Ship’s Log

Wednesday (4/25) Exploring the Titanic!

We slept in a bit this morning, wondering what the day would bring.

DSC_3325During breakfast we saw a van show up with six colleagues who opened the cargo containers and set up shop.  They worked with purpose communicating across the harbour with cell phones and running back and forth on colorful bicycles.

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The beautiful sound of the hydraulic lift could also be heard, and we were pleased to see that work on the Travel Lift was already underway after being delayed a day by yesterday’s rain.

As Art stepped on the swim platform, he noticed that one set of props were missing from the pallet.  Relieved, he saw one of the yard crew quietly going about installing them on LOOFAH. Getting closer!

While Art took the opportunity to service the bow thruster, Sue walked around the yard to see what she could about the sub.  She returned to do some research on “OceanGate Titan.”

DSC_3315“Holy cow!”  The sub is being readied across the way is going to survey the Titanic!

“Titan Submersible: 4000 Meter Manned Submersible

 “In January 2018, OceanGate completed construction of Titan, formerly known as Cyclops 2, a 5-person submersible designed to dive to depths of 4000 meters. Once validation testing is complete,Titan will be the only privately owned manned submersible in the world that is capable of reaching this depth.”

DSC_3313It turns out that the validation testing to 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) is being right here, in the 15,000’ waters we had experienced in our crossing to the Abacos!  LOOFAH III is sleeping in the same boat yard as that submersible.

“OceanGate Expeditions will conduct a series of week-long manned submersible operations in the north Atlantic Ocean to begin its first Titanic Survey Expedition starting in 2018. 

OceanGate Titan“Given the massive scale of the wreck and the debris field, multiple missions performed over several years will be required to fully document and model the wreck. This longitudinal survey to collect images, video and sonar data will provide an objective basis to assess the decay of the wreck over time and help document and preserve its submerged history.”Titanic Logo

It will be fun to keep an eye on this expedition; maybe the next chapter of our journey will be an expedition.  To the depths of the oceans, to space, to the poles?

Following lunch, we finished up a few projects and got LOOFAH III ready to go to sea, not knowing when that might be.  While Art was working on the bow thruster this morning, he thought that he overheard Chris, the lead yard mechanic, mention to an associate, “about 2:00.”  Could it be?

Then, like a dream come true, almost exactly at 14:00, the Travel Lift was moving!  It went over to lift a sailboat.  Sue went to the yard office to check on charges and see if LOOFAH III was on the schedule for the afternoon.  We were next!  The crew was heading our way.

It was a fire drill as we had stuff strewed about on land, as well as the boat.  We ran the kayaks and bicycles over to the launching well, secured the shore power and water, and watched the crew slide the slings under LOOFAH and carefully lift her.  It was a beautiful sight!

Although we were not shipshape for a departure, we motored out of the Marsh Harbour Boat Works at 2:45, heading where, we were not sure.

Sue artfully went about stowing what she could; Art gave his attention to the weather (beautiful, relatively calm seas and winds from the south) and navigational options.  As the boat was brought up to speed, we nervously listened and searched for any vibration from the props and shafts.  Relieved, we found none.

We knew we wanted to head north, we just didn’t know how far.

Every morning on the 8:15 cruisers net, there is a request from the moderator, “Does anyone hve eyes on the whale.”  We had come to find that “The Whale” referenced was the Whale Cay Passage and Whale Cay Channel. It is a run of about 3 miles where it is necessary to leave the Sea of Abaco, enter the Atlantic, and return through the relatively narrow Whale Cay Channel.  If the winds and seas are from the east they hit you abeam, an at least unpleasant, if not extremely dangerous angle.  Last weekend, when we were on the hard, boats waited two days in Bakers Bay at Great Guana Cay for the seas, wind and breaking surf at the Whale to subside.  One of the days was when we visited Nipper’s by ferry, not a bad alternative.

LOOFAH’s crew huddled at the helm.  We would head north to Baker’s Bay, lay eyes on The Whale, and determine if we would anchor or head through.

At 3:45, all looked favorable.  Our only concern was that many of the markers shown the on charts for the “Old Cruise Ship Channel” were missing. But, there was plenty of water.  We proceeded on through the old ship channel, out into the Atlantic and back through the channel.  LOOFAH III rolled a bit but never had an issue.  We had survived The Whale!

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At 4:35 we backed into a slip at the Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina on Green Turtle Cay, 32 miles from the boat works.  We were ready for a swim, shower, rum and dinner.

All accomplished, we slept well!

 

Tuesday (4/24) She said they would, and they did!

The rains of last night continued this morning.  As the storm was sufficient to wreak havoc with the satellite TV and cellular systems, we enjoyed music and continued to research AAA Tour Guides, cruising guides and charts for the East Coast in the comfort of LOOFAH’s salon.

Unfortunately, the storm was also sufficient to prohibit work on the Travel Lift.

During lunch we noticed a crane and two trucks with shipping containers come into the yard. As the rain started to subside, they went about their work offloading the cargo.  It appeared that one of the trucks also carried something that looked like a miniature submarine.  Intriguing.

We needed some groceries.  On our way out of the yard, we stopped at the office for an update and some directions.  The word was that the work on our props was complete; they were ready to be picked up! Lucy said they would be ready Tuesday, and they were.  Now just the repairs to the Travel Lift remain.

Encouraged, we headed to Maxwell’s where we were again amazed at their inventory and service.  DSC_3302As we returned to the boat we saw our prop sets on a pallet near LOOFAH’s stern.

We continued to work on the possible floatplans as we grilled brats on the stern.  As we dined, we started guessing what was ahead for that submarine.

The view from our stern was not like the beautiful views of previous evenings, but we were home.

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Lightning, rain and wind returned as we fell off to sleep.

Monday (4/23) A self-sufficient island.

When we were in Hope Town we picked up a copy of “Island Breeze, A Guide to Real Estate Opportunities Throughout the Bahamas” of HGChristie.

After opening remarks from the Managing Broker, the first section of the 110 page booklet included 10 pages of “Private Islands” for sale.

Perhaps the ultimate show of wealth is a private island.  They’re incredibly expensive to buy and maintain, and offer unparalleled privacy for anyone who wants to escape from the spotlight.” – Business Insider.

The first listing, Cave Cay, had a protected deep-water harbor with 35-slip marina, a 2,800’ private air strip, and was “self-sufficient.”  It listed for $60 million.

The last listing was Bonefish Cay, off Andros, for $795,000.  “A rare 6-acre gem provides excellent bonefishing, a cottage, 10 foot elevations and three beaches.”

As we leafed through the pages, we realized that we were happy with our “island.”  It too was self-sufficient, and unlike those in Island Breeze, if we got bored with its present location, we could move it.

Today was our day to move from the pressures of “urban living”, back to our island.  Although it was presently atop blocks and stands “on the hard,” we yearned to get back to home cooked meals and our own bed.  Even high and dry, if we can get electricity to augment the batteries, LOOFAH III is self-sufficient.

But before we could affect the change back to the boat, a ferry trip back to Hope Town was required.  You see we were, indeed, “fully relaxed” after yesterday’s luncheon at The Reef; so much so that we forgot to gather up the credit card!  Our waitress found it and when we called last night, it was waiting for us at the office.

With the credit card back in hand, our clothing stuffed into LOOFAH satchels fashioned into saddle bags on one of the bicycles, we headed back to our island.

The afternoon was spent reading and listing the “must do” stops on our way back up the East Coast. At one point the XM-Sirius music was interrupted by the familiar beeping of machinery backing up.  We were delighted to see a JLG hydraulic lift, being offloaded near the Travel Lift.

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Later in the afternoon Art talked with the yard’s mechanic: the repair parts were received; some onsite fabrication is underway; work should be fully underway tomorrow and completed by Wednesday noon.

Tracy also had news that work was underway on all our props! Things are improving.

Guardedly optimistic, we fired up the barbecue and grilled some steaks.

It’s great to be back on our island home!

Sunday (4/22) Major errors in research, but not all is lost!

“In 1836, 2 lighthouses were built in the Bahamas in order to improve navigation and decrease the amount of shipwrecks.  One of the lighthouses was stationed at the southernmost tip of Abaco called Hole-in-the-Wall, and the other just south of Bimini.  Even with the lighthouse at Hole-in-the-Wall, wrecks were still building up around Abaco.  As a result, in 1863, England decided, to build a lighthouse at Hope Town to steer ships clear of the extensive “Elbow Reef”.  Despite protests made by wrackers (salvagers), the lighthouse was completed in 1864. 

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At this time, the lighthouse was equipped with a non-rotating, first-order light.  In 1936, approximately 73 years later, the Imperial Lighthouse Service closed the Lighthouse at Gun Cay (south of Bimini), and realized that the lighthouse at Hope Town was in need of a beacon for easier identification by ships.  The Gun Cay lighthouse was then decapitated, and the iron lantern room with its dome, petroleum burner equipment, turning mechanism, and the rotating Fresnel lenticular panels were brought to Hope Town to replace its standing wick-type light.  In 1996, for economic reasons, the Port Department was prompted to automate the hand-wound kerosene–burning lighthouse in the Bahamas.  The Lighthouse Preservation Society (the non-profit historical and educational society dedicated to the preservation of Bahamian lighthouses) convinced the government to reconsider, as long as the Society would provide the Port Department with the parts they needed that were longer available through their previous supplier.  Since then, the Society has been using mantles from the Coleman Company (manufacturer of Outdoor Equipment).  Today, the Elbow Reef Lighthouse is still sending out light, rated at 325,000 candlepower, with the same light source it acquired in 1936.”

DSC_3271Having researched the lighthouse extensively, we rode our bicycles to Albury’s east ferry docks for the 20-minute trip to Hope Town.

It will turn out that our research was lacking!

DSC_3279 The harbour, beaches and streets of Hope Town and Elbow Cay are wonderful.

DSC_3274You could easily spend some time here.

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We rented bicycles to ride around the bay from the town landing to the lighthouse.

After cycling for just over 30 minutes, we stopped at a little grocery store for water and directions.

Research issue #1:  The lighthouse and the side of the bay on which it resides is only accessible by water!  Shuttles were available that routinely go between the town piers and the marinas and other facilities across the bay.

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We were directed back to town.

Thirty minutes later, after enjoying the directional signs to places we love (Block Island, RI, Lake Geneva, WI, and others) on the way, we arrived at the Lighthouse Preservation Society office.

Research Issue #2:  Open Monday through Friday, NOT Sunday!

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Never defeated, we decided to explore the back “roads” and paths of Hope Town and Elbow Cay.  It was lucky we did!

Just at the point we were going to call it a day and retreat defeated, we passed “The Reef Bar and Grill,” the swimming pool, beach bar and restaurant of the Hope Town Harbour Lodge.

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It was just what we needed! After lunch, fully relaxed and refreshed, we returned to the ferry and Marsh Harbor letting someone else worry about the tides, wind and seas!

This evening we had dinner at Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour, a gated resort on the other side of the Marsh Harbour peninsula from where we were staying, but just a short bike ride.

We were not particularly hungry, so we chose the “lite fare” at the bar.

As we were enjoying conversation and swapping seas stories with Jim, from Stuart, FL, a young man asked if he could join us at a seat between us.  He was “a mate” on a tournament fishing boat, Miss Victoria, that had just won the The Abaco Beach White Marlin Tournament hosted by the resort.Miss-Victoria

Get this: Miss Victoria, and her crew of 7 had won recent purses of $138,000!  The purse is split 60% to the captain and 40% among the crew.

It was fascinating listening to Colton, Jim, and one of Jim’s friends, Randy, talk about tournament fishing.

Miss Victoria was fishing out 20 miles in 7,000 feet of water when they brought in a fish that weighed in at 1,000 lbs.! Photo Apr 22, 8 26 13 PM The diminutive bartender said that she watched the weight in and was clearly dwarfed by the fish.  Colton said that following their extremely successful first day, the other boats were swarming about them the next two days!  It didn’t do them any good.

Frustrated that Miss Victoria was catching fish when it wasn’t, reportedly one of the other crews was actually checking measurements and alignments in their engine room to see of there was a vibration emanating from their boat that was disturbing the fish!

Colton, born in Charlotte, is a true southern gentleman.  At 29 he was quickly building a reputation to become a captain.  It was clear by things that Jim and Wayne shared after he left, that self-deprecating Colton was well known in tournament fishing circles.

We strayed for a minute from the tournament talk to find that Miss Victoria’s owner lives in Michigan and that Colton is looking forward to commissioning a new boat with him in Lake Michigan this summer.  Asked where he wanted to be in 10 years, he smiled and immediately responded, “Coaching a baseball team.”

It was another refreshing evening!

Saturday (4/21)

Great Guana Cay is covered by all of the cruising guides currently for one reason, Nippers Beach Bar. Today we would check it out.

Unlike our previous few days when we enjoyed breakfast on LOOFAH III, today we went in search of a coffee shop.  We had noted “Bliss” was located just a few blocks from our room and headed there.  It was a simple place, with local art displayed for purchase.

When we became the only patrons, we had a chance to speak with the proprietor, a fifth-generation native.  Her ancestors had come from Scotland and England.  Her 3 ½ month old child, Margaret, was on a sofa nearby; she never flinched as her mother crushed ice for a previous customer’s drink.

We became enthralled as we learned about the family’s life on the cays.  The stories shared about the five major hurricanes experienced (and twice rebuilding destroyed homes) were made to seem almost common place. “People wait until the last day to get prepared as so many turn out to miss us.”  It was a morning well spent as we compared the matter-of-fact approach taken by the locals facing a hurricane, compared with the “hype” of our 24-hour news cycle in the US.  Being without electricity is almost a daily occurrence here.  “We just deal with it.”

It was time to head off to Great Guana Cay.

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Like many of the Bahamian Cays, Great Guana Cay was settled by British Loyalists fleeing the American colonies after the Treaty of Paris in 1783.  Although it never grew in population to the size of Marsh Harbor or Hopetown, there was a flurry of activity in 1988 when Disney leased Baker’s Bay on the north end, for a project called “Treasure Island.”  They created a deep-water channel, but bad weather and storm rages caused them to abandon the project 4 years later.

The Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, a large private resort located there, was once a favorite rendezvous for movie stars and sports idols but it also seems to have lost its luster.  This seems to be a reoccurring theme, to this day, in many of the cays.

Today, 5.5 mile long Great Guana Cay has a population of approximately 150, a similar number of second home residents, access to the “world’s third-largest coal reef,”… AND Nippers.

The Albury Ferry departed just a few steps from our Conch Inn room at 11:00.  It was a gray day; winds from the south at 15-20 mph; seas 2’-3’, occasionally 4’.  It was a great day to be on a ferry.

After a 30-minute ride, we arrived at the ferry pier at Settlement Harbour.

As soon as we started walking a golf cart known as the “Nipmobile” pulled up to inquire if we were heading to Nippers.  Five minutes later we approached the well-known pool, bar, restaurant, and beach.  Although the weather was not very accommodating and the number of patrons down substantially from their promotional picture, we had a marvelous experience.

Nippers

 

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We walked back through the hamlet, also checking out Grabbers Bar and Grill that overlooks Fishers Bay.  Having seen what we needed to see, (and getting the t-shirt) we returned on the 2:30 ferry.

The rains returned this afternoon as we enjoyed another “power nap” after which we saw in the Winter edition of Marina Life that we had just visited two of the 10 “Best Bahamas Beach Bars.”  Unknowingly, we had already knocked off two others – Staniel Cay Yacht Club Bar, and Sharkies Bar and Grill at the Bimini Big Game Club.  The others will have to wait for another occasion.

We returned to Snappas this evening. Although not on the list, we are becoming recognized as regulars!

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Friday (4/20) When it rains, it pours!

Maxwell’s, a grocery store that recently took on “home furnishings, appliances, carpeting and more,” was our day’s first stop. We were there a few minutes before eight to pick up a few provisions for the boat.

Maxwell’s is no convenience store, it is a full-fledged super market with fresh vegetables, bakery goods, meat, and milk, in addition to the canned and boxed goods frequently found at the grocery stores on the cays. Although there were just five shoppers in the store, all ten checkout lines had cashiers ready to be of service.

We bicycled on and enjoyed coffee and fresh muffins onboard before resuming maintenance work.  A heavy, late morning shower put a stop to our labors. It also shut down the electrical grid.

Art went in to the office to speak with Tracy.  She confirmed what had been suspicioned, the props would not, indeed, be ready “the end of the week.”   As they were speaking, a yard mechanic came in to share with Tracy that the Travel Life was down.  His forecast was that it could be Wednesday before the parts could be sent over from the states and repairs made.  What next!  Tracy looked at her schedule and shook her head as she reviewed the number of boats scheduled to be hauled between now and then.

Over lunch we turned our attention to the charts, weather forecasts for the Gulf Stream, and the planning calendar, reviewing our options.  As opposed to visiting some of the noted barrier cays by LOOFAH, we would utilize the Albury Ferry Line and commute from our Marsh Harbour base. When LOOFAH gets back in the water, we will head more directly to the West End, Freeport, and Florida.

On the way back to the Conch Inn Resort and Marina, Art split off to make a trip to the prop shop.  He met Lucy, the hands-on owner-mechanic and her three technicians.  They had a backlog of work as they not only repair props, they are one of Marsh Harbour’s only machine shops. Tracy was very familiar with our props, and direct.  “It will be Tuesday.”

Rain, no electricity, broken props, broken Travel Lift; when it rains it pours!

Time for a nap, followed by sunset and a relaxing dinner at Mangoes.  As we watched the sun set, we realized that despite the issues of the day, life is darn good!

Thursday (4/19)   Experiencing a “stand down?”

We repeated Wednesday’s drill.

At lunch we realized that for the last two days we had been “spared” the daily routine of plotting courses, and monitoring tides, wind, seas, weather, and onboard systems. It was a realization that we had not anticipated.

The log indicates that we have been 219 days and 3,068 miles underway.  Maybe this unscheduled “stand down” was just what we needed. Were we exhausted and just didn’t know it?  Have we been pushing to do too much?

Our journey continues…

But in the meantime, not a bad place to “rest and recover.”  We pinched each other and enjoyed some rum.

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“Stand down: In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety.

Wednesday (4/18)  Shipshape and Bristol fashion….

Usually it takes Art a night to become familiar to the conditions and sounds of a new environment.  It didn’t last night.

Art is a light sleeper and if there is a sound, anything running, regardless of how faint, he tracks it.  Once he knows the source and proper sequence, and the pattern is followed, all is well.  If the sequence is interrupted, he awakens.

Apparently, the sounds he was “monitoring” last night were far fewer than those on LOOFAH III and he got a great night’s sleep.

We had determined last night at dinner to use this break to get LOOFAH III  “shipshape,  Bristol-fashion.” *

We would bicycle to the boat, have coffee, and breakfast onboard and then spend the morning washing, waxing, polishing, vacuuming, and cleanig.  We would break for a late lunch and return to the Conch Inn for rest and reading, then enjoy dinner out and bed.

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And, this is exactly what we did.  And, it felt great.

* “A nautical term: “Shipshape” means generally “Tidy, neatly arranged.” “Bristolfashion” references the English city of Bristol, a large ship-building and repair center, with a reputation for excellence. Thus, the phrase means “Maintained in mint condition.”

Tuesday (4/17) Enjoying the resort life, ashore!

By land it was just over a mile and a half; by water about 10 miles, avoiding the shortcut we had unfortunately taken last Saturday.  At 10 mph, the maximum speed at which we could cruise without starting to feel cavitation and vibration, we needed an hour to get to the Marsh Harbour Boat Works. We were underway at 7:40.

At 8:40 we radioed the boat works and were told to proceed to the well at the Travel Lift where they would be awaiting our arrival.

At 9:15 LOOFAH III was hanging from the slings.  First the bad news: the props on both the starboard and the ports sides had been bent.  The GREAT news: no other damage to the shafts or drives!  Halleluiah!

Both props on the post side had been bent.  They could be easily replaced by the new set we had accidentally acquired in Green Turtle Bay.  It appeared that only one blade of the front prop on the port side had been bent.  Could it be hammered out; could we could get back underway, returning to pick up the other reconditioned set?

Tracey had the props put in her car to drove to the local prop shop.  She was going to do he best to expedite the “later this week” response she got on the phone, at least for the one port prop.

She called back with disappointing news. When then put the prop on the form, not one blade was bent, but all three.  It would be the end of the week.

The boat was out of the Travel Lift and placed on stands. It was likely going to be Monday before LOOFAH III may get launched.

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It wasn’t easy seeing LOOFAH’s position on the chartplotter as it was powered down!

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We needed to find lodging. The one we wanted, Conch Inn Marina and Resort was booked until Thursday.  Another didn’t answer Tracey’s call. We got on our bicycles and headed back to the resorts that we had passed on Sunday’s outing, stopping at the Conch Inn first.  We secured the room available Thursday, departing Monday.

Would we would need to sleep in the streets for a couple of evenings?

Overhearing our conversation and plight, another lady approached and in a local dialect unfamiliar to us, conversed with the desk clerk.  If we were willing to exchange rooms on Thursday, they would give us a room held on reserve for management.  Deal done!

We checked in, returned to the boat, secured clothing, walked into the room, showered, and enjoyed lunch overlooking the harbor.

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Exhausted and relieved, we succumbed to an afternoon nap before the Tuesday night pizza dinner at Snappas Bar and Grill” which we had heard of on the cruisers net.

 

The sun set.

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“Que Sera, Sera”

Monday (4/16) We’re hauled!

The cruising guides for the area mentioned the existence of a “cruisers net” on VHF 68 at 8:15 each morning.  Such networks are an informal exchange of information by mariners in the area.  Weather information is shared along with specific observations from boaters located in different areas of the broadcast.  Restaurants, local organizations, and other boaters provide announcements of daily activities.  There is also an opportunity to solicit information.

We joined the net and at the appropriate time, Art asked for recommendations of local boat works.  Two were forthcoming, one with a strong recommendation: Edwin’s located on Man of War Cay.

Following the net, Art called Edwin’s and was told that it would be “the end of the week” before they could haul LOOFAH; no specifics.  The second call was to the Marsh Harbor Boat Works where Tracey inquired if 9:00 tomorrow would work. She provided estimates of the cost that might be anticipated. It was refreshing.

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Still too blustery to check out Marsh Harbor by dinghy, we broke out the bicycles after lunch and spent the afternoon picking up material at the Tourist Office, and checking out the other marinas, resorts, restaurants, and shops.  We also found the “Castle,” in which Gayle now lives, nestled within dense foliage on one of the highest hills overlooking the harbor, before heading back to the boat for dinner.

Sunday (4/15) “Conventional Life Styles” and “Que Sera, Sera”

Rain joined the wind early this morning.  The driving rain provided LOOFAH III a great wash, far better that LOOFAH’s crew had accomplished on Saturday.

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We were pleased to be snug in a slip, although it was a bit shorter than ideal.  After fueling yesterday, the harbormaster gave is the option of just moving the boat ahead on the fuel dock or tucking into a slip, difficult to approach and relatively short for LOOFAH.

In addition to the wind, the approach to the slip was complicated as a large catamaran was moored in the fairway, just before the slip.  The distance between the side of the catamaran and the outboard posts of the slips on our side of the fairway was less than 50’ so it would require backing down the fairway just past the catamaran, where we would have enough clearance to “spin” LOOFAH in front of the cat and bow into the slip.

The advantage of being in the slip was we could tie the boat off on both sides keeping it from riding on fenders with high winds, tides and waves, as was would happen at the fuel pier.  We chose the slip, The IPS “joystick” docking mode worked like a champ, much to our relief and the adjacent crews who were all watching carefully.

Secured in that the slip as the wind howled, we were able to enjoy a bacon and eggs Sunday.

Returning to last night, after we enjoyed the Jib Room’s Saturday night steak barbeque buffet, we were utilizing the available internet to check the weather. Photo Apr 14, 7 36 30 PMCandance, at the table next to us, asked, “Are your trying to get out of here?”  We replied, “No, just checking the windy weather that is supposed to arrive tomorrow.”

Candance and her husband, Jamie, were in Marsh Harbor visiting their friend, Gale. The story of Gayle’s father, Dr. Evans Cottman, is chronicled in the autobiography, “Out-Island Doctor.”  As much as Candance tried to get Gayle to share the story with us, Gayle graciously passed, rather asking about our experience on the Loop.

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Candance and Jamie live near Lake Champlain.  When they found we planned to be there later this summer, Jamie, a boat broker there, shared with us his local knowledge.  He provided us with his card and added his cell phone, encouraging us to call as we approached.  We told him to count on it!

As a result of last night’s discussion, this morning Sue researched the “Out-Island Doctor.

Cottman had a strong sense of adventure and hungered to break free from such a conventional lifestyle.”  It is a story upon which we reflected the balance of the day.

A short summary of Evans Cottman’s life follows at the end of this entry.

It was a good day to be inside. We spent the time pouring over the charts, logs, emails, texts, notes, weather forecasts and cruising guides.  We played the possible “what if scenarios,” not knowing the what repairs might be required and the time involved.  We had an additional set of props onboard.  Could it be a easy as a quick haul out, replacement, and relaunch? Or, had a shaft been bent?

The song Doris Day sang in the 1956 film, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” came to mind… “Que Sera, Sera” …  Whatever will be, will be.”

We enjoyed diminishing winds, pizza onboard, and another sunset!

 


Out-island Doctor  By Evans W. Cottman, Wyatt Blassingame

 “Out-Island Doctor is the autobiography of Evans Cottman, starting out as a lonely biology teacher in Indiana. Cottman led a quiet, and by all accounts rather dull, life. His focus was teaching and caring for his aging parents and aunt with whom he lived. Cottman had a strong sense of adventure and hungered to break free from such a conventional lifestyle. Thus begins his exploration and eventual transplant to the exotic islands of the Bahamas.

 “The story really begins in 1939, when Cottman decided he wanted to visit the out-islands of the Bahamas – lesser inhabited settlements dotting the larger islands and cities. He started a letter writing campaign to commissioners of the islands themselves to arrange visits, and they were very accommodating. In visiting the islands that first summer of 1939, and during subsequent journeys, he came to love the adventure, the climate, and the people. And they returned the admiration for him.

 “In discovering his love of his new home, we follow Cottman through turbulent sailing trips, severe seasickness, blistering heat, harsh storms, and insect-ridden abodes. It would be quaint to call his living conditions rustic – they were often in poverty, yet part of the native Bahamian landscape. Eventually, Cottman transitions from summer visits to permanent residence and must determine how to make a living to supplement his modest teachers’ pension.  He settles on medicine, as the remote, out-islands have little or nothing in the way of healthcare, and he takes on a regimen to learn the profession, achieving a doctor’s permit.

 “Cottman’s story is extraordinary. The physical move to this remote location is one thing, but he continues to surprise by embracing his circumstances – sometimes living in squalor, teaching himself to practice medicine, learning to sail, adventuring the unknown. Cottman continues to bring us along as he builds a home, a profession, and a family, with exceptional determination and perseverance. 


 

Saturday (4/14) 15,000 feet and then there was none!

atlantic-ocean.pngIt is finally time to introduce LOOFAH III to the “BIG” water, the Northeast Providence Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Our float plant was to cross the channel from Spanish Wells to Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island, 85 miles to the north.

The seas were forecast to be E 6’-7.8’ with a 9 second period; winds SE 13, gusting to 18.  weather-180403.jpgOn the Great Lakes seas of this heights would merit a “Small Craft Warning” as the period between the waves would normally be 4 seconds creating very steep waves.  With a 9 second period between waves these seas were more “rolling.” As our heading would be 345⁰ true, we would be running with the wind, and the seas would not be abeam.  We got underway at 8:25.

15000-feet.pngLOOFAH III has not been in seas of 7’, regardless of period, so it took a bit before we got “accustomed” to them.  At 25 mph we were rolling moderately with them, not pounding into them, or surfing with them.  Nevertheless, the miles and time seemed to go by very slowly.

AND, to add a bit of excitement, LOOFAH III was in 15,000 feet of water, with “Atlantic Ocean” clearly marked on the chart.

Our plan was to get out of the seas and into the lee side of the barrier cays of the Sea of Abaco as soon as we could, at Little Harbor Cut.  little-harbour-cut.jpgHowever, as we approached the waves were breaking on the shore and in such a manner that we would be taking them directly abeam.  That approach was abandoned.  We would head further north.

The next possibility, North Bar Channel, looked more promising as we approached.  Although the we would still have some breaking surf going in, we would be running with it, so it was going to be a matter of handling speed with respect to the waves, and the direction of the boat on the front and back sides of the waves as they passed.  Art’s days sailing in such conditions paid off as we navigated the channel and into the smooth waters of the bank.

Relieved, high-fives were exchanged, although Art noted, “We’re are not yet at the pier.”  Bloody Mary’s and a nap sounded great.

We made our way through the various shallow banks sometimes getting down to 4.5 feet of water.  The final approach included a pass between two small cays.marsh-harbour-e1523827182506.jpg

Our Raymarine navigation system has “auto routing” based upon Navionics charts that automatically plots a course for based upon the boats, draft and air draft.  In areas where it is close, the waypoints in question are warning triangles.  Such warnings existed in the area. The charts indicated 6’ of water, LOOFAH III requires just 3’4” so Art felt confident, UNTIL we got closer and the depth quickly disappeared.  To make the situation worse, the beautiful white sand had been replaced by red rock and the tidal current and winds were taking us forward.  Throwing the boat in reverse would have caused the boat to “squat” causing the aft end to go deeper into the water, with props turning.

The better (only?) option was to put it in neutral, stop the props, and hope we would float over.  No such luck.  Having been in 15,000 feet of water for over 40 miles, we were now in less that 3′ 4″ of it, less than a mile from our slip!

Fortunately, it was a “light” grounding, the boat never coming to a complete stop.  It was clear, however, when the rpms were increased, we had (again) bent props.  Shucks!

We arrived at the marina, fueled up and went to our slip.  We had that Bloody Mary, but rather that nap, we worked off our frustration by washing down the boat.  It was great physical (and mental) therapy!

The restaurant/bar here at the marina is called the “Jib Room.”  Although it has a very limited ala carte menu, it has a wonderful buffet on Wednesday and Saturdays.  This evening: steak, baked potatoes, vegetables, rolls, and a salad!  We looked at that buffet like we had been years on a desolate island.

As always, we met some wonderful people, but that story will have to come tomorrow…

Friday (4/13) It REALLY IS a small word!

A front is forecast to come through the Bahamas on Sunday, producing high winds and seas for a couple of days.  We would like to be secure somewhere north as it passes.  We have two options: back up the western side of the cays, returning to Highbourne Cay and then on to Spanish Wells, or, across the Exuma Sound to Cape Eleuthera and then Spanish Wells. The winds have been from the East for the past several days, so to avoid the likely seas in the Sound, we chose the lee side of the cays.

It was a good choice as we were able to enjoy favorable seas for the first leg to Highbourne, running the 55 miles at 25 mph. The next 62 miles, across the “Yellow Bank” and Middle Ground were a bit more challenging.  The charts carry the following note regarding the Yellow Bank :

yellow-bank.jpg“CAUTION:  Widely spaced intensely black coral heads can easily be seen against the sandy bottom. Coral reefs may expand in extent over time and sand ridges are subject to constant change in position and extent. The routes across the bank are for reference only and subject to change.  Maintain a sharp lookout.”

Fortunately, the sun was overhead, and the coral heads easily seen.  We arrived in our slip at the Spanish Wells Yacht Haven about 2:00. David, on the Fleming 55 in the adjacent slip, and LeRoy from the marina staff, assisted us with our lines.

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And here, yet another “small world” story begins.  David’s wife, Lynda, is from Des Moines and is the sister of the late Jan Drees*, with whom Art worked so closely on the internationally recognized Downtown School project.  Lynda is the aunt of Jan’s two boys who work at a company where Art served on the board.  Lynda’s cousin, Sue, and Art served on several citywide and regional student councils during high school.  Lynda’s father (and Sue’s dad) had a car dealership in Des Moines from which Neumann Brothers leased cars for years.  On one occasion Lynda’s dad flew Art and his father to the Michigan plant where they toured and took delivery of one of the cars. Great memories, separated from today by thousands of miles and half a century!

We rented a golf cart for an hour to see the island.

Dinner was at a marina restaurant where we were served by Victoria, a native to the island, who knew everyone, and everyone knew her. She gave us an insight to Spanish Wells

* Jan Drees was a visionary in public education.  With the support of the school board and the Business Education Alliance, she started a demonstration school in the early 1990’s that gained international attention for the multi-age, project-based learning applied in the school located where working parents could visit during lunch or a break.  One of the books on “The Disney Way” included a segment on the school. The students were expected to make oral presentations and spoke easily in front of large groups, occasionally including the President of the United States, or other Presidential candidates during the Iowa caucuses.  Unfortunately, this dedicated, inspirational, gracious women was taken from us too early in life.  I can only imagine the even larger impact that she would have had on public education nationwide, at a time when our public education system is such a mess!  She is, and will be, missed.     CAW

 Thursday (4/12) Swimming Pigs!

Two of the “must do” sites in Exuams are at Staniel Cay: the swimming pigs and the grotto that was featured in the James Bond movie, “Thunderball.”

We cleared with the other boats in North mooring field of Wanderick Wells at 8:41 and cruised south at a comfortable 22 mph.

At 11:32 we anchored west of Big Majors Spot and headed for “The Pigs.”  What a sight! DSC_3182 The cruising guides inform you that they like carrots and are willing to swim out to your dinghy and climb aboard to get them.  On a hard-sided dinghy, that is one thing; on an inflatable, it is quite another.

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After lunch we took the dinghy 1.5 miles south of Big Majors and headed to the “mooring balls adjacent to” Thunderball Grotto.  Unfortunately, there were none.  And, in addition, we couldn’t locate the entrance to the cave.  As we motored about, fortunately two other guided boats came by and dropped their snorkelers in the water and then stood by while they went through the cave.  At least now we knew the doors.  After they left, we found a place that we could safely tie off, and snorkeled in.  It was just as it was in the movie, except that swimmers were now greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary that had since  been submerged.

After our swim we returned to the boat and moved it from the anchorage to the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  We fueled before heading to our slip. Dinner was at the SCYC pub where we enjoyed listening to the various charter captains and crew chat over the day’s ample “allotment of rum.”

We checked the weather forecast posted in the bar.  A significant front is forecasted to come through on Sunday. Points south would have to wait for our next trip as our time in the “hurricane zone” is running short and we need to start heading home.

We toasted to LOOHAH IIIs furthest point south at N 24⁰ 10.738’, W 076⁰ 26.511’.  From here on she’ll be “heading for the barn!”

Wednesday (4/11)  Homage to King Neptune

Sue went ashore this morning to get weather information at the office, and to talk with the “cheery” person on the VHF radio, the voice of the Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park.

DSC_3119“Cherry” has been the harbour master for 4 years.  She works 4 weeks then hops a boat to Staniel Cay and then a plane to her home in Nassau for a week. In addition to Cherry in the office, the park has 2 Wardens who travel to the other 4 cays within the park to check on the areas as well as collect mooring/anchoring fees deposited in the payment boxes located on the beaches.  The Land and Sea Park is self-supporting through fees, donations and volunteer efforts; it receives no financial support from the government.

At Wardrick Wells, there are 22 moorings in the north field and 26 in southern (Emerald Rock) field that are assigned by size and draft of boats. There was a waiting list the day we departed, so we felt fortunate to spend two days there. Cherry commented that the number of cruisers who return annually is starting to dwindle as the crews are getting older and wanting more time with grandchildren.

She said there are about 10 boats from a Nassau yacht charter company that frequently come into the Exuma Parks which allows her to get to know some of the captains and crews often.  While Sue was talking with Cherry, one Captain hailed her by singing his message which immediately brought a big smile! She responded by whispering her response. The conversation continued with all who were listening to VHF channel 09 knowing they had a good friendship. The Captain invited Cherry and staff to join him and his guest for a turkey dinner aboard his boat and he had some things for her. Sue commented that he must be a special visitor; she responded, “Yes, he brings us things we need from Nassau as the mail boat can be delayed.” He also brings Cherry two very special guests for a visit, her two grandchildren ages 11 & 13. They have made the trip  aboard the charter sailboat, as space permits, which has provided great experiences for them.

It was an enjoyable conversation with a woman who clearly loves what she does.dsc_3135.jpg

After bringing the logs up to date, Art turned his attention to creating a gift to the gods of Boo Boo Hill.  We climbed the hill for the second time and properly laid to rest our token.DSC_3149

While were we were there another group ascended.  We offered to take their picture, and they a picture of us.

As we returned to the boat we looked back, and they had launched a drone!  Now that’s a selfie!DSC_3153

With our mission completed, it was time to get out the snorkeling gear and head for two suggested areas within Wardrick Wells.  It was good exercise and reminded us of the wonderful SCUBA trips we have taken, and the fact that we may have been spoiled what we have seen on our previous trips.

Relaxed, we returned to the boat and our evening routine.

Tuesday (4/10) Another peak conquered: Boo Boo Hill!          

The morning dew carries with it a mixture of salt and other particulates that are best wiped off before being baked on by the sun.  This is Art’s morning yoga session and generally starts shortly after sunrise, which was today at 6:49.  It takes just over an hour, sometime after which the balance of the crew arises.

The generator is started, and coffee prepared.  Although LOOFAH III has an invertor onboard that use the batteries to provide some 110-volt power, its output is insufficient to power more than the ice maker, a fan, Sirius XM radio, and some small electronics, like computers.

After an abbreviated breakfast, we got underway at 9:00, the same time that the Exuma Park headquarters takes requests on VHF 09 for the 44 mooring balls in three locations around Warderick Wells Cay.

Cherry has a beautiful voice, and greets everyone with a “Good Morning, this is Exuma Park.”  How refreshing!  She then takes calls from the departing boats, followed by requests for moorings.  She sounds like an air traffic controller, calmly keeping track of the various boats trying to get her attention. After taking care of the mooring field issues, she provides a brief weather forecast for the day (the only one we are aware of available by VFH).

DSC_3117Because the channel accessing the North mooring field is narrow, all boats must clear with Exuam Park before entering or departing.  We were assigned mooring ball 15 and cleared to enter the channel.

As we were getting secured, Capt. Kelly, the professional captain of “Cheers 46” (a 140-foot yacht anchored at the next cay) said “Nice boat,” and asked our home port.  “Milwaukee,” to which he responded, “I was born there and spent 18 years there before coming down here.”

Kelly gave us some local knowledge and suggested that we consider a stop just south of Staniel Cay at Little Farmers Cay.  We’ll do our homework as Staniel Cay was planned to be our most southern point.

Safely secured, we took the dinghy to the park headquarters to check in and pay the $80.00 fee for two nights.  We returned to the boat for lunch before hitting the trails, heading to find the blow holes and to summit Boo Boo Hill!

“Boo Boo Hill has a lopsided monument created by bits of carved and painted drift wood left by cruisers to commemorate their visit.  Legend has it that it’s haunted by the unfortunate souls that have gone aground on the reef below and sank.  Some say you can hear them singing on the moonlight nights (or it could just the wind howling). Nevertheless, the tradition is for cruisers to leave an offering atop Boo Boo Hill to appease King Neptune and be blessed with good winds and smooth seas…”

dsc_3090.jpgAfter the trek up the hill and back, Sue decided that she would enjoy the 81.9⁰ water and walk/swim back to the boat as Cherry gave us the prime mooring, right at the beach.

We turned on the generator and the air-conditioning as we enjoyed dinner and the sunset.  After dinner we went aft to enjoy the constellations!

Monday (4/9) It’s a dinghy day!

Anchors aweigh this morning at 9:28 for a short 5.6 mile cruise to Shroud Cay where we snagged a mooring ball at 10:15.  Art went ashore to pay the fee.

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Shroud Key is one of 11 cays in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea park established in 1958. The park is a “No Take Zone” in which you cannot fish, hunt, or pick any vegetation.  A cruising guide puts it another way, “You can’t take anything, alive or dead, from the land or seas.”

You are limited to 14 days in the park and anchoring is prohibited except in very limited areas.

DSC_3010Shroud Cay is uninhabited. It has a heartland of mangroves with some small channels running through them from the Exuma Bank to beaches on the Exuma Sound.  We spent the day (except for lunch and a nap aboard) in the dinghy.  Actually, we did just over 10 miles in the dinghy today, twice as far as we did on “The Mother Ship.”

Our first pass through the Cay on Sanctuary Creek was a success!  We made it to the beach on the East side of the Cay.  Expecting to do some skinny dipping, we were disappointed to see a volley ball court being erected by the crew of one of the yachts.

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The guide books refer to “Camp Driftwood,” built by a hermit and “best described as Robinson Crusoe’s island home.”  We climbed the rocks to the highest point on the cay, and there is was! What a beautiful vista!

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We returned around the north end of the cay and back to LOOFAH III for lunch and a nap.  The crew is starting to get into cruising, island style!

DSC_3051The second pass through the mangroves was not as successful.  We made it all the way through the mangroves, even pulling the dinghy over some flats at near high tide, only to find the beach had grown and cut off the passage to the bank.  DSC_3055

Nevertheless, it was a great outing.

A bit sunburned, we returned to LOOFAH III for our evening routine.  Tonight, Sue prepared “Bill’s chicken enchiladas” from the recipe he shared with us at Faro Blanco.

We loved them Bill!

The sun sets every night, but each time it does, it does it differently; we are never disappointed. It is our time to stop and reflect.

Sunday (4/8) Working our way south, enjoying the Exumas!

A rain shower last night was just what LOOFAH III needed.

After breakfast we boarded to the dinghy and headed over to see the Iguanas of Leaf Cay.  We were impressed both by their size and number.dsc_29361.jpg

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As we departed, day-trip tour boats from Nassau stormed the beach. It is time to hoist the anchor and to head south.DSC_2948

Today, for the first time, our journey was taking us out into the Exuma Sound.  Thus far we have been on the “plateau” or “bank”.  The significance is that water on the Exuma Bank of the cays is generally 20’ deep, maximum.  The depths in the Exuma Sound east of the Exuma cays can reach several thousand.

Art recalled his swimming teacher, Clark Munger, who told Art when he was worried about swimming in the deep end of the pool, “You only use the top foot of the water regardless of how deep the water is.”  Good point. Art replied, “But coach Munger, if I get tired I can walk.”  Another valid point.

Although LOOFAH III only uses the top 3’-4”, the currents and waves behave differently between shallow and deep water.  And, if something did go wrong mechanically, the anchor could reach bottom on the banks.

Our destination was Norman’s Key, just 14 miles south.  Two items of interest: , snorkeling around a DC-3 that missed the airport and went down in some shallow water nearby, and MacDuff’s restaurant.

We anchored, saw the DC-3 and headed to shore in the dinghy.  We beached her near a pier and were immediately greeted by a gentleman in a rugged off the road vehicle who offered to take us the two miles to MacDuff’s.  Was he taking us to MacDuff’s, or somewhere else? It turned out that someone saw us approaching in the dinghy and radioed him, a member of MacDuff’s staff, to greet us!

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At MacDuff’s, a rather elegant place for this presently rustic cay, Monique created a couple of rum punches for us to enjoy. She and the staff live on the island in provided housing for three weeks and then get a week off to return home. Monique lives on the big island of Andros, 60 miles to the west. We also got a briefing on the island.

The cay has an interesting past, as a haven for drug dealers.  The US helped the Bahamian government clean it up.  The cay was recently purchased by 6 investors from Miami. They have extended the runway on the island to accommodate jets and are creating a deep-water marina that should be in operation by September.

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Construction of the infrastructure to support villas is clearly underway.  The developers will retain the Northern half of the Cay for their private use.

DSC_2968As we departed MacDuff’s we asked Monique if she was looking forward to the new development.  She quickly responded, “Yes.”  Two couples, sitting at a corner table enjoying lunch, responded, “No way.”

Returning to the boat we passed this little island with just two chairs.  We understood what both meant!

One of the staff returned us around the airfield, through all of the construction machinery and supplies, to the beach and the dinghy.

We relaxed and enjoyed the sunset and dinner aboard.

Saturday (4/7) On the Hook

DSC_2899It has been sometime since LOOFAH III and crew have spent the night at anchor.  When we anchored the wind was E-10; when we arose it was SE-15.  The waves had gone from less than relatively calm to 2′ and appeared to be building.

We enjoyed breakfast on the aft deck and discussed the day.  Our plan was to dinghy over to Allan’s Kay to visit the Iguanas.  Before we did so, Art wanted to make sure the anchor was securely in the sand and did a visual inspection.  All was good.

We boarded the dinghy and headed northwest, running with the swells, which were growing.  Just five minutes into the trip we realized it was going to be a wet ride home, so we returned to LOOFAH III to check the charts.

leaf-cay.jpgBetween Allan’s Cay and Leaf Cay there is a small bay that looked well sheltered.  We weighed anchor.

It was a great choice.  We anchored in 10′ of white sand and went snorkeling.  There was a brisk tidal current as the water on the shelf was being sucked to the Atlantic, so we put a 50′ “safety line” out from LOOFAH to the kayaks.  We could safely test our ability to swim in it.  We could manage, but it took work.  We retired to the sunning on the deck and checking out the cruising guide.

We grilled steaks and counted our blessings as the sun set over Alan’s Cay.  We returned to the aft deck to enjoy the night sky and its constellations before hitting the sack.

Friday (4/6) Playing with the “Rich and Famous,” when we are neither!

DSC_2811In an earlier post it was mentioned that Atlantis has a size limitation of 50’ to 200’.  At the lowest end of the spectrum, LOOFAH III. (Don’t tell, we cheated to get her in, she is really only 49’-10”).  Can you find LOOFAH III hiding in the “cheap seats” of the marina?

DSC_2806Working quickly up, “She’ a 10” was on the wall not more than 100 yards from our slip.   She is 164’ long, has a beam of 30’, can accommodate 12 guests and carries a crew of 10.  She is available for charter, beginning at $120,000 per week (“plus expenses”).

“SHE’S A 10 was recently refit in 2013. The layout sleeps up to 12 guests in 5 staterooms, including a master suite on the upper deck, 2 king staterooms and 2 double cabins with additional single beds below. The multifaceted media room on the main deck also transforms into an extra guest accommodation if needed. Timeless styling, beautiful furnishings and sumptuous seating are featured throughout her living areas to create an elegant and comfortable atmosphere. SHE’S A 10 video:   https://youtu.be/ZL9gDpUaBjw

DSC_2853At the opposite end from LOOFAH III on the Atlantis harbor length scale is “Blue Moon,” a 198’ Feadship that can accommodate 12 guests and has a crew of 16.

“The Owner’s Suite alone measures approximately 1200 sq. ft. The owner’s suite entrance hall is situated forward of the main foyer with a dramatic entrance hall of custom woods, a spectacular day head, coat closet, and custom artworks. The owner’s private study is Blue Moonsituated to starboard and features 42” flat screen TV, individual satellite receiver, computer, printer, Wi-Fi access, and a full en-suite bathroom with rain shower, head and sink. The owner’s private gym is situated to port and features a 42” flat screen TV, individual satellite receiver, Pilates equipment, treadmill, dumbbell weights, massage table, and a full en-suite bathroom with rain shower, head and sink.

 Proceeding forward, the secluded bedroom has a forward facing king size bed and magnificent free standing headboard ensuring ultimate privacy. The entertainment system features a 50” flat screen TV, surround sound, lounging areas to starboard and to port. Forward access to His-and-Her en-suite, Jacuzzi tub with separate rain shower, private head and twin sinks. Walk-in closet to starboard for Him, and walk-in closet with vanity to port for her.”

 And all of this is available to you, beginning at $325,000 per week (“plus expenses”).

http://www.superyachts.com/yacht-charter/blue-moon-1002/

We hailed the Atlantis Harbor Master on VHF channel 10 to clear our departure.  With these mega-yachts coming an going through the relatively small channel entering the harbor, they didn’t want LOOFAH III to get smushed!

Next stop was the Hurricane Hole Marina fuel dock, right next door (Atlantis doesn’t have fuel).  As it serves yachts, it can pump diesel faster than LOOFAH III can swallow it!

After fueling, Art call Nassau Harbor Control on VHF channel 9 to clear out of the harbor, again giving the name of the boat, its documentation number, departing marina and destination.  After receiving clearance, we cruised out of the harbor and headed southeast 40 miles to Highbourne Cay.

We took our time today and played like a trawler, only once exceeding the hull speed of 10 mph in order to blow the cobs out of the engines.  Diesel engines like to run hot and running them up to 95% of their maximum rpms rides them of any carbon that may have built up.

One of the aids to navigation noted on the charts is a 260’ tower on the Cay.  To our great luck and delight, it is a major link in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and provided us the only 3G communications we have had since leaving Marathon!

At 14:13 we dropped the anchor in 13’ of crystal blue water. Water temperature: 79.8⁰!

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Some of our neighbors had more toys than we do!

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Having had a great deal of fish, we grilled brats onboard and watched the sunset. We think we are going to like the Exumas!

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 Thursday (4/5) Build it and they will come.

DSC_2766One of the often-quoted sentences in the movie, “Field of Dreams,” (filmed in Dyersville, Iowa, starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, etc.) is, “If you build it, they will come.”

That quote resounded with us as we walked the marina and grounds of Atlantis.  As opposed to writing about a place well covered in their website (https://www.atlantisbahamas.com/ ) we’ll share a few of our own pictures.

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Yesterday (4/4) we stopped to chat with this hostess who was checking credentials.  dsc_2762.jpgShe found that we had come from “her island,” Bimini, and pulled a laminated card from her pocket. She said that her friend, Capt. Saunders, had taken Martin Luther King, Jr. fishing numerous times.

“Bonefish a day with World Record Holder (16 lbs 2-21-71) and Legend Boat Builder,  Capt. Ansil Saunders.  $250 half a day  $400 full day.”

It was a fitting, as it was 50 years ago Wednesday that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

As we passed over the Paradise Lagoon bridge, Art saw another way he might get paid to live the dream, become a life guard at Atlantis.dsc_2790-e1522957019983.jpg

The last stop we made yesterday was at “Dolphin Cay.”  It was relatively late in the day and the shows were over for the day… except for the special one the trainer did for just us as he was feeding and taking the dolphins through their last exercise for the day.  Magnificent!

This has been a marvelous experience.  Atlantis is something we wanted to see and we were not disappointed.

 “The Royal Towers contain the “Bridge Suite”, ranked in 2002 by Forbes as the most expensive hotel room in the world. With the recent hotels built over the last couple of years, Atlantis is included in one of the most expensive hotels in the world; The Bridge Suite, billed at US $25,000 per night, is listed at number 10 on the World’s 15 most expensive hotel suites compiled by CNN Go in 2012.”

And to think, we are enjoying a three-bedroom, two-bath suite, complete with kitchen, patio, and sun deck, floating just a few stories lower, for peanuts.  Priceless!

Wednesday (4/4) Heading to Atlantis.

The float plan for today – 78 miles south to Nassau and Atlantis.

Grt Hrbr Nassau

During our stay at Great Harbour Marina we notice several glass bottom boats and parasailing boats departing and returning to the marina each day. From our bike ride around Great Harbour Cay we did not notice lots of tourist so where did the tour boats go?

The answer was forthcoming as we departed the marina at 8:45.   We had to head north around the Cay to avoid an “Unsurveyed Area” and another area of “Shifting Sand” to the south.  Going north turned out to be fortunate as we came upon two cruise ships, the “Enchantment of the Seas” and the “Norwegian Breakaway” anchored north of Little and Great Stirrup Cays.

dsc_2626.jpgAs we approached the cays, we could see a beach with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and some small structures.  As we rounded Little Stirrup Cay we could see the cruise ships ferrying people back and forth to the island, and the glass bottom and parasailing boats all engaged.

We later found that Little Stirrup Cay is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Great Stirrup Cay by Norwegian Cruise Line.

Little Stirrup Cay (Royal Caribbean’s Island) is less than a mile wide from east to west and less than 200 yards from north to south with a population of 38.

DSC_2658“Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise ships frequently anchor off the island and bring passengers ashore by tenders. Activities available to guests include swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing, scuba diving and waverunner piloting. Royal Caribbean extends its children’s programs onto the island including a Fisher-Price-sponsored Power Wheels track for young children.

Coco Island Future“On March 14, 2018 Royal Caribbean announced plans for a $200 million overhaul the island. Rebranding the island “Perfect Day at CocoCay”. Plans include the addition of a water slide tower, a wave pool, fresh water pool, zip lines, private cabanas, and a permanent dock for ships. The changes will allow Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships to visit the island. The upgrades include the creation of a 13-slide water park that also features the largest wave pool in the Caribbean, according to the cruise line.”

DSC_2668Great Stirrup Cay has been owned by Norwegian Cruise Line since 1977 and has been developed it into a private island for its cruise ship passengers. Typically there is a boat on each key daily from 8:00 to 4:00.

“Over the past year the 268-acre beach has been spruced up with new and revamped food and drink venues, rebuilt cabanas and expanded areas of powdery sand. A large number of additional lounge chairs have been brought in (previously 1,200 now 3,000), and there’s a new underwater sculpture garden for snorkelers. The company has spent more than $1 million on new landscaping. More is coming. Still in the works is a new upscale lagoon area for passengers staying in the exclusive Haven cabins on Norwegian ships. It’ll feature 38 private villas with up to two bedrooms, a two-story restaurant and swim-up bar. There’s also a new spa area taking shape. A staff of more than 60 people lives full time on the island to prepare it for ship visits.”

We wondered what the 9136 passengers and crew on those two boats thought as they saw 50’  LOOFAH III cruise by, dwarfed by their ships.

Other than seeing these cruise ships, our cruise to Nassau was uneventful.  We left Great Harbor Cay Marina at 8:49 and arrived at the West entrance to Nassau Harbor at 12:59, a distance of 78 miles.

dsc_2703.jpg“Nassau Harbor Control” must clear a boat before it enters the busy harbor.  The ships master must provide the boats documentation number, the last port, the destination in the harbor and any other information requested before being cleared.

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The next call was to the Atlantis marina for our slip assignment.  The response was “Good afternoon, Captain. Your slip is #20, stern in, starboard tie.  Please stand by outside the marina.”  “Roger, LOOFAH III standing by on 10.”

dsc_2735-e1522957762993.jpgA few minutes later we were cleared into the marina after a 125’ departing yacht cleared the channel.  LOOFAH III is the smallest boat in the Atlantis Marina as boats less that 50’ are not welcomed.  And boy, do we feel small!

We walked the property; Sues Fitbit recorded nearly 12,000 steps.

dsc_2802.jpgArts note:

Dinner tonight was at the Pointe Restaurant and Bar, on the east bank of the marina’s entrance.  To avoid a 20 minute wait we went to the bar where John attended to our every need.  On one occasion he asked, “How are things?” Art responded, “Perfect.”dsc_2803.jpg

John responded, “You are a lucky man to have such a beautiful lady.  Let me take your picture together”

A beautiful lady, Amen!

On the way to dinner, we noted an American Tug with “Antares Star, Hudson, WI” on the transom.  After dinner, Walt and Ladonna were sitting on the aft deck and we spoke. DSC_2804Walt attended Roosevelt High School (Art’s alma matter) in Des Moines before leaving for Omaha as after his Sophomore year!

Hudson is on the Wisconsin side of the beautiful St. Croix River East of Minneapolis, a place through which we have driven many times, and also enjoyed by boat.

The coincidences continue to occur!

Tuesday (4/3) Great Harbor Cay

DSC_2591Today we unfolded our bicycles and hit the roads.  It was hard to remember to drive on the left side; fortunately, there were signs to remind you!  We were intrigued as there was evidence that Great Harbor Cay had a glorious past.  Research confirmed it.

old-club-grt-hbr.jpg“Great Harbour Cay underwent a period in intense and successful development in the late 1960s when famous persons such as Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks, Brigitte Bardot, Telly Savalas, and F. Lee Bailey vacationed here. Development slowed and then stopped in the late 1970s. Attempts were made in the late 1970s into the early 1980s to revitalize Great Harbour Cay; but these were overshadowed by drug and weapons traffic in 1983 (Book: Drugs, Law Enforcement And Foreign Policy – Report by the Committee on Foreign Relations, US Senate), and the island has been quiet since as this current picture of the club illustrates.DSC_2597

“The initial developer contracted a renowned celebrity promoter, Earl Blackwell, to organize the exclusive Tamboo Club as a marketing vehicle.

Tamboo’s board included bigwigs like the Marquess of Blandford, Cary Grant, George Plimpton and Walter Cronkite. Tamboo is still here – it was kept alive for years as a dinner club – but is now closed except for the occasional party of which we were lucky enough to attend. [Note; it is now in need of major repair and “for sale.”]

“Brigitte Bardot graced the beaches with her beauty. Jack Nicklaus had a house on a hilltop along the back nine. Earl Blackwell, author of the celebrity best dressed list, enjoyed a home on the island. Great Harbour Cay was popular with the socially elite Rockefeller clan, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Ingrid Bergman and Hugh O’Brian were regular visitors. Other luminaries in the cay’s early days included Joe Namath. The entire island ‘was conceived as a complete sports/social complex.’”

Although circumstance have certainly changed, we found the people gracious and welcoming!  And there continue to be beautiful homes and scheduled flights to the island.

Before we left Marathon, Jim (“Hour Plan”) asked if we had met Becky and Mike aboard “True North.”  We had not. “True North” was in another Marathon marina and was heading for the Bahamas a day prior to us.  Jim introduced us to Becky and Mike through an email.  Later Becky called Sue to compare notes.

When LOOFAH III arrived in the Bimini Blue Water Marina, there was “True North.”  We didn’t have sufficient time to talk and agreed to have docktails in Great Harbor Cay.  Tonight, we did.

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“True North” is another Lake Michigan boat, hailing out of Ludington, MI.  Mike and Becky co-own the boat with Mike’s brother, Greg, and his wife, Karen. Karen was sitting out this leg of the Loop.  Becky, Mike, and Greg are going to head north to the Abaco Cays and Great Bahama Island before returning to the US.  They are then going to leave the boat for a period, returning north for business. Hopefully we will meet up with them as we work our way north and back into Lake Michigan.

It was hard to pass “Nightingale,” a Westerly Oceanlord 41 sailboat, without noting its hailing port of Fairbanks, Alaska.  Libby and Grant purchased the boat in Annapolis and have been enjoying the Bahamas for the past three months.  They joined us under the pavilion.

Dinner this evening was spent considering out next stops as we head further south into the Exuma Cays, 1500 miles (as the crow flies) south of Milwaukee.

Monday (4/2)  Cruising over the plateau.

It was the start of a new day, “one we never had before, and will never have again.”

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The “Skipper Bob” cruising guide, “Bahamas Bound” provides the following description:

“If you consider the big picture, The Bahamas is a collection of more than 700 islands sitting on top of a plateau just off the east coast of Florida.  Seen from the top, the Bahamas most closely resembles a flat plat under 8-10 feet of water.  Around the edges of this plate are islands. Surrounded on all sides is ocean water thousands of feet deep.”

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After the chart briefing with Terry and Jeanne in Marathon, we made the decision to head further south in the Bahamas than originally planned.  Today we headed to Great Harbour Key in the Berry Islands, 95 miles east of Bimini, over the “plateau” with an average depth of 20-25 feet.

dsc_2561.jpgAnchored on this plateau, about 2 miles east of Bimini, was “R/V Coral Reef II.”  We found it is operated by Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, a place we have visited many times.

“The R/V Coral Reef II is Shedd Aquarium’s custom-built research and collection vessel. It is 80 feet in length, and is moored in Miami, Florida. It is piloted by a crew of full-time, licensed captains and Shedd Aquarium staff. The boat collects aquatic animals for exhibition, provides educational and research travel programs for students and offers unique natural history and dive excursions to the public. Other aquariums, scientific agencies and educational institutions also charter the R/V Coral Reef II to conduct collection and research projects at sea.

Launched in 1984, the R/V Coral Reef II carefully was designed and crafted over a two-year period to facilitate the collection and safe transport of a variety of aquatic animals. The boat features a 1,800-gallon tank and five 100-gallon holding tanks. In addition to the crew’s quarters, the boat contains six double-occupancy cabins. A spacious lounge area converts into a classroom, laboratory and even a darkroom facility for underwater photography programs.

Shedd’s seagoing satellite is based in Miami, but for much of the year it’s a familiar sight throughout the Caribbean. For two decades, the R/V Coral Reef II has given Shedd researchers and teams of volunteer citizen scientists access to far-flung cays in the Bahamas to study critically endangered rock iguanas.”

Every year the boat also transports Chicago-area teens in Shedd’s high school marine biology program to nature’s classroom in the Bahamas, where they study reef and island ecology in the water and in a lab on deck.DSC_2564

It was a perfect day to cruise.  Sue had time to research ports and anchorages.  We cruised over the plateau at 24 mph, enjoying the Bahama Blue water, adjusting the auto-helm by just one dregee in 75 miles!DSC_2568

 

Having departed Bimini at 10:08, we arrived at the beautiful entrance to Great Harbor at 2:37.  The blasted out cut leads to the Basin of Five Pirates and then to the Great Harbor Cay Marina.DSC_2576

LOOFAH III was badly in need of a good bath after two days and 260 miles of salt water cruising.  Fortunately, wash-down water is complementary at this marina!

For reference, other published fees:

  •               Dockage rates:
  •                              Daily – $2.00/ft
  •                              Weekly – $10.00/ft
  •                              Monthly – $20.00/ft
  • Ice: $6.00 (small), $11:00 (large)
  •               R/O water: $0.50/gallon
  •               Electricity: $0.75/KWH
  •               Laundry: $5.00/ token (one each for washing & drying)
  •               Wash-down water: Free of charge
  •               WiFi: Free of charge
  •               Bicycles: Free of charge

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After LOOFAH’s shower, we each took one and enjoyed a quiet dinner aboard.

Sunday (4/1) Addendum – Crossing the Gulf Stream!

LOOFAH III eased out of the slip at Faro Blanco at 8:29. Our float plan was to run east along the Keys and then cross the Gulf Stream from Angel Fish Cut at Key Largo, to Bimini, a run of 140 miles.mrthn-bimini.jpg

To get from the Florida Bay side of the Keys to Straits of Florida on the south side of the keys, we proceeded west a few miles to the Moser Channel for an opening under the 7-mile bridge.

There is an outer reef that runs south of the Keys, about 5 to 7 miles offshore.  The area between the shore and the outer reef is referred to as the “Hawk Channel.”  Its depths are in the 20’ range and current in Hawk Channel runs slowly, from Biscayne National Park toward Key West.

The stronger Gulf Stream Current runs outside the reef line and flows from Key West in a northerly direction up the east coast of the US. Depths in this area run to 600.’

When we reached the Hawk Channel, the wind was E 10 and the seas 1’. LOOFAH III was preforming well.  After we became more comfortable, we turned the boat south toward the Gulf Stream where we could pick up a favorable current of 2 mph, instead of heading into a small current in the Hawk Channel.

When we got into the Gulf Stream the easterly winds, opposing the current, generated sufficient waves and swells to make our fuel consumption go down, not up.  We headed back into the Hawk Channel.

After being underway for 3:45, we had covered 87 miles at an average speed over ground of 23 mph.

It was time to cross the Gulf Stream.

As we left the “shelter” of the Hawk Channel and entered the Gulf Stream, things changed quickly.  The wind speed had changed from E 10 to ENE 15.  As the Gulf Stream is running north at this position, any wind that has an “N” in it is unfavorable, as winds from the north oppose the current.  This causes the water to in the Gulf Stream to “stand up” in very large, short waves.  Giant square topped waves, referred to as “Elephants,” can be generated.

We were starting to experience waves 3′-5′, occasionally 5’+; baby elephants.  The boat was handling it, but it wasn’t enjoyable for the crew.

The forecast was for diminishing winds.  We anticipated that the further east we got, up wind, the winds effect on the seas would be reduced.  We would give it 20 minutes.

We watched the chart plotter, distance, speed, fuel efficiency and engine data closely.  Minutes passes slowly.  But, we were getting encouraged.  Twenty minutes later we decided not to return to Key Large, but to keep going on a bit longer.

It was a good decision, as the further we went, the better the seas.

DSC_2530We were relieved as land came into sight.

The waters were blue and LOOFAH III was actually in the Bahamas!

The AGLCA burgee was replaced on the starboard flag staff with a yellow “quarantine” flag which is to be flown when entering a new county until customs and immigration clearance.

We proceeded to the Bimini Blue Water Resort, “Home of the Hemingway Fishing Tournament.”

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We tied off at 3:47 at the fuel dock having traveled 153 miles from Marathon.

In the Bahamas, only the vessels Master reports to officials, taking the passports of individuals onboard and various ships papers. No one else can step foot off the boat until the boat and passengers are cleared.

It was Easter Sunday.  Would the customs office be closed?dsc_2509.jpg

Fortunately, not.  It was just a short walk, and 45 minutes and $300 US later, LOOFAH III and crew were cleared.

The yellow flag was replaced by a Bahamian “courtesy” flag, indicating we had the necessary papers to cruise.  The permit is valid for 90 days, until July 1.

We fueled up, got secured in the slip and went next door to the Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina for a cocktail, salad and a cracked conch appetizer before retiring.

It was a full day!

From the crew of LOOFAH III.  For the next several weeks it is likely that we will have limited access to the internet and voice communications as we explore Bahamian waters and cays.  We will report in at every opportunity.  In the interim, take care!

Sunday (4/1) Moving on; a new adventure begins!

Today is one of those bitter-sweet days we have all experienced.

DSC_2497The bitter part is that this will be the first Easter that we have not worshiped in a church and been with family.

Leaving the wonderful staff, mates with whom we have shared the pier, and these great facilities is more difficult than we had anticipated.

Faro BlancoThe Faro Blanco staff:  Aaron, John, Shawn, Mike, Devin and Josh are without equal.  From delivering the morning news paper and frequent packages, to handling fuel and pump outs, they don’t miss a beat.  Once again, we don’t rank anything as “the best” …but…

Bill was the first to greet us and the last to see us as we departed.  He is a truly thoughtful person.  DSC_2494Not a day passed when we didn’t share an experience.  He shared his cooking, he entertained us aboard his boat, he provided local information, and even provided us DVDs he had obtained from the Marathon library.  And, he serves his church and the Marathon homeless.  We have been blessed by meeting him.

faro-blanco-lighthouse00We have met wonderful people here.  Loopers and locals alike.  Who would guess that you would end up dancing at the Elks Club with a person you met checking out at the local grocery store!

Unless they were asked directly, no one shared their Irma experiences.  Many lost everything.

USA Today wrote recently that 70% of the people who left Marathon have not returned.  The article mentions Canon Debra at St. Columba and the work she has done to help those struggling.  People are rebuilding their own lives, but don’t wear it on their faces.  There is hope.

On this Easter Sunday, St. Columba’s Facebook page includes the following:

Easter is the time to rejoice and be thankful for the gift of life, love and joy.

Regardless of theology, a wonderful thought for every day!  Happy Easter!

Saturday (3/31)  Last minute preparations!

It is hard to believe 25% of another year has already passed!

As he said he would last night, first thing this morning Terry emailed us a float plan for the Bahamas they did with their grandson, a detailed description of the Atlantic ICW from Norfolk south (including bridge heights, opening times, distances, etc.) and a log of a trip they took around southern Florida.

Art “helped” Terry and Jeanne with lines (unnecessary) and was lost for the balance of the morning looking at the weather, charts and float plan provided.

Meanwhile, Saint Susan tended to the provisioning at Publix where she gave our new friend, Leslie, a final hug after checking out.

dsc_2486.jpgDuring lunch an Island Packet sailboat entered the harbor.  We watched as it struggled and then aborted, stern-in approaches to two different slips.  There were plenty of marina staff to assist with line handling, but due to a strong wind abeam, and a bow thruster that was acting up, he couldn’t get into a slip.

The staff suggested a slip in a more protected area of the basin, across from LOOFAH.  Appreciating the skipper’s predicament, Art got into our dinghy and offered assistance. “It was déjà vu all over again!” But his time instead of Towboat US, it was LOOFAH coming to aid.

It all worked out well!  Another “Victory at Sea!”DSC_2493

Sue made a second run for supplies. The balance of the day and evening were spent properly stowing groceries, the dinghy, and everything else in preparation for tomorrows cruise to the Bahamas.

Another part of the adventure is ready to unfold!

Friday (3/30) A day of preparations.

With the decision to head for the Bahamas made, lists of supplies and provisions have been generated.  They were sufficiently long as to require a car, not just a crate on a bicycle.  So, after breakfast it was Art’s turn to mount a bicycle; he rode the 4 miles to the Marathon Airport and the Budget Rent-a-Car office.

St Columba Good FridayIn the Christian world, today is “Good Friday.” For us, the story told in the Gospel today, is as powerful as the Gospels of Christmas and Easter.  We headed to St. Columba for a noon service.  Canon Debra read the familiar story with a voice and intonation that opened for us, new feelings and understanding.  In her homily she spoke not of betrayal and sin, but rather “Love.”  Refreshing. It was a wonderful way to prepare for the Easter message.

There was more preparation to be done.  We needed to get our hair cut!  After lunch at the Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House, steakandlobster.jpgwe got the job done.

Good for another five weeks.

As we returned to the boat, we notice a beautiful Grand Banks 59 Aleutian.

Once again, Art fell into conversation with the owner who was washing down the yacht.  Going to the Bahamas was mentioned.   Terry and Jeanne immediately invited us back in 45 minutes for a cocktail and a Bahamas chart briefing.

Later, sitting on their flying bridge, we found that Terry had roots in Iowa, and graduated from Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI just a year ahead of Art.  Terry went into the Supply Corps, Art into the Civil Engineer Corps.  A half hour into the conversation, Jeanne excused herself to call the restaurant to change their dinner reservation!

Terry and Jeanne walked us through a detailed, recommended float plan complete with the names of individuals who would be of service.  Sue took four full pages of notes!  What a treasure crest of knowledge, not available in any cruising guide.

We had a great deal to talk about this evening.  Thanks to Terry and Jeanne, we are far better prepared!

Thursday (3/29) The decision is made!

DSC_2470 As the sun rose today, it was clear the wind and seas have calmed. Boaters are taking the opportunity to reposition.

Jim and Mandy (on “Shell Belle”) slipped out earlier in the week during a break in the windy weather, heading to Fort Myers.  As many others, they are going to store their boat in an environmentally controlled, hurricane proof facility, near Lake Okeechobee, and return home to the St. Louis area, for the Summer.DSC_2467

Jim and AC (“Hour Plan”) departed and were heading north, returning up the up the west coast of Florida.DSC_2444

But not everybody is leaving. Joern and Regina, on “Sea Cups,” came into the marina and introduced themselves as new Loopers!

They just started the Loop, leaving recently from their home port on Longboat Key.  We exchanged cards and look forward to seeing them as we all head north, up the Atlantic ICW in the next few months.

DSC_2464The sport fishing boat down the pier provisioned for their departure.  They loaded the basic necessities onboard, including 16 cases of Bud Light, before it took off for points unknown.

Most boats have a “tender,” a smaller boat to get them to shore if anchored, or to get around in locally if they are in a marina.

DSC_2475How the dinghies are transported with “the Mother Ship” varies.  LOOFAH III’s dinghy fits in the aft “garage.”  Other boats have a crane arm to lift them topsides; davits on the stern to lift them out of the water; or they tow them.

Just outside the harbor, the “tender” being tied off to its yacht before getting underway has twin 300 hp outboards!  LOOFAH III’s tender has a 6 hp outboard!

Favorable weather forecasts, boats coming and going… the thought of exploring new waters.

Decision made!  We are departing this weekend.

Wednesday (3/28) Lions and Elks; Oh, my!

Victor was aboard early today and within minutes removed and replaced the fuel sensor on the starboard engine. A section of the “garage” floor needs to be removed to allow access to the top of the engines.  It needed to be reinstalled and other items properly stowed before we could give the new sensor a sea trial.

Underway, we progressively opened the throttle, manually recording engine data every increase 500 rpm.  At 3,000 rpm we held our breath.  No alarm.  Nor did the alarm sound as we passed the 500 rpm increments all the way up to “pegged out” at 3,500  rpm!  Success!

It was then time for LOOFAH III’s crew to prepare for an evening out.Photo Mar 28, 7 58 25 PM

Every Wednesday night, Leslie & Flint go to the Elks Club #2139 for “Hump Nite,” with music by Bobby Newman. We joined two other couples, Kathy & Doug, Trudy & Josh at Table 6 for a fun evening of dancing, laughter, and refreshment.photo-mar-28-7-54-58-pm.jpg

Music varied from the twist, slow dancing,  and the swing to line dancing. Flint & Leslie also square dance so they were definitely the leaders on the floor.

When dancing at the Elks wrapped up, we were off to Hurricane’s Bar & Grille Big Bar for “Hump Day Open Mic,” and a birthday celebration for one of the staff, Tina. IMG_2046

Hurricanes is noted to be “The Middle Keys premier live music venue serving, wings, pizza, burgers and a full menu. Two full bars.”

We have heard it said, “Rotarians own the companies, Kiwanians run the companies, and the Lions have all the fun.”

Unlike the first two, we don’t have firsthand knowledge about Lions. But now we do know Elks; and they have a lot of fun!

We are beginning to feel like Marathon locals, and the feeling s great!

Tuesday (3/27)   Watching the weather; growing anticipation!

A good day to be secure in Faro Blanco. Sustained winds at 20-25, gusting over 30; even the seas just outside the marina were 2’-3’. The cabin became progressively more pleasant during the day as the Chicken Parmesan simmered in the crockpot.

The major accomplishment today was successfully “fishing” the final satellite antenna cable 35’ from the engine room to forward cabin.  It was made possible only by using a “fish tape” that Sue secured at Home Depot, using one of our fold-up bicycles and powering in the wind.  What a mate!

The winds and seas today had been anticipated.  We have been watching our various weather sources and channels closely as we start to plan our crossing to the Bahamas. It looks like the current front will pass east of Florida by Friday and that the winds and seas should then subside.

During the day, Bill pointed to a Kadey Krogen across from us in the marina and added that they were going to be heading to the Bahamas this weekend.  Art went over and introduced himself to Chuck and Ginger aboard “Exploring the Blue.”

He was absolutely delighted with Chuck was gracious enough to give Art a first-class tour of the boat, which Chuck and Ginger only recently acquired after enjoying cruising in a Mainship.  Krogen trawlers have been built since 1977 and are among the most seaworthy recreational craft on the market.   We looked at the Korgen 48 AE and 50’ Open when we were at the Miami International Boat Show.  Apparently, Art and Chuck talked about everything but the Bahamas!

Over dinner we looked at some charts and a newly purchased cruising guide that included some great aerial photographs of Bahamian cays and harbors.  The anticipation of dropping lines and heading east is growing!

Monday (3/26) “Customer Service”

As we were reading the morning emails, texts, and checking the various “news sources,” Sue saw a post slamming a marine facility for something that, as it appeared to us, the writer was at least partially contributory.

With expectations of businesses and people presently running so unrealistically high, it is easy to become disgruntled.  Organizations have brought it upon themselves by using tag lines such as “Exceeding Your Expectations!”  Not always possible.  Are we, ourselves, infallible?

LOOFAH III’s crew is occasionally characterized as “Pollyanna’s,” “excessively cheerful or optimistic.”  Admittedly, you will find “delightful,” “wonderful,” “thoughtful,” “gracious,” etc. used generously throughout the Ship’s Log.

Today we have a need to share experience, both good and no so.

So fellow Loopers, in addition to those previously mentioned, here are some firms and individuals to whom we give Kudos for recent (or continuing) customer service:

Jeanneau America, the mother company of Prestige, the builder of our boat. As you may have read in previous posts, we had an issue with the starboard windshield wiper system.  When it was recognized that onboard repairs were insufficient, Oliver and Gilles at Prestige made things happen.

The Spring Brook Marina has been with us ever since the boat was commissioned, getting us parts from an elbow for a shower to a set of new props.  Most recently, Tim has been our “go to guy” on the wiper issue and working with us on the means, tools, and methods necessary to remove the TVs so wiring could be run for the satellite system.

Victor, the Volvo expert at Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center, is one of the finest we have met. He even provided Art with copies of his notes and error codes as he was trouble shooting, removing, and replacing a fuel sensor.  Sherry and Renee were most helpful in working through the related warranty matters with Volvo.

We needed a new Navionics chart for the Bahamas.  Through a communications problem (remembering communications is a two-way process), the chart was sent to our home, not to our present marina.  When the issue was identified, and without any prodding, Scott at Navionics Customer Service had it resolved in 48 hours!

And today’s final kudo goes to Todd at Marathon’s West Marine store.  LOOFAH III has redundancy on most navigational and electronic systems.  One exception was the depth sounder.  Art took in a small, “legacy” (i.e., old) GPS unit.  Todd listened, told Art that unfortunately a transducer could not be added and spent considerable time talking alternatives.  Three days later when Art returned with questions, they were answered directly without any sales talk, and Art walked out with a current Garmin model.

Now, with respect to the not so good:

Volvo IPS systems download diagnostic information through a device called a “Vodia.” We wanted to check out the engines when we were in Mobile, AL. We contacted 3 Ideal Marine Service, the Volvo rep in the area. Art had talked with the “Ideal” people directly on three occasions.  The last conversation was to reschedule the initial appointment as “something came up and he can’t make it today. He’ll be there first thing in the morning.” The next day the tech didn’t call Art, rather he sent an email to Mike at Middleton Marine (at Dog River Marina where we were staying) that he didn’t have the current vodia update and he would not be coming.

Most of the time we are disappointed, it is recognized by all involved. It is a learning opportunity. Generally, a sincere apology follows.  But in the case of general disregard or incompetence, others need to be spared.

The statistics vary, but a complaint may be shared 15 to 20 times; a complement, 3-5 times.  We prefer to share the complements, but when we have an “legitimate” complaint, we will share it.

Pollyanna’s?  Maybe a bit.  Life seems to be more enjoyable that way.

Sunday (3/25)  Concerns not internal, but external…

Friday, while we were giving LOOFAH III a bath, Bill came over with a half-dozen pages on the Champlain Canal locks and the marinas from New York City, north.  He had made notes on the information that he downloaded and printed from the internet.  Tonight at 5:30 he joined us on our boat for conversation and some iced tea.

We have grown to know Bill, and he us, in a special way.  Tonight, in addition to the marine briefing, we discussed a variety of topics and experiences that can only be shared between the very best of friends. Things you don’t write about and post to the internet.

But, on this Palm Sunday, we will share with you Bill’s ministry and that of St. Columba Episcopal Church here in Marathon.

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St. Columbia, with other churches in Marathon, has stepped forward to assist with providing a home cooked hot lunch for the area’s homeless.  Bill volunteers every Wednesday noon.

He spoke of an after-school program that provides a nutritious snack, help with homework, and recreational activities for 33 elementary and middle school students.

Over 5200 hours of free camps are offered each year during Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, and Spring Breaks. The camps offer 2 snacks and lunch each day, crafts, field trips, and recreation.

In addition, the church runs summer camps that offer 2 snacks and a hearty lunch each day, crafts, field trips and recreation. Over 9000 hours of camp & more than 5000 snacks and lunches provided during the year!

Bill is an excellent cook and is willing to put his culinary skills to work, whenever and where ever, needed.  He cooked the meal following church today.

Art asked how a church of this size can do so much.  Bill gave credit to “Reverend Debra” (The Rev. Canon Debra Maconaughey), the rector.  “She is out in the community and can get things done.”  She can also inspire without using guilt to motivate.

Hurricane Irma took a toll on the church.  Temporary shoring is necessary to support the cracked frames supporting the roof.  But, when you visit the church’s website (http://www.stcolumbamarathon.org ) you immediately see the concerns of the Rector and parish are not internal, they are external.

“We’re all in recovery mode from hurricane Irma, and it can be overwhelming. Most of us will be able to get back to normal. Unfortunately, that is not the reality for thousands of people in the Middle Keys who were hard hit by the storm and are still struggling to get the most basic needs met.

“Remember in this time of devastation and recovery, we are committed to being the hands and feet of Christ wherever we’re needed.”

What more need be said on this Palm Sunday?

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Saturday (3/24)  Great things accomplished!

Friday’s FedEx truck brought a replacement motor and associated linkage for the starboard windshield wiper.  Art will tell you about great customer service in a future post.  Sufficient for today:  Spring Brook and Prestige have it!

After breakfast, email, texts, etc. we turned our attention to removing and replacing the wiper motor and linkage.  Just over an hour later, mission accomplished!dsc_2437.jpg

The balance of the day was spent on wire management for the DISH satellite system.  With the special tool that Tim (Spring Brook) included in the shipment, we could remove the TVs from their mounting and get access to their cable runs. dsc_2435.jpgArt’s mission was to get HDMI cables from the DISH receiver and powered splitter to the three TVs onboard Loofah.

Some of the runs made sense and were easy to trace.  Others not so.  For example, although the outlets serving the TVs in the master and forward cabins are close, Art located the outlet serving the TV in the forward portion of the salon, 30′ aft in the engine room. dsc_2434.jpgHe made progress, but work remained at 5:00 when the tools are surrendered.

As we wanted a fresh coat of wax on LOOFAH III before we departed Faro Blanco, Sue got out the buffer, cleaner/wax, and micro fiber cloths.  As Art was toiling in LOOFAH’s bilge, engine room, nooks and crannies, Sue was enjoying the Florida sun doing a superlative job giving LOOFAH a great new luster!

We had accomplished great things before we were again blessed by a wonderful sunset.

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We pinched each other.

 Friday (3/23)  Six months here, six months there.

As we were working on our computers over coffee this morning, Art’s phone rang with an unrecognized number from area code 803. Typically unrecognized numbers are nuisance calls and we let them go to voice mail.  For some reason (Fate?), this time Art answered it.

On the other end was Leslie who Sue met at Publix yesterday. Would we like to meet today?  Absolutely!

Arrangements were set for Leslie & Flint to come to Faro Blanco at 5:00. We would return to see their boat, enjoy the sunset at Banana Bay, and walk to get a pizza.

The day was spent giving LOOFAH a sea trial and a much-needed bath. We experienced some anomalies with the starboard engine as we returned from Key West.  Victor, one of the best Volvo technicians we have met, has been doing some trouble shooting.  We needed to see if the problem could be duplicated so while Victor exchanged information with Volvo, we went to sea.  Now it was time to wash off the salt!

The hours went by quickly and 5:00 was here before we knew it.  As the ship’s bell rang two bells, Leslie and Flint walked down the pier.

Photo Mar 23, 5 51 59 PMThe time on Loofah allowed us to get acquainted and learn about their time in Des Moines in the 70’s with Heritage Cable TV.  Flint shared a funny about Jim Hoak, Heritage’s CEO at the time. The cable business provided Flint and Leslie an opportunity to see a lot of territory! They moved  9 times in 12 years.

Art and Flint also exchanged stories of their experiences in the Viet Nam era Navy.  Flint went through Radioman A School in Bainbridge, MD, Art’s first duty station as an Ensign!

Leslie and Flint now spend 6 months in Marathon Florida on their boat “Grace Full” and the other 6 months visiting children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They return to the Des Moines area each summer in their 5th wheel to visit their daughter and family who live in Altoona.

After our time on LOOFAH III, we went to the harbor at Banana Bay and a tour of their boat.  Leslie & Flint did the loop on a 40-foot trawler, crossing their wake in May 2011 at the Maryland Yacht Club.  Flint commented that the boat ideally handled “6 for drinks, 4 for dinner and 2 for bed.”

Grace FullTheir current boat is a 26-foot C Dory Venture. photo-mar-23-7-20-39-pm.jpgIt can be trailered and allows them the flexibility to have a boat anywhere, using it both on the water and on land.  An intreging thought we added to our list of possibilities!

photo-mar-23-7-25-58-pm.jpgIt was time to head to the beach for music and the sunset. photo-mar-23-7-33-27-pm-e1521991327770.jpgWe met a wonderful community of boaters who are in Banana Bay annually.

Pretty-Joe-RockThere is an island, Sea Shell Key (aka, “Pretty Joe Rock”) just off the beach that, at one time generated rentals of $201,000 a year.  It is now, post Irma, in need of serious repair. At one time  the .25 acres was listed for $1.5 million.  It is our guess that you might pick it up a bit south of there!

Should we look into it?

Walking to the Hurricane Bar and Grill for pizza, Art and Flint talked about the Banana Bay property.  A Tampa developer purchased the property with plans to build mid-rise condominiums on it. The Great Recession of 2017-18 took care of that.  A bank took over the property and later sold it.  The new owners have been addressing the needs of the property. As time permitted, Flint assisted with repairs around the marina; he is now the harbor master.

Over pizza and beer at Hurricane Bar and Grill, it became apparent that Leslie and Flint are really “locals.” They know the area and provided us with great information, and insights.

Flint and Leslie play best-ball golf on Wednesdays and dance Wednesday evenings at the Elks Club.  We were invited to join them. If we are still here, we made a date for dancing!

Great people!

Thursday (3/22) “Only two things in life…”

Boats in the marina were rocking and rolling last night! The gossip on the pier (frequently overstated) was that winds had gusted from the NW at over 40 mph. The opening of the marina is NW so the waves came rolling through, unimpeded.  Many on the pier were up at 4:30 AM adjusting lines and fenders.

Among the other positives of the Prestige 500S is that the berth in the owners cabin is right above the boat’s center of gravity, and the berth runs fore and aft on the boat’s centerline.  It is the location on the boat that rocks and rolls the least.  To the amazment of all, we slept through it!

Today it was time to “pay the fiddler.”

DSC_2428Our plan is to complete some fitting out and maintenance work here in Faro Blanco, and then to head east to the Bahamas for most of April.  While we have great internet, phone service, and the US postal service available, it was time to address the April 15 deadline for filing income taxes.  So, Art spent the day downloading brokerage statements, K-1s, and IRS forms and instructions.  He has been working on the issue over the past few weeks; today it needed to be finalized and checked off the “To Do List.”

Sue’s bike ride today included stops at Home Depot, Walgreens, and Publix. At Publix the cashier, Leslie, notice Sue had a bag for the groceries. Leslie could make out “Loo” on the bag and asked if Sue was a Looper. Sue said although the bag actually said “LOOFAH,” we were, indeed, looping.

Leslie explained that she, and her husband Flint are Loopers, and had crossed their wake in May 2011. As the groceries were being checked, more information was exchanged. Leslie said they used to live in Des Moines and that their daughter still lives in a small town near there. She said their boat “Grace Full” will get underway again in a few weeks, to further explore rivers to the north.

Sue gave her a LOOFAH boaters card and departed, not wishing to further delay the other shoppers.

dsc_2431.jpgWhile Art was toiling over the Form 1040, Sue was getting more familiar with the issues of crossing the Gulf Stream and cruising the Bahamas. At dinner we discussed texts received from fellow loopers that provided useful information on their Bahamian experiences.

Also, at dinner, the quote “Nothing is certain except death and taxes” was mentioned.  Later research indicated the quote is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote in a 1789 letter that “Our new Constitution is now established and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

So true, Ben!

Wednesday (3/21) Happy Birthday Matthew and “Happy to see you!”

Antigua Shoot 31A special day! Coffee this morning was spent talking about son, Matt, as he notched another year. This year finds Matt married to a wonderful woman and celebrating a recent promotion.  Life is good!  Parents are happiest when the children are happy. We are delighted!

Today the crews of three boats gathered for lunch: we joined Jim & Mandy (“Shell Belle”) and Jim & AC (“Hour Plan”).

Key Fisheries 2Our destination was Key Fisheries, a fish market, restaurant, and marina. Key Fisheries has its own fishing fleet which provides the sea food for not only the local restaurant and market, but also for Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, and for Whole Foods.  They overnight shipments to clients throughout the continental US.

Key Fisheries, like many businesses on the keys, is battling back from September’s hurricane.  It is best described by a September 30 segment that NPR ran:

“Battered by Irma, Florida Fishermen Pin Their Hopes on Stone Crab Season”

On Florida’s Marathon Key, lobster boats pull up to the docks in the afternoon, same as they would on any September day.

Key FisheriesBut this year, instead of hauling in thousands of valuable spiny lobsters, most are unloading the few traps they can find, and maybe a quarter of the usual catch.

Boat captain Carlos Moreira is tired after a long day at sea searching for lost traps.

“Well you gotta start somewhere, so you just look for one,” says Moreira.

“Yesterday, from where I had my traps to where I found them, they were 7 miles away. And to travel around and try to find a 7 1/2″ buoy in the Gulf of Mexico, is a challenge.”

It’s a big loss, both for these fishermen and for the industry they drive. Spiny lobster is the most valuable commercial catch in Florida, amounting to some $40 million annually, and it’s mostly fished here in the Keys.

But after Hurricane Irma, some lobstermen have lost up to 90 percent of their traps. Boat captain Ray Saldino says the storm, a Category 4 when it passed through, scattered them far and wide, and mangled them in the process.

The traps wouldn’t do much good now anyway. Standing by the meager catch he hauled in today, fisherman Alfaro Crespo says hurricanes also disperse lobsters.

“It’s a mess. Soon as the lobster recognize the weather: gone,” says Crespo, with a snap of his fingers.

Most lobster fishermen around here say they are packing it in for the season. In good years they might otherwise fish until Christmas. And many of them have lost more than their traps and their livelihood.

“I’m sleeping on my boat, because I lost all the contents of my house as well,” says Carlos Moreira, with a slight head shake.

Moreira built a narrow bunk, padded with a hunk of foam, in the wheelhouse of his spartan fishing boat. At least he’s got a place to stay in the Keys; others have had to move to the mainland.

So, labor is scarce, and lobsters are scarce.

Boat owner Elizabeth Prieto says everyone around here feels it.

“It takes from everybody,” says Prieto, standing on the fishing dock. “It starts with the crew, and then the fishermen, and then there’s the fish house, and then there’s the restaurant, and then just boom, boom, boom, it’s like a domino effect,” she says.

After lunch we returned to our boats, feeling most fortunate! We also now know, firsthand, that when people say, “We’re glad you are here,” they really mean it.

 Tuesday (3/20) What sunset?

Bill greeted us the first day we arrived at Faro Blanco Marina with offer to help, advice of what to see and do in Marathon along with an area map/guide. He was the marina’s chamber of commerce. Each day we have had short conversations on the pier and at the marina docktails. But that was not enough. It was time for a two-on-one, over lunch.

DSC_2427After 3 years at Stock Island Marina, Key West, Bill moved his boat, “Sea Breeze” to Marathon in September, just in time for a greeting by Hurricane Irma.  Rather than have his boat hauled and put on the hard, Bill moved it to the more protected east basin of the Faro Blanco Marina.  Bill and three other captains “spider webbed” (lots of lines in various directions) their boats to the tall wood piles and left the Island.

When Bill returned, driving down the road to the marina, he was delighted to see “Sea Breeze” floating, although most of the adjacent piling had been broken.  As it turned out, one of those piles pierced the hull of “Sea Breeze,” fortunately above the waterline!  A local yard repaired the hole and the yacht is floating smartly at the T of our pier.

Bill has twins (boy and girl) and another son.  He left the boat, and Sophie his dog, for a week to ski in Lake Tahoe with his daughter who lives there.  While he was gone, arrangements were made to keep Sophie exercised and happy.  Does LOOFAH III need a dog aboard?

bills-house.jpgAbout four years ago, Bill was visiting Marco Island. The weather was wonderful.  He decided to say a few extra days and ended up purchasing a house, just a five-minute walk from the beach!  Bill rents the house while he spends time on his boat.

Check out https://www.vrbo.com/768059 .  Another possibility for the LOOFAH’s crew!

Our time over lunch with Bill was insufficient, so Bill invited us over to see his boat and learn more about why he retired from Yellow Freight 4 years ago.

We met Bill on his boat at 5:00. He had prepared a wonderful platter of shrimp, scallops, cheese, and crackers.  What a marvelous host!

Bill has a 55′ Hatteras, with an enclosed (and conditioned) aft deck, and a door to a stern platform for line handling.  It also has a flying bridge, fully enclosed with new, post-Irma, Strataglass.  A flying bridge on LOOFAH III was not an option due to “air draft” (distance from the water line to the highest point on the boat) constraints.  There are a few fixed bridges on the Loop under which LOOFAH needs to pass.

Photo Mar 20, 5 47 40 PMAs we were passing through the dinette in the galley, Bill’s computer was on it.  He pulled it over to show us a commercial for a large, sit-down lawn mower.  The lady on the mower was his former wife.  She had lovely gray hair.  Art told Bill, “I’m going to keep my eye on you!”

We sat down in the enclosed aft living area, on full-sized furniture. Bill spoke of his decision to leave Yellow Freight after a lifetime with the company.

In 2009 Yellow Freight (#2) purchased Roadway Express (#1) with $6 billion in combined sales. Initially they operated independently, avoiding “the pains of integrating companies,” according to the Yellow’s Chairman.  When the integration did occur, it was painful, and Bill opted out.  He was no longer able to serve his client firms the way he had.

It didn’t work out well for YRC Worldwide, as it is now called.  The combination of former  #1 and #2, had 2017 revenue of $4.8 billion.  As an example, Federal Express, had 2017 revenue of $60.3 billion. YRC is a union company; FedEx is non-union. We talked union experiences, taking on debt, corporate cultures, and concentrated decision making.  It wasn’t just boats!

The conversation and hors d’oeurves were so interesting and enjoyable, we missed the sunset!  And that doesn’t often happen!

Monday (3/19) Living the dream; making it pay.

For the past several days we have seen a diverse group of individuals with roller bags, come and go from Mitch’s boat across the pier from us.  Were they friends, family?  DSC_2391

Today we finally got the answer when a gentleman came over from the boat.

“Do you live in Milwaukee?” he asked, pointing to LOOFAH’s transom.  It turns out that Tom and Ann have a boat in McKinley harbor in Milwaukee, just two piers from ours.

We spoke for some time, comparing notes. It was a perfect time for Art to ask, “Are you a friend of Mitch?”

“No, we found he had a berth available on “Airbnb.”

LOOFAH’s research department went right to work, and there it was: “Welcome Aboard! Relax, unwind, enjoy the water! Marathon.” Prices start at $199 a night and run up to “option 3: A week Charter at $12,000 for 7 days which includes the Captain, Mate, Cook and the Yacht to go anywhere you please. Plus, you pay additional expenses: fuel, dock, booze and food.”

We had heard about boats and boating experience being available on Airbnb, but this was the first time we actually knew someone who was doing it.  Check it out at:

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21531451?location=Marathon%2C%20FL&s=C7Ow8h-T

Just two slips from Mitch, a fishing boat left for the day and returned with two cubes in the cockpit, filled with diesel fuel.  Each cube held 330 gallons and weighed just over a ton. With the addition of these auxiliary “tanks,” the boat had just under 6,000 gallons of fuel aboard, the tab for which was just over $20,000.DSC_2406

Before a fuel dock was constructed this year in Paducah, KY., there was 228-mile leg of the Loop from Hoppies, in Kimmswick, MO to Green Turtle Bay in Grand River, KY. without a fuel stop.  Some Loopers need to take additional 5-gallon “jerry cans” of fuel aboard to make it.  These 330-gallon “jerry cans” of fuel would sink us, even if we could get them aboard!

What was the story?

The owner, Captain, and two others were heading to Panama and then to Costa Rica to set up a fishing business.  (“With this fuel, at 9 kts, we should be able to make it. ”) The owner was going to purchase a small house in which to live, when the boat was chartered for fishing excursions that the Captain would handle.  Otherwise, the owner would be aboard, fishing.

dsc_2409.jpgAs the sun was starting to set, the Captain and two crew set out in “Patrón.”  The owner waved from the pier and took a picture with his cell phone.  He would meet them in Costa Rica.

Art spoke with him and found the departure was accelerated due weather.  They wanted to burn through the fuel on the back deck before they hit the next cold front and possible attendant seas of 5’-7’.

It’s 1500 miles to Costa Rica.  To conserve fuel the boat would cruise just below its hull speed of 10 mph. The owner said the Captain planned on 200 miles a day and 8 days at sea.  Since getting his Masters License, Art has talked about becoming a delivery captain, but nothing like this!

DSC_2411

DSC_2407Art returned to LOOFAH III, cocktails, and the sunset.

Later, during dinner on the aft deck, we discussed these individuals, living their dreams, and finding a way to make it pay.

If our current financial plan falls apart, we have options!

It was another day of living the dream!

Sunday (3/18) Bacon, eggs, and sunsets.

DSC_2389Last Sunday, a weather window caused us to miss our Bacon and Eggs Sunday routine.  Today we fell naturally, back into it. It   was again a day for relaxation, refreshment, reading, and reflection.

Yesterday morning started with a text to us from Charlie that started: “Dad! Colleen accepted my proposal last night …”

antigua-shoot-48.jpgColleen is a special person and we are delighted.  The last several weeks have been hard for us as we had to remain mum on the pending engagement and the plans for it. It was especially difficult in Antigua when our family, and Colleen, were gathered, knowing that the upcoming St. Patricks’ Day weekend could be special for the two of them.

But now the news is out, I guess you say it’s “Facebook Official” these days.  I am sure that details will be forthcoming on social media from Colleen and Charlie.

As you might imagine, today we thought a good deal about them: their lives past, present and future.

We enjoyed a cocktail as the sun was setting, looking at a young couple who had walked out on the pier to share it.  We thought of Colleen and Charlie.  Although the sun sets daily, each and every sunset continues to be a special moment for us.

DSC_2388

Charlie noted in his text the presence of a rainbow when he asked Colleen for her hand.

We pray their lives are filled with many blessings and that they share many sunrises, sun sets and rainbows together!

Saturday (3/17)  “… a game of chance only when…”

We walked down the pier to the other basin of the Faro Blanco marina to visit with Jim and Andrea before they moved on to Islamorada.

DSC_2371As they were not onboard when we arrived, we engaged in conversation with Ed and Meg on “MARGARITA,” in a nearby slip.

We met Meg last night when we were watching the sunset. On her necklace was a marvelous pendant in the shape of Block Island, RI.   We have been on the Island twice with daughter Ellen and family.  It is a beautiful place and we have wonderful memories of our times there. We talked about the Oar House, Old Harbor and New Harbor (their home port).

Ed and Meg annually run their boat between Rhode Island and Florida.  They live outside Hartford, CT and are considering how they will spend their time together after retirement.  Ed gave us some great “local knowledge” on the passage up the East Coast, which normally takes them 18 days.

dsc_23751.jpgWhen Jim and Andrea returned, Mandy (“Shell Belle”) was also walking down the pier and we were able to introduce them.

The AGLCA has an application called “Meets” on which members can post their location.  “State of Bliss” and “Shell Bell” knew of each other through the app; it fun to see them get connected, in person.  We intend to begin utilizing “Meets.”

dsc_2381.jpgBefore “State of Bliss” cast off, we exchanged our anticipated, “long-range,” plans.  We were pleased to hear that Jim and Andrea were currently planning to head up to Montreal, as were we.  Hopefully, we will see them many times as we both work our way up the East Coast, into Canada, and back into Lake Michigan.

The number of visitors walking our pier today was abnormally high.  As we are the boat on the outboard end of one of the piers in the marina, most end up near our stern.  Frequently they make a nice comment about LOOFAH, we get into a tête-à-tête.

dsc_2385.jpgAppropriately dressed for the day, it was hard to ignore a gentleman his St. Patrick’s Day attire.  It turns out the four of them are Wisconsin builders (hence the three-finger “W”) who are down here building/rebuilding one of their places.  The affable leprechaun lives in Lake Geneva, WI.

Art mentioned that he had raced scows there; the chap asked if we knew Buddy Melges.  The discussion continued for some time!

buddy-dockside-at-lgyc.jpgMr. Melges is an icon of scow sailing, as well as a successful America’s Cup skipper.  Art has met him casually on a couple of occasions, the last being at the Milwaukee Yacht Club.

However, it was through Art’s father’s stories, of racing Buddy on Lakes Geneva and Winnebago (on the shores of which Art was born) that Art really knows Mr. Melges.  When Buddy was in Des Moines, speaking at the banquet of a regional regatta, Buddy recognized Art’s dad 50+ years after they last sailed each other at Inland Lakes Yachting Association (“ILYA”) events!

Over dinner tonight Art further recalled that “Director’s Chair Regatta” banquet at which Buddy recognized his father. It was a encounter Art will never forget. People who had met on the water and had not seen each other for decades, still recognizing each other.

Nor has Art forgotten Buddy’s well known quote shared that evening:

“Sailboat racing becomes a game of chance only when you are not prepared.” 

Great words about life as well!

Friday (3/16) “Never Better” and “State of Bliss” sums it up well!

Being an early riser, Art is generally up with a cup of coffee in hand as the sun rises.  This makes him available to assist with the lines of boats that depart before the marina staff report. Such was the case this morning when “Never Better” and a couple of other craft fired up their engines.

During breakfast, we received a text message from Andrea on “State of Bliss.” They were leaving Key West, heading for Marathon, ETA 17:00.  We first met Jim & Andrea in Green Turtle Bay last October and last saw them at Dog River Marina in Mobile near Thanksgiving. It would be wonderful to see them!

LOOFAH III’s “Officer in Charge of Communications and External Affairs” will frequently research people, boats, places, and events.  This morning she found a couple of tidbits regarding “our new friends,” Patti & Steve, and “Never Better.”

“Few people walk down the dock at a boat show, step aboard a yacht they have never heard of and then buy it seven days later. Patti and Steve are different. The avid cruisers and motoryacht enthusiasts bought their first Marlow yacht, and the first-ever Marlow (Hull 65-01), just like that…”Never Better

Another post shared a picture of a custom glass etching with LED lights Patti and Steve commissioned for the master stateroom.

“The family has primarily cruised the Bahamas and British Virgin Islands from Florida, and with the 66E their plans now include a voyage to north to Nova Scotia.”

We like the way that sounds!

As Art was posting to the “official” ship’s log, he blurted out, “Good grief, Boo, we are at the Ides of our cruise!”  (Seems he still had yesterday’s post in mind.)  We have been on LOOFAH III six months since leaving Milwaukee in September; we anticipate that six months from now we will “cross our wake” there.

What then?  What next? We, again, started to opine and the morning slipped away.

dsc_23701.jpgAs lunch approached, we realized that we had a more immediate issue to resolve, TODAY – FOOD.  So, while Art tended to boat issues and maintenance, Sue made the ride to Publix.

Art turned on the VHF about 4:30 in hopes that we would hear “State of Bliss” hail the marina.  Shortly thereafter, he heard Jim requesting their slip assignment. “F 110” was the response.  We dropped what we were doing to greet them on arrival.

DSC_2374We exchanged hugs and invited them to join us on LOOFAH for “docktails” after they got settled.

An hour later, Jim and Andrea, came walking down the pier.  Andrea carried a plate of cheese and crackers. With everything they had to do getting “State of Bliss” settled in the slip, she came with something to share.  What a gracious couple!

Northport, MI is their homeport, so we have Lake Michigan experiences in common.  They started the Loop the same time we did.  They are both educators and well educated! Although we don’t necessarily agree on every topic, we find it possible to have more than a superficial conversation! Our time with them is always enjoyable and enlightening.

As we didn’t have time over docktails to get fully updated, talk of immediate plans, and resolve the world’s problems, we adjourned to dinner.

If was another great day on the Loop!

Thursday (3/15)  The Ides of March

Yesterday afternoon we received a package of mail forwarded from Des Moines to us by son, Charlie. The major portion of today was spent dealing with it, in addition to assisting boats entering or departing their slips.

DSC_2366One of the yachts that arrived at Faro Blanco today was “Never Better,” a Marlow 66E. In addition to Patti and Steve, there was a eclectus parrot  aboard!  This was Patti and Steve’s second Marlow, their first being a Marlow 65.  Art mentioned that we had friends from Des Moines who originally had a Marlow 65- hull #2.  It turns out Patti and Steve owned hull #1 and had met Michael and Mel at a previous Marlow rendezvous!  Art made sure they knew about this evenings “docktails,” hoping to have more time to talk.

In the interim, there was “office work” to be completed and Sue needed to make a bicycle run to the UPS Store to send a priority parcel back north.

photo-mar-15-6-09-10-pm1.jpgThe “docktails” event this evening was a big gathering as a couple of the well-known, long-time “residents” of the marina, were departing tomorrow.  Mel (“Morning Star II”) and his wife, Ann, well known Gold Loopers, were among them.  If you ever meet Mel, ask him about the fortune teller he met, and “the shoe.” Side splitting!

Photo Mar 15, 5 48 21 PMWe did get to talk more with Steve and Patti, and Mel. Since getting their new Marlow 66E, Steve and Patti spent just 10 days in their Atlanta “dirt home.” During the day, Art had exchanged emails with Michael who said they were looking forward to seeing Patti & Steve at the April 25 Marlow rally here at Faro Blanco.

We also met Jim and AC (“Hour Plan”) who, like Jan and Dennis (“Mother Ocean”) live, full time, on their Grand Banks 42 Classic.  It was informative to listen to AC talk about the various problems that occur when you don’t have a land-based residence: voting, income taxes, driver’s licenses, passports, etc.  As they don’t have a car, they have no car insurance so renting a car can be problematic!   Something more to consider!

The clear culinary winners this evening were the “better than sex sliders” Mandy (“Shell Belle”) provided.  She was gracious enough to share a link where the recipe could be found, which we will NOT be gracious enough to share on this website.  Mandy:  we promise not serve them when you are in the same marina, and when we do, we will attribute the recipe to you!

After docktails we enjoyed New England clam chowder and a chopped salad at the Lighthouse Grill located at the marina.

As we hit the berth, Art recalled it was the “Ides of March,”  that day on which, in Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by his best friend, Brutus, having failed to heed the advice, “beware the Ides of March.”

By no means a Latin scholar, Art did recall that Mr. Frank Angerer, who taught his first year Latin class in high school, said that “Ides” meant “to divide.” (When divided, the 15th is the “Ides” of March.)

But, as we reflected on our day, it was not the division of March, but rather the division of our country, that came to mind.  How enjoyable it has been to spend less time with the media, and more time meeting individuals from the Netherlands, Montenegro, Nicaragua, and others in various states and conditions of life; people we met in Key West and everywhere on the Loop.

It is hard to imagine we would be a country as divided as we are, if every took the same opportunity to make friends, and not foes.

Wednesday (3/14) Keys West prologue.

Early this morning, after assisting Bill and Marty (“Dorado”) depart, Art noted a gentleman standing on the pier.  As the diesel engines on his boat were running and all electrical and mechanical connections to the pier were free, Art offered to assist with line handling if he was departing.  He said, “That would be great. The marina staff isn’t here yet and I’d like to get an early start.”

As he was single handling a 60′ Sea Ray, Art went aboard to assist with the bow lines as it was leaving the slip. When Art got dropped off at the fuel dock, the Captain offered to buy Art and his mate a lunch. The offer was thoughtful, but declined.

Today we were helped with our lines by a boater we had never met. It’s a great fraternity; fellow people of the sea, offering and receiving assistance when needed.

dsc_2343-e1521221227940.jpgWe left A&B Marina at 10:30.  The winds were NNW at 15-20 mph; quartering seas, 2-4′.  Our day at sea was not particularly memorable except that LOOFAH III made it past the southern most point of the continental US!

So, returning to some more Key West experiences and people.

DSC_2243Sunday morning shortly after we arrived at A&B,  the Captain of the Krogen Express, “Wishing Star” from Harbor Springs, Michigan came across the pier.  “Do you know Kyle?” Art responded, “We certainly do.” Rick introduced himself and the conversation began.

You see, conversation is easy on the Loop!

“Kyle” is the former employee, turned new owner of Spring Brook Marina, from whom we purchased LOOFAH III.  Spring Brook (in Seneca, IL) has been opening satellite offices in various Great Lakes communities including, Chicago, Eastlake OH, Fish Creek WI, and Traverse City MI.  Rick’s former partner at Harbor View Yacht Sales in Traverse City MI, Bill Allgaier, now handles the Prestige line there for Kyle.  Rick had a lot of nice things to say about Kyle and Spring Brook; Amen!  We look forward to looking Rick up when we are back in our home waters of Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, after the MCY 70 experience, we took the free “Duval Street Loop” bus and rode it back to the “farthest point south.”

DSC_2301A number of people had the same idea; the line to get a “selfie” in front of the buoy was several blocks long!

As we were enjoying the sights, we noticed tears of joy not too far from us.  dsc_2298.jpgA successful engagement had just taken place.  Second only to Las Vegas, Key West is the marriage capital of the US.  There appears to be a lot of love in the town.

We spent the afternoon walking 1.3 miles back up Duval, and adjacent streets, past the lighthouse, Hemingway Home, Green Parrot Bar, Margaritaville, and Truman’s Little White House, to the marina.

photo-mar-13-6-15-13-pm1.jpgWhen we returned to the boat we had an opportunity to talk with the crew of “Dorado,” a beautiful boat from Ft. Lauderdale in the slip directly behind LOOFAH III.  Bill and Marty have homes (and boats) in both Ft. Lauderdale and in Lake Forrest, IL.

Another option to consider?

They keep their “northern boat” in the Waukegan, IL harbor (from whence our first LOOFAH sailed) and store it at Larson Marina, where Art took a Yanmar diesel mechanics class.  Wonderful people!

We freshened up and prepared a “libation to go.” On the streets of Key West, if you don’t have a drink in hand (many in pineapples, wonderfully shaped containers, or something with an umbrella in it) you are unusual.DSC_2308

Our destination was the Mallory Square sunset celebration.  Food vendors, street performers, and thousands of people gather daily for a couple of hours as sunset approaches.  We were particularly impressed by the “World’s Oldest Sword Swallower.”

DSC_2312As we watched the “sunset cruise” charter boats parade back and forth, we met a marvelous couple from Holland.  They were well versed with the US having traveled here extensively, one time with their children when they did “6,000 km in a motor coach seeing big trees and canyons in the West.”  Is that next for us?  Or maybe a 6,000 km driving tour starting in Holland?dsc_23301.jpg

It was time for dinner, but we were missing one obligatory Key West picture: the start of US Highway 1 which runs 2,369 miles north to Fort Kent, Maine.  It is the longest north-south road in the US.

For dinner we chose The Commodore’s Boat House Bar & Grill on the waterfront near our pier.  Again, without reservations, and with a line waiting, the host offered us seats at the bar where we could also be served.  It was another night of conversation and coincidences.  The couple sitting to Sue’s right lived in Newton, MA (Boston), just blocks across the Mass Turnpike from where daughter Ellen and family have a home.

photo-mar-13-9-36-39-pm.jpgWhen they left, the host that showed us to the bar completed his shift and sat down next to us.  It was hard to miss the Boston connection!  He is here from Montenegro, working as a Charter Captain (as currently his  father and brothers do on the Adriatic Sea), picking up a few extra dollars at the Boat House.

After this experience here, he intends to rejoin his family of mariners in Montenegro.

When he found out we were from Des Moines, he called Kelsey (who had been serving us) over. Photo Mar 13, 9 39 37 PMIt turns out she is an Iowa Hawkeye from a small town near Des Moines!  She even had “Herky the Hawkeye,” which we had not noticed, on the back bar!

So, when people ask what we enjoy most about doing the Loop, we are quick to say, “Meeting people.” They all have a story.  More often than not, we have something in common.

Through conversation, there is always something to be learned, sometimes about ourselves.

It was another great day.

Tuesday (3/13) “Victory at Sea!”

During the first four weeks of Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport, RI, Art and his collegues were confined to the base; no liberty.  One of the available weekend options was to watch old “Victory at Sea” movies at the base theater. It was a documentary TV series (later a 1954 film) about WWII, and naval warfare in particular.  The music, narration and filming were supurb; true post-WWII patriotism throughout.  Art recalled the cheers every time a Navy mine sweeper took out a German U-Boat, or a destroyer shot down a Japanese Kamikaze.

Although certainly far less in scale, today he experienced a “Victory at Sea!”

This morning, as we were finishing breakfast and preparing for the day, a beautiful Monte Carlo approached.  We anticipated the boat was heading to the T dock at the end of the pier directly in front of us.  It slowed, but passed it.  Was it going to do a 180 in the fairway ahead and dock port-side-to?  It would be tight!  We watched.

dsc_2256-e1521034654655.jpgSoon, the way the Captain on the flying bridge was working and looking around, it became apparent that something was seriously amiss mechanically.  The wind caught the boat and it was clear that he was in trouble.  Fortunately, the two tour boats that occupied one of the slips downwind were out and he had just enough maneuvering capability to get into it and safely tied off.  It couldn’t stay there as the stern was out in the fairway, and the tour boats would need the slip.

DSC_2260Within 45 minutes Tow Boat US appeared and tied a line to the stern of the MCY. As it appeared that there was only one dockhand ashore, Art went over to offer assistance.  It was a good thing.

He became the Captain’s eyes on the pier, helping fend off while the MCY Captain used what was left of the bow thruster, as the Tow Boat US Captain pulled the MCY out of the slip, back toward the T.  All was going according to plan until the wind again caught the boat.  The stern was under the control of Tow Boat US, but the bow was beginning to sail.  DSC_2264Someone on the bow of the MCY threw a line to the pier, but unfortunately it was not attached to the boat!  At the same time the bow thruster also gave out. The boat pivoted down wind, heading toward LOOFAH and the other boats across the fairway.

dsc_2270.jpgThe boat is 70’ long, the Tow Boat US boat 25’ long, and there was 20’ of line between the two boats; a total of 115 feet.  The fairway was no more than 100’ wide.  The Tow Boat Captain used his head and backed into the fairway, upwind of the T, temporarily preventing the MCYs bow from swinging into other boats .  He was the only person in the boat and warmly accepted Arts offer to come aboard and assist with the lines, as he drove the boat.

The two of them worked together to first shorten the tow line and then to get another line from the stern of the MCY, to the pier. That accomplished, they then were able to come around and push the MCYs bow to the pier and secured.DSC_2280

Art shook hands with the Tow Boat US Captain, marina staff, and MCY owner, and returned to Loofah.

After a busy morning, we struck off to enjoy the streets of Key West. As we did so, it was apparent that Art was still hearing heard the strains of the title song of “Victory at Sea!”

We had a great day in Key West. More about it on our next post.

Monday (3/12) Crossing wakes!

We made a good call coming to Key West yesterday.  dsc_2245.jpgThis morning LOOFAH received a real boat wash and we enjoyed a cozy morning reading, writing and tending to items in the galley.DSC_2247

By early afternoon, the showers subsided and we headed for a 90-minute tour of the Key on the Old Town Trolley.

While on the tour, Art got a text message from Dennis suggesting we meet at 5:00 Photo Mar 12, 7 42 40 PMdown the pier at the White Tarpon. We met the “Mother Ocean” crew for cocktails and then headed to “Conch Republic” for dinner, returning to the White Tarpon for a nightcap.

Dennis and Jan have been coming to A&B Marina for the past 4 years, spending several months here.  This year when they came into the harbor they hoisted the gold AGLCA burgee denoting the successful completion of the Great Loop. Two years ago, Mother Ocean became their home.  It was great to catch up since our wakes last crossed, and to compare current plans for the future.

Later in the evening, at the White Tarpon, a couple from Burnsville, MN (just south of Minneapolis) took seats at the bar next to Art.  They have a time-share here for two weeks each year.  Our list of post-Loop options continues to grow!

As we boarded LOOFAH, Sue noted with amazement that it was 10:15.  (10:00 PM is widely considered “Loopers midnight”). The five hours we spent with Dennis and Jan had flown by, as time seems to do when experiences are the most enjoyable!

Hopefully, our wakes will again cross, possibly in the Bahamas.

Sunday (3/11)  Key West!

Although we lost an hour of sleep last night due to “Springing Forward” for daylight savings time, we were up early and eager to run some water under LOOFAH’s clean hull.  Mrthn Ky WstWe pulled the dinghy into the garage, stowed the bicycles and other gear, and secured the kayaks to the swim platform.

Typically, having paid for the slip in advance, we would just depart, but today there was an additional step to be performed by the marina staff – read the electric meter.  As the electrical requirements for boats can go from 30, 50, to 100 amp (single or dual), and the loads for air-conditioning, etc. can vary widely. The marinas that handle larger boats, meter and charge for electricity, in addition to a per-foot slip fee.  In the Bahamas we have been told to anticipate a dockage fee, metered electricity, and metered water as well.  Hopefully our Great Lakes marinas don’t follow suit!DSC_2225

We departed the marina at 9:58 and arrived in Key West at 12:57, having traveled at an average speed of 17.3 mph.

During the 51.5-mile cruise to Key West, two things caught our attention:  crab pots and the old railroad bridges.  (More on the “Eight Wonder of the World” in a later post).dsc_2229.jpg

As we approached the southernmost point of the continental US, it was hard to miss the Celebrity Cruise Lines, “Equinox.”  DSC_2236The ship is 1037 feet long, draws 27’, has a beam of 151’, and has a crew of 1500. It carries 3000 guests.  As it turns out, we knew 4 of them!

As Loofah approached the harbor, Art hailed the A&B Marina harbormaster; we were assigned slip 15. With marina real estate “precious” here, A&B has no slips with finger piers.  Instead, boats stern-in to the pier and tie off the bow to piles 50’ from the pier.  Loofah has a beam of 14’-9” and we had less than a foot of clearance on both sides. There is nothing separating your boat from the boats in the adjacent slips (except fenders).

When we came in, the pier was full of observers; there was a “Weekly, Sunday Safety Meeting” being held on the pier just three slips away. After getting secured in the slip, Shep, (one of the marina crew that assisted us with stern lines) told Art, “Nice job, Captain; they gave you a nine.” Apparently, Art lost a point coming into the slip because he had to briefly tap the bow thruster for final alignment.

Bob, on a Grand Banks to starboard was heading back to the Safety Meeting with two glasses in hand.  As he did so, we got a warm invitation to join the gathering, which we did a bit later.

We heard, “Sue and Art!” as we were getting the hoses out to wash the salt off Loofah. Turning there stood Wendy, Victor and their boys. They are the couple we met at the Michigan Prestige rally three years ago, and with whom we dined recently in Fort Myers.  They were on the “Equinox!” When they were having lunch ashore, they saw a boat like theirs passing.  Then they saw the red kayaks on the stern.  “The cincher was when they saw Sue’s beautiful hair.”  They knew it was LOOFAH III.  They left lunch and tracked us down at A&B.

They came to Key West from Miami and Saturday night, and are heading on to Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Georgetown, before returning to Miami.  The ship sounded like a floating palace.  Another opportunity after the Loop?

Shortly after Victor and Wendy departed, Dennis and Jan (“Mother Ocean”) walked down the pier!  It was great to see them, and we look forward to catching up with them in the next few days.

On the recommendation of son, Charlie, we dined at “9-1-5,” a tapas restaurant on Duval Street.  As we had no reservation, we chose available seating on a quiet high-top in the bar, overlooking the garden and street. Photo Mar 11, 10 30 03 PMIt was a delightful evening, enjoying great food and wonderful service, provided by Brian (aka “Taffy”).  Taffy, a Washington DC native, is well traveled (having lived in London) and has been in Key West for a number of years. He is currently living aboard a sailboat which endeared us to him immediately!

We also got to know the wonderful person behind the bar.  A native of Nicaragua, she has been in the US for ten years and recently passed the exam to become a naturalized US Citizen.  She spoke candidly of the issues her former country has faced, family there, and some of the positive recent developments in tourism being made there.

Our lives are informed and enriched so much by the stories we hear and share.

We closed the place down and, holding hands, walked back down Duval Street (filled with “Spring Breakers”) to the boat.

It was another special night.

Saturday (3/10) An inverse relationship?

The morning was spent watching the MTI “fun-run” boats fuel up from the tanker located across the fairway and walking the piers – looking at the boats (and their crews).DSC_2170

These charming little girls on the stern of a boat adjacent to us, caught our attention.  DSC_2176They were looking at one of the MTI professionally driven boats, and the individuals selected to be the crew.  As we were having coffee, we wondered what all five of them were thinking.

The flying bridge of “Shell Belle” was a perfect place to watch the activity.  Located in the center of the marina, it not only provided a catbird seat from which to view, Captain Jim, from the St. Louis area was very familiar with the boats. They are built in Wentzville, MO and a relative of Jim’s has worked on the colorful finishes of the boats.  He mentioned some of the paint jobs might cost $100,000. DSC_2188

The company website noted that its 48-footer had a “price range of $800,000 to $1.4 million, depending on power and options.” With the twin-turbocharged 1,350-hp engines, one of their boats could “run well into the 170-mph range.”

Walking the pier, Art heard one of the drivers remark to another,” I was doing 75-80 and that black bird went by me like I was standing still.”

Today the MTI boats would do a 100-mile fun run to Key West and back.DSC_2190

While they were running the Keys, Art donned a wetsuit, sucked air, and finished cleaning LOOFAH’s bottom.

Our float plan is to cruise to Key West tomorrow.  We will happily do it at 10 to 20 mph, fully clothed.

Which begs the question: Could there be an inverse relationship between the amount of clothing the crew wears and the speed of the boat?

Friday (3/9) MTI boats ascend on Faro Blanco! (Viewer Discretion Advised)

Marine Technology, Inc. (“MTI”) of Wentzville, MO and Green Bay, WI was founded in 1999. It builds high-performance boats.  For the third year in a row, MTI sponsored a fun run from Miami to the Faro Blanco marina. http://marinetechnologyinc.com/about-mti-boats/

DSC_2177

“As we did last year, we will make this run as fun and stress free as possible. We will have our crew with our Support Trailer ready to pick up your luggage in Miami and carry it to Faro Blanco for you.  Our crew will be on hand to help all of the boat owners with washing, cleaning, and maintenance. Our support trailer will have tools and some spares in it, and you’re welcome to add yours to it if you like.”

dsc_2137.jpg“We will have a fuel truck in Marathon with 93 octane fuel just for our boats. The fuel supplier can have 96 and Race Fuel by request. The marina has Rec90 fuel at their pumps.”

DSC_2151We counted over 30 boats in the flotilla, some rafting five abreast in the marina. A professional photographer for an on-line speed boating magazine was also present taking pictures of the boats and their crew.  Others seemed to have an interest in filming as well.

It was hard to get any maintenance work on LOOFAH III completed!

FB WeddingShortly thereafter, down the pier, there was a wedding.  We don’t think the two events were related!

After a great day of walking the piers, looking and talking, we took our inflatable with its low-octane 6hp outboard, through the marina and down the key to Porkey’s for dinner.DSC_2158

As we came back to LOOFAH III we passed the boats still at the tanker-truck, fueling up after dark.

We love our life on the Loop.  So much to be seen and experienced.

Tomorrow I will tackle the teak!

Thursday (3/8)  LOOFAH III will handle Category B conditions; its crew may not!

Like many organizations, the “Prestige Yacht Owners Club” has a Facebook presence to share information and post questions.  Because LOOFAH III is currently doing the Loop, we get inquiries and boat-specific questions.  Recently on the forum, we were asked to respond to the question, “How does it handle rough seas?” In his response, Art referred to CE design categories.  Because of a number of questions received since that post, here is some additional information for those interested.

The letters “CE” are the abbreviation of French phrase “Conformité Européene” which means “European Conformity”. In 1998 the European Union established design standards for most recreational boats from 8 to 79 feet. New and used boats sold in Europe, including boats built in the US – or anywhere else – for export to Europe, must be certified as complying with one of four design categories.

In the US, the American Boat and Yacht Council (“ABYC”) has developed standards and recommendations. They include no design categories to differentiate between boats of different capabilities.  The National Marine Manufacturers Association (“NMMA”) also has a certification, which itself only requires about 70% of the ABYC recommended standards. While most U.S. builders follow the ABYC standards and many exceed those required by the NMMA, they are not mandatory as the CE standards are in Europe.

DSC_2186The four design categories (described below) help to quantify a boat’s degree of seaworthiness. The further offshore the vessel is expected to venture, the higher are the expectations for construction strength, stability, freeboard, reserve buoyancy, resistance to downflooding, deck drainage and other seaworthiness criteria.

With 12 people onboard, LOOFAH III conforms to Category B; with 14 aboard, it drops to Category C. Large openings such as the sun roof and garage, make it difficult (if not impossible) for a Prestige 500s to meet Category A requirements.

The bottom line – LOOFAH III will handle Category B conditions; its crew may not!

Category A – Ocean: covers largely self-sufficient boats designed for extended voyages with winds of over Beaufort Force 8 (over 46 mph), and significant wave heights above 13 feet, but excluding abnormal conditions such as hurricanes.

Category B – Offshore:  includes boats operating offshore with winds to 40 knots (46 mph) and significant seas to 13 feet.  (LOOFAH III is in this class)

Category C – Inshore: is for boats operating in coastal waters and large bays and lakes with winds to Force 6, up to 27 knots (31 mph), and significant seas 7 feet high.

Category D – Inland or sheltered coastal waters: is for boats in small lakes and rivers with winds to Force 4 and significant wave heights to 18 inches.

Since the number of people onboard can impact a boat’s seaworthiness, changing the number of people on the boat can also change its category, with more people aboard — and more weight and potentially less stability — putting a boat into the next lower category.

Wednesday (3/7)  Boom!  And, IOWA rules!

The silence over coffee this morning was broken with, “Oh, my gosh, Boo, they used our picture!” Sue turned on her computer; there we were, pictured with our friend, Jim Thorpe (Spring Brook Marina) and Nick Harvey (President of Jeanneau/Prestige Yachts America) at the Miami Yacht show.

Prestige Miami SHowPrestige had a total of 11 boats at the concurrent Miami International Boat Show and the Miami Yacht Shows.  The highlight of the show was the North American debut of the Prestige 680S (sport). It is quite a yacht with BOTH a fly bridge AND sun roof over the salon. https://www.prestige-yachts.com/ Is there a Loofah IV in the future?

Sue, Loofah’s Chief of Communications and External Affairs, also shared the news that, according to US News, IOWA was ranked the #1 Best State in the Union!  Take that California and New York!  iowa-1.jpg

People are intrigued when we tell them we are from Iowa.  US News just provided us with a great 30-second “elevator pitch.” https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2018-02-27/iowa-claims-no-1-spot-on-2018-best-states-rankings-through-strong-infrastructure-health-care-and-education

DSC_2096Today Loofah got a “stem to stern” bath.  She needed it.  But, as is often the case, it brought on an early evening rain shower.  It was cozy and relaxing.

We threw some bratwurst on the grill and reflected on the photos posted on Facebook today by our children, of our time together last week.  It was special!

dsc_2100.jpgAfter dinner, Sue scanned the DISH guide to see if there was anything worthy of viewing.  And, BAM!  IOWA was featured yet again!  We could watch the Rockets at the Bucks, the Jazz at the Pacers, or Iowa Class 2A High School Basketball.

Too much; first US News and now DISH.  A great day for the Hawkeye State.

Tuesday (3/6) Attention to Loofah III

It was apparent that Loofah has been neglected.  She was covered by a thin coating of salt and was developing a green mustache just below the waterline.  It was time to check and clean the bottom. Had the props collected any fishing line or crab pot tethers?

llba4647.jpgJust about the time were beginning to feel overwhelmed, we got a message from Ellen who had arrived in Stockholm: “We are having a hard time here recovering from the festivities. No one can get out of bed and we are all FREEZING! C asked me if we could get some heat on this morning. Missing 80 and sunny! But at least we have snow and some snowmen to keep us smiling! ⛄”

It was time to get into the wet suit, start the Hookah, and get wet!  It took a bit of time to get the right amount of weight on the belt; enough buoyancy to keep up next to the hull, but not too much!

The inspection reports on the props and hull were positive. Nothing entwined around the props; the sacrificial zinc anodes were doing their thing; and bottom looked relatively clean.  After 45 minutes, Art resurfaced a bit hangered after brushing 2/3 of the hull.  He had digested just enough saltwater to become semi-nauseated.  It was a good time to suspend operations for the day.  Cleaning the balance of the hull would have to wait until tomorrow.

Over cocktails and dinner, we started to consider “what next?”  Key WestWould Loofah be satisfied with reaching N 24⁰ 42’ latitude, or did she need to pass the absolutely most southern point of the continental US in Key West, at N 24⁰ 32’. Loofah is already 1,182 nm (1360 sm) south of Milwaukee.

After all, what is the big deal of just 10′ of latitude (10 nm, 11.5 sm). It would take a couple of days and mean going in the “wrong direction” from our current, rational plan.

Ah, what the heck…  Sue will check Key West marinas tomorrow.

Monday (3/5)  The Master missed the local NTM.

We awoke, under attack!  Shots were heard. Missiles were flying and exploding overhead!dsc_2089-e1520431623712.jpg

We scrambled on deck ready to abandon ship in the RIB.

Fortunately, before we did so, Sue’s attention was drawn to Coast Guard Station Marathon across from our slip.  There, gathered on the shore, were a group going through signal training.DSC_2085

Had the ship’s Master checked on the NTM’s (“Notice to Mariners”) since he returned, we would have been spared the excitement.

It was time for coffee.  The day was spent stepping back into reality: reading, writing, paying bills, and thinking about “where to from here?”

The Master also downloaded the current NTMs found at: https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=lnmMain

Sunday (3/4) Postpartum Depression? Some, but mostly smiles!

The problem with wonderful vacations is you must return from them!  For us that meant a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Miami airport back to the boat in Marathon.  We arrived last night about midnight.  Others in the group had overnights in Atlanta and Charlotte; the Stockholm clan won’t make it home until tomorrow!

Today we rested, and took a Sunday afternoon nap before getting a few groceries and returning the Avis rental car to the Marathon airport.

We didn’t talk much today; just smiled!

Saturday (2/24) – Saturday (3/3) Time for a CELEBRATION!

Every so often a birthday is deemed to be “special.”  For us, each and every day is special but apparently the fact that Art (“Pops”) turned 70 was a milestone worthy of a special note.

We are careful not to rank anything as “the best;”  we have been blessed in so many ways. But, to have a week with family gathered from Stockholm, Charlotte, and Des Moines, spanning three generations, in Antigua, was …

Antigua Shoot 43No one got sick; other than a skinned knee sustained while climbing Mt. Obama, and possibly those inflicted by “Rum Punches,” no injuries.  Without exception, Type-A personalities ruled; but no drama was experienced!

We sailed, kayaked, snorkled, swam, paddleboarded, and bathed in the sun.  We danced on the sand under a full moon at a beachparty the St. James’s Club threw on Ellen’s actual birthday.

We enjoyed times when the 14 of us were together; we enjoyed times independently.  Pops and Nanny loved their time with the four grandchildren.

The two ou us pinched each other frequently throughout the week, just to confirm it was not a dream.   Did it qualify as “THE BEST EVER?”

Well…

Friday (2/23) Wow!  What a story; what a family; what a lesson!

Ella approached us at the dock party last night with a delightful “hello.” As we were talking, her sister, AnnaMay, joined us. AnnaMay gave us their boat card, “Wilsons On the Water.”

We first became aware of the Wilson family through the AGLCA forum. They are leading an effort where once a week Loopers in the area join the Wilson family for a day assisting with the continuing clean up of the keys.

But the bigger story is told best by their own writing on their Facebook page: “Wilsons On The Water,” and at http://www.WilsonsOnTheWater.blogspot.com.

“In 2001, Bobby and I followed the journey of our dear friends, Bill and Ruth, as they boated their way around the United States on this crazy thing called The Great American Loop. We followed along as best as we could with no Facebook and limited internet access at the time. During the course of that year, we lived vicariously through their intermittent posts and waited anxiously for sporadic emails. By the end of their travels, what was born in us was a desire to someday take this same trip in a boat of our own… someday… maybe when we retired…

“In 2011, our 4th daughter was born with a severe and critical complex congenital heart defect. She was given only a 10% chance of surviving. We were prepared to have only 20 minutes with her at birth if she survived long enough to be born. By God’s grace, she lived long enough to be life flighted to another state where our family lived at the Ronald McDonald House for 11 1/2 months waiting for her to get well enough to bring her home. Since her first discharge, we have learned a lot. We have learned to live life to the fullest and to truly not take things for granted. We also learned that living in one room at the Ronald McDonald House may have in fact prepared us to “live” on a boat. 🙂 None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, but it is even more in our face with Mia.

“In 2015, we had the crazy idea that maybe that ‘someday for the boat trip’ should be now. We discussed our potential plan with Mia’s cardiologist and he was on board as long as Mia’s next open heart surgery went well. So for the better part of 2015, we cautiously made plans for our family to take The Great American Loop. We were planning, but careful to not get too excited because with Mia, anything can happen. So, with cautious optimism, Bobby took boating courses through the United States Power Squadron and we did lots and lots and lots of research. We even talked to Make A Wish to see if they could help us in any way for Mia’s wish through them. She loves the water and boating so it seemed like a great fit for her wish, but it was out of their scope of wishes able to be granted.

As the end of 2015 approached, we stayed in contact with Mia’s cardiologist and other doctors as well as her pharmacy to see what we would do about getting medications and medical supplies. The next big thing was obtaining a boat. With all Mia’s expenses, we were very limited on our options. In a stroke of what can be nothing else that a huge blessing, the very couple that we followed their journey (and by the way are lifelong friends of our family), decided that they no longer needed the boat on which they cruised The Loop in 2001. Not only did they not need it any longer, they wanted to essentially “gift” it to us at an extremely reduced price! We met them at the bank one very cold day in early 2016 and signed paperwork for the transfer of “La Cigale”.

The next big step was getting Mia through this next big open heart surgery. The plan was to do the surgery early in the spring to give her time to heal. The best laid plans…. you know the saying! Well, she has had many bumps in the road, complications and readmits, but it seems as though she is finally “holding her own”, so we have decided to move forward with leaving on the boat trip, beginning August 14th, 2016. (Weather permitting).

“In an even crazier twist of events, we were wondering what we would do with our home while we are away and a good friend of our family was moving back to Akron for schooling and needed a place to stay. What a fantastic way to hopefully bless someone else in this process!
“15 years ago, we had considered doing this upon retirement, but after all that we have gone through with Mia, we know that tomorrow is never promised, and we find it necessary to experience this trip as a family. Some people save for retirement and never make it that long so if we need to dive into it in order for this to happen, we are ready and willing! If we don’t do this now and we lose Mia early, we will always regret it.
Will it be easy? No. Will we have bumps in the road? Of course. Will we likely visit hospitals in states we have never been to? Probably. Will it be worth it? YES!”
Wilson's

February 2018 UPDATE:  Bobby, Wendy, Nina, AnnaMay, Ella and Mia “crossed their wake” (completed the Loop) on June 16, 2017 and are planning to do it a second time!  The 4 girls are home schooled on the boat, augmented by “field trips” too numerous to list. The girls express an maturity many years beyond teir ages.  They care for each other, the care for everyone they meet.

What a blessing to have met the “Wilsons On The Water!”

Thursday (2/22)   Another marina filled with wonderful people!

Today’s activities were centered around getting the boat properly secured in the slip.DSC_2084 As we came in yesterday, the winds were howling and our effort was simply to get secured as quickly as possible, doubling available lines when necessary. Today those lines were replaced with longer, larger lines stowed in the engine room. We are leaving Loofah here for a week, unattended except for the watchful eye of an outstanding marina staff and fellow mariners.

The word was passed down the pier that there was to be a staff appreciation potluck Photo Feb 22, 5 44 11 PMthis evening at 5:00 which necessitated a bicycle ride to Publix’s for some ingredients.

It was great to catch up with Jim and Mandy of “Shell Belle.” Since we last saw them in Green Turtle Bay early in October, they had become grandparents!

We sat down next to Wayne, who was by himself.  We were drawn to him as he was wearing a t-shirt with “Narraganset, Rhode Island” on it, an area we know and enjoy.  Later in the conversation, when he mentioned that his wife died two years ago, Art responded, “I’m sorry.”

Wayne smiled, “Well, actually she never liked boating.  Now I, once again, have a sailboat!”  He sailed a Flying Duchman early in his life and is now back on the water in a trailerable, well ballasted, McGregor 27 which he has been sailing round Marco Island.

Loofah’s crew again realized how lucky we are to enjoy a common love for the sea.

When Art went back to freshen our docktails, a family from Norway was walking past the boat and enquired if we were living on it.  They were fascinated by the idea of “Looping.”  Art mentioned visiting daughter Ellen and family in Stockholm, and our hope to visit Norway’s fjords on our next trip.Photo Feb 22, 7 26 47 PM

Art noticed a gentleman standing back a bit, also listening.  As the family departed, he stepped forward and said that he could help hearing that we were from Des Moines.  He had gone to school there:  Dr. Carl received his medical degree from Des Moines University.  As Art had served as a DMU Trustee there was an immediate bond.  Carl, immediate Past Commodore of the St. Charles Yacht Club in Fort Myers, was at Faro Blanco with a cruising group.

Over dinner we got to meet Lucy and John, here on a new power catamaran.  Their names will likely appear on the Ship’s Log in the future as we enjoyed each other’s company to the extent that we hope to visit them in Freeport!

But the real opportunity of the day was to meet “The Wilsons On The Water!”  Their story could be a book.  Tomorrow’s post will share just a portion of it.

It was another wonderful night on the Loop!

Wednesday (2/21) An “SBD” crossing to the Keys

Since our arrival in Tarpon Springs on December 15, we have enjoyed the past two months on Florida’s Gulf Coast. As we departed from Naples this morning, it was hard to believe that a leg we had look so forward to, was ending.

We have enjoyed seeing family and friends on this leg; having them aboard, visiting them in their homes, enjoying meals with them in a variety of places ashore, seeing familiar haunts, and exploring new ones.  We were a bit melancholy as we realized that this evening it is likely Loofah will reach the southernmost Latitude (24⁰ 42’ N) she will experience during the Loop.  She’ll be heading north from here.

marathon-e1519317644215.jpgToday our float plan was to head south 110 miles to Marathon, on the Florida Keys.  We have been watching the weather for the last several days. There has been a front moving through the area that generated small craft warnings for the past several days.  Today’s forecast downgraded the warning to “small craft should exercise caution;” winds 15-20 mph, waves 3’ to 5’.  Another forecast had the waves 2’-3.’  As our course was relatively close to shore, and the winds were coming from ESE, we anticipated experiencing waves in the lower range.

It was a sunny day as we departed Naples, passed Marco Island, and headed south.  The east were in the 1’-2’ range and the winds about 15 mph.  That changed, as we had anticipated, when we got south of Everglades City.  It appeared the waves were 3’-5’ and the winds 15-20 mph.

Every so often a “roller” (an abnormally large wave) is generated.  Loofah took it off the port bow. Salt spray covered he boat, although no water came over the bow.  An alarm on the starboard chartplotter notified us that it had lost communications with the port, master chartplotter. The windshield wipers stopped working and the VHF radio was dead.  Art took a deep breath and brought the boat down to just maintaining steerage.

We always run a Garman Map 76c handheld GPS in addition to our Raymarine system, and carry a fully charged Standard Horizon handheld VFH within reach of the hem.  Art, a Navy OCS graduate, had plotted our desired course on a Maptech paper chart on which he occasionally plots a position when we are cruising off shore. We knew where we were. Sue went below to get a Garmin GPSMAP 500 as it has a larger screen.  While she was getting it set up. Art took turned off all the navigational equipment and the breakers at the helm.  The breakers were reset, and the navigational gear restarted.  All systems responded nominally!  We were back in business.

Once again, having a “Plan B” paid off.  Although we didn’t have to use it, knowing we had redundant systems ready to go, we could remain calm and systematically work though the issues.

Heavy “spray” increasingly came off the bow.  We were both at the helm keeping our eye out for the numerous little buoys attached to crab traps. Then the starboard windshield wiper in front of the helm slammed off the window to starboard. Broken. Sue went to port to maintain a lookout.  The wind generally cleared the spray in a small area in the upper right portion of the starboard windshield through which Art could see.  “Pots left, clear; pot ahead, steer right; pots right, clear.” It was teamwork at its best!  Look out Plan B.

As we approached the marina the waves subsided enough to take a rag with fresh water to the windshield. We radioed the marina, negative contact.  Sue used the cell phone; Plan B.  Immediate response.

We fueled up.  Our estimated fuel in reserve was just as calculated.  dsc_2065.jpgThe marina crew inquired about the conditions we had experienced, noting there had been reports of waves to 7’ and winds gusting above 30 kts.

Our previous 175-mile crossing from Carrabelle to Tarpon Springs was a “No Big Deal” crossing (NBD).  We classified this one as an SBD… a Semi-Big Deal!  Although we were close, we never had to implement a Plan B.  Nevertheless, our flag, tattered during the passage, best tells the story!

Tuesday (2/20) An honor to be included!

The day was spent preparing for tomorrow’s cruise and beyond.  There were additional charts to be secured at West Marine, groceries and other supplies to obtained, and a trip to return the car to Enterprise.  There was even time for Sue to find a new outfit for our upcoming trip to Antigua with the family.

Photo Feb 20, 6 19 15 PMReturning to the boat, we got a call from Jim with whom we spoke at the boat show and from whom we purchased Loofah.  He and Jean wondered if we would like to join them for a cocktail at their place to watch the sunset, followed by dinner.

We didn’t know it until we walked in the door and saw Jim, Jean, two other couples, and a “Happy Birthday, Jim” frosted cake on the kitchen island!  We were surprised and absolutely honored to be included!Photo Feb 20, 10 03 36 PM

It was another magnificent sunset, enjoyed from their condominium on the 12th floor. The eight of us enjoyed a short walk to the MiraMare Ristorante on Venetian Bay, after which we returned to Jim and Jean’s for birthday cake.

There could have been no better way to have capped off our time in Naples!

Happy Birthday, Jim!  Thank you for including us.

Monday (2/19) “Comradery: the warm feelings of friendship, closeness and loyalty shared among a group or people or a team of people…”

Daughter Ellen called this morning from Stockholm.  What a MARVELOUS way to start the day and week!  There is always much to discuss!

After her call, we spent some time reviewing the splendid time we had last evening with Sandy and Bob (“Karine”) at “C.J.’s” on Marco Island. They have a boat identical to Loofah III and have already completed the Loop.  Sandy, Bob, and their service dog Rudy, also took the Canadian canals through Montreal and Ottawa, which we anticipate doing, so we were anxious to learn from their experiences. What a marvelous resource!

Photo Feb 18, 6 17 10 PMSandy is know to many Loopers through her posts on the American Great Loop Cruising Association’s forum. Sandy admits that she can come across as being a bit “direct;” some AGLCA members reading this, may agree. Please read on.

In addition to “knowing” them through the forum, Sandy and Art have exchanged emails. We just missed each other on the Prestige piers in Miami, so we were looking forward to finally meeting Sandy and Bob, face-to-face.

Absolutely delightful people!

Sandy’s father was directly involved with the early design and development of Raymarine’s radar system; she has boating in her blood and knows a good deal about it.

We were talking about the activities of today’s busy young families and the fact that they infrequently include boating.  Sandy shared a story, that paralleled Art’s experience so closely, it was almost frigthening.

As a youngster, the Sunday agenda was church followed by boating.  On the way home to change into boating attire, there was an intersection where fresh rolls were available on one side of the car, and the Sunday New York Times on the other.  The rolls were turned into sandwiches for the boat, and after a quick change, the balance of the day was spent on the water; Sandy at the helm, her father and brother fishing aft, while her mother read the Times. Art’s Sundays, after church in Oshkosh, WI., were spent in a small boat (“Fun Tub”) on Lake Winnebago and the Fox River chain, with his mother, father and sister.

Bob is a second-generation home builder in Connecticut. Their two daughters handle operations while Bob and Sandy are away.  Their experiences resonated with Art’s experience in a closely-held, third generation construction firm, and Sue’s experiences of being a women, working with the construction trades.

The time went quickly. As we departed, we all agreeded that there is a certain comradery among people who experience the water and seas. Tonight we experienced it. It is too bad that more young families don’t have an opportunity to do so.

Off to work on the teak…

Sunday (2/18) “IF”

It’s another beautiful, temperate (73 degree), cloudless day in “Nirvana.” Another “pinch me Sunday.” Over bacon and eggs on the aft deck, we continued to reflect upon last Sunday’s phase, “this too will pass.”

Last week, as we were completing the research for last Sunday’s post, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF” was referenced.  Today it was time to follow that string. *

“Rudyard Kipling was a particularly fascinating figure in the literary world. A product of one of the greatest empires in history – he was born in India, the ‘jewel in the Crown’ of the British Empire – Kipling traveled widely throughout his country’s colonial holdings in Asia and Africa, and his observations informed his writings. He authored many short stories and poems during his life, and many involved the politics and geographies he witnessed during his travels.

“As a child of the Empire, Kipling brought to his prose a perspective seldom seen today. He experienced many of life’s travails as well as it victories. The travails he experienced included the trauma of family separation when, as a child, he and his sisters were sent back to England for schooling, during which time he was bullied and abused. As an adult, he experienced the loss of a beloved child, his daughter Josephine, to illness and his son John to wounds sustained in combat during the Great War. As an adult, however, Kipling if1-e1518988398630.jpgwalked with some of the giants of the contemporary British Establishment, including industrialist Cecil Rhodes (of Rhodes Scholar and imperialist fame). The totality of his learned existence was perhaps best reflected in his poem, ‘If.’ A manual of sorts on how to grow and mature as a male in the often-emotionless world of Victorian British Society.”

“If” is just is just 30 lines of iambic pentameter. Lines 11-12 and 29-30 read:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same:”

The wonderful times (“Triumphs”) inevitably fade, and “Disasters” seem to work themselves out. The challenge is to manage to meet with both success and misfortune same way, knowing that “this too will pass.”

Art’s maternal grandfather, whose formal education was limited by family circumstances, was an avid reader. He built a library of classics, poetry, biography and history, many volumes of which made the move from our home into our “library,” one of the two bedrooms in our condominium.  We can now see why Kipling’s works are among them.

We don’t need to wait until we get home; they are available online. So, why do we have a bedroom (with just a pull-out sofa bed) dedicated to books?  Because, for some reason, we feel great surrounded by the wisdom between those covers. Maybe we can get it by osmosis!

*  reference: www.enotes.com

Saturday (2/17) “Holy cow!”

Des Moines is the home of the Chicago Cubs AAA franchise.  And, anyone that knows anything about the Cubbies, immediately thinks of the late Harry Caray, famous for his frequently exclaimed catchphrase “Holy Cow!” when his team hit a home run or turned a difficult play on field. “He trained himself to use this expression to avoid any chance of accidentally using profanity on the air.”DSC_2035

Our mission for the day was a drive from Naples to join the thousand other boaters at the Miami International Boat Show and the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, and the Miami Yacht Show on Miami Beach’s Collins Avenue.dsc_20391.jpg

When we first approached the network of floating piers corralling over 700 boats, the expression that immediately came to mind was Caray’s, “Holy Cow!”

It was a great day of kicking off the deck shoes and seeing, first-hand, boats we had only seen before on the internet.

As we had some time between leaving the “Boat Show”, and a post-closing cocktail party at the Prestige display at the “Yacht Show,” we took the opportunity to visit the “Absolute” display.  We were greeted at the welcome desk and introduced shortly to their representative in the Chicago area, Sean Owen.  It turns out that Sean’s mother-in-law lives in Des Moines, where he and his family go for Thanksgiving and Christmas (it’s closer than Toronto, Sean’s home).  If that coincidence was not enough, while we were talking on a boat about service in Milwaukee, he got a call from Darin Stein at CenterPointe (Milwaukee) who has served us (and Loofah III) well.  Sean immediately returned a “selfie” of the three of us.  Unbelievable!dsc_20441.jpg

Another real delight of the day was meeting our friends, Kyle, Jim, and the others from Spring Brook Marina in Seneca, Illinois, from whom we purchased Loofah.  Prestige had magnificent display at the yacht show and hosted Prestige owners at a magnificent post-close cocktail party on their piers.  It was wonderful seeing old friends, and making new ones, Margarite Mitchell (marketing director) and Olivia Schleicher (communications specialist) for Prestige, with whom Sue had exchanged emails.DSC_2045

We were also honored to be introduced to the head of Jeanneau North America’s operations, Nick Harvey as well as Jean-Paul Chapeleau, CEO Jeanneau/Prestige Yachts from France.DSC_2053

Before we departed the pier, we went onboard the Prestige 680 S, making its North American Premiere.

Take a look at the 680 https://www.prestige-yachts.com/en-us/yachts/3-yachts-division/53-prestige-680-s.  The difference with the “S” or sport edition, is that the fly bridge has been moved aft to make available space for an opening sun roof in the salon!  Beautiful!DSC_2049

Our drive back to Naples was filled with thoughts and dialog!

Friday (2/16) “Yes, Virginia, there is a …”

It was a great day for Sue to take advantage of a few lovely clothing stores available in Naples and for Art to start the process of renewing the teak decks on Loofah.  Boats love attention.

The highlight of the day, and certainly one of the trip, was our visit to the Naples home of friends from Des Moines, Linda and Tom.  We were invited to join them on their deck overlooking the Gulf, prior to sunset.

We had gotten delayed and under the pressure of time, Art forgot (think of that) his cell phone with directions to their home.  We knew landmarks from which to work; we just couldn’t find the landmarks!  As we went back on forth on streets that we knew were close (but not theirs), the sun was getting lower, as was the car’s throttle!

Finally, there home was in sight!  We were warmly greeted and immediately went to the upper deck to enjoy the view of an absolutely clear sky and brilliant sun.

The “green flash” is an optical phenomenon that sometimes occur just after sunset. When the conditions are just right, a green spot is visible above the upper rim of the Sun’s disk. The green appearance usually lasts for no more than a second or two. Green flashes occur because sometimes the atmosphere is just so that it causes the light from the sun to separate out into different colors.

We have seen many sunsets, and even thought that we may have seen the green flash.  Just as some may doubt the existence of Santa, as did Virginia, tonight we really saw it!  Yes, Virginia, there is a green flash!  And, Tom and Linda’s home is as gorgeous as the sunset.

But that was just the start of a lovely evening, as we shared stories and experiences over dinner at M Waterfront Grille.  Both Linda and Sue grew upon the East side of Des Moines, Tom’s firm has employed both Sue’s father and brother, and his firm just acquired a large facility Art’s firm built.

Although our residences in Des Moines are now separated by just one floor, it took a trip to Naples to find a time when we could break bread together.  Thank you, Tom and Linda, for your delicious hors d’oeurves, hospitality and the time we shared.

Thursday (2/15)

Today is Jennifer’s Birthday!  It is times like these that it is hard to be separated from family.  Happy Birthday Jenn.  We look forward to celebrating shortly!

As we were leaving our lunch last Saturday, Thom and Vicki were thoughtful enough to invite us to for a cocktail at their condominium before dinner on the beach.  Thom provided the code for their gate and building, and we cruised right through. After renting in the Regatta complex, they purchased a three-bedroom, corner unit overlooking the pool and terrace area.

The lighted and enjoyable conversation started where we last left off!  Before we knew it, it was time to walk down Vanderbilt Beach for dinner at Turtle Club.  When they mentioned “dinner on the beach,” they meant it!  We were literally under an umbrella on the sand, with the Gulf waves lapping up on the beach less than 100 yards to the west.

As we were waiting to be seated, Gordy (a fraternity brother of Art’s, and former neighbor in Des Moines) walked up to us.  As we were talking, Scott, the co-founder of Templeton Rye Whiskey, a family recipe made famous by his Grandfather during prohibition, came up with his wife, Jessica.  It was another Des Moines reunion.

A “Looper’s bedtime” is normally 9:00 PM at the latest.  It was just after midnight when we boarded Loofah!  Nothing more needs to se said!

Wednesday (2/14) A church meeting at lunch and a rose at dinner!

When we became members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Des Moines, we joined the “Social Club,” a more senior group of individuals within the church that enjoy times together, both locally and during other travels.  A subgroup had visited us on Loofah for lunch in Milwaukee.  Today we were meeting for lunch on the terrace of the Baleen Restaurant overlooking the Gulf on Vanderbilt Beach.Photo Feb 14, 12 10 20 PM

Jim, Ron, Dennis and Karen were in Fort Myers and drove down for lunch.  It was wonderful to get the latest news regarding church members and the work of the Church Council and the St. John’s Foundation.  By no means was the discussion centered entirely around ecclesiastical issues, but we do feel that it was sufficient to send the bill to the Foundation for the work accomplished!

As it was Valentines Day, Art had secured a late dinner reservation at “1500 South” a short walk around the harbor from us.  Although we found the food, drink, and vocalist excellent, we found the company even better.  With red rose in hand, Loofahs crew returned to the boat a starlight sky.

Tuesday (2/13) The Vagabonds!

Our time in Fort Myers flew by, to the extent that we didn’t get to the Edison and Ford Summer Estates before the boat had to head south. Today we headed north to correct that omission.

DSC_2031Art and a classmate in 6th grade, Penny, did a group report on Thomas Edison.  Since that time, Edison has been a favorite!DSC_2024

We spent the major portion of the day touring their summer homes, located adjacent to one another on the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers.DSC_2018

Henry Ford was an employee of the Edison Illuminating Company when Edison recognized his ability.  Edison became Ford’s mentor for life.  They developed an extremely close relationship with Harvey Firestone, Edison spending a great deal of effort trying to develop a local source of rubber.DSC_2019

In addition to the exhibits, pictures, labs, and residences, we particularly enjoyed viewing a short film on the camping vacations of the “Vagabonds.”  The group was made up of Edison, Ford, Firestone and John Burroughs, a naturalist, writer, and poet.dsc_20151.jpg

Maybe after the loop we’ll do some “camping,” but without the three-piece suits!

Loopers, this is another stop not to be missed!

Monday (2/21)  “Up, Up and Away!”

Today while Sue stretched her legs with the morning walk, Art stretched his by riding to the Enterprise office to get a car for our stay in Naples.  With proper wheels, we accomplished a list of errands, including shopping at Waterside Mall where we had lunch at True Food Kitchen.

parachute.jpgDigressing. On birthdays 80, 85 and 90, former President George H. W. Bush celebrated by skydiving and hanging under a parachute.

One of the pleasures on the Loop thus far was to greet Art’s brother-in-law in Fort Myers, on his way to celebrate a birthday at the South Seas Resort on Captiva.  We smiled today as we got a picture of celebration under another colorful canopy, complete with a high altitude “fist bump.”

Sunday (2/11)  Another “Bacon and Eggs Sunday”

The weeks seem to fly by.  It is hard to believe that it is another “Bacon and Eggs Sunday.”

As we enjoyed breakfast on the aft deck, watching the boats head out the channel of this beautiful place, Sue said, “Pinch me.” Every so often we share this phrase to confirm the experience we are sharing at the time is not just a dream.  Although unspoken, it also rekindles in our minds the phrase, “This too will pass.”

As Sundays are our time for reflection, refreshment, reading and research, we spent some time investigating the origin of this phrase. As in many circumstances, it appears that there is not one definitive answer. A common belief (as was ours) is that the verse comes Paul’s’ letter to the church in Corinth included in the Bible. One translation includes the phrase, “For the things we see now will soon be gone…”

There seems to be some consensus that “the quote finds its roots in the court of a powerful eastern Persian ruler who called his sages to him (in about 1200 AD), including the Sufi poet Attar of Nishapur, and asked them for one quote that would be accurate at all times and in all situations. The wise men consulted with one another, and threw themselves into deep contemplation, and finally came up with the answer … “this too, shall pass”.

We love the quote as it is a prudent reminder that Photo Feb 15, 10 41 07 AMregardless of how the serendipity of life has dealt with us, it will soon pass.  Enjoy the good times understanding that they are transient. During tough times, it is comforting to believe these times will also pass.

Still comtemplating, we got in the dinghy and toured the neighborhood.  For lunch we stopped at the Tin City and saw some of the work that still needs to be accomplished in Irma’s wake!

Saturday (2/10) Crystal Clear Water!  Des Moines, not Naples…

Crystal Clear WaterSue is very easy going about most everything but has a very discerning taste when it comes to water.  When we are in Des Moines we get 5-gallon carboys of Crystal Clear Water, and only Crystal Clear!  In fact, when Loofah III is in homeport, we haul carboys of the stuff between Des Moines and Milwaukee.  So, there had to be an emergency 5-gallons stored onboard before we departed Milwaukee on the Loop.dsc_1996.jpg

Today, when Thom and Vicki (friends our ours from Des Moines and another guy in Art’s breakfast club) came aboard, they immediately saw a familiar sight!  Crystal Clear is Thom’s company, that his son is now operating.

DSC_1998It was Saturday, not a business day, we were on vacation, so we broke out Bloody Marys onboard before having lunch at Alice Sweetwater’s, a great little place in Naples.

If we do nothing more in Naples, our time with Vicki and Thom was worth the week here!

Friday (2/9)  Moving Day!

hah-bday.jpgLast night we received a text message from Art’s brother-in-law that indicated that he opened his birthday present a bit early and was quickly adapting to Island life on Captiva! Its a great place to recharge the batteries.

ft-myers-naples.jpgAfter a marvelous week in the Fort Myers area, it was time to move on south.  After returning the car to Enterprise, we cast off about 11:30.  Today’s destination: Naples, just over 50 miles south.

The seas on the Gulf were forecast at 2′ to 3′ but other that the wakes generated by other boats, Loofah never experienced more than 1′.  The boat is moored in the Marina at Naples Bay Resort.dsc_1994.jpg

This evening we kicked back, put some chicken on the barbeque and enjoyed watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.

We already love Naples!

Thursday (2/8)  A double-header!

Last night when we were at Karla’s, Art received a text from his sister, Muffy, that she and Henry had arrived safely in Fort Myers from frigid Des Moines.  They were spending the night in Fort Myers before heading to Captiva and the South Seas Island Resort.

They came aboard Loofah this morning for coffee.  There was much to discuss and it was also a chance for an early celebration of Henry’s birthday!  One of the things we miss most as we continue on the Loop, is being separated from family.  Typically, after church on Sunday we have brunch with Muffy and Henry.  We miss those times and this morning’s conversation and update was badly needed!

Photo Feb 08, 5 51 17 PMToday was a double-header!  Not only did we get to see Muffy and Henry, we also had a dinner date with our friends from Milwaukee, Mary Ann & Paul.  They had visited us last week in Captiva, and now we were going to get to see their Florida retreat at the Lexington Country Club.

After hors d’oeurves, a libation, and a tour of their beautiful abode, Paul and Mary Ann hosted us at their Club, photo-feb-08-7-48-28-pm.jpgwhere we topped off the evening with port in the lounge.  It is a delight to be with people with whom you agree on so many issues, at so many levels.

As we drove home, we remarked how wonderful this time in Fort Myers has been and how blessed we have been to share time with family, Victor & Wendy , Karla & Hanny, and Mary Ann & Paul!

Tomorrow Loofah will proceed on south.

Wednesday (2/7)  An evening with the Vagabond Poet!

Art likes to circulate and heat up the oil in the engines before he pumps it out for an oil change. So following breakfast and the morning correspondence, we look Loofah of for some exercise.  Returning to the marina, Art connected the Jabsco oil pump to the drain tube on the starboard engine and pumped five gallons of oil out into an empty 5-gallon bucket.  A bucket of fresh oil was slid into place and the pump reversed, filling the engine.  It worked slick.  The oil and filters on both engines were replaced and the old oil was taken to the City Marina for recycling.

dsc_1965.jpgEvery day the US postal service scans the mail sent to our Des Moines condo and emails the images to Sue.  Every so often, one of our children puts a together a parcel of the important items and ships it to our marina.  Today was mail call!

But today was a special day for us. One of the primary reasons for our stop in Fort Myers was to visit with Karla Linn Merrifield. We met Karla, and her late husband Roger, on a 2013 safari in Africa.  Roger was dealing with cancer at the time. He used a dsc_1972.jpgbeautifully carved walking stick given to him by the tour company, Micato. Despite his challenges, he never said a discouraging word.  He had a wonderful sense of humor. It was clear that he had a love for life and Karla; and she did for him. Karla is a published poet.  They were a couple you felt good to be around!  And we spent as much time with them as we could.

It had been 5 years since we last hugged Karla, but when we saw her tonight there was a special feeling.  Although Roger died last July, he was clearly present.

Karla had prepared dinner for us, and her close friend Hanny,(the wife of a poetry professor with whom Karla had studied) who was visiting from Brockport, NY, located on the Erie Canal.  The time went too quickly.

It was a special evening and  we look forward to the next time we are able to spend time with the “Vagabond Poet.”  http://karlalinn.blogspot.com/

Tuesday (2/6)  Lost at sea?  No on land!

One of our daily pleasures is exchanging emails and text messages with others on the Loop.  Today the traffic was heavy.  Bev (“Seaquest”) provided us some great information about the Faro Blanco Marina and the Marathon area in the Florida Keys. Bill and Bobby (“First Forty”) reported in from Marco Island and “Ned Pepper” said they were in Fort Lauderdale awaiting a weather window for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

In addition to catching up with friends here in Fort Myers, we need a couple of days to reprovision and to preform maintenance on Loofah.  The shopping and “to do” lists were growing!

IMG_3696After breakfast, we deferred Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s offer to pick us up at the marina, in favor of getting a bit of exercise.  Sue had mapped it out; it was a 1.7-mile hike. It was a beautiful day, all was going well, until Sue stopped in her tracks at an intersection of several diverging streets.  “Siri” to the rescue.

With wheels secured, we spent the day with trips to West Marine to get proper flag clips for our replacement AGLCA burgee, NAPA Auto Parts for 12 gallons of oil, and Publix for a heaping cart full of groceries.

Monday (2/5)  A rough day ends well!

Reportedly, the day after the Super Bowl has the years highest rate of absenteeism.  The crew of Loofah was also a bit slow reporting this morning.

EaglesLast night it was apparent from the occasional cheers coming from other boats throughout the marina, and the adjacent Tiki Bar, the Eagles were the preferred team.  It was also clear it was the preferred team of NBC’s color commentator, Chris Collingsworth, which finally got to Art.  Art had to seek asylum at the Tiki Bar where he found, unlike on Loofah, a very pro-Philadelphia, anti-Collingsworth, contingent.  The poor chap (Art that is) was up all night watching ESPN rerun of the highlights, and tweeting NBC about their one-sided coverage.  He was a bit ragged this morning.

But today there is work to be done.  Like all things mechanical, Loofah’s two Volvo diesel engines require routine maintenance every two hundred hours, which we have logged such since leaving Chicago.  In addition to inspections and filters, it involves changing the oil, 5.3 gal of 15W40, in each engine.  This is much more easily accomplished if the oil comes in 5-gallon buckets, which were finally located at a NAPA auto parts store across the bridge.  We will get it tomorrow when we rent a car for the balance of the week.

Monday is also “wash day.”  Fortunately, Legacy Harbour has a number of washers and dryers.  Unfortunately, a number of people wanted to use them, so the process took a bit longer today.

DOWBut, that was OK as Art was glued to the TV, watching the stock ticker on CNBC as the DOW tanked nearly 1600 points during late trading, ending down 1175 points!  At one point, Sue had to coax him down from Loofah’s roof where he was holding the anchor, chain wrapped around his waist, ready to jump!

But today was not a complete loss.  After a shave, and long hot shower ashore with a loofah sponge, Art was “rejuvenated.”

file-feb-06-6-54-24-am.jpegToday while Art was searching for oil, Sue was searching for a dinner place.  And she came up with a wonderful venue, The Firestone.

Art’s construction company had a division that did millwright work at industrial plants.  Des Moines has two large tire building plants: Firestone and Armstrong (now Bridgestone and Titan).  Early in his construction career, Art worked Christmas shut-downs in both plants as a member of Local Union 177 (the International Brotherhood of Common Building Laborers and Hod Carriers).File Feb 06, 6 55 23 AM

Many memories came back to Art as we sat among tires, running around us on a chain conveyor, in an industrial building where even the clerestory glass looked distressed. We enjoyed marvelous salads, flat breads, and key lime pie.

It was a great way to finish this day on the Loop.

Sunday (2/4)  Sue enjoys art, but it wanes!

DSC_1952It is a special marina that organizes a full-fledged, juried Art Fair, with over 200 exhibitors for Loofah’s crew to enjoy.  But that is exactly what happened today!  It was bacon and eggs day, and our day for reflection and study, so we had a late start.  But shortly after noon, we left for the art fair.

One of the early displays we visited was that of photographer Darren Olson. There, hanging on the sidewall of Olson’s tent, was a three panel triptych of Portofino, Italy. The harbor at Portofino probably appears on DSC_1953more travel brochures than any other photograph in the world.  But this place has special memories for us and this piece of art, on a “photo gloss canvass [that] has unmatched color and tonality,” caught Sue’s eye.  After pausing, we went on.  One in 5 applications are approved for this exhibition; 39 states are represented.  There was much to be seen.

DSC_1955We broke for a very late lunch, walking back downtown.  Fort Myers “River District” is an enjoyable area filled with restaurants (like Fords Garage), art stores and boutiques.  On the way back to the boat, to enjoy a Sunday afternoon nap before the Super Bowl, we made another stop to talk with Darren and to take another look at Portofino.  Brochure and card in hand, we returned to Loofah.DSC_1963

Back on Loofah it became clear, it could be an ugly night on Loofah.  There seems to be some derision among the crew regarding tonight’s game! Apparently Sue’s appreciation of Art has waned! There is money on the table!  Go …!

Saturday (2/3)  Bleeding Blue!

Without a doubt, the high point of our day today was a late lunch at the “Fords Garage.”

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Our car aficionado and PR friend, Joe, mentioned the place yesterday as we were departing the South Seas Marina as a fun place to dine.  Boy, was he right.

The napkins are rolled shop towels secured by a hose clamp.  The onion rings are served on inverted flexible neck oil funnels.  DSC_1945The burgers come with a Ford logo on the bun.  The serving station at the bar is a Craftsman tool chest.

But what made the experience special was the young couple that sat next to Art, Ryan and Chelsea.

The conversation began when Art complemented Ryan on his Duke (“Prussian”) Blue t-shirt, and added that his niece, Abby, attended Duke.

Ryan and Chelsea stopped by the Ford Garage for lunch and to watch the Duke, St. John’s basketball game, on the way to visit the Art Fair next to the marina.  Although a graduate of UC, Ryan clearly bleeds Blue!

It was not pretty. St. John’s outscored the Blue Devils 32-14 in the first 12 minutes of the second half to take an 11-point lead. Duke had a late offensive surge to take a one-point lead with 1:34 remaining, but Shamorie Ponds (33 points) fired off five straight points, and St. John’s held on in the final seconds for a four-point win, 81 to 77.

RDSC_1948yan was in a public place and acted as a true gentleman throughout, although it was clear that he might require care from the lady to his left, a nurse with a cardiac background.  A gentleman sitting around the bar even came over to console Ryan when the Blue Devils were 11 points down.

Setting the game aside, it was a pleasure to talk with young people who clearly appreciated each other, had missions in life, were enthusiastic and positive, polite, not afraid of working, were enjoying life, and complementing each other as they work through the challenges of life.

It was a shot in the arm for us!

Tonight, as we relax with soup, salad, and a Netflix movie onboard Loofah, we do so with a smile…

America is in good hands with young people like Ryan and Chelsea.

Friday (2/2)  Before moving on, friends to see, meet, and unfortunately, miss.

DSC_1924It’s time to leave the beautiful South Seas Resort and Marina, a place that has provided many wonderful moments over the years, and head south 31 miles to Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Meyers.

Our morning started with Carol & Dave stopping by with coffee in hand, for some final time together before we went our separate ways.  It is hard to explain how, over a period of just a couple days, such a strong friendship can develop between two couples that had never before met.  Had they not been involved with a scheduled golf outing, we might still be talking! We shared hugs and can’t wait to see them again in Williamsburg.

cleat-hand1As Carol & Dave were leaving the boat Gary, the Captain of a 390 Sea Ray located on an adjacent wall, approached us offering the use of a cleaver handle/cleat. Gary noticed Carol, who has recently had a knee replaced, stepping down to Loofah III this morning and thought the “Hand-EE-Cleat,” pictured here from their website (www.handeecleat.com), might be of assistance, since Loofah was experiencing a very low tide at the time.  It was a great help to all of us and Art has one on order!  This is just another example about members of the boating community taking care of each other.Camerons

Gail joined us and conversation about the Loop as well as their boating experiences ensued. They were aware of the Loop and have thought about doing it.  Gail and Gary:  Now is the time; “just do it!”

As we were preparing for our departure, Joe & Phyllis, on a Sea Ray Sundancer 420 across the pier from Loofah, offered to assist with our lines when we were ready to cast off. dsc_1913.jpg

We first talked to Joe the day before noting he was wearing a Ford GT hat and shirt.  As it turns out, before co-founding one of Florida’s largest PR firms, he was a member of a Ford racing team in the Chicago area. He now has a garage full of muscle cars, including one of these Dodge Challenger SRT Demons. (Power: 840 hp; top speed 168 mph; 0 to 60: 2.3-2.6).  Having been through the Richard Petty driving school experience at the Chicago Speedway, Sue was clearly engaged.  Next September will Loofah, be replaced by a Demon?DSC_1915

As our conversation continued Phyllis gave us some local knowledge of the Fort Myers and Marathon areas, and a AAA map for Fort Myers, today’s destination.  It was hard to depart.Loofah So Seas 1

As we did so, Sue received a text message from Julie & Don, “SHIIP” volunteers from Des Moines who were in the area for a long weekend.dsc_1906.jpg The “Senior Health Insurance Information LoofahProgram” is the initiative from which Sue retired in August.  (Her “retirement” party was captioned “jumping from SHIIP to ship.”) The text included a picture of Loofah III taken as they were departing the marina earlier in the morning, aboard Lady Chadwick. From the picture, it was taken when Art was talking with Gary on the pier!   So close, Julie, yet so far!

Arriving in Fort Meyers, we fueled up and pump out at the City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin.  We then got secured in a slip, and washed the days salt off Loofah at Legacy Harbour Marina, Fort Myers.

This evening we had a special dinner with Wendy & Victor from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Sue received an email a few weeks ago that they would be in the Fort Myers area for a long weekend, fleeing the Illinois cold, and investigating real estate on Florida’s Gulf coast. dsc_1938.jpgWe met Wendy & Victor in June 2016 at a Prestige Rendezvous in South Haven, Michigan. Wendy & Sue have stayed in touch by emails hoping for a meeting on Lake Michigan, but it wasn’t until tonight, 2 years later, when we would meet again aboard Loofah III. Wendy, a self-proclaimed Type-A person, has been closely following our blog and was interested in drilling down into the nitty-gritty of Looping and our experiences on the sister ship of their boat. Victor spent a summer in Des Moines, clerking at the Davis Brown law firm for John Shors, a fellow member with Art, of a Des Moines investment club. It was a memorable evening reconnecting with friends, getting the latest news on Spring Brook Marina (from which we both purchased our boats) and listening to what may lie ahead for the two of them.

More to ponder!

Thursday (2/1) “Quit whining Wittmack!”

Art spent the morning responding to texts and emails dealing with his recent posts on groundings due to low of tides.

A fellow sailor of ours, who spends his summers in Maine, wrote: “Get off it!  The high tide predicated in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, this morning was +11.2’; the low tide, -1.9’; a swing of 12.1’. Quit whining about a swing of under 3 feet!”

Aground PGOK; point made. BUT, down here the margin for error is small. Further, some marinas seem to overstate the depth of water available at MLLW (Mean Low Low Water) at their slips. We will not mention names, but this grounding happened earlier in the week, at a marina where we stayed recently. Our experience was the depths in our slip did not correlate to the predicated tidal variation. We feel fortunate to have departed when we did.

Grounding FMThere were also two groundings of commercial barges, widely reported by the local media, at Fort Myers Beach.

Down here, in these waters, an unanticipated swing of just an additional foot can lead to a grounding since the MLLW is frequently just 4’ to 5’.

Hopefully, this morning’s work will help Art get through his embarrassment of spending a lunch last week, “in the absence of sufficient water.”

golf-ss.jpgThe balance of our last day here in paradise was spent on a little 9-hole, par-3 golf course across DSC_1911the street from the marina, relaxing in a pool, and a quiet dinner at the Harbourside Bar & Grill.

Tomorrow we head just a few miles south where we will come to the end of the GICW at Fort Myers.

Wednesday (1/31)  Old friends, new friends, friends we have yet to meet!

Each morning over breakfast, we check the daily news from Des Moines, emails, text messages, Facebook, and various blogs.  Among other responsibilities, Sue is the Ship’s Communications Officer, sharing information with Loopers both ahead and behind us.  Sylvie & Luc (“Little Hide a Way”) are already in the Bahamas;  “Ned Pepper” and “Seaquest” are staged in Fort Lauderdale waiting for a window to cross the Gulf Stream.  Some of our Canadian friends are approaching the end of their six-month period in the US, having to “flee” for a period of time before returning to the Loop.  We look forward to complying with Canadian Customs next summer and will refrain from getting into a political debate about the treatment of those who follow immigration laws, and those who don’t.

Tom and Janine SarachA real treat this morning was a post on the  Prestige Facebook page from Tom Sarach, Jr. who posted some nice comments about our website.  Thanks, Tom!  We first heard from Tom in December when he introduced himself as the owner of a new Prestige 500 Fly and future Looper.

Tom, we look forward to meeting you and Janine in Virginia Beach, Art’s old stomping grounds when he was stationed at NAS Oceana.3 B's

And, John Bergantino, another friend we have yet to meet posted a note “Missed getting to meet you today at South Seas (no one on board when we stopped by). Headed out mid day to take advantage of the high tide.”  Sorry to have missed you, John. “Three B’s” is a beautiful craft!

dsc_1892.jpgToday we also got together with close friends from Milwaukee, Paul and Mary Ann. Their boat, “Queen Mary,” and “Loofah III” are both located in Milwaukee’s McKinley Marina. We have had the pleasure of sharing main delightful times together in Milwaukee and it was a real treat to be able to see them down here.  Paul and Mary Ann spend 4 months in Fort Meyers.  They picked us up for lunch and much needed conversation at The Mucky Duck.  We look forward to seeing their place when we are in Fort Meyers, as we are still looking at options following the Loop.

photo-jan-31-9-31-18-pm.jpgAfter lunch, as we were getting ready to enjoy one of the pools at South Seas, we engaged in conversation on the pier with Dave and Carol, who were here on a spur-of-the-moment getaway from Williamsburg, VA.  We spent some aboard Loofah, talking about her attributes, and the Loop.  Later, we bumped into them on the beach, just prior to sunset, and decided we needed more time for conversation.  They picked us up and we enjoyed dinner together Dock Ford’s.  We look forward to the possibility of seeing them when we are the the Norfolk area next Spring!

So it was a day of old friends, new friends, and friends we have yet to meet!

It was another great day on the Loop!

Tuesday (1/30) The “Super Blue Blood Moon” approacheth!

DSC_1868As is normally the case, Art rose with the sun.  This morning the unusually low tides being experienced were visible as some of the channel markers leading into the marina were actually sitting aground!  We would wait a few hours to depart.dsc_1870.jpg

Sue enjoyed a brisk walk on this beautiful island, ending up at Hudson’s Grocery to replenish the our ships stores. Art picked her up in the golf cart, adding another mode of transportation that has been used for securing groceries.  We checked out at the marina store, picking up a 2018 Waterways Guide to the Bahamas for future study.

DSC_1881With the tide coming in, we departed the beautiful Boca Grande Marina and headed south 17 miles to the South Seas Marina on the northern end of Captiva.  As soon as we were secured, we were greeted by a dolphin cruising at the entrance to our fairway.

dsc_1873.jpgAs we were finished washing the salt spray off Loofah, a woman stopped to chat about  Loofah and the Loop.  She, her husband, and a friend had arrived earlier from Fort Meyers.  They were awakened this morning when their berths tilted.  Their anchor had broken free, they went aground, the tide went out and the boat heeled over.  They waited for the tide to come in and were hauled off by SeaTow.

As we were talking about the tides, another passerby said, “Yep, all do to tomorrows Super Blue Blood Moon!”  Until then we knew nothing of that astronomical event. We will let those interested dig into the details of a “Super Moon,” a “Blue Moon,” and a “Blood Moon.” The last time all of these events occurred simultaneously in the Western hemisphere was 1866. What is important to us is that it accentuates tidal variations.A Tides

DSC_1886Loofah is in a marina protected from the continued high winds, and we have be assured it has plenty of water to survive tomorrows “Super Blue Blood Moon!”

The moon is nearly full and rising!

Will Art sleep tonight?

Monday (1/29)  “Cozy?” Not so much!

Early reports of a “cozy” night aboard were premature!

Well, maybe the night was cozy, but after midnight, things changed dramatically.  DSC_1847At  1:30 AM, Art, a light sleeper, felt a significant tug on the anchor rode.  The wind had shifted 90 degrees and was gusting to 31 mph.  We had two anchors deployed. He adjusted the lead on the secondary anchor to adjust to the conditions and decided to sleep up in the salon on “anchor watch.”  An hour later, according to reports, the rain fall was 1.3″ per hour!  In the morning we had 3.25″ in the a bucket on the back deck!

As it was a misty, blustery, foggy day, we chose to weigh anchor and head just 6 miles north to the Boca Grande Marina.  It was a great choice!dsc_1851.jpg

As we settled into the marina we were greeted by Chuck and Diane of “Bear” whom we had not seen since Demopolis, AL.  They are celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary today!  We will look forward to docktails with them in Fort Myers, as they have a date this evening!

dsc_1862.jpgWe rented a gulf car at the marina (the preferred mode of transportation on the island) to visit the “historic” and present light houses.  dsc_1859.jpg

The tourist guides suggest, as one of the “10 things you must do,” is to “Go to the old concrete jetty at the south end and pretend you’re at Stonehenge.”  It requires some imagination, but was fun.dsc_1855.jpg

We also did a little shopping in the quaint downtown area.

We parked the golf cart and headed back to Loofah, secure in a marina, on the lee side of an island.  A great choice!DSC_1866

Tonight we are putting on proper attire (“jackets for gentlemen and ladies apparel that should always be comparable to the gentleman”)  and heading for dinner at the Gasparilla Inn.  The-Gasparilla-Inn

We had last been here in March 2009 when we chartered a sailboat from Yachting Vacations at the Burnt Store Marina, with Steve, Erna and Gil.

IMG_3689It was a windy evening, a bit of chill in the air.  It was a good night to bundle up on the way home!

Charlotte Harbor is one of our favorite cruising grounds in the entire world!

Sunday (1/28)  Call Uber!

A beautiful sunrise, anchored in a quiet cove, watching a frolicking dolphin; what better way could you start a day? DSC_1813DSC_1811

While bacon and eggs were being prepared, Art sponged down the boat, using the morning dew to wipe off the salt spray acquired on the cruise up from Tween Waters to the anchorage we abandoned (“A”) on Friday.

Following breakfast, we took the dinghy from our current anchorage (“B”) Cayo Costa 4to the dock and ranger station at Cayo Costa State Park (“C”).  The ranger gave us a lift on a golf cart to the beach, tents and cabins on the Gulf, about three-quarters of a mile (“D”). We started our trek up the beach, enjoying the warm sun. DSC_1831There were thousands of shells to search and horseshoe crabs to investigate. DSC_1827

With island map in hand, we walked about 1.5 miles up the beach until we found the trail which would return us via the center of the island.DSC_1834

We were just a quarter-mile into the walk back, in the brush, with the sky clouding over and the temperature dropping, when Art asked if we had a cell phone with us.  He was going to call for an Uber!

Forty-five minutes later we made it back to the cabins and the ranger tram, just as it began to lightly rain.

DSC_1838We pushed our dinghy off the beach as weekenders were loading their gear on the ferry.  Just as yesterday at Cabbage Key, people seemed amused that we were taking to sea in the little boat, in the rain.

We didn’t see any wildlife, in or out of the water, while walking 10,640 steps (4.4 miles).

Although Art referred to the outing as a “death march,” we got back to Loofah, wet, tired, and happy!

The thunderstorms forecast for this evening arrived as we were enjoying dinner. Loofah got a real bath and we enjoyed another cozy night at anchor!

Saturday (1/27)  “A Cheeseburger in Paradise!”

Pastor Rachel has noted, “It is a new day, one we have not had before, and one we will never have again.”  Loofah’s crew starts every day feeling blessed to have the opportunities we have, this day together, and this wonderful place.

dsc_1691.jpgAs we were taking Loofah from the Burnt Store Marina to Twin Waters last week, we passed Cabbage Key, allegedly the home of the “Cheeseburger in Paradise.”  We would return! Today was the day.

Despite the continuing winds that blew the AGLCA burgee off its staff last night, and continued small craft warnings for the Gulf, we set the goal of lunch at Cabbage Key.  We boarded the dinghy. Sheltered Pelican Bay gave us an early smooth passage.  However,  as we left the lee side of the island, the waves picked up, and once again we were reminded that the windbreakers we selected, were not waterproof! By the time we landed at Cabbage Key, some out our apparel was a bit salty.  But it, like we, would dry out shortly.DSC_1795

DSC_1791We have been to Cabbage Key on a couple of previous occasions, once with children and grandchildren.  The custom is to inscribe a dollar bill and post it to the wall, ceiling, or column.  Sue set out, without success, to find our previously posted bills.

As we departed there was a large, enclosed pontoon craft, full of individuals returning to adjacent Useppa Island.  They marveled that we were actually going to sea in the dinghy.  We got a great deal of encouragement, lots of smiles, and a numbers of “thumbs up.”DSC_1793

Before departing, Art spoke with the dockmaster and gained sufficient confidence that we could dodge the waves by weaving between small islands on the way back to Loofah.  What did we have to lose?  With this boat (unlike the day before in Loofah III) we could simply get out and pull it off a shoal.a-return.jpg

It worked.  Art, only once, had to tilt the motor up and row.  The lee side of the islands were calm and the balance of the time we were spared the spray as we rocked and rolled back to “The Mother Ship.”dsc_1802.jpg

dsc_1805.jpgExhausted from our outing, it was time for a Saturday afternoon nap.

As the afternoon progressed, the winds continued to subside. This evening we nearly had this refuge to ourselves. Most of the other boats departed after hanging out here for the past three days.

We grilled chicken and talked about spending another day here. It was a good day!

Friday (1/26)  “When you come to a fork in the road…”

It was time to leave civilization and enjoy nature, first hand.

aground-3.jpgOur destination was 13 miles back up the GICW to Punta Blanca South anchorage near Cayo Costa State Park.

“Active Captain” (recently purchased by Garmin) is a “TripAdvisor for mariners.”  It includes descriptions, directions and ratings for marinas and anchorages, in addition to providing navigational updates provided by the boating public.

The Punta Blanca South anchorage sounded too good to pass.  It also seemed prudent as winds were E 20 mph to 25, gusting over 30; seas in the bay 1-2, in the Gulf 3′-5′, occasionally 7.

aground-5.jpg

The navigational directions were quite precise, and the depths deemed safe for Loofah III.aground-4.jpg

aground.jpgThe approach went as expected.  The depths seemed a bit low, not unanticipated as the easterly winds had been blowing the water out of the bay and into the Gulf.  We executed every turn up to the point of “sticking close to the mangrove on the starboard side.”  When they say “close,” they mean “CLOSE!”  Loofah ran out of water (aka, went a ground).aground-21.jpg

Art launched one of the kayaks and took the smaller anchor up wind, two the deeper water CLOSE to shore.  Despite his best efforts, he could not pull the boat free, against the wind.  Our best bet was to have lunch and let the rising tide assist.  The plan worked and two hours later, we were again underway.  We tried to enter the anchorage, but despite the advertised 8′ depth, we were again running out of water and chose alternate anchorage.

After checking out the props at speed and blowing out anything that may have been drawn in the cooling system, we entered Pelican Bay later in the afternoon. With the winds still howling, with two anchors set, we felt secure in this protected cove. We turned on the generator and settled in for the evening. The Captain enjoyed a martini and grilled a steak.

Relaxed, we laughed over dinner about the well meaning boater (one of two) who had offered assistance, and local knowledge while we were having lunch.  He asked where we were heading, “over here, or over there?” He then graciously indicated that one safe passage was to our right, the other to our left; not where we were!  Really?!

It reminded Art of the phrase, often attributed to Yogi Berra:  “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  Art added, “because if you don’t take one of them, and keep going straight, you’ll go aground.”

Thursday (1/25)  It’s been great!

Shucks, our last day at Tween Waters.

During the past several days, there has been a dialog on the daily AGLCA posts that have criticized various marinas for over promising, and under delivering.  Our experience at tween-waters-21.jpgTween Waters was “five-star!”

From the time Sue made the reservation, to our last farewells to Andrea and Harry at the marina, we could not have asked for anything more.  The proximity of the marina/resort to “main street” Captiva, and the on-site amenities including two swimming pools, tennis courts, spa, bicycles, and a variety of places to eat, make this marina deserving a “1st marina” rating.  Put a big star next to Tween Waters in your cruising guides!tween-waters-11.jpg

We also found the other mariners here on the piers, cordial and friendly.  After we relocated slips and a 75’ Hatteras arrived at the pier, dsc_1738.jpgwe looked like a tender hanging off it’s stern!  But it’s and owners, Tom and Michele, and Travis (its young Captain) were most gracious, even suggesting we attend a Wednesday night event at their yacht club while we are in Naples.Photo Jan 25, 7 28 48 PM

We spent the day riding our bicycles to the market, Mucky Duck’s for lunch, enjoying an nap on the aft deck of Loofah, and enjoying dinner and the historic crab races at the Crows Nest.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, Loofah is planning to take us back up the bay where we anticipate spending a couple of evenings at anchor in a cove at Cayo Costa Island.   If we go dark for a couple of days, don’t fret; we understand cellular coverage there can be problematic.

See you on the other end…

Wednesday (1/24) The “Triple Threat” returns.

Grady LewisThe texts this morning included the news that Grady Louis was born last night in Denver.  All doing well!  Congratulations, John and Kelly, on becoming grandparents!  Our love to all in Denver!

It was a lazy day around Tween Waters.  The internet here is strong and consistent so we tended to some personal business, getting caught up with those necessary and periodic chores, including paying bills.  The pool also beckoned before we made a dinghy run to The Island Store for some minor provisioning.

This evening was special; it was the return of the “Triple Threat” crew,  Jim and Wendy (aka, “Bumper Girl”).  They drove down from Sarasota, as they had not yet returned from Canada while we were at Marina Jack.

Loop All 0015“Triple Threat” was one of two Looper boats that we joined in the lock at Navy Pier in Chicago, day #2 of our journey.  We didn’t know they were Loopers at the time; they were not flying the AGLCA burgee on their yellow, 38′ Donzi.  Later, down the Chicago River, we caught up with them again as we waited for the Conrail bridge to open.  And finally, when we rafted with them in a lock, we got to meet this delightful Canadian couple.  Previous log entries journal numerous wonderful times together, cut short by an unanticipated return home to attend to Wendy’s father.  They suspended their travels on the Loop and had “Triple Threat” hauled to Sarasota where they have a place on Siesta Key.DSC_1761

We were delighted to hear of their return to the US, and even more excited (and honored) that they would drive down to have dinner with us.  Jim and Wendy are special people, and it was a special night together!

Wendy and Jim, the crew of Loofah III looks forward with great anticipation, to the next time our wakes cross!  Our thoughts continue to be with you…

Tuesday (1/23)  18 months and 2000 miles later…

dsc_1743.jpgThis morning we were greeted by a pelican dozing on one of the pilings next to the boat.  Once a week, we give Loofah a good bath.  Today was the day.  As Art went forward with the hose, he startled the bird who took off, DSC_1744forcefully expressing its indignation upon departure.

We puttered around the boat, preparing for this evenings visit with Kelly, her father (Jack) and close friend, Ann.

Kelly and her husband, John, have a boat in the slip adjacent to ours in Milwaukee.  They asked us to join them on “Seamanship” for a cruise up the Milwaukee River, and then treated us to dinner in the Third Ward.  Finally, 18 months and 2000 miles later, we were able to reciprocate with cocktails onboard and dinner at the Captiva House.

DSC_1754John & Kelly have been renovating John’s family home on Sanibel. John was in Denver visiting their daughter and son-in-law following a hunting trip. John was keeping Kelly updated as their daughter was on the way to the hospital to deliver grandchild #1! Kelly is anxiously awaiting her previously scheduled flight to Denver on Thursday.

Ann is visiting Kelly to escape the Wisconsin winter, as well as stay with Kelly’s father while she is in Denver. Ann is a RN and healthcare consultant who knows former neighbors of ours in Des Moines. Sue and Ann compared notes on the current state of affairs in health insurance. We also found out that Ann is related to an old acquaintance of Art!

We went to bed waiting for word from Denver!  Keep us posted Kelly!

Monday (1/22)  Takin’ care of business.

The morning coffee was interrupted by the second boat, in two days, going aground in front of us. On the way out of the marina, it went unnecessarily wide to avoid Loofah’s bow and anchor. Then it got caught by the wind.  Fortunately, the frustrated captain shut down his engines to refrain from making things worse and sucking sand into the engines’ cooling system.  Art got in our dinghy, crossed to the shore, got out and pushed the boat off the shoal.  The  engines were restarted and a successful departure executed.

This morning we needed to leave the slip in order to have our holding tank pumped at the fuel pier. Art suggested to the harbor master that Loofah be relocated at the same time.  She asked if we would be willing to utilize a slip between some piles at the other end of the pier.  It looked acceptable and we made the switch, much to the delight of others in the marina!

Pumped out and secure in our new berth, lunch and reprovisioning were next on the list. We have obtained groceries on foot, by bicycle, marina courtesy car, and the Jolly Trolley. Today we did it by dinghy.

DSC_1731We got in the inflatable and headed toward the center of town. We beached the dinghy and walked a block for lunch at the “Historic” Keylime Bistro. dsc_1732.jpg

“The Island Store,” a combination deli and convenience store, is across the street from the bistro.  It is certainly not a Publix, but it had most of the items we needed.DSC_1734

Our chores for the day completed, we returned to the marina and lounge chairs at swimming pool.

Later, we threw some brats on the grill and enjoyed a quiet night onboard, watching a Netflex movie.  Ah, the life of a Looper.

Sunday (1/21)  A “Roman” weighs in!

Adam RomanFor the last two weeks we have been looking to the north for news.  Sue’s nephew, Adam, and his wife, Kelsey, have been expecting their first child.  FINALLY, at 9:58 PM last night, Roman Douglas weighed in at 8 lbs 15 oz, complete with a full head of hair!

With Roman’s arrival, the first of the generation, Sue’s dad (Don) became a great-grandfather, her older brother & sister-in-law (Ed & Connie) became grandparents, and Sue, a great aunt. Goodness!

This has been quite a year for Adam and Kelsey.  They landed new jobs, moved back to Des Moines from Chicago, bought their first house, and got a dog.  And now, Roman! Life as you know it, guys, is about to change!

Love from Loofah!

P.S. Being away from family, at times like this, is a bummer!

Saturday (1/20)  Captiva Icons

According to Sue’s Fitbit, the ladies aboard logged over 7500 steps (3 miles) on the beach this morning, while the guys enjoyed coffee and conversation aboard.

DSC_1717The plan for the day was to cruise up the GICW to Cabbage Key for lunch, DSC_1719but an extremely low tide took care of that.  Loofah III was not going to make it out of her slip and around the anchor protruding for the boat to port, until the tide reversed later in the afternoon.

We went to plan B, borrowed bicycles from the marina, and headed up the Island to visit two of its icons.

IMG_3676Our first stop was the Bubble Room. It opened in 1979 with just a few tables in the front room of a family home. Today the restaurant is jammed with toys from the 1930’s and 1940’s, moving trains on all three floors, photographs of stars and cinema productions cram the walls, and the front room is decorated for Christmas, leading to the theme of “its always Christmas at the Bubble Room.” An extensive collection of music from the 1920’s,1930’s and 1940’s is played throughout.  The Bubble Room is certainly unique and truly, “world renown.”

But it was a day to have lunch outside, on a beach.  We remounted our bikes and took a short cruise down the street to the Mucky Duck, another island icon. photo-jan-20-1-53-19-pm.jpg

In 1975, two entrepreneurs got together and purchased a beach house that had originally been a tea house (the Gulf View Inn), for a potential rental property. Mucky Duck 2“While at the Lee County Courthouse to get things in motion, they inadvertently discovered an expired beer and wine license which could be reactivated for $100.00. That evening while sipping cold beer and watching the sun paint a picture as it set across the Gulf of Mexico, an idea was born…this magical sunset experience needed to be shared with others.”

Mucky Duck 3Today, the Mucky Duck is still only licensed to sell beer (16 on tap and many more bottled) and wine, no spirits. But you can order some interesting cocktails, including a “Bloody Mary” and a “Key Lime Margaretta”, made with fermented but not distilled spirits (hence,technically wine) to accompany your meal.  Sand, surf, sunsets… a marvelous place

It was a perfect afternoon for some time in the Tween Waters’ pool and hot tub, before Jim and Laurie departed for accommodations ashore, closer to the Punta Gorda airport.

It has been enjoyable having you guys aboard!  Safe travels!

Friday (1/19)  “Tween Waters”

We had a slow start this morning. Jim and Laurie joined us onboard last night and our conversation went into the morning.  After obtaining bagels and breakfast sandwiches at a shop in the marina, and a brief walk through or a farmers market, we got underway.

Jim and Laurie explored the mainland areas Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva by car, and enjoyed a 3 mile walk on the beach.  We relocated Loofah III from Punta DSC_1679Gorda to the Tween Waters Marina in Captiva Island, a distance of just under 27 miles.

As we passed Useppa Island and Cabbage Key, we hailed the crew of “Don’t Think Twice” from Charlevoix, Michigan, whom we hadn’t seen since Hoppies, south of St. Louis.  They were heading into Cabbage Key.  We were also joined by a number of playful dolphins.

dsc_1697.jpg“Tween Waters” is a perfect name for the resort and marina.  It is located on a narrow neck of land, with the Gulf on one side, and the Roosevelt Channel of Pine Island Sound on the other.  Proper navigation is required as outside the narrow channel, it gets shallow, quickly!

Jim and Laurie met us at the marina about 5:15. After changing into some warmer clothes (the temperature drops significantly with the sun!), we walked across the road to the Gulf side to view the sunset.

DSC_1710Dinner followed at Crows Nest Beach Bar and Grille. On the way out we stopped in the lobby of the Captiva House to look at some etchings of Jay “Ding” Darling on the wall.  As Jay and Penny were good friends of Art’s maternal grandparents, he shared a number of wonderful stories as we enjoyed the etchings.

The evening wrapped up onboard with conversation and sharing family memories.

Wonderful moments.

Thursday (1/18)  Family coming aboard!

It was a good thing they covered the flowers in Venice last light! The low was 32, but fortunately the winds subsided and Loofah’s heat pumps kept us warm and cozy!

Today’s float plan was to make the Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda.  It is about 41 miles from Venice.

For the past two days the winds have been strong and consistently from the North.  This generated small craft warnings, with waves forecasted from 4 to 6 in the Gulf.  We had planned to avoid this part of the GICW in favor of a few hours at sea, but though better of it.  dsc_1663.jpgBesides, there is more to be seen proceeding inland than there is from several miles offshore, like big swing bridges, abandoned railroad trestles and dueling ferries.dsc_1656.jpg

As departed from Venice, we noted the tide seemed rather low.  As we progressed DSC_1642south, it became more evident.  We have seen derelicts, apparently abandoned following hurricane Irma or others.  But, what we saw today seemed the result of poor seamanship rather than a storm.

This was confirmed by a conversation that Sue had with the harbor master at the marina.  DSC_1648A combination of monthly and annual cycles had made an abnormal fluctuation in tidal levels the last several days.

The reason Punta Gorda was today’s destination:  Sue’s brother, Jim, and his friend Laurie, were flying down to get a respite from the COLD Iowa weather!  They would be joining us onboard for a couple of evenings here and in Captiva. Why Punta Gorda? Allegiant Air has a direct flight from Des Moines, departing Des Moines at 4:55 PM (CST) and arriving in Punta Gorda at 9:00 PM (EST). Imagine: Des Moines direct to Punta Gorda!  (Maybe this would be a good place to leave a boat to use during the snow bird season?)

Anyway, the boat has been washed, the windows cleaned, and the beer cans and garbage grubbed out of the cabin.  More on the family reunion tomorrow!

Wednesday (1/17)  A pleasant surprise in Venice!

DSC_1598After two delightful weeks at Marina Jack in beautiful Sarasota, it was time to move on south.  Sue took the helm as we worked our way 18 miles down the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway to Fisherman’s Wharf in Venice, FL.

With frequent slow zones to protect the matinees, a swing DSC_1617bridge we could pass under, a surprising number of individuals sculling, and we averaged just 8.2 mph.  The good news is that Loofah III is very fuel efficient at that speed!

DSC_1608We arrived at the marina about 1:00 and got secured before we were buffeted by wind gust of 31 mph pushing is broadside against the pier.  Fortunately, Loofah didn’t pop any of her fenders!

We rode our bicycles across the bridge just down stream and into the historic DSC_1626downtown Venice.  As we did so, it was hard to miss the volunteers from the local garden club covering the plants throughout the area.  Freeze warnings for tonight!

As we were doing a little shopping, Art received a call from Bill, with whom we dined last night.  He,  inquired if we had plans for dinner; if not would we like to join his brother-in-law, George, and him?  What a pleasant surprise!   Of course!

Bill picked us up at the marina and we met George at “Pinchers,” a new location that had just opened here about two weeks earlier.

During dinner, Sue mentioned that we had encountered a number of people rowing on the GICW.  George said that Florida is a mecca for rowing clubs Scullingand Sarasota actually hosted the 2017 World Rowing Championships late last September. The venue was Nathan Benderson Park where there is a 400 acre artificial lake that was excavated to provide fill for the construction of Interstate 75.

We covered a full range of topics, including the impact of us snow birds on the Venice dining scene (George moved here full time in 1997 and thus is considered a native).  Meeting George, and having another evening with Bill, was an unanticipated pleasure!

Thanks, guys!

Tuesday (1/16)  The Finale

Today was our last day in Sarasota. We went through the routine preparations for getting dsc_1573.jpgunderway: laundry, a stop at the grocery store, reorganizing the cabin, and securing the dingy, bikes and other gear in the “garage.”  We watched yachts come and go from the harbor, our home for the past two weeks. As we did so, the old* adage “All good things must come to an end,” came to mind.

Tonight, we enjoyed a visit from Bill, and Cheryl and Denny, friends from Des Moines.  Bill and his wife have a place on the GICW at the Heron Bay Club in Osprey. Denny and Cheryl prefer to rent, this year a place on the Gulf beach near the midpoint of Longboat Key. We are nomads, here on a boat. Choices.DSC_1579

Bill, Denny, and Art are members of “The Greater Des Moines Business Exchange” in Des Moines (aka, “the breakfast club”). It was started over 50 years ago with the purpose of generating business referrals. That goal has significantly diminished over the years.  It meets every Friday at 7:00 AM for breakfast and comradery.  The guys in the club are all similar in age and have gone through the various stages of the “trials and tribulations” of life and business together. Some in the world seek professional therapy; for Art, the breakfast club is his support group!

dsc_1582.jpgThis evening, to facilitate boarding, we moved Loofah III to a pier near the fuel dock.  Bill, Denny and Cheryl came aboard about 5:00 PM.  The time was set so that we could enjoy the sunset while cruising a short portion of the GICW.  It was followed by a most pleasurable dinner at Marina Jack where we exchanged recent events and news.

Humans seem to have a desire, almost a need, to rank everything.  We are often asked, “What have you enjoyed most,” “What is your favorite…?”  That is like asking which grandchild is your favorite!

Having said this, this evening was a marvelous finale to an amazing time, with many wonderful friends and aquantances, in an incredible place.  Our favorite?

(* Today’s trivia: Apparently the phrase, “All things must come to an end” has been around for a long time! It was penned by Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem Troilus and Criseyde, completed in mid-1380s.)

Monday (1/15)  A not so pleasant start ends extremely well!

Today we got out the bag and headed to the Bobby Jones Golf Club, a 45 hole municipal facility named for the legendary Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., who personally dedicated the facility on Sunday, February 13, 1927.Bobby Jones 1

When the starter called our names, we walked toward our cart.  He looked at it and asked, “Where’s the second bag?” Art responded, “We plan out of one.” The starter responded, “Not here.”

Art went in to the pro shop and asked for the rationale.  “It’s the rule.”  If we were walking, going two different ways, OK. But on a cart, we were going to each ball anyway. “It’s the rule.” Art rented a set for $30 (which were ancient) and didn’t use a club from it the entire round.

The terribly unfortunate start to the round was offset by the delightful couple with whom we played, Mel & Marti, from Chicago.  They have rented a place here in Sarasota for three years and are “trying to figure out what to do when they grow up.” Mel is three years from retiring.  We are both retired, Mel, and are still asking the same question!

Heading back to the boat, we walked passed “Serenity” and were invited aboard for a libation and a further discussion of the Loop.  Never passing such an opportunity, we dropped off the clubs, changed into some warmer clothes as the sun was beginning to set, and returned with cocktails and a map showing the Loop.sabre-48.jpg

“Serenity” is a beautiful Sabre 48 Salon Express.  It’s owner, Thies, (right, below) and a business partner/general contractor, Stan (center), brought the boat up from Naples, while Thies’ wife was in Texas.  The primary topic was the Loop, but we certainly covered a number of other topics, during the freewheeling conversation. In the “small world” department, Stan (through “WPO”) knows a Photo Jan 15, 5 54 48 PMfriend of ours who has a condo one floor up from ours in Des Moines, as well as a home in Naples!

As we disembarked “Serenity,” plans were made for a visit when Loofah III is in Naples.  Thies is in hopes that Sue can talk his wife, Connie, into the pleasures to be experienced on the water and the Loop.  If you are reading this, Thies, we are looking forward to dinner!

After a quick bite onboard, the day was topped off by a 5th Dimension concert at the Van Wenzel auditorium.

An architectural landmark and a cultural treasure, Van Welzel 2the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall was built in 1968 and 1969 with monies from a city of Sarasota bond referendum and a bequest from local philanthropists Lewis and Eugenia Van Wezel. This season it will host more than special 100 events, in addition to more than 50 performances and events presented by the Sarasota Orchestra, Sarasota Ballet, the Sarasota Concert Association and the Ringling Library Town Hall Lecture Series. Another real gem in Sarasota.

5th DimensionAnd, hearing the 5th Dimension there was a treat. Although there is only one of the original group still singing (Florence LaRue), the songs sounded just as we remembered the originals. In addition to others, the performance included the classics “Up, Up, and Away,” “One Less Bell to Answer” and the iconic “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In.” In addition to Florence (now 76 with the same spunk and voice she had 50 years ago), Floyd Smith (upper right) was a standout.  He has an unbelievable 3 three octave, deep base to baritone, range.

5th DimensionsFollowing the concert, Floyd posted this picture and the following on Facebook:  “What a fantastic crowd we had here in Sarasota Fl , it was one of the best 5th Dimension shows ever, The singers and the band were on point tonight!

We agree, Floyd!


Publishers’ note:

Recently we received the question, “Sue and Art, why no last names?”

According to WordPress, since this site was established in September (123 days ago) it has been viewed 4,938 times by 1,118 visitors. Some visitors are “one and done;” others are frequent readers.

But the statistic that really caught our attention was the site has been viewed in 21 countries including: Argentina, Bahamas, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Vietnam, in addition to the United States.

We can understand interest by fellow Loopers, friends and family, but why there is an international interest in Loofah III’s experience, is beyond us!

Hackers “mining information?” 

While not generally subscribing to unfounded “conspiracy theories,” like the North Koreans or the CIA are specifically following Loofah and its crew, we do try to be careful about the material we post. For that reason, “to protect the innocent,” the site refrains from providing last names and overly detailed specifics. Readers, who possess additional personal knowledge, “can connect the dots.”  Others will just have to accept it.  Because, hackers may be watching! 21 countries?


Sunday (1/14)   Reflections… daily at 1300.

Goodness, how the time flies.  It is Sunday, another week has passed, and we are again enjoying our “time for reading, reflection, relaxation, refreshment and research.” Over the Sunday morning fare of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee, our conversation this Sunday turned to a new tradition at Marina Jacks:  “Taps” everyday at 1300.  In our research, we found the following, posted December 7, 2017 on YourObserver.com:

“A partnership between the marina’s parent company and a military nonprofit has created a daily ritual along the waterfront.” by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor.

“At 1 p.m. every day, the same musical notes can be heard echoing across the water in downtown.

dsc_1560.jpgResidents and passers-by might wonder where it’s coming from, unable to place the tune from a distance. The answer to their question can be found at Marina Jack, where a plaque near the entrance explains the recently instituted ritual.

“Each day, at 1300 hours (one o’clock), activity at Marina Jack marina stops as taps is played and the bell tolls thirteen times,” the plaque reads.

A recording of the bugle call plays daily as a moment of remembrance for members of the American armed forces who have sacrificed their lives, said Tom Delong, a vice president with Marina Jack’s parent company, Suntex Marinas.

“It honors our fallen heroes,” Delong said.

The ritual was borne out of a partnership between Suntex Marinas and Folds of Honor, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen service members.

“That’s one of the main missions they have — helping children carry on with their lives after a parent has fallen,” Delong said.

The nonprofit’s focus is reflected in the small ceremony: The 13 chimes of the bell are sounded to represent the 13 folds in American flags offered to the surviving family of service members and veterans who have died.

dsc_15341.jpgMarina Jack began playing taps daily in August. Beyond the plaque at the entrance of the marina, the business hasn’t done much to publicize the significance of the routine.

“We’re supporting the Folds of Honor initiative, so we want the focus to be on the program,” Delong said.

Still, some visitors have taken note, Delong said, passing along their appreciation to staff at Marina Jack — or just taking a moment for solemn reflection as taps plays.

“It means a lot to a lot of people,” Delong said.

It does to the crew of Loofah as well.  We have become accustomed to pausing at 1300 to honor those who have fallen protecting the liberties we experience, and take for granted, every day.  Thank you!

Saturday (1/13)  A “mundane” Saturday?  Not!

It was a rather mundane Saturday morning.  After catching up on the news, weather, websites, Facebook, emails, text messages, and our network of Loopers, we gave attention to maintaining Loofah’s interior spaces, a weekly chore.

The afternoon, however, was anything but mundane.  The plan was Mell and Michael would pick us up in their new Marlow fishing boat (“Two Dogs”) at Marina Jack and we new-pass-grill1.jpgwould head to New Pass Grill and Bait Shop on City Island for lunch.  The grill & bait shop is described as a “circa 1929 tackle shop & eatery with kitschy fishing décor…”

Sue came back from her morning walk with the news that the weather posted at the boating club located in the marina, included winds NNE 15-20, gusting to 25, and seas (in the Gulf), 4’ to 6’.  We could see white-capped rollers in the bay and called Michael to see if the outing should be done by car; we would be happy to pick them up.  Michael indicated that they were still good with boating and would see us about noon.

dsc_15711.jpgPrecisely at noon, “Two Dogs” checked in as it entered the marina and headed to an open slip next to Loofah III.  “Two Dogs” is not just a typical center-console fishing craft.  It is 38’ of elegance, fitted out with a gyro stabilizer, all of the electronics and navigational gear you could imagine, satellite TV and telephone/internet, and a “cuddy cabin” that you can live in.  Michael took delivery of it that the Fort Lauderdale boat show.

With the winds and seas as they were, the plan had changed. We would forgo the New Pass Grill & Bait Shop and to run south, to their home on Siesta Key and have lunch there.

As we departed the marina, the seas hit us broadside, and the craft started to roll significantly.  Michael look down, simply pushed a button on the console engaging the stabilizer, and we flattened out.

Mell and Michael’s place is in a small bay, previously the site of a boat yard, that now has been developed into a lovely residential area. marlow1.jpg The bay is relatively deep and has a sea wall that allows “Two Dogs” to dock at their home.  As we came around the corner, we could see a stern with “Tortuga” inscribed, moored.  We recalled that “Tortuga” was the name of the boat on which Mell and Michael did the Loop.

With “Two Dogs” secured, we went inside and met the other two dogs who friskily greeted us!  We enjoyed a stem to stern tour of “Tortuga” and observations regarding its construction, layout, and amenities, and their experiences doing the Loop in a 65’ yacht!

Michael put German Bauernwurst, procured earlier from Geiers Sausage Kitchen, on the grill. They were outstanding, as was the dialog over lunch which we enjoyed in their lovely home. The alternative was having lunch at a “circa 1929 tackle shop & eatery with kitschy fishing décor…”  Boy did we luck out!

After lunch, we were graciously asked if we wanted to return to the marina via boat (this time into the wind and seas) or car.  All of us agreed, for various reason, on the former.

On the return trip, the ladies chose to enjoy the warm, secure cabin below.  As “Two Dogs” came to the end of a no-wake Manatee zone, Michael knocked on the overhead of the cabin and opened the throttles on the pair of 400hp outboards.  What a thrill.  From 7kts to over 30 kts, in just seconds!

As we approached the marina, the winds were strong and gusting.  It would have been relatively easy to head into the wind, come alongside the fuel pier and drop us off.  But Michael again chose an open slip near Loofah, where he masterfully docked “Two Dogs”, winds gusting a beam. We could see why he and Mell, just the two of them, were successful in piloting a 65’ yacht on the Loop.

With warm remarks exchanged, on a cold and blustery day, we stepped ashore, looking forward to our next meeting!

Friday (1/12) The third time around…

For the third time since we have been here in Sarasota, we headed to The Ringling.  This time to the Museum of Art.

DSC_1553“Today, The Ringling, the State Art Museum of Florida, is home to one of the preeminent art and cultural collections in the United States. Its story begins nearly a century ago, with the circus impresario and his beloved wife’s shared love for Sarasota, Italy, and art.

“While traveling through Europe in search of acts for his circus, John Ringling, in the spirit of America’s wealthiest Gilded Age industrialists, began acquiring art and gradually built a significant collection. The more he collected, the more passionate and voracious a collector he became, educating himself and working with dealers such as Julius Bohler. He began buying and devouring art books – that would become the foundation of the Ringling Art Library.

DSC_1555Soon after the completion of Ca’ d’Zan, John built a 21-gallery museum modeled on the Florentine Uffizi Gallery to house his treasure trove of paintings and art objects, highlighted by his collection of Old Masters, including Velazquez, Poussin, van Dyke and Rubens. The result is the museum and a courtyard filled with replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture, including a bronze cast of Michelangelo’s David.

John opened the Museum of Art to the public in 1931, two years after the death of his beloved Mable, saying he hoped it would “promote education and art appreciation, especially among our young people.” Five years later, upon his death, Ringling bequeathed it to the people of Florida.

As we drove south on the Tamiami Trail toward Marina Jack, the car took a right over the Ringling Causeway Bridge and found its way to a parking spot just off St. Armands Circle.  And, as luck would have it, we not only found a great parking place, Sue was able to find a sweater and a long sleeved blouse!  After all, we weren’t properly prepared for this cold weather! (Sarasota high: 73, Des Moines low: -3)

St. Armands has a marvelous history; more on that later.

Thursday (1/11)  Dining at various levels!

Sarasota has some of the most varied venues for dining.  Today we experienced two of them, within blocks of each other

dsc_1544.jpgThe first, O’Leary’s Tiki Bar, was our choice for lunch.   The sandy, beachfront tiki bar was just a few minutes walk from our slip, but why walk when you can go by sea!  olearys.jpgAnd the dingy needed some exercise.  Our course was set to depart our slip at the end of the D Dock (less than a 1000 yards from our ultimate destination), take a left at the fountain at the marina entrance through the mooring field, and to parallel the beachfront until we pulled up on the beach.  It was just like a Corona beer commercial.

Dinner this evening was at the other end of the spectrum.  Willia and Bob graciouslyphoto-jan-11-5-16-34-pm.jpg invited us back to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at their 12th floor condo.  The vue outside this evening was a bit limited,  but the view inside had changed dramatically.  Willa and Bob have only been in the condo for a few weeks and the interior decorating is still underway.  The walls were painted between our visits and colors magnificently set off their art and collections.  They have been so thoughtful having us there when their plates have been full!

Bijou+extAnd speaking of plates, Willa and Bob are very familiar with the Sarasota dining scene.  The options are many.  This evening we were heading to The Bijou Cafe located in the heart of Sarasota’s downtown Theatre & Arts District.  “Highly rated by Town & Country Magazine, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet,  The Bijou Café is consistently one of Sarasota’s highest-rated restaurants.”  We were not disappointed.

During dinner, Bob continued to regale us with his delightful stories of times previous.  He was able to balance his business life with a substantial, conservative, financial firm, while running Las Vegas junkets and a couple of discos.  It was another delightful evening!

Wednesday (1/10)  So close, yet so far.

screen-180110.jpgThis morning was spent running the errands necessary to support life: Costco, Publix, and Swim City.

After the morning fog burned off, the skies turned crystal clear, and the temperature climbed to 77. (We thought of our family in Des Moines facing temperatures falling from 41 to 1, with 1″ to 3″ of snow forecast.)  It was time to exercise Loofah III.

We got underway about about 1:00 and headed north.  As we did so, there was Ca’ d’Zan, Ringling’s home on the shore.  We remembered its wharf and pictures of “Zalophus,” John Ringling’s 125-foot yacht moored there.  How convenient it would be to come alongside and to attend this evenings performance at Mertz DSC_1519Theater, immediately adjacent to the Ringling Estate.  Art checked the depth and found Loofah would be aground at low tide.  We’d have to return back to the marina and go by car.

In the interim, we dropped anchor, enjoyed lunch and got a little vitamin D.  Art took the opportunity to dive the boat.  He reported the props looked good and the bottom was still free of salt water creatures.dsc_1480.jpg

The evening was spent enjoying “Shakespeare in Love” performed by the Asolo Repertory Theatre. It was opening night and the theater was sold out.  Our tickets were in the last rows of highest balcony, but there are no bad seats in the house. The cast did an admirable job and no opening night defugalties were noticed!

The opening night audience was a mostly “senior” group.  As we walked out, one of the hosts asked a patron what he thought of the show.  The immediate response was, “Terrible.”  We discussed his response when we got back to the boat because we (like 40% of those attending) were on our feet at the end of the performance.  Were the others too old to get up?  Did they have a hard time with the English dialect? Were they offended by the “adult” nature of some of the scenes?  Had we experienced a generation gap, this time from the younger side? Who, cares.  We loved it!

Tuesday (1/9) A decision, and a road trip with a special ending.

We are not going to trade up to a 34 meter Westport.  That was the decision this morning.  Why?  Simply, we couldn’t do the rivers and canals we have enjoyed so much.IMG_3527 The rivers have a personality, a life, that is well captured in this poem written recently by Art’s nine year old grand-daughter.

With that decided, today, by car, we did some backtracking.  Our goal was to visit two marinas we passed (for our next loop?) in the Bradenton area and enjoy the barrier islands of St. Armands Key, Longboat Key, and Anna Maria Island.

After enjoying lunch at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, we drovedsc_1515-e1515628370690.jpg back to the mainland to visit Twin Dolphins Marina in Bradenton, and Regatta Pointe Marina across the river at Palmetto.  When we were in the area, Loofah found a slip at Riveria Dunes.  It turned out that Riveria Dunes was beautiful for a day or two, but a bit isolated.  After visiting the other two marinas, we agreed that Twin Dolphins (even with its fixed piers) would be more enjoyable. as it was within walking distance of the shops and restaurants of downtown Bradenton,

Photo Jan 09, 4 23 27 PMAs we headed for a coke and some chips on the pier of the Regatta Pointe Marina, it was hard to miss this craft!  Originally a “Floating Wedding Chapel,” this boat has been re-purposed into a private residence.Photo Jan 09, 5 20 01 PM

But the highlight of the day was a visit and dinner with Art’s nieces’ sister-in-law, Helen.  She and her husband, Greg, live nearby and it was a great opportunity time to catch up. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the beach at Mar Vista, and enjoyed conversation with this  gracious, humorous, “southern” lady!

Evenings like this have been the highlight our our experience on the Loop.

Monday (1/8)  We were faced with an interesting question today!

Over breakfast this morning, looking at the two Westport 112′ yachts at the pier, the conversation drifted to what if…

The temperatures finally returned to the 70s and the sun was out.  A great day to play golf and Art threw the bag over his shoulder  (to conserve space aboard, we play from one bag). As we walked down the pier we conversed with some of the professional crew on one of the yachts.  They had some suggestions where we might like to play.  We had already selected a course just a few miles from the marina, that looked good on the website, unknown to the crew.  That should have been a sign.img_3660.jpg

It was an interesting course.  When we got there we found the front nine was par 35, and the back nine, 29!  This would be interesting.  The grass was short and the ground hard, so the balls ran, and ran.  The most intriguing hole we have ever played was #16.  The question was, should we just throw the balls?!  If the rules had allowed it, we would have been better off.  Oh, well.  It was an enjoyable outing, nevertheless.

Our friends from the Westport greeted us upon our return.  After fun conversation, they inquired if we would like to see the boat.  Absolutely!  The Captain and “Stew” (as she referred to herself) took us for a tour. Westport 112 IMG_3653Her statistics: Length: 111′ 8″, Beam: 23′ 9″, Draft: 5′ 6″ Sleeps: 8 in 4 Staterooms, Crew: 5 including Captain, Cruise Speed: 22 Knots, Range: 2500 nm @ 12 kts, Engines: (2) MTU16V2000, Generators: (2) 65 KW, Displacement: 275,000 lbs. Wow, now that’s a YACHT!img_3656.jpg

It was fun to not only talk about the specifics of the boat (power plant, navigation gear, accommodations, etc.), it was also interesting to hear about the lives of a professional crew, and the places they have been.  Most wonderful people!

We picked up our bag of clubs and walked down the pier to Loofah III.  We enjoyed dinner aboard, watching the national championship football game, asking the question: would be any more enjoyable on a craft 111’8″ long, than it was on one 49’10”?  As we pondered the question, two things we did know: 1) it had room for two sets of clubs, and 2) we certainly could have more Loopers aboard for “docktails”!

Sunday (1/7)  A day late…

As mentioned in the blog previously, Sunday for Loofah’s crew is typically a day for reading, reflection, relaxation, refreshment and research. ** As we enjoyed Sue’s onboard breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and coffee (a Sunday treat), we looked at the date and realized that yesterday was “Epiphany.”

In the western churches, Epiphany observes the visit of the Three Wise Men to the infant Jesus, usually celebrated on January 6. But in the Orthodox churches, as we learned while we were in the Greek community of Tarpon Springs, Epiphany observes Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

Epiphany 2Apparently, Tarpon Springs’ Epiphany is very similar to how Epiphany is celebrated in Greece and is home to the largest Epiphany festival in the country.  It is such a major event (up to 20,000 people attend) that the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in America often attends the festivities.  We decided to Google the local Tarpon Springs websites to check in on this years observance.

Epiphany 3Epiphany is celebrated over two days, beginning with the Blessing of the Fleet on Friday and culminating in the blessing of the waters on Saturday, including the diving for a cross. During this ritual, a high-ranking member of the Greek Orthodox Church throws a  cross into Spring Bayou, and dozens of teenage boys dive for it. The dive signifies Christ’s immersion into the River Jordan. The diver who retrieves the cross receives the blessing of the church, and it’s said he will have good fortune and “divine beneficence” in the new year. After the dive, there’s a festival called Glendi, that features Greek food and traditional music and dancing. Epiphany

Tarpon Springs residents believe St. Nicholas, the city’s patron saint and the namesake of the Greek Orthodox Church in the city, protects them from hurricanes. Before Hurricane Irma last year, the last hurricane to pass through Tarpon Springs was in 1920.  And even though the city was impacted by Irma, Epiphany organizers say St. Nicholas is still protecting Tarpon Springs as they didn’t get the stronger, major hurricane that was at one point predicted to hit the area.

We reflected on the Blessing of the Fleet in which we participated last Spring, and the role  the waters have played in our lives and everyone’s, in so many ways, over the centuries.

**  Sunday’s also include watching NFL football games and PGA golf events.  These were not included in the above list as they don’t start with “R.”  Rest assured, the crew will be watching today’s playoff games!

Saturday (1/6)  The land of “proper” yachts and clubs.

On November 12 we passed under Cochrane Bridge, located on N30.73456 latitude. Located at the north end of Mobile Bay, it was the last bridge we encountered as we made our way down the various rivers from Lake Michigan to to Gulf of Mexico.  A funny thing happened as we passed south of N30.7345:  Loofah III shrank!

Not restricted by the depth of the channels, or getting under fixed bridges, the size of the boats we began to engage grew significantly!  We were now in the company of “proper” * yachts.

This became most evident when we approached slip 17 at the far end of Marina Jack’s D Dock.  Our neighbors were enormous and Loofah, lost at the end of the pier, looked like she could be one of their tenders!dsc_1464.jpg

Art could have been a little embarrassed today, washing the accumulated salt from the boat, even launching the dingy to get the nasty crystals removed from the hull.  DSC_1508After all, a proper yacht had professional Captains and crews that coordinated that work with professional detailing crews.  But Art takes pride in, and actually enjoys the exercise, rigging, tools and mechanics necessary to maintain Loofah (as much as he can) by himself.  Although still a bit nippy, it was a beautiful day to accomplish the task.

The highlight of the day was dinner with friends from Des Moines at the Sarasota Yacht Club.  We have passed the club, located on Coon Key, right off the John Ringling Causeway, many times.  But, at the invitation of Michael and Mell, we were finally able to pass through its gates.syc.jpg

We are members of the Milwaukee Yacht Club, which was founded in 1871. Through reciprocity agreements, we have been able to visit and enjoy a number of other yacht clubs. Among them,the Sarasota Yacht Club would, indeed, be deemed a most proper club!SYC 1

But, it was not the venue that was most enjoyable, it was the conversation.  Michael and Mell did the loop in 2009 in their 65′ boat.  With the swim platform added, it had to be the largest craft to the the loop that year, and still may be. The four of us swapped experiences of times on the water, and times spent with friends and family on watercraft.  It was apparent that all of us have been informed by the seas.

As we returned to the boat, we again realized that friendships, not proper yachts and clubs, make life worth living!

*  Use here, the adjective “proper” is something that is genuine, suitable, appropriate, and distinctive.

Friday (1/5)  “Bay-front, one owner home, fully furnished and ready for entertaining.”

DSC_1483It is impossible to be in Sarasota without seeing the name “Ringling.”  Although we have been to Sarasota on numerous occasions, our visit to the Ringling museums and home was a first for us.  Phenomenal!

We had lunch and spent the afternoon touring Cá d’Zan, the summer home of John and Mable Ringling, and the adjacent Circus Museum.  We were among the last out when the doors closed at 5:00, yet we hadn’t even had time to get into the Museum of Art.  Before we left, we confirmed that the “ROAM” feature of our Des Moines Art Center membership would apply to the entrance fee for a later visit. We were pleased to find, it did, and that we could even go through the priority entrance available to members.DSC_1502

One of the prominent features of the Circus Museum is the train car, “Wisconsin,” on which John and Mable toured with the circus.  The docent said that the Ringlings spent more time in that train car than all of their beautiful  homes.

We were aware that the Ringling Brothers started their circus in Baraboo, Wisconsin, as we had seen the Circus World Museum when we did an open-water SCUBA certification dive there at Devils State Park.  What we didn’t knows was that John was actually born in McGregor, Iowa, our home state. The Winter Quarters of the circus was moved to Sarasota in 1927.DSC_1491

In addition to the circus, Ringling had investments in oil, real estate (owning all the barrier keys of Sarasota Bay, with the exception of Siesta Key), rail roads and ranching, among others.  It was while traveling to Europe that he and Mable fell in love with Venice, it’s architecture and art.  We enjoyed sitting on “porch,” looking over Sarasota DSC_1495Bay, thinking about the celebrities, business tycoons, investors and politicians that were guests of the Ringlings here, and wonderful entertaining that went on within these walls, for three months of the year.

John and Mable, together, were able to enjoy this dream of theirs for just three years. Soon, John endured many misfortunes, including the death of his beloved wife, and the loss of virtually all of his fortune.  The story of how (and why) he was able to keep Cá d’Zan and the art collection together, away from creditors including the Federal government, is fascinating.

The story of Sarasota is the story of John and Mable Ringling!

Thursday (1/4)  Wow, what a VUE!

It is always marvelous to see Des Moines friends in a different setting.  And today was no exception.

DSC_1463As we walk down the pier from our slip to the shore, it is hard to miss a beautiful building that has been recently completed, provding the background.  In our continuing quest to dream into the future, Art mentioned that it would be fun to see one of the condos.

We were having lunch at Old Salty Dog on City Island when Sue got a text, Salty Dogwondering if we were available for a cocktail and dinner.  It was from a Des Moines friend, Willa.  We were delighted and received the proposal: a cocktail at their condo, followed by dinner on the town.

As fortune would have it, Willa and Bob’s place was a short walk across the street in, of all places, the beautiful building we had been admiring.  It is called the “VUE.”  And boy, does it have one!

Photo Jan 04, 6 02 34 PMWilla was a classmate and good friend of Art’s first-cousin, Babs. Although in different class years, they all went to the same high school. Bob had worked with Art’s father establishing Neumann Brothers’ first group pension plan, a fact that had not been established previously.  The conversation was easy and most enjoyable.

As Bob and Willa dropped us off at the marina, we agreed that we needed to dine again before we departed Sarasota.  Art went to sleep thinking about their beautiful condo!

Wednesday (1/3)  Settling in.

screen-0103.jpgSarasota has been a favorite of ours for years.  We intend to settle in here for a couple of weeks.  dsc_1458.jpg

Through the years, we have enjoyed the various restaurants at Marina Jack, as we did so, fondly looking at the boats in the marina. Now we are actually on one of them!

It is a rainy, windy day; a good day to enjoy the “New York Times” that appeared on Loofah’s aft deck earlier this morning.  Now that is customer service!

Tuesday (1/2)  Back to Marina Jack.

screen-0102.jpgThe overcast sky broke about noon, but the winds continued from the NNE at 20-25, gusts to 28. The weather channels on the VHF were reporting “small craft warnings” for the entire Florida Gulf coast. Small craft warnings are defined as “sustained winds or frequent gusts ranging between 25 and 33 knots and/or seas or waves 5 to 7 feet.”

Our float plan for the day was to cruise 30 miles south to Sarasota.  Given the direction of the wind, we would be in sheltered water while we were in the Manatee River between Palmetto and Bradenton, as well as on the GICW from Anna Maria Island to Sarasota.  Our only exposure to the predicted seas would be a stretch of about 5 miles in the Gulf, west of the entrance to Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway.dsc_1435.jpg

We got underway at 1:25.  There was only a minor chop on the Manatee River. As we approached the Gulf we could see a sailboat under power, struggling to head north. It was “hobby horsing” badly, with its bow dipping into the oncoming waves, which appeared to be 2 to 4, occasionally 3 to 5.  As we entered the Gulf, we adjusted our course, “veering” to keep the waves off our beam.  For the next half hour, Loofah III preformed admirably in the seas.

As anticipated, once we reentered the GICW at Anna Maria Island, the water settled.  We had a pleasant run through Sarasota Bay, enjoying the dolphins that frolicked in our wake.dsc_1456-e1514991767183.jpg

We approached Marina Jack at 3:45 and were directed to slip D17.  After getting secured, and a nice conversation with George and Rene aboard “Bodacious,”  we enjoyed a cocktails and dinner aboard.

New Years, 2018 – Reflections

It was on New Years Eve, 2002, that I proposed to Sue before a crackling fire at the Rittenhouse B&B in frigid Bayfield, WI.  Fortunately, the surprised woman said, “Yes.” We joined my sister and brother-in-law at Christ Episcopal Church for music and a New Years service.  It was a “high church” celebration with “smells and bells,”  and the incense nearly did in my new fiancee.  Although less memorable, we have always had wonderful times on NYE.  On one of them, daughter Ellen gave birth to #1 grandchild, Caroline.photo-dec-31-10-05-27-pm.jpg

We had a choice this evening.  1) A “Florida formal” dinner, with dancing ashore, 2) a “Topsider” event on the pier adjacent to the two floating swimming pools where we could enjoy the photo-dec-31-10-04-00-pm.jpgcamaraderie of other mariners listening and dancing to the music provided by the venue mentioned in 1) above, or 3) champagne, steaks and a bit of dancing aboard Loofah III.

Photo Dec 31, 10 10 33 PMAs we enjoyed our late dinner, watching the globe fall in NYC, exchanging texts (as you do now, right?) with family and friends, we reflected on the blessings of the past year.

We are so fortunate.

Experiences over  Christmas and the last few days drove it home.

Earlier, reference was made to Mike on “Comic Relief.”  Mike and Cindy bought their boat with the anticipation to doing the Loop within the next year.  Mike volunteered that they were considering their options; on Friday, Mike had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When he responded to his friend who asked, “How’s it going,” and Mike responded, “I’ve got some challenges,” as he held the hand of his wife; my heart broke for them.

We started the New Year with each other, realizing just how fortunate we are!

Sue joins me in sending you our best wishes for a 2018 filled with many Joyful moments!

Happy New Year!

Sunday (12/31)  Get set for the New Year!

DSC_1372New Years, here we come!  A wonderful day to head 23.8 miles across the entrance to Tampa Bay to Riveria Dunes Marina in Palmetto.

Forty-five minutes of exercise, Sue afoot and Art on bike, started the day.  The locals were enjoying brunch and the “Casino” was getting prepared for a New Years dance.  Art bumped into Mike and Cindy of “Comic Relief”. dsc_1375.jpg A friend of theirs came up to them and inquired of Mike, “How you doing?”  Mike simply responded, “I’ve got some challenges.”  The conversation went to the evening’s events.  Mike invited us to join them at the yacht club where a beer cooler would be lowered from the yardarm at midnight. Unfortunately, we were booked at River Dunes that evening.  Art shook hands with Mike, “I’ll be thinking of you.”

dsc_1377.jpgAs we departed Gulfport, we decided to try a route that had a relatively low, fixed bridge, that would save us some time.DSC_1380  As we approached we checked the clearance boards.  The tidal current was running, pulling us toward the structure. We approached in “docking mode,” ready to dsc_1393.jpgback off should it be necessary. Sue stuck her head up through the open sun roof, gave the thumbs up and we proceeded.  Close!

The rest of the cruise was most enjoyable, shared best with pictures.dsc_1394.jpg

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