Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Headed to Fresh Water & Adventures on the River

Up early today, our last day in saltwater for the next 6 to 7 months. Wednesday morning we had a beautiful sunrise in Ingram Bayou and got underway early. The morning started off with Everett doing yoga on the bow and then playing with the dolphins as they "surfed the bow".

I had been telling Everett for the past 10 days that he would be able to stand on the bow and watch the dolphins play at some point in our journey, it had to be today because tomorrow we would be in fresh water. Well the dolphins must have known that it was our last day in their territory because Everett & the dolphins spent 15 minutes entertaining each other on bow of the boat. Everett would wave his hands and the dolphins would look up at him and then swim to the opposite side of the bow, it was quite funny to watch from the bridge.

The Yoga Master does his sunrise ritual on the bow.

"One if by land, two if by sea." Everett searches for the elusive bow-riding dolphins.

Our friends on "What Daze It" had told us that a new marina had opened at the Foley Beach Express bridge at mile marker 158 so we decided to pull in and get more information. I have been sending changes & updates to Skipper Bob Publications for their cruise guides and I wanted to make sure they knew about this new marina called The Wharf. The Dockmaster, Randy Presthus, met us when we pulled in and helped us get our lines secured.

The Wharf is a new beautiful state-of-the-art marina complete with Wi-Fi and cable TV at the dock, of course the nightly rate is $2.00 per foot for these and other amenities. The area around the marina has a number of shops & restaurants, even a 21 screen movie-plex. One nice thing that Randy told me about the marina is that if you are cruising and want to come into the marina to take in a movie, have lunch or dinner, or do some shopping he has plenty of room to park vessels for no charge as long as you untie and are on your way by nightfall. Looks like I'm going to have to treat the Admiral to a movie & dinner the next time we go by The Wharf. For more info on the marina & their concert schedule you can go to their website at www.thewharfal.com.

After leaving The Wharf we headed out into Mobile Bay and began our 4 hour jaunt across the bay. Just before arriving at the Mobile River and the Port of Alabama my starboard engine, the only one that's currently in operation, started to hesitate and stall. I quickly deduced that my fuel filter must be clogging up so I headed down into the Holy Place to take care of the issue, I know Everett really must have appreciated being left on the flybridge with no power and adrift in the bay!

Sure enough it was a clogged fuel filter and we were back underway in just a few minutes. About this time Everett received a phone call letting him know that he was going to be a new grandpa in about two hours and that he would get the "official" call when the birth happened. After getting back underway we noticed that there were some very, very black clouds coming our way and realized we were in for a real toad-strangler.  We made it out of the bay and into the shipping channel just as the clouds let loose - can you say blinding rain?!!!  Now we are in the main shipping channel, we can't see 50 feet in front of us, and it's blowing rain sideways in a torrential downpour. Lucky for us, however, I have an ex-brother-in-law who is the project manager for a massive new shipping dock being built for The Alabama Port Authority about 100 yards from where the storm started.

We quickly called Billy Booton, who was on site, and he tells us to come along side the new wall and tie up so we can ride the storm out. After a number of tries, fighting the wind, I finally get us close enough so Everett can throw Billy a rope and get us secured. We spent an hour tied to the wall and watched 1.5 inches of rain fall. After the rain let up we spent some time talking with Billy and thanking him for the use of his "amenities". We also noticed that a phone call had come in from Everett's son while we were battling the elements. Everett returned the call and found out that his first grandchild had arrived, a 6.2 pound baby girl named Addison.

As we got back underway and headed into the channel we were confronted with a floating obstacle course of floating islands of grass and trees so large they had their own address, or so it seemed! Running on one engine we were only able to go 6.5mph into the current so it was slow going. Once again we were fortunate that we only had another 10 miles to go before reaching our next anchorage, Bayou Canot.

Thursday we woke to a very cool morning with a stiff north wind. We were underway around 6:15 knowing that our day was going to be a long one if we were only going to be able to do 6.5mph. After we got back in the main channel we were surprised that there was no more floating trash and that the current had settled down. Three miles up the river we came upon our first railroad swing bridge and radioed the bridgemaster to have him open it for us. As we approached the bridge we noticed a towboat coming right at us and it was apparent that we were going to meet at the bridge. Since commercial river traffic has the right-of-way we gladly let the towboat pass through the opening first.

We had a very enjoyable & uneventful day, which was a nice change from yesterday. We traveled 53 miles along the beautiful Mobile River, which turns into the Tombigbee River where the Alabama River meets the Mobile River We hit Three Rivers Lake and dropped anchor about 2:00 that afternoon. After some reading and a nap we enjoyed a wonderful grilled steak, baked onion, and baked sweet potato dinner. We both made calls to our lovely wives and told them how much we were missing them.  Since tomorrow will be Everett's first lock experience we also spent some time rehearsing what to do & what to expect when locking through. I hope I didn't scare grandpa and he has nightmares tonight! :-)

Everett keeps a lookout for snags as we head into our anchorage at Three Rivers Lake.

Friday morning also dawned cool and breezy and we got underway around 6:45. For most of the day we enjoyed a real lazy day on the river, enjoying the changing scenery around every bend. We radioed the Coffeeville Lock around 2:00 and let them know that we were about 3 miles below them and that we would be there in about 20 minutes. The lockmaster radioed back that he was locking a barge up and that he had one waiting to go down, letting us know that we would have about an hour wait until he could give us a lift up. We slowed way down and continued to idle up the river.  Once we had the lock in sight we cut the engines and drifted until he was ready for us to come into the lock.

The lockmaster radioed us a short while later and told us to come on up, that he was ready to give us a lift. He also wanted to know our documentation number for the boat, I'm sure this is a new policy since 9/11. Everett was ready and waiting to connect us to the bollard inside the lock, I eased up and we had no issues getting tied up. The doors of the lock closed, they flooded the lock, and we were on our way 40 feet up. We were also joined in the lock by another cruiser, "What's the Point" from Elk River, MN.

After pulling out of the lock we only had another 2 miles to our next stop at Bobby's Fish Camp at mile marker #119. "What's the Point" pulled ahead of us and was the first one to tie to Bobby's 35-foot dock. In the fall Bobby's had an 80-foot dock, but in the spring they only have the 35-footer in place because of all the debris that floats down the river. Because of the small dock we ended up rafting to "What's the Point", along with two other cruisers that showed up after us. It was quite the friendly affair with everyone walking over everyone else's boat to get to shore for dinner.

For other cruisers who might be reading this blog it's important to note here that just because you call Bobby's and they tell you; "Come on in we have plenty of room." that's not always the case. There was a 50 foot Hatteras that came in after us and was visibly pissed that he could not tie to the dock, even after Bobby's told him they had plenty of room. The guy got so mad he just took off in his big fancy yacht headed north to Lord knows where?

We joined our fellow rafters for dinner at Bobby's, all of us "bachelors", for some fried catfish, hush puppies, and coleslaw. The meal was pretty good but it took an hour to get us served. Everett paid for dinner and the dockage fee, thanks Everett! However I had told him earlier that the dockage fee was only .60 per foot, after we returned to the boat he told me they charged him $1.00 per foot. I thought for sure they had overcharged him so I went back up to the restaurant and asked for the person in charge. I explained to her that last fall it was only .60 per foot and could the hostess have overcharged my friend.

She got very rude with me and said that; "If I didn't like what they were charging we could just untie and go somewhere else." At that point it was almost dark, and we had two other boats rafted to us, so we stayed put. I know that many cruisers enjoy Bobby's but this will be the last time "Life's2Short" stays with them. Between the rudeness, the way too pricey dockage rate for what you don't get, and slow service it was not one of our favorite nights over these past few weeks. Oh well, tomorrow is another day.

Captain E's first lock, keeping "Life's2Short" off the wall.

Rafted together at Bobby's Fish Camp.

The temps dropped to 47 degrees last night and we woke up on Saturday with heavy dew and fog on the river. The four of us who were rafted together all got untied and on our way by 6:45. Since our fellow cruisers were much faster than us it wasn't long before we had the beautiful morning to ourselves as we putted upstream. The day was very uneventful and before you know it we had traveled 50 miles and found ourselves anchored at Old Lock #2 around 1:00.

After struggling with the anchor on the rock bottom we finally got it to hold. Since this anchorage is in a small cut in the river, boaters need to put out both a bow & stern anchor or, as we did, by putting out a bow anchor and swimming a stern rope to shore, wrapping the rope around a tree and bringing it back to the boat. This way Todd does not have to take a swim again in the morning to untie the rope, we just untie one end of the rope and pull the other end back to the boat.

Everett & I spent part of the afternoon scrubbing the flybridge & sundeck, after that showers & a cold beer were in order. Later that afternoon, as Everett was napping, a beautiful 32-foot Grand Banks trawler named "Patriot" pulled into the anchorage. Since I knew how tough it was to anchor in this area I hailed "Patriot" on the radio and asked if he would like to come along side and raft up. Since "Patriot" had experience with this anchorage in the past, and all the trouble it can cause, he gladly came along the port side and tied up.

The owners of "Patriot," Chuck & Vicki, had just sold the boat and were with the new owner, Rick, and were helping Rick take the trawler from Mobile to Demopolis. For our last dinner on the river we had a tasty meal of blackened sea trout, grilled raspberry & chipotle shrimp, and tossed salad - yummy. After dinner we took some butter pecan ice cream over to the neighbors, toured their trawler, and had Pumpkin pie with the ice cream on the flybridge as we watched the moon & stars come out to play. What a way to spend Everett's last night on the river!!!

Meditation and relaxation on the river, just what the doctor ordered.

Rafted together at Old Lock #2 with Patriot.

Today is Sunday, 15 days since Everett's arrival on Life's2Short, and our last day cruising together... for now. What a wonderful & fantastic voyage we have had!! Last night "Patriot" & "Life's2Short" decided that an early start was in order so we were up at 5:30 and gone by 6:00. Once again we awoke to heavy fog and cool temps. In fact it was so foggy this morning that we had to turn on the radar just so we could see past 50 feet!

We have 51 miles and one lock still to do today before pulling into the Demopolis Yacht Basin. It must have been "towboat rush hour" on the river this morning. Before noon we had passed three towboats and met two others head-to-head. It got a little hairy when we had three of the barges all within 200 yards of us, I know it scared the poop out of Everett!

The Demopolis Lock went very smoothly and we were tied up in our slip by 1:30 that afternoon. The rest of the day was spent packing for our drive to Springfield, seeing our old friends at the marina, and getting "Life's2Short" buttoned up for her stay at the Yacht Basin.

Rush hour on the Tombigbee River.

Safe and sound at the Demopolis Yacht Basin. Who forgot the razors?

Monday morning Everett & I took a little walking tour of the Yacht Basin, meeting the local crew & dock rats, and final last minute cleaning. We left for Meridian, MS around 11:30 to rent our car, thanks to Mary for giving us a lift and thanks to Bobbi & Keith for being there if we needed them! It was a 550 mile trip and we arrived in Houston around 9:30 Monday night. Brenda met us in Cabool in Everett's car about 9:00 and Everett drove the remaining 90 miles to Springfield where Nila was anxiously awaiting his arrival.

It was sooooo wonderful to be in Brenda's arms again. Everett was great to have on board but he just can't take the place of the Admiral! I'm not sure what the future will bring with Brenda's mom. She has three more tests later this week and we will keep out fingers crossed for good news. Brenda and I will spend a few days in Springfield this week and then we and Brenda's parents will head to their lake house for the holiday weekend. I have the rental car for two weeks, hopefully we will be back on board by the time it is due back and heading north towards the Tennessee River.

Brenda and I want to thank all of you again for your prayers and well wishes for all of us as we struggle to get some answers on Viola's health - friends and family are the best!
Everett Arrives for the Trip North

Sunday, May 6th, was a day of land travel and airport shuttles. Brenda & I left Crystal River around 11:00 Sunday morning and drove Bob & Phillis' car to St Petersburg. Since we had time before Brenda's 4:40 flight to Springfield we decided to run by Cathy's for a quick visit and do a load of laundry. After dropping Brenda off at the airport I turned around and headed back to Cathy's to wait for Everett's 9:45PM flight to arrive. Everett was on time and since it was late in the evening, and Cathy offered, we headed back over to Cathy's and spent the night.

Everett & I left Cathy's about 9:00 Monday morning and took a quick side trip over the Skyline Bridge. This bridge, which is 9 miles long and at least 200' tall, runs south from St Pete and spans Tampa Bay. After doing the bridge tour we headed back north toward Crystal River, which included a lunch stop at Cracker Barrel. As we got close to Crystal River we found a great fresh fruit & veggie stand so we stopped and got some supplies for our trip to Demopolis.

After arriving back at Bob & Phillis' we dinghied back over to "Life's2Short" for a quiet afternoon on the boat. On our way back to the boat Everett had his first sighting of a manatee mom & her baby, let Everett's water adventure begin! About 5:00 Monday evening Bob hailed us on the VHF radio and was on his way out for a visit. After a few cocktails Bob headed back home, but not before he invited us to dinner at his home the following night.  After Bob took off Everett & I had pork chops on the bar-be and called it an early evening.

Tuesday we decided to take the dinghy out for a tour of Kings Bay so Everett could get a better view of the fresh water springs & manatees that surround this beautiful anchorage. After spotting a number of manatee we stopped at the Ale House for a quick Bloody Mary. While at the Ale House we noticed that they had a live video feed that you could look up on the Internet. If you go to www.KingsBayCam.com you can see the view we had from the outside dining area.

After our dinghy tour we decided that some afternoon reading and a nap were in order. Late that afternoon I fired up the generator only to discover that it was overheating. I donned my mask & snorkel and went overboard and found that the freshwater intake screen had plugged up with barnacles. After cleaning out the screen the generator ran fine and we were back in the business of making electricity, only to have the screen plug up again when it sucked some sea grass a short while later. Needless to say I was back overboard cleaning the screen once again.

We headed over to Bob & Phillis' about 5:30, borrowed their car and went to the grocery store for a few more supplies as we were planning on pulling out the next day. After returning from shopping we were treated to an OUTSTANDING dinner of smoked pork loin, fresh salad, pasta Alfredo (with Phillis' world famous Alfredo sauce!) and fresh Key Lime pie for dessert. Thanks again Mercers for another wonderful culinary experience!!!

After dinner it was decided that Bob would join us boys tomorrow & tomorrow night for our first leg of the adventure, a 40 mile off-shore trip to Cedar Key. I dinghied in Wednesday morning to pick up Bob and the three of us got underway about 10:00. "Bimini Bob" was Captain for the day, Everett was given the title of "Apprentice Seaman" and I was just along for the ride... a nice change of pace! We arrived in Cedar Key about 3:00, dropped anchor, lowered the dinghy, and headed over to town to play tourist. It was pretty quiet in town but we did manage to find a local tavern called Coconuts where we had a few beers and shared stories of life on the water.

Bimini Bob Mercer & Seaman Hayes take Life's2Short out of Kings Bay and into the Crystal River as we head to Cedar Key.

The 3 Muskateers at Coconuts, my what a handsome group!

Sunset over Cedar Key.

After returning to "Life's2Short" we noticed a kayaker paddling her way toward us, against the wind, and very worn out. After arriving at the boat she informed us that her friend was about a half mile behind her and had given up trying to paddle against the wind. Cap'n Todd jumped in the dinghy and ran out to her, tied the kayak to the dinghy and towed them back to shore. After our macho sea rescue we sat down to a wonderful dinner of fresh curry that Bob had brought with him aboard the boat. The Captain gave up his bedroom to Bimini Bob for the night and slept on the flybridge, which worked out very well.

Thursday morning we said our goodbyes and dinghied Bob back over to shore to meet Phillis who had driven from Crystal River to pick him up. We pulled anchor and got underway about 9:00; our destination was Steinhatchee, FL, 55 miles to the north. Today Everett graduated from Apprentice Seaman to Captain and spent the whole day manning the helm and keeping us on course, and a fine job he did!

We arrived in Steinhatchee about 4:00 and tied up to an open dock that Mike & Mary ("What Daze It") had told us about. Showers & naps were then in order as we planned to go out for dinner that evening. About 6:00 we walked over to Fiddler's which is a local seafood & steak house. The meal was fair but we enjoyed each others company and not having to cook or clean up. Since we were low on ice for the boat cooler, our waitress was more than happy to bring a nice large bag of ice with our dinner bill. Since we planned to make the Gulf crossing the next day, we called it an early evening with plans to get up at daybreak.

Captain Everett takes over the controls.

Friday started off earlier than the Captain liked, about 4:00AM he awakened with the boat listing to starboard?? Overnight we had northeast winds which helped push water out of the Steinhatchee Basin so at low tide "Life's2Short" was actually sitting on the bottom. Not to worry however since the tide started to come back in by 5:00 and by our 7:00AM take-off time we were once again afloat.

Prior to leaving, and knowing it was going to be a long day, Everett prepared crockpot chicken so we would have a hot meal ready for us when we arrived at our anchorage late that afternoon. Today is what we cruisers refer to as "The Crossing", in this case an 88 mile open water cruise from Steinhatchee FL to St George Island, FL. The seas started out calm but by 10:00 they were running 3 to 4 feet and were off our stern which always makes for a "fun" ride.  Thankfully by 2:00 the seas had once again calmed for the rest of the trip.

After the seas calmed Everett spotted a huge sea turtle that was floating on the surface, as we neared she dove deep. Everett also decided to bow-ride for the first time since the seas calmed, it was a Titanic moment as he felt like "The king of the world!"

The King, complete with motion sickness wristbands.

The Galley Wench helps prepare salad for dinner.

About 1:00 I went down into the "Holy Place", also known as the engine room, to check on the engines and noticed that my port side transmission was slinging quite a bit of transmission fluid. So for the rest of the day I visited the Holy Place about every 2 hours and replenished the fluid we were losing. With all the wildfires burning in southeast Georgia & northern Florida, "Life's2Short" has been experiencing smoke filled days ever since we left Crystal River. Today was by far the worst smoke filled day we have had, by the time we were finishing up the crossing visibility was less than a quarter-mile.

We arrived at St George Island about 5:00, more than ready to drop the anchor for the evening. Since it was still fairly early in the evening we decided to put the dinghy down and run over to the island so Everett could enjoy running his delicate toes in the white sandy beach. The crockpot chicken was dished up after our trip to St George Island, the dishes washed, and then made a few phone calls to let family & friends know that we had made it safely across the Gulf. It was early to bed as we were pretty worn out after our action packed day.

Today is Saturday and we are back in the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, happy to be here given that we have decided to do the rest of the trip (470 miles) on one engine. I have determined that the issue with the transmission leak is the rear seal, the same seal I replaced last fall on Lake Guntersville. Fortunately I ordered two seals last fall so when we get to Demopolis I'll have everything I need to replace the seal... again.

Since today's agenda will take us to White City, a trip of only 30 miles, we slept in late and had a nice hot breakfast of bacon & eggs. We got underway about 10:00 headed for Miller Marina in Apalachicola to take on fuel and water, get ice for the adult beverages, and hose down "Life's2Short" which had a pretty good coating of saltwater on her from the waves splashing on the bow earlier this week.

We arrived in White City about 4:00, just in time to see the local bass club pull in after their Saturday tournament, something the Captain has missed since living aboard. White City has a wonder free city dock, there is no power or water but it has a beautiful set of docks located at the city park. After getting the boat secured Todd & Everett promptly went over to watch the bass club's weigh-in, no big fish but it seemed that most guys caught some fish.

The bass they catch are indeed Black Bass which live in the brackish waters of this area, I had not realized that Black Bass could live in brackish water. There were also a number of families fishing from the shore in this area and it didn't take the Captain long to meet some new friends. I was interested in talking to one of the families about fishing however they were more interested in learning about our lifestyle.

After trading stories I invited one of the families to come aboard and see just what "Life's2Short" has to offer. The little girls were amazed at all the room and creature comforts we have on board and the dads were quite impressed with the Holy Place and the navigation equipment on the flybridge. About the time the family left the boat we heard thunder and it wasn't long until we had a nice cooling evening shower, a final rain-water rinse for "Life's2Short!" After the rain we barbecued some burgers on the grill and spent the evening hours reading & relaxing.

Tied up at White City.

Our new friends and boat guests in White City.

We got underway on Sunday about 7:00 as we had another long, 70 mile day ahead of us. Today was Everett's day to be "Captain for the Day"! He did great and operated the boat for the entire trip. I have to tell you it's pretty nice just riding along and not having to worry about what's going on ahead of us. Shortly after we left White City we were treated to a beautiful bald eagle sitting in a tree top along the river bank. We also spotted large pods of dolphins today which are always a treat when you are underway.

Our destination today is Smack Bayou, an anchorage we have not visited yet but one that "What Daze It" highly recommended. We arrived at Smack Bayou about 2:00 and were not disappointed. Even though there were two boats in the bayou which had sunk in a previous storm, it was scenic and very well protected from the weather.  After arriving Everett promptly took a nap while Todd did some fishing from the swim platform, only to hook the big one that got away! I kid you not, whatever type of fish it was it was big enough to straighten 2 hooks and straighten out the stainless steel snap-ring. Everett is my witness as I still had the lure to prove to him how big it was... after he awakened from his beauty-sleep, that is.

Late in the afternoon we put the dinghy down a did a tour of Smack Bayou and the area around the entrance to the anchorage. After returning to the boat Everett decided that it was time for his first-ever outdoor shower on the back swimdeck, that was my clue to get back in the dinghy and go out fishing. ;-) After returning from fishing I too realized that I was way overdue for a shower. There is nothing like showering ala naturale in the great out-of-doors!

It's also important to note here that Everett & I made a pact last week when he first arrived that we would not shave until we got back to Springfield. Needless to say we are looking a wee bit scruffy. I appear grayer than the last time I had facial hair, I can't imagine why since the last time I had facial hair was back in college.

It sprinkled again this afternoon prior to dinner, which consisted of some wonderful homemade lasagna that Brenda had prepared prior to her trip home. Everett has now been on board for over a week and is really enjoying himself. I wonder how Nila feels about becoming a live-a-board??

Who is this guy, honorary Captain or refugee?

Monday morning dawned hazy & smoky again in our anchorage, those must be some huge wildfires. We pulled anchor, which came up shiny & clean, about 6:30 and headed west toward our next anchorage at Mary Ester. Today was going to be another 70 mile day on the water so we were happy to be underway while the air was still cool. The day on the water was pretty uneventful but we were able to see the pretty shorelines of Panama City, Destin and Fort Walton Beach.

We arrived at Mary Ester around 3:30, dropped anchor, put the dinghy down again and promptly jumped in the saltwater for a little cool-down. I went out and fished for a while and caught saltwater catfish, Ladyfish and Spanish Mackerel. However none of those fish are good to eat so it looks like we won't have fresh fish for dinner.

About sunset a bunch of kids in a ski boat came out to wakeboard in the anchorage which was very entertaining. Speaking of entertaining, there was another small trawler anchored in the bay when we arrived. Late in the afternoon the lady of the boat came out and started walking laps around the boat. She would go clockwise for 10 minutes and then "unwind" and go counterclockwise for another 10 minutes. It was quite funny as I had never seen anybody "lap the boat" for exercise. We had a nice dinner of barbecued chicken and then hit the hay early.

A smoky shot of the Gulf Intracostal Waterway.

Tuesday morning we woke up and felt like breaking a federal law by trespassing on Air Force property. For those of you following our blog you might remember that this past December Brenda & I were in this same anchorage and when we walked across the sand dunes to see the Gulf we were stopped and told by an Air Force security guard that we were trespassing on Air Force land and that we could be ticketed and/or arrested.

The beaches on the Gulf side are beautiful and when the tide is out you can find some nice shells & sand dollars. We dinghied to shore about 7:00am and hiked across the dunes to find a very rough Gulf and high tide, needless to say we didn't find many shells. After spending an hour on the beach we hiked back to the dinghy without meeting any men in blue. We pulled anchor about 9:00 and were on our way west on the Intracostal, destination Ingram Bayou.

Around the noon hour we realized that we were running low on bread & ice, two of the three main staples a couple of bachelors need, the other item being cerveza! We had read in Skipper Bob's cruising guide that there was a great market & marina in Little Sabine Bay at Pensacola Beach. We radioed Beach Marina as we were approaching and they had no issue with us tying up while we did a little shopping.  I was really, really impressed with the market and will surely stop there again. They had fresh meats & cheeses, great looking fruit & produce, homemade pizzas and a wine selection that would put a full-service liquor store to shame.

Beach Marina & Market.

After leaving the market we crossed Pensacola Bay to the sights & sounds of the Blue Angels practicing their aerial stunts. It was an incredible show that lasted well over an hour, those folks know how to fly! Everett was captain for the rest of the afternoon and we arrived at Ingram Bayou about 4:00 and spent the evening watching a little TV and cleaning up some leftovers.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Hitch In Our Plans
When we last left you, about a week ago, we were waiting on a package to be shipped to Crystal River so that we could continue the journey north. However, I received a call from my mom on May 1st with some bad health-related news that has resulted in my having to unexpectedly go back to Missouri. Todd is taking me to St. Petersburg tomorrow (May 6th) and I will fly back to Missouri for at least a few weeks which will leave Todd short-handed on the boat.

Todd called our good friend Everett Hayes in Springfield, Missouri, and asked him to fly in to St. Petersburg and come to Crystal River to assist Todd as he makes the Gulf crossing and takes the boat north to Demopolis, AL where they will rent a car and drive back to Missouri.  Everett readily agreed to help us out and is scheduled to arrive in St. Petersburg late Sunday evening.

I should note that Bob & Phillis, our friends in Crystal River, have graciously offered the use of their car to get us to St. Petersburg and back, and our good friend Cathy in St. Petersburg is allowing both Todd & Everett to spend the night Sunday evening at her beautiful home before making the return trip to Crystal River. We also received a call from our wonderful friends, Chuck & Jan, on "Miss Pipp" offering to fly to Florida and move the boat from Crystal River to Demopolis for us. What amazing friends we have made on the water!

Mike & Mary left us on April 30th and traveled to Steinhatchee on May 1st. They then made the Gulf crossing in virtually flat seas on May 2nd. At this point, the weather doesn't look good for Todd & Everett to make the Gulf crossing until mid-week at best, but hopefully the seas will calm down before then and they can continue the journey in my absence. At any rate, they will make the crossing as soon as they are able to do so without too much turbulence and work their way along the Gulf coast and then north to Demopolis.

Depending on the situation with my mom's health, we may be in Missouri for a while or we may head back to Demopolis to continue our trip north on the Tenn-Ton toward Pickwick Lake. At this time, however, we do not know what our plans are but we will update the blog again as soon as our situation allows. In the meantime, your thoughts and prayers are appreciated as we deal with this family crisis.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Trip to Missouri and St. Petersburg to Crystal River

We arrived in Springfield, Missouri, the evening of April 4th and were greeted at the airport by our friend Nila Hayes who then took us home with her where we enjoyed a wonderful pork loin roast dinner with all the trimmings prepared by her husband, Everett.

Having gotten accustomed to the warm Florida weather, the cold front that hit Missouri the day of our arrival was a bit of a shock! After having had unseasonably warm weather in Missouri the two weeks prior to our visit, we spent the next ten days in unseasonably cold weather, even for Missouri in the early spring!

After spending the night with Nila & Everett, Everett took us to meet my niece, Jennifer, the next morning. Jennifer had driven to Springfield to pick us up and take us to Lake of the Ozarks where my parents were getting settled in to their new lake home. My nephew Greg, his wife Crystal and their new baby, Lily Juliet, arrived unexpectedly late Thursday evening and spent the night and most of Friday with us.

The rest of our time at Lake of the Ozarks was spent doing what we could in the cold weather to help my parents with various chores; unfortunately, much of what we had planned to do was outside work and the weather prevented us from accomplishing as much as we had hoped. Todd helped dad with several projects, though, and even managed to get in a little fishing while he was there!

My great niece, Lily Juliet, who is about nine months old now.

Great grandma (my mother) feeds Lily while her father (my nephew, Greg) assists.

My brother Dewayne and his wife Penny came to the lake house the final weekend we were there and then took us to Lebanon late Sunday afternoon where Nila & Everett graciously met us and took us back to Springfield. We went to Ebbets Field that evening a met up with several friends from the University including Bob & Linda Eckels (who had visited us a few months ago in Fort Myers Beach), Howard & Sue Berriman (soon retiring and moving to Savannah, Georgia), Glena Admire and Karen Bench (both former co-workers in the Purchasing Office), Karen's friend Mike and daughter Tish. We then went back to the Hayes' residence where we were staying for the duration of our visit.

On Monday Todd rode to work with Nila and spent the day visiting various friends and former co-workers on campus while I recuperated from a bug I had picked up Sunday evening. Todd went back into town Monday evening to spend some time with the Teale family, Kelli's friend Stephanie and another friend, John Whitworth, while I continued to convalesce.

Todd rode to work with Nila again Tuesday morning and continued his campus visits. I had sufficiently recovered by then to ride into town with Everett shortly before noon, drop him off at an appointment and take his car to the University to have lunch with a couple of former Purchasing Office co-workers, Dave Yurchak and LaDonna Hansen. I was also able to spend a few minutes visiting with Greg Burris, Vice President for Administrative and Information Services, before he had to leave for a speaking engagement elsewhere in town.

Todd and I shuttled Everett's car back to him after lunch where we got to spend a few minutes with Betsy Burris, Greg's wife, then we ran a few errands in Nila's car and made arrangements to meet Everett later so that we could leave Nila's car on campus. Nila had obtained skybox tickets for a Missouri State Bears baseball game that evening in Cardinal Stadium so we met her at Maria's after work to grab a bite to eat while Everett went to a Board meeting.

While at the ballgame, we ran into and visited with several University employees including the University's president, Dr. Mike Nietzel, and another of its vice presidents, Dr. Don Aripoli. We learned that Dr. Aripoli was going to be in Clearwater the following week and made tentative arrangements to see he and his wife, Becky, on our way north from St. Petersburg.

Todd again rode to campus with Nila Wednesday morning and I took Everett's car in later to see a few other people on campus, including Tim Kilpatrick, Director of Communication Services, and John Black, the University's General Counsel. I also ran into Greg Onstot, retired Vice President of University Advancement, while in the Student Union and spent a few minutes chatting with him before he had to return to his meeting.

Todd spent some time earlier in the day with the former president of the University, Dr. John Keiser, and his wife Nancy who were in town from Idaho for the University's Public Affairs Conference. We then returned to the Hayes' house Wednesday afternoon where Everett was preparing an early dinner, did a load of laundry and got packed for the return flight to Florida.

After a wonderful meal of roasted summer squash and bacon pasta, salad with homemade dressing and garlic bread, Nila & Everett dropped us off at the airport where we ran into Dr. Ron Fairbairn, Dean of the College of Continuing and Professional Education, who was there to pick up a speaker for the Public Affairs Conference. We spent several minutes chatting with Dr. Fairbairn while waiting for our plane to begin boarding and then had an uneventful flight back to St. Petersburg where our friend Cathy picked us up. Mike & Mary of "What Daze It?" had arrived at Cathy's earlier that day after making their way north from the 10,000 Islands area and were docked in their "usual" spot.

A parting shot of us with the Hayes at the airport.

We spent the next week at Cathy's where Todd and Mike completed several jobs including laying sod in the area Todd had previously cleared in December/January, staining the deck of the boat dock, installing some decorative fence panels to hide the air conditioner, repairing the fence gate hinge, installing a new motion sensor on the spotlight at the dock and planting a few more plants.

Mike & Mary decided to leave Cathy's Wednesday afternoon, April 25th, and go as far as Caladesi Island for the evening. Todd and I left late Thursday morning and had only gone a few miles when we were informed that the Treasure Island bridge was closed for the day and that no traffic was being allowed through. So, we reversed our course and headed out into the Gulf for the trip north to Clearwater where we planned to meet up with Dr. Aripoli and his wife Becky for a brief visit.

The unexpected bridge closure cost us about 90 minutes of backtracking, but we arrived in Clearwater around 3:30 that afternoon, had a nice visit with Dr. Aripoli & Becky and then continued north to Anclote Key, arriving about 7:00 p.m. It was a relatively windy evening but the anchor had dug in nicely and we were secure for the evening. The wind picked up even more about 5:00 a.m. Friday morning and continued to blow steadily throughout the day, so we decided to stay at Anclote another night rather than pull up the anchor and go into Tarpon Springs where Mike & Mary had gone after leaving Caladesi Island on Thursday.

The wind finally abated somewhat late Friday afternoon so we got the dinghy down and went over to the island for a few hours of shelling. Our "finds" were minimal but we did collect a couple of sizeable sand dollars and a few other nice trinkets for my collection.

Dr. Don Aripoli and his wife Becky as honorary Captain and Admiral on the flybridge of "Life's2Short" in Clearwater.

We left Anclote Key about 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning and met up with Mike & Mary as they were leaving Tarpon Springs to begin the approximately 60-mile trip to Crystal River. The water and weather were very nice and we arrived in Kings Bay shortly after 5:00 p.m. Bob, who we originally met when we were here in December, came out in his Bayliner Sunday morning with visiting relatives from Naples and spent some time chatting and catching up.

A few hours later, we took our dinghies over to Bob & Phillis' house to show Mike & Mary where they live and where the Three Sisters springs are. As you may recall from one of our December postings, the Three Sisters are among the thirty-some natural springs that pump 300 million gallons of water into Crystal River each day and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals.

A beautiful sunrise photo taken by the Captain from our anchorage in Kings Bay.

Monday was another beautiful day and Todd & Mike dinghied over to help Bob unload some heavy building materials around noon before going in to town to pick up a few boat supplies. Phillis invited the four of us to dinner that evening but Mike & Mary declined since they were planning to leave early the next morning to begin their journey north to Steinhatchee; however, they did take some time to visit the Three Sisters springs and join us for a few cocktails with Bob & Phillis before dinner. Todd and I enjoyed a wonderful meal with Bob & Phillis and then stayed up into the wee hours of the morning playing Mexican trash train.

Phillis & Bob at their home in beautiful Crystal River.

Based on conflicting schedules, we may not catch back up with Mike & Mary for several weeks, if at all, before we head north out of Mobile toward Demopolis, Alabama. Mike & Mary's plan will take them in a different direction over the course of the summer but we will most likely see them again this fall when they are in Tuscaloosa and we are back in Demopolis.

Todd ordered a package last week to be shipped to Bob & Phillis', so we will be in Crystal River at least through Wednesday (May 2nd) unless the package arrives sooner than expected. After leaving here we will go as far as Cedar Key before continuing on to Steinhatchee for a few days and will then likely make the Gulf crossing sometime this weekend if the weather cooperates. At any rate, we should be on the Gulf coast of Florida by the time we post our next update.

Keep your fingers crossed for smooth seas between now and then. As a final note, it was exactly one year ago today that we made our first Gulf crossing aboard "Life's2Short" on our 7th wedding anniversary, which makes today our 8th anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Captain!