Adiós Key West

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We had planned to stay a little longer in Key West but a weather window opened up for us to tackle the only ocean portion of our trip back north.  So we left at sunrise for a 6 hour passage up to Marathon about mid way up the keys.   This time the outside passage wasn’t as smooth and peaceful as our passage down in November, but the winds were fairly light with small choppy seas that did make spotting all those crab pots lurking out there a bit more difficult.  We arrived at the marina an hour before the big winds started, which helps to keep the docking drama to a minimum.  

We’ve been to Key West several times by land but the last five weeks allowed us to explore a lot more and really get the vibe of the place.  We had some very good food and drinks, met locals and tourists from all over.  Pictures speak louder than words………

The traditional Christmas tree in Key West

We saw a lot of Christmas decorations. This was my favorite.

Fort Zachary Taylor with the Disney cruise ship in the background.

 

The Banyan trees throughout Key West provide great outdoor space for restaurants.

 

Key Lime pie

Half Shell Raw Bar our favorite place for oysters. $10.99 a dozen for happy hour!

A pup checking out his sunglasses in the mirror.

Southern most point in the US 90 miles from Cuba.

Gary claims this was The Best daiquiri he has ever had. Mine was a Japanese Old Fashioned also very good.

The Captain ‘At Ease’ while a cleaning crew work on a charter boat in the humid heat.

At Ease docked at Stock Island Village Marina in the Florida Keys.

Fair winds,

Cindy

Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

The thought of going to a butterfly conservatory sounded really boring, but based on some recommendations we decided to give it a go.  While getting our tickets, we received our instructions.  Enter through the double doors and close them quickly, watch where you step so you don’t squash any, no touching them, and watch for hitchhikers when you leave.  All I can say is WOW.  After slinking through the second set of doors we were met by a swarm of butterflies of all sizes and colors.  We were so stunned by the beautiful sight of butterflies, birds and plants we just stood there taking it all in.  Trying to get pictures was a challenge but I think we got a few good ones. 

A swarm of beautiful blue ones met us when we entered.

Meet Rhett and Scarlett, Caribbean Flamingo’s born February 2012. Their average lifespan in the wild is 20 – 30 years. Sixty years in captivity.

Note to self. Do not wear bright yellow in a butterfly conservatory. They kept landing on me. So much for the No Touching rule!

I don’t think the pictures justify the experience.  Would highly recommend a visit to one if you have the opportunity.

Below is a picture of The Curry Mansion Inn all decked out for Christmas.  We stayed here on our first visit to Key West back in 1991.

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

The Weekend Bubba Came To Town

It has been way too many years since we last saw Darrin but he blew into Key West one day in his convertible mustang for his first ever visit to Key West.

What happens in Key West, stays in Key West but I can say there may have been some consuming of Papa Hemingway’s rum.  But of course to counter that we ate our way through old town.  A little fresh oysters here, conch fritters there and a great seafood dinner at a place called Off the Hook.   Okay maybe we had a few cold ones thrown in here and there as well. 

Great old school bar. Much preferred over Sloppy Joe’s.

This is the famous Whistle Bar over The Bull on Duval Street. Why are there only women up there?

The two Bubba’s having margarita’s at where else? The Original Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.   

We had a great time and all too quickly Darrin put the top down and zoomed off through the Florida Keys on a beautiful sunny day.  

On Friday night we got to see the lighted boat parade in our marina.  Here are two of our favorites.

That is Snoopy and the Red Baron

Fair winds,

Cindy

Our Final Destination for 2019, Key West

Gary and I have a lot to be thankful for this year with the most recent being good weather and calm seas for our arrival in Key West.  While we never sail to a schedule, there were several reasons we needed to be here by November 25th a little earlier than planned.  We had a lot of miles still to cover after Ft Pierce to make that happen so we needed to get moving.  After getting delayed a day to fix the generator which stopped working again, we navigated through the craziness of Ft Lauderdale and Miami, sailed through the calm waters of Key Biscayne and stopped off in Key Largo for the night.  

Our dock mate for the evening in Key Largo

When you know you are in the Keys

Sunrise leaving Dinner Key Channel in Key Biscayne

Sunrise over the Miami skyline

At the crack of dawn the next morning we were off for Marathon 50 nm away.  We were worried about a few shallow spots along the ICW, but we had plenty of water the whole time.  After almost eight hours we pulled into Marathon hungry but as usual Gary found us a nice local spot with good food and cold beer.  Just like traveling by car, I’m driving while he is figuring out where we will eat and drink when we arrive.    This bar actually had a track of hard ice where you could set your drink of choice to keep it cold.  I kid you not.    

The winds were up a bit the next morning so we delayed leaving for an hour to let them calm a bit since we would be going from the bay side of the keys to the ocean side for our trip to Key West.  It ended up to be a beautiful day on the water with calm seas and a gentle breeze.  I had forgotten how blue the water is here in the keys and our sail brought us back to our days sailing in open water on Sereno.    

We are going to hang in the keys until at least mid January before starting to head north again at a much slower pace.  No reason to rush back to the cold, right!

Our spot for the next few weeks

Stock Island Village Marina home for the next few weeks

Okay one picture of Key West. The Green Parrot, fun time was had by the crew of At Ease to celebrate our arrival.

Fair winds,

Cindy

Fort Pierce

We sailed on into Fort Pierce City Marina on a sunny day and after wrangling ‘At Ease’ in stern first with a stiff breeze on our bow we settled in.  Gotta love the short docks and pilings in Florida!  I should have been raised a cowgirl but I’m working on my lassoing skills.

Our generator was not starting ‘again’ so we made the decision to hold for one week to get someone in to help Gary trouble shoot.  After securing the slip for a week, Gary decided to try the generator one more time and low and behold the sucker started right up and ran with load for 30 minutes.  This has been one frustrating piece of equipment that we need so we can spend time anchoring out especially for our trip through the Florida Keys.  But you can’t very well get a mechanic in for $500+ when the stupid thing is running!  So with two weather systems heading our way we will stay put.  Not a bad place to be stuck with a tiki bar next door, small downtown with several good restaurants, and a seafood market close by.  With the down time we are getting some supplies shipped in and finalizing our sail plans to Key West.  With perfect weather we can get there in one week.  But the weather systems keep rolling in so with all things considered we probably won’t be there for another two weeks.  Keeping our fingers crossed we arrive before December 1st so we can have a proper celebration!   

The sun setting to the west and the full moon rising to the east

View of town from the marina. Beautiful sunsets here

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

And We Are Off

‘At Ease’ eased on out of Brunswick Landing Marina early on a cold and cloudy Saturday morning.  While St Andrew’s sound an hour south had breaking waves, we were able to cross by taking the longer inside route off the ICW.  After crossing into Florida early afternoon, we arrived north of the St John’s River at the Jacksonville Free Docks after a long eight hour day.  The Free Docks have room for just six boats and are popular because they are free for up to 72 hours.  We were arriving later then planned so our chances of scoring a spot were slim.  But we can thank the fellow cruisers who arrived before us for moving their boats closer together leaving that one precious spot on the end, which we scored.  We reciprocated early the next morning by leaving first giving them extra room to maneuver in the strong current.

Jacksonville Free Docks

Wanting warmer temperatures, we bypassed St. Augustine on a busy Sunday and arrived in Marineland Marina after another long day.  St. Augustine is a favorite of ours but we were happy to put the craziness behind us.  We arrived too late to see much of the Marineland area, but we enjoyed this very small marina and especially Jay, who goes around to all the boats every night at 5:00 to say goodbye.  During our trip today we helped a sailboat by radioing back the bridge heights as we passed under.  They needed at least 63 feet and at high tide they were understandably concerned.  As a thank you, they took a picture of At Ease as we passed them to take the lead.  This is our first photo underway so we are grateful for the picture.

Photo courtesy of S/V Notos

We sailed into New Smyrna Beach under warm sunny skies and scored a great slip before the skies opened up with blinding rain and scary lightening.   Scary as in no time between the lightening and the thunder scary!  Lucky we had a Tiki bar a few yards away to hide in.  Reminded us of Banana Bay Marina in Costa Rica where we would hide at the bar during those scary storms. Thanks to our brother-in-law, Mike for driving over for dinner.  Despite the rain, he received the royal tour of our new home.   

You know the old adage “be careful what you wish for”.  Well we wanted warm but we are getting hot and humid.  We are ahead of schedule covering 182 nm in 4 days.  I know, in a car that is just a few hours.  With all that behind us we slowed down.  We stopped in Titusville and revisited the Playalinda Brewery below the loft we stayed in a few weeks back.  Then on to Cocoa where we had no sightings of Jeannie, Tony Nelson or Roger Healey but there was a nice village to explore.  With heavy rain predicted, we did a short two hour hop down to Melbourne to a slip at Telemar Bay Marina, which is a little off the ICW up the Banana river.  Our intent was to stay one day but the rains came as predicted shortly after we arrived.  So today 11/9 we made the easy decision to stay put for another day and let this weather system pass through.  I hope the rain stops this afternoon so we can get a walk in and find some groceries!  

Gizmo has found a new home on our boat

Oysters, mussels all good!

Playalinda Brewery, Titusville

Always checking out the local brews

Fair winds,

Cindy      

Family

Despite our nomadic life style, we make sure to spend time with family.  We visited Barb and her family in May.  In September we visited with Gary’s mom and caught up with his brother, Steve before spending a week with Austin, Nicki and Oakley in San Diego.    While it was a quick trip, we spent lots of time talking, eating and maybe we had a few drinks here and there.   We were bummed we couldn’t meet up with niece Crissi and her kids McKenna and Peyton but hopefully next time. 

Back on the east coast we headed to Florida for a reunion with the Kalin side of the family.  Our nephew, Travis, his wife Tegan and their children Flynn and Amelia are visiting the US from their home in Perth, Australia.  While their mom sometimes refers to them as ‘ratbags’, at 6 and 4 Flynn and Amelia were angels among a bunch of adults who they never met before.  I believe ratbag is Aussie slang for trouble maker or someone causing havok.  In other words, a normal kid but it made me laugh.  I just may have to use that one.  We also enjoyed spending time with our nephew, Mick along with his wife Ashley and their son Mickey.  Lucky for us they live in Florida and not on the other side of the world!   What made this reunion even more special was Austin and Nicki flew in from California.  Austin was three or four years old the last time he saw Mick and Travis so this was an opportunity for the cousins to connect and hopefully stay in touch. 

Kalin Family Reunion 10/19/2019.

Ashley, Mick and Gary

With all the times we visited family in Florida while Austin was a kid, we never made it to the Kennedy Space Center.  We fixed that this trip and we loved it.  Our favorite was the bus tour through the launch pads and seeing the Vehicle Assembly Building up close.  The bus tour not only touched on the history but our guide talked quite a bit about what is currently happening with Space X and the other private interests.  Very interesting and we all were glad we went.  After dropping Nicki off at the airport, we three headed down to Ft Lauderdale where we celebrated Austin’s 27th birthday a few days early.  We bummed around for a day while he met with a business associate and then all too soon we were driving to the airport and had to say good bye again.

Vehicle Assembly Building. Photo courtesy of Austin Cairns

This moves the rockets to the launch pads. Photo courtesy of Austin Cairns

Thanks to all our family members who took time out of their busy lives to spend time with us this year and to family who care enough to stay in touch.  The family will be expanding in 2020 as both Tegan and Ashley are expecting early next year.  Mike, you are going to be busy!  

Now for us?  Hopefully the weather will be in our favor to throw the dock lines off around November 1 and head on down to the Keys.  

Fair winds,

Cindy 

Hurricane Dorian

When we set off on At Ease from the Chesapeake, our plan was to meander down the ICW and arrive at Brunswick Georgia on September 1st.  With it being so stinking hot, we were not too keen on anchoring out so we arrived a few weeks ahead of schedule and its a darn good thing we did.  Right after we got the rest of our stuff out of storage and put away on the boat Dorian started heading our way. 

We are the blue dot

With no sails or canvas, the outside of At Ease is easy to prep for a storm.  But preparing the inside for the worse case scenario meant moving things we didn’t want to lose off the boat and into our car.  And to complicate the matter, we had early morning flights to California five days after Dorian was to pass Brunswick.  With the Governor ordering a mandatory evacuation, we had to not only get the important stuff off the boat but also pack our bags for California on the chance that we would not be able to return to the boat before our scheduled departure.  We were also thinking ahead and anticipating pointing the car west and driving to California.  So pack we did and then headed off to Atlanta for a 3 day forced vacation if there is ever such a thing when you are retired.

Fourteen lines and eight fenders.  Gary left a cork upright on the counter and it was still there when we returned.

The highlights of our Atlanta trip can best be summed up in the following photos.  It was too hot to do our usual walking tour but we did navigate MARTA, their train system, and I drove through the surface streets of downtown during rush hour in search of Trader Vics.  If anyone saw a grey Toyota driving down the bike lane outside the Hilton, I plead the 5th.

Centennial Olympic Park site of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta

Centennial Olympic Park – flags from the countries lined the fountain square

There is a gigantic ferris wheel right outside the park

We toured the World of Coca Cola and this is the safe where the recipe is stored.

Trader Vics Atlanta. There are only two in the US and we have now been to both. The other is in Emeryville California.

Sweetwater Brewing Company

We lucked out and Dorian stayed well off shore so we were able to get back on the boat the day after the storm passed us.  And we were already all packed for California!

Fair winds,

Cindy  

Spending Time in Savannah

After 586 nm we are in one of our favorite cities, Savannah, Georgia.  We need a few things on the boat serviced so decided to spend some time here where resources are much more available.  The nice thing about transiting the ICW this time of year is there is always room at the marinas.  Not many people are crazy enough to travel in this heat as they made the trek up north months ago.  While the ICW is very scenic, our favorite part so far was the trip from Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach to Harborwalk Marina in Georgetown SC.  Wide spaces, deep channels and cypress tree lined waterway made for a relaxing and beautiful sail.  We already planned our north passage through there next spring.  Will definitely take advantage of the beautiful anchorages, intimate marinas and numerous fishing coves we saw.  

While traveling on the ocean we saw so much marine life and I knew that was something we were going to miss.  But low and behold we have seen a lot of dolphins along the way, small turtles and a family of sea otters eating crustaceans off the dock by our slip.   I’m still waiting to spot a bald eagle.  

We will stay in this area for the remainder of this week before slowly heading south to Brunswick, Georgia for the main part of hurricane season.  Not a bad place to hang for awhile.

Sunrise leaving the St Johns Marina on the Stono River in Charleston, South Carolina

Fair winds,

Cindy

Introducing Our New Boat

Holy cow it has been a month since I last posted.  So much has happened.  Yes we closed on our new boat on July 1st.   We arrived that morning with a small U-Haul with our stuff and started moving on.  But let me back up and tell you about her.   She is a Nordic Tug 32 with an overall length of 34 including the swim platform and bow sprite.  So essentially her inside space is about 24 feet long with the remaining being outdoor space.   Her width is 11 feet with a depth of 3 feet 8 inches and she has a lovely sun deck on top that we absolutely love.   But compare those measurements with Sereno at 41 feet, 13.3 width and 6 1/2 foot depth and she is considerably smaller but exactly what we wanted.   Now to the part about moving on.  Well let’s just say it was a challenge finding a place for what we consider our essentials during an extreme heat wave the east coast has been experiencing.  We do have air conditioning but this heat is taxing it big time.  Because she was located in what was basically a boat yard, we had to move on fairly quickly so on July 7th with threw off the dock lines and headed south on the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW).  Because the boat was so new to us, the captain was not too happy with that plan but off we went passing from Virginia into North Carolina a couple hours later.  In two weeks we have logged 294 nm and are currently in Wilmington, North Carolina.   Our stops in North Carolina have included Coinjock Marina, Alligator Marina in Columbia, Belhaven, Oriental, New Bern, Beaufort, Surf City, and Masonboro.  Not bad for our first two weeks.  The captain is loving the 270 hp single engine with bow and stern thrusters.  So is the swabby because she can now step off the boat and tie her off as the captain gently brings her in to the dock.    

The ICW is definitely a different mode of boating for us.  With ocean crossings we are used to wide open spaces and never checking our depth unless we were entering a channel, anchorage or marina.  Here on the ICW our eyes are glued to the chart plotter watching for the shallow spots.  We need a bit more time to feel more comfortable with it and the incredibly rude weekend boaters we have encountered.  But enough said on that.  

So without further ado, we introduce At Ease.  The previous owner was a Rear Admiral in the Navy.  In honor of our military, which has included many family and friends, we have kept the name. 

Our Nordic Tug 32

We left the home port of Charleston. Why not?  The top sundeck is great for watching the sunset.

The Captain has a nice shady spot and a comfortable seat.

We can fit four for dinner and the table folds up when not in use.

We have more refrigeration with side by side units. Still working on this space so more pics to come.

The good news is, we easily fit under this 65 foot bridge.

Here are some pictures of the things we have seen.

Along the ICW you get to see all the houses you can’t see from the road.

New Bern is known for their bears throughout downtown.  The restaurants and shops have all recovered from last years hurricane.  Sadly the hotel and convention center by the marina have not reopened.

 

Sunset over the shrimp boats in Oriental.

Our view at Topside Island Marina, Surf City, NC

RE Mayo Shrimp Company and Marina along the ICW

We loved the small town of Belhaven, NC. Beautiful old homes. They had just celebrated July 4th and they all proudly still flew their American flags.

The River Forest Marina in Belhaven, NC provided free golf carts as well as free laundry. Always very much appreciated.

Fair winds,

Cindy