Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Final Leg...

Since my last post we have just been trying to soak up every minute of this adventure. Even though we have traveled these same waters on the way down, it is still exciting. There is always something new to see, or a new anchorage to try. Just last night I realized how close we are to getting back to NJ. Although we are still in NC, we technically could be home in just over a week. It depends on the weather, but the Capt’n is considering heading on the outside from Norfolk and doing an overnight straight to Cape May. The first Mate is not so excited about this idea! Hopefully we will still head up the Chesapeake, but again everything depends on the weather.

We’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on our journey, trying to think of a few things that we will miss. Well, a “few” turned into a whole bunch, and here is just some of the ones we will miss the most:

·          Links – Links has been our “Buddy Boat” since October, when we met in the Dismal Swamp. Tim and Jill have been a huge part of our trip. Since they have the same exact boat, they have been a wealth of information and our Gemini mentors. More importantly though, they have become incredible friends that we are going to have a very hard time leaving in a few days. Sometimes you meet people and you just click. We have had such a blast with them! We are definitely gonna miss our adventures with them, our dinners together, our laughter and Farkle!

·         Sunsets – We have been lucky enough to see so many spectacular sunsets. And along with the sunsets, comes the conch horn blow. Tim is the resident conch horn blower, and he’s pretty darn good. (He even won a t-shirt in a contest in Marathon) Granted, occasionally it sounds like a sick cow, but most of the time it’s awesome. Sometimes in a larger anchorage or mooring field you could hear 3 or 4 conch horns at sunset, it’s pretty cool.
·         Meeting interesting people – The cruising community is filled with interesting people. I don’t think there is one cruiser that we have met that we didn’t like. Ok, some are stranger than others, but they would all give you the shirt off their backs. They have all been friendly and super helpful. Can you imagine walking down the street and walking up to a house you didn’t know to knock on the door and introduce yourself? But, that’s the way of life with the cruisers. People dinghy up to say hi and exchange boat cards, and before you know it another ding pulls up and you have an impromptu happy hour. Which brings me to my next point…

Vince & Marianne from Bony Boy, Me, Bud & Tim
·         Finding a cheap happy hour – Being on a budget, we don’t go out to eat a lot…almost never. But if we find a cheap happy hour it’s like hitting the jackpot! Our favorite by far was a place in Marathon, Lazy Days. A long dinghy ride, but so worth it!
Tim & Jill, Me & Bud, Beth & John from Island Time @ Lazy Days
·         No schedule – This was a little hard to get used to, but we settled into it quite nicely! It wasn’t long before we didn’t even know what day of the week it was.  Actually the only time we had a schedule was when we had to leave an anchorage…sometimes at the crack of dawn. Which often led to my next favorite…

·         Reflections – The reflections of the boats, trees, etc., on the glass-like water on a calm morning. Just so beautiful and peaceful. Speaking of peaceful…

·         Sailing – Nothing is better than that moment when there’s enough wind to turn off the motor and actually SAIL! You would think that on a sailing trip of over 3300 miles, we would sail a lot, but since we were on the ICW, there’s been a lot of motoring. Any chance we could, we would raise the sails and at least motor-sail. We have been pretty lucky though, and have been able to just turn off the motor and sail quite a bit.

·         Being outside – Whether it was taking our bikes ashore and exploring new towns, or walking the beaches for hours collecting shells, just to be able to enjoy the outdoors during “Winter” has been amazing.
·         Dolphins – Dolphins, Dolphins, Dolphins! Love them! Not to mention all the other wildlife. The manatees, the eagles, the pelicans...can't get enough of 'em!

·         Bare feet – We went months in flip flops and bare feet. Who wouldn’t love that?

·         Stars – The millions of stars you can see, especially from a pitch black anchorage in the middle of nowhere.

·         Sounds – Whether it’s the sound of the water lapping on the hulls at night, or the crackling sound of the shrimp munching on the algae on our boat bottom, it’s relaxing. I now have a hard time with complete silence aboard.

·         Fishing – We fished….a lot! For hours…just fishing from the dinghy. Extremely relaxing, and definitely one of our favorite things to do. Whether we caught anything or not, it was just nice to be out there. We did catch our fair share of fish, but I must admit we did barter for some too!

·         QT – Quality time. This is definitely what we will miss the most. For the past seven months, the most time Bud and I have spent apart is probably about 3 hours. That’s a lot of together time! Surprisingly enough, we have gotten along splendidly. Of course I’m sure we both had our moments of aggravation, but all in all it has been great.
This trip has been our most amazing experience to date, and I hope we are lucky enough to do it again in the future. Of course it’s not all sunshine and palm trees. We have worked very hard along the way. (Contrary to popular belief!) There’s so much behind the scenes that needs to be done constantly. Little things we take for granted while living on land, like having fresh water or stocking up on groceries can sometimes take the better part of a day to accomplish. And a long hot shower is a real treat! But I wouldn’t trade any part of this trip. Actually there’s only 2 little things I won’t miss…crab pots & no-see-ums!
So, I guess we'll be home in a week or two. We are actually really looking forward to it. There's been a lot going on with our families that we have missed, and of course we need to get back to hopefully refill our "cruising kitty"!




Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Heading North....(sigh)

That's right, we are heading home. Well, actually we've always been "home", but I guess we are cruising back to our home town. I guess that's the nice thing about living aboard, no matter where we are, we're home. The last month (OK, 6 weeks) since my last post, have been a lot of fun. Even though we were technically starting our way back, we had never crossed the Okeechobee Waterway before, so it was still new and exciting. Before our crossing, we were able to meet up with old friends Noble and Paula, that we met in the Dismal Swamp, for a quick visit in Cape Coral. We also met up with Lou & Annie, that we met in Marathon. They were staying at a marina in Cape Coral and invited us to their tiki hut for a BBQ with the other boaters. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming. I think that has been our favorite thing about this trip, the great people we have met along the way.

After leaving Ft. Myers we were officially on our way through the Okeechobee Waterway. We are still travelling with our buddy boat, Links, and having made this trip 2 other times before, they know just where to go.
We made a few stops including LaBelle, where they had a free town dock with electric! We stayed there 3 days, but left a few days before the swamp cabbage festival. Apparently that is a big deal in that little town!
 Have I mentioned this is gator water? We saw quite a few, which is fine when we are on SeaQuest, but not too comfortable while in our dinghy! Our next stop before crossing the lake was Clewiston. Interesting place to tie up, but it worked.
The next day we crossed the lake.
So, 3 locks and one 49' train bridge later (our mast and antenna are 47'), we were on the other side and headed to Stuart.
We stayed on a mooring ball in Stuart for 5 days. What a great town and marina. Some towns really cater to cruisers, and Stuart is one of them. They had free dinner and a movie on Sunday night at the marina, and when there weren't enough loaner bikes available, Sam the dock master drove us where we wanted to go in town! There also happened to be a huge art festival going on while we were there, and to top things off we had a visit from our friend Tom from Jersey! 
In another two days we were at the mooring field in Vero Beach. Another great spot, and super cruiser-friendly. There was a free bus that took us to just about any store we could possibly need. We also had more visitors! Maureen, Jimmy & Casey drove down from Melbourne Beach, and we went out to a nice dinner before Casey had to fly home the next day. We also met up with another boat that we've been seeing along the way since Marathon, Vince and Marianne on Boney Boy.
This is some crew! Every time we all get together it's a great time. We also had a fun impromptu happy hour with the crews of El Camino and Tekla Bramble. We were rafted with Links on the same mooring ball, so if one cat is good for a get-together, two is even better!
Links had some friends coming to visit, and some weather was coming in, so we left and headed to Melbourne Beach to Maureen and Jimmy's. We stayed there four nights and had a blast. We even caught fish! I love seeing all of the wildlife there, dolphins, birds, manatees!

From Melbourne Beach we went up to Cocoa, Daytona and then to St. Augustine. We stayed on a mooring ball at the municipal marina, which was great for laundry, provisioning and hot showers! After a few days we had one more stop at Pine Island, and then onto Jacksonville. Our last stop in Florida. This is where reality set in...we're heading back to NJ.
Our first stop in Georgia was St. Simon's Island. The weather was good enough on our first day there to get our bikes ashore and get a few things we needed. Yesterday, wasn't so great. Rainy and buggy all day. A good time to clean out my closet and put my summer clothes away. I know, that sounds weird, but it's getting cold. Maybe not by NJ standards, but when you are outside all day in the weather and the wind, 55 degrees is cold. I'm not complaining though, it's totally worth it.
So here we are anchored in New Teakettle Creek, GA.
Hopefully tomorrow we will head to Blackbeard Island. We heard about this cool little place to find great shells and sand dollars from a guy we met in Belhaven, NC. Captain Keith was traveling alone. He was 45 and had cruised for years. He was a neat guy, traveling north to spend the holidays with his family before heading back down to the Caribbean. Sadly I found out a few weeks ago that he passed away. Accidental drowning in the very waters he loved. For me, I could never understand wanting to cruise alone. I guess for some people the lure of the sea is so strong that they just have to do it. Keith was like that. Even though we only spent about a half hour with him, it was obvious that he was happy and passionate about his lifestyle. I think that's an important thing. Being passionate about your lifestyle no matter what it is. Once again reminded that life is short. That's why we're here.
PS - My camera battery died and I can't unload the pics from the last month, so most of the photos were taken by Jill of Links. Thanks Jill!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Time to Turn Around....

Well, we have come as far north on the Gulf Coast as we are gonna go, so it's time to turn around. We have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we are sad to know that our adventure is going to be coming to an end for a while. On the other hand, we are excited to get back home and see family and friends. We do still have another 10 weeks of our trip left and we will surely make the most of it, but it seems like so much has happened while we have been away. Babies have been born, friends have passed away. That's another reason why we are glad we have taken this trip. To often we are reminded how short life can be, and after planning for so long, we were glad to be able to bring our dream to fruition.

We just spent a week in Punta Gorda. After 3 days of rain things started looking up. We were able to explore the town a bit and get some much needed laundry done. We also hit the farmers market and got some provisioning done, thanks to a friend of Jill and Tim's (also a Gemini owner).

On Saturday, Jack and Irene came for another visit and took us for a boat ride and back to their house for dinner and a dip in the pool. Oh, but the fun didn't stop there! After getting back to the anchorage, we all headed out on the town. We hit a few places, found a few great bands, danced and had a great time.

Sunday was a lazy day. After a morning walk we took the all hopped in the dinghy and went to a nearby marina, Fisherman's Village. For a small fee they let you use their facilities for the day. We hung out at the pool, played shuffleboard (Jill & I beat Tim & Bud!) and had nice, long, mostly hot showers!

Monday we  took a bike ride and picked up a few last provisions. The city has a free loaner bike program, so it was nice to not have to lug our bikes to shore. Monday afternoon Jack and Irene came back on their way to drop off visiting friends and we also had a visit from our nephew Chris. His team has been training in Sarasota, so he drove down for the afternoon. The weather was perfect, so we all went out for a nice sail. It's been a long time since we went out for a sail to nowhere. Jack and Irene left after happy hour and Chris stayed for dinner and Farkle. It was great to have another little piece of home!

Tuesday morning we were on our way again. We saw dolphins when we left the harbor and after a great day of sailing, saw more dolphins when we entered our anchorage in the afternoon. That never gets old for me. As I was typing this post I jumped up 3 times because Bud spotted dolphins!  We are on the move again today. In the next few days we are hoping to meet up with friends that we met in the Dismal Swamp, and also friends from Marathon! We have been very lucky to have met such great people in this cruising community.

One last note. We would like to send our prayers and condolences to the family of George Francis Sr. who passed away this week. George (Big George, Grampy) was a great man and friend and helped us out enormously while we prepared for this trip. He will truly be missed by all who knew and loved him.

~ Jen & Bud

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's Been a Busy Month...

Since leaving Marathon we have been on the move up the Gulf Coast. We have been staying in quiet anchorages like Little Shark River, Rookery Bay and Cayo Costa where it was just us (and our buddy boat!) and the dolphins. On the other hand we have also visited the popular towns of Marco Island, Naples, Ft. Meyers Beach and Captiva. Right now I am sitting here in Punta Gorda on a rainy, chilly day wondering where the last month went. We've been having a lot of fun, but more importantly we've had visitors!

Liz and Timmy came for a weekend!

We had a great visit with the kids, although it wasn't long enough. We walked the town of Naples, hit the farmers market, and introduced them to our friends and Farkle! 

Jack & Irene came to Captiva, Cayo Costa and Punta Gorda!

We also had a few visits from Palm Tree Jack and Irene, on Coconuts. Despite the cool weather we did plenty of fishing, shelling and walking about. Speaking of the weather, I know that NJ is having a bitter cold winter, and I feel bad for anyone who is unhappy there. I have received a few (not so nice) comments on Facebook in respond to a post that I made. All I have to say is that if you don't want to see any pictures or hear any comments about our trip, please feel free to unfriend me. Ninety-nine percent of our family and friends have been very supportive and happy for us, and that really means a lot. We are where we are because we planned and worked and saved, and above all we've been positive and happy people despite a few hiccups along the way. We will not let anyone's comments or negativity bring us down, or make us question our decisions. We are happy and that's the bottom line.

Another reason to be happy.....

Patrick and Jena welcomed Mia's little brother Lochlan 1/24/14 @ 3:02 pm 6lbs 7oz 20 inches long. We cannot wait to get home to meet him!

Well, I guess that's it for now. Here's a few extra pics of the last month!


Thanks for checking in, I'll try to keep the posts coming!

~ Jen & Bud

Friday, January 3, 2014

Our Month in Marathon

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon
We are coming to the end of our stay in Marathon. In another week we will be on our way up the Gulf Coast. We have thoroughly enjoyed our month here, yet our budget has not. It's just too easy to spend money. Every store we could need is just a bike ride away, and every Happy Hour a mere dinghy ride.

Being away for the holidays was hard this year. I think by the time April rolls around I will be ready to be home for a while. We did have two separate visitors this month, so that was a little bit of home. (Thanks Jack & JT!) We were also lucky enough to spend Christmas with good friends! And to top things off WE STAYED AWAKE FOR NEW YEARS EVE! I know, I cant believe it either, but we made it to midnight! Woo Hoo! Happy New Year!
Tim, Jill, JT, Me, Bud, John & Beth
We have also gone snorkeling 3 times out to Sombrero Reef, a few miles off shore. It was a bit swelly out there but the fish made it worth it!

 So that's pretty much what we've been up to this month. Now it's time to get the boat, and ourselves ready to move on. It will be a little sad to leave here because of all the great people we have met, but we are looking forward to moving on. So many people have made this their home, and I can see why. Here are a couple of photos to show the marina.

There is also a fabulous community park right next door with basketball courts, tennis courts, bocce courts, baseball & soccer fields, and an amphitheater. Seems like a great place to raise a family. I must say, all the kids we have met here (there are about a dozen) are extremely polite, friendly and they all love living this lifestyle.
I am gonna try to put a photo album together to upload onto the "photos" tab of the blog...but we all know how long that could take!
~ Jen & Bud