So we've taken a year off to sail the East Coast. We've been planning this for about six years, ever since our Lotus sabbatical - a month long cruise of Maine. A few weeks after we got back we checked out some catamarans at a boat show and we knew our future! This year was chosen because its Amelia's Kindergarten year - we figured its hard to mess up home schooling at this level! We also have three Siamese cats on board: Stanley (age 16 years), Arlo (6) and Woody (10 months). Below is a description of our trip - you can view pictures or a condensed, daily log by clicking the buttons on the left.

We spent the first 5 weeks cruising around Maine. It was the first time we had been back since our Lotus sabbaticals, about six years ago. Maine was even more beautiful than we remembered, with crystal clear water and air. We revisited some favorite spots, explored a few new ones, and still only saw about 1 percent of the Maine coast. Weather could be summed up with one word: rain. We started to mildew around the ears by the time we left.

We verified that the best fudge on the planet is still made in Boothbay Harbor, found that taking the bus up to Jordan Pond for the popovers was even more fun than biking up there, and visited our 2 favorite bookstores. Catamarans are rare in Maine, so we got a lot of attention when docked at marinas. Add in the 3 Siamese cats and Amelia pretending to be a dog and you can imagine the spectacle. We found a place where the water was kid-swimmable, Quahog Bay. It took me 2 days to warm back up.

Maine has definitely seen a development boom. There were houses poking up on islands in the middle of nowhere. There were lots more tourists in the towns. I discovered that a few of my hole-in-the-wall favorite diners are no longer undiscovered treasures, and we learned to dread the Yankee Magazine recommended signs. On the plus side, the last time we stayed in Northeast Harbor on MT Desert, the bus to Bar Harbor left on Tuesday and returned on Thursday. Now there are free busses that travel around the island all day. Now that's progress! Interestingly there seemed to be less cruising boats, and most of the anchorages were relatively empty.

We met up with our friends Ed and Carolyn from S/V MoonShadow, and cruised around the cluster of islands called Merchant's Row. This is one of the most beautiful places anywhere. Many of these islands were once inhabited, but are now wild. We climbed up a hill on Russ Island for an unbelievable view of the coast. A few of the islands have small herds of feral sheep roaming around. We could here them bleating from the boat, but we never did see them. The islands were a huge playground for Amelia, and she had a blast. We collected shells, kept a poor green crab and 2 clams in a makeshift aquarium to study them, and found tons of hermit crabs. We kept lookouts for seals, and saw many. Walking around one of the islands with Ed, we saw wild iris, wild beach peas, chanterelle mushrooms (yum!), and numerous different types of seaweed and kelp. The sheer number of critters and plants in and around the water is amazing.

We didn't see any other boats with kids on it in Maine. We did find, however, a terrific family resort in Sebasco. When you rent one of their moorings, you have complete use of their facilities, with salt water swimming pool, playground, etc. Perhaps the best part was that Amelia was able to go to their day camp for a few days. She met another little girl within hours of our landing, and in a heartbeat she and Maddy were fast friends. 

Southern New England
We left Maine and traveled south. We stopped briefly in Boston to go to a family reunion, and unload all the excess things that we packed. This included most of our warm clothing - after all , we were going south! Our next stopover was Martha's Vineyard. This would be our last chance to swim off the boat until we were in the deep south, and we wanted to get enough of beaches and warm water to last until then. Mother Nature had other plans, however. Maine was wet. The Vineyard was a monsoon. We even saw flash flooding. On our last day, we took a quick, chilly dip off the boat. At this point we were all a bit edgy, wondering if someone was trying to tell us something!

Traveling onward, we stopped at Block Island. After all we had heard about Block, we were a bit disappointed. We found it to be very expensive and a bit unfriendly. Zigzagging back to the Connecticut shore, we anchored at Stonington harbor. This is a beautiful, quintessential New England town, complete with a distant train whistle lulling us to sleep! In exotic Long Island we found a marina with a pool, and the most luxurious golf cart I have ever seen. The owners used it to drive from their huge powerboat up the dock to their car. I could understand since it had to have been at least 50 feet from boat to car. Sailing (OK, powering ) through Manhattan was an experience. Usually the current through Hell Gate and the East River is a bit scary, but we went through early Sunday morning at slack tide (no current). It was a bit unreal to be so close to joggers, though. We could, and did, talk to them as we went by! I finally saw the Statue of Liberty - just beautiful. Trying to explain the statue's history to Amelia, we convinced her that it was her statue. No amount of unexplaining would shake this new belief.

New Jersey
New Jersey is a long state with few harbors that a sailboat can stop at. The traditional beginning stopping point is Atlantic Highlands. Here you wait for good weather, and then try and get past NJ as fast as possible. Our weather luck was still holding, and it took us 13 days to get past NJ instead of the usual 2-3. We were stuck in Atlantic Highlands, then stuck in Atlantic City. We stopped at Manasquam and got a break - nice since the beach was 2 blocks away. The surf was a bit kicked up from all the storms, and Amelia had a wonderful time as we got tossed and tumbled in the waves. We got to play in the beach at our next stop, Cape May. This is a Victorian seaside town, with wonderful gingerbread style houses. We took a horse and carriage ride around the city, and swam in the marina's pool.

From Cape May we sailed up the Delaware bay, and into the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Finally we were in the Chesapeake! Our first stop was an anchorage in the canal, with around 30 boats anchored like sardines. A happy, party atmosphere. In the middle of it all, there were Great Blue Herons calmly stalking dinner. We walked around the historical section of the town, small cottages that housed the workers for the canal.

The Chesapeake Bay was wonderful. We alternated between the urban Western shore and the rural Eastern shore. There are so many rivers and creeks in the Chesapeake, we again saw about 1 percent. We anchored up rivers where the water is fresh water, and even managed to swim off the boat. The scenery is lush, with many swans and ducks. The weather was terrific - warm and dry. We ( OK just Claudia! ) tried all the "best of the Chesapeake" crab cakes, picked mounds of steamed crabs, and discovered fried oysters.

 We visited big marine museums at St. Michael's and Solomon's Island, and went to all the small historical museums at little towns like Oxford and Crisfield. Amelia learned all about the life cycle of crabs and oysters, and how to catch eels. She can identify pictures of flounders and sharks, and show you barnacles and sea anemones on the dock piers. Most of the historical houses have children's rooms, with antique toys and dolls. Finding the chamber pot is also a wonderful activity that we have! You can see how far we have sunk! On the Western shore, we spent several days in Baltimore. They have a wonderful waterfront, and we went to the Aquarium (built by the same man who did Boston's), the best children's museum, and went on a WWII submarine. Amelia has decided that she wants to be a submarine captain when she grows up, and is always a bit disappointed when the subs that we go on don't move. We're hoping to find one of the little tourist subs that actually do submerge when in Florida.

If you have ever seen the bumper stickers that say "Eat Bertha's Mussels" around Boston, Bertha's is a pub in Fell's Point (an old section of Baltimore). Having always wondered about the bumper sticker, I had to eat there. They serve, of course, mussels. I remarked to the waitress that although mussels are abundant in my home waters, I had not seen any in the Chesapeake. "There aren't any, we get our mussels from New England". Go figure!

We spent 2 weeks in Annapolis, staying for the Sailboat show. This is a giant party, with hundreds of "cruisers" anchoring out in one harbor. This was our first real introduction to the floating community that migrates up and down the waterway. The harbor was busy with dinghies buzzing from boat to boat, and we met so many other boats and cruisers. We attended the annual meeting of the PDQ owner's association, and chatted with other PDQ owners and the PDQ factory people down for the show. One of the big attractions for us with PDQ catamarans was how active the owner's association is, and the closeness between the factory and the association. Many of the other owners are doing the waterway, and we have met up with them on the way. It's fun to see where everyone has been sailing, and what innovations and fun things that they have done to their boat! 

Annapolis reminded us of Boston, and is a beautiful, old historical city. We were able to recharge our batteries. Amelia attended a daycare/school that we had found when we were there 2 years ago. It was fun for her to be immersed with kids again. Jeff and I were able to do some touristing on our own. We visited the Naval Academy and went to the Boat show unencumbered. It was fun for us, too. Our cousins live nearby, and it was so nice to have family around. My cousin Julie visited and we walked around the city and toured the beautiful house and gardens of one of the Constitution signers, William Paca. Cousins Diana and Rick came with their kids Justin and Alexa and took Amelia and I back for Yom Kippur. Jeff had to stay on the boat to mind the cats and the fridge battery. Poor Jeff froze with cold weather while Amelia played with her cousins and I relaxed and chatted and took lots of long hot showers!

The cold weather motivated us to head south again. We traveled until stopping in Yorktown Virginia. This is a fun area! We had arrived on the anniversary of the American victory over the British which, as I didn't remember, was the battle that ended the Revolutionary war.  In addition to the museums, there were re-enactors that were reliving the war. We really felt that we had transported back in time. They were camping out at the park, marching, playing games and the works. Amelia's favorite part was the cannon and musket firing, and the kids dress-up area. We watched a park video showing the history of the battle. It was a little more intense than I had expected, and I had to do a simultaneous translation into 5 year old ( the red guys are mad at the blue guys but they aren't using their words..). As you can imagine, her view of history is very interesting! . We were pleased and surprised at how much Amelia seemed to enjoy Yorktown, and so we decided to rent a car and visit Williamsburg. We had lunch in one of the taverns, which included gentle harassment from the proprietor. Amelia was renamed "Missypoops", and this gentleman was the hit of the day. My Aunt Roz also visited us in Yorktown, spoiling us with fresh bagels!

We Start the ICW
We followed Aunt Roz south to her home in Norfolk, where Amelia and I flew to Connecticut to visit my parents. Jeff stayed in Norfolk, and was soon joined by our friends Ed and Carolyn on Moonshadow. Amelia and I did get some time in Norfolk, and we were there in time for the annual Children's Festival and a trip to the Portsmouth Children's museum. Norfolk is also mile Zero of the Intracoastal Waterway. With our cousin Jack joining us for the first day, Moonshadow and Loki headed down the ICW and the Dismal Swamp Canal. 

The Dismal is a canal cut thru the Great Dismal Swamp. It is a filled with Cyprus trees and thick foliage. With the trees changing colors because of the season (altho more muted than New England) it was just beautiful. It was originally dug by hand by slaves, and its hard to imagine just how tough that would have been. The swamp also hid colonies of escaped slaves, probably not much of an easier life. We spent a very cold night tied to the dock at the Visitor Center in the middle of the canal, one of 16 boats. Since there is only room at the dock for 4 boats, we were all rafted one boat tied to another. This lead to a rather festive atmosphere. It's been fun to be a part of this, meeting new people and boats and excited to see "old friends" from other anchorages/marinas.

The Canal feeds into the Pasquatank River, which leads to Elizabeth City North Carolina. This is a city famous in the cruiser community. First the city provides free dockage, right at the downtown shopping district. Then a group called the Rose Buddies holds a wine and cheese party every night. They are called the Rose Buddies because they give roses to all the women. Aside from that, its a very friendly town all around!

In Elizabeth City we met another boat, (Moonraker) with children, including a girl, Meghan, that is Amelia's age. One of my fears before leaving on our trip was meeting other kids. At home Amelia was a bit shy, and it took some time for her to make friends. I had nothing to worry about. Amelia is a boat kid now, and it took all of 10 seconds for the two girls to be great friends! Meghan has 2 older brothers, Scott and Tyler - could Amelia be any happier? Her parents, Allison and Mike, are fun and very nice and we've all become friends. We've met up with Moonraker several times now, and are at a marina with them in Hilton Head as I am writing this.

The next big stop was Beaufort NC, pronounced Boe-ford. A fun city, and Kid-heaven! There were 2 other boats with little girls, Moonraker and a new boat, Cool Breezes. We all dingied to an island across from the marina, where the kids (and adults) played on the beach, collected shells and watched for the wild beach ponies. We were able to do a little shopping in Beaufort, buying warm clothing! I had this fantasy that we we be in 80 degree weather from Boston south, so all the warm clothing was left in Boston. It has been freezing in the south!!! We have had beautiful, seasonal weather, but some very cold days and nights too!

From Beaufort onward, we have seen an amazing variety of wildlife. Great Blue and Tricolor Herons and Egrets are abundant. We have seen many Clipper rails, Dunlins, Grackels, Comorants, and Pelicans. We've even seen Ospreys catching fish. There are so many birds that I haven't identified . Perhaps our most favorite, we have seen dolphins at least once every day. Once I saw 2 jump out of the water much like they do at the dolphin shows! And they have surfaced so close to the boat that you feel like you can reach out and pet them. I have found the Carolinas to be the most spectacular area of the trip.

We had Thanksgiving with Moonraker in Myrtle Beach SC. Imagine trying to prepare a holiday meal in 2 ovens that will each fit a 9x9 pan, have 2 small burners and no thermostat control. Add in 4 kids, 4 adults, 3 cats and a very small table. Douse with lots of wine. We had a wonderful thanksgiving! The marina had a courtesy car, which we used to go food and other shopping. Our first purchase? Another electric heater! The first night was so cold the the water pipes froze at the marina. Since our only form of heat is small electric ceramic heaters, we are at marinas until we reach warmer weather...

We spent 3 weeks in Charleston SC waiting out some engine repairs. This is my absolute favorite city. It is full of architecture and history. Most of it survived the "War of Northern Aggression", and the city has been strongly committed to preservation since the early 1900's. Even new buildings are built in the Charleston style, so that its hard to tell if a building is from the 1800's or 1969. We went on a horse and carriage tour, one of our favorite ways to see a city, and went to the Charleston Museum (first museum in the country). There is a wonderful aquarium here, and we toured around the surrounding islands, Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. With the exception of the drivers, which rival Boston's, this is also the most friendly, courteous city.  I would recommend anyone to come and see Charleston.

Since we knew that we would be here for a while, we rented a car to see some of the surrounding places we had planned to stop while sailing. Middleton Plantation is 14 miles out of the city, on the Ashley River. It was a small rice plantation, with the first formal gardens in the country. There was a recreation of part of the original house, which was destroyed in the Civil War, but the jewel here is the garden. Huge Live oak trees, including one who's branches spanned 135 feet (we have picture of that in the trip gallery). Cedar trees, lush terraced lawns that ended in 2 butterfly pools. From the top of the garden, the view drops down to those pools, and then across to the Ashley River. It is spectacular. We were there, obviously, in the winter, so there were only a handful of things in bloom. I can't imagine how magnificent it must be when everything is in bloom. We will go back! I neglected to say that the trees here are all draped in Spanish Moss, which gives them that gray, dreamy look (until you realize that there are bugs in the moss! ).

We visited Beaufort SC, and Savannah Georgia by car. Beaufort, pronounced Bee-you-ford, was the location of the movie "The Big Chill" , and we did drive by the house from the movie. Having ranted so much about Middleton, I can only say the Beaufort is as pretty, with those moss covered live oak trees everywhere. We drove to St Helena Island, and visited the Penn Center, which was a school founded by and for the freed slaves from the sea islands. It was interesting to see that there was a small connection between the school and Boston. We stopped at Miss Natalie's workshop, a Gullah craft gallery and a craft workshop for kids. The Gulluh culture and language are a Creole mixture created by combining the West African culture and language of the Slaves with the European culture and English. We didn't realize that Miss Natalie was THE Miss Natalie from Gullah, Gullah Island, creator, producer and star of the Nickelodeon TV program. She was incredibly warm and nice. She and Amelia made a lovely little painted pot.  We had lunch at a small eatery, very plain. The food was fantastic. I had a West African coconut curry fish stew that was one of the best fish dishes that I have ever had. We got to talking to the woman who owns the place. She has written a play that she will be taking to off Broadway by the time we get home. It is about a leading black tenor in the early 1900's , who lived in Brookline MA. I have the details stored away. When we left to go back to Charleston, we marveled at what a magical place the coast of South Carolina is.

Which brings us back to Hilton Head Island, SC. as I write - in a luxury marina that has a phone line (and hence an Internet connection) at every slip! We are leaving this morning, bound for Thunderbolt, Georgia, on the other side of Savannah. We will be traveling everyday until we reach Florida and warmer weather!

December 18, 2000: Are we having fun? Yes! It took about 4 months to learn how to live on the boat together without tears, tantrums and homicidal thoughts. We spent alot of time traveling from one place to another, taking turns at the helm. We do lots of crafts, and celebrate when we're tied to a marina with cable tv. We've met so many new people, and seen so many new places It's a different lifestyle for sure, but the things that take up most of our time were ones that we didn't anticipate. Laundry can be an all day, all family event. Food shopping the same. One of our motivations for doing the trip was to do something different, to have an adventure. It didn't feel like an adventure to me until several months into the trip. We had just returned from doing laundry, a process that had the whole family loading the dingy up with an amazing amount of dirty clothes ( how did we fit all that on the boat?), rowing to a landing, hanging on a slippery pier handing up Amelia and the laundry without dropping any, hiking about 3/4 mile until we found the Laundromat, discovered it was next to an Irish pub with Guinness on tap, then reversing the process to come home. Somehow even laundry has become an adventure.

Christmas in Florida
Finally in Warm Florida! After leaving Hilton Head, we traveled south everyday until Christmas. Georgia was practically deserted, without the usual land civilization lining the banks of the ICW. Our goal was Florida by Christmas, and we tied up at Fernandina Beach at 3pm Christmas Eve. After one hour of touring the cute little shops in the Historical District ( 50 feet from our dock), we actually found a pub that was open for dinner.  Of course, everyone had called in sick, so it took and hour to get a bad meal! We still hadn't gotten away from the cold: we had several hard freezes between Christmas and New Years.

We headed South again - quick stops in St. Augustine and Daytona. Then we stayed for a week in Titusville. We rented a car so we could drive to the Kennedy Space Center and Disney! Amelia got a new bicycle and met some new friends.

On the move again we went through Melbourne, Jupiter, West Palm and found a place to leave the boat in Hypoluxo so we could visit Jeff's parents in Boca Raton for a few days. Then on to Ft Lauderdale, Miami ... we'll be in the Keys in a few days!

Miami and the Florida Keys

The change from South to Tropical is so abrupt its startling. One minute we were traveling down the ICW with dark greenish waters, the next we are traveling thru water that is a brilliant turquoise. The thermometer shoots up to 80 degrees, and the breeze turns warm. We stopped in Ft. Lauderdale for a day or two, and get lulled into staying a few more days by the wonderfully heated pool! On the way down, we catch a glimpse of several manatees in the canal. We had been teased since entering Florida with sightings we just missed - they were here yesterday! I still have hopes to see more of them on our return. Leaving Ft. Lauderdale, we exit the ICW and jump outside to Miami. Its a bit bouncy, and we realized just how much we've lost our sea legs traveling in the calm ICW. We stayed at the Miami municipal marina, located at downtown Miami at Bayside, similar to Fanueil Hall. We sampled Cuban food, went to the Miami Zoo, and enjoyed all the super yachts that were our neighbors! We spent a day at Miami Beach, walking down South Beach and looking for Madonna and Sylvester Stallone. I discovered cafe cubano (expresso brewed with sugar, and with added sugar) and and cafe con leche ( add steamed milk). Yum!  The cafe has (literally) more sugar than coffee grounds, and one small demi-tasse cup kept me flying for an hour.

After all that Miami energy/caffeine , our next stop was Boca Chita Key. This is part of the Biscaine Bay National Park. There is a dock to tie up to, but no other facilities on the island. We had fun exploring the island, finding shells (you cannot remove anything from the park, however), and watching beautiful sunsets over the palm trees, lighthouse and water. One night all of the boats there had a potluck cocktail party aboard a big powerboat. We really enjoy these, and are always amazed at the diversity of people that we meet. We all have the boats in common, with lots of good boat stories to tell, but we have met the most interesting people in the middle of nowhere!

From Boca Chita we went to the John Pennecamp State Park on Key Largo. An interesting Visitor's Center with a nice aquarium. It's funny how quick we wanted civilization again! We spent the next four days tied up in a canal in Key Largo. After joking about looking for Humphrey Bogart, we were surprised to see the actual African Queen tied up at the head of the canal. The canals were created in Key Largo before environmental controls went in, and they are like roads cut into the coral. Space is at a premium, and the boat traffic is high. We had fun watching all the dive boats go by. Key Largo is the Dive Center of the Keys, and the coral reef is just offshore. We went on a Glassbottom boat ride, and saw tons of fish and sea turtles! The next step was a snorkeling trip. We decided to do a snorkle trip on a dive boat to get some experience with someone else driving. Jeff and Amelia had never snorkeled outside of a pool, and my last time was about 15 years ago. The seas were too rough for Amelia (4-6ft), but Jeff and I had a blast. Who knew my non-swimming husband was a natural in flippers? We saw stingrays and many other tropical fish while Amelia hung out with the Captain on top of the sailboat. 

Given our rough life so far, we decided we needed a vacation. We have been here at Hawk's Cay at Duck Key for almost 2 weeks. It is a wonderful resort, with 6 pools, fitness center and a kid's club. . We arrived with a splash - literally. As we were tying lines to secure Loki to the dock, Arlo (our 7 year old cat) decided that he needed some shore leave. In front of us and 3 dock hands, he miscalculated the 2 foot jump from boat to dock. After 7 months at sea, Arlo went for a swim. His legs were moving so fast that his head never got wet! Jeff fished a very embarrassed cat out from under the dock. He submitted to a gentle hose down to get the salt off his fur, and hid until he finished drying. The upside? He had not attempted another shore leave since! Since there are many feral cats all over the Keys, we are grateful for this.

Buoyed by our snorkeling success, we decided to do some Scuba. The dive shop here has a morning scuba course that allows you to dive with an instructor for up to a year. Jeff signed up for that, and I took a refresher course to update my 15 year old certification. There were just the 2 of us with the instructor, a great way to learn. We did 2 dives that afternoon, at Elbow Reef and The Donut. Again the reef is teeming with fish, and I saw a spotted eel as well. Jeff did fantastic, and we are looking forward to another dive in Key West. And Amelia? She shared Oreos with the Captain, drew his portrait, and decided against swimming off the boat because it was too cold! 

Amelia is having a ball here. Hawks Cay has a kid club - camp - from 9:30 to 1pm every day. They play, swim and do crafts. One of the pools is a wading pool with a pirate ship structure in the middle of it. There are 2 water slides off the ship, several water canons to aim at friends, and of course the whole thing is completely wet. I thought we would be here for the entire time, but Amelia has discovered that she can swim. She has been in the water nonstop her whole life, but up to now, she swam with the aid of a bubble. She was never afraid, and never had a problem with putting her face under the water, but she felt that she needed that bubble. We have seen her confidence and her swimming ability grow each day. Today she was diving down to the bottom of the 5 ft deep section to get toys at the bottom of the pool. She had made lots of friends. One other success to report - her reading lessons are coming along. 

Its funny, we've had (obviously) a great time here, but we are already itching to get moving. We will have a few days of small, quite places, then a week in Key West, then some time at anchor in the Dry Tortugas. After that it will be time to start heading up North, along the west coast of Florida. Hopefully we will be able to update again in Key West. Until Then!

Key West

We really liked Key West. Jeff was ready to move right in! The waterfront is hopping with boats and shops and bars, and we could walk to most everything in the old city. We visited the Truman White House, and took our customary tourist trolley ride around the city. We did miles of walking around the city visiting the sites. The city revels in it's eccentricity, and we became real fans. Some favorites: the feral chickens that roam everywhere, the feral cats that also roam everywhere, the huge tarpons that swam around the marina waiting to be fed, the most lush and colorful flowers and shrubs we've seen, funky victorian architecture and, of course, the wonderful sunset celebration that happens every evening. We took a side trip to the Dry Tortugas, a national park about 70 miles to the west of Key West. Walking around the old fort was interesting, and we all snorkeled off the beach. It was Amelia's first time snorkeling in the ocean, and she swears that a fish kissed her leg.  We will return to Key West!

Everglades and SouthWestern Florida

After 3 weeks, we reluctantly tore ourselves from Key West, and headed back North East to the mainland and Flamingo City. This "city" is part of the Everglades National Park, and is rustic at best. The main attraction here is the Everglades and its inhabitants, and they are amazing. The National Park system has done a very nice job here, and there were many Ranger led activities that were available. We were the only family to attend the Kids activity, so Amelia learned quite a bit. We contrasted the bone of a bird ( light like a feather) with the bone of a manatee ( like a lead weight). We went on a boat ride thru the mangrove swamp, and saw alligators, crocodiles, birds and the elusive fisherman. I walked up to the freshwater pond in the evening, where 2 naturalists pointed out birds. It would not be an exaggeration to say that there were 300 birds drinking and bathing at this pond. I have never seen such an assortment of birds. We were lucky enough to be there at a time when there were no bugs - the Rangers kept remarking on how untypical it was. We just were thankful!

Arlo picked this marina for his second swim. The water around the marina was a murky green, and we had been told that crocodiles were around. He picks the best locations! It was early in the morning, and we were down below when we heard a splash and yells from our neighbor. Arlo climbed back out himself, and proceeded to run back into the boat, spraying water and blood from a split nail everywhere. We dragged him back out and hosed him down to wash off the salt. This time even his head got wet, although our neighbor commented that he had never seen a cat walk on water before. Our handsome boy stayed in the forward cabin until his fur was completely dry and respectable. Needless to say, his desire to explore has been squelched once again! 

From the Everglades we made our way up the Western coast of Florida. Marco Island was wonderful, with a park with the ideal kids beach. We baked and swam and generally relaxed. Claudia's parents met us at our next stop, Naples. They have longtime friends that have moved to this area, and it was nice to visit and catch up. Amelia got Grandma and Poppie time, and Jeff and I had the luxury of seeing 2 movies! We rented a car, and drove all around the area. This is a nice part of Florida, with beaches, families, great cruising grounds, etc. Do we really want another Boston winter?

We kept heading north, and have spent the last week in Captiva Island, just north of Sanibel Island. The ecology is beautiful, very lush. The best part? The 14 manatees that play, feed and swim right around the marina. Finally! 

Today we are heading to Cabbage Key, an island about 5 miles from here. We are still hoping to cross Florida via the Okeechobee waterway, but the water level is iffy. They have had a 2 year drought down here, and the water level is down 4 or 5 feet. If we cannot do the canal, we will turn around and retrace our steps down and around the Everglades and back up on the East Coast. Although both choices are fun, we're hoping for the canal. It's time to start heading back! .

April 20, 2001: Cabbage Key is a small, private key with an Inn and restaurant, several rental cottages and a handful of private residences. We came in search of the cheeseburgers, which we had heard of from as far off as the keys. They were good! We walked the nature walk around the island, and Amelia perfected her skills at lizard spotting. We love seeing the green and brown Anoles everywhere!  After one night here, we traveled across the channel to Useppe Island, yet another private key. This island is owned by a club, which maintains a wonderful small museum detailing the history of the island. There are no cars allowed, only golf carts and bikes. There are number of houses on the island, and the pink stone walk that connects them is an incredible botanical walk: I have never seen so many orchids, never mind that they are all hanging outdoors from the trees and porches! The flowers were wonderful!

About this time we talked with a number of the locks and marinas on the Ocheechobee canal. After hearing conflicting information about the water depth, Jeff finally spoke with a guide at one of the marinas. He confirmed stories that we had heard about boats getting damaged due to the historically low water in the canal. Since this would be our first time on the canal, we did not possess any local knowledge to help navigate the problem areas. We decided to pass and return to the East Coast the long way: back around the tip of Florida.  We stopped in Marco Island for a night and enjoyed the hospitality of Lee and Dottie Henderson. One reason we were so drawn to the PDQs was the friendliness of the Owner's Association. Here is a good example why: We had met Lee once, several years ago at one of the owners meetings, but had never met Dottie. We called on the Thursday before Easter, were invited to tie up in front of their house the next day, taken to the Publix supermarket, Dottie cooked a terrific spaghetti supper, and we watched a video of what we missed in the Bahamas (we'll be there next time! ). It was not the first time that a PDQ friend has opened their home to us on this trip, and we are very appreciative!

We made good time back around, spending 3 nights in the Everglades. This time we took the inside or Bay route up the keys towards Miami. We anchored by Lignumvitae Key, a Florida State Park. The water was a wonderful 87 degrees! For several hours, 2 adult dolphins and one baby dolphin swam around our boat. Heaven!

With strong winds predicted, we did a long day and left the keys for Coconut Grove, aka South Miami. We waited the winds out here for a day, then up to Fort Lauderdale and Lighthouse Point. Jeff's Dad is turning 80 this month, and the family is all gathering to celebrate. We'll be here a week before continuing back up the coast. 

The Return

A brief note on the return- Once we decided to go back we were made good time. The wind, weather, and current seemed to favor us all the way back.  Basically, we retraced our path - a few highlights:

We returned to Flamingo - its was still fun, but bug season had started and we discovered what the industrial strength screen doors were for.

We stayed in a few places we had skipped on the way down, like Stuart and Vero Beach. Of course, one more visit to Disney was required.

South of Charleston we had our one major mishap of the trip. We anchored for the night in Steamboat Creek and awoke a midnight to find the boat tipping about 10 degrees - the current had reversed and we were aground on one hull. Some quick calculations convinced us we weren't going to tip over, so we just waiting until the came back in and we could get off at about 3AM. Amelia of course slept through the whole episode.

We traveled most days from there, but spent several days in Charleston, a week in Norfolk, a few days in Annapolis, four in Baltimore. We hit the wind and current just right on Delaware Bay, then flew up the New Jersey coast - four nights between Baltimore and Long Island.

The last major stop was the Vineyard - we scored a good mooring in Edgartown a few days before July 4th! On a trip to get water, we find a propeller blade has fallen off! A diver found it, and after we get some parts FedEx'ed he reassembles. Rybovich Spencer (the big marina that put it on) offers to pay the bill!!!

A few days later we were in Boston - sleeping in our own beds for the first time in 53 weeks. We hauled to boat early that year!


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