St. Petersburg to Bradenton, Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda, and to Fort Myers Beach with family time in Isle of Palms, SC (November 6 – December 13, 2018)

St. Petersburg to Bradenton, Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda, and to Fort Myers Beach with family time in Isle of Palms, SC (November 6 – December 13, 2018)

Holiday time is family time, and here aboard AfterMath, we love our holidays and our family.  For everyone, I suspect, once November arrives, life becomes a whirlwind of activity and fun.  This year, as we were even closer to our previous home in Bradenton, and an easy drive from most places in Florida, we were able to visit with friends and family.  Topping off the excitement was a family vacation for Thanksgiving in Isle of Palms, SC. We couldn’t have been happier to spend this past month with those we love so much.

Saint Petersburg, FL is a beautiful city with so much to offer for everyone.  There are museums, parks, a farmers’ market, restaurants, grocery stores, and so much more right within walking distance.  Also in St. Pete are our good friends, Ned and Anne. The night after our arrival at the Municipal Marina, we were able to catch up with them at their house for cocktails and then a great dinner at a local restaurant.

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Madison loved being the cashier at the children’s museum, Great Explorations.

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Carter at the giant sized Operations game.

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Michaela is a great hoola-hooper!

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Some beautiful yarns at the farmers’ market.

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Always something fun to see at farmers’ markets!

On November 9th, we were thrilled to have our daughter, Kelly, and our grandchildren, Michaela, Carter, and Madison, come from Jacksonville for a weekend visit while, unfortunately, Craig was stuck at home working.  We had lots to do during their time with us.  First stop, on Saturday, was at Great Explorations, the children’s museum in St. Pete.  It had been about four years since I had last taken the kids to this fun museum, and they are older now, but they had just as much fun as ever.  Here they can climb, build, play store, see what it is like to be on TV as weather forecasters, pretend to be veterinarians (they were pretty practiced at this part), make “pizzas”, play music, and so much more.  It was a great place to spend a long morning before heading back to the marina.  On the way we stopped at a farmers’ market and picked up some produce and, of course, ice cream before lunch.

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Everyone enjoyed their visit with Meredith, Kelly’s college roommate.

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Soon after we arrived on the boat, Meredith, Kelly’s roommate for three years when they were both undergrads at the University of Florida, visited us.  It was so nice to see Meredith again; Madison was quite taken by Meredith’s long hair and spent a good portion of the visit brushing it for her.

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Great fun at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL

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As always, the banyan trees were a big hit!

While visiting, Meredith mentioned the Ringling Museum in Sarasota and told the kids about the wonderful circus exhibits.  Fans of “The World’s Greatest Showman” movie, all three children were taken in by her description, so, on Sunday, John and I and Kelly and kids drove south to see the sights.  Everyone enjoyed the day, visiting the gigantic circus in miniature, seeing the antique circus trains, playing in the hands on displays, visiting the playground, seeing Ringling’s summer home, and climbing through the huge and gorgeous banyan trees that cover the property.  After a very late lunch stop on the way home, the kids discovered a great playground near the airport right next to the marina.  We topped off the day with a trolley ride around St. Pete before everyone made it back to the boat, exhausted but happy.

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Winter, on the right, and her friend, Hope, on the left at the Clearwater Aquarium

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Monday was the day they had to go home, but not before a trip to Clearwater Aquarium where Winter the Dolphin and her friend Hope live.  If you have seen the movies about Winter and Hope, you will know that the aquarium is not fancy!  Even now, after the amazing popularity of these two dolphins, the area is small and not particularly spectacular, but Michaela, Carter, and Madison really wanted to visit with the tail-less dolphin, Winter, and they were thrilled to see her swimming around in her tank.

Jason, Lisa, and Jace met us for lunch in Clearwater and we all went to lunch on Clearwater Beach before Kelly left and Jason drove me back to St. Petersburg.  It was a great visit all the way around and they only thing that made parting easy was the fact that we would all be seeing each other so soon again at Thanksgiving time.

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Beautiful St. Petersburg at night from the dock.

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The Salvadore Dali Museum in Downtown St. Pete

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We stayed at St. Petersburg Municipal Marina until November 15th, and then made the short trip to Bradenton, our home for 12 years before moving onboard AfterMath. It was nice to be back in familiar territory again, and, as we rented a car for a while, we were able to get around to Publix, the mall, and other places easily.  It was a busy time during our visit there before Thanksgiving, as we were preparing to drive to the Isle of Palms where we would gather the whole family for the first time in over five years.  So, on Saturday, after a quick breakfast with my buddy, Susan, I headed for the store to buy a turkey, a ham, and as many groceries as I could fit in the car for our road trip, while still leaving room for our bags and Kirby.

Monday morning found us in a car fully loaded and heading out for the drive to the Isle of Palms, SC, where we had rented a house right on the beach.  We dropped Kirby off at a “resort”, stayed in a hotel on Monday night and picked up the keys early Tuesday.  Jeff and Sarah and family had the same plan, so they were there to help us open up the home and start to get settled.  Jason, Lisa, and Jace followed just an hour or two later, and Kelly and family arrived later that afternoon.  Meanwhile, while everyone was getting settled at the house, Sarah and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up more groceries.  Soon the house was fully stocked with more food than we could possibly eat, and was buzzing with activity and fun.  My heart melted every time I heard the little cousins calling out for each other and playing together so beautifully.  Of course, no one could stay off of the beach for long, and, even though it was cool, there were lots of wet, sandy little bodies running around.

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It didn’t take long for the kids to hit the beach. That’s Jace on the left and Ford on the right.

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Rush, making a sand castle.

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Walt really didn’t care how cold it was. I love this shot of him with his toes in the water.

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Cousins working on Thanksgiving crafts together.

When the grandchildren were not in the ocean, they played happily on the lawn, at the putting green, digging in the sand on the bridge that led to the beach, doing crafts, playing pool, and, especially in the hot tub.  All of the adults seemed to love the hot tub as well, and countless hours were spent there both day and night.

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Ford loved the pool and hot tub and had a great time tossing that football in the water.

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Jeff and John enjoying the warm sunshine

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Wednesday, though, was cooking day for me and I got plenty of help from others.  There was lots of activity both in and out of the house and it was just the way we envisioned it.  Perfect.

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Pictures from our beach photo shoot.

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Left to right: Jason, Jace, Lisa, Me, Carter and Madison (in front), John, Kelly, Craig, Michaela, Jeff, Walt and Rush (in front), Sarah, and Ford.

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Also on Wednesday, the adult kids hired a professional photographer to come to the house to take family photos, so, in the afternoon, the “getting ready” began.  There was great discussion about what everyone was wearing, lots of displays of clothing on the master bedroom bed, and then plenty of time for Lisa, our resident hair stylist, to conquer Kelly’s, Madison’s, Michaela’s, and my hair.  Lisa even made sure the little boys looked their best.  She barely got time to do her own hair!  Beach sand was scrubbed from children, everyone was dressed, and the photographers arrived.  The resulting pictures were beautiful and we will always appreciate and treasure that kind gift from our own children.

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Jace coloring his bag to hand out at Thanksgiving

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Kelly and Madison working on bags together.

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Delivering Thanksgiving bags to the fire department at Isle of Palms

That night, the children and adults worked on Thanksgiving bags to continue a tradition that Jeff and Sarah have started with their family.  Brown paper bags are decorated and stuffed with goodies in preparation for delivery to those in service positions who have to work on Thanksgiving Day.  Thursday morning all of the younger generations headed out for deliveries of the bags while John and I stayed home to monitor the turkey in the oven and to set the table for the main event.  The children loved visiting the fire departments, a Coast Guard Base, and the local hospital, handing out their bags to those who were working.  As always, they surprised the recipients who were thrilled to have visits by those cute kids and to get the unexpected treats.

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Beach time for everyone before Thanksgiving dinner.

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Our house for the holiday from the beach

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By the time they got back, the table was set with very meaningful dinnerware.  When we lived in Connecticut, I collected odd plates from anywhere I went – thrift stores, flea markets, Salvation Army, etc.  We all loved those un-matching plates and everyone had their favorites.  It was always fun to get the plate you liked best, and at Thanksgiving dinner, we were never short of plates no matter how many guests we had at the table.  This year, the kids came up with the idea that we should have un-matching plates, so Kelly shopped for them and brought them to South Carolina.  What fun is was to have the tradition continued!  The table looked perfect.  After another trip to the beach, dinner was served and it was wonderful.  Everyone was stuffed, of course, so it was time to head back to the beach for a scavenger hunt before warming up in the hot tub again.

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A stop in the cookie shop for samples while in Charleston

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Jason and Jace on the putting green while the others set up for the tie-dye project.

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Let the tie-dye begin!

A whole caravan of us left for Charleston early on Friday as we had reservations for a private horse and carriage ride.  I was so excited to think that our whole family would be together on this ride around town and it was as much fun as I had hoped for.  Although it was cold, and we were cuddled under blankets, it was a great family event and everyone seemed to love it.  Afterwards everyone went their own way for an hour or so before meeting back at the house and getting ready to undertake the next project: tie-dying shirts.  Of course this was an outdoor activity!  With kids set up on the ground, shirts readied, and dye mixed, it was a fun and crazy time for all.  After all of the kids were done with their shirts, they abandoned Walter, who kindly did not leave until he made sure that there was shirt for every adult to wear as well.

That night, the children had the TV on for the first time all weekend, and they relaxed as they watched a movie before falling asleep, again, tired and happy.

Saturday morning brought big waves to the shore and everyone was happy to go to the bridge and watch them roll in with the high tide.  As the tide subsided, boogie boards were brought to the beach, and the ones willing to brave the cold water had a great time playing in the surf.

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Jason with his homemade launcher. We all had to admit that his entry was the true winner of the rocket launching competition.

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Lisa getting ready to pull the launch string as Walt pumps up the bottle.

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Craig waiting the launch of his simple, but efficient rocket.

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Michaela and Jace remaining under protection during the launches.

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Madison with her own homemade rocket

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All of us modeling our tie-dye shirts after the rocket competition.

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There was always something fun to do. Here are Jace and Rush on the putting green.

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Ford and Sarah played baseball.

The next family event was the big bottle rocket competition.  The men in the group were challenged to make a rocket using a two-liter soda bottle and duct tape.  The approved means of propulsion were vinegar, water, baking soda, and air. They were allowed to prepare a launch pad at home if they liked, but the soda bottles could not be readied before arrival at Isle of Palms.  As always, a healthy competition between brothers, brother-in-law, and a dad is fun and not always rule-following.  Jason had prepared a great launcher at home, Jeff bought Kevlar for his rocket (which somehow was made of two soda bottles instead of one), Craig followed the rules of simplicity, and John, well, John cheated the most, but did get a big reaction. Jason’s launcher proved to be wonderful and could be used over and over.  Everyone loved it.  Jeff’s rocket might have been a little heavy, but he launched it using Jason’s launcher, Craig, with the baking soda and vinegar rocket, got his to go off the ground after a few tries, and John….well, he substituted a firecracker for the bottle at the last minute and made quite the impressive explosion.   Everyone had a great time and the kids had fun later making their own rockets to try out.

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Madison on the front steps of the house, waving good bye to her cousins.

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Under the 400 year old Angel Tree

Jeff and Sarah left soon after the rocket launch as they had a long drive and both had to work early on Monday.  After a trip to see a 400-year-old Angel Tree, the rest of us relaxed while the kids played and thought about the amazing weekend we had together.  Sunday morning was a scurry of cleaning up and clearing out of the house, leaving to pick up Kirby and to head back to Bradenton. The whole way I couldn’t stop thinking about the time we spent together and how wonderful it was to have all of our family with us for the holiday.

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Susan and I took a walk around the park in Sarasota on what turned out to be a pretty cold day.

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Back at the boat, we spent a couple of more days at Twin Dolphin Marina, visiting with friends and planning the month of boating.  We are heading farther south now in an effort to stage our trip to the Keys and the Bahamas after Christmas.  Friday we arrived at Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda, FL.  There, we enjoyed the shops and the restaurants just steps away from AfterMath, and we especially enjoyed the beautiful Christmas decorations that abound.

We have moved farther south now, to Fort Myers Beach after a quick visit with Jim, Julie, Al, and Joan in Cape Coral last night.  We will leave on the drive to Annapolis on the 19th, and then to Jacksonville on the 23rd.  It will be time to spend Christmas with our family again. Always, we wish we could all be together, but we will be able to think of the beautiful Thanksgiving we had this year and forever be grateful for it.  For now, Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of you.  We hope you all get to spend time together with those you love and we wish you happiness and joy throughout the season.

 

 

Leaving Niceville, FL, Passing Through Hurricane Michael’s Devastation, to Dog Island, Tarpon Springs and Clearwater (October 26 – November 5, 2018)

Leaving Niceville, FL, Passing Through Hurricane Michael’s Devastation, to Dog Island, Tarpon Springs and Clearwater (October 26 – November 5, 2018)

Our life aboard Aftermath is filled with many things.  Sometimes sights are of gorgeous scenery, other times we pass through busy cities.  Some days are filled with the joy of seeing our family or meeting new friends, and other days we witness the heartbreak of the misfortune of others.  If nothing else, our voyage on AfterMath has given us an appreciation for what we have, for each other, and for the opportunity to experience so much from our floating home.

We waited with anticipation to see it as we left Niceville, FL on October 26th.  The news on our computers showed countless pictures, but still it didn’t seem real.  Only when we saw the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael first hand did we really understand what it must have been like for those in its path.  Our hearts sank for the losses of the people of who suffered.

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Just the start of miles and miles of damage from Hurricane Michael.

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This ship had just been completed and was ready to go to Alaska before it sank in the hurricane.

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Even Sea Tow lost boats during the hurricane.

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This boat managed to find a safe harbor before the hurricane.

For two days we traveled past Panama City and the Mexico Beach area, and all we saw was devastation. We spent one night anchored in a cove in a neighborhood where every house was destroyed.  Boats littered lawns, trees were snapped in half, and homes looked as though they were just under new construction as siding was stripped off and windows were completely absent.  We saw a 200-foot, brand new boat that had been almost ready for delivery to Alaska sunk and laying on its side in shallow waters.  Hotels and apartment buildings were vacant and ruined. And it went on and on for miles and miles.  And yet, life seemed to go on.  Blue tarps, leveled buildings, broken trees, beached boats, and destroyed docks were everywhere, but workers were busy cleaning up, repairing, and toiling to get life back to normal.  It will be a very long time, I’m sure, until life returns as it once was along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, but it will eventually be all right again.  It is good that people are so resilient.

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Passing through Apalachicola

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Traveling along with DougOut

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Note the missing stairs for this house on Dog Island. That’s AfterMath in the rear on the left.

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This ship from 1899 came ashore during the hurricane

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A second ship that appeared on land during Hurricane Michael. It was one of the boats shipwrecked during the 1899 Carrabelle Hurricane 

Finally, on October 28th, in Apalachicola, the damage seemed to begin to lessen, and we passed through towns that looked much more like those we had seen when heading north. We traveled with our friends aboard DougOut and made our way to Dog Island, just off the coast of Carrabelle, FL. Anchored off the island, soon I was able to spend some time on one of the whitest beaches I had ever seen.  Dog Island, a very low lying spit of land that almost disappears at high tide, didn’t completely escape Michael’s wrath, as was evident by one home completely missing the set of stairs needed to enter the house.  Another sign of the strength of the storm was the new presence of washed ashore wooden ships that were shipwrecks from the Carrabelle Hurricane of 1899.  It was great fun to explore the ships and to walk the beach where huge, beautiful shells were just there for the taking.

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Jason, Lisa, and Jace in Tarpon Springs

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Jace loved listening to this man play his music.

After a restful night and morning at Dog Island, we were ready to embark on our last overnight trip of our four-year adventure (thank goodness!!!!).  The twenty-five hour journey to Tarpon Springs was without any issues, but in all of our travels I have never learned to adjust to an overnight trip.  Happily, when we pulled into our dock at the Tarpon Springs Municipal Marina, we were greeted by Jason, Lisa, and Jace.  Jason hopped aboard AfterMath to help with the lines and we were quickly tied up and enjoying a relaxing lunch at the Shrimp Wreck Restaurant just a few steps away.

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Bringing in the sponges at the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs

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Little shops line the streets near the sponge dock.

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St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral in town.

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The municipal docks at Tarpon Springs show a scary side at low tide.

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It is at this park on every Epiphany, January 6th, that the teen boys from the cathedral dive for the honor of retrieving a cross.

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Here, a sponge diver strings his sponges.

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We enjoyed playing with the sting rays in the aquarium

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Jason holding a very large sponge

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For the next few days we remained at Tarpon Springs, visiting with Jason and Lisa, taking in the sights and scenes of this little Greek town where sponges and Greek food abound. We toured the tiny aquarium, visited the cathedral, walked the docks, shopped in little stores for olives and cheese, and, of course, looked at all of the varieties of sponges in the shops around town.

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Dunedin, FL

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Clearwater, FL at night from the municipal marina

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Finally, on November 5th, it was time to leave and head to Clearwater.  Jason and Lisa, who had been on AfterMath many times, had never actually been aboard while we were moving, so they joined us on the trip to Clearwater Municipal Marina.  We had a great time riding together on a beautiful day and then extended the fun by boarding the Jolly Trolley that took us to Dunedin.  After walking around town and stopping for ice cream, John and I returned on the trolley to Clearwater and Jason and Lisa continued on a trolley back to their car in Tarpon Springs.

As always, we treasured our time with our son and his family.  We loved traveling with new friends and exploring new places.  Our deepest sorrow goes out to those who lost so much this year, and we hope they soon recover both materially and emotionally from all they have been through.  Life is a series of ups and downs, of great joys and great losses, but with family and friends and adventures to follow, it’s easy to find some good in every day.  Call a friend today, smile at a stranger, wave at a little child, and bring a little more happiness into the world.  Most of all, search for your own adventure; make your life the best it can be.

From Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake, Counce, TN to Niceville, FL  (September 12 – October 25, 2018)

From Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake, Counce, TN to Niceville, FL (September 12 – October 25, 2018)

Finally it was time. As much as we loved Grand Harbor, it was time to begin our 450-mile trip along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway heading south again.  Before we left, John completed refinishing all of the teak, painted inside every locker and cabinet you can think of, and spent days polishing the hull until it looked better than it ever had before.  The boat was scrubbed from top to bottom as well.  To assure us that it was really time to leave, Grand Harbor closed their swimming pool for the season; a sure sign that we needed to move on.

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From our dock on Pickwick Lake we watched these beautiful clouds which were the far outer bands of Hurricane Florence

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This is Alisha. She lives on a paddleboat at Grand Harbor and she has three raccoon rescues who live with her.

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Shortly after leaving Pickwick Lake on October 8

Early in the morning on October 8th, we pulled away from our dock at Grand Harbor on Pickwick Lake.  We were both excited to be on our way and the morning was beautiful.  Our first stop was at Midway Marina in Fulton, Mississippi. It was there that we began meeting a lot of cruisers who are making the Great Loop trip, a 6000-mile circle that encompasses the eastern half of the United States and Canada.  Previously, we have been out of sync with this group, always going the opposite direction or hanging out where they typically do not go. At Midway Marina, though, we found some of those “Loopers” who were just slightly ahead of the majority, and we began making friends who were traveling south, just as we were.

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In Columbus, MS. This is Tennessee Williams first home. It is painted exactly the same as it was when he lived here.

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Columbus, MS historic downtown district.

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At the town park in Columbus, MS

 

The following day, we moved to Columbus Marina in Columbus, MS.  It was a much longer trip that day than we expected as we were held up for four hours of lock delays. We stayed in Columbus for two days, as did most of the others at the dock, as we waited to see what Hurricane Michael had in store for the area.  Thankfully the storm did not appear to be getting close to us so, on October 11th, we departed for an anchorage for the first time in almost three months.  It was so nice to be “on the hook” again after such a long time in marinas.

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As if in a fairy land, steam rose from the water early in the morning on the day we left for Demopolis.

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We traveled past those impressive white cliffs on a day when the sky was as blue as it could be.

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Following Mark and Heather aboard Bushranger down the ICW. They flew from Australia, came to the US, and bought a boat, just to do the Great Loop.

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Right next to the marina is a cotton field. Growing cotton is a novelty for those of us who grew up in Connecticut.

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Here are Ron and Judy aboard Ginger G. This was the most unique boat we have met on our adventure.

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Ginger G’s mascot, this is Powder.

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I was able to check out the interior of Ginger G

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And what boat would be without a Harley on the stern? Note the 50 gallon oil drums they fill with fuel to extend their range.

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Knights in shining armor are handy on a boat too.

October 12th brought us to Kingfisher Marina in Demopolis, Alabama.  There we passed the time for a few days swimming in the pool, using the courtesy car to provision for the upcoming voyage, and enjoying nightly happy hours with the Loopers as we all waited to assess the damage from Hurricane Michael on the Florida Panhandle.  Everyone in the group was planning to travel along the shore from Mobile, AL to somewhere on the west coast of Florida, and everyone wanted to find out what the horrible destruction that had occurred meant to them and their plans.

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Anyone wondering why it takes us so long to traverse a river only needs to look at our chart plotter. We go a long way to cover a little distance!

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The last lock of our voyage. Our 264th.

Finally on October 16th, a group of five boats, including AfterMath, made their way to an anchorage called Bashee Creek, and the following day, the group continued on to another anchorage, Sunflower East.  That day, the 17th, we passed through the last lock on the Tennessee-Tombigbee River; and despite the two and one-half hour delay due to tugboat traffic, we were happy to have completed our 264th lock aboard AfterMath and to be done with locks on our adventure.

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Mobile, AL Harbor. I was so excited to have some different subjects to photograph!

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Passing through Mobile, we once again spotted the Ginger G

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Out in Mobile Bay. The first shrimp boat I’ve seen for quite a while!

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After another night of anchoring along the river, we continued our way southward and we were very excited to enter the very busy Mobile Harbor.  It had been a long time since we had seen that much action! Ships everywhere, containers of every color stacked up waiting to be loaded onto ships of foreign ports, cranes lined up along the water’s edge, and busy people working in the port.  After so many months and days along the peaceful rivers, we were both surprisingly excited to see so much action.  And, as soon as we left the city and entered the bay, we were greeted by Kirby’s favorite entertainment: lots of dolphins.  The dolphins were following a shrimp boat, hoping for a free meal, I suppose; it was a beautiful sight and made us so happy to be back in salt water again.

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Passing Lulu’s, Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s restaurant, where we spent a few days when heading up the rivers.

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The cement structures are some kind of artificial reef. I’m not sure why the boat is on the barge!

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You can’t imagine how happy I was to see this sign.

We arrived at Dog River Marina in Mobile, AL that afternoon.  John changed the oil in the engines and caught up on more never ending maintenance while we were there.  We also enjoyed visiting with the Loopers again and had a nice dinner out with a group of five couples one evening.  After getting as much information as we could, we decided it was time to start heading east on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) along the Panhandle.  The first night, October 22nd, found us in a gorgeous, peaceful anchorage called Ingram Bay and on the 23rd we finally re-entered Florida!  It was so nice to see the white sand beaches along the ICW again and to know we were back in this beautiful state.  That night we anchored in Navarre Cove, not too far from Elgin Air Force Base. Navarre Cove was not a particularly quiet anchorage, however, as the Air Force Base was running artillery exercises that kept Kirby on edge for a few hours.

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Back in Florida, where it is always summer.

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Our first sight of the sinking boat.

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Here it is starting to rise again.

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Almost all of the way up.

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And the Naomi is ready to be moved.

Yesterday we arrived at Blue Water Bay Marina in Niceville, Florida.  As we arrived we saw two fishing boats tied up to each other. One, however, was half sunk! There was a lot of activity around those two boats, and, after we docked, the people who work at the marina told us that the sunken one was simply coming into the marina for fuel when the boat started to go down.  Apparently it had happened just minutes before we arrived, so, of course, we pulled up chairs on the dock along with our neighbors, and had fun watching the excitement.  It was so interesting to see the activity: the Coast Guard arrived, but left after they were sure everyone was safe, the marina personnel had a workboat out to help, and, of course, Tow Boat US remained on the scene in case they were called to action.  After a few hours of pumping water, people swimming, and who knows what else, apparently they were able to at least patch up the boat, raise it, and, after dark, they moved it away for what I’m sure will be more repairs.

Today was a rainy and cool day, so we stayed at Blue Water Marina to await a nicer ride tomorrow. We continuously meet up with our new friends now, and expect we will do the crossing with them from Carabelle, farther east along the Panhandle, to Tarpon Springs or nearby, next week when we get a good weather window.  It will be an overnight trip of 160 miles and 23 non-stop hours, so we want to be sure it is calm and clear.

This part of the trip has been fun.  Although we knew we were leaving a part of the country we might not have otherwise explored, we were ready to leave the rivers.  Along the way we have met so many interesting people.  We met Steve, from the UK, who is doing the whole loop on a kayak by himself, Ron and Judy, who are probably on the most interesting boat we have seen along the way, Mark and Heather, who came all the way from Australia to travel the Loop, and Lynn and Doug, who have an African Grey Parrot that can talk a mile a minute and can convince Kirby to come to him every time he whistles.  We had a wonderful dinner aboard Milton and Julie’s Hatteras, enjoyed Phyllis and Sonny’s company again, as we had met them in Apalachicola and in Dog River Marina on our way north, and so many others.

Tomorrow we will pass through Panama City and, I expect, see the horrible devastation left by Hurricane Michael.  We are so sorry for those who lost so much in this storm and during Hurricane Florence, just last month.  We are respectful of Mother Nature as we travel, always watching, always adjusting our plans to stay safe.  For now, though, we will continue on our way, meeting new friends, seeing new places, and living the dream we have created for ourselves.  We wish you all a safe journey; whether your dreams take you near or far, enjoy every day, make someone happy, and be kind and loving. It is the only way to weather any storm.

Back to Grand Harbor in Counce, TN and a Trip to Annapolis and Nashville By Way of the Mountains (July 30 – September 11, 2018)

Back to Grand Harbor in Counce, TN and a Trip to Annapolis and Nashville By Way of the Mountains (July 30 – September 11, 2018)

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.  So goes the song, and so goes our time on Aftermath. Timing is everything when living on a boat, and sometimes we find ourselves needing to slow down and stay put before we can move along.  Currently we are stalling for hurricane season at Grand Harbor Marina in Counce, TN.  It’s a good time for projects and pool time; we are at a beautiful marina that provides us with a courtesy car, and, for the first time ever, we are in a covered dock.  We did slip out for a while, however, to take a vacation from our vacation aboard.

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The Unclaimed Baggage Center, Scottsboro, AL

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Racks and racks of unclaimed clothing

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Yes, there is a whole rack of unclaimed bridal gowns.

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John is picking out a Bose headphone set

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Might you men need some blue suede shoes? If not, how about some sparkly ones?

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Here I am, getting ready to open that bag to see what might have been left behind.

After leaving Chattanooga, we moved along the Tennessee River, curving back and forth between the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.  By the 30th of July we had arrived at Goose Pond Marina in Scottsboro, Alabama.  We rented a car for a couple of days to check out the area and discovered a very interesting store while we were there: the Unclaimed Baggage Center.  Apparently, back in 1970 a gentleman named Doyle Owens came up with the idea. He borrowed a truck and $300 and drove to Washington DC to buy unclaimed baggage from the airlines. He took it home and, on card tables, began selling the contents to whoever would buy it.  Before long, Owens had the only lost luggage store in the United States.  Over the next 40 years, he formed relationships with other airlines and other transportation companies and kept expanding.  The store now encompasses 40,000 square feet, has its own café, and sells just about anything you can imagine.  While visiting the Unclaimed Baggage Center, John and I bought a nice backpack, a new Compact Flash card for my camera, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones, and a pair of sneakers, all in perfect condition.  Also while there, I entered a drawing that takes place each day; the prize is to be able to open one of the suitcases and see first hand what might be in it.  I had a great time being part of the fun and won a free (new) Unclaimed Baggage T-shirt and a coupon for our purchases.

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Leaving Goose Pond. Since our visit earlier in the summer, the water plants had grown exponentially. The color they added to the scenery was spectacular.

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A beautiful day on the Tennessee River

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The view from the top of Lake Guntersville State Park in Alabama

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At the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL

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This is a model of the Pathfinder Space Shuttle, which was built by NASA and used as a test model for size on the launch pad, etc.

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Part of the International Space Station model

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These men are in constant contact with the astronauts on the International Space Station.

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Flags of the many countries that are part of the Space Station

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This is Saturn V. The size is just amazing.

We left Goose Pond on August 3rdand traveled to Ditto Landing Marina in Huntsville, AL. Once again we rented a car to tour the sights and scenery.  Our first day we took a drive to Alabama’s Lake Guntersville State Park, a beautiful park that encompasses both the mountains and the lake.  We also drove through the town of Guntersville, AL, as we missed it on our way north.  The following day we were able to go to the NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. Of course, this was on John’s list of go to destinations, but we both enjoyed the wonderful exhibits and tours there. I loved the life sized Space Station model that you can walk through and John especially loved the tour to International Space Station, Payload Operations Center where we could watch the people directly in contact with the Space Station in real time.  This is also the home of the Space Camp for youngsters, and many were arriving for a week of exploration and learning while we were there. Although we spent the entire day there, we left thinking there was even more to see.

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The Wilson Dam, a lock that raises and lowers boats 94 feet.

The next few days were travel days for us.  We stayed at the Lucy Branch Marina one night and then at Joe Wheeler State Park the next. The following day took us through the lock at Wilson Dam near Florence, AL.  This lock dropped us 94 feet; it is the highest single lock east of the Rocky Mountains.  After passing through the lock we stayed at the Florence Municipal Marina on the nights of August 8th and 9th.

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At the pool at Grand Harbor Marina.

We arrived back at in Counce, TN on August 10th.  Here, back with our good friends at Grand Harbor Marina, we settled in for an extended stay. It is important not to enter Florida too early during hurricane season, so, after weighing all of our options, we decided to stay at this marina which we enjoyed so much on our way north. Tucked in a covered slip, our boat stays cool.  We also have a patio where we can put our cockpit table and chairs and have dinner watching the river.  As an added bonus, because the dock is a distance from the ship store, and, especially, the pool, Neeley, the dockmaster, provided us with a golf cart to get around.  Of course, I spend most afternoons at the pool while John putters on AfterMath.

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Sweet little Ford!

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Walter in front of his school

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Rush attends school here too!

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Love that baby face.

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Clyde wants some attention too

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Loving that Papa (Jeff) is a pilot of those cool helicopters

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That’s one happy Rush to be sitting in a helicopter.

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And Walt gets the right seat.

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Bop loved it too! Rush is supervising.

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I love this picture of Jeff and Rush

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All three boys got a turn to go up on the stand and fly their paper airplanes in the hangar

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Meeting Teddy Roosevelt. Rush said to John, when he heard that this was a statue of Teddy, “Wow, he sure was big!”

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That’s Annie. She loved being pushed around by her big cousins.

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A view from the bridge that leads to the Theodore Roosevelt monument. That is Georgetown in the background. This park is quiet and beautiful. It is also one that many seem to miss while visiting Washington DC

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Ford wants to go up to the fly bridge with the big guys

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And he got up there!

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Jeff’s new “Toboggan” at dock at Hemmingway’s Restaurant

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The christening of Toboggan with the use of sparkling tonic water so everyone could have a sip.

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Clyde doesn’t miss out on any fun!

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Six year old Walt, sailing his very own boat.

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Crazy shenanigans on the water mat

Because we had time and because John hadn’t seen Jeff’s children since last December, we decided to take a road trip to Annapolis.  On the way there we drove through the mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway, spending one night in a lovely old inn along the way.  We completed our drive to Annapolis the following day and we were so excited to see everyone there. Jeff and Sarah’s house is always fun as there is so much going on!  One day, as Jeff and Sarah were working, I was able to take Walter and Rush to school and to meet their new teachers.  John and I then had Ford to ourselves and we were greatly entertained by the antics of a one year old.  While in Annapolis, we baited and checked crab pots, only catching two, but we ate them anyway.  We boated a lot, watched Walter out sailing on his own boat, enjoyed playing with the boys, took a trip to Washington Reagan, the airport from which Jeff flies, so that the boys could see the helicopters and fly paper airplanes in the hangar, and met up with our niece, Sarah, her husband, Jason, and little Annie for a visit to the park and to a Mexican restaurant.  We attended a christening ceremony for their new boat, Toboggan, which replaces the old Toboggan, and took a trip across the bay on it to have dinner at Hemmingway’s.  As always, there is never enough time to spend with family, but we really enjoyed our visit in Annapolis.

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Along Skyline Drive

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Nashville’s Parthenon

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The Parthenon is built to the exact scale of the Greek Parthenon

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Athena, with John in front of her to show her size.

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Her shield and snake

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The face on Athena’s shield

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The goddess, Nike, getting ready to crown Athena

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Downtown Nashville

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Outside the Grand Ole Opry building

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On the way back to AfterMath, we drove the length of the Skyline Drive in Virginia on to Nashville, TN. We spent the day exploring the city, first stopping at the Parthenon there.  It is a full sized model of the real Parthenon in Greece, and was originally built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.  The building is now an art museum, but its central piece is, just as it was in Greece, a gold plated 42-foot tall statue of Athena who is holding an impressive shield next to a snake in one hand, and Nike in her other.  During the day we also visited downtown Nashville, passed by the Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry began, and went to explore the new Grand Ole Opry site when it wasn’t crowded.

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Let the show begin!

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This was during intermission. It was a packed crowd that night

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Del McCoury

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Chris Janson

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Charles Esten

That evening we were excited to attend the Opry for our first time.  While Rascal Flatts was supposed to be there, they unfortunately had to cancel, but we saw, in this order, Jeannie Seely, the Del McCoury band, Chris Janson, Mandy Barnette, Charles Esten, and Darius Rucker.  They were all great but Chris Janson, who just found out that day that he was up for three CMA awards and had a new song in the top ten, was the most entertaining act of the night, and Darius Rucker with his familiar tunes such as Wagon Wheel, was fabulous.

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Back to the Tennessee River

Wednesday morning we set out after a nice breakfast and picked up Kirby who had stayed in Nashville at a “Pet Resort” while we were away.  Traveling along the Natchez Trace Highway, we enjoyed scenery and, after just a couple of hours, returned to AfterMath at Grand Harbor.  It had been a wonderful trip away from home.

Back aboard, we started some projects that had been waiting for us.  John always has a list a mile long, but his big job right now is more teak work, in particular, the teak from the cockpit and the flying bridge.  My kitchen counter is now covered in pieces of wood as the humidity and the spiders outside do not allow for the sterile environment John needs.  I was working on sewing projects such as new covers for our fenders that were so destroyed by the numerous locks, and plan to begin soon, new cushions for the bow seat and the flying bridge, but with my workspace used up by teak, my jobs are currently on hold.

We will stay here another couple of weeks before heading down the river system again.  Time goes quickly somehow, even when we are not underway. We are working on our plans for our family Thanksgiving in the Isle of Palms, SC, but as of this week, we are watching the storm that is barreling to the east coast.  For all of our family and friends in harms way, we are thinking of you and praying you all fare well this weekend as Florence approaches. Stay safe, hold on to those you love, and, please, don’t try to weather the storm if you can remove yourself from it. Life is precious, take care of yours.

From Chattanooga, TN to Knoxville,TN and Back to Chattanooga and Great Times with Chris and Sam (July 6 – July 29, 2018)

From Chattanooga, TN to Knoxville,TN and Back to Chattanooga and Great Times with Chris and Sam (July 6 – July 29, 2018)

After leaving Chattanooga, the trip up the river was nearing its end.  A marina not far from Knoxville, TN was as far north and east as we were planning to go, and, with the exception of a 30-mile run up the Little Tennessee River to be at the base of the Smokey Mountains, the time was coming when we would need to turn around and head downstream.  The area promised to be a great place to do some sight seeing, however, and to meet up with our friends, Chris and Sam, who were joining us for part of the trip.

Our first stop on July 6th was at a wonderful family run place by the name of Terrace View Marina in Spring City, TN.  Here, we met Mark and Heather, and their seven home-schooled children.  The children charmed us with their outgoing personalities and polite manners.  The marina has a restaurant and a pool, and on Saturday, hosted a poker run for pontoon boats.  We really enjoyed Terrace View and put it on our list of those places to stop on the way back down the river.

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Back when we lived in Bethel, Ct, we were pretty sure we had a steep driveway.  Ours was nothing compared to this one on the right!

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The barbecue food truck at Long Island Marina

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Enjoying lunch and country music at the Long Island Marina

Next we moved on to Long Island Marina in Kingston, TN.  Another great stop, this little marina is run by Marla, a very pleasant lady who was happy to have us, even though we took up most of her gas dock by being there. Long Island Marina does not have a restaurant, but it does have a great tradition; each weekend day a food truck arrives to serve guests delicious meals, and on the day we arrived, music was provided as well.  We had a great barbeque lunch while enjoying the view and the country music played by a local artist.

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I found the rock cliffs along the river so interesting.  So many were diagonal.  You could just imagine the earth being pushed up as the land shifted below.

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University of Tennessee’s stadium in Knoxville, TN

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At the World’s Fair Park in Knoxville, TN

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Also at the World’s Fair Park in Knoxville

On July 9th we arrived at our farthest point up the Tennessee River by boat, Fort Loudon Marina in Lenoir City, TN.  While we originally planned to go to Knoxville aboard AfterMath, we studied the map and found that Fort Loudon Marina was a perfect place to allow us access to rent a car and do some exploring of the area, including the city of Knoxville itself.  We stayed at Fort Loudon for several days, with the exception of one night where we moved to an anchorage as the marina had a large group of boats coming in and they needed our dock space.  John and I rented a car while at Fort Loudon and the first day we drove in to see what Knoxville had to offer.  I felt pretty guilty taking pictures of the University of Tennessee football stadium, being University of Florida fans, but I did enjoy seeing the World’s Fair Park there.

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High in the mountains

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At one end of the Tail of the Dragon

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In the Great Smokey Mountain National Park

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Gatlinburg, TN.  

The next day we took a day trip through the nearby mountains.  I researched driving trips in the area and we came up with a plan for our day.  Our first adventure that day was to drive the “Tail of the Dragon”.  This road sounded interesting, as it was a favorite for motorcyclists and sports car drivers.  In 11 miles, the drive has 318 curves that travel up and down the mountain. By the end of the drive, both Kirby and I had had quite enough of those curves, and I refused to do it as a return trip.  John was kind about our carsick feelings and took us on a much nicer, and calmer, drive through the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and into Gatlinburg, TN.

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Back up in the Smokey Mountains

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Sam finding the Appalachian Trail

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John’s turn to show off his hiking abilities on the trail.  Do you think he hiked all the way from Maine?

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At an overlook I saw this group and asked if I could take their picture.  They were the “Iron Pigs”.  Checking it out later, I found out they are all police officers.  What a nice group!

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Chris at a swimming hole in the park

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AfterMath in Fort Loudon Marina

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Silos still showing above the water on Tellico Lake

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Fort Loudon

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A beautiful ride up Tellico River, also called the Little Tennessee

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Chris and I got up to capture sunrise from our anchorage.

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We stayed in that water for hours

Chris and Sam arrived on July 17th, for their fifth trip with us, loaded with goodies as always. We looked at weather and decided to do another road trip the next day through the mountains before leaving our dock. Soon, however, it was time to move on. All along the way we heard that the prize destination was the Tellico River, also known as the Little Tennessee River.  The Tellico River, and much of the controlled Tennessee River, was formed by flooding towns and farms, and along the way it’s easy to see buildings that are still partially emerged from the water.  Soon, however, we were at the base of the mountains in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park.  It’s a beautiful sight to see the colors that change as the sun sets and rises over the scenery, and, for us, what started as a quick dip in the water turned into a few hour-long soak in the lake.  After a night at anchor in this gorgeous scenery, we returned to Fort Loudon Marina for one more night before beginning our downstream voyage.  We had traveled 1008 miles since leaving the Gulf Coast at Montgomery, AL and risen 814 feet above sea level by way of eighteen locks.

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AfterMath at Long Island Marina, taking up most of the gas dock!

Retracing our steps, we took Chris and Sam to Long Island Marina where this time the food truck was called “Waffley Good”.  While John and Chris ate waffle sandwiches stuffed with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries, Sam and I were more adventurous, Sam eating a bacon, chicken, ranch waffle and me having a BLT waffle.  No matter what, we enjoyed our stay at this tiny marina where AfterMath was oversized but the people were friendly and welcoming.

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The snow cone boat comes to Terrace View Marina on occasion.  The kids are thrilled, of course.

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The children at the marina were given a pygmy pig.  Kirby got to meet the pig one afternoon.  He loved it!

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On our way to the grocery store Chris and I ran across this trading post.  We had a great time looking around.

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As always, meeting the local people is the highlight of any day.

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This swallow and her babies were camped out on the boat next to ours.

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Getting ready for the fire fighters practice at Terrace View Marina. Heather is in the blue shirt and black shorts.  William, one of the kids in the family, is next to her.  Jackson, another son, is in the rear in a grey shirt and black shorts. 

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Mark, the dad, and two of his girls, Molly and Annie.

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Fire departments sure seem to have fun!

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July 22nd took us back to Terrace View Marina.  It’s really surprising how much we all loved this stop.  Chris and I spent countless hours at the pool over the next couple of days and we all enjoyed a great dinner at La Hacienda, a Mexican and Italian restaurant in town.  One night, the local fire departments conducted training at the marina. The kind owners held a full dinner for the fire fighters and, by way of two adorable kids bearing a home made flyer, we were also invited to attend.  Mark and Heather served smoked pork, pork loin, an assortment of barbeque sauces, coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, and Texas sheet cake to all who came to share in the fun.  After dinner the fire fighters had a great time with demonstrations of their hose power and rescue boats.  We loved our time at Terrace View and truly hated leaving such a family oriented place.

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Such a beautiful sunset at anchor.

We were back at anchor on the 25th.  Anxious to jump in, we were soon shocked by some of the coldest water we have felt in a very long time on the Hiawassee River.  Although we were never sure why this water was so cold, we still enjoyed floating around and enjoying the scenery.

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On the 100 year old carousel in Coolidge Park, Chattanooga, TN

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Each beautiful animal has been hand carved.

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Fun for all ages!!

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The beautiful splash pad in front of the carousel at the park

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Next stop, the Tennessee Aquarium

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The view from the top of Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, TN

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The ride on the Incline Railway was quite the thrill!

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At its steepest point, this car travels at a 72% grade.

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Chris and I were great sports as the guys explored the International Towing and Recovery Museum

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After dinner the night before they left.  It’s hard to believe we have known each other for 60 years now.

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Chris bought the guys these hats and they modeled them for us as they got ready to leave on Sunday morning.  It was a wonderful visit and the time passes way too quickly!

We arrived back in Chattanooga on the 26th and that is where we spent the rest of our time with our wonderful visitors.  John and I had left plenty to do in this city for when we had company and together we all enjoyed riding the carousel, visiting the park, lunching in the German beer house, visiting the aquarium, riding the incline railway to the top of Lookout Mountain, and, John and Sam’s favorite, visiting the International Towing and Recovery Museum.  We topped it all off with an amazing dinner at Hennen’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant. It was so hard to say goodbye again to our good friends when they left on Sunday, but it’s nice to know that we will find them again somewhere in the near future.

So, now we are now heading back towards Florida.  We will travel slowly, stopping for a month or so again at Grand Harbor Marina at the junction of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  The Tennessee River has brought us to, what was for us, an unexplored part of America.  I’m not sure that we would have ever spent time in this area of the country if we were not traveling aboard AfterMath, but it has been an eye opening experience full of kind people who were happy to have us see what the true south is like. We look back at our lives over the last three years and we are in awe of the people we have met, the sights we have seen, and the things we have learned about the nation and the world.  Our eyes have been opened to new opinions, different values, and unfamiliar cultures.  Travel is surely a learning experience.  To quote one of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy, “Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”  Hopefully, we will never forget, never have our minds break off from, this adventure of a lifetime.

Joe Wheeler State Park to Chattanooga, TN (June 24 – July 5, 2018)

Joe Wheeler State Park to Chattanooga, TN (June 24 – July 5, 2018)

The Tennessee River between Joe Wheeler State Park and Chattanooga twists and turns through Alabama and Tennessee, almost touches Georgia, and switches from Central Time to Eastern Standard Time.  The riverbanks often are high stone cliffs, and mountains appear on the horizon; the scenery changes with each passing mile.  Finally we were in Chattanooga and spending time at one of our principle summer destinations.

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Grain processing plant along the river

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Here is where Meow Mix is made!

We pulled out of the beautiful Joe Wheeler State Park in Alabama on June 25th and traveled to the Riverwalk Marina in Decatur, Alabama.  This small marina, in a cove off of the Tennessee River, had been hard hit by a storm in April, sinking boats and collapsing the structure that covers the slips there.  We docked on a rather rickety dock that did not have power, but we did fine for one night. There was no discussion, however, about whether we wanted to stay an extra night!

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The scenery changes as Chattanooga is approached.

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High cliff walls along the way

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Debbie and Dave Smith, new friends who just purchased a 48′ Hatteras LRC like AfterMath

The next two nights were spent in Huntsville and Guntersville, both in Alabama, before moving on to Goose Pond Colony Resort in Scottsboro, Alabama.  At Goose Pond, we were happy to meet Debbie and David Smith, a very nice couple who just purchased a Hatteras LRC like ours.  We spent time touring each other’s boats, having dinner and a night of entertainment together, and talking about our travels and plans for the future.  Hopefully there will be more meet ups with Debbie and Dave in the future.

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At the free dock at the state recreational area

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Look at this young boy’s fishing rod

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Here is his catch!

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Hales Bar – an early multipurpose dam on the Tennessee River 

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Some early morning views along the river

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A morning drink along the river for this deer

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Kudzu was brought from Japan to help prevent erosion.  Now it has overtaken much of the landscape.

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As we got close to Chattanooga we saw this funny little tour boat

On June 29th we motored to a pretty recreational area that provided a free dock for transients. I found the swimming area quickly and finally was able to get into the water of the Tennessee River.  The view was beautiful with clean water, people fishing and swimming from the docks, and the first true views of mountains as a backdrop.  Finally, the following day, we arrived in Chattanooga, TN.  As we approached the city, we noticed our phones had changed times, and we were back to EST for the first time in three months.

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One of the many duck tour boats on the river

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Any kind of watercraft can be found on the Tennessee River

 

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From the pedestrian bridge.  AfterMath is front and center, the Southern Belle is on the right under the bridge.

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That’s John on the pedestrian bridge

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Coolidge Park at the north end of the bridge

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Looking back across the river from the north side

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Splash pad in Coolidge Park

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Such a cute couple on the bridge.  She asked me to take their picture on her phone, so I asked if I could also take one for the blog

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The waterfall pool on the river in Chattanooga

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At the base of the waterfall pool

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The pedestrian bridge at night

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Inside the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

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This train is affectionately known as the Chattanooga Choo Choo.  In truth, there was no one train called by that name

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A few more shots of the hotel

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The aquarium on the waterfront

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Getting ready for the fireworks on July 3rd.

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The Southern Belle out for the fireworks tour.

Chattanooga is a vibrant, hot, humid, and hilly city.  To get anywhere around town visitors must be prepared to climb stairs and hills, but it is well worth the effort.  We arrived in time for the Fourth of July holiday and we spent the first couple of days exploring by foot, by tour trolley, and by the free shuttle that transports people around town.  There is a wonderful pedestrian bridge that spans the Tennessee River and connects north and south Chattanooga, and we were docked right under it.  From AfterMath we could watch the converted Army Duck Boats as they brought tourists past us, see the big paddleboat, Southern Belle, make its way up and down the river, and watch all of the action as boaters traveled through the city.  We spent some time at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, now a hotel that was made from a converted train station and that was named in honor of the old song by the same name.  The hotel, of course, houses a train by the name of the Chattanooga Choo Choo in its garden and over night guests can choose to rent a train car to stay in instead of a hotel room if they like.  We were rewarded with a fabulous fireworks display directly overhead for the National holiday; we watched from the fly bridge of the boat while eating cheeseburgers. It was time to move along on July 5th, but we made plans to see more of the attractions as we pass back through on our way west on the river in a few weeks.

So, we are looking forward to returning to Chattanooga again.  The sights ahead, however, are waiting for us and we are ready to continue to make our way east and north along the river, and we are excited to know that Chris and Sam will be joining us near Knoxville for more of the trip. For now, we will continue on the last leg of our Tennessee River journey before starting back downstream.  We are enjoying traveling the inland waterways of our country, finding new friends along the way, and visiting new places, all while “living the dream”.

 

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.