The Great American Loop, Final Entry of Leg #1 Boyne City, MI To Indiantown, FL

Days 304-320; April 24–May 10

Total Water Miles Traveled: 2758

The Manatee Pocket – a small lake just off the ICWW – is as lovely as it’s name. This is the point at which the St. Lucie River cuts into central Florida and creates a path to Indiantown where the Namaste will rest during our return home to Michigan for the summer of 2016.

We stopped at Mariner Cay Marina to catch our breath, enjoy the scenery and get organized for going home. We spent Earth Day attending a festival in the quaint little town of Port Salerno on the shores of Manatee Pocket and a dinghy ride from our marina. It was a hot afternoon complete with a tiny version of everything you would expect at a summer festival: music, lunch/dinner at Shrimpers, chair massage, a plant sale, hand made jewelry, hand woven clothing, etc. Laundry; long planning walks; boat maintenance and restful pool time kept us occupied until we set out on our last travel day to Indiantown.

It was a warm, sunny and easy Sunday with only 25 miles to go, one bridge to open and one lock to pass. We were out of the mansions and back into the mangroves with wildlife and natural beauty all around. Note the cattle watering holes below. Captain Jim and I commented on how quiet we were as we traveled this final day. The journey has been everything we could have dreamed and so much more. While we are excited to return home to friends and family, it is hard to put this adventure on the shelf until next time and hard to leave The Namaste, the lifestyle and the people. However, in every way it was a memorably perfect final day of travel for now.

We arrived at Indiantown in the early afternoon but the marina staff had already gone home for the day. Thus, we tied up at the gas dock and since we would be here for at least five days, we began to explore and almost immediately felt at home. It is truly a working marina where they have created a community of folks who love to return each year. There is a continual stream of boats coming into the marina every day, receiving tender care and then gently being lifted out of the water onto waiting stanchions or the reverse process of being launched, cleaned up and leaving the marina for parts unknown. Very early one morning I was privileged to watch as a large sailboat with two men aboard slowly crept through the marina and out into the St. Lucie River, heading across the Atlantic for Europe.

A couple of nights we had dinner with Carol & Bob and new friends in the restaurants of Indiantown but the last night we shared a pot-luck of whatever each of us could come up with from our meager final provisions. It was an interesting while tasty meal with lots of laughter and promises to meet again.

The task at hand was to ready The Namaste to be “hauled out” and placed on “the hard” along with several hundred other cruising boats. We have confidently done this many times in Michigan where we prepare her for winter but getting ready for months of sun, heat, humidity, mold and bugs is another story. We followed each directive offered including wiping every surface inside the cabin with vinegar which we all (particularly Sammy) found reasonably offensive; setting out roaster pans of charcoal; blocking every “through hull” with screening along with filling diesel tanks and emptying holding and water tanks; covering as much varnished teak as possible with tarps and finally screwing her to the ground with huge yellow straps just in case a hurricane passes by. We, however, did resist the suggestion to hang bags of formaldehyde! What to take, what to leave and why were the unending questions with frequent differences of opinion but at noon on April 29th – ten months and one day after leaving The Harborage Marina in Boyne City – we boarded our jam- packed rental car and headed for home.

Storms raged all along I75 during our two-day road trip but we managed to navigate them and the endless construction. We stopped and saw all six children and seven grandchildren before arriving at 1563 Blue Heron late evening on Sunday, May 1st. It has been a wonderful reentry and we are absolutely glad to be at home but reading the AGLCA digest each morning and following FB keeps us in tune with the Great American Loop and our Looping friends.

This will be our last Wave from Namaste blog entry for now. While Jo Ann has provided the commentary, all the credit goes to Captain Jim for his knowledge, skill, patience and creativity in making this a safe, comfortable and wildly exciting trip.   We plan to return to the Namaste for leg #2 early in 2017 after welcoming our eighth grandchild in November and celebrating our 50th anniversary in late December. Our plan is to spend much of the winter and early spring in the Bahamas. Please stay tuned . . .

Quote of the Day: “20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

(I may have included this quote earlier but it seems worth repeating here.)

Boat Name of the Day: “Windisfree”

Bad Boat Name of the Day: “Knucklehead”

Happy Birthday to: Bev Verkerke, Georgie DeRose, Melissa Spindler, Missy Poppenger, Theresa McFall, Donna Leech and me!

Congratulations to Kelly and Adis!

IMG_0233Carol in her signature hat at Shrimpers in Port Salerno

The St. Lucie River to Indiantown.  Note the fence above which encloses a watering hole for the grazing cattle to drink in protected waters.  Never saw this in any of the many other rivers.  Brilliant!

IMG_0279Jim being a boat angel (khaki brimmed hat in the middle of the picture) is winching up our neighbor in a bosuns chair to fix something at the top of his mast.  Believe me, not everyone could do either of these jobs!

IMG_0277The Namaste engine gets a coat of blue paint.  Isn’t she pretty?

IMG_0293A relaxing afternoon after an exhausting day in the boat yard. 

IMG_0298Under the watchful eye of Captain Jim and Sammy. . .

IMG_0313The Namaste is “hauled out,” her bottom washed. . .

IMG_0321. . . she is covered and resting until next time!

IMG_0467

Some of the reasons to return to 1563 in Spring

IMG_0465

The seven most important reasons to return home for the summer!

“Bridges, Beaches, Buildings, Boats, and Barges”

Coconut Grove to Manatee Pocket, Florida

Days 299-303; April 18–April 23

Total Miles Traveled: 2733

After a roller-coaster month in Coconut Grove, Dinner Key Marina, we left on Monday, March 18th from Biscayne Bay headed into the inter-coastal waterway (ICWW) in downtown Miami. We shared a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast and wander through Coconut Grove one last time with Bob & Carol, Deb and Drew before saying farewell until next time. “Time Enough” would head up the outside (Atlantic) after her new engine was installed and ultimately meet us in Indiantown. Shawnee would head up the outside on a 72 hour sail in the Gulf Stream to North Carolina (more about that later). Jo Ann decided that she wanted to travel the inside or ICWW to see the sights of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

IMG_0121Bob, Drew and Jim wandering Coconut Grove

IMG_0124Deb, Jo Ann and Carol  (We felt pretty much like middle schoolers at the Mall)

The Miami skyline had been our front yard view all month and we made several visits into downtown Miami but ushering the Namaste through the confusing channels and heavy traffic was quite another story – even on a beautiful Monday morning.

IMG_0130 Leaving Coconut Grove out the narrow and shallow channel

IMG_0135Coming up to the Miami Skyline – where do we get into  the ICWW again?

This is where the endless bridges begin.  Car traffic must travel between the barrier islands along the coast from the incredible beaches back and forth to the mainland.   Hence, we orchestrated 42 bridges on the four-day trip. Namaste needs 47’ of clearance to pass and the bridge range was 65’ down to 9’. A few bridges we could chug right under but for the rest we needed a lift, often waiting up to 45 minutes drifting around with several boats, often mega-yachts, waiting in both directions. Some tenders opened on the hour and half hour; some opened on the quarter and three quarter hour; some opened on the hour; and some upon request so as we approached each bridge we were required to call the tender on the VHF radio, identify our boat and request the timing of their next opening. We would then line up to march on through. On occasion it was clear that some captains had not gone to kindergarten as taking turns was not necessarily their strong suit. However, for the most part our fellow captains and the bridge tenders were helpful and friendly. We did note that at the end of a day everyone got a little testy.  One day we traveled with the boat, “Entitled” and when they announced their name the female bridge tender replied, “Entitled. Really? Entitled?” No response from the captain but an imaginary chuckle rippled through the dozens of boats that were listening in on the transmission.

 IMG_0185Ocean Avenue Bridge, one of the prettiest little bridges along the way

IMG_0178The Namaste is clear and thank you for the opening

The Inter-Coastal Waterway was everything we anticipated and more.   Clearly this is where the 1/10th of 1% chooses to spend their time as the mansions majestically go on and on and on. Loopers ahead had posted pictures to FB but pictures do not tell the story of the wealth, beauty and decadence of this segment. On the other hand, given the absolutely gorgeous weather there were almost no people about except the occasional gardener or construction worker building yet another immense structure. A pleasant diversion would be the occasional play-scape or busy park.

IMG_0186

IMG_0182

IMG_0179

IMG_0177

IMG_0176

IMG_0155

IMG_0154

IMG_0213

Above and below are two of the more modest lifestyles available on the waterway

IMG_0214

Second only to the homes were the boats, no yachts, no mega-yachts! We are trying to keep our boat envy under control. The pictures below do tell it all but again, our sense is that these mansions-on-water are usually moved about by hired captain and crew. The people must be off somewhere making more money? Probably the biggest and our favorite was “Limitless” a navy-blue hulled beauty who truly fulfilled her name. Most often the impact was multiplied by a multi-million dollar mansion with the multi-million dollar yacht docked out front.

IMG_0204 IMG_0173  IMG_0138 IMG_0162 IMG_0173

IMG_0201“Limitless”

IMG_0202. . .and some are even shrink wrapped

On the flip side let me tell you about the “Annie Murray” – a salty, wooden, 25 foot, last of her generation, cutter captained by a beautiful young woman from Nova Scotia. We traveled under a couple of bridges together so learned that she had been living in the Keys for five years and was headed to Maine with no crew and thus could not sail the outside. Her engine was overheating “a bit” so her speed was slow but she navigated the helm standing up and using her toes to guide the wheel.

IMG_0174“The Annie Murray”  If you look closely you can see her standing in the aqua shirt at the stern.

We hadn’t seen barges since leaving the river system in early December but the ICWW has its fair share, mostly construction barges for new bridges and buildings. So along with the pleasure craft there is a mix of barges, tows, dredges, freighters, dive boats, water taxis and cruise ships.

IMG_0159Freighter being loaded

IMG_0205Barges and cranes everywhere

IMG_0139Charter Boats – Note Hard Rock Cafe in the background

IMG_0163Water Taxi – Note houses in the background

IMG_0140One of many Cruise Ships

This was a very slow trip of 115 miles over four days but it was a great trip and I am so glad we did it. If there is a next time we will likely join the others on the “outside.” We anchored each night enjoying peace and a full moon: Lake Sylvia in Fort Lauderdale, a beautiful basin lined by aforementioned homes and yachts; Southern Boulevard Anchorage, a wide spot on the waterway; and Southern Hobe Sound Anchorage where we put down the hook with “Pearl,” a looping, tugboat we last saw in Green Turtle Bay, KY.   On the fourth day we were back into the rural mangroves with only two bridges arriving at Manatee Pocket, a small lake off the inter-costal. Here we where we are staying at the Mariner Cay Marina. It is quiet and complete with pool (89 degrees today) awaiting “Time Enough’s” arrival this afternoon.

IMG_0165Lake Sylvia Anchorage

IMG_0188Sunset at the Southern Boulevard Bridge near West Palm Beach

IMG_0226Full Moon Rise in Manatee Pocket

Quote of the Day: “Weather reports show 10 knot winds and we have 20 knots with green water coming over the bow – staying seated or lying down the whole time!” -Text from Deb and Drew aboard “Shawnee” in the Gulf Stream. (We are happy to report that our open ocean sailors have safely arrived at their destination a little weary but accomplished and happy!)

Boat Name of the Day: “Mustang Sally” on a boat we never saw but heard from all day  on the VHF radio.

Bad Boat Name of the Day: “Sexy” on an all silver go fast boat with as much red trim as could be added to a boat.

Happy Birthday to: Norma Neumann and Emily Spindler (belated)

“It’s all on the right side in Montego Bay. . .” Bobby Bloom song, 1970

Days 276-298; March 27-April 17

Total Miles Traveled: 2617

On March 27th we flew from Fort Lauderdale FL to Montego Bay Jamaica, early on a peaceful, Easter Sunday morning headed to meet Pat, Heather, Lexi, Ashleigh and Nate. We had arranged ahead for an Uber ride from the Miami City Hall so nothing could go wrong. Wrong! We came upon five different but simultaneous accidents all within a two-mile stretch of a six-lane section of I95. Next we walked into the Spirit Airline terminal greeted by a massive wall of people and the line flowing outside and down the building as far as we could see – everyone on a spring-break getaway. We looked at one another with the same thought – we will never get through this in time as we had no printed boarding passes nor seat assignments and needed to check a bag. We buddied up with a young couple from North Carolina and took on our self-assigned duties with the end result that we all got to the gate and were aboard when the plane departed two hours late. The good news was that Spirit really did manage the crowd and as we walked into customs in Jamaica, Nate came bounding up as our own personal greeter for what promised to be a fabulous week.

Pat and Heather had warned us that this would truly be a vacation – going nowhere and doing nothing while lounging in their beautiful resort on the north shore of Jamaica.  Of course, our definitions of doing nothing are different but indeed we mostly sat at the beach or pool, talked, ate, talked, ate, slept, and then started all over again. A few highlights included playing monster trucks in the sand with Nate; excellent snorkeling with Ashleigh – we saw two Angel Fish; getting a foot henna designed and applied by Lexi; kayak rides; Lex and Ash parasailing higher than any we had ever seen before.

Hours and hours of playing monster trucks on the beach

IMG_9812Hours and hours of monster trucks in the sand.

IMG_6917Hours and hours of Grandma and Ashleigh snorkeling!

IMG_9831Lexi doing her Spring Break thing!

IMG_9825Grandpa and Nate looking for waves

IMG_9815I’m not tired well maybe just a quick little nap before dinner.

IMG_9796Dinner finery

IMG_9847. . .more dinner finery

IMG_9790. . . and more dinner finery!  The meals were all delicious.  Especially

IMG_9959The beginning of an elaborate henna design

The true highlight for me was climbing the Dunn River Falls in Ochos Rios. You have probably seen a picture or climbed them yourself if you have ever been to Jamaica. I had imagined viewing some pretty falls, perhaps standing in a refreshing pool at the bottom. Reality was that Heather had arranged for an amazing woman who guided our climb (barefoot with Nate on her shoulders) from the bottom to the top, about a 45 minute rock climb into rushing fresh cool water surrounded by lush tropical greenery. Cell phone cameras were safely stored away so no real pictures but my visual snapshots will last forever! Not only an accomplishment for me but something on my bucket list since 1987.

IMG_9842 IMG_9841 IMG_9843IMG_9840We did it!

At night Jim and I retreated to our bedroom at the Celebrity Villa just up the hill from the resort where we were well cared for by Jason and his grandmother Ruby. I highly recommend this spot if you truly want a peaceful couple get-away mixed with local flavor!

We returned to Coconut Grove and picked up Sammy at the Dog House Hotel to complete our month at the Dinner Key Marina. Captain Jim did more maintenance to the Namaste (kill switch adjusted, engine painted, new fan in the galley and another bottom cleaning for both the boat and the dinghy – stuff really grows here), got our taxes out, and managed some Miami area sight seeing.

IMG_9986Doing taxes under Sammy’s close supervision

We spent a long day at Viscaya, a beautiful home and gardens on Biscayne Bay built in the early 20th century. Architecture, life and culture of the time in Miami were the guide’s expertise. As we were riding the free trolley that day we saw peacocks meandering in the front lawns of some of the beautiful homes along the Bay. I asked the driver, “what’s with the Peacocks?” He replied, “don’t know but I’m not supposed to hit ‘em!”

IMG_0012Vascaya  where we spent hours in the house and gardens

IMG_0014

IMG_0008Vascaya cafe’s wine vending machine.  A first for us –  $8/glass!

Another day we went to South Beach (SOBE) using public transportation – bus, metro-rail, and bus again. It was a trip down memory lane visiting places we enjoyed in our visits to see Pat when he lived there as a young professional in 1995-6. Shopping, lunch at the Delano, walking the beach, and people watching filled the day.

IMG_0067

IMG_0041

Pat’s last bachelor pad!

IMG_0061

Yet another time we went with four friends (Bob and Carol on “Time Enough” and Deb and Drew on “Shawnee”) to Wynwood, a neighborhood of mid-town Miami. This area is an old warehouse district turned high-end arts, design, boutique and restaurant phenomenon. Most memorable were the colorful murals painted on the exterior walls of the buildings and the Ferrari/Porsche and Guitar museum. It was a hot day so we covered only a small percentage of what was available but a must see along with lunch at the Wynwood Diner if ever you are in Miami!

IMG_0107

Wynwood Diner and a taste of the art.

IMG_0087

Bob and Carol with Deb and Drew on the Metrorail to Wynwood

IMG_01031973 matched parts Porche Carrera and one of many at the car/guitar museum

(This one is for you, Pat!)

The last two weekends the local yacht clubs have hosted the Star Sailboat World Cup races out in the Bay. We have been intrigued watching them come and go, often inches apart – representing many countries, some previous World Cup or Olympic champions. The Star class is a classic 21 foot sailboat without a motor that our late friend Dick Grasley owned way back in the 60’s. Beautiful and fun!!

IMG_0086

Heading out for the Star World Cup Races

Note from Sammy: My stay at the Dog House was OK, especially when our friends Carol and Bob, a veterinarian, (minus their kitty, Merrigold) visited. However, I am certain I would have liked Jamaica better and mostly missed sleeping on a real bed and seeing Heather and the family. I have made some good friends, Hobie and Matsu. Sometimes we run together and chase Frisbees but it is often too hot to run very long or far. I think I am in for a bath tomorrow as Jo Ann keeps calling me a rag-a-muffin. Oh yes, did I tell you that I have permanently secured my sleeping spot in the middle of the v-berth? Sounds like we may be returning to Michigan soon and while I’m not looking forward to the long car trip, I will be happy to walk around Dunham Lake with Judy and see my old friends, Gio, Mello, and Peek-a-Boo.

IMG_9973

Thanks for the visit Bob

IMG_9988

Thanks for the dance Hobie

IMG_9997Gotta love these parties!

Quote of the Day: Grandpa was talking about Boat Angels using the term Boat Fairies instead (see previous post).

Nate: “I went on a ferry boat once,”

Grandpa (smiling gently): “Oh Nate, you are so concrete.”

Nate: No Grandpa, I am NOT concrete!

We all tried to suppress our laughter as he would never have gotten it!

Boat Name of the Day: “Out of Africa” on the boat docked next to us whose delightful captain and wife immigrated from South Africa several years ago

Bad Boat Name of the Day: “Go Away”

Happy belated birthday to: Lisa Tulin-Silver, Jen DeKorte

 

 

 

In Loving memory of Bill

One of the difficult parts of this amazing adventure has been the physical distance from family and friends during important life events. We have missed weddings, the birth of our 7th grandchild – Cedar, graduations and the illness and loss of several friends and family. While phone, texting, email, Skype, and Face Book all serve an immensely vital purpose and I wouldn’t be here without them, it is simply not the same as being there. On April 6th my brother Bill succumbed to a long and well fought battle. I cannot continue this blog without including an eternal remembrance of his life and contributions to the world. Bill, RIP –  IMG_0018We love you!   Jim & Jo, Pat, Heather, Mike, Veta, Curt, Brooke, Lexi, Ashleigh, Liam, Klava, Nate, Leonie and Cedar!

William Howard Poppenger, Jr.

September 2, 1942 – April 6, 2016

Bill lived much of his life in and was one of Livonia, Michigan’s most loyal fans. He served a 400+ customer Free Press paper route (early morning delivery) for many years and more than once received a holiday tip from every grateful customer on the route. A 1962 graduate of Bentley High School, he reconnected with his wife of 44 years, Missy Sullivan, while working together on the planning committee for their ten-year class reunion.   They were married in Livonia and lived in Rosedale Gardens, the exceptional neighborhood in which they both grew up. Missy brought four-year old Chris to their relationship followed by the birth of two beautiful sons, Carson and Adam.

In addition to a long and successful career as a City Planner for Livonia, Bill was a leader in the Jaycees and instrumental in bringing the Art Train for a visit to Livonia.  He and Missy later moved to Brighton where he enjoyed a second career working in the tool department of Home Depot and where you may have met him, intentionally or not!  Ultimately, upon retirement, Bill, Missy and Chris moved to Salt Lake City, Utah enjoying the caring support of Carson, his wife Amy and their three beautiful granddaughters, Belle, Emma, and Katelyn.

Bill and his family were lovers of all dogs and gave homes to many over the years – Fella, Shaggy, Gussie, Sniffer, River, Chief, Ruth, Morgan, to name a few but Kimber was his faithful companion to the very end. He also spent countless hours on creating a family tree before the Internet existed and became known in the family as the Doll House Maker. He all but completed a Victorian masterpiece for his grand-niece which he named Princess Leonie’s Pink Mansion.

A favorite image is of Bill as a 5 or 6 year old little blonde boy, dressed in his black and white cowboy gear riding the ottoman and watching Hop-Along-Cassidy on the newly acquired family TV.

Bill had a quick smile and an easy laugh but mostly he had a passion for hard work and tenaciously doing the very best job he could. His gentle, kind and generous manner along with his love of family served each of us well. Bill, rest in peace knowing that you have made this world a better place!

 

 

Boat Angels in Paradise

Days 268-275; March 20-26, 2016

Total Miles Traveled: 2617

Well, I am again sitting in the Marina Lounge as the bright and shiny new heat exchanger is being installed on Namaste. Captain Jim is working alongside mechanic Bob to keep a watchful eye on things while checking for any additional weak spots in the engine room. This has been an easy engine fix costing only about 1.5 boat units (1 boat unit = $1,000).

There is much to do here in Coconut Grove and the Dinner Key Marina including a Fresh Market right next door (equivalent to the Plum Market); the Fairchild Gardens for an afternoon including a walking Palm (not tree) tour; trolley, bus, Metrorail, Citibike, and Uber transportation; great restaurants (Jaguar, LeBouchon, Peacock Café) and fabulous places to walk and run Sammy. The other day we even met the Mayor of Miami as the marina is just behind the City Hall.  How did we know it was the mayor?  Well, his name and MAYOR was printed on the curb by the front door.  As we walked by he got out of a black Yukon smiling at us.  Are you the mayor?  Yep, I am, and proceeded to talk to us for a couple of minutes hearing a little about our trip.  On a less fun note, we got lost one evening riding the Trolley ending up at Mercy Hospital instead of the marina. It was the driver’s first day on the job, add this to her minimal English and our even more limited Spanish, creating a directional nightmare.  The tired and yet helpful hospital workers at the bus stop showed us the way to get home.

Because of the great Internet connection in addition to shopping, I have taken the final course for my social work continuing education requirement, renewed my license, and ordered navigation charts for heading north as well as for the Bahamas – all of which have been on my to do list since leaving home. Have I mentioned how happy I am with the great Internet here? In addition to the marina service I somehow have connected as a customer to free XFINITY service right from the boat!!! Jim is on Facebook and is following along on the iPad. Bad tech-news is that his iPhone 4 will not charge. A new charger is ordered from Amazon Prime so hopefully the easy fix works. Jo Ann’s phone is alive and well so call anytime!

Now an important message about boat angels! This term did not originate here but rather is common among cruisers in general and loopers in particular. These are the people who show up at the perfect time in the perfect place with the perfect information or skills to miraculously help things work out! There have been many, many along the way including our boat buddies Vicki and Ron the first 2,500 miles of this trip; marina dock masters and dock hands; as well as bridge tenders and lock masters. More recently we acknowledge the helpful and fun staff at Faro Blanco for countless favors; Clark who spent a full day helping Jim rewire and install new batteries followed by helping to diagnose the VHF speaker problem and find a fix; Steve and Judy (living on board for 13 years) for their overall recommendations but particularly way back in Mobile for suggesting Indian Town as the place to leave Namaste for the summer; Nancy for keeping Sammy while we traveled to Key West; our Ann Arbor contingent for a fabulous family visit in the Keys; Debbie and Tom for their most welcome visits in spite of the weather; the marina guard who found Jim’s Visa card; the Verizon folks at the end of *611 for their guidance on several occasions; new friends Carol and Bob for their music and hospitality here in Coconut Grove; and finally Brad at Sunburst Marine in Boyne City, Ernie at Irish in Charlevoix, and Bob, the expert Perkins engine mechanic fixing our heat exchanger who miraculously lives here in this marina! We are thankful to everyone who has played an important part in this journey – you are truly boat angels.

We have found a doggy spa and hotel for Sammy’s vacation while we travel this weekend to see Pat, Heather, Lexi, Ashleigh and Nate in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Sammy and the boat will be safe and we couldn’t be more excited to see and spend time with them – again a vacation from the vacation! There are not words to express our gratitude.

Quote of the day: Leonie playing with a ring, putting it on and off her finger. . .

Brooke: Are you going to get married?

Leonie: Yes.

Brooke: Who are you going to marry?

Leonie: Grandma and Grandpa!

 

Boat name of the day: “Over Ice”

 

Bad boat name of the day: Just saw another sailboat named Namaste – first one ever! Suppose it had to happen sooner or later.

 

Happy Birthday to: Sharron Bourget (belated), Rosemary Freitas and Bob Olson

 

Happy Easter Weekend to All!    

 

 

IMG_9622Bob and Carol performing on Pier #2 Dinner Key Marina

IMG_9629Night in the marina

 

 

 

Marathon to Miami – A Mariner’s Dream

Days 259-267; March 11-19, 2016

Total Miles Traveled: 2617

I posted the other day and yet have so much to blog about that I better get started! This internet connection is the best I have had since we arrived in the Keys. Things are working – humming along quickly – and I love it!

Since we hadn’t traveled in about six weeks, there was much to do in preparation of both us and the Namaste to move on. Engine “things” to check and double check; laundry and provisioning to do; holding tanks to empty and water tanks to fill, charting and navigation to master; and many friends to bid good-bye for now. We are making this leg on our own because as a sailboat we must go up Hawk’s Channel on the Atlantic side instead of the inland waterway or Gulf side due to shallow waters and low bridges.

We planned to leave on Sunday (12th) with a beautiful weather window so we shared our final meal with Vicki and Ron at the Sunset Grill as they too were leaving on Sunday but taking the inside route. There was a chance we might meet up again in Miami but surely not a guarantee. It was an evening of laughs and memories of the 6.5 months we have spent together along with well wishes and promises to meet again somewhere/sometime! As we prepared to leave on Sunday we realized that the speaker on our VHF radio wasn’t working properly and we were headed into high boat traffic territory where this piece of equipment would be essential. Clark, (our PhD electrical engineer and slip neighbor), helped Jim diagnose and create a fix which included installing a new speaker in the cockpit. This took a couple of hours so we postponed our departure a day. Now we were unlikely to meet up with “Sea to Sea” or other friends. On Sunday evening we shared another farewell dinner and evening with Ev and Clark on-board the m/v “Sea Moss” (see next post re boat angels).

IMG_9500Final dinner with the best boat buddies ever Vickie and Ron at Sunset Grill

IMG_9506Final dinner with Clark and Ev on board Sea Moss

As we pulled away Monday morning heading north for the first time in 8.5 months and 2,500 miles, the loopers remaining in the marina were there to assist and wave as lumps developed in our throats and a few tears were shed. It had been a goal accomplished and a more than memorable stay on Marathon.

IMG_9458The view from our slip at Faro Blanco, Marathon – morning, noon and night

The weather was perfect for the sail up Hawks Channel experiencing the long rollers of the open ocean. Our first night out we spent at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key, where Curt once worked and where we spent the first couple of days with family during their visit in February – likely the nicest place in the Keys. We purchased gifts, enjoyed the adult pool all afternoon and evening including a potent conversation with a couple in their 50’s about raising children, developing careers, and long range cruising.

IMG_9542Adult pool at Hawks Cay Resort – only thing missing in the picture is the tumbler of mojitos!

Tuesday we left at high tide and motored on the glass-like Atlantic anchoring behind Rodriguez island with 20+ other boats viewing our first Atlantic sunrise the following moring!

IMG_9559The Atlantic at glass-like conditions

IMG_9570Our first Atlantic Sunrise at anchor

Wednesday found us at the Angelfish Inlet crossing to the Gulf side and beautiful Biscayne Bay. Here we anchored with three other sailboats behind Pumpkin Key with dinghy rides for Sammy to piddle on the lawn of a most upscale private club. Thursday we began the motor up Biscayne Bay with clear, shallow waters allowing for spectacular views of the sea floor and the Miami skyline in the distance.

IMG_9611Miami Skyline at the top of Biscayne Bay

Captain Jim replaced a frayed alternator belt (we have four more spares), a relatively simple yet unexpected repair. Additionally, somewhere along this leg Jim realized that there was water spraying into the engine compartment from the radiator cap and worse yet it tasted like salt but we continued to purr along with stable temp readings. After reviewing the many confusing marina options (more on that later) we pulled into the Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, just south of Miami hoping for a restful night before entering the chaos of Port Miami.

After a worrisome and restless night, Jim called our engine gurus in Boyne City and Charlevoix who confirmed his fear – a weld broke inside our heat exchanger which created the potential of compromising the entire system. The Perkins Dealer in Fort Lauderdale was our next call and he recommended a Perkins mechanic Bob (another boat angel) who conveniently lives in our marina. Within 45 minutes we had a confirmed diagnosis and the part was ordered. Our shiny new heat exchanger should arrive and Bob will return from a charter by Wednesday so the replacement may commence. Thus, the Namaste will be docked in Coconut Grove (known to locals as “The Grove”) for an extended stay where the monthly dockage rate is 1/3 the daily rate should we move on.

The good news is that this is a friendly, interesting place with good public transportation and lots to do, and did I mention the great inter-net connection through Xfinity? There is likely no better place to wait out a repair. Friday night we attended a dock birthday party with great people, brats & beer, and a performance/sing along to the fiddle and guitar music of fellow cruisers here. Last night we took the shuttle to Coco Walk with cool galleries, shops, restaurants, and a 16 movie cinema. Any and all reviews of current films are appreciated – we have no idea!

IMG_9614One tiny corner of this massive Dinner Key Marina

Currently Sammy and I are sitting in the air conditioned marina office/lounge that serves 582 slips + a couple hundred additional mooring balls = a huge marina by any standards. It is an exciting spot with the VHF radio loudly and continually monitoring two active channels and a mix of people appearing with requests/a story/a complaint or simply wanting some company. They surely need a social worker behind that desk!

Quote of the day: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” –John Wesley  (I recently came across this quote again – my personal favorite!)

Boat name of the day: “Devocean”

Bad boat name of the day: “Kiss my Wake” (a particularly bad name here in narrow channels where the occasional, inconsiderate boat captains send us awash in their wake)

Birthdays: I don’t think I know anyone with a birthday in the second half of March.  Do I?

A Trip Down the Overseas Highway

Days 255-259; March 7-10, 2016

Total Miles Traveled: 2504

One random Tuesday we decided to revisit (3rd trip for me and 2nd for Jim) Key West, which turns out to be a worthy blog post. Not having a car is often inconvenient but in this case provided the opportunity to utilize public transportation – a $1.50 senior rate bus ride anywhere in the Keys. It was a beautiful trip on the Overseas Highway (USA 1), across bridges, and through mangroves with breathtaking views of the Gulf on one side and Atlantic on the other.

We boarded about midway in route and got the last two seats facing sideways to the road offering an interesting view and perspective on the scenery and our fellow 8:30 a.m. travelers. This was a packed commuter bus with those going to work, appointments and getting their babies to daycare. No conversation ensued among the travelers but here is what I learned by the behaviors and cell conversations around me:

  • One older gentleman, likely homeless, has a concerned network that he politely rejects while just movin’ on.
  • Another marginally groomed but polite man, likely a Vietnam veteran, has a sense of humor and relishes in the kind attention of at least one staff person at the Key West VA medical clinic.
  • A young mom is worried about the water being shut off while skillfully nurturing two beautiful baby daughters.
  • A tall, stately, stylishly dressed, eye catching young woman was in need of two sheets of paper from Jim’s notebook which she neatly folded and put into a book on her lap.

 

Bus driver, Fred, greeted most by name and while a tad gruff, cared about everyone individually and for the group collectively. It is clearly a community.  We got off the bus being careful to note where we should return for the trip home as the spot was marked simply by a weathered 6×6” bus symbol.

 

A breakfast of omelets and mimosas at Bagatelle was next (we are in Key West after all) and then a tour of the quiet early morning streets accompanied by the vibrant colored roosters meandering along with us. Throughout the day we shopped, snacked, walked endlessly (over 16,00 steps or 6.5 miles) and by pre-agreement we selected the Audubon House and Museum as our cultural experience. While John Audubon (author of Birds of America, published between 1827-1838) never stepped into this house, folklore had him there, the Audubon house name stuck and the wealthy community of the 1950’s honored the story and restored the home and museum in his name. Audubon sketched 435 birds for the book of which 22 were Florida fowl. You might ask, how did he sketch in such detail? Well, since photos weren’t an option, he shot the birds and then had a “still life” from which to sketch. Think about that the next time you snap your cell camera or draw a picture!

 

We planned on taking the 7:30 p.m. back home but were near the bus stop and climbed aboard the 5:02 instead. As it turned out there were forward facing seats available hosting a much different scenery and community on this trip. Several passengers were obviously tourists just like us including a group of boisterous young men but there were also the weary workers – young and old – returning home. About half way, the bus unexpectedly stopped alongside the road for the female driver and one elderly traveler to step to the door and enjoy a cigarette while the boisterous young men hopped off the bus and into the woods for a quick pee. It took us a bit to figure out what was going on but once moving again we became anxious about missing our stop in the pitch dark. A scruffy, local appearing young man in front of us, overhearing our conversation, coached us to a successful departure. Among other things this day, I thought about Curt as a new college graduate when he lived, learned and taught sailing right here.

IMG_9437Me standing in the Audubon House Gardens.  The coolness was a refreshing as it looks!

IMG_9449Biggby with us everywhere.

 

Other events and observations:

  • For entertainment we watched the 1987, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray production of “Dirty Dancing”.  While slow at moments, it was a wonderful trip down memory lane and we “Danced to the Music”!
  • I have mastered making iced coffee and smoothies with my little blender. Our meals are simple onboard as we eat out so much.
  • Jim is making progress with his second carving of the trip – a life-like Pelican. He works hard on boat maintenance including cleaning the bottom of both the Namaste and Dinghy, the air filter and other stuff that requires regular inspection and cleaning.
  • We enjoyed Sunday morning breakfast at the Sunset Grill (probably my now favorite restaurant on Marathon) after a long walk on the Seven Mile Bridge.
  • IMG_9412A favorite sunset picture taken from the Faro Blanco dock
  • The groomer provided a much-needed clip for Sammy yesterday. She smells good and is none the worse for ware, even if the pet shop reeked of heat and cigarette smoke. The price you pay for Key living!

 

IMG_9434Sammy and her Daisy Dog friend Molly, pre-haircut for Sammy and post-haircut for Molly

IMG_9474Beautiful, clean and happy Sammy post-haircut!

 

Quote of the day: – Marianne Williamson (although this quote references Bernie, I believe it pertains to any one of us supporting any candidate in this difficult election, 2016.)

“Only one thing could derail the political revolution now rising up: that would be if its adherents fail to demonstrate the dignity and lack of self-indulgence nonviolence requires. We need to keep it passionate but keep it classy. We don’t have to hate anybody, nor should we. We need only find the sacred place of genuine, heartfelt conscience and moral integrity, and speak it. Bernie himself doesn’t stoop to personal attacks and neither should we. This has to stay high-minded or it will lack cosmic support. No message, however loving, is going anywhere unless it is delivered with love. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “The end is inherent in the means.” Those of us who want to create a more peaceful world cannot give what we don’t have. People hear us on the level we speak from. If we speak from anger, we will only produce anger. Moral outrage is not born of anger, but of love. That doesn’t mean all gooey and sugar sweet; we’re still passionate, and moral indignation is appropriate. But we can feel the difference within ourselves when we’re not yet reaching the place of what Buddha called “right speech.” When we pray to find that center, when we surrender our own judgments and grievances and ask to be delivered to higher ground, we’re even smarter, more savvy, more effective. Game on!” ( Posted on Facebook 3/9/16 at 1:02 p.m.)

Boat theme name of the day: My Girl, My Office, My Medicine

Bad boat theme name of the day: Piranha, Raptor

Happy Birthday to: Heather (we will celebrate together soon), Ilene (Mrs. H), and Diana (our lovely Eastern European server at the Bagatelle who was struggling to turn 30 – it is all relative!)