Monthly Archives: January 2016

Hello Keys—Hanging out on a Ball

January 26-30 update

After doing  some shopping and picking up Elaine at the airport, we returned to the boat, to show her the 5 star accommodations for the next three weeks. With unfavourable weather in the Bahamas, we made the decision to go down to the Keys, as far as  Marathon and then head north to Fort Myers and then cross Florida through Lake Okeechobee ( rim- route) and come back to Miami  while Elaine is with us.

On Wednesday morning, we left Bayshore Marina at 10:40 and headed back out into Biscayne Bay in southern direction.  Once again we had to dodge sail boats, as the international regatta was continuing.   A small dinghy, having seen our Canadian Flag, drove by us, as they also were flying the Maple leaf.



There was some wind and there was a light chop as we got away from land.  We passed the Turkey Point nuclear plant about 1:00, and had a little more shelter from some of the smaller  uninhabited   “Keys”.  We entered Card Sound and  anchored in angel fish Creek, near  Grayvik, in North Key Largo.   Between the tidal current  and winds and a thunderstorm , we somehow turned around during the evening and our anchor indicator (milk jug with a string; that I try to tie off at about 3 X the depth) was caught under the boat (we could hear it scraping).  Not a good thing, as it could get caught in the props or rudder.  Andy said that we may have to swim under the boat in the morning and cut the rope.  Well guess who didn’t sleep after that-  me  being the better swimmer I would have been assigned that task and the thought of swimming in waters that may be jelly fish, shark or alligator infested scared me.   The water here,  is a  lovely aqua blue, not black and murky like Lake Winnipeg. Once it was light, at 7:00, Andy moved the rudders  and then stared the boat, the milk jug popped out- with the rope cut.  Thank goodness for that- no swim for me!

Seeing as how we were up, and there was another storm predicted to blow through the area, IMG_0311we chose to moved on .  We followed the ICW through Barnes Sound,  passed Key Largo,


Tavernier and Islmorada (Purple Island) , which is located on the Upper Matecumbe Key. With bad weather still looming we tried to make as much distance as possible going through steam boat channel- (the shallowest part of the loop so far) while at high tide.   We were being followed by dolphins yet again.



We found a complimentary mooring ball on the west side of Lignumvitae Key and tied up at 2:00—there were crab pots everywhere that had to be zigzagged around.  Being the first mooring ball that we had used- I was not sure of the process and I managed to drop the boat hook in the water—thank goodness it floats. On the third attempt we managed to get the rope through the loop and tied off to the Captain’s satisfaction.



A weather system with rain and winds passed though in the afternoon and evening, rocking us around, but we were more secure on the mooring ball than we would have been with an anchor out.  We started calling Marina’s in Marathon to get a slip for the next day—but all were booked up and some didn’t have openings until late March.  We finally found one that we could get into on Sunday.  We have stayed attached to the mooring ball, reading and playing cards in the evening.    There is another Looper boat- Phaze II  at the next mooring ball, which made contact with us Friday morning.


Friday was a sunny day and Elaine and I read our books on the back deck and got some sun- a little too much in places.  Elaine is a great crew mate!   Here’s a picture of the McKendry siblings, having decktails.


Early Saturday morning the wind picked up slightly, and we are once again bouncing a little.

Trending in Coconut Grove

January 24,25

We left the anchorage by 9:00, and traveled under quite few more bridges, crossed the Port of Miami entrance, where once again there were a number of cruise ships.


We then traveled through the city of Miami and out to Biscayne Bay.


We entered the channel to Bayshore Marina from the bay and saw over 150 sailboats participating in an International regatta.  They were everywhere including the channel we were in, Andy avoided them as best he could.


We arrived at our slip and tied up by about 12:15.  Later in the afternoon we walked to a nearby grocery store.

Today, the technician came and was able to fix the head, and I did some cleaning. In the afternoon we walked to Coco Walk; a nearby district that has shops and restaurants.

coconut grove

For tomorrow, we have rented a car for the day, so we can go pick up Andy’s sister Elaine at Miami airport—the next visiting crew!   We also plan to do some banking and grocery shopping.  The internet at this marina; doesn’t work well so not a lot of pictures being added.

We will assess the weather on Wednesday morning and make a decision if we’re going to the Bahamas or the Keys or ?? ( it won’t be crossing the gulf to Carabelle!!)  for the next 3 weeks while Elaine is here.


Moving further south

January 21-23 Update

We left Sunset Bay Marina at about 10:15;  At 8:00 Andy started calling marinas and marine plumbers, to try and get someone to look at our Aft head, as it has stopped working.  No one in the area could do the work for at least 3 weeks, so we decided to move on and find someone closer to Miami.  We finally found a guy that will come to our boat in a marina we have booked in Biscayne Bay on Monday morning, provided we can get there. I called several marinas, before this one reluctantly agreed to take us—but the slip he assigned us to is due for some construction—I just hope it doesn’t happen next week!

We made it as far as West Palm Beach by 4:00 and tied up on a city dock, with our friends from I Love Lucy, who had got there several hours before us.  We are tied up in front of a very large ship called Grand Luxe.



 We met the captain, and he allowed us to stay tied to the dock as he had  a permit to use it for the weekend.  In the evening  near to us in  West Palm there was a band playing and the Budweiser Clydesdales were parading through the downtown- and we’re not in St. Louis!


January 22

Through the night it was quite windy and this continued on Friday with a small craft warning. We stayed put as it rained on and off all day.    At one point Andy talked to the captain from the Grand Luxe,


and he said we should be fine on the ICW.  So the plan is to make a run on Saturday.

January 23

We got up early and cast off at 6:45- reaching our first bridge at 6:55.  Today was definitely the day of bridges.  We went thought 26, 7 of which we had to have opened as the clearance was less than 17 feet, some bridge open on demand, while others open on the ¼  & ¾  past the hour and others opened on the hour and ½. Andy timed it well- I think we only had to wait a maximum of 20 minutes for any opening.  I saw a giraffe  lawn ornament which I found interesting.


We cruised through Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton. Pompano  and then Fort Lauderdale  were we saw a number of cruise chips,


and the inlet to the Atlantic.  I was also made aware that they are the yacht capital of the world.


There was a warning that with the winds the waves in the Atlantic and Gulf would be over 8 feet, glad we weren’t  going out there.  Andy also noticed the Blue Moon   tied up at a marina there—he had seen this vessel back in September on Lake Michigan.

When we got near Hollywood, we saw the hotel that we had stayed at when AACC conference was here in 2013.   We looked at a number of recommended anchorages for the night but with the brisk wind we opted for Bakers Haulover Inlet (North Miami) which is next to Florida University at mileage 1079.7  It is a little breezy here and we’re swinging; but are far enough away from the other 15 boats that chose this anchorage.      IMG_4547

Will be moving to our marina tomorrow.

We are near the Atlantic


Last night we had drinks with Ed and Lucy Guillard, who gave us lots of good advice on anchorages in Florida; they had done the loop several years ago, and liven on their boat for over 10 years.


We left Clewiston at 7:45 and followed Ed and Lucy from I love Lucy for most of the day.



The  lake crossing was about 25 miles,  the weather forecast had said their was a light chop.  I agree there was a light chop in places, but in other places  it was quite rough.


We were followed by  these seagulls across the lake- I’m not sure if we were maybe cutting down on the air current/wind and that’s why they kept so close.


We made it to Port Mayaca lock mile 40   just after 11:00.   We followed the St.Lucie channel for most of the afternoon, and reached the  Port St. Lucie lock at mile 15.0,  at 2:30, and made it through by 3:30 with 5 other boats.    IMG_4517

We saw several canals which were  bringing run-off  into the St.Lucie channel.



We’ve now completed the Okeechobee Waterway and crossed the state of Florida from East to West in 3 days.


We are at the Sunset Bay Marina in Stuart for the night, as we needed to do laundry and get pumped out.  We thought we were having an issue with our heat pump, but it seems to be working tonight.

We will be heading South tomorrow and will be anchoring out for the next few days.

The Okeechobee Waterway Adventure aka Crossing Florida

The Okeechobee Waterway is a 154  statue mile passage from the   Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.  To  actually cross Lake Okeechobee  there are 2 choices either the open water crossing   (39 statute miles)or the rim route (50 statute miles), which skirts around the shore line, the route you take depends on the lake depth and your boat’s draft.


We left CapeCoral at 10:20 and made out way down the Caloosahatchee River, passing the city of Fort Myers.


We continued on and passed through the  Franklin Lock at  mile  121.4 at  1:30.    In this lock we only went  up 2.5 feet; nothing compared to the locks we had encountered on the   river system earlier in the trip.


Near the lock there were some wooden structures- which are referred to as Dolphins, which you can tie up to.


We passed through several bridges, one of which was a swing bridge.


We arrived at the free city dock at LaBelle at 3:40, where there were 5 boats tied up.


We went for a walk and found a Dollar General and bought a few provisions.  In the morning we went to McDonalds for breakfast and to check our emails.

We left at 9:05 and passed through the Ortona  (rise of 8 feet), and Moore Haven locks, most of the trip today was  through a channel with farmland on one side, and tall grasses/swamp on the other.

IMG_4495Near this second lock I saw this sign, which I had to include—we have seen so many boaters since we arrived in Florida, but rarely have I seen anyone wearing a lifejacket. IMG_4494

We arrived at Clewiston at 2:15.  We ended up rafting with a boat called I Love Lucy on park dock, which we had met in LaBelle and had followed for most of the day.

Tomorrow we plan to cross the Lake.

Cape Coral vacation

It was a warm day  on Saturday in Fort Myers Beach and many people were out enjoying the sunshine


I think everyone that owned a boat was  also out on the water.


We left the marina at 11:15 and took our time navigating the channel and staying out of the wakes of the go fast boats, we  arrived at Kitty’s at 2:00.  Kitty Nicolai, is a volunteer Harbour host for American Great Loop Cruisers Association (AGLCA).  She has a dock outside her house in Cape Coral that she offers for free to loopers for a night or two.


Cape Coral is along the Caloosahatchee River which is the first segment of the Okeechobee waterway.

She has a lovely home, with a west wing for guests and a pool – kept at 89o, where we spent the afternoon visiting ,partaking in docktails, followed later by supper.



Our great hostess- Kitty Nicolai

As we were leaving to go back to the boat for the night the rain started; at about 2:00 a.m. the winds started gusting as a system was blowing through, we went out and checked the ropes.  About  3:30 the cell phone rang- it was Kitty saying there was a tornado warning and that we should come up and spend the remainder of the night in the house.   I tried to sleep while Andy watched a rerun of the Packers –Cardinals game.

Around noon today , we met Kim Russo, who is the AGLCA Director, she had come to Fort Myers for the Gold Looper Reunion, and had stopped by to see Kitty.  In the afternoon we went out to get some provisions.  I suspect we will be turning in early tonight.   Plan for tomorrow if the winds subside is to get to Labelle.

We survived Salty Sam’s squall

January 15

The day started with rain beginning at 5:00 a.m., it continued for many hours, and the wind started to increase.IMG_4464 At 10:30, we were advised on the radio that there was a tornado watch for several counties in Florida including where we were.   At 10:45, we left the boat to seek shelter in marina buildings.  I was in the ladies washroom with several other women and 2 dogs.  The winds and torrential rains came and lasted about an hour.  We heard several large bangs, and the power went out a few times.  We returned to our boat by 12:15, to discover that one of the large bangs had been a transformer being hit & we had no shore power.  Dawn came about an hour later to take us shopping and sightseeing.  There was quite a bit of water over the road, coming out of the marina.


After shopping we went to one of Dawn’s favourite places for some beverages and French fries.

Ft Myers

Peter called and he and Andy are now discussing things to keep them busy  now that they are  both retired.


Today the sky is blue and the humidity is  at 97%; we plan to leave Salty Sam’s and go to Cape Coral to  start the Lake Okeechobee waterway tomorrow.  There is a pirate ship here- so took another picture.


Saw this sign  we’re a long way from home….


Update to January 14th

January 8-14

We ended up staying 4 nights at Regatta Point Marina.  We had hoped to leave Monday morning but there were 4 to 5 foot waves on Tampa Bay, so we opted to stay another day.

While in Palmetto, we spent time with the Gillespies, and walked into town and did some shopping.  I also caught up on laundry and read another book.  The internet at the marina was only accessible in the boaters lounge—so wasn’t able to do too much on the blog.   Check out this house  boat it use to be a wedding chapel.



On Tuesday we traveled with Dream Catcher through Sarasota

IMG_4427 - Copy

I think this is the Ringling Brothers Circus Museum – it was purple so I took the picture.

IMG_4428and up  until Venice where they went into a marina


and we opted to go another 20 miles to an anchorage in Cape Haze at mile marker 36,  there were two other looper boats in the bay, and one of them was  from Montreal.  We travelled  under 12 bridges that range from 65 feet to 9 feet ( this was the  Blackburn Swing Bridge)

IMG_4430 - Copy and saw a car ferry,

IMG_4437 we also went through several Manatee zones, but didn’t see any.



On Wednesday we left Cape Haze at 9:00, and found the water to be moderately choppy across Charlotte harbor so we only went about 15 miles to a sheltered   anchorage behind  Punta Blanca island.


IMG_4440 We spent the night there with another boat called Frost Free.  While checking the oil; Andy noticed that we had a fuel leak.  This morning when he started up the engine he found the leaky hose.  Here’s his solution to collect the leaking fuel while we travelled- it’s amazing what you can do with tin foil and clothes pins and string– maybe his last name should be McGyver


When we got to Salty Sam’s Marina in Fort Myers beach,

IMG_4445 we called  Dawn; who is Peter Westhead’s partner—she was able to drive us to a hydraulics shop with our leaky fuel intake  hose; and they made us another one while we waited.  We then went out for supper, and then to Dawn’s condo to meet their cats Kirkby and SeftonIMG_4458 IMG_4462

We  also found a loaner car to use for the weekend. Just kidding Peter- we’re not going to use it.


We crossed mile marker 0 of the gulf  intercoastal waterway today ,  When we go back out on the water will turn East and cross the state of Florida  on the  Lake Okeechobee waterway.

It is suppose to storm tonight- so we may be here for a day or two.

Finally in Tampa Bay

Jan  6-7th

We had lunch with the Pierces at a restaurant on Tarpon   Lake on Thursday, we really enjoyed our two visits with them—it’s good to see people  from home.

florida coast

We left Tarpon Springs and followed the  ICW ( intracoastal waterway) down through Dunedin  (winter training grounds of the Blue Jays),


Clearwater , Treasure Island,


St. Petersburg and then into Tampa Bay.  We went under several bridges, some of which had to IMG_4412open for the boats we were traveling with as they were too tall.


We took a channel along the Sunshine Skyway bridge,


that cut off several miles and crossed the shipping channel in Tampa Bay, which wasn’t too busy- we only saw one large vessel.   There were dolphins and more crab pots along our route today, and lots of birds . We arrived at Regatta Point Marina at about 4:00.  Our friends Pat and Marcia Gillespie, formerly of Victoria Harbour, (who had travelled with Andy on the first leg of the loop trip)  and another couple Eric and Marg met us for supper at the  marina.  The Gillespies are going to return on Saturday and take us shopping.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Capital of North America

January 2- 6

Tarpon Springs has lots of very quaint shops as well as sponges, soaps and tourist T-shirts.  There are also some very fine restaurants, and bakeries.  I hadn’t eaten much bread for the past two months,  but found a bakery about a block away and can’t resist fresh “village” loafs (2 feet long loaves for $2)  and have eaten more than my share the past week.   If our freezer was larger  I would be taking some with us.   Our marina is  very new and within walking distance of the down-town, and there are a number of  other Loopers here.  If you pay for 5 nights you get 2 free- so we’re staying put until our time is up.




 I loved the Christmas tree!

Had lunch with the Pierce’s and went grocery  shopping on Saturday.   It is now Wednesday and we are still in Tarpons Springs.  We had a “real” marine electrician- Louie look at our electrical system on Monday morning.  Within minutes he identified the problem we were having ( an undersized isolator and not installed properly)   He was able to explain how our system was designed, and what was required to make it work properly.     Installation of 2 new isolators, some new cable and a fuse as well as re-installing our old alternators and regulators was all that we needed.  We also had the generator battery tested and found that it was close to dying- so had it replaced this morning.


We really, really feel confident now that our “ electrical  saga” has concluded.   Louie and Shane  did an  amazing job.  It’s really too bad we hadn’t found them  sooner as then  we wouldn’t have had  to hire  mechanics in Britt,  Seneca,  Fulton,   Gulf Coast, Pensacola, Niceville and  Panama City to diagnose our issues.  Enough said no more talk about electrical issues for the next 8 months.

Today is January 6th, Epithany, which is the largest celebration of this Greek holiday anywhere in North or South America.  (Back home it would be Ukrainian Christmas eve.)  There were a number of events scheduled for today—blessing of the water, litany procession  and release of a peace  dove, followed  by the casting of the cross.  The archbishop casts a custom made weighed white cross into the water and young men will dive for it.  The cross retriever then receives a special blessing from the Archbishop.    The celebration continues throughout the afternoon and evening.  On our way back to the boat– we ran into a couple from Transcona the first Manitobans we  had run into, besides the Pierces.


Divers entering the water to get to the row boats


Archbishop getting ready to cast  the cross


Divers searching for the cross.

We’re going out for seafood tonight and then  plan  to leave  early Friday morning and go south to Bradenton/Palmetto area to meet up with the Gillespies.  We want to get off the water for the weekend, as that is when  the waterways are known to fill up with go-fast boats.