Stretching out the last little bit!

After so much planning and all the travels of the last year, it is hard to believe we are headed into the last leg of our Great Loop adventure. We cannot wrap our head around the fact that a year has gone by already…..time really does fly when you are having fun.

Here is the latest update of our activities:

Wednesday (4/13) – Stuart, FL – We left Mariner’s Cay Marina in Stuart as late as possible as we were working feverishly to get the last blog update published before we left.  It was a nice day to be on the water and we didn’t mind the 20-mile cruise north to Ft. Pierce.  There were lots of fishing boats out and although it was breezy, the wind was out of the South making the cruise north very comfortable.

Here are some pictures of our morning on the water:

City of Fredericksburg Paddle Wheel boat - 772-678-1176

“City of Fredericksburg” paddle wheel boat – comes to Stuart, FL every winter for dinner cruises – spends summer in Richmond, VA.

Island near St. Lucie Inlet

Island near St. Lucie Inlet

Homes north of Stuart

Homes north of Stuart

Since Palm Beach, Mark had been trying to coordinate delivery with a fuel truck at one of our last few stops, and we just weren’t able to pull it off. Eventually, the difference in price was not worth the hassle to get fuel this way. We pulled into the city marina in Fort Pierce and went right to the fuel dock.  With the boat US discount we actually were only a few cents off the price from the fuel truck, so it made sense to get the diesel here.  Plus, they gave us a free holding tank pump-out since we bought over 100 gallons of fuel!  This will be our last fill up until we get to our home port.

After we got the boat tied up and settled we checked into the marina office, and walked around the facilities a bit. It had been a long time since we last visited this marina and it has grown a lot. They have new docks to the east of the older section (where we were located), and they have put in a few small breakwaters off the ICW to minimize wake and currents in the marina.  To us these looked like the wingdams we saw along the Mississippi, but we were grateful as they did the job.

Breakwater/wingdams near Ft. Pierce City Marina

Breakwater – “wing dams” near Ft. Pierce City Marina

IO at Ft. Pierce City marina

IO at Ft. Pierce City marina

There is a park just south of the marina where they have a farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings; we were told Wednesdays was considerably smaller. We went to check it out and found it was kind of small; it only took us about 15 minutes to walk through the whole thing.  We didn’t really need anything or see anything to buy so we just went back to the boat.

Wed farmer's market

Wed farmer’s market

We had heard about the good food at a restaurant called “12A Buoy” located north of the marina, and started to walk to it for dinner. The path took us past the House of Seven Gables Tourist Information center and by a park along the Riverwalk where they were having a big festival. We decided to go investigate and we discovered there was “A Taste of St. Lucie” event being held.  For a $40 per person fee, you got unlimited food & drink provided by some of the local area restaurants, bakeries and bars. All was to benefit the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of St. Lucie (county).

Mark was a little reluctant, but Denise convinced him it would be fun and for a good cause, so we paid our money and went in. For the next 1.5 – 2 hours we went through each vendor and sampled their food.  Some were really good and some were just ok, but it was great fun.  There was Italian, Bar-B-Que, and even some fried chicken, which Mark loved. The beer truck was our stopping point for beverage and we split a Stella Artois (Denise’s favorite) to quench our thirst from all the spicy stuff.  The Lexus dealer had bottled water and we ended up with 4 or 5 of their minis to help out with that too.  The best part was the DJ they had hired, and once they started playing music Denise wanted to dance. Of course no one else was dancing, but once we started it, many others chimed in.  When it switched to rap music we knew it was time for us non-hip old folks to go back to the boat, so we waddled home fully stuffed.

Seven Gable House

Seven Gables House Welcome Center

Taste of St. Lucie sign

Taste of St. Lucie sign

At "Taste of St. Lucie"

At “Taste of St. Lucie”

Once back at the marina we met the people in the boat next to us, who were Loopers too. John & Paula Dennis (“Chapter III”) are from Prince Edward Island, Canada and were so interesting to talk with. They have traveled many miles and shared some information about the Maine coast and coming down the Northeastern part of the US.  Come to find out they know some of the Loopers we also knew, and we were surprised that our paths have not crossed before now.

When we finally got back to the boat, we noticed a text message from our Looper friends KelliRae and Bill (“Ocean Dancer”) who we met back in Michigan City, Indiana in August, and whom we shared a dock with in Stock Island (Key West) in January. They had pulled in and saw we were in the marina and wanted to let us know they were there too.  We agreed to make contact in the morning and then we went to bed.  It was late and we had a full day of adventure.

Thursday (4/14) – Ft. Pierce, FL – Today was a very fun day on our adventure.  Denise started the day with a run around the up-and-coming downtown area and took lots of pictures of some cool sculptures and art around town. She also ran by the Sunrise Theater – which we were told by a local has a great history and should be toured even if you don’t go there for any live performances.  I guess we will have to make it there on our next trip through Ft. Pierce.

Sunrise Theatre

Sunrise Theatre

Although there are many small businesses that have closed out of the downtown area, there are lots of other projects going on to attract visitors to this town, including an expansion of the Riverwalk area at least one new marina going in on the island side. Here are some of the pictures she took during her run:

Park bench in Ft. Pierce

Park bench in Ft. Pierce

Fort Pierce City Hall

Fort Pierce City Hall

Sculptures near City Hall

Sculptures near City Hall

Tree Sculpture near City Hall

Tree Sculpture near City Hall

Painting Manatee sculpture

Painting Manatee sculpture

Manatee sculpture

Manatee sculpture

Sculpture near city boat ramp

Sculpture near city boat ramp

After the breakfast we made contact with KelliRae and Bill, and invited them to spend the day with us on our plans (see below), but they had chores to do as they had just come back to the US from the Bahamas and needed to tend to that. We agreed to touch base for possible dinner together.

Then we took an Uber cab to the National Navy UDT-Seal Museum on the northern part of Hutchinson Island.

Entrance to museum

Entrance to museum

This is terrific museum that pays tribute to the Navy Seals who started out as underwater demolition teams (UDT) and were originally trained in Ft. Pierce during WWII.  Yes, there really was a Fort Pierce located on the North end of Hutchinson Island.  Anyway, the museum was really fascinating and had a lot of interactive displays. Not only was it informative, but it also did a great job of paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the defense of our country.

Medal of Honor Statue

Medal of Honor Statue

There are many artifacts and a large area outside that includes old boats and equipment they used to train on.  In addition, there is an obstacle course that you can try your luck at, and a memorial for those fallen in the line of duty, similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. It is a really terrific place and worth a couple hours drive from the Orlando area to see it. You can learn more about it here.  Here are some of our other pictures from here:

Navy Seal Ethos

Navy Seal Ethos

Seals who died - Painting

Seals who died – Painting

Explaination of painting

Explanation of painting

Capt Phillips actual lifeboat

Capt Phillips actual lifeboat

Denise in SEAL gear

Denise in SEAL gear

Beach obstacles used to train for DDAY

Beach obstacles used to train for DDAY

Seal Memorial

Seal Memorial

Original part of museum

Original part of museum

We returned back to the boat very late and still had not had lunch, so we ate a quick bite and then went on our next adventure. We had been talking boats with our new friends Joy & Steve Poole (“Meandering Joy”) when in Stuart, and they suggested we look at a “Krogen Express”. We confessed we didn’t know anything about them, and they shared that the owners of the company are located in Vero Beach.  We had heard of “Cady Krogen”, but always thought they were the same company.  But, it is not.  They suggested we take a look at that boat as it has some features that we might like in a future boat.

So Mark made contact with the company and we were advised that there is a new one in the marina near where we were. A few phone calls later and we had the broker come and pick us up at the marina, and we went to see the boat.  It is a beautiful and terrific boat that is in the same size range we would like should we choose a mostly full-time cruising lifestyle.  We liked a lot of its features, its design, and feel like it is a sturdy well-made boat.  However, it is way more money than we have to spend, and so we were just interested in learning about it at this time.  But if we were to win the lottery….well, then that might change our minds. In the meantime, we are very happy with Island Office and know we can afford to keep it running so we can go on more adventures.

After we returned from seeing the Krogen Express, we tried to coordinate dinner with KelliRae and Bill, but they were in the middle of a boat maintenance project. So we went off to eat at “12A Buoy” (the restaurant we were headed to last night before getting distracted) with plans to connect with them later in the evening. We had to walk down the Riverwalk and under the bridge that goes to Hutchinson Island to get to the restaurant; about a half mile away.  The place is known to get packed and has most of its eating outside. It was threatening to rain and we were hesitant to choose an outdoor table, but because we could get seated right away we opted for outside and had a terrific meal. The seafood was fresh and the options allowed for an affordable meal that was very satisfying and delicious.

"12A Buoy"

“12A Buoy”

"12A Buoy"

“12A Buoy”

Dinner at "12A Buoy"

Dinner at “12A Buoy”

Shortly after we returned to the boat, Bill & KelliRae came over and we talked for a long time; sharing their adventures in the Bahamas, and our future travel plans. After hearing their stories (and others who attempted travel in the Bahamas this year) we were feeling like we had made the right decision not to go there this trip.  It was just after 9:00 when they left our boat, just as the sky opened up and a heck of an electrical storm ensued. Fortunately they made it back to their boat safely and we tucked in for the night.

Here are some other pictures from the Ft. Pierce area:

City marina sign

City marina sign for our dock

North docks - Ft. Pierce

North docks – Ft. Pierce City Marina

AE Backus Museum

AE Backus Museum

Marina office & Facilities

Marina office & Facilities

Tiki Bar at Marina

Tiki Bar at Marina

FPYC

FPYC

Sailfish monument near marina

Sailfish monument near marina

PP Cobb Training Center

PP Cobb Training Center

Cobb's Landing

Cobb’s Landing

Painted electric box

Painted electric box

Friday (4/15) – Vero Beach, FL – Fearing the forecasted bad weather, we wanted to leave early and get under way while the sky was still blue and the sun shining.  We left Ft. Pierce before 9:00 a.m., and traveled the short 13 miles to Vero Beach.  It was so nice to be on the water when the weather was good, but we could see the clouds forming and by the time we tied up to the Vero Beach Yacht Club (VBYC) docks they were getting bigger and filling the sky.

After checking in and we did a quick walk through of the Vero Beach marina located right next door, to see if there were any other Loopers there. We saw some flags on boats, but did not know of them and they were not on their boats, so we returned back to the VBYC. Then, we decided to hit the grocery store before it rained.  The good thing about Vero Beach and is they have a bus system and you can pick one up at the city marina and be at a Publix in 10 minutes.

So we walked back to the city marina parking lot to wait for the bus. While waiting we ran into Mike & Fran Brown (“October Moon”) whom we met at Old Port Cove Marina in Palm Beach – but we didn’t have a boat card and couldn’t remember their names.  We ended up talking to them while waiting for the bus, on the bus, and into Publix.  After shopping we got to the bus stop and had a bit of wait for the next bus, but ended up talking with them and some other boaters, all who were at the city marina or on a mooring in the city marina.  We all got back safely to our boats when the thunder and lightning started and gave us quite a show.  Fortunately, most of the worst weather was south of us and we were spared the high winds.

We spent the rest of the evening reading and doing emails, until it was time for dinner. Denise made fajitas and we enjoyed having a good home cooked meal aboard our Island Office.

Here are some pictures from today:

Leaving Ft. Pierce City Marina

Leaving Ft. Pierce City Marina

Morning on ICW north of Ft. Pierce

Morning on ICW north of Ft. Pierce

Power Plant near Vero Beach

Power Plant near Vero Beach

Homes near Vero Beach

Homes near Vero Beach

Approaching Vero Beach marinas

Approaching Vero Beach marinas

VBYC

VBYC

VBYC - marina side

VBYC – marina side

It has been nearly 18 months since we were here in Vero Beach so yes, we technically crossed our wake in this boat today. But we are not going to officially celebrate until we return home to Harbortown marina in Merritt Island in a week or so.  We haven’t decided if we will go straight there from here, or if we will stop at anchorages along the way, or maybe make a quick trip up to New Smyrna Beach first.  Weather will be the key factor in our decision, along with tempering the desire to be home.

Saturday (4/16) – Vero Beach, FL – We woke up to a thunderstorm and rain that would subside for 15 minutes, only to be pouring again.  This prevented Denise from getting in a run and she ended up staying in her PJs for most of the morning – something she NEVER does.  Mark, slept in until 9:00 and loved it!

Fearing our activities for the day would be limited and that Sunday was also not looking great, we decided to get a rental car for the weekend. This way we could go adventuring a little further around Orchid Island (the ocean-side part of Vero Beach), and do some things we wanted to do that were not accessible via the bus system or walking.

After picking up the rental car we drove to the beach side to check out Quail Valley River Yacht Club, just south of where the VBYC and city marina are located. It was purchased by the Riomar Country Club (also on Orchid Island), and from what we could see from the guard gate it looked to be a beautiful place.  They are a members-only club but they do have a couple of slips for reciprocity transients if you are lucky enough to get in.  We had heard about this place from another Looper, but did not pursue it as we had reservations at VBYC. Although we were happy with our accommodations, we were still curious. The area surrounding the club is gated and we could not get close enough to see it,  Without an appointment we were not getting in, so we moved on; our curiosity had been satisfied.

Next we went to the beach downtown and stopped into a kitchen supply store that used to have cooking classes we thought we might take one while we are here. However, last week we learned that they no longer offer them, and in fact the store was closing and were having a huge clearance sale. We stopped in only to find the ridiculously overpriced items were still ridiculously overpriced even with a 60% discount. Probably why they closed – and the fact that the Williams-Sonoma outlet store was less than 15 minutes away.

Finding nothing to spend our money on, we left for more sightseeing. We drove around a few neighborhoods and some of the other sights along the beach area, including Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa – owned by singer Gloria Estefan (aka Miami Sound Machine) and her husband.

Costa d'Este

Costa d’Este

We then drove back to the mainland to go to the movies at the Indian River Mall – AMC Movie Theater. We saw “Miracles from Heaven” as we were surprised it was still in theaters.  We wanted to see this when it first came out but we were in Marathon and the lone movie theater didn’t show it. What a wonderful movie that all who question belief in a higher power need to see.

After the movie we went back to the beach side and had a delicious dinner at “Pomodoro Grill/ Trattoria Italiana”. The food was really good and our waitress was friendly enough. However, they were a bit disorganized and Mark’s dinner came out 10 minutes after Denise’s.  The good news is they had delicious garlic knots (better than Giovanni’s) but only give you one each when you sit down.  With a simple request, our waitress got us 2 more and Mark was in 7th heaven.

Pomodoro Grill - Trattoria

Pomodoro Grill – Trattoria

Chicken Picatta at Pomodoro Grill - Trattoria

Chicken Picatta at Pomodoro Grill – Trattoria

Sunday (4/17) – Vero Beach, FL – The benefit of a rental car was that we could get to church as the bus system does not run on Sunday.  We contemplated going on Saturday evening, but the movie got out too late for us to make the last mass.  So we ended up going to the 9:00 am mass, which afforded Denise the opportunity to run down and around the beach before we went to Church.  Here are a few pictures from her run:

Famous Ocean Grill

Famous Ocean Grill

Mulligan's

Mulligan’s

Sunrise - Orchid Island

Sunrise – Orchid Island

Humiston Park

Humiston Park

We attended Holy Cross Catholic, which is a good size parish and a beautiful church with balcony seating and a lively congregation.  Here are some pictures from it:

Holy Cross Catholic Church

Holy Cross Catholic Church

Holy Cross

Holy Cross

Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church

After church we went back to VBYC as they have a brunch that came highly recommended by a few other boaters we have met on the docks. We were not disappointed as they make omelets (or eggs benedict) to order and had fresh fruit, salad, and the usual bacon, sausage, potatoes, grits and pastries.  The food was good and the price ($12.95 per person) was very reasonable.  We were full and felt good about patronizing the club.

After brunch we used the rental car to drive to the Vero Beach outlet mall. We like this mall as it has a Williams-Sonoma Outlet store and we can sometimes find some great bargains.  Although this outlet mall has many of the same stores like the ones in the Orlando outlets, we like it better because the salespeople here are friendlier, much more customer service oriented, and we don’t feel like we are in a foreign country.  It is delightful shopping here, even though we hardly purchased anything.

After our adventures at the outlet mall, we drove back towards Orchid Island and went through more neighborhoods looking at houses. We drove north up towards Indian River Shores and an area known as John’s Island – a large development area that has a beach club, country club, home sites, townhomes and condominiums that span both the Atlantic Ocean and Intercostal waterway.  This gated community looks beautiful, but we both agreed we would not want to ever live in such a place. It is way too “sterile” and we don’t want the monthly maintenance and association fees.

We drove back to the VBYC in time for cocktails, dinner of leftovers from the freezer, and to see the sun set over Fritz Island to our west.

VBYC marina

VBYC marina

Sunset over Fritz Island

Sunset over Fritz Island

Monday (4/18) – Vero Beach, FL – The day started out calm with a little breezy, but very comfortable. It was nice that it wasn’t raining and that the wind had settled down a bit.  We spent most of the morning doing emails and writing for the next blog post.

After lunch we returned the rental car to Avis and had them bring us back to the marina; a short 5 minute ride.

Then we went on a dinghy adventure. We rode around the city mooring field and anchorage, around Bethel Creek, and to the Indian River waterway that runs along Live Oak Rd.  Here we saw nicely maintained older Florida homes mixed in with newer mansions. Another part of Florida that is being overdeveloped and homogenized.  We like the old homes that have been maintained or updated as they lend an air of authenticity to the area.  Here are some of the pictures we took:

Home along Bethel Creek

Home along Bethel Creek

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

During our dinghy ride we went over to see John & Paula (“Chapter III”) – whom we met in Ft. Pierce. They had come into the VB city marina and were on a mooring right near our boat.  We spoke with them for a while and made plans to have happy hour together on Island Office.

After we got back to the boat and did a few chores, we got cleaned up just in time for John & Paula to show up with a bottle of wine in hand. We spent a long time talking with them and getting to know them better. They have so many travel stories as they have boated all over the world and it was all so interesting to us. They did not leave until it was way late and we had missed the last bus for any dinner on the beach, but we didn’t care as we now have new Looper friends.  Fortunately we have plenty of food on the boat and so we ate the last of the leftover pizza for dinner and called it a (very fun) day!

John & Paula ("Chapter III")

John & Paula (“Chapter III”)

Stay tuned for more adventures!

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