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.

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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.