Sunday: We will complete some chores today and complete our upcoming week’s cruise plan with Wild Goose today, then tomorrow, we’ll cruise again. It’s a hot day and I’m really not looking forward to working on the dinghy battery because it’ll be in the sun all day, but I’ve got all the parts I need and there’s no good reason not to complete the repairs, so today’s the day. But first, before I work on the battery cables, Tracy wants to have an hour giving the dinghy a good cleaning, so I give way and she has the boat sparkling and almost all of the rust type stains are gone. She also cleans out the forward storage compartment where I will install the new battery later on. It’s really clean and I hate to go to work on it after she’s got it so clean (no I don’t get away with that excuse!).
So I disassemble the old battery cables and install the new. I start at the motor so the wires are not live while I’m working on them. I connect the new positive and the new negative then, before securing the new battery in the forward storage compartment, I hook up the two cables to the battery and see if the motor will start. Well as lady luck must take Sunday’s off, nothing happens when I try to start the motor with the electric start, rats. So I test the power readings at the battery and at the motor and I have 12.6 volts at the battery, 12.6 volts at the solenoid and 12.6 volts at the starter. So the power is not the issue. Next I check the solenoid and by crossing the posts with a screwdriver, the motor cranks up and starts. So I think (not sure yet) the solenoid is good. Then I call Nick, put him on FaceTime and show him the issue. He walks me thru jumping the starter switch and when I pull the wire connections and bypass the starter switch, the motor fires right up. So since I’m not jumping the solenoid and the starter switch at the same time, the issue is definitely the switch and not the solenoid. Nick searches for the switch and finds an E-Bay vendor right in CT who has 4 in stock. So he orders 1 for delivery to his house and when Dede flies down next Thursday, she’ll have the new starter switch with her and Nick & I will install, then the electric start components should start the motor as designed, with just a push of the starter button. That will certainly help Tracy’s shoulder heal better if she’s not using it to pull start this motor.
In the marina office later in the day, I meet a couple checking in that are from Westbrook, CT and they know our friends Bob and Linda Lee who took us out to lunch back in 2017 so they could counsel us on all the beauties and potential pitfalls of the loop. Again, this is a very small world.
Our plan is finalized for the cruising this week. We will take a short cruise tomorrow to Titusville Municipal Marina and moor in their mooring field for at least 1 night and possibly 2. We heard that there is a NASA Rocket launch scheduled for Wednesday morning at 3:59am. So if we can confirm that, we’ll stay in the mooring field for 2 nights and get up early to watch the rocket launch right outside our windows. Then we’ll cruise Wednesday to New Smyrna Beach for an anchorage, then Daytona Beach Thursday evening at anchor, then Friday we’ll cruise into Hammock Beach Resort Marina in Palm Coast for Friday and stay the weekend. Bill and Bobbie aboard First Forty are there and we will spend some time with them and also entertain Nick, Dede and the girls once again on Saturday as they will drive from Orlando ti spend the day with us. All in all this is a good plan, so we raise the dinghy up to the roof and tie her down before it gets dark. Then turn in for the evening ready to move tomorrow.
Monday: We have a short 18 nautical mile cruise today, so Wild Goose and Kailani have agreed to shoot for a 10am departure. That gives us time to eat breakfast, walk Frankie, get a pump out and return the rental car and still have plenty of time for filling the fresh water holding tank so we don’t run out of water while anchoring out all week.
At 8am I see a dock hand out on the dock with the pump out hose, so I go out to help him and I can’t help but notice how happy and friendly he is for early Monday morning where he has to pump pooh out of people’s boats. It’s really quite amazing. The pompous is supposed to cost $5, so I hand him 2-$5 bills and tell him that 1 is for the pump out and the other is a tip for him. He tries to refuse the second $5 but I insist and he says that he will take the tip and put it into the tip jar where the rest of the dock hands can split it up. Now I’m totally amazed about this guy as he won’t even take the tip for himself. Later after returning the rental car I’m walking back to Kailani and stop in the office to buy a bag of ice and realize that the happy/smily pump out guy is none other than Ken the marina manager! Are you kidding me? Not only is he the friendliest guy while working with other people’s pooh, but he’s the manager besides! Now I see why there are so many positive review on Active Captain for this marina.
By 10:15am Wild Goose and Kailani are squared up north in the Atlantic IntraCoastal Waterway and headed towards Titusville. Wild Goose takes the lead and with the only exception being a big wake overtaking by Sea Dog, the day’s cruise is very uneventful and pleasant. By 12:15pm Wild Goose is grabbing a mooring ball line and Kailani is entering the marina channel to go in and fuel up before coming back out into the mooring field for the two nights. We take on 165 gallons and both tanks are full. We go into the office, pay for the fuel and the mooring balls, then take Kailani out to the mooring field for a hookup at a ball. Since we have never done a mooring ball hookup procedure, I call Barry and he talks me through the procedure. He cautions that even though this ir ordinarily a simple procedure, in this mooring field, it’s a bit problematic because the tag lines are shorter than he’s used to and you really have to get your vessel close to the mooring ball before you have enough room to run you own line through the eyelet.
So our first attempt is with me at the helm and Tracy on the bow, but soon the line is getting pulled out of her hands without the connection getting completed. Luckily she is not injured, but we switch it up and Tracy takes the helm and I work the bow. Our first pass with this configuration yields the same result as the line is yanked out of my hands, but on the third attempt, we get Kailani secured to Mooring ball A2 and all’s well.
Tracy gets her fishing gear out and works the waters looking for some good catches while I relax in the salon. Soon Barry and Carol are calling asking if we want to dinghy into the marina dinghy dock and walk/Uber to a restaurant for dinner. We all agree on 4pm, then delay that until 5pm to let the seas calm down a bit. Once on shore, we call an Uber and go to the highly recommended (by the marina staff) restaurant called Dixie Crossroads. We have a spectacular meal at this location topped off with ice cream desserts and we head back to our respective vessels for the evening. We all agree that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring or what we will do, but whatever we do, we’ll certainly enjoy ourselves.
Tuesday: Our plan to stay here for 2 days is decided in part on the fact that there is a rocket launch scheduled for Wednesday morning at 3:59am. So we have positioned ourselves in the best viewing spot for the takeoff by choosing this mooring field. We are actually speculating that this mooring field will fill up rather quickly today as people jockey their vessels for the best viewing of the rocket launch. This is an unmanned rocket launch in the SpaceX Program which is Tesla’s space company but they are funded in part by the government and use all the NASA facilities for launches. So we’re situated in basically the front row for Wednesday’s early morning launch, then we will depart for New Smyrna Beach.
So today is a day for chores and taking the dinghy into the dinghy dock then walking into town for some local exploration. We know there’s a NASA Space Museum nearby and that will be our target. So we lower the dinghy and run into the city marina docks for tying up the dinghy. Then we start walking towards downtown Titusville. As we’re walking past Sand Point Park, we spot a white Ibis standing next to a sign warning people not to swim in the ponds due to alligators.
Shortly after the Sand Point Park the sun was beating down as usual and we spotted a Burger King one block ahead, so we agreed to go into the Burger King and get lunch and a nice cold beverage. As soon as we walked in we spotted a little lounge area right in the front of the dining area with 4 lounge chairs and a small coffee table. So we sat down and relaxed in the air conditioning before walking up to the counter to place our order. As we were sitting there cooling off, we could hear a customer yelling at the manager and claiming that they were giving her food that was different than she had ordered. Her voice got very loud and very vulgar (luckily there were not any children in the place at the time). We were afraid something violent would start happening when 2 of Titusville’s finest arrived in 2 squad cars and pulled the lady from the store and separated her from her boyfriend to wee if they could sort out what had happened. The store manager was quick witted (and most likely trained for this occurrence) and had set her cell phone to record the entire conversation so when the police asked for who said what, she simply pulled out her cell phone and pressed play. Soon the inside of the Burger King was quiet again and we were ready to place our order.
After lunch and some cold beverages, we continued walking up the main street of Titusville and turned right on Pine Street to get to the NASA Museum. Once inside we had a retired employee of a NASA Contractor that walked us through the exhibit rooms and gave us personal information on some of the systems exhibited. The museum had true artifacts from all the space programs to date from the earliest unmanned rockets thru the shuttle program to today’s SpaceX Program supplying the International Space Station.
After we were done in the museum, we decided we’d had enough excitement for one day and called for an Uber ride back to the marina. Oh and by the way, at some point during the day we found out and confirmed, that the rocket launch scheduled for tomorrow morning has been delayed until Saturday at 3:11am, so I guess we’ll have to wait for the launch from Palm Coast on Saturday. I just don’t know if we’ll be too far away to see anything. This is a disappointment since we were sitting on front row seats now.
Back aboard Kailani, we planned for tomorrow’s cruise to New Smyrna Beach Where we’ve also decided that we will be staying in the city marina rather than anchoring out because it will be a very warm night tomorrow and if we have shore power, we can run the air conditioning. So a marina it will be. It’s a 29 NM trip so we agree with Wild Goose to shoot for a 9am departure and say our good nights.
Wednesday: First thing we must do this morning prior to departure is to raise the dinghy, so with Tracy in the cockpit and me on the roof, we lift the dinghy up to the roof where I settle her into her cradle and tie her down. Then we can complete the remainder of our normal pre-cruise preparations prior to 9am. At 8:45am Tracy is releasing the lines from the mooring ball and we’re off for the day.
We cruise out of the mooring field and into the ICW where we can see motor yachts and sailing vessels in both directions as far as we can see. We’re not really sure why there’s so much ICW traffic for a Wednesday, but for sure, they’re out here. Most of the motor yachts are being driven by blind captains today also! We can see the numerous vessels, but we don’t really interact with any of them until we’re just before entering Haulover Channel. Again we are faced with motor yachts in both directions that have no idea of the force of the wakes caused by their vessels. So obviously, we look forward to the overtaking and passing situations with sailing vessels rather than motor yachts, however, that turns out to be wishful thinking also as most of the sailboats don’t seem to know how to work, or turn on, a VHF radio. We call them for slow passes and get dead air space in return, amazing!
Soon we are entering a tight area of the ICW and there is a no wake zone for 5 miles, so we will be cruising at 5 miles per hour for an hour! But due to the narrowness of the ICW the winds are nullified and the waves are neutralized and the ICW is very calm to cruise. This stays that way until about 2 miles before New Smyrna Beach. Our instructions are to call the marina on VHF #16 when we are passing under the bridge, so we do just that and Darrell talks us into our slip where he’s waiting to grab the lines from Tracy as I back Kailani into Slip 32. Soon afterwards, Barry is backing Wild Goose into the adjacent slip and after 3 hours and 50 minutes we’ve knocked another 29 nautical miles off on our way towards our wake crossing in Savannah.
There’s a few loopers here in the marina and a few more come in after us so by the end of the day we’ve met 3 more looper boats of people. I take my bike off the boat and go for a bike ride into town to check out some of the sights. We had talked about going into town tonight for some pizza and Darrell told me about a great place for pizza, so I thought I’d check it out and see if I could pick up a menu for everyone else to review before walking there. I also rode through the nearby waterside park with veterans memorial statues, picnic areas, playgrounds, etc. I also find the Panhead’s Pizzaria and get a takeout menu for reference.
After returning to the marina I spend the rest of the afternoon chatting with Barry and Carol aboard Wild Goose where we decide to delay the short 20 mile cruise tomorrow into Daytona Beach and rather, make one longer cruise on Friday straight to Palm Coast. Barry calls Darrell and confirms that we can stay an additional day with no problem, so our decision is made and we’ll get to see more of New Smyrna Beach tomorrow.
At 6pm we walk up to Panhead’s Pizzeria and have a great pizza dinner with each of us getting a personal pizza of our own choosing, then it’s a leisurely walk back thru the Canal Street Historic District to the marina for the evening.
Thursday: We decide to use the day in port cleaning Kailani in preparation for Nick & Dede visiting on Saturday. So I work on waxing the cockpit while Tracy works on deep cleaning/vacuuming of the salon. The sun is very hot today so we work in short shifts so as not to get overheated doing these chores. Later in the day I take a walk into town for a long awaited opportunity to check out Dana’s Canal St. Creamery. I opt for their Strawberry Cheesecake flavor and after enjoying two full scoops, I end up not being able to resist their display of cakes and desserts. I end up buying two squares of coconut-pineapple cake to bring back to the boat.
Everyone around us is talking about tomorrow’s launch, so we make plans with three other looper boat crews to get up at 2:30am and walk to the park where we should have a clear view of the launch scheduled for 3:11am. Consequently, everyone turns in early for the evening and I use the quiet time to complete our cruise plan for tomorrow.
Friday: At 2:30am Tracy and I are walking off Kailani with cups of hot coffee to meet the other three crews, but two of them have not woken up, so Gary & Terri of LunaSea and us walk over to the park and get ready for the experience. At this our there are three people fishing on the town docks right next to us and wile we wait for the launch, we watch them haul in a few catches. Tracy has the NASA launch info on her cell phone and at T minus 12 minutes the launch is aborted for a hydrogen leak issue. Oh well, neither of us has ever witnessed a live launch and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but maybe as we travel down here more often another opportunity will present itself.
Back to Kailani and we try to get a few more hours of sleep before shoving off for Palm Coast. There will be a window of good weather leading up to noontime, but there’s still a chance (but smaller than previously forecasted) of thunderstorms from 11am thru the afternoon.
At 8:15am we’re pulling away from the dock with Barry helping on the dock lines. We say our goodbyes but only for a day as they will join us at Hammock Beach tomorrow. The skies are beautiful and we hope they stay that way for our entire 38 nautical mile trip. The winds are also cooperating as there is a light breeze out of the west. Our trip today will involve only one bridge to open and it opens on request, so there’s no need to try and plan a specific time to arrive at the bridge. We have the waterway mostly to ourselves today with very few other boats and thankfully, the only boat that overtakes us politely asks for a slow pass and we comply. We keep a sharp lookout on the skies above and they remain mostly clear for the entire cruise. So overall, today’s trip is definitely another of our pleasant days on the water.
At 1:15pm, exactly 5 hours after departing, we are nestling up to the dock at Hammock Beach Resort and Neil is there waiting to take the lines from Tracy as she hands them to him. We go thru the post cruise procedures and soon we are both napping after the early morning safari. After I wake up, I walk over to the parking lot to check it out for Nick’s arrival tomorrow and I bump into Bill and Bobbie aboard First Forty. We are all glad to see each other and soon, we are making plans to go out to dinner together tonight. We all get into their car and we drive over to the main resort for one of their restaurants, the Atlantic Grille. We have a nice meal while catching up on each others adventures, then we return to the marina for the evening. It’s easy getting to sleep tonight as we are still a bit groggy from this morning. Tomorrow, we’ll spend a nice day with Nick, Dede, Natalie and Brianna.
Nick & Dede along with the kids show up and we have a great time together for the day. Remember how Nick had ordered a new ignition switch for our dinghy and he was going to bring it with him today so I could install it? Well it got left in their room at the Doubletree Inn back in Orlando, so we won’t be installing our new switch anytime soon.
But we make our plan to go to the Hammock Beach Resort for the day because they have 10 pools along with a beautiful beach and restaurants where we can get cold beverages and food when everyone is hungry. Our first stop will be at the outdoor pool with water slides and a river ride on tubes. It’s a great facility and we are there in perfect time to enjoy the water for a while, then order lunches to be delivered to our pool-side table. Our waitress provides great service and we are well taken care of until after the meals are eaten and digested, the rains start and the trip to the ocean beach area is on hold for now. So we change our plans and go into the indoor pool with hot tubs and enjoy that amenity for a while until Nick & Dede are decided that the kids have had enough fun for one day and they want to get back to their hotel in Orlando so they can be ready for tomorrow’s flight.
So we say our goodbyes to them and turn in for an early evening. We’ve learned that 9pm is referred to as ‘Looper’s Midnight’!
Sunday: We had originally scheduled a departure for today, but both Tracy & I felt a bit under the weather, so we decided to stay and fully recuperate prior to leaving. Barry & Carol borrowed the Bristow’s vehicle, so we tagged along with them and did some Publix and WalMart shopping. We didn’t need to go full bore, we just wanted to add some small items prior to leaving and Tracy was looking for some hobby type kits for keeping busy when underway.
After our shopping spree, we returned to the marina and spent the afternoon relaxing and preparing for tomorrow’s departure while Barry & Carol were thinking about staying for another day. We learned from Bill & Bobbie that a great Gold Looper friend of theirs who has a dirt house here in Palm Coast has invited us over to her house for homemade pizza and docktails! So we all pile into the Bristow’s car and take the short drive over the bridge to Susan’s house. Her husband is up in Buffalo, NY preparing their vessel for spring cruising while Susan stays in Florida with their Portuguese Water Dog (and stays much warmer than him!). Her pizza’s are spectacular while Tracy makes her delicious crab puffs and Bobbie makes a full garden salad.
Upon our return to the marina, we make arrangements to depart tomorrow morning and Bill & Bobbie say they’ll be over to help us shove off. This marina has been spectacular as far as economics and amenities and we definitely are considering putting this marina on our short list for future snowbird trips to Florida.
Monday: It’s another beautiful morning on the Florida coast and when I go out to walk Frankie for the morning, I find out that Barry and Carol have decided to leave today also and join us on the cruise to St Augustine. They will stay in the St Augustine City Mooring Field next to the famous Bridge of Lions while we will cruise past the St Augustine Inlet and turn into Camachee Cove Marina. This will be a short and easy 24 nautical mile cruise with some slow Manatee zones but no bridges to open. So after Bill & Bobbie arrive at 10:15am to assist us with our lines and say goodbyes (for now), we are pulling away from the docks at 10:30am and following in Wild Goose’s wake as they lead the way today.
We’re followed by the usual dolphin show(s) and an occasional ray taking a fantastic leap out of the water and splashing back down. This show is virtually impossible to catch on video, however they are truly spectacular when they leap completely out of the water, then splash back down a mere second later. It’s fun to watch for obstructions, other vessels, bridges, buoys, channel markers, dolphins and rays all at the same time. The time at the helm really passes by rather quickly.
Exactly 3 hours ofter departure, we are radioing Wild Goose as they turn into the mooring field and we continue into our marina. Camachee Cove Marina is familiar to Tracy as she stopped here three years ago with Geoff and Steve when she was bringing Kailani up to Connecticut for the first time. So everything is starting to feel familiar to her while I’m still experiencing everything for the first time. However, by the end of this week we will have crossed our wake and everything will be familiar to the both of us. We have a dock hand waiting at slip A-17 to grab the lines from Tracy and soon we are all secured with electric hooked up also. We will spend the remainder of the short afternoon preparing for Matt, Katie and their two children to show up at 4:30pm. I take the long walk around the entire marina to enter the marina office while Tracy hitches a ride with the dock hand who showed up using one of the marina’s tenders. After a short wait by Tracy, I arrive on foot and we walk up the stairs to the office and pay for our evening’s stay and a bag of ice. The dock hand offers to return us to our slip so the ice doesn’t melt and we immediately say yes to his offer. We are far from the office, but directly in front of the marina pool, so we can watch if there’s a crowd in the pool whenever we may want to use it.
Right at 4:30pm, Matt, Katie, Jax and Elle show up for their visit and it’s instantly a big hug between Matt & me as we haven’t seen each other in at least five years. In fact, I think we haven’t seen Katie since their wedding day. So we have a great time with the visit. First thing to do with the two children is get them into the pool for some sun and fun. This works out very well as five year old Jax is a perpetual motion machine, going non-stop the entire time he’s here. Elle has fun in the pool also and once everyone is hungry, we all change into street clothes and walk about 100 yards from the boat to the KingFish Restaurant (on marina property) and select an outdoor picnic table for our meal. We are seated right next to a corn hole game with three bean bags, so guess what Jax does until the meals show up. Of course, he plays with me for a while, with Dad for a while and with Mom for a while. In the meantime, Elle tries unsuccessfully to run down the boat ramp into the river at least 4-5 times. Either Matt or Katie catch her before she gets a chance to start her sprint!
The meal is delicious, however all the games and running do not slow the children down for a minute. After dinner we walk back to Kailani and Tracy gets out the fishing pole so Jax can try his luck with the fish here in the marina. They drown shrimp for about 30 minutes and Matt & Katie determine that it’s time to get home for bed. They live about 25 minutes away from here in Ponte Vedra so Katie leaves with Elle and Matt will take Jax, however Jax asks for a few more minutes to try and catch a fish, so on they go fishing! Soon however, Matt tells Jax that they must leave and we’ll get together again sometime so he can fish some more. In fact, they’ll be coming up to CT for the first week in July to visit family, so maybe we’ll be able to get together then. Well as Matt & Jax are walking off the dock towards Matt’s car, Tracy finally latches onto a catch, so we holler to them to return and Jax comes running down the ramp, takes over the pole and reels in a nice catfish. He has a great time and we’re so glad he had the opportunity tore in a caught fish. Now they leave for real and I hope we’ll be able to get together in July when they fly up to CT. Before turning in for the night, we decide to stay another day here and go do the touristy thing tomorrow with Barry and Carol.
St Augustine really is a tourist-based city with the claim to be the oldest city in the United States as it was discovered by Spanish explorer, Pedro Menendez de Aviles on September 4th, 1565. That makes it 454 years old! So we talk with Barry & Carol and decide the best way to see the old city is by the Trolley. So we buy tickets and meet at the Trolley stop. The trolleys run continuously all day and you can get on and off at any of the 23 stops, then get back on another trolley later on. So we pool our thoughts and decide the best thing to do is ride the entire 23 stops, then decide where we want to get off for a more closer look. After we complete the circuit, we decide we want to see the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine which was funded in large part by Henry Flagler and he and some of his family are buried there. We also stop at the oldest schoolhouse in America, old fashion street colonnade shopping village and the Fountain of Youth.
Henry Flagler came here from up north and built the railroad that would run from St Augustine all the way to Key West. If you travel some of the east coast resort cities in Florida, you’ll see his name on numerous buildings and streets, etc.
We also saw, (but did not exit the trolley) the oldest tree in America. It’s a Southern Live Oak affectionately called ‘The Senator’ and it is reputed to be 600 years old! That means it was already 150 years old when St Augustine was discovered. Then we rode down one of the 5 most picturesque streets in America called Magnolia Lane. This is a tree lines street where the trees form an enclosure arch over the entire street. The only rub is that the trees are not Magnolia trees! They were replaced with Southern Live Oaks and the Spanish Moss that hangs from the branches really makes the street beautiful.
We couldn’t come to St Augustine without drinking from the Fountain of Youth, so our last stop was there and we learned that the park not only contains the fountain that Ponce de Leon discovered, but there is also a live archeological dig being conducted here with all kinds of artifacts that are teaching us more of the lifestyle and tragedy of the Timucua Indian civilization. The grounds are also home to dozens of peacocks and albino peacocks. We saw many of the peacocks open, but we could not get any of the albino peacocks to open for us. I really must admit, I don’t feel like I’ve aged since drinking from the fountain!
Back aboard Kailani, we prepare for tomorrow’s departure with our cruise plan and study of the charts, then we’re in bed a tad early since we have a seven hour cruise tomorrow.
Wednesday: We are both up ready to get off the dock and get a pump out before leaving the marina. Our plan is to be at anchorages for the next three days, so we must make sure we have enough fresh water and empty holding tanks to make it thru the week. At 9:00am we are releasing the ducklings and moving Kailani over to the fuel/pump out dock. We complete the pump out, buy a 25 pound bag of ice and we’re leaving the Camachee Cove Marina at 9:30am headed for Georgia. That’s right, today is our last day in Florida. We’ve been in Florida since January 17th when we left The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach Alabama. That’s nearly 5 months and we’ve had spectacular weather, great stops and great visits from family and friends.
The cruise today again is free of bridge openings, so there aren’t any delays in that regard, however, there are some shoaling spots to be aware of that we are fully prepared for when they occur (so we think) When we get to the paper mill in Fernandino Beach the buoys and markers show a conflicting and confusing path. The ICW has been re-routed to newer, deeper water, but some of the old channel maulers are still set in the water, so as we approach, we are not clear which ICW markers to follow. So we slow to nearly idle speed and follow the deepest water. Soon we are safely thru the area, but not before a few choice words by me, the Captain, and passing thru 7.4 feet of water.
Our destination today is Cumberland Island in Georgia. Cumberland Island is mostly un-developed and it is home to an entire civilization fo wild horses. They are completely self sufficient and feed on their own off the island’s sources. Many loopers have cruised by Cumberland Island and not spotted one horse, however, as we crossed St Mary’s Sound and were headed directly towards the southern tip of Cumberland Island, we were greeted with the sight of two wild horses right out there on the beach. It was truly spectacular and made our day to be fortunate enough to spot these two beauties. Soon we were pulling into a cove in the southern half of Cumberland Island into the Cumberland Sound Anchorage right off the Ice House Museum. We are one of probably 15 vessels in here so it’s obviously a popular anchorage.
Tracy tries her fishing prowess off the stern and, in addition to the other various fish she reels in, actually gets a ray nearly to the boat before he’s able to spit the hook out! While she’s out there she spots two dolphins swimming together which is very common and ordinary to us for this trip, however, the odd thing is that one of the dolphins is completely white! We’ve never seen an albino dolphin before. We are anchored adjacent to King’s Bay Naval Sub Base and we can see the lights of the base thru the night. Tomorrow we will pass right by this sub base and we will have to be diligent to stay in the channel or risk being pulled over by the USCG. Also, we must check with radio broadcasts for a sub entering or leaving the base as the regulations require us to maintain 500 yards of distance during the escort of the subs.
Thursday: Today’s trouble spot is Jekyll Creek and should only be traversed during a rising tide. So we need to leave this beautiful anchorage between 8:00 & 8:30am in order to pass thru with the deepest water. So Tracy is out fishing by shortly after 7:00am knowing that we would have to leave. She was really enjoying her time because she was catching some nice fish, but we both came to an agreement and split the difference for a 8:15am departure. There was no nuclear submarine traffic this morning, so we would have a clean shot past King’s Bay Submarine Base.
The ICW was very calm today between inlets, but in the four inlets we had to traverse, the winds and waves were vicious. So Kailani got rocked around a bit during the crossings of the inlets. The vessel traffic was nearly non-existent as we only got passed by 2 southbound vessels and we only had to pass 1 northbound vessel. In fact, the northbound vessel was ‘Together’ which we had passed three days ago cruising from Palm Coast to St Augustine.
Then when we pulled into our anchorage, there was a sailboat already anchored in there for a total of 4 vessels today.
We passed the anchored sailboat and searched for a spot with 8 feet of water, but it was high tide, so we looked for a spot with 15 feet of water that would be about 8 feet at low tide. We tried one spot, but the winds pushed us too close to shore as Tracy let out the 150 feet of anchor chain, so we wound it back up and moved to another spot where we found a perfect spot and dropped the anchor again and it grabbed nicely and we were all set for the night.
The whole day was filled with horsefly attacks and we knew that tonight’s anchorage would be a problem if the evening air did not send them scurrying. So Tracy went into her bag of tricks to design a suitable setup for the bug net in a location that would also be semi cool overnight since the forecast is for the temperature to only go to 74 degrees. In the past, she has strung the hammock across the Sundeck and hung the bug net aver the hammock, but tonight we’ll probably have to find a design that provides netting for both of us. If there was any breeze at all and the windows would provide ventilation, we could use the stateroom, but without any breeze, the stateroom will be too stuffy for Tracy. You’ll find out how we did in tomorrow’s blogpost.
If all goes according to planned, tonight will be our last night before we cross our wake Friday in Savannah. This has been an incredible run for us with adventure at every bend. Truly a once in a lifetime experience, but we may do it again, you never know!
Friday: We awake with great anticipation. Today we will cross our wake when we reach Thunderbolt Marine in Savannah, GA. Once again, the Ultra anchor held us right where we had stopped yesterday. This anchor was a special addition to our bag of tools and we’ve been so pleased with it’s performance. From the calmest of anchorages to the raging waters of Little Diversion Channel on the Mississippi where we had Sea Wolf and Duette rafted to us and enough timber caught on our anchor chain to start a lumber mill, our American-made Ultra anchor has held us perfectly. So at 8:00am Tracy is raising the chain and I’m at the helm taking direction from her as the chain slowly creeps thru the windlass and back into the chain locker. Soon we are cruising past the sailboat that was our overnight neighbor here in New TeaKettle Creek and out onto the ICW headed north towards Savannah.
We’ve set out departure to coincide with high tide at Hell Gate. Hell Gate is a notorious spot in Georgia for uncontrolled shoaling and it’s reputation is treacherous to say the least. We don’t want any part of Hell Gate unless it’s a few hours before high tide to full high tide. So our 8:00am departure should get us there at 2 hours before high tide which is at 2:06pm and 55 miles ahead.
The weather is cooperating today as there is calm seas and negligible winds even when we cross inlets. The dolphin activity is pretty much the usual with the exception that we come upon one area where it seems like there are 15-20 dolphins all playing in the same area and they all start heading towards Kailani as they hear and sense the presence of a vessel. We also get 3 opportunities to see rays jumping completely out of the water a good 3-4 feet before violently splashing back into the water like a sheet of plywood. There are a few more vessels today than yesterday so we have a few vessels that overtake us and a few that we overtake, but everyone today is pleasantly obeying the rules of the waterway and passing in slow mode so as to reduce wake activity. It’s always a more pleasant ride when everybody plays nice in the same sandbox!
With the ICW taking us from one inlet/sound to another, we are constantly cruising with, then against the tide. So as we cruise out of an inlet into the ICW the incoming tide pushes us to 10.0 knots, then as we approach the next inlet the incoming tide slows us to about 7.0 knots, so we average about 8.5 knots for the day and we are approaching Hell Gate at straight up noon which is 2 hours before high tide. Our plan works this time and Hell Gate doesn’t disappoint as we find less than eight feet of water in one spot, so at low tide, that would be around three feet of water! Thats the effect of the 6-7 foot tides here in Georgia.
Once past Hell Gate, we are nearly home free with about 20 more miles to go and a large body of water in front of us called Vernon River, so we take this opportunity to open her up and take care of the ‘blow by’. We run her up to 2,000 rpm’s and she’s easily making 18.5 knots. Again, we don’t see any dark smoke out the stern so either she’s burning real clean, or we’re not completing the blow by drill properly. But Kailani is already a Platinum loop vessel so who are we to say she doesn’t perform as designed!!!
The rest of today’s journey is smooth with a few no wake areas and no more trouble spots. So at 2:50pm we are pulling up to our assigned slip at Thunderbolt Marine to revel in our accomplishments. Just to make this official, as we approached the marina we intentionally cruised past the entire marina, then turned around to cruise into our slip, sort of like crossing the finish line before returning the horse to its stable after a race.
There are two other looper vessels here in the marina but only Karen Tillman aboard KA’RE-N ON is on-board, so we meet her and ask her to take some pictures of us taking the white burgee off the bow pulpit and replacing it with the brand new gold burgee signifying to all who see it that we have completed our loop and we are now ‘Gold Loopers’! Later we get a chance to meet Mike and Mary aboard Forever Friday and everyone congratulates us on our accomplishment.
This has been one year and one month of time aboard Kailani as we started last year on April 14th and completed the loop today, May 10th. We travelled 5,080 nautical miles or 5,846 statute miles. We travelled an additional 1,071 miles to get from home to Savannah, so we will add another 1,071 miles to our journey getting home, so from Chester, CT to Chester, CT we will have travelled 7,222 nautical miles or 8,310 statute miles. We’ve locked thru over 110 locks and requested bridge openings for over 50 bridges and cruised a total of 135 days on the water over the nearly 400 days for the loop. We have helped countless vessels dock safely to pay it forward for the endless help we’ve received from others whenever we pulled up to a dock. We stayed at hundreds of marinas, lock walls and anchorages along the way and each is a special memory, but the best memories will always be the people of the Great Loop. We’ve been handed car keys from strangers, been invited into peoples homes, shared meals and miles with hundreds of new lifelong friends from all over this wonderful country and Canada. The experience of this adventure is hard to match anywhere else in life. Our relationship is put to the test, our skills are put to the test, our planning is put to the test and our trust in each other and fellow boaters is put to the test all while being in sight of land, for 99% of the journey. But it all works out safely in the end and the personal rewards are hard to describe. There is great weather, there is extremely bad weather, there are periods when the vessel works flawlessly and there are days when she doesn’t want to work at all. Everything culminates in relief and an extremely great sense of accomplishment when the crew and vessel ‘cross their wake’.
We walked downtown to Tubby’s Restaurant for a celebratory dinner and sat on the patio eating while listening to a three piece band entertain the crowd of diners. After dinner we walked along the waterfront towards Kailani to got ready for another departure tomorrow as we start our journey back home for the summer.
This is the last entry in our loop blog. We will provide updates on our cruise travels via Facebook for the remainder of the cruise. We want to thank all followers of this blog for their continued interest in our adventures and prayers for our safety. We are very grateful for all the wonderful people who’ve taken a special interest in our dream. We’re glad to have provided this blog so all of you could follow us along the way and we hope that in some small way, we were able to provide stories that made you feel as if you were right alongside us aboard Kailani during the journey.
Sunday: Easter Sunday and the weathermen got it right as it’s a beautiful day for cruising. The winds are down significantly along with the seas, so at 9:10am we’re finally leaving the slip headed for the fuel dock to top off our tanks and get a last pump out before staying out on our anchor for the next few nights. After 175 gallons of diesel in the tanks, 4 gallons of gasoline in the dinghy tank and all the gallons removed from our two holding tanks, we’re pulling away from the familiar docks of Faro Blanco at straight up 10am headed for the Cowpens Anchorage on the Gulf side off Plantation Key. It’s a 36 nautical mile cruise to an anchorage recommended to us by our friends aboard Wild Goose.
The gulf-side IntraCoastal Waterway from Marathon up is not totally friendly for deeper draft vessels, but it does carry a controlling depth of 5.9 feet, so we slowly and cautiously make our way north on the gulf side knowing that we will have good weather tomorrow and we will crossover to Hawks Channel in the Atlantic for the cruise from Cowpens to Biscayne Bay. We’re hoping that once in Biscayne Bay the confines of the ICW will allow us to keep moving even in bad weather.
The seas stay calm and the cruise is very comfortable and at 2:50pm we are all secured by our Ultra Anchor to the seabed and we can now enjoy the afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s a Sunday (Easter Sunday) so, even though we only saw about six vessels on the waterway, there are lots of boats on the water around our anchorage because we’re right in front of a marina with all size vessels from jet skis to yachts coming and going until late in the afternoon when worker bees have to shut it down for the weekend and let us retirees enjoy our serenity. Without feeling like we’re in a foot race, we want to start moving the pace up a bit as we are in the home stretch of our adventure. This will not change our cruising lifestyle, nor will we force ourselves to miss something we would ordinarily want to stop and see.
While Tracy is fishing off the stern, she calls out to me to come and see an iguana swimming up to the swim platform of our vessel. As we’re watching it we’re wondering if it will try and climb onto the platform, but instead, it swims around to the starboard side and frolics around until it gets spooked away and dives down out of sight.
Monday: Tracy spent last night in the hammock suspended in the sunroom, but when I woke up in the morning, she was right next to me in the bed. After firing up the generator and brewing the morning coffee, I brought her a cup and she told me that the bugs got to her at around 5 in the morning and she had to get in to avoid being eaten. So she must have had a long night because she slept ’til nearly 8:30 am, so she definitely needed the extra sleep in the bed. The good news is that it takes less than 5 minutes to leave an anchorage compared to the time required when at a dock. All we have to do in the morning is raise the anchor and we’re off, so at 9:00am we’re raising the anchor and leaving Cowpens Anchorage with favorable tides for the shallow waters of Snake Creek Crossover.
We’re back into the Atlantic Ocean today for our cruise up to Biscayne Bay and once we’re out of the Snake River Crossover the waters are fairly calm, but as the day goes on the waves and winds get higher and stronger but both out of the northeast and we are going northeast for most of the day. So we get a slightly choppy ride, but overall, not too bad. Four hours later, we’re turning into Angelfish Creek Crossover to return into Biscayne Bay and hopefully calmer waters. The depths at the crossover are a bit shallow upon entering from the east, but once we’re into Angelfish Creek, the depths rise to 12 feet and do not pose any problems.
The Bay is not as calm as we had expected and the waves and winds are only slightly less than on the outside. But our anchorage at Billy’s Point off of Elliott Key should provide lee protection from the bulk of the weather.
The Active Captain reviews state that the major issue with this anchorage is getting the anchor to set because most of the bottom is send covered rock. We boldly pull into the anchorage area and confidently drop our Ultra Anchor with no hesitation and are somewhat surprised when it takes three times to get the anchor to fully set. Boy, I guess the reviews are correct. By 2:45 pm we are fully secure and we can relax for the remainder of the day. Only thing I want to accomplish before relaxing is that we’ve decided to stay in a marina tomorrow night because Kailani is soaked with salt water spray from two days of waves.
Before I can relax, I like to have commitments for our next destination. I go to work researching marinas based on desired distance of travel and number of bridges to raise and decide that a good day of travel will be to reach Hollywood, FL which is between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. So I find a few marinas to call and the first choice has no available slips, but they recommend another marina right next to them and I call the Suntex Marina of Hollywood and Cortney could not have helped us more. She asked if she could take some time to move things around and call me back. I said sure, but the cell coverage here at anchor is a bit spotty. Anyway, ten minutes later, she called me back to say they had moved a few things around and she’d made space for us and we would be in a stern-in, starboard tie-up slip #105. I told her that was our preference and we both smiled. I gave her our information, she emailed me a map of the marina and everything was set so I could now relax, just like Tracy who was already catching fish she couldn’t identify!
Later in the afternoon, I worked on tomorrow’s navigation plan and it was a far cry from the simple planning we’ve gotten spoiled with. I had to go thru info on 9 bridges for vertical clearance and opening schedules, I had to go thru all current Local Notices to Mariners, and I had to go thru tides and shoaling info. Don’t think I’m complaining, this research has been a fun exercise for me and it’s great to get back into the swing of this which is necessary when traveling the Atlantic IntraCoastal WaterWay.
Tuesday: The night was slightly windy, but very comfortable as our anchor held us firmly and in the morning, we were right where we had been the night before. Lots of people choose to not stay overnight in this area because it’s basically open with no wind protection, but we took a chance and it paid off for us. So at 8:30am after a couple of cups of coffee, Tracy is raising the anchor and we’re headed off to Hollywood. We’ve decided that Kailani has enough salt spray caked on her, so we want to stop overnight at a marina so we can wash off the salt spray with marina provided water pressure.
Once underway we are cruising north in Biscayne Bay and we are headed straight to Miami’s skyline which we have been watching ever since dropping the anchor yesterday afternoon.
As we approach Miami we will be crossing the potentially Port of Miami shipping channel. A lot of worrying turns out to be unnecessary as we hit the shipping channel with no commercial traffic, however immediately after crossing the shipping channel, there is the first of 2 bridges we’ll have to have opened for us today. The bridge is the Venetian Causeway bridge and when closed, the vertical clearance is 12 feet and the opening schedule is at the top and bottom of each hour. Well we’ve arrived 20 minutes too early, so we must float around waiting for the bridge to open and there is not much good water outside of the channel, but a 70 foot vessel behind us turns into a little cul-de-sac type of water and calls us to say we should wait in there also. So we turn in and wait along with Blond, the 70 footer. The wind and current take over and it becomes a juggling act to try and stay away from bridge structures and the adjoining vessel, but after floating precariously close to both, the bridge finally opens 20 long minutes later and we’re on our way again without serious incident.
We ended up really grateful about the bridge incident because between Miami and our destination in Hollywood we ran into the most discourteous and obviously blind boaters we’ve ever seen. The ICW in this area is a breeding ground for boaters who have zero awareness of their wake and the amount of damage their wake can potentially cause to other vessels and the surrounding shores. We found them to be completely unaware of their wakes and completely unaware of the ‘no wake zones’ (hence the blind part).
We both can’t remember ever seeing such a hoard of discourteous boaters anywhere like here. However, we do see some spectacular Maimi skyline including a building called the Porch Building. This is a sixty story residence where each owner has a garage on their floor! So the penthouse owner has room for his cars in a garage on the penthouse level. There are three elevators that are designed to handle cars and as you enter your building, you drive your car onto one of these elevators and you get out on your floor and park your car in your garage right next to your residence. I’m not sure how they deal with exhaust fumes, but I guess they’ve worked that out.
Anyway, by 2pm we are pulling into the safe waters of Suntex Marina of Hollywood and after calling them, there is a dock hand waiting at slip #105 for us to back Kailani in. The slip configuration is a bit tight and the finger docks are not long enough for us to use our starboard salon door to exit and enter the boat, but we are able to get the utilities hooked up safely and give Kailani a well deserved wash.
In walking back and forth to the office to check in, I notice a vessel across from us with a homeport of Block Island, MA. So I stop to talk to them and, turns out they’re actually from Manchester, CT and keep their vessel at Mystic River Marina where we’ve been with family before. Also, the husband owns an electrical contracting company in CT and we’ve done projects together over the years, so we both know lots of common people back home and it was nice to chat with them and as I left to get ready for dinner, I told them maybe we’ll run into them back home if we cruise up the Mystic River.
Tracy found a pizza delivery service and we had pizza on board tonight. It really hit the spot and tasted very good. After dinner, we agreed on our strategy for tomorrow and the weather looks like we’ll be able to go out into the Atlantic Ocean and avoid about 21 bridges (9 of which have to be opened) and all those blind boaters! So we discuss making a longish day out of tomorrow and getting some decent miles under our keel by going ‘outside’. With that strategy accepted, we decide to turn in relatively early and get an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday: Kailani is bustling with pre-departure activity at 7:30am and by 8am with line help from our sailing vessel neighbor, we are pulling away form our slip. We must go 90 minutes on the ICW to get to Port Everglades Inlet where we can go out into the ocean, turn north and head towards Palm Beach Inlet 42 nautical miles up. So the ICW is flat calm this morning with no ridiculous boaters up yet and we are soon turning east out of Port Everglades Inlet to reach the ocean. As soon as we turn east, the waves start hitting us on our bow and they are larger than predicted. So with the waved coming out of the east, you can see what’s coming up when we turn north towards Palm Beach. Exactly, the 2-3 foot waves are now hitting us right across our starboard side and the rocking starts. It takes us about one mile of this behavior to decide its time to turn around and make our way for calmer waters of the ICW, bridges and boaters be damned!
So for the next 40 nautical miles, we tolerated, but expected the rude boaters. Another plus for traveling inside today is that when we pass thru Pompano Beach, we get to see the Pompano Atlantis Tower where we spent a portion of our honeymoon exactly 42 years ago today. My parents owned a condo in the tower on the 16th floor and for a portion of our honeymoon, we left Disneyworld and spent the second week enjoying the Florida sunshine at Mom & Dad’s condo. It was a nice nostalgic touch, but soon we were back to reality where we had to coordinate our rate of travel with the bridge openings for 9 out of 21 bridges. At least it was a beautiful day and there were some nice long stretches of water where we could cruise at our normal 10 mph, and so 9 hours later, we were in the northern end of Lake Worth/Palm Beach anchoring in very nice water with over 50 vessels anchored, but there was still plenty of nice room for us to fit and by 5pm Tracy had set the anchor and I was tightening the snubber line while Tracy shut down the helm for the night. We had tried to get 60 nautical miles in today but even with losing time turning around, we were still able to get 52 nautical miles completed including passing by Mar A Lago estate, the southern home of President Donald Trump. The best news is that if we have to stay inside again tomorrow, there are zero bridges that we will require opening for us to get under, so that’s a plus. Maybe we can get 60 nautical miles completed tomorrow in 9 hours. 60 nm will get us to Vero Beach while 50 nm will get us to Fort Pierce. Time will tell.
For dinner tonight we will feast on the left over pizza and get to enjoy it 2 nights in a row. Tracy does some fishing and is very successful.
Thursday: A shorter day today and there will be no bridges that need opening, so we get ready to depart for 8am and our timing is perfect as Tracy is securing the anchor to the pulpit right at 8am and we are turning out of the anchor field towards the ICW. Once we are centered in the channel of the ICW we see a tug and barge ahead sitting across the channel dredging a problem spot. The issue for us is that the barge is sideways in the channel and completely blocks passage from the red buoy to the green buoy. So I call the barge and ask for procedure and without asking us how much water we need for clearance, he says that if we go outside the channel on the green (right) side we’ll have plenty of water. My charts show that there’s only 4 feet of water to the green side of the barge, but I figure they might’ve dredged it out prior to this work so vessels could have safe passage. We closely monitor the depth gauge as we enter this water and sure enough we are quickly setting off the depth alarm, then getting shallower until I see only 4 1/2 feet below us. So I immediately stop, turn around and return to the safety of the channel south of the barge and go back into the anchor field where I know we can get out from the far east side of the anchor field and come out in the shipping lanes near the east Turning Basin. Once we’re thru the anchor field and into the eastern channel, we see 22 feet of water! So it was a good choice to double back for an extra 2 miles of travel and find this deeper, safe water. Soon we are exiting the east Turning Basin and we’re back on the ICW headed north towards Vero Beach where we will meet up with our good friends Barry and Carol aboard Wild Goose.
Today’s cruise is spectacularly calm with very few vessels in the same water as us and bridges are nothing more than an occasional passage tunnel as we go under everyone of them without requiring a lift. We cruise thru some very familiar to me area since we used to come down here every winter to see Mom and Dad when they lived at PGA National in West Palm Beach. So we pass under the Blue Heron Bridge, the PGA Boulevard Bridge, and the Donald Ross Bridge, all familiar names to us.
We also get a bit of a treat cruising past Lost Tree Village which is a private home and country club community where famous golfers like Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman live. It’s a very exclusive community.
We cruise thru Jupiter, Hobe Sound, Stuart, Port St Lucie and Fort Pierce before reaching our planned destination in Vero Beach. When we cross the St Lucie Inlet we are intersected with the St Lucie River and the eastern end of the Okeechobee Waterway which we cruised thru 4 years ago when we first purchased Kailani and brought her from Fort Meyers to Fort Pierce for her first winter. When passing thru Fort Pierce we could see the Harbor Isles Condominiums which includes the Harbor Isles Marina. That’s where Kailani spent her first winter and except for more buildings, the complex looks very much the same, however Fort Pierce itself is a bit different as there are now two more marinas. One is the Causeway Marina adjacent to Harbor Isle and the other is the fully developed Fort Pierce Municipal Marina, so between them they’ve added space in this ares for an additional nearly 400 vessels.
After Fort Pierce its a relatively easy cruise up the Indian River about 13 miles to Vero Beach. This particular stretch provided us with a spectacular dolphin show off the port side. There were about 8 dolphins that came into our view approaching Kailani and when three of them caught our port wake the show started. Tracy was cooling in the Salon so I was at the helm alone. I couldn’t resist as I left the helm to lean out over the side and get a snapshot just as Flipper was jumping, then I decided to switch my camera to video and got a nice video of the romping until I decided I needed to get back to controlling the helm. It was nice to get this afternoon show while cruising. Again, I believe the dolphins love our cruising speed and frolic around loopers rather than sport fishers, etc. Lucky for us!
At exactly 4pm we are pulling into the mooring field at the Vero Beach City Marina and since there are no available mooring balls, we will raft up to Wild Goose. They are not aboard, so Tracy and I pull Kailani smoothly up to Wild Goose’s starboard side and with plenty of fenders between the vessels, we secure our lines to Goose’s cleats to secure the vessels together. Soon Barry and Carol are returning in their dinghy and we decide to go into town (Barry and Carol have a rental car) for Thai dinner. They take us to Sake restaurant and we have a delicious Thai meal then drive down towards the ocean and have some Kilwin’s ice cream for dessert.
Once we’re back aboard the boats, we get ready for a good night’s sleep, then tomorrow we will both cruise to Cocoa Village Marina for the weekend.
Friday: We thought the plan was for Barry to return their rental car and retrieve their bikes that were still on shore, then be ready to depart around 9 am, but Barry got an early start, returned the rental car with his bike in the trunk so he could return to the marina on his bike and he was already lifting his dinghy onto the roof at 8am. So we started preparing to pull away form the rafting tie-up and at 8:30am we were both leaving the Vero Beach City Marina mooring field ready to head up to Cocoa Village.
We discussed using channel 68 for ship to ship communication, but when we turned on channel 68, we both heard conversation already in progress and it was a local boater using 68 for the morning local discussion of weather, tides, navigational news, and call-ins. We listened to him as we were preparing to depart and realized that he was right next to us in the sailboat as we were untying from the mooring ball. As we were cruising out of the mooring field, he asked listeners if there was anybody new that had just recently arrived, then he asked if there was anybody planning to depart today, so I responded and told him and his listeners that Kailani was departing the mooring field and headed to Cocoa Village with Nick, Tracy and Frankie aboard. He wished us a safe journey, then Barry and I agreed that we should switch to VHF channel 69 so we wouldn’t interfere with the local broadcast already taking place on 68. As we entered the ICW and turned north, we switched to channel 69 and ran the vessels up to 9 knots for today’s 47 nautical mile cruise. We projected 5 1/2 hours and an approximate arrival at 2pm. This plan would hopefully get us into the marina and all tied up before the afternoon storms that were being forecasted for the Cocoa area. We called the marina and told them we expected to be there around 2pm and they confirmed it was a good plan for our best chance to avoid the worst weather expected to be between 2 and 5pm.
It was overcast as we started, but gradually, there were openings in the clouds and soon we could see patches of blue sky, however, around 10am we did get some rain that forced us to zip shut all our windows, so that made it a bit hotter for us as we were getting the heat without and wind. But luckily, the rains stopped after a short time and we were able to re-open the windows for the balance of the journey. There were no bridges to negotiate today and very little ‘no wake zones’ in this segment, so we made excellent time including the four miles when I ran our rpm’s up to 2,000 and got Kailani up to 18 knots right before our turn to port into the marina channel. And as we had estimated a 2pm arrival, we were actually entering the marina at 2:04pm and tied up shortly afterwards. They put us at the end of a series of finger docks so we would have a full dock along our port side for hooking up our utilities and water. The only hard part was that the marina has fixed docks and their height is the same height as our gunwale, so to make the power and water connections on the starboard side of the vessel, I had to lay on the dock and reach down below the level of the dock to make the connections. Oh well, it could certainly be worse, life is definitely good on the water.
We spent the afternoon enjoying the air conditioned salon aboard Kailani and met Gold Loopers Kevin and Sandy aboard Koastal Karma. They had just recently completed their loop in Marathon, Fl and were cruising back to their homeport in Virginia Beach, VA. Their loop is nearly identical to ours in the sense that they started and finished their loop way south of their homeport, as we will cross our wake in 450 miles in Savannah way before we get back home to Connecticut.
Kevin and Sandy told us about two fairs that were going on in town tonight. One was a taco fiesta that had a $10 entrance fee and the other was the no charge and local ‘Last Friday Festival’ held every month on the last Friday. So guess which one we picked? Correct, we went to the ‘Last Friday Festival’. There was a three piece band playing in the town gazebo and food and artisan vendors throughout the adjacent blocks and parking lots. We had some ice cream from the world’s largest ice cream truck! They make all the ice cream fresh to order with water, dry ice and flavoring and other than the ridiculous price ($8 each), it was enjoyable. Tracy got a chair massage and then while we were sitting in the gazebo listening to the band play 70’s hits, we noticed Kevin and Sandy walk up. Sandy was also going over to get a chair massage, so Kevin sat with us and we chatted about loops, careers, boy scouts, etc. Sandy soon returned and we chatted for another 45 minutes before we got up and started walking back to the marina.
On the way Tracy spotted a local theater with the current show running being ‘The Producers’ which is a Mel Brooks smash Broadway hit. So we bought tickets for Saturday nights performance and went back to Kailani for the evening.
Saturday: We agree with Wild Goose that it makes some sense to get a rental car for the weekend, so I make a reservation with Enterprise and our plan is to pick up the car at 11:00am, then return it on Monday morning right before we depart Cocoa. So at around 10am, I call Enterprise to be picked up and they answer and ask me to hold for a short while. 27 minutes later, I hung up on the elevator music and re-dialed the local office for our pick-up. The same guy answers and says, ‘Welcome to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, please hold’ and I shouted ‘NO!’ And he said he’d be right back. Then I waited for 5 additional minutes before he picked back up. I confirmed that they had a vehicle for us and that I could get picked up and he said he would send someone right away and the driver would call me when he was close so I could walk out to the parking lot. Well in less than 5 minutes, I got a call from the driver and he said that he was just pulling into the parking lot, so I said, okay, I’ll be right out and Barry and I started walking out to the parking lot. We were there in less than 2 minutes and there was no car waiting there for us, so I called back the number of the guy who called me and there was no answer. I tried again a few minutes later and there was still no answer, so Barry walked back to the Goose and I kept waiting. In about 10 minutes a guy showed up in an Enterprise tee shirt, so I got into the vehicle and he immediately went on about apologizing about how he was there earlier and picked up the wrong guy! Apparently at the same time I was going to get picked up there was a guy already in the parking lot waiting for an Uber. So the Enterprise driver thought he was picking up me and the passenger thought he was getting into an Uber. Apparently he was quite surprised when he got dropped off at the local Enterprise office! I never found out where the guy really expected to be going, but everything worked out in the long run for us and before noon, I was back at the marina with the KIA Optima for the weekend.
We decided to all get into the car and drive over to Merritt Island for the local West Marine and to find Bob Petersen at his house. Bob is the brother of an Architect I worked with on a project at the University of Connecticut and she had told me about her older brother that lived on Merritt Island, was a retired mechanical engineer from NASA who started a business in his yard collecting and selling salvaged nautical items. My mission for the day was to get new battery wires and a new battery for the dinghy because the guy, Sean in Marathon who troubleshot our dinghy motor said the battery wires were frayed and the battery posts were corroding away, so we should replace both at the first next chance. So today was that next chance and off we went to find Bob and his salvage yard. He was easy to find and literally only 2 miles away from us. His yard is covered with storage bins, Bimini frames, sinks, heads, wires, cables, fender balls, etc. You get the point, he has a little bit of everything. Well I asked him about the battery cables and he said he would go over to his warehouse and make them up for me as long as I called him back with the proper length so he didn’t have to cut two sets of wire! Then we went to West Marine and I looked for a battery. They didn’t have one that satisfied me, so I decided to try the local Batteries + Bulbs for the battery. Everyone wanted to return to the marina and I wanted to do some dry goods shopping at WalMart, so I brought everyone back to the marina and left for the battery and WalMart.
Batteries + Bulbs is a great store with very knowledgeable staff in every location I’ve walked into and this one was no different. Adam took care of me and I was walking out of there with a new battery in 8 minutes. Then it was off to WalMart for lots of dry goods supplies for Kailani. Then back to the boat to confirm the battery cable length for Bob. I told him we would be good with 10 foot length and he said we could come by and pick them up anytime this afternoon and they would cost $5. So I grabbed up our burnt out 30 amp 50 foot power cord and the 50 amp to 30 amp ‘Y’ adaptor and ended back to Bob’s. I felt bad about the $5 so I gave him $10 which he reluctantly took. Then I showed him the burnt cables and he said he would repair and sell them and as I gave him the cords, he took out the $10 and said “here, this is how I work. I sell stuff and I buy stuff” So I got my new battery cables for zero cost & I’m a happy boater!
We learned that Barry & Carol had decided to join us for the play this evening and we would be going at 7pm, so I have plenty of time. We also got a surprise this afternoon as a very familiar to us vessel pulled into Cocoa Village Marina. Salty Lady with Bart at the helm and Chris aboard along with Art and his wife. Bart is our slip neighbor back home in Chester Marina, small world huh!
Well at 7pm we walked over to the theater and the production was tremendous for a local community theater. All the costumes, all the acting, all the singing, all the musicians were all plenty good enough for this small town and we had a great night of laughter watching this extremely popular Mel Brooks play. Then it was a leisurely walk back to the marina and back to our respective vessels. Tonight is the end of our 54th week on the loop and we have approximately two more weeks to get to Savannah. So we’re real close and we find ourselves occasionally reminiscing about the great times we’ve had to date rather than talk about the places still to come.
THESE NEXT FOUR WEEKS ARE LATE TO BE PUBLISHED. WE DID, HOWEVER, WANT TO COMPLETE THE BLOG !
Sunday: We rest one more day based on weather and complete some last minute chores around Kailani. We do three loads of wash, clear our bill in the marina office, clean up the interior of Kailani and turn in for a good night’s sleep before departing tomorrow.
Monday: The seas should still be a bit rough, with winds in the low teens and waves less than half a foot with 5 second periods. When we get out into Hawk Channel we find waves four times higher than my check of the forecast! I later realize that since getting a new iPhone, my settings were on default and the 0.3-0.5 foot waves I was expecting were actually 0.3-0.5 meters! So the forecasters And Tracy! -tc had it right since the waves were more like 2 plus feet with mostly heavy chop! Oh well, at least I found the error and re-configured the settings.
The first 2 hours after leaving Key West we were surrounded by Navy jets circling the skies above us flying out of Naval Air Station Key West. Some of the patterns gave us some great photo ops and some very loud sounds.
After nearly 4 hours of bouncing around, we were negotiating Moser Channel and passing under Seven Mile Bridge with just a few miles to go to reach familiar Faro Blanco Resort and Marina. We called the marina on VHF 16, then switched to VHF 09 and Tom and Bill were at the slip waiting for us as we had some difficulty with the crosswinds in the east basin. At last we were secured with bow in so we could use the starboard power inlets since the stern inlets were still roasted.
While we were underway, I had called Kahuna Boat Wiring and John was very helpful and knowledgeable, he said to text him our contact info and vessel location anytime before the end of the day and he’d show up tomorrow to troubleshoot the problem, then make arrangements for the repairs. So after we were safely tied up at slip F113, I sent him the info and we went off to the Lighthouse Grill for the early bird special dinner.
Tuesday: Tracy called Sean again to let him know we were back in Marathon and if he was available, we’d appreciate him showing up to install the replacement starter solenoid on the dinghy motor. John? Sean? Who can keep everyone apart?? -tc Oh, did I mention, we also walked across the street to the Tackle Box for 2 dozen shrimp so Tracy could get back to catching fish. Ok, OK! Some people drink, I fish. Jeekers! -tc
We waited all day for John to show up and he didn’t. That’s a disappointment as he came to us highly recommended. At least we made the walk over to West Marine and purchased the new power inlets and 2 new 30 amp fifty foot power cords, so we were all ready for John to show up, he just didn’t.
The bad news was we weren’t getting our power inlets repaired, the good news was the weather was keeping us locked down, so we still had more time to try and chase him down tomorrow.
Today is our 42nd anniversary so we decided to return to Lighthouse Grill for an Anniversary dinner and Frank, our waiter learned of our anniversary and brought a complimentary decorated slice of key lime pie and two forks. Nice gesture for sure and it certainly made us feel appreciated as customers. OMG! I never had a piece of Key lime pie so tart! All I could do was pucker and move it around my plate las if I was eating it. I ate the whipped cream off the top and then smushed the rest into the plate like kid with peas and told Frank, “Oh, thank you so much, that was wonderful and I just can not eat another bite! -tc
Wednesday: I called John at my first opportunity and while his phone was ringing, I received a text from him saying he was on the phone with tech support and would call me right back. So I hung up and waited for his return call. Guess what??? All day and no return call. I was really starting to get frustrated with this company, even to the point of writing a bad review in my head ready to file it on-line. Again, the weather was keeping us locked up so we decided to try again tomorrow to reach out to him.
Thursday: This morning, Tracy asked if she could place the call and maybe she’d have better luck. And sure enough, he answered on the first ring and told Tracy he apologized and he would have two electricians on Kailani first thing Friday morning. Now this was finally good news. Also, Sean confirmed with Tracy that he would be by this afternoon to take care of the dinghy motor. So all we had to do was relax, enjoy the Florida Keys weather and the Lighthouse Grill, and the hungry fish.
Around noontime, John called me, apologized again for going dark on us and said his 2 electricians were actually on their way over today right after they finished up their lunch break. So at 1pm Dan and Mark showed up and less than 2 hours later we had three new power inlets installed (2 new at the stern and 1 new at the starboard) and our power was finally returned to normal. Then they only charged us for one hour, so I verified with them that that was correct and that they were being fair with themselves and they were happy to get a check for one hour of service and we were ecstatic.
Then at nearly 5pm, Sean showed up and after doing some troubleshooting, he was able to get our motor starting again electrically without replacing the solenoid. He determined that there was a bad connection with the cables to the battery and that it will probably work for another year, but he recommended that we consider replacing the battery as soon as it makes sense for us. But at least now, Tracy can go out by herself in the dinghy and still start the motor without further aggravation to her ailing shoulder. So all in all, today was a great day for repairs.
Before the day is over, we find out that our good friends, Dale and Merna aboard the Journey have crossed their wake! They started in March 2018 from Savannah, GA and on April 18th, 2019 they’ve safely and successfully crossed their wake. Crossing your wake means finally going the entire route around the Loop. We all “Cross our wake” at different points depending on where the boat stated. -tc We are so happy for them and hopefully we’ll meet up again with them somewhere on the waters.
Friday: We’re still socked in here but we’re thinking we might be able to start up again tomorrow, so another day of R and R in Marathon, Florida. We could really get used to this lifestyle, but for now we need to continue on our journey and make our way back to Connecticut for the summer.
Saturday: We start the day making all preparations for departure, and at the last minute before pulling away from the dock in a moderate crosswind, we decide to stay put for one more day because the forecast for Sunday is spectacular while the forecast today is only good if moving is a necessity. We have the luxury of no agenda, no schedule so the decision to stay is only based on availability of the slip we’re sitting in and once the marina confirms we can stay, the lines go back onto the dock, the power gets re-connected and we are living here for another day, which suits us fine. *Yawns and takes another nap.* -tc
Sunday: Laundry and clean up are in order for today as we wait for Vic and his family to arrive. Stephanie has been driving down with Blaine, Tara & Charlee while Vic has been conducting Team Rubicon training in Houston Texas, so he will be flying today from Houston to Miami where Steph will be waiting. Then they will all drive down to here and they have a room reserved at the Perry Hotel which in on site here at Stock Island Marina Village.
Vic’s flight gets delayed but they still make it to us by 7:00pm. Tracy makes a big meal of seafood scampi, regular pasta and macaroni and cheese, then we have a nice meal aboard Kailani and plan for the upcoming days.
Monday: Breakfast this morning is at the on-site restaurant, then we jam into the car for a short ride to West Marine for snorkeling gear for the kids. After we pick out all the gear, we return to the marina and get ready for the noontime shuttle that will take us to Smathers Beach. There’s a bit of wind and the rental concession is not renting their beach umbrellas, but the surf is just right for the kids and everyone dons their snorkeling gear and they go along with Tracy into the water. Afterwards, there is some sand play which is a given when the kids are on a beach.
We meet the shuttle at 2:45pm for the return trip to the marina/hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing around the pool.
The marina has a grill and picnic table area, so tonight we have a nice steak, corn and green bean dinner that Vic grills up over charcoal.
Tuesday: Today we plan for a trip to downtown Key West for the standard sightseeing. We decide to use the car rather than the shuttle for more flexibility. With the car, we can bring a picnic lunch and we can come and go as we please rather than be tied to the shuttle schedule which is once and hour. So we pack up the van and head for downtown. Our first stop will be the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Fort. We go to the beach first
and although it’s not a great beach for sand, the kids have a great time in the water and playing in the little bit of sand.
We break out the picnic lunch of cold cut sandwiches, chips and sodas and have a nice lunch at one of the park picnic tables. After lunch we reload the car with the coolers and snacks and walk over to Fort Zachary Taylor and tour the fort. It was originally a three story structure, but has been reduced to one story when upgrades were undertaken to install more modern armaments during the Spanish-American War.
We toured the armament bunkers, the ammunition storage areas, the typical bunk rooms and other support facilities in this fort. Interesting that the fort that was farthest south in the US was controlled throughout the Civil War by the Union. With cannons from the original construction being used to fill space in concrete pours of future modernizations, the fort remains today as the largest collection of armaments in the United States.
After the fort we felt a need to get some key lime pie, so off we went to downtown Key West. There was one cruise ship in town today and the weather was loaded with chances of rain, so we were able to get a street parking spot right in front of the Key Lime Factory Store. They sell key lime in all sorts of choices from conventional slice with whipped cream to chocolate covered on a stick. Everyone selected their favorite and as we were eating the rains came down hard and steady. But as is normal with Florida rains, it eventually ended and the sun came back out.
So we left and started walking towards Duval Street. Tracy and Blaine were full of Key West and wanted to return to the marina, so Vic drove them back while I walked Duval Street with Stephanie, Tara and Charlee. They walked into every store available and wanted shirts, hats, tattoos, candy, clothing, souvenirs, etc. you get the idea. Anyway we decided on a little bit of candy to hold us over, then they found a little jewelry store with ankle bracelets and they had to stop and shop. So after some long debate amongst Tara and Charlee, they both decided on the mermaid ankle bracelets and walked out wearing their new jewelry.
We made it to the end of Duval Street and were in the Conch Railroad station shop when Vic called and said he was back. So I told him where we were and he parked and met us. Then the girls insisted we walk back to the tattoo place so they could get temporary tattoos on their ankles (I guess it was ankle day).
As they were getting their tattoos applied, the power went out on the entire island. We later learned that the power was out from Big Pine Key all the way to Key West. So when the tattoos were done, Vic tried to pay with his credit card, but there was no power, so the girl asked if we had any cash and we were able to give her $40 for the $60 dollar charge and she said ‘Thank you, today’s your lucky day!’ After the tattoos, we just walked aimlessly around the downtown and when Vic saw a bar (one of a thousand) that advertised the best Bloody Mary on the island, we stopped so he and Stephanie could find out how good they really were. Power was still out but apparently the Bloody Mary’s were pretty decent.
We walked past the Hemingway House and the Truman Little White House before walking thru Mallory Square. Mallory Square is where everyone goes at dusk for the sunset party every night. The square is usually loaded with street entertainers but since the skies are overcast (left over form the rains) and you can’t see the sun setting, the square is a bit docile today. There’s still a few entertainers and other people panhandling for money/change etc. but not very many crowds. Vic even spotted a sign where the people were asking for money for rum and weed!
As we drove out of downtown, we stopped at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street where there is a monument signifying the ‘Southernmost Point of the Continental US’.
Everyone flocks here daily just to get a picture standing next to the bottle. To get a picture in front of the bottle there’s a line of people waiting, so you get into the line and when you’re at the front of the line, you walk up to the bottle and take your turn taking pictures.
After returning to the car to head back we realized that without any power, there wasn’t any GPS so we had to use our sense of direction to get out of downtown and back to the marina.
Wednesday: After Tracy wakes up with vomiting/diarrhea and fever Oh my! I have not been that sick in s long, long time! -tc, she selects a snorkeling site just 6-7 miles south of us for today’s cruise and at 11:20am with everyone on board, we head out of the marina towards Middle Sambo Shoal. As we approached, we looked for mooring balls, but could not find any, so we dropped the anchor making sure we had a sand bottom and spent the afternoon enjoying the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean off Key West. Our anchorage is of note as we set the anchor at 24 degrees 29.64 minutes North is is the farthest point south that Kailani will be on her entire voyage around America’s Great Loop.
At 4:40pm we’re back at the marina all secured for the day. Just as Vic and I are re-attaching the utilities, the power circuit pops and shuts off at the pole. We have two 30 amp cords attached to the boat that go out 50 feet to a splitter that takes the two 30 amp cords and converts them to one 50 amp connection for at the pole. We took apart the cords and saw that one cord and the Y adaptor were fried from an overloaded circuit. So we jump in the car and head over to West Marina to buy a new Y Adaptor. Once we re-hook up all the power we still cannot get good power into the boat, so we shut it down and use the generator for the evening.
Today is another snorkeling cruise. This time to Boca Grande Key which is west of Key West and a 17 mile cruise so we have everyone on board early and by 9:00am we’re leaving the dock for our two plus hour cruise. Seas are nicer today and it’s a very comfortable cruise for all.
The kids are having a great time cruising as they have gotten very comfortable while underway as they split their time from coloring in the salon to sunning on the bow, to visiting with us up on the flybridge. With smooth seas it’s always more pleasant getting around the vessel.
Soon we are anchored off the west side of Boca Grande Key in 7 feet of water and we take the dinghy down for some cruising out to a wreck which is partially submerged and partially above water. Its over on the northeast side of the island, so Vic, Blaine, Charlee and I cruise over to the wreck and snorkel around. Just before dropping the anchor, we spot a stingray slowly making his way across the sandy bottom. That’s a nice start to this snorkeling adventure.
After returning for lunch, we re-group and Tracy takes the kids fishing while Vic and Stephanie return to the wreck for some relaxing snorkeling. After everyone is back aboard and the dinghy is returned to the roof deck and Vic has helped me strap it down, we raise the anchor and head out into some deeper water for swimming and diving fun. We head around the south side of Boca Grande Key
into 17 foot deep water, shut off the engines and float around while everyone jumps in the water. Vic climbs up to the roof deck (14 feet above the water) and jumps off so naturally Blaine has to give it a go and he has a blast jumping off numerous times.
Soon it’s time to gather everyone up, retrieve the buoy line and head back towards Stock Island. We are all tied up by 6:30pm and reconnected to the utilities. Oh did I mention, before departing this morning, I called a local marine electrician who advised that I try connecting to the starboard connecters rather than the aft connecters where we had the burnout. That did the trick and I will have to replace the connecters in the stern at some point, but for now, as long as we use the starboard connectors, we have good power.
Everyone jumps into the pool for a while, then we decide to watch Pirates of the Caribbean on the hotel room TV.
Friday: Today will be a sad day because Vic and family must leave and start driving back home. So I plan to wake up rather early, but end up waking up earlier than I expected at 4:45am with vomiting, diarrhea and fever. Ugh! I either caught this from Tracy or got it from the same source where she caught it. Either way, I’m bed and sore and Tracy is retching again in the salon. -tc when Vic comes on board to say goodbye. So they stay away from us just in case we’re contagious and say their goodbyes and head out. Tracy and I spend the balance of the day sleeping, resting, trying somehow to regain some strength and letting the marina know that we’ll be here probably thru the weekend as we recuperate. This is not a pleasant Friday, but oh well.
Saturday: A day of rest and recuperation. My ailing symptoms are fading with my strength rebuilding while Tracy is doing the same. We still stay cooped up in the salon without much activity. Today is the last day of our 52nd week since we departed Savannah. We have approximately 580 nautical miles to complete our first loop. Most people take up to a year to complete the loop so obviously, we’ve taken a bit more time enjoying the scenery and cruising either slower or less miles per day or less days per week cruising. Either which way, we’ve simply had a blast traveling the great loop and enjoying the scenery from a different perspective.
By the end of the day, (and the week, and our year), we’re still resting comfortably but slightly hungry and feeling like we can keep food down, so Tracy makes a light dinner and we settle in to watch the Netflix movie ‘The Highwaymen’. Which is a true untold story about the two retired (by the Texas Governor) Texas Rangers that are brought out of retirement to hunt down and kill Bonnie and Clyde in Louisiana. The roles are played by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson and we both enjoy the movie (without popcorn!). Before the movie is over, we get a text from Vic saying they arrived safely at home in Connecticut at 11:16pm so all’s good. We miss all our family and friends back home, but we’ll be back soon enough, then we’ll miss all our friends we’ve made on the water.
Sunday: Tracy picks the local Church for us to attend and we walk the half a mile for the 11:00 service. We get there a bit early and walk in on the Bible study. There are about 8 adults participating on the discussion, they all introduce themselves and we talk a bit about our adventure and we learn that one of the men is a dock hand at our marina. What a great guy! -tc The church service is quaint with about 20 total people attending and after some singing and some sermon, the service ends after about 1 hour and 20 minutes. We get offered at least 3 rides back to the marina so we don’t have to walk back.
Once we’re back, dinghies are down and we’re going snorkeling with Barry & Carol of Wild Goose and Kim & Tamara of Cocoa Beach. We dinghy over to the south side of the island towards Sister’s Island in about 6-8 feet of warm water. Kim is catching lobsters and the rest of us are snorkeling for fun. We get to try out our new dinghy access ladder and after a few adjustments, it works pretty nicely.
Wild Goose has some engine issues on the return trip to the marina so we take it slowly so we can follow them and make sure they get back safely. We all have a great time in the warm waters of the keys.
Monday: Wild Goose will leave today to head for Key West to meet up with Barry’s sister and husband and Kim and Tamara leave along with them for some anchoring fun on Boca Grande.
So we have the marina pretty much to ourselves for a while as we enjoy the pool, the weather and the fishing. Tracy has found a great spot for bites near the bridge over to Palm Island and she catches nearly 2 fish for every 3 casts so we frequent this spot for most of the week.
Tuesday: As mentioned yesterday, the spot near the Palm Island bridge will get visited today by Tracy so after I spend the afternoon at the pool sunning and reading, We load up the dinghy and head over. Tonight, Tracy catches what she feels is a Tarpon, but it spits out the hook and she doesn’t get a chance to land it. So after all the live shrimp are used up, we head back to our slip to tie up the dinghy. As we’re tying up the dinghy, I stand up in the boat to tie the line to Kailani’s deck cleat and I lose my balance and fall backwards into the drink. Along with me goes my wallet, glasses and iPhone. Good news is they all stay in my pockets so I don’t lose anything, but the iPhone will have to spend a few days in rice to have a chance to work again.
Wednesday: More beautiful weather so today is another pool day. We start with Frankie getting his regular morning walk, some chores aboard Kailani, pool in the afternoon, then fishing towards dusk. Tonight, Tracy goes over past the marina fuel dock rather than chance me falling overboard again. I spend the time visiting with Barry and Carol who have just returned with Barry’s sister, Mary and her husband, Scott.
Today, I also take a walk across the street to the West Marine to buy new co2 cartridges to replace the one that opened my PFD when I fell overboard. So I replace the spent cartridge and buy a few spares so we’ll have them in the future. LOL. He set one cartridge off while trying to install it. Phooooofff! -tc
Thursday: Today is judgement day and when the iPhone comes out of the rice, it acts dead, so I’ll have to get to the local Verizon store and deal with a replacement phone. We also need some supplies at the local Walgreens and they’re literally across the street from each other, so we take a 2.5 mile bike ride to the Verizon store and I get a new iPhone XR, then we cross the busy A1A Overland Highway to the Walgreens for milk and a few other items, then we ride back to the marina knowing that tonight we are making preparations for a cruise tomorrow to Stock Island Marina in Key West. Very nice that this marina has free ice that they deliver to the boat!! -tc
Tracy & I put the dinghy back up on the roof and secure the tie down straps, then prepare our maps and charts for the 38 mile cruise tomorrow. The winds and waves were a bit over the top today as we found out when Wild Goose returned to Faro Blanco after spending some time in Key West. But the wind and waves are all out of the east and are forecasted to remain the same tomorrow, so while they got beat up on their bows today, our trip should have the waves and wind hitting our stern tomorrow, so it should be a bit more comfortable for us.
Friday: The gulf right outside our marina looks good this morning, so we’re a go for departing today. I go to the marina office and clear our bill, then stop at Wild Goose to say goodbye to Barry and Carol along with Scott and Mary, their family visitors.
At ten minutes after ten we’re pulling away from our slip with LuAnn from Zoey’s Adventure helping us with our docklines. The gulf is calm this morning, but once we cross under Seven Mile Bridge and are into the Atlantic waters, the waves are a bit higher than predicted and pounding us on the port stern quarter, so holding a heading is not easy today.
Soon we’re turning course to nearly due west and the wave orientation changes just enough to ease some of the rocking, but overall, the entire cruise today is a bit of rocking and rolling. But mother nature’s waves are nothing compared to the sport fisher that passed us a full speed and their wake rocked us from side to side enough to send lots of stuff sliding across our decks. As we cruise along Hawk Channel towards Key West we hit a point that is the farthest south we will go on the entire loop (so we thought). Eventually, we are turning into the inlet for Stock Island Marina and at 3:15pm we’re safely tied up after 39 nautical miles of rock-n-roll. We’ll get all checked in, relax the rest of today, then start getting ready for Vic and Stephanie to show up Sunday with Blaine, Tara and Charlee for the following week. We’re really looking forward to this upcoming time to spend with them here in Key West.
Saturday: We meet two great guys on an adjacent boat today. Charlie and Don aboard Candide from Newfoundland, Canada. Charlie owns the 46 foot Jefferson and Don had just flown in yesterday to help Charlie cruise to the Turks and Caicos. Charlie has been around boats his whole life captaining a couple of charter vessels in Newfoundland, a sailing vessel and a motor cruiser. But he purchased the Jefferson specifically for this cruise which will include America’s Great Loop. We compare some notes on weather apps and navigation apps and have a nice day with them as we prepare for Vic and Stephanie’s arrival on Sunday afternoon.
We find out that Vic is in the Houston Texas area working on a Team Rubicon mission and will fly to Miami tomorrow and Stephanie will meet him at the airport with Blaine, Tara and Charlee, then they’ll finish the drive down to Key West to spend the week with us. Dinner is an early one out by the pool as Tom the waiter brings us our food poolside while we enjoy the beautiful Florida weather. Tomorrow we’ll get laundry done and clean up Kailani while we wait for the family to arrive. Laundry….pfffft. -tc
Sunday: Today we move and if the weather holds, tomorrow, we’ll be in the Florida Keys! First, we must cruise 43 miles today to our planned anchorage in Little Shark River. Its not a long day, so we plan for a 9:00am departure and after walking Frankie, I check the stateroom and see Tracy out of bed, all dressed, and making the bed! I guess she’s ready to leave. We adjust the lines, I walk the garbage up to the drop off area and get some complimentary ice to fill our cooler. Once I get back, we’re ready to go. The couple we met here yesterday, John and Penny aboard Scooter (not Loopers) said they were aiming for the same anchorage and they have already left since they are a slower trawler.
The tide is going out today, so Tracy points the bow into the outgoing current and in short order, Kailani is turned around ready for the cruise down the Baron River, past the Ten Thousand Islands and into the Gulf of Mexico where we will turn south and head to Ponce De Leon Bay and the mouth of Little Shark River. The Gulf again surprises us in a not good way and there are 3-4 footers today when the forecast had predicted 1-2 footers. The difference here is that they are coming out of the south so we get bow-pounded for a few hours. The south run is 30 miles and with about 12 miles to go, the Gulf starts laying down somewhat and the ride smooths out a bit. We are literally out of civilization with no cell service and very spotty VHF clarity, but there are still miles of crab pots to dodge for the entire 30 miles. We can’t imagine where the crab fishermen are based out of because we are not near any ports or harbors, except the one we just left in Everglades City.
By 2:30pm we are entering the mouth of the Little Shark River and we only have to go about 2 miles to get to Little Shark River Point where we will anchor, so soon enough we are spotting Scooter already set in the anchorage area and we cruise just past them and turn into the current to drop the anchor and set Kailani for the evening. There is a tide in this river so we know we will turn 180 degrees when the tide changes, so we allow for the swing room and set our anchor for 100 feet of chain in 12 feet of water. We are expecting a picturesque sunset and a beautiful night with the full moon, so as long as the sky is clear.
By the end of the day, there are two more boats in the anchorage as there was already a sailboat anchored before Scooter arrived and later, while Tracy is fishing off the back, a third trawler pulls in and sets his anchor for the evening.
So now back to Tracy, obviously fishing correct? Yup, with live shrimp still in her bait bucket left over from yesterday, she has great bait for catching anything feeling hungry in this river. While fishing out of the cockpit, she calls me down to look at something breaking the surface. I never get eyes on it, but Tracy does see it once more and confirms that it’s a large ray with at least a four foot wingspan! I wish I could have seen that as she said that it literally jumped out of the water. And I am not exaggerating! It jumped high enough for me to see the full length of it’s tail. -tc
Monday: Florida Keys, here we come! Our cruise today will take us from our anchorage here in Little Shark River to Faro Blanco Marina in Marathon.
We start early with our pre-departure duties, however, we can not re-verify the weather for the day because there is absolutely no signal here in the middle of no-man’s land! But looking out from Little Shark River Point into the open gulf, the seas look fine and so we proceed to raising the anchor. With Tracy on the bow and me at the helm, the anchor comes up smoothly and very clean. She did a great job of holding us in the changing tides of the river, and at straight up 8am we are cruising out of the river and into the Gulf. We set a course that takes us out 3 miles into slightly deeper water so we don’t have to maintain a constant check on the depth gauge. If we go out 2 miles before turning south, we’ll be cruising in mostly 7 feet of water which is plenty of water, but the depth alarm will be singing for the entire cruise, while another mile out we can cruise in a constant 12-13 feet and be assured that the bottom will not jump up and surprise us. So we head out three miles then turn south to a course of 165 degrees to head straight into the inlet for Faro Blanco Marina.
Again, we spend about two hours out of sight of any land, but today the vessel traffic seems a bit more crowded as we actually see four vessels also cruising south and two vessels cruising north, plus we finally see a crab pot vessel retrieving and re-setting traps. We’ve been wondering for a while why we always see thousands of crab pots, but rarely see any vessels working the traps. Today dispels the rumor that the pots just got there on their own (haha).
With about 11 miles to go and just before noontime, we can start to see the profile of islands ahead and sure enough by 1pm we are staring down the white lighthouse and the inlet for the Faro Blanco Marina with the sight of Seven Mile Bridge just off our starboard bow.
There’s a bit of a current upon entering the inlet, but we power thru and make it into the protected waters of the marina basin where we see a dockhand and Barry & Carol waiting to greet us at our slip. We haven’t seen them since Clearwater Beach, so it’s good to be back together.
Faro Blanco is a great spot to spend time in the keys and there are quite a few Loopers here, including some that come here to spend the entire winter docked right here. We also see that our other CT looper friends aboard Zoey’s Adventure are also here. We have danced around them ever since Killarney in Canada, but have not been docked at the same marina since. There’s also Mel and Anne aboard MorningStar II who are the self proclaimed harbor hosts here and they put together “docktails” every evening at 5pm. Tonight’s theme is ‘salads, without lettuce’ so at 5pm we meet and greet many boaters and feast on taco salads, fruit salads, bean salads, tuna salads, etc., you get the idea.
Back aboard Kailani, the air conditioning is on and the salon is very comfortable for the evening and we turn in at a decent hour and get ready to check out and enjoy the Florida Keys.
Tuesday: We’re not going anywhere today, but it is the last day for a while with projected calm seas. The forecasters are saying that the winds and seas will be above 20 mph with minimum 4 foot waves for the next few days, so we make arrangements with the Marins to stay at least thru the weekend. Also we are starting to finalize plans with Vic and Stephanie for them to come down to spend a week with us starting on April 7th. So we will be staying here in the keys for a while and plan to meet them on Key West when they arrive. So with our arrangements with Faro Blanco taken care of, we settle into our routine of R and R for a while.
The pool here is somewhat small, but very nice and it’s down three steps down from the indoor/outdoor Lighthouse Grill. So we have a lunch meal at the Grill, then spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool with looper friends.
For the evening, I spend the time socializing with Barry and Carol on their Sundeck while Tracy breaks out her fishing tackle as she has learned that its okay to fish from the fuel dock in the evening when there are no vessels docked there fueling up. Her catch tonight will be great enough to keep her motivated to stay right here and catch every fish in the harbor at least once! Ok, it’s time to admit what so many of you have probably surmised, Nick and I have very different hobbies. Nick loves, loves to chat and I adore fishing. Surprise!! -tc
Wednesday: Tonight’s docktails theme is ice cream as Mel had announced that he was making chocolate ice cream in their ice cream maker. So we showed up with a bowl of frozen grapes to compliment the ice cream and the docktails were especially delicious this evening. Right after docktails, we called for an Uber and went to Publix to re-stock our Galley.
Thursday: Winds are blowing strong today again as forecasted, but the temperature is still up there, so swimming in the pool is not curtailed and we again spend the afternoon, sunning, swimming and reading in loungers around the pool. Vessels tied along the entrance to the inlet are getting beat up pretty good. Wild Goose is near that area and although they are bouncing more than is usually comfortable, the Wild Goose is not dancing half as much as the boats closer to the open water area of the marina.
Friday: When I took my bicycle off the deck earlier in the week, I saw that my chain was rusted to the point of non-use, so today, I’m removing my chain and walking to the bike repair shop to get a replacement chain for my bike. I spend thirty minutes trying to get my rusted chain off so I can bring it with to get a proper match and after an unsuccessful attempt, I decide to simply walk the bike down to the repair shop and see if they can take it off for me. His bike chain had a section literally frozen in a right angle and could not move because of it -tc. So I push my bike the 2.3 miles down the road to the bike shop and the guy there couldn’t have been nicer. He insisted on removing and replacing my chain for me and refused to take any money for his labor. I even tried to give him a tip and he wouldn’t accept that. He just wanted me to be safe and have a working bike to enjoy. So with a new chain, I peddled the 2 plus miles back to the marina and in short order, I was back.
We spent a short afternoon at the pool as we needed to get prepared for our 4pm reservation at the Turtle Hospital for their 90 minute guided tour of the facility. So at 3:45 pm we were walking into the gift shop to purchase our tickets for the tour and at 4pm, Theresa called out to our group that the 4pm tour was starting and to follow her to the hospital entrance. From there, we got a guided tour of every one of the turtles housed here at the hospital from the two dozen that are categorized as not ever being able to be set back into the wild, to the 100 or so that are there for various surgical procedures and healing protocols before being returned to their original environment.
For instance, a turtle rescued from the waters of Sombrero Key would be returned to the exact spot in Sombrero Key after they were healed enough to be returned home. They always try to get the turtles back as near as possible to where they were rescued. So they have boats, ambulances, etc at their disposal for use when completing a rescue operation. This was amazing experience. This organization took of an old motel and using it’s swimming pool set up medical and rehab facilities for injured sea turtles. Some turtles had been injured by boats and some were babies who had gotten lost trying to find their way to the sea after hatching. However, the ones I found the most heartbreaking were the ones who were dying of starvation because they could not digest anything due to the fact they had so much plastic waste in their stomachs. Sea turtles love to munch on jellyfish and a floating plastic bag happens to look just like a jellyfish meal. -tc. After the tour was over, we asked Theresa for a card with the call in information for when boaters spot injured turtles. She gave us a refrigerator magnet card to keep aboard Kailani and hopefully, we will never have to use it, but if we ever see an injured turtle in the waters of the Florida Keys, we will now be able to call someone who is prepared and equipped to rescue that turtle.
(A little aside for out terrestrial turtle friends: If you see a turtle who has been hit by a car, even if the shell is cracked, the animal is likely still alive. Take the animal to a veterinarian or an animal shelter to be assessed and, if necessary, euthanized. Turtles have an extremely slow metabolism and can take days or weeks to die, even when they are severely injured. – tc)
On the way back to our marina, we went into 7 Mile Pizzeria where they make pizza and Cuban meals. We sat for a nice pizza, then walked back to Kailani for the evening. Again, I spent some time with Barry and Carol while Tracy tried for some more fish catches. We agreed with Barry and Carol that over the weekend, we’d both get our dinghies down and cruise over to Pigeon Key for an afternoon of snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of Pigeon Key below Seven Mile Bridge.
Saturday: A day of enjoying this lovely marina. Faro Blanco is a popular spot for loopers and some long term winter loopers, so it’s obvious that the feeling here is comfort and ease while enjoying the amenities. The wi-fi is strong, the pool is quaint but convenient, the dock facilities are modern and spectacular, ice, pump out and newspapers are all delivered to your slip daily if requested at no charge and there is a restaurant on site. Vessels of all sizes come and go in this marina, but Morning Star, Wild Goose, Zoey’s Adventure and Kailani are here throughout it all.