Saturday, February 27, 2021
I thought that when we were done with America’s Great Loop, that I was done writing this blog. Jane has explained to me that I am not done with the blog, and we’re not done with cruising America’s Great Loop. It has been a couple of years since I last made an entry and very interesting years they were. 2019 was interspersed with cruising and some real estate work. After we finished America’s Great Loop we continued on down the Gulf Coast of Florida and crossed Florida Bay for a short visit in Marathon. We then tooled along the ICW inside the Keys and up through Biscayne Bay and then on to the St. Johns River. There we took a left turn and arrived in Jacksonville on the last day of February for a long term slip at The Marina at Ortega Landing. We learned our way around “our new hometown” since we had our car from home. We made many trips back and forth to Gainesville and learned which stand on US 301 has the best boiled peanuts.
In April we drove the car up to Nashville. Our youngest, Scott was going to propose to Jessica (who we LOVE). We got there in time to organize a celebration with her family and all their friends at the house after they got engaged. Of course she said yes. It was a fantastic trip.
The time in one place gave us an opportunity to address a number of small maintenance items. There were still more to do, but that spring our son, Travis, moved his family from Brooklyn to Portland, Maine. So just before the end of April, we dropped lines at Ortega Landing to head up to Maine to visit. The trip included maintenance and repairs in a number of ports such as a haul out in Virginia for new bottom paint and anodes. (Also known as a Brazilian and bling.)
We had a chance to get with our good friend, George Go in NYC on the way up.
Once above Long Island Sound the ocean waves seemed to be more slow rollers than sharp and steep seas. The cruising was nice with the exception of having to deal with the fog we got caught in off of Boston (and all those damned lobster traps). We arrived in Portland after 54 days. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Travis and Rachel and the twins. We were delighted to have Hazel and Beatrice on board Sabbatical for a night and a day cruise around the beautiful harbor spotting numerous seals. Sadly after only 11 days, I saw a great weather window and off we went again, heading back down to Florida.
The trip home was hindered by breakdowns requiring me to learn how to replace the fuel lift pump in New Rochelle, NY. At least we got to see our friends Kim and Barbara while we were there.
Then in Virginia, my good work on the fuel lift pump was rewarded two weeks later when the new one failed and taxed my diagnostic skills to figure out why two pumps would fail in such a short time. Much cussing of the manufacturer was involved, but I narrowed it down to back pressure caused by a failed check valve in the fuel return line. Since we were so close to Kilmarnock, VA, we took the time to rent a car and visit American Diesel to purchase the needed check valve and other back-up parts to have on board. When we got to Georgia I noticed the engine temps were not right and determined that the heat exchanger had failed (it happens), but at least I had one on board now and changed it in St. Simons Island.
We made it back to Ortega Landing in Jacksonville without further incident and stayed put for a while. We enjoyed staying on the boat in Jacksonville and going back and forth to home in Gainesville to be with Meredith and the boys and visit our friends.
In October the wedding of Scott and Jessica in Nashville was a glorious time. I thought everything was perfect except it rained the afternoon and night of the wedding. The rehearsal dinner was fabulous, the wedding at Wightman Chapel on the Vandy campus was beautiful (granddaughters Hazel and Beatrice were the flower girls), and the reception after was absolutely incredible. The next morning we flew home to attend our 50th High School reunion. What a whirlwind of a weekend!
2020 was, well, shall we say a year that will live in infamy. The death of Jane’s sister, Jill, COVID, racial injustice and unrest, and the election all contributed to ruin what could have an otherwise delightful year. Sabbatical provided us what we thought was the prime spot to isolate and be socially distant. That didn’t work out. We both contracted the COVID 19 virus. I got it in June and somehow Jane did not get it from me even in the close confines of the vessel. She got it in November. My experience was only four days of fever with influenza type aches. She experienced eyeball pain followed by loss of taste and smell and felt lousy for a few days. Jane did come to her senses. (Or they returned to her.) Anyway, we did live to tell about it, unlike my old friend Jere Plumley. It seems like we all know at least someone whose life was cut short by the disease.
During the year we had some work done on the boat and got that pesky transmission leak fixed, thanks to Alan at Lambs Marina. Other work included another bottom job and change out of the exhaust elbow.
Later in the spring during an isolating run upstream in the St. Johns River to Sanford we starting developing some electrical charging issue that I was unable to fully diagnose. We did thoroughly enjoy the eight nights on anchor in the St. Johns. There is still a great deal of this river that appears just as it did 500 years ago.
Other cruises during the year included a rough day trip out into the Atlantic to spread Jill’s ashes, a couple of trips to St. Augustine and a couple of trips up to Fernandina and Cumberland Island. Several times, we would just leave the marina at Ortega and run out into the St. Johns to anchor for a night or two. We had been awarded a slip at the Metropolitan Park Marina for the weekend of the Florida-Georgia game. It just wasn’t the same with all the COVID limitations, but we had a good time anyway with Meredith and some close friends on board to watch the game. Sabbatical even made it into the broadcast with an aerial shot from the blimp during the game.
At the end of the year, the starter on the Ford Lehman engine failed and we ordered a new one. Who would have thought that after32 years a starter would go bad? We decided that we like to be on the move and keep the water moving under the hull. A plan was set to leave The Marina at Ortega Landing and head south to get out of the cold and when the spring comes to start on a second trip around America’s Great Loop.
So, on January 4th, 2021 we slipped away from the marina and spent the next six nights on anchor at different spots until we got down to the Fort Pierce City Marina. We found one spot that we will not return to across the ICW from Marineland Marina south of St. Augustine. The space between the channel and the shallows to anchor in is narrow. We dropped the hook in what we thought would be the right spot in 5 to 7 feet of water with 60 feet of rode out. Once again we found ourselves aground at anchor around 2100 as the tide had dropped with the wind coming out of the east pushing us to the shallows. After midnight we were finally able to move the boat over about 25 feet into deeper water. We’ve made this mistake twice now and vow it won’t happen again. I guess most boaters run aground when they are underway?
We stayed a couple of days in Ft. Pierce and reconnected with Tobi and Lenny Schelin for a glass of wine aboard followed by a wonderful dinner at the Thai restaurant, Wasabi. We had met them at anchor in Brigantine by Atlantic City, NJ, in July of ’19. It was really good to see them again.
After we left Ft. Pierce, we got down to Stuart and headed up the St. Lucie River to cross the state through the Okeechobee Waterway system. We took dockage at St. Lucie South Park, Roland Martins in Clewiston, and the W.P. Franklin Lock Park. We spent two nights on anchor at a spot called Lollypop Lake. Very private place off the Caloosahatchee Canal. We were running into more Loopers, and as Gold Loopers, we knew when we got to Ft. Myers Yacht Basin, we should spend time connecting with the other Loopers there and organizing the docktails. We met a number of boats new to the Loop and were happy to provide some guidance as so many others had done for us in this marina three years ago. We did hate to not connect with three friends who all live in Ft. Myers, but there are only so many hours in a day and a half.
From there, we chugged on down to anchor in Naples, and then tie up for a night at the Rod & Gun Club in Everglades City. While at Everglades City we visited the museum and found the history fascinating including stories about C. G. McKinney who I assume must be some kin.
After leaving the Rod & Gun Club we moved on down for a beautiful night on anchor outside the mouth of the Little Shark River. We were treated to the “green flash” at sunset. It’s an isolated spot with no cell service. There were just a couple of other boats anchored within a mile or so.
The next day proved to be clear and calm for crossing Florida Bay to the Harbour Cay Club in Marathon. It was a trip of 44 miles occasionally escorted by dolphins and we arrived for a month’s stay at 1315. Harbour Cay Club is privately owned by the 24 members who each own their slip. If someone does not have their boat there, then the club can rent the slip out for a one month minimum. We enjoyed the time there and getting to know the various owners. It’s a laid back place and attitude. Our friends Mike and Cindy aboard Winespeed liked it so much over the past three winters that they bought a share and have settled into having a home dock for their boat. We got to enjoy seeing some of our other old Looper friends and meeting lots of MTOA members and AGLCA members at several functions and docktails. During the month I had time to attend to various items of boat maintenance and repairs. We even got down to Key West twice and acted like typical tourists. When our month was up we wanted to go out to the Dry Tortugas, but didn’t like the available weather window, so we started on east behind the barrier of the upper Keys. We hated to leave our friends, but knew it was time to get some more water moving under the hull.
Since we left we’ve spent four nights on anchor. The first two by Lorelei at Islamorada so we could dinghy into there and the World Wide Sportsman. We spent one night at Thursday Cove just north of the bridge over Jewfish Creek, but we got eaten up by mosquitos there, so yesterday we came all of 15 miles to anchor just south of Long Arsenicker Island and Biscayne Bay . With the wind coming out of the east we’ve got no problems with the bugs. The water here is gin clear and we’re hanging out right here through the weekend so we don’t have to deal with so many yahoos swamping us with their wakes when we make our way up through Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.
Stay tuned as we are attempting to circumnavigate the Eastern United States on America’s Great Loop and earn the coveted Platinum Burgee.