(this is me & our friend Paul in the picture)
I know, this is long overdue... we got lazy and tired and weren't having great internet during our final days....
We left Marathon and travelled 28 hrs to Ft. Meyers Beach. It's getting crazy hot and even with the wind scoop, cooking below is becoming impossible and sleep uncomfortable. Once there and napped, we spent a nice evening at a waterfront restaurant enjoying a breeze, happy hour, ribs, pizza and some acoustic tunes.
The following morning we travelled via the ICWW to an anchorage we enjoyed on the trip down between Cabbage Key and Useppa Island.
Next morning we went out of Boca Grand Pass and reentered the ICWW at Venice Inlet.. the anchorage where we stayed on our way down (which was shallow and not a favorite) was over crowded so we decided to keep going up the ICWW and stopped for the night at Casey Key Marina. Upon arrival we called our friend Paul who lives very close and he joined us for an evening on the boat.
The next day (Sunday) we travelled to Sarasota Bay where we planned to hang out a few days.. given our last visit to Sarasota we knew we had plenty of fun in store for us. Paul and Sue picked us up that evening and took us to Siesta Key Beach which was recently voted the #1 beach. We were in our dinner clothes so we enjoyed the sand and the scene only.. but it was indeed beautiful and the sand soft, white-white and felt like powdered sugar between my toes. We had a great dinner and walked around the small town visiting a few bars and enjoying some bands. On Monday, Dave & I walked around downtown Sarasota, did some provisioning at Whole Foods and just relaxed. I wanted to cook for Paul & Sue but due to the heat we agreed I would do it at their home. On Tuesday, Paul picked us up we did a little more sight seeing, a little food & drink shopping, then headed to their home for a little swimming, laundry and dining. Turbodog even got a fresh water bath!! Wednesday we lounged around and caught up on some episodes of Treme and got back to the boat in the evening. Thursday Paul picked us up again and we spent the day at Lido Key doing some wade fishing and then Siesta Key for swimming in the ocean/gulf (I collected some of that fine sand in a large zip lock baggie!) then hung around the town for some people watching and cold cold adult beverages. Thanks again Paul for your hospitality, being a friend and a chauffeur ;)
On Friday, we moved a little north to Longboat Key where we stationed to make what would be our longest leg yet...55 hrs!! (and our first 2 nighter). We left Saturday morning arrived at Panama City Beach on Monday noon-ish and anchored behind St. Andrews Park. The heat indexes were 102 degrees. Since the wind was coming right out of the West we decided to hang around for a few days. The only thing to do in that kind of heat is be in the water.. so we dinghyed around, snorkeled the jetties, dolphin watched and just laid in the water at the beaches and on floats behind the boat.
We were really becoming anxious and excited now to just get home. We were traveling pretty much every day.....From Panama City Beach we travelled overnight to Grand Lagoon, Pensacola. Pensacola to Mobile Bay. Mobile Bay to Horn Island. Horn Island to Cat Island. Cat Island to Pearl River. Then Pearl River to Home! Some of our toughest sailing was done during this time.. the need to stay within the channel in the Mississippi Sound makes for limited changes in course with strong south and west winds and after a tough day Sunday we exited Lake Borgne into Pearl River. After passing thru the train bridge we dropped the hook in the best place we could find out of the channel. Surprisingly there was a nice breeze and it was not buggie at all.
We arrived at home Monday afternoon and were thrilled to see Michelle had left us some fantastic goodies.... Zapps Chips, Hubigs Pies, New Orleans Iced Coffee, A HUGE Muffulatta, Watermelon, Beer & Champagne!! Welcome Home indeed.
(coming soon one final blog.....)
06/01/2011, Boot Key Harbor/Maration, Florida Keys
We arrived in Boot Key Harbor after about a 30+ hr sail from the Bahamas. It was around 2:30pm and we were exhausted. We decided to rest a while before calling to deal with customs. We might even wait till the next morning. But at around 5:00 pm we did the "right" thing and called, they asked the usual questions.. how long were we gone, did we have anything to declare, etc.etc. They then told us we had 24 hrs to appear in person in either Miami or Key West! (why didn't we know this??) After some frustration, we decided that we would take a 2 hr bus ride to Key West the following day. Meanwhile we ran into our ole cruising buddies Rick & Danee of Dolphin who were moored in Boot Key Harbor too. They decided they would take the bus trip with us and we would make a day of it... hanging in Key West.
The following day we got on the 10:00am bus. Once there, Dave and I immediately reported to the address we were given for customs office in Key West.. "What??!?! They haven't been in this building in years?!?" Sooo we had to take another bus about 15 miles in another direction. Welcome back to the US of A!! Anyway, once finished with that we had a fun day in Key West doing all the things you do in Key West... Sloppy Joes, Hogs Breath Saloon, Irish Kevins, eating, shopping and sunset at Mallory Square. We hopped the 8:20 bus back to Key West. Sadly the next day David realized his phone was missing.. the nearest Sprint Store was..... in Key West! He took another 2 hr bus ride only to find that store had been closed... wasting another whole day. We sure have been unlucky with electronics this trip.
We learned our neighbors of 17 years Chuck & Janet were in Key West (they sold their home on Island Drive and left about 1 month ago to cruise full-time) and would be heading to Marathon in the next few days. We had been keeping in touch but were never sure if our paths would cross. We're so glad they did and we enjoyed a day and evening with them on both our boat and theirs, then at Birdine's for a late dinner. On Wednesday, after a full week in Marathon, we headed off for what would be about a 24 hr pass to Ft Meyers. Heading North.
After Bob & Sandy left it was time to start thinking about heading toward home. With only 1 week left on our Visas and needing to be in the Gulf of Mexico prior to the start of hurricane season (doesn't make much sense I know but at least this allows us to keep the boat in Lacombe. Most other policies require it to be north of 31 degrees or south of 10 degrees). We left Marsh Harbor and moved south to Lynard Cay. The winds were pretty light the next day but forecast to pick up so we moved south about 10 miles to a place called Cherokee Point. That allowed us to go between the reefs and out of the Sea of Abaco in the daylight. Cherokee Point is basically just a little cove behind some rocks open to the southeast...easy to leave at 3:00 AM for a 75 mile trip to The Berry Islands. As sad as we both were to be leaving, this anchorage and the next at Whale Cay were two of our favorites. At Cherokee Point we were the only boat anchored, the water was crystal clear and the beach beautiful at the foot of some rocky cliffs. We decided to try and spear supper and were approx 1/4 mile from the boat and could hear Turbo barking away. On our return we realized what he was barking at. 4 dolphins were just swimming around the boat playing. One was a baby and when Jolie got in the water he seemed curious and wanted to check her out but the mother nudged him away and they kept their distance. They did spend all afternoon just swimming around, occasionally jumping out of the water.
We left the next morning (2:30 am) for Whale Cay in the Berry Islands. It was a good downwind sail and we arrived about 4 pm, launched the dingy and headed to shore. Lots of grassy areas with plenty of baby conch and small starfish. Next morning we dove the nearby reef looking for dinner.. first thing Jolie saw was a 6' shark. So rather than dive the deeper part of the reef looking for big fish ( then having to swim back to the dingy toting dead fish), we stayed near the dingy in about 10' of water. Turned out to be a good move as we got 6 small snapper and never saw the shark again. After cleaning the fish and stowing the dingy we decided to head toward Chub Cay and a little closer to the Bahama Banks. The wind picked up along he way and we decided to sail through the night arriving a Gun Cay around 9 am. Next stop Marathon, Florida.
We hopped around The Abacos for about 5 days before Bob & Sandy's arrival. Tilloo Cay, Matt Lowe's Cay, Sandy Cay, snorkeled the Coral Gardens and visited Nippers on Great Guana and slowly tried to adapt to the much more inhabited, built up and touristy Abacos. We had a few calm days and were able to get out and snorkel the outer reefs. Just diving around under the boat we were able to collect a few conch. David tied them up on a stringer and we towed them around for a while so we'd be sure to have fresh conch when Bob & Sandy arrived. On Mother's Day while anchored off the South Point of Great Guana a gentleman who lived in the house overlooking our anchorage boated up to us and introduced himself. I had been snorkeling & trying to spear fish around the boat. He used to live in Alexandria and said he rarely, if ever, saw boats anchored from Louisiana. After some conversation and him asking us to please not spear any of the fish near his pier, he gifted us with 3 nice lobster tails!!
On the 10th of May we headed in to Conch Inn Marina in Marsh Harbor. The boat needed a good cleaning and we had quite a few chores & errands to do in preparation for our friends' arrival.
Bob & Sandy arrived before sunset on the 11th. We spent our first night in the marina just catching up, enjoying rum drinks and dining on a meal of Grilled Tuna, Veggies & Pasta. They had brought us gifts and items that we requested from home. But.. the biggest.. and oh so special.. surprise were some cards from Jason and a wonderful disc he put together that included family pictures and video of Roman set to music. I cried before I could look at any of it, then we all cried later after we watched the disc.
We had great weather for the duration of their visit and we jumped around mostly in the area of Great Guana Cay, Man O'War Cay and Hopetown. Mostly just dinging around, beach combing, snorkeling, eating, drinking, sunset conch shell blowing and some late night music jams including beans, conch shell horn, tequila bottles and the kitchen sink. I apologize to anyone who may have been in the harbor on any one of those nights. I have to say one of the funniest things each evening was watching Bob (a great musician as most know) being unable to blow the Conch Horn. I'm sure by now he's home and long since figured it out.
We had some fabulous meals including the one of Grilled Tuna, Grilled Grouper (twice), Grilled Chicken, Lobster Egg Rolls w/ Lobster Salad Avocado Boats, Crabmeat Pasta Salad, Fresh Conch Salad and some boudin we had been saving since home. Seems Sandy & I spent a lot of time chopping veggies, but I enjoyed every second of it. We ate out only once for lunch at a great waterfront place in Hopetown. We did walk around town in Man O' War and Hopetown and climbed to the top of the lighthouse, but mostly just wanted them to get the feel of our life on the boat. Hopefully it was a nice enough experience that they, and others, will join us next time.
We were happy to see our friends Mike and Bree of Sea Monkey in Hopetown and they joined us for one last night aboard as they were heading back home in the next couple of days. And what a night it was!!.. I think it was nearly 2 am when the party ended. Tequila Conch Shell Shots anyone??
Saying goodbye to the last of our cruising buddies and saying goodbye to Bob & Sandy hit home for us... it is time for us to start slowly making our way back to the States.
05/04/2011, Little Harbor, Abacos
We got an early start of about 4 am for what would be about an 11 hr trip. We were off to a good start cruising at around 6-7 knts. David set out a trolling line and minutes after sunrise... a hit! a tuna! Why didn't I buy that wasabi back on Long Island?!
I set out my hand line and couldn't wait to try out my toothpaste lure (see Facebook pictures for that) I'd been working on. It was perfect and inexpensive as we have already lost too many lures. Within minutes... hit! a Mahi! Wait he took my lure! Dammit..
That would be it for the rest of the day, no more bites. We did witness several whales to our starboard side in the distance, it was difficult to tell what kind the were, but definitely whales.
We arrived in Little Harbor, Abacos around 3:30. I started to prepare the tuna. I kept saying "Honor the Fish"...( we had just watched some downloaded episodes of Treme ). I made up a Tuna Sashimi appetizer.. OMG.. melt in your mouth. Doesn't get any fresher than that. David passed on the raw tuna (shame on him) but Turbo did not. Later I tried to do a pan seared, but I kinda overdid it as it was not pink in the middle.. but still moist and fresh and yummy.
05/03/2011, Meeks Patch
Now this is what we wish every day could be like! About an hour trip from Spanish Wells to Meeks Patch. The thinking was we would leave that evening or in the early morning for The Abacos. We found a nice secluded anchorage on a secluded island close to a beach. The beach was surrounded by rocky edges on either side These rocky edges always have interesting things to look at below the water. Not large reefs by any means, but anytime I can snorkel from the sailboat I'm happy. David jumped in to check the anchor as always and immediately saw a lionfish below the boat. I did what I enjoy doing most and jumped in prepared to snorkel the rocky edges. I ended up in the water for nearly 3 hrs!!... this area must have been breeding grounds for starfish as there were at least 50+ huge throw pillow sized ones. I managed to get a grouper, a lionfish and a major sunburn on my back. I was finally forced back to the boat by the arrival of a 4-5 ft reef shark. Later David went in with his new Hawaiian Sling and came back with 2 nice grouper. We walked the beach, collected shells and had a dinner of Fresh Baked Grouper with Peas & Rice and a Cabbage Salad in the cockpit as the sun set. Perfect ending to a perfect day...