Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Swallowing the Anchor: The Final Blog Update

The Admiral has informed me that it is my duty to write the final blog update, and it deeply saddens me to put these final words and photos together. :-( After 5+ years, 22,000+ miles, 149 locks, and too many new friends to count we have officially become C.L.O.D.s (“cruisers living on dirt,” for those who don’t know)!

At the end of our last update we had made it to St Petersburg and were awaiting the arrival of the soon-to-be new owner, Mike Sharp, to deliver the boat to Ft. Myers. Mike arrived around 9:00 on Wednesday, November 9th, and I spent the first hour with him in the engine room showing him how to change the oil in the engines. We also spent time going through systems and maintenance schedules for most of the equipment on “Life’s2Short.”



We got away from Cathy’s dock around noon and headed over to Gulfport Marina to pump out the holding tanks. I figured we had moved pretty much all of our stuff off the boat and this was the last thing we needed to do to make sure all our “crap” was out of the boat! ;-)

A final picture with the Admiral on the bow of “Life’s2Short” before pulling away from Cathy’s dock.


Mike and I had a beautiful day on the water. Tampa Bay was smooth and the traffic was very light on the Intracoastal. Our destination for the evening was Robert’s Bay, an anchorage we had never stayed in during the many times we headed south from St. Pete to Ft. Myers Beach. We arrived 40 miles later at Robert’s Bay and, after moving slowly into the anchorage because of “skinny” water, we had the anchor dropped shortly before dusk. The Captain spent some time with Mike showing him how to deploy the dinghy off the sundeck and then grilled steak for dinner for our first night out on the water.

The next day our plan was to cruise the 70 miles to St. James City. NOAA Weather was predicting some strong winds out of the north starting that evening and we wanted to find a place up against a south-facing shore to anchor. It was another beautiful day on the water with many more cruisers out and about. We arrived St. James City around dusk and found the holding there to be outstanding. I was going to have no problem sleeping when the wind started blowing later that evening.

Mike wears long sleeves and slathers on the sunscreen to protect his skin from the sun’s damaging rays!


After eating a dinner of barbecued pork chops and consuming some beer and wine we were treated to a beautiful full moon. I was feeling very nostalgic on this, my final night aboard, so I spent a good hour sitting out on the bow, drinking wine and reminiscing about all the great times we’ve had over the past five-and-a-half years… and Lord knows we have had a bunch of those!!!

We were up early Friday morning and as predicted the wind was howling out of the north. Since most of our cruise that day was in protected waters the wind didn’t really affect our trip much. Our destination was Owl Creek Boat Works, 25 miles up the Caloosahatchee River. Owl Creek is where Mike had made arrangements to have “Life’s2Short” hauled out of the water for the insurance survey.

It was an uneventful trip as we cruised through downtown Ft. Myers and we were in the sling at Owl Creek by 12:30. Brenda, who had rented a car in St. Pete to drive down and pick me up, arrived just as we were pulling into the sling so her timing was perfect, as usual. After exchanging a cashier’s check for the documentation to the boat, we bid Mike and “Life’s2Short” goodbye for the last time. It was very emotional for both of us as we drove away and realized that this chapter of our life had come to an end.

Our final view of “Life’s2Short.”


We arrived back in St. Pete later that afternoon, and after filling the rental car with the last of our worldly possessions, we enjoyed a nice evening with Cathy hanging out and watching TV. A HUGE thanks goes out to Cathy and her “kids” for all she has done for us over the past five years. We started our journey at Cathy’s back in 2006 and ended it there five-and-a-half years later. Thanks for everything, sweetie, especially your friendship!

Our rental was packed to the gills with the remainder of our belongings.


Our plans for the next few days were to stop and visit friends as we headed north to Springfield, MO. Our first stop was at Lisa & Steve’s who live north of Tampa. We spent both Saturday and Sunday night there playing games, going out to the barn to feed the horses, eating great food and just enjoying their company. Thanks again for the hospitality, we’ll see you in Vegas in 2012!




Monday morning we continued the journey north. Our first stop was Crystal River to spend a little time with our good friends Bob & Phillis. Bob & Phillis, who we met in 2007, have been a tremendous support over the years and we are thankful that Mo turned us on to them! We also got to see Mo’s good friend Joe again while we were there.

After spending a few hours in Crystal River we were on our way again. We didn’t have a destination for the evening so we just continued in our rental car in a north and easterly direction. We ended up that evening in Mobile, AL with plans the next evening to be in Tunica, MS for a little slots and card action. We arrived Tunica late afternoon the following day and took a room at Harrah’s. That evening we wandered around a few casinos but didn’t do any good with our gambling endeavors.

The following morning we drove the final six hours back to Missouri. After stopping at Brenda’s niece's home for the night, we finally made it back to our new home in Springfield Thursday afternoon, November 17th.

Sitting in front of the fireplace on our beach chairs in our empty living room using a cardboard box for a table. Time to go furniture shopping!


The evening of November 18th, we got together with some friends and former co-workers at a local establishment in downtown Springfield called Boca Mocha for happy hour. The group meets the fourth Friday of each month but was meeting on the third Friday in November because of Thanksgiving.


The following week we went back to Brenda’s family’s for Thanksgiving and spent some more time with her niece, Jennifer.


We were invited to a holiday party on the campus of Missouri State University the evening of December 3rd. The Captain hasn’t been this dressed up in a very long time. Where are the flip flops and shorts?


It is now mid December, the butter has hardened, there is snow on the ground, and today is the first day we’ve seen the sun in the last five days. Needless to say we (at least one of us) are missing that warm Florida sunshine! The Admiral is happy to be in her new home and to be able to go to the store and run errands any time she wants. We have about half of the new home put together with furniture and accessories and hopefully we’ll be ready for guests after the first of the year.

What’s wrong with this picture?


Brenda has interviewed for a position with Missouri State University and we hope to hear back from them within the next week. The Captain has yet to put together a resumé but will get on that project by the end of the month. He has no idea what he’s going to do but feels confident that the right job will come along.

It’s still hard to believe that this chapter in our life is over. I find myself still thinking we are on a “vacation” from “Life’s2Short.” We’ve had a great run over the past five-and-a-half years and we feel very blessed to have been able to have this adventure so early in our lives. A BIG thanks goes out to all of our friends and blog followers. We’ve enjoyed meeting so many of you and hearing from others via comments on our blog.

And to those of you we’ve become very close to, we want each of you to know how much you have enriched our lives while on the water and how thankful we are for your close friendships. Please, please, please, keep in touch and let us know how your lives are going… both on and off the waterways. And if you happen to see “Calypso Poet” out on the water tell Mike you used to know her as “Life’s2Short.” Happy Holidays to ALL of you and may peace and good health follow you throughout your time on this earth!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Final Countdown

On Sunday, October 30th, we decided to make a trip to Demopolis to see Rick’s widow, Peggy.  We left St. Andrews Marina early Sunday afternoon and went to Watson Bayou to tie up at Greg & Carl’s dock for a few days.  Todd and I met Greg briefly in the fall of 2007 at the Panama City Marina but had never met Carl.  We have several mutual boating friends/acquaintances, including Mo on “MOTU" who was probably the first one to tell us about Greg & Carl having a dock in the Panama City area.  At any rate, Greg prepared some nice appetizers for us that evening as we chatted and got acquainted.  Very nice people!

We treated Greg & Carl to lunch at Tom’s Hot Dogs on Monday before going to pick up our rental car.  Tom’s is a small but well-known and very popular local establishment in downtown Panama City with some killer hot dogs and other offerings as well if hot dogs are not your thing.

Thanks for the hospitality, guys.  You’ve been more than gracious!


By 1:30 p.m. we were on our way to Demopolis.  We arrived at Peggy’s house about 7:00 p.m. and spent a couple of hours with her before going to the Yacht Basin where Fred generously offered the use of a small apartment on the second floor of the Boater’s Lounge.  Before retiring for the evening, we stopped in at the New Orleans Bar & Grill to say hello and have a few drinks.

We saw Peggy again Tuesday morning at the Yacht Basin and then headed back to Panama City about 11:30 a.m. with Todd driving the rental and me driving my car.  We decided it would be easier in the long run to have my car in Panama City versus Demopolis so we took  advantage of the opportunity and moved it to Panama City.  We turned in the rental and were back at Greg & Carl’s by 6:00 p.m.

Greg came down to see us off Wednesday morning at 6:30 (Central Time) and we were on our way.  We stopped at Miller Marine in Apalachicola to top off with fuel (235 gallons @ $3.95/gallon) and then it was on to the east end of St. George Island where we dropped the anchor at 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time), ten hours later.  By 6:30 p.m. we had pulled up the anchor and joined Dennis & Julie on “Sea Fox” to check out conditions in the Gulf.

We actually left Demopolis with “Sea Fox” on October 23rd but didn’t travel with them as they were moving faster than us.  However, Dennis radioed us while we were at anchor and asked about our plans to cross the Gulf.  Todd told him we were planning to go early the next morning to Cedar Key but when Dennis said he was thinking about going to Tarpon Springs that evening, if conditions were favorable, Todd decided to tag along.

The first few hours were pretty calm and we thought we were good to go.  Then the wind picked up and the seas started to build and it went downhill from there!  By about 9:30 p.m. it was all we could do to stay in our chairs.  It seemed that waves were coming from all directions.  We were nose-diving into some, slamming down on some, surfing some, some were rocking us side-to-side and sheets of spray were smashing into the front of the flybridge canvas.  And, of course, we couldn’t see anything.

Todd and I both got seasick for the first time and ended up lying down on the flybridge floor.  There really wasn’t anywhere else to go anyway.  We couldn’t move without being thrown into whatever was around us and we couldn’t sit without bracing ourselves on all sides and  hanging on to whatever we could grab.  Everything on the sundeck and downstairs that wasn’t nailed or tied down was being tossed or knocked around but there was nothing to be done about it.

Dennis on “Sea Fox” was truly our guardian angel.  He had all the electronic bells and whistles (state-of-the-art radar and chartplotter, AIS, high-powered radio antennae, etc.) and was able to alert us when other vessels were in the vicinity.  Our navigation software wasn’t even working, not that it would have made a huge difference under the circumstances.  But Dennis watched over us and kept us out of harm’s way as we spent most of the night on the flybridge floor.  Definitely our worst boating experience ever!

By daylight the seas started to calm and continued calming throughout the morning.  We finally reached Anclote Key and had dropped the anchor by 2:30 p.m.  “Sea Fox” headed on up the Anclote River to Tarpon Springs so we never did get to meet our escort.  But we radioed and told him how grateful we were that he stuck with us through the night.  We have no idea how we would have made it without him!

Within a half-hour of anchoring we were asleep.  We’d just gone through a 20-hour crossing from hell after a 10-hour day traveling from Panama City to St. George Island.  Overall, 32 hours without any meaningful sleep.  So we took a three-hour nap, had grilled cheese and soup for dinner and went back to bed!

It was very windy again by Friday morning and we experienced some pretty good swells for the first few miles as we left Anclote Key.  But we were soon in protected water and the remainder of the five-hour trip to St. Petersburg was uneventful.  Cathy and neighbor Ted met us at the dock and we were safely tied up by 3:00 p.m.  What a relief to finally be home!

Cathy with Hunter, the most recent doggy addition to her home.


Hanging on Cathy’s new leather sectional.  Very nice, Ms. Davis!


Friends Don & Patty came over that evening with homemade macaroni & cheese and fresh baked cookies.  Plus Cathy boiled some sizeable fresh Gulf shrimp.  What a treat!


Saturday we started cleaning and packing.  That evening we watched the Alabama/LSU football game which was being touted as the “Game of the Century.”  LSU was ranked #1 and Alabama was #2.  As you might imagine, it was quite the defensive battle.  Sadly, Alabama lost to LSU 9-6 in overtime after missing three field goal opportunities during the game.  Sorry, Rick, we really wanted a win for you!


Sunday was more cleaning and packing.  Todd’s sister Jennifer and a friend stopped by for a brief visit on their way to Siesta Key.  That afternoon Todd went to the dog park with Cathy and the kids – Lana, Hunter and Jack while I cleaned out and defrosted the chest freezer.  Patty made meatloaf with mashed potatoes & gravy for dinner so Todd ran over to pick up our “takeout order” from Patty’s restaurant.  Patty just got a new oven (after not having one for a very long time) so she has been cooking/baking up a storm.  Thanks, Patty, we enjoyed it!

Todd washed the salt off the boat Monday morning and then cleaned the flybridge and sundeck from top to bottom while I tackled the wood floors in the cabin and vacuumed the rugs.  Then he changed the oil in the starboard engine while I continued to pack.


Monday afternoon I made spinach lasagna to share with Don & Patty while Todd went to get new tires put on Cathy’s car.  All-in-all, a busy day.  We were tired puppies by that evening!

Today is Tuesday, November 8th, and we are just about completely moved off “Life’s2Short.”  The refrigerator has been cleaned out and defrosted and once the laundry is finished, sorted and packed, our chores will be done.

Mike, the new owner, is due to arrive tomorrow morning and the first order of business is for him to assist Todd in changing the oil in the port engine.  Mike will then head out with Todd to deliver the boat to Ft. Myers where Mike will officially take ownership.  Friday I will rent a car, drive to Ft. Myers to pick up Todd and we will begin the trek north.

So this is my final day aboard “Life’s2Short.”  It’s been a memorable 5-1/2 years but I’m ready for the next chapter.  Thanks for the memories and especially for the many unforgettable friends we’ve met along the way!  They, above all else, are what have truly made this journey special.  But we’re not quite finished yet.  There will be at least one more blog post before we conclude this chapter of our lives and begin the next one in Springfield, Missouri.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

First North, Then South

On Friday, October 14th, we left Demopolis about noon with the U-Haul trailer in tow.  Oddly enough, the trailer seemed to have less in it than it did when we moved onboard “Life’s2Short” in May of 2006!


We joined the gang at The Wall Thursday evening for happy hour.


And then went to the New Orleans Bar & Grill.


Along the way we stopped at Aqua Yacht on Pickwick to have a few drinks with Norm & Vicki on “Tide Hiker.”  Notice the “For Sale” sign in the background.  Anyone looking to buy an extremely nice, very well-maintained 49-foot Defever should check out their web site at:


Then it was on to Bud’s house for a few nights.  Jay Stone who sang with the band “Say It Aint So” at Bud’s party in July asked Bud if he could film a music video on Bud’s property.  Bud agreed and was asked to get a number of people together to stage a party as part of the video.  So we invited Norm & Vicki and Wayne & Lynn (former full-time cruisers on “Skinwalker” now living on the dirt in Michie, TN, near Pickwick) to participate.  It took a while to get things up and going, but overall a good time was had by all!

Having a bite to eat with Norm & Vicki and Wayne & Lynn.


Fiddle player Brian Arrowood, on break from touring with Travis Tritt,  agreed to participate in the music video.


Everyone certainly seems to be having a good time!










Vicki liked Brian’s music so much she bought one of his CD’s!


Loading up the bus to head back to Memphis.


Sunday we were on our way north before 9:00 a.m.  We arrived in Springfield late afternoon and began unloading the U-Haul, setting up the bedroom furniture, unpacking, etc.

Wiping out my “new” 26 (versus 7  on the boat) cubic foot refrigerator!


We had a late breakfast Monday morning at Village Inn and then went to empty out our little 5’ x 5’ storage unit while we still had the U-Haul.  We unloaded back at the house, did some shopping for a few essentials, dropped off the U-Haul and got back to the business of unpacking.

Arranging things in the bathroom Monday morning.


Todd ran some errands Tuesday while I worked on getting the kitchen organized and did a couple of  loads of laundry (yes, I actually have my very own washer & dryer again!).  Then we got cleaned up and went to dinner at Zio’s where we were met by Nila & Everett and Dale & Glena (Dale is our realtor and Glena and I used to work together) as a birthday surprise for me, courtesy of the Captain.  Thanks to all for a great birthday dinner!


Wednesday we were off to Houston to see my family for a few days.  We stopped at mom’s to have chili for lunch and then went on to Bucyrus to stay with my niece Jennifer.  It turned very cold Thursday evening and we left early Friday morning for the 500-mile trip back to Demopolis in 27-degree weather!

Saturday morning we toured the new Kingfisher Bay Marina with Fred.  We had seen it earlier this year (in May) but Fred wanted to show us how the new boater’s lounge, laundry and bathrooms were coming along.  What a nice facility!




That afternoon I made a final Wal-Mart run and did laundry while Todd gave the boat a bath.  We then pulled over to the fuel dock to pump out the holding tanks and fill up with fuel (312 gallons @ 3.69 per gallon).  “Tide Hiker” arrived about 4:30 p.m. and met us at The Wall a short time later.  The four of us then went to dinner at Las Fuentes for some yummy Mexican and margaritas.

We had planned to head south early Sunday morning but woke up to thick fog and had to stay put for a few extra hours.  Shortly after 9:00 a.m. we locked down the Demopolis Lock with four other boats, including “Tide Hiker.”


Within the first two hours we passed four northbound tows and saw a total of nine over the course of nine hours.  That’s a lot of tows in one day!  We also saw one bald eagle, two wild turkeys and a deer along the way.  Eighty-one miles later we were anchored at Mile 135 and it was dark within a half-hour.  “Tide Hiker” anchored across from Bashi Creek ten miles above us.

Almost to our anchorage.


Monday we didn’t have any fog and were off at 7:40 a.m.  We arrived at the Coffeeville Lock two hours later behind a southbound tow with two northbound tows waiting to lock up.  So we dropped the anchor and waited for our turn.  Two hours later we were through the lock and on our way.

A beautiful morning on the river.


Exiting Coffeeville Lock, the final lock on the Tenn-Tom - yay!  While we were locking down, we added up all the locks we’ve gone through over the past 5-1/2 years.  This was our 148thlock!


We ended up seeing a total of five northbound and two southbound tows Monday.  Ten hours and 71 miles later we were anchored in Three Rivers Lake.  And I have to mention that the Captain was very disappointed at not being able to spot an alligator either of the past two days and he has been watching diligently!

We passed “Heron” just above Mile 100.  Bob & Susie are friends with Mo & Gale on “Blue Heron.”  We were introduced to them at Waterfall Cove in early September.


One of several northbound tows.


Entering Three Rivers Lake.


Tuesday we tried to leave at 8:00 a.m. but we got into the river and found thick fog.  So we nosed up on the sand at the mouth of Three Rivers Lake and waited about 45 minutes for the fog to clear.


Then it was a short 52-mile day (with five more northbound and two southbound tows) to the Tensaw Cut-off at Mile 12.2 where we met up with Mo & Joe (and Honey) on “MOTU.”

Preparing to move the new railroad lift bridge eight miles downriver.


The new lift bridge will be installed here and the old 14-mile railroad swing bridge will be demolished.


Mo & Joe taxied us over to her friend’s hunting cabin where we had happy hour and then treated us to dinner on “MOTU.”  They were off to Grand Mariner in Mobile on Wednesday to deal with some boat issues.



Anchored in Big Briar Creek off the Tensaw Cut-off.



There was more morning fog on Wednesday but we were underway by 7:45 a.m.  The trip across Mobile Bay was perfect and we saw our first pelicans and porpoises.  We continued on to Pensacola and anchored east of the Pensacola Bay bridge ten hours and about 85 miles later.  The Captain put the dinghy down and took me to Bamboo Willie’s for a frozen drink and then we ordered dinner from Hooter’s, which is located next door, and ate at Bamboo Willie’s bar.  A nice ending to a long day on the water.

Anchored at what Skipper Bob calls Quiet Water Beach on Pensacola Bay.


Thursday was a quiet day on the water.  We traveled 7-1/2 hours, covering another 60 miles, and anchored on the southeast side of the Chocktawhatchee Bay Bridge.  The porpoises were out in force and the Captain managed to capture a few shots of them swimming and playing alongside the boat.



By 9:00 a.m. Friday we had entered the 20-mile ditch between Chocktawhatchee Bay and Panama City.  The total distance to Panama City was about 37 miles, and with good current we were tied up at the St. Andrews Marina four hours later.  Strong north winds were forecast to hit beginning late Friday evening and the Captain didn’t want to be anchored out so we decided to go to a marina.

Coming in to the Panama City area.


Friday evening we walked over to the TimeOut Sports Bar for happy hour and raw oysters for Todd.  We then meandered over to The Shrimp Boat where we had a nice dinner and watched the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series.  Way to go, Cards!!!

As predicted, the north wind hit overnight and we were thankful to be tied to a dock!  Unfortunately, we received some shocking news early Saturday morning.  Our good friend Rick in Demopolis suddenly and unexpectedly passed away late Friday evening at the age of 58.  Rick and his wife Peggy had walked down to the fuel dock last Sunday morning to see us off when we left Demopolis.  It just doesn’t seem possible that this could have happened!

Even though we’ve only known Rick & Peggy for about four years, Rick and Todd were very close.  They talked on the phone almost daily, sometimes several times a day.  Todd jokingly referred to Rick as “his brother from a different mother.”  And they were like brothers.  They fished together whenever they could and talked fishing, sports, weather, whatever, all the time.  Rick was a diehard Alabama fan and we’ve watched a number of football games with he & Peggy over the years.  Rest in peace, Rick, you will be missed!

This photo was taken less than a month ago at Rick & Peggy’s home.


The wind continued to howl all day Saturday but we braved it to browse through the St. Andrews Waterfront Farmers’ Market.  Our friends Tena & Keith and daughter Sidney who live a few blocks away walked down to meet us and visit for a while.




Around mid-afternoon we walked to Tena & Keith’s house and took a load of dirty laundry with us.  Tena brought out her tasty homemade ceviche for a happy hour snack and Keith grilled some wonderful chicken for dinner.  Thanks for a fun evening, guys, we enjoyed it!

Keith got the outdoor heater working so we could sit comfortably outside.



Sidney got dressed up in her “Wicked” Alice in Wonderland outfit and was off to a birthday party that evening.




Today is Sunday, October 30th, and the north wind is still blowing strong.  The weather doesn’t look good for the Gulf crossing until late next week, at the earliest, so we are in wait mode for now.  We will probably leave the marina early this afternoon, find a protected anchorage nearby and gradually make our way east to the Apalachicola area over the course of the next week.  Or we may rent a car and go to Demopolis for a few days to see Rick’s widow, Peggy.  At this point we’re not sure, but we’ll figure it out!