Sailing aboard Links

01 July 2016 | Puerto Plato aboard Fatham Adonia cruise ship
26 April 2016 | Okeechobee Waterway
20 March 2016 | Cayo Costa to/from Clearwater Beach
17 February 2016 | Along the Gulf of Mexico
30 January 2016 | Boot Key Harbor
13 January 2016 | Boot Key Harbor
24 December 2015 | Vaca Key
19 December 2015 | Boot Key Harbor
08 December 2015 | Boot Key Harbor
02 December 2015 | Marathon Marina
01 December 2015 | Boot Key Harbor
27 November 2015 | Tarpon Basin at Key Largo
23 November 2015 | Tarpon Basin at Key Largo
22 November 2015 | Tarpon Basin at Key Largo
18 November 2015 | Peck Lake
13 November 2015 | Mullet Creek
07 November 2015 | San Marcos mooring field of St Augustine Municipal Marina
05 November 2015 | Free Dock on Sisters Creek in Jacksonville FL
01 November 2015 | Frederica River
31 October 2015 | St Catherines Island

Cruise to the Dominican Republic

01 July 2016 | Puerto Plato aboard Fatham Adonia cruise ship
A couple of weeks ago, we decided to drive to Florida after being away from our boat for two months. We were pleasantly surprised that (almost) everything was fine and we didn't find any mold or bugs inside the cabin. Tim installed an air conditioner in the helm window because it was hot and humid, and eventually it became quite cool and comfy in the cabin. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery while driving around LaBelle and Fort Myers and also on our dinghy rides in canals and along the Caloosahatchee River.

A week before heading to our boat, Tim checked online at “Vacations To Go” to see if there were any good deals on last minute cruises while we were in Florida. One cruise sounded very interesting and the rate was very affordable – a 7 day cruise for $249 for a cabin with a balcony that was sailing out of Miami FL to Puerto Plato in the Dominican Republic. Fathom Adonia sailing to the DR is a cruise with the purpose of volunteering and working alongside locals. What an unusual concept! After a little research, we decided to book the cruise. It was one of our best decisions!!

On June 19th, we drove from our boat to Miami FL and boarded Fathom Adonia cruise ship. The cruise ship is smaller than other cruise ships, with the capacity of only 700 passengers compared to larger cruise ships with a capacity of around 3500 passengers. We really enjoyed the smaller cruise ship, because we got to know the other travelers while walking around the ship, listening to music, at mealtime, at the various workshops, and at the impact activities. There was a nice variety of entertainment and activities and lots of food on the cruise ship. The first night we watched the movie “The Old Man and the Sea” in the lounge, another night we watched the movie “Casablanca” under the stars while relaxing on the lounge chairs by the pool, and another night we had fun painting at the Wine & Paint Night. Neither of us are painters, but it was pretty interesting how the instructors took us from a blank board to a colorful Dominican Republican woman.

During the daytime when we weren't eating or in the hot tub or pool, we attended workshops on Spanish phrases, Being a Fathom traveler, Getting to know the Dominican Republic, and Dominican Survival. We were docked for 3+ days in beautiful Amber Cove with a nice pool, water slides, and a variety of shops. Each morning we went on our impact activities – Tim helped with pouring concrete floors in three homes and planting mangroves along the river, while Jill learned the process of planting cacao beans and making chocolate and also the process of recycling and making paper, jewelry and crafts. Tim's work was a bit more physical, but we were both happy with our activities. We enjoyed our activities so much that we signed up to do Reforestation and Nursery together on our last day in port. Not only did we enjoy volunteering our time and meeting so many wonderful people, we also got to see the beautiful scenery and countryside during our bus rides to our activities.

On our next trip, we'll probably sign up for activities that interact with children and we'll both sign up for Concrete Floors. We were a little concerned before our trip since we don't know many Spanish words or phrases, but there were interpreters at all impact activities and some of the locals could speak a little English. Their warmth and appreciation and hugs really didn't require spoken words. This experience was amazing and we're looking forward to the opportunity to cruise with Fathom again!

As you can imagine, we took lots of pictures. Fortunately for you, we only uploaded 68 of our 400+ pictures. The photo albums from our cruise and also from our trip to Florida in June can be found on the right side of our blog. Hope you enjoy looking at the photos as much as we enjoyed taking the photos during our trips!

Another memorable winter in Florida

26 April 2016 | Okeechobee Waterway
A lot has happened since my last post in mid March, including leaving our boat in Florida for the summer rather than sailing back to the Chesapeake Bay. The photo on the left was taken in Cayo Costa at sunset and the photos on the right show the picturesque setting where s/v Links will be spending the summer.

Back to mid March. As always, we enjoyed our time at Cayo Costa walking along the beach and on nature trails, exploring the area by dinghy, and meeting other cruisers in the anchorage. During low tide one afternoon, a couple of sailboats got stuck in shallow water. It was heart warming to watch other boaters that were anchored nearby jump in their dinghies and help pull, drag, swing, or whatever was necessary to help the sailboats navigate back into deeper water. As we prepared to leave the anchorage the following morning, Joe and Carol on s/v Toby Too dinghied over to say goodbye and asked for our contact info so they could send us the photo of s/v Links that they took at sunset. We just love the friendly boating community!

After leaving Cayo Costa, we enjoyed a great sail on Pine Island Sound. Love when we can turn off the motor and enjoy the peace and quiet of pure sailing! It was especially nice as we watched dolphins swim alongside our boat and at our bow while under sail. We even saw a dolphin jump totally out of the water in a power boaters wake. Awesome!!

It was time to leave the gulf coast and enter the Okeechobee waterway. Our favorite anchorage was Bimini Basin in Cape Coral, where we rafted with s/v SeaQuest for over a week. The basin was very protected, and you could walk or bike to a wonderful variety of stores and restaurants and even a few parks. As we rode our bikes thru neighborhoods, it was pretty cool to see burrowing owls standing next to holes they dug in the ground or on perches that were made by the town. They're cute little owls!

We've been wanting to stop at JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island for several years, so when the weather was favorable, we motor sailed back to the gulf and over to Sanibel Island. However, we really couldn't walk around the park, so we won't be going back there again. We did enjoy our dinghy ride in Tarpon Bay and thru the bayous and mangroves, and once in a while we even saw manatees surface during our dinghy ride, so it was worth the trip.

We spent a few more fun days in Cape Coral with Bud and Jen, which included a few trips to Backstreet, Dek, and Dixie Roadhouse for country line dancing. We also had some really good times with John and Beth who live nearby, and with Lou and Anne who were staying on their boat at a nearby marina. We all had so much fun together!!

It was a sad morning when Tim and I moved on to Fort Myers while Bud and Jen stayed in Bimini Basin. However, we had a nice visit with Jim and Deb who drove over to Fort Myers on the day before they left for the Bahamas on their Gemini. Another friend named Jim also visited and took us for a nice drive around the area. It was really nice to visit with friends all along our trip!

From Fort Myers, we had 3 bridge openings and 1 lock before arriving in LaBelle. The town offers docks with water and electric, all for free for up to 3 days. What a special treat for cruisers! Since we planned to keep our boat in Florida for the summer, LaBelle was the perfect place to wash, wax, and clean our boat. The next day we had 1 bridge opening and 1 more lock before entering a canal on Turkey Creek, where we'll be keeping our boat for the summer.

It's amazing how much stuff we unloaded from the boat to bring back home. Normally we make several trips from the boat to our house, but this year we could only make one trip and it all needed to fit in our car. After almost a week with boat prep, getting back together with Bud and Jen, and going along with April and Dean to Marathon to pick up our car, it was time to pack up and drive back home.

On our last night together, John and Beth met Bud, Jen, Tim and me at the Log Cabin in LaBelle for a delicious barbeque dinner with great friends. We ended the evening with the four of us playing our final Carroka card game for the trip. Needless to say, there were plenty of tears shed the next morning as we hugged goodbye and drove away. On our way home, we spent the afternoon and evening with Bill and Laurie, who just bought a home in Florida. We arrived home the following night after spending over six months on our boat. We just returned home from visiting with our families in PA and being welcomed back home by some of our good friends.

It was an absolutely wonderful winter in Florida spent with some amazing friends and making many wonderful memories!! This summer will be a little different since we won't have our sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, but we're looking forward to a new chapter in our lives!

Love the Gulf Coast of Florida

20 March 2016 | Cayo Costa to/from Clearwater Beach
Jill / sunny and calm morning on Pelican Bay
It's hard to believe it's been a month since we were anchored in Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park. Cayo Costa is one of the largest unspoiled barrier islands in Florida along the gulf coast at the northern end of Pine Island Sound and can only be accessed by boat. Locals and tourists enjoy the protected bay and sand spit in addition to the sandy beach along the gulf with hiking trails and primitive campsites and rustic cabins on the island. We enjoyed a wonderful dinghy ride thru the mangroves in the Tunnel of Love that was scenic and very cool! There are so many reasons why Cayo Costa is one of our favorite anchorages!

A month ago, we traveled north along the gulf coast and explored lots of new places with each stop having its own special flair and charm. When we left Cayo Costa, it was a pretty bumpy ride across Charlotte Harbor with wind and seas on our beam (side), but watching dolphins, raising our sails, and seeing car ferries cross the ICW between the boats, we forgot all about how yucky it was earlier in the day.

The places we visited included Englewood Beach, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Madiera Beach, Clearwater Beach (the farthest north that we traveled along the gulf coast), Longboat Key, Sarasota, Englewood, Cape Haze, and back to Cayo Costa.

We enjoyed a great sail across Tampa Bay and under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on our trip north, and had a great sail on the Gulf of Mexico and across Tampa Bay on our trip south. Our sails were raised other days, but these were the longest days of pure sailing.

The dolphins always capture our hearts whenever we see them jumping and swimming, especially when they swim near our boat and at our bow. Truly awesome to watch! One morning we watched a raccoon walking along the beach looking for breakfast. It's also exciting to watch pelicans, cormorants, ibis, and all the other beautiful birds as they float in the water or fly overhead.

Some of our special times were when we got together with friends. It was great to visit with Ron and Marilyn in Sarasota, Mike and Cindy in Gulfport, Rich and Sheila and Greg and Suzanne on Longboat Key, and Bill and Linda in Sarasota.

One of the cool things about cruising to different places is seeing familiar boats along the way and at our various anchorages – most often s/v Last Waltz and m/v Dubhe. We started seeing Bob and Monique on s/v Last Waltz in the Ten Thousand Islands and since then we've all become good friends and shared lots of good times on each others boats.

As you know, we've been traveling with a buddy boat, s/v SeaQuest, which is a boat identical to our boat. We're now commonly known as “the Gemini Twins” to other boaters, which is pretty funny. Needless to say, we have the best times with Bud and Jen! Tim and Bud get their captain heads together to discuss our travel plans and anchorages, and first mates Jen and I happily accept their decisions (well, most times). During the day, we mostly do our own things – Bud and Jen like to fish and Tim and I like to walk along the beach - and we all like to explore the areas by dinghy. Almost every evening we get together for dinner and games and there's always lots of food and laughter and good times. Bud and Jen are truly the best boat buddies ever and they're the “salt of the earth”. We'll miss them so much when we go our separate way, but fortunately that's not for another couple of weeks.

It's been fun gathering sea shells and sharks teeth at the various beaches and making pine needle baskets, a craft that we learned in Marathon. We never get tired of looking at the incredible beauty all around us! There are lots of pictures in the web album, so click on the link in the panel to the right to see pictures of our fun trip.

Well, the sun has risen so it's soon time to go exploring thru the mangroves in our dinghy and walk along the nature trails at Cayo Costa State Park.

Southwest Florida

17 February 2016 | Along the Gulf of Mexico
Jill / beautiful sunny morning
As much as we enjoyed our time in Marathon with good friends and the Boot Key Harbor community, it was nice to travel again, especially along the uninhabited, primitive and scenic islands along the Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. We weren't crazy about the army of mosquitoes that swarmed our boats from dusk to dawn, but we enjoyed seeing pink flamingos perched in the mangroves. It's always exciting to watch pods of dolphins jump and swim, especially when two or more dolphins swim at our bow between our hulls as we travel along the water. Awesome!

We were blessed with perfect weather to enjoy some great sailing, wonderful anchorages, and incredibly gorgeous scenery along the Ten Thousand Islands. Some of our most memorable days were at anchor near New Turkey Key and Panther Key, where we were surrounded by islands and mangroves. It was great to explore the area by dinghy and walk along the sandy beaches looking for beautiful seashells. One day we enjoyed a picnic on the beach with fresh catfish and hot dogs cooked in a fire pit that Bud built in the sand. That evening we wondered if the day could get any better. Just then, three dolphins jumped out of the water multiple times and put on a show for us as they sped past our boat. Wow, best day ever!

Our next anchorage was in Smokehouse Bay to visit Marco Island, followed by mooring fields in Naples and Fort Myers Beach, staying four days in each port. It was great to visit each area by walking, biking, or exploring by dinghy. There are some exquisite homes and shops in Marco Island and Naples along with beautiful parks and beaches.

While we were in Fort Myers Beach, several friends of Bud and Jen came for a visit. Jack and Irene arrived on m/v Coconuts and Danny arrived by car. On Saturday we beached our 3 dinghies at Bowditch Point Park and enjoyed a relaxing picnic lunch on the sandy beach. On Sunday Tim and I enjoyed a nice walk on a nature trail after church and a chinese lunch buffet. In the evening we all watched the sunset from Jack and Irene's boat that was docked near our mooring balls. What a great weekend!

Yesterday we enjoyed a very pleasant sail on Pine Island Sound before rafting to s/v SeaQuest with Bud and Jen in Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa State Park, one of our favorite anchorages. In the afternoon, Jack and Irene arrived on m/v Cat Burglar, their speed boat, who also rafted to s/v SeaQuest for a couple of hours. What a great day!

Time to leave the Florida Keys

30 January 2016 | Boot Key Harbor
Jill / chilly morning
It's hard to believe that it's been two months since we picked up a mooring ball in Boot Key Harbor and now it's time to move on. Where did the time go?

January has been rainier and chillier than in past years, and we've seen plenty of healthy Portugese Man O'War jellyfish floating along the water and in the wrack. That hasn't stopped us from having a truly enjoyable time visiting various keys and walking along beaches and islands.

We've enjoyed our time with other cruisers at sundowners and potlucks, listening to good musicians, playing Mexican Train and Farkle, watching how to make toothbrush rugs, and learning to weave baskets from pine needles. I was glad to be done with my first basket, but both Jen and I have already started our second basket. Lots of fun!

Every year we meet cruisers that we have fun together on the water and on land, and this year is no different. It will be very sad to say goodbye to Herman and Sandy (s/v Bonita) and Sid and Michele (s/v El Camino). Actually, Michele left a couple of weeks ago to witness the birth of their grand baby, so we miss her already. Thankfully, Bud and Jen (s/v SeaQuest, our buddy boat) will be traveling with us, so those tears will have to wait.

Our current plans are to leave this wonderful and protected harbor on Sunday morning and head up the Gulf of Mexico along the west coast of Florida. The gulf is a large open body of water and there's not much land to see as we leave the Florida Keys toward the Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands. We're hoping to spend Sunday night at anchor in the Little Shark River, a remote area in the Everglades. There is no cell phone coverage in that area, so no need to worry if you don't hear from us for a couple of days. Eventually we'll be back in civilization and we'll post some pictures and let you know of our most recent travels.

The photos in the collage capture some of the incredible nature along the Florida Keys.

Holiday Highlights in Marathon FL

13 January 2016 | Boot Key Harbor
Jill / dreary and blustery 64 degree day
It's hard to believe that it's been so long since I updated our blog. (Sorry about that, Mom!) It's just been so busy around here! :) Here's a recap with some highlights over the holidays with friends and family.

A couple of days before Christmas, we went Christmas caroling on a Conch Train through Key West. That was a fun and unique experience! Actually, "we" were Sid, Michele, Jen and me since Tim and Bud were still driving back to FL. By the time we walked back to the marina after caroling, the guys had just gotten back to the marina, so we all met at the dinghy dock. Perfect timing! Jen and I had a blast together while the guys were gone, but as you can imagine, we were both very happy to have our hubbies safely back home with us!!

There's always something going on around the harbor and Marathon that you can do alone or with other cruisers - go for dinghy rides to Sombrero Beach and Gilligan's Island, bike rides on the old railroad bridge to Pigeon Key, Sunday brunch under the tiki hut once a month, potluck dinner on Christmas Day, and the refreshing Polar Bear Plunge and delicious Chili Cook Off on New Years Day. It's fun to talk with other cruisers at the dinghy docks, bike racks, laundry room, boaters lounge when accessing the internet or playing Mexican Train, and Sundowners on various sailboats. We've also enjoyed listening to music at Dockside and taking a dip in the swimming pools at Sunset Grille and Banana Bay with Bud and Jen (s/v SeaQuest), Sid and Michele (s/v El Camino), and/or Herman and Sandy (s/v Bonita). What a great group of friends!

Speaking of friends, on Christmas Day, our friends Bob and Sue were vacationing in nearby Cudjoe Key, so they drove over for the potluck dinner at the marina followed by a dinghy ride to Sombrero Beach and a drink at Dockside. Fun day! A couple days later, we drove to their tropical cottage with Bud and Jen, and we spent the afternoon relaxing in the pool, Tim kayaked, and Bud and Bob went fishing for lobsters. It was fun watching the lobsters hide and emerge from under the concrete wall. Bob grilled some fresh fish along with some other tasty food. What a great day with lots of good food and good friends!!

One of the best highlights was visiting with Mike (Tim's brother) and Vicki, who were vacationing in Lake Worth over the holidays. During our visit in Lake Worth, Mike and Vicki drove us around Palm Beach to show us the places where the rich and famous live and shop. It was nice to return to their condo where we enjoyed dinner and games and quality time together!!

Last week, we had a special treat when we stood by the road with flags flying as the Wounded Warriors rode their bikes through Marathon. It was quite emotional!

The Marathon Community Park, which is next door to the marina, also has events happening every so often - Christmas concert, outdoor movie, and my favorite, the Florida Keys Celtic Festival this past weekend. There were food and craft vendors, Sheepdog herding demonstrations, athletic competitions of Scottish games, and great Irish and Celtic music by six different bands ranging from a pipe and drum corps, to an all-sister band, to a rock band with an awesome bagpiper, to a band with 3 drummers, a bagpiper and a didgeridoo producing a tribal sound. The Screaming Orphans, the all-sister band, also performed during the Celtic Contemporary Worship service at the park, which was a unique experience in itself. What an awesome weekend listening to some great Celtic music!

This blog is much longer than I expected. Guess I better not wait so long next time to update the blog. :)

Photos in the above collage were taken at the potluck on Christmas Day, Polar Bear Plunge on New Years Day, Mike and Tim in Lake Worth, Sid and Tim and Bud blowing their conch horns at sunset, and Tim and Jill overlooking Boot Key Harbor. Many other photos with captions can be found in the web album on the right labeled "PHOTOS from 2015/2016 Florida Trip".
Vessel Name: Links
Vessel Make/Model: Gemini 105Mc, Sailing Catamaran
Hailing Port: Taylors Island MD
Crew: Tim and Jill
About: We enjoy sailing and cruising around the Chesapeake Bay and the Delmarva Peninsula on our sailing vessel named Links. Every other year we become snowbirds and spend winters in Florida. We visit wonderful places and meet friendly people everywhere we travel. Life is good!
Extra: It's as much about the journey as it is the destination!
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Links's Photos -