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Ruby Slipper
Imagination can take you anywhere -- even over the rainbow.
Florida Keys Fun & Sun
Anywhere from the mid-60s to 80 degrees!
01/22/2011, Marathon, Boot Key Harbor, Fl

Warriors of ancient India would blow conch shells to announce battle. Hawaiians used the large conch shell (Pu) as a trumpet in ceremonial fanfare often accompanying chants or to control little Gods. The sound could be carried as far as 2 miles!

Today, cruisers, whether in the Bahamas or the Florida Keys, signal the end of the day (sunset) with the blowing of the conch. Blow hards beware: You won't always have the edge here. The volume (loudness) depends on the style of blowing rather than breath capacity. Think of Louis Armstrong's lip lock on a trumpet & you will have a better chance of blowing away your audience with your style.

Well my dear Captain Bill has been perfecting his technique with his trusty 15' Lobatus Gigas, commonly known as the Queen Conch, that he discovered & tooled into a mighty fine sunset horn. Every evening he joins in Boot Key Harbor's conch cacophony contributing his mournful baritone sound to dozens of other toots, honks or brays.

Of course, the Blowing of the Conch Ritual is symbiotic to the Drinking of the Sunset Cocktail Ritual.

So, yes, this is how we while away our evenings aboard MV Ruby Slipper here in balmy Marathon, half way between Miami & Key West. This is a delightful welcoming after our adventurous passage from the west coast of Florida & the primitive backcountry route via the Florida Everglades.
Days are spent at the beach (one of the Florida Keys ONLY natural sandy beaches), doing boat chores (defrosting the 'fridge as I write this, as a matter of fact), reading & walking. Tonite having some Eastport Yacht Club friends over for dinner. It's especially nice having friends from home in this sunny climate.

What's in-store for us? Later this week, my sister Benita & our niece, Katana are visiting Miami Beach to commemorate the 5 year passing of our mother. We'll all get together for lunch & hugs & a teary eye or two, no doubt. Next week, our friend Deb Smith, of Annapolis is visiting us aboard for a few nights R&R.

And, after all our company departs, we'll cast off the mooring lines & head for Key West for about 1 month. Thanks to Bill being retired USAF, we've scored a slip at NAS Key West at Boca Chica, just minutes from the fun of Key West. Apparently the military-only marina offers a sandy beach & tiki bar. But the real excitement is when the Navy is undergoing exercises. I'm sure nothing is cooler than the sound of F-18's taking off overhead while aboard the comfort of your own boat!

After our month there, we'll head back home slowly for an approximate arrival around the first of May.

I've been have difficulty download the many photos I've taken of our passage so far. But do check out what we have in the Photo Gallery at the lower right side of the blog.

Missing you all & hope to hear of YOUR adventures.

Admiral Linda, Captain Bill & Crew Dogs: Murphy & Trapper

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Happy New Year, Friends & Family!!
Sunny, mid-70s, SE 15-20K
01/01/2011, Naples, Florida

Hi folks!
While in Fort Myers Beach, we were tickled with an impromptu visit from Ford Jones, of Virginia. While on a business trip to Florida's east coast, he wrapped things up & drove across the state to see us! We dined aboard Ruby Slipper on local shrimp & tuna. Ford spent the night with us & slipped away in the early a.m. for a flight home. He is a one-of-a kind human being, who was instrumental in Bill & I meeting for the first time! He & his wife, Barb, will always mean the world to us! Next stop: North - St. Petersburg! We ventured this far north to see some dear friends! We had a delightful visit with Bill's almost-brother Jim Moloney & his lovely wife, Kathy (also son, Patrick; uber-girlfriend, Caroline; grandkids Luke & Grace). Jim & Kathy are from Frederick, Md. & flew in to see their daughter, Andrea. WE were the fortunate beneficiaries of that visit. Thanks, Jim & Kathy for making us feel so special in your lives! We also managed to see our good cruiser friends, J & Marci Kolb, residents of St. Pete. They had just driven in (thru the snow) from holiday visits up north. We had coffee & pastry together & most importantly, were able to get/give hugs. We'll see them again in the spring when they venture north to direct Annapolis Boat Show Ops. It was a whirlwind trip "up north" with some delightful anchorages in between. Top on our list is Cayo Costa State Park, north of Captiva Island. We stayed there for 5 days heading north and then stayed their for New Yeasr's Eve while heading south. That special evening we enjoyed a bottle of Veuve Clicquot from or Annapolis friend, Anne Harrington. Yummo! And we drank our New Years Eve toasts in special glasses made by dear pal, Erin Harrington. Now, we're anchored amidst multi-million dollar homes in Naples. Next stop, Everglade City, then Little Shark River & finally to Boot Key, Marathon in the Florida Keys. We hope to stay there several weeks & enjoy a visit with our gal pal, Deb Smith & maybe even see my sister Benita & our niece, Katana as they make their January pilgramage to South Beach. So much fun instore!! In the meantime, if you don't hear from us it's just because we will be in the middle of the Everglades with no connectivity. Stand by for photos as I've been having a hard time uploading new ones. Much love to you all in this sure-to-be-spectacular New Year!

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Heading south...again
Warming trend
12/30/2010, Sarasota, Fl

Trying to beat feet south to the Florida Keys. Tonite anchored in Sarasota, tomorrow to anchor at Cayo Costa (again) for New Years Eve, next day to anchor in Naples, Fl. Weather permitting we will then head to Everglade City (to dine at the world famous Rod & Gun Club where world leaders & stars have supped), then to an anchorage in Everglades National Park - Little Shark River (60' mangrove forests & alligator heaven), then landfall at Marathon, Fl. (Boot Key) for several weeks!! Hooray. Standby for details & photos. Love to all!

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Gulf Coast Delight!
Low '70s, sunny, breezy
12/23/2010, Cayo Costa State Park, Pelican Bay, N. of Captiva

Hello & seasons greetings from MV Ruby Slipper. Excuse the brevity of this posting but I just wrote my heart out & LOST it all! And, I did not lose it all, Bill said I'm a better person than he. Anyway, a Readers Digest version of what I wrote... Cayo Costa was more than we expected. Truly one of our Top 10 anchorages of all. We hiked numerous trails, spotted abundant wildlife (including a flock of uncommon white pelicans), rode bikes on the beaches & watched the dogs frolic in the sand & surf. Tho dogs aren't allowed on the beaches we were able to take them on the trails & a special lagoon beach just outside of the park. We all must have walked a good 3 miles a day. One day, I did a solid 6! Bill & I took the dinghy over to Cabbage Key for OUR Cheeseburger in Paradise at a restaurant that can only be reached by boat. A cool spot that has a bar where more than $50,000 one-dollar bills adorn it's walls. Naturally, we added to it! While walking the beach, I collected more than my fair share of beautiful shells. Some for me, many for friends & family.

After 5 days we left to make progress north to visit dear friends Jim & Kathy, J & Maric and Arlene & Joe who live near or are visiting St. Petersburg. Looking forward to the warmth of some wonderful friends!

Now, we're at anchor at Englewood Beach (near Venice). Here for Christmas & possibly the next big cold front. Or may move on again...

More later from the merry crew of Ruby Slipper. Merry Christmas to all!

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Merry Christmas from the REAL Florida!
NNW 20 MPH, overcast, 61 degrees
12/19/2010, Pelican Bay, Cayo Costa State Park

Hello all,

Just a quick note to say we've arrived at a beautiful, primative island that hopefully will be all we anticipate it being. Natural beauty, pristine beaches, wildlife watching & opportunities for hiking. This state park is gorgeous, almost Bahamas-like in it's low landscape but with Jurrassiac Park-like scenery. I expect a dinosaur to jump out at any time. And, the beaches, ahhhhh...9 miles of pure white sands unmared by development! As well, this island (and Sanibel & Captiva) are know to be THE best places for shelling in the WORLD!! I can't believe we're here. I adore shelling & beachcombing! It's said that more than 300 species of shell-life are in the area! I am psyched! We got the lay of the land today & tomorrow we'll go out in earnest. Our anchorage is very protected in these breezy winds & seas. 5-7' out on the Gulf! Yikes! But here, very nice. Not sure where we'll be Christmas Day...maybe here??? We are very close to Cabbage Key, an island noted for being the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's Cheeseburger in Paradise!! So, we'll dinghy over there to see the place, said to be another example of the REAL Florida. Will write soon with PHOTOS! So, loved ones, stand by. Much love to you during this festive season.

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Florida: I'll Never be your Beast of Burden
mid-70s, partly cloudy

Here we sit on a mooring ball at Fort Myers Beach. Weather is finally warming up. But this area doesn't speak to us. Tacky tinsle town, honky tonk wanna-be fancy-schmancy jet set place...Remember the lyric, "Sign, sign everywhere a sign"? Well, welcome to Florida....EVEYTHING is dogs on beaches, no roller blading, no shirts/no shoes/no service, 48-hour anchoring limits, criminal offense if you anchor more than 72 hours, no wakes, no, no, no...Frankly, we miss the Bahamas Attitude. Tired of this Pseudo Jimmy Buffett attitude, thank you very much...Everyone ACTS cool & laid back, but it is the opposite! We're eager to get this "leash" off our necks & move on. But we vowed to "see" the gulf coast. So, Saturday we may move on & north to some noted anchorages. Christmas? Well, we "plan" to have some yummy delights to devour & quaff copious quantities of something alcoholic, but we don't know where we'll be. As long as we're together. That's what matters. Perhaps we'll connect with some friends up north along the gulf coast. That would be wonderful. That would be memorable. But our family will be forever on our minds.

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At the Gulf of Mexico's Front Door
62 degrees, wet, calm before the next squall
12/12/2010, Fort Myers, Fl

Our passage west began as I hauled 125' of chain that was coated in the slickest, slimyish mud I have ever seen. EACH link was coated taking 45 minutes to get the anchor up & clean. Next, the first of 5 locks had an unscheduled maintenance that caused us to do donuts in front of the lock for 1 1/2 hrs! All this in less than 5 miles! We made progress scooting across Lake Okechobee. All together that day, 3 locks, 2 swing bridges and TONS OF HUGE ALLIGATORS just feet from our boat smelling Murphy & Trapper as well as previously unseen sights made for an interesting trip. It was a 10 hour day & we made 75 miles. Yesterday we were tied up at the City of Moore Haven's docks. TINY town of 1 square mile. Very nice. $1/foot city dock. Great walking path next to the boat that have made the pups ecstatic!! Saturday, we left for Fort Myers to wait out 2-3 days of bad weather. But first, two more locks bringing the total to 5! They are a bit of work but an interesting engineering feat - man finding the equalibruim between the Atlantic Ocean & the Gulf of Mexico via Lake Okechobee & natural rivers & the several man-made canals. One time we rose up 13' & another time we fell 9.5 feet! All controlled by a lock & dam system & us keeping control of our boat by holding onto lines in the lock. Yesterday evening, we arrived in Fort Myers & are at the city marina. Today, some serious squall lines that built up the river to a frothy frenzy. So glad we are here & not at anchor. We'll be here a another day or so as the winds settle. Next...the Gulf of Mexico beckons. I've got some serious shelling & beach combing to do!!! Can't wait to explore Captiva & Sanibel islands & the hundreds of little keys nearby.

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A journey of firsts
wet, cold, overcast
12/09/2010, near Stuart, Fl

Today we diverted from the typical N/S route of the Intracoastal Waterway & are heading west across Florida. We're crossing approximately 2/3rds of the way down the state using the man-made & natural connections of the St. Lucie River, Lake Okeechobee & various canals for 135 miles. We'll also pass under & wait for openings for numerous bridges. In addition, we'll venture thru 5 locks - UP to Lake Okeechobee & DOWN to the Gulf of Mexico. This passage is normally for shoal draft boats with short or no masts. We are that this time! So, we look forward to passing thru this area for the very first time & seeing a different part of America. Having "done" the ICW 8-10 times we found navigation fairly predictible & somewhat easy. Now we'll have to pay keener attention while still enjoying new sights. We should be across the state in 2 more days. Then, we'll enjoy the sugar sandy beaches of the gulf coast...and hopefully warmer weather. Brrrrrr. (BTW, Lake Okeechobee is the 2nd largest lake in the continental U.S. Lake Michigan is the largest. This Florida fresh water lake also serves a the main watershed for south Florida. Due to lack of rain & high water useage by locals, tourists & industry, the lake is often dangerously low preventing this western passage.) Check out our blog photos on the photo gallery to the right. More to come!

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Shivvvvver, me timbers! Record cold in Florida!
31 degrees when we awoke!
12/07/2010, Vero Beach, FL

We're back on the blog! For those of you who are following us (L2H2 especially!!!) so sorry for the lapse. Frankly, I just took a breather. Alll is well with Team Hughes aboard the Motor Vessel Ruby Slipper. Highlights: we traversed the waters of Cumberland Island, Georgia; Fernandina Beach, St. Augustine & Cocoa, Florida before touching down in Vero Beach. Cumberland island is by far the most beautiful beach in the U.S.! Her shores are without any development save a Dept. of Interior Park facility & many primative camping sites. Wild horses (see our photos in the gallery to the right), armadillos, birds of every feather abound. And, miles of sandy, pristine beaches with azure surf. St. Augustine, America's oldest city, continues to captivate with her historic charms. Our favorite city in Florida! Cocoa is funky & served a a brief refuge from two bad weather days. And, Vero Beach, AKA: Velcro Beach, is a great all-purpose place to provision, hang & make or reconnect with old friends. We've accomplished much during our week here - laundry, groceries, booze resupply, and lots of walks! There's a fabulous dog park right next door to the city mooring field here that is worth the stop over alone! We go twice daily for at least an hour each time! Anywhere from 5- 25 off leash dogs romp, run & sniff each other with wild abandon. It's a joy to watch. Trapper is getting back into running & fetching. He's thrilled! But I'm worried to death that we'll undo the expensive, necessary surgery he had on his knee more than 3 months ago. His "other" knee even popped out! Geeze, I'm starting to think I'm gonna have to outfit him with training wheels!! Murphy serves as the gate keeper to the park & greets all entering dogs. She gives the "paws up or down" to those coming in. She particularly likes a 4' tall Great Dane "puppy" and a Blue Nosed Pitbull! Both Bill & I have been getting alot of walking in on our own too. The big guys don't scare her at all! We've reconnected with dear friends, Bill Price & his wife, Jan, formerly of Annapolis, now of Vero Beach. See? That velcro is at work! Dinner a few times with them has been most enjoyable & Bill P. has patiently served as our chauffeur. We are most thankful to him & Jan, who is starting her own interior design business! Also, friends from Eastport Yacht Club have caught up with us here. We all enjoyed a progressive cocktail cruise at each other's moored boats. All in all a great time! Dawn & Ron Hughes, in particular, have served as a real social lubricant here. Off to the west coast of Florida via Lake Okachobee on Thursday/Friday. See our great photos in the photo gallery. And, let us know what's up WITH YOU! XO!!

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No looking back!! It's MY Life! I Did it MY Way

Here's what we're listening to: BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN!!! OK, Badlands rules now as does ALL his stuff. Nickelback is pretty damn good with If Today Was Your Last Day and Far Away. We still love Heart's What About Love. Look back & enjoy Bon Jovi's Love's the Only Rule, Who Says You Can't Go Home , It's My Life. CSN&Y's Southern Cross. Shakira's delightful in Sale el Sol. Shaggy is so sexy with Bonafide Girl. Frank Sinatra with daughter, Nancy in a beautiful duet - Something Stupid. Katy Perry has so much fun with California Gurl & so do we!! Pink is adorable & fun in Raise Your Glass. Al Green is THE man STILL with Let's Stay Together. And, Dave Mathew's is amazing in almost everything especially You & Me!!

What we're listening to
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Team Hughes
Who: Linda & Bill with crew dogs: Murphy & Trapper
Port: Annapolis, Maryland
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Life is not about how well you weather the storm. It's about how well you danced in the rain!

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