Accepted Offer!

Yes, we have an accepted offer on this “Next Dance”. Fingers crossed and hoping all goes well with the survey and inspection. If so, we should close on or about 5/14/15. Then we will be heading back to Denver, CO. We have not rented an apartment as of yet, but are working on it.

Once we are back in Denver, Mark will be getting ready for his new hip! He can’t wait. He’s been suffering quite a bit these past months. Crawling around in tight boat spaces doesn’t help. His surgery is scheduled for 6/23. Send him good wishes for a speedy recovery!

Construction of the next “Next Dance” (we are keeping the name) is coming along very well. We are actually ahead of schedule. Right now it looks like the boat will be delivered to the U.S. in early October. Once here, the remainder of the commissioning will take place in Stuart, FL. We should take delivery of her early December. What a wonderful Christmas present for us! We will be staying close to Southern Florida in the beginning. We are committed to having the boat in three boat shows – probably the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Trawlerfest. Once that is behind us we will probably head up the east coast to the Chesapeake and beyond. Although it is a brand new boat, things are expected to go wrong and we want to be close by major boat yards to take care of any necessary repairs. Here are some of the latest photos we received. It’s beginning to look like a Krogen!
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We were planning to take this boat to the Abacos, Bahamas, but after making the decision to build a new boat and put this boat on the market, we thought it best to fly there and rent a condo. We were there for 12 days and during that time, Heather, Ellie and Anna joined us for a week. We had already booked a condo for them; our place was in the property just adjacent to that in Treasure Cay. Treasure Cay boasts one of the top 10 beaches in the world. You can see why! When we were walking over to the beach for the first time, seeing that incredible turquoise water and the powdery white sand beach was breathtaking. The girls had a blast. We had lots of fun in the sun and the water. Ellie and Anna returned home with a nice tan. On the last day with them, we were able to arrange for a boat to take us out snorkeling, feed sting rays, see sea turtles, pick up a starfish and feed the wild pigs (who sometimes like to swim with you, but not on our trip). Unfortunately, Papa was not able to come. He was unable to snorkel and also felt the boat ride was going to be too bumpy for his hip. Anna celebrated her 13th birthday while in Treasure Cay. All in all, a successful vacation.

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Heavenly!

Heavenly!

Heather and Pauline

Heather and Pauline

A secluded beach

A secluded beach

Jump!

Jump!

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Hope Town Light House

Hope Town Light House

Ferry ride to Hope Town

Ferry ride to Hope Town

Happy 13th Birthday Anna - Bahamas style!

Happy 13th Birthday Anna – Bahamas style!

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Easter in Treasure Cay

Easter in Treasure Cay

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Life is good (except for my damned hip!)

Life is good (except for my damned hip!)

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Hope Town

Hope Town

Cocktail Hour

Cocktail Hour

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Once back, we have started packing up everything that needs to come off of the boat. It is always a pain packing. But the good news is that it is easier than packing up a house. Although it is amazing how much stuff we have on the boat! We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe another eight plastic containers. We say that we are going to be “homeless, boat less and we can’t even call ourselves trailer trash because we don’t have a trailer!”. It is a bit of an odd feeling. We are now the proud owner of, count them, three storage lockers!! This is obscene. We have one in Breckenridge we didn’t have time to empty before taking off after the sale of our house. We don’t even know what is all in there! I’d like to take a match to it. It will get emptied this summer when we are in Colorado – finally! We have another locker in Denver with things that we want to take to our next house; whenever that takes place. And, now one in Stuart, FL for all of our boat possessions. At least we know that this unit is only short term.

My good friend, Pat DeCarli in Denver, has been diligently working to help find us a condo to rent in her building. We think there is a good prospect. We should know shortly if we can rent it. It’s right downtown on the 16th Street Mall. Great location. We can’t thank her enough for her efforts.

That is it for now. The next blog, we hope, will announce the sale of Next Dance. Keep your fingers crossed for us! We are aware of no problems with the boat, but when inspectors and surveyors are involved, they always seem to come up with something!

Until then, fair winds.

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GO BIG(GER)!

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That’s right! We have decided to go bigger! We are enjoying the cruising life so much that we have ordered a new Kadey Krogen 48AE. Color us crazy I guess! It is amazing what additional space another four feet in length and another foot in width offers. Of course, all of the new bells and whistles of a new boat is pretty nice too! Pauline is excited to get a full size, frost-free, refrigerator/freezer (with ice maker), a small commercial grade Blue Star range/oven, a convection oven/microwave, central vac AND a dishwasher! Mark is excited to get all new electronics to play with. There will be granite counter tops, tile backslashes, wine cooler and solid cherry wood throughout. The boat will have a larger guest room/office and TWO heads with enclosed shower stalls (aka, bathrooms). So having the occasional guest or two on board will be easier. The fly bridge and upper boat deck offers much more usable space than we currently have. The side decks are wider and no ladder to climb – a nice wide set of built in steps instead.

The boat is being built in Taiwan. Here is a photo of our hull just out of the mold. We’ll update you with photos as we get them. We will take delivery of her next January in Stuart, FL (maybe even sooner if we’re lucky! Wouldn’t that be a great Christmas gift?).
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Hull No. 57

Hull No. 57

So, our wonderful Kadey Krogen 44 is officially on the market. We had planned to cruise to the Abacos in the Bahamas to meet Heather and our granddaughters. But have decided instead to move the boat over to Stuart, FL to where Kadey Krogen is located. They are the listing agent., We will fly to the Abacos instead. We will be sure to take our new boat over to the Bahamas at some point. Who wants to meet us down there some day??? After we return from our vacation in the Abacos, in May, unless the boat has been sold, we will be taking the boat up to the Kadey Krogen office in Annapolis, MD. Annapolis is out of the hurricane belt, which makes our insurance company happy and has a very active boat selling market during the summer. Hopefully she will not be on the market long. She is in excellent condition and shows very well. We certainly don’t want to be the owners of two boats! So if you know of anyone who is in the market for a great Kadey Krogen 44, let us know! Mark has been busily working on minor projects to get the boat ready. The boat has just been completely detailed and looks brand new.

We were in Fort Myers since November 30 and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The downtown area, which is an award winning restoration area, is a three block walk away and offers many restaurants and shops. Our marina, Legacy Harbour, has been great. The staff, the other boaters, the sunsets, the activities – fabulous! We have enjoyed the spontaneous “docktail” parties, Thursday potlucks and Monday movie nights with fellow boaters. There is a weekly Farmers Market and nearly every weekend there is some kind of festival going on.

We have so enjoyed spending time with our good friends Kirby and Susan, formerly from Wisconsin. We have had some of Mark’s US Bank co-workers visit, as well as Colorado friends, the Faucett’s and Stair’s. (Did I remember to take any pictures? NO!!) I have also reconnected with Polly Crane, a high school classmate. It has been such a pleasure to get to know her and her husband, Steve! We even ran into someone Mark knew from his Cedarburg, WI days while we were enjoying the sunset view in a bar on top of a building. Our friend and cat sitter extraordinaire, Andy, has been back and forth between frozen Wisconsin and here. He recently returned south to take care of Ming and Pema while we vacation in the Abacos, Bahamas. He has no plan to go back Wisconsin any time soon – at least until it warms up.

Besties Kirby and Susan at the Mediterra Beach Club

Besties Kirby and Susan at the Mediterra Beach Club


St. Patty's Day in downtown Fort Meyers

St. Patty’s Day in downtown Fort Meyers


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Speaking of Pema, she took her first swim recently! Both Mark and I were inside the boat doing things. We thought both cats were outside somewhere on the boat, but did not know that Pema decided to walk next door and climb aboard our neighbor’s boat. She was on the back of their swim platform and became frightened when the owner suddenly came outside. She tried to jump from the back of their boat to ours; 5 feet across and 2 feet up. She missed! She swam the length of our boat and around the bow, then managed to climb on a mooring line low to the water and pull herself out! She came running in the boat getting salt water everywhere. The good news here is that she has not jumped off the boat since! A fellow working on a boat across the way saw the whole adventure.

Pema also gave us another scare sending us to the emergency vet – and, of course, it was on a weekend again! She had managed to eat a good portion of a dryer anti-static sheet. We were afraid that a blockage had developed because she was acting a little lethargic and also was not pooping! Luckily they saw no blockage, but X-ray showed a lot of “back up.” So they sent us home telling us to watch her. After several days she seems to have worked it all out and is back to normal. I have now removed all dryer sheets from the boat – this is the second time she has done this. Those of you who know Pema, do you think she has a fetish with anything dryer related?? Ming, as usual, is an Angel not getting into any trouble.

Colorado friends, Al Halverstadt and Susan Weeks on Twocan, a Kadey Krogen 42, came into Legacy Harbour and we got together for cocktails. It was great to catch up with them. We had hoped to cross with them to the Bahamas, but, alas, it will not happen this year.

A couple weeks past, there was a bit of excitement on our dock, two boats down. I was preparing dinner and saw out the window a fire engine and ambulance pull into the marina parking lot. Turned out that the owner (all by himself) slipped and fell down the stairs in his boat and broke his femur. Ouch! He also had a standard poodle, Lila, on board. While he has been in the hospital, Mark, Andy and I, along with a friend of his, down the dock, cared for her for a couple days. She was not at all happy to be left alone on the boat. She was recently taken back home by a neighbor who came to visit the man in the hospital. A few days later, four of his friends took the boat back to the owner’s home port of Punta Gorda, about an half day sail away. Poor guy, he will likely have a six to eight week recovery. Luckily he had his cell phone on his person and was able to call 911. The boater family here helped him out in his time of need.

Soon we will be flying to Treasure Cay in the Bahamas to spend a week with Heather, Ellie and Anna. We haven’t seen them since last August when we came through Milwaukee. We are excited to getting into the crystal clear blue waters and doing some snorkeling with them! First trip to the islands for the girls, they are going to be wowed by how clear and turquoise blue the water is. Paradise! Treasure Cay boasts one of the top 10 beaches in the world.

Fort Myers was a wonderful introduction to the “Snowbird” lifestyle for us. We are really loving living aboard, waking up on the water every day and of course, the warm weather!

Our final celebration in Forts Myers was St. Patrick’s Day. The streets in downtown Fort Myers were closed off and offered lots of music, food and of course beer! And, of course, a sea of green shirts. We also found some of the best corned beef and cabbage we have ever tasted.

Mark is anxiously awaiting his new hip. We will be heading back to Denver the beginning of June. His surgery is scheduled for June 23. He is in constant low grade pain now; not so much from the arthritic hip itself, but more from the muscles. Everything is so tight because of compensating his posture. Of course, crawling into tight boat spaces doesn’t help! Our good friend Stephanie Guyer recently underwent this surgery and is doing so well. Hoping the same for Mark! It will be about a six week recovery and then he will be back to his old self!

Three days ago we finally left Fort Myers in the thick fog, but it cleared up relatively quickly. Our trip began on the Caloosahatchee River, then western part of the Okochobee Waterway. Since we had 124 miles to cover in 2 days, we decided to make a long day of it, 72 miles, and spent the night in Clewiston. You all would have been amazed at Mark’s job of bringing in the boat to the dock! It reminded me of the Captain Ron movie where he brought that sailboat in and parallel parked it in front of the Yacht Club; albeit Mark did not do it at full throttle. In this case, Mark had to back down a very narrow channel, past about six boats (who I am sure thought we were going to hit them) and then parallel park in front of the Tiki Bar and Restaurant with an onslaught of onlookers. He did this seamlessly! The dock master was very impressed with Mark’s handling of a single screw boat (aka, only one engine).

After a well earned cocktail onboard, we had dinner on shore and sampled some local deep fried alligator tail! Tastes just like chicken! We departed at 8:00 a.m. the next morning and entered Lake Okochobee. A bit of trivia here – did you know that Lake Okochobee is the second largest lake in the continental United States? The first is Lake Michigan. Even Mark, who pretty much knows everything, did not know this. Along the way we saw a manatee, an alligator and lots of pretty birds. We travelled through five locks on our journey; all very easy after the mammoth Mississippi locks. Mark and I are pros at locking through now. After a 40 mile crossing on Lake Okochobee, we entered the St. Lucie River, which took us to Stuart, FL and our new home until May 1 – Sunset Bay Marina.

I was happy to see, right after we docked, a dolphin playing off of our stern! We are located just a block from the historic downtown area, which is filled with restaurants and shops. With any luck, our boat will get an offer while we are here. The Kadey Krogen market is pretty hot right now and our boat shows very well. This is Kadey Krogen central, there are seven other Kadey Krogens on our dock alone. This is where the buyers are looking right now. Fingers are crossed!

That is it for now. Until then, fair winds, following seas and warm weather!

Fort Meyers – We have arrived!!

After spending approximately a week in Clearwater, we moved on to St. Petersburg Municipal Marina, where we spend five nights. Technically, this is where Mark completed, or as they say, “Crossed His Wake” doing the Great Loop. In 2003, Mark arrived in St. Petersburg on our 40′ Sailboat, Beau Soleil, after bringing it down from Milwaukee via the Great Lakes, east coast and around Key West.

St. Petersburg has changed a lot during the last 11 years. There has been substantial development of the downtown area; many new high-rise condos, restaurants and shopping areas. The marina is easy walking distance to most attractions, but there is also a trolley which is available. While there we took in an art festival, a weekly food entertainment festival and flea market. We saw our first movie in six months – Catching Fire, part of the Hunger Games Trilogy. It was great! We had planned on spending about three days there, but strong east winds along with heavy morning fog kept us there longer.

We departed for Sarasota on the third day of morning fog using radar extensively. When going underneath the Sunshine Skyway Bridge we were physically under it before we saw it. Fortunately, the fog lifted shortly thereafter and we had an easy run down the ICW down to Sarasota. We had made reservations for four nights in the Sarasota Public Mooring field. By the time we arrived the wind and waves had picked up so that attaching our boat to the mooring ball was a real challenge. It took us approximately 45 minutes to finally get the boat secured. Mark sent Pauline in to have a drink!

That night we experienced the roughest night on the boat to date. The winds picked up to 40 miles an hour, gusting to 50. While we were somewhat protected by tall buildings up-wind of us, the waves, as they frequently do, curved around a point of land and hit us from the side. This caused the boat to roll excessively from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. It was too rough to sleep below, so we came up to the saloon and embraced ourselves against the motion. The cats got sick. We had food flying out of the pantry locker (brown sugar canister broken all over the floor), and one table lamp on the floor. What a night!

Fortunately, the next morning the wind died down to 25 mph. While still too rough to launch the dinghy and go ashore, life onboard was bearable. The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, we saw sunny skies and calm winds and were able to launch our dinghy and visit the city of Sarasota. We stopped for breakfast, then walked to a nearby grocery to pick up a few last things for our Thanksgiving dinner. Pauline prepared a turkey breast and all of the trimmings – enough food for six, but only the two of us! Leftovers. . . yummy!

The following day we went ashore, toured the city, shops and had a fine dinner at an Italian restaurant.

Saturday saw us continuing South on the ICW to Venice, where we went out into the Gulf, proceeding outside to Boca Grande. We did this to avoid seven of ten bridges that we would have needed to have raised to proceed under if we had stayed on the ICW the entire way. It’s much quicker to go outside, than go down the ICW. However, the trade-off is to dodge crab pot floats most of the way. After joining the ICW again at Boca Grande, we motored a few more miles south and anchored off Cabbage Cay (pronounced Key). Cabbage Cay is a popular bar/restaurant on the Gulf Coast; supposedly where Jimmy Buffet got the inspiration for his “Cheeseburger in Paradise” song. We anchored in exactly the same spot as we did in 2004 while spending the summer on our sailboat.

After a peaceful night, we continued down the ICW to the Caloosahatchee River. We then motored up 14 miles up the river to our destination of Legacy Harbour Marina in downtown Fort Meyers. The trip up-river was very interesting. This was the first warm, sunny day in two weeks for the Gulf Coast and it seemed like every power boater in the area was bound and determined to spend it out on the Gulf. We were going up river and they were all going down river. We literally passed hundreds of boats in a two hour time period. More boats than we probably passed in the last three months.

Legacy Harbour Marina will be a wonderful place to spend December, January and February. It is two blocks from Downtown Fort Meyers. Very modern, wonderful facilities and great staff, and filled with many boaters like us who are spending the winter here. There is an active social calendar (Monday night movies in the on-site Tiki Hut, Thursday night Pot-luck dinners along with other organized gatherings). This past Sunday night, there was a “girls only” Pajama/Martini party, in which Pauline participated in. It was a great opportunity for her to meet many of the ladies on boats here. She had quite a good time and also won First Place for the best decorated reindeer! The ladies split up into groups of five. Each group had a bag filled with pantyhose, balloons, bells, ribbons, candy canes, crepe paper and tissue paper in order to put their creative efforts to work in making a reindeer with antlers. What fun. At the Christmas Party, all of the ladies are going to get up and sing the “Sisters” song from White Christmas. Fort Meyers itself has a vibrant downtown historic area with many fine restaurants, a weekly Farmers Market, free shuttle bus service. We think we will thoroughly enjoy our stay here.

One of the reasons we chose the Fort Meyers area was that we have several old and new friends who have homes down here. Some are second homes. Those include Kirby and Susan Shoaf and Tim and Ann Lawler from our Milwaukee days. Pat and Gigi Noble, Dennis and Kathy Battles, and Chris Bauer and Dee Dee Peligren from Mark’s banking days. There is also a couple who are good Breckenridge ski buddies, Jeff and Laurel Belay. Bob and Monique Mustard, who lived in Frisco, now have a home in Fort Meyers. Our good friends Scott and Jean Hickey are going to be here in January looking for property in Naples. Of course, there are also people coming down in this area to visit who we will see, including Linda Thompson and Alan May. We will also be spending time with one of our fellow-Loopers, Anita and Don Gulseth from Manitowoc. There will be here, this time, in their RV.

Our friend, Andy Horn, arrived from Milwaukee about a week after us by driving down our 2001 Toyota Tundra pick-up truck. We now have wheels again (by the way the only possession, besides the boat, that we own)! We spent the first day driving around buying Christmas lights, stockings, etc. to decorate our boat for the Holiday. On December 11 there is a marina sponsored Christmas Party where they will be having a “Boat Decoration” contest. Pauline is determined to win it (at any expense). Andy flew back to Milwaukee but will be joining us again later this month. He will be then “cat-sitting” Ming and Pema from 1/1 – 1/18, while we are back in Colorado working the Music Festival in Steamboat, skiing, visiting friends, and fitting in doctor appointments.

Speaking of Ming and Pema, they of course had to get the lay of the land and take any opportunity to jump ship and explore the surrounding boats. They are often admired when they are perched on the bow pulpit by walkers-by. There are plenty of people, AND dogs walking the dock. I’m not sure how they choose when to jump off the boat, but they somehow manage to do it when no-one is around. Although, we do get told by others if they see them on another boat. They only go a short distance (so far), but we don’t like it when they are on other boats. One of these days one will take off with them! We wish that we could install a GPS tracker on them which would notify us when they are off the boat! We have bought little LED lights for their collars which we can see if they are off after dark. They are enjoying not moving for now.

The Christmas holidays are upon us and everyone is getting in the spirit here at the marina, including us. Pauline attended a ladies only PJ/Martini party and won Best Decorated Reindeer! Boats are getting decorated and last night the judging took place. Pauline’s persistence in purchasing more lights, etc. paid off! Ha ha! We won 3rd place and a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant!

In case you are wondering why there are no photos in this blog, it is because we are having some “iCloud issues”. I have had this blog written since before Christmas and was waiting to upload photos. However, here it is 1/6 and I still am having problems.
We hope to have this taken care of soon. But unfortunately, photos taken have not gotten where they should be! Ah, technology. Hope you enjoy the read in any case.

Until next time, we wish everyone a Happy, Healthy & Prosperous New Year!

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico

We left the Wharf Marina outside of Orange Beach, FL and headed down the Intercoastal Waterway heading for our destination to make our Gulf crossing, Apalatchicola, FL. On our way we stopped for a few days in Pensacola. We stayed at a marina right downtown, so we were able to walk to restaurants, shops and museums. Pensacola is a wonderful city. Vibrant, historic and youthful…..not just us old farts.
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Floridian home in Pensacola

Floridian home in Pensacola

My kind of art festival - they serve Bloody Mary's

My kind of art festival – they serve Bloody Mary’s


We were lucky while in Pensacola to experience a fabulous art festival. And, my kind of art festival it was – they served Bloody Mary’s!! How great is that! I think they try to get you loosened up to get your wallet out. We did buy one piece. Lots of great things – hmmmm, if only we had a house!

Ming and Pema enjoyed watching the waterfowl in the marina. There were lots of pelicans diving in the water and also grey herons doing a little fishing.

White heron

White heron

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Beautiful sunset

Beautiful sunset

The next two days we worked our way further east along the coast. Primary undeveloped area with pine barrens and swamps. Spent the first night in Panama City, had supper at a funky over-the-water-on-stilts restaurant. Best sea food so far! We arrived at Apalachacola the following evening.

Apalachacola is the jumping off point to travel from the panhandle to the peninsula part of Florida. The Intracoastal Waterway does not continue along this part of the coast because it is too shallow. The water is less than 6 feet deep and extends out 20 miles or so. Also, there are few rivers to duck into in case of bad weather. So most boats doing the Loop, except for very shallow draft ones, must head directly across, a distance of 200 miles (and most Looper boats travel at 8-9mph). As a result this is the most stressful (and probably dangerous) portion of the entire 5500 mile loop cruise for most boats. Most Loopers, rarely if ever, travel at night on the water. Add that to the fact that during the crossing you never see land, it is no wonder that the “crossing” is the subject of much discussion at Looper “docktail” parties.

At 11:00 a.m. the next morning we began our crossing. The late start was to assure that we arrived at our destination in daylight. It took us about three hours to work our way thru shallow bays reach the inlet accessing the Gulf, where we were blessed by the weather gods with a partly cloudy sky, light following winds and fairly calm seas of 1-2 foot waves. We began our crossing with two other “buddy” boats, one a 53′ Selene trawler and the other a 40′ Mainship. The Selene was actually heading to Bradenton, FL, so they veered off shortly after we entered the Gulf. The Mainship travelled with us all the way to Clearwater.

The yellow boat is us in the big wide water

The yellow boat is us in the big wide water


The Mainship 40 traveling with us.

The Mainship 40 traveling with us.


At the helm at dusk on the Gulf

At the helm at dusk on the Gulf

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Salute to sunsets!

Salute to sunsets!

Gorgeous and peaceful

Gorgeous and peaceful

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico during our crossing

Sunset on the Gulf of Mexico during our crossing


We had a great crossing. What can I say, but “stabilizers” are a great thing. Stabilizers are computerized, hydraulic, “winglike” things that stick out below the waterline on the side of the boat, that sense the waves and move up and down to keep the boat more steady in the waves. With the waves behind us, it is the best of all situations for us; the boat not rolling much at all. We also have what is called a “full displacement hull” – much like that of a sailboat. Again, this means that our boat is much more stable than many “planing” trawlers. Case in point – the Mainship trawler traveling with us. This boat has almost a flat bottom. They were rolling a great deal even in the small waves. When we arrived in Clearwater, the three people on that boat were exhausted, whereas Mark and I were feeling pretty good for being on the water for 22 hours. One of the crew members told us she had gotten sick and all three of them never left the helm station on the flybridge. She said all of them couldn’t wait until it was over. Mark and I took shifts at the helm – 2 hours on, 2 hours off until about 11:00 p.m. Then we did 3 hours on, 3 hours off during the night. For the most part, it is pretty boring but you need to keep your eyes open. You need to pay attention to what is going on around you, watching for any boat traffic on radar and watch the temperature gauge to make sure the engine is not overheating. We kept in contact with the boat traveling with us about every two hours just to see how everyone was doing. One of the crew members of the other boat said to us when we arrived that they were so amazed at how alert and upbeat Mark always sounded on the radio, where they were so tired. Next Dance performed flawlessly for our crossing. We love our boat!

We had planned to anchor off once we arrived, but Mark looked again at what time we would get in and what the tide situation would be. It turned out that it was going to be low tide and still too dark which would have made anchoring dangerous. So we decided to go on to the Clearwater Municipal Marina instead, which was another hour and a half further south. A good decision.

At about 8:00 a.m. we could see Clearwater, FL on the horizon. However, we couldn’t relax just yet – we had to dodge hundreds of crab pot floats as we neared Clearwater. Couldn’t they put those crab pots somewhere else??
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Bridge into Clearwater Harbor

Bridge into Clearwater Harbor

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We went under the bridge and officially were in Clearwater! We wound our way through the channel to the marina and found our way to our slip. The largest slip they had available for us was 17′ wide. Our beam (width) is 16’4″. With our fenders out, we could not actually get in all the way. So we settled for going halfway in, with our stern hanging out 15ft or so. But it is not a problem, because there is lots of space behind. Once we settled in we had some scrambled eggs and a Bloody Mary to celebrate our smooth crossing and then we hit the pillow for a few hours. Slept a bit, then got up to get the boat reorganized. We walked into the downtown area to a great little Italian restaurant, then back to the boat to take a sleeping pill to make sure we slept through the night. The next morning we awoke completely refreshed! A great feeling.

We liked Clearwater and the marina so much that we decided to stay a week. A great decision. Our slip in Fort Myers is not available until December 1, so we have time to smell the roses in getting there over the next couple of weeks. It is only 150 miles (by water) south of us.

During our journey, we travelled some 800 miles, with a couple who live in Clearwater. They had a second home in Charlevoix, MI which they had sold. They were taking their sailboat, Morning Star, back to Clearwater where they plan to get it “prettied up” to sell. We called Dave and Cheryl to tell them that we had arrived in Clearwater. They were thrilled to hear from us. Obviously they are a wealth of information on where things are in the area. We had a wonderful dinner with them in Clearwater Beach area. It was great to see them again and catch up. They are one of the couples we had been traveling with for over a month from the Illinois River down to the Tombigbee River. We all bonded and had so much fun together. One of the other couples is still behind us, probably holed up in Apalachicola waiting for a weather window. Unfortunately it looks like that won’t happen until around 11/21. We were VERY fortunate to have had the two-day weather window to cross in good weather. The cold front that is hammering most of the country has reached the Florida panhandle bringing strong winds, high waves and temps in the 40″s. Although Apalachicola is a cute town, it is not a place where we would like to spend a week waiting for the weather to break.

Mark has rented a car for the week and we went to a cute little town just up the road called Dunedin. We had a great lunch there. Mark found a barber to get a haircut while I explored the great shops. I found one shop in particular that was fabulous. So fabulous that the credit card company alerted Mark via text of my far too extravagant charge!! Damn – don’t they know that there are some things he doesn’t have to know about. What can I say – it’s been awhile since I’ve been in “civilization”!

A work of art that I just had to have!

A work of art that I just had to have!


We call it "Sparky"

We call it “Sparky”

We have run errands, a day in Dunedin and a day in Tarpon Springs (where natural sponges are harvested by divers and home to many wonderful Greek restaurants).

Fresh Red Snapper ala Plaka!

Fresh Red Snapper ala Plaka!

Moussaka!

Moussaka!

The latest on Ming and Pema – we were happy that since our arrival that they had been staying onboard the boat. We think that is because they are a little freaked out by the big birds that wander the docks and the loud noises they make. Unfortunately, while waiting for Dave and Cheryl to arrive last night, I went inside to do something and darned if they hadn’t jumped off the boat! That little Ming, who I always thought was an angel – NOT! She kept running away from me, but at last I caught her. Pema – who is generally a little devil – was nowhere to be found. We spent 20+ minutes scouring the dock for her. Even the dockmaster was helping us look for her. Finally, I went on board a boat moored across from us and there she was on the upper deck. Ugh! I think we need to get GPS chips installed on them!

Well, that’s it for now. We will enjoy the time we have here in Clearwater exploring, eating, drinking, and of course a little more shopping!

Until next time, let’s hope the market continues on it’s upswing so I can pay the credit card bills! And, of course, fair winds and calm seas.

Mobile Bay and Beyond

We spent a few days in Demopolis, AL waiting until our boat insurance policy permitted us to go further south (hurricanes) and then continued on down the river. We spent a lovely evening at anchorage called Bashi Creek. It was a little narrow and we needed to raft up to each other. We had five boats in this tiny spot.
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Misty morning

Misty morning

Rafting off in  tight anchorage - dog needs to go ashore!

Rafting off in tight anchorage – dog needs to go ashore!


One stop we made was a place called “Bobby’s Fish Camp”. It is a real “in the woods” place right on the river. There is not a lot of dock space so boats end up rafting off of one another. Luckily we got in there early and were able to be on the dock with power – aka “Air Conditioning!”. Some were not so lucky. There was a tiny rustic restaurant there that served, by far, the best catfish that we have had – at least to our taste. We met a very fun group of people who rafted up to us. We joined them for dinner at Bobby’s. They had just purchased a Grand Banks in Michigan and are in the process of taking it back to Texas.
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Yea! We finished going through our last lock. From where we started in Norfolk, VA, through the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Trent Severn Waterway, Illinois River, Mississippi River, Ohio River, Cumberland River, Tennessee River and the Tombigbee Waterway, we went through a total of 99 locks! By far, the easiest were on the Tombigbee River. It is so nice to put all of the fenders away and not have them hanging over the sides. We look forward to getting the fenders cleaned at some point and purchasing new covers for them. I don’t think they’ll ever come clean with all of the muck, mud and slime imbedded in them!

Last lock! Yippee!!

Last lock! Yippee!!

Although the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers were gentle, safe and lovely, we are both glad to be off of them; if for no other reason than a change. When we entered Mobile we were lucky and did not encounter any large ship traffic (Mobile is one of the largest US ports), so we were able to continue through and into the bay. Here we ran down the large ship channel where we saw very large ocean freighters, towboats with barges and fishing boats. We also were lucky to get our first glimpse of a pod of dolphins in the water. They came over to our boat, but they didn’t follow us.

We stopped for a couple of days at a marina in Fairhope, AL. which is located on the east shore of Mobile Bay about halfway down. Neither of us had ever heard of the town, but we were delighted with what we found. It is a small, very pretty retirement/vacation community with great shopping, restaurants, upscale housing, art galleries and so on. It had drop dead views of the sunsets over the Mobile Bay. After a month of small river towns that were dying or already dead, it was a pleasant surprise.

From there we motored on down to the Gulf Coast Intercoastal Waterway which runs about 350 miles from Texas to the eastern end of the Florida panhandle. The GCICW is a series of canals, rivers and bays, all of which are for the most part protected from the waves and winds on the Gulf of Mexico. It passes Pensacola, Panama City, Destin and Appalachacola. Many sheltered anchorage and marinas along this resort lined coast.
The waterway is teeming with dolphins and other wild life. On the way here we had dolphins swimming/surfing our bow wave most of the way. Each night a pair of herons perch on the dock next to our boat and drive our cats crazy who watch out the boat windows. There are also two dolphins here popping up on the surface of the water from time to time.
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We stopped for lunch at LuLu’s on the way to where we are currently docked, The Wharf, in Gulf Shores, AL. Lulu is Jimmy Buffet’s sister and has a very popular, fun bars/restaurant/sports,shopping complex on the waterway, with adequate docking for a dozen large cruisers. Lots of family photos and Jimmy Buffet music playing.

The Wharf is a interesting place. Part large upscale marina, part condo/hotel complex with convention center, theme park, etc. and part upscale shopping/restaurant mall. We originally planned to stay here for 3 days just resting/relaxing after being on the go for weeks, but a cold front is passing thru as we write this bringing temps in the low 50’s and very high winds, so we may be here for a week. Couldn’t have picked a better place to be stuck, if we tried. There is even a brand new West Marine store down the road (you boaters will understand.)

Last evening was Trick or Treat night, which is celebrated in a interesting way here. The two block long, main street of the mall is closed to traffic and locals with SUV, pickups and station wagons come in and park close together at right angles to the curb. Both back of the vehicles and their occupants are highly decorated/costumed for Halloween, and they have abundant treats with them. They form a very long “U” up and down the mall main street. At 6:30, literally hundreds of children, ranging from infants to age 12, all in elaborate costumes, begin to parade down and back up the street, collecting their treats. The entire mall complex is extensively decorated and attractively lighted. The local fire, police and military units are all present, in their gear and are also passing out treats. There are judges awarding prizes for the best costumes by age group. It is a very safe, fun way to celebrate the holiday. We thoroughly enjoyed watching both the kids and their costumed parents as they marched by. The highlight was a group of 20 something, pregnant nuns in full habits! After that, we had a wonderful fish dinner at a little restaurant here.
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For some reason, all of the rental cars are taken. Not sure who is using them since it is off-season here right now. So, we are a bit stuck here other than the nearby restaurants and shops. Pauline’s in need of a few supplies, so if we are not able to rent a car tomorrow, then we will have to hire a taxi to take us to the nearby Publix grocery store.

Today is a day of doing inside projects and catching up. Pauline is baking Pumpkin Bread!

Don't jump Ming!

Don’t jump Ming!

Ming and Pema enjoying exploring the boat this morning

Ming and Pema enjoying exploring the boat this morning

That’s all for now. Until next time, hopes for warmer weather, soft breezes and calm water!
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The Tennessee River and Tombigbee River Waterway

The Tennessee River is beautiful, and such a welcome change to what we have recently encountered coming down the Illinois and Mississippi River systems. Before descending the Tennessee, we spent four days at Green Turtle Bay Marina, an upscale marina at the north end of the Lake Tennessee Reservoir. Most Loopers use this marina to recharge their (personal) batteries after dealing with the more stressful rivers north of here. We renewed a number of acquaintances we met earlier on our journey and re-provisioned the boat. There a number of really good restaurants in the vicinity, which we thoroughly enjoyed, including one, Patti’s that served 2″ think pork chops, which were great! Again, it was BYOB.

Sunrise on the Tennessee River

Sunrise on the Tennessee River

After our rest, we continued upstream on the Tennessee River. The river was very pretty with mainly thick forests and rocky bluffs on the side and very little signs of human habitation. We spent five days on the Tennessee, stopping at small but interesting marinas each night. We have been traveling with the same three boats since meeting them on the Illinois River.

After 215 miles we turned off of the river into the Tenn-Tom Waterway. This is a man-made waterway that connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River. This waterway and the lock system was completed in the mid-1980’s and we were once again descending the river, which makes locking through much easier.

At the start of the Tombigbee Waterway, we had planned to spend two nights at another upscale marina on Pickwick, Lake which a major tourist area. The marina is located where Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee intersect one another. Most of these upscale marinas have courtesy cars which transient boaters can use for shopping, restaurant going and limited sightseeing. The Civil War Shiloh Battlefield was about 20 miles from this marina, and another couple we have been traveling with, Woody and Lucy, spent four hours visiting the battlefield and visitor center. Over 23,000 Confederate and Union soldiers fell in this battle. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the park has a driving tour which allows you to visit all of the major sections of the battle. When you enter the park you feel a sense of haunting. But yet it is quite peaceful.

Beautiful statue in Shiloh

Beautiful statue in Shiloh


"I'm going to get one of those Confederate Soldiers!"

“I’m going to get one of those Confederate Soldiers!”


No wonder they lost - they don't know how to hold a rifle!

No wonder they lost – they don’t know how to hold a rifle!


This area is also the catfish capital of the United States. The three couples we had been traveling with were splitting up the next day, so we crammed ourselves into a van a drove to the Catfish Hotel, the oldest family owned restaurant for an all-you-can-eat catfish dinner. Woody and Dave had a little competition going on with who could eat the most catfish. I think it was a draw! It was a fun, but sad evening. We all had bonded after having traveled about 900 miles together.
Woody finishing another catfish!

Woody finishing another catfish!


Great presentation in serving mini-tacos - in lemon wedges!

Great presentation in serving mini-tacos – in lemon wedges!


Ed and EJ

Ed and EJ

Dave and Cheryl

Dave and Cheryl

Woody and Lucy

Woody and Lucy


Our traveling companions left early the next morning. A fond farewell. We hope to run into them again in Florida. We decided to stay another night because we had “time to kill” so to speak because our boat insurance policy does not allow us to be south of the 31st parallel before October 24. Since we were only four our five days away from that latitude, we just thought we would spend the time there. We made the right decision, for that night a major cold front swept through the entire middle and southern states, spawning 50-70 mile winds, tornadoes and torrential rain. We had a tornado touchdown about 60 miles NE of our marina, but all we encountered in our slip was 24 hours of heavy rain. Again we were blessed with river flooding and waited one more day for the debris to work its way down, and then departed south down the waterway.

This waterway is much narrower than the Tennessee River and very remote, with little commercial traffic. We anchored out that night in a beautiful lake connected to the waterway in a deep forest. It was so dark and creepy feeling that Pauline made sure our doors were locked after having visions of the movie “Deliverance” in our minds!!
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The next two days we traveled with a convoy of 5-7 boats transiting the locks together and staying at a very rustic, but adequate marina the first night. We are now located in a more upscale Marina in Columbus Mississippi for three nights. Again, waiting out our insurance constraints. We are only 120 miles north of our southern limit of our policy and we have seven days before the deadline comes.

We are traveling with a new couple that have already completed the Great Loop 4 or 5 years ago and live on the Tennessee River, outside of Chattanooga. They are on their way to spending the winter in the Keys. It has been very helpful traveling with them as they know the river anchorages and their knowledge of the river, anchorages and marinas.

Columbus is a relatively large city with everything a way of shopping and restaurants. We will be here for two more nights before moving onto Demopolis, Alabama, which sits right on the 31st parallel. The weather has been very nice. Mid-70s, low humidity and once you get used to the southern drawl, the people we have met are very friendly. The ladies in particular are “sugary” sweet! You almost feel yourself wanting to begin talking like them. Everyone is so polite – “yes mam, no mam”, “welcome”, “can I help you mam/sir?”. We Northerner’s would do well to pick up on some of those manners!!

Here are a couple of cat photos. The girls are doing well. Pema still loves to jump ship when she can or cause some other sorts of anxt for us. Yesterday she crawled into a crawl space along the hull of the boat – cat treats to the rescue to get her out of there! Today she shot into the engine room – an off limits area for cats – cat treats to the rescue. Ming is an angel!

"Why are you on the dock?  I was getting ready to jump"  Meow….

“Why are you on the dock? I was getting ready to jump” Meow….


Ming getting some sunshine

Ming getting some sunshine

Pema - Packer Fan!

Pema – Packer Fan!

Pema exhausted after the Packer game!

Pema exhausted after the Packer game!

Until next time, hear the banjo strumming the “Deliverance” theme song and think of us here on the Tenn-Tomm Waterway. Next stop – Demopolis, Alabama! Florida is getting closer! Can’t wait! No more locks.

The Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers

First of all, I don’t know how I forgot to add this photo to the last blog, but it is a special one – many of our Milwaukee friends joined us for a glass of wine aboard Next Dance before heading over to Scott and Jean’s home to carry on. This is a photo of them on deck. Thank you all for joining us and giving us a wonderful memory!

IMG_2333Many of our friends that we have talked to regarding our adventure are somewhat surprised to learn that the inland river system on which we are currently cruising, exists at all.

The river system we have, and will be traveling on, is comprised of the Illinois River (Chicago to Grafton, Il, 233 miles), a portion of the Mississippi River (Grafton, Il to Cairo, Il, 218 miles), a short leg on the Ohio River (Cairo, Il for 66 miles) to the junction with the Cumberland River, then 33 miles up to Lake Barkley (dammed up Cumberland River). From there we take a short man made canal to the Tennessee River, on which we travel 190 miles to we reach the Tombigbee/Black Warrior Rivers. From there it is 450 miles to Mobile, Alabama. The system has been in use primarily for commercial traffic since mid 1800’s (Il., Miss., and Ohio) to only as recent as 1983, Tombigbee.

We entered the Illinois River on September 8th. Our game plan was to average about 30-40 miles per day. Taking 30 to 45 days or so for the entire system. Boy were we wrong! On the evening of September 8th, a major front came through the upper midwest dumping 5 to 8 inches of rain in both the Illinois and upper Mississippi watersheds. Both rivers experienced significant flooding which lasted about ten days. When this happens many of the locks are closed (read underwater) and all traffic comes to a halt. Pleasure boaters, mainly Great Loopers like ourselves, can only wait it out until the water drops low enough to proceed. The floods not only bring high water but also very rapid river currents and a large amount of debris – read trees. At times a “dam” of floating debris crosses the river from bank to bank. When you hit those, you take the boat out of gear and hope momentum takes you through. Since all Great Looper’s hit the river system about the same time, there was a serious log jam in the few available marina’s on the river system. Anchoring was just too dangerous because of the debris and strong current.

As a result, once the water started to reside, we could only move down river when a space became available in a marina a day’s travel below us. Therefore, we had delays as much as five nights in a given spot. We got to know some towns we had never heard of very well….Beardstown, Ottawa, and Henry, Il to name a few. On the upside we made a lot of new friends among fellow loopers.

Car ferry on the Illinois River

Car ferry on the Illinois River


A tree in the river - one among many we had to maneuver past

A tree in the river – one among many we had to maneuver past


Sunrise - another early departure

Sunrise – another early departure

Well, as I write this, we are anchored on the Ohio River hoping to get through two remaining locks tomorrow and arrive tomorrow night at a nice marina on Lake Barkley, Kentucky. Getting through a lock, ONCE WE ENTER, only takes about 30 to 60 minutes. Waiting to get in can take hours, or in some cases experienced by a few fellow loopers, an entire day. Commercial traffic by law is locked through before recreational boaters. However, towboat boat captains often take pity on us, and squeeze us in between barge loads.

The river system experience is interesting and necessary, but definitely not scenic, nor relaxing. You see a very industrial, grimy side of America. Commercial traffic is extensive (2 to 4 encounters per hour) and at least at first, intimidating. Passing a towboat with up to 600 ft of barges (16 in number) out in front and leaving a wake behind of churned up water with waves up to 8 feet high in some cases, AND on a bend, is a little challenging. On top of it all, the towboat captains are all from the deep south and it is hard for this upper Midwest couple to understanding what they are saying on the VHF radio. (You must contact each tow boat and ask on what side and when it wants to be passed.) They will tell you either on the “one whistle” or the “two whistle”. We suspect that the history of this if from the days of steam driven boats and they would either give a one or two whistle to tell boats which side they should pass on. Only a theory – I have not looked it up!!

By far, the worst experience was the Mississippi, followed by the Illinois. At times on the Mississippi, our boat, that normally cruises at 8 mph, was being pushed along by the current at 13 mph. You have greatly reduced directional control and pulling into a dock is a one shot deal. If you miss, you really don”t get a second chance. So far we have been lucky!

Dinner out with fellow Loopers

Dinner out with fellow Loopers

One of the large locks we were in.  Our friends, Ed & EJ had to make a quick turnaround in the lock in order to grab the pin we attach a line to.  Fun??

One of the large locks we were in. Our friends, Ed & EJ had to make a quick turnaround in the lock in order to grab the pin we attach a line to. Fun??


Coming into St. Louis - the Arch is in sight!

Coming into St. Louis – the Arch is in sight!

US Bank Building in St. Louis - Mark visited here often!

US Bank Building in St. Louis – Mark visited here often!

The Arch in St. Louis - it's pretty big close up!

The Arch in St. Louis – it’s pretty big close up!

These are canoers doing the Loop; a couple and their dog, Jasmine!  And we thought WE were on an adventure!!  They started in Quebec City.  Amazing to say the least.

These are canoers doing the Loop; a couple and their dog, Jasmine! And we thought WE were on an adventure!! They started in Quebec City. Amazing to say the least.


The Canoers next to a tow on the Mississippi  - they are VERY strong rowers!

The Canoers next to a tow on the Mississippi – they are VERY strong rowers!


River Talk with Fern at Hoppies - an institution for all Loopers on the Mississippi River

River Talk with Fern at Hoppies – an institution for all Loopers on the Mississippi River

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Fern from Hoppies - she knows everything there is to know about boating on the Mississippi

Fern from Hoppies – she knows everything there is to know about boating on the Mississippi


We did hit 12 knots per hour, but I wasn't fast enough for the photo!

We did hit 12 knots per hour, but I wasn’t fast enough for the photo!


Ming and Pema cuddled up underway

Ming and Pema cuddled up underway

The winding river we traversed

The winding river we traversed

Beautiful sunset in a lovely anchorage in Little Diversion Channel

Beautiful sunset in a lovely anchorage in Little Diversion Channel

Oyster leaving the anchorage

Oyster leaving the anchorage


Leaving the Mississippi and entering the Ohio River - Heavenly!

Leaving the Mississippi and entering the Ohio River – Heavenly!

Today’s experience on the Ohio was a nice surprise in comparison, much less current, the river’s much wider and straighter, and less industrial, at least on this portion.

The Packer Pom Pom flying proudly - They WON!!

The Packer Pom Pom flying proudly – They WON!!


By now, you must be wondering why we are doing this. Trust us, we have asked the same question often during the last 3 weeks.
But the worst is behind us. The rivers we still must travel are much less commercial, pretty and relaxing…or so we have been told! We’ll let you know! It will be nice to slow down, if nothing else. We heard not too far down the river is a marina near Shiloh. We hope to visit the battlefield. From this point forward we hope to get some sightseeing in.

We cannot go any further south than Demopolis, AL until after October 24 due to insurance reasons – AKA hurricanes. So that should slow us down a bit and enjoy life a bit instead of long, tiring days trying to get somewhere.

Tomorrow is a busy day, ladies day out!! There is a courtesy car at the marina and Pauline and three other ladies are going to drive to Paducah to go to a mall, get nails done, shop, have fun and laughs. Can’t wait! I’m sure the hubbies will be doing boat projects. The ladies need a much needed break. It has been very hot. So a day away from boat things will be nice change. Upon our return to the Marina, the Marina is hosting it’s annual BBQ for the Loopers. They are providing all of the BBQ and sides – we just have to bring our beverage of choice. Oh, by the way, we are in a “dry” county. When we go out to restaurants here, we bring our own wine! We have to give it to the server and they open it and serve it. I’m not so sure about this Southern way of life . . . what are they thinking??

Whew! I am caught up on the blog. I’ll try not to wait so long to do it next time!!

Until the next time, calm rivers and cool nights!