Friday, January 14, 2011

SEASEA back in Jacksonville

We got back to the east coast and made the decision to head back north to Jacksonville, Florida so that we could get back to Athens, GA to see about Stacy's parents.  Her mother had another coronary stent in November and her father was diagnosed with a recurrence of a very slow growing cancer he had 15 years ago.  Stacy decided the time was right to come back and be with them most of the time now.  As she told them "we will now take our suitcases to the boat rather than bring suitcases from the boat to Athens". 

On Thursday, Jan 6th we arrived at the St. John's river and heard our friends Stephen & Sharon on STEVEDORE on the radio at the Sisters Creek bridge.  We entered the St. John's at exactly the same time from opposite sides.  They were headed into Jacksonville for a conference before moving on further south. We met them last year on our way to Panama City and then they stayed at Bay Point marina with us for about a month.

We came into familiar waters when we got into Jacksonville so Stacy posed with our gold burgee so we can be official loopers whether we consider Sarasota our crossing or Jacksonville where we started with our boat.

Stephen & Sharon drove over and we had dinner on board SEASEA and caught up with their lives during the evening.

On Friday our good friends Jim & Luann Brewer came over for a visit.  These are dear friends we met at the church we attended when we were in Jacksonville in 2005-2006. 

Since Stacy's sister had driven to Athens to visit her mom we left early on Saturday morning so that we could visit with her before she left to drive back to Pennsylvania on Sunday.  We arrived Saturday afternoon in Athens and by Sunday night we had about 7" of snow.  The temps remained below freezing until today so we have been house bound for 3 days.  Stacy's father just couldn't not go out and shovel snow from the walkway given that he grew up in Sharon, PA and shoveling snow was just something he had to do.  We let him do what he wanted but we were there to help as needed.

We enjoy our time with Stacy's parents and hope that we can be a help taking care of them by cooking, taking care of the house, chauffeuring, etc.  We have already used our "snow days" to clean out cabinets, closets, arrange our bedroom, set up Al's new laptop and many other small projects. 

Our plans are in flux at the moment.  We know of boaters coming up the east coast in the spring and would like to get together with some and maybe cruise the St. John's again with them.  Anyone headed toward Jacksonville give us a call and we will head down for some local cruising.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ft. Myers to Vero Beach

After leaving Punta Gorda we headed to Ft. Myers to anchor for one night before starting across the Okeechobee Waterway to the east coast.  There are 5 locks on the waterway and they are different from any others in the country in that there are no valves to flood and drain the lock chamber.  They are flooded and drained by slightly opening the door and allowing the water to enter or leave.  Since the locks are only lifting a few feet (or maybe none at all) this works out ok.

We crossed without any problems and had a great crossing of the lake.  We stopped at Moore Haven for the night before crossing the lake and had a great sunrise similar to the one we had the first time we crossed this waterway in 2006.

When we got to Stuart we anchored for the night and then headed to Peck Lake the next morning.  When we arrived we saw "Sandy Hook", a Gulfstar 44 owned by Chris and Alyse Caldwell.  They hailed us on the radio and we dinghied over to see them.  They offer trawler training to people wanting to gain an understanding of all that is involved with cruising a boat like ours.  There was a couple on board and we brought them over so they could compare our Gulfstar with the one they were on.  We first met Chris on the Erie Canal in 2007 when we docked and he saw us and came running over to meet us.

Sandy Hook pulled up anchor to head back to their marina and we headed to shore to walk across and check out the beach at Peck Lake we had heard about for so long.

The beach was nice but it was a windy and cool day so we did not stay long.

Ed & Lucy decided they wanted to move on south toward Key Largo so we decided to pull up anchor and head on to Vero Beach.  We arrived New Year's eve and were assigned a mooring rafting to a Great Harbor that was already on the mooring ball.  This is a common and expected situation at Vero Beach.  The owners of the Great Harbor were delightful and we invited them over that evening.  The are originally from Holland but have been in the U.S. since the early 70's.

On New Year's Day we met up with Mike and Vicky, some people we first met in Panama City last year.  They have a house in Vero and keep their boat near the house.  They picked us up at the marina and we went out to see their 46 Grand Banks and then went to their house for early dinner.  Vicky is a gourmet cook and had listed our meal on a menu board in her kitchen.

We had a wonderful time with them and hope to see them again somewhere.

The next day we were invited to a gathering at Chris & Alyse's house in Vero. 

We were picked up at the marina by some other friends that we met at Goose Pond, Steve and Gladys from Maine.  They have recently purchased a boat and have named it Misty Moose.  They are a fun couple and took us to the open house at the Caldwell's.  

Just in this short trip we have reconnected with people we have met along the waterways.  The boating community is unlike any other and we enjoy meeting up with old friends and making new ones as we travel.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Tarpon Springs to Punta Gorda

We stayed in Tarpon Springs for 4 days waiting out the big blow from the strong cold front.  We left on December 15 and headed down to St. Petersburg.

We anchored in the basin next to the Vinoy hotel (Pink Hotel on right) and took a trolley tour of downtown and the pier.  We walked through the old hotel and found old photos of the early years.  I actually saw a photo of a Life of Georgia convention at the hotel in the 40's (my grandfather and father were lifelong employees of Life of Georgia). 

The hotel was decorated for Christmas and had a very large tree in the Promenade.

Leaving St. Pete we headed down to Sarasota.  Along the way we watched a crab fisherman checking his pots.  The pelicans and gulls were a constant companion waiting for him to throw back the undersized or wrong catch.

Sarasota was the northernmost point we took SEASEA in January 2007 and, therefore, would be the place we would "Cross our Wake" and finish the Great Loop.  The AGLCA burgee on our boat was quite worn and we were able to remove our white burgee (designating "doing the loop") and replace it with a gold burgee (designating "completed the loop").  Our chartplotter shows our old track from 2007 (green line) and our boat (yellow circle) approaching the crossing point.

From Sarasota we went to Englewood and anchored for the night near the marina where our friends Wayne and Lynne Flatt on Skinwalker are spending the winter.  We went to their boat for dinner and enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and introducing Ed and Lucy.  If you are ever in Baltimore during the summer then look for the pirate ship in the harbor.  Wayne (Captain Bones) is the captain of the ship and takes guests out for a great pirate adventure.

The next day we left Skinwalker and headed to Punta Gorda.  Ed & Lucy had friends that lived on a canal in Punta Gorda and they had invited us to tie up behind their house.  We entered a maze of canals and finally arrived.

Jerry and Denise were great fun and were most welcoming.  They were originally from the New Orleans area and Ed & Lucy knew them from there.  Denise was driving up to Selma, Alabama to spend Christmas with some of her family.  We spent a week there to help Jerry and enjoyed Christmas at their house.
Jerry had mentioned that he wanted to install a marine electrical receptacle outside his house so that he could get proper power to his boat so Ed & I headed to Lowe's to get the necessary weatherproof enclosure and installed the receptacle on the house.  Of course we immediately put it to use powering both of our boats.  While we were there we did a number of projects that Jerry was unable to accomplish due to his failing eye sight.

Jerry plays a professional Santa in the local community and he joined us as we went to a party hosted by other boat friends Jim & Vaughn Quince on "Twins".  They traveled with us on the Tenn-Tom last year and bought a condo at Burnt Store Marina.  We met new boaters and had invited another couple, Bruce and Susan Armstrong of "Gulfcart" from Naples who drove up to attend.  Bruce and Susan wrote a book about their loop trip and we are mentioned in it.  If anyone wants a good loop description then check out their book Coming Full Circle.  It has just been published so I am not sure how it is available.  Anyone interested should just contact us and we will work out the details.

On another day Stacy and I drove down to Sanibel Island to see Lee and Sarah on "Growler" who we met in Canada.  They have a winter home on Sanibel and invited us to join them for the day.  We had a great time catching up and driving Sanibel and Captiva islands.  We had a wonderful lunch at "The Green Flash" and dinner at their home.  We visited the beach where we saw many examples of a common local malady called the "Sanibel Stoop" so named because of the constant stooping to collect shells on the beach.

We went back to spend our last night with Jerry & Denise and Ed tried desperately to unlock the special beer holder while Jerry told him all about how cold and refreshing his was.

We had a great time helping out Jerry and enjoyed his hospitality.  Denise returned after Christmas and we left to go to Ft. Myers and across the Okeechobee Waterway to the East Coast.