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Ruby Slipper
Imagination can take you anywhere -- even over the rainbow.
Hello Key Largo!
Sunny, low 80s, E 25 MPH

What bittersweet feelings the captain & crew had as we departed NAS Key West Boca Chica Marina. After 3 weeks of enjoying Key West by dinghy, by car & by bar and delighting in the camaraderie of the military community, we had to begin our trek north. Besides we were spending waaayy too much money having fun. Time to stop the "bleeding" even if for a short time.

We also requested a USCG Safety Inspection the day before we departed. Word has it if you display your "passed" sticker, while traveling on the waterways , you stand a better chance of not being boarded or bothered by the Coasties or local authorities. Our courtesy inspection was done by none other than an Air Force Guardsman & his wife!! What a great experience. They were thorough, professional & helpful! And, we passed with flying colors! Well, after traveling several thousand miles on our boat to Maine, Bermuda, the Bahamas & in between, we seem to know what we're doing but a little extra help doesn't hurt.

Our send-off was a poignant surprise...fellow dock mates came out armed with their conch horns to blow a "fare thee well." Those without horns stopped what they were doing to join the revelry on the docks. Conch horns, boat horns & folks just waving & shouting "goodbye...come back soon...see you travels." I was busy coiling docklines & stowing fenders, while Bill maneuvered us out of the slip. Duties done, we rejoined around the helm & looked at each other. We both had tears in our eyes. A short visit, sure. But, the military family is one you can always count on anywhere in the world. A shared joke, a helpful hand, a ready smile, a safe haven...that has always been our experience while serving in the Air Force. Nice that some things don't change!

North we went via Hawks Channel (ocean side)& later to avoid building ocean swells we crossed under the Bahia Honda bridges to the Key's "back country" to our destination for the next two days: Islamorada. So nice having a lil tug that can get under most bridges!

We regret we didn't stop in Marathon to reconnect with friends Patty & Bill. But the mooring field at Boot Harbor Key was filled with a wait list & the anchorages weren't as secure as we would have liked. But we'll see them again on the Chesapeake Bay...many martinis & Manhattans will be necessary to catch up!

Islamorada was lovely. Excellent holding in think, sticky sand & grass. Protection from all but SW, W & NW. And, a short dink ride to Lorelie's...a fun, funky beach bar! A most enjoyable stay until we realized our alternator bite the big one. So, all the time the engine was running we weren't getting the benefit of a battery charge. Thank heaven for our solar panels & genset!! Anyway, a rebuild would have to wait until Key Largo.

Left Islamorada but had to backtrack south on the bay side to go through Indian Channel & under the bridge (27') to go north via Hawk Channel (ocean side). Then continued up Hawk Channel into Port Largo Canal, famous for "Crash Corner." Crash is a bad word...we wanted to avoid one at all costs, so we gave a "securite" call on channel 16 at the canal jetty & one as we approached "Crash Corner." We meandered through tight man-made canals with barely a boat width to spare...multi-million dollar homes, yachts & commercial boats lines the canal sides. What we feared was one of the BIG head boats - fishing or dive charters or the mega glass bottom boat coming out! Where would we go, we wondered? No way we could turn around & back out, no where to pull over as these over-loaded behemoths crammed with gawking tourists careened out of the canal. Thus, the "securite" calls. We listened & heard no one departing as we approached. Whew, one more "securite" & that would be at the infamous corner....a 90 degree turn (more like a crack in the canal)& not an inch to spare. We made it! And, even got into our slip without embarrassing ourselves! Time for a cool one!

Today, we await Bill's eldest daughter, Shayna & two of our grandchildren - Scott (almost 8) & Megan (5) from 18 degree New Market, Md. They'll be staying at the Marina del Mar Hotel while we stay aboard just a few feet away. The kids will have 4 pools from which to choose as three area hotels share the marina, pools & restaurants with all their guests. Fun! And, John Pennecamp Park (beaches, snorkeling, kayaking) is just 1 mile away while the Mega glass bottom boat (100' feet away) beckons too. So much to see & do. Just hoping our energy level rises to the occasion. So...excited!!
The gang departs Monday after which we will continue our north-ing...on to Dinner Key (Coral Gables, Miami).

More later on our adventures with the kids. Happiness to you all!

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Last Week in Key West (sniff, sniff)
Sunny, low 80s
02/20/2011, NAS Key West, Boca Chica

Life aboard M/V Ruby Slipper continues to be full of amusement & simple pleasures. This week we enjoyed the company of my Uncle Harvey (my dear deceased mom's baby brother) & my Aunt Janice. Since I was a child, they were among the most inspirational role models in my 53 years of life. Even across the miles from our home in Annapolis to theirs in Chicago, they were always loving, generous & ready with unconditional support or a humorous way of looking at family foibles. I'm so fortunate they are a part of my small family.

They left the cold of Chicago for a month in Pompano Beach. While there, they took a 4-hour road trip to see us in Key West! For the one night they visited, we arranged for a suite at NAS Key West, Boca Chica where they could stretch out on a queen-sized bed, take a long shower & watch any one of two TVS! Accommodations aboard our American Tug 34, while very comfy, weren't as "plush." As well, we had to "issue" them his & her ear plugs as the Navy's F-18s were busy taking off & landing on the runway next to the marina!

After lunch aboard, we strolled around the marina; had a beer on the beach; went into Key West proper where we did the "Duval Crawl," celebrated sunset at Mallory Square with a Mojito & dined at Kelly's. The next morning a gut-busting breakfast at Denny's & off they went. A short visit, but very much appreciated.

That afternoon, we welcomed Ford Jones, one half of the couple responsible for introducing Bill & me nearly 18 years ago! Ford, from Falls Church, Virginia took time from a business trip to the Keys to spend two nights aboard. We started with Ford's famous mojitos while celebrating sunset on our sun deck. Bill introduced him to the Conch horn ritual blowing in a spectacular sunset! Then, off to dinner at the marina's tiki bar & restaurant. The next day Ford joined me for my daily morning walk with Murphy & Trapper. Then off we went for a similar visit into Key West.

A serious gardener at home, who specializes in tropicals, Ford really appreciated meandering among the streets while peeking into the lush, tropical & often quirky gardens of this divine city. Tired & thirsty we dined at El Siboney, a REAL Cuban restaurant frequented by locals & in-the-know visitors.

Then, back to the Ruby Slipper to change into our bathing suits for a few hours on the beach. Again, sunset aboard the sundeck & joined by our boat neighbor, Spider, a retired A-10 pilot with the USAF & commercial pilot with Southwest. Ford's visit was all together too short as we bid this dear friend "goodbye" at 6 a.m. today. Thank you, Ford for your visit, for your friendship & your matchmaking skills!

Now a few days of quiet & possibly a visit from our friend, Erin Harrington later this week.

More later. (Check out NEW pix of our Key West adventure in the Photo Gallery.)

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Still in Key West; Still Having Fun!
Cool, low 60s!! Cold front went thru last night, breezy
02/12/2011, NAS Key West, Boca Chica

Hey family & friends,

Just wanted to let you know I've finally updated M/V Ruby Slipper's Photo Gallery (Click on the button on the right of the Blog)! Yes, the moment you've all been waiting for: Our photo log as we traveled south along the Gulf Coast of Florida, through Everglades National Park waters, our arrival in the Keys, Marathon & now Key West! Enjoy, if you dare. XO!!

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Another Day in Paradise
Almost 80, sunny SW winds 10K
02/07/2011, Key West

Still having a ball in balmy Key West aboard our American Tug 34, Ruby Slipper! Temps have been in the high 70s & low 80s. Lovely!! Sunny & light enough breeze to NOT have to use the boat's AC. Cool!

We've really been enjoying the F-18s & T-45s taking off & landing at the Navy runway next to the marina. The "sounds of freedom" begin at 0710 sharp & end by 1600. When the wind is out of the east, they use the runway parallel to the marina & the noise is quiet the conversation stopper! But, truly, Bill & I love it! Bill misses those days (more than 35 years ago) when he was in the seat of some, at-the-time, state-of-the art Air Force jet. ALL the men around here walk around with big grins on their faces. And, I quietly enjoy the sight of young men in flight suits again!

The beach, tiki bar & marina here is a special "perk" for active duty & retired military. And believe me, all of them have earned the right to R&R here. Many Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afganistan & Iraq-era vets from the Army, Air Force, Navy & Marine Corps are here. Airborne, Ranger, Seal, Special Forces tattoos "announce" their former life like badges of honor. The parking lot is full of cars bedecked with Purple Heart or Disabled Vet license plates. But these vets are quiet about their roles & former ranks. Conversations, instead, revolve around fishing, boating, sports or dogs. And, I'm sure when I'm not around...babes. It's a delightfully friendly place & we feel right at home!

How do we spend our time? Well, each morning before the sun & temps begin their steady rise I walk about 1 ½ miles with Murphy & Trapper. We do a loop around that takes us next to the jet ramp. Seeing the hustle & bustle of the fighters & air crew and breathing the "intoxicating" aroma of JP-4 (jet fuel) is a heady experience. Unfortunately photos aren't allowed. So you'll just have to trust me on that. After lunch, Bill & I will wander over to the beach for a frosty beer & a swim. Bill does several laps while I read. Happy Hour is around the corner before ya know it! Life is, indeed, very sweet.

Since we don't have a car here & we are about 5 miles from the military commissary & 8 miles from the delights of Key West proper, we ventured out in our RIB with it's trusty 15 HP outboard. It was a 20-minute trip to Sigsbee(another military island) for provisions & gas for the outboard. And, the next day we went even further into Key West for a ground reconnaissance mission which took about 30 minutes. Both times were a blast giving us a chance to see rays, Tarpon & graceful marine grasses up close. Yes, we got a little wet coming back but we were smiling the whole way. Tomorrow, tho, we've decided to rent a car for 2 weeks to do the area justice. There are bars, beaches & restaurants beckoning!

Please check out our Photo Gallery for more photos of our Adventures South!

Much love & happiness to you all!

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Ready to head to Key West
Sunny (again), 70 degrees
01/30/2011, Marathon

Greetings from the Sunny Florida Keys!

Capn Bill, Admiral Lin & the crew dogs: Murphy & Trapper have been enjoying our routine aboard MV Ruby Slipper here in Marathon. Beaching it daily, reading, walking & catching up with friends fill our days along with the usual boat errands: getting water for our tanks, grocery shopping, doing laundry. Not a hardship doing any of these while the weather has been sunny & warm.

Last week, we rented a car to visit my sister Benita & our niece, Katana who were visiting Miami Beach from Bethesda, Md. on their annual pilgrimage to honor our mother, who passed 5 years ago. We had a great lunch at our favorite family hang-out, The Big Pink & then walked to the sea to throw some flowers upon the waters in remembrance of our mom. Benita also had flowers for our siblings who weren't there - Dean, Lysa & Frank. We also remembered other family members, Uncle Harvey, Auntie Jan, Cousin Diania, Aunt Sophia & Uncle Joe at this time.

After our leisurely stroll through the stunning new-improved South Point Park, we headed to a new dog park for a brief visit. The new park is right behind our old family condo on Collins Ave. & 3rd! I wish it was there while we lived there. Clean & convenient!

It was a short visit to Miami Beach, but so worthwhile seeing the girls on this poignant occasion.

Otherwise, we've been enjoying the companionship of some Eastport Yacht Club friends, Patty & Bill Gaffney (especially for Saturday Martini Nights), Joe Haebler and Idarae Prothero & Rich Ewing. Annapolis gal pal, Deb Smith was to visit us but a big snow storm up east had other plans for her. We're disappointed but hope to catch her on another leg of our trip.

But all good things must come to an end here in Marathon as tomorrow (or Tuesday) we head to Key West for 3 weeks.

Enjoy wherever you are!
Linda, Bill & the pups

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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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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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