Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coming Home to St. Petersburg

Monday morning, June 22nd, we spent a little time walking around Ft. Myers Beach shopping for a new swimsuit for me before leaving our mooring and topping off with fuel at Ballard Oil. We were underway by 1:00 p.m. with choppy Bay waters and gusty northwest winds. We traveled about forty miles to anchor at Cape Haze by 6:30 p.m. Another hot, muggy day.

The car ferry getting ready to cross the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

On Tuesday we made it as far as Longboat Key with another seven hours under our belts. The northwest winds were howling and Bay waters were a bit beyond choppy, especially Sarasota Bay where we got sprayed in the face with saltwater through the flybridge windows!

A storm blew through overnight, mostly wind, but it kept the Captain awake and on edge for a while. Another boat had anchored behind us late Tuesday evening and Todd watched it as it began dragging when the wind hit. Fortunately it wasn’t dragging toward “Life’s2Short” and the people on board were on top of the situation and were able to get safely re-anchored a short time later. I slept through the entire incident, storm and all!

Wednesday morning was nice and calm for our remaining three hours to Cathy’s house off Boca Ciega Bay where I promptly tackled several weeks of laundry while enjoying the air conditioning!

“Life’s2Short” tied up to her home-away-from-home.

Thursday was spent catching up on three months of mail and working on a variety of boat projects, including our spotlight which the Captain finally decided would have to be replaced.

The Captain working on replacing the spotlight.

Our friends from Crystal River, Bob & Phillis, were in the Tampa area so they came by Cathy’s to pick us up and we went to lunch at Sea Hags on St. Pete Beach where met Art & Trish, fellow boaters and friends of Bob & Phillis. Apparently Art & Trish had planned to go to the Exumas this spring but had to cancel at the last minute due to some boat issues.

When we got back to Cathy’s, we borrowed her car to go to West Marine to purchase a new spotlight and then to Wal-Mart for the dreaded restocking run. We finally made it back by 6:00 with a car full of shopping bags and decided to order in Chinese food and relax for the remainder of the evening.

Friday was mostly cloudy with rain off and on as we continued tackling our list of boat projects and chores. By Saturday the majority of our work was done and we spent the day relaxing around Cathy’s pool with Steve & Lisa who drove down from the north Tampa area to spend the night.

Pool time at Cathy’s with Steve & Lisa and Taz.

That evening we grilled some of the Mahi-mahi we brought back from the Exumas for dinner and then spent the rest of the evening playing a game called Apples to Apples. The boys decided to turn in well before midnight, but the girls were having too much fun and stayed up until about 3:00 a.m. solving the world’s problems, or something like that!

Lisa & Brenda getting ready to play Apples to Apples.

Let the games begin!

After the boys called it a night the girls went for a 2:00 a.m. dip. They also mentioned something about a pillow fight but we didn’t believe them…or did we???

Steve, who had tried every trick in the book to relieve his hiccups, got advice on a new trick from Cathy that worked immediately!! It has something to do with putting a spoon on your forehead while drinking a glass of water, all the while concentrating on the light reflecting off the spoon…sounds crazy but it cured them!

We spent some time hanging around the pool again late Sunday morning before Steve & Lisa headed home and the rest of the day was spent doing a few minor projects and chores and relaxing. Todd took off about 11:00 p.m. to pick up our good friend Everett Hayes who flew down from Springfield, MO to help Todd move the boat from St. Petersburg to Demopolis, AL while I fly back to Missouri to visit family. Todd and Everett made a similar trip two years ago and are looking forward to another “guys on the go” adventure!

The morning after and all Lisa wants is a cheeseburger??

Today is Monday, June 29th, and the boys are making final preparations to pull away from the dock tomorrow morning to begin their journey north. We wish them safe, fun and trouble-free travels as they spend the next couple of weeks covering well over 500 miles. Bon Voyage!

The Captain took Everett over to St Pete Beach this morning so he could dip his toes in the sand and saltwater prior to beginning their trip north.

This past weekend for Everett was a busy one because of a family wedding so he took an opportunity to take a long nap Monday afternoon on Cathy’s porch.

Monday evening we were craving Mexican food so a “Trip to the VIP” was in order. Great margs & Mexican food was had by all!

Well it’s now Tuesday morning the last day of June and the Captain & Everett have decided to wait at least another day before heading north. The weather for the next 24 hours calls for gusty winds, thunderstorms, and lots & lots of rain. They hope the weather will break by noon tomorrow so they can start their “Guys Trip”.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Our Final Days in the Islands and the Long Journey Back to West Coast of Florida

After our morning conch-finding adventure in Normans Pond on Tuesday, June 9th, Todd and Jack & Susan went to a nearby beach to clean the conch while I finalized the blog update we planned to post at the Beach Club later that afternoon. However, when we got to the Beach Club we learned that they had been struck by lightning a few weeks ago and had not had Internet since. So, we all had a few drinks and a light meal and then went back to our respective boats for a quiet evening.

“Conch Cleaning Cay” located in Normans Cut. I really believe this is the island on the Windows screen saver!


The Captain looks on as “Master-Concher” Jack shows him how it is done.

Troll gets in on the conch cleaning action.

Wednesday dawned as a calm, perfect morning to begin our long trek back to the United States. We were underway by 8:00 a.m. and within ten minutes were caught in the middle of a downpour for about twenty minutes. However, there was no wind and we had smooth water for the next 55 miles to West Bay at the west end of New Providence Island (where Nassau is located).

The anchorage at West Bay.

We were anchored by 3:00 p.m. and "Freyja" arrived around 4:30 p.m. We then picked Jack & Susan up in our dingy and took them around various parts of Lyford Cay, an exclusive residential community on New Providence Island, where we saw some really interesting sights!

A private residence, believe it or not, on the tip of Lyford Cay. Somebody has way too much money and way too much time!

That evening I fixed dinner and Todd delivered Jack & Susan's to them since they just wanted to relax aboard "Freyja." In return, Susan gave Todd some chocolate chip muffins she had baked earlier that day on the way to West Bay. What a treat!

Thursday was another calm, perfect morning as we struck out for Morgan's Bluff on Andros, the largest of all the Bahamian Islands with over 2300 square miles of land area. We left about 7:30 a.m. for the 30-mile journey and were anchored before noon. A little while later we went in to "town" where we saw a variety of produce being loaded on a ship headed for Nassau. We also saw the water barge leaving the dock as we were coming in to the harbor to anchor. Apparently, Andros is one of the major suppliers of fresh water to Nassau. Who would've guessed?

Arriving at our anchorage on Andros. Not a bad day to cross the Tongue of the Ocean.

One of the large water tankers on its way to Nassau.

The tanker dock at Morgan’s Bluff.

A few shots of the supply boat being loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables for transport to Nassau.

We had a beer at Willy's Water Bar and then went in search of a beach. It was a very hot day and, unfortunately, the water we found wasn't much cooler than the air! That evening Susan prepared fresh cracked conch for dinner with coconut rice, supplemented by my spinach artichoke dip as an appetizer. Great job on the conch, Jack & Susan!

Susan & Jack look on as the locals play a loud game of dominoes at Willy’s.

A local family pries slugs from the rocky bank at low tide. They told us that they put these slugs in salads and they are delicious! The father also told the Captain that these slugs work better than Viagra……..go figure??

Happy hour ala Andros.

Jack & Susan aboard “Freyja.”

While we were talking to the Andros locals on Thursday, we learned that Crabfest, Andros's biggest celebration of the year, was starting on Friday in Fresh Creek (south of Morgan's Bluff); however, we decided not to stay due to forecasted unsettled weather that was supposed to be moving in by Saturday evening and at least some of us felt we needed to get across the Bahama Bank before it hit. So we were off again early Friday morning for another long day.

It was hot, hot, hot with minor swells through the remainder of the Tongue of the Ocean (about three hours) and then another four-and-a-half hours to our anchorage on the Bahama Bank, around 3:00 p.m.  Jack & Susan arrived between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. to find us floating in the water, hanging on to our swim platform so that the current didn't sweep us away! Jack & Susan joined us in the water for a bit and then we called it an evening.

Hanging under the swim deck on the Bahama Bank trying to escape the heat.

Saturday was hot and lumpy overnight on the Bank with swells slapping the boat and making sleep difficult. We were underway again by 8:00 a.m. and arrived at Cat Cay about 12:30 p.m.  Jack & Susan arrived within the hour and we picked them up in our dinghy and went to the restaurant for a nice, air-conditioned lunch. Wow, we had forgotten what air conditioning felt like!!!

Cat Cay’s official song.

The marina at Cat Cay.

After we returned to our boats, Susan decided she wanted to do some exploring so Jack put their dinghy down and we both took our dinghies all the way around South Cat Cay to a beach on the Gulf side where we found some sea glass and Jack pointed out several turtle beds in the sand. On the way back we tried a short cut and had to tow the dinghies across some shallow water.

Tote that barge!

We hauled anchor at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 14th, to cross the Gulf Stream back to Florida. When we first went through the pass at Cat Cay heading west, we were confronted by three- to four-foot swells hitting us on the beam, making it very "rolly" for about the first hour. In fact, we trekked south so that the swells hit us on the bow rather than the beam, but it eventually calmed down nicely and we had an uneventful, if long, trip to Miami.

We dropped anchor off Key Biscayne at 3:00 p.m. in the midst of hundreds of locals out on their boats for the weekend. Jack & Susan arrived between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. but we were all hot and tired and none of us wanted to get off our boats, so I took some time and posted our blog update through June 9th (which I had planned to upload from Normans Cay) and Todd started catching up on e-mail.

Welcome back to the states, take me back to the quiet waters of the Exumas!

"Freyja" was off and running by 7:00 Monday morning but we didn't get underway until about 8:30 a.m. We traveled six hours and anchored in Blackwater Sound in front of The Big Chill, an outdoor bar, which we went to a few hours later for drinks and appetizers with Jack & Susan. We then came back to "Life's2Short" for spinach lasagna and had another fun evening with good friends.

An ultra-light takes off in front of “Life’s2Short” as we pass under the Jewfish Creek Bridge.

On Tuesday "Freyja" was off early again - they were only about seventeen miles from home at this point! - and we left around 8:30 a.m. Because it had been so consistently hot, we decided to stay at Don & Alina's dock in Islamorada since we knew they had 50 amp power available for us to use and by this time we were seriously in need of some air conditioning!

By 11:00 a.m. we were plugged in and I defrosted the refrigerator and chest freezer while Todd helped Don unload a pallet full of 30-lb. bags of dirt - ugh! He then went to work on our toilet that mysteriously decided it didn't want to flush that morning and thankfully found a corroded wire that had come loose. He also cleaned the salt water off our beach chairs and umbrella, life jackets, etc. All-in-all, a busy day!

That evening we met Jack & Susan at Don & Alina's house for a wonderful dinner of baby back ribs, fresh corn on the cob, salad with Susan's homemade dressing and mango mousse pie, supplemented by mango martinis no less! Thanks for hosting us, Don & Alina, both at your dock and at your home!

Awesome ribs Alina, thanks so much!

The crew of L2S waiting to enjoy some babybacks!
Dinner at Alina's

Nice smiles ladies!

Jack and Don enjoying happy hour……nice smiles guys!

Dinner and relaxation at Don & Alina’s beautiful home.

Don tries his luck with Catch Phrase, don’t think he will be rushing out to purchase this game any time soon!

Tuesday evening turned stormy overnight with quite a bit of wind and lightning but no rain. Don & Alina live on the Bay side of Florida Bay so their dock is exposed to the open Bay waters and we had a rather noisy night on the boat when the wind picked up and the water got rough. Nonetheless, we were thankful just to be tied to a dock!

Wednesday morning Todd & I took Jack's truck to do some basic re-provisioning and then I fixed cole slaw and Vidalia onion dip to take to Jack & Susan's that evening for a grilled Mahi-mahi dinner with Don & Alina. Jack picked us up about 5:30 p.m. and we had another great meal (sadly, our last for a while) with Jack & Susan and Don & Alina. We then said our good-byes and went back to "Life's2Short" where we enjoyed our final evening of air conditioning for a while!

A tourist photo in front of “Larry-Lobster” on our way to dinner at Freyja’s home.

Dinner and relaxation at Susan & Jacks beautiful home, thanks again everybody!
Dinner at Susan's

We left Don & Alina's dock at 7:45 a.m. Thursday and traveled 7-1/2 hours to anchor in Little Shark River in the Florida Everglades. It was another long, hot day and within 45 minutes of anchoring we got hit by heavy rain with quite a bit of lightning but not much wind and it moved off fairly quickly. On the "up" side, it cooled things down nicely; on the "down" side, the mosquitoes and no-see-ums came out in force so we had to go down below and shut everything up for the remainder of the evening. As Skipper Bob says about the mosquitoes in Little Shark: "Bring your shotgun!"

Here comes the storm on the Little Shark River. The Little Shark is one of the main tributaries that drains the Everglades on the west coast of Florida.

Headed out of the Little Shark on Friday morning……still getting bit by the no-see—ums!

Friday was another long day of about eight hours to get to Little Marco/Keewaydin Island but we had calm seas in the Gulf of Mexico and good, if hot, weather. After we got anchored some storms blew up between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., but nothing bad and only light rain for us.

Saturday was a short day of about five hours and we were on a mooring ball in Estero Bay at Ft. Myers Beach by 1:00 p.m. The hot, muggy weather continues to plague us, but I guess that's just Florida in the summertime! We got cleaned up and dinghied over to Bonita Bill's about 3:00 p.m. where we had a sandwich and a few drinks and caught up with several of the people we've gotten to know there over the past few years; namely, Kerby, Tony, Byron, Barb and Kendra.

Kerby enjoys a cold one after a long day behind the bar.

Byron, Barb, and Kerby at Bonita Bill’s.

We were back aboard "Life's2Short" by 5:00 p.m. but we told Kerby we'd come back about 8:00 when he got off work. So we went back to Bonita Bill’s and hung out with Kerby for a while and then went over to the newly opened Dixie Fish Company where we ran in to Byron and Barb again. Then it was back to the boat for the evening since the Captain committed to help Kerby with Bonita Bill’s Father’s Day all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast starting at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning!

Todd reported to “work” early and then came back to pick me up when Mike & Harriet arrived about 9:30 a.m.  Mike & Harriet live on their boat, “Dual Dreams,” at the Ft. Myers City Marina when they are not cruising so we made plans to get together while we were in town. The last time we saw them was at Little Farmers Cay in the Exumas.

Harriet & Mike.

Another couple, Terry & Larry, who recently returned from the Exumas on their boat “Outer Reef” also joined us at Bonita Bill’s where we spent the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon talking about a wide variety of subjects and listening to some very good live music from a one-man band called Two Hands.

The gang relaxing after the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast…it seems all we do is eat, and sometimes drink!

The Captain gets in one final shot with Kerby & Byron, see you guys for St. Pats Day next year!

Today is Monday, June 22nd, and after taking on 350 gallons of fuel at Ballard Oil ($2.30/gallon) we will be leaving Ft. Myers Beach for points north. We hope to be in St. Petersburg no later than Thursday where we will spend a few days with Cathy, get caught up on laundry and do some major re-provisioning before continuing the journey across the Gulf of Mexico and in to the Midwest river systems.