From Stuart, FL to Ft. Myers, FL by way of the Okeechobee Waterway (February 2 – February 16, 2018)

From Stuart, FL to Ft. Myers, FL by way of the Okeechobee Waterway (February 2 – February 16, 2018)

I love to be warm. There is no getting around it; I think summer should last all year long. Being cold makes me grumpy. I don’t care if it’s hot. Give me sunshine and warmth. I know some people like a change in seasons. Some even love snow. That’s a good thing, because otherwise everyone would want to live in South Florida. But for me, there is nothing better than feeling the warmth of the sun, walking around in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops, and not needing a jacket. Finally we are back in my favorite climate, and I am truly content.

IMG_1430The Falcon Heavy just after take-off.

We left Cocoa Village on February 2nd and traveled to Vero Beach, where we stayed for two days. Early on the morning of February 4th, we started out for Stuart. We picked up a mooring at a marina and remained there for three more days. From our mooring, we were thrilled to be able to view the Falcon Heavy launch on February 6th. There is something about a rocket launch that is a thrill to see every time, and this rocket was truly history in the making.

IMG_1442Love was in the air for these guys.  Further pictures were not for family viewing.IMG_1447A paddler along the St. Lucie RiverIMG_1457Approaching the first lockIMG_2390IMG_2393IMG_2395IMG_1458Scenes along the riverIMG_1468IMG_2397IMG_1478Some of the bass boats in ClewistonIMG_1480This guy just seemed to like to hang out nearby.

The following day we started our western trek across the Okeechobee Waterway.   The Okeechobee Waterway is 154 miles long and connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Our trip started in Stuart where the waterway begins on the St. Lucie River. It was here that I finally started feeling warm again. The vegetation was once again the tropical variety that we grew in our yard in Bradenton. Huge philodendrons snaked their way up tropical palms, trees bloomed in bright reds, purples, and yellows, coconuts hung precariously right below fanning fronds, and royal palms grew wild. Flocks of egrets perched in trees, turtles lined logs fallen in the waters, and, yes, alligators swam in the water or rested on the shores. From my seat on the bow, I felt the contentment I can only find when the sun is on my face and the temperatures are in the 80’s once again.

Soon we navigated two locks which rose AfterMath to the level of Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is the third largest fresh water lake in the United States, only following Lake Michigan and Lake Iliamna in Alaska, and the trip across is long.  Because of its size, we chose to stop overnight along the way in Clewiston at Roland and Mary Martin’s Marina. Shortly before arriving at the marina the view drastically changed. While crossing the huge lake, there was nothing but water to see. Suddenly, as we neared the shore, the scenery is exactly what you would see in the Everglades. Tall grasses, with just narrow pathways for boats are the norm. To get into Roland Martin’s, there is a lock that is sometimes in use and other times open, depending on the level of the lake. This time it was open and we motored right in, accompanied by a parade of bass boats that were heading in to weigh their competition catches; Okeechobee is famous for its bass fishing. Finally, tied up and set for the night, we were able to appreciate this marina in sugar cane country; it is Old Florida at its best. It is a bit hard to describe, but low key would be a good place to start. We had dinner at the tiki bar there and enjoyed looking at the variety of boats that stop by on their way across the state.

IMG_1483Nature at its best.IMG_1490IMG_1491IMG_2409IMG_2415IMG_2427The skies were so amazing.IMG_1493IMG_1498Maybe we will skip that lodge.IMG_1501And, once again, a sunset that begged to be photographed.

The next morning we continued west, through narrow troughs in the sea of grass and onto the Caloosahatchee River. About half way between the lake and Ft. Myers, where the waterway ends, is the small town of LaBelle. LaBelle has town docks for boaters to use for free overnight and we planned to take advantage of the convenience. When we got there, but, after a serious squeeze between two posts, we decided AfterMath was just too big to stay there comfortably. On the other side of the river was a hotel that had a dock for a few boats so we squeezed back out of our tiny spot and moved to the Riverside Motel where we spent a comfortable night.

IMG_1512A bridge tender along the way.IMG_2433This alligator was sunning himself right before the lock pictured below.IMG_2434

IMG_1514IMG_1520There are a total of five locks in the waterway, not counting the one in Clewiston which is sometimes open.

Friday, February 9th, we continued west on the Caloosahatchee and arrived at Ft. Myers Yacht Basin right in the middle of downtown Ft. Myers. Interestingly, the whole time we lived on the west coast of Florida we never spent any time here, and we were anxious to explore the city. John’s brother, Jim, and our sister-in-law, Julie, have a home in Cape Coral, just a few minutes away from our dock, so they came down and we walked into town for dinner.

IMG_2440The dog parade brought all kinds of dogs out.IMG_2443Not all the pets were dogs!IMG_2445IMG_2454IMG_2460IMG_2464

IMG_2469At the Children’s ParadeIMG_2492IMG_2503IMG_2506These dedicated dads pulled the kids shown below.IMG_2508IMG_2517IMG_2518IMG_2527This little guy just walked all by himself down the parade route.IMG_2535Just a few of the beautiful floatsIMG_2542IMG_2551IMG_2556IMG_2577

What a wonderful place Ft. Myers is! There are events happening all of the time. We are just a couple of blocks away from a beautifully renovated downtown and there is so much to do. Streets are commonly shut down for whatever the event of the day happens to be, and Saturday there was a dog parade and animal related vendors, a line of food trucks, and a craft fair for me to explore. It also seems that we arrived at just the right time as an Edison festival is taking place to honor Thomas Edison who kept a winter home here. Sunday brought a children’s light parade, complete with floats and bands from lots of local high schools.

Wednesday was a very long day for us. I had to return to Jacksonville for a follow up visit for my cataract surgery so we rented a car on Tuesday and left early Wednesday morning. First, after the 350-mile ride north, we stopped in at Kelly’s office where Kirby got a check up and his shots. We also picked up some packages that had been sent to Kelly’s house and got to have a short visit with Madison, who was busy doing an inventory on all of the candy and treats she accumulated at school for Valentine’s Day. Next we went to the eye doctor and I’m happy to report that all is well and I am back to 20/20 vision again. We had one more stop to make at Green Cove Springs, which is where we have our mail forwarding service and where several packages waited for us. Finally we drove back to Ft. Myers, completing 700 miles in one day.

IMG_2602Fun times with Debbie and Larry

Thursday we had a huge treat when our friends, Debbie and Larry Gaddy, came to visit. We met Debbie and Larry in Guadeloupe in 2016 then spent our summer with them in Grenada and traveled with them while they were aboard Tropical Blend until we left St. Maarten in February of 2017. Along with Scott and Noi, of the sailing vessel Symbiosis, we had many wonderful days and countless laughs and good times. Debbie and Larry have since sold their boat and are getting ready to move to their new home in Antigua, but have been traveling around the states for the last eight months. We were so happy they could come to Ft. Myers this week. We relived experiences, got caught up on news, and just had a wonderful time together. As always, it ended too soon, but we will be sure to see them in the future.

IMG_2606That’s Jim, Julie, Joan, and Al

While we are in Ft. Myers, John is busy striping, sanding, and refinishing AfterMath’s outdoor teak. I have been doing some deep cleaning and some sewing, some walking around town, and, of course, provisioning. Last night, Friday the 16th, John’s brother, Jim, kindly picked us up and brought us to his house for a delicious seafood lasagna dinner made by Julie. Also there were our good friends and Julie’s brother, Alan, and his wife Joan. Back in Connecticut when we were sailors aboard our 30-foot Hunter, Solitude, you would have found us and our children in Port Jefferson, NY or anywhere else around Long Island Sound almost every summer weekend with Joan and Al and their two girls on their sailboat. Joan and Al took off on a 6-year voyage throughout the Caribbean and South America about 14 years ago, so it was great fun to see them and compare adventures.

IMG_2628What good would a parade during an Edison Light Festival be without a lightbulb?IMG_2638IMG_2657IMG_2665IMG_2678The Bavarians seemed to be having a great time!IMG_2692

Tonight was the Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade. This afternoon I added our chairs to those that lined the streets and tonight we attended the longest parade we had ever seen.  For almost two hours we watched bands play, motor cycle police show their skills, floats pass by, fire engines galore, and lots of general silliness from bicycle riders and those always lovable Shriners.  Before the parade ended the sky was lit by a beautiful fireworks show.  All in all, it was a great night in Ft. Myers.

We will remain in Ft. Myers until the teak is finished; I’m guessing another week or so and then start heading north along the west coast of Florida on our way to Kentucky for the summer. It’s wonderful to be back in the warmth and beauty here. It has been so nice to be near Jim and Julie again too. As always, we never really know where we will be and when, but we love seeing friends and relatives whenever we can. We are looking forward to visiting with those in the Sarasota and Bradenton area very soon and once again to be able to go to those amazing beaches that populate the coast just north of here. To all of you, we send our wishes for your good health.  May your days filled with sunshine and warm breezes, and, most of all,  may you too have the ability to live your dreams.

From Jacksonville to Cocoa, FL (January 20, 2018 to February 1, 2018)

From Jacksonville to Cocoa, FL (January 20, 2018 to February 1, 2018)

Webster defines a vagabond as a “person who wanders from place to place without a fixed home”. That seems like a pretty good definition for the two of us, although maybe we are more like a turtle; we travel slowly taking our home with us wherever we go. Regardless of the terminology, we know our mission at this point of our lives is to move about, and after being in Jacksonville for almost two months, it was time for us to venture out again.

IMG_2351Carter enjoying a little down time on the iPad before dinner and watching a movie.IMG_2352

Leaving Jacksonville is always a little harder than you might think. First of all, and most importantly, it means saying, “see you later” to Kelly and her family; somehow that never gets easier. Also, no matter how hard we try, departing from Lamb’s Yacht Center never seems to go quite as smoothly as we would wish. Our plan was to borrow Carter for the night of January 20th, and to leave Lamb’s on Saturday with him, traveling a couple of hours down the St. John’s River before starting back onto the ICW and heading south the following day. Plans are nothing if not flexible, however, when boating in concerned. Workers that were supposed to show up on Thursday did not arrive on schedule due to the weather, which meant we weren’t ready to leave on Friday. We still borrowed Carter, though, and he, and we, had a great time together on his first ever all alone sleepover away from home.

IMG_2353The St. John’s River is colorful and diverse.  Here are cranes that unload containers from cargo ships.IMG_1298Pelicans are just such funny birds.  They are lined up watching us as if to ask what we are doing on their property.IMG_1307Just a little way down the river from the cruise ships and the cargo ships, this gentleman was throwing out crab pots.  He was joined by this pelican who took off from the bow of the boat when he found there were no snacks aboard.IMG_1309Arriving in St. Augustine.IMG_1315The beautiful light display in St. Augustine lasts from November 18th to January 31st.  We were so happy we decided to stay on the north side of the Bridge of Lions so we could enjoy the view at night.IMG_1319IMG_1324I love shrimp boats.  These two headed out the morning after we arrived in St. Augustine.

Monday arrived, and we expected to start out, but unfortunately, when John checked the engine room, he found one more item that needed to be attended to before we left. That maintenance taken care of, we started out Wednesday afternoon for the short trip to the marina at the Jacksonville Sports Complex. Once again, though, after being underway for only a few minutes, John entered the engine room and this time found that the shaft to one of the engines was out of alignment. Back to Lamb’s again! Finally we made a successful departure from the Yacht Center on January 26, and we were on our way. We spent the night at the downtown marina, then, the next day completed an easy and flawless trip to St. Augustine, where we spent two nights on a mooring right next to the beautiful downtown, still lit with countless lights for the holiday season.

IMG_2354Passing through the Bridge of Lions before sunrise was a beautiful sight.IMG_2359IMG_1325White pelicans congregating on a tiny island.IMG_1332Entering the marina at Daytona Beach we spotted these workers tearing down a bridge.  I just liked the lines and colors in these shots.IMG_1334

We left St. Augustine before sunrise Monday, January 29th, and traveled to Daytona Beach. While I really don’t like to be cold, I really do prefer to sit on the bow as we move along, and the days were just cold enough that I needed to be wrapped up in a fleece and a jacket. Still, with my cup of coffee to keep me warm, I braved the non-Florida-like temperatures and stayed outside most of the way.

IMG_1336Our view of the wrath of Hurricane Irma has been only along the coastline, of course.  Here, on this stretch of the ICW, there was no doubt that Irma had passed by.IMG_1337IMG_1339These birds seem pretty happy with the situation.  I’m sure the homeowner is not!IMG_1340IMG_1341I’m guessing this boat isn’t getting much use these days.  It would be tough to get to it!IMG_1342IMG_1343You would have to swim to sit on this pretty dock.  IMG_1345Warning!  Do not walk this dock after happy hour!IMG_1354A successful launch of Falcon 9.  Next week is Falcon Heavy.  I wish we could have stayed to see it blast into the sky too.IMG_1359IMG_1364IMG_1370IMG_1384IMG_1387IMG_1392The bridge in Titusville is beautiful at night.IMG_1402The Super Blue Moon lit up the anchorage last night.IMG_1412

We were excited for Tuesday’s trip, as we were moving to Titusville, near the Kennedy Space Center, and a rocket launch was planned for the late afternoon. The ride to Titusville was cold and windy, and when we arrived at the mooring field where we had expected to stay, the seas were a little too rough for my liking. We quickly called the marina there and they thankfully had room for us to get a dock. Before long, we found that the launch had been scrubbed for mechanical reasons and was postponed until the next day. We decided to spend an extra night in Titusville to watch the launch, and we were rewarded with a great view under beautiful blue skies. To top it off, that big beautiful full moon lit our view of the water at night.

IMG_2373Cocoa Village, Fl.  Finally warm weather again!IMG_2374IMG_2376IMG_2377IMG_2380John loves to check out the hardware stores in towns.  This one had the biggest wrenches I have ever seen!

 

This morning, February 1st, we pulled out of the Titusville Marina and traveled just a few hours in finally warm 73-degree temperature to the Cocoa Village Marina in Cocoa, Florida. Cocoa Village is a pretty, historic place that is just across the street from the marina. There are shops and restaurants up and down the streets, and today we enjoyed a lovely lunch outside on the water, basking in the warmth and the beauty of the rooftop restaurant. Afterwards we enjoyed a nice walk through the village and checked out some of the shops along the way.

We will continue tomorrow on our way southward. The temperatures finally seem to be stabilizing in the 70’s during the day, and we will be able to shed our jackets, don our flip-flops, and apply our sunscreen once again. Kirby will continue his ceaseless dolphin watch as we motor along, and he will be rewarded with innumerable sightings. Our vagabond life will continue once more as AfterMath travels at the speed of a riding lawn mower through the state of Florida. And, yes, we are living our dream.

Holiday Time with the Family (December 2, 2017 to January 18, 2018)

Holiday Time with the Family (December 2, 2017 to January 18, 2018)

When you think of the holidays, what do you imagine? We think of Christmas trees and decorations, shopping, wrapping gifts, children singing, pageants, Santa, snow (well, maybe we don’t hope for snow, but it is pretty traditional), and New Years Eve, but especially, above all, family. Our holidays were all of these and so much more. This was a year of joy and happiness; it was wonderful to be able to spend time with those we love so much.

IMG_1736Jacksonville Landing, FLIMG_1739

We left Cumberland Island on December 1st and motored to Jacksonville. Our first night was spent at the Sports Complex there, and the following day we completed our journey up the St. John’s River, and then the Ortega River to Lambs Yacht Center. Lambs has been our marina of choice for the past three years, as, while we are out having fun with the family, they are busily performing AfterMath’s annual maintenance.

IMG_1744At the Nutcracker Ballet TeaIMG_1747IMG_1752That’s Madison in yellowIMG_1760Michaela with some dancers
IMG_1770

First on the agenda was a Nutcracker Ballet Tea for Kelly, Michaela, Madison and me. Before the show began, tea sandwiches and pastries were served, along with hot chocolate with all of the fixings, and, of course, tea. After lunch we all enjoyed watching the dancers perform in their beautiful costumes, and the girls loved getting to meet and greet the cast when the show was over.

IMG_1775Rich and Kathy live next to this cemetery on Amelia Island that is for only descendants of slaves.  He had never been in it and it is locked so he and I climbed over the fence and went in to check it out.  Surprisingly, most of the graves were fairly recent as seen on the stone below.IMG_1776Soon it was time for AfterMath to be hauled, so John and I moved in to Kelly and Craig’s house for about a week and a half. We took a couple of nights during that time and went to visit Rich, John’s brother, and Kathy in their home on Amelia Island.IMG_1777Michaela was the most colorful elf in the show!IMG_1792Madison had the most important line in the show, “Mary had a baby boy.”IMG_1800Michaela loves to ride JazzIMG_1817I love to see Kelly ride.  It brings me back a lot of years to when she was a young girl taking lessons.IMG_1825And then there is Madison, who loves being on the back of that horse.IMG_1840Carter seemed to prefer the golf cart with his animal buddies nearby.IMG_1845Maddie just makes me smileIMG_1849The concert at Jacksonville LandingIMG_1859I love hearing children sing.IMG_1864When music plays, Madison dances.IMG_1869-EditIMG_1879That’s my Michaela in the back with glassesIMG_1882IMG_1885Now at the Jacksonville AirportIMG_1893IMG_1901Some of the many trees in Jacksonville Airport

After we returned to Jacksonville it was time to start watching those precious children’s Christmas shows. First came Michaela’s show at school, then Madison’s Pre-Kindergarten pageant, then two more for Michaela: one at Jacksonville Landing and one at the Jacksonville Airport. In between all of the Christmas shows there was time for a day of horseback riding lessons as well.

IMG_1904Maybe Santa comes in an Air Sleigh in FloridaIMG_1905IMG_1915IMG_1919IMG_1938IMG_1941IMG_1944Looks like Santa came.IMG_1950Christmas Day fun.IMG_1954IMG_1957Jason and Jace, all dressed up.

School let out for the holidays, so Kelly, the kids, and I made a trip to the always fun Jacksonville Zoo to help speed up the time left before Christmas Day. Finally, though, the big day came and everyone was thrilled with all of the new things Santa brought in his sleigh. Also on Christmas Day, Jason and Lisa arrived, bringing the adorable little Jace with them. Jace, who we FINALLY got to meet at 7 months old, is the son of Lisa’s daughter, Ashley, and he is now a new and wonderful part of our family.

IMG_1959Jace and Kirby after a very long day.IMG_1978Meet the precious new addition to our family, Jace.IMG_1982IMG_2033IMG_2063Santa may have left a reindeer for us to treasure.

After a long and perfect day at Kelly and Craig’s house, Jason, Lisa, and Jace followed us back to AfterMath to spend the night aboard. It was especially nice to have them around, as the day after Christmas is Jason’s birthday. We all relaxed over breakfast, watching Jace play happily. In fact, he is such a happy little baby and never seemed to cry about anything at all, except maybe when John took a dog bone away from him! Later, we had a great dinner, then took Jace to the park for a photo shoot before they had to head back to New Port Richey.

IMG_2222Scott an Noi with Kirby

The holidays were far from over for us though, as, on December 27th, we started out on a road trip to Annapolis to visit Jeff, Sarah, Walter, Rush and Ford. Before arriving at their house, though, we made a stop at our boating buddies, Scott and Noi’s, house in a neighborhood near to Jeff. Rather than board our canine crew, and rather than take him to Jeff and Sarah’s (Sarah and Walt are allergic to most dogs), we took Scott and Noi up on a year old offer to take care of Kirby whenever we went away. It may not have been the Caribbean anymore, but Kirby was just as excited to see them as ever. Hearing Noi yell, “Kirby”, in her Taiwanese accent was a joy to all of our ears. We were happy that they could join us for dinner on Friday night at Jeff and Sarah’s. I’m sure both couples felt as though they knew each other from hearing so much from us about the others.

IMG_2101Making a whirlpool at the Science Museum in BaltimoreIMG_2107And now, making energy.IMG_2121The obligatory gingerbread village.IMG_2128Beautiful Baby Ford playing in the baby room at the museum

It was Christmas all over again with Jeff’s family, and we took great joy in seeing all of them, of course. On the 28th we all loaded into their Land Cruiser and headed to the Science Museum in Baltimore for fun at the displays and a trip to the IMAX Theater. John and I had never been to that museum and I believe we had as much fun as the boys did checking out all of the different rooms and experiments.

IMG_2130Holding rocks that are 4 billon years old.IMG_2134Walt and the Discovery Space Shuttle.IMG_2143IMG_2150IMG_2153Rush seemed to like this little plane that really flies.IMG_2155IMG_2162The Concord.  I would have liked to have flown on that!IMG_2173Jeff, Rush, and Ford checking out the Coast Guard exhibit.IMG_2176For those of us who have known and loved John, this is a typical picture of him showing us something we are all interested in.  Here, Walt seems to be loving what his Bop has to say.IMG_2178Ford is just happy to be alive no matter where he is.IMG_2180The last view of the Discovery.  It’s really beautiful

It snowed a bit one night while we were in Annapolis, but not enough to stop our next museum trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space at Dulles Airport. John and I had asked Jeff if we could take Walt and the others to the Air and Space Museum while we were in DC, as Walt loves all things that fly, and Jeff suggested the Stephen H. Udvar-Hazy Museum, a second location of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum . It turned out to be absolutely amazing. Walt is fascinated by the space shuttle, and here, right in front of him, was the Discovery. He was so happy to see it and continuously asked for me to take pictures of the amazing space ship. The whole day was a complete success for everyone, and one we will long remember.

IMG_2193Baby Ford, such a wonderful little guyIMG_2211Jeff and Rush enjoy those cuddlesIMG_2215Walt, controlling a flying car.IMG_2225John and Walt using Walt’s new lathe and my dad’s chisels, which are stored in the box he made for them.IMG_2229OK, I admit it, I’m a sucker for those little handsIMG_2246Rush, you are never sure what he might say next.IMG_2249Sarah and Ford.  Love at its best.

We stayed in Annapolis until January 1st, with Jeff and me the only ones who made it through New Years without a nap. Sarah had to work all day on New Years Eve, so she was excused, and John had to drive all the way back to Jacksonville the next day, so he was excused too. Nevertheless, the New Year came, and it was wonderful to spend it with our family.

IMG_2253Carter and Michaela shared my gloves (which I happened to have along because we went to Canada).  Kids in Florida don’t have gloves!IMG_2255To those of us who grew up in New England, this snow is nothing.  To Florida kids it is the world!IMG_2256IMG_2258IMG_2260IMG_2265And off to Savannah the next day!IMG_2275IMG_2277You just can’t talk Florida kids out of flip flops.  That’s Michaela, by the way.

They really wanted to make snow angels.  They must have seen this somewhere!IMG_2323IMG_2327IMG_2334IMG_2336How could you not love this Savannah gentleman who offered to take our picture?IMG_2338IMG_2341IMG_2348Beautiful Savannah in the snowIMG_2350

The drive back to Jacksonville was easier than the drive north, but we returned to cold weather here, just as we found in Annapolis. We really need to go where it is warm, and we are constantly reminded of Jimmy Buffett singing the same thought! However, the excitement here was that it snowed in Florida and Kelly’s kids were thrilled over that idea. It did not snow in Jacksonville, but it snowed in Georgia, which isn’t too far away, so John asked if we could take the little ones in search of the white stuff. We picked them up on January 4th, and started out on a path west of Brunswick, GA, where there it was. SNOW. Michaela had been in snow when she was 9 months old, but, of course, did not remember it, and Carter and Madison had never experienced it at all. They kept yelling, “SNOW” every time they saw a white patch. They were thrilled if more was on their side of the car than on the other. Although the best snow we found that day to play in was under a tree in a cemetery (no graves where the tree was), it was enough to give the kids more pleasure than we could have imagined. In fact, it was so much fun, that they begged Kelly to take them again the next day to find more. Kelly, always the amazing mom, agreed, and she picked me up so I could join the fun on a trip to Savannah, GA, about two hours away. There was enough snow in Savannah, to make everyone happy, and I believe the children will remember both days for the rest of their lives.

So, our holidays were perfect in so many ways. We saw every family member, we laughed, we played, we reveled in the company of those we love. It was the perfect season; full of blessing for all for sure. The following couple of weeks have been good too. I’ve gotten to see the kids and Kelly, I’ve had two successful cataract surgeries, and AfterMath is provisioned and just about ready to go; just a polish job left before we take off.

We hope you all have had as wonderful a holiday season as we did, and we wish you all the Happiest of New Years. Just remember to take time to hug your family, kiss those babies, and live your dream.

Cumberland Island, Georgia (November 28th – December 1, 2017)

Cumberland Island, Georgia (November 28th – December 1, 2017)

Another goal achieved! Every time we have passed by Cumberland Island National Seashore on our way up and down the ICW, we have wanted to stop, but it just never worked out. This year’s visit had been planned for a long time, but then those crazy hurricanes appeared and, once again, our trip to the barrier island was no longer a sure thing. In early September, Hurricane Irma forced a complete evacuation of Cumberland’s campers and sparse residents, and the damage incurred during the storm kept it closed until November 11th. Luckily, we had spent enough time in the surrounding area that we were able to delay our arrival until after Thanksgiving, and we were so happy to finally be able to anchor and spend a few days at this beautiful park.

IMG_1640It is always fun for Kirby to be on the beach.  He loves those waves!IMG_1643IMG_1654The paths in the park are just beautiful.IMG_1658There is a 4.2 mile loop around the park.  It passes through forests, beaches, abandoned homes, the Dungeness mansion, a museum, and many historical sights.  At various stops, you can dial your phone for an audio explanation of the history of the spot where you are standing.  IMG_1662IMG_1673The remains of the Dungeness castle.IMG_1678IMG_1688A boardwalk through the marsh.IMG_1693IMG_1690

Cumberland Island is rich in history. The first inhabitants, Native Americans, lived on the island about 4000 years ago. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Spanish built missions there. By 1683, French pirates attacked Cumberland and looted and burned most of the buildings and villages. In 1733 the English arrived and built forts and a hunting lodge called Dungeness. After the Revolutionary War, the island became home for a huge mansion and cotton plantations. Later, it became home for the elite. Andrew Carnegie began a new 59-room castle named Dungeness after the first hunting lodge, but he died before its completion. His wife and children lived there until the Crash and the Great Depression when it was abandoned. Burned in 1959, the remains of the mansion are on view for today’s visitors. The park officially became a National Seashore in 1972. It is now only reached by boat or by a ferry from St. Mary’s, GA. The ferry transports day-trippers as well as campers, who must bring everything they need with them and take everything they brought out. There are not even any garbage cans in the park.

IMG_1655Our first view of one of the feral horses.IMG_1703We sat and ate lunch on a due right next to these two.  They were not the least bit affected by our presence.IMG_1709This guy seemed to really like John.IMG_1712They were so beautiful as they made their way to the ocean.IMG_1721IMG_1727

Of course, Cumberland’s most famous residents are its feral horses. These horses roam the island freely, and can be seen almost anywhere. We saw our first horse by the dinghy dock near the ranger station. We saw others in lawns, on the beach, and in the distance in a marsh. They are beautiful, but wild. While our walk along the beach brought us closer to them, we didn’t purposely approach them. One horse, however, seemed to take a liking to John and went right up to him. Still, we did not touch them. Later we saw them walk down to the water, where one decided to lie down and roll around in the waves. They are truly a beautiful sight.

Cumberland Island was all we hoped it would be. It is a spectacular destination that should not be missed by anyone, especially if traveling down the east coast of the U.S.

After a few days in Cumberland Island’s anchorage, it was time to prepare for our next destination, Jacksonville, where AfterMath would remain for the holidays and her annual maintenance. Updates on our holidays will be coming soon!

Charleston to Jekyll Island, Georgia (November 8 – November 27, 2017)

Charleston to Jekyll Island, Georgia (November 8 – November 27, 2017)

Time is a funny thing. It can speed past, and it can drag on. A month can pass in minutes, but a minute can last hours. Where you are, whom you are with, and what you are doing determines how you feel about time. Aboard AfterMath, time mostly speeds by in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday that we were writing about the Isle of Palms, but it was well over a month ago now. Time just got away from us; Thanksgiving has come and gone and we have yet to describe what a wonderful holiday we had this year. So, before more time passes, here are the details of how we spent the second half of November 2017.

IMG_1141From the hotel, a view of the pool areas

IMG_1133

On November 8th, we took the short trip from Isle of Palms, SC to Charleston. We docked at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina where John was excited to be right near Patriots Point, a naval and maritime museum that is home to the aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, a destroyer, the USS Laffey, and a submarine, the USS Clamagore. While I was also happy to be so close to a history museum, I was really thrilled to be at a resort that offered pools and a hot tub along with a lovely lobby and porch overlooking the marsh and water.

IMG_1065USS ClamagoreIMG_1076

IMG_1082USS YorktownIMG_1089IMG_1092IMG_1097IMG_1104IMG_1107IMG_1109IMG_1113IMG_1122John coming out of the Apollo 8 space capsuleIMG_1131USS Laffey (right) and USS Yorktown (left)

Our first full day in Charleston, November 9th, was dreary and rainy, so we decided it would be a good day to spend at the museum. First we toured the USS Clamagore and were in awe that 70 people lived in this little tube that stayed under the surface of the water. Commissioned in 1945 and retired in 1975, the submarine served in the Cold War. We felt lucky to be able to see the sub, which is scheduled to be sunk and made into an artificial reef in 2018. Next we climbed aboard the USS Yorktown, and from the time we stepped aboard till the time we got off we continued to climb, and climb, and climb. There are countless ladders and steep stairways on this ship, but I found it interesting, and, not surprisingly, John found it fascinating. The USS Yorktown was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the US Navy. It was commissioned in 1943 and retired in 1970. It participated in World War II, in the Vietnam War, and was the recovery ship for the Apollo 8 capsule. Finally we boarded the USS Laffey, the most decorated World War II destroyer in existence.

IMG_1043Lovely historic houses and scenes around CharlestonIMG_1045IMG_1050IMG_1064IMG_1065IMG_1073IMG_1078

IMG_1110Back at the marina, our view of the ships.IMG_1123IMG_1135Charleston at sunset from AfterMath

The next day, we took the shuttle from the resort into the historic district in Charleston. There we followed our tradition of taking a guided tour around town to catch up on the history of the area and places we wanted to visit. After the tour and lunch, we set off on foot and spent a few hours exploring the beautiful buildings and scenes for which Charleston is so famous.

IMG_1143IMG_1144Off to “Smoke on the Harbor”IMG_1150

Friday night and Saturday brought a barbeque competition, Smoke on the Harbor, to the resort. After enjoying our time at Smoke on the Water in Washington, NC so much, we didn’t want to miss this event, so we remained at the marina for another night. Here, Friday night was the chicken wing competition, and Saturday competitors cooked chicken, beef brisket, and pork. We had a wonderful time sampling all of the foods and seeing the vendors. It was different than our experience in Washington, and no whole pigs were cooked this time, but it was a great way to spend a weekend.

IMG_1219Leaving Charleston by boatIMG_1158IMG_1162

Finally, on November 12th, it was time to leave Charleston and head south. We anchored in Watts Creek for the night and then traveled to Beaufort, SC for a couple of nights before going to Windmill Harbor Marina in Hilton Head on the 16th. Windmill Harbor is an interesting marina because it is completely contained in a neighborhood of lovely homes, which somehow reminded me of our home in the Inlets in Bradenton, FL. To enter, boaters pass through a lock, and then dock just a few feet away from one of the houses in the development.

IMG_1237I have always loved the shrimp boats and the birds that flock around them

The next few nights were spent at anchor in Vernon, GA and near Cumberland Island, GA, but finally on the 20th we arrived in St. Mary’s, GA, for a stay that was on John’s bucket list for a long time. St. Mary’s is a lovely little town that is known for its hospitality, especially at Thanksgiving. Seventeen years ago, a group of sailors was stranded at St. Mary’s on Thanksgiving due to weather. The people of the town asked a local restaurant that was to be closed for the holiday if they could use the kitchen to serve the sailors dinner. Turkey and ham were provided, and the sailors all brought something to share with the others. That day a tradition was born, and every year attendance grew until often there a few hundred boaters at dinner. Now, happy hours occur all week long, and an oyster roast takes place on the night before Thanksgiving. This year, however, hurricane Irma happened. Irma wiped out all of the docks and all of the boats at St. Mary’s and it looked like the annual dinner would have to be cancelled. Somehow, though, the town pulled together and made it all happen.

IMG_1199St. Mary’s, GAIMG_1200IMG_1213IMG_1208IMG_1177IMG_1182IMG_1184IMG_1192IMG_1221Thanksgiving Day started with rain, but these gentlemen still visited each boat in St. Mary’s anchorage and delivered Bloody MarysIMG_1242Fun with the family!IMG_1244This gentleman was in the spirit!IMG_1245Carter scored big with a drumstick!IMG_1246IMG_1253IMG_1259Check out the clock. It does not tell time, but it tells tides!

Because we were so close to Jacksonville, FL at this point, and wanted to spend Thanksgiving with Kelly, Craig, and family, I checked with the coordinator of the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Dinner and asked if it would be ok to have our family join us. The response was immediate and positive. Our daughter and family were more than welcome. Each set of participants was asked to bring a dish to serve 8 – 10 people for each two guests in the group, and everyone was encouraged to bring dessert if they could. Kelly and the family arrived armed with green bean casserole, squash casserole, and a huge apple pie, while John and I brought mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, and a pumpkin pie. Everyone gathered at the restaurant for a 1 o’clock dinner and, as you can imagine, there was more food than anyone could possibly eat. It was a wonderful holiday, full of new friends, family, and great food.

IMG_1262Kirby and Michaela are best of buddies.IMG_1268For some reason, these birds started following us.  Michaela and I had a great time feeding and filming them.  Kirby had fun too.IMG_1285

We were especially lucky this year, because after our huge feast, and when Kelly, Craig, Carter, and Madison left to go home, we were able to keep Michaela with us on AfterMath. It was so much fun to have her aboard, and the following day we took her with us to our next destination, where we met Kelly and the other two children for a weekend of fun at Jekyll Island.

While Jekyll Island is north of St. Mary’s, we decided it would be a fun place to go with the children. Craig was working, but Kelly could drive there with Carter and Madison, we would then have a car to get around, and, although we didn’t have plans at first, we knew there would be a lot for everyone to do. Soon Kelly discovered that a very special festival was taking place in town. Hurricane Irma had caused problems on the island, just as she had in St. Mary’s, and the annual Shrimp and Grits festival had been cancelled. As this is a big event for Jekyll Island, the cancellation was a disappointment for everyone who lives there. However, someone came up with the bright idea to, just this year, combine the Shrimp and Grits festival with the Christmas festival and to have a “Merry Shrimpmas” weekend. So, our weekend turned into a busy one!

IMG_1287At Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GAIMG_1295IMG_1304IMG_1321IMG_1328On the way back we stopped to check out the lights.

On Friday, after everyone arrived, we took a ride to the eerie and beautiful Driftwood Beach. Here, huge trees lie on the beach, all worn by the sea and just inviting children and adults to climb on them. Puddles abound, forming reflecting mirrors in the sand, and tremendous root systems lie exposed looking like lace in the air. And, luckily, we were there to experience the golden light of sunset lighting the trees in a magical way while three of my treasured grandchildren posed happily for me. It was a photographer’s dream come true, and a Nana’s too.

IMG_1350Sledding Georgia style.IMG_1365IMG_1372IMG_1442IMG_1477IMG_1382IMG_1488Madison writing to SantaIMG_1508IMG_1513IMG_1523

The next morning we all took off on a walk to the Merry Shrimpmas festival. As soon as we arrived we found the carousel and the snow hill for sliding. Madison took off for the hill as only a brave and confidant four year old can. She walked right up, took a saucer, climbed the hill, and slid right down. After that she preferred the carousel. Carter and Michaela tried too, but only Michaela really loved the experience. Soon she had John and flip-flopped Kelly sliding down along with her. After living most of our lives in Connecticut, this was a strange event, but one everyone will long remember.  The rest of the festival was a joy. Santa was there, of course, and Madison wrote him a letter, everyone got their faces painted, bands played, vendors were visited, a dog Frisbee demonstration was attended and, of course, lunch was eaten! John and I had to have shrimp and grits, but the others feasted on pizza or hot dogs.IMG_1579

When everyone was sure they had seen everything they needed to see at the festival, we made our way to the turtle rescue center nearby. We watched the turtles being fed and listened to the program before wearily walking back to AfterMath. The plan had been to return to the festival for the tree lighting ceremony and the fireworks, but everyone was dragging and chose to just watch the fireworks from the bow of the boat that night.

So, our time flew by. We loved being together with our family again. We hadn’t seen them since July and we treasured every minute. It was easier to say goodbye when they left on Sunday because we were so very close to Florida, and particularly to Jacksonville where they live. John and I were to set out on our own again for a few days, but knowing we would be nearby was a great feeling.

How lucky we are to live this life. We know we are privileged to be able to do so. Who knows what is to come in our future, but we know we will always be happy that we have lived this adventure. We love spending time with our family and friends, we love traveling, we love being spontaneous, and we love taking our time when we feel like it. It’s a bit of a dream world for us, and we have learned to live our dream well. So for now, time is flying, and all is well with us.

 

On the Move on the ICW, but as always, there is Time for Friends (October 22nd to November 7th, 2017)

On the Move on the ICW, but as always, there is Time for Friends (October 22nd to November 7th, 2017)

The ICW is like an old friend now. We know the stops we love, we remember landmarks, we wait for favorite sights, and, especially, we look forward to our stop in Southport, NC, where we know we will find our dear friends, Vera, Rolf, and Jan. This trip along the ICW is also affording us time to stop and leisurely visit new places, a luxury we have never had before. The familiar places never fail to please us, and the new ones are found treasures. Still, nothing is better than having time to be with those people we have known for many, many years; those with whom we have shared so much of our life and who mean so much to us.

IMG_0845Sunrise at Bear Creek

We left Washington, NC on Sunday, October 22nd and traveled to a nice anchorage on Bear Creek. From there we moved on to Deaton Yacht Service in Oriental, NC where we had an electrical issue taken care of. The marina had a courtesy car so I could do a quick trip to the grocery store. It wasn’t our usual trip to Oriental, a town we really usually enjoy, but it all worked out well and AfterMath was ready to take on the next leg of the journey.

IMG_0852Every town seems to have its mascot these days.  New Bern’s mascot is a bear.  You can find bears all over town.IMG_0854IMG_0936IMG_0870IMG_0896The archway over the entrance to New Bern’s Confederate CemeteryIMG_0904IMG_0902These tables were placed in the cemetery near graves so that families could go and have a picnic near their loved ones.IMG_0901Check out the age this person was when he died.  His gravestone says he was 156 years old.IMG_0861The original counter at the drug store where Pepsi was invented.  You can still buy a cold drink there.IMG_0877Mitchell’s Hardware is an amazing place.  They claim that if they don’t have it, you don’t need it!IMG_0871It’s hard to know where to look first in the hardware store.IMG_0873IMG_0875That’s John at the end of the aisle full of screws, nuts, bolts, and who knows what else.IMG_0909Tryon Palace, New Bern, NCIMG_0938City hall in New BernIMG_0934IMG_0925The Episcopal church in New Bern has the most amazing hand painted windows.  Apparently they could not afford stained glass when the church was built so they had these windows painted.  IMG_0926IMG_0933

Our next stop was New Bern, NC. New Bern is a city of about 26,000 and was settled by Swiss and German immigrants in 1710. Named after Bern, Switzerland, it was the first capital of North Carolina. During the Civil War, Union forces captured and occupied the town and more than 10,000 slaves escaped and joined the Union Army. Today there are separate cemeteries for Union and Confederate soldiers in New Bern. Because New Bern was occupied by the Union, most of the historic buildings were saved, and the old churches and historic sites remain as they did many years ago. In 1898 a pharmacist named Caleb Bradham brought fame to New Bern when he created “Brad’s Drink”, a concoction now known as Pepsi Cola. The original site of the pharmacy is now a museum and gift shop for all things Pepsi. We were told, on a tour of the city, that Pepsi still holds corporate meetings there every year. More recently, New Bern has shown up in many novels written by Nicolas Sparks. I have been enjoying reading or re-reading some of his novels, now knowing exactly the place he was describing.

IMG_0939A collection of old outboard engines at the Ruddy Duck Grille, Morehead City, NC

On October 27th, we moved on to Morehead City. We stayed a few days there as the ICW was closed in the military base of Camp Lejeune due to training activities. This worked out well for us, as we also needed to wait out the unsettled seas that Tropical Storm Philippe was causing. Morehead City’s marina was comfortable and the people who worked there were very nice. There was a great captain’s lounge where I was able to watch the Gators loose in a terrible game against Georgia. Oh well.

IMG_9996Target practice has done quite the job on these military vehicles.  I have taken pictures of these every trip on the ICW, but I’m always just fascinated by them and can’t stop!IMG_9993IMG_0005IMG_0010This one looks a little less destroyed.  Maybe it’s newer?IMG_0014The sparkling waters as the sun begins to set at Camp LejeuneIMG_0018

Finally on Halloween, the ICW was open again, the storm had passed, and we were able to travel to one of our favorite anchorages in Camp Lejeune. It’s fun to pass the tanks and vehicles that are now used for target practice; they look more like grey lace than metal. Usually there are lots of aircraft flying around the anchorage day and, sometimes, night, but this time it was very quiet, except for one friendly boater who put her dinghy in the water and came around making deliveries of candy and yelling, “Trick or Treat”, although she gave the treats!

IMG_0945Sometimes it’s hard to get up early and get traveling, but the lighting shortly after sunrise is so worth it.IMG_0946IMG_0950IMG_0954IMG_0967IMG_0969Another picture I take every time we pass it.  This plastic palm tree, parking meter, and flag on this sandbar are just too funny to pass up.IMG_0041Welcome aboard, Coasties!

November 1st brought us to a lovely anchorage in Carolina Beach, and finally on Thursday, the 2nd, we arrived in Southport, NC. Before arriving, though, we were boarded by the Coast Guard for a safety check. The young men who came aboard were professional and courteous and were really a joy to have aboard. We always enjoy meeting the Coasties, and they are always interested in hearing about our sons, Jason, who was in the Coast Guard, and Jeff, who is currently serving in their headquarters in Washington, DC.

IMG_0974Rolf and VeraIMG_0976Jan

Once in Southport, we were so happy to see our friends, Vera, Rolf, and Jan, who came to pick us up and transport us to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. It is always like old times when we see these wonderful people. Part of our “Gourmet Group”, we have known each other since our oldest children were just babies, and we, and our kids, have really shared every experience imaginable. We laugh at some of our antics from our younger days, and we treasure all of our times together throughout the years. We miss Don, Jan’s husband, who passed away a little over a year ago, but we laugh when we think of his puns, jokes, and stories. Good friends are always there for each other, and once again, Vera and Rolf left us a car to use the following day. I provisioned AfterMath for at least a month using that car, and I also bought ingredients to have a Mini-Gourmet (there have always been six couples in our group, so we were half) on the boat on Friday night. As typical for Gourmet, everyone brought something. Jan brought shrimp and wine, Vera and Rolf brought apple crisp, ice cream and Amaretto. It was a wonderful night and we are all in agreement that it is important to stay in touch with and focused on those friends who mean so much.

IMG_0044Whoever owns this home sure seems to have the right idea.  Notice all the hammocks.IMG_0990Leaving Myrtle Beach Yacht Club and traveling down the ICW you see this assortment of buoys.IMG_0991Fall along the ICWIMG_0995IMG_1007Symmetry in natureIMG_1015IMG_0051IMG_0052IMG_0057

IMG_1028That is a floating swing bridge.

Saturday morning we left Southport and enjoyed our trip to Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, our first stop in South Carolina. Although it would have been nice to tour the resort area, we really just stayed at the marina. Transportation to the beach was not easily found and we only planned on a one-night stay. Our next two stops were anchorages near Georgetown and McClellanville, SC. The scenery along this stretch is absolutely beautiful, and only made better by the fall colors, the calm, mirror-like waters, the clear blue skies, and the angle of the golden sun.   I will never understand why some people find the ICW boring.

IMG_1035I have no idea how this person gets to his house, and it probably gets lonely out there, but it sure is pretty.IMG_1040A Coast Guard buoy tender on the ICWIMG_1041AfterMath docked at Isle of Palms MarinaIMG_1049The beach today at Isle of PalmsIMG_1057Kirby really loves the water!IMG_1061IMG_1064

Today, November 7th, we arrived in Isle of Palms. The marina here has a good restaurant, a market/deli that carries everything you can imagine, and it is only about a quarter mile walk to the beach. After a nice lunch, we walked to the beach and enjoyed being on the Atlantic Coast again. Tomorrow we will leave for Charleston, where we will spend about four days.

Now we are happy to be moving toward Florida where we will spend the winter this year. We love the warm weather and we are so happy to now be back in the land of palm trees. At our snail’s pace, we see what so many miss. Currents, tides, and weather dictate where we go and when. We know when it will be a full moon or a new moon as this affects our travels. Our lives depend on nature and we are aware of what is around us. Every day continues to be a new adventure, but the best part is that our adventures include seeing family and old friends and meeting new people along the way. It is the life we always dreamed of living.

We Just Couldn’t Leave Washingon, NC (October 16 – October 22, 2017)

We Just Couldn’t Leave Washingon, NC (October 16 – October 22, 2017)

Sometimes, when cruising, you find a place that is just tough to leave. Everything is just right. The docks are great, the people friendly, there are places to walk and places to sit, you can find restaurants nearby or close enough to dinghy to, there is a lot of local color, there might even be a dog park for a little guy to run and romp within walking distance. We found that kind of spot in Washington, NC.

We arrived in Washington on Monday, October 16th and planned to spend two nights at the free docks there. However, the weather was pretty cool and we thought we might need heat. As there is no electricity provided at the free docks, we instead called the marina and settled in. It didn’t take long until we discovered how wonderful Washington is.

Washington, NC is the first city named after George Washington in the United States. It lies 26 miles up the Pamlico River and is often called Little Washington to distinguish it from Washington, DC. In this city, many buildings date back to the Civil War. The river is an estuary, providing breeding grounds for countless fish and birds. The town has built a beautiful park along the waterfront that always seems to have people walking or jogging, and I have noticed that everyone that passes by says hello. Sit on a bench or a swing in the park and you will be joined by someone who just wants to chat a while. This is a friendly place for sure.

IMG_0653The waterfront here is bordered by a wonderful walkway.IMG_0663One of the many historic old buildings in town.IMG_0669I spent plenty of time swinging on this swing.IMG_0671Downtown in Washington, NCIMG_0679There were many of these lanes between buildings in the downtown area.IMG_0682The Turnage was once a vaudeville theater.  It has now been restored and is used for shows, jam sessions, and art displays.IMG_0683The old grist mill in townIMG_0688Here, crabs are king.IMG_0689IMG_0691IMG_0657IMG_0696IMG_0697The front of the grist mill.  The building is now used for a rowing club.IMG_0710The railroad bridge is usually open, but once a day or so a train goes through and the bridge tender walks out to this shack to close it.IMG_0711Washington’s waterfront.IMG_0713IMG_0735The light green boat in the foreground is Jimmy Buffett’s new boat.  It was built here in Washington and will be sent elsewhere to get its mast.  I love that AfterMath is in the same image as Jimmy Buffett’s boat.IMG_0705Sunset from the docks

After arriving we were given a schedule of events for the area and we found that the weekend of October 20th and 21st was “Smoke On the Water”, a barbecue and chili competition as well as a fun festival for all. As it seems we often just miss events, and as we were already falling in love with Washington, we decided to extend our visit until Sunday the 22nd. This gave us time to walk around town and to visit the shops, to take the free boat ride offered by the “Estuarium”, a museum that explains the importance of an estuary, to see Jimmy Buffett’s new boat that is being built here, to attend a Blue Grass jam session in the historic theater, and to take Kirby to a dog park, all before the big weekend began.

IMG_0753That’s Scott, David, and Clint of the Lazy Dayz team.  They were so much fun to talk to and so wonderful about explaining everything there was to know about barbecues.IMG_0754IMG_0756These guys were just having the best time ever.  You had to smile the whole time you talked to them.IMG_0762IMG_0763

Friday the 19th arrived, and with it so did about 30 different barbecue trucks and trailers. They lined up and down the blocked off street right near the town docks and just a few steps from AfterMath. The day started out with everyone getting set up and readying their grills. At 9:00 PM the pigs were delivered to the participants and John and I decided to go take a look. While at first the sight of the carcasses was surprising, watching the men and women at work was fascinating. Everyone was willing to talk to us and to explain exactly what they were doing, whether or not they thought their pig was of good quality (only one woman was not impressed), and what the judges would be looking for. For example, if the pig had any hole in the carcass, one team explained that they would suture it up, the skin would “heal” during cooking and then the sutures would be removed before the judges saw the finished product. We learned there are propane grills and wood and/or charcoal cookers, and they would be judged separately. This was serious business to all of the teams, but they were all so nice taking the time to explain everything to us and to answer every one of our questions. The cooking began at about 11:00 PM and soon we could smell the aroma of barbecue on AfterMath. It was to continue all night. We were told that the propane grillers might be able to catch a couple hours of sleep, but the charcoal/wood grillers would have to stay up all night watching the smoker.

IMG_0766The Lazy Dayz team’s completed product.IMG_0767The first team to be judged.IMG_0768IMG_0777Some of the setups.IMG_0810IMG_0813

At 8:00 AM the judging was to begin. John and I both wanted to see the pigs on the grill before the judges got to them, so we headed up a couple of minutes early. We had spent quite a bit of time talking to one team, the Lazy Dayz, made up of David, Scott, and Clint, so we of course rushed over to see our new friends’ pig before the judges started. The grills were now spotless, four meat thermometers were placed in the pig so the judges could immediately see the cooked temperature, vinegar based sauce, traditional for Eastern North Carolina, was set out for dipping, and the participants were cleaned up and ready. Each tent was required to have four place settings of plates, napkins, and water available, and some took those requirements to the next step using cute dishes or mugs, and sometimes a fancy dessert on the plate for the judges to eat if they liked, or they placed a few candies or flowers around to make the area appealing and attractive.

IMG_0771The judges at the first tent.IMG_0772IMG_0773That is some delicious meat!IMG_0775IMG_0787190 degrees was considered the perfect temperatureIMG_0804IMG_0805IMG_0807These guys asked if I wanted to take their picture.  Of course!! Willing subjects!IMG_0815

Soon a crowd of judges, all in bib aprons approached the first tent, complete with clipboards in their hands. In about three minutes, they checked both sides of each pig, tore it apart with their gloved hands, tasted the meat and the skin, dunked pieces in barbecue sauce and tried the meat again, had a quick discussion with each other, filled out their score sheets, and moved on to the next team. The great part was, the people watching the judges could sneak in and take a little sample of the meat and the skin too! Until then, neither John nor I had ever tasted pork so tender and delicious, and the skin was crispy, salty, and absolutely amazing.

The judges quickly started on the next pig and first made their way through all of the propane cooked ones. I usually hurried to the next tent before the judges got there so I could get a picture the pig before it was torn to pieces, but I did stay by the Lazy Dayz pig long enough to see that soon after the judges left each tent, a golf cart came by to pick up the meat and place it in a thermal cooler to keep it warm. Then, because this whole event is a fund raiser, all of the meat was taken to a central tent where it was shredded and combined together to be used to make pulled pork sandwiches and to be sold by the pound a little later in the day.

IMG_0820The judges at a charcoal cooked pig.  Notice how much darker the color is.

After completing the propane grills, the judges made their way to the charcoal/wood grills. Here the pigs were a darker color and, even though I was pretty sure there could be no better tasting meat than I had already tried, I proved myself wrong. These pigs were so delicious it was almost unbelievable. After trying two or three tastes there, I was full and had to stop, but it was such a fun experience and I was so happy we decided to stay for the event.

IMG_0842David, Scott, and Clint with their trophy.IMG_0844

Later in the day we made our way to the main tent and for $5 we were served a huge pulled pork sandwich and a soft drink. We were directed to the next table to put sauce and slaw on our meat, which, of course, we did. This was a real Eastern North Carolina barbecue, and it was great.  On our way back from lunch we found David, Scott, and Clint.  We were thrilled to hear they earned second place in the competition, but Clint told us that second place was, “First loser”!  They apparently lost first place by just 4 points out of about 1300 points total.  Still pretty good in our book!

IMG_0827More fun during the day.IMG_0829IMG_0830IMG_0834IMG_0837IMG_9947Skydiving into water.IMG_9956IMG_9965IMG_9980IMG_9988

The day was not complete, though, at 3:00 there was a sky diving into the water demonstration, and during the day there were events for children, a car show, musicians playing, vendors selling fair type food and goods, and a fire engine pull where teams pulled a fire engine with a rope down the street. Later, around 5:00 we attended a cookout on our dock where one boater smoked salmon and pork and everyone brought a dish to share.

So, tomorrow, on Sunday the 22nd we will leave Washington, NC, the little town we expected to stay in for only two nights, but just couldn’t leave. We were told that this town was ranked as one of the “coolest towns in America” and we can see why. We met boaters who expected to stay here a few weeks or a few months and haven’t left yet. This is small town America at its best. No one seems to be in a rush, everyone has a kind word, well, maybe a lot of kind words! People stroll with their dogs, they swing in the big, welcoming white swings overlooking the water, they are always out putting out painted rocks in the park, they fish from the dock, they sit down to chat awhile even if they have never met you before, and they make everyone feel welcome. People seem happy and content and love living in this small town. We thank them for sharing their home with us and wish them good lives, peaceful days, and much happiness in this very cool town on North Carolina’s Inner Banks.   The lesson we take from a small place like this is to enjoy each day, find the simple pleasures, talk to someone new daily, and know that there is much to discover out there if you just look for it. And never let life pass you by.