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!!!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More Gulf Coast adventures....

We hope this finds you somewhere warm, cozy, and well!  Quality Time and her crew members (Mark and I) are continuing to leisure away the last of the February days at the Pink Shell Resort and Marina in Fort Myers Beach.  It has been a very quiet, extra-relaxing month for us, with no really exciting or epic adventures to report.  We've both been reading a lot, and I've had fun cleaning and shell-acking (bad pun intended) my seashell collection.  Fort Myers also has a fairly good bus system, which we've taken advantage of on several occasions to get out and about the city.

Our Uncle Dick and Aunt Sandy came to visit us, and we had a lot of fun seeing Sanibel Island with them and taking a sun-tanning/dolphin-watching boat ride.   (hopefully you can see the short dolphin video below)

A major recent highlight for me was my solo weekend trip to Austin, TX to see my daughter (and her awesome boyfriend) - I had the privilege of being their first official houseguest!  My trip fell on the first weekend of the AMC movie theaters' Oscar Best Picture Showcase, so we got to enjoy the first marathon movie day together.  The annual Best Picture Showcase is something Melanie and I have enjoyed together for many years, and it was very special for me to share it with her in person again!!  By the way, we saw the movies Manchester By the Sea, Fences, Hell or High Water, and La La Land; since there are still 5 more nominated movies to see in marathon mode next weekend, I'll hold off selecting a favorite until then.  Feel free to get in touch with me if you want to talk "movies" : )

Mark and I have gotten a lot of questions about how we are able to get along so well in such close quarters, and in response, it genuinely hasn't been much of an issue for us, thankfully.  For now, Mark and I are trying to spend some time each day apart (even if it's just going for a short walk) - because we'll be unable to get much personal space once we start our month-long homeward trek in a couple weeks.  The togetherness has been great - but it can definitely be hard to think of new things to talk about LOL.

I had a difficult time emotionally after our kids left after visiting us in Key West - adjusting to the reality of an empty nest is still hard for me.  I have also greatly missed my work as a counselor, with all the related challenges and rewards, but have not been able to make any decisions about what I want to do career-wise after we return home.  Mark, as always, is more decisive than I - he definitely plans to keep on handymanning (a new verb I just created  : )  This journey has been a time of self-reflection and existential thinking for me.  Although no revelations have been forthcoming about what I want to do, I am confident that I will find my way to where I am supposed to be.

TTFN - take care, y'all!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Enjoying Southwest Florida!!!

Hi y'all and happy February!  It's hard to believe we've been calling Quality Time home for almost 4 months now, and I believe we are finally getting the hang of relaxing.  Of course, it helps to be on the southern Gulf Coast of Florida, right?  There are so many interesting places to explore here, and the scenery and weather have been postcard-perfect.  We are back at the Pink Shell Resort and Marina in Fort Myers Beach, where we plan to stay for the whole month of February; it feels like a vacation from our vacation here!

In keeping with our theme of hitting all the Florida State Parks nearby, we spent a few days anchored at Cayo Costa State Park.  It was like hitting the boating jackpot for us; a spacious and protected anchorage, plentiful wide hiking trails, many remote beaches reachable by dinghy, and unbelievable sea shelling.  And I still can't believe, it, but Mark actually convinced me to go looking for alligators in the dinghy (other boaters told us where they had spotted the gators previously); to Mark's dismay (and my relief) we did not find any.

Well, duh - right?

Apparently Mark doesn't mind being alligator bait - that's why I'm taking the picture from a good distance away!

We did not realize previously that "sea-shelling" can be an action verb; we were both actually quite sore for a few days from all the squatting and stooping involved.  The proliferation of shells also brought out my compulsive nature; the perfect shell or that elusive, rare shell must surely be in the next stretch of beach...   Cant.Stop.Shelling.....

Another "happy shell"   : )

Mark has been very successful fishing so far - if you consider catching small catfish success LOL.  He has also had several small mechanical issues to address, such as an oil leak on the fuel pump (the best solution apparently is to just replace the fuel pump - it's on order already) and a water leak on the kitchen faucet (awaiting trouble-shooting).  Later today, Mark also plans to add a ring or two of Teflon packing to the rudder shaft - for those who understand what that means.

We hope that y'all are staying busy and warm, and we can honestly say - wish you were here!!!!!!