Grand Harbor, TN to Joe Wheeler State Park, AL with a side trip to Jacksonville, FL (May 28 – June 22, 2018)

Grand Harbor, TN to Joe Wheeler State Park, AL with a side trip to Jacksonville, FL (May 28 – June 22, 2018)

Up a lazy river by the old mill run
Lazy river in the noonday sun
Linger awhile in the shade of a tree
Throw away your troubles, dream with me.

 From “Up A Lazy River” by Sidney Arodin and Hoagy Carmichael

Gone are the days of big waves, salt water, and open seas.  Now our days are more relaxed and less structured; they fit into the spirit of a true Southern summer.  Days are hot, pop up showers and quick thunderstorms are common each afternoon, and we decide moment to moment whether or not we will move along this lazy Tennessee River on our way to its end near Knoxville, TN.

IMG_4734A busy weekend on Pickwick Lake at Grand Harbor Marina.IMG_4735IMG_4737

Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake was really our first introduction to lake life on AfterMath. We enjoyed watching the countless boats zooming around on the lake every weekend and the calm waters and peacefulness of the lake during the week.  The people there were so friendly: Dave, the owner of the entire property, who made us the most amazing chicken-bacon-ranch pizza and then threw in a whole chicken and a pack of rolls to boot, Neely, the harbormaster, who just couldn’t have been more welcoming or made our stay any nicer, Jim and his wife, the previous owners who brought me a microwave when they heard mine was broken and we were waiting for a new one to come in, the transients we made friends and dined with, the people from the marina we met in the pool and about the docks, and the wonderful younger group who were the crew around the marina.

IMG_4608Memorials abound at Shiloh National Military ParkIMG_4609IMG_4617IMG_4612

IMG_4623IMG_4626IMG_4634The National Cemetery at ShilohIMG_4640

After a few days we rented a car and, after having a delicious lunch at the Catfish Hotel, we went to visit the highly recommended Shiloh National Military Park in Corinth, MS.  The visitors’ center at the park runs a very informative movie explaining the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, which was fought on April 6thand 7thin 1862 and which began when the Confederates launched a surprise attack on the Union forces in Tennessee.  Ulysses S. Grant had led the Union with the objective of obtaining Corinth, a major rail center that would give the North control of the region.  Initially the Confederates had success, but the Union then pushed back and won the battle. Both sides suffered greatly, however; a total of 23,000 men died. After viewing the movie, we drove through the park seeing first hand where so many fought and died during that time.

IMG_4643Then a road trip to Florida to visit with our grandkids.  Cupcakes for all!IMG_4644IMG_4646IMG_4650Outside at the Art MuseumIMG_4653IMG_4660Creativity at it’s best!IMG_4662IMG_4664

Soon, on June 4th, it was time to take the eleven-hour drive to Jacksonville, FL to visit with Kelly, Craig, Michaela, Carter, and Madison.  Kelly and Craig had to work on the 5th,and they also had a dinner to attend, so John and I had the grandchildren to ourselves.  It was pool time in the morning, then a quick lunch before we headed to a cupcake shop and then to an art museum with the kids.  The museum was a lot of fun for all of us.  I would say the big hits were the wishing fountain and the children’s area, with plenty to do for all.  It was “make your favorite pizza” for dinner, and then a movie, so all in all it was a great day for everyone.

IMG_4670That’s Potter, Michaela’s new kitten.IMG_4686This is four-year old Madison in her ballet costumeIMG_4705After the recital, along the waterfront in Jacksonville, Madison in her tap costume.IMG_4724IMG_4729

The next day, June 6th, was the day I had been waiting for.  Last year was Madison’s first ballet recital, and, as we were in the Bahamas, I had to miss it.  This year I scheduled my final eye doctor appointment for my cataract surgery to coincide with this year’s recital.  After a very successful appointment at Atlantic Eye Care (my vision is now 20/20), we met Kelly and the children who were at Madison’s dress rehearsal at Jacksonville Landing.  We had a great lunch there and then took Michaela and Carter with us while Madison finished her practice.  Soon everyone was home and it was time to get ready for the big night.  This year Madison was in two dances, both ballet and tap. For me, this was a very sentimental time.  Kelly was a dancer from the time she was two until she went to college, and even then she took classes when she could.  She danced in competition, in the Nutcracker and in a small dance company.  Dance was a big part of our lives and the recital was always an end to another year.  Being able to watch Madison continue in her mother’s footsteps was incredibly important to me and I was so thankful to be there.  The recital did not fail to impress us.  Of course Madison was wonderful and adorable, but both John and I really felt that the school put on a great show and we both thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the dances.

Unfortunately, our time in Jacksonville had to come to an end and we drove back to Grand Harbor on Thursday.  Our new microwave/convection oven arrived at the store on Friday and we drove over an hour to the nearest Home Depot to pick it up. Yes, the nearest Home Depot was over an hour away.  Pickwick Lake is pretty far from everything else in the world; even the nearest Wal-Mart is 45 minutes away.  We spent a good part of the next two days installing the new oven, and then from that point on, we truly got work done, but at a slow and easy schedule.  I, however, have not finished my project of polishing the stainless steel around the boat, but now both heads are working perfectly, the boat is clean from top to bottom, the oven is working great, and everything seems to be under control (knock on wood, please).  Of course, I spent countless hours in the pool, and I even got John to join me there on a couple of occasions.  As always, we planned to leave far before we did, but finally decided to relax on Father’s Day, wash the boat Monday, and leave on Tuesday, June 19th.

IMG_2221At the waterfall.IMG_4739This lock raises boats 85 feet at a rate of 55 million gallons over 20 minutes.  Note the house at the top for perspective.IMG_4745And here we are at the top!IMG_4753After the lock opened we were greeted by this very large barge waiting its turn.IMG_4759Now, on Wheeler Lake, this is the lodge at Joe Wheeler State Park.IMG_4767

Tuesday’s trip was easy up the lazy Tennessee River.  We stopped at a waterfall not far from Grand Harbor then continued to Florence, AL. There we borrowed the courtesy car to take a brief look around town and we are anxious to spend a little longer on the way back, but on Wednesday we got an early start as we had two locks to traverse before arriving in Alabama’s Joe Wheeler State Park.  The park here is just beautiful and we are docked directly in front of the big lodge.  Yesterday we took Tangent out for a ride to see the sights, and, once again, I have been making good use of the pool that is, this time, right in front of us. John, not quite the water lover I am, has been enjoying time planning our route up the Tennessee.

Now we look forward to seeing the towns ahead of us and viewing the beautiful scenery we are about to find.  Maybe we will even have some company soon!  In the meantime, we will take our time, enjoy the views and the clean water around us, and travel up a lazy river together, sharing our dreams, and wishing the very best for all of our friends and family.  We wish you all health, happiness, and the life you want to live.

From Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake, Tennessee (May 15 – May 29, 2018)

From Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake, Tennessee (May 15 – May 29, 2018)

It’s a long way from Mobile, Alabama to Pickwick Lake on the Mississippi/Tennessee border.  It would feel long even if there were not floating trees to dodge and massive barges to be navigated around, but add to the mix, the numerous locks to traverse, the very few anchorages or marinas to stop at, and the season’s first named storm brewing, and the distance seems even longer. In this situation, ten-hour days become the norm, and time off from traveling feels like a reward well earned.

IMG_2056This smiling guy swam by while we were still in Mobile, ALIMG_4403Leaving Mobile, we saw this ocean exploration vessel.IMG_4405Mobile, AL skylineIMG_2068Barges are king on the rivers.IMG_2073This little guy was along for the ride.IMG_2089I wondered where all the logs and debris could come from, and then it became apparent.  One side of the river has calm beaches but the other side has banks that are badly eroding, and trees fall from those banks and float down the waterway.  Here is the beach side.IMG_2094And here is a side with severe erosion.IMG_4425This cute little dragonfly rode with me for quite a long while!IMG_4438More beach vs. erosion on the Tombigbee River.IMG_4445IMG_4453IMG_4456The first of several locks we traversed.  We were alone in every one except this and one other.IMG_4459IMG_4461A beautiful morning scene.IMG_4468These rocks almost seem to be painted.IMG_4479IMG_2103Reflections on the river.IMG_2126IMG_2130A tiny hut for fishermen?IMG_2138White pelicans at the base of the dam.IMG_2140Next to the next lock were these pretty dramatic falls coming over the dam.  Apparently they are good for fishing.

We left Mobile on May 16thafter accomplishing everything we hoped for at Dog River Marina. It felt so good to be on our way again, and from reports we had heard, the Tombigbee River was in much better condition than it had been over the previous weeks.  It was good we waited because there were still countless huge logs and trees floating south as we moved north, and those that weren’t floating were sunken with little showing above the waterline.  For John, especially, putting in long days was truly exhausting.  Rest did not come easily, however, as many of the anchorages we expected to suit us well were too small or too shallow for us to squeeze into.  We managed to find small anchorages two nights, but one night was spent right on the river after asking a tugboat captain to warn others of our presence. Anchoring on the river itself is frightening as it is narrow and its path twists, often in 180-degree turns; there is always the possibility of a tug with barges three wide and three long, for a total dimension of 100 feet by 600 feet, passing by and needing to make wide swings to get around the turn. Cell service was almost non-existent for the 216 miles in this stretch; there were no houses along the way, and not a single marina, with the exception of Bobby’s Fish Camp that looked pretty weak and a bit sketchy to us.  There were, however, trees, lots of trees, but not a single palm tree.  And once again, we were back to locks that lifted us to higher water.

IMG_4482Along the Demopolis River WalkIMG_4491Scenes from the town of Demopolis, ALIMG_4492IMG_4499IMG_4506IMG_4509IMG_4510IMG_4512IMG_4515IMG_4517

May 19th brought us to the Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis, Alabama.  We were happy to stop and relax, and I was thrilled to find a very nice swimming pool.  The marina also offered the use of a courtesy car, which is always a pleasant convenience. We didn’t need any groceries or supplies while we were there, but we did take the car to look around town one day and then I took it another day myself to take a few pictures and to check out the fresh produce market.  While we were in Demopolis we started seeing signs of a tropical storm forming in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico.  As always, weather determines everything we do, and, although we had planned to take our time heading north, we realized that we needed to leave our safe marina and move quickly.  The heavy rains that Alberto was promising would once again add to the flooding rivers and floating debris, so we chose to fast track our way to Pickwick Lake in Tennessee, 240 miles farther north from Demopolis, along the Tenn-Tom Waterway.

IMG_4519Our first sight of the white cliffs along the way.IMG_4540IMG_2153Watching a flock of white pelicans get into formation.IMG_2160IMG_2171IMG_2178IMG_2189How would you like to encounter these two tugs with their barges when going around a curve?IMG_2191Signage on most of the barges we pass.IMG_4547And on to more cliffs, the White Cliffs of Epes.  These cliffs are part of a formation called the the Selmas Chalk Formation and were deposited about the same time as the White Cliffs of Dover. IMG_2194More beautifully colored rocks.IMG_4557Sumter Recreation Area anchorage.IMG_4572This large lock lifts boats 85 feet.IMG_4575Birds often hang out in locks as they seem to be great fishing grounds.  I watched an osprey catch two fish while we rose.  But here, on the bottom of the right, in the horizontal bars, a great blue heron sat waiting for his chance to fish.  Can you spot him?IMG_4576Now can you see him flying as the water interrupted his stay?  He did this over and over during the time water was entering the lock.IMG_4605For those interested, these locks are slightly different than those we have used before as most locks give us a way to tie up bow and stern.  Here, however, just one tie is possible.  The line handler (John) wraps a line around this post that rises with the incoming water.IMG_4589The walls are rough and dirty and have completely destroyed our fender covers.  I will replace them when we finish with the rivers!IMG_4596Up 85 feet and onto the entrance of the Tennessee River!IMG_4604And the friendly great blue heron makes his last stop before starting on the descent.

We left Demopolis on the 24thand once again, we traveled long nine to eleven-hour days. Thankfully, the rivers were much more clear of debris, but there were still plenty of barges and lots of locks to deal with.  Our first night took us to Sumter Recreation Area, which really just consisted of a boat ramp and a tiny but beautiful anchorage.  Then, on May 25th, we arrived at a marina in Columbus, Mississippi.  We would have like to have stayed there, but, with Alberto churning in the Gulf of Mexico and making us hurry along, that town will be added to “On Our Way Back” list.  After yet another long day we arrived at Midway Marina on the 26th, and finally at Grand Harbor Marina on Pickwick Lake on the 27th.  Grand Harbor is a lovely marina with a great pool, courtesy cars, and nearby attractions.  We are happy to be here because it is from here that we will rent a car and drive to Jacksonville, FL next week for Madison’s recital and for a visit with Kelly and her whole family.

Our plans have changed now, for the summer.  While our original goal was to head up the Tennessee River to Kentucky, the reviews of the River from Pickwick Lake to Knoxville, Tennessee are just too glowing to pass up. There seem to be lots of towns to stop in and calm and protected anchorages along the way.  We look forward to a leisurely trip with beautiful sights to see as we make our way towards the Smokey Mountains.  Today we sit in heavy rain, but Alberto seems to have lost some of his steam; it’s peaceful on AfterMath now, although we have just gotten flood alerts on our phones. I guess the good part of being on a boat is that we can just float away if need be.  In the meantime, we will stay comfortable and cozy in our house on the water. And to all of you, stay safe this summer and make sure you take some time to enjoy every single day.

 

 

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.