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The Keys

1/16 We left Little Shark River in Everglades National Park. It was a great stay for two days. We had an abundance of Dolphin and Manatee throughout our time. We did have a heck of a time trying to get the anchor to stay. Every boat that came in struggled trying to set the anchor. My fear was we caught onto coral and were not going to be able to free the anchor. On the morning of departure I was correct, and after numerous attempts to free it, I told Marie that we were going to have to cut the line. Well, God answered my prayers the night before and let the anchor lose right after I said that, relief. We were out of contact for several days due to zero service. We new a storm was going to blow again and we had a anchorage picked out in Marathon. As we were headed to Marathon the Coast Guard broadcast was predicting gale winds. Decided an anchorage was not going to work! As we got service we knew our hopes of getting a marina in marathon was slim to nil. We called the Mangrove Marina in Tavernier, this is where we scheduled to be the month of February. They had space so we made a hard turn to port and headed to our home for the next 6 weeks. It was a beautiful 90 mile run.

Slowing down

12/31 We depart Sanibel Island anchorage with a lingering fog. By the time we hit the Gulf the fog lifted and we had a wonderful cruise down to Marco Island. If you remember back in our adventure on Lake Erie we meet a wonderful couple in Grand River, Ohio. Well we meet up with them at their home in Marco Island. We rekindled a new friendship and had a great time with Pierre and Sweeder. New Years Eve on the beach was a great way to start our time together. Marie and I were very touched by their hospitality and generosity and hope to see them again soon.

1/6/2022 A NEW YEAR HAS ARRIVED! We depart Marco and we take a nice slow cruise down to Everglades City. We stay out on anchor so we can get in during the right tide. Yup the water in these parts is shallow and the currents run quick. Well I guess that is all of Florida!

1/7 We head into Everglades City at 7:00am, Honey wake uppppppp😂! The wind is going to start to blow and we figured we would spend it safely tied up. We had a great visit from one of Marie’s colleagues Jane Early and her husband Jim. We went on an airboat ride, had lunch and even visited city hall. Our next moves will be down to Cape Sable and then onto the Keys. Not sure of our departure date yet as a second blow of wind is soon to follow.

THANKS TO ALL WHO ARE FOLLOWING US!

Ft Myers’s

12/25 to 12/30 Merry Christmas! We attended a nice service on Christmas Eve and then went to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford properties. Those two and Harvey Firestone were great buddy’s down here. We spent several days enjoying downtown and we even found a new lamp for our house. It is a replica of a ships signal light, very cool piece. It was easy to get around as downtown has a free trolley bus service which we used daily. We departed today and we headed to Sanibel Island. WE are anchoring in the Ding Darling reserve. Boat traffic was ridiculous but lots of folks on vacation week. Tomorrow we head out in the gulf and run down to Marco Island. More on that stop later.

Hmmmm

Well let’s just say hmmmmm. My last post about the Manatee swim has disappeared. So I don’t know what date I left at. I believe it was Bradenton so hear it goes.

12/16 We departed Bradenton on a nice sunny day. We waited until the tide was up completely for 2 reasons. First, the water is quite shallow going into Bradenton River off the Mantee River. Second we can ride the tide all the way down the river to Anna Maria Island. We only travel about 18 miles and we head into Palma Sola Bay for the night. The bay is very shallow and there is a junction where there are 3 sets of channel markers to access three sections of the bay. Boy do you really need to understand the aids to navigation rules and stay in the channel. Not fun but we made it back to a beautiful anchorage for the night. We witnessed a very strange phenomenon, we saw thousands and when I say thousands I mean THOUSANDS of birds flying in a pack. They just kept coming, it was incredible.

12/17 A daily check of the weather and I start to track a possible huge wind coming in on the 21st. Huge meaning possible winds upwards of 50mph. We depart our anchorage mid morning on a breezy but sunny day headed to Otter Key. We transit Sarasota Bay and reach our anchorage around 2:30. Our Dash another looper is there as well. We are going to stay the weekend because the weather is supposed to be beautiful and all the weekend boaters will be out in full force. We drop the dinghy and head to town St. Armands Key. We have been there before, but we really want to see how close the beach is, Lido Key Beach here we come. Plans for tomorrow, beach bums.

12/18 The weather check verifies that the wind is still predicting to blow, so I start my search for a Marina to stop and take refuge. We pack all our needs for the beach and head off around 10. Did a little stunt kite flying when we first arrived because we had a nice breeze. Relaxed and swam the rest of the day. Left around mid afternoon to clean up and have an early dinner because we are going back to Armand Circle to check out the holiday lights. Our Dash has departed and Bar-B-Q another looper has arrived. Let’s just say Marie was disappointed with the exterior illumination, but we made it better with some gelato. Couple of brothers straight from Italy opened a shop and it was sooooooo good!

12/19 I decide to change the oil in the generator. Easy Peasy, not so much. After changing the oil and starting her up I notice a leak. This is not good in my world. We have a Mase Generator a product out of Italy. Maybe I can recruit the gelato guy to fix it. I know bad joke, but I needed to find some humor here. So I track it to a possible hose leak or an impeller leak or who knows what leak. The hose leak is interesting, I can see one end of the hose but can’t find the other. Oh , did I tell you that Mase puts all their generators in a housing box. So now you have to be super Gumby to work on the thing. I quickly access that this is WAY above my pay grade and need a generator guy, yeah right! OH, and another check on the weather reveals that the winds are still coming.

12/20 We depart Otter Key and head to Palm Harbor Marina in the Engelwood area of Florida. A nice 40 mile ride with dolphin and much bird life. We pass through Venice which brought a heavy heart. We were to meet up with our friend Pat from Boston but he passed last April. We attended his services while we were in Rhode Island so we took his Mass card and have him on the boat with us in spirit. We miss you Pat! We arrive around 3ish get secured and I give the boat a well needed bath, ahhhhhhhhh. We tender ride over to Palm Island only accessible by tender or ferry. We have dinner at Rum Bay. Food was fair however Marie loved the rum smash!

12/21 Well the blow has begun and we are talking sustained winds at 30 to 40 mph with gusts recorded at 77mph. You know the ferry I told you about well they got blown off course and were stuck in the channel for quite sometime. The bridges in Punta Gorda were closed, vessels on mooring balls were being blow loose, there were several vessels that sank. It blew hard until around 3 in the afternoon and then winds died down to a mere 15 to 20 mph. We were scheduled to leave the following day but decided to stay another as the winds was going to continue to blow at a steady 15 mph. We enjoyed the day with Tony Mello a friend from Rhode Island. We also spent time in the hot tub as well.

12/23 We departed Palm Harbor at 9:30 and traveled the 50 miles to Ft Myers’s Yacht Basin. It is here we are scheduled to have the generator repaired. Augustin from One Time Marine will be at the boat on Christmas Eve at 9 am. I called Mase and they put me in touch with the only certified tech for them. If I decided to go back to work hahahahahaha I will definitely be looking at a position in logistics. Being on the loop and having to deal with boat issues is like hitting a moving target. You hear responses like can’t look at it until the after the first of the year. But you don’t understand I can’t tell you if I will have a slip anywhere after the 1st.

12/24 Happy Holidays to all. Happy to report that Augustin has repaired the generator and I am a lot less stressed out! The impeller was rotted and the ribs were tracked down deep into the hoses.

Not many pictures, but you can see how bad the impeller was deteriorated.

Wow, special experience

We decided to stay at Crystal River for an extra day because we had such a wonderful experience with the Manatee. Another reason was once again the fog was thick and not going to lift until later in the morning. We had a nice lunch with fellow looper Godspeed and Adventure Awaits. Haven’t seen them in months so it was nice catching up. We used our Cooper Anchor on our dinghy for the first time while swimming with the Manatee. The anchor preformed flawlessly, a big shout out to our partners at Cooper Anchor.

12/9 We decided to depart Crystal River even though the fog was in. It was to lift by 10 and it even lifted before that. The wind out of the south was blowing around 10 to 12 mph chopping the gulf up to about 1 footer very 2-1/2 seconds. The waves on the nose presented no problem for the crew or boat. Unfortunately we were running in fairly shallow waters so the hazard for the day was crab pots. People ask why the problem, we’ll pots are marked with small 8” styrofoam balls. They do not use very defining colors so they are quite difficult to spot. Couple that with the density of pots you feel like you are dodging them all day. The 81 mile run to Dunedin, FL was very stressful, but our gulf crossing was completed, ahhhhhhhhhhh.

12/10 We depart Dunedin and cruise a whopping 11 miles to Indian Rocks Beach. We stop to visit our friend Todd from Little Rhode Island. Marie and I went to e beach before meeting up at the boat. We went to a couple of local watering holes and visited Todd’s house s well.

12/11 We wake to fog once again but it lifts quickly. We head out and go to the harbor in Gulfport. Another short cruise of only 17 miles we arrived around 11:30am. We drop the dinghy and head to town, great little place. Lots of cool shops and eateries, we decide to have a late lunch at a nice Mexican restaurant, the food was great. Headed back to the boat for a while, then headed back to shore to go to the Christmas golf card parade, lots of fun. We decide to stay another night as the annual Christmas boat parade will be the following day.

12/13 Fog again and it lingers until late morning. Once we depart we are headed to Bradenton to visit with friends from RI, Steven and Gail Chatfield. We arrive to a welcoming committee and tie up to their community dock. We arrive with a huge bag of laundry just like college kids coming home. We had a wonderful meal, ps Gail is 100% Italian catch where this is going, mmmmmmmm. The wind is up and keeping us at the dock, more mmmmmm. Our hosts are very hospitable, Thanks so much words can not express how much we appreciate it.

All about the weather

The gulf crossing is a very anxious situation for all loopers. Weather dictates when you will cross. Our plan was to relax and enjoy the panhandle of Florida. However as you all know weather plays into our daily life like sitting home watching your favorite television show. The gulf weather predictions were cooperating for an extended period of time and crossing was optimal. First we need to move 216 miles before we do a three day gulf crossing of another 239 miles!

The crew of RAMA made a huge push. We departed Mobile on 11/27 and headed to Perdido Key home of the famous Flora-Bama. We attended church services in the bar (Central Church of Flora-Bama) awesome service.

On 11/29 we departed and headed out to visit friends, the crew of Nauti Jenny. They are fellow loopers staying in Pensacola. We docked at Rick’s moms house and we’re treated to a wonderful day of touring. Fort Pickens was the first stop, amazing place. After that we headed to some traditional tourist sites and eventually had a wonderful lunch at McQuires. After having Jenny’s favorite breakfast (donuts and coffee) the following morning, we headed out.

11/30 We arrived in Destin harbor after a long day at the helm. We were treated to a wonderful sunset and great night sleep on the anchor.

12/1 Holy mackerel it is December and nights are cold here in the panhandle. Weather is just like home in South Carolina. Days in the 60’s and nights in the 40’s. We broke the sleeping bag back out. After another great day on the water we arrived in Panama City. Another night at anchor, and it was beautiful.

12/2 our trip today takes us to Appolachiacola and back to Eastern Standard Time. On the hook but sleep was poor. I am saying it was do to the time change, Marie said so to, so we are sticking to it!

12/3 We head to Carrabelle, now here is where the fun starts. Let’s just say we have been at this for quite some time now. Yup seasoned Mariners! We arrive at C Quarters Marina for the night. Well The current was running at 4 knots and let’s just say that the slips are not set up for a smaller vessel like ours. These slips are set up for big sport fish boats! We had a heck of a time trying to put the boat in the slip, several attempts failed miserably! Thanks to a gentlemen we finally put her to bed for the night! Somewhere during all the turmoil I heard the words “Find someone else to do the rest of this trip” hmmmmmmm are we having fun yet! After little to no sleep worrying about getting the boat out of the slip without ending up in divorce court we departed for the gulf crossing.

12/4 THE CROSSING We wake to fog but it will be ok the water is flat as can be. We have been Buddy boating with friends on Beachfront, that’s Sonny and Linda. They leave about an hour prior to us as we can run much faster. The Plan stay on bearing 103 for 70 miles we will be across and in Steinhatchee by 1:30 in the afternoon. We clear the harbor and make our way to the gulf, the fog has lifted, ahhhhh here we go. Not so fast there Captain we have more fog coming your way. Radar and AIS wonderful pieces of equipment! We press on and continue to hail our Buddy boat. Finally we make contact all to hear he has lost his radar. I see him on our radar screen and proceed to go get him, he is off course 4 miles. After much communication, I feel we are close enough now so I say sound your horn. Message back my horn is not working! WHAT? SERIOUSLY! Ok, I will sound mine let me know when I am getting closer. No sooner do I sound the horn a pod of dolphin decide they want to play in our wake. Hey, Sonny you are going to have to wait we have playmates in the pool with us right now. We eventually find them in the fog and we Shepard our buddy boat into Steinhatchee, arrival time 3:46.

12/5 We wake to fog but it lifts by about 9:30. The sea conditions are optimal and we run 90 mile to Crystal River. Must stop, great harbor, great town, but most of all we will swim with the Manatee. Yes Crystal river has several springs and the Manatee love the warm water. So tomorrow we will hit the springs to swim with the manatee. We will depart on the 7th for the final part of our gulf crossing and we will head to Tarpon Springs last leg of about 60 miles easy peasey!

On the MOVE, again!!

Finally after a full month at the marina we are moving again, and boy did it feel good. We cruised about 55 miles from Mobile,AL (roll tide) to Perdido Key,FL.

The water was perfect, the company was even better. Back in our happy place! Dolphin everywhere!

Which way do we go?

Mobile, did you know?

Did you know that Mobile, Al is actually the home of Mardi Gras. Yes that is correct the first parade happened right here in Mobile.

The city has created a hopping downtown area in the historic district. The have done a great job preserving old buildings for today’s usage. The theaters have been either keep as is or converted to restaurants. The area seems to be doing quite well.

Sorry for the cut pictures, I didn’t realize what happened until I actually saved the video. But you will get the idea!

Ahhh Mobile

Update, we have decided to lay the boat down a month in Mobile, Al. Why you may ask. Well it all started on trying to logistically put the plan together to fix the actuators on the trim tabs. After many calls to several different locations with little help from any, we finally got a Marina/Boat Yard to agree to do the work. The problem is getting it scheduled! As the window for Marie to fly to Rhode Island and attend her nieces wedding was getting smaller and smaller, this bleed into our plans to meet friends in Pensacola who generously offered a slip while Marie was gone. We were not going to get to Pensacola on time so the moving target plan was formulated. We decided to stay at the slip for a month, Marie flys out of Mobile instead of Pensacola and goes to Rhode Island for a longer period of time, this is great because she now has more time to be with grandchildren. When Marie returns she will pickup a rental car at the airport and we will leave for New Orleans the following morning. A short drive and I will be in my first real bed in 8 months! Once we get back we will look at weather and prepare to go up to Pensacola and hopefully meet up with our friends, by the way we meet them on the loop. They are known as Nauti Jenny(Rick and Jenny) their boat name, just as we are known as RAMA.

10/19 We start out at first light and head down river to Windham Bar Anchorage for the evening. A nice easy transit in beautiful weather.

10/20 Off again quite early and head down river to our next Anchorage called Rattlesnake Bend. The river is remote and we really have no service at all. We are set up for a nice easy move only 7 miles tomorrow 10/21 into Demopolis, Al. That will give us 2 full days at Kingfisher Marina. Not a whole lot to see in Demopolis, but we prep for the next 4 day leg at anchor. We meet AnnaMaria the dock master at Kingfisher Marina, let’s just say she is as rigid as a heavily starched shirt! Rules, rules and more rules. Signs posted everywhere about the rules she just finished telling us.

10/23 We begin out final 200 mile decent into Mobile Bay. We depart Kingfisher before the sun comes up. So it is dark and we have fog but we need to make Demopolis Lock. We lock through with 6 other boats and transit through the fog headed to Bashi Creek Anchorage. The day turns out to be beautiful and when we show up at Bashi we are greeted by a very remote thin creek. We have two other boats with us so we enter and line the boats up in a line with bow and stern anchors to assure we remain straight and don’t float into shore when we swing. Marie and I dinghy over to a broken down boat ramp and when she gets off she finds guns shells. Yup this is something straight out of deliverance.

10/24 We leave the Anchorage at 7am and not soon enough for Marie! We are headed to Old lock 1 to anchor for the evening. We achieve another milestone we transit our last lock(coffeeville) of the trip! Another beautiful day for cruising brings us to our Anchorage. Accept folks we have a problem, there is not enough water in the Anchorage entrance to get to the area to drop the hook. We decide to move down river and stay at mile marker 96. We move outside the river channel and anchor in plenty of water. Not an ideal place but home for the night.

10/25 We depart again at 7 and head to our next Anchorage which is the Tensas River. We are about 39 miles away from Mobile Bay. This was a great place to anchor, boat headed west and we had a great sunset.

10/26 Yup you guessed it out at 7 once again. We need to hail a railroad bridge to open so we can pass. As we proceed down river I know that we are going to be moving into an area full of boat traffic. I am not talking small boats either, we are talking barges, Container ships, Military vessels. We just left the most remote part of our trip into ahhhhhhh! We made it though and arrived at Dog River Marina. Here we will get the boat repaired and sit for a month, but we have a plan!

Stay Tuned

We are in a potion of the trip that is very remote and will have been at anchor for quite a few nights moving down to Mobile, Al. There are now services along this portion about 200 miles or so. So stay tuned because once we hit Mobile I will make a post.