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Posted By Robin & Jim

We arrived safely in Marathon on December 1.  A nice welcome back to the Keys comes in the form of wildlife - lots of it!  There are sanderlings and herons on the dock, ospreys chirping overhead, pelicans, egrets, and cormorants.  My first job was to give the boat a good bath since she hadn't been washed in a long time and she was pretty salty, but this manatee kept coming over to drink the fresh rinse water from my boat washing. 

manatee

They really are pretty ugly, and they have the weirdest mouth!  Everytime I heard the loud slurping I'd have to stop washing the boat until the manatee went away.  It's illegal to give them fresh water because it encourages them to hang around marinas and humans - which increases the chance that they could be hit by a boat.  It's fun to see these creatures up close, but not when it puts them at risk.  It makes washing the boat take much much longer than usual, but that's a good reminder of the slower pace here in the Keys.

It was wonderful to see old friends on the dock - some who live here year-round, and other snowbirds who were just arriving for the winter season.  This is our fifth year here, and it's the closest thing we have to call "home". 

Christmas in the Keys is always a bit different...  we particularly like the holiday greetings that the Aquaduct Authority puts up, and the lighted boat parade is small but spirited.

keys christmas humor

It has been quite a year for us - lots of ups and downs.  The holidays were difficult (emotionally and logistically), with a long road trip that included stops in Virginia, Maryland and then briefly to NJ to see my brother and wrap up some estate issues.  He's head of the detective bureau in the town where we grew up, and I'm pretty proud of him. 

bob and robin

Thankfully the holidays are now behind us, we're back in our beloved Florida Keys, and now we're working on winter projects and boat maintenance.

We covered a lot of water miles this year, and we had more than our share of car miles too, but we'll focus on just the water miles - they are the best kind.  We left the Keys on March 7 and returned on 1 December, traveling a total of 5215 nautical miles from here all the way to the northern part of Nova Scotia, and then back down the Eastern Seaboard to the Keys.  (A nautical mile is 6760 feet and a statute miles is 5280). 

In that time we bought 4,124 gallons of diesel fuel.

While we're on the topic of statistics, since we retired in the summer of 2007 we've traveled 17,754 nautical miles.  We put an additional 4000-5000 miles on the boat before we retired, before we got the chartplotter system that tracks our miles traveled.  Since we bought ADVENTURES in November of 2002 we've made 11 trips up and down the ICW between Florida and the Chesapeake (or beyond). 

So far, we have lived aboard ADVENTURES full-time for 7 years, which has been wonderful, and we have no desire to live on dirt again!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

I apologize for not blogging more often, but our days have been very full.  We were running long days to get to the Keys, our winter home, and we've been busy since we arrived.  Yes, we are now in Marathon after 5214 nautical miles over the last 9 months. 

It's wonderful to be back in our beloved Keys, but the last leg of the journey through south Florida is worthy of a blog entry.  The wind continued to be strong and conditions for ocean travel were not good, so we ran the south Florida segment on the inside (in the ICW). 

lake worth palms at sunrise

From Jupiter down through Miami and Key Biscayne it's striking to see the incredible amount of wealth concentrated in a relatively small area.  I think we found where most of the 1% live, between all the amazing mansions and the huge yachts!  The homes are just breathtaking, and the landscaping is really gorgeous.  The only sad thing is that we rarely saw people out enjoying their property.

small mansion

We made the run from Lake Worth (N. Palm Beach) to Key Biscayne (below Miami) in one long day.  We have 24 bridges that have to open for us, and most are on a strict schedule.  Jim is a wizard at setting up waypoints so we can pace our travel from one bridge to the next in rapid fashion. 

Although the homes are impressive (like the small mansion in the photo above), the yachts, mega-yachts, and super-yachts are mind-blowing.  We start with some 80-125' yachts in a "small" marina...

100 footers

Then the 100' yachts dwarfed by the 150-200 footers at Pier 66 Marina...

megayachts

There is the 280' yacht that makes the 150-200 footers look dinky...
superyacht

And finally the Uber Super Yacht - this one in lower Miami is 438' long!  Who are these people?

uber yacht

There is just so much to see mile after mile  - our heads were on swivels all day.  There sure seems to be a lot of 1%ers, but I wouldn't trade our lives for these people who seem too busy working to enjoy their pleasures.

miami skyline

We arrived in Marathon on December 1, leaving our anchorage off Key Biscayne at 0420 for the 90 mile run.  We had a fair current, great conditions, turquoise water, dolphins, manatee, turtles, and the beautiful chain of islands... a perfect welcome back.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had a nice little pause in Morehead City, NC and then went back to pushing the miles pretty hard to get south.  Leaving Morehead City we had the only nice day to travel out in the ocean for the southern part of the trip, and it was great to be out in the deep blue for a while!  In Myrtle Beach, SC we ran into Dick and Elle Lassman on SUMMER WIND and had a great evening catching up and laughing until the restaurant closed.  It's these little unexpected treats that makes the trip so much fun.

Jim kept reporting that the weather for outside running was not good, so we decided to aim for the commercial fuel dock in Brunswick, GA to take on another 500 gallons.  They're closed on weekends, so we had a bit of a schedule to get there on a weekday, and then to time the tides to get through several areas with very shallow water.  We saw a lot of these (sunrises) since daylight is short this time of the year!

sc sunrise

But the truth is that often the most beautiful light and color is in the short time just before dawn or after sunset, so there is a reward for the long running days and getting up on chilly mornings to pull the anchor in the dark.  As we travel the type of terrain and scenery changes constantly, and each kind is beautiful in its own way.  These SC marshes don't offer much protection from strong winds, but they are vast and they teem with life - birds, alligators, dolphins, even otters. 

Besides all the wildlife, humans also provide some interesting sights along the way - we've seen bright purple houses, giant giraffe statues, mannikins standing on docks... I don't know what this is, but it made us laugh!

smiley face

We had two days of fog going through Charleston, SC and beyond so the radio was busy with safety calls.  We heard our old Power Squadron friend Ben Fulton on the radio, one bridge behind us, so we had the chance to catch up with him a little. 

Passing just below Savannah, GA is a boat yard that specializes in mega-yacht repairs.  Their basin had about 7 yachts 100' or bigger, and an enormous sailboat that had to be almost 150' long with a mast probably closer to 200' tall.  The wealth along the waterway is impressive many places, but there are also some tiny, scruffy old homes and even some trailer parks sitting on some prime real estate. 

Georgia waters means that we see a lot more shrimp boats, and they like to run with their outriggers almost horizontal even when they're not dragging their nets. I think it helps to stabilize their boats for a better ride, but it makes things a bit more exciting when we're trying to pass them in narrow waters.

shrimp boat

We made our schedule to get to the commercial fuel dock and we got lucky with high tide coming at convenient times for us when we really needed deep water. We finally got into Florida waters (yippee!) even though there's still a long way to go to the Keys.  We decided to pause in Palm Coast for a little break, and to see friends.  We were invited to an "orphan's Thanksgiving" dinner with old and new friends, and it was just lovely - our hosts couldn't have been more fun. Plus, it's good to be in FL and wearing SHORT SLEEVES!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We wrapped up our chores and errands in Baltimore and the weather finally settled down so we could continue south, but not until we endured cold temperatures and a rain/snow storm.  At least we were in a marina with plenty of power for heat!  We left early on a dark, chilly morning and watched the sun rise over the busy Port of Baltimore.

It's nice to be in familiar waters - our cruising grounds when we were working and only had weekends to get out on the water - the Bay Bridge and Thomas Point Light are like old, familiar friends.

bay bridge

We stopped in Solomons for a day to visit Ted and Nancy - we had a great time and a lot of laughs!  From there we cruised down to the mouth of the Potomac River to Olverson's Marina (where we paused in the spring) to pick up my Sunfish sailboat.  It was two-fer night at Luna's Italian Restaurant, so we went to dinner with MTOA friends and had another great evening. 

The weather was changing fast, and we had one good day to travel before the winds would howl for a few days, so we decided to leave Olverson's at 0400 for the long trip down to Norfolk & Portsmouth, VA.  We got one of the last spots on the free docks in Portsmouth and settled in to enjoy the town while the wind blew.

We walked all around High Street, visiting the great little gourmet kitchen store to restock our favorite scone mix, and we poked around the little shops and galleries.  We explored the side streets with historic homes decorated for fall, and we went to a movie at the historic Commodore Theater.  In sea boots.  You see, the wind was so strong that it pushed a lot of water into the Elizabeth River and the docks flooded at high tide.  This photo shows water just covering the dock, but it was ankle-deep at the height of the tide cycle.  You could spot all the boaters in town by their tall rubber boots!

water over the dock

It's always so interesting cruising through Norfolk/Portsmouth, with huge Navy and commercial ships moving around, and a flurry of tugboats to help them maneuver through the tight spots.

We stopped for fuel - taking 600+ gallons to fill the boat, which will last us until we get to the northern end of Florida where we'll take on another 500+ gallons.

We've been surprised at the number of boats migrating south - usually most of the snowbirds would be ahead of us this late in the season.  While we were fueling there were 12 boats (from 100' down to 40') waiting for a bridge to open!

following the herd

Occasionally the waterway stretches are a little boring - just straight canals, with lots of trees and stumps along the sides - stay in the middle and watch for eagles and hawks!  Even the boring parts can be pretty - it's all about one's attitude.

trees and stumps

The nights have been cool but the days have been getting warm and nice.  Now we're taking a few days to pause in Morehead City, NC to do some chores, get mail, and see friends.

 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had one last surprise before we left Staten Island, NY.  There is a group of Italian gondoliers who have come to the U.S. each of the last few years to commemorate the 9/11 tragedy in some way.  They ship a 43 year old wooden gondola over from Italy, and last year they rowed it some distance up the Hudson River.  This year they shipped the 1100 lb. gondola to NY again and took several days to row the 36 miles around Staten Island for their tribute.  Even more amazing is that these 5 gondoliers are 70 years old!

memorial gondola

We happened to be going ashore just as they entered Great Kills Harbor with a FDNY Fire Boat shooting water cannons as an escort - the pace and vigor of the gondoliers was really impressive. 

Despite waiting for improved weather we still had a lumpy ride down the NJ coast to a very pretty anchorage in Atlantic City.  It's just across Absecon Inlet from AC, a marshy area with lots of wading birds.  Nature on our doorstep and the bright lights of Sin City reflecting on the water...

ac anchorage

We had a favorable current to run through Cape May, up the Delaware River, and through the Chesapeake & Delaware (C&D) Canal into the north end of the Chesapeake all in one long shot, so we made a 16 hour run.  There was still a bit of floating debris in the water from all the heavy rain so we had to keep a careful watch, especially when it got dark.  It was a fine ride and we managed to avoid any hazards, anchoring in the Sassafras River around 11pm.  The weekend was starting and we wanted to avoid all the heavier recreational boat traffic so we slept late and then headed up the Chester River to hide out for a few quiet days after the long run from NY.

We've seen so many beautiful places and the scenery has changed so much in the many miles we've traveled on this cruise.  Since we used to live on or near the Chesapeake for so many years it's easy to forget how beautiful the Bay is.  The rolling hills, forests, and farm land on the Eastern Shore are very pretty, and we were sorry we couldn't spend more time exploring new places and visiting familiar favorite spots. 

langford creek

The only thing spoiling the quiet was the constant honking of huge flocks of Canada Geese.  Ah yes, the sound of Fall in the Bay!

We had to stop in Baltimore for some annual doctor visits, and we were able to see Jim's brother Richard and his wife Carol (pictured below)...

richard & carol

as well as his sister Margaret and her husband Rene. 

The temperatures are falling fast and we are heading south to warmer places!


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had such a great visit to the NYC area.  We spent a lovely day with my brother, his wife, and their dogs, and we took some time to play tourist in the City and see some friends. 

Even though I grew up across the river from NYC, I had never been to the top of the Empire State Building... it was one of those things I always wanted to do.  We didn't care that the cost was silly and the lines are usually horribly long - we were going!  We ended up getting there later in the day than we intended, but who would have guessed that the line would be very short and painless at 7pm on a Friday night?  The views were magical...

empire state nw view


nyc empire 2

It was a perfect evening - not too windy, comfortable temperature, and it was fun and romantic to be up there looking at lights in every direction as far as we could see.  I also love the art deco style, and that building just oozes it.  Fabulous!

Of course it started to rain about 1/2 hour after we came back down to earth, and we weren't really dressed for it.  We caught the ferry back to Staten Island, but had trouble finding the right place to get off the bus on a dark, rainy night.  It took a bit of trial and error while we walked up and down a few streets before we found the harbor in the pouring rain.  After that, we had no trouble remembering to bring our GPS!  It just made the evening more of an adventure.

The trip to the City is fun - the ride on the Staten Island Ferry is worth taking just for the views of the harbor.  I can see a lot more when I'm not concentrating on driving the boat!

 ferry and lady liberty

Another day we met up with friends who showed us the High Line park/walking path on an old elevated railroad - it's very artsy and interesting with lots of natural landscaping.  And it was great to see Roger and John and finally go into the City together.

high line guys

They also took us to the little-known Conservancy Gardens uptown, above the Guggenheim.  This was a hidden gem - one of the many oases in NYC.  Nothing was blooming at this time of the year, but it was lovely regardless.

garden pond

We decided to see a play on Broadway, and got pretty reasonable same-day tickets for Jersey Boys - the story of Frankie Valli.  We had a great time - dinner at a little Thai place, the show, and walking through Times Square at night.  Even on a weeknight there was no end to the colorful characters we saw, including the famous Naked Cowboy. 

I tend to prefer quiet nature places more than cities, but New York has so much to offer and it's so different - we had a blast while we waited for a weather window to continue south.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We had some foggy mornings as we headed west through Long Island Sound.  The fog was usually patchy, and with no wind in the early morning it was nearly impossible to distinguish any horizon.  It was very pretty, and we could see just fine with radar so it wasn't a problem.  The photo shows a small red buoy and a small fishing boat.

foggy sound

We stopped in Port Jefferson - a very active harbor with some big ferries that run between Port Jeff and Bridgeport, CT.  The gal who ran the mooring launch was very friendly and helpful, and we found the town to be welcoming and really nice.  The best thing about this area is that you can find great ethnic restaurants all over the place, so we had a nice Mediterranean lunch.  And of course Jim found a bakery for some treats - this one was right across from the harbormaster's office and was so well-stocked that Jim was paralyzed by indecision!

port jeff bakery

Traveling on the Sound we had a hitchhiker - a little bird came and hung out with me on the flying bridge for two days in a row.  I don't know if it was the same bird both days, but it was the same type of bird - a northern parula warbler.  He sat on the wheel and around the nav computer, over by the kayaks, and a few other spots.  He was happy to eat some little flying bugs, and he chirped and was generally just cute.  A big tugboat pushing a barge passed us going the other way and he decided to switch rides.

bird

We stopped at the Harlem YC to catch up on some chores, and we went ashore for some nice long walks since we had a little time before heading to Staten Island to visit my brother over the weekend.  From there we timed the tide and cruised down the East River, through Hell Gate at slack water, and along Manhattan into NY Harbor.  It wasn't a pretty day - overcast and cool, but it's still a thrill to see so much going on in one place.  The city bustles with cars and people, airplanes land at three major airports, the waterways are criss-crossed by fast ferries - big and small, tugs push barges, pleasure boats cruise along, and big ships lumber up and down. 

brooklyn bridge

It always makes us feel small and insignificant as we cruise in our floating home through the midst of all this organized chaos!
As we were heading through the Verrazano Narrows a small squall hit, bringing some rain and a little wind.  Another larger squall was coming in and we were glad to have the current with us to help us get to the harbor in Staten Island before the bigger one hit. 

si storm

We were nicely secured on our mooring in plenty of time, but DeFever friends Ted and Nancy were a bit behind us coming in and they had to moor in the rain.  It was good to see them though, and we all headed ashore for a nice Italian dinner and some time to catch up.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We arrived in New Bedford, Mass. after a long, lumpy run down Cape Cod Bay into Buzzard's Bay.  New Bedford is a huge commercial fishing port, but it also played a significant part in the history of the whaling industry - ending in the early 1920's.  The Whaling Museum there is incredible - very comprehensive and very well done.

new bedford museum

I thought the giant squid at the front entrance was a pretty neat touch... Jim and Jason don't look sufficiently intimidated, though.

Just as we saw lots of dories in use in Nova Scotia and down through Gloucester, we now see people rowing whale boats here and down through Mystic.  I think it's neat that people get exercise by celebrating their local history.

whaleboat rowing

Our next stop was Newport, RI - though we only stayed one night because the weather would be deteriorating.  We wanted to give Newport another chance, but once again we found it to be a bit pretentious and overpriced.  It's a high-end serious sailing town, though wooden boat building is still taught in the area.

This is the kind of elegant traditional sailboat that makes my knees turn to jelly...

newport morning

...and as we left early in the morning we passed by Cunard's elegant Queen Elizabeth on her way into Newport.

queen elizabeth

We had an easy cruise into Connecticut waters to one of my favorite places - Mystic Seaport.  We tied up at the Seaport dock and spent a few days enjoying the many exhibits and demonstrations.  It really takes a lot of time to see it all, and we had a blast.  We particularly loved the live music - sea shanties and traditional tunes.

The Seaport is very active - with a large youth sailing program as well as boats that you can take out and row or sail.  We went for a spin in a Crosby catboat - similar to what Jim wants to build for us to use in the Keys sometime.

sailing old and new

Sadly, Jason had to head home Saturday, but we all had a great time together.

It's so special to be docked right in the Seaport - and it's a wonderful treat since I have great memories of Mystic Seaport from my childhood, and Jim and I have great memories from our visits as "big kids".

conrad reflection


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We were glad to have a little time to enjoy Rockland - walking the pretty streets and exploring some of the art galleries and interesting shops.  We also toured the Farnsworth Art Gallery - famous for its Andrew Wyeth collection.

We rented a car and spent an afternoon and evening exploring some of the other towns farther up Penobscot Bay: Camden, Searsport, and Belfast.  We had great weather to stroll around the towns and to see the waterfront.

Camden was particularly nice...

camden

...with working boat yards, big schooners (one was taking a wedding party out), lobster boats, and plenty of pleasure boats.  If you look out to the harbor edge you can see the thick fog bank.

Our next stop was Searsport - a more commercial port.  It's home to the Penobscot Maritime Museum which is actually a number of homes and buildings that are original to the founding of the town.  We got there a bit late to tour it properly, but it was very interesting and is on our list of things to see again sometime.

We wrapped up the evening with a stop in Belfast - a very pretty little town.  It was low tide, and like many of the other towns the waterfront is a mix of working and pleasure boats.

belfast

There is never enough time to see all we would like to, and Penobscot Bay has tons of places that we'd love to visit - plenty to do the next time we come up here!  It was time to leave and continue south so we would get to Gloucester to meet our friend.

We came into the dock in Rockland for one night to catch up on laundry and fill water tanks - here's a photo of ADVENTURES on the dock with the American Cruise Line's INDEPENDENCE (about 225' long) the evening before we left. We look pretty small with our black stern to the camera.

adventures and independence

And here's a photo taken from the same place the next morning just before we departed, in the fog...

adventures and independence fog

We had about 200' of visibility for the first three hours, then about 1/4 mile until mid-afternoon.  Maine waters are pretty thick with lobster pots so we kept a careful watch!

We arrived in Gloucester on Friday night, and met my distant cousin Chris and her husband for lunch on Saturday - she's the family historian and they live in the area. We raised a toast to the Williams boys and enjoyed catching up on family and football.

Our friend Jason came in by train and we stopped at the grocery store to re-provision since he'll be cruising with us all this week.  We had a little bit of time to tour Gloucester, but we departed very early yesterday morning to continue our Adventures.

gloucester

 Today we're in New Bedford and will explore this huge fishing port.


 
Posted By Robin & Jim

We arrived in Rockland, Maine about two hours ago after a 28.5 hour crossing from Shelburne, Nova Scotia.  We cleared Customs quickly and spotted a friend's boat in the harbor!  We're anchored near ALGONQUIN - a happy surprise, and have now had our lunch and showers - so we feel a bit more human again.

We had excellent weather for the first half of the crossing - the seas were like glass.

glassy ocean

We saw two whales, but not much else.  We were lucky to have a full moon to light the way, which helped when the wind piped up around 11pm and the waves grew to a tall chop.  We had a lively ride - and noisy with the occasional wave banging against the side of the boat, but it wasn't bad.  The worst part is that ADVENTURES is now coated with a fine salt spray all over.

Another interesting coincidence last night was passing the MAASDAM - the same Holland America ship that we were on with the DeFever Cruisers last year through the Panama Canal.  She was heading to Halifax, and we were on an intercept course.  We talked with her on the radio and she altered course to pass to the south of us.  It was too dark to get a good photo of the ship, but here is our chart plotter view.  Our AIS shows us the ship's name and information.

maasdam

If it looks like we're veering off our blue course line, that's just the effect of the tide flooding into the Bay of Fundy.  We're across the Bay entrance long enough for a full tide cycle (in and out) so we don't try to correct for the drift - it will even out in the end.

As we were approaching Rockland we saw quite a number of magnificent schooners heading out of the harbor under full sail.  It was a wonderful sight to welcome us back home to the U.S.

schooner

We'll enjoy Rockland for another day and catch up on a bit of rest after the long passage, then maybe head up Penobscot Bay to Belfast for a day.  From there we need to get to Gloucester, Massachusetts by Saturday morning to meet a friend who will cruise with us for a week or so.