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Friday, January 27, 2012

Conch Republic

Time travelled:      4:30
 Nautical miles:     45
 Docked at:          Galleon Marina, Key West

Marathon mooring field
We left Marathon bright and early Thursday morning. The first two hours were rather lumpy, Heather and Stacy started out on the bow leaving the harbor.

Did someone say dark clouds ahead?
 Once we got out into the Atlantic it got very lumpy, the spray was coming up on the bow. Heather and Stacy moved to the back deck and Zeke was panting and drooling on the couch - perhaps he is a Portuguese Land Dog . About half way here the winds died down and the waves decreased making for a  very comfortable ride. We were all out on the bow catching the rays. Garth unfortunately had to man the helm and dodge crab pots the whole way but at least this time he had daylight and two engines. I am sure his arms were sore from all the steering he had to do!

 We got settled in the slip and washed the salt off the boat, Frank and Carrie stopped by to say hi then we headed for Duval Street. The marina is in a great location, five minutes to the main drag and the back of the boat faces west so we get a pretty decent sunset.

We walked up and down Duval and settled at a Burger Bar as it was dog friendly.  When we were walking back to the boat we meet our neighbors, twelve guys on a weekend getaway from Tampa. Seems they had been bar hopping and when they saw us coming down the street they yelled "NEIGHBORS" - hugs all round and off we went. Pretty quiet next door tonight.

This morning we rented an electric car and toured Key West in style, our first car had issues with the brakes so we returned it and they gave us a red car that made a loud crunching sound when we made left hand turns so back we went again. This time they gave us a mini hummer and an extra half hour! We took Zeke to the dog beach and drove around drinking Pina Coladas for four and a half hours - only in Key West. Funny thing was we saw Frank and Carrie on our first drive around town and then about every hour we would see them again as we cruised  Duval Street.  It brought back memories of when we were young and we would cruise the streets on weekends - only this time we had a chauffeur

Stacy doing a pina colada run & water for Zeke!

Mini Hummer! 
Along the lines of "sometimes you're the show and sometimes you're the audience" - we were sitting on the back deck relaxing after our strenuous day of sightseeing. Boats come and go until all hours, one small boat was coming in, Stacy and I were watching him and I said, this guy is heading right for the rocks and before we knew it - Caboom - he smashed into the jetty wall right behind  our boat. I yelled to him to see if he was alright, no answer, I called Garth to get the spotlight and then called the marina. Garth and Stacy went up to the flybridge and shone the spotlight on him - asking "are you alright", still no answer. A dingy came out of the harbor and saw the light, he drove over and yelled "are you in distress". He did not get an answer and started to leave. Fortunately, Garth kept the spotlight on the boat, the man yelled "help" and the dingy came back and towed him into the dock. We all watched and when the dingy came back I asked if the man was OK - yep he replied he is very very drunk! Bet he will have a real thumper in the morning!! This may be his wake up call to curtail his dinking & drinking!
The view from the back deck!
Life is good and boating is fun!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Waiting for parts in Marathon

Time travelled:     0
 Nautical miles:    0
 Docked at:         Sombrero Marina, Marathon

Here we sit once again! I must say if you have to just sit in a place this is a great place to sit. The other boaters are friendly and there is a bar/restaurant right on the dock that has live music every night. We picked up our company in Fort Dollardale aka Lauderdale on Saturday.  We took advantage of the rental car and drove to Key West on Sunday. What a great little place. Lots of things to see and do. We walked Duval Street from one end to the other. Zeke met a friend and they had a great time playing in the Atlantic.

Zeke happy to be in the water !
We stopped along the way for lunch at Willie T's bar, notice all the dollar bills stapled to the walls. My Mom had sent a card and some money down with the girls, we were instructed to go to a certain steakhouse on Marco Island but it was just too far. Geography never was Fionas strong suit!! Instead she bought us lunch and an award winning Key Lime Pie that we brought home and devoured after dinner.

Stacy, Heather & Garth at Willie T`s in Key West

Duval Street, Key West

We have not been doing too much of anything - we get up and walk around the golf course across the road, have breakfast, walk over to the grocery store or Walgreens, have lunch, sit in the sun all afternoon, have docktails about four, have dinner. The evenings have been pretty rough trying to decide if we will sit on the bow or the stern. I think tonight we will go down to the bar and check out the live music. Seems to be the way of life in Marathon. Tough to get use to but we are all doing our best to adapt.The weather has been glorious, sunshine and  26 degrees!

The part for the transmission is supposed to be here today and installed this afternoon. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that this is the fix. If it is we will be on our way to Key West tomorrow and if it isn`t - DO YOU WANT TO BUY A BOAT!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Misadventure of Algonquin & Fellow Boaters to the rescue

 Time travelled:  12.5 hours  felt like a 125
 Nautical miles:   100 nm
 Docked at:       Sombrero Marina, Marathon

We were just leaving the dock at Marco, and Garth got a call from Frank on Once Around  - "give me ten minutes and we are coming with you"  Great, it is always comforting to have company when you are out in open water. They were ready and we were on the move just before 7 am.

Our first obstacle of the day was a coast guard vessel blocking the exit, just a short wait and he moved. This should have been a sign of what was to come.
Coast Guard blocking our exit
We continued on our way, we had to go out a ways to get past a shoal and it was bumpy. Zeke does not like bumpy, I had newspapers on the floor, he was drooling and you could tell he was ready to throw up..  Once we got around the shoal and changed direction all was good.
This is the life!

We were moving right along, Zeke resting on the couch and Garth and I both reading. I looked up and there they were CRAB POTS ....we were 30 miles off shore and it was a virtual minefield of pots. Now is the time for heavy concentration - maneuvering through the maze and picking your path.
About 3 ish we got into a clear spot and Garth radioed to Frank that he was going to pick up the speed . He throttled up and CABOOM,  A hesitation in the engine and loss of power. Garth pulled back and  ran down to the engine room. No fire, no smoke - always a good sign. The port side transmission pressure gauge dropped to zero, he topped up the oil but it didn't help.  Keep in mind we spent 3 weeks in Iuka, Mississippi having the port side transmission dealt with and the mechanic returned for a day in Burnt Store.
Although it was a relatively calm day when you are just sitting there the boat starts to roll and roll it did! Lamps were flying, chairs falling over, things were flying and falling down the stairs. Zeke was barking at the back door - he wanted out. I yelled at him to get on the couch and he stood there shaking like a leaf as I was grabbing stuff flying around the room and yelling at Garth to see if he was OK.  (picture it - not a pretty site)  After about 15 minutes of this Garth decided that there was no fix possible at the time and we would continue in on one engine.  Off we went .  At the speed we were going it was touch and go on whether we would make Marathon.  We told Frank and Carrie to go ahead - we would stay in radio contact and if worst came to worst there is always Tow Boat US !   Frank said that they had a night vision viewer and if we wanted it they would drop it off -- yea, I am sure we could use that.  Carrie packed up the viewer in a bag and put the bag on the end of a boat hook. Frank brought Once Around up behind us and the hand off was perfection in motion. Garth looked back and saw the anchor from Once Around at the same time Carrie realized the two boats were a little too close - Carrie yelled F R A N K and Garth goosed our one engine. All was well - no incident and we had night vision. At the speed we could go with one engine we knew it would be dark coming into Marathon.
Once Around making tracks for Marathon

Hugging the pillow after all the rocking and rolling was over!

We limped along for what seemed like days but in reality about 5 hours. Still dodging crab pots but now it was even harder because we only had one engine and the maneuverability was challenging.  We finally spotted land and I think we all breathed  a sigh of relief.
Because we did not have any cell service we radioed to Frank and Carrie to organize our arrival. They found out our slip assignment and rallied the troops on the dock -- remember sometimes your the show and sometimes your the audience!
We limped under the seven mile bridge at sunset still dodging crab pots! Stop eating crab!!!
Our first Keys sunset avec crab pots no less!

As we were approaching the Marathon harbor night fell and I was using the night vision viewer looking for markers and crab pots. Unfortunately it works on temperature differential and the crab pots must have been the same temperature as the water cause they did not show up. So, I got our hand held spotlight and used that.  It worked well picking up boats, crab pots and markers. A fishing boat we passed filled with young guys asked me if we were looking for the harbor - I yelled "yes" and they said "over there - follow the green flashing light." I said thanks and told them we only had one engine. The smarty pants in the group yelled back - "so do we! "   About two minutes later they came closer and said what marina are you going to - I said Sombrero and they said , "follow us we'll take you in"  So, we did and it was sooo nice of them to do that. We were still in contact with Frank and Carrie and they had a plan. Carrie was on the bow of their boat with a flashlight, the next boat had on their anchor light and our spot was next to them. Being as we had limited maneuverability we had decided to bow in and that meant that I had all the lines ready for a port tie and all the fenders out. This was less than ideal as it would have made for getting on and off the boat, due to it being a short finger slip, quite difficult. As we arrived Garth saw that there was no current and decided to have one go at backing into the slip which meant that I had to change all the lines and fenders in a flash. I remember seeing someone in a dingy and Frank ready to grab our stern line....other than that it is a bit of a blur. I did find out that the man in the dingy was Fred from Boreas, ready to give us a push if need be. Garth did a great job backing in and here we sit trying to figure out how to get a transmission pump installed in time to get to Key West.

A very special thanks goes out to Frank, Carrie, and Fred for all their help. Also thanks to Roy, the dock master here, for letting us stay until we get mobile because slips at this marina seem to be a hot commodity.
To quote Frank "ISN'T BOATING FUN"

Below is Franks account of the day & night.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On to Marathon

After our abrupt departure from Marco Island, our crossing to Marathon, expected to take around ten hours, was a beautiful ride. It was a sunny day, and we were travelling with the slight wind at our back, so on our fly bridge we were in shorts and tee shirts.  The seas were 2-3 feet, and my First Mate and I were enjoying some Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney tunes to get us in the mood for the Keys.  We had been looking forward to this for months.
Algonquin on the Gulf crossing to Marathon
We weren’t sure just exactly where the heck we were going to stay that night, because we hadn’t planned to go to Marathon at all.  We began trying to reach marinas in Marathon as we left Marco Island, but were soon out of cell range.  Oh well, something would turn up.  If not, we had an ace in the hole.  We had met a generous fellow boater in Fort Myers who it seems has a small house in Marathon with a 50 foot dock in his back yard.  He had drawn a map to it on our charts and told us to use it if all else failed.
About two thirds through the crossing, Algonquin radioed to tell us they were going to kick the speed up to their maximum to blow their engines out for a few minutes.  This is good practice for diesels, so we told them we would do the same.  About two minutes into this, Algonquin slowed and radioed again that they had lost power on their port side completely.  We idled around for about an hour while Garth determined it was actually his transmission.  He had had it repaired twice in the past few months, and it was blown again. 
Garth secured the port shaft and got back under way using only the starboard engine.  He could only manage about seven knots, so he would be getting to Marathon well after dark.  He told us to go on ahead.  We agreed, but first we made a boat hook pass of our night vision camera from Once Around to Algonquin, a move that was more difficult than we expected, but which went off without a hitch.  They were happy to have the night vision aid. 
Once Around scooted on ahead at about fourteen knots, arriving at the seven mile bridge in Marathon about an hour before sunset.  It took another half hour to get into Sombrero Marina where we had finally secured a slip for the night. 
The Seven Mile Bridge across the Keys at Marathon was a welcome sight

The harbor at Marathon was an even a better sight
We passed Tropical Breeze on a mooring on the way in, and Doug was on the radio immediately welcoming us in.  He and Barb had been in Marathon for quite some time, and we hadn’t seen them since Canada or maybe Michigan last summer.  We promised to get together with them before leaving Marathon.
At our slip we were met by Fred and Julaine from Boreas and John and Rita from Brandy IV, who had arrived in Marathon that day as well.  We were beat and hungry, but the day would not be over until Algonquin was safely in port.  We stayed in radio contact as a local fisherman guided them through the winding harbor in the dark.  Garth managed a spectacularly executed back-in to his slip using one engine and his bow thruster which drew applause from the fishermen and those of us on the dock.  Maneuvering a 53’Hatteras backwards on one engine is no small feat!
We all took a deep sigh of relief and headed immediately to the Dockside Bar for much needed cocktails and a late dinner.  I think everyone slept well that night.
Friday morning my First Mate and I decided to try and stay the weekend in Marathon.  Our original reservations in Key West were for Monday anyway, and there were lots of folks here to hang with.  Sombrero Marina said we could stay right where we were for the next few nights, which sounded good to us.  The weather here is high 70’s with about a 5-10 mph breeze.  In other words, it’s perfect.  We’re just going to hang loose for awhile…
On our walk to the market on Sunday, a couple of bikers waved as if they knew us as they passed.  I jokingly said to Carrie, "Friends of yours?"  We figured they had mistaken us for someone else, but as they slowed and turned to come back to us we were really confused.  As the first one pulled up close with a big grin on his face, we recognized Sid from Something Special.  He and his brother-in-law had rented Harleys for the day and were headed to Key West to meet up with Evelyn and her sister.  Sid has a way of showing up at the strangest times, but this one really caught us off guard!
Sid the biker
Saturday evening we met up with Barb and Doug from Tropical Breeze at the local watering hole, the Dockside Bar.  "Dinner" consisted of appetizer plates of conch fritters and nachos, along with several rounds of drinks.  We were joined by the crews fromBoreasBrandy IV and Brown Eyed Girl.  We compared Loop experiences and laughed most of the night away.
left to right:  Carrie, Barb (Tropical Breeze), Julaine & Fred (Boreas) and Doug (Tropical Breeze)

The other end of the table, Craig and Jinny (Brown Eyed Girl) and John (Brandy IV)...and Carrie agian!
Once Around will be moving on to Key West on Monday if the current weather report holds.  We plan to stay there about three weeks.  We are looking forward to two separate sets of great friends from home who plan to join us there during our stay.

Once Around in Marathon, FL

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On the Move to Marathon

Time travelled:     8 hours
 Nautical miles:     75 nm
 Docked at:         Esplanade Marina, Marco Island

Sunrise at Burnt Store

We pretty much had the Gulf of Mexico all to ourselves today!  Smooth seas, a nice breeze and a great looking captain who could ask for anything more.

 Well, I could and would like to ask for some dolphins ...where were they today? A day without dolphins is like a day without sunshine. We saw them off in the distance but they never came to swim along with us. Hopefully tomorrow will be a dolphin day!

We did certainly see our fair share of crab pots today - they where everywhere. Luckily we managed to dodge them all. Sometimes they are in a line and you can follow that line but then sometimes there is no pattern and they are scattered as if the fisherman just threw them overboard. For the life of me I cannot figure out why they come in colors that blend in with the water or sunshine.  Why are they not bright pink or neon green?

Crab pot -easy to see

Crab pot - hard to see especially in bright sunlight

We arrived at Marco Island about three and came through a beautiful canal  lined with stunning homes and mangroves. The water was a little skinny at points but slow and steady got us in here. The dock master greeted us and Garth backed the boat into place.  A rather tight place in my opinion !  Carrie & Frank came by in their dingy and joined us for cocktails.  The four of us went to Mangos for dinner. They had a large selection of all kinds of tasty things on the menu but the lunch menu had this and we just had to get it.

Zeke ordered and devoured the chicken!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting ready to leave Dodge!!

 Docked at:  Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda

A long time ago I wrote that sometimes you are the show and sometimes you are the audience. Well, today we watched a little show. These three older gentlemen came into the marina , went past the fuel dock, past the pump out and right down to the end of the basin. They turned around and left the marina. We thought it was a little strange that such a big boat would just come in for a look see.  Then about fifteen minutes later back they came, pulled up to the fuel dock, filled up and left the marina,  again.  It wouldn't have been that funny except for the name of the boat.  Check it out!


Leaving the marina - THE SECOND TIME!!

I think they forgot why they came in the first time?

Well, it is time to move on down the blue water highway, where does the time go - we are slowly getting ready to leave Burnt Store Marina. We have done some rearranging on the boat, stowing "stuff" below and trying to make better use of space. We did some "spring" cleaning and we even moved the boat. We had the flybridge GPS looked at again and it seems this time the issue has been solved. We just took a spin out into Charlotte Harbour and everything seems to be working fine upstairs. When we came back to the marina we topped up with fuel and got a pump out. We moved the boat closer to the office/restaurant for a change of scenery, to load 30 gallons of oil on for the next two oil changes and to take advantage of the free wifi.

On Saturday we drove up to Sarasota and had lunch with Bob and Jane from "Lady Jane". It was great to see them again as we had not seen them since Cape May, New Jersey. Bob & Jane are an inspiration to all - instead of sitting back and watching time go by they are seizing every opportunity to learn and explore. They have travelled the world and this last year they did the Loop!  When they arrived back in Sarasota their Yacht Club had a big surprise party for them and now three people from their club are going to try the Loop. What's next you two?  I know we will see them again - maybe the Keys this winter or the Bahamas next winter!!!

 Bob & Jane in their hot little car!!

While in Sarasota we got a call from Frank & Carrie on "Once Around" , they were in Fort Myers at the Marriott Resort,Spa & Marina. They had reservations at  Sanibel Marina but because of the weather nobody left - meaning nobody could come in and the dockmaster called Frank to say "we have no room at the inn" for you! He did suggest the Marriott to them which was nice of him but ..... so we drove there picked them up and we all went to Gramma Dots on Sanibel for dinner. it was great to see everyone today!

We have been trying to take advantage of having a car and doing a little bit of provisioning for the Keys and the Bahamas. Zeke is scheduled into the groomers for Tuesday at 8 am and we return the car Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday morning weather permitting we make a break from Burnt Store and are heading to Marco Island.

This is 9.57!!

ZEKE UPDATE:  Blastomycosis Quantitative Antigen EIA Report

On a scale of 0 -14.7 Zekes results came in this week at 9.57. Considering that just two months ago his numbers came back " above the limit of quantification" we are very pleased.  He has gone from a Positive, High to a Positive, Moderate.  It will take several months to get to a zero and even then he has to continue with the medication but for now we are just happy to be on the scale. We can see the clinical improvement daily, he is almost back to being a complete PIA, barking orders at us and running the show!  We've created a monster.

Next post - Marco Island!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chillin and Lovin it!

Still at Burnt Store Marina

Zekes Christmas present from Grama arrived safe & sound - late- but we think the dogs at customs held it up!

Keep your eye on the ball.

Miami skyline in the background!

Gee, time flies - another week has gone by and although we have accomplished some of the "to do" jobs on the boat several remain untouched. The railings are getting another coat of varnish and hopefully this week we will get the hull polished - they forgot to use wax in Mississippi !
We drove over to the east coast this week to see friends and check out marinas for the summer. We had a lovely dinner with Barb and Irwin before they took off on a cruise through the Panama Canal and we put in some quality card playing time with Peggy & Steve. We spent a whole day in Arcadia antique hunting and also went to a fabulous Italian restaurant with Doug & Judy.
In terms of marinas - considering we will be leaving the boat and not living on it the Fort Lauderdale prices are expensive. We did find one that we would consider but are continuing the search. We don't particularly want to go all the way up to Jacksonville so we may look into marinas around Indian Town. That said, now that we have pretty much decided that we will leave the boat in Florida for hurricane season the question becomes what do we do. Just in the last twenty four hours we have searched out whiskey tours of Scotland, cruises to Russia, apartments in Paris , canal boats in Amsterdam , Southern Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. Who knows where we will end up, our priority is to visit family in Ontario first and then go somewhere for the fall.
Leaving here next week so we can get to Marathon in plenty of time to pick up Heather & Stacy from  Fort Lauderdale!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


 Docked at:  Burnt Store Marina, Punta Gorda

For those of you who have been following the Adventures of Algonquin you will recognize this little piece of plastic. The can started it's adventure in Norfolk, Virginia around mid-May 2011. It had been abandoned on the dock and a good samaritan picked it up and placed it on our boat. When we left Norfolk we placed it back on the dock....thinking that this would be the last we saw the little watering can!

The watering can appeared back on our boat while in Oxford, Maryland. The shovels were added at this stop and we then transported it on to Baltimore. Knowing that "Once Around" was coming into that marina within a few days we left it behind. We did not see the little can again until Sid & Evelyn quietly placed it on our boat in Atlantic City. From then we had it all the way to Penatanguishine.  Our surrogates, Pam & Billy from Godspeed helped deliver the Little Can back to Once Around in Killbear, Ontario last July. So, it has been over six months since we have seen the Little Can that could.

We arrived back from our wonderful New Years celebration around two this afternoon. About seven I started to unpack my overnight bag and I yelled up to Garth - OMG   IT'S BACK!! There it was all tucked in to the bottom of the bag. We opened up a bottle of champagne and have been celebrating it's return all evening! I even called the Punta Gorda Herald Tribune but they hung up on me??

So, now everyone is up to date on the Little Watering cans adventure. I do not know how long we will have it with us ........

These last two weeks have just flown by and here are a few snaps of what we have been up to:

Christmas Eve we met Stan and Barbara from "Grogger" at Fisherman's Village in Punta Gorda for cocktails & dinner. Stans shirt says "does this shirt make me look fat?" They were off the next day to Sanibel Island.

Christmas Eve with Stan & Barbara 

Santa managed to find us once again and fill our stockings with all kinds of wonderful necessities. Garth cooked a small turkey and in the afternoon we drove down to Bonita Springs Dog Beach. Zeke had a great time playing in the Gulf.
Decorating in a small space is a challenge. 

Conch Trumpeting: Garth in Burnt Store and Dan in the Exumas - living a parallel life!

It was very cool, Garth was blowing his conch and somewhere within ear shot he was being answered by another conch trumpeter. I read Quest's blog today and there was a picture of Dan -  Conch Trumpeting in the Bahamas at the same time Garth was blowing his conch here!
New Years Day at Doug & Judys

We spent New Years Eve with the crew above - from the left you have Sid & Evelyn, Cupcake & Doug, Carrie & Frank, Garth and Zeke.

A big thanks to Judy & Doug for opening their lovely home for us and another big thanks to Frank and Carrie for  preparing a delicious feast .  Do you share recipes Frank? 
I had picked up a beautiful red velvet cake for dessert and just as we were approaching Port Charlotte Garth had to put the brakes on and Zeke flew off the seat and landed right on the cake. He was in no hurry to get up - I had to take off my seat belt and coax him off the cake. Luckily it was well wrapped so with a little knife action it looked as good as new - well after a bottle of red wine that is.