin moving every day or so anchoring frequently will allow us to enjoy a more peaceful life at reduced costs.

Sammy Sayz:  I finally got a groom last week from a really nice lady in this cute little pink shop.  J & J say that it is the best haircut ever so I guess I look pretty good but they haven’t yet held up a mirror.  It was great to have Debbie and Tom aboard for a little diversion and lots of petting and treats but I am sad because the beaches around here aren’t dog friendly so I had to stay on the air conditioned boat. Can you imagine?

1V1FR6JmQbqw2Ja7z3oSbw

So pretty?

Good Boat Name:  “Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust”

Bad Boat Name:  “Ultimate Bitch”

Quote:  “Walls Keep everybody out.  Boundaries teach people where the door is.” -Mark Groves

Get well:  Craig

Happy Birthday:  Bernie, Karen, Ollie, Colleen,

Sending love to all of my Valentines!

2JAgiCn2Q0iuszbTpoEKqw

Unfurling Flag #2 for our Maiden Voyage on Namaste Too

January 24-January 31, 2018

Miles Traveled: 140

Total Miles Traveled: 3600

On January 24th we unfurled our brand new AGLCA Flag (America’s Great Loop Cruising Association), a Christmas present to Captain Jim as we continue our Loop on the newly acquired Namaste Too.  Our original flag, ceremoniously raised on day one (June 28, 2015) when leaving Lake Charlevoix, is safely stored aboard after many attempts to un-bleed the colors and remove the stains from her underwater experience.

fullsizeoutput_b3d7

It was a gorgeous morning and we created an uneventful departure from the River Forest Marina heading east across the Okeechobee Waterway toward Clewiston and Lake O.  Our destination was about 30 miles so we continued to practice maneuvers, approaching every available dock along the way as well as getting a lift in the Moore Haven Lock.  Since we had done this lock last year we weren’t terribly concerned until the Lock Master informed us of a “restriction” –  the port lock door was currently not functioning.  Fortunately, we were on the starboard (right) side of the lock and theoretically could simply move forward and slip on out through the right door.  Well, the turbulence as the one working door opened caught us off-guard and wa-la we were moving sideways toward what was becoming a more narrow opening by the second. Captain Jim got a hold of things and slowly brought the bow of the boat around to head us in the needed direction.  Whew, what a first lock experience in this trawler which handles quite differently than our full keel mono-hull sailboat!  No pictures.  I was way too busy scrambling.

gX0OBgD8Q1m7v4YHf1a7uA

On the other side of the grass lies Lake Okeechobee, this canal begins the rim.

On our way again, we had a lovely trip along the rim canal of Lake “O” to Clewiston where we didn’t see another boat until about a mile from the marina. At that point a faster boat passed us and a third boat came upon our stern, making us the middle boat.  Well, boat number one missed the obscure entrance as did we so three boats were now all vying for the narrow entrance and limited dockage.  Fortunately, Captain Sam was on the docks slowly and safely directing everyone. with Jim landing the Namaste in a small space between a large boat and many small bass fishing boats lining the dock.  Beautiful.  Hey, I think we are getting the hang of this!

phsgTr7KTHq2yN1w8mkLFg

Squeezed in pretty tight but at least we got turned around (flipped) for an easy exit

The weather turned so windy that our crossing of Lake O was delayed by 5 days.  It is 28 miles across and a very shallow, often narrow channel that can be treacherous in high winds.  We happily stayed put experiencing the FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) Bass Fishing Tournament – called the Super Bowl of bass fishing – a much bigger deal that I had ever imagined.  We witnessed every aspect of the four day event which my Dad would have loved!  When in Rome. . .

qU36qQ5iQQScWbmbkzxPSA

Daybreak on day one.  Boats and cameras everywhere.

vPf7sMifR9+Uuz6%wKk4JQ

Chilly and very windy start every single day.

IMG_3705

More civilized start on day three.  Namaste Too’s anchor bottom right.

In case you are wondering, a Pro Bass Fishing Tournament goes something like this:  On day one 188 bass-boats ($70-90,000 each) go fishing from 7:30-3:30, on day two the top 100 boats go out, day three the top 30 boats and day four the top 10 boats fish.  Each day they bring in their 5 heaviest fish (alive for release at the end of the day) with the cumulative number of pounds indicating their competitive placement for the day and ultimately the tournament winner. If you happened to be watching the fishing channel on TV you may have seen me sanding on the deck of the Namaste as I realized during the national anthem at 7:15 am that I was in direct line of the TV cameras. The boats left the dock in orderly fashion, one by one after the first day when 188 boats seemed to be ants swarming in no particular order.  There was plenty of loud, very lou music and food around along with a children’s fishing tournament held in a nearby pond.  Did you know there are now high school fishing teams?  Anyway, the weigh-in each day in is an experience in fishing culture that I cannot even begin to explain but suffice it to say that there are numerous and repetitive words to explain bass fishing. There is more to say but I will close with the important note that the winner walks away with $100,000 (or $125,000 if driving a Ranger Boat).  The top 60 boats all receive cash prizes and points toward their season standings.

Gg3ZA+pdTaK3djPP%k12bw

. . .and the winner is

While we were there I made my first Insta-pot (Christmas present) meal of lemon chicken.  It was easier and faster than I imagined, tasted great and yes, it is important to read and heed the directions.  Jim and I spent hours doing “line art” or practicing our docking theory at the Namaste’s kitchen table.

TClwIhsJT3mchpGPIyIu2w

Our model for practicing line art or docking.  Amazing, it does exactly what you want it to do.

fullsizeoutput_b382.jpeg

An 80′ Trumpy similar to one we saw last year in Marathon.  Rumor has it the owner once also owned the Washington Redskins.

 We made friends with Bill and Carman aboard “Low-Budget” who were also waiting for a weather window.  As it turned out we buddy boated on Monday (January 29th) across a calm Lake O starting out in a bit of a drizzle but arrived in bright sunshine.

We uneventfully locked through at Mayaca onto the Lucie Canal and then moved on to Indiantown.  You may remember that this is where we lost the Namaste so we had  to retrieve our dinghy and motor but also visit friends Bob and Carole aboard “Time Enough” and enjoy a raucous Taco Tuesday at JR’s the local bar ($1.00 per taco and I had 3).

Bob and Carole brought homemade Key Lime pie for lunch, Bill on the way to JR’s in the back of a Volvo, and the crew at Jr’s eating tacos.

During the two days here we have worked hard!  Jim inflated and scrubbed our sad and dirty dinghy to make her like new, finished varnishing windows and had important dock conversations with other captains.  I did laundry, paid bills, visited with friends and walked by the Namaste yesterday, gave her a pat on the side and said a final good-bye.  We learned that she was sold at auction and that there is someone interested in rebuilding her.  YAY!

6LU2wgkUTZ+P6hjLk3jpMA

ZicOrtyoTFegGIyjgnEvWA

It is a beauitful thing!

fullsizeoutput_b3b8

Good by to Carmen and Bill who are headed south to help the rebuild effort in the Virgin Islands!  Great people and great fun.

TN03NSsIQkuxZBx4fhpKrA

And then there was the super moon, the second full moon in January.  It has been a clear view to be enjoyed  the last two nights!

Sammy Sayz: I have the coolest neighbors here, two beautiful golden retrievers on the boat across the dock, Pippen and Mary.  We have called a barking truce but nosing one another is a must with each passage.  I know this place and all is good but J & J need to get their acts together, quit working all the time and take me for longer walks, maybe a little ball playing too.  I know, I know careful of the alligators.  I cannot wait to get to Fort Pierce for a much needed groom – my hair looks terrible!

g3cg3W3+TTivggX8RUk05g

Good Boat Name:  Lady Belle (a stately Nauticat 33  with the two Goldens nextdoor).

Bad Boat Name: Lost Marbles

Quote: “The expert in anything was once a beginner.”-unknown

Happy Birthday: Carson, Kevin

Get Well:  Captain Sam, the dock-master of Clewiston’s Marianne Martin Marina, who was hospitalized during our stay and the entire Bass Tournament.  He is amazing and was sorely missed!

Rest in Peace:  Dr. Tulin whose parents had an arranged marriage in Russia and came to this country unable to speak English.  He died in La Jolla CA, a psychiatrist, a veteran, a lover of modern art, married 68 years.  Only in America!

 

Getting to Know Gypsy Spirit, soon to become the Namaste Too

January 8-January 24, 2018

Miles Traveled: 0

Total Miles Traveled: 3496

After sub-zero family ski trips to Crystal and Boyne mountains, we left Michigan in a snowstorm on January 8th driving to The River Forest Marina in South Central Florida.  Two hours after arrival we greeted friends Ken and Jeanne (Daybreak) for champagne onboard to celebrate the Namaste Too and dinner out at Forreys.  After sharing dock space with them on Marathon last winter, it was great to spend our first hours on Namaste Too laughing and catching up.  The following morning we began two full weeks living onboard Gypsy, learning her every nook, cranny and system.  The time has flown by, the many assets and few challenges have affirmed our decision and we feel like she is slowly becoming ours.

CZ86k2MtT6Si5x3Tv2g

What we left behind in Michigan

BTUabihIRj6DVKM8W27Xuw

The Namaste Too awaiting us on the Caloosahatchee River

+i8rgukZQZmdmm0leMNeBA

Saying “Hi” to the Namaste Too as owner!

D4OwqX+gRzax2L8KVf7Kjg

CHEERS!  First Entertaining on the Namaste Too

This marina, on the Okeechobee Waterway – 28 miles east of Lake Okeechobee, may be one of the quietest places on earth – a good venue for learning and practicing.  It is a working marina with only two live-aboards, us and Paul onboard the 72’ Hattaras, Maralonna.  Later joined by Bryan and Kelley onboard the Vagabond.  Mostly it is skilled professionals working on huge yachts!

6b1qAT5QRDmN7NDo%UYHnA

River Forest Marina at daybreak

SlW3w1TWSuKHI4TXKl9FSw

Neighbor Paul

UyuHOkOERf2q9bwecSQQRA

Gator Neighbor

Twelve miles away is the closest town, Labelle.  We have gotten to know most aisles of the local ACE Hardware and Walmart (not something I had particularly aspired to in retirement) where we have purchased the essentials until we meet our Amazon deliveries in Fort Pierce on February 1st.  We are happy to have our car which is now stuffed with what we don’t want/need on the boat but cannot give or throw away.

Also, in Labelle there are a couple of restaurants worthy of mention.  First, is the Log Cabin BBQ where it is perpetually Christmas.  Around 4 pm one shopping afternoon we had dinner with a standing room only crowd. We each ordered the “usual” consisting of chowder, salad, beans, coleslaw, pulled pork, baked potato, Texas toast, ice dream and a soft drink for $7.99.  Second, we had two dinners at Forreys, the high-end place in town with the best chicken/melon salad I have ever eaten – called, of course, the “local favorite”!

Otherwise not much else is going on in this cowboy, county seat except the gas station turned laundromat, a culture unto itself that I believe I mentioned in a previous entry.  When you need clean clothes. . .

%nqqIT4rRj22tkBBxMq1uw

Truly cow country!

Our new-to-us boat is Jim’s problem-solving paradise!  It took a couple of days to figure out that the water heater needed a new relay switch and how to work the remote for the heating/cooling system.  In addition to general cleaning, inspection and maintenance the Captain installed 3/8” dowel stock to hold jars in the ref door; tied new lines on the bumpers; put new bulbs in the running lights; hand-crafted and installed a lock on the port door; purchased and installed a new smoke/co alarm; got all three vhf radios working in sync; purchased and stowed new safety equipment (flags, flares and gun); ran down a leak in the deck that requires repair; determined the need for, purchased, and installed 8 new batteries (totaling 880 amps). Now on to the issue of the electronics cutting out momentarily when the bow thruster is in use.

4lct5e3tTvKagc6X46Aakw

It all works but what now?

I have spent most of my time cleaning, arranging, and rearranging and cupboards.  I wonder how many times I have touched each item?  There must be an app for that?  While there is lots of storage, figuring out the best place for everything and putting everything in its place feels like doing a jig-saw puzzle without a picture.   What do I like best about the Namaste Too you ask?  Well, in no particular order of importance, I love the continuous hot water, comfortable chairs, a real refrigerator, queen bed with great mattress, real shower, lots of daylight, electric heads, huge water and holding tank capacities, new electronics, two helms, two state rooms, two heads, ease of getting on and off the dock as well as walking around on the deck.  What I will miss about the Namaste is her nimble simplicity and our familiarity with her.

5u3cb6lKQ2SOX1EBkgpZgw

When not working

Tomorrow morning we will raise the new Loop Flag, cast off the lines and head for Clewiston, a 28 mile shake-down trip!

Sammy Sayz – Hi Guys!  Well, here we go again!  I have tried to help with some of the chores but without thumbs my skills are pretty much limited to watching and waiting to go for a walk.  Today while they weren’t looking I wandered over to the work yard to see if they needed any help.  I was summarily taken home by the marina manager.   Time will tell how I like the new adventure but so far so good.

ygVqEbOUSr2BpqzyaGYYsg

What’s next?

 

Good Boat Name:  GONE

Bad Boat Name:  Leaker

Quote:  “We may have all come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday to Nate, Gwen, Doreen, Roger, Ev and Curt

Rest in peach, lovely Darla

r4jWTxKKSHiFqRtsrOB74Q

 

 

 

The Namaste completes half her loop, suffers serious internal injuries and retires to Indiantown, FL.

Since I do not know where to begin to tell this saga I will start where I left off last April. We were heading across the Okeechobee Waterway to end a great season exploring the Gulf Coast, Keys and southern Florida.  Given the extremely skinny water of Lake O, we made an anxious but smooth crossing on a gorgeous day not seeing another boat during the entire 32 mile trip.

IMG_4361

Daybreak as we head out across Lake Okeechobee

We arrived in Indiantown and spent a hot several days putting the Namaste to bed in a prime spot on the hard just behind the “resort” area of Indiantown Marina. As friends Carole and Paul Nothe arrived for a visit in 100 degree temps, we completed tying down the tarps in dozens of places, added hurricane straps and left for dinner at the local Country Club on our way out of town. The Namaste was in mint condition and we had done the best job ever of securing her for our intended long absence.

IMG_4426

The Namaste as we left her on May 1, 2017

Spring and summer enveloped time with family, friends and living our regular life on Dunham Lake.  All was perfect including these highlights:

  • Really getting to know our two newest grandsons – Cedar and Oscar.
  • Attending Lexi’s high school graduation and admission to MSU, Lyman Briggs.
  • Celebrating my 50th reunion from the MSU School Nursing
  • Watching Ashleigh enjoy the best summer ever including Camp Lookout and MSU Vet Camp, trips to Calgary and North Carolina and a strong finish playing hockey in Finland and Sweden.
  • Hosting Bastian (1995 Bremen, Germany exchange student), wife Christine and Lisa (5) for a whirlwind Michigan vacation.
  • Directing camp Dunham Lake with Liam (Lee) and Klava where they both passed grandpa and grandma’s swimming test – crossing the Lake. No problem!
  • Enjoying adventure filled weekends at Camp Lookout and the Boyne House.
  • Standing-by with lumps in our throats as Nate entered kindergarten in Hartland and Leonie the young 5’s program in Ann Arbor.
  • And finally celebrating all 9  grandchildren birthdays in 71 days between November 13 and January 23.  That is almost one a week!
IMG_3504

Oscar 1 and Cedar 2

IMG_3505

Leonie 5, Lisa 6 and Nate 6 in 6 days

IMG_3508

Klava 11 and Lee 12

IMG_3509

Ashleigh 16 and Lexi 19

IMG_5424

MSU Nursing program 1967

All was perfect until Irma unleashed her fury on Florida on September 10th while we were on a brief get-away to Michigan’s beautiful UP.  Like you, we watched and listened to the news, anxious and sad but feeling confident that the Namaste was securely tied down and inland far enough away from high-water dangers.  It took several days but we were relieved to hear from marina staff that all was well and only a few boats suffered minor damage in Indiantown.  Whew, we had dodged a bullet!

That was until early October when Captain Jim drove down to both check and work on our Namaste.  He called from the Burger King in Indiantown, excited to arrive and get to work on his beloved and beautiful ketch.  I didn’t hear anything for many hours and when I did the news was devastating.  Unknowingly to all, hurricane Irma had not been kind to the Namaste.  It seems she suffered the perfect storm.  Her scuppers clogged by flying debris, while many inches of rain fell in just hours, along with a power outage for 5 days rendered the bilge pump quiet, Jim found her cabin filled with 3’ of water and everything inside floating, moldy and corroded.

After having her pumped out and before calling me, Jim’s next reaction was to purchase 24 rolls of paper towel to begin “cleaning” her up. However, with considerable urging he slowly realized that the task ahead was beyond him. The outside – hull and rigging were perfect but the interior cabin and all working parts (engine, transmission, batteries, electronics, etc.) were a complete loss.  Restoring her again was simply not in the cards at this stage in our lives.

There were many calls and lots of tears as she had been our fourth child and the Captain’s life-passion over the past 17 years.  He knew every inch of her.   In addition to restoration projects big and small, we enjoyed 8 years on Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay, Pelee Island, Kelly’s Island and Toledo Beach Marina.  We circumnavigated Lakes Huron and Michigan moving her to Boyne City on Lake Charlevoix in 2009.  We had wonderful trips to Mackinaw Island, Beaver Island, Washington Island, the North Channel and began our Loop on June 28, 2015.  Our estimate is that she carried us about 7,000 miles over 17 years. In retrospect, responsibility for any problems we had during those years were ours.  We forgot, misjudged, or didn’t know something.  It was never her fault – she served us well, never-ever letting us down. Yes, a boat does have a soul and hers was a proud and gentle intrepidness.  We hope that someone with time and skill will come along who wants to restore a great sailboat.  We believe there is a young couple looking at her now.

The insurance company declared her a complete loss. We are grateful to Boat U.S., underwritten by Geico, for their prompt attention to our claim.  We couldn’t have asked for more at a time when most of Florida was in triage mode. Within two months we had a check in hand for the full insured value. . .but I get ahead of myself here.

While she still belonged to us, we made another trip to Indiantown to salvage what we could including a reasonably new dinghy/motor and cockpit equipment (tools, lines, etc.). However, the cabin mold was so intense that we ducked in, grabbed what we could of sentimental value, said thank-you and good-by to a beautiful old lady.

IMG_9820

Saying good-bye

After consultation  with and support from family and friends we determined that we would honor our dream and complete the Great American Loop.  With the promise of an insurance check coming, we eventually began to look at boats in Florida so that we wouldn’t miss a season on the water.  While on our salvage excursion we looked at ten boats in three locations.  Several were possibilities but one stood out in the crowd as a classic trawler and not a work project.  Her name is Gypsy Spirit and she was located in the Fort Myers Municipal Marina.  Perhaps you saw her on TV as we understand that a national network covered Hurricane Irma from the corner of the marina where she was docked.

IMG_9841

IMG_2389

Meet Namaste Too

Backing up – the purchase story begins in Faro Blanco Marina, Marathon FL.  Gypsy Spirit, a 1983 Albin ’36, was docked across the way and owned by Jenny Lynn and Dan Girvan of White Hall, Michigan.  We met them as fellow Loopers during our mutual stay on Marathon last winter where we shared countless docktale parties, a dinghy drift, and restaurant meals together over six weeks.  They even cooked Jim spaghetti dinner while I was in Michigan visiting family in March.  Before we departed north in April, Jenny Lynn showed us through their boat announcing it may be for sale as they were considering a bigger/faster boat.  We thanked them but had decided that we were sticking with our Namaste.

You can guess the rest of the story.  We boarded Gypsy as one of the ten possibilities in October and knew almost immediately (well, at least I did) that Gypsy would be our choice.  A shout out to Jenny Lynn and Dan for being the perfect boat sellers, now considered great friends.  Their openness, enthusiasm, knowledge and follow-through have made for an easy process.  Dan and Jim made yet another trip to Florida and later joined by our youngest son Curt for the survey, sea trials and move to River Forest Marina on the Okeechobee Waterway where she patiently rested awaiting our post-holiday arrival.

Yes, it has been a difficult couple of months but we now see the silver lining to what had been a thundercloud in our lives  We are humbled, grateful, excited and ready for a steep learning curve!

Happy 12th Birthday Lee (Liam)

Rest in peace Uncle George!

 

 

The Skinny Okeechobee Waterway

April 20-23, 2017

Miles traveled:   81

Total miles traveled: 3496

We left Sanibel and headed the short distance across beautiful San Carlos Bay (Sanibel bridge to our port and the open Gulf to our starboard) toward the Fort Myers Yacht Basin marking the beginning of the Caloosahatchee River heading east across Florida via the Okeechobee Waterway and to the Atlantic.  While in Fort Myers we took a restful couple of days including an early morning walk over the Edison bridge accompanied by several dozen Fort Myers police academy recruits in training – not walking.  They couldn’t have been more pleasant to us, even when Sammy wandered onto their half of the bridge walkway.  We then went onto First Street for breakfast at the United Ale House passing by the FM Police Chief being interviewed on TV which felt like we were on the set of Blue Bloods!  Next stop was the Farmers Market along the waterway where we purchased plums, peaches, oranges (of course) and strawberries.  Some of the best ever!  We also did piles of laundry and endless boat shopping.

IMG_4245

Fort Myers Yacht Basin from the Edison Bridge

IMG_4252

The Edison Bridge we shared with the police recruits.  Note the bridge bumpers extending to the right of the bridge into the water.  This is the passageway for boats to follow.

fullsizeoutput_8aee

Right, we really are going to fit?

We now have three boat travel days left between FM and Indiantown (our Florida home port) and probably some of the most stressful of the season.  The water levels are the lowest in recent years (skinny water) as there is a drought in SW Florida – some describing it as a tinderbox!  Jim called the Army Corp. of Engineers for their take on the situation and learned that the very shallowest point on the waterway is 5.85’ and we need 5’ therefore we hope to have at least .85’ under the keel while in the channel!  This does not include shifting and shoaling of sand so not much margin for error.  Captain says no-problemo, I say drama and adventure!

Leaving Fort Myers early, so as to enjoy as much cool air as possible, we had the channel all to ourselves but the sun rose in our eyes heading east for “April First’s” dock near Labelle Florida.  It was a lovely and uneventful morning raising six bridges, easily passing through the Franklin lock and getting happily secured in the Ortona lock, the last before reaching our destination.  At just the moment we took a deep sigh of relief, we noticed another sailboat proceeding at a pretty good clip approaching the lock from behind and needing to secure in front of us against the wall.  Looks like trouble to me!  They waved as they bumped their bow sprint into the cement wall, tried to grab lines, and scraped their starboard side heralded by a terrible screeching sound – perhaps the worst lock entrance we have seen yet.  They finally got a hold of bow and stern lines but because they were so far forward in the lock where the water enters, they experienced considerable current and turbulence.  Because we were lifting, they could have secured the lines to a cleat but chose not to observe good physics and instead were required to use brute strength to keep their boat in place.  Through nonverbal communication we were highly concerned that if they let go, they would instantly be drifting into the Namaste’s bow.  It was not a pretty picture but all’s well that ends well and everyone exited the lock reasonably unscathed and we completed our day.

The evening, tied to the dock behind April and Dean’s house (see previous post) next to River Forest, could not have been more lovely.  In fresh water now we saw a 12’ alligator swimming the channel in mid-afternoon right behind the Namaste.  My second real sighting.  We napped, had dinner, went for a long walk in their neighborhood and slept for 9 solid hours. This morning we bid these wonderful people farewell, learning that it was Dean’s birthday so they are enjoying a pound of Biggby coffee.  Side note:  both were born and raised in Cheboygan Michigan and raised three children in a geodesic dome there.

fullsizeoutput_8b1e

April and Dean on their deck as we say good-bye for now.

The space was tight but Captain Jim got turned around and we were easily on our way.  Somewhere after passing under the highway bridge, railroad swing bridge (we heard the train whistle in the distance), and the Moore Haven lock (easy), I was at the helm, following the magenta line on the chart plotter.  I glanced at the depth gauge for a reading and saw 4.2’  Not enough!!  Yes, that fast we were aground and quite stuck in the mud!  Thankfully it was a calm part of the river but with enough traffic that we knew we wouldn’t be stranded forever.  Captain Jim tried reverse while moving the bow back and forth with the bow-thruster.  Nope!  Next he used the boat hook in an attempt to push us backward off the bottom while I manned the helm in reverse.  Nope!  Finally, our trusty dinghy and her 6 hp engine pulled us right off and back to free water.  We had been too far right in the channel.  Who knew??

There were great photo ops along the way today balancing out the grounding episode.

fullsizeoutput_8b1d

If you look closely in the center you will see two birds.  A large Egret and a smaller Green Heron standing together on watch.

fullsizeoutput_8b34

A Great Blue Heron flying to our port

 

fullsizeoutput_8b35

Saturday riders to our starboard

Three separate alligator sightings today!  Getting much better at spotting them and now I am at 5!  Jim has many more.

On to Clewiston was a tense but uneventful trip.  Sammy is tied and Jim is sound asleep in his cockpit hammock.  The dock master warned us that an alligator was spying Sammy!

Sammy Sayz:  They don’t think I know that our sailing season is quickly coming to an end but I understand every word they say.  I will be happy to come home and see everyone but. . .

IMG_4290

. . .I’m gonna miss the wind in my face and living outside!

 

Quote of the Day:  “Not crossing Lake “O” today!”  -Captain Jim

fullsizeoutput_8b4b

Good Boat Name:  “WETEVER” (Ron and Vicki’s new Pontoon boat in Wisconsin)

Bad Boat Name:  “Elephant”

Happy Birthday to:  Norma

 

Easter on Cabbage Key

April 16 – 19, 2017

Miles traveled:   53 miles

Total miles traveled: 3427

After chatting with family, we sadly left Pelican Bay on Easter Sunday about noon as we had reservations for dinner at the Inn on Cabbage Key, just 5 or so miles south.  Before we left, however, a fisherman demonstrated net fishing as schools of Red Finn Herring were swimming all around the Namaste.  They are a silver bait-fish that everyone up the food chain enjoys, surely bad news for the Red Finn Herring!  We then took a last dinghy ride to the beach where we met Rick and Mary who will begin their Loop on “Exhale” from Fort Myers in January.  Likely and hopefully we will meet again!

 

IMG_4066

IMG_4081

Rick and Mary with Sammy’s friend Mattie from onboard “Exhale” at the Pelican Bay Beach

We were in need of showers and power for the refrigerator so we up-anchored and carefully followed directions getting into the skinny water marina at Cabbage Key.  What a place!  It is truly a family owned, old Florida resort having been built in 1936.  Twenty-two employees live on island and the remainder take the Ferry to and from Fort Myers and Cape Coral.  An inn, restaurant, cottages, water tower, nature trail, basketball net and marina adorn the island and we took advantage of it all over the twenty hours we visited.  One of the fascinating traditions is that there is $70,000 in dollar bills (estimated 20 years ago) taped to the restaurant walls.  Back in the day, fisherman came for a beer after a good catch but taped $1 on the wall for the next time when the catch wasn’t as good.  When the money falls off the walls, as it must, they stuff it – tape and all –  into plastic bags and donate about $12,000/ year to a local charity.  Of course we tagged a dollar with Namaste and taped it above the water tower door in case you ever happen to visit!

IMG_4106

Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant

IMG_4122

Namaste happily at the Cabbage Key dock.

IMG_4123

The Namaste loves palms!

IMG_4142

Dinner among $70,000

Our dinner was beyond impressive:  great cocktails (Cabbage Creepers), unusual menu selections, great biscuits, large portions, and Key Lime pie!  Overnight rates are reasonable and all rooms are air conditioned.  They serve between 600 and 650 people for lunch 365 days a year, all arriving by boat!!  We got there after lunch and left after breakfast (which is served in the bar at 7:00 a.m.) so we had the island to ourselves.  In fact by 7:30 p.m. another sailboat and the Namaste were the only vessels in the marina and we enjoyed the nature trail alone the following morning.  We say, get on a ferry or rent a boat and go to Cabbage Key!

IMG_4118

Dressed for Easter dinner

IMG_4156

Water Tower on Cabbage Key Trail.  Note the Osprey looking at us with her two babies.

IMG_4148

View from the water tower below the Osprey just after sunrise

On we go to Sanibel Island and a marina near the SE tip.  This isn’t a usual Looper stop as it is off the GIWW but Vicki and Ron liked it last year so we are here and not disappointed.  By-the-way, we are having phone docktales with them late this afternoon!  Today is a welcome relief of overcast skies and rain predicted although radar shows nothing.  We spent a quick morning washing the salt spray off the Namaste (Jim), doing a load of laundry and scrubbing the cockpit cushions of salt, sand, sunscreen, and spilled coffee (me).  The reward being a mile or so walk to the Sanibel Lighthouse Point Beach. A Gopher Turtle was our highlight who we saw meandering in the grass above the beach.  Now we will explore the channels by dinghy and call it a day.

IMG_4185

Big adult gopher turtle

IMG_4191

Last day at the beach for winter 2017

IMG_4204

Mile marker “0” – south end of Sanibel Island

IMG_4211

This was our last day at the beach as tomorrow we begin our trek north to Fort Myers (no beach) and then back through the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okechobee and back to Indiantown.  Fun ahead but no beaches!  Looking forward to Dunham Lake, Lake Charlevoix, Lower Herring Lake and Lake Michigan!

IMG_4229

Saw this floating bar, we think, on our way from Sanibel to Fort Myers today.  Too early for customers.

Quote of the Day:  “Did you know that Easter has a different date every year because it’s based on the moon phases.  In 325 CE, Constantine I led a council of Christian Bishops who decided that Easter must always be a Sunday to honor the resurrection of Jesus.  They also said it would immediately follow, but not land on, the first full moon after the Spring Equinox, which is why the date can fall anywhere between Marrch 22 and April 25.” – Did you Know

Good Boat Name:  “Exhale”  (on a gorgeous 49’ North Pacific Trawler)

Bad Boat Name: “Assisted Living”  (No comment)

Happy Birthday to:  Norma

Congratulations to Lexi, she is a Spartan!!!

IMG_4232

    

 

 

 

Pelican Island to Venice and Back

April 9 – 15, 2017

Miles traveled:  84 miles

Total miles traveled: 3374

My last post described our travel to Pelican Bay where we floated at anchor for three beautiful days.  This may be one of our favorite stops of the trip:  much like Put-in-Bay except anchors instead of mooring balls; a state park instead of restaurants/bars and tomato soup instead of lobster bisque.  Debbie and Tom – thinking of you!!

Pelican Bay is several hundred yards off the GIWW located between an uninhabited island and Cayo Costa giving excellent protection from wind and waves.  One of many highlights of our stay here was a 3 mile hike into the mangroves across the island to a totally secluded beach on the other side that looks out onto Boca Grande Pass and the Gulf.  We kept Sammy on a short leash as we were constantly on the look-out for snakes and alligators, thankfully we saw neither.

IMG_3926

Three mile hike in Cayo Costa State Park

IMG_3934

Another gorgeous sunset from the beach of the uninhabited island where Jim cleaned the dinghy bottom.

Of the fifty or so boats anchored here, two of are particular note.  First, we met Loopers Jim and Linda on board “Leilani” from Annapolis with whom we shared some great laughs.  Meeting them late one afternoon they wondered why in the world we had been spinning in circles at anchor earlier.  Surely there was a good reason?  Well, no!  Jim had accidentally left the boat in gear (button pushed in) when running the engine to generate power for the refrigerator.  This resulted in several 360 degree spins around the anchor before we noticed as we were below deck.  We were all amazed that the anchor held and that later we were actually able to raise it out of the sand.  Second, we watched a sailboat enter the bay ultimately realizing it was Dean and April originally from Cheboygan, MI on board “Aprilfirst”.  This was a boat we knew from our unplanned stay at River Forest for repairs months ago.  They live across the canal from the marina and offered us their dock (for free) as we travel back to Lake Okeechobee at the end of the month.  People are amazingly generous!

After more-than-a-slight kiss of the bottom we left Pelican Bay headed for Englewood and Venice.  The first night we anchored just off Lemon Bay and had nacho dinner at Flounders.  The second night we planned to stop at Fisherman’s Warf in Venice but they could not accommodate us so we went on to the Crow’s Nest in N. Venice.  This was an interesting place offering some of the best showers, a great restaurant and easy access to the Gulf and beaches where we saw perhaps our most spectacular sunset of the season. We also met Wally and Martha on board “Blue Wing” with whom we shared their hair-raising experience of entering a narrow and obstructed slip next to us at high cross-current at the Venice inlet from the Gulf.  After half a dozen tries resulting in frantically backing off, Wally got sideways to the current, drifted across until he was even with the slip and then gave it enough power to enter and get a line on – not easy nor pretty but they were safely docked.  We shared dinner together offering our accolades and recounting the story over and over!  At some point we remembered meeting Wally while on the mooring balls in Naples.  Wally and Martha were delightful!  However, the barge that was pounding posts for a new marina dock was not so we moved back to Fisherman’s Warf as we bid good-by to Blue Wing who was leaving for their home near Clearwater.

IMG_3957

The Venice Inlet – look carefully an you can see the turbulence from the current

IMG_3959

Jim and Sammy patiently waiting for me as dogs weren’t allowed on the jetty

IMG_3971

My favorite sunset picture this year at the Venice inlet heading out to the Gulf as the sun set!

The object of our trip back to Venice this year was my continued sleuth-work and interest in finding my grandparent’s home where they retired in the mid-1950’s and perhaps seeing my parent’s home in Englewood where they retired in 1975.  Another thought was to visit Sharron Bourget who was our Dunham Lake neighbor for many years and currently lives near my parent’s home and daily enjoys the beach that we visited often during the 70’s and 80’s.

We never did find my grandparent’s house but walked four miles in the neighborhood we believed was theirs.  By-the-way, Venice has some of the best shopping we have enjoyed on the Loop!    After connecting on FB, we met Sharron at the Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch.  It was truly a perfect afternoon of shared memories (Mark and Pat playing hockey and  Mike and Michelle off to Kindergarten on the bus) as well as catching up with 20+ years of life.  Sharron thoughtfully asked if there was anything we would like to see or do.  She was reading my mind, as I have been wanting to drive past my parent’s home and walk on her/their beach.  As we are both early risers, Sharron picked me up at 7 a.m. and we found 400 Oriental Poppy Dr. before sunrise followed by a long slow walk along the beautiful Manasota Beach sharing more great memories and life experiences.  Upon my return to the boat, Captain Jim and the Namaste were ready to cast-off from Venice raising six bridges on our way back to Pine Island Sound and Pelican Bay.  Sharon was waiting for us at the Manasota Bridge (the one my mom and dad crossed hundreds of times) and captured the Namaste on an amazing video.  Thanks for everything Sharron!

IMG_3983

Lunch and lots of laughs with Sharron.  A moment when time goes backward.

IMG_4002

IMG_4013

A long walk on Manasota beach early after visiting Japanese Gardens where my parents lived for twenty years.

IMG_3994

Fisherman’s Wharf from the Venice Avenue Bridge

IMG_4019

Sharron taking a video of us as we went under the Manasota Bridge heading south on the GIWW

Sammy Sayz:  I am so enjoying running on the beaches, even though the salt water does crazy things with my hair.  Jo Ann says I look like a rag-a-muffin but I think I look pretty good.  Thanks Sharron for sneaking me out for early morning beach-time and all the loving hugs!  

IMG_4025

 

Quote of the Day:  “To have a friend and to be a friend is what makes life worthwhile.”  unknown

Question of the day:  Have you ever lost a book while you were reading it?

Good Boat Name:  “Be Well”

Bad Boat Name:  “Hauling Grass” (pretty sure they don’t mean sea grass)

Happy Birthday to:  Jen (belated), Emily (today)