2004

 
Index
 
 


November 5, 2004
 

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Hi All,

Well, we seem to have survived our first Key West Fantasy Fest! What a RIOT! Needless to say... a good time was had by ALL!

First of all, you have to understand that, in SPITE of explicit warnings to the contrary from the KW Police... body paint did indeed constitute being "dressed" in Key West for the week. For the most part this manifested itself in women running all over town with their breasts exposed, "covered" only in "body art". "Art critics" proliferated... and LOTS of pictures were taken!

The festival lasted 10 days and there was something different happening every day and night. As the festival progressed, the costumes got smaller and smaller. By the Saturday finale parade there were more than a FEW people "dressed" only in paint!

Now, I've got to say this... I really don't have a problem with nudity per se. The pretty young thing "dressed" as a hillbilly, of which ONLY the flip-flops were real, was down-right fun to see! But... I draw the line somewhere short of the 70 plus year-old woman who was more than a LITTLE overweight and had a "hound dog" painted on her torso... the hound's "jowls" came down WELL past her waist, which was QUITE ample! Frankly, the world is NOT ready for a sight like THAT!

WE had the best time participating in the Friday night Masquerade March. The whole town is invited to show up in costume and parade through the twisting turning streets of Key West. In fact SO many people join that TWO parade routes are set-up. Everyone starts at the cemetery. We ended up on the North Route, although we had intended to do the South route... not that it mattered! Along the parade route local businesses and hotels set up "refreshment" stands... and then scramble as the participants hit their spot demanding something "wet" to quench their "thirst". Trust me, the various recipes of "punch" packed a "punch"!

We were out and about in costume every night of the festival... including the Wednesday "wear red" day, the Thursday "toga party" and the African Goombay festival the first weekend. But we brought out our BEST costumes for the final weekend. Roger, 6'6" to begin with, wore a 2' tall wizards hat covered in rainbow colored stars, a matching sheer cape and matching short-shorts! I was "Mother Nature" in a full-length jungle scene gown (no skin from ME!) and leaf headband. I thought we made a cute couple!

I have figured out that the whole festival has a subtle "scoring" system. Points are chalked up by either getting your picture taken as "unusual" or by collecting the brightly colored Mardi Gras style beads. Of the two of us, Roger scored highest in having his picture taken but I did a GREAT job collecting beads! Mind you, I later gave them all away (no room on the boat!) but I had collected a worthy pile!

I'll send pictures to my good friend and webmaster so he can post them as soon as possible... you'll want to see some of THESE sights!

Life's a trip!

Claudia

 


October 23, 2004
 

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Hi All!

Well, we made it back to Key West with JUST barely enough time for a grocery shopping day and a laundry day before Fantasy Fest began! Last night was the kick-off celebrations. We attended the Goombay Festival down in "Bahama Village"...the traditional African American section of Key West (no longer segregated). Costumes were optional for this event so Roger and I decided to just add a beaded headdress to our other clothes. Tall Roger, in flowing beaded tresses, was a big success! Several people wanted to have their picture taken with him! We had a great time seeing and being seen!

Fantasy Fest lasts for ten days... with next weekend being the main events. That's when the major costume events and parades take place. It is also when the KW police force has to be MOST diligent in making sure no one is "overexposed"... or otherwise having TOO much of a good time! Apparently it is often VERY difficult to tell where "body art" ends and costume (if any) begins.

Fantasy Fest is billed as "Mardi Gras" meets "Halloween" in Key West fashion. Its a time for everyone to let their inhibitions go (as if one needed much of an excuse in Key West!) and the start of the winter tourist season. There are parades nearly daily. Doors are thrown open all over town to let skeletons and ghosts (and who knows WHAT else) out of the closets.

Having a GREAT time! Life's a trip!

Claudia

 


September 7, 2004
 

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Hi All,

Well... apparently the "local wisdom" that hurricanes NEVER hit this part of central Florida... needs to be updated! Hurricane Francis, unlike Charley just a few weeks ago, came and stuck around! We were being blasted for a full 24 hours! Thankfully she was not as strong as Charley. If she had been I don't know if the dock we were tied to would have held! As it was, we did fine. Once again we weathered the storm with no damage to the boat.

Roger's mother also faired well this time around. She has lost more shingles off of her roof but does not seem to have any leaks as yet. Her insurance company has already agreed to buy her a new roof from Charley's damage, so there is not much else to complain about! She is without power and will likely be for a few more days but we have brought our spare generator to her house and are in the process of bringing her refrigerator down to temperature. We are also without power at the boat, but we have the diesel generator to keep us powered there.

Lets see... oh yes! I wanted to mention again that far from being a foolish thing to do, we honestly feel that the BEST place for us to ride out a hurricane is on the boat. Of course every storm is different, every boat is different and we encourage everyone to do what they feel best doing... but for US the right place for both these storms was on our own boat! We were in a sheltered harbor tied up to a strong dock on a seaworthy boat. By being ON the boat we were able to adjust lines as needed and keep the boat safe while she kept US safe. A win-win situation.

We JUST got over to Roger's Mom's house today. Yesterday we were forced to stay on the "beach side" of Port Orange, also known as Port Orange's barrier Island. There was extensive damage to hotels and businesses along A1A and the Police Department was being very strict about ONLY letting people that could PROVE they were residents of the Island venture back onto it. We could have gotten OFF the island, but we would not have been allowed back. Today they are allowing a little more traffic onto the island and we feel confident that we will be able to return to the boat this evening armed with the handwritten permission slip given to us by the boatyard explaining that we live onboard our boat there.

So we are cleaning up after a hurricane yet again... and keeping a close eye on Hurricane Ivan, who is heading our way! I think I'm going to get some hurricane symbol decals and start adding them to the hull like the WWII fighter bombers used to do when they shot down an enemy plane!

Hey! Life's a trip!

Claudia
 


August 14, 2004
 

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Hi All,

Yes, we were right in the path of hurricane Charley.... and we survived! Thankfully we were on the tail end of the storm as it passed through Florida. Still we clocked continuous winds of over 100 mph and gusts up to 140mph. The weather reports were all saying the winds were less than we clocked, but they weren't on our boat!

We and our boat did just fine. We had spent the morning preparing the boat by taking all of the sails and canvas off, rigging extra dock lines and removing anything that might fly away. We did this even though the NWS was predicting the storm would go further North and only give us a glancing blow. By the time we were done with our preparations they had revised the storm's path to be more of a threat to our area, so we were glad we had prepped well. We ate lunch at Roger's mother's house, did last minute shopping for the mandatory extra, extra set of batteries, and returned to the boat around 4 PM... in time to get the car inside of the marina's dry-stack storage building, so we had one less worry about the car.

Then we waited... listening to the local TV stations broadcast of continuous hurricane updates. We literally watched the storm's approach and its devastating aftermath LIVE as it crept our way! (Why do they always have to play the scary subliminal music in the background?) About 10:30pm it hit. We were lucky to be tied to a very secure dock and orientated so that our bow was pointed into the worst of the winds. The boat did just fine! For about an hour the winds were so strong that the sound was a steady roar. Our rigging shook some, especially once the center had passed and the winds shifted, but otherwise it wasn't too bad!

For those of you who wonder why we didn't ride the storm out at Roger's mother's house... well, we trust the boat, we were tied to a very strong dock, and frankly we were safer on the boat! At Mom's house the winds tore off a screened porch and then a tree fell onto the empty space left by the porch... mere feet from where she was sleeping! Another one of her trees fell onto a neighbor's roof and across the street her neighbor had TWO large trees fall on their roof! On a boat we may be pelted with water, but at least TREES don't come crashing down on us!

We spent today clearing debris from Mom's yard... we still have several more days worth. Her roof is damaged badly enough that she will need to replace it, but at least it is not leaking inside... yet! The last we heard there is another storm out in the Atlantic taking aim at us again... Fun!

We know that several of our friends were also in the path of the storm... some in worse hit areas than ours. We hope they have all faired as well as we have!

As always....Life's a trip!

Claudia


August 3, 2004
 

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Hi All!

We're down in Port Orange (Daytona Beach area) visiting Roger's mother. We'll be here through Aug 20th-ish. Roger's Mom  is a very nice person. There is not a mean bone in her body. we'll be doing some work on her house, painting, tile etc. so she can better look for a townhouse. Other than that, Things are going fine here. We're getting some boat work done, but as always, it never goes as quickly as you would like.

We may spend another month here. We were hoping to head up to Beaufort, SC to visit some cruising friends currently running a marina there, but it looks like we may not have time. Our bottom is getting barnacles, so we'll have to do something with that as well. We hope to be back to Key West for Fantasy Fest Halloween week... then on to the Yucatan!

Life's a Trip!

Claudia


June 24, 2004
 

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Hi All!

We made our first TWO night ocean passage Friday through Sunday. We went out into the Gulf Stream and rode it North for 24 hours...but I'll write a trip report about it when I get a chance.

We're in Port Orange now... docked a few miles from Roger's mom's house. We are going to rent a car and do a one-way rental to North Carolina and pick up my car. We plan on being in Port Orange at least two months so picking up my car is cheaper than renting one. And Roger has to return to NC to renew his drivers license, anyway.

Otherwise, things are going very well. We plan to be back in Key West for "Fantasy Fest 2004" over Halloween. We're told it is THE event of the year (in a town with a of big events). It is rather like Mardi Gras with a week of parades and floats (and throw beads) but with a Halloween-masquerade ball flavor. But, being Key West, the "costumes" don't involve a lot of fabric, so to speak. People run around in nothing but body paint all week. Should be interesting!

Life's a Trip!

Claudia


June 14, 2004
 

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Hi All,

The Dry Tortugas National Park was, in a word, WONDERFUL! We had SUCH a great time! We spent two weeks there and are looking forward to returning!

Where? What? and Why? Dry Tortugas?

WHERE? is about 70 miles due West of Key West Florida.

WHAT? is a huge coastal fortification built in the late 1800's... or at least that is the most prominent feature. It took 16 million bricks and the conscripted labor of thousands of slaves, prisoners and army enlisted men thirty years to build. Hundreds died... many more may have wished for death working in unbearable heat on an island with no natural water source. But, for it's day, Dry Tortugas' Fort Jefferson was the pinnacle of coastal fortifications... the "stealth bomber" of its day! It was SO formidable that it NEVER fired a shot in conflict... it was just too darn scary to even THINK about attacking! A classic use of deterrents, if ever there was one!

WHY includes the only deep water anchorage, reasonably well protected by a ring of coral islands and reefs, for hundreds of miles in any direction. Protect that anchorage, and the warships anchored there and you control the shipping lanes between the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, including the Mississippi River.

But Dry Tortugas National Park is much more than Fort Jefferson alone. It is bird and sea turtle nesting sites on uninhabited islands... and GREAT snorkeling and diving in coral filled tropical waters! It was so wonderful to stay there for 2 weeks! The vast majority of visitors come by two daily commercial ferries out of Key West. THOSE people only get to spend 4 hours on the main (fortified) island. A handful of the ferry passengers bring tents and will camp for a few days. But otherwise, at 3pm, when the ferries depart, the islands become virtually deserted... left to the 12 park rangers, a few hardy campers, and us boaters!

WE got to watch the sunset into the Gulf of Mexico nightly from the walls of the moat. WE got to wander and explore at our leisure, unimpeded by crowds. We also got a great candlelit tour of the fort after sunset one night. Mike Ryan, the ranger who seemed to be the resident historian, got dressed up in full 1860's soldier's uniform.... made from shod wool (even after dark, he was suffering in the heat). We were given lanterns lit with beeswax candles and got the "deluxe" tour, including a musket firing demonstration!

WE boaters and campers were the lucky ones!

We stayed as long as they would let us. Our days were spent taking the daily tours given by the ferry services in the morning, returning to the boat for lunch, relaxing until the "day tourists" left at 3pm, then snorkeling in the afternoon lull. Evenings were usually spent with other boaters. We had a few "pot luck" dinners ashore and more impromptu gathers for dinner or drinks on someone else's boat. Sunset always found us either on the moat wall with others or on our boat (we could see the sunset from our location) with one or two other couples. We had a GREAT time!

We're now back in Key West and expect to leave here Tuesday morning to head North... North Florida! We'll go spend some time in Port Orange if we can get dock space. Roger's mother lives there. We'll miss Key West but we plan to be back in about 4 months... on our way to the Yucatan peninsula.

Life's a trip!

Claudia

 

Webmaster's Note:  In addition to the two sites hyperlinked above, there is an excellent site with GREAT Pictures at http://www.shannontech.com/ParkVision/DryTortugas/DryTortugas.html :-) REK

 


May 11, 2004
 

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Hi All,

We are in the middle of a "fresh water wash-down"... otherwise known as a rain shower! Its nice to get the salt off of the boat for "free" when it rains. Roger's outside scrubbing the decks a bit to help with the process.

We're STILL in Key West. STILL having a great time! We're looking for a weather window to get out to the Dry Tortugas, though. It is another 60 miles down this rag-tag island chain that makes up the Florida Keys. Obviously a little too far to have had a road built to it, so the only way there is by air or sea. It promises BEAUTIFUL snorkeling and exploring of the abandoned Fort Jefferson. The drawback is that it has no "facilities"... no WATER, no groceries and no phones. We understand that when bad weather sets in and boats get "stuck" there for awhile, water and BEER become very valuable commodities. We carry plenty of water and food stores, so we won't have a problem.

The Conch Republic Days are over in Key West. A good time was had by all! I think the highlight for us was when we rode in the "World's Longest Parade" from the Atlantic Ocean to Gulf of Mexico (all of about 15 blocks). WHAT did we ride as, you ask? Ourselves! Anyone who wanted to could just show up, decorate their vehicles or selves, and join the parade! We did! The price was RIGHT... free! We festooned our bikes with ribbons and flags (supplied for FREE by the local radio station) and rode! We were positioned behind the junkaroo band, so we had a REALLY good time!

We also paid to be crew on the Schooner "Western Union" for the "Great and Bloody Battle for the Conch Republic". Can you believe it?... we PAID to be in the battle! We could have participated for free if we had entered our own boat, but we attended the pre-battle "Captain's Meeting" and decided the whole thing sounded a "might bit" messy! And it WAS! Water cannons soaked all participants... and many spectators. And that was just the opening volley. After that the food flew! We had brought along pancakes as weapons. They flew okay if thrown frisbee-style but we discovered that the best food weapon was pickled hard-boiled eggs! Next year - EGGS!

If we become "incommunicado" for awhile, don't worry. It just means we have found our weather window to the Tortugas. We expect to spend around a week to 10 days there.

Life's a trip!

Claudia
 


March 26, 2004
 

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Hi All,

In 1982, some genus at the US Border Patrol got to thinking... SO MANY illegal drugs and aliens landed on the shores of the Florida keys and continued onto the mainland, why not establish a border crossing at the North end of the keys and catch them before they reached Miami?

Needless to say, the people of the Florida Keys were less-than-happy to be treated as foreigners by their own country... and decided to secede from the Union! Of course, they immediately surrendered and demanded Millions in War Reparations! The US government ignored the whole thing...except to hastily remove the offending border crossing. Thus began the Conch Republic and the annual celebration of Conch Republic Days! "We seceded where others failed!"

The festival is 10 days long this year and has such events as "Drag (Queen) Racing", "Wreckers Regatta", "World's Longest Parade" (about 10 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico), "Bed Races" and "Pedicab Racing". The grand finale is the "Great Naval Parade and Battle for the Republic", in which Conch Republic boats square off against the US Coast Guard (really!) and have a big ol' water-gun and water-cannon fight in Key West channel! Everyone gets into the act, including those on land who lob various objects at the passing boats. The only "approved" ammunition (besides water) is stale Cuban bread, conch fritters, peeled hard boiled eggs, over-ripe tomatoes or canned peaches and pears... and all must be hand thrown! Conch Republicans tend to think rules were meant to be broken, so who knows what will be flying! We've decided against venturing into this fray with our own boat, but have signed up to be "crew members" on the tall ship "Western Union", which will be one of the major players. We expect to have a "blast"!

In other news... about a week ago a water spout (tornado over the water) ran amok through the mooring field and Key West anchorages. Imagine 70-80 MPH winds super-saturated with water bombarding your boat at 4 in the morning! Visibility was reduced to zero, the boat was tossed and turned... at one point being blown over at a 35% angle! Fun! We came through it just fine, although it was an exciting ride! One older boat at anchor near the mooring fields had its whole roof blown off and many lost canvas covers. Several boats in the anchorage were blown ashore but all seem to have been refloated. Sixty miles further out, in the Dry Tortugas, there were lots of boats damaged in the same storm system, but no injuries. We're VERY glad we were on a secure mooring for the excitement!

The end of April is coming up... and with it the monthly lease of our mooring ball... so we've decided to extend through the month of May! We're having MUCH too much fun to leave yet! Sometime in May we expect to take the boat out to the Dry Tortugas for a week or so. And then perhaps at the end of MAY we'll be ready to head North again... we'll see!

Life's a trip!

Claudia

 

March 21, 2004
 

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Hi All!

Key West is still holding our attention! There is always something great to do! Last weekend was a celebration called "Peace in the Park. Sunday afternoon we all brought pot-luck dishes to Bayside Park where there was music and entertainment of all sorts... in a totally cash-free setting. The message was "peace"... both inner and outer! For entertainment we had gospel songs, African drummers, guided peace visualizations, yoga stretches, and dancers.

Many booths were set up. The City of Key West was handing out free bike safety products... reflective arm bands, spoke reflectors, red flashing tail lights, AND free bike helmets! The Key West K-Mart was out of helmets, we were really happy to get two for FREE! I got a free massage in another booth. And being Key West, the Aids prevention society was there... you can guess what THEY were handing out!

One delightful woman had brought along her portable labyrinth. Have you ever walked a labyrinth? It is designed to be a walking meditation. Unlike its cousin, the maze, the labyrinth has no dead ends and no tricks. You walk a path that winds and twists around itself... in one end, out the other. Walking a labyrinth is very soothing.

I stopped and meditated in the Key West Buddhist Sangha's tent. In another booth I learned the remarkable story of a woman known as "Peace Pilgrim" who had walked some 25,000 miles with only the clothes on her back and what she could fit in her pockets. She walked until someone gave her shelter and fasted until someone gave her food... and found she was always "rich" with the generosity of others.

A great time and good food was had by all at "Peace in the Park"!

March has been particularly windy! A LOT of winds from the North, which is our unprotected side. We haven't been swimming everyday like we did in February because it is usually too rough! But the mooring is secure so we can sleep at night without worry. The only real hassle is the long dinghy ride into the dock... we end up getting wet in rough weather! But I guess that isn't the worse problem in the world to have!

We think we will probably stay in Key West through April... might as well! Then we will head out to Dry Tortugas, which is another 60 miles further down the island chain into the ocean. That's as far as our we're-pretty-sure-of-this-much plans go. From Dry Tortugas it is only 290 miles to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. We're giving Guatemala some serious thought for the summer months. It looks like it has good hurricane protection and would be a really interesting place to visit. I would LOVE to spend enough time in a Spanish speaking country to be able to pick up some Spanish... I am REALLY bad at languages! Luckily I have always been able to get my meaning across anyway!

We'll see. We may go back up North instead, as there are still places and things we'd like to do and see in the Chesapeake and Hudson River. Who knows! There are no such things as "plans" on a sailboat!

Even if we come back North this summer, we may head to Guatemala next year. A neighbor has loaned us a guide and it sounds like a good place to "winter", but we'll need to learn more before we decide. The trip "down" the Caribbean islands sounds like a lot of work (you are heading into the wind the whole way down) and we would have to keep moving. We've discovered we really LIKE hanging out in one place and getting to know the area. The trip "down" the Yucatan Peninsula would be easier and take us to great places like Isla Mujeres, Cozumel and Belize. Then we would end up in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala... a river which opens up into a protected lake. A good hurricane "hole"! We could settle in and spend six months (or longer!) enjoying the local flavor and have lots of room to explore! We'll look into it further.

Life's a trip!

Claudia


March 1, 2004
 

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Hi All,

We've signed up for another month in Key West. We're having such a great time, we aren't in any rush to leave! In fact we've run into one of our usual problems... TOO many fun things to do! We're exhausted! And grateful for a windy (from the North) day. North is our unprotected wind direction in this mooring field, so the water fetches up and makes the dinghy ride back and forth uncomfortable. A good reason to stay home today!

We WERE going to join another boat as "crew" and enter the "Wrecker's Regatta", but we would have had to go ashore last night and "sign-up" at 7 PM... and the winds were even worse last night. None of US wanted to go ashore at any rate! Why as "crew" and not in our own boat? To be cheap, of course! The $30 PER BOAT entrance fee covered BBQ dinner for 4, so we would have wanted to get our money's worth! And these "regattas" are all about the BBQ and punch afterwards anyway!

So... what is Key West like? Well, the word here is "tolerance"! The OFFICIAL Key West Philosophy (according to the bumper sticker) is: "All people are equal members of one human family". Rich, poor, Cruise Ship "cruisers", drop-your-anchor "cruisers", gay, straight, working class, dark skinned, light skinned, locals, tourists, "New Age", straight-laced... all live in harmony here! Bums share the benches in Mallory Square with Ralph Lauren-shirted visitors. Everyone shares the Island with Key West "Free Range" Chickens and stray cats.

Activities? Duval Street stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. One MUST bike or stroll this tourist shop and restaurant lined street daily to see and be seen. The furthest end of the island holds the Cruise Ship docks and Mallory Square. Mallory Square is a sleepy little park... until about an hour before sunset. Then everyone seems to try to squeeze into this small spot! It has the best views of the sunset... and magicians, acrobats, escape artists, tight wire artists (and one VERY strange man with trained house cats!) try to vie for your attention against the backdrop of the sunset. As soon as the last ray of the sun dips under the horizon, everyone claps and cheers this magnificent feat... and exits "en masse" to the Duval Street pubs. Generally we like to be back on the boat before sunset but we did the sunset "scene" once... we stayed out until 8:30 pm and just about couldn't keep our eyes open! A couple of old fogies! But in our defense, we ! DO get up fairly early on the boat!

There are beaches and old forts to explore. One Civil War era fort houses the Key West Garden Club and is lush with orchids, palms and vegetation of all sorts... and free! We often eat a brown-bag lunch there. Another favorite lunch spot is next to a fountain in the Truman Annex residential area.

The streets in "old town" Key West are narrow. Two-room former cigar rollers' shacks (now selling for $400K and up) stand shoulder-to-shoulder with much more elaborate houses valued in the multi-millions. Everything is lush and green! Flowers bloom everywhere!

There is some "event" nearly every weekend. Today was the "Wrecker's Regatta", which we missed, and the gay community is having some "bash". Last weekend was an outdoor art show. Next weekend will be a boat show and nautical flea market (boat junk for sale!).

During the week there is laundry to do, swimming, the library, other cruisers to visit, grocery shopping, 2 for 1 drink coupons! And there is a magazine-sized booklet with 10 or 12 self-guided walking tours some local has written. We are trying to work our way through that as well! Never a dull moment!

Life's a trip!

Claudia


February 14, 2004
 

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Hi All!

We haven't been in Key West for a full two days yet we already feel like true "Conch Republicans"... it is, after all, more about attitude than location, anyway!

We picked up a city mooring on Wednesday. For $130 for the next month we have a secure spot with protection from all but North winds, use of a dinghy dock, showers, free water and free holding tank pump outs... a pretty good deal! Thursday we took a timeshare tour and were given $110 in "Key West Money" for our choice of restaurants or tourist activities. We just LOVE timeshare tours, and who knows? Someday we MIGHT actually buy one (there's always a CHANCE!). From the timeshare tour of the very fancy Hyatt facility we asked the fancy van driver to drop us off at the Salvation Army... we were in the market for some transportation for the next month! They didn't have what we wanted, but the pawn shop a few blocks down the road did. We bought two well used, rusty, ugly bikes for $50. It is the quintessential Key West mode of transportation! Everyone bikes! And the uglier your bike, the better! Apparently bicycle theft is a large problem, so ugly is the rule of the day. !
It's the same strategy we use with the dinghy. We keep it ugly on purpose... its the pretty ones that are most often stolen. The bikes were in very usable condition. All we had to add were head and tail lights so we can be legal after dark. The lights cost almost as much as the bikes!

So we are set for the next month at least! The bicycles are going to be great! Good exercise and with an island that is FLAT (the only hills are bridges), only 2 by 4 miles in scope, with virtually NO car parking, the bicycle is the way to go!

Today we plan on signing up for a library card. Robby, the Aussie from "Wandering Wallaby" a few moorings away works at the library and says I will have no problem getting a card and then will be able to borrow books and DVD's. We also picked up a walking tour guide of Key West and I can see that there are LOTS of neat things to see! The water at the mooring is clean enough to swim in so that will be our main form of "bathing"... a dip, Joy soap (lathers in salt water) for shampoo and body wash followed by a quick fresh water rinse.

Life's pretty good! Eventually we will take the boat another 60 miles to Dry Tortugas. It has great snorkeling and an old Fort to explore. But for now, we are really happy where we are!

Life's a trip!

Claudia


February 3, 2004
 

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Hi All!

Wow! We're having a great time! We finally got a nice weather day for reef snorkeling, so that's what we did today. What a trip! We took the boat about five miles offshore to Sombrero Key Lighthouse Reef. There we picked up a free mooring ball provided by the state (they protect the fragile reefs from damage by anchors). The reefs around here are beautiful! What colorful fish! We fed the large schools of yellowtail snapper frozen peas until they started getting a little too aggressive and resorted to stealing the bag out of our hands. There were all sorts of parrotfish, grouper, barracuda, butterfly fish and a large school of midnight blue fish with purple tails. Not to mention the beautiful coral formations. We spent a couple of hours in the water and had a blast!

Now we are back anchored in front of the entrance to Boot Key Harbor, FL... otherwise known as Marathon. We spent about 2 weeks shuffling between Rodriguez and Tavernier Keys off of Key Largo. Both were just small mangrove islands (no real solid land) but each offered a different patch of scenery... and protection from different wind directions. We swam daily, snorkeled in the shallow water around the islands and ventured into shore when we needed groceries or a lunch out.

It has been really nice to slow down and enjoy ourselves! We are very happy with our decision to explore the Florida Keys this winter. This is really our first time in the keys by boat. Our only other time through, right after we bought the boat, we had not been able to stop along the way because we were under a deadline to get the boat out of Florida or have to pay sales tax on it. That would have been a considerable sum of money! So we blasted right through the keys and didn't stop other than to sleep. And we missed a LOT! We're glad to be back to see what we missed.

Marathon Key has a large protected anchorage... or so we're told. We haven't yet ventured inside. We will take the dinghy in tomorrow and see what the harbor has to offer. We understand it is always very crowded, and we like to avoid crowds when we can help it. We may rock and roll a little more outside, but when the weather is nice, we enjoy the elbow room. In a few days we probably will take the boat inside and grab a mooring if there is one available. But before then we hope to get in at least another day of reef snorkeling!

We are slowly making our way down to Key West. We're actually only a day away, but we're not in a rush... at least not anymore! We'll probably spend about a week in the Marathon area as we have our mail being forwarded to us here. Then we hope to be lucky enough to be able to grab a mooring in Key West. The price is supposed to be very reasonable, but as a result, the place is usually "booked" solid. If we find a mooring, we'll stay put for at least a month. After that, we have no plans!

Life's a trip!

Claudia


January 19, 2004
 


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Hi All,

Roger and I anchored off of a tiny little mangrove island off Key Largo Florida. We've been here for several days and will probably be here several more. We're having a great RELAXING time!

We recently did a little rethinking about our plans. We have been rushing too much! Our vision for us and the boat always was something along the lines of being anchored off of a small, secluded tropical island.... something with clear, CLEAN, warm, tropical blue water and very little civilization in sight. We wanted to spend weeks, if not longer, at a time at said tropical island doing tropical island things like swimming, snorkeling, RELAXING, etc!

We haven't EXACTLY been doing that! We've been rushing up and down the East Coast, always in waters either too dirty, cold or crowded to swim in. And always too close to civilization. Don't get me wrong! We LOVE places like NYC and Washington DC by boat! But the pull of such great sightseeing places has kept us too busy seeing sights to RELAX and enjoy ourselves. Not to mention doing the appropriate amount of boat chores!

So we were going to RUSH off to do the Caribbean Islands and keep going until we got to Trinidad! Which seemed like a good idea... until we started really figuring what it was going to involve?

It was going to involve a LOT of RUSHING! And a lot of work. The problem is that, at least at this time of the year, there is a cold front moving through the islands every few days. This means employing one of two strategies... We can either get attached to a dock in a protected harbor, like Marsh Harbor, Bahamas, and be protected, but amongst a crowd and in water that would not be clean enough to swim in. And we would be paying a fairly large chunk of money for the dock and consumables like food. OR we could hop from one secluded (unprotected) island anchorage to another, always at risk from the cold fronts and storms. To do this we would be saving on dock fees, but paying through the nose for water and consumables.... and we would be RUSHING! We'd have to spend hours every day listening to and interpreting the weather reports, and we'd have to move anchor every few days to find the best protection from the changing weather conditions.

The more we thought about it, the less it sounded like the thing we wanted to do right now! So we think we are going to hang out in the Florida keys for a few months. Here at Rodriguez Key for instance, we have clear, clean tropical waters. We have been swimming and snorkeling every day. There are two other boats with us, both far enough away to not be crowding us. We can move the boat out for a day anchor to a reef about five miles away which promises a great tropical snorkeling experience. There's a restaurant a long dinghy ride to the shore of Key Largo and from there we can walk to a convenience store for milk and eggs. Eventually we plan to mosey on down to Key West, enjoy some civilization there for a week or two or whatever, and then maybe venture a little further to the Dry Tortugas for some more R and R. Eventually, more towards Spring, when the weather is more settled we'll probably head for the Caribbean. We don't know yet whether we will then continue through the Islands, staying down there for the Summer (advantage, great weather MOST of the time, disadvantage, the occasional hurricane) or return to the States for another snow-bird journey North for the Summer. Only time will tell!

Life's a trip!

Claudia

 


January 13, 2004

 

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We have met so many people that have hated Miami - we think Miami's great!  It's mellow and has easy access to shopping, not to mention great public transportation.  Much of it is free or only 25 cents. 

We are having a really good visit, but we're gearing up to head a bit further South.  It's a few days down to Key West, so we'll mosey down that way.


Life's a trip!

Claudia


January 8, 2004
 

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Hi All,

Our good friend Bob Kelly has graciously set up a new website to cover our adventures on SummerThor! He's been saving my "trip reports" since 2002 and has put them all together with some photos and other information about our boat. So have a look...

The web address is: www.summerthor.bekiservices.com

Also... remember the web address because pretty soon I will be sending our "trip reports" to Bob and having them automatically forwarded to you from the website. This will save me time and phone charges. Isn't technology wonderful? Sometimes, at least!

Our email address to RECEIVE emails will remain the same, namely summerthor@pocketmail.com

We're in Miami, Florida right now. We've decided to slow down and enjoy the scenery. We have been rushing like madmen for what seems like YEARS! Now that we are here in beautiful Southern Florida and enjoying ourselves, we are reluctant to "run off" to the Islands right away. Florida is great and a lot less expensive! The Islands are just a "stone's throw" from here... we're not worried they are going disappear. We're going to relax for a while!

Our good friend Colleen is trying to arrange to come visit us here, so we are "waiting and seeing". Meanwhile there is a good group of "cruisers" here and we got together with several for a "potluck" gather last night.

We may head down to Key West eventually... we missed visiting the Conch Republic in 2000 when we bought the boat and brought it back from St. Petersburg, FL. We hit there at the start of a busy holiday weekend and there just wasn't any room ANYwhere to be found. We kept on going. And have always wanted to return. Or we just might leave from here after Colleen's visit and head East to the Bahamas. Who knows! There are no set plans with sailboats!

Life's a trip!

Claudia


January 1, 2004, 9:49 AM
 

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Hi All,

Once again we are underway. Tonight we are anchored in the North end of Lake Worth, North Palm Beach, FL. We will probably spend a few days here... we have a couple of things catching up with us here. Once we have everything, we will continue further down the Florida coast to get a more favorable angle from which to cross the Gulf Stream.

Our plan is to get over to the southern Bahama Islands, following the basic guidelines set forth in Bruce Van Sant's "Gentleman's Guide to Passages South", which is the "bible" on Caribbean Cruising. We plan on taking it slowly and enjoying the scenery...which may mean we don't make it to Trinidad the first year. We'll just have to see how it goes.

The weather has been cold here the past few days. It's certainly feeling a LOT like Christmas! We hope all of you a joyous holiday season and best wishes for the new year!

Life's a trip!

Claudia

   

 

 

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