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Ruby Slipper
Imagination can take you anywhere -- even over the rainbow.
Amazing Ocracoke
Linda 73 degrees, SW 15-20
04/19/2011, Ocracoke, NC

Our adventure on the M/V Ruby Slipper was one that entailed doing many things for the first time. It would have been too easy "doing the ICW" the same old way. So we made a concerted effort to get out of our comfort zone & the last week really epitomizes that - including navigating in fog with ZERO visibilty thru some of NC's more challenging inlets, weathering a monster storm at anchor & venturing "offshore" to the remote outerbanks of NC to the little-visited Ocracoke, NC

Three days ago, we anticipated a severe cold front & elected to anchor out rather than go in a less-than an exposed, uncomfortable marina. So, after lots of research we opted for the best protection we could find while still being at anchor. Southwest Creek on the South River, off the Neuse River in NC was the "winner." Expecting a big blow, we found 8' of water that was protected from southerly winds (the worst of what was anticipated). Holding was said to be excellent but we still put out 150' of chain with our 44 lb Delta anchor. This is considered a" "storm scope" of 10:1. We felt snug. Not smug, as we never take mother nature for granted!

Besides the strong to severe thunderstorms we had tornado warnings! This was going to be a "fun" night!

So, we took the pups ashore to the only place we could - an seemingly abandoned property with "No tresspassing" signs posted. But we decided to go for it as we didn't know when we could get off the boat with the dogs for the next 2-3 days! We crawled up & over a severely wrecked dock with boards missing & stumbled into overgrown grasses that was tick heaven. All was well as we found a road to walk. It was a good 45 minute walk that would have to do for a while.

Now, don't get me wrong, Murphy & Trapper are both trained to do their "business" on astroturf on the boat. They are GREAT boat dogs! But we like them to have regular exercise. At home they get about a 2-3 miles/day walk! On the boat it's feast or famine. Same for us, too!

Back on the boat we hunkered down for a long afternoon & evening. We had our PFDs out & a plan to abandon ship, if necessary. As the winds increased & seas swelled, Bill cranked on the engine (a 370 HP Cummins diesel) just in case we had to take the pressure off the anchor. The lightening show was spectacular! I would have enjoyed it more if I knew it were benign. We simply didn't know what to expect. Added to our discomfort, we were the ONLY ones out here & had NO connectivity! We had the VHF to listen to weather updates & any nearby radio chatter. But I felt so alone during this frightening time. TEven the voices of other cruisers is comforting! On the VHF we heard about the tornados & now we were in a Tornado Watch. Frankly, I was scared. I sat on the cabin floor with the dogs & I admit it, the dogs & I had our life vests ON! Capn Bill, thank God, was cool & calculating. He needed to be manning the helm & keeping a look out.

The worst winds we saw was 45 knots! That was enough for me! Seas were choppy but just about 2'. Overall not bad. At midnight the tornado warning & severe thunderstorms were over & we could crawl into bed...not until we each had a BIG drink!

Next morning we waited for the seas to settle & headed out for Ocracoke, NC. While underway we finally got connectivity back & heard 45 people had died during this storm that crashed across the nation spawning hundreds of tornadoes. A very scary time, indeed.

Now here safe in Ocracoke. It is a place very few cruisers travel to as it is so far off the beaten path & requires an "offshore" passage thru open waters. We made it successfully & were happy to find a National Park Seashore Dock for us. Great to get off the boat & enjoy this very charming & quaint, independent village that one can only get to by boat! We'll be here until the next cold front passes. Check out our great pics!!! Hugs to you all!

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Short Day Helped by Current
Linda NW10K
04/13/2011, Wrightsville Beach, NC

We waited out another cold front at Southport's Harbor Village Marina, NC for two nights. One night we were fortunate to enjoy dinner at the home of Rick & Jeanne Brown, friends from Annapolis who have since moved to St. James Plantation, a very, very chi-chi community. We had a ball catching up on Annapolis politics & news of their new community. Today, we waited until the very strong current on the Cape Fear River was in our favor before we head out. Current going our way AND wind going our way. Gained almost two extra knots for nearly 2 hours!! Nice to save $$$ on fuel. Anyway, anchored here for the night in this terrific little beach community. Tomorrow, offshore to Beaufort doesn't look like it's going to work, so we'll chug along for the night to Mile Hammock Bay (a US Marine Corps installation with fireing range where we cannot get off the boat!), then somewhere near Beaufort/Moorhead City for the night before our newest adventure to the Outerbanks of NC from the inside. Not alot of people do this. But we hope to be rewarded by prestine beauty & maybe some wild horses. Stay tuned for photos. (Oh by the way, check out the new pics I added the other day.) Hugs!

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Chugging Home on Steriods!
Linda - big cold front coming thru soon
04/12/2011, Patrick AFB, Rockhouse Creek, St. Augustines, Fernandina Beach, Wally's Leg (GA), Beaufort (SC), Tom Point (SC), Isle of Palm (SC), Prince Creek (SC), Southport, NC

We've been chugging home - Steriod Style! After departing Partick AFB's Manatee Cove Marina at the end of March we did "touch & go's" at Rockhouse Creek (one of our ICW favorite anchorages), St. Augustine, Fernandina Beach, Georgia (1 brief leg only), SC & finally here in NC. A little over 600 miles in 8 days!

Highlights of our trip were visits by Ford Jones (who holds the record of 3 visits to Ruby Slipper while in Florida; Linda's gal pal from URI Jeannie Toohey came close with two visits - one in St. Augustine & one in Fernandina Beach (she lives in JAX); and lovely anchorages in Georgia & SC!

Yesterday we left the gorgeous Price Creek, off the Waccamaw River, SC for a grueling 80 mile passage to Southport, NC (via the Rock Pile which has a reputation all it's own!) of which 80% was in fog, often ZERO visibility, sometimes 1/4 mile or 1/16th of a mile. It was ZERO thru "white knuckle" inlets such as Murrels, Little River & Lockwood Folly. Lockwood Folly was very interesting as Bill was glued to the Plot Charter while I strained my eyes to spot any navigation markers. What was scarey was that ocean waves break very close to the ICW here. We could hear them but couldn't see a thing. Guess that was good! Why didn't we stop & anchor, you ask? Well, there aren't any anchorages along this lengthy route. We made it & in fact helped a boat called Palmetto Girl who was a moment away from going aground at the ocean inlet of Lockwood Folly. Bill yelled out on the VHF radio in the knick of time. We ended up leading the way for the duration of this fog-bound journey. Palmetto Girl was very appreciative for the breather.

Now here at one of our favorite stops, Southport Harbor Village Marina, NC as yet another cold front passes. Tonite we meet up former Eastport Yacht Club friends, Rick & Jeannie Brown.

Tomorrow we'll press on up the Cape Fear River to Wrightsville Beach. We enjoy the anchorage there. Then, likely to go offshore to Beaufort, NC in preparation for our trip to the Outerbanks! A first for us!

Hugs to you all! We're on track to be home by the 1st week of May! Whoo, hoo!!

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Chillin' Out Air Force Style
Linda - Rain, W 6K
03/28/2011, Manatee Cove Marina @ Patrick AFB, FL

Arrived yesterday for a few days. Ruby Slipper is tied up dockside next to a really cool Tiki Bar. Wonderful meeting up with more military retirees & active duty types at this fabulous "find" of a marina. No big boats here - sail boats with tall masts & any boat that draws more than 4' really can't get in here. Lucky us... in between the atlantic ocean & Banana River. Beautiful! Big thunderstorm this morning. Rain all day & expected to last all week. But still had a great walk with the dogs in our foul weather garb. More later!

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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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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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