Thursday, May 27, 2010

2nd Year: Key West to Jacksonville 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010
Daughter Lindsay & family departed yesterday, heading home to Clearwater.  We detached from our mooring ball today, heading back northbound to Ft. Lauderdale to have the stabilizers installed.  Reviewing the contract that Andy had already signed with the yard, LMC,  where the work was to be done, I was appalled to read in the fine print that basically, we were waiving all rights to anything that happened....drop our boat via their fault --- they don't pay, our insurance company should pay.  Then, this contract goes on to state that should we/our insurance company sue THEM, that we, as owners of the boat, would pay for all their legal fees, court costs, expenses, including appeals, etc.  After several phone calls to the outfit that was installing the stabilizers and to LMC, etc. I was able to get us into another yard (Playboy Marine) to have the work done and cancelled our two week stay at LMC.  LMC's response --- "You are one of very few that ever read the contract" and "No, we won't change the contract".  Fair warning to all to read the fine print at all times!!  What a one-sided rip off contract.

Cruised to Marathon (approx 60 miles), picking up a City Mooring ball to spend one or two nights here.  With bad weather approaching, we relaxed, walked several miles up and down US1, sightseeing and grabbing a bite to eat and in general, being lazy.  This is a nice harbor, with very friendly cruising group and city marina/mooring field folks, but only a limited number of mooring balls for boats our size or larger.  They told us we needed to be here in Dec. at the latest in order to get a ball for the winter season....never mind that.

Monday, April 19, 2010
Pulled out of Marathon for a long day at the helm to Biscayne Bay where we dropped anchor and crashed.  Up early on Tuesday AM, we cruised on into Playboy Marina at Dania Beach (5 minutes from Ft. Lauderdale airport) and were promptly lifted out of the water and put on the hard.  We can stay aboard, with the understanding that we are 'locked in' from 8 PM til 7 problem for us.  So, we are now staying aboard, limited to our bedroom area; can't run any water (toilets are ok as they are hooked to the holding tanks to be pumped at a later date); can't walk about as all furniture is piled up; the saloon floor is wide open and a fall through to the engine room below would certainly be the ultimate painful price to pay for inattention; and everything is covered in cloths or cardboard,
Messy Messy Messy
including the walls, handrails, etc.

The outside of the boat is quickly getting filthy from the dust, the drilling, the sanding, the airport and some plant that spews stuff in the middle of the night.  Uggg, the grit is everywhere.
Scary to deliberately drill holes in the hull of one's boat

The stabilizer installation is going well, on target for time.  We've decided to paint the bottom while here so that work is underway; hull got waxed (WOW - best shine we have ever had on her!); minor repairs here and there as touch up work AND yet another Ray Marine factory technician aboard.  He was adamant that the 12 volt power interference problems were rare on boats such as ours, being more common on sailboats.  He replaced the 5 port ethernet switch for $200+ and we will have a chance to see if this works when we get back in the water underway.  He said do this first because fixing the power problem (if that IS the problem) will be $1,000 or more.  I am so disgusted, pouring good money after bad with NOTHING EVER having fixed the problem we have had since the day this boat was purchased and the new Ray Marine equipment installed.  Everyone has washed their hands of this matter and points fingers at each other.  We are stuck in the middle and screwed over yet again.

We are preparing this boat for the long cruise to the British Virgin Islands and beyond, perhaps all the way to Venezuela, adding the stabilizers, another 100' of chain to the anchor, adding Single Sideband Radio, longer stronger antennas for reception and have purchased the cruising guidebooks and most of the charts.  If we can't get the chart plotter to work, however, we would be fools to head out.  I have no idea how to get the equipment to be fixed if two and one half years, more technicians that I can count, all parts of the chart plotters replaced three times....what does one do next?  Sink the damn boat?  Utterly disgusting.

Wednesday, April 21 - Friday, April 23, 2010
I flew to NYC and back for my final project with my former employer, Novartis Pharmaceuticals.  Phew, a lot of work, but challenging and made me realize I do miss that type of activity, but not enough to leave this lifestyle and go to work somewhere! The killer was having to put on STOCKINGS, HIGH HEELS and a suit.  Bah.  Felt like a kid playing dress-up!

Check out the stabilizer - it is huge!

While I was off the boat, Andy had to check into a hotel for 2 nights as the gelcoat fumes, etc. were toxic.  The folks told him to sleep in a respirator or get off the boat....easy choice.  The holes have been drilled through the hull and the gelcoat added back, etc.  as they prepare to put the stabilizer fins on in a couple of days.
Rudders & Useless trim tabs on Finally Fun

Busy bunch of guys, removing parts of the engine such as mufflers and I don't what else, but stuff is being moved around down below.  Me, I stay hunkered down in the bedroom out of the way.

We have met Bob & Carol B., aboard Cassandra Jade, a 65' Grand Alaskan trawler, on the hard for repairs.  They went thru a tornado while in the Bahamas last month.  They actually saw it coming at them, tied to a marina concrete dock.  Carol shouted to Bob, "What do we do?"  His reply?  "HOLD ON".  Hold on they did as the boat broke free of the concrete dock and the concrete dock broke off too.  After it was all over, they suffered about $20,000 of mostly cosmetic damage to the boat, which is on the hard here, being fixed.  Their photos of the marina dock are awesome!  Phew, they were lucky!

Sharon, Carol & Bob outside their home
Bob and Carol have been great, another example of boaters helping boaters and how easy it is to make friends quickly.  They are from Toronto, Canada, spending a least 6 months a year here and cruising.  We've gone out to eat with them a few times while on the hard here and given the 8 PM curfew, we've spent the night at their house so we can enjoy a leisurely dinner and not rush back here before 8 PM.
Bob's cool car - a birthday gift from Carol!  So fun to tool around in it!

AND, Bob & Carol have decided to buddy boat and travel with us down thru the Caribbean - the Leeward and Windward islands.  This trip has been a dream of Bob's for some time and they jumped at the opportunity.  We, likewise, are thrilled.  They have changed their cruising plans for the summer to stay closer to FL and we'll head for Bahamas, the first leg of the trip, in January.  I've bought 4 cruising guides already and my yellow highlighter is zooming across the pages.  I get more excited with every page I turn.  So many little islands, some French, some Dutch, some both, depending upon which side of the island one is on!  So much history, so many beautiful beaches and each island only a day's journey from the other.  Island HOPPING at it's finest!

Adventures on the hard, up on the air in Ft. Lauderdale  

Cruising north to Jacksonville for May, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010
Still up in the air, with final preparations madly underway.  The crews are finishing the bottom paint and minor cosmetic repairs and the stabilizers are nearly completely installed.  Remember in November 2009 my comments about a trawler hitting our boat as he/she pulled out of Beaufort, NC marina????  Well, damage had been done.  We had patched a bit, and now had it all repaired properly.  Thanks to the boater who failed to stop, failed to acknowledge the bump which was hard.  Our guests aboard alerted us and said it was a HARD bump.  The irresponsible boater who had to have known he hit us,  just cost us nearly $600 for repairs to the bow and anchor pulpit area.   Wish we'd gotten his name at the time, but Andy didn't think anything was wrong.  We noted the damage later in the day....bah.  Another hard lesson learned. 

Given the Gulf of Mexico oil spill situation and uncertainty surrounding where exactly the oil will flow and for how long, etc. we have cancelled our plans for the summer, fall and winter.  No longer are we headed to Clearwater on the West Coast of FL for all of May and onward to Mobile Bay, AL and into the TennTom, TN and Cumberland Rivers thru November and back to Clearwater for November and December.

We just returned nearly $600 of charts, books, computer chips, etc. for that trip to Blue Water Books.  They were most gracious, allowing it all to be returned.  We are disappointed  in missing this opportunity, but more fearful that we would cause damage to our boat if we got caught up in the oil, sucking it into the engines, generator, raw water pumps or whatever else is exposed.    We are also concerned that we could get 'stuck' up that way, unable to return due to residual oil.  This is so environmental disaster and a personal one for so many as their life on the water has been so jeopardized...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Finally Fun is BACK IN THE WATER, right on schedule at 2 PM.  The workers are feverishly finishing additional tasks now that we can start engines.   Sea trial will be at 7:00 ish Wednesday and after completion, we'll be off to Jacksonville, where we will spend a month at the US Navy Base Marina on St. John's River.  We'll drive back and forth (a 5 hour one way trip)  for visits to Clearwater, babysitting Pickett and helping out when his baby sister is born mid May.  Not as convenient as being at a marina in St. Pete or Clearwater, but this is certainly better than not being there at all! 

We have decided we are tired and just want to chill, as we'd planned to do on the rivers in TN and AL and KY this summer.  We've decided we will stay in and around Charleston, SC and in Georgetown and other little towns in the area and explore the rivers and small towns and just hang out.  We're fixing the insurance so we can be 'below the line' for hurricane season.

RobertE & Riley camping with us in years past
We plan to take RobertE and Riley camping in the Smokey Mtns, my favorite place, for a week or so and drive back/forth to Clearwater a few times and to Jacksonville to visit my Mom and Sister a few times.  We will be more than busy, yet relaxed for the summer and fall and getting ready for our BIG trip to the Caribbean this winter.  We did NOT want to cruise further north this years, having gone up/down that way three times already since moving aboard two years ago.  "Been There, Done That" says it all.

I spent the day cleaning the interior of the boat after the technicians removed all the cardboard they had taped everywhere -- floors, walls, countertops, etc.  Unbelievable amount of grit.  As I started scrubbing with Murphy's Oil Soap, I stopped....and debated whether to keep cleaning or not.  There on the wall, coming into the saloon, was a perfect baby Pickett hand print from when they were aboard just before we got to this boatyard to have the stabilizers installed.    I had misty tears in my eyes as I scrubbed it off.  Ah, miss the little guy so much!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The story of our life.  We spent the night right in the spot where the slings dropped us in the water to await the sea trial.  The bright and early sea trial was OK, but the helm station Stabilizer controls do not work.  Back in to the boatyard, tying up on another wall while the technician then spent hours trying to figure out the problem.  Finally taking the unit back to the shop, he got it fixed about 3:30, way to late to take off.  Spent the night on the wall there, sharing a glass of wine with Bob and Carol and running out to dinner, beating it back in time for the 8:00 PM gate locking curfew - but barely!  Bob's car could not get thru the gate, but Andy & I were  able to squeeze thru the chain fence like a couple of kids beating curfew!

Thursday, May 6, 2010
Down Dania Cut Off Canal by 8:00 AM, we were in the Atlantic at 8:30, turning north.  Guess what, no surprise here...the Chart Plotter failed yet again.  Remember, yet another technician a couple of weeks ago...he replaced for a few hundred dollars, the 5 port ethernet switch, saying it could not be a power issue.  Well, this is the worst yet, with it cutting OFF not to be restarted.  Traveling out in the Atlantic, in the Gulf Stream, breaking a trawler sound barrier at 11-12 mph, we rocked along all day from Port Everglades Inlet to Ft. Pierce Inlet with NO chart plotter, making it more difficult to figure out where one is all day long.  Made it thru the Inlet,  about 7:00 PM-ish, but anchoring around the bend near Fabor Cove was difficult.  It is so shallow and at low tide -- without the chart plotter we were 'guessing' where we were and sometimes we had depth and most often we did NOT.   Via phone, the technician said he has no idea what is wrong.  We told him we would send his unit back and we expected our money back.  We would get our old unit put back in  -- it is bad, but not as bad a situation as we are in now with this new unit.  This nightmare has no end and again, pouring good money after bad and a worthless piece of whatever will get us killed, sunk or injured before this is over.  I am searching for the name of the CEO of Ray Marine to unload this tale of woe to and expect to get this fixed.  Frankly, I will ask that they remove every piece of their equipment and refund all our money.  We will have Garmin installed and see what happens.  If they can't fix it, they should keep it all.

All in all, a beautiful day on the Atlantic, mostly in the Gulf Stream.  Pretty calm waters, so the stabilizers didn't get much use.  Andy turned them off/on, but I could hardly tell the difference.  

Friday, May 7, 2010
After struggling last night to set the anchor, without benefit of depth due to non-working chart plotter, Andy running from upper helm station to the lower one, in an attempt to determine where in the water we were in order to set the anchor, without going aground, we set it.  Later, both of us nervous, as we felt we were too close to two other boats, we moved the boat, going thru that anchor drill all over again, without benefit of chart plotter.    Finally, settled in without further incident. 

Up early, pulling anchor by 7:30, we were at Port Consolidated in Ft. Pierce to get fuel.  Wow, a fuel station OUT of fuel.  Told it would be a 20 minute delay til the fuel truck got there and finally, over an hour later, we began fueling.  Nice guy, they gave us a 5 cent a gallon discount for the delay.  Those of you reading this blog, don't ever offer to help pay for fuel if aboard.  We just might take you up on it....560 gallons later and approximately $1,600 later, we pulled out about 10 am, off schedule, with a long cruise in the Atlantic before dark.

What a day in the Atlantic...fabulous.  Too many sea turtles spotted to count (10+); big rays flying up out of the water with enormous splashes back down into the water; dolphin playing in our wake once back inside the ICW from the Atlantic; sharing the lock at Port Canaveral with a huge manatee, who clearly had the right of way and KNEW IT!

A real treat for us was the tiny little bird, like a sparrow, with yellow underbelly and a black band across his eyes, like Bandit.  This little bird flew aboard when we were almost out of sight of the East Coast of FL (about 7 miles out), checked us out two or three times at the helm station, making us laugh as he slid down the instrument panel, unable to grip his tiny feet on the slick, waxed surface.  He would nearly land in Andy's hand or lap and fly off, out the side window of the open bimini.  He kept coming back, landing on the aft deck, usually on the table.  He hitched his ride for nearly two hours, often coming back to the flybridge where we were.  He'd get near us, slide around again on the helm station and zoom off.  We loved it.  I crushed cracker crumbs on the aft deck, but don't know if he ever ate anything.  He just needed the rest we think.  I saw him fly off toward the shoreline, about 6 miles away.  Special moment, for certain!!

Reeling him in
Both yesterday and today in the ocean, we set one rod with little hope of catching anything as we were cruising mock ten speed.  Today, at about 10 mph, and forgetting all about the rod, Andy noticed it was strung out...WOW, we had a fish and the fish was still on the line....after all that.  He started pulling in and we took turns as it was so hard and so tiring.  We stopped the boat to make the reeling in easier and finally, began spotting something bright blue in the water.  We had caught -- caught is too strong a word,...we had hooked an Atlantic Bonito in the lip. 

I read that the Bonito is one of the fastest swimmers and that they like the yellow/green lures...exactly what we had on the line.  Andy got him to the boat and I netted him.  He was nearly dead.  I think we drowned the fish, pulling him behind the boat for god knows how long.....  A few gasps of breath later, he died.

I went to work, trying to figure out (a) what kind of fish he was and (b) how to cut him up.  Thank god for internet connections while underway.  I even pulled up a VIDEO of how to fillet this fish.  Rectangular baking pan in hand, wooden cutting board, dull fillet knife, lawn gloves and a salad bowl, I went to work, hacking and sawing in the cockpit, fish blood splashing on me and down the drain, and fish parts flung into the ocean. 

  Bending over the cutting board on the cooler, my back was killing me before I was finished....Remind me to tell the kids and Andy that I want for my birthday/Christmas a fish filleting board that will attach to the boat.  This is the second fish I have hacked up, killing my back.

On a positive note, I never saw any sharks, even after all the 'chum' I threw overboard.  FINALLY, some pieces that resembled fillets,  were cleaned and bagged, which I then froze for three more meals after tonight.  .

We grilled the remaining pieces tonight, adding olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice...delish!  Nothing like fresh fish!  Doesn't get any better than this!

After a 12 hour day before dropping the anchor next to the NASA Causeway in Cape Canaveral, boater's midnight struck Andy by 8:30.  I am next, as soon as I log off the blog.   A great day in the Atlantic,. but so very smooth, we could not tell again that we had stabilizers!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010
A short day for us, departing anchorage at the NASA Causeway by 8 AM, dropping the hook off R44 in the ICW at Daytona Beach by 2:40, approximately 50 miles in route.   Here we sit, watching the boats zip past us in the ICW.  Without good anchorages further up, we stopped short today and will make it to St. Augustine tomorrow and then out the Inlet on Monday all way to downtown Jacksonville on the St. John's River.

Cruising past one of my most favorite places along the ICW, Haulover Canal, just off the Indian River,  north of Titusville, around Merritt Island.  Wildlife abounds here, around this man made narrow canal that cuts between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River.  I spotted 3 flamingos - a first for me; numerous dolphin and  manatee; too many herons, egrets, pelicans - both brown and white - and other birds to begin to count roosting in the mangroves and spoil islands along the way.

Interestingly, the pelicans work together here, swimming in a group, herding fish together by flapping their wings on the water.  Before the fish can escape, the birds gobble them up!  Dolphin herd fish like that too, circling around the fish and taking turns getting in the middle of the dolphin circle and chowing down!    I've never seen an alligator,but they are here, I'm told.  This is a place I'd love to come back to in a sea kayak, so I could poke right in to these little inlets and coves and be right in with the wildlife.  In the interim, I have to be content with carefully watching that we remain in the dredged channel, or we would be aground.  When one sees birds walking on water, one should know that the water is very shallow!!!

Sunday, May 9 Mother's Day, 2010
Easy trip into St. Augustine City Marina via ICW, in spite of the shoaling and low tide.  USCG kept putting out warnings about shallows and shoals off an Inlet, but we had no trouble....lucky us mainly, as others had run aground all day long in that area.   I'd called my Mom and sister, Anne, who drove down to meet us so we could all celebrate Mother's Day together, rather than wait another day or two.  A great dinner and fun time was had by all.  After dinner, Andy & I walked around Old Town St. Augustine, taking in the sights, which were mostly tourists like us!

Monday & Tuesday, May 10 & 11, 2010
Couple of incredible, awful days..... The port engine quit on us out in the Atlantic after departing St. Augustine at 7:00 AM so we could have a good day's travel.  When the port engine goes out, the stabilizers go OUT and OFF.

Andy went into the engine room, replacing relays, but that only gave us a short respite, before all quit again.  Poor guy, over $52,000  for stablilizers that will stop this rock and roll and he is still seasick!!!  He sat on the aft deck, trusting his life w me at the helm.   Actually, he was too sick to care, and probably wished I'd end it all for him.  Nothing worse than sea sick!  The seas were 3-5 feet and almost at beam, rock and roll all the way:  up, down, rock, rattle, roll over and sway yet again... NO stablizers after all that.

After 3 hours of that, we finally got to the inlet at Jacksonville and St. John's River and in we went, to the first marina inside at Mayport, FL.  We got tied up, called a John Deere technician who arrived pretty promptly and finally got us started again.  Maybe, just maybe he found the problem in that the reply switch is so close to the port engine it gets too hot and shuts down.  He tied it up and around and all of us crossing our fingers, off we went after a 4 hours delay.  But, I question the 'fix'.  We've been cruising for two years.....why a hot engine now?  However, this engine has QUIT on us about 3 other times...AND we have replaced that relay before -----  so maybe????

About 3-4 hours later, up the St. John's River toward the Naval Air Station, where we planned to leave our boat for a month, we were stopped in the River by Customs & Immigration.  They wanted to know if we were US citizens; how many people on board; did we have any weapons aboard and where were we coming from and going to....Once they heard we were headed to NAS (which means we are retired or active miliary -- at our age, certainly NOT active military), they pulled in their fenders they had just thrown over and did not board us and went on their way, letting us go on our way.  We had 5 minutes to make it to NAS before they closed and we were hoping for help in tying us to the dock.

Bah, 2 minutes to 6 and the folks were gone at the dock...kinda confusing to get into there but we did get to the dock.  My cowgirl skills are improving as I was able to 'lasso' each piling or cleat and get us secured to the dock w/o any help in sight!  Finally secure, we trashed any idea of dinner and headed for the Blue Moons and a hummas snack.  Beer and Bed sounded like a great plan.....long day with some tension thrown in. 

Would you believe, two guys (separately) came up to say hello at the dock and to WARN us NOT TO STAY here!!!!  Even tho they are at these docks!!!!  Seems there is an 11 mile fetch (means that there is 11 miles of OPEN water before our boat and in a south wind, it howls, blows up big waves which will smash our boat against the dock.  They each pointed to a sailboat over by us, in a slip (we were tied along side the dock) that actually got pushed up and over the dock the month before due to the winds/fetch.  The damage to the boat was significant:  gouged gelcoat and scratches everywhere!! Much appreciated insights!  We added three more fenders to the side of the boat and went to bed.... no south winds predicted til tomorrow...

Up fairly early with thoughts of finding another marina - most likely headed back to Jax Beach Marina near Anne & Mom, I found nothing working properly.  Seems we LOST power during the night.  Andy had a melt down when he realized our batteries were way way DOWN due to not being able to charge as we had no spite of being plugged in all night.  To the non-boater, no power and batteries not charging means we would not have power to START the boat.  Batteries discharging all also damages batteries and with over $3,000 in batteries we are NOT anxious to replace something that should last a long time.

Andy headed to the marina office to tell them in spite of our month's reservation, we had spent one night and we departing.  The gal actually told him they had that power problem off/on a lot.  What IF we had left our boat there as we'd planned to do, (remember that granddaughter that is scheduled to be born 5/21 or arrive on her own even sooner - we are driving to Clearwater later in the week so we will be on hand!)  returning in 10 days or 2 weeks?  Dead batteries also mean dead refrigerators and dead, thawing freezers.....Ever have your refrig/freezer go out and you didn't notice?  Phew, ruins everything, including the equipment!!! 

Almost 4 hours after departing NAS Marina, we pulled into Beach Marina on Jacksonville Beach off the ICW for the month.  Another not so hot day.....trouble comes in threes and here was #3.  The wind was howling at about 30 knots (per the Marina's estimation), low tide, no room to manuever and boom, we were stuck.  Andy is so good at backing this boat into tiny slips, but nothing worked today.  Between the strong wind, the current and docks so close together, a nightmare quickly evolved.  NOTHING worked.

With boats on both sides of us, a narrow passageway and then more docks at the end, Andy was at the mercy of the wind.  Without much room to manuver, and me in the cockpit, fender in hand, we tried over and over to get into the slip backwards.  Nothing worked -- I'd fend us off the boats and finally, he hit pilings; hit a piece of wood sticking out and no attempts on my part was able to keep us off.  THEN, the WIND pinned us to the dock at the end of the slips...nothing worked to get us off.  Andy said later, he figured we'd be there for hours til wind quit or changed direction.  We could not get off that place.  Suddenly, the wind abated and Andy pulled us out of the dock area, turned the boat back around and headed back toward the slip, this time BOW IN and we made it.  Ugh.

Scary stuff and embarrassing.  Even as beginners, we were never this bad...  We vowed over beer and wings at dinner in the bar next to the marina tonight that no more --- back to the headsets so only we could hear the @###@!!! that was emitting from certainly my mouth today and his too.....but my @##%%## were  so much LOUDER than his!!!  Clearly, NO ladies on board Finally Fun today!!!!!  Just a couple of loud mouth sailor types!! grin

Thursday, May 13, 2010
We've spent our days scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing this dirty boat.  Andy, with his newly acquired power tool polisher and $300 worth of wax compounding stuff, is on a mission.  We learned some neat techniques from the guy who polished our hull while on the hard in Ft. Lauderdale and it is time to really get a good wax on the upper boat.  Sooooo much work!!!  But, at the end of the day, I remind him we ARE retired (which means nothing to do and time on our hands) and that we ARE saving about $1,000 by doing this work ourselves.  Our backs hurt, our arms hurt and everything else hurts and we have at least 4 more days of hard labor ahead of us.

Speaking of hard labor, our expected granddaughter is due to be induced a week from tomorrow (and she could still decide to come sooner, on her own).  We depart Sunday for Clearwater, to stay with Lindsay, Walker and Baby Pickett and to babysit Pickett for the week...a treat for us while we await new Baby's arrival.  With scheduled appointments with friends, doctors, CPA, hair salon, etc. we will be busy.

We will return to the boat sometime after the birth, again returning to Clearwater on June 28.  We've rented a condo on the beach for a week, with Leslie, RobertE and Riley and my Mom.  We'll be out of Lindsay's hair, have a vacation, and give her a fun place to rest, relax with the new baby and let us play with Pickett during the day and keep him overnight as much as she'll let us.  Should be a good time had by all!

We will need to depart Jacksonville prior to June 15, as we must be out of FL per our insurance requirements by then.  We changed our insurance all around, allowing us to stay south of the Cape Hatteras line during hurricane season because we feel basically lazy and don't want to cruise so specific destination further north we wanted to be at.  We'll hang around Charleston, Georgetown, etc. as I've said before, driving back to FL to play with new granddaughter and with Pickett, and in general, just chill.

I'll update blog from time to time, but Finally Fun is tied up for a month now.

May 27, 2010
Busy, busy time.  We were on hand for the arrival of our granddaughter, Makenna Avery Lea, on Friday, May 21, born about 5:30 in the afternoon.  Ah, a beauty!  Her little brother, Pickett, is not so interested - the items in the hospital room intrigue him far more!
Baby Makenna & Momma Lindsay
We have gotten into a routine at Lindsay's house, "holding down the fort" while the new parents bond with the baby at the hospital  Imagine, now days, the baby is born in the room, Daddy gets to stay overnight, sleeping on a pull out couch in the room, spends all day in the hospital room helping the new Mom with the baby.

Pickett's t-shirt says ONLY CHILD now scratched thru to say:   Big Brother

Visitors can come and go, including the young siblings.  Bah, in my day, too many years ago to count, babies were relegated to the hospital nursery, brought out at the convenience of the NURSES or on a schedule to be fed by Mom.  Dad could come during visiting hours and siblings were person non grata....If allowed at all, they could peek at their new brother or sister through a glass window.  Very positive. enlightened changes over the years!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2nd Year: Key West January to April 2010


January 23 - 26, 2010
Beautiful sunsets
Another long day from Marathon to Key West.  However, it certainly was an interesting visual cruising southbound, watching the various islands off our starboard side.  If one were coming down by auto from Key Largo it would be 126 miles, traveling along the historic US1 highway.  You'd cross 42 bridges joining tiny islands and the prettiest bridge is 7 miles LONG!  I might add that since it is a two lane road for the most part, it is also a very slow trip down as everyone gaggles and stares at the beauty all around... Imagine, the Atlantic Ocean is on one side and the Gulf of Mexico is on the other!  Where else can you see sunrises and sunsets from the same chair on the same day???

Naturally, coming around Key West to get into the busy confusing harbor area, the Ray Marine Chart Plotter failed again BIG TIME and we had to come in totally depth, no visual channel, no nada no nothing.  Piece of crap....and this was a new Ray Marine Chart plotter just installed a few days prior, remember?  By a Ray Marine certified technician.  So over this piece of junk...never worked since the day we got it - June 2008.

Ah well, we finally made it to the City Mooring Field off Fleming Island and thank god another boater came to help us secure to the mooring ball.  There is NO way we could have secured the boat as there is no line by which to grab and secure to your boat, only a little few inch long tab by which to run your line through --- IF you could ever reach it.

Famous Sloppy Joe's Bar
Jim, aboard the sailboat, Chipper, met us in his dingy, taking our lines and securing them through the mooring ball.

Ah, another new experience for Galen and Becky, including all the dink rides back and forth to shore.  I know they will remember the night we returned back after dark in the dink, with ice cold waves splashing over us most of the way back.  I had the flashlight and could hardly hang on - bouncing along we went.  It was hot showers for all quickly as we boarded Finally Fun dripping wet, head to toe!  I know Becky and Galen will also remember the dink trip where we RAN OUT OF GAS - the unforgivable......We paddled to a dock on shore (not far, thank goodness) and a couple of workers on shore graciously took Galen and the empty tank to a gas station in their truck and returned to help us get the dink started.  Now Galen and Becky HAVE experienced it all!!

Galen, Sharon, Becky & Andy @ Sloppy Joe's Bar
 January 26 - February 1, 2010
Galen and Becky departed and Hal and Jill rejoined us, arriving via the Naples/Ft. Myers Ferry.  At least the weather is warmer now and we are sightseeing in shorts -- a huge improvement from the beginning of January!
End of the road - Mile ZERO of US1

Plenty to do & see in Key West

Roosters are protected here by law & everywhere!

Ah, Key West, the southernmost point in the Continental United States, noted for it's laid back attitude and the mix of people who inhabit this place.  Only about 2 miles by 4 miles wide and long, it doesn't take long to see it all via foot or bike!  There is plenty to do if one likes to eat and to drink - someone told me there are more than 350 bars here.

The Keys are home to whopper game fish such as sailfish, marlin, tarpon and great eating fish such as grouper, mahi-mahi, snapper.  Shrimp and lobster are also everywhere....I MUST go fishing here, getting Andy to untie this boat so we can go play!

Galen & Sharon in Mallory Square
The major tourist attraction is Mallory Square (it was a PIER when I was a kid here) where a carnival like festival takes place every night about a hour before the sun goes down.

Sunset takes on the spirit and demeanor of a Baptist tent revival here!  Shouting, stomping, and I swear, praying to the sunset god for a good sunset!

Entertainer in Mallory Square

All kinds of entertainers

 AND, the setting sun is a spectacular sight with the backdrop of sailing schooners out on the water with the boatloads of tourist aboard and the vivid red ball slowing making its way to the edge of the water.  Weird, eclectic street entertainers abound, all trying to get a buck from the bug eyed tourists. I especially liked the magician and the guy on stilts.  The cat man was crazy and scary to be around and his cats did nothing.  That man I moved back away from....scary scary scary as he cackled like a witch....

Everywhere one looks is something else going on, including sword swallowers, fire tossing jugglers, street vendors selling junk stuff to good food.  It is also legal to walk around with your cocktail or beer, so one can imagine the hooting crowd!! 

February 2 - 12, 2010
Foolishness in Key West
Settling into a routine of sorts,  we spend our days up early (why, I ask?) and poking around all day.  It is wonderful to relax & be lazy after about a year of rushing around, pulling anchor nearly every day to cruise somewhere! We're now riding our bikes about 1.5 hours a day around part of the Island over to the Beach.  Did I mention that the Beach is a BUST?  Not much there -- man made sand, no waves (remember waves are a product of water hitting shore and that doesn't really happen with such a small island) and lots of seaweed.  Ugh.  Between the bike rides and the dink ride to get there and the walking around Old Town as a alternative exercise, the day moves right along.


 We've met some great boaters around here, including a couple, Mark & Lee, from Britain, who are anchored just off the mooring field.  Given that they are 55' - the city says they are too big to grab a mooring  ball - the limit is 50' and we just made it in here.

 Sharing a few dinners and cocktails watching the sun set while listening to their tales of life at sea (more of our around the world sailors!!) has renewed my interest in getting to the British Virgin Islands.  I now know where the hurricane holes are and how to get into one, etc. so I am on a mission with the goal of getting there in 2011......Once I get a solid plan and find some other boaters to tag along, maybe Andy will agree.

We saved the Brits bacon, as Lee put it.  The other night, after dinner aboard their boat and sound asleep aboard our boat, Andy woke up thirsty (must have been the quantity of wine they poured at dinner) about 3:00 AM.  Peering out the window, he was shocked to see the Brit's huge trawler just off our starboard side!  Clearly, their boat was dragging that anchor and had come about 1,000 yards already through the mooring field and had NOT hit another boat -- YET.

Andy woke me and he hopped into our dink with the flashlight and headed over, shining the light into their cabin bedroom window.  Two things:  We'd gotten the grand tour of their boat that night during dinner so we knew where they were sleeping AND during the conversation at dinner, learned they had no weapons aboard...a good thing when one is dinking up in the dark at 3:00 AM!  Long story short, Andy got them awake and they were able to pull anchor and get reset with three times the amount of chain they had previously put out.  Lesson Learned For Us:  Given that we dragged one time (see our story upon arrival in the Bahamas last year) after being successful set for 2 days, just like Mark & Lee, the morale of this story is to me is to pull anchor after a couple of days and reset it when one is at anchor for a number of days in the same place.  Like ours, Mark's anchor was full of weeds and mud.  I think that after a couple of days rolling around and resetting as an anchor is supposed to do -- that it gets full of weeds and mud and then finally cannot reset itself and just drags along.  Ah well, we always need some excitement.  

We hosted a Super Bowl Party aboard with lots of food and beer and wine and celebrated the New Orleans underdog win!  Life aboard is not much different from land!  Amazing, our Brits knew more about the game of football that we did!

February 9, 2010
The ongoing Ray Marine Chart Plotter saga continues.  Remember, a technician met us at the dock in Ft. Lauderdale on our way down and replaced the E120 replaced upstairs and it, like every other repair we have had done since the things were installed a year and a half ago, DOES NOT WORK.  This technician, however, was coming to Key West on vacation with his family so when he got here last week, he came out with another NEW piece of equipment and replaced the unit yet again.  He said the first unit he'd put in would not fully turn on - after freezing on/off.  There was something wrong with that unit.  AND NOW, when we moved the boat to get to a mooring ball closer (the first time we'd had the boat underway since he put in the 2nd new unit), this unit, as soon as the boat moved, would go on/off and when it came on the detailed map would not appear!  This equipment is worthless to us without the details -- it would be like looking at a map of the US without any roads, any visuals that tell you whether you are driving up a mountain, over a lake, etc.  We have called the technician and after the Miami Boat Show, he'll get back to us....

February 12 & 13, 2010
Storm on the way

 Big bad weather predicted for Friday night - the marina called us on the cell to warn us to get really secure and the US Coast Guard kept putting out warnings over the VHF radio.   As we are as buttoned up as one can get (3 lines on the mooring ball and no loose gear and 2 lines on the dink to the boat), we walked the island early in the day and had lunch in town in anticipation of a couple of days not able to get off the boat. 
Look at the squall line

Ah, luck - the storm was much ado about nothing from our perspective....mild lighting; never felt the predicted 50 mph winds; rain not so bad, etc.  I woke up about midnight to us bouncing about and checked the area out and went back to bed.  Our luck will run out one day, I guess, when a storm comes in WORSE than predicted.......
Some boats drag anchor in these squalls

Add caption

February 14, 2010

Woke at midnight to the sound of our water pump cycling off/on - not a good thing as it means water is somewhere it should not be.  A quick check revealed nothing so I shut off the circuit breaker and went back to bed.  At 5:00 AM another louder pump-like sound woke me.  Another unsuccessful search for the culprit until Andy woke and we determined it was our U-Line Refrig/Freezer motor growling at us.  Andy spent his morning fixing the water line leak in the water line in the v-berth head while I did two loads of towels that had been soaked from the leak.  We are keeping an eye on the refrig/freezer and so far, it has quieted down.  Always something - when I wish for excitement - repairs are not on the list of things I find exciting or interesting to do!

We shared a joint project meal of grilled ribs with Mark and Lee, sipping wine and beer as we watched the Winter Olympics.  Ah, I so love the mogul runs with knees pumping like pistons up and down.   I wonder if these world class athletes will be able to WALK when they are older!!  Phew, the alpine runs are just awe inspiring!

It is bitter cold in the Keys right now, with some hope of warmer temps Monday for the one day only before another cold front passes through.  This is just like the weather we had last year in the Bahamas and we opted to come to the Keys this year in hopes of slightly warmer weather.  Al Gore, go to hell with your cries of Global Warming.
Even the birds are cold!!

February 15, 2010
Ah memories.  Still too cold to dink to shore to ride our bikes but I got a chuckle out of remembering a recent dink ride from shore to the boat with Jill and Hal aboard a week or so ago.  Pitch black, few stars, fairly chilly and off we go to get back to the boat after seeing a play on Key West, which ended about 10:00 PM.  I'm hanging onto the front of the dink, big flashlight in hand, shining it back and forth so we don't run over a crab pot or a mooring ball as we bounce our way back.  With the light shining on the water, fish jump OUT of the water, flopping everywhere.  When we climbed out of the dink at the boat, I saw one of the fish in the dink.    When I pointed it out, Jill started laughing, saying she wondered what had been poking her in the leg and fanny on the way in!  Did she think it was Andy fooling around with her?  grin grin!  We successfully returned the flopping flipping hitchhiker to the water and off he swam.  Funny.
Discovered on a bike ride - complete with traveling baptismal font.  Amazing!
 More frustration again on my part -- which never seems to END.  My Cuisinart blender/food processor corked out while trying to make a fancy drink.  Same thing as all things prior.  The Cuisinart was plugged into the galley plug that has a surge protector on it - no flashed its light and quit and I smelled burning rubber.  This makes about $800 worth of small appliances that have imploded themselves always while we are on the generator power - never shore power.  I think we are now at 5 coffeepots, one iron, one curling iron, one hairdryer, the blender/food processor - different receptacle plug in places used, but always on the generator power.  NO ONE can fix this thing and the dealer turns deaf ears........totally totally disgusted with the quality of parts of this boat.  Mark suggested we get an electrician to check the sine waves from the generator - they are probably 'off'....will do.

Sharon & Andy wearing the new jackets from Galen & Becky

February 21, 2010
Where does the time go aboard?  Weather has been cold with colder winds.  Bah.  Still biking and walking about with jackets when it is not TOO cold.  Thank God we had just purchased bike helmets the other day as I managed - still don't know what I did - to FALL OFF my bike.  I saw the curb looming at my head as I went down and the handle bar went right into my rib cage as I went down....think a rib is cracked as it still hurts a week later...Bah.

We have friends aboard - Jeffrey & Ivonne from our old neighborhood in Atlanta.  We are having a great time, walking miles yesterday sightseeing and grazing our way through the various bars and restaurants.
Ivonne & Jeffrey

Andy had the water maker and our dink engine worked on this past week - normal maintenance stuff with equipment we'd had some issues with.  All is well now and we should be good to go for a long time.  Key learning is to use our dink MORE......We'd hardly used it in many many months, esp. not during our canal Canadian trip.  Lesson learned....drop the dink more and get out and explore.  It's good for the dink and better for the soul.

February 24, 2010
Ivonne and Jeffrey departed for Atlanta, having only about one really semi-nice day.  Karen & Donna arrived from NC (staying at a hotel) and 8 makes for a party!  We had a great party on board with those 4, plus Mark and Lee and Andy and I.  What else, but Key Lime Pie and freshly caught Cobia fish on the grill; majotos for drinks...a great time had by all, in spite of the fact that the 10% chance of rain turned into 100% all afternoon...indoor party and not a deck party!  Another cold front, 30 mph winds, higher seas necessitated the cancelling of a dinner party on board Mark & Lee's 55 Choi Lee tonight, with us and Karen and Donna.   Another 'raincheck'...Bah

February 28, 2010
Update on the comments above:  We cancelled our dinner party aboard the Choi Lee and at 6:00 PM we wondering WHY as weather was great....radar, however, told a different story.  Sure enough, by 7:00 ish, we got nailed with very high winds, rolling waves at about 3-4 feet and rocking and rolling.  Turning on our VHF radio to listen for any updates by the US Coast Guard, we learned a guy in a dingy flipped over trying to make it from shore to his boat at anchor out here with the rest of the boaters.  Fortunately, another boater saw him and was able to throw a line, pulling him onto his boat.  His dink was lost.  Much conversation between him and the Coast Guard as an empty floating dink is never a good sign!  The worst, however, is the fact that a young woman is missing at sea and presumed drowned from that same storm.  We heard on the VHF radio a boater in the adjacent anchorage call the Coast Guard saying he saw a dink float by with someone trying to get the engine re-started and was floating out toward Cuba..  After a two day search, the Coast Guard called it off.  The woman was reported missing the next day and she and her dink never seen again.  So sad.  The water was so rough, the winds so strong that she probably flipped as did the other guy...She had no control over her dink as it had no power and she would not have been able to point it into the waves, etc. and probably got broadsided and went over.  Another reminder to pay close attention to the weather and not to take chances!!

It is one cold front after another; bah.  Tired of it, just like we got tired of it in the Bahamas last year!  It is all  relative, however, and given the weather north of here, I should just shut up.  To put it in perspective, however, I am usually still in short sleeves and capri pants and flip flops and manage to bike nearly every day.....Definitely should quit my bitchin.....

Not too cold for someone to build sand sculptures!  Pretty fancy ones at that!!!


March 2, 2010
Wahoooo!  Yahoo!  Andy HAS AGREED to cruise to the British Virgin Islands!!!  Conversations with our Brit friends, Lee and Mark, who keep their boat in Virgin Gorda, BVI, and who cruise the world, have been instrumental in taking the fear factor out of the unknown.  I also connected with a fellow DeFever boat owner via the Internet (I sent out emails asking for info/anyone want to go, etc!!! No shame, here) who lives on his boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I spent an hour or so on the phone with him, gathering info, helpful tips, etc.  A query is already into our insurance company for quotes, restrictions, etc.  and I'm researching books, charts, etc.  I just ordered a How To Speak Spanish course on line with CD, etc.  We will add stabilizers to this boat in April up in Ft. Lauderdale and once that is completed - there will be NO turning back.  Stabilizers, another 150 feet of anchor chain, a few extra spare parts and we should be GOOD TO GO.  IF we can get that DAMN RAY MARINE CHART PLOTTER TO WORK....  The technician is returning with yet another fix and replacements on this Wednesday.  After that, if no fix, I think it is time to sue as we cannot use this boat as it is supposed to be used!

Only problem is that we will have to wait until 2011 to head Southward!  With prior commitments on my part with my former employer, Novartis, in April, taking me off the boat one or two times for potentially several days at a time; a new Granddaughter (Lindsay's) due May 24 this year and wanting to spend some extra time with my Mom in June, AND the need to be OUT of the hurricane zone (June - November 1), we can't get from the U.S. and way south of the BVI's this year....tooo late to travel that far.

So, the grand plan currently is to head out of Key West in early April (depending on family bookings aboard this floating hotel); get the stabilizers added in Ft. Lauderdale and then head back slightly south, crossing Lake Okeechobee, FL to the west coast of FL and then up to Clearwater.  We'll stay in Clearwater as long as we can, awaiting baby and helping out with grandson Pickett, who will become a 'big brother'.  Again, we must get out of the hurricane zone by early June!  Then, off across Gulf of Mexico to Mobile Bay, AL, and upward thru the various river systems, such as the Tenn-Tom, Tennessee, etc. poking around all summer.  We can make it to my Mom's hometown of Scottsboro, AL which is near the Guntersville cruising area; will make Nashville, TN a great side trip and on and on.  Will be fun to poke around up there all summer..I love the beauty of the rivers and it should be a lazy trip with plenty of time to stay at anchor and swim, learn my Spanish and dream of the upcoming cruise to the BVIs!  Then, back south across the Gulf to Clearwater for November and December to spend the holidays with family.

Then, sometime in January 2011, cruise over to the Bahamas, poking around islands we've  never seen, slowly getting to the southernmost Bahamian Island, the Exumas for a month or so, then onward to the Turks & Cacaos.   From there, downward thru the Caribbean island chain, over to the Dominican Republic, onward to Puerto Rico, poke around in the Spanish Virgin Islands and finally getting to the USVI and BVI.  After time there, we will cruise another 500 or so miles further south, all way down to Grenada and Trinidad, arriving there by June (those pesky hurricane insurance requirements again- getting out of potential harm's way).  I looked at a map -- ummm, Venezuela is right near there - probably less than  90 miles by water....I see more exploration and even more new experiences!!!  After November 1, we will cruise back up to the USVI and BVI for the winter.  And so on and so on and so on.  Who knows when we will return!  There are plenty of flights back to US for family visits for us, so we'll get our 'family fix' fairly often!  Ah, one of the most beautiful places to cruise ever with it's green mountain tops poking out of the spectacular acqua waters!  Can you tell I am so excited!!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Maybe maybe maybe the Ray marine Chart Plotter is fixed...How many times have I thought this?  Too many to count.  The factory tech arrived, replacing the E80 Chart Plotter (the master brain to the E120 on the fly bridge helm station which has been replaced already TWICE).   He thinks the E80 was sending data intermittently to the E120    Exactly.....for nearly two years we have been having this intermittent problem..DUH.

He also upgraded our Sirrus radio software to the newest version because our radio would not change channels appropriately.  The radio, part of this software/equipment package, would not display the Sirrus channel selection page, so when we went to the MENU we had nothing and would be stuck on what we were already zoomed on....No way to change channels.  We won't know until we cruise out of here in April if this repair worked or not.  The problems NEVER show up until underway.....Running the engine doesn't do anything...we must be in motion to have it work - or not work as is the case with us!

March 23, 2010
Guess What.  No Surprise here.  The last fix on the Ray Marine Chart Plotter DID NOT WORK.

We made our trip cruising to Old Island Marina on Stock Island yesterday for repair of our prop that we dinged in Pennecamp on the way down.   Guess what?  No surprise here, the damn Ray Marine Chart Plotter still does not work, given all these repairs.  Underway for the first time since the most recent chart plotter repair mentioned above, it took about 25 minutes before the plotter started it usual OFF stuff.  Phone calls to the technician and much discussion.  Hands thrown up in the air, now thoughts say it is a cable problem...power problem.  Two years and untold techs later and still no fix.   Same issues as always.

We will give it one more shot while stabilizers are being installed in Ft. Lauderdale in a few weeks and then off to the lawyers I guess because we cannot use this boat and certainly cannot take our trip southbound to the Caribbean as planned without a working reliable chart plotter.  I've long ago lost count of the number of repairs and repair people that have tried to fix this lousy piece of equipment.

It took about about an hour to cruise around Key West to the other side to have the boat hauled and the bent prop repaired. 
Finally Fun about to be hauled

Funny thing, high up on 'stilts' here in the boatyard awaiting return of our repaired prop, Andy bumped into an electrician working in the yard who, after discussion about our tribulations on this chart plotter, has his own theory.  He came over, checked around and believes the problem to be that the chart plotter is in the hole too tight and that underway, being too tight, it gets bumped and sends a 'signal' and confuses the computer.  He pushed on the chart plotter and got it to react, solidifying his theory.  So, when we head back to the mooring field, we will do some pushing back on the plotter when it goes OFF and see what happens.  Stay tuned.  I stay in a murderous rage over this entire fiasco.

Up in the air at Old Island Marina for less than 24 hours and we were back at our mooring ball in Garrison Bight.  Would you believe, we had our repair done in LESS time than anticipated AND at less money.  A first for us--under budget and under time estimate!  WOW!

It's been a busy month with  cold fronts in and out and the weather good/fairly good. Given the snow elsewhere, I will not complain as most of the time I am still in tshirts and capri pants and barefooted.  Add a jacket when in the dink and I'm good to go. 

Adam, Nicole & Aubrey
We had a great time with Andy's son, Adam, aboard along with his girlfriend Nicole and her 7 year old daughter, Aubry.  I love best introducing children to the wonders of the water and the wildlife.  Aubry was an eager learner and game to try anything.  She loved the wet dink rides, especially in the dark, even though it was cold!

We visited the Key West Aquarium, the Butterfly Conservatory and the beach, as well as the obligatory Mallory Square.  Andy loved having her here as it gave him every excuse to buy ice cream on every outing!!!
Adam, Andy, Aubrey & Nicole
Bob & Chala at the Southermost Point of the USA

With time in between to change the sheets and clean up, we then welcomed Andy's high school buddy, Bob and his wife, Chela, aboard for about 5 days.  They'd traveled with us down the Hudson River from Albany to their home on the C&D Canal, so they knew full well what to expect and they are always a ball!
Chala & Bob in Key West

No wonder Andy fell in love with me.  I am like his best friend, Bob.   He and Chala have decided that Bob and I are EXACTLY alike, driving them both crazy double time.  grin

Much eating and drinking and sightseeing yet again and boom, the days passed and off went Bob and Chala, back to their home on the C&D Canal.

We are grateful for the use of their auto as we replenished groceries (translate that to mucho cases of beer as we can't carry that kind of stuff when we shop via our hiking) and our two empty propane gas tanks.

We had our dink engine worked on several times while here, getting that stubborn engine worked on and cleaned up a bit.  We inquired about putting an electric start on it as I cannot pull it to get it started.  At over $200, we decided Andy will keep on pulling and if he can't, well, I can row.  The problem with the engine boiled to .....Seems we need to use it more....GREAT idea.  Goal is to drop it more during our cruising and explore the area while at anchor.We used that dink one time probably from May til we got to Key West in late January!!!  No wonder it was gunked up. 

Speaking of dink, Andy HATES taking the dink into Old Town, having to go thru a bit of a canal, under a bridge to get there.  The current RAGES thru there except at slack tide, being funneled into the more narrow area.   The sportfishermen have no regard for smaller boats and dinks and one, yet again, came flying thru the channel, passing us, throwing a wake.  That wake then goes back and forth between the walls of this tight canal and throws us a very confused sea of waves, making it even more hazardous to our health and well being.

Calming down, back on board.  The view does lower one's blood pressure!
Coming back the other night, with Bob and Chela aboard, an arrogant sportfisherman zoomed up behind us, zipped past us into the main 'channel' under the bridge, forcing us to the right, between two other bridge concrete pilings..  Why this jerk could not trail behind us for a few minutes until he could safely pass us is beyond me.  At the last second, he raced around us to beat us under the bridge.  He threw us to hell and back.  I and Andy thought  we might get hurled into a concrete piling, but suddenly the dink simply would NOT move forward, even given full power.  The current was so very strong, we could make NO progress for a few moments, simply staying in place, thrashing about due to the idot sportfisherman, "SECOND CHANCE" boat wake.   Obviously, we finally moved forward after more than a few seconds of holding our collective breaths and made it back to Finally Fun.  I was very tempted to call the guy on the VHF when we got to the boat, and probably should have.   Bottom line:  Andy says he is DONE with dinking to Old Town.  We'll need to dink to the City Marina dingy dock at Garrison Bight (where we are moored) and hike the mile into town.  Ah well, he is probably right....

We are researching our summer trip up the TennTom and Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.  While all of this is interesting and will be very relaxing...translate to perhaps boring compared to Canada, we are game as we want to spend more time in Clearwater on the way up and especially back down to there in November & December.  That, coupled with the fact that it is too late to head to the Caribbean this year......... My heart, however, is into planning for the long trip to the US & British Virgin Islands and beyond.  My Spanish tapes have arrived and I will get into them on the summer river cruising.  I'm doing lots of research and finding a mother lode of information regarding all of the Caribbean Islands, including cruising websites, safety info; cruisers net, etc. etc. etc.  I am so ready to take off!

Update Sunday, April 11, 2010
Been a great couple of weeks, with weather improving daily to  summer balm, hot and humid.  Breeze is great on the water, however, so for the most part, we are very comfortable.

 My sister, Anne, her two daughters, Devon and Kellee, along with Devon's 7 year old daughter, Myla, and Kellee, long time significant other, Bryan, arrived April 3 for a week of fun and festivities.  They stayed at the Navy vacation spot right next to our dingy dock, Anne having still a military retiree ID card.   We had a great time as a group, giving Myla lots of dingy rides and even keeping her overnight on the boat so the grownups could do the Duvall Crawl.  Understand there were a lot of headaches the next morning...grin.
Anne & Family

Pick your size - too many bras hanging to count!
Not wanting to miss any fun, I spent one night at the rental place with Anne and the group, while Andy babysat Finally Fun.....Our Girl's Night Out  was fun and my head hurt the next morning.

We did the Must Do's While in Key West -- a transvite show which was tasteful and fun; crashed the Clothing Optional bar at midnight, dancing with a bachelor party group and everyone ignored the clothing option issue, except the waitress, who was topless with painted boobs.  Believe me, we all would have preferred she cover up.  That was a LOT of paint, mostly dripping get the picture....Not a pretty visual.  A final stop at the original place where Hemingway drank - Capt. Tony's, where Anne left her bra...I think she hangs one from the ceiling every time she's in Key West....She swears Mom's is hanging up there too from 55 years ago, when we were here as kids.  Mom, now 88 years old,  swears NOT....Anne & her family departed on Friday morning. 

We then entertained aboard Finally Fun, a colleague of mine from Novartis, Sunny Cade and a friend of hers vacationing here in Key West with her.  We had a fun evening, with some 'remember when', but mostly centered on the present and the future.  It is always wonderful and special to catch up with friends. 

We caught the local bus to and from the Naval Air Station on Boca Chica, a couple of small islands above Key West yesterday to attend the Southernmost Air Spectacular.  Wow, what a show, with flying from 10:30 til 3:30.  The parashooters coming down, trailing red, white, blue smoke with the American Flag flying from their heels was wonderful, with the American Anthem playing was great.

Wing walkers, (why, I ask would someone want to do that?!), all kinds of stunt planes and finally, The Blue Angels!  The very best was when one Blue Angel blew thru the sky barely above the runway and one snuck in behind the crowd, zipping loudly over the crowd, who never saw him coming.  I wonder how many people wet their pants at that one!  The crowd, almost in unison, us included, jumped a foot off the ground we were all so startled!   Simply AWESOME!

Sunburned and melting hot, we finally got back to the boat for cool showers and flaked out for the evening.  Loved it!  Another Proud To Be An American day!
Ah, military pride!

Saw a female pilot!

Always jaw dropping!!

Lindsay, Walker and Baby Pickett will arrive late today from Clearwater and we can't wait to see them.  Lindsay, 8 months pregnant with our granddaughter, promises not to deliver early while on board.  Andy hopes she is right!
Sooo love this little guy!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Enjoying the visit with daughter, Lindsay and her family.  Baby Pickett loves nothing better than walking to the bow of the boat to look around.  He doesn't mind the bright red life jacket and is getting better at picking it up --- his new signal he wants to go outside!

Can't tell if he is crying because he wants OUT or to go MORE
The more the dingy bounces and the wetter he gets, the harder he laughs!  Great trooper!  Me, my pants were so wet yesterday from the dink ride in that I looked like I should have had on the diaper instead of Pickett!  Lindsay, totally off balance at 8 months pregnant, has managed to NOT fall off the dink thus far, a great relief to us all.  We do, however, now keep the doors to the forward and aft cabins locked at all times and keys well out of Pickett's reach.  One opening of a door and he'd tumbled down those long flights of steep steps --- the outcome of which could only be  terrible.
Boat showers every day

Lindsay seems to get as wet as Pickett

 Miscellaneous Key West Photos

Bob & Andy fondling the art work in Key West

Conch Train

Rental cars are fun!

Key West Tourist Building
The exhibit of Cuban 'chugs' was awe inspiring.  These home made boats show us how desperate Cubans are to come to a free country.  They make these boats in their homes out of what ever they can find and put them in the ocean to come to American, the land of the free.  Many many lose their lives. 

Rebarb and tarps & blown foam  into the tarp to make it float

Old VW type engines to propel them across the Ocean

More tarp.  This one is one wheels so it would roll to the ocean from inside a home

Click on the photo so you can read how the drug runners bring drugs into the USA now

Drug runners are bringing drugs to the USA in these small submarines!