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Posted By Robin & Jim

Our boat is enjoying the nice weather in the Keys while we're running up and down the east coast in a car, visiting our families and friends for the holidays.  We had a great visit with Jim's family in Clearwater - several of his brothers and sisters were there with their spouses and families, and we had a marvelous time together!  This is Jim's brother Russell, his Dad, and his sister Margaret.  There were 24 people all together - a fun bunch.

roberts family

From Clearwater, we headed up to NJ to see Robin's Dad for Christmas.  This is the house that Robin grew up in, and her Dad was born there.

dads house

The snow arrived a day late for a white Christmas, but it was a full-fledged blizzard with howling winds and drifting snow.  We have about 18" that fell in a relatively short time.  Fortunately it's sunny and nice today, but the wind is still fierce and it sometimes rearranges what the snow blower throws.  Jim spent the entire morning with Dad's snow blower clearing the sidewalks and driveway - he was having a ball! 

jim and snow blower

If we had to do this all the time we'd hate it (we used to when we lived on the dirt in the Great White North), but it's a treat to see everything so pretty.  Tomorrow we start making our way south again, back to the palm trees and barracuda and sand.

This is Dad's caregiver Bronia, walking little Emma the Maltese - Emma hates the snow, but tolerates it with her little pink coat. 

bronia and emma

We had a nice time visiting with our Dads, but we're tired of wearing so many layers of clothes and we're ready to get back to the Keys where life is a little more laid back.

We want to wish you all a very Happy, Healthy New Year!

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We arrived in Marathon on December 1, just as the sun was setting.  We settled in, got my kayak down, and unloaded our bikes - our only wheels for getting around until we return with our car after holiday visiting up north.  It's good to be back and we've been waiting for our friends and dock-mates to arrive for the season.

The Marathon Holiday Boat Parade was Saturday's highlight, complete with an entry from our friend Debbie who had a huge gang of people helping her cover her boat in lights!

xmas boat parade debbie

There were about a dozen boats, though people had a lot more lights on their boats than last year.  We had a great view and it was a wonderful parade, but last year's was a bit more exciting when one of the parade boats ran aground.

xmas boat parade

The other day we had some excitement.  For starters, we had some of the same strong winds and frigid temps that folks in the Great White North have had.  We had 20-30 knots of wind and record low temperatures - in the mid-40's overnight!!  Remember many people in the Keys don't have any heat because it's not supposed to get cold here.

One one of the coldest and windiest days, we had some camera crews running around the marina.  It turns out that the reality TV show "Amazing Race" was filming for their upcoming season. 

Each pair of contestants arrived on a sexy T-top boat with four huge outboards, jumped up on the fuel dock, and ran down the dock with a cameraman in tow.  I give the boat drivers a lot of credit - it was not easy docking in that wind!

amazing race 1

There were three teams - two showed up fairly close together and the third team was about a half hour later.  One team looked like basketball players - extremely tall, wearing shorts that looked like the Harlem Globetrotters. 

We heard that the contestants came from Big Pine - it must have been a VERY cold and wet ride with the wind and waves, and after all the excitement at the fuel dock they vanished.  There are rumors they had to run out the old Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key (the site of a camp for workers building Flagler's railroad to Key West in the early 1900's), as well as alternate theories.  It would be pretty scary going out on the bridge in such heavy gusty winds, but I guess we'll have to wait until the spring to find out the story. 

amazing race 2

We are some of the last people on earth to even glance sideways at a reality TV show, unless you count Mythbusters as reality TV.... (we love Mythbusters)...  but I guess we'll have to tune into this thing just to find out where Hollywood has set up shop in our beloved Keys.

Just another day in paradise!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We spent a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with our friend Bill, puppy Abbey, Sunny, and her husband Jim in Cocoa Beach.  My Jim got to spend time in one of his favorite hardware stores, and we enjoyed a chance to catch up and relax with our friends.
After the triptophan haze wore off we started pushing to get down to Marathon in the Keys.  The trip through South Florida is always interesting, and this year the winds were howling and the ocean was nasty - so we had to travel "on the inside" - in the ICW.  Between Palm Beach and Miami we have to open 24 bridges, and most are on a schedule. 

bridge opening

This is normally pretty tiring, but we had an absolutely beautiful 80 degree day with very light boat traffic (it was a Monday).  Jim set up the chart plotter so I would have a "time to go" between each bridge, which made it easy for me to adjust the speed of the boat to arrive at the next bridge a minute or two before it was scheduled to open.  It's an interesting ride through miles of concrete canyon.

icw and condos

The homes in this section of the ICW are just amazing - mansions, a few little ratty houses in unexpected places, endless ultra-fancy condos, and marinas chock full of mega-yachts. 

mansion


mansion and yacht

We passed one yacht club with a DeFever 49, and she looked like a toy compared to all the other boats around her.  Another marina had a 70' DeFever and she also looked like a toy boat compared to the big fancy yachts.  It just boggles the mind.

megayacht row

We had to wait a bit for our last bridge to open in downtown Miami, but it gave us the chance to see several huge cruise ships head right to the waterfront on the other side of the bridge and slowly lumber 180 degrees in the turning basin so they could head out to sea. 

We anchored next to Key Biscayne just after dark and enjoyed a nice day of rest while we waited for a weather front to move through.  We would have only one day in between fronts to get to Marathon - 94 nautical miles.  During the night at anchor we could hear dolphins all around the boat for hours - in the daylight we could see that they were hunting in small groups.

miami skyline

The Miami skyline was neat to see, though it was nice to have some distance from the bustling city.  We enjoyed watching the city light up as it got dark, and were amazed at the lights still shining when we departed at 0500, heading for Marathon.

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had a nice 16 hour run offshore along the coast of Georgia, and we anchored next to Cumberland Island National Seashore and our friends Dan and Carol aboard LUCKY STARS.  Running outside saved so much time we have three days to enjoy and play on the island!
Cumberland has an interesting history, from the early Spanish explorers in the 1500's to the construction of Dungeness - the largest of several mansions built on the island by the Carnegie family in the late 1800's.  Ruins of this winter haven for the wealthy still stand.

dungeness ruins

Cumberland is a barrier island with 20 miles of pristine beach, dunes, a maritime forest, and salt marshes.  The scenery and wildlife are my favorite parts of the island, particularly the very dramatic wind-swept look of the live oak forest.

maritime forest

There is a herd of wild horses on the island, numbering around 200.  They're easiest to find in open pasture areas, but we've seen them on the beach, marsh, and wandering through the woods.

mother and foal

Armadillos are also plentiful on the island, quiet and somewhat shy.

armadillo

Wild turkeys congregate and forage for food - the sunlight really shows off the beautiful coloring of their feathers.  I surprised this one who ran to join his buddies.

wild turkey

We really enjoyed catching up with Dan and Carol, hiking and biking all around the island.  It was great to have a picnic on the beach like we used to do in the Exumas, though we were dressed in a few more layers this time!

beach lunch

Hiking near the dunes, we startled this little ghost crab and he ran behind Carol's shoe for protection!

ghost crab

I had a ball with so many interesting things to photograph.  One morning I got up early, dinghied ashore, hiked in the dark, and waited on the beach for the sunrise.  It was beautiful to be on the beach and to capture a little of the magical early morning light.  After warming back up with a good breakfast, we resumed our hiking and biking adventures. 

gulls


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We've been busy making miles down the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), unable to go outside in the ocean because of the high winds and big waves.  It has been a very nice trip so far, and the days have been clear and sunny, though the temperatures have been cool.  Once the sun is up the pilothouse gets nice and warm, and we've gotten to our anchorages by 3 or 4pm - a civilized time.

We've been treated to some beautiful sunrises and sunsets in our quiet anchorages, away from the hustle and bustle - so I'll share a few of those. 

sunset

You may not realize it, but our trip south includes a lot of miles westward!  In Georgia we are actually west of Pittsburgh.  Our daily reminders come in the form of the glaring afternoon sun in our eyes and the shifting times of daylight at sunrise and sunset.  There is no better way to appreciate geography than to experience it at a snail's pace!

Although most of our days have been quiet, we had the happy chance to hear a fellow DeFever on the radio one day - SEA BISCUIT - and we tied up to the same dock that evening to catch up and visit a bit.

Our typical days include bald eagle sightings, dolphins playing in our bow wave, wading birds in the marshes, and ever-changing scenery.  It really has been a delightful trip!

Cruising through picturesque Charleston harbor we passed close by the Spirit of South Carolina under full sail.  Our machinist friend makes all the replica and signal cannons for this ship.

spirit of south carolina

Along the way we have repeatedly encountered the AMERICAN STAR - a small cruise ship that takes tours through the ICW.  She is about 200' long, 50' wide, and draws 6.5'.  Watching out for the various shoaling areas, hazards, narrow bridges, and dealing with the increased boat traffic with the southern migration is challenging enough for us, but we can't imagine how much more difficult it is for a ship of that size!  Impressive.

american star

 We've been leaving fairly early in the mornings, and the reward is often a stunning sunrise.

sunrise

This anchorage was just shy of the SC-GA border and the ocean has settled down, so we will go out the Savannah River and run offshore for the length of Georgia.  This will give us some extra time to spend at Cumberland Island National Seashore - our next adventure. 

Savannah is a major shipping port, and this is one of several big bubbas we passed on our way out.

big ship

 


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We departed from our usual southbound path and headed east to the Outer Banks to visit friends and some new places.  Our first stop was on Roanoke Island to the town of Manteo.  Here's a map to show the Outer Banks, and I've circled our stops, ending with Morehead City where we are today.

outer banks

The towns on Roanoke are named after the Indian Chiefs from the area - Manteo, Skyco, and Wanchese, and the area is rich with history dating back to the 1580's when the English first came ashore.  There is no better way to appreciate coastal history than to travel the waterways and see why certain locations were strategic for settlements, commerce, and defense.  Manteo has a great living museum that does a terrific job of telling its significant story of the Native Americans and the early settlers.

elizabeth II

The other highlight of our Manteo visit was to see our friends Mike and Jane Ross and Godiva - former DeFever owners and cruising buddies.  They took us on a grand tour of the area, including the Wright Brothers monument at Kitty Hawk - wonderful!

kitty hawk

 

mike, jane, & godiva

Manteo is just a lovely stop with nice shops and restaurants, and a bike path that makes it easy to get to the Aquarium, Elizabethan Gardens, and the Fort.  Our ride to the Aquarium turned into a bit of an adventure when Jim's tire blew out.  We walked our bikes the rest of the way, and he caught a cab back to the boat - it was just too far to walk!

It was a day-long trip down the Pamlico Sound to Ocracoke Island, part of the Hatteras National Seashore.  Ocracoke is only accessible by ferry, private boat, or private plane - and it was pretty quiet since we're so late in the season.  The ferries are huge and can carry cars towing good-sized boats and travel trailers, as well as tractor trailers.

ferry

We walked the town and finally decided to rent some bikes (with big tires) to venture out to the lighthouse...

ocracoke lighthouse

...and to see the beach.  It was cold and windy, but a few people were out fishing in the surf.

surf casting

Jim just happened to notice that the bike rental shop also sold ice cream, so our short visit was truly complete!  We'll definitely come back in the warmer weather.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We left Carter Creek off the Rappahannock River just after this beautiful sunrise, heading for the Norfolk, Va area. 

carter creek sunrise

Our first stop was in Hampton, VA for a few days to visit friends Kit (in Med School) and Roger & Ilene from the Harlem YC - wonderful folks!  Roger is part of the Caribbean 1500 Rally sailing to the BVI.

We had to shoe-horn ADVENTURES into a tight slip there - a bit of a trick with the wind blowing hard up the river.

hampton small slip

Arriving at the dock I saw a fellow with a shirt from the Bristol (RI) YC and I told him that I had a friend from there. Turns out that he knows our good friends Heidi and Pete - yet another example of how really small our world is.

Hampton is a favorite stop - with little shops and restaurants nearby...

hampton street

 

...as well as many examples of this nifty wall art.

hampton wall art

We heard that MTOA friends Dick & Elle were down in Portsmouth (across from Norfolk) at a free dock, so we fueled the boat (635 gallons) and joined them; DFC friends Jeff & Karen brought their boat in a day later.

portsmouth free dock

 

The free dock has easy access to lots of lovely cafes and little shops (I found more of my favorite scone mix at the Kitchen store), plus the Portsmouth Shipbuilding Museum, which was very well done.  We enjoyed the town's Halloween parade, and we went on the Ghost Walk through historic Old Town - absolutely wonderful!
We had entirely too much fun with all our friends while we waited for the winds to settle down. Sunday the weather settled and we ran the gauntlet of bridges and the lock down through Norfolk and we anchored in North Carolina at the end of a good day.  Next stop - the Outer Banks.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We've left Baltimore and are starting to head south for the winter.  It's time to shift gears after a difficult few months and try to get back to "normal" (whatever that is).  It feels good to be underway on the boat again, with a different rhythm to daily life.  We've learned a great deal about friends and family these past few months, and have gained a new appreciation for what it means to need a friend, and what it means to be a friend. 
There are so many interesting things out here on the Chesapeake.  We passed close by Power Squadron friends who were taking their trawler to Annapolis for lunch, we saw the elegant PRIDE OF BALTIMORE leaving Solomons, we passed the Navy's hospital ship COMFORT, and we had Navy jets roaring overhead.  Exciting!

pride of baltimore

It was pretty windy Thursday and we had a lumpy ride down to the Northern Neck of Virginia, where we'll stop and visit some friends over the weekend.  ("Lumpy" means that the cabinets and refrigerator have to be latched closed, and we have to be careful when we open them.)  The nip of fall is in the air and the trees are starting to turn - this is my favorite season, but the nights have been getting a bit cool and we're encouraged to keep moving south.  It was 43 when we got up yesterday morning - we need to get SOUTH!

The morning mist reminds me of a song... "smoke on the water..."

smoke on the water

It's fun to talk to the local folks here on the Northern Neck of VA, and to learn more about the culture of boat building and fishing.  This is a "pound net" or fish trap in Antipoison Creek, and we also see menhaden boats (and jumping fish) in the area here.

pound net

The odd name of the creek comes from the story that Captain John Smith was healed by the mud from this creek after being stung by a stingray.  


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

On Sunday September 5 we lost our dearest friend Clara Blanding unexpectedly after a very sudden and brief illness.  She was 53.

 

Clara

We've never met a person so giving and caring, kind and thoughtful, wise and strong.  She had endless interests which she pursued with great abandon, and limitless talent for everything she did.  We are so grateful for the time we had with her, and we will honor her by trying to live up to her example.  Clara and her dear husband Bill were devoted to each other in ways that few people could ever comprehend, and our hearts go out to our beloved Bill.  Clara's light will always shine brightly, and she and Bill will always be in our hearts and minds.

Rafting the Tidal Bore


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We crossed back to the States after a wonderful nine weeks cruising around some of the many islands of the Bahamas with our buddy boat friends Dan and Carol.  We traveled 712 nautical miles since leaving Key Biscayne, FL back in late April, and returning to Ft. Pierce, FL on Monday.  Now we're back in the world of cell phones and super-highways and well-stocked stores of every kind, and it's pretty weird.  For the last two months our dinghy has been our only "car", except for one fun day in Eleuthera when we rented a stretch golf cart.

This sign on a grocery store in Hope Town says a lot about life in the islands, though it's a reflection of the how supplies arrive as well as a relaxed attitude.  Everything comes in by mail boat or small plane from Nassau, and everything comes to Nassau by boat or ship. 

grocery hours

It's just different.  We were well-provisioned so the only thing we needed now and then was some lettuce and tomatoes - nothing we couldn't live without.

Our favorite part of the trip was the time we spent in the Exumas - they are more remote and quiet and unspoiled.  The snorkeling was wonderful in the crystal blue water - here are a few more underwater photos:

The little moray eel peeking out from a hole in some star coral...

starry moray

The tiny inch-long Pederson cleaner shrimp that live in corkscrew anemones and waggle at you if you put your hand near them.  If you're patient, they will come out and "clean" your fingers...

pedersons cleaner shrimp

The most amazing thing underwater is that wherever there's any kind of structure - a rock or a hole - life will quickly establish itself, and start to flourish.

fish scenic

We loved our "iguana adventure" with the folks from Shedd Aquarium, the dive sites thanks to the CORAL REEF captain John, picnic lunches on the beach, exploring in the dinghy... it was all great.  One of my personal highlights was kayaking around the creeks on Shroud Cay.

shroud kayak

Thanks to everyone who gave us advice, assistance, suggestions, smiles, or waves, and to the people we met along the way.

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