Day 295, February 10, 2013 (Charleston, SC): Sequel made home port in good order at 13:55 on February 10, 2013, to a welcoming committee of friends Theo, Joan and Perry, Janet and Carl, Jerry and Jenny, and McKenzie. As we were backing into our old slip at The Bristol Marina the feeling of accomplishment hit. Our log says that we covered 5,260 nautical miles, which translates to 6,050 statute miles. More than remembering every one of those miles we remember the places we visited and the wonderful friends we made along the way. We don’t apologize for moving out at our own pace but know that all of you will be welcome when you visit Charleston, the Holy City. Give us a “heads up” when you think that you will make port.

The Bristol Marina doesn’t advertise transient slips but you must have an air draft of 15 feet or less. It is quiet and there is space. City Marina is south of the bridges and offers the Megadock as well as shuttle service for those who don’t want to walk the mile to King Street. There are other marinas close by offering an abundance of dockage. However, every marina is fraught with strong currents. As far as I know City Marina and Bristol are the only ones that have along-side facedocks for captains who are not accustomed to dealing with the peak ebb and flow of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.

We will spend the next week emptying ten months worth of “stuff” before Sequel goes up on the hard for R & R.

Edie guides Sequel through the oyster beds of Wadmalaw Sound. We have been in our old stomping grounds since St. Augustine, FL.

Going for the gold. Charleston’s western skyline, the James Island connector, and the imposing Ravenel bridge in the background.

Day 293, February 8, 2013 (Windmill Harbor, Hilton Head, SC): It is hard to believe that we have come full circle. We will cross our wake on Sunday morning, February 10, 2013, having traveled 6,040 statute miles through 18 states and 2 provinces in Canada. We remember the people we traveled with along the way, the people we’ve met where we landed, and the vastness of the land traveled.

People ask us, “What was your favorite place?” The question has no good answer. Every stop we made had its own uniqueness. What we did discover time and again was grassroots America and Canada, the fundament perceptions of ordinary people in villages, towns, and the big cities, their reasons for happiness and disappointments.

The other most common question that folks asked was, “What do you do all day on the boat?” Invariably, we answer that there is not enough time in the day to do all the things we planned. Firstly, we adhered to our float plan except on very few occasions. That plan was to travel no more than 50 to 75 miles per day and not even that if we were tired. Translated to real time, we spent from sunrise until about midday on the move and planned to get to a destination where we could spend the rest of the day poking around.

The second principle of our float plan was to decide over breakfast whether we would stay or move on. Most of the time we stayed more than one day in port or at anchor. For example, we planned to stay just a short time in Ocean Reef on Key Largo and stayed two weeks. We hung out in New York City for a week, Montreal for a week, Marathon for a week, Chicago for eleven days.

Some of the way was phsyically strenuous. We have locked through 151 times. Some locks were a breeze, others took all of our strength to hold the boat to the chamber wall. Ottawa’s Step-of-Eight Lock sapped us; it is out one lock into the next and there is no turning around. Some passages were straight in the open water; others traversed tortuous channels requiring two pairs of eyes forward. Tugs and tows in the inland rivers were always a challenge.

Our autopilot saw yeoman service. It is now known as Captain Pilot Blackthorn. He got sick one day in the Straits of Florida with the wind howling at 30 knots. I spent time fixing it while Edie kept watch. Then there is the constant weather watch ahead of us. Our Internet weather courtesy of T-mobile was abysmal most of the time until we purchased an iPad connected to Verizon. After that we had infallable Internet 99 percent of the time. Aboard there is always something to fix not to mention service breaks to swap out air, oil, and fuel filters, oil changes, belt and impeller replacements, and the litany goes on.

And so we will see the Charleston skyline in another day and take the time to greet old friends and plan our next adventure aboard Sequel.

Here are some of the last images from our last leg northbound.

Last time we saw white pellies was in Ontario. They come south to St. Augustine for the winter, too.

Cannon fire in Castillo San Marcos, St. Augustine, FL

 The old grist mill in St. Augustine, FL

Sunset over Camachee Cove near St. Augustine.

 

American bald eagle perched on a range marker near Jacksonville, FL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gray lady in drydock, Jacksonville Navy Yard.

Wine time aboard Sequel with Rob and Gail Wynn. I participated in training Rob as a thoracic surgeon, the first of some 80 men and women who came under my tutelage.

Day 286, February 1, 2013 (Titusville, FL):

Two’s company!

Three’s a crowd!

Manatee drink fresh water draining from our sink (Titusville).

Illusion.

Day 283, January 29, 2013 (Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Palm Beach County, FL): The Palm Beach County government created a water impoundment that became the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. The wetlands have become their own ecosystem supported by plant life that has attracted numerous species of birds and reptiles. Here are a few of our sightings.

Anhinga mating plummage

‘Gator snoozing

 Woodstork beating the weeds for grub

Mom and one of the kids

 Purple gallinule (colorful chicken)

Go ahead! Take my picture.

This guy is a pest and foreign species. It eats everything in sight.

Moorhen (another kind of chicken)

Anhinga collecting nesting material

Can you see the ‘gator?

 Great blue heron feeding the kids

Great blue heron tired of feeding the kids

It’s mine! No … it’s mine!

Day 278, January 24, 2013 (Miami, FL):

The trip up to Miami is not without its surprise views. Above is a look at the Cape Florida light against the skyline of Key Biscayne. Then there is Stiltsville, the decaying playpens of Miami’s rich and shameless going back to the 1920s. The houses and clubs on stilts in the middle of Biscayne Bay are now part of a national park and being victimized by the elements.

We docked in Sea Isle Marina behind the Marriott Hotel on North Bayshore in Miami. The facility is adequate but there is no sea wall. Lots of rock and roll in the high winds during the past two days. At the left is the hotel, an avant garde design that forms part of Miami’s skyline.

Our travels around the town took us into the Design District and art galleries. The De La Cruz Family Collection houses a humerous and innovative collection of contemporary art. Over in Miami Beach the Bass Museum of contemporary Art houses an eclectic collection of interpretive contemporary art but with a smattering of grand works by the masters. I don’t know how they fit but they were there. We finished up with a visit to the small but well done Miami Beach Botanical Gardens and the Holocaust Memorial.

At the De La Cruz an egg isn’t an ordinary egg. This is an infinity mobile. See it … the infinity part?

At right is a piece in the park in front of the Bass. Below, Bigfoot dominates the Botanical Garden.

The centerpiece of the Holocaust Memorial.

Day 275, January 21, 2013 (Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo, FL): Here we are, heading out into the Hawk Channel fleeing Whale Harbor and Holiday Isle. The picture does not give the breeze its due. Wind is clocking at 25 but the water is too shallow to kick up. We are getting only a salt spray from our own wake. Nevertheless, it is good to get out after waiting out the wind for the last five days. Once out in the channel we were getting pounded by 6-footers and the occasional rogue with tops blowing off of the waves. Behind Pennekamp Reef the surface status was more accommodating with a moderate chop and blowing water.

After nearly 6,000 miles of travel we have not encountered a place quite as superlative as the Ocean Reef Club. We owe a big thank you to Carlos De Quesada, son Judah’s business associate. Carlos hosted us in absentia with the use of his slip. We planned on three days but we will have been here for almost two weeks. It will be hard to leave but leave we must before we overstay our welcome. We must begin making our way north.

Ocean Reef is a comprehensive exclusive living environment with mostly low rise habitation among the preserved reef vegetation. The complex occupies 4,000 acres with a tennis center, golf courses, swimming pools, staffed activities for children of all ages (3 to 100), sailing, kayaking, a cultural center showing first run films, plays, musical events, and speakers, an art center for painting, photography complete with lab, potting, woodworking, and much more. There is a village with a market, restaurants, chandlery, shops, and whatever else you might conjure. As a guest or a member all one needs anywhere for transacting is a guest card or member number. Nobody has a hand out for money.

The marina offers place for 175 boats ours being among the smallest. The docks are floating and fixed and built out to withstand storms. Shelter in the marina is 360 degrees. Below is an example of the boats around us at the dock.

During the last few days the club hosted a catch-and-release sailfish tournament. Sixty-one sportfishing boats participated most being in the 60-foot plus range. Small boats participated, too, and did their fair share of
catching. At the end of the day the boats line up and enter the channel in a line. At the left a pellie leads the way. Below, the boats parade into
the harbor.

 

 

 

Day 263, January 9, 2013 (Islamorada, FL): Yep! We’re still here but never fear. We will move on. We meant to do it, today, but it is blowing like stink. We decided to give it one more day. We are tired of Keys kitch and grumpy dock staff. They are making me grumpy. I think we will venture out tomorrow if the wind is not too outrageous. We have an intro to Ocean Reef Club and plan to enjoy the class that we deserve!!

Here are a few pics from our sojourn at Holiday Isle.

African Gray at Theater of the Sea, a worthwhile half day in Islamorada.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reproving pellie overlooking our boat. Thank heavens the wrong end is pointed the wrong way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iggy on the sidewalk. A face only a mother could love.

 Atlantic bottlenose dolphin giving us the eye.

Captain Joe is getting ready to inspect the zincs, drives, bottom. After 6,000 miles of travel we have acquired a few prop dings and wore some bottom paint off of the bow where we put it on the beach.

Kite boarders taking advantage of 30 knots out in the channel where the water is not too stirred up behind the reef.

Day 260, January 6, 2013 (Islamorada, FL): We have only gone 40 miles north through the Hawk Channel. That is outside—sort of—but inside Florida Reef. Even though the wind was fairly brisk out of the east and the current against us seas were 2-3 with the occasional 4 on the nose.

The Keys continue not to disappoint unless one is searching for plush ashore. You won’t find it. Every place is a resort to someone—mostly the same ageing businesses and accommodations vying for the passersby. Whether it is a street performer in Key West or street people selling crude art or Ernest Hemingway’s home behind barbed wire there is a certain atmosphere of the edge between bloom or blight. Uncollected trash is always a downer. Then there are carnival attrations like this person flying a water jet.

The water side is another story. Apart from the minefields of crab and lobster pots, the water is crystal clear. On a calm day the depths are deceiving. In the channel the depths are rarely more than 25 feet, sand and coral rock. Outside the channel the shoals build rapidly and grounding is not just sand. So we are learning to “read the water.” The pale lime green is shallow but the dark blue is not always deep.

The marinas aren’t much different. If the land side hasn’t jaded me I would say that many of the marinas are trailer parks on the water. Snowbirds live on boats that may not move, or not far anyway, from season to season.

We are marking time a little waiting for friends who got hung up in the intemperate “winter” of North Florida and dawdling our way to Miami from whence we will fly north for a weekend to an occasion in New Jersey. Otherwise, if we had actually chosen to do the Keys we would have done it gunkholing rather that the floating trailer parks.

 

Day 253, December 30, 2012 (Marathon, FL): Marathon looks like it has sustained one too many tropical storms. Over the years since we have been coming to the Keys, many of the city’s facilities appear to be in want of some renewal. That doesn’t stop fisherman, divers, and partiers from coming in droves. Yet, the prices are out of sight.

Little wonder! When the northern states are frigid, here we are enjoying 80-degree weather. The image at the left is on a key at Cape Romano a little north of here featuring old friend Stanley and me beach walking. Same feel of late summer. Oh horrors! A cold front came through last night with a howling northwesterly that blew out the humidity and dropped the temperature 10 degrees. Regardless, it is still a day at the beach. Whatever they like to do best they can do it in warm weather.

We made the mistake of going through Boot Key Harbor the other day to Sombrero Key—run down and noisy but okay docks and close to Publix. Overseas Highway is the thread in the necklace to the Keys and everything is strung out up and down this busy thoroughfare. Whether it is kayaking in the mangroves with Missy at right, watching the dolphins, or schmoozing friends, running the road is a requirement. Other than hanging out at Sombrero Key, one needs transportation. There is an inexpensive bus service to Key West and a taxi service that covers Vaca Key/Marathon for five bucks.

We met Kermit and Missy of Good Karma with the family herd in Tavernier for a fascinating paddle through the mangroves in Florida Bay followed by pizza and beer/wine at their rented house. What wine goes with pizza?

The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon is a must. The goal of the research center is to understand dolphin intelligence and learning capacity. The sad fact is that the descendants of Flipper are obliged to learn circus tricks to attract the public to pay the modest admission fee to keep DRC going and keep the house that Jack built from falling down. Marine iguanas show up periodically, too. Handsome devil!

And don’t forget the sunsets!