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Monday, December 19, 2011

5000 Nautical Miles !!!

 Time travelled:     7:17
 Nautical miles:     52.3
 Docked at:          Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda, Florida

The GPS - 5000 nm

We had an awesome dolphin day today!

Before I show you some of the pictures I have to tell you that the odometer hit 5000 nautical miles today - to me that's amazing. What's really amazing is that Garth has not thrown me overboard, tied me to the anchor or set me adrift in the tender!  Thank you Garth for putting up with me  - you see, I like to know what is going to happen before it happens - I like to know what side we are going to tie up on, what type of dock it is - fixed or floating, where the fenders are going to go .. etc etc . Garth alleviated some of my concerns by having lines on both sides of the boat but I still get apprehensive docking. Gee - you would think I'd be use to it by now!! I chalk it up to my training ... as a teacher for 20 some odd years I always had a lesson plan for all classes everyday. Before I left work I had labs prepared and photocopying done, I knew pretty much everything that I was going to do the next day  -- the main variables of course were the students but I could control 99 percent of them. Garth on the other hand lived from minute to minute never knowing what was going to happen next, sometimes he would sit behind a desk waiting for something to happen and other times he would be swamped, he would be dealing with one catastrophe and another catastrophe would be unfolding. Adrenaline rushes were an everyday occurrence as police work is anything but predictable and teaching was totally predictable. So, we have had to do a significant amount of re-training and learning together. Although I have told Garth for years that he is not a very patient teacher he is a great mentor. Thank you Garth,do you think we can do another 5000 miles?

Ok, the dolphins - at one point there had to be twelve of them swimming beside us. There were big ones and small ones, some were swimming straight, some were doing turns, some were jumping. I felt like clapping and throwing fish to them. It was just so amazing. I said to Garth that it was as if the big ones were teaching the little ones how to wake surf and jump. How lucky we are to be able to witness these beautiful creatures everyday. Are you ready for some pictures!

Saving the best for last!!

Doesn't it make you want to sit and watch re-runs of Flipper!!!!

We arrived at Burnt Store Marina - has to be a story with that name - this afternoon and we will stay here for a few weeks. Although we had intended to be past here by now Mother Nature or MN for short has not been 100 per cent cooperative!

On the first day of Christmas ....a pelican in a bush!!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Happy Hanukkah too!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tides, Current, Wind & Bridges!!

  Time travelled:     7 hours
  Nautical miles:     50
  Docked at:          Marina Jacks, Sarasota  $2.25 a foot,
                               great sunsets and live music

Wow, what a windy night! I got up to see if the boat was still attached to the dock - went up to the flybridge because it sounded like the bimini was blowing away but all was well, I secured the railing covers and tried to get back to sleep. The current was slapping against the boat and  the wind was pushing us into the dock - when we looked this morning we had blown a fender!!
We left dark and early because we wanted out at slack tide, Garth had to maneuver between a cateraman and the bridge pylons. When we came in we were at full current and 60,000 pounds of boat was being pushed around like a leaf.....ahh back in Florida!

We had great luck with the bridges today - partially because it was Sunday and a lot of the bridges were opening on demand and the rest we were just lucky. The longest wait we had was about 10 minutes. It took us about an hour and a half to get across Tampa Bay. Wow is it ever shallow.!!

Last year we surveyed a boat over here and the captain said to us that there are two kinds of boaters on Florida's west coast......those that have run aground and those that will run aground!!

High and dry!

Another one!

Danger sign and you can see how shallow it is - Tampa Bay

Staying in the channel!

Birds on a sandbar 10 feet from the boat.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge - Tampa bay

Dragging his boat across the sandbar

Sailing lessons??

New Christmas scarf!

All decked out for Christmas

We went for a walk as soon as we got the boat straightened out - Zeke went for a swim. He is really getting his energy back - it is so good to see him wanting to run and play.
We are heading for Burnt Store Marina tomorrow and we will put it down there for a few weeks over Christmas 

View from the back of the boat in Sarasota tonight.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Relaxing in Clearwater & Tarpon Springs

Time travelled:  0
Nautical miles:   0
Docked at:        Clearwater Harbour Marina

High of 77 today, even the low is short sleeves!!

Jerimiah (the boat) left here this morning, they are two days away from home and getting itchy to complete the Loop. Everyone else stayed to relax and explore by land.
And what a nice relaxing day we had.
Stan & Barbara from "Grogger" are docked on this side of the marina and there are four other looper boats just under the bridge. Barbara flew home to Tulsa for the weekend and Stan rented a car so the three of us drove to Tarpon Springs and did what all good tourists do, ate and shopped.
As we were looking for a place to have lunch we spotted Dale & Jim from Sweet Pea out on the patio of Demitris - we tried to join them but the patio had limited space and there was not enough room for three more people. We ate inside and all enjoyed the greek food.  Thank you Stan!

We toured the town and of course bought a sponge and some baklava.

Stan, documenting the Sponge Capital of the World
Check out the big sponge

Sponge boats line the docks downtown Tarpon Springs

Garth & Stan showing off their purchases

Off to Sarasota on the inside tomorrow!! Back to bridges and no wake zones!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Crossing pictures -how quickly things change

Zeke relaxing on the bow

Sweet Pea coming around the bend

Zeke bracing for the inevitable 

Sweet Pea in the rough water


Crab pots in a "line"

Clearwater welcoming committee
Five of the "one o'clock" crowd pulled in right behind us


Time travelled:     18hrs 45 min
 Nautical miles:    166 nm
 Docked at:        Clearwater Harbour Marina

 Zeke went from relaxing on the bow to drooling on the "sick" towel within minutes. I gave him half a gravol and all was good for the next 17 hours. We had  rough seas for the first hour.  From 5:30 pm last evening until we docked today it was a pretty smooth ride.

At about 3 am we looked to Port and saw this amazing site gliding by us on the water. It really was a magical night on the Gulf.

We are going to crash for a few hours ! Staying here for the weekend and heading south Sunday or Monday.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


Everyone in Carrabelle is talking about it !
This is supposed to be a MAGICAL NIGHT.  They say that every December when the full moon is just about at its present phase Santa takes a spin around the continent just to get the gears in motion for Christmas Eve. Kind of like a test drive I guess. He glides over the Gulf sometime between midnight and four am.  Is it an old wives-tale or is it true??  I have my night vision goggles all set up at the helm and plan to stay awake so that if he is out there I will see him!! My camera is all ready to go too!!

We enjoyed our time in Carrabelle, it was fun to catch up with other loopers once again.

Some of the boats are decorated for Christmas !

Sunset in Carrabelle

Some boats left here at one this afternoon - we will be the last to leave - at 4 pm.
We are going to cross with Sweet Pea - they will be turning into Tarpon Springs and we will continue down to Clearwater. All in all there will be about fourteen boats out there - two speedsters and the rest of us all taking between 16 -22 hours.

The crossing is still looking smooth!

 Just in case we have a single sideband radio, an Epirb, a hand held GPS tracker and a ten person life raft full of survival gear, so, I think we are prepared for everything!

We will grab a few hours sleep soon as we get into Clearwater and then I will let you know all about "THE CROSSING".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Patience pays off

Docked at:  Still at The Moorings, Carrabelle Florida Panhandle

Hello Loopers, Near and Far,

Today is Wednesday, December 14th. Today will start the beginning of one of the best weather windows on the Gulf this season. By noon, the winds will die down and by late afternoon, seas will be in the comfortable range for the overnighters. Tomorrow and tomorrow night will be even better with a full moon showing the way. It will be magical out on the Gulf tomorrow night. This musing is not without warning. Staying too far off the coast could be edgy. Vessels should leave from East Pass and head straight for Anclote Key and then to Tarpon Springs or Clearwater. Good luck and Merry Christmas from Mother Nature.

In order to make a big crossing like the Gulf of Mexico captains check several sources before deciding when to go and which route to follow. The message above is from Tom who writes a memo on the Loopers site every morning just about the crossing from here to Tarpon or Clearwater.
So, if we were in a hurry - hury being a four letter word on a boat - we would leave today but it appears that tomorrow will be pretty darn close to perfect. Thank you MN  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Patience is a virtue

READY ... SET .......WAIT

Well, we are still waiting!  Not only are the weather gods frowning upon us but the shopping goddess has messed up again. Wasn't it enough that I was stuck in Iuka, Mississippi for Black Friday - here it is just two weeks before Christmas and I am in a town with two hardware stores, one Dollar store, two thrift shops and a pharmacy. I went to the pharmacy today because it was closed all weekend. They had some nice Christmas decorations including some predecorated trees. The one tree that I liked was about 2 feet tall, $19.95 for the tree but by the time you added all the decorations that were on it the price came to $160.00!  That's an 80 dollar a foot Christmas Tree! I told the girl it was more than I wanted to spent and she said she would give me a deal --- 100 dollars ---- OK now it is 50 dollars a foot. Still too much considering that it will not be stored until next year as we have no where to store it. It will be tossed !  You know you have been on a boat too long when everything comes down to a by the foot price!  Oh Well - perhaps we will make Clearwater in time to do some shopping.

We walked over to the other marina again last night and decided to move over there.  We went back this morning to see the docks in daylight and unfortunately they would not work for us, the fingers are too short and narrow to safely get Zeke on and off the boat. We did go back tonight for docktails - it was fun to see some people that we had met way back in Norfolk and not seen since. Sweet Pea, Nauti- Nell and Jeremiah! I think there are about twelve boats here waiting for the weather. It seems like we will have at least one crossing buddy - Sweet Pea - Dale & Jim run about the same speed we do. Everyone will meet and come up with a running plan so that no one is left by themselves. Some will leave earlier and then the fast boats will catch up to them during the night I think???  Most are all headed for the Clearwater Marina.

Anyhow, it is looking like the weather window will be Friday now!! Someone tonight said the best thing to do is sleep with the keys in the ignition and be ready to go at a moments notice. 

Will keep you posted!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Waiting Day 1

Time travelled:     zip
 Nautical miles:    zip
 Docked at:         The Moorings, Carrabelle, Florida

Well, nothing like a twelve hour sleep to make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Now, if only I could get my hair done I would feel human once again.
We walked downtown,stopping at the next marina on the way to see if we knew anyone there. No, we did not, there were a few looper boats but there but no one around. We continued on our way stopping at the "tourist information", I asked for a town map but there isn't such a thing. The man there said pretty much what you can see from here is the town.  A hardware store, a coffee shop, two second hand stores and a closed pharmacy - Saturday and it was closed.  On the way back to the boat we came across the worlds smallest police station.
The town had their Christmas parade tonight - free chicken dinner and then the parade followed by fireworks.
We walked back downtown for the dinner but came back to the boat for the parade because his majesty does not like fireworks, Garth forgot his wallet and it was cold!
The blurr of a boat in the parade

The smallest police station and our new hose!

Preparing for the parade

More preparations

"Grogger" aka Stan and Barbara had rented a car from Apalachicola and driven over so they came back to the boat and watched the parade with us.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Waiting for the Weather

Time travelled:      9: 30
 Nautical miles:     79
 Docked at:         The Moorings, Carrabelle, Florida

We got up very early and our weather window had pretty much disappeared. We could have made it about three quarters of the way and then approaching Clearwater would have been sorry that we had left.
As we were going through Apalachicola  I got an email for "Grogger" a boat we had met in Chicago and then traveled with along the Illinois for a few days saying "we are eating oysters in a restaurant and I think we just saw you pass under a bridge in Apalachicola"  -small world. They will be here on Monday as will  everyone going across because this location is the place where we sit to wait!

Raking for Oysters along the way

Sometimes you can't tell if a marker is red or green because of the birds

Aren't they magnificent

Do I smell land - back in his favorite spot!

Arrived in Carrabelle about 4, got a pump out, took Zeke for a bit of a walk, grabbed a pizza and slept for twelve hours!!  There was a time change in there somewhere.

The "Crossing" videos have all been stowed away with the "Crossing" munchies and the "Crossing" games. They may come out again on Tuesday,waiting for Mother Nature to cooperate. In the meantime, we will take this time to clean the boat, put up our third US courtesy flag and explore Carrabelle. The flags keep flying away - the last one was swept under a building in Mobile. The Christmas parade on the water is tonight and we have ring side seats, so that is a must.

I tried to capture the dolphins on video but they of course would not cooperate! So, this was my first attempt. I will get better.  I now have much more appreciation for Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom !

Just as a aside, we are once again back to "reporting" in our coast wise movement. When I called in from Panama City to say we had arrived he asked the usual questions, where did you come from, who is the master of the ship etc ... yesterday I called in to report that we are in Carrabelle - usual questions - last port - I said Panama City and the guy asked me if I had anything to declare!I repeated that I was in Panama City, Florida and again he asked if I had anything to declare -- I just said no and carried on.  I wish this toad worked on the Queenston/Lewiston bridge connecting NY to Ontario as it would make a lot of people happy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Time travelled:     5 hours 20 min.
 Nautical miles:    47
 Docked at:         Panama City Marina

Update:  We are headed for Carabelle - weather has once again changed our plans!!

Our escorts were the highlight of our day! Imagine hearing a sumo wrestler do a belly flop off the high board and that is what the SLAP of a dolphin hitting the water beside you sounds like.  They are just so awesome to watch, it is like they are there to entertain us. Some actually did flips as they jumped out of the water showing off their big pink bellies! Lots of dolphin pics today!!!!

Zeke and I took a dock walk this morning checking out all the boats, the best name we saw was a Hatteras fishing boat named  HAT A TAK - there was a 114 foot Hatteras yacht  - Lady Monroe and a huge Cheo Lee named Lady Laura - tonight we are behind a 75 foot Hatteras named Lady Pamela. Why do you never see a Sir Bob or Lord Garth???  Someone once told us to never name a boat after a women because they come and go but you will always have the boat!

We are studying the weather and if it stays at it is we will cross the Gulf tomorrow - leaving here mid morning and arriving into Clearwater Saturday morning. In order to stay awake we got a few movies on board - Mutiny on the Bounty, The Poseidon Adventure and Ship of Fools.  I am leaving The Perfect Storm on the dock. We have stocked up on a few munchies -  Captain Crunch, Chips Ahoy and Lays Wavy Chips. Twenty four hours straight and we need to keep ourselves entertained. and awake.

Obviously no cell service out there but you can always click on "See our Current Location" to determine if we are in the midst of crossing or heading over to Carabelle. to wait for a perfect weather window.

Some friends we saw this afternoon on our walking tour of Panama City!