Monthly Archives: December 2015

Going the distance!

We are finally back on the water after what seemed like an eternity on land. We had left the boat in Carrabelle and went home for the Thanksgiving holiday hoping to return the following week to cross the northeast corner of the Gulf of Mexico.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature had her own plans and decided that when we were available, she would kick up some high seas cancelling our plans for the 150 mile journey.  Again we had to postpone the departure, working around Mark’s two business trips to clients.  Finally, the planets aligned and we got a good weather window that coincided with available time.

Of course we were not idle when we were home. We were able to visit with family in Tallahassee and Orlando, and we had a nice Thanksgiving meal with Mark’s family in Oviedo. We also got some Christmas lights and decorations put up at the house, Christmas cards created & mailed, and we tended to weeds and bushes in the yard that needed attention. Denise completed the Space Coast Half Marathon (3rd year in a series of 5), managed to get some holiday baking done, and get in several fun runs with her running buddies.  Not only was this good for the waistline, it was good for her mental state.

We had much to be thankful for this year as we have safely traveled over 4100 nm with very few issues. We are also thankful for the many family members and friends who have helped us make this adventure possible.  Whether it was getting and processing mail (Mom), watching over our house (Kim & Mark), transporting us to and from the boat (Claire – double thank you!), or just calling to check on us.  We really do appreciate all that you have done for us.

Here is our latest on our adventures:

Friday, (12/11) – Carrabelle, FL – It was a beautiful morning leaving Carrabelle and we pulled away from the dock as the sky began to shed the darkness of night revealing a glorious sunrise.  Right as we left the Carrabelle channel to the GICW, we were greeted by a dolphin who frolicked in front of the boat for a while. We took this as a sign for a good day on the water.

Leaving Carrabelle, FL

Leaving Carrabelle, FL

We rounded Dog Island and headed into the Gulf of Mexico just before 7:00 am to a spectacular morning. As forecasted, there was little wind and the water was pretty flat. Within the first thirty minutes we passed the only visual sighting of anything we would have for most of the day – a radio tower that stands about 100’ high.

Tower in Gulf

Tower in Gulf

Yes, Jeanne, we spent most of the day looking at the sea as there was no land in sight; not even another boat until sometime after 1:30 pm.

Flat seas on the Gulf

Flat seas on the Gulf

Eventually we spotted more boats and the power plant stack on land in Tarpon Springs.

Lighthouse on Anclote Key

Lighthouse on Anclote Key

We entered the cut to the South of Anclote Key and turned to enter the now re-started GICW along with a charter fishing boat. The water was pretty and we were once again greeted by a few dolphins as we made our way south.

Dolphin welcoming to FL West Coast

Dolphin welcoming to FL West Coast

In no time at all we were through the Dunedin Causeway Bridge and tied up to our slip at Marker 1 Marina. It took us 9 hours and we could not have asked for better conditions to go the distance.  This was the longest mileage we traveled in a single day since this Loop adventure began on April 13th.

IMG_6390c

The marina was full of other Looper boats, most of whom we had previously met. These included friends on “Something Special”, “Corkscrew”, “Elizabear”, “Chasing 80”, “Manana”, and “Sunny Daze”.  Also in the marina were several new Back Cove and Sabre Yacht cruising boats for sale, as there is a dealer here for these boats.  In fact, we had visited this marina and almost purchased a Back Cove three years ago by this very broker. As luck would have it we ran into him at the marina office when checking in.

In the evening we decided to watch a DVD we had borrowed from friends at home. We have been trying to play catch-up on the Hunger Games series and had watched the first while home at Thanksgiving. We then borrowed the DVD of the second in the series (“Catching Fire”) to close out a very busy and long day.

Saturday, (12/12) – Dunedin, FL – As we left Carrabelle with little food on the boat, we needed to pick up a few things to get us through the week.  Denise rode her bike to Publix located a quarter mile from the marina.  It was a little bit of a challenge to carry the three bags of groceries on the bike, but the cooler tote we got at the AGLCA Rendezvous in May came in handy and kept everything cool as well.

While at the store, Mark fixed the starboard side navigation light that went out as we left Carrabelle. Initially we thought it was a burnt-out bulb, but come to find out some contacts were corroded and once cleaned, the light worked without issue.  The problem is little things like this don’t come with an owner’s manual on how to take the thing apart, so most of the time is spent figuring that out. The goal is to do the repair without breaking anything else in the process. However, what should be a 5 minute job ends up taking an hour. Hey, it’s a boat!

We also took around the marina property, exploring the pool area and the nice community room where they had put up some decorations for Christmas. They also had a few fun things and we clowned around a bit.  Here are some pictures of the marina area:

Marker 1 Marina

Marker 1 Marina

Pool at Marker 1

Pool at Marker 1

Marker 1 Marina

Marker 1 Marina

Christmas Fun

Christmas Fun

Mark - Christmas fun

Mark – Christmas fun

In the afternoon we spent time planning the rest of the week and making reservations at marinas further south. We had been in touch with our niece Jeanette who lives in Tampa. We planned to move the boat to St. Petersburg on Sunday so we could visit with her and her family at a venue that was closer to them.  However we were having difficulty squeezing in their available time on Sunday, while allowing for us to move the boat to St. Pete, as well as finding a place to go to church either here in Dunedin, or in St. Pete that would fit these timeframes.  When all was said and done, we made the decision to stay in Dunedin for one more night, and they would to come up and visit us on Sunday.

Also in the afternoon we met Russell and Karen who had just taken possession of a brand new Back Cove 37 like ours. We spent a lot of time showing them our boat and what we had added to it and why.  They took pictures and asked lots of questions, but we were happy to share what we have learned.  They were going to name their boat “Southern Comfort” and were preparing to leave on Monday to take it through the Okeechobee waterway and up the east coast to their home in North Carolina.

In the evening we met up with our now Gold Looper friends Bill & Donna Nielsen (“Renegade”) who completed their Loop in November. They live near Crystal River and made the drive down to have dinner with us.  They took us to Ozona Blue Grilling Company in Palm Harbor which is at the marina where they keep their boat (now up for sale). The food was really good and we had a great time talking about our mutual adventures since Canada.  We had traveled the entire TSW with them, and separated in Georgian Bay, so we had lots of catching up to do.  It was so great to see them and we felt honored that they would make the drive to see us.

Bill & Donna ("Renegade")

Bill & Donna (“Renegade”)

Dinner at Ozona Blue Grilling Co

Dinner at Ozona Blue Grilling Co

It was late by the time we got back to the boat and we were tired so we called it a day and went to bed.

Sunday, (12/13) – Dunedin, FL – Since our plans had changed to stay in Dunedin one more night, we now had flexibility as to which mass to attend.  So, we slept in a little this morning, and then used our bikes to ride the 2.5 miles along the Pinellas Trail to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

Our Lady of Lourdes CC

Our Lady of Lourdes CC

This is a big parish and was quite crowded for the 9:30 mass, which was also presenting the new Candidates and Catechumens who were embarking on the journey to become Catholic.  The mass lasted well over an hour and it was a bit warm when we finally left. The good news is most of the ride was tree-covered and offered shade.

The Pinellas Trail is a bike and pedestrian path that runs through Pinellas County and stretches from Tarpon Springs in the north, to St. Petersburg in the south. It passes through the towns of Palm Harbor Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Seminole, South Pasadena, and Gulfport for a total of just over 38 miles. You can learn more about this linear parkland here.  It is really pretty and a great way to get around this area.

Along the way in Dunedin, the trail passes behind homes that line both sides of the path (very similar to parts of the Cady Way trail in Winter Park). One home in particular caught our attention as it had a very fun looking backyard with pool, outdoor sofas, and a terrific Tiki bar. On our way back from church the owner, Tom was setting up for the usual NFL Sunday so we stopped to talk with him and a few of his friends.  This is a first class Tiki bar equipped with two flat panel TVs, high-end bar stools, a surfboard for a stand-up bar table, and all the decorations – including those on the roof he put up for Christmas. Every Sunday that Tampa Bay is playing they gather to cheer on their team and have fun. This is not open to the public, but if you showed up with wings in hand, and a Buccaneer shirt on, we are sure he would invite you to stay.

Tom's Tiki Hut

Tom’s Tiki Hut

We were not back at the boat very long before niece Jeanette, her husband Reed, and their adorable three girls showed up to visit. We all went to lunch at Frenchy’s Outpost – a local restaurant that has several locations in the Bay area.

Frenchy's Outpost

Frenchy’s Outpost

At Frenchy's Outpost

At Frenchy’s Outpost

At Frenchy's Outpost

At Frenchy’s Outpost

At Frenchy's Outpost

At Frenchy’s Outpost

Then we all went back to our Island Office.  We were hoping to be able to take them out on the boat, but it was too windy and we didn’t think the girls would like the rocking they would encounter.  So we allowed the girls to explore all the nooks and crannies of the boat, play with our flashlights, gave them some paper to draw things, and took some pictures. Before long it was time for them to leave. We really enjoyed the visit and appreciated them making the drive up from Tampa as we probably will not get to see them at Christmas.

Conleys on IO

Conleys on IO

In the evening the Loopers got together for the usual Docktail hour – organized this time by Mark. The marina has a covered patio area near the office that has two big tables and lots of chairs. It is perfect for such a gathering and there were many of us there.  It was fun to talk to new and old friends alike and learn from each other.

One thing that we learned was that the Tampa airport was the same distance from the marina, as it was from St. Pete Municipal Marina where we were going to move the boat on Monday. As the reason for going there was to see Jeanette and her family and that was no longer a factor, we made the decision not to go to St. Petersburg Muni Marina.  In fact, if Marker 1 had sufficient space, we were happy to stay here while Mark traveled to Ohio to see a client.  The rate was cheaper and there is easy access to many things from the marina.  We agreed to find out if this was possible from the office first thing in the morning.

After docktails, we are a quick pizza dinner on the boat and then began to watch the third Hunger Games (“Mockingjay – Part I) movie. Unfortunately, about half way through the movie, we both were falling asleep and we decided to stop it and go to bed.

Monday, (12/14) – Dunedin, FL – In the morning Denise was able to get in a nice run to and down the Pinellas Trail and back.  It was a little spooky at first because it was still dark, but there were enough other runners and cyclists that she felt safe and eventually it became daylight.

Today, we opted to do a deep cleaning our floating home. Mark scrubbed all the salt off the exterior of the boat (from the Gulf crossing) while Denise dusted, vacuumed, polished stainless steel, and cleaned the floors.  It is amazing how fast the boat gets dirty; after all we had only been on it for 3 days.

In the morning we were also able to secure our slip here in the marina for the rest of the week, so we cancelled our St. Pete reservations. This means that Friday we will have further to move the boat in order to stay on our schedule to have it in Sarasota for next Monday, but we are sure we can do this without sacrificing desired stopping points.

After lunch Mark had a conference call and some work to do for clients. Denise began cataloging pictures and started this blog update, which always seems to take longer than planned.

At 4:00 the Loopers got together for an earlier-than-usual Docktail hour and a “White Elephant” Christmas gift exchange. The rule was to bring something from your boat that you no longer wanted to keep or haul. We had replaced a potable water hose before Thanksgiving and we were still carrying the old one, so this was our contribution.  It was lots of fun and we ended up getting a bottle of Margarita Mix – unfortunately, we don’t have the tequila onboard to mix it with!

Looper White Elephant Christmas

Looper White Elephant Christmas

During this time, Mark was picked up by Enterprise as we had rented a car to use to take him to the Tampa airport in the morning, and for Denise to use the rest of the day.

We had a light dinner aboard the boat and then finished watching “Mockingjay Part I”; we are now ready to see the last movie in the series (“Mockingjay Part II) at the theater when we are home for Christmas.

Tuesday, (12/15) – Dunedin, FL – Mark had a 6:20 a.m. flight out of Tampa airport, so we were up very early to make the 20 mile drive south.  Denise returned to the boat for breakfast and some morning emails, and then headed out to explore.  She took advantage of the rental car to do several errands, including shopping for a few Christmas gifts, and some sightseeing.

She headed first to downtown Dunedin to walk through the shops and explore the marina there. It is a very cute town with lots of restaurants and interesting shops, and it was all dressed up with beautiful Christmas decorations.  Denise was sorry Mark wasn’t there to see it.  The Pinellas Trail runs right through the heart of town, and it looked like a great place to stop for lunch on a full day of cycling.

Pinellas Trail - Downtown Dunedin

Pinellas Trail – Downtown Dunedin

Here are some other pictures from downtown Dunedin:

Downtown Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin

After running some errands in the Dunedin area, she drove up to Tarpon Springs, where it is really like two towns in one. The first area to see were the Sponge docks which run along the waterfront near the marina.  This is a very touristy area with lots of ticky-tacky souvenir shops and a plethora of Greek restaurants (there is a huge Greek community here).  She was glad we made the decision to stay in Dunedin not here after Carrabelle.

The second part of Tarpon Springs is the downtown area, loaded almost exclusively with antique shops, a few bars, and a Historical Museum in the old Train Depot. It is quite small and there is not much to see during the week. Here are some pictures of these sights:

Historical Train Depot Museum

Historical Train Depot Museum

Pinellas Trail in TS

Pinellas Trail in TS

Downtown Tarpon Springs

Downtown Tarpon Springs

However, the more interesting area is just west of the main street. Here there are two beautiful connected parks (Craig & Coburn parks) surrounding the water and are bordered by streets with old Victorian and quaint homes.  Several of the streets have some pretty large houses, many which are on the Tarpon Bayou or branches from that. This is also where the Tarpon Springs Yacht club is located. The water eventually leads to the GICW.  It was a really pretty part of Tarpon Springs and worth the short drive to see it all.  Here are some pictures from this area:

Coburn & Craig Parks

Coburn & Craig Parks

Tarpon Springs Victorian

Tarpon Springs Victorian

Historical Train Depot Museum

Historical Train Depot Museum

Tarpon Springs Yacht Club

Tarpon Springs Yacht Club

Eventually, Denise had to return the rental car, and it took forever for Enterprise to get her back to the marina; despite showing up when they told her it was “slow”. One thing we will not miss when we are done the Loop is the transportation challenges we have faced.

A note for other Loopers who read this blog: There is a trolley that runs in this area and will take you to and from downtown Dunedin and/or Tarpon Springs, however, they only run on the weekends. If you wish to travel on the weekdays, you will need to use the city bus, get a car, or bike the trail.

The evening was quiet and most of the Loopers kept to themselves, as did Denise. She ate leftovers for dinner and started to watch the Republican debate on TV until she was too tired and eventually called it a day.

That is our update for now – stay tuned for more adventures soon!

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Captured in Carrabelle!

Loopers are warned to not be on a schedule, and we really have tried not to be. However, we did have a “plan” to be in Dunedin or Clearwater, FL where we intended to leave the boat for Thanksgiving. But the weather did not cooperate so we have had to leave the boat in Carrabelle, FL which is where it currently sits.

Carrabelle is just south of Tallahassee and is the last port on the GICW before the Big Bend area of Florida – where the water is too shallow and the land is too swampy for it to continue.  It will pick back up on the west coast at Tarpon Springs, but getting there or further south requires a 140 – 160 mile crossing of the northeastern tip of the Gulf of Mexico.  Since this will take us about 8 – 9 hours, we must have a good weather window with calm seas for a whole day.

To top it all off, work has picked up for Mark and he now must make 3 trips to client sites between now and Christmas. This has hampered our ability to be available to move the boat when the weather is good, so now Denise will stay in Winter Park for a few weeks until we get a good combination of acceptable weather and Mark’s availability.  It’s a good thing we are not on a schedule and that we are just a 4-hr drive between home and boat.

Here is the last few days on our adventure before the holiday break:

Tuesday, (11/17) – Apalachicola, FL – This morning we settled into our boat and enjoyed some very nice, albeit windy weather.  It was sunny and the temperature was comfortable, so it was nice to just open up the boat and work from our Island Office.  Denise finally got the last blog post done and Mark was able to get some phone calls in and client work completed.

We visited with some of the other Loopers in our marina, or who walked down to our boat to discuss travel plans this week. Everyone is trying to figure out how to make a Gulf crossing, and the weather is just not cooperating. The high winds are forecasted to continue for the next week with a small window developing for maybe Friday.  This has everyone frustrated; we would be happy to just get to Carrabelle so we can leave the boat and go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. If the weather is good tomorrow we will cruise the 24 miles there and Claire will come down from Tallahassee to get us.

In the late afternoon we walked all around the town of Apalachicola and sought out a friend who works in the courthouse, only to learn she was in Tallahassee all week for training.  We then went to the Owl Café Tap Room for drink and appetizer, and to hang out watching sports on their TV’s.  Later we went around the corner and up the stairs to the dining room at the Owl Café and had a fabulous meal of red snapper (Denise) and black grouper (Mark).  We left the place stuffed and highly recommend this as a great place to eat.

The Owl Cafe

The Owl Cafe

Wednesday, (11/18) – Apalachicola, FL – Our hopes for leaving were dashed this morning when we woke up to howling winds and now high water around the marina.  The SE winds have pushed the water from Apalachicola Bay north into the river and it is flooding all the fixed docks just south of us.

Flooding over fixed docks

Flooding over fixed docks

Fortunately, where we are there are floating docks and we are rising with the water; no flooding here like we had at Dog River in Mobile.

After Mark did some work in the morning, we walked to Boss Oyster for lunch.  This restaurant is very popular and has been written up as one of the best oyster houses in the south.  It is quite eclectic and rustic, and we had the place almost to ourselves. You can tell it is definitely the “slow season”.

Boss Oyster

Boss Oyster

Mark at Boss Oysters

Mark at Boss Oysters

Denise at Boss Oyster

Denise at Boss Oyster

At Boss Oyster

At Boss Oyster

After lunch we walked around to the Apalachicola Marina to see some Looper friends who were docked there, but they were not on their boats.  So we walked over to the municipal marina and saw our new Looper friends on “Salty” to talk about their plans to go all the way to Steinhatchee tomorrow morning. The have a small C-Dory with a shallow draft and can navigate the shallow water there better than we could. They are from Melbourne Beach and are anxious to get back home as they run a marina there and it is boating season in FL. We agreed to stay in touch and keep each other posted about leaving in the morning.

Although it was very windy and there was increasing clouds, we wanted to walk and see more of the town.  Right near the municipal marina is the headquarters and the park which hosts the annual seafood festival; Florida’s oldest maritime event.

Seafood festival sign

Seafood festival sign

Seafood Festival HQ

Seafood Festival HQ

Our trek then took us by St. Patrick’s Church and near the Hine’s house (a house owned by the parents of Denise’s nephew’s girlfriend – Scarlett).

St. Patrick's

St. Patrick’s

Hine's house

Hine’s house

We then went to the John Gorrie Park and Museum, which unfortunately was closed for the day.  John Gorrie was responsible for inventing the technology which led to refrigeration and air conditioning. After a few pictures here we walked back through a few shops in town, then headed back towards our marina, but not before the sprinkles started.

John Gorrie State Museum

John Gorrie State Museum

John Gorrie Marker

John Gorrie Marker

Here are some other pictures we took during our walk:

Gibson Inn

Gibson Inn

City Wharf

City Wharf

Leavins Seafood

Leavins Seafood

Raney House Museum

Raney House Museum

We were not on the boat long before the weather turned really ugly with rain, wind and big gusts.  Suddenly, the weather radio alerts went off and announced a tornado warning (not a watch) for our area.  So where do you go when you are on a boat and there is a tornado warning?  The lobby of the marina hotel!  Fortunately for us it was right near our boat and we didn’t have to walk far. So we hung out in the lobby for a little while until the apparent threat was diminished, then went back to the boat for the rest of the evening.

Water Street Hotel Lobby

Water Street Hotel Lobby

The forecast for tomorrow looked good to move the boat to Carrabelle, so we made plans accordingly and prepped the boat before going to bed.

Thursday, (11/19) – Carrabelle, FL – The morning brought the calm weather that was forecasted and we knew the trip to Carrabelle was short, so we were not in too big a hurry to leave.  However we did expect the wind to pick up a little, and we did not want to be in Apalachicola Bay or on St. George’s Sound if it started to blow strong.  Eventually, we headed out for an uneventful passage to Carrabelle; a town we have been to or through many times before.  We communicated with “Salty” and learned they too had left, but were going to try and make it to Steinhatchee; a very long day for them.

Hiway 98 Bridge - Leaving Apalachicola

Hiway 98 Bridge – Leaving Apalachicola

Entering Carrabelle

Entering Carrabelle

We arrived at the Moorings Marina and first stopped for a fill-up of diesel.  Our next passage will have us heading offshore in the Gulf and we needed to have the maximum amount of fuel possible.

Moorings Marina Office

Moorings Marina Office

Afterwards, we were assigned a slip on the western end of the marina, where the current seemed to grow stronger with each passing slip. Finally arriving at the designated slip, it took Mark three attempts but he finally was able to park the boat.  At first Denise was a little embarrassed that it took so many attempts, but then the next three boats who came in after us had an even worse time so she didn’t feel so bad after all.

IO at Moorings Marina in Carrabelle

IO at Moorings Marina in Carrabelle

Since the weather was not going to cooperate for a Gulf crossing before Thanksgiving, we decided to leave the boat and go home for the holiday. In the late afternoon Denise’s sister, Claire picked us up and took us to her home.  We spent a few days there, visited our nephew at FSU, and then rented a car to make the 4 hour drive to our home in Winter Park.

We will continue with our adventure on Island Office when we can make a safe crossing between our scheduled client visits.

Stay tuned for more very soon!