Monday, December 31, 2007

Barney's big day on the town.

Yesterday, Bev and I took Barney on an expedition to downtown Key West. At first he was apprehensive about his new travel case, but once he got out among the people, he calmed down and had a great time watching all the colorful characters that inhabit this place. (He did tell me he was jealous of the chickens that roam free all over town.) He came with us to the Pirate Soul Museum where we saw the ONLY genuine, documented pirate treasure chest in the world. He even sat at the bar with us and had a drink at Fat Tuesday's. Of course, being under age, he had to have water.
We're having a blast. So far the only problem is a minor blister on my toe from walking all over town in sandals. Yeah - to you folks up north - I said sandals. Much to warm for shoes.
For anyone who hasn't been here, but planning to come, don't miss happy hour at Kelly's. Best beer and wings on the island and the prices are great - $1.50 for a beer and wings are $4 a pound. It's located in the original headquarters of Pan Am Airlines and features a seaplane flying out of the ceiling!
Now the big question is: are we really Conchs at heart? Do we want to get a motor for the dingy, anchor out in the Cut, and stay here a while? Hmm...don't tempt me.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Greetings from the Isle of Bones

Yes folks, we are here in "Cayo Hueso" (The Isle of Bones) - better known as Key West!
We sailed from Naples on Wednesday. We were able to sail most of the day, but about sundown the wind died out and we ended up using the motor. We did get some practice using our new spinnaker. The 100 mile crossing (our longest to date) took 25 hours. We arrived at the outer mark in the northwest channel about 8 AM, but it took us until 11:00 to fight the current coming in from the Atlantic. We set our anchor in Flemming Cut about 11:30. Our marina reservation was for Saturday, so we just waited at the anchorage. As it turned out, that was a good plan. Coming off a 25 hour crossing we needed the extra time to relax and rest before hitting the town.
We got into our slip at the marina about 10:00 yesterday, took a shower and walked the entire length of Duval St. For those who've never been here, that is a TRIP, in several senses of the word. For one thing, walking the length of Duval takes you from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. It also takes you past some of the most colorful characters you are likely to meet anywhere. Mimes, drag queens, hippies and hillbillies - they're all here. There are also the thousands of cruise ship passengers who come ashore here for a few hours and really don't have a clue as to what they are seeing.
We had lunch at the original "Margaritaville." We saw the sunset over Mallory Square. We had a few Key West Sunset Ales at the Schooner Wharf Bar (one of the most famous bars in the world.) We also ran into Jim, our former dockmaster at South Pasadena! Key West is one of those places where, if you stay long enough, you'll run into everyone you know.
Happy Birthday Julie! And thanks to you and Tim for all you've done for us. (Now get your butts down here.)
Today, after a bit of reprovisioning, we hope to see the Pirate Museum and a few of the other interesting historical sites. Tomorrow, we need to take a nap so we can stay up, tip a few at the Schooner Wharf, and watch the "Dropping of the Wench" from the top of the mast of a schooner at midnight.
The weather is predicted to change starting Wednesday, so we may have to juggle our plans about leaving, but there's a couple of days for the forecast to change.
Oh, speaking of weather - to all you folks up north - it's 78 to 82 for a high during the day, and 68 to 72 for a low at night. And the only "white stuff" around is the sand on the beach. Yuck, Yuck.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Christmas!
Well folks, we're in Naples. We are now 87 miles from Key West.
Today, we are celebrating Christmas. We spent the early morning drinking coffee and watching "The Santa Clause." After breakfast we will do some work to get the boat ready for our biggest crossing yet. Once that is done, we will have our Christmas dinner. We have a little tree, and we have the boat all decorated for the holiday.
We are staying at the Naples City Dock for a day or so. We need to get fuel, do a pumpout, fill our water tanks, etc. I have to make new reefing nettles as the old ones have gotten to worn to trust. We need to load the bikes on the deck. Then we will watch the weather. We need about 24 hours for the crossing to Key West. Our reservations are for Saturday, so we have three days to pick from. The wind is predicted to be easterly, so it should be a pretty smooth crossing. It is still a challenge as we've not yet done a 24 hour crossing. Our biggest so far was the 18 hours it took to cross the Gulf. If the weather holds as predicted, we should have no trouble. The autopilot is working and we will be starting our with full fuel tanks and full batteries so it's all systems go. This might be our last posting before the crossing, so wish us luck!
Update: It turned out to be such a nice day, after our work was done we took a bike ride to the beach. To the folks up north: eat your hearts out! We were wading in the surf on Christmas day. Wow! That's what being "south" is all about.
Merry Christmas to everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A star is born.

The last couple of days have had their share of events.
As we were leaving Venice, we managed to swamp the dingy (don't ask, long story) and had to stop and bail it out. In the process we got the tow line caught in the propeller which stalled the engine. So we had to hurry and set the anchor, during which process the anchor got bent. What a comedy of errors.
After 45 minutes of scrambling around trying to fix things, we finally got under way and made it to a lovely anchorage at Englewood Beach. It was a very well protected spot and we had a very quiet night. The mangrove island that set the anchorage off from the bay was teeming with osprey. We watched them circle overhead. As we sat on deck eating dinner and watching the sunset, a pod of dolphins swam by. This whole area seems to be swarming with dolphins. All the next day we saw dozens of them. Some actually swam under the boat.
We stopped in at the marina in Boca Grande to see if we could buy a new anchor. They had to order it and have it overnighted, so we stayed here for the night. Our new friends, Paul and Laurie from Verkennen were anchored in a little cove just north of here and we all went for a bike trip downtown and to the lighthouse. While we were downtown, Bev spotted a sign outside a tiki bar that said "Open Mike." We dashed home, had a quick shower, grabbed the guitar and went back.
The open mike event was hosted by a very talented guy named Chakulla who did a few songs and then turned the mike over to the guest performers. The first was a very talented young woman. She writes her own songs and sings great. She kind of reminded us of Alanis Morrisette.
Then it was my turn. I did the standard 3 song set, then the host asked me to do one more. Later, after everyone had a chance to do their thing, he asked my to come back up and do another set. It was a great night.
Today we're just going a few miles (after the anchor gets here) and anchor out. We will be making our way toward Naples. Naples is a bit tricky because there is a stretch of about 30 miles or so that has to be done on the outside, in the Gulf. We need a good weather window to make that crossing. Once in Naples, we have an offer of free dockage from one of Bev's friends. We will wait there for the big jump to Key West. We're still not sure where we will be for Christmas, but it will probably be an anchorage.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Getting moving again

Well, today the plan is to get moving again. The wind has calmed down and shifted around to the north/northeast. The down side of that is that temperatures have gone down significantly. Night time lows are now in the 40s.
We are planning a few nights of anchoring out as we make our way down the coast, so we will not be updating for a while.
During our stay in Venice we met some new friends, Paul and Laurie. They are cruising in their very unique "Dutch scheldeschow" named Verkennen. They have been following our adventure via this blog and were quite surprised to actually catch up with us. They have been sailing very much the same route we have and we had a great time swapping stories over dinner on their boat. They were a great help Sunday with our emergency at the Crow's Nest. Thanks, guys!
Also, a big "Thank You" to Pat and Peter for putting us up in the condo for the weekend, for helping tend lines during the move on Sunday, and for ferrying Bev to the grocery store.
In case we don't get a chance to update between now and Christmas "Happy Holidays" everybody!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A harrowing day.

Here's a bit of information for all cruisers: if a cold front is anywhere in the vicinity DO NOT plan on staying at the Crow's Nest Marina in Venice. The marina is completely exposed to a west wind, and the waves coming in from the Gulf slam the transient dock with such force as to cause damage to any boat moored there. The pilings are old and weak and will not prevent your boat from slamming into the concrete sea wall. We know, it happened to us.
Fortunately, the only damage was some chipped paint and one chock that was torn off the deck and lost. All damage will be easily repaired, but I'm still a bit peeved at the marina staff for not warning me about the lack of protection from the west wind. I guess they thought I should know. Yeah, right, I've never been here before in my life but I'm supposed to know how every marina behaves in every wind condition.
Any way, we're safe and the boat has been moved to a much quieter location on the town dock.
I just hope that enough folks read this and stay away from Crow's Nest. Maybe if they lose enough business, they'll fix their pilings and may put up a warning sign telling transients to stay away if the wind is out of the west.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ride the wild surf

Well folks, we've made it as far as Venice, but I think we'll be here for a while. A cold front has come through, bringing with it west winds at 25 to 35 knots and gusts to 40. It has kicked up a huge surf along the shore and waves up to 8 feet off the coast.
The boat is tied up at the Crow's Nest marina in Venice, but there isn't much protection from the west wind.
We are staying ashore with some friends of Bev, Pat and Peter. They manage a small resort apartment complex on the beach. When we went to check on the boat today, we found she had taken a bit of a beating during the night. We reset all the lines and added a few extra lines to keep the boat off the pilings. So far, the only damage is to the paint and that will be easily fixed.
We will try to move the boat tomorrow to a more protected area, and then leave for points south on Tuesday when the winds are predicted to shift to the northeast and weaken a bit.
Looking out at the Gulf, I'm glad we're not out there today! Whew!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


We are now in Sarasota. We've been sailing since Sunday, with anchorages along the way. We decided to take a short break and tie up at Marina Jack's in Sarasota. We plan on anchoring out tonight and setting out early tomorrow morning for Venice. The trip here from New Port Richie was great except for one small incident. As we were leaving New Port Richie we had to navigate down a very narrow channel with homes and private docks along both sides. A sudden gust of wind pushed us sideways and we hit one of the docks, causing some slight damage. We had to wait for an hour for the owner to come and inspect the damage. He was very gracious and seemed more impressed with the boat than with the damage to his dock. Our friends Julie and Tim drove over from their house and agreed to pick up the materials to repair the dock and the owner said that was all we needed to do. So we set out on our quest.
We anchored in the Gulf for two nights. The wind was out of the east, so it was relatively calm along the shore. The third night we tucked into a little cove in the Manatee River near Bradenton. It was great to have three straight days of actual sailing. We even got to use the new spinnaker for a while on one of the days.
We took a lot of pictures and it's hard to pick a few to post. We had spectacular sunsets and sunrises and saw lots of dolphins (some of which swam so close to us we could hear their breath.)
The dog was a stray who adopted her owner by crawling into his dingy to give birth to her pups.
Right next to the marina there is a park with a bar right on the beach. People anchor their boats in the cove and dingy ashore for a drink. We stopped in for a beer and listened to some great steel drum music.'s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A few pictures

Here are a few more pictures of the last few days. Just before leaving South Pasadena, Bev and I made the rounds at our favorite haunts on St. Pete Beach. We stopped for one last drink at Philthy Phil's, heard some great music by the DeLei'ed Parrots at Bahama Mama's, watched a great sunset, etc.
I've also added a pic of our hosts, Julie and Tim.
Last night we had a dinner party with Julie and Tim, their friend MaryEllen and her friend Brian.

Monday, December 03, 2007

We made it!

Well,folks, the journey is underway again!
We had intended to leave Saturday, but Tim and Julie's engine wasn't running, so we waited until Sunday. Even so, we didn't leave the dock until around 9:00. With a late departure we knew we would not have daylight to make the whole trip. Julie decided to ride with us and left Tim to take their boat up. Their boat is still not running right, so our friend Keith offered to tow their boat all the way up. With the boat in tow, their could only make 3 knots, so they ended up anchoring out for the night. Bev and Julie and I decided to press on and made it to the house about 9:00 PM.
The winds were light, and of course, out of the northeast or northwest making progress very slow. The best speed we could get was 5 knots, and we averaged only 4. In spite of slow going, it was a very pleasant trip. Julie brought "Angel" the Pekingese "devil dog." Barney rode with us in the pilothouse. We watched a great sunset and navigated the last few hours "on instruments" due to the darkness of a moonless evening. Moonrise was about midnight and we were safely tucked in our beds by then. Most of the channel marks coming in were unlighted, but Bev's night vision is better than mine and she spotted the marks quickly and we navigated the narrow channel without incident.
All in all, it was a good day on the water. It is good to be on the move again.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is it the day?

Wow, 10 months in one place. I didn't think it could happen. Now it seems as if the time has come for us to move one.
Assuming the engine works, and our friends Tim and Julie get their engine running, we will be leaving St. Pete tomorrow. This will be the first time in 10 months that we will be leaving the dock with the intention of actually going someplace. Our first stop will be about 40 miles north, New Port Richie. We will be staying with Tim and Julie for about a week before heading off to the Keys.
Start looking for more updates as we are starting our journey again.
Wish us luck.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Eric Stone, Lats and Atts, getting ready

Well, it's getting to be that time. Hurricane season is winding down, so we're winding up for the next leg of our journey. We will be leaving St. Pete on December 1, headed for parts south.
Actually, our first stop will be about 40 miles north of here. It's a little town called New Port Richie. Our friends, Julie and Tim, have a house there with its own dock and they have invited us to spend a little time visiting with them. It's also an opportunity to earn a little cash as I have been helping Tim remodel the interior of their boat.
So, these weeks are filling up with activity centered on getting the boat ready, organizing storage, plotting courses, locating anchorages, etc. Planning a voyage is a lot of work.
We are also hearing some tales about crossing Florida Bay, the route to the Keys. Some folks say it's a cake walk, some say it's dangerous. Pretty much the same story we heard about Lake Michigan and about crossing the Gulf. In both cases we found a spot to sit tight and wait for weather, and we made the crossings without incident. I expect we'll do the same going to the Keys.
On November 3, we went to the "Strictly Sail" boat show in St. Pete. It was a lot of fun. We went with Julie and Tim. Eric Stone provided the musical entertainment all afternoon and well into the evening. For those of you who haven't heard Eric's music, it's a bit similar to Jimmy Buffet, but much more centered on sailing, diving, living in the islands, etc. A bit more down home, a bit simpler but every bit as enjoyable. I even do a couple of Eric's songs in my own "show," if you can call it that.
Another highlight of the boat show was getting to meet Bob Bitchin (yep, that's his name). He's the publisher of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine, one of the best magazines around dedicated to the cruising lifestyle. I showed him a picture of my boat and he asked me to write a feature article for his magazine. As Bob would say "Kewl!"
Yesterday, while Bev was at work and I was helping Tim install a new fuel filler hose on his boat, a dolphin swam right through the marina. I didn't have the camera with me so I couldn't get a shot, but it was neat to see this magnificent animal come so close.
We also just found out that Chandra will be visiting her great-grandparents for Thanksgiving and we are invited. It will be great to have another visit with her. She's really a neat kid.
Here are a few pics of the Lats and Atts cruiser's party and Eric Stone.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sailing with Capt Ron

Yesterday, Bev and I were invited for a day sail aboard "Blitzen" a beautiful 45 foot Morgan owned by our neighbor at the marina, Capt Ron. Julie and Tim, their friend Wink and two of our neighbors, both named Keith, rounded out the crew.
It was a great day, lots of sun, a few clouds, East wind around 15 or so. The east wind meant that the wind was strong enough to sail, but didn't have enough "fetch" to kick up any serious waves. The result was perfect sailing conditions.
At one point we came up behind another boat from our marina, the "Midnight Heat." With Mike at the helm, "Blitzen" easily outpaced "Midnight Heat." Here are a few pics of a really great sailing day.
I know, it's a rough life, but someone's got to live it.