We made it! We are excited! We are so close to finishing the loop we can taste it.
Well, sort of. First we have to see the whole gulf side of Florida. This is my preferred side because the beaches are white and full of seashells. I love walking the beaches and combing them for treasures. I also love all the wildlife. Dolphins are everywhere. It’s hard to go a day without seeing them. They love to jump in our wakes and are really playful. It never gets old for me. Manatees can be spotted up and down this coast. The bird life is amazing. I just love it.
Andy and I have discussed living on this coast when we finish the loop. We will stop along the way to see homes and explore some neighborhoods. We really have no idea where we want to live yet, but part of the fun will be exploring all our options. We are certainly not in any hurry, although I am ready to put down roots, find a community that I can relate to and spread out again.
This tree was in Appalachicola and I loved it but I wasn’t ready to think it was December yet, even though Christmas was coming. How did the year fly by so quickly? Times during this loop have felt painfully slow. Today as I looked at this symbol of Christmas, it hit me how fast it has gone. We left home Dec 8th for a cross country road trip while the boat was being shipped and delivered to Fort Lauderdale. It seems impossible that it is almost the anniversary of that date. This has caused me to stop and take note of all the things that have happened over this last year, all the places we have visited, all the miles we have taken the boat, all the new people who have come into our lives, all the towns we had never heard of but found ourselves in and all the wildlife. It has been awesome and life changing.
I have missed my family and my kids a lot. I have been home several times and I have found that the time we spend together is more meaningful. There is so much to talk about and catch up with. It seems that the concentrated time allows for a deeper connection vs the day to day doldrums of life. I personally think some distance has enhanced my relationships. It has also helped weed out the people in my life that don’t really want to be part of it. They have fallen off the radar. The ones who truly care for us and being part of our journey, have stayed in touch. This blog has helped me journal a lot of stuff that has come up for me in this last year. Loneliness, fear, being uncomfortable, peace, quiet, friendships, marriage and change are just a few that come to mind. It feels so good to shed what wasn’t working. The relationships that matter still matter. I am grateful to those of you who choose to read this and participate with your comments. You are the ones who matter. Thanks for showing me compassion when I lose my shit, and for laughing at my humor. Humor has gotten me though a lot of tough days.
This is our friends Robin and Ted of M/V Curti-Sea. Their friendship has been wonderful and Robin has been a great ear when I needed one. Her compassion and love has been a blessing. We are on the same journey and have some of the same feelings. Ted is hilarious and always makes us laugh. I’m sad today as I am blogging this next part of the story. I will explain:
They made the gulf crossing with us. We arrived together and we toasted our accomplishment after docking. The next day we had fun touring Tarpon Springs and eating our way through the town. The next morning we planned on leaving and taking an easy cruise down to Palmetto to another loopers condo, Jackie and Jim of M/V Dona Pacem. They own a gorgeous condo that has a boat slip and had offered it for us to use while their boat was getting work done. We pulled out followed by Curti-sea. The tide was super LOW!!! They hit something HARD!!! Robin called to say that they were taking on water and we found ourselves in an emergency. They stayed calm and found a boat lift that was available to get them lifted out of the water ASAP and we followed them, making sure they were ok. Once they were safely lifted we found a fuel dock and tied off and waited to hear what was happening. The thing is, on this trip, when you buddy-up, it means no matter what you stay together. Robin told us to just go on and they would get a car later. HECK NO!!! Unacceptable! We told them to assess the damage, make a plan and take a deep breath. A few hours later the boat was secure and they were stuck waiting until after Thanksgiving weekend for anyone to come look at the boat. We told them to jump on our boat and go to Jackie and Jims with us, where they could stay until after Thanksgiving. We were not leaving without them. As upsetting a situation as this was, they were safe, the boat was safe and now they were forced to wait for service until after the holidays. I felt terrible. I fed Ted beers all the way and we enjoyed a nice cruise pulling in right before dark, greeted by a very sweet Jackie and Jim who cooked us dinner and we drank and ate the night away. I am telling this story because THIS is what the loop is. THIS is friendship! THIS is relationships. THIS is people helping people. THIS is just one example of many stories of things that have happened on the loop over the last year.
Others include Danny jumping into our engine room after a long hard day on the rivers to help Andy figure out why our engine was overheating. It was late, we were all tired and worn out from all the locks but he came anyway. He even left a little blood DNA in the cramp engine room space.
Another is a looper who shared a rental car to get groceries. (Thanks Debra and Kurt on Honey Badger!)
Another was a fellow looper on MountainWave who raft our boats together as we were in trouble with an overheated motor while waiting hours for a lock to open. They kept us from hitting the rock bank while giving us time to cool off the engine.
Another has been the many dinner invitations, Docktails in the marinas after days traveling together, dinner reservations made by someone who took charge and never excluding anyone that was found to be in the same marina.
Another is traveling in a group to the next spot and the lead boat calling out potential dangers for the following boats. “Log to the port, Missing marker on the starboard, etc.”
Another is girls shopping days, boys bike rides while the girls played. (Jody and Wayne of Chasing 80!)
Another is all the radio chatter between fellow loopers. Where are you headed, what marina, what speed you running, how about docktails when we all arrive!
Another was an invitation to the home of a looper who had just finished the loop for a homemade dinner. (Laurie Jean and Kevin!!)
There are so many more!
This is truly what looping has been all about. People looking out for people. I have loved every second of it. I have loved the feeling of real friendships and bonding though boating. THIS has been the gift.
I get sad as I think about people at home that I haven’t seen or talked to since we left. Then I think of all the many many friends that came into our lives this year. AMAZING!!
On the topic of friendship is a story about a girl named Kim. This picture was taken by Kim. She heard we were going to be passing by her town. She rode her bike to the bridge and waited for us to pass through taking our picture and waving to us. She was the very first looper we met, by chance, as we drove across country. Kim and Jim had finished the loop that very week and invited us to see their boat and share lots of stories as well as answer a ton of questions we had. I loved Kim right away and we remained in contract through F acebook as our own journey unfolded. She followed us and once in a while I would send her a message with “you were right about that, or what did you do about that!” Friendship and the common bond of loopers. Thanks for the wave and greeting and great photo!
Here we are passing and me so excited to see her a year later. Later they picked us up and we had a lovely dinner and shared stories.
This is the ICW. We are back in weekend congestion and waiting for bridges to open. It is awesome. I actually love all the business and watching boats go by. Looking at all the homes along the water. Maybe we will find one, who knows.
Some of our stops included:
Palmetto and Riviera Dunes Condos and Marina where Jackie and Jim let us use their slip and opened their condo to us for a few days.
This is the famous Don Caesar Hotel in St. Pete’s Beach. (We skipped over this place because we have already been here and we wanted to get to Palmetto to Jackie and Jims condo. We will be back)
Next was the Punta Gorda at Fisherman’s Village. Here was a spot we thought we would like to possibly live so we found a realtor and set out to see some homes. I will spare all the details but we crossed it off the list. This is actually a good thing because looking at homes is fun but it is also narrowing down areas we can concentrate on. The biggest downfall about Punta Gorda was the distance to the beach. Too FAR!!
We drove our rental car back up to Venice, Osprey and Sarasota and cruised those canal neighborhoods the next day. Those 3 are ON the list. We are narrowing it down.
The next stop was Fort Meyers at the Pink Shell Marina and Resort.
Ok I could have stayed here a month!! I LOVED riding my bike on the beach and collecting seashells. I was in heaven! The town was cool with beach bars and the beach went on for miles.
I did leave shells on the beach for others to find! There were hundreds! I only took the perfect ones and I still ended up with a huge basket full. As much as I loved it here it is also crossed off the list of possible homes. The island is a tourist zone of beach house rentals and tall condos. There were some canal homes but they were also too many rentals and not exactly great neighborhoods. That just isn’t going to work! NEXT!!! (I will however revisit this great spot!)
Onto Marco Island. We cruised in the ocean for this leg and the day was beautiful. We passed Naples (not on the list, too expensive) and pulled into Marco Island through a very shallow inlet. We fueled up in preparation for our next crossing to Key West. We rode our bikes around to get a feel for this place. We were not sure what Marco was all about. What we discovered was the billionaires came in and pushed out all the millionaires. So, again, off the list!
The next day we woke up at dawn and headed out to make our last big ocean crossing day. 110 miles and we would be in Key West where we would take a huge break and finally relax, enjoy marina life, become a tourist and find a gym!! Have I mentioned how much weight we have gained living on a boat?? Yes, I am a squishy bag of fun loving blubber. It’s ok, seriously, I love myself and this is one of the many looper issues. If I was disciplined, I would have woken up at dawn and walked before untying the lines. I am not. I love my bed!! It’s all good! I am looking forward to being sore again. I have the Deep Blue and Aleeve ready!
Back to Friendship. Here is a group of people I enjoy. We all gathered for drinks in Key West. We are all feeling relieved and ready to party.
Dan and Jodi of Done Diggin, Greg and Susan of Lucky Me, And Grace and Bruce from Seas Today!
Friendship is one of the many benefits of this trip. The other thing is the sheer accomplishment of taking the boat sooo many miles up the east coast side of the country. Then into the canals and waterways made to help move commercial traffic in the early days before railway systems. The fact that they have kept these systems working for pleasure craft now today is remarkable. Then traveling through the massive fresh water lakes in the center of the country, into Canada and the Canadian canal system. Next the massive rivers that connect the Great Lakes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. There are sections that are carved out, man made stretches to connect some of these rivers. It is an engineering marvel and had us amazed we were taking our boat down these narrow sections that would lead out to a bigger river. It was CRAZY!!!! I frequently would say to Andy , “Are you SURE you know where your going?” He would laugh at my anxiety and it became funny. I started making this as a daily joke. (But always half serious!)
We are in Key West now. We made the 110 mile crossing without any problem. The ocean was kind, the crab pots not so much. They’re everywhere. We kept watch the whole time and pulled in just fine! Now its time to park AQUAMAN and relax, settle into a daily routine and become a tourist in this very cool town. We will celebrate Christmas. My kids are coming, HORRAY!!, and lots of friends will be flying in for a visit.
FRIENDSHIP!!! Those that matter, MATTER!
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you!”
— Dale Carnegie