Almost a Month in Mobile, AL, with One Wedding in Arkansas and a Few Side Trips (April 20 – May 14, 2018)

Almost a Month in Mobile, AL, with One Wedding in Arkansas and a Few Side Trips (April 20 – May 14, 2018)

Who would have thought we would have stayed in Mobile, AL for almost a month?  Certainly neither of us had it planned that way, but here we are. Hopefully we will leave tomorrow, but we know better than to say that will happen for sure.  If we have learned anything on this adventure, we have learned to take one day at a time, and, I suppose, we have discovered how to find some good in every situation.

IMG_3862Mobile Yacht Club hosted a crawfish boil the first weekend we were at Dog River Marina.  The food was delicious and endless.IMG_3864

After leaving Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, LA on April 19th, we traveled 32 nautical miles to the Dog River Marina in Mobile, AL.  The marina is small, but safely tucked in on the Dog River, and, although it doesn’t offer anything in the way of entertainment, it does have a courtesy car to use.  The only restaurant in walking distance is at the Mobile Yacht Club, and there are no stores that can be reached by foot, so a courtesy car was a welcome perk.  Dog River Marina was perfect, however, for our main mission; we wanted a safe place to leave AfterMath when we drove to Conway, Arkansas, just north of Little Rock, for our nephew, Matt’s, wedding on the 28th.  Although we had a few days before we needed to leave for the wedding, we knew we could use the time on chores while we waited for our road trip to begin.

IMG_3870Part of our scenic Gulf drive took place on a ferry.  It was interesting to see the oil wells in the Gulf waters.IMG_3880Kirby liked riding with his head out of the window when the car was on the ferry.IMG_3887We were passed by this huge Navy ship.

We rented a car a couple of days before our drive and took a scenic ride around the coast of Alabama. Finally the time came to leave for the wedding; we loaded up our rental car, put Kirby into the back seat, and started off for Arkansas.  We arrived in Little Rock on the night of Thursday, April 26th, and took off early again the next morning for Conway.  Kirby was dropped off at Hounds Hideaway, where he was ready to have lots of fun with all of the other dogs.  We know he had fun, because Hounds Hideaway posts pictures twice a day on Facebook, and we spotted Kirby with other dogs, dripping wet from splashes from a kiddie pool and covered in mud from rolling in the dirt. Thankfully, we signed up for a bath before we picked him up.  For us, though, the weekend was far less messy, and absolutely wonderful.

IMG_3893Kate at the rehearsal dinner.
IMG_3898And Charlie enjoying his beverage.IMG_3904Madison and Michaela, all dressed up for the party.IMG_3905Kelly and Caroline, happy to be together again.

It was so good to see relatives we hadn’t seen for a few years as well as those we have seen more often, and, as always, Kelly and her family.  First we had lunch with some of the family at Hendrix College where the wedding was to take place.  Hendrix, in Conway, is the college Emily attended.  She and Matt, who is a pilot for the US Air Force, met when he was stationed in Little Rock and, after years of being apart while Emily attended grad school and Matt was stationed in Germany, they are back living there. Friday evening brought the rehearsal dinner, hosted by Kathy, John’s sister, and her husband, Steve.  We all had such a great time being together at this celebration of the wedding to come.

IMG_3914Left to right, Jim (John’s brother), Julie, Rich (also, John’s brother), Kathy, Carter, Michaela (in rear), Madison, Kelly, Craig, and John.IMG_3939Along the way at Petit Jean State Park, AlabamaIMG_3946IMG_3953IMG_3963

Kelly and CraigIMG_3966IMG_3968This is also in Petit Jean State Park.  A beautiful overlook.IMG_3977I love this picture of Craig, Kelly, Michaela, Carter, and Madison.  

The wedding was not to take place until 5 o’clock on Saturday, so we had plenty of time to plan some fun.  Kelly and family, Rich and Kathy, Jim and Julie, and we met at a state park about an hour from Conway and started out on a hike through the woods.  We thought we were taking an easy stroll, but ended up climbing up and down rocks, walking through the woods, and all together having a great hike.  John took the camera from me so I could concentrate on not breaking an ankle; this made him the photographer of the event, and I must say, he did a great job. Madison decided she would walk with me and tell me exactly where to put my feet, so I had my very own guide through the forest.

IMG_3982Emily’s brother and momIMG_3986Matt watching Emily come down the aisle.IMG_3999During the ceremonyIMG_4003IMG_4022IMG_4030Steve and KathyIMG_4037Left to right, John and Barbara, Steve’s brother and sister, Sarah, Jason, with Annie, Julie, Jim, and other guestsIMG_4060Annie and CharlieIMG_4064Kate and MarkIMG_4075Michaela, looking far too grown up already, Carter, and Madison.  We were so proud of them all the whole weekend.IMG_4076Madison with Aunt Kathy, John’s sisterIMG_4092That’s a fine looking family!IMG_4113IMG_4118IMG_4126Emily and her dad.IMG_4153Matt and Kathy


Five o’clock came quickly, and we were all so excited to see Matt and Emily get married.  It was a beautiful wedding in a lovely setting at the Hendrix College Chapel, and the reception at the nearby country club was beautiful as well.  Dinner was delicious, and everyone had fun getting ice cream from the ice cream truck that arrived soon after.  Then the dancing began and Carter was one of the first on the dance floor with his “other Aunt Kathy”.  Madison loved dancing with the groom, and then with everyone else.  Carter didn’t let anyone he knew off the hook; he’s got some dance moves!

Sunday morning brought us all together one more time for breakfast before the group began splitting apart.  Some the family stayed a couple more days, and some of us began the drive back home. As always, it was sad to say goodbye to everyone, but the time together will be remembered forever.

Back in Mobile, we had some work to get done.  Dog River Marina’s motto is that they can fix anything, and we decided to take them up on that challenge.  First of all, our freezer stopped working the day before we left for Arkansas.  The freezer is one of AfterMath’s biggest assets, as far as I am concerned, so we really needed to get it taken care of.  Also, it seemed that, as they can fix anything, it was time to deal with the chronic issue with the master bathroom head.  One last project was to have the boat hauled and to have the props removed, changed, and have the ones taken off repaired, as a diver had told us that one was slightly bent.   Like any boat work, everything takes far longer than expected. John ended up replacing all of the components of the freezer himself, thereby saving a ton of money, but this meant we had to wait for the parts to be shipped to us.  The props went smoothly, so that project was done quickly, but the hose that was sent to repair the head was the wrong one, so once again we had to wait for a shipment.  The men are downstairs working on that project as I write this entry. Hopefully it will be finished today.

IMG_4182Dauphin Island, ALIMG_4190IMG_4203IMG_4212IMG_4215At the Blessing of the Fleet in Bayou la Batre, ALIMG_4218IMG_4220IMG_4233IMG_4244These people served up tons of shrimp and fish IMG_4248My shrimp came with a little bonus!IMG_4250The land parade beginsIMG_4253IMG_4254IMG_4258IMG_4266IMG_4290And now the boat parade.  Here the pastor of the church is ready to throw the blessed wreath into the water.IMG_4300IMG_4304IMG_4307IMG_4311

So, while these repairs may seem disappointing, we have used our time well.  Last weekend we rented a car and made a trip to nearby Dauphin Island, AL, to see the beach and the sights there.  Later the same day, we drove to Bayou La Batre, a tiny shrimping town in Alabama.  Bayou La Batre was the hometown of Bubba in the movie, Forrest Gump.  It is a town that gets beaten down over and over by hurricanes but each time it picks itself up and builds again.  The attraction the Sunday we went, May 6th, was a 69thannual Blessing of the Fleet.  For this event, the town gets together at the Catholic Church and a festival takes place.  There are crafts and food, shrimp, of course, a land parade, and then a boat parade.  A bishop is in attendance and, after introductions, a short service, and the reading of the names of the people in town who were lost at sea, he boards a boat and goes out to bless each boat in the boat parade.  It was beautiful to see all of the decorated boats float past in this little town that has overcome so much and just never gives up.IMG_4315Along the Dog River

This past weekend was a busy one.  I was able to restock my freezer as John has it completely fixed and, believe me, it is now filled to the brim.  After getting all of the groceries put away, we took Tangent, our dinghy, for a ride up the Dog River.   The river is beautiful, long and winding, and full of cypress trees and beautiful lily pads. There are a few little beaches where boaters congregate, and the water is clear, clean, and fresh.  Our ride was a joy.

IMG_4318Mother’s Day in New OrleansIMG_4328IMG_4337IMG_4338IMG_4339IMG_4343IMG_4345IMG_4346IMG_4347IMG_4349IMG_4356IMG_4359IMG_4362IMG_4368IMG_4374IMG_4375IMG_4380IMG_4381

Yesterday, May 13th, was Mother’s Day.  John asked me what I would like to do for the day and the answer was simple.  From the marina, New Orleans was only a couple of hours away.  I have always loved New Orleans, so I asked him to take me there for lunch.  We had a wonderful time riding and walking around the French Quarter, dining on muffalettas in a great little café with the obligatory New Orleans band that, of course, ended their set with “When the Saints Come Marching In”, and just generally enjoying an outing that was unexpected.

It seems that this chapter in Mobile may be about to end, but we are watching weather again, of course. While there has been a dry spell recently, and that is good for traveling up a river that floods and brings debris along with the rushing water, seeing that the rains may start again is a little disconcerting.  We will go as soon as possible as we have new places to explore!  While we have been thinking about spending the summer in Kentucky and will still go there, the glowing reports we have been hearing of taking the Tennessee River all the way up to the Smokey Mountains are making that excursion very tempting.  And next month, I have plans to get to Jacksonville for just a short visit to get my last check on my eyes and to attend Madison’s ballet and tap recital; I missed it last year and vowed then not to miss this one!  I’m not sure how I’m getting there yet as who knows where we will be when it’s time to go, but as always, we will figure it out.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” Henry David Thoreau



Port St. Joe, Panama City, Florida’s “Grand Canyon”, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola, and Gulf Shores (April 8 – April 19, 2018)

Port St. Joe, Panama City, Florida’s “Grand Canyon”, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola, and Gulf Shores (April 8 – April 19, 2018)

It all seems so different now.  We have left the hustle and bustle of the tourist towns, and we have left the Gulf of Mexico.  We are now traveling the rivers that run parallel to the shores that make up the ICW in northern Florida.  Tugs and barges pass us by, but not many other boats.  For the most part, our scenery is pure nature, except for the jets that fly overhead from the many military bases.  The sand is so white along the beaches that it blinds the eyes; the water varies from pure dark blue to aqua and is crystal clear. We stop at small cities and little towns to see what they have to offer. Shrimp, fish, and oysters abound in every restaurant.  We are traveling nearer to the heart of the country, and it is a fascinating experience.

IMG_1666Traveling along the river from Apalachicola to Port St. JoeIMG_1671IMG_3797Port St. JoeIMG_1677This beautiful eagle flew past us and then landed on a tree by the river.IMG_3800Downtown in Panama CityIMG_3801IMG_3803John, hoping for a customer or two.IMG_3804IMG_1692

We left Apalachicola on April 8thand motored to the small town of Port St. Joe.  The marina there was very close to town so we were excited to take a walk.  There was a Piggly Wiggly grocery store and a hardware store nearby, but we didn’t really need much so we continued on our way to the town’s only attraction, a lighthouse.  We decided one night in Port St. Joe was enough.  Our next stop was Panama City, where we stayed for three nights, waiting for mail to arrive.  The marina, again, was very near the town, and we enjoyed walking around, checking out the shops, and watching beautiful sunsets.

IMG_3805The beginning of the “Grand Canyon” in Florida.IMG_1700IMG_1701IMG_1710IMG_3813IMG_3815IMG_1718IMG_1722IMG_1724IMG_1731IMG_1733IMG_1734IMG_1736

The scenery really began to change after leaving Panama City.  The river just seemed to be lined with trees, although, according to John, we were at the beginning of Florida’s “Grand Canyon”.  I had read about this area but just couldn’t really imagine where it was or what it would look like, and, at first, I was less than impressed. Soon, though, we could spot white cliffs in the distance, and before long beautiful formations in the sand appeared. The cliffs are probably no higher than 40 feet, but they have eroded into shapes that really do remind a person of the walls of the real Grand Canyon.  Colors vary from white to red and to brown to add to the beauty of the area. It was a wonderful ride along an untouched, peaceful river in north Florida.  We anchored that night in Joe’s Bayou, the perfect end to a lovely day.

IMG_3819A huge barge with its cargo.IMG_1742IMG_1750IMG_3822Historic Downtown PensacolaIMG_3826IMG_3828This was a great park with food trailers and places to sit along the street.  IMG_3829IMG_3834Leftovers from Mardi Gras?IMG_3836IMG_3839We didn’t get this, but some of my Facebook friends caught right on!IMG_3841

On April 13th, we arrived at Santa Rosa Marina in Gulf Breeze, FL.  It was John’s birthday so we walked to a great Greek restaurant nearby to celebrate.  The weather was not looking good for the next couple of days, so we just hung out there and caught up on reading and relaxing.  We left on the 16thand made the short trip to Pensacola, docking at Parafox Marina, another marina right in the center of the historic district. Walking around town here was a treat; the city has obviously been working hard to become revitalized, and the shops, restaurants, and buildings are in beautiful condition.

IMG_1785The Blue Angels practice in PensacolaIMG_1794IMG_1798IMG_1808IMG_1829IMG_1831IMG_1863IMG_1870IMG_1898IMG_1939IMG_1968IMG_1985IMG_2004IMG_2027Beautiful waters and beaches in PensacolaIMG_2029

Leaving Pensacola, we were treated to a fantastic show by the Blue Angels as they practiced their skills at the Naval Air Station there.  We knew they would be flying at 11:30 AM, so John planned our ride perfectly; we arrived 5 minutes before the show began.  Being in a boat on the water provided an ideal viewing spot.  The jets swooped around and over us in perfect precision.  The Blue Angels never cease to amaze me; I couldn’t stop smiling as I shot hundreds of pictures that day.

IMG_3853LuLu’s, Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s placeIMG_3845IMG_3846IMG_3850IMG_3861

After the show we continued on our way, leaving Florida for the first time since December.  Now in Alabama, we chose to dock at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores.  Homeport Marina is home to LuLu’s, a restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister, Lucy. LuLu’s also has a ropes course for adults and one for children, an arcade, a shop, and a separate bar. Musical entertainment takes place in the restaurant most nights, and, yes, there were quite a few Buffet tunes being played.  We had lunch and dinner there and enjoyed both.

Our next couple of weeks will be spent at Dog River Marina in Mobile, Alabama.  Soon we will be traveling north on the Tombigbee River, but we have heard reports that heavy rain has made the river full of debris and not safe to travel right now.  We will remain at our dock on the Dog River and travel next week to our nephew’s wedding in Arkansas by car.  Hopefully, after our return to AfterMath, the flooding will have subsided and we will be able to go on our way.  If not, we will live by our motto, “We will figure it out”.  There are places to go and things to see, even if they do not follow our plan!


Bradenton, Tarpon Springs, Cedar Key, and Apalachicola, FL (March 23 – April 7, 2018)

Bradenton, Tarpon Springs, Cedar Key, and Apalachicola, FL (March 23 – April 7, 2018)

Cruising might be defined as making a plan and then changing it; if so, our adventures fit the definition perfectly.  Leaving Bradenton, we looked at our choices.  We could go north to Clearwater Beach and do a direct, but overnight, trip to as far as Panama City, or we could take the route along the “Big Bend” of the panhandle of Florida and see some of the sights, thereby avoiding a dreaded overnight.  Of course, we planned to travel the Big Bend.  Again, ’the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’.

We set out on our way north from Bradenton on March 23rd.  It was a nice day to travel to an anchorage near Clearwater Beach.  There, we settled in for the night, next to a beautiful golf course and with a lovely view of the skyline of the city.  Unfortunately, trouble started.  We have had chronic problems with our master head (toilet for the non-boating group), but we have always been just fine with the guest head. Until that night.  It just stopped working.  Now we had no working toilet.  For John, of course, the problem wasn’t too bad.  For me, I was issued an orange Home Depot bucket to use on the bow. The view on the bow was at least pretty at night!  Anyway, although the original plan was to go to the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs, the next day we made our way to Clearwater Beach Marina where the first and most important project was to get a head working.

IMG_1645Leaving the beautiful Skyway Bridge in TampaIMG_1658Entering Clearwater Beach, we were joined by a couple of friendly manatees.IMG_1660Next we were followed by pirates!IMG_3610Jason’s incredible salt-water fish tank.IMG_3624IMG_3626IMG_3628

Thankfully, Clearwater Beach is fairly close to Jason and Lisa’s house, so we were able to spend time with them and with little Jace for a few days.  Jason was working the day after we arrived, but Lisa and Jace came to visit, and, although we had fun plans, Lisa and I spent lots of time driving around getting parts for John as he worked on our broken head.  The next day Jason was able to come with Lisa and Jace and, again John worked while the three of us toured the island and went for a great lunch at the Columbia Restaurant.  Finally, after giving Roto-Rooter a very expensive chance at clearing some lines, we called a local plumber who was able to add a new hose that fixed the head.  This allowed us to all be free and to take the ride with Jason to New Port Richey so we could see their house, allow Kirby a good run in their fenced in back yard with their dogs, and view their beautiful salt-water fish tanks.

IMG_3591This is Chuck Heron.  He has adopted the man who runs this bait shop and restaurant in Clearwater Beach.  He is a black crowned night heron.IMG_3603IMG_3638Lots of boats take tourists fishing from the docks in Clearwater Beach.  Here is the crew of one boat cleaning their customers’ catches.IMG_3642IMG_3643On the beach.IMG_3650IMG_3652IMG_3661Clearwater Beach is so much more crowded than Anna Maria Island!IMG_3664Fishing from the pier is a popular activityIMG_3668This guy was given a fish by a friendly tourist.IMG_3695The beach view is almost obscured by umbrellas and tents.IMG_3697Of course, there are always jet skis for rent.

Clearwater Beach was the most touristed place we have visited on AfterMath, and while we really enjoyed eating in nearby restaurants, seeing the beach, and especially spending time with the family, it was time to move along.  We found that our next plan, to visit Tarpon Springs’ sponge dock by boat, could not happen as no marinas that could fit our size had any dock space available for us.  Instead we moved from Clearwater Beach to the small island near Tarpon Springs, Anclote Key.

IMG_1661At the Cedar Key airport.

We left early the following morning and motored to Cedar Key, one of John’s favorite places. Cedar Key is a tiny island west of Gainesville that has never kept updated much with the times.  There are homes, a few hotels, a cute little downtown, and, John’s favorite, an airport landing strip with a taxi way that doubles as an entrance road to the airport when planes are not around; the airplanes have the right of way!  We have driven to Cedar Key, we flew in when we had the airplane and spent a New Year’s Eve there at a bed and breakfast with our friends, Ned and Anne, but we had never boated to it.  It was on John’s bucket list to take a boat there, and he can now cross that off his list.

The plan from Cedar Key was to leave early, then go to Steinhatchee, famous for its scallops, then leave the following day, and travel to St. Mark’s before heading to Carrabelle. However, when John laid out the plan, it turned out that Steinhatchee could not accommodate a boat our size and there was no suitable anchorage.  St. Mark’s was too far to go in a day and it turned out that anchoring or docking was also a problem for AfterMath.  Therefore, we decided to go directly to Carrabelle, 120 miles from Cedar Key. Because it was a 21-hour trip and we always need to depart in daylight and arrive at a destination in daylight, we now had to do the dreaded overnight after all.  It was a beautiful night with a nearly full moon, the seas were calm, and there was no boat traffic on the radar, it was as good as an overnight can be. I still hate it; I just don’t do well without a regular sleep schedule and without being able so see anything out the windshield.  Overnights mean relying on instruments only.

IMG_3699Carrabelle, home to the World’s Smallest Police StationIMG_3705

Arrival in Carrabelle was not without its drama.  As we arrived in the marina we snagged a line on our starboard prop, which promptly stalled the engine.  Docking with one engine is a challenge, but John did a great job.  Unfortunately, we then had to call a diver to come to the boat the next morning to remove the line from the prop shaft, which required over an hour of effort.  Carrabelle is a tiny town without much to brag about except that it has the world’s smallest police station, a phone booth.

IMG_3708Apalachicola from the water.IMG_3710The old shrimp docks, still in use.IMG_3714These houseboats are VRBO rentals.IMG_3731The view from the fly bridge of AfterMath at dock.IMG_3732This shrimper agreed to let me take his picture.IMG_3733Colorful shrimp nets.IMG_3738Oysters abound here.IMG_3743In and around a shop.IMG_3744IMG_3748IMG_3750IMG_3753IMG_3755IMG_3756At the theater box office.IMG_3763Sights around town.IMG_3769IMG_3770IMG_3773IMG_3779IMG_3780David and DiIMG_3791.jpgA small botanical garden across the street from the marina.IMG_3794.jpgThe Roman House, a state park near the marina.

The ride from Carrabelle to Apalachicola through the St. George sound was pleasant despite storms that had been predicted, but that we some how managed to avoid.  Once at our dock at Scipio Marine, we thought we might spend one night there, but ended up spending four.  We ate scallops, shrimp, and oysters, and watched endless shrimp boats travel up and down the creek where we were docked.  We also walked around the town, poked through the shops, and even surprisingly and unexpectedly met up with David and Di, more extended family that lives in Tallahassee.

So, we continue our ever-changing life on the waterways.  Soon we will be traveling in the rivers and the canals in the center of the United States. Wherever we go we meet new people, find new towns, and live new experiences.  We have learned to be flexible and to take life one day at a time as no one is ever sure what tomorrow will bring.  No matter what, though, we are enjoying our time aboard AfterMath, and we know this is an adventure of a lifetime.

From Fort Myers, FL. to Bradenton, FL.;  AfterMath’s first visit to her homeport.  (Feb. 18th – March 20th, 2018)

From Fort Myers, FL. to Bradenton, FL.; AfterMath’s first visit to her homeport. (Feb. 18th – March 20th, 2018)

Exactly three years ago today, March 20, 2015, we closed on the sale of our house and set out for the adventure of a lifetime. For the next three years, AfterMath’s stern displayed her homeport as Bradenton, Florida, although she had never been there. Finally, now, she is where her adventure was conceived; she is in her homeport after safely carrying us over 11, 590 statute miles, traversing through 23 countries, and 10 states, and raising and lowering us in 228 locks.

IMG_2726At the Butterfly Garden in Ft. MyersIMG_2753IMG_2775IMG_2808IMG_2818IMG_2895Love was in the air!IMG_2724Every couple of nights, this gentleman played his saxophone under the bridge near our dock.  I finally went over and spoke with him.  He liked the acoustics there.IMG_2949Carol and Bob Piganelli visiting us in Ft. Myers

Before leaving for Bradenton, John finished his teak work in Ft. Myers. While he sanded, stained, and sealed, I spent my time walking around town, visiting a small, but lovely botanical and butterfly garden, taking Kirby for grooming, shopping at a farmer’s market, and filling up our cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer from a nearby Publix. I loved having the freedom of being able to take a trolley, or just walking in town and visiting the events that occur regularly in Ft. Myers. One night, my good friend, Susan, drove down from Sarasota to visit with me and we had a nice afternoon and girls’ night out dinner. Another day, one of John’s fraternity brothers, Bob Piganelli and his wife, Carol, came by while vacationing in Florida. It was wonderful to visit with such good friends.

IMG_2955AfterMath in the Cayo Costa anchorageIMG_2969IMG_2979The blooming cactus plants were beautifulIMG_2980The beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Cayo CostaIMG_1544A pink moonrise on Cayo Costa

Finally, on March 1st, we cast our lines and started on our way north along the west coast of Florida. Our first stop was in Cayo Costa, a state park that we had never explored before. We anchored in a beautiful and protected anchorage and spent two nights enjoying the view and going ashore by dinghy. In the park, a tram transports visitors to the beach on the west side of the island. Although it was beautiful at the ocean front beach, I personally chose to sit on a small sand bar on the east of Cayo Costa where there were no waves, where the wind was calm, and where I was in clear view of AfterMath.

IMG_2994A little car ferry at Cape HazeIMG_1576The first of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge participants.IMG_1578IMG_1582

After leaving Cayo Costa, it was time to get fuel. We last bought diesel in the Chesapeake Bay, and then we only bought 500 gallons. This time we took on about 1100 gallons at the Cape Haze Marina before spending a night at an anchorage surrounded by lovely homes. While we were there, and for the next day, we saw small craft, loaded with gear, heading south. Those boats were participating in what is called the “WaterTribe Everglades Challenge”. Here, people on kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and tiny boats, all with no mechanical power make their way 300 miles from Fort DeSoto in Tampa Bay to the Everglades, carrying everything they need with them over the two to eight days it takes them to complete their journey. The days and nights were very cold, by Florida standards, during the race, so it seemed like a true challenge to me just to be on the water with so little protection.

IMG_1589Remnants of the last hurricane.IMG_2998Passing through VeniceIMG_3004Back in the waters we love so much.IMG_1596First sighting of my favorite birds, the roseate spoonbills, and the snowy egrets too.IMG_1601Sarasota skylineIMG_1607Sunset through the bridge.IMG_3009

We traveled to Sarasota on March 4th; it just felt wonderful to be back in truly familiar territory again. Sarasota is a beautiful city, with a lovely skyline and a gorgeous bridge that really shines at sunset. We picked up a mooring near Marina Jacks for the night and enjoyed our surroundings.

IMG_1610Leaving SarasotaIMG_1616Back to the old stomping grounds.  We used to take our Boston Whaler out on these waters all of the time.IMG_1628IMG_1630IMG_1635IMG_1639On our way up the Manatee River

The following day, we headed up the ICW again, and made our way to Bradenton, the small city we called home for twelve and a half years before moving aboard our boat. We docked at Twin Dolphin Marina, up the Manatee River, and immediately remembered why we loved this area so much. The marina is right downtown, restaurants, a library, and shops are in easy walking distance, and friends are just a few minutes away. After just a couple of days, though, I was on my way to the airport for a short visit to Annapolis.

IMG_3014Walt has lost two teeth.IMG_3031The photo credit here goes to Walter, who picked up my camera and took this shot of his little brother, Ford.  IMG_4982Jeff, Rush and Walt at school.IMG_4986Walt was a “gourmet goat” in his musical.IMG_4988Ford seems shocked that the food he drops in his lap keeps disappearing!IMG_3206-EditThis is Clyde, who likes to dine with Ford.
IMG_3287Walt’s first lacrosse practice.IMG_3220Rush is ready to practice, too.  If only he were a couple years older!IMG_3321IMG_3329IMG_3338Sarah and Ford on a beautiful day at practice.IMG_3347Back at home, Walt lit the candles on Rush’s birthday cake.IMG_3353Love those boys!
IMG_3356IMG_5022Proud to be four!

Jeff and Sarah asked if I could make a trip to Maryland to attend a couple of events at Walt and Rush’s school, and to be there for Rush’s fourth birthday. Because Tampa Airport was nearby, and we had a car for errands on Tuesday, March 6th, it worked out perfectly for me to hop a plane north. I was so happy to see the children and Jeff and Sarah again. Sarah had to work, but Jeff and I had a wonderful time attending “Pastries with Parents”, Rush’s school birthday celebration, and Walt’s “Barnyard Moosical” at the Naval Academy Primary School both boys attend. I spent Friday playing with Rush and Ford while Walt was in school and both Jeff and Sarah worked, and, I should also mention, I was happy to get to meet and play with Clyde, their new standard poodle puppy while I was there. Saturday was Rush’s birthday and it was also Walt’s first day of lacrosse, so the day was fun filled for everyone. Evening came much too quickly, and it was time for me to return to Florida again. Susan picked me up at the airport when I arrived and brought me back to the marina; she is a great friend who can always be counted on to help out.

IMG_3377Steve, Krista, and JohnIMG_3382Bob and Monique’s tiki hut on Anna Maria IslandIMG_3383That’s Monique walking up the path from the beach.IMG_3384IMG_3387Left to right, John, Larry, Yvonne, Bob, and MoniqueIMG_3388Susan at the Beach House.  Somehow I missed taking a picture of Susan and Dick when they were on the boat!IMG_3391I really love that beach!IMG_3393IMG_3399Here we are with Gail and Michael at Arts and EatsIMG_5049Ned and Anne on St. Patrick’s DayIMG_3437We took Jace for a walk on the Riverwalk.  Here he is at the skate park.IMG_3443Next stop, the splash pad.  This little guy loved it!IMG_3479IMG_3489Getting so close to walking!  He manages a couple of steps on his own now.IMG_3525-EditJason, Lisa and JaceIMG_3534Jace wanted to swim with the manatees.

Back in Bradenton, the visiting with friends began. Susan and Dick came for dinner on Monday night, we had lunch with Steve and Krista on Wednesday, then, on Thursday, Yvonne and Larry picked us up and brought us to Monique and Bob’s house for lunch on the beautiful Anna Maria Island on Thursday. Friday I had lunch with Susan at one of my favorite restaurants, the Beach House on Anna Maria, and in the evening we had dinner with Gail and Michael at another favorite, Arts and Eats. Saturday brought Ned and Anne to AfterMath for corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, and on Sunday, Lisa, Jason, and little Jace came for the day. Yesterday, Susan picked me up and took me to the grocery store for another provisioning as we get ready to head out again this week. It has been a whirlwind of fun seeing everyone in this lovely little city of Bradenton.

We expect to leave here on Thursday, and we will continue our trek northward up the coast and across the panhandle before turning into the rivers in the center of the country this spring. We have loved having AfterMath in her homeport finally, but the trip does not end here; we still have places to go and things to see before we decide where we will end up after our journey. For now though, we will continue planning day by day, enjoying the sights we see, the people we meet, and the life we lead. We do not take this opportunity for granted; we know we are lucky to be able to live our dreams. Today John asked me what I thought we would be doing now if we never left Bradenton. I can’t imagine, but I do know that wondering what we might have been doing if we had stayed is a lot better than having stayed and always wishing we had taken this leap.

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

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.