2 Jan 2011 – After Thanksgiving, the first order of business was to get Lastdance back in bristol condition. Two months of sailing left no shortage of tasks to be done and spent a week swabbing decks of salt and grime and fixing worn gear. Teresa searched for a job and quickly had interview scheduled and twenty minutes after high noon on Tuesday, she had a job managing the ships store at a nearby marina.
Days later we celebrated our friend Lou’s birthday. His girlfriend Rebecca organized a surprise party at Sunset Pier and provided everyone with a life-size “photo mask” of Lou’s face on a stick. You can imagine his reaction when he walked in to see dozens of folks at a bar bearing his likeness. The “party” continued the next day in the form of parasailing, jet-skiing and snorkeling from a huge catamaran owned by the tour company Lou works for. In spite of a cold front that brought strong winds, I was keen to try the jet skiing but I had no desire to go parasailing, especially in high winds. Teresa frowned, “If I can go jet skiing with you in shark infested water, you can go parasailing with me!”
I reminded her that the waters weren’t shark infested water but with a boat full of friends egging me on, I soon found myself in a harness next to Teresa and some Polish girl in a bikini telling me to hold tight to the bar! Yeah, like I’d let go. Seconds later the boat lurched forward and after dipping us several times in the ocean, they unreeled us until we were at least 10,000 ft above Key West. Okay, it may have been only 100 ft but the brown stains on my bathing suit will testify that I thought it was much higher!
Sailboat Bill, who is known to many of you, was preparing to depart on his epic single-handled voyage to the South Pacific. Looking for an excuse for a party, we organized a bon voyage gathering for him at the Navigator. Bill has serious culinary limitations and dines aboard Galena in strict compliance with his only cookbook, “A Man, a Can & a Plan.” As such, party guest cleaned out their lockers by bringing farewell gifts of canned foods and Bill now calculates that he has a sufficient quantity and variety of goods to keep him well fed to the Marquesas Islands and perhaps even New Zealand.
Hammer of s/v Jewel of Athena played his guitar and sang for us and even offered a most appropriate dedication song for Bill…”It’s Hard to be Humble.” A small quantity of adult beverages was consumed and we did get a tad loud right up until things broke up at midnight’ish. The next day while watching a football game at the Navigator some new guy complained about the “brutal” noise the night before. Bill said, “Oh, that was my bon voyage party, you should have come up for a beer.” The guy just stared at Bill in a scolding way so Bill said, “Or you could just screw yourself,” to which the jerk turned on his heels and stormed out.
Saturday night we went to the Schooners Wharf annual Christmas tree ornament contest with Art and Brenda. Teresa entered a starfish wearing a Santa hat and mini lifejacket and Brenda made a really cool Santa in a sailboat. We were entertained by The Doerfels, a great bluegrass band made up of 10 siblings and after 4-hours of non-stop music and a “few” drinks, the judges announced the contest results. Brenda took 1st prize winning a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck champagne, a T-shirt and breakfast for two while Teresa won 2nd prize; a bottle of Cognac, a T-shirt and a free drink. All in all it was a fun and productive night.
With a favorable weather window, Sailboat Bill finally departed. Boca Chica won’t be the same without him but life goes on and at least the women and children are safe. A week later we went with “the gang” on a trolley tour of Key West Christmas lights. Of course we brought adult beverages along and we made two pit stops during the evening so it wasn’t surprising that at least one individual got wasted and hung her legs out the window when we reached the checkpoint back at the Naval Air Station main gate. Needless to say, the guard wouldn’t let the trolley pass so we all had to walk the 1 1/2 miles to the marina.
For Christmas Eve, I tried my hand at a traditional 7 fish dinner serving; smoked Kingfish, bacala salad, calamari, shrimp, scallops, snapper and lobster tails. It actually came out pretty good except for the bacala. It just wasn’t like mama used to make it. For those of us who didn’t fly or drive home for Christmas, we had a pot-luck dinner here on the base. The Navy provided turkeys and hams and us folks at the marina contributed side dishes. It wasn’t like being with family but it helped the Christmas spirit to be among friends.
As we did last year to celebrate New Years, we rented a room at the Navy BOQ but ex-president Jimmy (the-peanut-farmer) Carter was in town so the Truman Annex downtown was closed and we were put up at Trumbo Annex, 1 ½ miles from Duval Street. Still, it was a lot safer than driving the 6 miles to Boca Chica and then having to go through the base gate. It also gave us the chance to get off the boat for a few days, sleep in a real bed and watch some TV.
We started New Year’s Eve at 9 am by going to Old town for a simple breakfast at Schooner’s Wharf. Breakfast came with mimosas so we had one or two each, oh okay, we had three each but they were really good! Satiated with eggs and mimosas, we strolled along Key West bight until we heard from my collage roommate, Ed Reilly. “Wanna have lunch at Jack Flats with Ann and me?”
I said, “Sure, we’ll be there in 15 minutes”
We headed off to Duval Street and 15 minutes later we were sitting in a booth at Jack Flats, knocking down beers like we were back at Maine Maritime Academy.
After leaving Ed & Ann, we hooked up with Art, Brenda, Squeak and Vicky at Irish Kevin’s. Dwight and Dona showed up a few minutes later and the party got into full swing as we sipped beers and listened to music all afternoon. At 4pm we strolled over to Ricks for, “just one more beer” and then Teresa and I went back to our room for a nap before going out to welcome in the New Year. We woke at 8:30 pm and after a very brief moment of reflection; we decided to stay in for the night with a bottle of champagne and 2 packs of popcorn to help us with our private celebration.
Teresa worked New Years Day and with the Christmas holiday season over, we’re now ready to settle down for a warm winter here in Key West, Florida. A Happy & Healthy New Year to you and yours; we’ll do our best to keep you up to speed on our activities and adventures.
Bill greets us on arrival with Champagne
26 Nov – Still hurting from the previous days, one pub-pub crawl but with the decision made to wait out bad weather in Fernandina, we went ashore in search of breakfast and Teresa’s cell phone which she thought she left at the Green Turtle Tavern the night before. After eating, we strolled to the Turtle but it was closed. She said, “Call me, maybe we’ll hear the phone ringing inside.” As she pressed her ear to the window I dialed her number. A phone began to ring but it was outside! “Hey, it’s coming from your jacket.” I began to feel her all over but no phone, yet it kept ringing. Opening her jacket, the sound grew louder. I said, “Geez, I think your boobs are ringing.” She poked and probed and sonofagun, there it was in her bra. Okay, I forgot to mention that after the previous nights antics at the Green turtle, she slept in her clothes. Don’t ask!
After some chores and a nap, we met Squeek & Vicky of s/v POW-MIA at O'Kanes Irish Pub for a drink and then a pretty good Italian meal at Pompeo's. We made it an early night and got underway before dawn, saying goodbye to beautiful Fernandina as we motored south on the Amelia River toward St Augustine. It had been a good decision to not leave the previous day because we enjoyed good weather and favorable currents all the way, making it to St Augustine in just 8 hours.
Once there, we took moorings and went ashore, hooking up with Key West friends Art & Brenda of s/v Flynnigans Wake who were at a marina visiting family. We then did what sailors have been doing in St Augustine since 1565; we went ashore in search of rum. First stop, the American Legion at the foot of the Bridge of Lions, not far from Castillo de San Marcos, built by Spaniards 200 years before America became America. We then made the obligatory call at Tradewinds, a true sailor’s bar where our bartender was the same Nancy who didn’t succumb to the charms of Sailboat Bill last fall. From there we all went for Cuban sandwiches at Mi Casa, a great backyard kind of bar/restaurant where a live musician plays acoustic music most afternoons and waitresses have to climb through a window to get in and out of the kitchen.
After the guys stocked up on wine, steaks and perishables from the local supermarket the next day, it was back to the American Legion to find the ladies but they had drifted over to the Tradewinds so we ran up a “small” tab before we all went back to Mi Casa where we shared two huge orders of outstanding nachos. In the name of soaking up the local culture, we went to the marina Art and Brenda were staying at to experience Hurricane Patties, a great bar and restaurant serving big drinks and huge tasty delicious shrimp. Veterans Day found us back at the American Legion for a free lunch but the previous two days of hard drinking had taken a toll on us so we called it a day by 4 pm, agreeing to get underway at 7 am the next morning.
We made the 110mile run in two days, anchoring first in Daytona and then Cocoa before going on to Vero Beach. Vero is a good stop. The marina offers slips and moorings in a totally protected harbor, abundant with dolphins and several manatees. There is free (hear that New York) public transportation and a great tiki-bar just a short walk and even shorter dinghy ride from the marina and after topping up the fuel and water tanks, pumping the holding tank, doing laundry and washing down a full week’s accumulation of salt, we showered and joined our friends there. The food was good, the drinks big and lively but the best part was getting a free round of drinks just for saying “please” when I ordered. I like this town!
The next day we all went into town to do shopping and had lunch at Kelly’s Irish Pub, but it’s not all fun and rum you know. In between lunch and happy hour back on the boats, we had to repair a leak in our forward fresh water tank that wet our mattress every time we topped up the tank. After that bit of mild exertion, we grilled a big porterhouse steak and ate it along with a couple of perfectly baked potatoes and home made bread provided by Brenda.
In the morning we trekked to West Palm Beach. It was a long 12 hour day that ended with s/v POW MIA having an engine problem and losing power in the path of an oncoming tug and barge. It was dark but he could sail downwind so we doubled back and anchored in the anchorage in Lake Worth. The wind died down by 10 pm and we had a peaceful night before getting underway in the morning. With east winds in the forecast, we headed out the inlet and made the 44 mile ocean run to Ft Lauderdale in great conditions, sometimes sailing at over 6-knots through the turquoise blue waters.
On arrival, POW MIA took a mooring at Las Olas and we went to a dock at our friends David & Linda’s home. To our surprise, Arne, another old friend was visiting with them so we shared a fair quantity of rum, tequila, wine, tawny port, stone crabs and a great lamb dinner supplied by Arne and prepared by Linda. Teresa and I picked up our mail and caught up on boat chores the next day and then back at David’s, we shared another fair quantity of rum, tequila, wine, tawny port, cognac, shrimp and my signature Cuban dish, Lechon Asado. We wanted to visit our friends Mike & Liz but the weather was getting funky so we left a day early along with s/v POW MIA and sailed to Miami where we hooked up with Art & Brenda.
Heading east along the Venetian Causeway, we ducked in behind Belle Isle and anchored among the zillion dollar homes and condos. While Squeek and Vicky went ashore to explore South Beach, Art, Brenda, Teresa and me dinghied to a small unnamed island with a monument to Flagler, the guy who brought the railroad to much of Florida and the Keys. Early evening found us at Monty’s for happy hour but we actually went back to our boats by 6:30. The next day we moved 6-miles south to Virginia Key in order to make a quick getaway the day after. While there we all dinghied over to POW MIA and spent the afternoon drinking margaritas, telling sea stories and laughing our collective buns off.
Sunday brought clear skies and 20-knot east wind so we got underway at dawn and once clear of Cape Florida; we set sail and literally zoomed down Hawk Channel, enjoying a perfect day of sailing in paradise. But friends, King Neptune giveth and he damn well taketh because after a great 44 mile sail in company with s/v POW MIA and s/v Flynnigans Wake, we anchored south of Rodriguez Key, totally exposed to 20-knot east winds and 2-3 ft waves. For the first time in 14 years, my anchor dragged. It actually dragged 4 times so under cover of darkness, we motored around to the other side of the key and dropped the hook and it set in an instant, go figure! We were still dealing the stinking 3 ft waves rolling in but the anchor held and we each got a few hours of sleep.
We got underway in the morning, and had an uneventful but very lively sail in boisterous conditions as we raced in tropical blue water to Boot Key, 45 miles away. Once there we took a mooring and it turned out to be near our friends Henry and Leslie of s/v Turn'er Loose, who we met in October in the Dismal Swamp Canal. They came aboard and joined us for some conversation and cola. Oh, did I say, and rum? Still exhausted from the rough night at Rodriguez Key though, we turned in early in anticipation of the last day of our voyage.
And what a last day it was! It began with towering storm clouds but by the time we cleared Boot Key the sun burst through the angry sky. The wind had diminished to 15-knots from the east and Boca Chica lay just 38 nautical miles to the west; a downwind sail through crystal blue seas that had subsided to less than 2 feet during the night. Just 5 ½ hours later under a brilliant blue sky, we entered Boca Chica channel as all three boats hoisted holiday flags. It was an emotional homecoming; after a voyage of 53 days and 1500 miles, we were home. Friends greeted us at the dock with bottles of champagne and when we finished those, we all went off to The Navigator for lunch and adult beverages, the celebration lasting well into the evening.
There were a zillion boat chores to be done and a multitude of minor repairs to be made but first there was Thanksgiving to celebrate. The Navy provided the turkey and the marina residents provided an array of side dishes that staggered the mind. After way too much food and laughter, we retired to Lastdance, to relax the rest of the afternoon away but also eager to tackle our “settling in” tasks the next day.
With our voyage over, the next update will be about life in Key West, unless our government opens up Cuba in which case, being just 90 miles away, we’ll be there within days. Stay tuned!
Palace Saloon, Fernandina
7 Nov – Departing Beaufort in company with Ron (aka Squeek) & Vicky in s/v POW-MIA, we pondered whether to take the offshore route to Wrightsville Beach or take advantage of the 3-knot favorable current on the inside route. In the morning, the forecast was for southwest winds which would be right on the nose so we opted to take the inside ICW (Intra-Coastal Waterway), anchoring for the night at Mile Hammock Bay on Camp LeJeune, where the US Marines generously let civilian vessels anchor overnight.
Then, after an uneventful day motoring in strong southerly winds in the ICW we entered the Cape Fear River and fought our way to Southport with 30-knot winds on the nose. We had a great dinner at the bar of the Southport Provisioning Company and met some guys off a boat just back from Cuba. Over numerous margaritas, we picked their brains about their experience there and then called it a night when the place closed down.
The next day s/v POW-MIA went to Holden Beach to visit with family and we went on to Barefoot Landing at Myrtle Beach. It’s difficult to describe this place. It’s a huge collection of restaurants, bars, outlet stores, boutiques and two cinemas. Once we had Lastdance secured at the floating dock, we explored the walkways and alleys ashore and then decided on the Flying Fish, a restaurant and seafood market. After drinks and a terrific dinner, Teresa treated me to an ice cream cone and even had one herself.
Georgetown was our next destination and while on the way there, we were overtaken by my cousin Laurie and her husband Randy in their new 50-foot DeFever motor yacht, m/v “Wastin Aweigh.” Hours later and docked at the same marina, we got together for cocktails on their boat before going out to dinner. After too many martinis though, the next thing we knew is Laurie is in the galley whipping up an utterly superb bucatini with marina sauce which we consumed with great gusto and a couple bottles of wine. Black Sambuca followed and then we staggered back to Lastdance which fortunately for us was just at the end of the dock.
I was still dizzy when we said our goodbyes and helped cast off their lines just after dawn, agreeing to see them in Florida. A moment later, we were underway ourselves and once back out on the Wacamaw River; we rendezvoused with s/v POW-MIA. They had anchored six miles short of Georgetown the night before and with a favorable current most of the way, we both made Charleston by late afternoon and anchored in the Ashley River across from the municipal marina where by chance, Laurie and Randy had Wastin Aweigh tied up. They were sightseeing in town so we “met” briefly on the phone, once again agreeing to see them in Florida.
We were eager to meet up with Key West friends Dirk and Nancy in s/v Tybee Time so taking advantage of yet another favorable current, we got underway before dawn and pressed on along with POW-MIA, making Beaufort by 4:30 pm, only to find that the Lady’s Island Bridge was operating on restricted hours so within sight of our destination, we had to anchored for an hour and a half until the 6pm opening.
Tybee Time was at anchor and to our surprise, Wastin Aweigh was at the marina but by the time we got through the bridge and anchored, we were too tired to go ashore so we agreed to meet Dirk and Nancy the next day and thinking Laurie and Randy were leaving in the morning, we once again “met” with them on the phone.
They liked Beaufort so much though; they decided to stay another day and they joined us for Halloween drinks at Hemmingway’s Bar. Squeek, who not to disappoint anyone, diligently demonstrated his unique ability to drink a beer through a straw in his nose! Drinks flowed and many, many rounds were had before we moved the party next door for dinner where more rounds were imbibed before, during and after dinner. Randy generously picked up the check and I think he did it for the entertainment value of hanging out with a bunch of scraggly sailors. Leaving the restaurant, we said what would be our final, final goodbyes to Laurie and Randy before seeing them in Florida.
We made a pre-dawn departure from Beaufort and sailed out Port Royal Sound in light winds but otherwise perfect conditions. Leaving Parris Island to starboard, we stood out to sea, bound for St Catherine’s Sound some 50 miles away. On the way we saw the usual pods of dolphin but then whale ho…we saw two whales as they broached the surface. It’s exciting seeing these huge creatures but when you’re in a boat smaller than they are, it can be a bit humbling if not intimidating as well.
By late afternoon, we entered St Catherine’s Sound and anchored in Walburg Creek with s/v POW-MIA rafted alongside. After some good rum and good conversation with Squeek about the Civil War and the battle of Gettysburg, we grilled a steak for dinner and then, after a watching a few episodes of Victory at Sea, we turned in for the night.
It was a restless night for all hands though. The wind piped up to 24-knots and when the current turned, we got beam on to the waves and we began to experience our own version victory at sea. By 7am, we could see that the anchorage was going to be untenable so POW-MIA broke away and then we weighed anchor and moved into the lee of Walburg Island where the wind still howled but the waves diminished to less than a foot. Anchoring independently, we spent the day doing chores and trying to get some rest for what I knew would be a long night because the forecast was for 20-30 knot winds. Also, 3 big shrimp boats came in seeking shelter from the rough seas and even though this anchorage is huge, their presence added to the uncertainty.
Things got bouncy again and at about 5 pm, we heard a shrill of a horn and scrambling on deck, we saw POW-MIA underway. They had dragged anchor and almost washed up on the shore so they were moving back to our original anchorage. The wind had increased to a steady 30 knots and had become more easterly so we were again exposed to wind and waves over a long fetch. I hauled up 125’ of chain and anchor and moved into the lee of St Catherine’s Island. In the shelter of the trees, the wind dropped to 15 knots and it was actually peaceful…for a while.
When the current turned, the opposing wind and current caused quite a chop making the anchorage very uncomfortable to say the least. Also, for boats with a mostly rope anchor rode, they “danced” all over the place being at the mercy of the varying strengths of the opposing wind and current. At about 9 pm, we again heard the call of POWMIA’s horn. They were dragging down on us in the dark. Yikes…all hands on deck! Teresa grabbed our big fender and placed it between the boats and as I prepared to fend off, I shined my spotlight on their anchor rode so Squeek could see it and maneuver his boat accordingly. Then, with Vicky on the helm, Squeek went forward and hauled in his anchor and motored off into the dark, re-anchoring about half a mile downwind of us.
Just when I thought the action was over, Teresa said, “What’s this guy doing?” A 32 Westsail that had been anchored way over on the opposite side of the 300’ wide creek, was suddenly alongside us, less than 50’ away. I quickly checked our position on the chart plotter to be sure it wasn’t us moving. We were fine! We could clearly see his interior lights on but we got no reply when we called out. Then just as suddenly as he appeared, he “danced” way back over to the other side of the channel.
I judged that he must also have a rope anchor rode and that as with POW-MIA, he was subject to the varying relationship of opposing wind and current. Just great, at least Squeek moved far up the creek, this guy would be on my mind all night, at least until the current turned and was moving in the same direction as the wind, which wouldn’t be until one o’clock in the morning. Geez, I hate this anchorage! I finally went to sleep at 1:30am after everything had settled down with all boats on same bearing, including the 3 huge shrimp boats.
Dawn brought a forecast of 25-knot winds and 5-7’ seas, diminishing by late afternoon. Tired, in no hurry and not eager for a 50–mile run outside in those conditions, we decided motor down the ICW along with POW MIA and see if we could beat the falling tide through several of the notorious shallow areas. The tide was falling fast though and by the time we passed Creighton Narrows; we saw a large power boat very hard aground. Inexplicably, he missed a channel marker and was totally out of the water and there was still an hour to low tide.
Ahead was Little Mud River, known for severe shoaling with mean low water depths of less than 4 feet. We draw 5 feet so our options were clear; anchor for several hours and wait for a rising mid-tide or go outside. It was noon and the wind was down to 20-knots so when we got to Doboy Sound, we turned left and stood out to sea while POW MIA, drawing only 4 ½ feet, continued on toward Little Mud River, hopeful he could squeeze through the thin water. He would either be delayed or make it through in which case we both wondered who would get to Brunswick first.
We raised our main sail and headed out the sound into increasingly bigger waves, and with shoals just outside the channel, big breakers were ever present to windward. Once into deep water, we turned south toward our destination, St. Simons Sound some 25 nautical miles away. It was a brisk passage and we averaged 7.2 knots, entering the channel just ahead of a 40’ Catalina, motoring and lumbering in the big waves. Then, as we came to a close reach with just our reefed main and staysail, we surged forward, making over 8-knots in 22-knots of wind and we were soon in the shelter of St. Simons Island and then we anchored for the night south of Lanier Island.
We wanted to explore the historic town of Brunswick, GA so the next morning we weighed anchor and motored up the Brunswick River to Brunswick Landing Marina but like some things in life, we were disappointed. The town was okay, but from what we saw, it wasn’t worth the side trip. We did stop for drinks at an intriguing restaurant, The Portside Cargo Grill, and we decided that if we were ever in Brunswick again, we’d return there to try their lunch or dinner.
With the wind still howling and close to 30-knots the next morning, we motored on the ICW to beautiful Fernandina Beach on Cumberland Sound. Now this was an old historic town much to our liking when we fist called here last spring! Approaching Harbor Marina at the foot of the downtown historic district, we saw that the outside face dock was being hammered by waves driven by the strong northwest winds and only very large boats were docked there. Once we called the marina on the VHF radio, we were told to go to the inside dock where 2 line handlers would assist us.
This really concerned me because the dock was parallel to the strong current which was going with us, making the boat very difficult to control, but it was the only place available. Also, the strong gusty wind would be blowing us off the dock, severely compounding the problem. Crap, what to do? The first place they wanted us to go in was between two boats. Knowing there was no way I could maneuver Lastdance into such a tight spot in the prevailing conditions, I rejected that and requested a spot on the end of the dock. It was also between two boats but there were much further apart. They agreed and I took a deep breath and turned into the marina.
As soon as I turned downstream I felt the boat accelerate as the current took hold of us. I tried to control our speed to bare steerageway by using reverse but I also needed to go into forward to maintain maneuvering speed. I needed come in at a shallow angle to get closer to the dock but not so much so that I might hit one of the docked boats. Shit, I thought I wasn’t going to make it and I began looking for an out.
There was none! I could see that everything depended on Teresa making a perfect against-the-wind toss of our spring line to the dock hands, now 30’ away. “Teresa, we’re only going to get one shot at this, you’ve got to get that spring line to him on the first try.” She simply looked back and nodded, and as all 10-tons of Lastdance were blown further off the dock, she heaved the line in an arc that although momentarily caught by the wind, found its mark over the head of the dock hand. He quickly took a turn around a cleat and I put the helm hard over to starboard and gave throttle. The spring line took the strain and Lastdance moved forward and closer to the dock in a textbook fashion.
Once alongside, I stepped away from the helm and kissed Teresa and said,”Perfect heave Baby, you saved our ass.” She said, “Thanks but maybe we should give him our stern line.” She was right of course but I was just elated to have spring line secured and our engine holding us in place. We got the boat fully secured and checked in with the dockmaster in time to see s/v POW MIA arriving. By then the current was running even faster and with less room now that Lastdance was there, Squeek opted to drift down on the opposite dock and once there, we threw him a messenger line which he tied his spring line to. Ten minutes later POW MIA was secured and we went up to the bar for several deserved drinks and lunch. That night we went to the Palace Saloon, the oldest bar in Florida but we were all tired and made it an early night in anticipation of some serious R&R with Art and Brenda the next day.
Art and Brenda in s/v Flynnigans Wake were a day ahead of us waiting out the bad weather in St Augustine so the next day they drove up and we spent the afternoon with them, Squeek and Vicky in the Green Turtle Tavern. The Green Turtle is a great off the beaten path saloon and we drank, ate, told sea stories and generally entertained everyone in the place from noon to until 7 pm.
I woke at 5am to the sound of the wind still howling like a banshee and checking the forecast, I could see it was going to be very ugly. North winds to 28-knots, temperature in the low 40’s again and the wind chill 33 degrees. Screw this I thought. I walked back to POW MIA to consult with Squeek. “Screw this mon! This front is passing through tonight and it’ll be warming up into the 70’s by tomorrow. I’m staying another day.” I smiled and said, “That sounds like a plan amigo,” and walked back to Lastdance to tell Teresa to go back to bed. Only 458 nautical miles to go!
25 Oct - Before getting underway, Captain Mark treated us to a great dinner aboard his little ship, s/v Beleza. A superb antipasti followed by perfectly grilled salmon and then 3 different pastas was all served with an abundant supply of wine but most important was the camaraderie shared with good friends.
Unlike 2009 when we departed in frigid conditions, this year was more seasonal. The forecasted clear sky with 15 to 20-knot north winds was just so, when we cast off but unfortunately, once we sailed out of Eastern Bay into Chesapeake Bay, the wind diminished steadily. By the time we made the abandon lighthouse at Sharps Island several hours later, the wind dropped to a very disappointing 5-knots and we had to motor-sail the rest of the way to Solomon’s Island.
We’d generally stay at Patuxent Naval Air Station but the weather was worsening so with memories of what strong northeasterly winds can do to its marina, I didn’t want to sit through gale force winds there. It’s an enclosed basin open to the northeast and when the wind is strong out of that quadrant, waves come in from the bay and the effect is that of a washing machine. So, with a strong nor’easter in the forecast, we opted to stay on the north shore of the river, going into Solomon’s Island where we took a mooring on Mill Creek.
Once secure, we chilled-out with some good rum and then enjoyed a great dinner of Teresa’s “Bambi Chili,” the venison courtesy of our good friend Captain Tom, who kept us well supplied with venison and hog sausage all summer. In the morning, we considered making the 50-mile run to the Piankatank River ahead of the storm. Anchorages there are beautiful and protected but there’s nothing to do ashore so I figured if we had to hole up for 2 days, we’d be happier doing so at Solomon’s Island which offers a plethora of pubs and a good maritime museum.
It was a good call. The weekend was Solomon’s Island annual Go-Fast boat race and the event brought out throngs of people and street vendors offering everything from pulled pork to bison burgers. We went to the world famous Tike-Bar and had a few drinks and their own version of a proper pork sandwich. Back aboard Lastdance we had a dinner of Dinty Moore and rice followed by a few games of Scrabble and then called it a night with the wind howling like a banshee in the rigging.
Day three began with 15 to 20-knot west winds when we got underway with just the main and staysail. An hour later, we rounded Cedar Point and turned south, bound for the Piankatank River some 50-miles away. The wind increased steadily and our speed rose to almost 7-knots and by the time we reached Lookout Point at the mouth of the Potomac, the wind was steady at 22-knots, gusting to 28. The short period waves grew from an exciting 3’-4’ to a white-knuckle 6’ – 8’. I said, “Get the harnesses out.”
Crossing the 10-mile wide mouth of the Potomac River can be a pleasant two hour sail but when the wind opposes the current, watch out, it can churn up very big steep waves totally out of proportion to the wind speed. Our timing couldn’t be worse, the wind was from the northwest now at a steady 26-knots and the opposing current was almost at maximum flood; we knew we were in for a very rough crossing and it proved to be just so as Lastdance rode up and down steep quartering waves that threatened to broach her at even a moments lapse by the helmsman.
We were making 7.5-knots so I knew we’d be in the lee of Smith Point on the Virginia side in less than 2-hours. Still, we had another 20-miles to go to our destination and my arms were growing tired so Teresa took a turn steering. After a few “almost broaches,” she learned to anticipate the motion of the boat and we were once again on a reasonably steady course for Smith Point lighthouse.
As anticipated, once in the lee of the Virginia coast, conditions improved dramatically. The wind continued to blow steady at 26-knots but the waves diminished to just 3-feet and we soon raced passed the entrance to the Great Wicomico. We made Stingray Point by 4 pm and were anchored in peaceful Fishing Bay by 6pm.
The run to Norfolk the next day was uneventful and we took a slip at Waterside Marina in downtown Norfolk in order to meet our friends Kevin & Laura for dinner. They couldn’t make dinner but we had wings and beers with Kevin at Hooters and then after showering with tons of water at the marina facility, we followed Kevin’s advice and had dinner at Granby Street pizza. After breakfast ashore in the morning we got underway, bound for the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.
The Great Dismal Swamp isn’t really a swamp any longer but the canal can trace its roots back to George Washington who first surveyed it in 1763. It was completed in 1805 and it has been used continuously since then. Our transit was uneventful but pleasant and after 22-miles, we stopped for the night at the North Carolina Visitor Center. This is a unique automobile rest stop on Route 17 that sits alongside the canal so they’ve installed docks to make an overnight rest stop for boats as well.
We rafted to s/v Turn’er Loose, a 47’ ferro-cement ship owned by Henry & Leslie who graciously offered to take our lines when other boat owners ignored us as we approached the dock which is very unusual because on previous voyages, everyone had been very helpful and friendly! We shared our best rum with Henry and Leslie and then Bill from s/v Kittiwake who rafted outboard of us. The next morning we all got underway for Elizabeth City but while Lastdance, Turn’er Loose and Kittiwake slowly meandered down the canal, a bunch of power boats raced down the waterway too early, only to bunch up waiting for the bridge and canal locks to open. Ha, if they only had a brain!
Once through the locks, we motored into the beautiful Pasquotank River which took us to Elizabeth City which is known by sailors as The Harbor of Hospitality. We tied up at the free Mariners Wharf and we were treated to a wine and cheese party for visiting sailors, hosted by the Rose Buddies, a civic group founded by Fred Fearing to welcome sailors as they travel north and south. Well satiated with cheese and wine, Henry and Leslie invited us back to their boat for Jambalaya. We brought rum and wine and we had a great evening, leaving as better friends and looking forward to crossing tracks with them in the Keys.
Saturday morning found us sailing in a brisk 12-knot westerly so although our plan was to fuel up at the Alligator River Marina, by using only our sails for almost 30 miles we had saved enough fuel to wait until Sunday when after anchoring for the night on the Alligator River, we fueled up in Belhaven 35 miles to the south. Continuing south the same day, we sailed down the Pungo River into Pamlico Sound and anchored for the night a few miles off the ICW in South Creek, north of Whitehurst Point and south of Indian Island. The stars were magnificent and for the second night in a row, we saw, “stars-on-the-water.” I had always thought the Jimmy Buffet song of the same name was about seeing a lot of anchor lights at night. Now I’m sure it’s about the reflection of a zillion brilliant stars on mirror like, glass smooth water on a very calm night…it was spectacular!
With the sun rising brilliantly in the east, we got underway Monday morning and turned south into Goose Creek which took us to Bay River. From there we entered the mighty Neuse River where the wind picked up to 16-knots, helping us to make great speed so instead of anchoring for the night on Adams Creek, we chose to sail on to Beaufort. We arrived at 4:50 pm and once the anchor was set, we poured drinks and because we had been out of cell and wireless service since leaving Elizabeth City, we checked voice and emails. Almost all carried the same bad news; my mom had been hospitalized almost 3 days earlier.
With the boat well secured in a slip the next morning, we rented a car and made the 10-hour drive to Brooklyn and remained for 2 days until she was stable. Although we knew we might have to return, there were many important boat chores that had to get done before we continued our voyage south so we drove back to North Carolina.
We installed a new set of “house” batteries to run our lights, refrigeration and instruments etc. and then tackled a myriad of small but important task to get Lastdance ready for an offshore passage. After lending some help to my son’s patio building project, we went to a pumpkin patch with my grandkids and in between, we connected with sailing friends from Boca Chica as they passed through Beaufort. Many beers at the Back Street Pub and dinners aboard each others boats occupied some of our evenings until news arrived that my mom’s angiogram was good and that she was home. We said goodbye to Christopher and family and with a favorable wind, we pointed our bow south and got underway….More to follow
17 Sept – It’s been an active hurricane season in the Atlantic but so far things have been quiet here on Chesapeake Bay. Still, with just weeks away from sailing south again, we’re wondering about the risk of an early October departure but we’ll be in protected waters for most of the month so our ETD is still set for Oct 2nd’ish.
After sailing to the Corsica River in July to watch log-canoe races, Teresa and I have been sailing to destinations all over the middle bay, often with our friend Jeff in s/v Rising Tide. On one such weekend while rounding the south end of Kent Island during a brisk sail in a 20-knot breeze, we encountered my cousin Laurie and her husband Randy in m/v Wastin Aweigh, their brand new 52’ DeFever motor-yacht. Also aboard was Laurie’s mom, my cousin Carol, so we gave up chasing Rising Tide and came about to intercept Wastin Aweigh. Moments later we passed within yards of each other off Bloody Point lighthouse, our cameras clicking away to record the moment. A few days later we sailed to Annapolis and anchored in Back Creek to attend the official christening party for m/v Wastin Aweigh.
August also heralded the annual Kent Narrows Crab-Fest which coincided with a visit from my son Christopher, his wife Michelle and my grandkids, Furi and Ali. What a fantastic weekend we had! After getting their camper “Maybilene” settled in, we went out to dinner courtesy of our good friend Capt Mark, who gave us a VERY generous gift card for Rustico, a fantastic new Italian restaurant on Kent Island. It was Mark's way of thanking Christopher for his service and we appreciate his thoughtfulness and generosity!
On Saturday we all went sailing. Furi and Ali got to handle sail and steer Lastdance through Eastern Bay before we returned to the marina to catch crabs and do a little fishing. Hours later, the crab-fest was in full swing and we devoured huge, steamed blue-claw crabs and shrimp. The kids enjoyed the food but loved banging on the shells with mallets, keeping Papa well supplied with succulent crab meat for hours.
Sunday found us in Brooklyn visiting my mom. She loved seeing her grandson and great-grandkids and we loved seeing her and eating the bounty of Italian food on her table. Later that day Christopher and Michelle took my brother Tony and Victoria to a Paul McCartney concert in Philly while my grandkids baby-sat me in a hotel. The following day we tourded the Spanish-American war era battle-cruiser, USS Olimpia and a WW II submarine, USS Becuna at Penn's Landing before returning to my marina in Maryland.
Two days later we set sail for a 1-week cruise with friends John & Gail in s/v Tranquility and Charlie & Valerie in m/v Belle-Amie. After a great sail north, we rendezvoused with them at Fairlee Creek which with its tricky entrance is always a challenge but also a lot fun with its on-the-beach tiki-bar. It was good to see these very good friends again and margaritas flowed like water but after turning in for the night, our reverie was disturbed by a 3 am thunderstorm. We didn’t get much sleep after that but no harm, no foul so we weighed anchor and set sail for a destination on the western shore with the unlikely name of Frog Mortar Creek.
To get to Frog Mortar Creek you must first enter the Middle River leaving Booby Point to port and Bowley’s Bar to starboard after which you must call the control tower at Martin airport to get permission to transit the restricted area at the end of the runway. We called the tower but received no reply so we proceeded up the creek to a not so good anchorage. Tranquility and Belle-Amie rafted to us and although we enjoyed each others company, all we could say about Frog Mortar was that it reminded us of that old Peggy Lee classic, “Is that all there is?”
Having been ignored by the control tower the previous day and seeing no approaching aircraft, we proceeded down the creek. A moment later I spotted a small jet coming in for a landing. Hmmm, I thought, could we make it across the end of the runway and if not, is our mast too tall? Discretion prevailed and Teresa turned Lastdance 180° and as the jet landed just seconds later, I thought, yes, our mast would have been too high!
We spent a few more days sailing in company with the Tremels before they returned to their marina on the Sassafras River and we continued north to Chesapeake City at the junction of the Elk River and the C&D canal. We anchored in the newly dredged (11’ MLW) basin and went ashore using the free water taxi. Once on terra firma, we strolled over to the huge tiki-bar and met our friend Mark who stopped to have lunch with us on his way home from Kent Narrows. This tiki-bar is a must visit! All mixed drinks are huge and made with fresh fruits and ingredients.
Chesapeake City is a small town steeped in history connected to the earliest days of the canal. During the last decade, it has experienced a renaissance and with its fine restaurants and historic buildings, it has become a crown of a destination. Hole-in-the-Wall bar in Bayard House proved to be the gem in the crown with its good drinks, excellent crab cakes and mussels!
A week later we sailed to Annapolis along with good friends Aaron & Jackie in s/v Katz Meow. Like all good sailors, after taking moorings in the outer harbor, we went ashore for grog and grub at the Fleet Reserve Club. Saying goodbye the next day, we left Katz Meow and during our sail back to Kent Narrows, we encountered an unusual sight…thousands of crabs, all swimming in the same direction…south!
With small craft warnings in effect Labor Day weekend, we sailed along with eleven other boats from our marina to Lovely Cove on Langford Creek. It was a very brisk sail with the wind gusting to 25-knots and just a mile or so from the anchorage a boat from our group suffered a dismasting. Fortunately, no one was injured and a bunch of us who went to their aid managed to raise the mast and lash it alongside their boat. Being a holiday weekend, nothing could be done until Tuesday but being real troopers, they motored to the anchorage and partied hearty with our group! We also got to see George & Cookie’s new boat, s/v Lydia, a beautiful 44’ Cherubini ketch. Good luck with your new “ship’” guys!
Off on another "inland trip," we drove to Crozet, VA to visit with Teresa's brother Jeff and his wife Sharlee and to do a few wine tastings at several vineyards. While there, I made a walnut pesto from basil gathered from the herb garden of the Barboursville Winery's 5-star restaurant, Paladio. I have to say, it was great! The carefully cultivated basil made all the difference so I'll be extra attentive when buying basil in the future.
After returning to Lastdance, we made what will probably be our last weekend sail before heading south in early October; we sailed to St Michaels along with Capt Mark in s/v Beleza. It was another windy day from the north so we had a great downwind sail and anchored in town harbor, just across from Chesapeake Bay Maritime museum. The wind continued to blow hard so we elected to remain aboard our boats but Mark put his dinghy in the water and came over for a few dozen drinks (just kidding, we only had half a dozen) and a dinner of Teresa’s excellent chicken, black beans and rice.
The next day we shifted anchorages to the more protected Fogg Cove, north of the museum. Feeling more comfortable leaving our boats at anchor there, we went ashore and quickly found ourselves having lunch and beers in the C-Street Saloon. After a long rest and dinner back on our boats, we went back to C-Street that night to hear the “live band” but found only a DJ-Karaoke guy and after only a few drinks and snacks, we called it a night and returned to Kent Narrows the next day.
Now, with only about two weeks before we begin our voyage back to Key West, we have dozens of boat chores to do as well as family & friends to see before we leave. Our plan is to rendezvous with as many as five boats with “snowbird” friends we met in Key West last winter and then sail south in company with them. Some would say that this is just an excuse to begin partying earlier but it’s really a safety in numbers kind of thing. Hopefully we’ll have a warmer voyage with far fewer storms than last fall but either way, we’ll keep y’all up to date on our progress with frequent postings on Facebook and more detailed monthly reports on this website. Have a good winter, y'all.
1 August – I can’t believe the summer is passing so fast but here it is already August and I’m still procrastinating over my knee surgery. Actually, I found a good ex-US Navy surgeon and I’m just trying to get an appointment date that doesn’t conflict with some things I want to do before we sail south again in early October.
After returning to Mears Point Marina, we took care of some shore side projects like getting my NJ condo in saleable/rentable condition. We then visited with my mom in Brooklyn and sadly returned to New York again to attend the funeral of my cousin Joe…Sail on, Joe. Sail on!
A few weeks later we drove to Virginia to visit Teresa’s Brother Jeff and his wife Sharlee. While there we did some wine tasting at a two excellent wineries, Barboursville where Jeff works and White Hall where Sharlee works. From there we went to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. Boy that was a treat and it confirmed my theory that he, George Washington and other American Revolution heroes were really aliens from a distant planet…these guys were smart!
While on their way back to Maine, Key West friends Squeak and Vicky sailed into Kent Narrows aboard their little ship s/v POW-MIA so we were happy to hang out with them. We dined and partied with them at the marina and then sailed in company with them to Annapolis for Independence Day weekend. s/v POW-MIA sports a really beautiful POW-MIA spinnaker and with a northerly wind, she looked great coming under the Bay Bridge. Once in Annapolis, we took moorings on Spa Creek for several days including a long afternoon at the Fleet Reserve Club sipping rum and feeding on lots of good bar food stuff. We also toured the Naval Academy and then caught a dock side concert while sitting in our dinghy.
While on our moorings in Spa Creek on Independence Day, someone in a condo ashore complained to the harbormaster that I was playing my patriotic music too loud. “Too loud?” I asked. “It’s two o’clock in the friggin afternoon on Independence Day and I’m playing God Bless America. What’s wrong with that?” Well, my blood was up so as soon as he departed, I pointed my speakers toward the condo, cranked up the volume to max and blasted The Asshole Song. Needless to say, the harbormaster boat was back in an instant and under threat of police intervention, I toned it down, until later that night. During the fireworks boats all over the harbor blew their horns so I took advantage of the moment and blew my powerful air horn directly at the whining wuss in the condo. Ahh, I do love a good bout of revenge
A week later we sailed to the Corsica River along with Jeff in s/v Rising Tide to watch the log canoe races. These are long, narrow and very light boats without keels which carry an enormous amount of sail. The only thing that keeps them from capsizing is the crew which acts as ballast as they hike out on long 2”x6” planks. Like folks who go to auto races to see a crash, we just love watching one of these babies go over and catapult the human ballast into the drink.
Once the races were over we rafted off the Russian compound with s/v Rising Tide, s/v Integrity and s/v Tiami. There, we imbibed in way too many margaritas before turning in for the night and then we all enjoyed a dynamite sail back to Kent Narrows the next day. We got in another margarita cruise with s/v Rising Tide the following weekend to Shaw Bay and then made it to St Michael’s for yet another log canoe race and a folk festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. More to follow before we head back to Key West on or about October 1st
10 June – Our closing days in Key West were full of boat preparations, fun and a touch of sadness at leaving our many friends. The week prior to leaving was Conch republic week, a celebration of the brief (tongue-in-cheek) secession of the Keys from the United States. There were home made paddle boat races, a recreation of a battle that occurred only in the imagination of some old Key West Conchs. And then there were the drag races down Duval Street which consisted of drag queens racing in shopping carts and a week later, poster bed races!
After the festivities, I drove our car to Christopher’s home Beaufort, NC and then I flew back to Key West eager to set sail the next day. NOT! The combination of a strong high pressure area to the east and a low to the west kept strong east southeast winds in the 25-knot range blowing for days. It was frustrating; the sky was blue and temperatures were in the 80’s but to leave Key West, you must sail due east at least until you get to Vaca Key where you can then only just barely begin to sail a more northerly course and not beat into big waves and wind right on the nose.
The winds howled for 3 days and with a more moderate forecast, we finally got underway Monday morning and hour after friends Tom and Gerri in m/s Fairhaven. Once clear of Boca Chica, Tom called us and said it was really kicking outside, with big waves and winds over 20, gusting to 27-knots so he was going to go to Key West and then sail back up on the Gulf side and in the shelter of the Keys. Sailboat Bill expressed doubt about those conditions so with the forecast calling for things to moderate and our friends on the dock to blow conch shells and say goodbye, we cast off lines at 0800 and motored out of the snug harbor but just in case, I put a reef in the main on the way out. An hour later I called Bill…”Tom was right!”
The wind was blowing steady at 22-knots, sometimes gusting as high as 29 and it was right on the nose. We pounded into it, taking solid waves over our bow and I briefly considered turning around but Teresa was all for pressing on so press on we did, making no more than 3 knots of boat speed as we pinched our was east. Then, at almost exactly 1100 as if a switch was thrown, the wind dropped to a steady 15-knots and although it took a few hours for the waves to flatten, we had an exhilarating sail to Vaca Key. There, we took a mooring in Boot Key Harbor and spent a peaceful and very enjoyable night, the first small leg of our long voyage back to Chesapeake Bay behind us.
The next day we sailed in another 15-20-knot southeasterly about 40 miles to Rodriguez Key on the ocean side of Key Largo. After dinner in the cockpit, we sipped wine and then at sunset, a cool guy in a kilt (and probably a caboodle) on a catamaran named, Go Lassie, treated the anchorage to a half-hour of live bagpipe playing.
After an early morning departure, we had a dynamite sail the whole 43 miles to Cape Florida channel on Key Biscayne where upon arriving at No Name harbor, our friends from Boca Chica in m/s Fairhaven were pulling in just moments before us. We anchored side by side and all went ashore to the “little Cuban” restaurant where we had a “few” beers and 3 entrees. Sometime during dinner an enormous catamaran (maybe 50 ft?) came into the small harbor and attempted to anchor right in front of Lastdance. I called out, “Hey captain, you’re right over my anchor.” No reply, so I jumped in my dinghy and once alongside him I repeated that he was right over my anchor. He asked, “How much scope do you have out?” I replied, “About 60 ft” He says, “That’s way too much.” I says, “It’s 12 ft deep, that’s 5 to one ratio, besides, I’ll be the judge of how much scope I put out.” “How much do you have out,” I ask. “25 feet” he says. I laugh, “You’re gonna drag anchor wherever you go with just 25 ft.” Anyway, after some squabbling, he moved to the back of the small anchorage and I returned to the restaurant to find a check for $136. The 2 entrees were $24, the beers were $106!
We parted ways with m/s Fairhaven in Miami, they going inside and we sailed outside to Lake Worth. A day later, we again shared an anchorage with them south of St Lucie called, Peck Lake. The next day found us in Vero Beach where we enjoyed a cruisers “happy hour” and we met Chuck & Stuart of s/v Long Gone and they knew Dirk and Nancy, some other Boca Chica friends of ours.
Unfortunately we didn’t have to spend even a day in St Augustine but we anchored once again under the long silent cannons of Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish fort that guarded the harbor for centuries. In the morning, we went out the inlet in very boisterous conditions. There were angry breaking waves over the shoals to the north and south of the channel which made conditions seem worse than they were but once clear of the shallows, we turned north and made great stress-free time out on the ocean and then spent a nice afternoon and evening in Fernandina, a beautiful village with The Palace, the oldest bar in Florida.
Days later and after several nights of tranquil anchorages, we arrived in Charleston and anchored in the wide open, noisy and very fast flowing Ashley River. We had a few glasses of wine, some hot dogs and then we were both asleep by nine. From Charleston we made an uneventful passage to Winyah Bay and then up to Georgetown but the main anchorage was full so after getting whacked by a 30-knot rain squall, we dropped the hook “in the back” by the old steel mill. It was like something out of an old Batman movie…almost gothic with hissing steam from the nearby paper mill and the rusted remains of a by-gone era along the shore behind us.
We enjoyed the most scenic part of the ICW the next day, the Waccamaw River. It meandered through South Carolina until it brought us back to the coast and the populated Myrtle Beach area but not before we met Tug Buse, a young man on an adventure in a 17’ sailboat. He left Iowa 9 months ago and by taking the Mississippi and several other rivers, he got to the Gulf of Mexico and is now sailing up the east coast hoping to make it to Maine by September.
We made Mile Hammock Bay on Camp LeJeune the next day and then Beaufort the day after. There, we reunited with my Christopher, Michelle and the grandkids. After hauling out Lastdance for bottom painting and some repairs/maintenance, Teresa drove to Raleigh to spend a few days with her daughter Ashley. We stayed at Christopher's for a week while Lastdance was on the hard, but not before we had a fun dinner aboard with friends Jon & Michelle. We got to spend a lot of time with my grandkids, Furi and Ali and even taught them how to use the dinghy with an outboard engine. Then, driving up in two vehicles, we brought our car back to our marina in Maryland and then returned the same day, a 16-hour round trip that included lunch at the Big Owl with friends Tom and Mark.
After saying goodbye to Tug and back in company with m/s Fairhaven, we approached Little River and the beautiful anchorage in Calabash Creek. I’ve always wanted to spend a night here and maybe hear the ghost of Jimmy Durante say the words that he ended every performance with, “Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” It was dead low tide and the cruising pilot said that there was less than 5’ of water at the entrance to the creek at low tide but it was late and there wasn’t any place else to drop the hook for the night. With her 4 1/2' draft, Fairhaven led the way in and promptly went hard aground but an hour later and with the help of a rising tide and TowBoat/US, she was free and we followed her into what was the nicest anchorage of the voyage.
Back in Beaufort work progressed on Lastdance and after nine days, we got underway bound for Belhaven, NC. From there we had an uneventful trip to the Alligator River where we stayed at the famous Miss Wanda’s marina, a clean and well maintained respite just south of Albermarle Sound. While there, we met Walter and Brenda aboard their boat s/v Brandaris and all enjoyed dinner at the local Shell gas station! We traveled in company with Brandaris as far as Norfolk where they went out on the ocean for the next leg of their voyage back to Canada and we turned north up Chesapeake Bay for the last leg of our voyage to Maryland.
Three days later, after 9 months and about 2800 miles, we made it back to Kent Island, Mayland, thereby closing the circle on our voyage. Now we’re looking forward to “taking care of business,” which included doctor appointments and other administrative chores that fell by the wayside while we were away. My neck scans came out negative which was cause for a mild celebration so we overindulged in food and wine when we got back to Lastdance. While we're here, we’ll also visit family and sail on beautiful Chesapeake Bay and then get Lastdance ready to sail south again in the fall. Keep in touch - Ron
Conch Shell Contest
28 March – After weeks of dockside practices, we began March by winning the group category in the 48th Key West Conch Shell Blowing Contest. Our Key West Naval Air Station Conchestra & Conchettes consisted of 11 male conch shell blowers dressed in Village People garb tooting “YMCA” on conch shells and 11 female dancers. After winning the event, we walked down Duval Street to Captain Tony’s for some adult refreshments. Let me tell you, Duval Street in Key West is not the place for a guy to be wearing a sarong! From Captain Tony’s we marched to Rick’s Place for some great drinks and a comedy act by Adrian, a displaced and somewhat deranged Englishman. Several drinks and 60 minutes of belly busting laughs later, we strolled over to Kellies on Whitehead Street for wings and margaritas before driving back to the Navigator Pub at our marina on Boca Chica Key. There we imbibed more adult drinks and rehashed our 15-minutes of conch blowing glory until the wee hours.
A week later, Teresa and I drove north to Miami to renew my captain license and to attend the Seatrade Cruise Industry Trade Exhibition. What a treat. I saw many of my old co-workers and customers, including my good friend Angelo Fragala. Afterwards, we had dinner that night in Lombardi’s at Bayside, Miami with my friend Rich. The next day we had breakfast with our good friends David and Linda at the Floridian, a Ft Lauderdale landmark and then after picking up our mail, we drove home to Key West.
St Patrick’s Day celebrations were relatively quiet during the day. Teresa was working and several of the guys including me were down with the flu. By late afternoon though, we began drifting up in ones and twos to The Navigator Pub here at the marina. Eddie and Jerry were there…both thoroughly intoxicated and not surprisingly, they were painted green. By the time Teresa got home, Eddie had everyone’s face adorned with green food coloring and the Guinness flowed non-stop. Sometime during this beer fest, Eddie, John and Vicky went AWOL but we soon discovered that they swam out to the little island off the Tiki-bar beach. Then, much to our surprise, a small wedding party assembled on the beach and the bride to be, dressed in a white gown, came into the bar and invited all of us to attend her wedding.
There was no doubt she was Irish, but given our degree of inebriation and painted faces, we were unsure of what to do but she returned and once again invited us to participate. Not needing a third invitation, we scrambled out of the bar and 6 of us formed an arch of swords. Not having swords however, we just raised our arms while clinging to our glasses of Guinness with our free hands. The wedding ceremony ended on a happy note and we all drifted back to the bar along with the bride and groom who bought a round of Irish Whisky for everyone. Ya gotta love the Irish!
The St Patrick’s Day wedding was good practice because the following weekend, our good friends Hammer & Julie of s/v Jewel of Athena got married here at the marina. Friends and family flew in and a bunch of us sailors here at Boca Chica organized bachelor and bachelorette parties Friday night. The ladies went off on a sunset cruise aboard a big catamaran courtesy of Lou of s/v Lady Nancy II; the guys did a pub crawl that began at Finnegan’s Wake and worked through the saloons along the docks to Schooners Wharf. Both groups then met at Two Friends Bar in Key West for late night karaoke.
Not many made it up to the Navigator for morning coffee the next day but as the morning wore on, more folks, led by Vicky & Teresa gathered at the Navigator to decorate for the wedding. By 4pm, the beach and Tiki-Bar were dressed out in balloons and frilly stuff and guests began arriving bearing tons of food of every description. Six of us “sideboys,” who were dressed in T-shirts and sarongs, bore kayak paddles in lieu of swords to form the traditional arch for the newly married couple to pass under after the ceremony. Then, suddenly short one sideboy, we shanghaied Eddie of s/v Running Wild. Eddie is a crusty old Marine; a survivor of the horrific battle of Khe Sanh, Vietnam in 1968. When he saw us earlier, he mocked our sarongs and swore he’d have to be dead to ever be caught wearing one but when offered the chance to be in the wedding party, he retrieved his straw hat and then wrapped himself in a colorful sarong, saying, “Anyone calls this a dress is dead-meat!”
With the sun low in the sky as a background, the wedding went off without a hitch. The bride and groom survived passing under an arch of sharp kayak paddles held up by six drunken men in sarongs and as the reception began with abundant food and drink, the sun set below the horizon accompanied by the daily ritual of conch shells being blown loudly all over the marina. Life can still be good.
We recovered from Hammer and Julie’s wedding in time to drive north to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral to hook up with Jim and Claudia Bellew. They were over from London to visit Jim’s daughter Danielle who lives in St Augustine, and not knowing when we’d ever see them again, we didn’t want to miss this opportunity. We rendezvoused shortly after entering the space center and after a brief lunch, we had a great day time at the IMAX Theater which was featuring Hubble telescope intergalactic photos. Afterwards we toured exhibits and rode in the Space Shuttle simulator, all the time catching up on old times while avoiding politics. Hopefully we’ll see them again in France or the UK in the not too distant future.
Teresa saw a cardiologist and has things under control and my thyroid thing is doing fine enough that I don’t have to see my oncologist until we return north. My knee situation however, is a combination of a torn meniscus, a something ACL thing and an 18mm bone fragment drifting around in there so the orthopedic doc here says I need surgery but with a 6-week light-duty recovery period, I’m going to wait until we’re back in Maryland. Other than that and a serious case of paradise’itis, we’re doing fine health wise.
This past weekend was the big Blue Angels Air Show. While upwards of 25,000 visitors gathered at the general public viewing area, 30 of us from the marina set up our own little VIP area at the tiki-huts on the marina beach. The show was spectacular! There were vintage bi-planes doing loops at the break-neck speed of 80 mph and there were F-18’s zooming by at tree-top level at over 500 mph. As usual, the Blue Angels took center stage with incredible aerial acrobatics that seemingly defied the laws of physics and after cooking, eating and drinking Saturday away, we then did it all over again Sunday. Yup, the Key West Naval Air Station at Boca Chica is truly a paradise within a paradise and we’ll be sure to return next fall.
With the air show over and coming of spring, many of our friends here are already beginning their migration north, some going as far away as Minnesota. When a boat leaves, everyone gathers on the dock to wish them well and sends them off with a cacophony of conch shells blowing, a forlorn sound indeed. The first two boats that departed headed out for the Bahamas but a month later they were still in Miami waiting out bad weather. When they finally did head offshore, sadly one of the boats, s/v Paradox went aground on a reef while entering Bimini and was a total loss. Now as we enter April, friends are leaving with greater frequency and fewer people are on the dock to see them off and I can’t help but wonder if anyone will be here to blow a conch shell for us when we leave in 2 weeks. Stay tuned, we’ll let you know.
28 Feb – February 21st marked one year since I met Teresa and all I can say is a year and a day ago…”who woulda thought?” I was in a very dark place and my grief over Carol’s death was intensifying, not diminishing. Suddenly, this vibrant woman from Raleigh, NC, steps into my life and the sharp pain became a dull throbbing and I soon realized that life would go on. Now a year later, Teresa and I are happily married; we’ve sailed through ancient Greek islands, moved aboard Lastdance and completed a 1400-mile voyage from Chesapeake Bay to Key West. She’s adapted very well to living aboard a 37-foot boat and has become a fairly competent 1st Mate given she had never sailed before meeting me. No, I don’t need to be told…I’ve been twice blessed!
Earlier in the month my uncle Frank passed away so I flew to New York for his funeral. It was cold, very cold and me without winter clothes but my brother Tony met me at the airport with a coat so I survived the frigid temperatures and made it safely back to paradise to thaw out. Sail on, Uncle Frank. Sail on!
It’s been a hectic month here in Key West. There have been the usual evening Happy-Hour happenings here at Boca Chica but we’ve seen a lot of friends from “up north” as well. Friends Arne & Karen came to town with their beautiful daughter, “Bella.” I had to travel “up north” to Miami to renew my captains’ license and so we were able to have dinner with friends Joe & Julie who were in South Beach on vacation. The next day we met John, Gail, Charlie and Val in Fort Lauderdale for drinks at the Elbo Room and then lunch. We then celebrated Valentine’s Day along with Capt Ron (aka Squeek) and his lovely wife Vicky at Geiger Key’s Smokehouse Restaurant, and then ended the day with a hard drinking pub crawl in Key West.
Yesterday Teresa did her first dinghy solo; she prepped and started the outboard and then motored around the marina alone. That might seem trivial to seasoned sailors but it is an accomplishment that many “boat wives” never master or even try, even after many years on the water. They should be able to handle a dinghy alone because in addition to giving a woman a sense of independence so that she doesn’t need the captain to ferry her around, it’s also a safety issue because if the hubby ever fell overboard, she’d likely be the only one around to save him. Kudos to you Teresa!
Teresa and I ate out in a Key West Italian restaurant for the first time to celebrate the anniversary of our first date which took place in an Italian restaurant in Raleigh, NC. After months of enjoying excellent seafood, I was skeptical about eating Italian food in a town with only three Italian restaurants but we gave it a try. Driving into town in the rain, we pulled up to our first choice, Mangia-Mangia. There was a crowd waiting outside and the line went around the corner so we drove on to Duval Street, parked the car and walked to La Trattoria. It was fully booked! Back in the car, we drove to Abbondanza where the wait was only 30 minutes and well worth it, we had a great meal and a very good bottle of wine. Back aboard Lastdance, we recounted the events of past year and finished off the bottle of Barbera we had opened before going to dinner.
To close out February, I crewed aboard Captain Ron’s boat, s/v POW-MIA in the Wrecker’s Regatta, a 7 mile race from Key West harbor out to Sands Key light. We sailed out of Boca Chica with Ron’s spectacular spinnaker, a custom black sail entirely of the POW-MIA emblem. I have to say, I was proud to be on that boat as all eyes in a marina full of veterans, turned to watch us stand out to sea. We sailed to Key West and loitered around as boats arrived from near and far for the race, including six large schooners and 29 other boats of every description. We crossed the line not more than a few seconds after the sound of the start gun and while I steered through the fleet of boats jockeying for favorable wind, Ron, John and Jay broke out the spinnaker and once again, all eyes were on s/v POW-MIA as we surged ahead. We didn’t win or even place but we beat out 2 other faster boats from our marina and that made Capt Ron a happy camper. Stay tuned for more of Life in Key West, as spring approaches we’ll be doing more sailing and sharing more adventures with y’all.
Going native in Key West
20 Jan – Teresa surprised me the other night with a birthday party at The Navigator, our Tiki-bar-restaurant-morning coffee hang-out here at Key West, Boca Chica Naval Air Station. All of the regulars were there and we had a great time, especially when Teresa made me model the male sailing sarongs she bought for me. Let me tell you, these folks are no lightweights…there are combat hardened Green Berets, Rangers and submariners and it was a real effort to strut around in what they called a “dress” but Sailboat Bill helped me overcome my inhibitions by joining me in modeling one of the sarongs and we all have a great laugh.
Our good friend Captain Mark from s/v Beleza was in town last week so Bill, Teresa and me put him through several days of face paced eating and drinking, beginning with a pub crawl the day he arrived. We began at The Navigator here on Boca Chica and then drifted into town where we sampled several mojitos at El Meson de Pepe. From there we strolled up Duval Street to Captain Tony’s, the original Sloppy Joes where Ernest Hemmingway spent afternoons drinking after writing his daily allotment of 700 words. From Tony’s we stopped at Kelly McGillis’s place for super margaritas and then out to dinner at El Siboney for excellent Cuban food.
The next day we all went to Blue Haven for breakfast of eggs and great bloody marys and then lunch and beers at a Thai restaurant. Bill has decided to winter here in Key West so the next day we moved his boat s/v Galena from a mooring to a slip…now it’s my turn to call him “Marina Boy.” Later that night, we used Mark’s spacious hotel suite to cook up a spaghetti, meatball and sausage dinner and invited my good friend and old college roommate, Ed Reilly and his lovely wife Ann Marine. They in turn invited us to dinner at their home the next night when they were hosting a large buffet dinner party for artist who would be exhibiting at the annual Sculpture Key West event. Bill opted out of the “artsy” affair so we brought along our dock mate, Captain Ron’s daughter Petra. Petra was here visiting on break from art school college in Maine so she got to hob-nob with the local artist in a warm climate.
Captain Mark left the next day and I got my knee and shoulder “fixed” at the local orthopedic doctor. Both had really been bothering me for months so it is a great relief that “our health-care system in crisis” provided me with a quick and effective cure in such short order.
With my “new” shoulder and knee, we connected with friends Steve and Kirsten in s/v Hook. We first met them in North Carolina and have crossed tracks with them all the way down the coast. They have their children Emma and Madelyn and Noodles the ferret with them and they arrived in Key West last night after an overnight passage from Fort Myers so after Teresa finished her kayak lessons this morning, we went into town and met them for a longggg lunch.
Next week we’ll probably haul Lastdance out of the water for a few days to clean and paint her bottom. In the meantime, I’ll continue promoting my book, Sailing with Carol which just received a good review in the February issue Latitudes & Attitudes magazine. Sail on!
Captain Tony's...the original Sloppy Joe's.
2 Jan – Our “Taxis, Trains & Automobile” Christmas was great but it was tiring. As planned, we rented a car in Key West and drove to Miami. There, we took an overnight train to Raleigh, NC where we had Christmas Eve lunch with Teresa’s daughter Ashley. We then rented another car and drove to Camp LeJeune where we had Christmas Eve dinner with my son Christopher, his wife Michelle and the grandkids, Furi and Ali. Then using our own car which we left there in the fall, we drove to Brooklyn on Christmas Day to have dinner with my mom, brother and Victoria. The next day, we began our drive “home,” stopping overnight in Virginia and then Jacksonville, FL before arriving at Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West. We did some laundry then chilled out for a day before heading into the Navy housing facility at Truman Annex which is located right in downtown Key West just a few blocks from Duval Street, the epicenter of all that is wild and crazy about “The Conch Republic” and where you're closer to Havana, Cuba than the nearest Wal-Mart.
We went to lunch at El Siboney, a local Cuban restaurant, but we were still exhausted from our Christmas trip and the previous nights happy hour with Sailboat Bill and Michelle on Boca Chica, so we returned to our room and stayed in for the night to catch up on much needed sleep. The next day Teresa and I got up early and went to Blue Haven, a unique restaurant serving a great breakfast and really great bloody marys. Sailboat Bill and Michelle joined us an hour later and the celebration began! After Blue Haven and then Captain Tony’s and several hours at the Hogs Breath Saloon, we went back to Truman Annex for a nap and then made it back in town at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville by 9:30 pm. Strolling amidst the crowds on Duval Street, we sampled various adult beverages from street vendors and several saloons and then caught a stage show at Mallory Square before returning to Duval Street in front of Sloppy Joe’s where a “very mini” recreation of Times Square takes place. The crowd is much smaller and instead of a ball they drop a huge conch shell at the stroke of midnight but the celebration is just as wild, perhaps more so because unlike New York, alcoholic beverages in many forms flows freely here.
As the densely packed crowd began to break up, we ran into Ric and Anna, Tom and Terri who had been standing not 20 feet from us. The last time we'd seen them was back in October at the beginning of our voyage when we had dinner in their home at Patuxent River, MD. We discovered the next day that Bill and Michelle had also been right there, not ten feet away and a friend from our marina was also nearby. It may not have been New York but it was definitely so shoulder-to-shoulder thick you didn't know who might be standing close by.
The next day we lounged around our room most of the morning drinking Mimosas and then we joined Bill and Michelle for lunch at the Rooftop Inn where they were offering two-for-the-price-of-one margaritas along with lunch. Afterward, while strolling and shopping the alleys off Front Street, Ric and Anna called so we joined them at Willie T’s for an afternoon drink. Our good friends John and Denise then called from Miami to say they were driving down to see us so we lingered at Willie T’s for a lot of afternoon drinks until John drove right passed our table on Duval Street four hours later. Ric, Anna, Tom and Teri decided to call it a day so we said our goodbyes and walked with Bill and Michelle to meet John and Denise for dinner at El Meson de Pepe, a really good Cuban restaurant with a live band. After plenty of Ropas vieja, plantanos meduros, lechon asados and many mojito’s later, John and Denise drove back to Miami and the four of us stopped at the Green Parrot for “just one more drink” before finally calling an end to our 2010 celebration.
It’s now January 2nd and we’re back at Boca Chica aboard Lastdance after way too much New Years carousing and drinking in Key West. Now that our busy holiday travels and celebrations are over, we need to get down to the serious business of living aboard a boat in paradise. There's a lot of boat maintenance and repairs to get done as well as promoting my book, “Sailing with Carol” for me, and then Teresa will begin looking for a part-time job. After that, we plan to do a lot of sailing and exploring on the Florida Bay side of the Keys. Oh, and because we have friends coming down to visit, we’ll probably get into town frequently...but hell, we’re only too happy to do our share of stimulating the economy. Happy & Healthy New Year to all our family and friends!