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.
At the Butterfly Garden in Ft. MyersLove was in the air!Every 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.Carol 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.
AfterMath in the Cayo Costa anchorageThe blooming cactus plants were beautifulThe beach on the Gulf of Mexico in Cayo CostaA 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.
A little car ferry at Cape HazeThe first of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge participants.
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.
Remnants of the last hurricane.Passing through VeniceBack in the waters we love so much.First sighting of my favorite birds, the roseate spoonbills, and the snowy egrets too.Sarasota skylineSunset through the bridge.
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.
Leaving SarasotaBack to the old stomping grounds. We used to take our Boston Whaler out on these waters all of the time.On 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.
Walt has lost two teeth.The photo credit here goes to Walter, who picked up my camera and took this shot of his little brother, Ford. Jeff, Rush and Walt at school.Walt was a “gourmet goat” in his musical.Ford seems shocked that the food he drops in his lap keeps disappearing!This is Clyde, who likes to dine with Ford.
Walt’s first lacrosse practice.Rush is ready to practice, too. If only he were a couple years older!Sarah and Ford on a beautiful day at practice.Back at home, Walt lit the candles on Rush’s birthday cake.Love those boys!
Proud 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.
Steve, Krista, and JohnBob and Monique’s tiki hut on Anna Maria IslandThat’s Monique walking up the path from the beach.Left to right, John, Larry, Yvonne, Bob, and MoniqueSusan at the Beach House. Somehow I missed taking a picture of Susan and Dick when they were on the boat!I really love that beach!Here we are with Gail and Michael at Arts and EatsNed and Anne on St. Patrick’s DayWe took Jace for a walk on the Riverwalk. Here he is at the skate park.Next stop, the splash pad. This little guy loved it!Getting so close to walking! He manages a couple of steps on his own now.Jason, Lisa and JaceJace 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.