Our Stealth Road Trip

Like everyone else we had to lock down and social distance.  For us that meant spending our days within 164 sq. feet.  We know that because we were so bored one day we measured.   So when our son Austin invited us to meet him in Arizona, we put a four day driving route together that had us stopping in ‘friendly’ states.  Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona were all starting to open.  Armed with Clorox wipes and an ice chest filled with food and adult beverages we took off and had an easy four day drive out.  Light traffic, clean nearly empty hotels and friendly people.  Well except for the masked lady in the elevator whose eyes filled with terror when the door opened and she saw us ready to get in.  We graciously waited for the next one.     

Arizona was just opening up restaurants when we arrived so after 65 days of cooking we enjoyed our first meal out.  But I honestly enjoyed our dinners in, Austin is a really good cook as are several of his friends.  The house we rented was filled nightly with his college friends; a really great group of young adults we enjoyed talking with.  Our pup, Oakley still remembers us each time we see her though we know she is slowing down now at 11 years old.  

Oakley getting some loving from her Dad

Austin cooking up dinner for a crowd

All too soon we were saying goodbye to Austin, Nicki and the pups.  Since the lower states continued opening up, we took a more leisurely trip back.  Our first stop was Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Ok so they weren’t open.  After booking a one night stop at an AirBnb, I read that out-of-state people were banned from hotels and short term rentals by the Governor.  Not subject to quarantine but actually banned.  I was pretty sure I booked a place in New Mexico and not Mexico but I checked the reservations just in case.  Luckily, as with most AirBnb’s, you let yourself in so there was no one to ask any questions.  We did venture out to the downtown area, which was totally closed as expected.  

We had a cute little AirBnb in Las Cruces. We cooked up some pasta and used up the excellent bolognas Austin made in Arizona.

The next morning we left New Mexico in our rear view mirror and headed into Texas.  Our first stop there was the town of Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country.  In keeping with their German roots they had several good German restaurants, lots of wineries and a nice downtown area that was hopping when we were there.  The merchants and restaurant staff were all so grateful to be open and back working.  

We had a nice porch on our cabin in Fredericksburg overlooking the horses and goats on the property. Gary had his first Texas Lone Star.

After several days, we headed off for a week to a town with the cool name of Dripping Springs.  Also in the Texas Hill Country it is about 20 miles from the city of Austin.  We had a secluded cabin surrounded by wineries, brew pubs and distilleries.  The city of Austin still had not fully opened up so we couldn’t explore like we wanted.  We did walk the trails around Lady Bird Lake, which runs right through the city.  Lots of people out and about, with many paddle boards and kayaks on the lake.  The Dripping Springs area reminded us of the Sierra Foothills in California.  If you like visiting wineries, I highly recommend this area. 

12 Fox Beer had just opened and were celebrating their first year anniversary. All outdoor seating and it was packed. Owned by veterans.

Texas size T-bone steaks grilled up by Gary.  For the record, his was bigger than mine.

After several days of Texas sized BBQ, Gary grilled us up a seafood medley with veggies.

We did get to the famous Salt Lick BBQ but due to Covid-19 restrictions and getting attacked by flies while eating, the pictures sucked. So here is proof we were there.

We loved the cabin in Dripping Springs. Anything over 164 square feet is large to us and we had our own washer and dryer.  Score!

Not a full size refrigerator but bigger than ours!

Lady Bird Lake, Austin Texas

We hiked up Mount Bonnell, which is in Covert Park in Austin, Texas.

Our third stop in Texas was in the Galveston area.  Loved their old town but unfortunately we were rained out so we didn’t get a single picture.  The last stop was an overnight in Pensacola Florida, a town we’ve visited before. 

So whats next?  We had hoped that Virginia and Maryland would be open by the time we returned so we could continue with our original plans of spending the summer cruising the Chesapeake Bay.  We also had plans to cruise up the Potomac River and spend time touring Washington DC.  While we enjoy being on the water, our main goal of traveling is to explore the towns we encounter along the way.  Obviously the timing is not right for the Chesapeake area so moving via water is on hold.   But Georgia is open so we may hit the road and explore the north western portion and the Great Smokey Mountains.  Cruising has taught us to aways have a backup plan.

Solaro Estate Winery in Dripping Springs. The owners very knowledgable 20 something daughter gave us our wine tasting. They were ready to bottle when Covid-19 hit in March and couldn’t bring on help. They ended up bottling with only 5 people.

This isn’t where we wanted to spend hurricane season, however, the sunsets at Brunswick Landing Marina never disappoint.

Cindy

  

     

 

  

 

The East Coast of Florida

I’m not really a fan of the ICW through Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  It is not all that scenic and can be crazy busy.  Somehow we got lucky and our little tug slipped through the ports of Miami and Fort Lauderdale without encountering any ships on both our trip south and north.  Once past the city we had a good trip up to one of our favorite little places, Lighthouse Point Marina.  There is nothing special here just friendly staff, a good restaurant and easy in and out right off the ICW.  We left the next day in order to cross Lake Worth on a calm day.  We would have liked to stop in Palm Beach but the marinas are crazy expensive.  So onward to Safe Harbor North Palm Beach where At Ease was tucked into a 50 foot slip surrounded by the big girls.  At least we were blocked from the wind and had plenty of room to back out in the fairway.  The best part of this stop was the nearby Costco where we stocked up on some stuff we needed.

As with the trip south, we spent a week in Fort Pierce for no reason other than we like warm weather and really didn’t want to get to Georgia before March 1.  As weather and winds permitted we continued on stopping in Vero Beach, Melbourne, Titusville, New Smyrna Beach just because we wanted to try a pizza place, Daytona, Marineland and Jacksonville.  The most excitement we had underway was seeing the Space X Falcon 9 launch from around 23 miles away as we headed to Melbourne.  

Florida has some good farmers markets. This one is in Fort Pierce.

‘Paws Required’

Loggerhead Marina, Vero Beach. Our view from the boat. A quiet little marina in a gated community.

Ran into this guy at the Pirate Fest in Fort Pierce

Our neighbor pup in Marineland. He stayed there until late at night.

The best pork chop ever. Marker 32 Jacksonville, Florida.

Our final stop of the trip was Fernandina Harbor Marina which finally opened in January after a hurricane destroyed it three years ago.  Love this little historical town and definitely one of the highlights of the trip north. 

We met the owners of the very first Nordic Tug 32 ever built and we got this picture of her while we were in Fernandina. In comparison, ‘At Ease’ is hull number 230.

If you are ever in Fernandina Beach, stop in at Marlin & Barrel Distillery. Small family owned with some unusual alcohol.

We are back in Brunswick, Georgia wishing we were still in the warm Keys.  But the sun is shining with a howling wind that is keeping the noseeum’s at bay.  We are getting some things done on the boat, stocking up and planning our trip north in April.  The goal is summer in the Chesapeake Bay.

Greek pizza on board At Ease.

Fair winds,

Cindy

A Little Work, Pool Time and Exercise

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Marathon was a mixture of work, pool time and walking.  We were docked at Marlin Bay Marina, which had an awesome large pool where we spent most afternoons.  The marina is situated almost right in the middle of Marathon so we had a one mile walk to the grocery store north and a one mile walk to the marine store south.  Our water heater broke while we were there so having a marine store local was a plus as was the Home Depot right by us.  Getting the old water heater out was a bit frustrating since it was buried behind the batteries and engine exhaust back under the settee.  Nordic Tug gets an F minus for not putting an access door in the settee.  After some salty sailor language, Gary fixed that little design flaw and cut his own.  Luckily the swabby was able to hold the vacuum cleaner hose up against the saw so the fiberglass dust didn’t fly all over the cabin causing an even bigger mess.

After one and a half days we finally go to that sucker. That is a thin layer of fiberglass over plywood.

While he had his head in there he found fittings on two water pumps were leaking. Another trip to Home Depot!

But it wasn’t all work and no play.  We took a seven mile round trip walk to Sombrero Beach.  It was a long hot walk and most people would think that is work but having a picnic lunch with the cool breeze off the ocean was worth it.  Key West is not known for its’ beaches as it is too shallow so I guess that is one reason people choose Marathon over Key West.  Another would be the lack of cruise ships in Marathon.

Beautiful Sombrero Beach, Marathon, Florida Keys

The cruisers anchored at Boot Key Harbor can dinghy over to Sombrero Beach through Sisters Creek.

The Gulf of Mexico was right off the bow of the boat.  When the winds were blowing from the north, it was a wild ride in the marina despite the retaining wall.  Luckily that only happened for three days but we were gifted with some beautiful sunsets.

We also had some nice sunrises

Marlin Bay Marina, our ‘backyard’ off the boat

Circular stairs lead up top for a great sunset view

Well as they say all good things must come to an end.  We had planned to stay in Marathon until February 1st, but Mother Nature had other plans.  With north winds predicted for that day, our best window was to depart on Gary’s birthday, January 28th so we could make it through the bay side of the keys and to the top of Key Biscayne before the winds arrived.  Except for the many crab pots we had to dodge, it was a beautiful passage through the chain of keys up to Key Largo where we celebrated Gary’s birthday and our last official day in the Florida Keys.

Celebrating 62 years and our last day in the Florida Keys at the Black Siren, Key Largo

Sunset in Key Largo with a quarter moon

The next day we had calm water (and no crab pots!) for our passage to the top of Key Biscayne where we dropped our little mast so that our height went from 22 ft down to 12 ft.  This was in preparation for the many bridges we will pass under from Miami up to Ft Pierce.  At only 12 ft, we can pass under quite a few without requesting or waiting for an opening.  

We arrived in Hollywood, Florida on January 30th with the Captain docking with the flu and winds which combined with crappy docks, added some drama.  The only casualty was a broken solar light when the wind pushed us into a piling.  No boats or marine life were harmed in the process!   

We are hanging here through Super Bowl weekend waiting for the winds to die down and Gary to recover from the flu.  There is a Margaritaville in town so hopefully tomorrow we can add number 13 to our list.

A Manatee right off the back of the boat

Fair winds,

Cindy

  

     

 

  

 

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