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Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Turning Point.......

Hello again, family and friends - so glad you could join us!  It is with mixed feelings that we report having reached and passed the apex of our journey; we are now officially (but slowly) making our way towards home.  The city of Bradenton is the farthest north on the Gulf Coast we will travel on this trip; it was wonderful to visit with family there and in Sarasota.

Since leaving Bradenton, Quality Time has been making her way south again along the Gulf Coast, stopping at anchor near some beautiful coastal State Parks (so far Stump Pass State Park and Don Pedro State Park).  Natural beaches and the best sea-shelling we've ever experienced - what a beautiful area to take our time to explore.  The pictures just don't do it justice, but I tried.

We will be spending the month of February at the marina of Pink Shell Resort in Fort Myers Beach.  Some readers may recall we stayed there briefly on our way north from the Keys; we enjoyed it so much we decided to go back and stay longer.  Our watery trek back to Virginia will likely begin in earnest at the beginning of March, with an expected arrival home by the end of the month.  We plan to cut across Florida using canals which lead to and through Lake Okeechobee instead of going all the way around the Keys again.  Likely to be quite scenic, but we'll see.

Thankfully, there is nothing to report on the Quality Time mechanical front; all systems performing nominally (knock on wood).  Mark has broken out the fishing rods but with no success yet - will keep you posted!

Enjoy the pictures!!!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Punta Gorda and Englewood

Hello folks - hope everyone is staying warm and dry up North!!!  Our adventure continues as we motor slowly but steadily north up the Gulf Coast of Florida.  After leaving Ft. Myers, we stopped at Burnt Store Marina near Punta Gorda for two days and connected with Canadian friends (and fellow Marine Trader trawler owners) we had met at the Trawler Rendezvous we attended earlier in our journey.

Two subsequent anchorages were both enjoyable, quiet and uneventful:  Cabbage Key, where Jimmy Buffet allegedly was inspired to write "Cheeseburger in Paradise" and just offshore of a park in Englewood.  Next stops will be Bradenton and Sarasota!!!!

Cabbage Key

Burnt Store Marina Sunset

Anchored off Englewood, FL:

Taking the bikes to shore in the dinghy

Mark has had the pleasure of two mechanical issues to troubleshoot and resolve.  The first occurred when our electric marine toilet ("head" for the salties out there) stopped flushing fully - always an unwelcome development.  Turns out that the expensive West Marine toilet paper we bought did not disintegrate as it should and had completely clogged up the head's internal macerator.  Dismantling the pump and extracting all said clumped up toilet paper was all that was (thankfully) needed to fix it.  Lesson learned: always do a TP solubility test before using!

The second issue occurred as we were moseying along on a sunny, calm afternoon, when Mark suddenly announced that we had hit a significant head current, as our speed had abruptly and unexpectedly decreased.  Mark abandoned his "strong current theory", when he realized it was the fact that the propellor and shaft were no longer spinning that was causing the lack of forward progress (this is not good).

We dropped anchor, and the subsequent investigation revealed a frighteningly low level of transmission fluid (not even showing on the dipstick).  We were quite fortunate where this occurred, as we could anchor just outside the channel.  It was a bit shallower than we'd have liked and we were hitting ground slightly as the tide dropped (the picture is of the anchor and chain just visible below the surface).

Unfortunately, Mark's reserve supply of transmission fluid was not enough to correct the problem.  As luck would have it, there was a marina a relatively short dinghy ride away where Mark could purchase more of the much-needed fluid.  And another HUGE stroke of luck when the transmission resumed normal operation once the fluid level was restored.  Mark's remaining challenge is to detect and fix the source of the leak, and you can be certain that more regular fluid level checks will be added to his maintenance schedule!!!

Our view where the transmission died: (there are worse places to be stuck, right?)

It was so shallow you can see the anchor and chain!

Mark was on a mission to find more transmission fluid!!!

Worth its weight in gold!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Up the Gulf Coast; Ft. Myers Beach

Hello again, family and friends!  I didn't expect my blog absence to last quite this long - guess the "island time" lifestyle is sinking in.  I also felt really terrible posting our tropical pictures while most of the country was having a real winter experience (but you'll notice we do have sweatshirts and jackets on in some of the pictures, if that helps).    ; )

After a 3-week stay at Boca Chica Marina near Key West, we left to check out the Gulf Coast on Wednesday, January 4th.  Two whole days out of cell phone range (past the Everglades)- it definitely felt good to reconnect with civilization after that.  We've been meandering up the coast and have stopped for a few days in Fort Myers Beach (a total splurge staying at the Pink Shell Resort and Marina).  Here are some highlights of our recent journey since the kids visited:

Christmas in Key West with Melanie and Troy:

Little Shark River (anchorage) and Gulf of Mexico:


Fort Myers Beach: