December 2017

Farewell

I’m trying to sum up our entire trip in ONE photograph. Whew…just looking at all we’ve seen and done is overwhelming and then to know we’re not going forward makes me cry and who wants to cry?     I need to do this; I cannot bear to do this.

Poor Don, at least I can cry. He must bear this horrendous disappointment inside. His plan was four years in the making! FOUR years! Nights and weekends were spent dreaming and preparing and plotting; buying equipment, appropriate housewares and clothing, inventorying all things necessary to sustain us for 15 months (not unlike preparing for a climb to Everest). He researched the perfect boat. He learned navigational aids. He spent hours conversing the pros and cons with experienced Loopers. Two years prior to our launch he found a marina on the Columbia River in Oregon five hours from home where we could park Panacea and learn all her infinite details. We spent most summer weekends there. We flew us to Tennessee for the Annual Fall Rendezvous of the AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association). All Don ever thought of was this great adventure upon reaching 65…the only thing in his Bucket List. The ONLY thing he wanted to do. It absorbed all his after-work attention. It gave him something to live for. It was, and continues to be, his ultimate dream.

There are blessings associated with our return: There’s the sale of Don’s firm and transfer of ownership. There’s the delight of spending time with our grandsons. There’s being in our paradise of Idaho and running whitewater while fishing for salmon and steelhead and sturgeon.

So while we’re not miserable, we are brokenhearted to terminate our grand adventure and return to employment! Bittersweet.

Currently, we plan to revisit the Great Loop in September 2019…next year. Two years away. Whimper.

We meant some phenomenal people:

Nick and Barb who accompanied us, challenged us, AND entertained us.

Steve and Teresa who encouraged our faith and determination, and laughed with us.

Scott and Karen on Last Call

Eric and Alyson on Catan

Richard and Inga on Bon Foyage, Legacy Marina, Fort Myers

Harry and Mary, Legacy Marina, Fort Myers

Ken and Cathy, Legacy Marina, For Myers

 

If we never meet again, we will never forget.

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June 2017

June 26

As June fades into the recent past we feel ourselves fading too.

Our magical water journey seems like a dream.

We watch the posts of friends who’ve moved on, we see their marvelous photos in Norfolk, Chesapeake Bay, New York Harbor, and now Canada and we sink lower and lower into the mist. We review and relive those many months on the Loop and it feels more like a dream…not the dream four years in the making, but a fantasy.

We have missed so much and missed doing it with new friends with the same dream; all the fun, all the adventure, all the excitement of each new day.

Days here are mundane and boring and sad. Don keeps busy during the day, and I just wander about. I miss my yard and garden, I miss my house and my dishes and my walk-in shower and my gas range and my huge living room and my family room with a BIG TV and doggie door for Inky’s convenience. I miss my neighborhood, my friends and church family. I miss my old routine now that my water routine has vanished.

We’re adrift: floating without being moored or steered; without purpose or guidance; lost and confused.

I cry and stomp my feet and sweat and swear. Don moves about silent and courageous; never accusatory.

Our monthly short-term rent is $1,550!! We haven’t had a mortgage in 10 years! It’s hard to accept.

I made our home like my grandmother made hers: a warm place where family and friends were always welcome; clean and comfortable and warm. Funny, isn’t it? I’m the only one NOT welcome there.

May 17…..Stayed Tuned

We are back in Idaho. Don’s business required his attendance in some critical matters.

Our house is rented so we have moved into an apartment in Boise very near Don’s office. It is chic and trendy and fun with a large lake outside our patio. Inky loves to chase squirrels. We will learn to paddle board.  Can hardly wait to be back on the water!

More later!

April 8, 9, 10, 11

April 8, 9…. St. John’s Yacht Basin…Charleston, SC

This was a gorgeous place. Gorgeous. I would return here in a heartbeat. Numerous slips, newer floating docks, deluxe toilets/showers/laundry, huge pool and pool deck, magnificent boater’s lounge with grand view of the river. Ahhhhh. Minimal hurricane damage, but the bridge leading to the place was destroyed so the restaurant closed and autos are required to park a quarter mile away and walk the distance on those lovely piers to the marina.

We drove the courtesy car into town and took a horse drawn carriage tour of the city; it was a different from other tours. There are so many carriages touring that the city required a lottery system for each area of the town to be accessed. Otherwise there was so much buggy traffic it interfered with autos and pedestrians and homeowners. Our tour was interesting, but nothing like the one in Beaufort where we were shown the entire town by a lovely local girl who regaled us with lovely stories about the place and stopped often for photo opportunities.

River Walk Charleston

Charleston, in my opinion, is a cross between rowdy New Orleans and gentile Savannah: narrow streets, beautiful old homes built like row houses deep into the block with large gardens to the back, exclusive shops in the center of town, cobbled streets to the river, French Quarter with it delicate ironwork and ivy-strewn brick facades. Wish we could have spent another day.

April 10…Harborwalk Marina, Georgetown, SC

Moving along. Loved this trip through salt marsh, embedded with pine and juniper. Miles and miles of marshland preserves and inlets. Our marina sets on the town of 9,000. Three miles to any grocery. 1 mile to any quick stop. We are very tired traveling so fast to get to Norfolk by April 20. It’s challenging to find the energy for touring when your body cries for rest instead. We stayed one night is Georgetown and saw little of the town. It was small and quaint. There is so much important history on the east coast, that we cannot take it in quickly. We passed Fort Sumter coming out of Charleston. Imagine! Fort Sumter! Idaho is a young country.

South Carolina, played a central role in the state’s headlong rush toward secession. Fort Sumter is where the Civil War essentially started.  When the Union tried to resupply the fort and the South fired on the fort, the war was inevitable. We had to scurry past without seeing it all. Same with Georgetown from the years of early settlement, through the Revolutionary War and up to the onset of the Civil War there is a monument, statue, or historic building on every corner.

April 11…Osprey Marina

We are docked deep in the country on the Waccamaw River. We moved out of the salt marsh prairie into deeply forested riverbanks of a Wilderness Refuge. It refreshed our souls to see pine. We turned into a narrow canal off the ICW and continued through dense tree-lined shores until it opened up into this pristine, picturesque harbor. Just perfect. What a sweet surprise. The best night’s sleep in months. Quiet and serene.

Things to see along the way…

 

 

 

 

April 3-8, Beaufort, SC

We arrived on a calm, hot Monday intending to stay through Tuesday, however the weather reports warned of severe weather and high winds so we stayed another day and another day and right on through to the weekend. 45 mph winds and tornado warnings kept us in harbor. We cannot always stay on the Intercoastal Waterway as it weaves among the countless barrier islands, and to find a marina we must drive up one of the numerous rivers leading into these amazing towns …. I’m challenged to discover new adjectives!

High tide, ramp. Notice the barnacles…
STEEP
Low tide, nearly level.

Located on the Intracoastal Waterway near Marker 239, we are staying in the heart of one of South Carolina’s oldest and most beautiful cities (they all are). Within 300 yards of our boat we find restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and a variety of other shops located in a lively business district. We took a horse-drawn carriage into the historic neighborhoods winding though shady lanes under moss-strewn oaks. Stately antebellum mansions display the city’s Southern charm and grace. The Riverfront Park adjacent to the harbor meanders along the Beaufort River, with a grand vista of the marsh islands and intersecting waterways.

Beaufort is a National Historic Landmark District. Birthed 450 years ago when French explorer Jean Ribaut sailed into Port Royal sound, the second-deepest natural harbor on the East Coast. French, Spanish and English explorers struggled to colonize the area. We learned that 25% of the United States’ east coast marshland water is in Beaufort County. With hundreds of square miles of tide water and grassy marshes to explore we get out in the dinghy as often as the weather allows. It’s great fun.

Several movies were filmed here: Glory, Forest Gump, The Great Santini, Prince of  Tides.

Beaufort National Cemetery was established two years after the Civil War began. One of six national cemeteries built in 1863 for Union soldiers and sailors.

March 30-Apr 2

We anchored in Thunderbolt Marina in the town of Thunderbolt outside Savannah. Clean and tranquil with discreet lighting, this is a small marina with an adjacent service yard for enormous boats. Opposite shore is salt marsh, very peaceful. Gated campus with 24/7 Security Guard Two large gazebos with nice furniture, large park that winds along the riverfront where dogs can run. No slips, but a long concrete floating dock where boats are docked on both sides. Excellent guest building with large cheery laundry, Toilet/Shower rooms with mirrored dressing area between. The Dock Master is a soft-spoken man who operates alone and is very inconspicuous. Many Loopers arriving every day. Nice to have pals.

The boat needs an oil change and other 100-hour maintenance keeping us here several days so we rented a car to navigate around this most historic city.

Savannah from the bridge
The bridge

We rented a car and drove into gorgeous, glorious Savannah. There is so much to absorb we will need to do it in more than one day. There are many places we cannot take Inky and we must leave him alone in the boat when we go to museums or take tours. We feel it’s cruel to leave him trapped for more than 4 hours, and it really inhibits our exploration of these magnificent places we’d like to investigate. You can’t experience Disneyland is a few hours! We’ve almost decided not to try. We have to rent a car, drive long distances to the venue, rush through the many exhibits, then rush back to Inky. It’s hardly worth it. Some rare places, like the Kennedy Space Center, offer air-conditioned kennels, but still we don’t enjoy the full experience because we worry about our dog. It’s a continual issue.

Tree lined streets

Cobbled road winding down to the river

 

River street

Established in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and the location of one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the country. It’s an eccentric city  with Old World glamour and romance, culture, and entertainment. We chartered a trolley tour of the  architecture, its 21 historic squares showcasing fountains and statues and obelisks dedicated to its many heroes.

The salt marsh creates gobs of floating dry reeds around which we must continually navigate; don’t want it in our propeller. There is a plague of no-see-ums here. We have scratched ourselves raw. Sorry can’t get a picture….

March 27-29

After St. Augustine, we move north to our next marina on Amelia Island. What a gorgeous place. Arrived late, rested a bit on the beach then ate aboard and went to bed without ever seeing the town until the next morning at daybreak while walking the dog before departing. Dang. It appeared as if you could walk down oldtown cobblestone streets lined on both sides with fabulous shops of every kind and end up on the other side of the island on the beaches after a dozen blocks. Dang. Oh, well. There is so much to see at every bend in the ICW that we will never get to see most of it. Sigh. Most Loopers say the same. Gotta do it again to see the things you missed.

BIG boat repair yard

 

We are scurrying to arrive in Myrtle Beach by early April. Then on to the Chesapeake by early May and into New York Harbor early June and on into the Great Lakes by July and then complete our trip in September.

 

Another boat destroyed by hurricanes.

March 28. We moved up to St. Simon’s Island.

Visited the Lighthouse and beach. Drove around the island. Not much else since we’re tired and moving fast. There is current here with rivers entering the ICW and the ocean moving into the many Sounds we must pass through. It’s tough tying up and moving around. I love looking out into the open water! Imagine what lays beyond….

Our marina

 

Moving from St. Simon’s we were inspired by the vast salt marshes. Miles and miles of water prairie. Don killed the engine and we just sat in the silence. It choked me. I miss Idaho and the quiet and the empty sky.

March 29. Now we’re on St. Catherine’s Island.

We moored at Kilkenny Marina. 12 miles from any settlements. Banjo players??? Lovely people, salty marina, few amenities (toilets and power), creaky wooden docks. But it is quiet and calm. Nice people

We walked down the narrow road that leads inland among giant oak trees towering above us, draped with yards of Spanish Moss, their enormous limbs reaching down over our heads, shadowing the ground. Very pretty. We might just stay here a few more days.

The road to town…12 miles
Back to the marina

March 24- 26

St. Augustine

The city has a rich history as the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument has been closely intertwined with the city and the neighboring structures which served as the city’s outer defenses. The Castillo and the town serve as outstanding reminders of the might of the early Spanish empire in the New World. The Castillo took 23 years to build (from 1672 to 1695). Fabricated of coquina, a virtually indestructible limestone comprised of broken sea shells and coral, the walls of the fortress remained impenetrable through 300 years of enemy shelling and pounding by violent storms.

City Gates

 

We enjoyed cannon fire and flint lock rifle fire. BOOM.

Flagler College is here, celebrating 40 years of educational excellence. Located in what was once Henry Flagler’s first St. Augustine hotel, it exhibits incredible architecture which has been painstakingly preserved through the years. The campus grounds are equally impressive with their rows of towering palms and well-kept gardens

 

There are many museums in the area. The Lightner Museum is among the most unique, featuring an    intriguing array of items, from shrunken heads and mummies to stunning collections of stained glass and crystal. When it opened its doors in 1889, Henry Flagler’s Alcazar Hotel delighted guests with its gigantic indoor pool and retractable roof, casino, spa, and movie theater.

Beautiful shops in the districts offering souvenirs and antiques, arts and crafts and unique clothing, and carriage rides through cobblestone streets.

The entire place is jaw dropping.

4 a.m. I heard a funny noise, tried to ignore it but it persisted sounding like light rain splatting on plastic, but the night sky was brilliantly clear. I walked outside and looked around hearing more of the drip-drop. Turns out it was fish sucking the barnacles off the bottoms of boats and pier posts; millions of them sounding like  babies sucking on pacifiers.

Our marina

Zorayda Museum

Interesting. Zorayda built this place with 31 different windows. Superstition says spirits leave a house at night and return at dawn through the same window from which they left…none of the 31 windows are alike.

Didn’t make it to the Ripley Believe It Or Not Museum, but our sight-seeing trolley drove us there and all over the city. We were foot sore and sleepy afterward. Wanted to do more, like see all the museums and factories, but couldn’t leave the dog on the boat that long.

Too many pictures, here a just a few more.

 

 

March 22

New Smyrna Beach Marina

Our plan was to move north to St. Augustine after leaving Cocoa Beach so we hopscotched forward to New Smyrna Beach on our way. Smaller, quiet marina here. We are just inside the ocean on the intercostal waterway.  We drove the dinghy over the bay where we sat looking across the wild Atlantic at the green waves cresting and breaking on the beach, the foam sliding back into the surf. It is a wonder.

Loggerhead turtle in the marina and a Manatee visited us dockside. We learned they love freshwater and while they can live in salt or brackish water, they must return to fresh water every 2 weeks. So, we coxed it with bottles of Aquafina. We learned later that it is illegal to do so! Yikes. Signs are posted everywhere stating we are NOT to feed them, but water???

Watering the Manatee

Had a gathering on our dock with other Loopers. Since the season has changed, everyone is moving north, following the seasons to be out of the Great Lakes by mid-September when those waters can turn treacherous. Timing is everything. If you languish in the Keys too long you might need to scurry up the north shore missing many glorious anchorages and historic sites.

Each evening we plan a route and then review all the available marinas along that path, decide on one that suits us and call ahead for reservations. Sometimes they are booked and we find another. On this occasion, they could only accommodate us for 2 nights. Then the weather turned cold and windy, and our slip reservation expired and we had to vacate early due to weather. We chose Daytona Beach to wait out the storm and found a marina who would take us. Now we’re learning that many of the marinas north of here are booked solid or they’ve been closed since Hurricane Matthew barreled through last fall. We see numerous sunken boats all along the way.

 

March 23

Halifax Harbor Marina, Daytona Beach

Halifax Marina
Halifax Marina from our boat

Gorgeous marina in the heart of Daytona Beach located right off the Intercoastal Waterway at mile marker 830 it has 550 slips on 60 acres where there is easy access to nearby shopping, restaurants, and entertainment – just minutes from the Daytona International Speedway and the World’s Most Famous Beach! Aren’t we blessed to see all this?

Daytona Beach

The weather is still cool and cloudy and it dampens our mood; makes us want to read and relax, but we must press on. Our goal is to be in New York Harbor by early June.

 

March 20

Village Marina, Cocoa, Florida.

Causeway bridge
Under the causeway bridge

Nice smaller marina, with nice town 2 blocks up. No grocery stores for 2 miles though, so we either rent a car or do without until the next stop. I have enough milk for tomorrow’s cereal, some crackers and cheese, lettuce, and eggs. We’re forced to eat out…dang.

Approaching the marina

Had delicious Corned Beef and Cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day at Ryan’s rooftop dining overlooking the harbor. Great fun.

Ryan’s roof top dining for St. Patty’s
Roof top dining

Roof top dining looking back at Panacea in the marina

Much strong wind has rocked the boat, throwing us off our feet. It gets old.

Don’s daughter, Sarah K. and her family came for a visit, taking us to the Kennedy Space Center; the only spot in the United States from which humans have been hurled into space. It was amazing. Our hearts jumped into our throats during the many patriotic presentations.

The  Vehicle Assembly Building is one of the largest buildings in the world.  There are 4 High Bay doors. Each opening is 456 ft.  high and  each panel in those accordion type vertical bay doors weighs 38 tons.The Statue of Liberty can be housed in ONE of the bays with over 100 feet of free space above her. The VAB is 525 ft. high, the Statue of Liberty is 305 ft. The magnitude and scope of size is beyond description. In our excitement we took way too many photos; pictures cannot capture the immensity of this place. It is truly astonishing.

Vehicle Assembly Building
Rocket on Crawler
Rocket on Crawler at the VAB
Shuttle in VAB

 

From the start of space exploration to current and ongoing missions, we had an up-close, hands-on feel for the story of humans in space. We stood in awe of an American icon at the permanent home of the actual space shuttle Atlantis on display.

Actual Atlantis split open for our view

Behind Joan is the rocket booster that carries the Shuttles.

A shuttle bus took us on a 40 minute drive around the entire complex where we saw the launch site and the equipment developed to carry the rocket to the launch sites, the arms that hold them in vertical position, and the enormous buildings where the rockets are built. I’m at a loss to describe the scale of all this equipment. For instance the “Crawler-Trasnporter” machine that carries the rockets to the launch pad burns 38 gallons every 2 feet. It travels slowly on rock strips made from Tennessee River Rock that do not spark!  Good plan. It straddles a grass strip with its tracks and crawls to the launch pad. It weighs 6 million pounds, is 131 ft. wide and 114 ft. long.

The Crawler-Transporter
The Crawler Road

Rocket Garden, which is an awe-inspiring collection of engine replicas, full-size Titan rockets, spacecraft and scale models, and the 363 ft. Apollo Saturn 1B rocket.

After dark back at our marina, we witnessed a SpaceX launch across the harbor. Spectacular!!! We monitored the launch from their website right up liftoff…5, 4, 3, 2, 1…there was a magnificent glow on the horizon and then a visual of the actual rocket climbing into the sky toward us and then it was overhead followed by a thunderous ROAR as it drove deeper into space followed by flaming fire underneath. Ohhhhhhhh, we will never forget it. Impossible to film without proper equipment, we simply enjoyed every second. This successful launch will connect with the International Space Station for reprovisioning; you may remember a previous launch of this kind failed.