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Ruby Slipper
Imagination can take you anywhere -- even over the rainbow.
What we're reading
Linda, mid-80s
03/25/2011, Vero Beach, FL

Linda -- Just finished Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire. A terrific read about a young upper class boy in Cuba (pre- & post revolution). Also, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, eye-opening tale of African-American maids & the white families they worked for in the 1960s. Now reading: Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. This classic of American Literature was written before the Civil War in 1852. All I can say now is: WOW!

Bill -- Reading The Voyage by Philip Caputo, an excellent tale of boys & their adventures on a Schooner. A coming of age story. Also reading: The Federalist Papers by Hamilton, Madison & Jay (political activists who wrote a series to articles urging a vote FOR a UNITED States rather than a CONFEDERATE States. This is pre-constitution stuff, folks. Heavy, but fascinating IF you really want to understand how our country came to be.

Kudos to Kindle for making so many classics available for free!

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Great New Photos Added!
03/21/2011, Miami Beach

Check out the photos in the Photo Gallery on the right! Fun pix of friends visiting Ruby Slipper this week - Deb Smith, Cindy Binker, Cheryl Lockwood, Zeni & Mike Peragine!

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Slowly Moving North!
Linda - ENE 25 MPH
03/21/2011, Miami Beach's Venetian Causeway to Miami Beach Marina to Pompano

Just a quick update. Underway. Photos tonite.

Had a fabulous visit in Miami Beach - our old stomping grounds - for a week. First we anchored between the isles on the Venetian Causeway - a place where we had spent 6 months while my mother was ill with cancer. Then, we treated ourselves to 3 nights at the Miami Beach Marina to meet our wonderful friend Deb Smith who needed some R&R from Annapolis.

While in Miami Beach we were fortunate to spend some quality time with dear family friends, Cindy Binder & Cheryl Lockwood! They are the epitome of joy! So vivacious & inspirational. They introduced us to Unity on the Bay, a church blessed in its diversity & radiating unconditional love! I look forward to check out the Unity back home in Annapolis.

While visiting with the ever-entertaining Deb we "did lunch" at our fave local spot - Big Pink & sadly no celebrity sightings; beached it a few times; walked the gorgeous new South Point Park; danced at Mangos; oogled at the art deco wonders on Ocean Drive & quaffed a pitcher of mojitos at Nikki Beach - again, sadly no celebrity sightings.

Meanwhile the crew dogs were loving life at a dock & happily sniffing their way thru the VERY dog-friendly South Point Park 2-3x/day!

We had a very brief visit with my Uncle Joe, who looked very well. Unfortunately, Aunt Sophia was missed as she was busy with her granddaughter & 4 great grandkids. We'll see her another time.

Off we went to drop the hook at Pompano Beach, where we were delightfully greeted by our spirited & loving extended family members - Mike & Zeni Peregine on their boat - Bonzai! We rafted for cocktails, light munchies & sparkling, non-stop conversation! We'll be back, Mike & Zeni!

Off we go chugging up the Itracoastal Waterway to Lake Worth.

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Family Fun Photos!
Breezy, hot
03/11/2011, Key Largo

Bill & I so enjoyed our visit with his eldest daughter, Shayna & two of our grandchildren Scott (8) & Meg (5) while we were in Key Largo last week. If you'd like to follow along with our fun check out the photos in the Photo Gallery to the right of Ruby Slipper's blog.

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On our way to see Scott & Meg!
03/09/2011, Key Largo

Had an incredible visit with Bill's eldest daughter, Shayna & two of our four grandchildren - Scott (8) & Meg (5)! They stayed in a suite at the Marina del Mar Hotel while we stay aboard Ruby Slipper just a few feet away. Tho it was blowing outside (25-35 MPH) with 5-8' seas, we still enjoyed our time together. Each day we did something special. The kids swam in five different pools; we took the dinghy around the intricate canal system with Scott mastering the helm admirably; we rented kayaks at Pennecamp Park & meandered thru the mangroves; we took a glass bottom boat tour to Molasses Reef (the world's most visited reef) where the kids saw barracuda, stingrays, parrotfish & dolphins; and we experienced KEY LIME PIE at the various restaurants. Each morning we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel (which we supplemented with a different tropical fruit daily), lunches on the boat & dinner out. The kids were in heaven after having left 19 degree temps in Maryland & seeing iguanas, ibis, pelicans, cormorants, geckos, in this very topical environment.

It was sad to say goodbye to our energetic, intelligent grandkids & their amazing mom. But this is one annual tradition we hope to continue!

Now time to start heading north...Anchored for a night at Elliott Key and enjoyed lovely serenity. Did a quickie beach walk with the pups & then head out the next day for Miami Beach.

A few days R&R and then our friend Deb visits from Annapolis. My brother Frank hopefully will visit after that!

A whirlwind...but we are fortunate to have wonderful family & friends!
Stay tuned...

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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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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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