'Bout Time

08 January 2018 | C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, Florida
06 December 2017 | Panama City
20 November 2017 | Off 'Bout Time in Bay Springs, MS
22 March 2016
10 March 2016
25 February 2016
25 February 2016
25 February 2016
10 December 2014 | Bimini Bluewater Marina
08 December 2014 | Bimini Bluewater Marina
04 November 2014 | Doris/calm
01 November 2014 | Smack Bayou
27 October 2014 | Sundowner Marina, Mobile, Alabama
15 October 2014 | Kingfisher Bay Marina, Demopolis, AL
14 April 2013
19 March 2013
26 February 2013
01 February 2013

Learning as We Go

08 January 2018 | C Quarters Marina, Carrabelle, Florida
Doris Ross/Chilly and overcast

If you've been keeping up with us on Facebook, (Aboard 'Bout Time) you know that we are back on board after spending three weeks in Kentucky for Christmas with our family. And you also know that we're not making great progress getting to south Florida and warmer weather. Of all the things we have learned while cruising, at the top of the list is, "Do Not Have a Schedule!" With our only set date for this trip being February 8, 2018 to leave Florida for Cuba, we felt no time pressure, but the weather has once again shown us who's boss. We should still be okay on time, but it might not be the leisurely trip down the west coast of Florida that we had hoped for.
Another item on the list of lessons learned would be, "Just because there's a guy from the marina standing on the dock to catch a line when you're docking, it doesn't mean that he's going to be as careful as he should." That was an expensive lesson learned a couple of days ago when I relied upon someone else to keep our aft mounted solar panels away for the pilings used to tie the boat up. I should have hopped off the boat as I usually do to handle that job myself. My daddy always said "Bought sense is the best kind." Buying a new solar panel should give me my money's worth!
Maybe not exactly on that list, but suddenly a frequent topic of conversation since we left home this year is the fact that five years have passed since our first cruise, and our bodies are feeling those years. Boating, and sailing in particular, can be quite physically challenging. We believe that we have several more years to enjoy this part of our lives, but we recognize the need to be realistic in our expectation of ourselves and each other. The good news is that we're both in excellent health, and we believe that staying active is one of the keys to maintaining that.
A corollary to the above is accepting that we just might not be able to squeeze everything we once did into a day, week, or month. We have often set unrealistic expectations for what we could accomplish, and somehow we usually managed to meet those expectations, but we are learning that sometimes pushing too hard results in diminished returns in enjoyment of the things we do.
Enough about us...back to travel! While we were home for Christmas, we connected with the gentleman who literally co-wrote the best cruising guide to Cuba. He is working with us to be sure that we follow all of the current guidelines for travel by boat and that we make the most of our allotted two weeks in the country. We're reading all we can to prepare for this adventure. We met a couple last week in Apalachicola who visited Cuba last year, and while they did not travel by boat, they had lots of great info to share including the name of a restaurant her cousin owns. We expect it to be a most enjoyable, exciting visit.
As of now, we plan to return to the states from Cuba via the Bahamas. We'll visit familiar places and see many old friends there. Just sitting here at the dock on a cloudy, chilly day and thinking about the beautiful water and beaches there makes me smile really big😍
There's a load of laundry drying that I need to go check on,then the soup Capt'n made for lunch, then a book to settle in with, and later the college national championship game to watch at a local hangout. Such is this life we love!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

06 December 2017 | Panama City
After over a week off of 'Bout Time, we were ready to be back aboard. We had enjoyed our time with family and friends in Mississippi for Thanksgiving, but it was time to head east. When we leave Mobile, Alabama at the end of the river portion of our journey, we always debate the option of heading straight from near there to the west coast of Florida versus taking the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway over to Apalachicola and jumping off from there. Two factors weigh into our decision; first, of course, is weather - always the main determining factor - and then, our reluctance to miss stopping over for a few days in Apalachicola, our favorite Gulf Coast town. When we left Sundowner Marina on Dog River on November 29, wind was not favorable, so we headed east motoring on the GIWW, keeping open the options of crossing either from Pensacola or going on to Apalachicola.
Something we enjoy when cruising is managing to visit with friends along the way. This isn't easy because our schedule is often unpredictable, but when it can happen, it's always a treat. This time we were able to get in touch with one of Johnny's high school classmates who has a condo at Orange Beach and arrange a visit. We were staying at Bear Point Marina, and Jan came there to join us for cockpit cocktails and a tour of our home away from home. Then she took us to one of her favorite local restaurants where we spent the next couple of hours catching up on the years since her visit to our home in Kentucky many years ago. Any classmates reading this can be assured you were included in our topics of conversation :-)
Motoring on the GIWW is not what one would call exciting, but we see some beautiful scenery along the way, find lots of good anchorages, and as always, enjoy beautiful sunrises and sunsets. About the only variable affecting our travel is the frequent occurrence of heavy morning fog that can keep us on anchor an hour or more beyond our usual departure time. That happened two of our four mornings this trip.
The last day of our approach to Apalachicola was quite long, and we knew we'd be arriving after dark. For safety reasons, we do our best to avoid entering a port after dark. What our charts show and what occurs in reality can be markedly different, and suddenly approaching an unlighted buoy that has moved in the last big blow creates a most unwelcome encounter. However, having been to this harbor several times, we felt safe with an after dark approach. With the help of a strong light, I was able to stand on the bow and locate the needed markers, which were all as indicated on the chart. We had reserved a slip at a nearby marina and soon were safely docked. The only concern was the depth at the dock and changing tides. After realizing that we would be on bottom at low tide, we moved to a floating dock and once again secured the lines.
One of the best things about returning to favorite places is knowing where the good food can be found, and in Apalachicola that means oysters. We walked over to one of our favorites, the Owl Tap Room, and enjoyed some on the half shell, along with a delicious appetizer of crusted goat cheese with an artichoke topping. And as if that weren't good enough, we topped it of by sharing a pecan tartlet topped with ice cream and fudge!
Sunday brought a perfect mixture of activity and relaxation. We got up early in order to walk to Trinity Episcopal Church for the 8:00 A. M. service, Rite 1, just like home. The 175 year old building is a treasure, and the activities of the parish indicate much community involvement. After the service, we walked for almost two hours admiring the lovely homes in the historic residential district. I selected a few small cottages that I told the Captain would do nicely when we finally give up our wandering ways! All,of that walking worked up an appetite, and we headed back to the waterfront where we shared a first for us - an oyster and Gouda omelet. With sliced fresh tomatoes and grits loaded with butter, we were more than satisfied.
We returned to the boat to change into cooler clothes and get our computers so that we could catch up on a few necessary tasks. A few shops were open, and we browsed a bit, finding a few stocking stuffers to aid in our lagging Christmas shopping. And Johnny managed to find a fellow frying freshly caught mullet out on the sidewalk. And, he turned out to be from Lake Barkley, just a few miles from our home. He and his wife had headed south on their boat a few years ago, and when the got to Apalachicola, they never left. It's just that kind of place.
We began checking a variety of weather sources, hoping to keep with our plan to go over to nearby Dog Island Monday afternoon and leave from there early Tuesday for an overnight passage to Clearwater Beach. From there we would move on to the Tampa Bay area where we would leave the boat in a marina and rent a car for the drive home to enjoy the holidays. BUT, once again, weather dictated differently. Without too many boring details, I'll try to summarize. Winds were forecast to be out of the south and southeast at 10-15. The direction was opposite of what we needed for sailing, and motoring into wind and waves for 36+ hours is never fun. That was to be followed by a front predicted to bring even less desirable conditions. So, though disappointed, our better judgement told us to revise our plans if we were going to get home in time to enjoy our visit with children and grandchildren. Because no rental cars are available in Apalachicola, we knew we would have to return to Panama City. The silver lining turned up when after learning of our change in plans, Nicole, our daughter, called to tell us that her husband would be traveling to the panhandle on business Monday and Tuesday and could pick us up Wednesday. From their home near Nashville, we would prevail Josh or Jenny to retrieve us.
We filled up with fuel and backtracked. We knew of a small community dock about 20 miles west, and timing would be right to spend the night there. Panama City would be an easy ride from there.
We arrived at our chosen marina in the early afternoon with plenty of time to give the boat on good cleaning. It's always good to return to a clean, orderly home. With that chore completed, we enjoyed hot showers, courtesy of shore power, and a hearty dinner. Our usual rounds of Dominoes followed, and in fairness, I have to report that Captain prevailed 3 to 2.
I hope that all of you are blessed with time to be with family and friends during this special time of the year. May you seek peace in the midst of the many activities and find time to reflect on the good things in your life and perhaps find ways to share that goodness with others. Merry Christmas, and may "God bless us every one!"

Southbound and down!

20 November 2017 | Off 'Bout Time in Bay Springs, MS
Southbound and down...but first you have to go north!
Let's start with a quick geography lesson. The Tennessee River flows south from its source in Tennessee down into northern Alabama, then it makes a turn and begins flowing north, back into Tennessee and eventually Kentucky before joining the Ohio near Paducah. Check it out in an atlas... They do still publish those, don't they? So, when we leave our home port of Aurora, we must go upstream for 204 miles until we reach the lock that takes us into Pickwick Lake. This is where the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway begins with a manmade canal connecting the two rivers. As the crow flies, it's about 300 miles from Pickwick Lake to mile 0 in Mobile, Alabama, but because of the winding way of the rivers, by boat we travel the 450 miles.
This year we actually headed out under sail and enjoyed several hours of good sailing, but for remainder of the trip we must use our little diesel. Our speed varies from 4 mph near Pickwick Dam where we run against a strong current, to 8 mph in places where we move with the downstream current. Most of the time we move at about 6 mph. You'd be surprised just how much you can observe at that gentle pace. This year we encountered numerous herons and egrets, several Bald Eagles, two alligators, and about six deer. We also enjoy the variety of dwellings along the way, everything from rustic hunting and fishing camps to huge mansions. This year our weather was on the cool side, with about an equal mix of sunshine and clouds, but we only had two days that kept us in our longjohns all day.
Having completed numerous trips up and down this route, we enjoy the contrast of familiar experiences with new ones. We choose some new anchorages to explore and continue to return to previous favorites. And meeting new people always adds to the uniqueness of each excursion. This year's trip included a stop at our two favorite marinas along the route, Clifton Marina in Cliftton, TN and Kingfisher Bay Marina at Demopolis, AL. Clifton is our favorite because of the friendly hospitality of the folks who own and operate it, and we enjoy the new, convenient facilities at KBM. When living on a boat, nice showers and laundry are always a welcome treat. We prepare most of our meals on board, but when our travel coincides with the schedule at Bobby's Fish Camp, we make a point of partaking of some of their delicious catfish, and this year we were lucky to be close enough on a Sunday afternoon to make a stop.
Little did we know that shortly after leaving Bobby's with satisfied appetites we would encounter the only significant delay of this trip. We eased through Coffeeville Lock, the last of thirteen locks that must be navigated on this route. With sundown coming on us, we began watching the river banks for a suitable anchorage. While we prefer to get off the river into a creek or behind an island to anchor, there are times when that isn't possible, and we have learned to look for straight stretches behind either the red or green buoys that are safely out of the way of the tows with barges that ply the river twenty-four hours a day. We found such a spot and inquired of an oncoming tow captain as to the suitability of the site we were considering. He said he thought we should be safe, so we dropped the main anchor and also put out a stern anchor just to keep us in the best position. As I dropped the main anchor off the bow and the boat drifted back, there was a decided stop as the anchor set. We looked at each other and commented that getting it up the following morning might be difficult, depending upon what it had caught. But as it was almost dark, we chose to stay put for the night and deal with it in due time, Little did we know how accurate our misgivings would prove!
Our routine on the river is to get up early,usually just before sunrise, and have our coffee and weigh anchor as soon as we have good light. On this particular morning, we were looking forward to putting lots of miles behind us since we had no locks to clear. I went forward and began to raise the anchor. The power windlass smoothly retrieved the chain until it suddenly stopped and the bow of the boat tipped down. I glanced back at JR and motioned for him to ease forward. When I tried the winch again, I got the same result. This began our efforts to maneuver the boat in such a way as to free the anchor from whatever lurked below in the murky river water. We even managed to back the boat and turn up the stern upstream against the current, no small feat with our little engine. All of this was to no avail. The captain was just before cutting the chain, which would have resulted in the loss of our main anchor and most of our seventy-five feet of chain - no small investment - when the first mate suggested calling our towing insurance company. Bingo! Although they do not cover the cost of a diver per se, they do cover the cost of getting a diver to us. We were put in touch with their service provider in Moblie and arrangements began. At first we thought they could get to us that same day, but turned out it would be the next morning. Who were we to argue?!! So, we did a few boat chores and basically had a lazy day reading and relaxing. Weather was beautiful, and there are worse ways to spend a day.
The next morning we were contacted by the diver saying they would bring the boat to a ramp above the lock and launch from there. Radio transmissions and our observations from aboard 'BT told us that locking through could take a while since the large commercial loads have priority. Finally at 11:15 Mark and Don arrived. They secured their boat to ours and immediately set about preparing for the dive. Just a very few minutes after entering the water, the diver gave instructions to slowly bring the chain up. There were alternating orders to "Bring it up" and "All stop!" And in just twelve minutes, Don had freed all,of the chain and the anchor from what we would later be told was a massive tree root ball wider than he was tall. No wonder we couldn't pull free!
We signed the necessary paperwork, thanked them profusely, and headed on our way, a bit wiser in the ways of river anchoring.
Folks always ask us how long the river trip takes, and we always answer, "As long as it takes." There are far too many variables to give an unqualified answer. This year we left our home marina on October 25 and arrived in Mobile on November 16, but along the way we spent six days off the boat visiting family in Mississippi. And as I type this, I'm sitting in the little public library in Bay Springs, MS, again here for a holiday visit and family reunion. The actual number of days spent traveling on the river this time was seventeen, at least five of which were essentially half days or less by choice. So we've calculated that if we traveled all day straight through, it would probably take twelve days downstream, but the likelihood of ever having a reason to do that is slim to none.
We plan to return to 'BT Sunday and resume in our journey. Our plans are a bit indefinite right now, so follow us on Facebook if you're interested. With a definite lack of access to Internet, it's much easier to do quick updates that way.

Catching Up!

22 March 2016
Catching Up, March 22

March 7-9
After leaving the newness of the Okeechobee, we returned to the more familiar waters along the west coast of Florida. On our three previous trips along this coast, we had found several spots which we looked forward to seeing again. Boca Grande ranked high on this list. We remembered fondly our first stay there in early 2013, and we found very little had changed, except our feeling of having discovered someplace special. The beach still beckoned invitingly, the shops still flaunted charming window displays, and the restaurants still exuded tantalizing aromas. But our sense of discovery had vanished. I bought a few cute garments, we ate some delicious oysters, and we generally enjoyed the day, but heading back to the dinghy, we agreed that we had no desire to linger. Had it been the weekend, we would have stayed for church services but there just wasn't enough to keep us here four more days. The one thing we did find just as alluring as before was the extremely well stocked local hardware, always one of our "must visit" places no matter where we stop, and we rarely leave empty handed.
Strong winds out of the east had made for a rocking anchorage the previous night, and our bumpy dingy ride back to 'BT indicated that we would have more of the same if not greater for the coming night. Hoisting our dinghy and it's small outboard motor can prove challenging in rough water, so my ever savy Captain decided that we would weigh anchor and move into the calm water of the nearby bayou in order to raise the dinghy. After accomplishing that task, the same ever savy Captain checked out the wind and decided we would take our chances finding a spot to drop the hook farther in on the bayou. This was not exactly kosher as they say, but there were no signs specifically prohibiting it, so we followed our usual philosophy that says forgiveness is easier than permission. We anchored bow and stern near the docks of two seemingly unoccupied houses and settled in. These are the times that I can only go to sleep because we set an anchor alarm that sounds loudly if we drift more than a specific distance. We both slept fitfully and awoke quite early and got underway as soon as it was light enough to do so.
We were rewarded with great winds for sailing out of Charlotte Harbor and once out in the Gulf, headed toward our next port, Venice.

March 9-11
Another repeat port of call, Venice sits conveniently close to both the Gulf of Mexico and the GIWW (Gulf Intracoastal Water Way, equivalent to the ICW) making it a great stopover. Fuel and water are readily available at the Crow's Nest Marina, and the adjacent restaurant offers a tasty menu. Because Captain has a medication that has to be delivered to us once a month via Fed Ex overnight delivery, we need to be in one spot long enough for this to happen. The availability of loaner bicycles as well as clean showers and laundry facilities made this a good place for that.
Speaking of bicycles, it is truly amazing now much groceries two people can carry using bicycle baskets and back packs! Let's just say that the "couple of miles" to Publix provided our exercise for that afternoon. Captain even made a run to the liquor store on a bike the next day while I caught up on laundry.
While in Venice, we enjoyed several long walks, both on the beach and in town. At the outset, I had silently vowed not to collect sea shells on this trip because I have so many at home. But we found varieties that I didn't have, so I yielded to temptation and collected a few. Our walks in town proved equally interesting as we read about local history, architecture, geography, culture, and botany. One quite interesting bit of history that we encountered concerned the Kentucky Military Institute which for years used Venice as it's winter campus. The institute went the way of many military prep schools during the Viet Nam War era and no longer exists. But we found information and memorabilia from the school in a building now used for retail and civic purposes. We are both such history buffs that we entertained ourselves for the better part of a morning reading about the school and viewing the displays. Then we topped of the morning with a delicious crab omelet at a sidewalk cafe. That's why we call this the good life!

March 11-13
Having received the package from Fed Ex, we left Venice, not sure exactly how many miles we could cover in the remaining daylight. Winds were favorable though seas were heavy, 4 - 6 foot seas with brief intervals. Once again, my pal Stugeron came to my rescue and I was able to enjoy the sail. A quick check of the charts yielded Longboat Pass as our best return to the GIWW, and access to Bradenton. Water in the pass was more than a bit choppy, and waiting for a drawbridge to lift got a little dicey, but soon we cleared and located the channel markers to guide us in the right direction. Two more draw bridges and we rested assured that we could reach our destination before dark.
We have previously stopped in the Bradenton area on two occasions, once anchoring out and once staying in a marina with friends. This time we again opted to anchor and selected a satisfactory spot in the Manatee River off deSota Point, the allure there being a state park nearby.
Saturday morning we lowered the dinghy and headed over to what we thought was a public dock near the state park. After securing the dinghy and making a less than graceful assent onto the dock ( we looked a bit like walruses rolling up on the dock after boosting ourselves from the dingy sides) we discovered the word PRIVATE painted in large letters on the dock. The adjacent house and property looked long vacant, so we again applied our forgiveness vs. permission philosophy and ducked through the woods to state park property.
The morning at the park was interesting as we learned more about early Spanish exploration in Florida and other areas. Say what you will about the motives behind the exploration and exploitation of theses newly discovered lands by Europeans, those men faced conditions and struggles few modern individuals could endure.
We were relieved to find our dinghy still secure at the dock and found it only slightly more difficult to descend from the dock than it had been to ascend. Back aboard 'BT we took another look at the cruising guides to decide whether or not to venture upriver to Bradenton proper. Weekend boat traffic was predictable heavy, and we eventually decided to have dinner on board and get a good night's rest I order to head out early the next morning.

March 13 - 16
Before turning west at Ft. Pierce, we talked about which of the west coast places we had visited before that we would like to revisit. High on Captain's list was Tarpon Springs. I think the primary lure there was the Greek meal he remembered from 2013. Recalling a very long, i. e. five mile, dinghy ride from our earlier anchorage to the town of Tarpon Springs, I called ahead to secure a slip at the city dock. During the day when we realized we couldn't make the entire distance in one day's run, we searched the charts for a good anchorage. A highly recommend one lay in the curve of a small island, honestly not much more than a sand bar with a few trees. What looked acceptable on paper failed to meet that criterion as we approached it, so we reevaluated our options. Heading south in 2013 we had anchored in a basin near a large power plant. JR remember it as noisy and bothered by strong current, so after briefly heading in that direction, we turned our attention to an anchorage just off nearby Anclote Key where we had anchored on our return north later in the same year. We had spent a restful night there before departing for our overnight Gulf crossing to Apalachicola. Choppy seas and gusting winds meant it would to be a calm night on anchor, but this location provided much more protection than the smaller key and no noise.
After coffee the next morning, we motored into the channel leading up the Anclote River to Tarpon Springs. First sight of the marina proved disappointing as the slips had free-standing poles for rather then finger piers for tying up. The biggest problem for us with this type of set up is that our large solar panels on the back of our boat can easily crash into those unforgiving pilings. I felt bad about not thinking to ask about the set up, but there really weren't many other options. The marina manager came out and helped us get on then we took time to secure the mooring lines. After that ordeal, we were ready for lunch! We remembered a good Greek restaurant nearby and were. to disappointed. Johnny is a calamari aficionado, and he was not disappointed. I enjoyed a deliciously fresh salad with amazing dressing. After that welcome break and refreshment, we were ready to spend time walking around. We needed a few grocery items, so that provide a direction for our rambling.
Later we took advantage of the ample fresh water at the dock and did some much needed cleaning of 'Bout Time. The showers at the marina provided that welcome clean feeling that only boaters and campers can truly appreciate. Afterwards we sat in the cockpit enjoying music from a nearby outdoor bar. Easy living at its finest.
Dense fog thwarted our plan to leave early Tuesday morning, so we relaxed with coffee in the cockpit and enjoyed the birds in the harbor. As soon a possible, we eased out of the slip without incident and headed back toward the gulf. When we stopped to,top off our fuel tank, folks were still talking about the fog. We thought they meant the earlier fog, but we soon learned that more fog had settled in just at the mouth of the river. It was without a doubt the thickest fog we've ever been caught in, and maneuvering in those conditions gave me new respect for our electronics. The fog persisted off and on throughout the day, slowing our progress substantially. When evening came, we had no option except to move toward shallower water and set the hook. This ended up being about six miles off shore, but with appropriate lighting on the boat, we felt reasonably safe. As it turned out, the only boats we heard were crabber running their traps early the next morning.

March 16 - 18
Better conditions prevailed the next day and we had a great sail to Cedar Key. I need to say here that both of us had pretty much fallen in love with Cedar Key on our first visit, and we had talked ever since about a return visit. Funny how those things go. Our first afternoon in town left us disappointed, as many of the businesses we remembered no longer existed. In their place we found empty storefronts.
Our favorite place to have clam chowder was still in business, and we enjoyed a late lunch before heading back to 'BT. We had hoped to celebrate St. Patrick's day at a truly one of a kind tiki bar that we discovered on our first visit. I called to talk to the owners whom we remembered fondly, only to reach an answering machine. I left a message, but no one returned my call. Another disappointment.
Back aboard 'BT we talked about our disappointment and weren't sure whether we even wanted to spend another day.
Thursday morning we decided that we would go ashore and I'd do laundry while John made the obligatory stop at the local hardware. After I started the washers, I walked a couple of doors down to the welcome center. I spent quite a while there talking to the lady at the desk, and she had reasonable explanations for some of the changes we had noticed. Feeling somewhat encouraged, I walked to the hardware to meet JR, and from there we went for a short walk waiting for the clothes to wash. We met two delightful ladies as we walked through a residential area. The first lady told us that the tiki bar has new owners, but that there would indeed be entertainment there for St. Patrick's day. That encouraged us a bit, and we continued our walk. The second lady was visiting from Texas at the home of her parents. What made us stop nearby was an osprey nest built on top of the chimney of their house! She told us about the mating pair that had set up housekeeping there and we told her about the ones back home on Egner's Ferry Bridge. Seldom do we not meet nice, friendly folks on these outings, no matter where we are. One of the many things that make our cruising life interesting.
After finishing the laundry, we took clean clothes back to 'BT, and while there I got a call from the new owner of the tiki bar. She assured us that there would be lots happening that night but couldn't be of help with transportation. Since it was farther out of town than we cared to walk at night, we began considering other options. We went back ashore, and after a stop at Kona Joe's for delicious iced coffee, we checked out the Island Hotel, in business since 1859. We love the atmosphere of places such as this one, and the menu offered several tempting dishes in addition to traditional corned beef and cabbage.
Back to 'BT for showers and cocktails. Fortunately, we were anchored near the dock, and all of the back and forth trips were easy in the dinghy. As we relaxed and donned our green shirts for the evening ashore, rain began to pour. It seemed that our St. Patrick's Day celebration would be a rather private one. Then, just as we began to think about preparing dinner, the rain stopped, so we took advantage of the break and dinghied ashore once more. Our meal at the hotel was delicious and made us glad that we had stayed at Cedar Key.
As we had walked around town quite a bit in two days, our conversations with locals and seasonal residents dispelled some of our earlier disappointment with the apparent economic changes in CK. We came to realize that not all of the changes were negative, and some of the positive ones were not readily apparent to a visitor. We left glad that we had taken time to explore this quiet little town again, and we look forward to returning.

March 18 This day gets its own separate entry!
On our trip south in November 2012, we had made a Gulf crossing from Apalachicola to Cedar Key. Many boaters had told us that a boat with our draft, 4.5 ft., would have trouble navigating the Big Bend area of the northwest Florida coast. After doing a little more homework, we discovered that with care, we could indeed go farther north, so we decided to head for the small town of Steinhatchee. We had heard from several fellow sailors that the channel up from the mouth of the river offered consistent depths sufficient for 'BT.
The day was clear, and we managed a little sailing and a good bit of motoring. As went well until suddenly Captain exclaimed, "S**t, we're fixing to run aground!" Mind you, this was more than three miles offshore. As we bumped, he checked the chart plotter and quickly realized his error. At first we assumed we could turn around and head back the way we came, but as unlikely as it my seem, that proved impossible. No matter which way we tried to move, we encountered less than 4 ft. of water. Knowing that we were on on outgoing tide only increased our anxiety.
After not too long, we got a radio call from a nearby fishing boat that offered to try and tow us to deeper water. Welcomed his offer, but on spite of his best efforts, it seemed he only caused our keel to dig deeper into the sand. We thanked him for his effort as we set free the line from his boat to ours.
We had no cell service, so calling TowBoatUS on the phone to inquire about the nearest service was out. I decided to try the VHF radio and immediately reached the nice lady at Steinhatchee. We soon were talking to her captain and agreeing that he would come put and try to free us. All this time, the tide continued to ebb, and now not only could we feel the keel aground, but also the irregular bumping of the rudder. This was not good. We both began to cringe with every bump as we imagined damage occurring.
It took longer than we anticipated for the tow boat to reach us, and we were greatly relieved to see him approaching from the horizon. He first tried the most obvious tactic of simply pulling our boat with his. Didn't budge. He tried maneuvering back and forth to create prop wash to add the wave action in hopes of lifting us out of the sand. Very little movement. No of this happened quickly, and time was not on our side. Evening was coming; high tide would not occur until after 11:00 P. M., and that it was only a 1.5 ft. change. As he continued to pull, we moved just enough to barely float, then suddenly we were hard aground again. There was so little water beneath us that is was seemingly impossible to get us off the hard sand bottom. He worked back and forth much that his tow line frayed and we had to disconnect. The next option involved using a halyard from our mast secured to his boat so that he could try to heel us over, freeing our keel, and then we could motor out to slightly deeper water. Deeper water lay less than 50 yards from where we sat, so we knew if we could just get that far we'd be okay. He began to move off our port, and we slowly heeled. Johnny used all of our engine power to try and more forward. Heeling as far as was safe, our keel remained firmly stuck.
The tow boat captain then suggested that he tie up close along side of us and attempt to prop wash from that closer vantage point. The water was increasingly choppy, and as he attempted to get in position, the stern of his boat swung violently into our boat, shattering one of our port lights. I realized what had happened, but Captain John was so busy up on our deck that he didn't even know it. The futility of that option became obvious. The three of us decided to make one last attempt at having the tow boat tie off close to our bow and create prop wash while pulling as we used our engine to try and move forward. It didn't happen quickly, but finally we began to move and ever so,slowly our depth readings increased from less than 3 ft. to greater than 7 ft. At that point we felt safe having the return to port and arranged to meet him the next day to complete the paperwork.
Now we faced that challenge of entering an unknown channel after dark, with the addition of crab traps dotting the waters through which we had to navigate. We knew it would take a least two hours to reach Steinhatchee, so we talked eachnother down from the high level,of anxiety we had experienced for the past few hours and turned our attention to what lay ahead. The danger we had faced hadbeen far greater for 'Bout Time than for us. Given enough water, she's proven herself quite seaworthy even in tough conditions, but the pounding she took was far above the call of duty. We listened carefully for any signs of damage and checked the bilge for any leaks. No evident damage. Indescreiable relief.
I took my position on the bow armed with a spotlight with which to search for crab traps. Luckily we encountered only a few traps to dodge, and getting into the channel at Steinhatchee River was made fairly easy with the aid of a lighted marker. My spotlight then became our guide from one reflective marker to the next. The river has quite a few sharp twists and turns, but we took our time, and soon the red roof of Sea Hag Marina welcomed us. It was after 9:00 P. M., but they had told us where to dock, so we tired up and let out the breaths that it felt as if we had been holding for hours. I suppose this now ranks at the top of our list of "eventful" days on the water.

March 19 - 22
We had planned to stay at Steinhatchee for two days, but the issue of the shattered port light complicated those plans. The tow boat captain agreed to be responsible for the cost of repairs, but in such a small town, gettin the needed material didn't seem likely. Our thoughts turned to contacting Beneteau. That meant waiting until Monday, so we settled in for several days in this little river town. I must say that if we had to be stranded, this wasn't a bad place to be. The folks at Sea Hag Marina couldn't be more helpful, and we clocked about five miles a day just walking about the town and adjacent areas.
Monday there was bad news and good news. The bad news was that Beneteau in SC did not have a replacement in stock and would have to have it shipped from France. The good news was that late Monday Johnny met a fellow here at the marina who was refurbishing a power boat, and he had a piece of Lexan that would make a suitable substitute. The initial installation took place Tuesday, and as I type this, we are waiting for the final touches to complete the repair.
In one of those little twists that so often occur in this boat life, the weather outside here Saturday, Sunday and Momdaynwould have made it unlikely that we could have left before today no matter what, so the wait for,the repair hasn't caused any significant delay in our plans to be in Apalachicola by Easter. Funny how those things work out.

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes

10 March 2016
Sometimes we surprise even ourselves. Take our current circumstances. For months, we have planned to board 'Bout Time in Charleston and take her south to the Keys and then back up the west coast of Florida and eventually home to Kentucky Lake. Our final destination hasn't changed, but our route definitely has.
When we arrived at Cape Marina in Port Canaveral on Sunday, Feb. 28, we learned that due to work being done on the lock through which we had just come, it would only open for traffic before 0700 or after 1700 Monday through Friday. We made note of that info but delayed making a decision regarding our departure time.
By prior arrangement, on Monday a high school classmate of mine and her husband drove over from Winter Park, and we spent the morning enjoying their company. It's always fun to have friends come aboard, even if just for a brief visit. After they left we began to talk about leaving and quickly decided that it was time for 'Bout Time to be back in the ocean.
We waited at the fuel dock for it to open at 0700, and after filling fuel and water tanks, quickly got underway. We motored the short distance across the inlet and soon faced the Atlantic horizon. What a great feeling! Anxious to try those new sails, we unfurled them both and admired our achievement. Alas, the wind was not sufficient for sailing, so we contented ourselves with motor sailing. Rolling seas provided reacquaintance with my old nemesis, seasickness, but Stugeron once again came to the rescue. Later in the day the wind shifted direction and came on our nose. With time as a factor, we needed to head straight down the coast to Ft. Pierce, so in came those new sails and the Iron Genny prevailed.
During the next few hours, one of us, and I honestly can't remember which one it was, brought up the idea of taking the Okeechobee Waterway rather than going all the way to Marathon before heading back up the west coast of Florida. The more we talked, the more appealing the idea became, and before we reached Ft. Pierce, we had agreed to that route. The two main drawbacks to this decision were not getting to rendezvous with cruising buddies in Marathon and foregoing a trip out to the Dry Tortugas. Both of these brought serious regrets, at the same time giving us something to look forward to on our trip farther south next winter.
Side note here. We entered the inlet at Ft. Pierce as the sun was setting, a nice touch and pretty view, but not fun as it quickly grew darker. Entering an unfamiliar harbor after dark is never fun, and this proved no exception to that rule. Lighted navigational aids kept me (relatively) calm as we located a suitable anchorage and settled in for the night.
The following notes are taken almost verbatim from my daily journal accounts of our days on the Okeechobee. I generally write differently for blog entries, but thought I'd share with you my "regular" accounts of these days. Not much stylistically, but I'm primarily interested in recording the who, what, where, when and how of our days.

Wednesday, March 2
Didn't get underway until about 9:15. Once underway, we realized that we did not have paper charts for the Okeechobee but decided to venture on anyway. I did call West Marine in Stuart, but all they could offer was a full chart kit which we neither needed nor wanted. Plus, there was the issue of transportation to their location.
We found our way to the St. Lucie River and were on our way. We knew when we made the decision to take this route that one bridge might present a problem. The bridge at Port Mayaca is a lift bridge, and when open, it's average clearance is 49'. Since 'Bout Time needs 48.5', we hoped for good news when I called the bridge for current information. Clearance that day - 47.9'. Slightly less than a foot below what we have to have. We already knew the solution to this situation from having read about it. The boat would have to be mechanically leaned over enough to clear the bridge structure. A call to Indian Town Marina put us in touch with Mr. Billy Olsen. He gave us his price, and since he holds a monopoly on this service, we quickly agreed and planned to talk early tomorrow to proceed with plans.
We anchored for the night on the waterway just past the entrance to Indian Town Marina.

Thursday, March 3
Because water levels can change daily, my first call this morning was to Port Mayaca Bridge to check clearance. Same as yesterday, 47.9'.
Captain called Billy to arrange for his services. Since he only accepts cash, we needed to go into Indian Town to an ATM. We filled our diesel tank at Indian Town Marina, and they were kind enough to let us keep 'BT tied up there while we walked to town.
We grabbed a quick breakfast burrito and located an ATM all in the same block. But I wanted to make one more stop. I had read about the Seminole Country Inn and since the address showed it to be just a few blocks away, we headed in that direction. The Inn and it's gardens are charming, and the prospect of returning for a visit sometime is enchanting. We'd love to do it with Wayne and Sandy. {My cousin and her husband with whom we enjoy traveling}
Got back to 'BT and on the OW. As planned, Billy and his helper were waiting for us just east of the bridge. The "Okeechobee Limbo" went off without a hitch and we continued our westward trek toward Clewiston.
Clewiston is actually behind a lock at the intersection of the Rim Route and Route 1 on the Okeechobee. We took Route 1, the shorter route directly across Lake Okeechobee and actually got to sail for about two hours. Johnny said how ironic it was that we had to get to an inland lake to do any real sailing on this trip!
As we left the lake, sunset was coming, and we didn't want to venture farther not knowing the area, so I called Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina and secured dockage for the night. It was less than half a mile from the lock to the marina. We had big boats fore and aft on the dock. The larger one was an 85' behemoth that pulled in after we did. He "parallel parked" that big baby like I would my car. Can we say bow thruster envy?!! They had placed a huge fender on their bow and pushed up against the closed gate to get into the lock. We went through just ahead of them and the lockmaster told us that she didn't think they would fit because the largest vessel she'd ever locked through before was 75'. Guess she has a new story to tell now.
We went up to the restaurant at the marina for dinner - a not so great seafood platter which we shared. Nothing like the seafood we've been having; more like Capt. D's! It was Karaoke night, so that's always interesting. By choice, we were out on the deck, not close to the performers, but that meant we couldn't see them, and that's always part of the fun. They went on until 11:00, but fortunately even though we were docked very close by, it didn't bother us when we went back to 'BT about 9:00.

Friday, March 4
As usual we had our coffee and went for a walk. Clewiston isn't very picturesque, but we did go in an authentic Mexican grocery store and bought a few things. Browsing was really fun (plus there was a clean restroom!)
Headed back to the marina and got underway. Had locks and bridges, but no incidents, except when we arrived at LaBelle. Contrary to info we had read, the bridge was on curfew from 7-9 and 4-6. We had arrived at 4:30. Nothing to do but wait. Found a spot to anchor and did just that.
Later, just after we cleared the bridge, our radio come on with, "36 foot Beneteau that just came under LaBelle Bridge." I immediately responded, and the result was info from "Gary" that we could tie up at a dock on the north side where he was. We could see him waving from the dock and headed over. He grabbed our lines and we were quickly secure. He's quite an old salt, but had lots of good info.
I cooked supper and we had our usual game of Dominoes

Saturday, March 5
After saying good-bye to Gary - he was moving to another dock for easier assess to drinking water - we went for a walk. We stayed on the north side of the OW and didn't really go into LaBelle. Another time... We walked about 2 miles out a private road to where a gated entrance noted that even walkers should be only residents or guests. So we turned and walked back. We passed abandoned orange and grapefruit groves. Tried the oranges, but they were far too sour to eat.
The only info we had before this showed the entire OW as 199 miles from end to end. Our conversation with Gary revealed that it's closer to 139 and that we were less than a day's travel to the western terminus. That meant we would be there Saturday night. Our buddy Gary also told us of a great place to anchor at Cape Coral.
The day was very pleasant UNTIL we reached the Cape Coral/Ft. Myers area. Power boat traffic there was horrible! Not only were there hundreds of boats of all sizes, but the larger boats showed absolutely no courtesy for slower ones. It was so stressful for Johnny, and I was certainly glad that I had taken the wheel earlier and given him a break.
We located the marker buoy leading to the anchorage, and after only a little "bump," anchored and settled in for a pleasant evening, beautiful sunset and all.
I called Sanibel Island Marina to try and get a slip there for Sunday night, but they were full and couldn't get us in until after noon. That would mean we'd be back out on that weekend boat traffic in the middle of the day. We considered our options and decided to save Sanibel Island for another time. We could stay put and leave Monday morning for points north, and that's exactly what we did.


10 March 2016
Friday, March 4, 2016

Sometimes these musings are all about our travels, and sometimes they have little to do with that topic. Today will be a the second of these.

Johnny and I have been reading daily from a Lenten devotional guide that we picked up in one of the churches where we visited. I have to say that we haven't found the offerings particularly inspiring, but due to our limited choices, we have continued. And then a few days ago this appeared as the focus at the top of the page:
"Let nothing disturb thee. Let nothing dismay thee. All things pass. God never changes."
St. Teresa of Avila
This is actually only a portion of this prayer poem. In it's entirety it reads as follows:

Let nothing disturb thee.
Let nothing dismay thee.
All things pass.
God never changes.
Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God,
Finds he lacks nothing.
God alone suffices.

At some time in my middle childhood, a copy of this appeared in our kitchen. As she often did when she found something inspiring, Mother had clipped it from a publication to keep. It remained in that kitchen and the next one for as long as she lived. There were many, many things in my mother's life that could have caused disturbance and dismay. She lost two brothers to suicide, her beloved mother died while still in her middle years, she and Daddy lost two sons to untimely, tragic deaths. and she suffered many physical ailments. She always said that living to be over ninety was a mixed blessing because you not only experienced much joy and pleasure in life, but also much pain and loss. She survived all of her siblings, countless other friends and family, and even Daddy, though only by a few short weeks.
If you should ask anyone who knew my mother to describe her, the same words would occur over and over. Words such as strength, faithfulness, loyalty, honesty, compassion and courage. But, if you had asked her to describe her life, her answer would have reflected the heart of this poem. And surely she would have told you that through all the joys and sorrows, God had been constantly in her heart.

Suddenly when this excerpt appeared before me, my complacent, even lackadaisical, reading of these devotional messages took a distinct turn. As the words reminded me of my mother's faith, I again asked God to open my eyes and my heart to what I can be and do to serve his purpose in the world. Do you just love these little touches with the Divine?
Vessel Name: 'Bout Time
Vessel Make/Model: Beneteau Oceanis 351
Hailing Port: Aurora, KY
Crew: Johnny & Doris Ross
About: Johnny and Doris Ross are native Mississippians who have lived in several southern states and are embarking on the cruising life from their current home on Kentucky Lake.
Extra: After years of chartering and lake sailing, we're now ready to try living aboard for much longer periods. We'll start with 6 months and see where we go from there.
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'Bout Time's Photos -

Capt. John & crew

Who: Johnny & Doris Ross
Port: Aurora, KY