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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Northern bound!

Well, I'm happy to report that we survived our 40-hour offshore venture.  The experience did not meet my lofty expectations (a peaceful ride, whales breaching in the distance, dolphins playing in the bow wake, and seeing the Milky Way at night) - but thankfully two of those did happen (dolphins and Milky Way).  And the winds offshore (and thus the seas) were significantly stronger than we anticipated.  About thirty hours of 4 to 6 foot swells off our starboard quarter made for a rolling journey.  The waves eventually settled down as the winds shifted and calmed, so that last portion of the ride saw only 2-3 foot waves (mercy!).  And to look at the bright side, each rough sea experience is a chance to improve our stowage skills, right?

Mark cleaning the salt spray off the windshields:

Watching Mark at the helm:

Luckily, I was able to stave off seasickness throughout - I had to either stare out the window at the waves (too rough to be topside most of the time) or lie down with my eyes closed.  So basically, the only times that I was awake were when Mark was trying to sleep.  He definitely went back into "submarine shift mode" and kept us safe and moving the whole time.  Mark says I did "really well" during my hours at the helm solo.  In all fairness, I had to wake him a few times to confirm that I was interpreting the radar returns correctly.  I was able to single-handedly avoid a huge Maersk container ship and three shifty buoys - quite proud of myself.  Although for a while in the middle of the night, I was convinced that we were being followed by a ghost ship that showed up on our radar immediately behind us then disappeared completely whenever I tried to look for it visually.  Never will know what that was, but it helped keep me awake for part of the time LOL!

These are the only instruments to monitor at the helm - and if all is going well, none of the needles move, which makes for a riveting monitoring experience.  The top screen is the radar/AIS display.

We re-entered the ICW by Georgetown, SC and visited for a day with my parents in Myrtle Beach.  In our efforts to keep moving northward, we resumed our travels yesterday (Saturday - which was also our 28th wedding anniversary!).  And although we won't get - and don't deserve - any sympathy, we are, of course, already freezing.  Isn't there a law against snow in North Carolina in mid-March?  The good news is that there are very few other boats out, which makes navigation a little easier despite the decreased visibility.

Another beautiful and peaceful morning!

We plan to be home within the next 4-6 days, depending on the weather.  How strange it's going to feel to be back, but we are really looking forward to catching up with everyone.  I won't likely post anything else during our journey, but plan to blog at least once more after we have settled back in at home to reflect on the overall experience.  Take care, everyone - see you soon!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Starting the journey home : )

Hello y'all, and greetings from Florida once again!  This will be my last post from Florida, as we are already more than halfway up the East Coast of Florida, heading north.  We left Fort Myers Beach (on the Gulf Coast) on Wednesday, March 1st after a month of lounging there at the Pink Shell Resort and Marina.

View below is of the marina from one of the resort buildings.  Quality Time is tied up close to the middle of the picture (to the right of the red dinghy).

The hull needed a scrub-down before we left, of course!

Before we left, I had the chance to meet my friend, Chris, in Orlando to catch the second weekend of the Best Picture Showcase marathon at Disney Springs.  We stayed at a fabulous resort and got to watch the Oscars together for the first time.  For the record, the movies we watched were Moonlight, Lion (my personal favorite), Hacksaw Ridge, Arrival, and Hidden Figures.

From the Orlando Eye - such a touristy thing to do!

For the route home, we decided to cut across the state of Florida instead of going all the way back around the Keys.  Headed past the city of Fort Myers east/northeast up the Caloosahatchee River, through a total of 5 locks, and across Lake Okeechobee.  On the east side of the lake, there are canals that took us all the way out to the city of Stuart on the East Coast of Florida.  Here are some pictures from the early parts of the journey across the state:

Some other random pictures during the journey:

Near the center of Lake Okeechobee:

And there were cows......

Transiting one of the locks:

After having a brief visit with Uncle Jack and Aunt Patty (bonus of seeing Renee, too!), we are once again heading north and are close to Daytona Beach.

And although I swore I would never willingly leave the safety of the intracoastal waterway on this trip, I have agreed to an off-shore excursion.  We will be headed "out to sea" shortly and plan to re-enter the intracoastal waterway around Georgetown, SC (so we can stop and see my parents in Myrtle Beach again), thus avoiding many of the shoaling trouble spots along the intracoastal.

Because the water is so deep off shore, it is not possible to anchor overnight, so we will be running 24/7 until we get to Georgetown.  Mark and I will be alternating sleeping/driving shifts - I have absolutely no idea how this will go.  We have an autopilot system (which keeps us on a steady course) and AIS and radar (which will alert us of any ship/boat traffic near us).  I'm optimistic that as long as hot coffee is available, I will be good.  This will be the first time that I've ever operated the boat while Mark sleeps - hope he's right to trust me with the helm LOL.  We will likely be out of cellphone range while offshore, but I will definitely describe our offshore adventures in my next blog post.  Please wish us well!!!

Take care, y'all!!!!!