July 12, 2012

Wow!  We've finally gotten away from the dock!  Took long enough, huh?  We should have been outta here 6 weeks ago, but unfortunately found out just before then that Matt had to have some oral surgery done.  Pretty gross, but we're finally past that, and the Oral Surgeon cleared him to leave at his last visit on the 10th.  Soooo. . . here begins the great adventure!  Last night was our normal "Wednesday Night" at our yacht club - they do Wed Nite racing all summer, accompanied by a cool bar-b-que dinner.  This week it also ended up being our "Bon Voyage" nite (Thanx, Pat!).  Thursday morning, our son, Daniel, came to help see us off.  We pulled out of our slip, and hit the pump out station first (for those of you who don't know - that's where you empty the boat's "holding tank", or in layman's terms, suck out the sewage!).  From there, we headed across the River and fueled up (always fun - only $600 to top off the tank!).  Then we crossed back over the river to Dillon's Creek Marina (around the corner from our house) and dropped Danny off at the dock.  We finally actually started heading out from there about 9:30, aiming for Sandy Hook.  Horseshoe Cove has always been one of our favorites for anchoring, and we did just that, there at 4 in the afternoon.  Cracks me up - I was just calculating mileage to enter into our boat log, and discovered that the distance between our Yacht Club and the exit of the Point Pleasant Canal is approximately 13 miles.  For those of you who don't know, 13 is "our number" - always has been.  Got married on the 13th, and that number just keeps popping up in our lives ever since - always in a good way, never bad!  I just want to know who the jokester is who forecasted 1 to 2 foot seas and winds at 5 to 10 knots!  We got into the ocean greeted by 2 to 4 foot seas with occasional 6 foot swells.  Anchored in 18 knot winds that didn't settle down for several hours!  What?  Do all weathermen lie?????  Brought the dog in to "take care of business" on the beach (yes, I bag it!!), then back to the boat for dinner.  Had some fresh (store bought, not home-made.  sorry, but we gotta rough it occasionally on the boat!) ravioli.  Made fresh sauce, though - to include fresh herbs out of my travelling herb garden!  Yummy!!  We covered about 43 miles today, heading north in the a.m.  Newburgh?  Don't know - we'll see where we end up.

July 13, 2012

Off we go - day 2 of our 2nd part of the Loop! Lovely night, slept in (didn't crawl out of bed 'till 7:30!).  Finally pulled out about 9:30.  Had a great cruise into NY Harbor - they must have known we were coming, 'cause there was a cool fireboat spraying water display to welcome us!  You gotta go look at the pics for this weeks log. . . .  We were then of course greeted by my favorite "Green Lady", elegantly displaying her torch.  Continuing north, we headed up the Hudson River, pasing Yonkers about 1:30 in the afternoon.  Trying to decide where to stop for the night, thought we'd try Bear Mountain because it sounded pretty good.  Turning the page in the guide book, however, revealed that that area is referred to as xxxx because the current is sooooo bad - kind of scared us out of anchoring there.  Ended up anchoring a little sooner than that, at Croton Point, which is just north of Sing Sing prison.  Made 49 miles today in 6 hours, using about 40 gallons of fuel.  Not too bad, all considered!  Croton Point is described as the best anchorage on the Hudson - and we gotta say it was just WONDERFUL!!!  Remember what I said previously about "13"?  I went up and sat on the bow of our boat for a while, and glancing around the anchorage, counted anchored boats.  I noticed we were the 13th boat anchored here.  And, oh, by the way, did you notice today is Friday the 13th?  Hmmmm. . .  We are especially thankful to Mark at Groton on the Hudson Yacht Club - it was a hot day, and we kind of depleted our ice supply.  Matt went in by dingy, and Mark was just leaving for the day.  He turned around and gladly re-opened the club and got us ice - only $1.25 per bag.  Saved our night (no warm beer tonight!  whew!).  Meatloaf (yes homemade!) and mashed potatoes (embarrasingly not homemade) for dinner.  Matt's still on a "soft food only" diet for another 3 weeks (still has a mouthful of stiches and quite a bit of soreness. . . .) so food will be kind of boreing 'till then. . . .  Listening to wonderful music right now, and getting ready to think about a good nite's sleep.  Stay tuned - more tomorrow!

July 14, 2012

Last night was interesting. . . was so perfect, we were setting up to sleep on the pads on the bow.  Just as we were about to go up, the rain drops started.  So much for that idea!  Got up semi-early and left about 8:00.   Beautiful cruise up the Hudson . . . passed West Point about 9:45 (see pics!), then Barnegat (????? what - are we home again???) about 11:30.  Pulled into the Kingston Town Dock about 2pm.   Cool sitting at the dock and observing life - one guy rode by on his bike, sitting on the handle bars and peddling BACKWARDS .  .  .  Then saw a gal come  by on her bike - with a green parrot attached to the front of her shirt!  NY is always entertaining!!!  Went into the local town for frozen drinks at a place with outside tables so Sailor could join us.  Later went back to Mariners for raw oysters and a drink as appetizers before our lasagna dinner on board.  Went back to another place later for ice cream for dessert.  Cool little town! Put another 50 miles behind us today, expect to be at "Troy, Lock #1" tomorrow.  That is where we get all our info and prepare to actually enter the Erie Canal.  That will happen Monday morning, the real start there is with Lock #2.  Can't wait - the Canal is supposed to be spectacular!!!  The great number of locks that we have to go through result in us being raised over 500 feet from where we start!

July 15, 2012
Got up this morning and pulled away from Kingston about 9. A rather uneventful day, spent enjoying the scenery. A couple of points of interest here, apparently dedicated to my friend Suzanne Dunn . . . this morning about 11:30, we passed a "Pirate Ship" tied up just before "Murders Creek" which leads into "Sleepy Hollow Lake". Really made me think of you Suz! Not only that, but later on we passed under the "Dunn Memorial Bridge" - who'd a thunk it??? Another comical point for today - last weeks log will have had to been read to get this one - our chart shows that the water depth is 13 feet at "Matthew Point". Why the heck does that keep coming back at us??? Anyway, pulled in and tied up at the Troy City Dock. We'll stay here tonight (for free - free is good!). Met a gentleman from another boat who provided us with all kinds of info - our cruising guide said we could purchase our lock passes and straw bumpers here. No longer true - they closed the dockmast ofc, so we'll have to purchase our lock passes at the 1st lock. Don't know yet about straw bumpers - hope we're not gonna have to just suck it up and destroy our own! I guess we'll find out tomorrow. . . . So late this afternoon was lots of fun - we watched a storm squall approaching on the radar. Couldn't resist - had to take a photo of it. Take a look at our pics - for those of you unfamiliar with radar, basically, our boat location is dead center on the screen. See the giant green blob? That represents SEVERE weather/rainfall. Notice it is also located dead center on the screen? We shut all windows/doors and eisenglass - thank God for A/C!!! It felt like we were sitting under the Niagra Falls!!!!! It eventually cleared out and we were able to take a stroll thru town after a dinner of baked linguini with white clam sauce.

July 16, 2012
Decided that we're not gonna leave here 'till after lunch. Walking thru town last night happened to find us in the "Dinosaur Bar-B-Que" for a drink. I asked to see a menu just to check out the place, and it sounded fabulous!!! Well, it certainly turned out to be worth the wait! Wonderful food!! We finally pulled out about 12:30 and headed west. Went thru our first lock in this part of our adventure, Lock #1 at Troy, NY. This is a Federal Lock, thus free (as previously mentioned, "free" is good!). We pulled into the Waterford Public Dock - where docking is free (see a pattern here?). We did pay ten bucks for the electric hookup though (can't see not doing that when it's available!), and five bucks for the bathroom/shower key (not needed as it turned out, only need it after hours when we stay on the boat anyway). We walked up to Lock #2 to purchase our 10 day canal pass for $50. Hung out, had dinner, watched part of a movie and before you know it it was already bed time! Good Night! More tomorrow!!

July 17, 2012
Left the Watertown dock bright and early at 8a.m. The first 5 locks (#2 thru 6) are called "The Flight of Five". The are all within about 6 miles, and raise boats a total of about 170 feet! Thankfully they are all "cable" type locks, one of the easiest types to tie up in for a lift up. We did 4 more locks today, that sent us up another 71 feet. We finally docked just past Lock #10 (Cranesville) at the Riverlink Park about 3:30p.m., which put another 32 miles behind us today. This wasn't a free dock (oh well, can't always have perfect!), but it was only $1 per foot. We had electric and were able to fil up our water tanks, so that was good. Had really yummy pan seared scallops for dinner, wtih an equally yummy stuffed portobello mushroom. Hung out topside 'till the bugs started biting, then went to bed. to be continued. . . . . .

July 18, 2012
Lollygagged a bit this morning, finally pulling out by 9 - we're only planning a short day today. We've got a ten day pass - don't want to be out without getting our money's worth! So, we only did 3 locks today, docking (for free - with free electric!) at Canajoharie which is just after Lock #13 (there's that number again!!!).We're at the Riverfront Park, which is in easy walking or biking distance to several restaurants, a hardware store, an automotive store, convenience stores and the like. We took a bike ride and wound up at Jim's Irish Harbor Pub for a late lunch. Great little pub, everyone soooo friendly! Chatted up with the owner (Jim), an ex-military boater. Asked where we could buy a bag of ice, and he jumped right in and said he'd take care of us after we ate. Had a couple of beers, a great lunch, and left with my bike basket filled to the brim with a large bag of ice.

July 19, 2012
Before we pulled out this morning, we turned on our auxiliary fuel tank to burn a little off - need to refresh the fuel once in a while! Planned a stop at St. Johnsville Municipal Marina to take on a little fuel before we top up on the other sied of Oneida Lake. The Great Loop Association website posts current fuel prices at various stops - Winter Harbor Marina is the cheapest in this vicinity. So we got underway just after 9 this morning, and went thru 4 locks today, raising up another 76 feet and covering a little over 16 miles. Our last lock today was number 17 at Little Falls. This is one incredible lock! It's not only the highest lift lock on the Erie Canal - it's believed to be 1 of only 2 in North America where boats pass UNDER the entrance gate. This lock took us up 40 feet.

7-19 Lock 17

Took a short day today (like it that way!) and pulled into Little Falls Canal Harbor at 1p.m. Rode our bikes into town (despite the heat) and toured around. Browsed thru a huge, 2 bldg Antique Store that had some of everything. Chatted with a few folks here and there (everyone's so nice!), and had a couple of people recommend Piccolo's for dinner. So, if the locals recommend it - you go! Took the dinghy back later (to avoid the long, up-hill bike ride) and went to Piccolo's. Matt had a fabulous Pot Roast, and I enjoyed a local dish, Sausage Riggies. "Riggies" seem to be typically served with chicken, but Sausage was the special of the night. It's basically meat and veggies (peppers, mushrooms, onioins) in a tomato-based sauce served over Rigatoni pasta. I've seen it in several local restaurant menus around this area. It was delicious! Well, that's all for today - talk to ya tomorrow!!!

July 20, 2012
Left Little Falls about 9 this a.m. Went thru the first 3 locks, Jacksonburg, Frankfort and Whitesboro, wich raised us up about 57'. The next 2 locks, both in New London, lowered us a total of 50'. So today's journey netted us only a 7 foot lift. We tied up to a free dock at Sylvan Beach, considered by locals to be the best beach in the area. The beach itself is on Oneida Lake, which we will cross tomorrow. In sight is their Amusement Park - which one local said she hasn't seen change in almost 50 years! We had a nice walk around town, then left the animals aboard to go have dinner at the "Crazy Clam". We enjoyed a wonderful special - "4 cans and 4 dozen clams for $20". Steamed mahogony clams accompanied by 2 beers each - wonderful dinner! And that left room to wander over to the local ice cream window for dessert!

July 21, 2012
Well last night wasn't too great. There was no electric available at the dock - which we were aware of (no big deal under normal circumstances). We would just run the generator and everything would be fine. Or so we thought. For reasons yet unknown, the generator power wasn't feeding thru the inverter correctly, so we had no power to either run anything or to charge the "house" batteries. Dead in the water. Another friendly boater "in the know" came on board to help Matt troubleshoot - they didn't give up 'till about midnight. Thankfully, we have separate batteries that start the engines, so there aren't any issues there! Left Sylvan Beach at 9, and called ahead to Winter Harbor to explain our troubles. Unfortunately, today is Saturday - the mechanics are off on the weekends. So, looks like we'll be staying at Winter Harbor at least through Monday. So we crossed Oneida Lake and arrived at Winter Harbor Marina just about noon time. Got fueled up and tied up at their dock - hooray for an electrical hookup! My freezers will live afterall! And it's only 90 cents a foot to stay - so $39 a night covers us (at least it's cheap!). They also have courtesy cars that we can borrow to run into town if we want. And VERY acceptable showers (always a good thing after a stressful day). So we'll take a couple days to catch up with other stuff - this log being one of them! I was without internet for the past 3 days, finally broke down and called tech support. Took about a half hour on the phone, but they finally got me back up and running. End result was fantastic - because I was "inconvenienced" for 3 days, they tacked on a whole month of service for free! I'd be happy to go without service for a few days for that anytime!!! So, Sailor and I had a little water time, him swimming and me paddling. Then I took him for a kayak ride (very funny - always turns heads). Later, Matt and I took the dinghy back towards Oneida Lake where we were told by the dock hand to go for dinner. Enjoyed a wonderful dinner of walleye and haddock, and the bartender gave us frozen Strawberry Daiquiris for our "long" boat ride home. Boy - they were delicious! A great way to sooth the bummer mood that the generator gave us! So stay tuned! Sorry, but this is the last day of this week's log, so the saga of the generator won't become public 'till next weekend. Nothing like keeping an audience in suspense, huh???

July 22, 2012
Staying at Winter Harbor Marina today, awaiting mechanic's arrival tomorrow morning. Hope it's a quick and easy fix. . . In the meantime today, took care of some "stuff". Finished last week's boat log, got this week's started. We removed hardware (radar dome, antennas and other items) from the top of the boat today in preparation of some low bridges coming up soon. The lowest fixed bridge we've got to fit under has a 15'6" clearance - our boat it 16'3" with all the "stuff" up there, so down it came. We're now "only" 15' above the waterline. Hopefully, with a little luck, no wake and full water and fuel tanks, we'll squeeze under without scraping! More on that when the time comes! So we caught up with some other general maintenance and tasks around the boat. Then borrowed a courtesy car and went to Wegman's for some fresh produce (and to restock some beer, of course), and we hit West Marine, too, looking for a new wiper blade (none available), some fake worms for fishing (none available), and some holding tank treatment (at least got some of that!). Back to the boat, relaxin', gonna have steak, salad and baked potato for dinner on the boat. Then probably a movie, a prayer for the mechanic's success in the morning, and a good night's sleep.

July 23, 2012
Hanging out at Winter Harbor Marina still. The mechanic, John, came by about 8 this morning. He was trouble shooting for about an hour, tracing down everything Matt did. Finally found the switch at the electric panel that switches between shore and generator power is bad. Of course, it's a "special switch", not just a generic sort of thing, so it's gotta be ordered. Keeping fingers crossed that it will be here tomorrow. So, spent the day doing other stuff - went to West Marine and bought a new grill (the old one gave up the ghost - barely got us thru dinner last night!). Also bought some heavy-duty boat cleaner to get rid of the scum on the bow (the Hudson was rather filthy!). Picked up yummy lobster rolls on the way back for lunch (never had hot lobster rolls before - fantastic!!!). Got back and cleaned part of the boat between rainstorms (gotta another one coming thru soon). We were in the dinghy, Matt holding us close to the hull while I got to spread the cleaner and hose it off. We had a suction cup handle to stick to the boat to help us stay up against it, but Matt decided it was easier to hang on without it. Next thing I knew the suction cups let go and the handle fell in the water. I tried to grab it before it sank, but of course didn't get lucky. Matt tried the grappling hook a little later, but you can't see the bottom, so he came up with nothing but mud. I finally took a mask and jumped in. Swam to the approximate area, took a deep breath, and dove. Much to my surprise, I came up with it on just one dive! Yeah me!! As I swam back to the stern, Sailor was very concerned because I was in the water. He was locked upstairs, and actually nosed thru the canvas at the top of the ladder and took a nose dive down to the stern cockpit. I didn't see him - but I sure heard the thunk!! Next thing we knew, he was in the water swimming for all he was worth to get to me! Heroic jesture, but, man - what a jerk! So glad he didn't hurt himself (though he did act a little sore for a bit afterwards. . . .). Got the new grill mounted - think we like it better than the last one, will try it out tonight with a Cornish Game Hen. (Dinner was yummy - Matt's jaw bone surgery is mostly healed up by now, so we can start eating a bit more normally again. Cornish Hen, glazed with pineapple bar-b-q sauce (just happened to have fresh pineapple on board!), accompanied by haricorts verts (just happened to have them too, frozen, but buttered and topped with toasted pinenuts and they were wonderful!). I guess we won't waste away to nothing after all.

So, bottom line, between having to stay at least 3 straight nites in a Marina, buying a new grill, buying a new "special" switch, and paying for a mechanic's services, I just have to mention the acronym, B.O.A.T. Shorthand for "Break Out Another Thousand". Ugh. Everytime we think we're getting ahead. . . . . . Maybe we should startup a Facebook fundraiser?

July 24, 2012
Hooray! Found out this morning that our switch has arrived! Surely John will be here any minute and we can get under way again soon! Well, maybe not so surely. . . he was stuck on another boat solving an alternator problem all morning. Sheesh! Didn't get on board the Gemini Dream until shortly after 1p.m. Then of course, the switch needed slight modification to fit properly. And "switch"? I was imagining something like a light switch - 10 minutes tops to install, right? Wrong! Nothing like a dang light switch at all - a stack of switches all put together, with each one connecting a bunch of wires! Much, much more complicated that anything I had imagined. Matt took the old one apart to see what had happened - what a mess it was! Had to add a sample of it to my picture log. John finally got finished up by 4:30 in the afternoon - no sense in trying to leave today. So we did up a great steak and baked potato dinner on board and figured tomorrow's another day!

July 25, 2012
Finally pulled out of Winter Harbor Marina today at 10:30 this morning - feels great to be moving again! Proceeding west, we went thru 2 locks today, #23 at Brewerton, which lowered us 7 feet, then #24 at Baldwinsville, which was an 11 foot lift. We waited 1/2 an hour for a huge barge to lock thru here. Got a picture of it coming out of the lock on our side - gigantic! We definitely stayed outta his way! And boy - such an eventful lock! Got inside and grabbed onto our ropes to find someone recently scraped a message into the slime on the lock wall, "Face Was Here"! So - todaay is my sister Sharon's day! (Don't worry, sis, I won't go into any nickname stories here!) And we didn't not write it, I only photographed it! Which brings on another adventure - I managed to drop my camera overboard while taking the pic! Not to worry - it's an underwater camera, and thanks to Donovan, is attached to a floating strap - which allowed me to fish it out and take my pic without complications!! We tied up for the night just past Lock 24 at Baldwinsville. Got in early, about 2:30, so I took advantage of the free time to do a little laundry. For those who haven't seen my laundry facilities, there's a pic posted. The higher unit (looks like R2D2) is my portable washer, and the unit on the floor is a centrifugal force dryer - removes 90% of the water, then hanging stuff on a clothes line in the aft cockpit for about an hour finishes the job. So after the laundry (did the sheets today), I remade the bed and realized most friends haven't seen the quilt that Sharon made for our retirement gift (so - today Sharon's in the news!!!). There's a pic of that - beautiful, isn't it!?!?!?! And yes, Marley loves it too!

July 26, 2012
Left Baldwinsville about 8 this morning, aiming for Newark Terminal, NY, at the recommendation of the Welcome Center lady. Cool day - check the pics! past a sea plane at a private dock, and got a little freaked over bridge clearance. We took down our "tall stuff" at Winter Harbor to prepare for this - took off our radar dome, dropped anntennae, dropped our anchor light and hailer. But I gotta tell you, coming towards some of these bridges put my heart in my throat! Removing all our stuff brought our air draft to 15 feet - the lowest bridges ar 15.5 feet. You feel like you have to duck to get under them. I took a couple of pics hoping you might sort of get the feel for this. . . . Had to close my eyes and pray a couple of times (thankfully, it worked!). Today brought us thru 5 locks, lifting us a total of 87 feet, and covered over 46 miles. We cruised past the remains of the Montezuma Aqueduct - where the canal of 1862 crossed over the Seneca River. The aqueduct was 900 feet long. When the present Erie Canal was constructed in the Seneca River, the center section of the aqueduct was removed. (Got pictures here too.) At Newark met Canadians Carolyn and Marsal Jonckheere (sounds like "John Deere" - thanx for that, Carolyn!) aboard the M/V Knot Home. What terrific folks!! We spent quite a while hanging out and chatting - sharing boating stories and scraping up whatever benefit of knowledge that was available for the taking! Meeting folks like this on this trip just makes it all that much more wonderful! And you never know when your paths may cross again!!!! This was such a wonderful place to stay - so glad the Welcome Center Lady sug! Every thing here was free - power, water, showers, laundry, pump out!!! Awesome! And the murals here were breathtaking! According to our Skipper Bob's publication, "the murals painted on the sstone arch bridge are part of an ongoing project acalled Mural Mania that will result in murals depicting historic scenes along 50 miles of the canal." You've got to check out thise pics in the photo log! There's plenty of little stores and stuff here, all in easy walking distance. We hit the Sav-A-Lot supermarket, and looked thru town. Very nice area - so glad we stayed here!

July 27, 2012
The Jonckheeres saw us off this morning just after 9:30. Overcast and misty so far this morning. Took advantage of Newark's free pumpout and got underway. Westbound, we're heading for Fairport, NY based on the Jonckheeres' recommendation. Short day today, took us thru 2 locks which lifted us 32 feet, and put another 17 miles behind us. Lovely little town - walked thru the town and did a little shopping - Skip's Meats was a fantastic butcher shop, and the Red Robin gave us some wonderful produce - though the clerk did try to charge us over $1300 for our corn! She accidently put in a quantity of 2135 instead of 2 for our purchase! That all taken care of, back to the boat for another delicious dinner. This is definitely another great place to stop in!

July 28, 2012
Pulled out of Fairport at 8:15 - the Main Street Lift Bridge opened for us to pass thru. This is a very cool bridge - I believe I said it all in the video clip, but it's in the Guinness Book of Records. Never seen a bridge like this one before!!

7-28 Fairport Lift Bridge

Continued, once more, in a westernly direction. Passed thru 2 lockes (#32/Pittsford and #33/Rochester) which each lifted us 25 feet. The Pittsford lock is known for it's leaky gate on the western side - we were treated to viewing it in its full glory! The Gatemaster told me it is locally known as "Angel Falls". Couldn't resist - had to take another video:

7-28 Lock 32 Angel Falls

Reached Spencerport (again our Canadian friend's recommendation) at noon, covering 21 miles today. Dealt with one piece of nasty stuff today - our credit card company contacted us - our VISA has been compromised. Some scum tried to charge over 2 grand to our card, at Bed Bath & Beyond and BuyBuyBaby (never even heard of the 2nd store!). Thank Heaven they declined the charges! But, they had to cancel our card. CRAP! Getting a new one's gonna be a pain in the arse, but we'll deal with it. Why me, Lord???

Once more, they were spot on in suggesting we stop here. Spencerport is celebrating "Canal Days" - I understand this is their last weekend. They've got a street fair with tons of vendors - it's spilled over into a local huge field 'cause they have so many vendors. We walked thru everything - breaking down to try some deep fried oreos (yummy treat!). Totally enjoyed the whole thing - found a wildlife refuge type of display (looking for donations, of course - and yes, stuck a dollar in the jar!). They had some wild birds with them - yes, another photo shoot! Aside from the vendors, there were a great many local stores/shops within a couple of blocks of the dock - what a great place to be! The celebration also had live bands in 2 different locations - 3 if you include the banjo player! What a terrific afternoon - thank you once more, Carolyn and Marsal!!!! Strolled over to the restaurant at the end of the dock about 8 tonight - split a delicious haddock sandwich for dinner (it's too late for a full meal!). Back to the boat, finish up this log for this week, and head to bed. Adventures to continue bright and early tomorrow! Will catch you up in the coming week's updates!

July 29, 2012
Happy Birthday Daniel!!! (ok - have I said it enough times now???) (Love you!!)
So . . . .
Departed Spencerport at 9:15 this morning, went thru several lift bridges today. Stopped in Holley, NY at the East Ave. Lift Bridge to see the sights. Took a walk to go check out the waterfall . . . wonderful!

7-29 Holley Waterfall

Came back to the boat and had killer BLTs for lunch, then headed up to the next lift bridge. Past that, came by Albion, NY. Their Fire Department sported another mural (not as wonderful as the ones we've seen, but grabbed a photo anyway!!) No locks today, but we covered almost 29 miles - found an anchorage between Eagle Harbor and Knowlesville. It was awesome! So quiet, we were the only adventuresome boat to actually take advantage of it. Had an awesome dinner of scallop ka-bobs, steamed clams, and stuffed mushroom. Yummy! (Again!) Had to go in to shore to find a place for Sailor to "appreciate the land". . . Found a little place that had a tribute to a recently departed military man who fished here. Very cool - check the pics.
OK - gotta go now. It's very private here, and my hubby wants to go skinny dipping. (but for us it's chunky dunkin) Sorrry. Didnt' mean to share so much. More tomorrow!

July 30, 2012
Got outta the anchorage by 8:30, and moved west Went over an Aqueuct - that is a place where they have constructed a "moat" basically, that carries the canal across either another body of water, or in this case, a road! It's the only place in NY where you can actually drive a car UNDER the Erie Canal! Wasn't extremely exciting, I took a picture - but not thrilling. We got into Middleport about 10 a.m., that's where there's a Post Office half a block from the dock. Daniel mailed us some stuff to "General Delivery" there, which is how we'll be receiving any physical "stuff" for the next year. Gotta find easy to reach PO's to do that! Passed thru a bunch of lift bridges - have to say, the LockMasters and BridgeTenders up here are awesome! They jump to accommodate whatever the boaters need. Some BridgeTenders actually cover two or more bridges in their territory - having to drive a mile or more to the 2nd bridge to let us through. Haven't met a nasty one yet! Further on in the canal, we passed WideWaters Marina. Saw a lot of emergency vehicles there - then noticed police tape blocking the wooded area by the canal. Just past that, noticed a black tarp on the ground - oh, yuck! They had just pulled a body out of the canal about 10 minutes before we cruised by (found an article in the news the next day - see the pics to read up on it). After all that excitement, we went thru the last 2 locks on the Erie Canal, #34 and 35. That was kind of cool - they are a double lock, raising us a total of 49 feet. You go into the first lock, go up 25', then when they open the gate, you go directly into the 2nd lock for your 24' lift. Only one like it in the Canal. Stuck over 34 miles behind us today, and reached Tonawanda by about 3:30. Ended up paying only $20 for the night - power, water, showers included. Sailor got a bath this evening - jumping off the back of the boat for a rinsing. Cool nite!

July 31, 2012
Decided to spend the day here at Tonawanda so we can go visit Niagra Falls. Got up and took care of some boat maintenance first - engine checks top priority. We also reinstalled our "tall stuff" - the shortest bridges are behind us, and we needed to be sure our radar was operational before we cross the Great Lakes. As a finishing touch, for my own peace of mind, I installed a tickler twig on top, attached to our anchor light. It's as high as our highest fixed equipment, and I can watch it at any low bridges we encounter - if it touches, I give the "STOP" signal and we can back out and remove whatever's gonna hit, before things get really ugly! That all accomplished, we call the taxi service. They say it'll be about $40 one way to get to the Falls. Yikes! And that doesn't include a tip!! Sooo . . . we suck it up and go investigate the local bus service. It'll take us 2 bus rides (1st to the airport, 2nd to the falls). A one day bus pass is $5 per person. So, for $10, we can do the round trip. That sounds a little more economical, so we go for it. My. What a long ride! Found every red light between Tonawanda and Niagra Falls! Got there - an hour and a half later!!! Whew! We'll splurge for a cab ride back later. But "WOW" - was it worth the trip!!! I haven't been to the falls in about 50 years - all I remember is the giant raincoat and hat they stuck on me. What a sight it is!!! We took the walk across Rainbow Bridge into Canada where the viewing was awesome.

7-31 Niagra Falls

Got rained upon a little, but it was actually rather refreshing! Stopped in Hard Rock Cafe in Canada for a drink before the long trip back. Cost us 50 cents each to leave Canada and walk back to the US! Eventually back to the visitor center there, we caught a cab to take us back. Yeah - it was $40, plus tip, but we were back aboard in less than half an hour! And, I am so happy to report, the animals just spent 5 hours alone on board - the longest ever (on the boat) alone. And they didn't eat my boat or do anything bad! (Though I think Sailor might have been jumping on the bed.) Hooray! I think that means they finally understand this is "home". A retired Army vet stopped by to chat for a while. He told us that there was a closure in the Erie Canal. Looked it up later, and sure enough, a 25 mile stretch between Middleport and the Holley Guard Gate was closed due to a partial collapse of the embankment in Albion. It seems to have been closed merely hours after we went by! Thank God we didn't get caught up in that mess!!! Later, I ran over to the local Walgreens to pick up a couple of prescriptions and a bag of ice. I got back, then Matt went over to a local restaurant that was recommended, "Smoke on the Water", and brought some dinner back. It was terrific! We did a triple combo to split - had pulled pork, blackened fish and shrimp k-bobs. Sides were cole slaw, shoe string fries with "Creole Voodoo Powder", and "Ta Tas". (Hee Hee!) In case you're wondering, Ta Tas are Tater Tots covered in Franks Red Hot Sauce and Nacho Cheese. Couldn't resist - had to try 'em. And actually, they were pretty good! OK - that's enough today! Time to turn in!

August 1, 2012
Pulled out of Tonawanda about 8:30 this morning. We tried several times yesterday to pay for another night, but the harbormaster never showed up! Oh well! So we got 2-fer-$20! Just around the corner from the dock was Wardell's Marina, where we pulled in for fuel. Highest prices so far - $4.42 per gallon. Oh well - took a deep breath and filled up. We officially exited the Erie Canal about 9 in the morning. About 10, we stopped at the Harbor Place Marina, because we saw a West Marine. We've been having some steering "issues" and went to see if they might have the helm gear to replace our old one. Well, they could get it - it's only $1100. So - how about maybe a rebuild kit instead? Much better - only $39. We can live with that. In stock? Of course not! Ordered it anyway - it will ship home. That's ok - Daniel likes to mail us stuff! Bought another pint of steering fluid to keep us OK in the meantime. Only $25. (I'm almost expecting to see gold flakes floating in that damn bottle!) Continued on - got through the Black Rock Canal Lock which raised us 6 feet. This canal runs down the eastern short of Lake Erie - taking it avoids the extreme current (almost rapids) in Lake Erie at this point (after all, the water here is heading for Niagra Falls - we don't particularly want to get caught up in that!). Half an hour later we see the Buffalo Harbor Horn Light which welcomes us into Lake Erie. Travelling across this lake makes me understand why these lakes were named "Great" - it's HUGE! Once out a ways, even with binoculars, I couldn't see across the water to Canada! I felt more like we were out in the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Erie is the 4th largest of the Great Lakes, and 13th largest in the world. It's 57 miles by 241 miles, and its depth ranges from 62 to 210 feet. It was a little choppy, but not so bad. We cruised along for 44 miles today, ending up at the Dunkirk Yacht Club. Very quiet little place - didn't see anyone 'till after business hours.

Dunkirk Yacht Club notes from Matt: Nice people made us feel welcome. Small clubhouse all member staffed and run. 100 members. Saw the end on thier junior sailing program the night that we were there. They get basic training in "Penn-tech"? dinghys and when we were there were taken out in the local fleet one design boats (about six at this club) as a graduation "gift" to peak interest in more sailing in larger boats. All the sailors got mentionned and the coaches reminded them of the future sailing opportunities in clubs and schools.

Then ended up sitting up at the club on the deck with 8 or so folks and chatted thru the early evening hours. Very nice people, and as Yacht Club members, our first night was free (I think they charge $5 per night after that!). Nice little place, but not much around. Had chow on board and then hit the hay. We'll pull out in the morning and head for Erie, PA.

August 2, 2012
Waved good bye to Dunkirk YC at 8:30 this morning, cruising off into the Lake with clear, sunny skies above. We're heading to Erie Yacht Club, which is described as one of the "finest yacht clubs in the United States". We called yesterday to see if they had room for us tonight, which they do. Checked on fees - they are a "Reciprocal Yacht Club". Unfortunately, Toms River Yacht Club is not (I guess they are only "reciprocal" locally - they aren't on the "big" list). So, instead of staying free, we're gonna be stuck paying $1.50 per foot. Oh well, want to see the place anyway. . . . Pulled in and found a really beautiful place! Later on, met up with folks and had a great time - couple of beers at the bar, free snacks (stuffed potato skins), then shared a patty melt at the bar. Perfect! Met some folks here from Canada and gave them a tour of the boat - they loved it, of course! Later, there was "Vette Nite" - about 25 or so Corvettes lined up in the parking lot. Plus a live band from 6 to 9. What's not to love?!?!?!?!?

Erie Yacht Club notes from Matt: LARGE yacht club with full fuel, pump out, two travel lifts, and large yachts to 75'. We saw a summer program with lots of Opti's, Laster, and 420s. Full dining room, bar, and complete marina! Wonderful facility and friendly folks. Another great stop. $1.50 a foot for YCs that don't exchange agreememts with Great Lakes clubs.

August 3, 2012
Left Erie YC just after 8:30 this morning. Cruised west for about 43 miles and tied up at Ashatabula Harbor Yacht Club by 2 p.m. Gotta say - the folks here are awesome! We had a wonderful stay here! Had what I termed "4 mile fish" for dinner (had slightly imcomplete directions to the local fish market which was only a half mile away - took the long route). Yummy dinner aboard - pan fried perch (locally caught) with salad. Afterward, spent time hanging by the dock with the locals - had a wonderful nite! In the morning, David stopped back, bringing us lures for fishing, some minnows for bait, and some steelhead bass to make some yummy apps. What a terrific guy! The Club wouldn't sell us a burgee (we've been collecting them thru the trip) 'cause we're not members, but David said he'd buy one soon and send it on to us. We will send him one in return from Toms River Yacht Club (I've got my best friend, June, on that - she's gonna buy 'em for me and have Daniel ship them out to us). This was a great stop!

August 4, 2012
Left after David's visit and made it thru the lift bridge at it's 9 a.m. opening. Mostly unremarkable cruise today, passed Fairport Harbor at noon. Continuing on, took a photo of the Cleveland Browns Stadium in the early afternoon, and landed (based on David's suggestion) at Edgewater Yacht Club in Cleveland at 3 p.m., covering 52 miles today. Gotta say - thank you David for recommending this place!! It's wonderful! $1 per foot first night, 2nd night free. We're gonna stay here tomorrow - the weather is supposed to be crappy, we need to do a little provisioning (some groceries and beer), and we need a day off. Perfect place to stay! Stopped in the bar for drinks and a light dinner, then back to the boat to finish up my log for the week and get it published for you. Weather permitting, we may dinghy over to the city area tomorrow, otherwise, just cab service will do. Heavy thunderstorms and rain due in tonight and tomorrow - we'll see what happens. In the meantime - good night, all! Talk to ya again later!!!

August 5, 2012
OK - we've wimped out and decided for sure to stay here at Edgewater Yacht Club in Cleveland for today. The weather is super crappy - windy, rainy, heavy seas. Just don't need to travel in this kind of stuff. Edgewater YC is fabulous! The people are tops, very pretty area - what more could we ask for? Plus, it is a "pay the first nite, stay free the 2nd nite" kind of place (which you can read as one nite free - again, free is a good thing!). Did a load of laundry, had breakfast at the club and sat and chatted with the sailors whose racing just got cancelled for the day. Matt went to ask later about where we might be able to go and restock our beer (down to last case - yikes!). Was gonna take a cab, but the club manager (Ed - what a great guy!) volunteered one of the dock hands (what a fantastic group of folks!!) to not only drive Matt to the store, but assist in bringing the goods back and help loading it all onto the boat! Wow!! Stocked up enough to hold us for at least the next month! Good to go, now!! Crappy day? Good day for baking, right? Got down to it - made a loaf of sourdough bread and a batch of brownies. Brought some of the brownies up to the dock hands as an extra "thank you" for all they've done. Matt also made some of his nautical bracelets and passed them on to Tom, Matt and Becca as an added "thanx" - they all appreciated everything. To go with our homemade bread, I whipped up a batch of spaghetti sauce, and we grilled up some of my home made Italian sausage to throw in. That, along with a fresh salad, made a superb dinner. Went up to the club for drinks afterwards, and discovered a Toms River Yacht Club burgee hanging (among all the others). It had 2 names written on it that we didn't recognize, so we're thinking it may have been hung up there quite some time ago. Off to bed now - planning on pulling out in the morning.

August 6, 2012
Left Cleveland about 10 this morning. Seas were a bit choppy early, but settled down to a more comfortable level later in the morning. Arrived at Vermilion, OH, at 1:30 in the afternoon, accomplishing another 31 miles today. Tied up at the municipal marina, which was advertised as free with no electric in our book, which is obviously a bit out of date. It's actual $1.50 per foot and does have electric and water. A couple of blocks away is an adorable little town, where I found (among many other stores) a small grocery where I stocked up on a few necessaries (fresh produce and coffee creamer topping the list!). Later, we took the dinghy up the river (creek, maybe?) a bit - beautiful scenery, though it got quite shallow near the end. Houses were very nice - obviously a rather "upper" kind of area. Though I did notice a) all the houses were black and white, and b) though they were of many different design, all the windows looked alike. A little boring after a while. . . Deserted the animals later, and went to dinner at the "Quaker Steak and Lube" - delicious!!! Bar-b-q stuff and sandwiches kind of fare for reasonable prices, steaks and such for a little more. Great nite. Back to the boat for a movie and catching up with this log, then nite-nite, anticipating a rather short day tomorrow. . . Sweet dreams!!

August 7, 2012
Took off this morning and cruised a short day - 28 miles from about 8:30 to 12:30. Pulled into South Bass Island, OH, at what is locally known as "Put-In Bay". Described as a "hopping place" - it lived up to it's reputation! Restaurants and bars galore, plus lots of little touristy shops. Added to my fridge magnet collection here. Also found that they have a Post Office (we've been looking for one since Niagra Falls to ship a couple of fun things home). It was a bit of a distance though, so we did what all the tourists do and rented a golf cart - at just $10 for an hour, it was well wirth it! Got my stuffed mailed with plenty spare time left over - so we took advantage and toured the island a little. Very cool place! Very interesting houses, too - some dating back to the late 1800's and extremely well kept. A couple of huge estates, and, as somewhat typical, some smaller homes looking in need of a little TLC. Haven't a clue why you'd live here, unless you run one of the tourist businesses - and then, not sure what might keep you here in the winter. Pleasant enough for a visit though - we understand that it's a complete zoo during weekends and/or holidays though. And we thought Tices Shoals could get nutz - they have nothing on Put-In Bay! Gonna grab some dinner at "The Boardwalk", since we had planned steaks for tonight but there's no "open flames" allowed on the public dock where we're spending the night.

August 8, 2012
Pulled out of here just after 8:30 this morning, and continued the adventure. Sunny and some clouds, it was really a nice day, though somewhat uneventful. Logged in 52 miles today, and reached Detroit Yacht Club just before 3 p.m. And holey cow!!! What a Club!!! The largest we've ever seen. TRYC would take up one small corner of their bottom (of 3) floor! Indoor and outdoor pools, a jacuzzi and saunas. Wonderful, welcoming members. But something this grand comes with a price - this is the priciest place we've pulled into, $2.25 per foot! And we bought a burgee - for $30! (highest price yet, once again!). But it was worth the stay - thoroughly enjoyed it. One slight "interesting" rule, however. . . . dogs are not allowed to walk on the docks. Huh??? You have to transport them in a dock cart! Sailor looked at us like we were completely nuts when we asked him to hop in, but he managed fairly well. Jumped out a couple of times prematurely, but we managed to get him out of the grounds for a walk several times. Very funny! We ended up having dinner at their bar - chow was extraordinary! I would recommend this place to absolutely anybody in the neighborhood! Met a very nice couple, Earl and Joan - had them back to the boat for a tour and drinks. Spent a pleasant hour or so visiting before bed. Planning to pull out in the morning, despite the fact that it's supposed to rain all day (bummer!). We really have to get up and around Mackinac (prounced "mackinaw") before the end of August to avoid bad weather.

August 9, 2012
OK, it's 9:15 a.m. and pouring. Perfect time to get under way, eh? Or so we thought. Got going, got in the channel, and it just started raining harder. Then of course, a little fog needed to settle in, bringing visibility down to about a quarter mile. What an adventure!!! (Quite possibly, we might be slightly mad. . . . ) Bravely continued on, despite the occasional (huge) ship that would loom up out of the fog! The rain was sooooo heavy sometimes that it was streaming thru underneath our side doors like rivers! Had to encourage the water to exit either via the scupper on the starboard side, or via the ladder-way down to the bilges thru the aft cockpit. Unbelievable!! Managed to get thru the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair and reached Port Huron Yacht Club just after 3 in the afternoon. As we pulled into the Black River to go into the club, our bilge pump started going, and wouldn't stop. Uh-oh. Last time that happened, the boat almost sank. Then of course, a local cruise ship decided to come out as we were inbound - we actually had to stop and back out of the river entrance for them to make their exit. Still with the bilge pump going. They get out of the way, and we get in the short way to where we tied up. Matt went immediately into the engine room and, thankfully!, found that we were not taking on water (whew!!). Checking the bilge pump, discovered some wires that needed repair, so it turned out to be a relatively easy fix for a change! Worked out fine, and we made our way into the club. Another splendid place to be! Totally run by members (very cool!), and the first nite's stay is free to Yacht Club members (2nd nite is only $20). Had a couple of beers with the locals, and bought a burgee to add to our collection (this is another place where we've got to send one of our burgees). A quick walk to town, and we found dinner at the "Vintage Tavern". A wonderful local bar and restaurant, and eating at the bar gave us an Olympic fix. Very cool. Still raining though - sounds like we won't get a weather break 'till Sunday. We actually had to dig out jeans to wear tonight, and put the heat on for a little bit to knock the chill out of the boat. But still another memorable day! Keep 'em coming!!!!

August 10, 2012
Crappy weather didn't make it very inviting to get up and go this morning. . . Finally got fueled up and pumped out, leaving Port Huron at 10:30. Went 20 minutes out, then 20 minutes back to Port Huron. As I said, crappy weather. "Crappy" turned into downright "Shitty" very quickly - we knew it was supposed to rain and have possible t-storms, but the latest coming across the NOAA weather stations indicate gale force winds and SEVERE t-storms. Water was pretty choppy. So we figured Port Huron Yacht Club dock, for 20 bucks for a 2nd night, sounded much more inviting! Chatting with the locals later at the club, we found out there were 6 foot swells at the Lake's South Buoy, and at the North Buoy (our travel direction!), they were 12 foot! Came back and sat out the storm (didn't feel any gale force, but what the heck!).

8-10 Downpour

Got some boat work done and a little housekeeping. Watched a movie and hit the hay. Tomorrow's another day!

August 11, 2012
Finally left Port Huron at 8 this morning. Got 55 miles done today - a little choppy on the water, but not too bad. Pulled into the marina to find very little water getting in there - bumped several times on our approach. Bummer - found my MIFI (internet connection) to be non-existant here. Oh well - final updates to my pictures and log will hopefully be completed on Sunday! Were getting ready to relax and watch the end of our movie when a sailboat coming in ran aground. We watched them trying to get off for a while - obviously they were stuck deep! Matt finally felt sorry for them, so we launched our dinghy and he went out to help. Holy Crap - 2 hours spent trying to pull them free to no avail! Biggest part of the rescue was when he brought one guy to the dock with his dog so the poor puppy could go find a good spot to pee! Finally gave up, and they dropped anchor for the night. We figured if they were still stuck in the morning when we were leaving, we'd use the big boat to tow them out. Finally got to bed somewhere around 10:30, without finishing our movie! Sheesh! (not to keep you in suspense wondering about the sailboat - they managed to free themselves about half an hour before we pulled out Sunday morning!)

Stay tuned folks - more next week!!

August 12, 2012
Pressed on outta Harbor Beach at 8:30, setting our course for Harrisville. Nice weather, but the waves suck! 4 to 6 feet makes for an extremely uncomfortable day. Half of the 6 and a half hour day resulted in us searching for the motrin later that afternoon! It finally settled down some in the afternoon, thank God!! Pulled into Harrisville (57 miles later) by 3p.m. to discover a nice little town. Except for the nasty water situation, it was a pretty uneventful day - which, I guess, is probably a good thing!

August 13, 2012
Left Harrisville at 8:30 (seems that no matter what we plan, 8:30-ish seems to be the magic hour where we actually get moving each day!), aiming for Presque (pronounced "press-cue") Island Harbor. We've topped off fuel and water anticipating anchoring out tonight. Reached the harbor by about 2 this afternoon - what a beautiful harbor! Pulled into the fuel dock, as we forgot to get gas for the dinghy. Matt almost ran out the other day while attempting to pull that sailboat free. 3 gallons of gas later (much better than buying 150 gallons of diesel!), and we're off to set anchor. Accomplished that, and took the dinghy in for a little exploration. Pulled along side a public boat ramp and tied up - only to discover a great walking trail down the penninsula. Hidden from view was a good size lake in the center of the penninsula. Great place for Sailor - no leash needed here! Got back to the boat to dine on board. Then went for a last trip to shore, this time over to the marina so we could walk up to the little local ice cream shop. There was a little Yacht Club there, but we didn't stop in. Back to the boat. I've been waiting for just the right picture of the "new" Gemini Dream to replace the sunset picture of the trawler. Coming up to the boat I notice a "little black cloud" hovering. That seems just so "us", so I snapped it. Not quite as good as my sunset picture, so no replacement yet - but still had to "capture the moment"!

August 14, 2012
Pulled out of Presque Isle Harbor at 8:20 (no, I'm not making that up!), heading out to Cheboygan today. 52 miles later in thankfully calm water, we reached our destination. Walked around, found a boating store for a couple of things, and an auto parts store to buy a couple spare alternator belts. Spent some time chatting with Tom, who came down to the docks for a little fishing. Had a couple of nibbles, but nothing to reel in. Oh well - I guess we won't be bartering for any fish today! Pleasant, quiet stay here today - off to bigger and more exciting things (we think!) tomorrow!

August 15, 2012
OK, not 8:30 today, we left at 9:15. But we only have a 15 mile day today, expecting to reach Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island in a couple of hours. Made it in by 11:10, giving us the entire afternoon for exploration. And what exploration it was!!! Awesome island - no vehicles allowed. You either walk, bike, or use the local 4 legged transportation mode: horse drawn carts! Took Sailor for a walk, and he didn't even notice the several carts that passed us. Finally, one came somewhat close, and he about spun around on his leash in a 360 degree circle! Ears perked up, couldn't figure out what to make of those "giant dogs" pulling the cart. I was cracking up - so was the cart driver! He said he had a pit bull that was raised around the horses since he was a baby, but still reacted the same way! Awesome town, packed full of tourist shops, restaurants and cafes. Spent a couple of hours touring thru the historic Fort Mackinac (active in the War of 1812). Attended a little demonstration of period military stuff - that was fun.

8-15 Ft Mackinac - assembling the troops

8-15 Ft Mackinac - marching demo

After the Fort, walked down to the infamous "Grand Hotel" to have a drink on the 1000 foot veranda. "Grand" doesn't begin to sum it up!!! We were forewarned to bring a "full wallet" if we went there. There's a $10 admission charge to sit on the veranda unless you are a hotel guest. Not sure how, but we accidently bypassed that point! Got to the veranda and order the daily special fruity concoction. Holey Cow!! 2 drinks with tax and tip came to $35!!!! The waitress comes back to ask if we'd like another round - we very politely declined, and left to get pictures. You have to check them out - the place is unbelievable!! Later, found a place for a little dinner. Now for possibly the biggest surprise thus far during this trip! Most of you who know me well know I drink one beer: Miller Lite. OK - Coors Lite will do in a pinch. The place we were in had a locally brewed stout, "Mackinac Fudge" - which Matt got a sample of. I'm sure at least June (and probably others) remember some of my reactions to even only smelling other beers - I guess there's some interesting facial reactions involved. I smelled this one - and I smell chocolate! I actually taste it - and I TASTE CHOCOLATE! Wow! Yummy! I think this may be a historical moment in time!! I guess Matt thought so, too - he had to take a picture as proof!

August 16-17, 2012
So. I guess Mother Nature decided that since I loved Mackinac Island soooo much, I should stay here a while! To insure that, she threw us 6 to 10 foot waves and 30 knot winds! Just lovely! So we hung out at Mackinac - there's definitely worse places to hang out for a couple of days! Got some house keeping done, got the v-berth cleaned out (finally!) so that it's fit for company (hopefully our best buddy Peet is gonna meet us in a couple of weeks for a visit!). Met up with some great folks on the dock here. . . a couple of boats that are also doing the "Great Loop" (a.k.a. "Loopers"), and some semi-locals that were interested in hearing about our adventure. It's been so much fun meeting with and talking to people on this trip - there's so many wonderful people in this country!!!!! Weather reports sound much better for tomorrow - hopefully we'll be able to continue on then. . . . .

August 18, 2012
Thinking we can scoot outta here this morning, so we snuck out at 7:30 in the morning (had a 75 foot boat in the slip next to us last night, it fired up at 6:15 to get outta here at about 6:30 - couldn't sleep past all that noise, so we figured we'd follow!). First "early start" in quite a while, we got out of the harbor expecting the forecasted "2 foot or less" waves. Well. . . . it started out as 2 to 4 foot, eventually growing to 4 to 6 foot. What the hell?!?!?!?! I'm pretty sure we got over the 6 foot level from time to time, too! So majorly uncomfortable!!! So - we met the "3 sisters of Lake Michigan" (ref: "the Edmund Fitzgerald"). This refers to a pattern of waves, 3 at a time. . . the 1st is kind of bad, the 2nd knocks you pretty bad, and the 3rd is a real bitch - the biggest, baddest, and meanest of three! Over, over, and over again!!! We did several hours at that level, cranking up the knots per hour and burning up some serious fuel to get out of it. What a SUCKY morning!!! Hate those broads!! Passed 40 miles today in those conditions, and tried to anchor at Beaver Island a little before noon. Several attempts, each one unsuccessful and bringing up crap on the anchor - holey crap! It looked like we drug up "Cousin It" on the anchor, but it was green! There was sooooo much sea grass our anchor just couldn't get a bite! What a mess! Finally gave up and went into the state Marina (unfortunately to pay yet another night's dockage - crap!!). Nice little town, though. Had lunch at the Shamrock - very yummy! And the bartender, a very personable guy, was asking about our trip. Upon explaining, he personalized our tab - highlighting where we were and where we were going! Very cool! Had to include that one in my log! (see the pics!) As we were expecting to be on anchor tonight, I planned accordingly for dinner. I set up one of my awesome loafs of bread, and planned on some Lobster Newburg for dinner. We were at the dock after all, but that didn't interfere with dinner plans! A bottle of wine, a side salad, and an awesome dinner had our boat neighbors terribly jealous! Topped it off with some poached peaches with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. So yeah, we're still ruffin' it! And just to let ya know, we had no internet connection at Beaver Island, that's why this week's posting is a bit late. I also have to finish up my pictures, so that part will be a little late, too. So if that bothers you, TOUGH!!! I do the best I can! Don't like it? Come aboard and do better! (Love ya all!)

August 19, 2012
Left Beaver Island this morning at 8:45. Leaving Mackinac Island yesterday put Lake Huron behind us. Just for a little more geography lesson, Lake Huron is the 2nd largest of the Great Lakes, and the 4th largest lake in the world. It's 206 miles long and 183 miles wide, with depths up to about 750 feet. We were in places only 1/4 to 1/2 mile off shore and found ourselves in 200 feet of water! Quite a difference from the 7 feet that we're used to in Toms River/Barnegat Bay!! There's almost 4 thousand miles of shore here, bordered by both the US and Canada - same as Lake Erie. Enough to make it all breathtaking. Beaver Island and the next week to 10 days will be spent in Lake Michigan - the 3rd largest Great Lake (5th largest in the world). It's 307 miles by 118 miles - up to 923 feet deep! We arrived in Charlevoix 29 miles later at 12:30, giving us plenty of time to tour Lake Charlevoix (pronounced "char-le-voy"), which was gorgeous! Check out the pictures of the lake and homes in my photo log! We anchored out for the night ("free" - hooray!! we pumped over $500 worth of fuel this morning, I really need "free"!). I grilled some chicken and bacon wrapped asparagus for dinner while Matt took the dinghy into a local spot to restock some beer (not sure which we take on more of - fuel or beer!). Great dinner, peaceful night. Till the generator started misbehaving, anyway. Matt spent most of the night babysitting it - it just was not getting along with the inverter. Got thru the night, but Matt wasn't exactly rested or pleased. . . . Will check it out tomorrow.

August 20, 2012
Made our way out of Charlevoix by 9 this morning, only to be greeted by waves over 4 feet. Crap! Another yucky ride today - but we're planning a short day (21 miles), so hopefully not too bad. Docked at Northport Municipal Marina (not free, $51 - but we had to get our generator problem looked into). The afternoon's weather moved into the upper 70's with lots of sunshine and a great breeze - really nice! Matt found a ground not grounded in the battery compartment - reattached and prayed that he may have solved our power problems (please, Lord - make it so!!!!).

August 21, 2012
Generator problems hopefully behind us, we left Northport at 8:45 with a calm, sunny morning surrounding us. Waves are predicted to hit 3 to 5 feet this afternoon, but we're planning another early destination, so we're hoping we'll be ok. Seas turned out to be wonderful for out 4 hour/26 mile cruise to Leland Harbor Marina. But, of course, our next problem arose - steering decided to quit. (Crap - what next!) We chose the marina because of the nasty sounding weather forecast and our steerage problems - would rather be safe than caught in crap with no steering! Unfortunately - this was one of the more expensive marinas that we've stayed in, $2 per foot! (That's equates to $84 for us!) Got fluid into the dang steering, and it seems to be ok for now. Can't wait for our "care package" from home that includes a re-build kit for the helm. That is being sent to my cousin Brian's house in Chicago - we should meet up with him next (Labor Day) weekend.

August 22, 2012
Left early (7:45!) from Leland for our 36 mile trip to Frankfort (still Michigan!). Reached our destination by 11:30, thank Heavens! Early was wonderful, with waves less than 2 feet. Later they built to 4 to 6 feet, once again a little uncomfortable! Anchored at Frankfort, and took a dinghy ride into shore. Met up with Mark, who just got off a small fishing boat with his dad and buddy. They hauled a cooler up to the fish cleaning station, where they would pay to have their salmon catch cleaned. Stopped to watch them hanging their haul on the "board" (see my pics!). Wow! Chatted with Mark for a while, who mentioned they "caught too many fish" - Matt very politely offered to take some off their hands. Mark said "sure - skin on or off?" So the boys all hung around the fish cleaning station, and I took Sailor for a walk. Finishing our (Sailor's) business, we returned to find Matt waiting for us at the dinghy for the ride back to the boat. Got there, and Matt handed me a large ziplock filled with salmon. Holy Salmon, Batman! I was expecting a piece for dinner! Got it in and sliced - there's enough for 4 or 5 dinners! Sealed it up, stuck it in the freezer, and prepared some on the grill for dinner tonight - AWESOME. Went in to shore after stuffing ourselves and found Mark (waiting while his dad rested following his chemo treatment). Ended up bringing Mark back to the "mother ship" for a 50 cent tour and a beer (or maybe two). What a great guy - thanked him several times for the fish donation!

August 23, 2012
8:15 a.m. - departed Frankfort. Had a fairly nice cruise south today, although going got really bumpy for the last hour (seas at 4 to 6 feet). We put 48 miles behind us, and pulled into the Ludington (Michigan) City Marina about 1:30 in the afternoon. Took a walk thru the nice town - lots of shopping and several restaurants to choose from. Back at the boat, we checked on the weather forecast - not looking like a happy day tomorrow. 25 knot winds accompanying 6 foot waves doesn't sound like much fun, so we're thinking we might say fuggetaboutit and hang out here for an extra day. Early evening, after dinner, took Sailor for a walk - just then the local ferry, the S.S. Badger was pulling out of its berth. She is one enormous ship! Looks more like a cruise ship than a ferry. A very interesting ship, however - it is the last coal operated ship in the United States. Apparently, it is struggling to comply with the latest EPA guidlines though, and has a deadline of December 2012 to change from coal to natural gas. My understanding is that it's because the ash is disposed of by dumping in Lake Michigan, as it has been done since its maiden voyage in 1953. The ship ferries people and vehicles between Ludington, MI and Manitowoc, WI - a 4 hour, 60 mile cruise. Economically it brings in $35M annually for both towns, supporting 200 jobs directly and 500 indirectly. The "Save Our Ship" mission is to gain an extension to the EPA deadline, and keep the ship cruising Lake Michigan.

August 24, 2012
Got up and checked the forecast. Soooo . . . time for another lay day! Got towels and sheets and every other piece of laundry done. Found a Notary Public at a local PNC Bank and got a letter notarized - Matt is trying to renew his driver's license. We found out it is possible to do this by mail since we're out of state for a year - however the jerks at Motor Vehicles (who he spoke with twice) never bothered to mention it had to be notarized. Sent everything in - they sent everything back. So now they're pissing us off via the USPS instead of just in person!!! Oh well. Went to breakfast after the bank. Just to get pissed off again. After finally getting seated and getting our order in, we were told several times "your order will be out in just a sec!" by a very cheerful waitress. 45 minutes later we called her over and asked just to be billed for our coffee and juice - we were tired of waiting. 45 minutes for eggs and toast??? Gimme a break!!! We walked two doors down the street, went in and had yummy croissants with egg/ham/cheese, and fresh fruit on the side - served in about 5 minutes. Should have started there in the first place!! Next, went to a little market to replace some cold cuts and cheese, and ended up buying a couple of bratwursts for dinner on the grill tonight. This afternoon will allow for some down time - time to get caught up with my log, reading time, internet surfing, and just relaxing (no muscle strains today!!). In the early evening, the S.S. Badger was coming into port. I caught some of it on video, although the whole docking process takes her about 20 minutes, so this is just a small piece:

8-24 SS Badger Docking

August 25, 2012
We're just planning a short day today, so we aren't planning to pull out of Ludington 'till close to noon. (Matt wants to get back to the restaurant we were at the other day and get one of their soft pretzels smothered in beer-cheese.) I'm using this morning to try to catch up as much as I can with this log, just in case we're internet-challenged in the next port. My MiFi (secure mobile internet) is terrific when working, but it seems service is quite spotty. So I get on-line when I can! Plus, I can only use my web-builder site from my big PC - it doesn't work from my I-Pad, and I've not had the best of luck using the notebook, so that kind of limits my access a little. Mostly good though - maybe a little late posting stuff sometimes, but such is life!!!

OK - we anchored in Pentwater Harbor about 2 this afternoon. Matt ended up going down into the aft compartment where the batteries are located - by the rudder mechanisms. . . we were enduring terrible steerage problems. Yucky! Cleaned stuff out, and he got down in there. Found that the bar that runs between the 2 rudders had slipped down on one side - the reason that the helm seized up when trying to turn! Somehow he managed to force up the dropped side and get things evened out again - we think that may have solved the problem (please, Lord! otherwise we're gonna have to have the boat hauled and pay someone to fix the freakin' problem! So . . . now we're anchored. Time for a little cleaning time, please! Took the dinghy out (ignoring the dam mutt's barking since we were right there and didn't take him with us!) and went up one side and down the other - cleaned the grungy stuff off the hull. Yeah! What a beautiful boat! Please don't ask what we used, it's probably not quite environmentally friendly, but it cleaned everythig in record time (see the pics!). Went into town (brought Sailor to shut him up) and walked down to the Pentwater Yacht Club. They apparently have an Ensign fleet, with races going off today. Plus we saw what must have been a wood boat show going there. Matt went in while I held Sailor, and managed to come out with a band-aid for me (I took a chunk out of my thumb after boat cleaning - damn thing won't stop bleeding!), and noticed a Toms River Burgee hanging, dated 2007 but it had no name on it. No one invited us in, so we just took our band-aid and left. Nice little town, but not so inviting. Oh well - live and learn! Love to all! More to come!! 

August 26, 2012
Got up bright and early (not!!!), and pulled out of Pentwater at 10 this morning. A novelty, but what the heck?! It was a bit yucky again, wave-wise, but we've had worse. Did 40 miles today - it was only 2 to 3 feet, but choppy enough to require a little ibuprofen this afternoon. Pulled into Muskegon Yacht Club for the night, hoping for maybe a free night. Oh well on that note! I really wish the Toms River Yacht Club was a "real" reciprocal club so we had some advantages in going to the various clubs! The seem to only be reciprocal with clubs around the Barnegat Bay. Cost us $1.50 per foot to dock here, and we almost didn't get served in the bar because our club wasn't "on the list". The bartender, however, turned out to be from New Jersey, and gave us a little break. We were thankful we were on a dock tonight though - had a heck of a rainstorm blow thru! Just hung out and closed everything up on the boat and stayed dry. Got a little boat maintenance done, stuffed some oil into the engines to keep them happy, and cleaned up a little to keep me happy.

August 27, 2012
Got up and checked in with the marine service marina next door, Torreson's, about our continuing electrical gremlin (between the inverter and the generator). They said to come on over and they'd have a look-see - so we putted next door and let them have a look. Their electrical guru adjusted a setting in the inverter, and we think it was as simple as that (THANK GOD!!!). Half hour of his trouble shooting got us out of there for less than fifty bucks!!! Wow! Talk about novelties! We've never had any marine service what-so-ever done for less than $50!!! We were able to finally continue in a southbound direction by 11 in the morning. A little overcast to start, but it turned into a nice day. Short trip today (purposely because of our late start) - we only cruised 14 miles down to Grand Haven. Tied up to the town wall and walked through town. Ice cream (first priority), within site of the boat, first, then "downtown", just a couple of blocks away. Tons of little shops, fun stuff to browse. A couple of restaurants - thought we might just grab something light and bring it back to the boat later for dinner. Another novelty - have had solid internet connectivity for 2 straight days, uninterupted! Took advantage and updated my log. Also sent Jay (met at Pentwater on S/V "French Kiss") an email to let him know we'd be in Saugatuck tomorrow - we think he said that's what he was planning, too, so maybe we can connect with him there. Later in the afternoon (I guess early evening!), we decided to move inland a little bit - the wall is a bit bumpy due to waves coming in the inlet. Spring Lake is not too far in, so we decided to go look for a protected anchorage. Got in there - what a beautiful lake! Cruising thru nice and slow, noticed the Spring Lake Yacht Club - it looked somewhat deserted, but we saw a few guys on the dock dealing with a sailboat. Nosed in a bit, and asked them if we could tie up for the night. They looked a little confused, but I explained we were from NJ and doing the "Great Circle". Also that we were on "the wall" but it was a bit uncomfortable, and we needed a spot where we could take our dog in. They grinned and said "You're from NJ? What the heck - come on in!". Also had little-to-no-clue about recipriocity, so they just said "tie up and enjoy your night!". Gotta love guys like that! The one guy was David Wolters - he told us he was the membership lead. We said we probably wouldn't be back again, so he was out of luck on that note! So we got a free dock for the night - life is good. Let Jay know that we came in here rather than staying on the wall - there's a 35 foot fixed bridge (for non-boaters - that means it doesn't open), so (since he's on a sail boat) he probably can't fit in here. We'll catch up with him in the a.m., or at the very least tomorrow at Saugatuck.

August 28, 2012
Waved good-bye to Spring Lake at 8:30 this morning and headed out for Saugatuck. Turned out to be a beautiful, calm day - hooray!! Had a wonderful 29 mile cruise south, but once more ran into some steerage issues. Tied up at Saugatuck Yacht Yard about noontime, thinking someone might be able to look at it for us, or at the very least maybe we could find some more steering fluid. Well, they had the oil we needed, but the "steering guy" wasn't really familiar with our system (of course) - Matt had a lot more expertise with it than him. So we got the fluid topped off, and bled the whole system - seemed better for the attention, so we pulled out of the marina hoping for the best. Steering seems improved - maybe it'll stay that way? In the meantime, we were in touch with Jay - he told us where in Lake Kalamazoo to anchor, and that he'd be there soon. Got anchored and awaited the arrival of the "French Kiss"! He got in and anchored nearby a little later in the afternoon. Went over and chatted - he was meeting up with a couple of friends who wanted a 50 cent tour of our boat later, and said he, his wife, and several friends planned to have dinner at one of the little local places and invited us to join them. We accepted that invite - sounds like fun - then took Sailor in for hisshore time. Went back a little later to the French Kiss and got a tour of his beautiful boat. She's a 45' Jeauneau, which is (in my opinion) in showroom shape! It's yachts like her that could tempt me back into the sailboat world!!! A little after that, had Jay's friends back aboard the Gemini Dream, and they seemed just as enthralled with our boat as I was with Jay's. Of particular interest was my herb garden - very amusing, I don't know which gets more attention . . . our boat or the garden! We all went ashore via dinghy(s), where we met up with Jay's wife, Beth. Their friends (hoping I'm remembering names and "pairings" correctly here!) were Mike and Kathy, and Gordon and Karen - Gordon & Karen were celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary and Jay and Beth their 43rd I think today? So, "Happy Anniversary" all around!!!! Dinner was a blast - had a really great time with some REALLY great folks! It's soooo much fun meeting people like this - ya never know what's next! Plus Matt was in his element - a new audience who hadn't heard his jokes before. So those of you who know him. . . can imagine where that went. Much fun was had by all - and with any luck, we might run across Jay and Beth in Florida over the winter.

August 29, 2012
Quietly floated out of Saugatuck about 9, aiming towards South Haven. Another absolutely beautiful and calm day - only doing 20 miles today . . . why couldn't we have had all these flat seas during our long days???

8-29 South Haven Entrance

Oh well - a pleasant 3 hour tour, and we docked in the South Haven Municipal Marina for the night. Did our usual walk thru town - another great small town with tons of little shops. Found an old-fashioned drug store, bakery, candy stores, variety shops and touristy shops. Had a quick lunch in town before returning to the boat for a quiet afternoon. Walked back up the hill to town later and had a quick dinner, then returned to "home" for a little slumber time. Tomorrow's another adventure waiting to happen!

August 30, 2012
10 a.m. - adieu, South Haven! Noon: ahoy, Saint Joseph's! Choppy and uncomfortable once more today, but thankfully it was only a couple hours to cover 22.5 miles. Came in at St Joe's and tied up to a free wall - twice actually. Didn't really like the access at the first spot, liked the 2nd one even less. Said "the hell with this!" and backtracked a little to the municipal marina and got a slip for the night. Tomorrow's weather is very questionable at this point - we wanted to cross the Lake over to Chicago, but now we're not sure that will happen 'till Saturday. Now we've found out that there is a tri-state regatta happening for the next few days - about 150 sailboats are due in tomorrow. We were told that had we stayed on the free wall, we could have expected up to 6 or so boats to come in and raft up to us (with "anything and everything available") - and were forewarned that drunken sailors in the evening would come stumbling across all the boats to reach shore! (And experience says. . . once that happens, you never know what/who you'll find on your decks in the morning!) Probably glad we came into the marina..... While here, we contacted my best friend's (June's) niece who lives locally. She came over to visit for a while - we had a fun time chatting and telling stories (and listening to Matt's jokes. . . .). Thanks, Becky - wonderful visit!!! After that, a quiet nite - played some ball with Sailor, watched a little more Star Wars, then bed. Will check in with the weather info in the morning to figure out what we're doing. Either south 35 miles or so to Michigan City, or across the Lake about 53 miles to Chicago - the weather will determine our route. Good night! More tomorrow!!!

Aug 31, 2012
So much for heading out today! Weather forecasts suck!! Nasty winds, nastier waves - giving up and staying put for today. After a liesurely morning, asked in at the office to see if we could get a ride into town - he happily complied and we all went for a ride. Stopped at Wolf's Marine Supply store - advertised as the largest marine supply store in the midwest. The marina guy came in with us just because he loves the store so much! Spent about half an hour browsing thru the place - it was immense! I thought the West Marine store by us in Brick was large - it would occupy one small corner of Wolf's! Turns out when other marine supply stores close, Wolf's buys out their entire inventory and throws it onto their shelves! Amazing place! Continued on to downtown, where we were dropped off. He gave us his personal cell number and said just give him a call when we were ready to be picked up - awesome service!! We had lunch at "The Buck", kown for their fabulous burgers - got stuffed again! Then just wandered thru the town - very neat, once more with a bunch of little stores to explore. The one thing that made this place stand out from the other similar little towns we've been thru is the street corners - almost every one has a different pirate or pirated-related sculpture on it. Took pictures of a few of them. We were told that at the end of the season, they get actioned off. Gave our friendly driver a buzz and he was there in less than 10 minutes to give us a ride "home". Visited the St. Joseph River Yacht Club next door in the early evening - purchased a burgee to add to our collection, and had a couple beers and a quick dinner from their grill. Then back to the boat for a weather review and some TV before turning in for the night. The weather review didn't sound too promising for tomorrow, we'll have to check it again in the morning. And by then, the first of the sailors participating in the Tri-State Regatta will be pulling in to the area, so we can ask them how the lake is behaving.

September 1, 2012
Can't believe September is here already!!! Could have fooled me - with temps in the mid-90's yesterday! Arose to discover 3 or 4 sailboats rafted across the boat in the slip next to us - their bows coming across ours. Weather check revealed 5 to 7 foot seas for today. Soooo. . . we are not only weathered in for today, we're kind of boated in, too! The Tri-State Regatta began last night at Chicago, IL. They left there with staggered start times beginning somewhere around 6 p.m. Not sure exactly, but we think the start times continued on 'till around midnight, with the 1st of the sailboats arriving around 4 this morning at St Joe's. Today is "party day" for all the sailors, with St. Joseph River Yacht Club hosting locally. The marina we're in is co-located with the club, so is in the midst of everything! We joined them at the club for their buffet breakfast and bloody mary's. Tonight they are doing grilled steaks for a huge dinner affair. I think most of the sailors will be probably be resting up this afternoon, after doing an all-nighter for the crossing, in order to prepare their departure to complete leg two of the regatta tomorrow - they'll be leaving for Michigan City, Indiana in the morning. We're hoping for calm seas tomorrow ourselves, so that we can finally cross over to Chicago. Besides just getting there, crossing tomorrow will also bring us in BEFORE all the sailboats - they return to Chicago on Monday as the final leg of the Tri-State Regatta.

Just before noon, we checked for NOAA weather updates, and they actually sound OK for this afternoon between here and Michigan City (about 36 miles south), so I think we're gonna do it. Spoke with the sailors who are blocking our exit, and they said they'd help us squeeze outta here. So, just waiting for the laundry to dry (couldn't pass it up - it's free here!), then we'll see about moving on. Keeping fingers crossed . . . .

Finished up and got out of the slip - somehow!! Ventured south in somewhat easy seas (2 foot - not so bad!). As we neared Michigan City, Matt got brave and decided to turn right (toward Chicago). As we got much further off shore, the seas began building a little, but were still livable (3 to 5 foot rollers, but not choppy so we weren't pounding). Unfortunately, the auto-pilot chose today to stop working (it's always something!), so we had to hand steer the whole way. We had cruised south about 20-ish miles, and now have 30-ish miles to finish up crossing Lake Michigan. Not too bad, 'till the last 5 miles or so - the 5 foot rollers almost doubled in height, making our last 45 minutes or so rather "uncomfortable". In using that descriptive, let me just say that if you suffer from sea-sickness, this probably would not have been a good place for you to be! Finally got in past the breakwater in Chicago Harbor and went in search of Columbia Yacht Club. Huge harbor, ended up at the wrong place at first, but got moved over to Columbia and got tied up. Very impressive Yacht Club - the club is housed in what once used to be a car ferry. Gotta get some pics of it! We knew it was gonna be pricey in this area - turns to to be the most expensive marina we've ever stayed at: $3 per foot. We were later told we were being given the "Loopers" discount (pays to fly that burgee!) of "only" $2.50 per foot. Oh well, every little bit helps! Had a late dinner at the club, and got in touch with cousin Brian - we'll be getting together with him and Carol tomorrow. Spent an EXTREMELY bumpy night - just rocking and rolling all night long. Actually got up and moved to a more sheltered slip about 2:30 in the morning, but all that did was keep us from slamming into the dock - still rockin' and rollin', but without the music. Mark me down for 30 minutes of sleep this night. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!

September 2, 2012
After no sleep last night due to the constant rocking, I took Sailor for his morning walk. Walked down past the Columbia Yacht Club ship, and discovered that on the other side of the ship, the water looked totally flat! The boats there weren't moving at all! It could have been another body of water all together!! Reported back to Matt, and together we walked over to Dusable Marina at the north end of the harbor. We were able to get a slip assignment there, and proceeded to move the boat. What a relief - there actually will be some sleep tonight!! The manager at the Yacht Club was totally understanding, and said to keep our temporary club cards for access to the club. We did - and used it too! Went back for drinks later on (and breakfast on Monday). In the meantime, spoke with my cousin Brian and arranged to meet up for the day. He and Carol arrived, and we went for a couple hour boat ride - very cool having your own personal tour guide to show you the sights!! We saw Soldiers Field (home of the Chicago Bears), the Planetarium, and went thru the Chicago Lock (which we'll do again when we leave Chicago) to tour the Chicago River a bit. Wow - what an amazing town!!! So much to see, so much history! After our water tour, we put the boat away and walked over to the Navy Pier for dinner. Went to Bubba Gump's and had a delicious meal (thanx, Brian & Carol!!). During dinner, received a text msg from my sister Maureen, just checking up on us. I sent her a picture of the cousins with the msg "Ran into trouble in Chicago - recognize it?". She immediately replied with "What is the saying ... fair winds and . . . watch out for aging Irish elves???" Hahahaha! Quick one, Mo!!! We saw Brian and Carol off after dinner, and headed back to the boat. Walked back over to the Yacht Club for a night cap, planning to head to bed early (VERY early) to make up for no sleep last night. On the walk back to the boat, I took a picture of the "Blue Moon" over our boat - although I must say actually seeing it was more impressive than the photo! Oh well - I tried! That's it - I'm totally done in for today - good night!!

September 3, 2012
Slept in this morning to catch up on some zzzzz's. Walked over to Columbia Yacht Club and had a delightful breakfast seated on the bow of the club.

9-3 Columbia Yacht Club

Finally left Chicago Harbor at 10:45 and headed into the Lock. After all the locks we've done, this one was a piece of cake - all of a 2 foot drop to the river, and it only took maybe about 10 minutes. Didn't even really need to hang on to the wall it was so painless! Got thru there and headed down the river. It's sooooo nice to be out of the pounding waves of the lakes! We had a smooth, gentle ride the whole way. We locked thru Lockport - back to the world of "real" locks. This lock took about 25 minutes and dropped us 40 feet! We had 4 other boats in the lock with us. Left the lock and tied up shortly thereafter at a free dock at Joliet. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon, and there isn't really anything else within reasonable range, so sure enough 3 of the boats we locked thru with also came to Joliet. Next thing we knew - there were 7 Looper boats all tied up at Joliet! We all got to chatting and one thing led to another . . . . a "docktail" party broke out! Everyone brought an app of one sort or another, and pulled up our chairs. Just hung out swapping stories and info for more than a couple of hours. A bunch of new friends made - hopefully to cross paths again "downstream". Fascinating stories too - there was one man from Germany - Hinnerk sailed over from there just to do the Great Circle! Great group of folks - lots of fun!!

September 4-5, 2012
Got up and waved good bye to 4 boats as they left. We're gonna hang here for the day (free dock/free electric - couldn't resist) and regroup a little. Get a little maintenance done, maybe go across the river to check out the casino. Just a quiet day.

Joined up with Jim and Ann from Wild Goose and walked over to Harrah's Casino at lunchtime. Wandered around a bit, then Matt and I went to the bar for a Bloody Mary (cheap, too! only 2 bucks!). As Matt was taking money out, he handed me 5 bucks for a slot machine try - I sat down, fed the machine, and pushed the 1st button. Pushing the 2nd button, I muttered "this is gonna be a fast five bucks!". Pushing the 3rd button was my payoff - I won $60! Cashed it out immediately and took Matt to lunch at Paula Deene's restaurant for a delicious buffet lunch! That's my kind of gambling for you!!! Came back to the boat, and Matt did some troubleshooting on our charging problems - finally narrowed it down to a bad alternator. Jim googled repair places, found an Auto Zone and called them, and they recommended a local repair shop. Matt removed the alternator and found a ride over to the shop - turned out it was an "old school" type of shop, that actually repaired stuff instead of just declaring it broken! Left it with them, with the hopes of retrieving it repaired tomorrow (and maybe also coming back with a new, bigger alternator. we'd just just the repaired one as a spare if that works out). So looks like we'll be staying here one more day - Ann mentioned a Culinary School across the river near the Casino that serves a buffet lunch to the public on Wednesdays. Tomorrow's homemade Italian food, for $11. Guess we'll have to suffer through that, then. And stay at our free dock again. Life could be worse! And there's supposed to be thunderstorms tomorrow anyway, so we'll just hole up . . .

Check out this video - had a HUGE tug/barge combo come by:

9-5 Triple Barge

Got up and had some breakfast. Finally got a call from the alternator repair dude - it's fixed! Yeah!! Not getting a new/bigger one, but our old one is now rebuilt. Matt finds a guy on another boat who happens to have a rental car to go September 6, 2012the airport to pick someone up, and manages to bum a ride to the place to pick it up. Gets back just in time to join several other folks for our walk over to the Culinary place, where we had a fabulous lunch! Stuffed ourselves silly! And got a picture with "Jake and Elroy" at the co-located museum. Fun stuff! We walked back to the boat so Matt could install our alternator. Did so, and in starting up the boat when finished, lo and behold - the charge light came on, a steady green!!!! Woo-hoo! Then he topped himself by tearing apart the front head, which had been water spurting every time it was flushed. Found a broken spring on the flapper valve, married up a piece of a paperclip to it and heat-shrink-wrapped it on. Works mucho better - though we did order the repair parts (for both heads) so that we can both heads in better working shape in the near future. We seem to be kicking maintenance and problems in the butt! Enough problems already . . . . Wonderful (free) stay here in Joliet - hope to move on tomorrow. . . .

September 6, 2012
Got up and eventually pulled out about an hour later than everyone else - underway by 8:15 (early by our standards!). We called the lock on the phone shortly after 7 a.m. to asking about locking thru - he had a tug/barge there to do some maintenance on one of the gates and had suggested we wait about an hour/hour and a half. So we headed towards Brandon Lock, just about a mile down river. Arrived to find everyone else tied up to the wall waiting. We had thought they might have made it thru before the maintenance, but apparently not. We floated around for a while, then gave up and tied off on the wall too. Just before 11:30, 4 boats gave up and headed back to Joliet. Not 10 minutes later, the lock opened up and let the remaining 3 pleasure craft lock thru (hooray!!!). It was 11:50 by the time we finally dropped the 34 feet and exited out the other side. At that point, we didn't especially feel like doing the whole 50 miles down to Ottawa, so we did all of 12 miles south and ended up at Harborside Marina. We fueled here and took advantage of the pumpout, then said the hell with it and took a slip for the night. Nothing around, nothing to see, and very expensive ($1.50/foot) to boot! Oh well, got our water tanks filled, and had a really delicious dinner at their little restaurant. Their marina was unusual, too - it had little floating houses in it. Upon this writing, I realize I forgot to take a picture of them, bummer! They are not house boats, they are little floating houses! Each with a small boat tied up alongside. They have their little decks, one even has a party sized hot tub! Nice little place - but not one to stay at for long as a transient! We'll be outta here in the morning!

September 7, 2012
Got up and got rid of trash, walked the dog. Watched a tug/barge float by and called the next lock to ask what would be a good time to show up. The lockmaster suggested about 45 minutes, and said we could probably lock thru with the barge. We hopped on that and headed to the lock at 7:50. Got there, and ended up waiting an hour to lock thru - turns out the tug, M/V Boyd Code, was too big to fit everything at once, so he pushed thru most of his barges for the 1st locking, then the tug with several more barges on the 2nd locking - where we joined them. This was our first time locking with barges - we had to tie up to them rather than the wall. Very interesting! Plus, doing it in the midst of a thunderstorm made it just that more interesting!

9-7 Locking with a Barge

Were able to squeak thru the exit so that we didn't have to wait for the tug to attach to the rest of his barges and move out of our way. Continued downriver to the next lock at Marseilles. This one we locked by ourselves, and it only took a total of half an hour - a 26 foot drop. Shortly thereafter, we reached Ottawa - thankfully early enough so that the free dock was empty. It's only 110 feet long, so we tied up at the front of the dock and were able to get free power. That was about 1:15 p.m. - at 3:45 a 2nd boat came in and tied up behind us. Any more comers are going to have to either go to the finger docks (with no service) or raft up to one of the 2 of us. . . We'll see what happens!

Sure enough - several boats came in. Wild Goose (Jim & Ann) ended up rafting up to us, Mark on Ibis came in, North Star, Seaquel, Hinnerk ended up having to anchor out because the water wasn't deep enough by the wall - just another great group of "Loopers". Had a good afternoon - walked into town with Jim and Ann for dinner at a local sports bar (great food!!). We then walked a little further up and stopped in at a Martini Bar (yummy nightcap!). Then back to the boat for sleep. Planning to hang out here tomorrow to provision (and just waste a little time - don't want to rush south too fast!).

September 8, 2012
This turned out to be a really good stop ... We saw off the Wild Goose early in the morning, had our coffee and walked the dog. Then packed up a bag and our "rolling box" and headed out by foot to the IGA food store, several blocks away. Got there and happily discovered a terrific grocery store, where we found everything on our provisioning list. Left the store, and in heading out, encountered Mike, the son of the store owner, who identified us as "Loopers". Chatted for a few, Matt mentioned he was coming back shortly with our little hand cart to grab a few cases of beer and some ice. Mike said - don't be silly - go get what you need, and I'll drive you back to your boat in my truck! So we did, and he did. . . Got there and saw Hinnerk coming in from his boat by dinghy. Correctly assuming he was going to provision, we hooked him up with Mike, who gave him a ride to the store. He also got a ride back, as did the folks on Seaquel, so everybody was happy! (Plus the store owners made some good sales!) Mike mentioned they always try to help out the Loopers. . . they were very much appreciated. So we came back to the boat, put everything away. I had the pleasure of giving Sailor his first haircut on the boat, while Matt went down into the Engine Room to tighten the alternator belt. Once all was done, hung out and visited with our fellow boaters. Gonna have chow on board tonight (picked up steak and spuds for dinner, plus some local corn). In for a quiet night, then planning on pulling out in the morning.

September 9, 2012
Left Ottawa about 8 this morning, reaching the Starved River Lock by 9. Had to wait for a tow (the Lavaca Bay) locking upriver, then we locked through downbound with the tow Pat White. Took us 'till 10:30 to finally get all the way through the lock, which dropped us 17 feet. Oh well! This is what it's all about!! 27 miles done for the day, we pulled into Hennepin about 1:15, and Mark and Skippy (Ibis and North Star, respectively - both NJ boats by the way) helped us dock. Somewhat shallow water but we got in there and tied up (for free!) for the night. No electric, so we ended up running the generator for most the night. We experimented today, and ran on only one engine. Seems to cut our fuel consumption pretty well, so river travel is a little cheaper than Lake travel. Nothing nearby to speak of here, a bar and a marine store - both closed since it's Sunday. Dinner on board tonight. Did have a treat though - "boat cake". Found the recipe in a Great Lakes boating magazine, and it's really terrific! Next time (and there WILL be a next time!), I will only make one for us to split - it was really filling. You combine everything in a coffee mug and nuke it for 3 or 4 minutes. Top it with anything you like (we used Bailey's Irish Cream!) and enjoy! Awesome! (ingredients: 4 tblsp each flour and sugar, 2 tblsp unsweetened cocoa, 2 tblsp whisked egg, 3 tblsp ea mile and oil, 3 tblsp chocolate chips, splash of vanilla)

September 10, 2012
Got up to find ourselves socked in with some heavy fog. Waited for all that to lift, and it turned into actually a very nice day! Pulled out at 9a.m. and continued on, once more on only one engine. No locks today, but got to see some cool birds. Several bald eagles, a few hawks, turkey vultures, and - had no clue I'd see them up here - pelicans! First I saw one, then a little while later, hundreds!! And we have definitely pulled into Asian Carp territory. We've seen them jumping all over the place! Pulled into the dock at Peoria, IL about 2:30, and as we were docking, one of them jumped up onto the dock! I finished tying off a dock line and went over to the stupid fish and kicked him back into the water. I have heard that, unfortunately, Asian Carp isn't the best for eating, or that sucker would have been on my plate for dinner! We had tried to stop a little earlier at the "last place for diesel for the next 168 miles" - turned out they were closed on Monday. Sheesh! Getting in there was very shallow, and although I didn't feel any bump, we think we may have run into something on the way in. Leaving there, we felt a bit of a shudder in the props - in hopes that maybe something was just wrapped around one of them, Matt backed up on them. Moving forward again still produced the same thing, so we're thinking we'll have to have her hauled in the near future to check out what's going on. Man . . . fix one problem, and gain two more!!! Enough is enough, already! So, to make us feel better, we walked up to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner. Stuffed again!! The stir-fry we were going to have can wait 'till tomorrow!! OK - a little log update time, and a little TV time, then off to bed.

September 11, 2012
Wow. 11 years since 9/11. Brings a tear to my eye. I'm remembering watching the smoke going up, looking at the towers from Fort Monmouth. OK - a moment here. . . .

Yeah. Moving along. . . . We left Peoria just before 9 this morning, and 40 miles later ended up in Havana. What the hell???? I thought my navagating skills were a lot better than that!!! Oh well, got thru the Peoria Lock which dropped us
8 feet, and then caught up with Ibis and North Star. We pulled into "Tall Timbers Marina" and stayed the night - only a dollar a foot. Walked into town, advertised to have "many restaurants". Found a Chinese Restaurant, then a "Dollar General". Then a bar with no food, the proprietor aimed us at "Babes" restaurant, which turned out to be closed for maintenance. Talked to someone on the street about "Pat's Tap" - another bar. He said unless you want bar pies, don't count on food. The hell with all that stuff - stir fry on the boat became dinner! That's ok - they had good showers that we took advantage of, and we filled our water tanks.

September 12, 2012
Got a slow move this morning, pulling out just after 9. Kind of a boring ride south this morning, but I guess that's good. Only a couple of barges to pass, a few eagles to spot, and nothing more than that but river and trees. That was fine by us! Came down to an anchorage before our next lock at about 1:30, and decided to call it a day. We were at "Bar Island" (appriate, no?) so we dropped the hook. We went back to the stern and dropped the sea deck down. In the process of doing that, we had to disconnect my kayak and empty the water (from rain) out of it. Discovered one of those dam asian carps had jumped into it - sucked for him! Threw his dead body overboard and continued on our mission. I took my kayak into shore on the island to look for a landing for the dog, then called him over from the boat. He swam into shore and peed - then I made him swim back to the boat! He loved it!!! Then, I decided to get some laundry done. So out on the sea deck we go. Turned my back on Sailor at one point, and off he jumps, to chase a damn leaf floating by!! Sheesh! Later, we took him back north a little bit by dinghy to a tiny island. I went ashore with him and he had a great time! I saw a bunch of deer tracks, to include one set of tiny tracks - must have been a mommy and baby. . . . Got back to the boat and grilled some salmon (given to us by that guy a couple of weeks ago!) for dinner. Watched a dvd, then hit the hay. Tomorrow's another day!

September 13, 2012
Happy Anniversary to us!! 31 years - can ya belive it? Plus we knew each other 10 years before that, so I guess it's really 41! Yikes! How the hell did we get here - and stay here!?!?!?!?!?!?

Left Bar Island about 9:10 in the morning, and floated down river for about 48 miles. We anchored at Willow Island, and brought the dog into shore by dinghy. Our travel book said there was "access to a sandy, shady picnic area, complete with a picnic bench and portable grill" on the north tip of the island. Well . . . we walked all over the north end, and saw none of the above! Was amazed at the amount of shells there, though - clams and all sorts of tiny shell fish. I had no idea they'd be showing up here in the river system! But Sailor took care of his business, plus snuck in a couple of swims, so hopped back into the dinghy and took a ride down to the southern end of the island. It didn't look nearly as accessible as the northern end, so we putted back to the boat. Got on board to discover the anchor had dragged a good distance. The winds were kicking up, had some gusts over 20 knots. Tried a couple of times to re-anchor, but just couldn't get a good hook. Finally gave up and moved on down river for another 8 miles, and tied up at the Illinois Riverdock Restaurant. No electric here, but a secure tie up for a windy (possibly stormy) night. Went in and felt so welcome at their restaurant that we had dinner there rather than preparing our Anniversary Dinner on board. After dinner, Pied Piper Matt had 3 kids on board while he tied them bracelets. Made the kids' day!

September 14, 2012
Left the Riverdock in Hardin behind us, and continued south at 8:10 this morning. We've been noticing the residences along this section of the river system. They all appear to be similar to double wide trailers, except that they are raised about 30 feet on pilings. It's sad to pass a few of them, then see what used to be a foundation of a home that's just some concrete and maybe a fireplace left today. In talking to some of the locals, the last really bad flooding here that really did damage was in 1993, but I guess it was bad enough that some folks just chose not to rebuild in the same location. The area seems quite remote, and very beautiful. Kind of boring for mile after mile though. There's just so many trees and birds to look at in a day. Even if it was broken up by the occasional stone cliff. . . Just going a short distance (18 miles) today, as we're reaching one of the few fuel docks in the area. Pulled into Grafton Harbor and fueled up, taking a slip for the night. Once more, the owner and his staff are so very friendly and helpful! It's $1.30 per foot here, but they also have wifi that works (thankfully, as mine's been out of touch for 2 days now! Our cell service has also been a bit sketchy for 2 days, but seems to be back on, for now.). Great little restaurant here, too - had a very tasty lunch. After eating, we took a stroll thru their little town. A couple of gift shops, and of course an ice cream store. We stopped in a small local farm market and picked up some fresh produce. There's also a restaurant or two, and local lodging all within a few blocks of the harbor. Grafton Harbor Marina has a pool and jacuzzi, too. Unfortunately it's cold today - jeans and fleeces kind of weather. Had our belated Anniversary Dinner on board tonight - yummy! Pasta with an herbed tomato-cream sauce with lobster, a salad, and (of course) a fresh loaf of homemade bread. Delicious! Unfortunately, very, very filling, though. So we didn't get to the creme brulee for dessert (I'm sure it won't go to waste!). Went up after dinner and hung out at the tiki bar, chatting with some great folks. Once more a good time was had by all!

September 15, 2012
Up and at 'em - off by 8:15. Chugging along southward, went thru the Mel Price Lock around 10 a.m. That dropped us 23 feet, then we set off again. By the way, we are now officially in the Mississippi River. Overcast today, and again a little cool, but not too bad. Continued down river and arrived at the Chain of Rocks Lock about noon. This is a double lock (two sides/chambers). We were told one lock was now closed for maintenance, so we'd have to wait on the other one, which was in the midst of locking a barge down. They finished that, then announced they had some kind of electrical problem, and they were calling for repairs. The lockmaster kindly offered the outer lock wall to the 4 pleasure vessels waiting, so we all tied up for the wait. A little hungry. . . . good time to eat that creme brulee (told you it wouldn't go to waste!). Hung out on the wall, reading and doing nuthin' for two hours. Then comes the announcement we really didn't want to hear - the lock is going to be closed for "at least a couple of days". Blechhh! We get turned around, and head back north again. Have to go back thru the Mel Price Lock (15 miles up river) before we reach a marina to stay at. Not exactly what we had in mind for now, but we'll make do! So back thru Mel Price (23 feet back up!), then on the 2 miles to the lton Marina. Great! We traveled 40 miles today, but only accomplished proceeding 10 miles south! Pulled into the marina at 4 this afternoon, ended up in a covered slip (that's a first!). Probably won't have any storm to take advantage of the cover though, but we'll be protected from any sun that may break thru so we definitely won't be roasting! Got checked in, at $1.30 per foot. But found that they (one of the few marinas that we've found) offer a discount if you're Boat US members (which we are). So it was only a buck a foot - every little bit helps!!! Finished up with that, and walked down past the end of the marina, where there was a park-like setting with an ampitheater. They were having live bands and entertainment all day, with typical food & craft vendors. Grabbed a beer and some chow, and wandered thru the sites. Nothing thrilling, but fun to browse thru. Came back to the boat, and met several local boat neighbors, all hanging out in groups on the dock. Joined some fun conversations, 'till everyone started to disburse. Back on board, couple of beers and some TV, finish up this week's boat log, then bed. Will check in with the lock tomorrow to see how repairs stand, but expect we'll probably be staying here another day. Oh well, things could be worse. And the decks and eisenglass could use a but of a scrubbing, not to mention some of the interior, so maybe we'll catch up on a little housekeeping too. Signing off for this week - hope everyone's healthy and happy!!!!!

September 16, 2012
It's Sunday - this must be Alton! (Again!) Yes, still here. Called the brocken lock's Lockmaster this morning, no progress has been made. Expect we'll be here at the very least for tomorrow, too. Made the best of it for today, though! First of all, we are on the "Party Dock" of the Marina so that's a good thing. We showered and breakfast, read for a while this morning Then took a walk (dogless, for a change) and made it into town. Found an empty little bar for lunch, Matt had an Oyster Po-Boy, I had a blackened shrimp Caesar Salad. Both were terrific! In speaking with the bartender, got directions to the local little supermarket - turns out it's quite a hike. We were told they would pick us up at the marina, and return us to it with our stuff if we called. Mentioned that to the bartender - who turned around and offered to drive us to the market (since the bar was empty - she simply asked a friend to keep an eye on things!). Couldn't turn that down! Thankfully we took her up on it - it was quite a distance. Checked in with the manager about a ride back to the marina - she said she only had 3 people working, she'd call someone in to help out. We said we'd be happy to call a cab, not to trouble anyone - then a young man (obviously either friends or a relative) said he'd have no problem giving us a lift back. Awesome town! Got our shopping done, and returned to the boat. Gave the kid a boat tour - he was in awe! Matt gave him 5 bucks for the lift - he tried to refuse it, but Matt insisted. Great people here - once more! Another party broke out on the dock for the afternoon, but I actually got some boat cleaning done - scrubbed the decks and sides (everything was really filthy!), and Matt found a couple of ball games to get into on TV. Did dinner on board later, then a little TV before bed. Another productive day, all together. Don't expect we'll be able to get out of here tomorrow, either but that's ok. Met Patty, the local Harbor Host. She offered whatever services we might need for tomorrow, so I think I'll take her up on it and request a ride to the post office. Neat lady - sounds like we might be going to dinner with her and her husband tomorrow, too. Just let the fun keep on keepin' on!!!!!

September 17, 2012
Yep - at the marina again for today! Spent the a good part of the day (again) cleaning - today, the Eisenglass got completely cleaned and polished - looks great! Matt took the dinghy down and cleaned it up as best as possible. Heard on the marine radio that there are now 18 barges lon "the list" waiting to be able to lock thru. They've got priority over pleasure craft, so it ain't sounding too good for us once they actually re-open the lock. A heavy duty storm rolled thru this afternoon - couldn't believe how hard the rain was coming down!!

9-17 Downpour

Stayed on board most of the day - ordered a pizza for dinner from the marina (they deliver it to your boat!). Certainly wasn't the best we've ever had, but it served it's purpose. Still have a TV connection, so we're taking as much advantage of it as possible (as we really haven't had much since we left NJ). Just local stations though - saw the news and weather, a couple of All in the Family reruns, Jeapordy, and Family Feud. Hysterical - don't know the last time we've sat around and actually watched this stuff! But it broke up the day - enough cleaning for the day, already!

September 18-19, 2012
We call the Lockmaster every day. And every day, we're told the same thing - probably closed for 2 more days. Feeling like we're in it for the long haul at this point, but making the best of it. At least we're in a nice place, with a bunch of new friends sucking it up with us! Our Harbor Host, Patty, arranged for a bunch of us to go to dinner Tuesday night, at a local place called Macs. It's a small OTB joint, with an adjoining bar and restaurant. We took 3 vehicles to get there, and proceeded to take over one big section at a covered outside area. We had a total of 24 people! "OK" food (it filled our bellies), and a couple of beers - and a bunch of boat talk. What more could you ask for when stuck in a port??? On Wednesday, our driver from Tuesday night, Christine (who is currently living aboard her boat in the marina with her husband) offered to drive us to "where ever we needed". We hooked up with Mark from Ibis and took her up on it. Off we went - hit up Walgreens for drugs, and a Super Walmart where we were able to provision, getting absolutely EVERYTHING we needed! From engine oil, to beer, to steaks and toilet paper - and everything else you could imagine! We are set for a while now. Took her to a local Mexican restaurant and bought her lunch as a thank you. Got back to the marina, and I dumped some laundry into the washing mashine - only a buck a load, good time to get some heavy stuff taken care of. Between wash and dry, I spent some time in the hot tub and pool, since the day was so beautiful. Every wash day should be so delightful! Christine had mentioned to me at dinner the night before that Wednesday night was "Yappy Hour" at the pavillion by the marina. It's a fund raiser that's run by a local animal shelter, raising funds to help build a dog park in the town. We went up (bringing Sailor, of course). Five bucks was the requested donation - that got you free Margaritas, a scarf for the dog (and Matt begged one off them for his poor bald head), and the opportunity to hang out and let the dogs "socialize". It was fun!

September 20, 2012
Got up, walked the dog, had coffee. I was checking thru the on-line wait list for good ol' Lock 27, and realized that some of the commercial traffic actually locked thru - starting at 3:30 in the morning! We called and checked in to find out that, yes, the lock was operational!!!! They requested that we gather whomever was planning to leave from the marina and head south, and do so all together - and they would lock us thru all at the same time. Hooray!!! We coordinated around, and found 3 others ready to leave - off we went, about 9 a.m. Picked up one other southbound boat underway - Lock 26 was ready for us, and we went directly into the lock about 9:30 (de ja vous!). Fuyrther south, had to carefully pick our way around all the barges who were waiting to lock thru - some had been waiting for as long as us! Was a littly hairy at times, but we got thru everything without a problem Reached Lock 27 and the 5 of us locked thru starting at 11:00.

9-20 Lock 27 Approach

(Note: in my 2nd video here, I mispoke and said they'd close the gate and "let the water in" - I meant let the water out, as we were being lowered in this lock, not raised.)

9-20 Lock Tour

ing! I found a wait list on line which showed a total of more than 60 tows waiting to lock thru over the past 5 days. At least we had the luxury of a marina and a nice town to hang out at - they all push their barges into a bank and just hang there waiting. . . .

With the locks behind us, we had a pretty uneventful cruise down the Mississippi today. Passed the Arch at St. Louis today - unfortunately there isn't anywhere here where you can tie up to go see it, so we settled for a picture on the way by. We headed on down the river, the current giving us a little push on the way. We reached today's goal of the infamous Hoppies Marina at 1:45 and quickly topped off our fuel and moved out of the way for the other boats to do the same. Hoppies consists of 3 100' barges tied together to form a floating dock. Other than fuel, it really has nothing to offer, but we had to stop there just to see Fern. Fern and her husband run the place. Everything we've heard tells us that you HAVE to listen to Fern. She will tell you where and how to dock, what lines to use, etc. Then every afternoon, she gives a briefing (they call it her "class") to everyone who is docking there. It's kind of a social hour, really, with everyone swapping stories and information. Fern gives tons of local knowledge of our southbound journey, and advice where to (and NOT to) stop and/or anchor along the way. We stopped into the small local town before our meeting, and joined another couple for a late afternoon lunch at the Blue Owl. Enjoyed our meal and brought desserts back to the boats for later. Spent a quiet evening watching a movie (and updating my log!), planning on a relatively short day tomorrow.

September 21, 2012
Got up and discovered we were in a slight delay before pulling out. We're going to travel downriver along with Bob and Sharon on Sno Daz but it turns out they had a little problem - when fueling yesterday afternoon, they accidently fueled their holding tank instead of one of their fuel tanks. Had to wait for the Hoppies to get up and arrive on scene (which they did about 9 a.m.) to provide the means to pump the mess out. So we all just sat about and visited 'till that got taken care of (with poor Bob and Sharon taking the brunt of the ribbing - wow! Boaters can really stick it to ya with the jokes at your expense!!! All in great fun, of course!). After cleanup, Bob & Sharon took us to breakfast back at the Blue Owl as a "thanks" for the help. Only real friends will help dispose of diesel mixed with holding tank "stuff"!!! Got back to the boats and we finally took off about noon-time. Though it was closer to 12:30 for Matt & I due to yet more electrical problems. He finally got the motors to turn over, and we followed Sno Daz south. During the afternoon though, Matt spent more time down in the engine room than at the helm - our batteries kept coming up with an over-charging problem (not a good thing....). Overcoming all the crap, we managed to finally meet Sno Daz at the Kaskaskia River Lock about 4:30, putting another 36 miles behind us. We tied up to the Lock wall for the night - the 2 of us plus Bucket List. Very quiet (and free!) place to tie up. Matt crawled once more into the engine room o try to figure things out. Finally discovered a loose alternator belt on the starboard engine, and found that the alternator itself had loosened and arced against the engine. We apparently now have a bad starboard alternator - he's now disconnected it (removed the belt), and we'll run without it 'till we can get it fixed (glad we found it - we won't blow up now. . . . .). Dinner and a movie, then hitting the sack. Our companions plan to leave very early in the a.m. for an anticipated long day - we're chosing to leave at a more human hour and make a shorter day of it. There's not a lot of places to stop or stay along this stretch, so we've got to take advantage of what we can.

September 22, 2012
OK - heard our friends leaving at 6:30 a.m. We were up anyway, so we made our own preps - got Sailor into shore and got the dinghy and kayak back on board. Well the dinghy, anyway - decided to tow the kayak since we'd be anchoring for tonight. Came on south again - got a few pics of the Mississippi River at extreme low water. So many of the banks and sand bars are exposed that are normally under (way under!) water. Came around one tight bend and radioed the Tow Captain to see which side he wanted us on - he said "take me on the one", meaning to pass him port to port (our left side to his left side). We aimed to do that, but shortly thereafter our stupid kayak broke loose. I ran down to the aft cockpit and lowered the sea deck, taking a boat hook with me to grab the errant boat. Matt let the Tow Captain know what was up and that we secured the kayak and would stay out of his way till he was passed. Then we wrestled the damn boat on board and emptied the water (found that my kayak floats, albeit under the surface!) even when completely filled with water! Recovered, we continued on our way. Steering today (and in the recent past) has really sucked. Not sure what's totallly going on, but manhandling the wheel has been the only way to get thru. Instead of a slight turn to port or starboard, we have to throw several full turns just to get a degree or so of course correction. Matt's gonna crawl back down to the rudders in the aft cockpit the next chance we have at a stop and try to see what's going on. In the meantime, we're sharing "wheel time" 'cause it can get really tiring. . . .

Passed Rock Island, Illinois - wow! We've both been there for training during our Government/Military careers, but have never seen it from the water! Looks much crappier from the water than from the land, I must say. . . . We reached the Thebes Rail Road Fixed Bridge after 65 miles today, where our friend Jim recommended anchoring - it looked very promising, so we tried it out. Several attempts at dropping the hook didn't work out, but it finally caught - though we thought either on a rock or a log. Not sure, but we ain't moving, so we decided to try to stay for the night. I brought Sailor into shore alone (Matt was concerned about leaving the boat under the circumstances). Got there and stepped out of the dinghy to discover myself in thigh deep mud. Yuck! And a half!! Crawled my way in far enough to allow Sailor to jump off and take care of business (since I was already in the mess!). Got back in the dinghy once he was done and got us back to the mother ship - holy crap! What a mess! Caked on mud to my thighs, Sailor's feet muddy, mud from stem to stern on the dinghy!! Got most everything cleaned up (made Sailor swim off his mess!), then had a really yummy dinner (pan-seared scallops, a side of rice and red beans), finishing up the incredible dessert we took back to the boat from the Blue Owl. Mostly made up for the mud! Finishing up my log for tonight, we'll watch a movie and hit the hay early to see what tomorrow brings!

September 23, 2012
We left Thebes by 7:15 this morning. It was cool, and we started out in a little mist, but it turned into a clear and pretty day. At 11 a.m., we passed by Cairo, Illinois, leaving the Missouri/Mississippi Rivers and turning upstream into the Kentucky/Ohio River. We cruised 53 miles today, tying up to the new Olmstead Lock for the night. Currently under construction, this lock is going to eventually replace Locks/Dams 52 and 53. It is scheduled for completion in 2014. Turned out to be a very nice place for a free night - very quiet and out of the way. A couple of other boats were also in for the night - it worked out very well. We were able to use the dinghy to bring Sailor ashore to take care of his business with minimal hassle (always a good thing!). Spent a quiet night - dinner and a movie, then off to sleep.

September 24, 2012
Left Olmstead and headed up river at 7:40 this morning, aiming at one heck of a fog bank! The huge cloud was hovering just over the dam at Lock #53, which we were previously told was closed and that we'd be floating over the dam. Glad we knew that, as it was just a little disconcerting not being able to really see the dam off to our right. But we glided by with no problem, and right after that (thankfully) all the fog completely dissipated, leaving a beautiful day for us. At 11 a.m., we reached Lock #52, where we knew we were in for a wait. Called on the radio and were informed we had at least a 2 to 3 hour wait to get thru. We anchored over toward the Kentucky side of the river, joined by 4 others to just wait it all out. Had lunch, read books, and just hung out 'till they called us at 1 p.m. Got over to the lock and the 5 of us locked thru with a tug boat with no barges. Got clear of #52 by 1:40, and continued on. Others with us chose to eventually anchor at the Cumberland River Towhead Island, but we decided to suck it up and make it through to Green Turtle Bay Marina, where we plan to relax and just hang out for the next week. According to our cruising guide, it's one of the Looper's favorite stops along the Great Circle Route. We turned into the Cumberland River just before 3:30, aiming for the Barkley Lock at the far end of the river - this lock is just before the marina we're aiming for. Shortly after entering the Cumberland, we came across the strangest wildlife sighting yet - there was a cow in the river. Yes, a COW! I took a picture of him (her?) as we went by. Felt terrible later - he was obviously unable to get back up the bank, and we tried to radio a working tug shortly thereafter, to ask if they could possibly notify any local farm. The Captain didn't answer us (on any of 4 channels), and there was really nothing else we could do. I have a bad feeling that this didn't end nicely later. . . . Got further toward the lock, and were able to raise the lockmaster on the radio about 15 minutes before we reached it, so (since there was thankfully no commercial traffic in the area) he was able to start preparing the lock for us. We got there just after 6 p.m., and he only had a few more feet of water to empty out before we could get in the chamber. Our book says this lock is one of the newest ones we'll see on the Loop, it's also one of the highest lifts at 57'. It is pretty amazing - check out the video:

9-24 Barkley Lock

Got thru Barkley and continued on to Green Turtle Bay Marina, which we reached just after sunset, 7 p.m. Got into a slip, and were welcomed in by two other Loopers - Loopy Kiwi (Phil and Carolyn from New Zealand) and Bucket List (Larry & Cindy from Grafton, Illinois). Went up into the Commonwealth Yacht Club to grab a bite to eat, then walked the dog, secured the boat, and went to sleep - we were expecting it, but it still was a really long day!!!

September 25 thru 29, 2012
We're spending the rest of the week here at Green Turtle Bay Marina. Gonna get some maintenance done - I think our starboard engine's alternator got jealous of the attention that the port side's received, so it decided to overcharge the batteries for us. Matt disconnected it, but we really need it operational. The boatyard here took it and sent it out for a re-build for us. We also ordered a new head (toilet for you non-mariners!) to replace the forward one that's been giving us such a fit. I'm happy to report that that was successful - expensive, but it works REALLY great!! We have a rebuild kit for the 2nd head on the way to us, and our boat neighbor David (on "Maia") offered to lend Matt a hand with it (he's got the same head and has done it before - says it's a real pain). Wednesday, we went into town using a Marina Courtesy Vehicle, and brought Pat (from aboard Bucket List) and Phil and Carolyn (from Loopy Kiwi) with us to the local IGA Grocery. We stocked up on almost everything we needed (I say "almost" because Grand Rivers, Kentucky is a dry town . . . .). Came back to the Marina and started putting together a MAJOR docktail party - Matt dragged out the smoker, and he and Phil started tending the serious amounts of pork on it. I made a tomato/basil salad, chips and onion dip, and chocolate chip cookies. Others brought venison sausage (on the smoker), cabbage (on the smoker), steamed veggies and baked potatoes. While we were waiting for the smoker to finish it's job, Phil broke out his guitar and started to entertain us (loved it!!).

9-25 Phil on Guitar

Just about the time the meat was ready, the skies opened up. Everybody grabbed platefuls of food and their stuff and ran for their boats - not exactly how we would have liked the evening to go, but we all ended up with great food, and the rest of the afternoon was a lot of fun!
Thursday, we reserved the Courtesy Van for late in the day (they close up about 4 or 5, so a 4:00 reservation means you have the van for the night, turning it in first thing in the morning). We left at 4, taking Phil with us, for a ride into Paducah, KY, about a half an hour away for "real" (read "beer") provisioning. Got that taken care of, and then some, and returned to the marina to put everything away. Then we took the van into town - just half a mile from here - to Patti's 1880's Settlement, a wonderful little local historical restaurant. The restaurant consisted of a lot of smaller rooms, amazingly decorated with flowers, lights and quilts. We had a wonderful dinner - service was absolutely excellent! We shared a "Flowerpot Bread" loaf - hot and soft, right out of the oven, served with fresh cream butter, both plain and strawberry! I saved half my dinner to take back with me so that I could indulge in some of their awesome pie for dessert - I had Kentuck Chocolate Pecan, and Matt had an Apple Caramel Crumble. Both superb!!! Stuffed silly - we made it back to the boat, vegged out for a short while and fell into bed.
Friday brought tons of rain early in the morning, so everybody pretty much hibernated till things cleared a bit. We received the unfortunate news that our alternator was not repairable, so we grabbed the courtesy van and drove out to pick up the old unit, and tried a few automotive places to try to find a new one, to no avail. We will probably now run less one alternator till we find an easy way to get a new one - possibly have one shipped to us at Joe Wheeler's Park in Alabama, where we will be staying a week to attend the Great Loop Cruisers Rendezvous Meeting the 3rd week or so in October. Got back to the Marina to meet up with a couple of other boats and take the Courtesy Van back into town to the Padgett Playhouse to attend a 60's Musical Tribute. Got there and walked around Patti's 1880's Settlement first, there are little shops there and beautiful grounds. The show was terrific! A small group of locals with some great music and voices. Throw in a little comic relief (which was hysterical!), and the show was really great! 2 hours for $20/per person - couldn't beat it!! Saturday showed up to offer tons more boat maintenance (don't it ever quit? you may ask. . . . Nope!). Matt and our boat neighbor David rebuilt our toilet pump unit - thank heavens that job is done!! Got down into the engine room to check systems down there, and to re-stow the smoker. Moved on to bleeding the steering (again), and the oil spout broke and spilled oil all over while Matt was filling the steering unit (never ending fun!!!). Got passed all that crap, then went to town for a bit (just to check out the little shops and antique stores we haven't been in yet). Rented a little golf cart to make it easy - cute little stores. Enjoyed some ice cream from the Dairy Store. Got back and straightened up from earlier maintenance - I scrubbed the aft deck clean (it was pretty yucky). Were then informed by Loopy Kiwi that some new Loopers came in, and there was yet another Docktail Party forming up at the Gazebo - so of course, off we went!!! Another enjoyable evening - 4 new Looper boats, one of which ("Tranquilo") just dropped into the water this afternoon to start their loop. Met the others for the first time too - but undoubtably not for the last time! They were Carried Away, The Zone, and Took the Plunge. We all enjoyed Phil's guitar and singing abilities, and celebrated his wife Carolyn's retirement (she just closed the deal last night in selling her Daycare Center, which she's owned for the past 30-plus years!). Another terrific night!!! Came back to the boat and grilled a steak and spud for dinner - watched a movie and hit the hay! Good night 'till next update!!!!

September 30, 2012
Last day to hang out here at Green Turtle Bay Marina. Finish up the chores, got the rebuilt potty pump installed, the steering working well again, all the laundry done. Topped off our fuel and water tanks, got the holding tanks pumped out - we're ready to go, and anchor out overnight. Great day - got it all together, chow on board in the evening and early to bed after a movie.

October 1, 2012
Up and at 'em - pulled out of Green Turtle at 8:20 a.m., in a cloudy, drizzly, cool, yucky morning. Better to be under way than just stuck in a marina in weather like this! Grossed Barkley Lake and continued up the Cumberland River, aiming for Nashville. We got to Dover Island 50 miles later and anchored at about 3:45 in the afternoon. Sent Sailor in to the Island by himself for a pee-stop. That was a bit of a novelty, but he made it there and back with no issues (after a lot of convincing words from the boat that we weren't leaving without him!).

10-1 Sailor Ashore

Had a delicious dinner aboard - steaks with my infamous mushroom sauce, baked sweet potato and salad; dessert was the "boat cake" I previously described, but this time had the sense to make only one of them and split it! Fantastic!!!! Once more, a movie and early to bed in preparation to pull out in the morning.

October 2, 2012
Left Dover Island anchorage at 8 this morning, expecting a long day cruising. Went up the river 58 miles to the Cheatham Lock in Ashland City, Tennessee. We had to wait an hour to get into the lock, but finally got thru and out the other side by 4 p.m. This lock gave us a 26 foot lift. We moved up river another 10 miles, and docked for the night at the Riverview Marina. Not much of a marina - just a floating dock and a restaurant. Had power at the dock, but that was about it. At least it was only a buck a foot! Had dinner at the restaurant (not much to write home about, but it was ok). Had great internet connection here, and amazingly wonderful TV reception. So, a little TV, a couple of beers, then calling it an early night again. Tomorrow will be a short day, and we'll arrive at Nashville.

October 3&4, 2012
Got up with good intentions to leave early, but the fog told us otherwise. So we hung out and waited for it to lift - didn't finally pull out 'till 10:00. It was then a really beautiful day! I've got to say, the Cumberland River is soooo beautiful! I don't think my pictures of it do it justice, but it is really wonderful! We arrived at Nashville Municipal Dock and tied up at 2 p.m., clocking 28 miles on our trip log. We were told by other boaters that a local cop told them that it's unusual for any boats to be there (????? It's the only place in Nashville!), and that no one ever checks to see if any boaters are there. So, we were bad and didn't call in to announce our arrival - thus we stayed for free (for 2 nights!) with electric. I know - that's bad. But if they don't care enough to check, why should we care enough to check in??? We hung out, as I said, for 2 days in downtown Nashville. What a fun town!!! Walked all thru town, visiting the local establishments - had a blast! Ever heard of the "Coyote Ugly Saloon"? Ever saw the movie? (Very funny, by the way) The movie depicts dancing (and singing) on the bar, in a very wild kind of place. I'm here to tell ya - there really is dancing on the bar! And the drinking of shots! And we have the incriminating photos to prove it - plus a well-earned t-shirt saying that I did it!! Screw the embarrassment - it was a bunch of fun!!! We also hit up several other bars (e.g., Hard Rock, B.B. Kings, the Bootleg Inn, etc.) - all with live bands on stage. What a fantastic place - we should probably have stayed another day or so . . . . Also took the (free) bus out to the Farmer's Market (that operates 362 days a year). Awesome market! The smell of fresh peaches almost knocked us over when we entered - Matt's immediate reaction was "Peach Pie", so we bought some, and had warm peach pie that night. Didn't have a pie tin (one was donated by the M/V "Sunshine" - thanx, Lois!!), nor a rolling pin (a wine bottle works just fine, thank you!).

October 5, 2012
Pulled out of Nashville bright and early (7:45), and headed back down river. Got back thru the Cheatham Lock - only had to wait 20 minutes to enter the chamber, and get dropped back down the 26 feet that we came up the other day. Cleared the lock by 12:45, and a total of about 55 miles later reached the brand new Clarksville Municipal Marina - we learned from the manager (Ric) that it only opened in July of this year. So new, it wasn't documented in any of our cruising books. Magnificent place, though - we'll spread the word as best we can to advise other Loopers of it. It's nestled in the middle of such a beautiful park - Sailor had a marvelous time romping about! Ric told us of a couple of local restaurants, one Mexican, and the other a Bar & Grill - we walked up for dinner to the latter, which was right up our ally! Yummy dinner at the bar, where we were able to get a TV fix - they had a baseball game playing that we totally enjoyed while hanging out. Wonderful staff and atmosphere - would definitely recommend it! The marina itself was so new, it wasn't quite finished. A laundry facility is still in the works, as well as other finishing touches (they need a better marine radio system, and Ric's talking about the possibility of getting a courtesy van - that would be a HUGE plus!). But what they've got going right now is first rate - so new that I could still smell fresh paint in the ladies room! Sure beats the smells some of the other ladies rooms . . . I'll leave that to your imagination! Ric himself, and the boat neighbors we met, were awesome hosts - once again showing what a terrific family the boating community is! Thank you so much, Ric, for your hospitality and welcome! I'd recommend your facility to anyone in the area!!!

October 6, 2012
Left Clarksville at 7:45 this morning, in a sunny but cold climate - it was only 48 degrees as we pulled out!! Stayed cold all day, plus a healthy breeze on the nose - thank Heavens for an enclosed helm!!! An uneventful day brought us down the Cumberland River about 76 miles in about 8 hours. We pulled into the Buzzard Rock Marina, in Kuttawa, KY. A delightful little place, wtih (once more) a fantastic staff! Cheap dockage (only $27 overnight), reasonable fuel rates $4.30/gal) and a pump out - everything the doctor ordered for today! The sights on the Cumberland River are incredible - you've got to check out the photos from the last few days. One of my favorite picturesque places so far along this journey. Took Sailor for a walk on the Marina's grounds to take care of his "necessaries", and spotted several deer in a clearing by the woods. Stopped and pointed them out to Sailor - but he was oblivious! The deer checked us out for several minutes (probably about 5!) before scampering off into the woods. Sailor was clueless. Had a great dinner in their Cafe (stuffed ourselves silly once more!). Back to the boat early, finished up this week's blog and watched a move - then off to bed. Not sure yet if we'll stay here another night or start heading south tomorrow. We have about 250 miles to go in the next 2 weeks to reach Joe Wheeler's State Park to attend the Great Loop Cruisers Association's "Rendezvous", so we have some time to waste. Like it here enough to possibly waste another day here! Good Night! Catch up with us again next weekend!!!

October 7, 2012
We left Buzzard Rock Marina in Kuttawa, Kentucky, this morning about quarter to nine. Kind of yucky morning - overcast and cold. We stopped in for a quick stop at Green Turtle Bay Marina to take on some fuel and so that I could take a quick bike ride over to the IGA supermarket to do a little provisioning. (Boy, I don't remember the streets being so hilly! Heck of a ride - thankfully only a little over a mile round trip!) Pulled out of Green Turtle Bay on the Cumberland River and went thru the Barkley Canal which dumped us into Kentucky Lake. We ended up in Cyprus Creek to anchor at 3 p.m., after about a 39 mile day. A pleasant, quiet evening on board, in the midst of a really beautiful countryside - you can't ask for much more than this!

October 8, 2012
Left Cyprus Creek a little after 8 this morning, and continued across this gorgeous Lake. A mostly uneventful day, quietly floating on the lake. We traveled 46 miles today, ending up at Cuba Landing. Unfortunately, the marina office was closed (Apparently Sunday and Monday - maybe Tuesday, too!), so we anchored out nearby. The water around the marina is quite shallow, and has many Crappy Pens (for raising/protecting crappies), so maneuvering was a little tricky, but it was a quiet and very pretty anchorage. We were visited by Indian Bob, who has a boat here at the Marina. He invited us to stop by - which we did when we brought Sailor in for his evening walk. Met a friend of Bob's who owns a houseboat a few slips down from Bob's. Sat and visited for a while - once more delightful people! Left with a couple pieces of cake she just baked today (tomorrow's breakfast!!). Another wonderful evening, then a movie and bed.

October 9, 2012
Pulled out of Cuba Landing just before 9 a.m. (had to wait for the fog to lift). We soon passed under the Cuba Landing Bridge, which is were Kentucky Lake technically ends, so we're now into the Tennessee River. The Cumberland River was so beautiful - and so is the Tennessee! I don't know which is more scenic!

10-9 Tennessee River

We put a little more than 37 miles behind us today, and tied up at the Clifton Marina. What a great little place! Bumped into Katie and Jessie who are doing the loop on their own on their sailboat. Matt sat with them for "a spell", and gave one of his infamous knot-tying lessons. And the folks running it are terrific! Had wonderful burgers and fries for dinner, and sat around with a bunch of locals swapping stories over a few beers. Had a really fun evening! The sign said they closed at 7, so we tactfully returned to the boat just before then. Watched a movie, then I was ready to turn in (bad sleeping night last night - I'm pooped!). So off to bed by 10. Woke up about 11 and realized Matt wasn't on board - I (correctly) guessed he must have re-joined the locals hanging out. Turns out they all sat around drinking and telling bad jokes - having themselves a great night!

October 10, 2012
Headed up river again by 8 this morning (yeah - no fog to wait for today!). It's cool a little cloudy, but that's OK. Cruised for 42 miles and reached the Pickwick Landing Lock - which gave us a 55 foot lift. We pulled into Pickwick Landing State Park Marina and fueled up, then anchored out in a cove just around the corner. We were able to dinghy into the Marina to bring the dog to shore and to get rid of garbage, so it all worked out perfectly - and we landed in another absolutely beautiful anchorage!

October 11, 2012
Left Pickwick at 8:30 and set off up river once more. Just about 9:30, we reached Yellow Creek - this is the turn off for the Tombigbee River System. We're not taking this yet, we'll be proceeding up the Tennessee River for now. But after the Great Loop Cruisers' Association Rendezvous that we're attending during the 3rd week of October in Joe Wheeler State Park, Alabama, we'll be heading back down to this area to start south on the Tombigbee. We cruised for 43 miles today, and tied up at Florence Harbor Marina in Florence, Alabama. Eva runs the place - what a delightful lady! Unfortunately, the restaurant there is closed right now, but we were the only cruisers in, so were able to easily take advantage of the courtesy van and went shopping at a nearby Super Walmart. A little later, we called the local Marriott's "360 Degree Restaurant" - they sent a driver to pick us up to go and enjoy dinner. I have to say - we've been traveling for almost 4 straight months now, and this place takes 1st prize for all the restaurants we've been thru!!! $20 steak dinner specials that were FABULOUS, awesome apps, and incredible desserts. The wait staff are all top notch, just to top everything else off! Absolutely LOVED it!!! And the view was spectacular! The restaurant rotated a full 360 degrees in the 1 1/2 hours we were there, offering a beautiful view of the lit up surrounding area. Just wonderful!!!

October 12, 2012
EVENTUALLY were able to pull out of Florence Harbor - called ahead to the Wilson Lock to check its status at 8:30. Found out we had at least a 3 hour wait while they locked thru a huge barge. So we hung out, had breakfast, did a little boat cleaning, etc. Called again and were told an extra hour at the lock. Heck of a way to start the day! Finally headed out at 11:30, reaching the lock at about noon. Got locked thru between 12:20 and 12:45. This is one of the 3 or 4 tallest locks in the world - it lifted us up 93 feet. It was immense!

10-12 Wilson Lock

Continued up river another couple of hours, then had the pleasure of waiting another 2 hours for the next Lock at Wheeler Lake. Dang barges! Finally got thru the Wheeler Lock (a 48 foot lift) and headed toward Joe Wheeler State Park Marina - then of course, the next bad news of the day (always in 3's they say...). Our starboard motor overheated and we had to shut it down. Thankfully, the Marina is only a short distance away, so we pulled in on one motor. The office was already closed for the day (it was shortly after 5:00), so I couldn't check to see if our alternator had arrived yet. We tied up to the courtesy dock for the night (free of charge, but no electric or water). Made up for our crappy day with a delicious lamb dinner on board - boosted the spirits a little. I took Sailor for a walk, and peering thru the woods into a nearby field spotted a herd of deer. They spotted us too, but once more, Sailor was oblivious.

October 13, 2012
Got up and went to check on mail deliveries when the offices opened up at 8. Hooray - a package awaits us!! The alternator is here - gee, I wonder what we're doing today? Started off with breakfast in the local restaurant. Then back to the boat to attack the alternator. Well, nothing in life is easy, so why should this be any different? Pully won't come off, and the local marina doesn't have any tools that might help us. Matt found a local guy who offered up a ride to his friend's place, where he was pretty sure Matt could get what he needed done. Ya know, we bought a book here at the Marina Store, "The Tenn-Tom Nitty-Gritty Cruise Guide". A quote from the preface: "....if you are willing to spend the time and make the effort, you will be richly rewarded with Southern hospitality when you least expect it and when you need it most." Well. That said. . . The guy (Dave) was selling boat ride tickets, and couldn't leave. So he called his neighbor, who showed up and took Matt (and the alternator) to the friends house where the pully had to be replaced. The old guy who did the work (83 years old!) would only charge Matt five bucks for the work (Matt insisted all he had was a ten and made him take it). The driver would not accept anything more than a thank you (and a 50 cent boat tour upon their return). Matt went up to where Dave was selling the boat ride tickets (it was a fund raiser), and said - "here - put us down for 2 boat rides" and gave him twenty bucks. Dave insisted he didn't have to do that, but as Matt said - "You didn't have to help me out, either!". Southern hospitality is rather awesome!!! Gone and back in an hour, ready to attack the business at hand. (While he was gone, I played catch up with my log, as I haven't had internet for most of the past week - gotta grab it while I can!!!). Got the alternator to where it needs to be. . . . installed it, think things are back to where they need to be now. But not sure if we fried the start battery or not, time will tell (will eventually need to get it tested and perhaps replaced. . . . ugh!). Well it's already 1:30, doubt we'll bother pulling outta here today - probably tomorrow. We need to be back here no later than next Sunday, early afternoon, as the Rendezvous kicks off on the 21st. Were planning on heading on to Chattanooga, but not sure if we have quite enough time to make it there and back. We might head that way, and just turn around if the calendar catches up too fast.
Yeah . . . by the time everything got finished up, it reached 2:30 - we're not pulling out today. Think I'll finish up this log and get it posted. And at breakfast this morning, we noticed the advertisement of the Saturday Night Seafood Buffet there - so we'll just have to suck it up and suffer thru it! At least the boat's back together, and cleaned up to boot! Hopefully to be starting out the new week in a little better way than this past week ended!

October 14, 2012
So - last night, some locals (from the Wheeler Yacht Club) suggested that we'd be much happier attending their Chili Cook-off rather than the seafood buffet at the Wheeler restaurant, so we did. Had a great time! And were able to swap burgees so I got another to add to my collection! Free dinner - free burgee. . . what more could we ask for? Took off from here just after 8 this morning, heading up the Tennessee River towards the Guntersville Lock. Reached there shortly after 3 in the afternoon, and were fortunate enough to lock straight thru - the 40 foot lift only took us a total of 20 minutes. That's a really good thing, considering the long day we've planned . . . Pulled into the Goose Pond Colony Marina at Sauty Creek in Scottsboro, AL at 6:30 p.m. - clocked 88 miles on the meter today (all up current - cost us 70 gallons of fuel!!). Oh well, gotta suck it up now and then (not too often, hopefully!). Had a couple of other Loopers help tie us up, and discovered that the marina office was closed. We all tied up, got electric, did dinner on board, and planned to depart super early in the morning to accomplish yet another long day. Oh well - free night. If they want to be paid, they ought to be here to accommodate!!!!

October 15, 2012
Sure enough - departed early! Actually got under way at 6:40 this morning!!! Course set for Chattanooga! Hit some nasty fog between 8 and 9 a.m. Thankfully it then lifted, and we had a beautiful ride up the Tennessee River - what gorgeous sights!!! I grabbed a lot of pictures and some video to share - just wonderful!!! Left Alabama early, and Passed thru the Nickajack Lock in Tennessee by 11:40.

10-15 Tennessee River

Aiming for Chattanooga, we expect to be there by about 4 this afternoon (which will actually be 5 Chattanooga time, as we pass back into the Eastern Time Zone again). Reached Chattanooga and tied up at the City Dock at 3:45 (Central Time!). Our new Looper friends from yesterday, Tim and Beth, and Joe and Reenee (sorry - not sure of that spelling, I'm assuming it's a nickname for Irene?) aboard the Ju Li IV (pronounced Julie 4) caught up with us and docked about an hour or so later. Yesterday, we sort of promised a little baking for them, so we had them aboard for a "welcome to the neighborhood" party with fresh rye bread and cheese, and "to-go" plates of still-warm apple pie. OK - so it was another long day, and I had some spare time on my hands. Fun visit - then we all went to dinner together to a local Bar-B-Q place, called "Sticky Fingers" (so named for it's ribs!). Yummy dinner! Strolled back to our boats together, making plans for tomorrow. We're both staying here another day to take in some of Chattanooga.

October 16, 2012
Got up, had apple pie for breakfast. Good way to start your day!! Walked Sailor, had coffee, in general woke up.

10-16 Chattanooga

The Tennessee Aquarium is a stone's throw from the dock we're on - it opens at 10 a.m., and that's where we're all starting our day together. And that we did - I had read that it was a really spectacular Aquarium, and it really is! We purchased tickets to go through 2 of their main attractions, the "Ocean" and the "River" buildings. They were fantastic! We hit the Ocean side first and spent 2 hours there - wonderful ocean life, plus a butterfly house (I've never been in one before!), and some birds. Got lots of pics - check 'em out! Took a break after that, and went to lunch. Stuffed ourselves again, and found that we were across the street from the free electric trolley system - so after eating, went and hopped on one to go see (can't miss this while we're here!) the "Chattanooga Choo Choo"! How cool is that??? More fun pics! Finished that adventure and returned to the Aquarium to finish the "Rivers" building.

10-16 Octopus

That was even better than the "Oceans" side! A live bird show (parrots, owls, tucans), snakes, frogs, turtles, unbelievable fish. It just didn't seem to quit!

10-16 Penguins

What a great day - didn't head back for the boat 'till after 3 in the afternoon! Got there, assured Sailor and Marley that we didn't completely desert them, but had dinner plans in sight, again with our friends from the Ju Li IV. Went to the "Bluewater" restaurant for a fabulous dinner and made it back to the boat by about 9 - which is a good thing, as we plan to head down river early tomorrow morning. Gonna do 2 or 3 days back down to Joe Wheeler, planning to stop and provision along the way (no grocery stores at Joe Wheeler). Hope to be in Joe Wheeler no later than Saturday, as the Rendezvous starts on Sunday. And our new alternator is being difficult - it was perfect during the 2 days to get to Chattanooga, but we discovered during a fuel run today that it's suddenly not charging the battery now. Don't know why - hopefully this will be corrected on our voyage back to Joe Wheeler's or we'll find the problem once there. (Boats really suck sometimes!) Oh well - we'll see. More tomorrow - stay tuned!!

October 17, 2012
Pulled out of Chattanooga early (6:40 CDT) and headed down river. Passed thru the Nickajack Lock by 10:45 and got ourselves to Guntersville, Alabama just before 5 p.m. Thought we were going into the town dock, turns out the Guntersville Dock was once another dock (marina), and isn't the town dock we thought it was with shopping available within a 4 block radius. But there we were - and found out it was ok - they had a courtesy vehicle and no one else was there. We took it! Plus we were in a covered slip, with a bad storm expected overnight. Took the courtesy vehicle into town, and were able to provision very nicely (expecting to not to be able to do any at all once we reach Joe Wheeler's tomorrow!). We were running a bit late in the evening when we were done, so stopped at a BK for dinner to go (I can't remember the last time I actually ate Burger King food. . . .). Got back to the boat starving, so we scoffed down the food (gee - yummy. . . .) and then unloaded and stowed all our stuff. OK . . . nighty-night!

October 18, 2012
Didn't pull out till 8:25, but what the hell?! (gotta indulge now and then!) Got thru Guntersville Lock with a minimal (10 minute) wait and took off towards Joe Wheeler's. Got in the general vicinity by 4, but didn't really want to go there since our (paid) reservation doesn't start 'till tomorrow. So we tried to anchor in a creek across the river, but it didn't work out well (anchor kept dragging, couldn't find a good holding spot). So about 5:15 or so, we headed over to Joe Wheeler's, figuring we'd spend the night for free on their courtesy dock, then move over to our paid slip tomorrow. Pulled in, and were recognized by Bucket List (our paid slip neighbors) on our way into the courtesy dock. Were told - "NO! come over to your slip!" So we did, being met by a bunch of Loopers to help us tie up. Gotta say - Loopers are the greatest bunch of folks you ever want to meet!!! So here we are, at home, for the next week!!!

October 19, 2012
Get up, have breakfast, go over and fuel the boat and pump-out the holding tank, walk the dog, have breakfast, then. . . . clean every inch of the boat!!! We are going to participate in the "Looper's Crawl", where (during the Rendezvous week) boats open up for all Loopers to come thru and see the various vessels. We'll put out snacks and invite everyone to come aboard to see our boat. It invariably turns into mega-party on the docks for all Loopers to enjoy! But you can't do that with a dirty/sloppy boat!!! So we did our best to clean up! Me and some other folks (Cindy from Bucket List, and Dom & Lois from Sunshine) were fortunate enough to grab a ride with our dockmaster (I feel bad I cant remember her name - "Donita" or something along those lines) into Florence in the early evening to go to Walgreens and Walmart (mostly for prescription refills - but for other stuff too). More Southern Hospitality at it's best! Florence is 17 miles away from Joe Wheeler's! Got our necessaries done, and got back to the boats by 7:30-ish, jamming dinner down and heading off to slumber land. . . .

October 20, 2012
Up an at 'em by 7:30, breakfast and dog walking done. Cleaning and stuff in the early a.m., then off to town via a lodge-provided shuttle to town for the Fall Festival, complete with a chili cook-off (I once more voted for the winner!), live country music (girl with an AMAZING voice!), car show (tons of vehicles!) and more. Hit a couple of stores for some dumb stuff, then caught the shuttle back over to Joe Wheeler's. Party on the dock for the rest of the afternoon as many more Loopers arrived by boat. According to the dockmaster - all 55 slips are reserved, and there are 10 boats on the waiting list. Later in the afternoon, I saw 4 boats on the courtesy dock (no power or water), so I'm thinking if they are part of the 10 on the waiting list, 6 must be stuck anchoring out for the week. Great fun on the docks for the afternoon, though. Then went to the Seafood Buffet for dinner with the Capt and Crew from the Bucket List - OK dinner, but nothing to write home about. At least we had great company! Came back to the boat to finish up my log - ran into internet connectivity issues (praying as I type this that when I try to post it, it will take. Think I'll copy it into a word document for "just in case". ) I will try to publish my text now, but I have several videos and a lot of pictures to add in - so if I can't do that tonight, I will get back to it whenever the internet God allows me! Wish me luck! More next week!

(Sunday morning update: Internet here is beyond terrible! I have a bunch of pictures to upload, as well as 4 videos. This week's log won't be complete 'till all 4 videos get in - depending upon the internet, that may need to wait 'till we leave Joe Wheeler's on Thursday or Friday. . . . . Sorry for the technical difficulties, but I expected this to happen sooner or later!!)

Last update: 10/20 . . . I guess we've reached civilization again (as temporary as that may be!) Got internet back on, am hoping my last update here will finish off this week's log. Now I got to get caught up on the next week's log!!!

October 21- 25, 2012
We spent this week at Joe Wheeler State Park in northwest Alabama attending the American Great Loop Cruiser's Association (AGLCA) Fall Rendezvous. There were several hundred fellow AGLCA members in attendance, and we all had a great time! The food served was the worst I've ever seen for conferences this size, the first night (Sunday) we were offered 3 unidentifiable casseroles, of which I took a spoonful each. One was supposedly some sort of squash dish - one mouthful there was more than enough. The 2nd I was told was chicken and dressing - again, one mouthful was WAY more than enough. The 3rd was sweet potatoes. That was my dinner. They had also offered some green beans of questionable origin (they never made it on my plate!). There was some thinly sliced ham looking dried out and way past it's life expectancy - again, I left it where it was. One day, they offered taco salads for lunch - which really weren't so bad. What was on the side? A baked potato. Hmmmmm. Burgers and Dogs for another lunch wasn't too bad either, but breakfast the next morning included the leftover hot dogs. Wow. Whoever put together the menu for the week should probably get fired. And whoever made those casseroles ought to be made to walk the plank!!! My "boat food" outshines everything offered here this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, it had been arranged so that Beatriz (I think that's the correct spelling?!), the 4 year old aboard the Jade could go trick-or-treating to the boats on the dock. How adorable the little witch was!! Gave all of us a treat to see her dressed up, and so excited with the "loot" she was receiving! Lots of fun. Following that, Matt and I participated in the dinghy races, along with about 8 or 10 other boats. Slightly handicapped though - each dinghy had one captain and one navigator. The captain was blindfolded. And the dinghies could only be operated in reverse. Made for a very fun competition! Each dinghy went separately and were timed to go about 50 yeards or so out from the dock, round a mark, and make it back to the dock. We didn't do so bad (though I was laughing a little too hard for a bit there . . . .). One boat made several 360 degree turns - not intentionally though. Very funny!!! Awards were presented during dinner that night - we actually one second place, earning us a foldable wheeled bag - which I used the very next day to haul my laundry over to the laundry room!

The Rendezvous wrapped up Wednesday night, and we decided to stay on Thursday too, to avoid the mass exodus of boats leaving Thursday morning. That was apparently what a bunch of folks did, and out broke another Looper Dock Party Thursday evening. Lots of great boat food - sure beat everything we've been eating lately! Lots of fun once again

October 26-27, 2012
pulled out at 7:30 this morning, and traveled back thru the Wheeler and Wilson Locks (a total of 141 feet down) and about 53 miles later arrived at Grand Harbor Marina, located in Counce, Tennessee, at about 4 p.m.. We're traveling along with Bucket List, which makes for enjoyable company for a while. We'll travel together down to Mobile, AL, where we will both have some repairs attended to.

Here at Grand Harbor, we got together with not only Bucket List, but Jade, Betty L and xxx as well. We used the courtesy van to drive to Shiloh National Military Park. Tons of history here - we watched an informative movie about Shiloh, and then took our van on a self-guided drive thru the park. We also toured the National Cemetery here. It was a cold day, but the trip was well worth it. We all then went to the "Catfish Hotel" for a very enjoyable lunch of . . . . catfish!

October 28, 2012
We left a little late this morning - we waited 'till the office opened and we could buy a new start battery (the old one was shot, and we didn't want any serious trouble because of it). Pulled out by 9:45, but we're only going about 32 miles today so leaving late wasn't an issue. Dropped our hooks in the "Five Fingers" anchorage for the night. We're having some cold weather lately, can't wait to get back to the warm stuff!

October 29, 2012
Pulled up our anchors and got under way shortly after 8 this morning. Locked down 3 times today, 84' at the Whitten Lock, 33' at the Montgomery Lock and 31' and the Ranking Lock. We only logged in 18 miles today, but it took us 4 1/2 hours to do it. Pulled into Midway Marina about 12:30.

October 30, 2012
Got word from home this morning about Hurricane Sandy - and it wasn't a good one. Water levels rose several feet in our garage, most likely having totaled my BMW and possible Matt's Tahoe too. Days to come will reveal more information, but it's really put a damper on things. But we're here, my sons will need to cope with the home front for us as best as they can. If necessary, we'll look into a marina to stay at for a while so that Matt can fly home. We'll see.

In the meanwhile, the trip continues. . . . Under way at 8 a.m. - going thru 3 more locks today (all the locks from here 'till Mobile will dropping us down). Fulton Lock (26 feet), Wilkins Lock (25 feet) and Amory Lock (25 feet). A slow boat called the Odyssy had locked thru with us at Fulton, but couldn't keep up with us and Bucket List, so we left them behind us at Wilkins - or so we thought. The Amory Lockmaster made us sit tied up in the lock and wait an entire hour 'till Odyssy caught up to us. If it weren't for that, we were going to do one more lock before calling it a day, but scrapped those plans after losing an hour and pulled into the Aberdeen Marina at 3, covering 31 miles today.

October 31 - November 1, 2012
Happy Halloween! I've had my fill of tricks (damned Sandy), I'd really like some treats now!!!Pulled out of Aberdeen Marina at 8 in the morning, and locked down 28 feet in the Aberdeen Lock. Another short day planned for today, 21 miles down to the Columbus Marina. Tied up there about noon time, plenty of daytime left to tend to a sick generator (it won't stay on for some reason), and the steering is once more being a pain. At Columbus, Matt got the generator opened up, thinking it might just be low on oil. Well it did need some, but the big problem was that sucked in some loose insulation into the belt. Got it all cleaned out and taken care of - it now seems to be happy again (thank heavens!). On to the steering - general consensus was to check the rudders to see if maybe something got stuck in there (like a branch or garbage or whatever). The water was mighty cold though - Matt donned a pair of swim trunks and went in about chest deep 'till he could reach the rudders with his feet - he could tell there was nothing binding them from the outside, so now we're back to checking inside and adding steering fluid and bleeding the system (again). Got all that done - we'll see what happens this time. And Oct 31 - my new wonderful friends Pat and Cindy came over and announced they were washing my boat! (Cindy is somewhat of an anal-cleaning-freak) They said they couldn't get to my house to help with the clean-up after the hurricane, so the least they could do was clean my boat. I love you both!!!!!

November 2, 2012
Left Columbus, Mississippi, a little after 8 a.m. Locked down the Stennis (Columbus) lock, a 30 foot drop. Traveled 25 miles today and tied up at the Tom Bevill Visitor Center. This is a free day dock for stopping at the Center, but no overnight docking. We arrived about 12:30, giving us time to do lunch on board, then explore the Visitor Center and the Snagboat, the Montgomery, on display there. I grabbed a brochure on the snagboat and will scan it and add it to my pictures, so I won't go into its history here. We did that, and I found a nearby field to play ball in with Sailor, so it was a really good afternoon. Planned to do dinner on board while still tied up at the day dock. The Visitor Center closed at 5, so we waited to see if they'd throw us off the dock or not - which they did not. So after dinner, we figured it was too dark to try to go and anchor, so we just stayed over night. So much for the no-overnight-docking rule. . . .

November 3, 2012
Left the Visitor Center at 8:15 and locked down 27 feet in the Tom Bevill Lock with several other boats that had just left a nearby marina. Cruised 31 miles today, anchoring at the Sumpter Recreation Area 4 hours later. Short, comfortable day today, covering 31 miles.

Been getting phone and text updates all week from both our sons and the insurance companies. Both vehicles are definitely totaled, and the insulation under the house all has to get torn out. Not sure yet if the first floor flooring will have to be replaced or not. Will need some sheet rocking and insulation work in the garage too. The boys are trying their best to salvage what garage and shed content they can - our insurance company says it's not covered. Trying to figure out why the hell we have flood insurance if it's not going to cover everything that was damaged in a flood. . . Still not very happy with where all this seems to be going, but at least it's just "stuff", and no one was hurt. Power was off a good part of the week, but seems to be back now (hopefully for good). It's so hard to deal with all that from afar - so tempting to go home, but don't know that we could do anything that's not already being done.

November 4-6, 2012

Pulled out of the Sumpter Recreation Area at 7 this morning - only able to do so this early because clocks changed back an hour last night! Kind of cold (61) and rainy this morning - but the rain eventually stopped leaving us in an overcast day. We locked 32 feet down at the Heflin Lock, clearing the lock just before 8:00. We passed the beautiful White Cliffs at Epes, Alabama around 10:00.

11-4 Cliffs at Epes

An hour and a half or so later, we passed more white cliffs, called "Old Bluffport". Such beautiful scenery - especially this time of year, with all the leaves changing colors. Arrived at Demopolis Yacht Basin 46 miles later, at about 1:45 in the afternoon. On Monday, we got together with Bucket List and Betty L for another great dinner - this time held in the Marina's Laundry Room! (It was inside and warm, and very conveniently located!) We really do some good food!!! Tuesday turned out to be a "Smoking Day" - and I mean SMOKING!!!! We went food shopping and gathered good stuff to put in the smoker . . . . pork, beef, kielbasi and chicken. Gathered our Looper friends once more from Bucket List and Betty L, and had a whopper of a day and evening! It don't get better than this!!!!!

November 7, 2012

Pulled out of Demopolis at about 9:20 - Matt and I had made a last try run up to the post office - we're waiting for the alternator pulley to arrive. No such luck, so I left a forwarding request with the Post Master and hope that the pulley will eventually catch up to us. We arrived at the Demopolis Lock about 20 minutes later, but then had to wait almost an hour while they locked a tow thru the other way. Finally locked down 40 feet and cleared the lock by 10:45. Check out how we entertain ourselves in the lock:

11-7 Yoga Queen

We anchored at the Meridan and Bigbee Railroad Lift Bridge about quarter past three, along with Bucket List. Rafted up with them and they came over after dinner for a movie - bringing the "Little Beers" with them. Another fun nite!!

November 8, 2012

Left our anchorage early, just after 7, and proceeded south for about 47 miles. Dealt with a bit of fog this morning, made for some interesting photo ops! Pulled into Bobby's Fish Camp for the night, again along with Bucket List, and we all had dinner at Bobby's restaurant. We're in catfish country here - what a yummy meal!!!

November 9, 2012

Left Bobby's at almost 9, because we were fogged in pretty bad earlier. Headed south, and went thru our last southbound lock, the Coffeeville Lock. This lock dropped us 34 feet, and we cleared at just shy of 9:30. An hour or so later, and we had our 1st alligator sighting! It was swimming across the river just ahead of us - I went forward to try for a picture, but just as we were almost close enough, the dang thing dove and we never saw it again. Rats! About 50 miles of travel today brought us the the Three Rivers Lake, where we once more rafted up with Bucket List.

November 10, 2012

Pulled out of 3 Rivers Lake at 8 this morning, once more having waited for the fog to lift. Cruised 43 miles south today - an easy day with no locks!! Today's anchorage is at the Big Bayou Canot, where we rafted up once more. We kept getting rocked during the afternoon by small fishing boats. Turns out there was a fishing contest underway, and they had to proceed 3 miles up the Big Bayou Canot river to reach the weigh-in location. Most of them in a big hurry - some of them were a bit more polite and slowed way down as they passed us. And, once again, Cindy provided us with our daily entertainment:

11-10 YMCA

Later in the evening, another boat attempted to come in, but the entrance is skinny and it was dark. Matt heard the Captain on the radio and talked him in, and we invited him to join the raft-up figuring it was the easiest and safest thing to do. Worked out just fine.

November 11-17, 2012

With the posting of this week's Log, I'm hoping that my internet and website problems are now a thing of the past. I'm thinking that we'll now be in less "backwoods" types of environments and can keep up with things once more! I've noticed that my guest log content has disappeared - that's a disappointment, but everything else seems ok thankfully. I've got some videos to add into last week's log - I'm hoping to get that caught up today.

That said . . . . we left Big Bayou Canot at 7:45 Sunday morning and traveled about 27 miles south, which brought us thru the Mobile Channel into Mobile Bay. We stopped at Turner Marine at Big Dog River with Bucket List about 11:45. We're both planning to get hauled out here, mainly for prop issues (Bucket List needs theirs straightened, and we think we need to replace ours - we're both having vibration issues. . . ). Today, the 11th, is Sunday, and the boatyard is closed. We got tied up, and later took our dinghies across the river to a little restaurant for dinner. Turns out it is their last night open for the season - made it just in time! Had a delightful dinner, had a live band (a little too loud, but fun anyway!), and witnessed a good ol' redneck wedding going on on their back deck. The bride had on a short white dress, with blue jeans underneath and cowboy boats. The groom was in a tux from the waist up, with jeans and boats below. They both did a pretty good job of smashing cake in each other's faces - the bride ended up with an eyeful! Just as we were finishing up and getting ready to leave, we saw a shrimp boat come in. We had seen it out in the bay working when we were on our way in today. We stopped by their boat by dinghy on our way out and inquired about shrimp for sale. They said "sure", but weren't interested in opening their hold for just the couple of pounds we wanted. We explained we were on boats so couldn't take too much, and asked if 5 or 6 pounds would be acceptable. They said sure and bagged us up some. He couldn't quite make change for my $20 bill, so he took the bag and added in some more shrimp. We left with about 7 lbs of fresh shrimp for $15! Had an awesome boat dinner the next night, and we split the leftovers between our two boats. Ahhh . . . stuck with more boat food. Tough job, but somebody's got to do it!!!
So Monday rolls around, and we get hauled.

11-12 Getting Hauled

We had dug out our spare props anticipating a quick swap. They get the boat up and we happily discovered no dings or bends - just a nasty rope wrapped tightly around the starboard prop. Easiest and cheapest fix yet - chopped that sucker off and they plopped us back in the water! Of course, now we're dealing with steering problems and electrical issues. Think we got the steering issue resolved with some adjustments to the rudder and bleeding the steering out really well. Electrical is another story - we sat at the Marina with no one coming to work on our boat either Wednesday or Thursday. Wednesday night we had a pot luck dinner at the Marina, Looper style. Thursday night we went to the Mobile Yacht Club, just up the street from the marina, for dinner. Pat from Bucket List came with us, and Phil and Carolyn from Loopy Kiwi (just pulled in today with Jade) joined us. The marina guys finally come on Friday, and Matt worked with them a couple of hours in the afternoon just so they could understand how everything was wired (unfortunately, every boat is different!). They finally got it all figured out, and decided what needed to be done to correct some improperly wired things involving the inverter. This will involve emptying out everything that is stored under the couch in the salon, and removing the flooring underneath to get into the wiring. Yuch. But of course, it's now 2:30 or so on Friday afternoon - they quit work at 4, and they don't work over the weekend. Crap - now we're stuck 'till Monday. Oh well, got the courtesy car for Saturday - between us, Bucket List and Boot Scootin (the only 3 Loopers stuck here for repairs), we had the car at our disposal all day. Matt & I dropped Larry (Bucket List) at the car rental place to pick up a car - they're leaving Sunday for New Orleans by car for a couple of days. Then we had lunch at a local Mexican place, and went to provision at Walmart. Later, Matt and I stopped over at the Yacht Club for drinks before dinner aboard. Friendly folks at the Club made for some fun bar-chatting. Back to the boat for a steak dinner and a movie.

November 18, 2012

Soooooo. . . . here we sit at Turner Marine at Big Dog River, at the top of Mobile Bay, kind of imprisoned at the Marina today. Can't go anywhere other than that which is in walking distance, because the courtesy car is covered under the Marina's business insurance which does not include Sundays. Hmmmpph! Oh well - will make the best of it! Said ta-ta to our new good friends Larry, Cindy and Pat from Bucket List - they are taking their rental car to New Orleans and won't be back here until Tuesday. If our boat repairs are finalized tomorrow (please, God!), we will be pulling out of here, FINALLY, on Tuesday morning before their return. We've been traveling with them for weeks now and have formed a tight friendship - we're really gonna miss them. Hope we catch up with them again somewhere along our journeys. So - walking distance, huh? The Yacht Club is in walking distance. They've got a brunch going on from 11:30 'till 2 today. OK - gathered up newer friends, Dave and Diane from Boot Scootin, and found our way over there to stuff ourselves on some great chow (that we didn't have to cook!). Very enjoyable. Then back to the boats where we all did a bunch of cleaning, deck washing, window cleaning, etc., in hopes of pulling out soon with decent looking vessels. After I cleaned the windshield really good, Dave came over and sprayed it with a special treatment he's got that's supposed to work even better than RainX to keep the glass clean and clear, even in salt water. We'll try anything! We also got the couch in the salon cleared out, and can disassemble the whole thing in 5 minutes tomorrow morning so the guys can (hopefully) finish up with the electric stuff. Now time for relaxing, doing a light dinner on board, a movie and calling it a night.

November 19, 2012

Monday, still sitting here at Turner! Opened up everything this morning, and the boat yard guys got on board by 7:15 a.m. They worked/discussed things all day long. . . . come mid afternoon, it was obvious we weren't gonna get finished up today. Sent our friends from Bucket List a note that we'd be seeing them on Tuesday after all. Getting to be a bummer doing all this - thought we'd be far along in our travels by now, didn't anticipate getting stuck here so long. Oh well - gotta make the best of it.

November 20, 2012

OK - back come the boat yard guys once more. Very nice folks, but I'd really like to say "good by!" soon. . . . They work thru everything once more, thankfully with Matt in the middle of things when thoughts started going off-track. They finally called the owner back on-board, and his electrical experience along with Matt's knowledge of our boat got everything on track and things finally got to working in the afternoon. Whew! So glad that's behind us! I polished the eisenglass while they were working below, so that's good. Boat's looking ok on the outside - now we've got to recover the inside! Geez, it never ends. Maybe I'll get it clean in time for Christmas. . . . . The Bucket List crew arrived back at the marina as we were finishing up, and we made arrangements to go out to dinner together, since they still had their rental car. Headed out about 5:30 for a 20 minute drive to the restaurant. Or it was supposed to be 20 minutes. Actually ended up being just over half an hour instead, due to the flat tire on the highway. Always an adventure!!!! So we did reach the restaurant without too much ado, a place called Wintzell's Oyster House. And I gotta say - it was worth the week of hell we've been thru AND the flat tire!!! Every bite of food was out of this world. Our waitress, Miss Pinky, made some awesome recommendations - and we followed her advice. She was the most enthusiastic waitress that I think I've ever had!! The oysters were FABULOUS! We all enjoyed every aspect of our dining experience tonight - haven't had a meal to top this one in a long time! Terrific "last supper" to enjoy with Bucket List, as we'll be parting ways (for now) tomorrow. Talk about a "Happy Ending". . . . .

November 21, 2012

Wednesday morning has arrived. The Marina here is hosting a Thanksgiving lunch - they're supplying the turkeys and all the boaters have signed up to bring sides. There's gonna be probably 60 or 70 people here to celebrate. But we decided we've been stuck here long enough - our boat's fixed and we really want to get under way again. So - off we go. We got out of there, stopped next door at the Dog River Marina to pump out our holding tank, and finally headed out by 8 a.m. Destination: New Orleans! Beautiful day, calm seas, and we finally cruised into the Gulf. Starting to see dolphins now - this is where we want to be!! A great cruise west towards New Orleans . . . anchored at Cat Island about 5 for the night (cruised about 80 miles today). Pretty anchorage, not wonderfully protected, but we anticipated calm winds and not much of a tide, so we were comfortable there. Quickly took Sailor ashore to the beach to take care of his business, as dark was approaching rapidly. Dumb-ass dog decided to play with the wildlife for a bit (he found a water rat of sorts, Matt's thinking a Nuvia?, to chase. Stupid dog don't listen worth a dam, but he finally came back unharmed . . .. ). Got back to the boat, got a couple of really pretty sunset pictures, and tended to dinner. We'll be at New Orleans tomorrow - no clue what will be going on there, so I did up a slightly festive boat dinner tonight. We had roast pork with a cranberry/apply glaze, baked sweet potato and green beans with toasted pine nuts. Boat food ain't so bad!! A movie and early to bed is good so we can move west in the morning.

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! Took Sailor for another walk ashore (this time with a leash!) and hoisted the anchor by 7:30. Another beautiful day, 75 degrees coming this afternoon. Another calm day on the water, and we headed west into Lake Ponchartrain. Upon the recommendation of friends aboard both Jade and Loopy Kiwi, we went to the Ponchartrain Landing Marina, on the south shore of the lake. It's about 4.5 miles from the French Quarter, and they have a shuttle to take you there. Things are pretty well closed down today, though I'm sure there will be some open bars. But we decided to just hang for a quiet night tonight, probably have some leftovers, and maybe hit the bar here at the marina (it opens at 6) to hang out and watch whatever game is in process with other folks here. We'll catch the shuttle into town tomorrow - I think probably twice, once during daytime for the shops and to find our way around, and then again to go in to experience the nightlife. Will decide after that what's going on - we are trying to be sure to make it down to the keys for Christmas as we have friends to see there and hopefully visitors coming. Unfortunately our buddy Peet couldn't work out travel arrangements to come here to New Orleans this week, 'cause the holiday had taken up all the reasonable seats. Definite bummer - hoping we'll make other arrangements for him to come and meet up with us soon. And we've pretty much figured out that getting stuck for 10 days in Mobile has cancelled our plans to try to go over to Texas - we'd never make the Keys by Christmas if we did that. Major bummer - but at least our electrical problems are under control.

November 23-24, 2012

We spent 2 days exploring New Orleans - all I can say is "Wow!" We had been discussing it with our buddies on Bucket List, and the description of Bourbon Street came out something like "Bar, Bar, Porn, Bar, Bar, Porn". That about sums it up! Throw in a bunch of neat shops, and that's about it! But lots of history, too. We took a mule-pulled buggy ride thru the French Quarter and received a 30 minute long very interesting history lesson. Got some shopping done, and of course some eating (the very best oysters down here!!!). Folks that know me really well will be astounded to know that I actually went Christmas shopping on Black Friday!! (Never done before in my entire life!!!) Seeing the sights along Bourbon Street was amazing. I took my pictures carefully though, as everyone you took a picture of expected to be paid for it. But what the heck? It was an amazing city! We thoroughly exhausted ourselves over these 2 days - walked many miles in our tour through town. It's definitely gonna be an early night Saturday - it's only 6:20 as I'm writing this, and I'm already thinking of my pillow! We'll be shoving off early in the morning (thankfully! maybe we'll get some rest!!).

November 25, 2012

What a great time in New Orleans! But, it's time to push along. We left Ponchartrain Landing at 7:30 this morning, heading east. Rather than anchoring again at Cat Island, we decided to continue further east to eat up some miles. Heard from our friends on Bucket List - they are at Pensacola Naval Air Station, and will be 'till Wednesday, so looks like we will meet back up with them on Tuesday. Dropped our hook at Horn Island just after 4 in the afternoon. While under way thru the Gulf, we passed many oil rigs, some operational and some abandoned. Got some pics of those, tho not too close up. Also passed an area that had obviously been affected by past hurricanes - a couple of tows with their barges that were washed up on the shore. Who knows what their eventual fate will be. . . Had chow on board, obviously, since there was nothing around us but an uninhabited island and the dolphiins. . . We accomplished 74 miles today, with quite comfortable seas. Time for a movie and early to bed.

November 26, 2012

Brought Sailor in for his morning romp on the beach, then upped the anchor and left Horn Island about 7:45. What started out as an uneventful morning got a little exciting about 11 a.m. One engine started sounding unhappy - very unhappy. Matt throttled back to try to determine what was going on - junk on a prop? engine failure? No idea. As he brought both engines back to idle, the starboard engine coughed, sputtered and died. What the heck??? Thinking out loud - did we run out of fuel? No, had at least 150 gallons when I did the morning checklist. Uh-oh - wait a minute. . . Before we fueled up last time, we had switched the starboard motor over to the auxiliary tank to burn off some of the fuel - did we switch it back over to the main tank when we topped off our fuel? Crap. Shut down the port motor and just float while he crawls down into the engine room to check. Lo and behold - still on the aux tank! Well, now we've fully emptied that tank (one way to make sure ya got totally fresh fuel in it, I guess). OK - switched it back over to the main tank, and primed the heck out of it. Took several start tries, but it finally cooperated and started back up. Whew - crisis solved!!! Always an adventure here!! Back under way in no time at all, approaching Mobile Bay. Continuing on our way, had some fun with visiting dolphins. At one point had 4 or 5 of them playing in the wake of our boat - on each side!! Matt even was able to get a photo of one - a very difficult thing to do, as you usually end up with a picture of just the water! I always take video so that I know I get them!

11-26 Starboard Dolphins

Passed under the Dauphin Island Bridge at 11:35 and entered the Inland Water Way, heading for LuLu's. LuLu's is owned by Lucy Buffett, Jimmy Buffett's sister. Pulled in there and checked into the associated marina, Homeport Marina at 3 p.m., leaving another 56 miles behind us Fueled up here (topped off the main, and filled the aux!), and tied up for the evening. Went into LuLu's for a delightful dinner (though the server could use some training), then hung out for a while at the bar to enjoy the live music. A guy named Brent Burns was playing guitar and singing, and we really enjoyed it. Enjoyed it so much that we actually splurged and bought a couple of his CDs! The two songs that really made us do that were entitled "Happy Wife, Happy Life", and "Please Don't Let That Kid Move Back Home". Hilarious!!!!! Great night - back to the boat for some sleep.

November 27, 2012

Awoke to a rainy breezy day. Yuk. Oh well - closed in on the boat, the icky outside doesn't really bother us much under way. So off we go, about 7:45 a.m. Had some good down pours, and some really gusty winds (25+ knots), mixed in with a little misty fog. Hot Chocolate with Baileys made it a little better by mid morning! We officially entered Florida this morning. Thankfully it was a relatively short day for us, only steaming about 27 miles. We reached the Bayou Grande Marina at Pensacola Naval Air Station just before noon - in contact with Bucket List all morning. They greeted us at the dock and helped us tie up, and then brought over fresh baked brownies as a welcome! Well THAT made it worth traveling thru this crappy weather!!! Matt & Larry worked on some electrical stuff on our boat - bound and determined to straighten out some of the interaction between our radios, autopilot and GPS/Chart Plotter. Some frustrating wiring issues (once more!), but I have faith in them - they'll sort it out sooner or later!! (Hopefully before this trip is done!) I caught up with laundry (free here! a good thing!) and a wee bit (very wee) of boat cleaning. We all got together on their boat after dinner for (oh no, not again!) some Little Beers, our nightcaps before bed. Made some plans for tomorrow, then hit the hay.

November 28, 2012

We all chose to stay here at Pensacola today, and go see the Naval Air Museum. Boy - what a good call that was!! Free museum (remember? "free" is good!). Got a bunch of pictures - check 'em out! We did 2 tours, one on foot inside the museum, and one by trolley outside. Amazing history here, and awesome planes to look at. A great place to see - definitely worth the trip!! Back on the boat for dinner. . . . and what a dinner it was!! I made a sweet potato soup with crab that was (sorry, gotta say!) spectacular!!! Gonna have to do this one again! Throw in a little sherry, serve with hot bread and herbed butter. . . AWESOME!!!!

November 29, 2012

OK - enough fun! Headed out of Pensacola by 8 this morning and proceeded east. Our plan was to go to "Rick's Crab Trap Restaurant" for lunch, in Fort Walton. There was a Free (yeah!) dock nearby. Arrived there about 1 or so, and found the dock collapsed (closed), and the restaurant for sale (closed). So much for that plan!! Continued a short ways past that and found a little Cafe by the Fort Walton Beach Bridge called "Bay Cafe". Free docking to dine - so what the heck? Got in there ( a little challenging - shallow water, and winds and tide to fight) but both us and Bucket List tied up and went in for a delightful lunch. Got to chat with a french chef at the end of lunch - another fun time! Spent an hour and a half or so there, then pulled out and continued on a little way into Destin, FL, where we both anchored for the night. We dinghied into the Boat House Restaurant right by us for dinner - which consisted of just oysters because we were all still full from lunch! Terrific!!! We put 43 miles behind us today - still moving along!! Back to the boat - tomorrow's another day!!!

November 30, 2012

Getting ready to leave Destin this morning just before 8. There was a rather run-down sailboat anchored nearby where we saw no signs of life yesterday. This morning we see a guy on board, kind of checking us out. Hmmmm. What's that about. We had taken Sailor ashore earlier, then hoisted our dinghy. We're now pulling up the anchor - got that cleared, then noticed the guy "thumbing" ("hitch-hiking") - OK. . . . went over to him to discover he'd like a ride into shore. Came along side and brought him aboard - turns out his "buddy" dropped him off the night before, and he said "don't just leave me here", but that's precisely what happened! He had no way to get into shore (other than swimming!) to go to work! So we gave him a lift into a fuel dock - he was quite grateful! Good Samaritan Deed of the day! Got out of there, and tried to go outside into the Gulf rather than the Intrracoastal Waterway, but it turned out to be quite nasty out there. Turned around and continued thru the ICW. More interesting sites underway, encountered an Airboat Tour,

11-30 Airboat

then some more of the ever present dolphins.

11-30 Dolphins

Not a bad ride today, 7.5 hours and 60 miles later found us anchored at Shell Island. Beautiful little uninhabited island where we brought the dog in and walked across to the Gulf side. Wonderful white sand beach with lots of shells - and it was so good to hear the surf. . . waves breaking on the beach made it sound like home! Back to the boats at anchor, and had dinner. After dinner Bucket List came over to enjoy some apple pie with us for dessert - baked under way today! So fun to be with these guys - seems a party always breaks out!!!

December 1, 2012

OMG! It's December!! Where has the calendar disappeared to??? Took Sailor ashore and walked across to check out the surf. Looked quite calm - we think we'll try going outside again today. Yanked up the anchor and aimed out at 7:40 a.m. Turned out to be a wonderful choice - a little choppy till we got away from the shore, but then it turned into "rollers", 1 to 3 feet in height. All in all, a very comfy ride. Unfortunately, Bucket List was a little bit leery of it because of our bad start yesterday, and they chose to stay inside today. They shoulda come with us - it would have been the perfect into to boating in the open waters. Oh well - they'll get that experience soon enough! Had a glorious run 38 miles east to Port Saint Joe. Made it to our anchorage just before noon. Cruised an extra mile to run into the marina that Bucket List is staying at for a few days (Port St. Joe Marina) to grab a bag of ice and give Sailor a quick walk. Headed back out to our anchorage and dropped the hook. Hung out, reading and enjoying the sun (finally a warm day!!). Saw Bucket List coming in 2.5 hours later, heading over to their marina. We had dinghied into shore earlier to provision at a little place called the "Dixie Dandy". Interesting. But they had most of what I was looking for, so not all bad. Later in the afternoon, after Bucket List was docked, we dinghied over to them in the marina for a visit (about a mile from our anchorage). Visited for about an hour or so, and walked Sailor for his evening business, and headed back home. Spoke with "the girls" today - Ktie and Jessie from the S/V (sailing vessel) Louise - they're getting ready to do the crossing soon, and were looking for either a "buddy boat" (someone to accompany them) or at least someone in the area to provide input to the voyage. Basically, the panhandle of Florida is not the greatest area for boaters - too shallow by the shore to stay inland, you must go "outside" for quite a distance to stay safe. For us, it will be a long day, but we can power up and accomplish it mostly in daylight. For a sailboat, they'll need to probably leave this end about 3 a.m., and will probably not make it across until after dark. They're young kids (early 20's) - we'll be there for them as much as we can, and provide the best guidance for their crossing. OK - hitting the hay - tomorrow's another big day!!

Dec 5, 2012

And moving right along. . . . we leave Port Saint Joe shortly after 8 this morning and head up the 5 mile long canal to reach the Intracoastal Water Way. First stop brings us to Miller Marine at Apalachicola about 11:30. OK - there's nobody home! A guy who lives on the property came walking by and let me know that "they always take Sunday morning off" here, and don't open 'till 1:30. Not too big of a deal, got a little boat maintenance done while we were waiting. Matt hopped down into the engine room to check things out, I walked Sailor and then filled up the water tanks. We still had more than an hour to kill, so we walked next door to the restaurant and had some oysters (not so bad a time killer, I must say!). The girls sailing Louise got there just before we were finishing eating - Matt ran over and helped them tie up then they stopped by our table for a few minutes to chat. They had tried to go in and tie up at the City Docks for the day, but found the water too shallow, so they'll stay here (or as it turned out, at the Municipal Marina next door) for tonight. Miller Marine finally opened up, and we filled up our fel tank and continued on. We reached the easternmost end of Dog Island, just off of Carrabelle, Florida, and anchored by Tyson's Harbor for the night about quarter past five. That's another 52 miles behind for today. . . Dinghied Sailor into shore, then dinner and a quick movie on board before an early bed time - we're planning an early start tomorrow to do our crossing.

December 3, 2012

Got the dog into the island, coffee made and underway by 0430 - no daylight coming for about 2.5 hours. I hope the crab pot Gods are smiling upon us this morning! The so called "arm pit" of Florida (between Carrabelle, FL, which is on the northern shore of the pan handle, and Cedar Creek, on Florida's west coast) is extremely shallow and virtually non-navigable, so you must select an off-shore crossing to do. There are various ports you can select to enter, and kind of hop your way down the west coast until you reach friendlier waters. A lot of folks will do overnight crossings of 20 to 24 hours to just avoid everything, but we prefer to avoid the overnighters if we can. So - outta there early, we were planning to go into Cedar Key, ETA around 1600. Once my phone service became available, I phoned the facility at Cedar Key, only to find that they can't handle boats our size. So much for "Plan A"! On to "Plan B" (always have one!!) - we continued further south, and pulled into Crystal River. Got all the way in (unfortunately met up with a rogue crab pot that wrapped itself around our prop and gave the boat a new shudder) and finally anchored across from "Pete's Pier" in the dark at 6:20 p.m. - longest day so far, our crossing covered 125 miles. Found a dinghy dock by Pete's to bring Sailor into (he's got such a great bladder - still not in a hurry, even after 14 hours straight on the boat!). Then got back "home" and had some chow. Watched a movie and hit the sack - long days like this can really tire you out!

Dec 4, 2012

Decided to stay here in the Crystal River today. Turns out that this is the only location in the United States where it is legal to swim with the manatees. So we slept in, then got up for breakfast and to bring Sailor in for a walk. Found that there's a couple neat little restaurants, one having a fish market, right there on shore. We planned to come back in for lunch and to shop at the fish market for dinner a little later. Returned to the boat and took care of some chores on board, then brought the "big" boat into Pete's Pier to get a little fuel (just 50 gallons, as it's kind of expensive here) and to pump out our now full holding tank. Went back out and reanchored the boat a little closer in towards Pete's (since it's now daylight and we can actually see what we're doing!!) About noon-ish, we got ready to go back into shore. As we're getting ready to climb into the dinghy, Matt notices a manatee about 6 feet off our stern! Wow - you don't have to go looking for them, they come looking for you!!! Matt ends up in the water to "visit", and while some of them will come up to people to get a little "skritching", this one was a little shy. He kept coming up to Matt in a blind spot - getting within a couple of feet before Matt would turn to face him, then he'd dive. Very cool to watch - got a couple of photos of him! Finally departed for shore and had some lunch, then picked up some rock crab claws and devilled crabs for dinner. Back to the boat, then off in search of manatees. Went by dinghy to one of the sanctuary areas that you are allowed to swim in. I went in the water this time with my underwater camera, but was bummed out when I found none around. Went back to the boat - maybe we can catch some in the morning when they're supposed to be more active. So, on-board once more. Yummy dinner and a movie, then off to bed.

Dec 5, 2012

Got up, had coffee, then brought Sailor in. They had a derelict old sail boat at the boat ramp by where we tied up our dinghy. They had just dragged it up the concrete ramp, and had some heavy equipment there to break the thing up and throw it into a dump truck to haul away. Only problem was that nobody bothered checking the fuel tank, and yep! - they hit it with the machinery! Diesel all over the parking lot and dripping out of the back of the dump truck! The one front end loader took off down the road and came back with a load of dirt and sand, which they poured all over everything. Brought a 2nd load in, then all the workers got to spread it all out and shovel it all up. Much fun! (Think they'll maybe check the fuel tank first on the next boat they bring in?) As we leave the dock and head towards a manatee area, we discover we are floating through an area heavily covered in diesel! Yuck!!! We turn around to go back in and report it to the sheriff who was observing the boat wrecking party. We were told "oh yeah - that's not from this, but from a boat that pulled out earlier that spilled fuel on his way. But it's just diesel - it'll go away." Huh??? It will "go away"??? So they have diesel fairies here that come and make it disappear?? I don't get it. What happens to the manatees when they surface in that crap? Oh well - off we go again. Find one of the sanctuary areas that you can't swim in, and it was absolutely LOADED with the big, cute things! Not too good for filming - but I can see where they could be mistaken for Lock Ness Monster sightings! Just humps in the water that surface and disappear again! One came over to us and swam around our dinghy for a while - very neat to watch!! Ok - it's getting late, we really need to depart if we're continuing on today. Finally got back to the boat and headed on out of Crystal River just after 9:30. Not quite as long a day today, we made it 61 miles south and pulled into Tarpon Springs for the night.

12-5 Dolphins

I called the City Marina during the afternoon to request a slip for the night - he said they close at 5 (which was our ETA), so if we got in later, just take slip #1 and he'd see us in the morning. We arrived at precisely 5:00 - called as we were in the mouth of the Anclote River leading in and let him know, so he very kindly waited to help us tie up. I didn't know, but Tarpon Springs was actually settled by a bunch of Greeks, who have to this day stayed in the area. The dockmaster, Ted, is a Greek ("from Canada"), who has been there for years. I swear - Greek hospitality is just as awesome as the infamous "Southern Hospitality" - what wonderful folks. Vicky, who works in a shop across the street from the marina, came trotting over to greet us as well - she insisted on pictures with us, which Ted obliged her to take. Great fun, great chatting! We explored the town a little before selecting a local Greek Restaurant for dinner. I've been craving lamb for a couple of months now - haven't found any in restaurants or in supermarkets. So I definitely got my fill tonight! Awesome roast lamb! Checking out the town, I figure I should be able to just about finish up my Christmas shopping here (what little of it there is to do - this is gonna be just a "token gift" kind of Christmas!).

December 6, 2012

Stayed at Tarpon Springs today, and greeted our friends on Bucket List (Larry, Cindy and Pat) upon their arrival after their crossing from Carrabelle last night. They chose an overnight crossing, and covered more miles than we did to accomplish it. They went thru some heavier chop then we did, and were kind of wiped out upon arrival. Larry opted for a nap, and the ladies strolled into the town with us in search of some breakfast. We ended up at the local Greek bakery (which Matt and I had already very happily sampled!), and had some morning treats there. Did some shopping after that - Pat finally opted to return to the boat for some shut-eye, but Cindy bravely marched on thru the streets with us. Got some good shopping accomplished, then about 10:30 found a Greek wine market. The proprieter was delighted when we approached, and next thing we knew, a wine tasting broke out. At 10:30 in the morning! I selected 2 to taste, but he started whipping out every bottle within reach! Next thing we knew we must have had a dozen or more samples! And there was absolutely no leaving a drop in any of the cups - he kept saying "drink up, drink up!!". And we were a little low in the wine cellar - so we walked away with I think 7 or 8 bottles when all was over. And a big piece of goat cheese so we can make a Greek Flaming Cheese Dish like we tried in the restaurant last night. And he threw in a free gift for me (since he just made a really good sale!) - a little sampler package of a sponge and two little sample soap bars. This town is apparently the sponge diving capital - has a sponge museum here and just about every little store sells them. A store next to this wine store specializes in nothing but sponges! All shapes and sizes (and price ranges!). So we lugged our haul back to the boats, and Cindy and I decided to go back into town for more shopping (I'm totally determined to finish my Christmas list!!!). Just as we're about shopped out, Matt calls to announce Larry woke up and was going for food - so they were in the little restaurant next the the marina and did we want Gyros. That was a "Yes" for me, and an "I don't think so" from Cindy - we headed back and joined the guys. Cindy ended up ordering one afterall, planning to dine on a half and bring the other half back to the boat for Pat. More lamb! Yummy!! Back at the boat, we get a text announcing other friends were on their way to see us. This is funny - Matt and I hooked up with Diane, my best friend in my early teen years, about a year ago on Facebook. Told her about this trip, and she suggested we look up her twin brother when we got down to this area. So we did! Shocked the hell out of him with a phone call! Haven't seen him since I think about 1979! Pete and his wife Sharon came down to hang out a while on the boat. What great fun catching up 30+ years! I'm so glad they stopped by!! Gave Diane a call from the bow of the boat and had fun chatting with her too! What a cool afternoon! Later on we got together with Bucket List and went out for dinner at another local restaurant - more fantastic fare!!! I think this town's gonna put some pounds on us!!! Oh well - somebody's got to do it! Hung out on board later, joined by John, the owner of the restaurant next to the marina, then by "Biker Vicky" (from the gift shop across the street). Had a delightful evening!

December 7, 2012

Said "Good Bye" (once more!) to Bucket List and headed out this morning at 7:30. Moving through some heavy fog, we actually stopped near the mouth of the river and anchored for a short while waiting for it to lift. Proceeded on not too much later, and found it really wasn't too bad. Not great visibility, but we could see the next few set of marks OK, so we pressed on. About 48 miles later, we arrived at the Vinoy Marina in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Got tied up at 2:15, and sent our friends Jay and Beth a text to let them know we had arrived. They're planning to come and pick us up, take us out to provision, then bring us to their home for dinner. What terrific friends to have! Got everything we needed (most importantly restocked the beer and toilet paper - down to one beer in the fridge and put out the last roll two days ago!!). Also finally got my hands on some Christmas wrapping paper and decorations. Have to do something with the boat - it's looking a bit drab compared to others we've seen, and tomorrow night they're having a Christmas Lights Boat Parade here at the marina. Don't want to look totally like the Grinch!! All that accomplished, we continue on to their recently purchased home (they live "full time" in Michigan) for a wonderful dinner. And our first step inside a real home in five months! It had real walls! And it didn't rock! What a novelty! Fantastic meal and wonderful company - couldn't have asked for more for a terrific evening! Jay returned us to our boat, and we made plans to meet up with them again tomorrow after dinner. They'll come down here so we can enjoy the sights of the parade. Back at the boat, sat and watched a James Bond flick - since we don't have to get up early for a change. Great day, once more!!

December 8, 2012

Got up at a liesurely pace this morning, got some of my log work done, then we (Matt, me and Sailor) went traipsing thru town. Great walk it was!! Went to the Farmers Market and had some local goodies for breakfast. Bought some hand made toffee to bring back to the boat. Dragged Sailor's butt around for hours and wore him out - got him back to the boat and got some stuff done (Christmas present wrapping and mailing prep) Jay road by on his bike and stopped by to visit (always fun!!!). Later, Matt & I walked back into town for a late lunch (delicious!!!) - Sailor was too pooped so he stayed home. This town is wonderful - very dog friendly, a bunch of restaurants welcome them in. Got back to the boat and decorated the boat 'cause tonight is the Lighted Boat parade. The parade was a bunch of fun - everybody out on the docks enjoying it, live bands playing at the park nearby. Wonderfully enjoyable time! Heard from Bucket List - they are over at Gulfport (a little north of here). They had a boat parade there, too. They are getting ready to leave their boat there and go home to Illinois for the holidays. We'll catch up with them later. Gonna finish up with my log for tonight, then hit the hay. It's been a long but fun day (yet once more!!!).

December 9, 2012


Got up and went in to town for breakfast at O'Leary's (what a great place if you have a dog!!!). At Sarasota, Sailor has discovered "treeing squirrels" to be a great adventure! He's never been able to do that at home - they just leap to another tree and disappear. Here, they run up a palm tree and are stuck there. Now, whenever we go for walks, he's looking up in the trees to see what havoc he can wreck... We waited at the marina for Jay and Beth to come by - awesome folks! They're stopping here just to pick up our Christmas packages - they're gonna stop by a post office and mail them out for us! (Love you guys - you're the best!!!!!) Foggy out on the water this morning - definitely no rush to get under way. Pulled out about 10:30, only to discover mega-fog as we got closer to open water. Actually dropped the anchor for a short while, hoping it would lift (it didn't!). Took off any way, and it wasn't too bad - we could at least see a few channel markers ahead. Got worse before it cleared up, thank Heavens for our wonderful 4G radar!! Couldn't have made it thru without it! OK - I know you've been waiting to hear what our "Milestone Day" is. . . . here it is:

1 p.m. today: We crossed our wake (i.e., our starting point) of the Great Circle. We have officially completed "The Loop"! Woo Hoo!!!!! We are now entitled to fly the Gold Burgee ("completed"), and we retired the White Burgee ("in process"). AWESOME! Great Accomplishment! Haven't added up all the miles yet, but it's somewhere around 6 or 7K! Hell of an adventure - would recommend it to anyone!!! And for those of you that have been paying attention. . . . our "lucky number" is 13. I keep my boat log up daily. Guess what the page number is that I recorded our completion on? :)

I texted my friend Cindy (from Bucket List) to tell them of our accomplishment, and told her I would HAVE to quote her reply:
"It's the "Looper glow of the gold" - Oh wait, I think I see it through the fog, like the star of the east, it's a miracle..."
Hahahahah!!! How great is that? (Love ya, Cindy!!)

3:15, we reached Venice, FL and tied up at the city's day dock (no overnight docking here). Were able to walk Sailor in the adjacent park and run off some steam for him. That overheated him a bit (it's 80 degrees today, and humid!), so I figured it's time for a shaving day. What a mess! The humidity made all his hair stick to me - thank God I wore a bathing suit so I could rinse off at the end!!! Up my nose, in my eyes and ears - my legs looked like I hadn't shaved in weeks! Sheesh! But he felt better at the end, so that was ok. Matt was able to walk next door to the Venice Yacht Club and grab a bucket of ice - unfortunately, they are closed on Mondays, so we couldn't get in there for dinner or to trade burgees. Oh well. Went over to the Crow's Nest to dock for the night, and had a delightful dinner at their bar. (More oysters coming up!!!). Back to the boat for a movie and bed, and we'll see what tomorrow brings!

December 11, 2012

Went and took a walk on the beach by the Crow's Nest before leaving this morning. Pretty place! Went back to the boat and pulled over to the fuel dock to pump out the holding tank and fuel up before leaving. Pulled outta there by 9:25 this morning, in route to Cabbage Key (home of the "Cheeseburger in Paradise"). We stopped here last year when we were bring the boat home. It's got the restaurant that's wall-papered with money. Wonder if we'll find the dollar bill we attached to the wall? 32 miles later, we pulled in there. Didn't realize they had overnight dockage, so we figured "what the heck" and splurged. Super nice folks, great restaurant, easy dog walking - what's not to like???

December 12, 2012

Left Cabbage Key this morning after doing breakfast. Tried to go over to see "The Tunnel of Love", but missed it (didn't have good enough directions to find it. Found out when we got back that we probably wouldn't have gotten into it anyway because the tide was so low. Short day today, so no big deal - got going by 10:15. On our way thru San Carlos Bay, I had to text Cindy (Bucket List) and let her know how neat it was - there were dolphins just leaping in the air all around us! I told her I'd probably have to quote her again, and here it is:

"Sounds like Christmas ... 7 dolphins leaping, 6 gulls a laying, 5 golden looper burgees, 4 calling pelicans, 3 Florida Manatees, 2 Gemini Dreamers, and a pearl."
Love it! (Thanks, Cindy!!!)

Did only 25 miles today and took a mooring ball by Myers Beach - Estero Island in Mantanzas Harbor. Cheap night - only $14! On our dinghy ride into the marina, had a guy call us over and ask for a tow - he lost an oar lock and was having trouble rowing his little dinghy in. No problem - brought him in. Found out that he had his boat there for years, but it wasn't on it's mooring 'till next week. He offered it to us for the night - it's about 3/4 mile closer than the one we had been assigned, so we took it! Good Thing!! He recommended Bonita Bills for dinner - did that, and met up with him there and bought him a couple of beers. Great night, once more! Live music - the player was really good. And even better, Florida laws allow dogs into establishments like this, so we had no worries about Sailor. Really cool place to be!

December 13, 2012

Left Estero Island by 10 this morning, as we went back into Bonita Bills for breakfast first. Another short day, we did only 31 miles. Had to travel out in the Gulf today, with 2 to 3 foot seas. Not too bad, a little rolly, 'till we got to the inlet for Rookery Bay. Holy Crap! Got smacked around really bad, taking on some 5-6 foot waves on the beam ("broadside") - yikes and a half! A bit gut-wrenching, but we got in there - once past the inlet, everything was fine. Then we were astounded by the real estate in this area - definitely check out our pics to get a load of this!!!! Got into Rookery Bay and anchored. Took the dog into the beach across the channel, and discovered the greatest shelling beach that we've seen in a long time! Collected a bunch and filled a jar with them - so beautiful! (See the pics!) Ate up some leftovers for dinner (have to empty the fridge once in a while!!), watched a movie, and hit the hay.

December 14, 2012

Brought Sailor back into the beautiful beach again this morning, and brought back some more shells. How awesome!! Had some breakfast, and stalled our departure a little bit 'cause the tide was a bit low and we waited for it to start rising. Thankfully, we moved the boat a little in the anchorage last night - if we hadn't paid attention to the tide tables, we would have been hard aground this morning for hours (not a good thing!). Got out of there just before 10:30 this morning, but we have a really short day - only did 8 miles over to Marco Island, where we anchored in Factory Bay. We dinghied into the Cedar Bay Yacht Club, where we were able to tie up the dink and walk over 2 blocks to the local Publix Supermarket and buy lunch and restock our now empty beer supply. Came back here later since there was an UPS store here - disappointed that Florida doesn't allow the shipping of alcohol so my nephew's (David) Christmas present won't reach him for Christmas. Bummer. Sorry Dave! You'll get it in early January - hope you enjoy it!! I tried!! Bought dinner and enjoyed some lamb chops, green beans and baked potato for dinner on board. Yummy! Hanging out up top while cooking dinner brought an interesting event. We see a sight seeing cruise boat coming back into her port, and I went out to take a picture of her since she was all lit up for the holidays. Was a little startled when she didn't turn right into her berth, but headed a little closer to us (gave me a chance to get a better picture!). Can't believe it - she actually circled our boat (lit up with our own Christmas decor), and passengers came out to take OUR picture!! Hysterical!!! They just circled us and then pulled into their slip. Go figure! After dinner, caught up with my log and pics for this week, now going to bed. G'nite!!!!!

December 15, 2012

Got up and brought Sailor into shore for his morning constitutional. Unfortunately, about 10 feet from the dinghy dock, we managed to catch a line around the dinghy prop. Kind of floated over to the dock (only minor rowing action required). By the time I got Sailor walked and back to the dinghy, Matt had (thankfully) cleared it and we were fine. Got back on board and pulled away from Marco Island about 9:30. It was an oustandingly beautiful day, with relatively calm seas (yeah!!). We headed South/Southeast and arrived at Everglades City early, by shortly after one in the afternoon, covering 36 miles today. We tied up at the "Rod and Gun Club" - had a fantastic lunch here. It's a very "Old Florida" area. Went to a local supermarket, not much bigger than a WaWa at home. Walked over to a hardware store that had a bit of everything. Got a few minor thingies, and Matt found a trolling fishing rod at a decent price - he's bound and determined to hook something really good in the keys!!!! Gonna get this week's log posted, watch some TV, and hit the sack. Tomorrow's a bit of a long crossing, we're heading down to Marathon (Boot Key) in preparation to aim over to Key West. Found a marina at Boot Key, may stay there a couple of days before heading on. Thankfully, we also have reservations at Boca Chica (right next to Key West) at the Naval Air Station for a few days over Christmas. I say "thankfully", 'cause they're only a buck a foot. The other place recommended to me has a holiday rate of $4.25 per foot! Yikes! Good night - catch you next week!!!!

December 16, 2012

Left the Rod and Gun Club by 7:30 this morning, prepared for a long day. We've got to go off shore today and travel across the Gulf to get to Boot Key/Marathon. But - we reach the Keys today! Hooray! Got out there to discover a wonderful day - weather is totally beautiful, sunny blue skies and a warm day (upper 70's to lower 80's). The Sea Gods were smiling upon us and kept everything down to 1 to 2 feet. An absolutely delightful day! I spent a couple of hours sitting on the bow with my book, and actually got a tiny bit burnt (felt it so I got back inside before it got bad). What a great passage! 78 miles later found us tied up at the Sombrero Resort and Marina at about 4:30. Kind of crummy place, and very expensive ($2.50 per foot!), but we were in a slip. Hit the resorts tiki bar, and in speaking with the local who helped us tie up found that we needed to grab a taxi and go to the "Hurricane" for dinner. Did that - cab's only 5 bucks each way. OK dinner at the bar, got to watch the Dallas/Pittsburgh football game (with a special treat - I actually saw the Dallas "wardrobe malfunction"! hilarious!!!!!). Got a cab back to the boat, watched a little bit of movie stuff and hit the hay. Gonna get out of here, not sure exactly where - but somewhere not $2.50 per foot!

December 17, 2012

Pulled out late morning, decided we're only hopping over to Bahia Honda key today - a short distance. Left about 10:30, and stopped on our way out at the Chiki Tiki Bar & Grill/Fuel Dock and took on some fuel. Then tied up and the two of us (and Sailor) went up to the restaurant deck for lunch. Terrific food here! Pulled out of there by noon and headed west. Turned out to be a pretty crummy traveling day - yucky choppy seas, hitting us with 2-4 foot waves. Thank Heavens we're not going far! Thank Heavens even more, 'cause there are so many damn crab pots out here Matt's gotta drive like a drunken sailor to avoid them all. Amazing! Got thru all that crap and pulled into what we expected to be a somewhat sheltered anchorage and anchored by 1:30 in the afternoon, doing only about 14 miles today. Sat and relaxed a while, but it was still pretty choppy. Finally deployed the dinghy and went into the little "marina" (I use the term loosely!) at the State Park here at Bahia Honda Key. Very calm in here. Hmmmm. . . Went and talked to the dockmaster and found we could fit our boat in, and he mentioned the winds/chop wasn't expected to die down overnight. They charge $2.00 per foot, and there's 3.5 feet in the entrance channel at mean low water. (We draw 3.5 feet - meaning that's the minimum we need to float and not run aground!) We're at high tide now, so there's plenty of water to get in right now. Bump and not sleep all night, or pay $2 per foot? Thanks - I'll take the sleep! Back out, and in we come. Tied up and settled in for the night. There's a little pathway right next to our boat that leads out to the water - we walked down with Sailor and waded while he went swimming. Super clear water, although kind of rocky, but a pleasant time. Got back to the boat just in time for the freakin' no-see-ums to arrive for dusk (damn - I HATE those things! don't know how long it'll take for all these bug bites to heal and stop itching!!!). Work on my log and hang out 'till the bugs vacate, then a light dinner and bed. Planning another short day tomorrow - just Key-hopping for the next few days, as we're not due in to Boca Chica until Saturday, in preparation for son Donovan and his girlfriend Beth to arrive to spend Christmas week with us. (So much looking forward to that - missing family and friends very much!!!).

December 18, 2012

We're only doing a short day today, so we took our time pulling out this morning, leaving Bahia Honda Key about 10 a.m. Only a short way out, we grabbed a mooring by Munson Island at 11:00 and went snorkeling for a little while - a reef here and some fishies, the water is so very clear! While we were in the water, Matt did a quick prop inspection and happily found that our starboard prop had no crab pot line wrapped around it at all. We did pick up a little on the port prop, but he was able to quickly cut it off - so we're now totally clear of unwanted line!! That alone made this stop worth it!! Continuing on our way, found our way into Newfound Harbor Channel by Torch Key where we'll spend the night. Only did about another 14 miles today, dropping the hook just after noontime. Anchored out, and found there really wasn't anywhere good to bring Sailor - found an iffy spot where we snuck in by dinghy, and Sailor and I climbed a rocky embankment and found ourselves next to a highway. Thankfully, it had a wide shoulder, and then a paved bike path next to it, so there was plenty of room for us to safely walk for a bit. There was a waterfront restaurant nearby, "Parotdise", that was mentioned in the cruising guide. Went by dinghy over there to investigate and found it abandoned. Thankfully, we've got plenty of grub aboard! Wasn't one of our more memorable stops, but it was quiet and calm, so it worked out fine.

December 19, 2012

Left the bustling Newfound Harbor at 9 this morning, with another relatively short day planned. 31 miles later, we arrived at Sigsbee Key in Key West just before 1 in the afternoon, and dropped the hook just outside the little marina. Dinghied into the little Naval marina there, and were able to walk to the commissary for a little light provisioning - grabbed a small prime rib for dinner (man, was that delish!!!), and restocked our dwindling beer supply. On our walk back to the dinghy, met "Conner", a young man (I'm guessing about 12 or so) who was obviously just leaving school for the day. He came over to see the dog, and then we all walked along together since we were all heading the same way. Got to talking, and when we mentioned we were on a boat anchored just outside of the marina, he told us he lived on a boat at the Naval Air Station Marina at Boca Chica. We said we'd be there on Saturday, and he said he'd see us there - and mentioned that he did holding tank pump outs if we needed it, only charging ten bucks. Very enterprising young man! Promised we'd look him up when we got there, and probably put him to work! Great evening on the hook - excellent food, then a movie and bed.

December 20, 2012

Left Sigsbee Key at 0845 with Key West in our sights. Arrived at 9:30 at the Key West Bight Marina, where we tied up for a couple of hours (at $10 per hour for hourly dockage!). Walked around the heart of Key West to take in some sights, then went to lunch at Schooners - the description in one of our cruising guides says "This is the one that comes up in sailing magazine articles and in late-night discussions among trans-ocean cruisers when talk turns to the best bars in the world." Had a delicious brunch there, to include some Mango Mimosas. Spoke to a woman later that mentioned she was a member of the "Breakfast Club" there, but never actually ate breakfast there, only had breakfast drinks! Cool place, plus dog friendly, so Sailor was once more able to join us there. Departed the marina there by 11:30 and made our way over to the Naval Air Station Marina at Boca Chica. Ended up coming in there today instead of Saturday as originally scheduled due to forecasted weather due to hit on Friday. We ended up in a different slip than we had been assigned to because we were in early, and the previous occupants weren't do to depart until Friday (which may not happen now 'cause of the dang weather!). Oh well - we'll make the best of it. Just have to be power-aware, as we only have a single 30 amp outlet available. (We need either 2 of them, or a single 50 amp hookup to properly power our boat.) Had a visit later in the afternoon, Conner came down our dock and recognized the boat name, so he stopped to chat. Met his dad, Jeremiah, too. Nice little marina, not much nearby though. The main gate is about 2 miles from the marina - and they have no post taxi, and the only public cab allowed on post charges $35 just to show up to pick you up! They have a little restaurant/bar at the marina called the Navigators Lounge - we had somewhat decent bar food here for dinner, caught a little TV and bar chat, before returning to the boat for a movie and some shut-eye.

December 21, 2012

We're gonna be here a few days, and would like to get to town somehow, so we decided to rent a car - they've got a rental place right here on post, so that was easy. We spoke with a friend who lives here (Christopher Ellis), and planned to meet up with him today after lunch. Worked out great - got back into town and went to "Louie's Backyard" for lunch - based on Christopher's recommendation. Sailor once more got to join us, and we had a great lunch. Right next to the restaurant is "Dog Beach" - so you know where we had to stop after lunch! After all, it was sunny and warm and Sailor was a little hot. Let him take a dip, then called Christopher to touch base. He gave us his home address and we headed over there to meet up with him and his wife Michelle. So good to see them - they've lived down here for almost two years now, and it's been a while (a year?) since we've last seen them. Christopher is a walking history book when it comes to Key West - he took us on a private tour of the main parts of the "real Key West" - it was great!!! Departed there and headed back to the marina, with plans to get together with them some more while we're here. So great to be with folks you know!!! Had some leftover prime rib for dinner (sigh - "old food") that really hit the spot, then ambled up to the Navigator's Lounge for a while. Back for a movie later, then saying good night.

December 22, 2012

Today was spent housecleaning - and boy, did it need it!!! Exhausted when done, but the boat was looking so much better it was well worth it. Took a ride out to do a little K-Mart shopping, then across the street to The Stoned Crab restaurant for lunch (another wonderful recommendation from Christopher!). Spoke with Christopher while we were there, and made plans to get together this evening for dinner. Went back to the boat to finish cleaning, and had our pump out taken care of us by Conner (great deal in our opinion - it's a portable pump out that must be wheeled to your boat, manually pumped out, then wheeled over to the main pump out to empty the unit. $10 very well spent!!). Met up later with Christopher and Michelle, and went to the Square Grouper for a fabulous meal!! Superb company and conversation made it a wonderful evening! Then Christopher was going to step outside for a smoke - and stole the check while he was at it! (Said that if we took them out for a boat ride, we could take care of the fuel bill, so he considered it a fair trade!) Sneak!! (But thank you very much - that was terrific!) Finished up, made plans to pick up Christopher in the morning to join us for the ride back over to the Key West Bight Marina. We decided the drive back and forth from Boca Chica just wasn't cutting it - it would be much more fun (or in Matt's words, "more gooder!") to be right at the center of things! So, back to the boat, get my log updated (will finish off the pictures tomorrow). Wow - it's already 10 p.m.!! Where the heck did the day go??? That's it - I'm done! Good night! And Merry Christmas to all!!!

December 23, 2012

We've decided to move to a marina more in the heart of things at Key West, rather than having to deal with the drive back and forth. Thought we might be able to dinghy, but that doesn't seem to be the best either. Got a slip at the Key West Bight Marina which is "right there". Matt went to pick up Christopher to take the ride with us, then they got rid of our rental car and we get under way for the short (9 miles) boat ride over. The weather report as of last night didn't sound too great - we were expecting rather yucky seas, but it actually turned out very good! Took us just about an hour and a half to get over there, then settle into our holiday slip. Went to lunch with Christopher and watched a little football on TV (watched Philly lose . . .). We made plans to meet up later for dinner, then split for the afternoon. Matt & I toured about town a little then headed back to the boat. Christopher and Michelle came to the boat later, bringing a cheese fondue with them. Another wonderful evening! They live only 4 blocks away from here - Christopher came back shortly after they left to deliver their Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that they are lending us for Christmas. Very cute! Even plays the Charlie Brown accompanying music! I set it up and put gifts under it to make things look a bit more festive for tomorrow's company..... Eventually hit the hay to await the arrival of our son Donovan and his girlfriend Beth.

December 24, 2012

Donovan and Beth arrived last night (or should I say early this morning - 2 a.m.!). We got up and went out to the parking lot to meet them, and got 'em settled in on board, and we all got some shut eye. Got up a second time today, and walked in to the Cuban Coffee Queen for coffee, then strolled about town to get the lay of the land. Walked by a Key Lime Pie Place called Kermit's - had a character outside the front door holding a pie. Christopher and Michelle had mentioned him, and said how much he reminded them of our friend Peeter. I did see a close resemblance there, and told him so - Kermit said he was separated from his twin at birth. I told him he lived in Toms River. Had to take his picture - those of you who know Peeter have to take a look at that one! Ended up at Harpoon Harry's for breakfast, then later over to Schooner's for lunch. Happened to be there while they were feeding the tarpon:

12-24 Feeding Tarpon

Got back to the boat, and Donovan and Beth decided to sleep off some of their travel wear. We had made plans to meet up with Christopher and Michelle later at Turtle Kraals to see the Turtle Races. Tried to rouse Donovan and Beth for that, but they were dead to the world. So Matt & I went off to the races without them. Very funny evening! They give out tickets to everyone in the bar with the turtle's numbers on them. Since we were a party of 4, we got 4 tickets (numbered 1, 2, 3 and 4) - so we were bound to win!! Got thru the very exciting race - and what do ya know? #2 won - and we just happened to be holding a #2 ticket!! That enabled me to join all the other winners and pick a key - 1 out of 99 will open the treasure chest, which currently contains $550! Christopher and Michelle are regulars there - the bartender gave her a #2 ticket too, so we both got on line to pick our keys. Unfortunately, neither one of us had the magic key, but it was a lot of fun any way. No one tonight got the key, so Friday's treasure chest will go up to $600. Got back to the boat, and the kids were finally up. They decided to venture into town and find something to eat. Matt and I were both beat, so we watched some of a movie and hit the hay. Turns out Donovan and Beth only managed a couple of drinks and an appetizer before they were stuffed. They came back and watched a movie and turned in too. What a bunch of party animals we are!!!

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas everybody!!!!! Got up to an absolutely beautiful day!! Gorgeous, sunny skies, on a wonderfully warm day! Decided to take a cruise today, maybe get some snorkeling in. Got out only to find the seas in not so nice condition. Anchored, but decided it was too rough to snorkel from the big boat. Donovan and I took the dinghy into more shallow water (only waist deep) that was a little calmer. Donovan did some snorkeling, and tried out his new underwater camera on some fish he saw. Only stayed there a short while, then back to the big boat to either search out some calmer water or go back into our slip. Ended up traveling and anchoring again elsewhere, but the water was colder and still a bit choppy. Didn't deter Donovan from going in again though . . . .

12-25 Setting the Anchor

12-25 Climbing the Anchor Chain

Cooked up some bratwurst on the grill for lunch, then headed back in. Christopher called - we'll meet up with them at the slip, then head into town for some Christmas celebration. Cruised about 20 miles today, out for a total of about 4 1/2 hours - mostly nice (except for the big choppy part), so it made for a good day. Met Christopher and Michelle about 4-ish, then hit the closest bar (right by our dock) for Happy Hour. Couldn't believe the prices! A whole round of 6 drinks (3 of them "specialty" mixed drinks) for $17! We're liking happy hour here! Unfortunately, they're closing early (after all, it is Christmas day!), so we'll have to wander on elsewhere to find some food. We hoofed over to the Commodore for dinner, and all settled on just appetizers to eat - very yummy food here! Another very fun night had by all!!

December 26, 2012

Donovan and Beth took off early this morning in search of adventure - they were hoping to go kite boarding about an hour and a half away. Unfortunately, it didn't work out for today, so they'll try again another time. While they were gone, Matt and I, and Sailor, went for what turned out to be a nice loooonnnnggg walk . . . turns out we're going to have to move to another marina after the 28th, and I wanted to get to a pet store. The pet store just happens to be near the City Marina where we're moving to, so we can stop in there and get an official reservation form filled out while we're over there. Whew - what a hike in the heat! Stopped twice to get Sailor some water, but he was a good trooper! Then had to walk all the way back again!! Donovan and Beth got back while we were in route, so we got in contact with them and made arrangements to meet for lunch on Duval Street. Finally arrived there (couldn't wait for a big glass of ice water!) and dined at the Mad Rooster. Great food in this town!!! Later on, we headed over to Mallory Square where they have a huge sunset celebration every night - lots of vendors and street performers, and tons of tourists! Not something you'd want to take part in every day of the week, but you gotta see it at least once if you're in Key West! Went to dinner at Caroline's after that - more fantastic food!

Back when we met Jay Hernly (at Pentwater, Matt noticed he had a shackle earring and said if he ever found one he wanted it. Well guess what? He found one. Bought it. Off to Claire's and had him pierced (his ear that is. . . .). Ha! Christopher tells him he now fits into Key West quite nicely. And Jay's proud of him, I think. Ya just never know what's around that next corner! :)

December 27, 2012

Donovan and Beth, once more hopeful for kite boarding, left at 7 a.m., so Matt and I wandered over to experience breakfast at Pepe's (another must-do eating establishment!). Tiny place, fabulous food! And it's amazing how many bars are open for breakfast! Feels like New Orleans all over again! This morning's special was a Blueberry Champagne Fizz - a terrific take-off of a Mimosa. Yummmy! Unfortunately, the kite boarding fell thru again, but they now have an appointment to go wakeboarding tomorrow, and probably will finally get to kiteboarding over the weekend. We all went into town and grabbed tickets to do the self-guided Bar Stroll. Thirty bucks gets you a drink at each of 5 different bars and a souvenier T-shirt. Turns out we could probably have done without this one - the bartenders get a little indifferent once they find out you have the free drink coupons, and if they find out before they get your drink, they serve a smaller version of the real bar drink. We're still tipping them, but you'd think the money is just coming out of their own pockets! There was one bartender who was super nice though - that was at Jack Flats. That would be my first choice to return to after the way all the others acted. Don't know that's I'd recommended this "tour" to others. . . . .

December 28, 2012

Donovan and Beth took off early this morning to go try out some wakeboarding, so Matt and I found our way over to the Cuban Queen Coffee for some breakfast beverages and sandwiches. Got back to the boat and prepared for our departure - we're leaving to go over to the Key West City Marina for today thru New Year's - a little further from downtown, but still within reach. All the marinas around here are filled to capacity for the holidays, especially New Year's. Pulled out and did our two mile adventure over to the City Marina. I took a bike ride (using Matt's bike) over to the Winn Dixie supermarket to pick up a few things in the afternoon. Kids got back to the boat later, and we did dinner on board - defrosted the salmon that had been given to us up in Michigan, and it was delicious! Nothing of interest really to walk to in the immediate area, so we settled for a movie and bed.

December 29, 2012

Donovan, Beth and I walked up to a local bike repair shop this morning, and got the part I've been needing for my bike. Got that back and put on the bike, and YAY!!! Bike's finally fixed!! The kids took advantage of that and used the bikes to ride into town for some last minute sightseeing and souvinier shopping. Christopher and Michelle are coming over tonight, with Michelle's sister who is visiting, and we're planning a sunset cruise. Matt and I did lunch across the street, at the Miami Grill - pretty decent food. Matt had gyros and I opted for a crab salad sandwich. Went back to the boat to start preparing for company - cooking up some chicken wings (wanted to do it in advance in case it's too bumpy to grill underway this evening), and mixing up some smoked fish spread. Christopher, Michelle and Donna arrived around 3, and the kids were back by 4, so we pulled out. Cruised by Mallory Square (seeing the performers from the water this time!), and hung out there 'till sunset. Didn't quite get to see it hit the water since there was a cloud hanging, but it was pretty nonetheless. Cruised around, chatting, munching and sightseeing, and headed back to our slip about 6 p.m. Hung out yakking, and a friend of Christopher's stopped by for a while before they all took off. Then some more movie before hitting the hay. Busy, but fun!, week. This week went by in a flash - can't believe Donovan and Beth have to leave tomorrow already! Oh well, all good things gotta come to an end!

Happy New Year in advance!!
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