Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Space Geek Disneyland or We Had Lunch Under a LM

WARNING: LONG POST, LOTS OF PICS.


When I was a wee lad I was an unabashed space geek. I was that perfect age, being born in 1955, that when the space race with those good-for-nothing, blood drinking, ‘Merica hating Commies heated up I grabbed a seat in the front row for all of the fireworks, as long as those fireworks didn't include a full ballistic missile exchange. I remember being excused from the regular boring first grade curriculum along with a buddy of mine named Skip Grossman, so we could sit at our own special little table in the school hallway with a globe and a transistor radio listening to a Mercury mission and following along where it was on the globe. We spun that baby around a bunch of times and enjoyed it thoroughly. And my enthusiasm never waned during Gemini or Apollo. In fact my geekdom only accelerated. I was glued to the TV (We had a color set.) for every mission that was broadcast. Even today one of my favorite DVD sets is of the wonderful 1999 HBO series “From the Earth to the Moon” produced by Tom Hanks. We have watched it about one-hundred times.

Titusville, Florida is smack dab in the middle of the Space Coast, a section of central coastal Florida that lived and breathed the space program. As we sit here we are directly across from the Kennedy Space Center. And as we were going to be stuck here for a few days Lisa almost immediately went online to get us some tickets to the space center’s visitor center. What an awesome idea.

We boarded the marina’s shuttle bus at 9:00 am to ferry us over to the space center. The official visitor center is a large modern complex with plenty of flashing lights, wistful skyward fountains and sculptures; a bunch of rockets on display and lots of loud speakers playing recordings of mission control and orbiter communications and the explosive sounds of rocket launches. And to punch up the affect the speaker systems had some badass subwoofers maximizing the low rumbles so that we vibrated, even before we actually entered the gates. Oh goody!

The front gate. Quite beautiful...and LOUD!
Upon entering the complex the first thing we encountered was a fountain memorial to John Kennedy with an inscription of his famous speech galvanizing the nation to not only get into the space race but to win at all costs over the aforementioned red menace. (In retrospect the Russians never had a chance. Example: Their most popular cars were three cylinder Zils or Trabants. We had top fuel dragsters that ran on something akin to nitro glycerin. We rode Harley-Davidson motorcycles, they rode yak. Think about it.)

Our attention was first drawn over to the rocket garden which displayed an assortment of some of NASA’s earlier rockets: Aegean, Mercury-Redstone, Mercury-Atlas (an intercontinental missile with a tiny space capsule on top), Gemini-Atlas II, a Saturn 1B, and a few others). After the rocket garden we visited some of the other exhibits, all first class, informative and entertaining. Then we went to the bus station and boarded one of the Kennedy Space Complex buses to be ferried to the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Saturn V rocket exhibition.
I think you buy seeds to grow these things at Home Depot.

Saturn 1B
Lisa in front of the actual gantry access for Apollo 11.
An actual white room relic and an Apollo capsule
Great. First she wanted a jet fighter in Pensacola. Now she wants a moon buggy.
Space suit. Factoid: Most of the astronauts were only about 5' 6-9".

 Bird -"Can I have a chip please."
Me - "NO!"
Bird - "Jerk!"
It was very obvious to us that one of the core messages that NASA was trying to convey is along the lines of “You may think we’re dead, but we’re not. We are just in kind of a pause mode while we crank things up for our next phase, the SLS program.” SLS is the next generation of BBBIIIGGG heavy lift rockets that will carry astronaut crews, hardware and the state of Kentucky into Earth orbit. NASA is in a state of transition, not dormancy, and they want everyone to know it. We’re down with that. They were also pushing the benefits of their cooperation with corporate space providers such as SpaceX, Boeing and others as a beneficial and viable step in our nation’s exploration (and exploitation) of near-earth space. As NASA has already announced they are not going back to the Moon (Been there, done that, got the tee shirt), and other than a Mars mission sometime down the road, it appears low and high Earth orbits are NASA’s stomping grounds.

The bus first took us for a cruise around the massive Vehicle Assembly Building which I have noted in previous blog posts as being so massive it can literally be seen for days on the ICW. And it is even more massive close up. And there were other iconic things to see in that area. One of the more interesting spots was a smallish lagoon near the flight center where all of the media booth structures are. This was where media icons like Walter Cronkite and Jules Bergman would sit and peer out over the three plus miles to the launch pads where America would pop its biggest guns. I can remember them clearly when the big Saturn V rocket would thunder to life. It was something like, “HOOOOLEEEEE CRAAAAAP!” said very shakily.
VAB "Very Awesome Building"
The bus then swung us around and over to the Saturn V building. Now, if you are a space geek too you’ll appreciate this. Inside this modern museum is an actual unused Saturn V rocket laid on end surrounded by a slew of other exhibits such as an actual, again unused, Apollo spacecraft, moon buggy and, as mentioned, a left over Lunar Module, which was conveniently located directly over our heads at the table we had chosen to have our lunch. (See title) There was also a great exhibit of artifacts such as actual space suits, lunar rocks, awards and other valuable tchotchkes. There was also the actual Apollo 14 space capsule. All in all a fascinating collection of space stuff that absolutely rocked. We also spent a few minutes outside the building on its east side where there are grandstands facing out over another lagoon with the VAB to the right and Launch Pad 39a straight ahead. 39a was the principal launch site for the Shuttle Program.  (BTW, my parents brought our sons, Bryan and Kevin, to Florida for a space launch and my dad was somehow able to worm their ways onto the actual space center grounds. Phil Grob struck again. Very cool…except I wasn’t with them.)
Simulation of a launch from Launch Control. Start the subwoofers!

The business end of a Saturn V rocket. Still the most powerful rocket ever built.

The Saturn V exhibition
Front page of the St. Louis Globe Democrat (now defunct). I have a copy of this paper at home stuffed safely away.

An actual LM that ended up not being used. We ate lunch directly underneath it.

An actual leftover Command/Service Module

VAB

Launch pad 39a



The exhibit from the other end

The Apollo 14 capsule

A moon rock

a used space suit
Back on the bus we returned to the visitor center and immediately went to a new exhibit called The Shuttle Launch Experience. They say it is not so much a ride but a simulator. Fourty-four people are put into a mockup of the Shuttle and experience what it is like to be on board for a launch. I think they perform a bit of slight-of-hand misdirection to preset your mind as to what to expect about degree of incline and decline (They didn’t really tilt us on our backs and fronts a full 90 degrees, did they? I think not.) but they sure as hell shake the daylights out of you. It lasted only a few minutes but it was fun. It turns out the vibration is caused by a subwoofer in the seat of the chairs called…and I’m not making this up…a “buttkicker”. It was like one of those low-rider cars with a massive sound system except you’re sitting on the speakers. NASA says it’s not a ride. It is.

The Shuttle Launch Experience is attached to a brand spanking new exhibit all about the Shuttle program which will feature the shuttle Atlantis. It is due to open in June of this year. Point of information - So far the entire exhibit centered on America’s moon program, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, a bit about the future (SLS and corporate partners) but not so much about the Shuttle program. This new addition is all about that. Deservedly so. Remember, there were 135 shuttle missions. That is amazing.
 
Here's a lousy part time job...pose as an astronaut while tourists take your picture.
We also met people from several different countries including New Zealand, Germany, Russia, eastern Europe, France, Italy, the middle east, India, Pakistan, Holland and some place called America.



So if you’re in Titusville, Cocoa Beach or Melbourne and have a day to kill and $50 per person to spend a trip to the Kennedy Space Complex is certainly worth the time and expense. The facilities are first rate and they seem to have a very good mix of the past and the future as well as science and whimsy. It was a great day.

Oh, and we got a call from our technician. It looks like the starter is going to be a few days at least. Hmmmm.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

So…I Guess We Wanted to Stay in Titusville After All

We left Vero Beach on a beautiful day for a longish day’s cruise to Titusville, Florida’s city marina. We were out on the water for eight and a half hours where we were under sunny skies, clouds, light rain, then clouds and finally back to sunshine. Our plan was to stay in the mooring field there on Saturday night and then on Sunday make an eighty statute mile trip up the Marineland Marina, a fairly new facility that caught my attention. The weather was supposed to make a turn for the worse for several days starting on Monday so it was important that we made some wake on Sunday.

(Cruiser’s note: When we were at Titusville Marina last year the mooring field was vast with dozens and dozens of mooring balls. This year the field looked smaller. We asked the manager about this and he said that they did remove about half of the mooring balls because they were not getting used. ????)

In the mooring field in Titusville
Why Knot was built here in Titusville in this facility.
Sunrise in Titusville

 Arriving and getting secured in the mooring field went smoothly and we were hunkered down for the night. In the morning, as is the habit of boaters, the first thing to do is the check the weather. (By the way, our errant generator worked wonderfully.) The forecast had changed slightly so that the rougher conditions had shifted to Tuesday. Also we had decided that eighty miles was too long for the weather window so we modified it to take a short twenty-five mile trip to New Smyrna Beach on Sunday and then forty miles to Marineland on Monday. The only thing that was a must was that we needed to cruise to the Titusville Marina docks to pay our bill and to give Lisa a chance to buy a very spiffy top in the gift shop that caught her eye last year. She says that it was the only marina tee-shirt she saw on the entire loop that she wanted. Yes, Ma’am! Gladly, Ma’am!

The engine fired up effortlessly (remember this fact), we pulled up our lines from the mooring ball and we puttered onto the fuel dock of the marina. Lisa and I went into the office, paid our bill, bought the shirt and headed out to the boat. Lisa pulled the lines and I went to the fly bridge and, low and behold, the engine which started effortlessly no more than thirty minutes earlier would not do a thing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The big goose egg. Get the picture? I tried all of the “starter-not-doing-its-one-and-only-job” tricks: I tapped on the starter motor with a hammer, I jiggled both of the gear shift levers to see if the starter safety interlocks were stuck, I cursed (That did’t work. Damn it.), and looked at Lisa hoping she could cast some magical spell on it. Alas, it would not start at all. I walked down to the marina office and got a business card of a local marine technician. Forgetting entirely that it was Sunday I called him and told him the story. I think I woke him up. He very nicely said that he would be glad to come on over. He did. He even brought his assistant with him.

Unfortunately the news wasn’t good. After he ran all of the tests he determined that the starter was kaput. It was rebuilt once already by the previous owner during our purchase. To quickly retell the story, we were all on board to go on the sea trial and the boat would not start. Amazingly the owner was able to call a mechanic buddy who was able to get the starter out in a short time and then, even more amazingly, get it rebuilt overnight so that we were able to go out on the sea trial the next day. So I guess the bottom line is that we exhausted the grace that was bestowed on us for having a rebuilt starter. So there we were tied up to the fuel dock. Fortunately the first slip on that thoroughfare was empty so with the help of a couple of the marina staff we smartly walked the boat out and around the end of the fuel dock and into the slip. (Our extra-long lines are always handy.)
 
Manatees...

...more manatees...

...and Lisa, um, looking at the manatees. (To Lisa this is just as good as Marineland. Fine with me!)


So anyway, back to Titusville…Last year we had an inkling that we would want to stop in Titusville someday. We don’t know much about the town itself but it is right across the Indian River from the Kennedy Space Center. That would be cool to see. And I think that Lisa was a bit disappointed not staying here and I felt bad about that. So as the fates would have it we are now safely tied up in the Titusville Marina with absolutely no way of leaving, and we’ll make the best of it. Lisa is already making our plans to go to space center. This marina is also interesting in that it is a bit of a haven for manatees. It seems the marina is filthy with them. That’s cool, too. So except for the delay we are guessing that things are as they should be.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Welcome Back My Friends, To the Show That Never Ends

We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside. (Yes, that’s from Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, for all of you paleolithic classic rockers. (me included))

Its Saturday and it looks like a good go-boat day. Vero Beach City Marina was one of our favorite stops last year and its good reputation has endured. We have had a pleasant stay albeit draining our pocketbook a bit. Our wonky generator was worked on by Larry of Atlantic Mobile Marine. He switched out the heat exchanger. Hopefully that will get it working properly so we can anchor out more as is our plan.

One very nice feature of this stay is that we have been able to visit with Dick and Deanna of Sareanna. They were part of our Crossing flotilla and this is their home port. They are very pleasant people and it was great to see them again. They were kind enough to loan us their car so we could provision up and, of course, pick up a few things from West Marina. (Had to switch out the fly bridge radio.)

So, what now? We head north, baby. We head north. We’re going to high-tail it up to Myrtle Beach to join Rick and Margi of Journey (and others?) and start the loop again. At least that’s the plan. We have a couple of long days ahead of us. Today we will cruise seventy miles up to the mooring field in Titusville and to Marineland Marina another seventy miles up from there on Sunday. I have our routes planned up to Savannah, though I haven’t picked a mooring our anchorage there yet. We would like to go to Tybee Island but it appears that there aren’t a ton of options there. If anyone has any ideas let me know. We are also going to stop in Charleston, SC for a few days. We passed it by last year and since everyone we know has raved about it so much we want to check it out for ourselves. But for now it is up the straight-straight-straights of Florida into the curve-curve-curves of Georgia.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Knot Closes Her Loop!


Mission Accomplished!

On April 24th, 2013 the motor vessel Why Knot, with Admiral Lisa and Captain Darrell as her crew, completed the Great Loop adventure. She crossed her wake at Stuart, Florida upon exiting the Okeechobee Waterway turning north on the Atlantic ICW towards Vero Beach. Crew and ship are doing great!

We were held up a week in Indiantown Marina in, well, Indiantown, Florida. Lisa wasn’t feeling well at all with some kind of bronchial scurvy. (No limes on board) Also, we need to have the heat exchanger of the generator replaced. We contracted with a technician in Vero Beach (one that we used the last time we were there). He had to order the part and would not be there until Wednesday, for replacement on board on Thursday. So no hurry to get to Vero Beach.

As it seems to be customary when one finishes the loop, here are some vital statistics about our cruise.

Distance travelled from Pompano Beach, FL and back around to Stuart, Fl             
4827.4 nm     5551.5 sm
Average Speed   (Engine Operating 809.2 hours)                 5.9 knots      6.8 mph
Fuel Consumption        2.5 gph     
Days underway             120
Average miles travelled per day       40 nm          46 sm
Actual cruise time (including shore leaves)           474 days     67.7 weeks    16.1 months
                                                                         (Shore leave – 170 days = 304 days on board)

Why Knot

The boat performed wonderfully during the cruise. It has been reliable to the point that our maintenance and repair costs were very much in line with what we anticipated having purchased a boat where we had a high degree of certainty as to its reliability.  In other words, it met our expectations of being reliable, barring damage. The Caterpillar 3208 NA was a workhorse requiring only two repairs: replacing the water intake impeller and gasket, and the cover on the oil cooling assembly had to be repaired. Not bad at all. It was always a bit of a thrill to hear her come to life with her throaty purr whenever I pushed the ignition button.

When we purchased the boat we were told by several savvy people that the batteries would have to be replaced sometime during the trip. They did - all four of them. The starter battery had to be changed out very early on in our cruise in Vero Beach and the three house batteries were recently replaced in Mobile, Alabama.

The generator was a bit of a problem. The installed alternator never worked making us use a trickle charger to keep its dedicated starter battery charged. As already mentioned we are currently waiting for a service technician to come and change out the heat exchanger.

The head had some big service done to it in Norfolk, Virginia by an interesting gentleman who was a retired career Coast Guardsman. Yuck. Better him than me.

The VHF radios have been somewhat quirky. The one located at the lower helm had to be changed out. And with the replacement of the antennae whip damaged on the Illinois River we can now pick up radio transmissions from the moon. The fly bridge radio, which has always been strong and reliable, is no longer transmitting. When we first landed in Vero Beach we invested in a good handheld radio. It has turned out to be one of the best investments we’ve made.

When we had the boat hauled out in St. Charles, Missouri we were very happy to receive a report that the bottom paint was in excellent shape. We were told that it was an especially heavy duty coating that still has some life left in it. The repair records from the previous owner reinforced this. Also the prop is in good shape.

A water pump here, a float switch there, a new joker valve every now and then, a florescent fixture, kind of refurbishing the windlass, some caulk, etc. have been the extent of the work that has been needed. I feel fortunate that I have grown into being able to perform much of the work myself. I have often said that I am not the handiest person around but I’m proud of what I have been able to do.

Why Knot has been a wonderful boat. She has always answered the call. We feel very comfortable on her and she is like home to us. As far as boat handling goes just like every other boat, I guess, and the fact she is a single screw boat (sans bow thruster) she needs to be handled a certain way. We have come to know her well I think. She is very predictable now and when we are out on her we know what to expect from her. She has not let us down…ever!

Lisa

This is where it gets soppy. Lisa has been incredible. When we started this whole thing she could count the times she had ever been on a boat on one hand. (She jokes saying she wouldn’t need all five fingers.) Now she is an extremely competent crew and I totally trust her abilities. She is also a wonderful friend and companion. When we first dreamt about doing this I was the one that pushed the idea. She followed. There were times that the dream seemed unattainable, but she kept it alive and moving forwards. Lisa is the one that keeps me focused and motivated. Lisa is the one that keeps me in check. Lisa is the one that is the voice of sanity and necessary caution. Lisa is the one makes it happen. I gladly take the position of something like a hired captain. As all of us boaters like to joke, she is the admiral. Her love of me and this life keeps it fresh and beautiful every day.

Me

This has been a dream of mine for many years and to finally cut through Florida to get to the end is a great feeling. There was so much to learn, so much to do and so much could have gone wrong but did not. I feel fortunate that I have grown in competence to successfully and safely achieve this.

The Trip

What can you say about this trip that hasn’t been waxed poetically about in my previous blog posts? This has been friggin’ awesome every step of the way. Go back and read them and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of describing my feelings on what we have seen and done.

There is one thing I think that many of us who have done this won’t openly acknowledge as an enjoyable result as it may come across as being a bit vain – we’ve got bragging rights! I know lots of people who have done interesting and challenging things. I know outdoorspeople, people with major professional accomplishments, people with unusual talents and abilities such as artists and poets, people who through great perseverance and talent have achieved great things…but they haven’t done this! They haven’t wrestled forty-five feet of fiberglass and diesel power 5,551.5 miles around the eastern US and Canada. They haven’t seen manatees floating lazily just a few feet away. They haven’t seen dolphins playing in the wake of their own boat. They haven’t moored just across from the US Naval Academy with the plebs yelling in unison on their practice field. They haven’t seen the Statue of Liberty from the water’s point of view. They haven’t cruised the Erie Canal, crossed a Great Lake, cruised through Ontario, hop from port to port down Lake Michigan, seen the St. Louis arch from the water, go through locks, cross the Gulf of Mexico at night or go through canals across the peninsula of Florida. We have and we kind of like the feeling that they haven’t. This is a singularly different and unique experience. This is a very cool thing to do.

The People

I have said this before and I’ll say it again. Boaters, and especially loopers, are the best people in the world! We have seen and done many great things but it is the people that we have met, embraced and been embraced by that makes this special. Here’s why – since this is such a, shall I say, not easy way to live you have to be positively motivated, because day in and day out this can be a bit grueling. I have said that this is a rigorous way to live. Positively motivated people are generally happy people. Also, each day reaching the end of the next leg is a goal set and a goal achieved. Achieving goals reinforces the motivation of the goal-setter producing even more positivity and even more mental and emotional wellness. We can’t help it. We’re happy people. How awesome is that?! We are surrounded by happy, motivated and productive people where we all supply more of the same to each other. It is both an individual and shared experience. It is not abstract. You can touch the water, feel your engines rumbling beneath you, feel the sun and the wind and hear the VHF radio crackle. It makes you feel alive. Accomplishment begets positive well-being.

There have been so many great people in our life this trip. So many so that it would be next to impossible to name them all. Special mentions do go out to (by boat name) The Zone, Journey, Jim Oh, Karma, Good Karma, Proud Lady, Sareanna, Next to Me, and all of the other boats that formed our flotilla to do The Crossing. Charlie Pendergrass, Gordon Burgess, Tiffany at Bigleys in Bobcaygeon, the pizza delivery woman also in Bobcaygeon, the lock masters in Canada, Kacie Sherman in Mississippi and many, many more. (I think except that one old coot that gave me a rash of crap smack dab in the middle of the channel back in South Carolina. He was a jerk.) And I have to give a shout out to every boater that caught or threw any of our lines at marinas – also the marina people. All and all a great group of people.

And I have to mention the good people we sat with at the AGLCA Rendezvous’. In Norfolk we were a small but vocal group. At Joe Wheeler we were all hunkered around tables back in the corner and our ranks grew every meal. I felt like we were the bad kids in class that were put in the back so as to not disturb the good students in the front. It was fun. In Norfolk I kidded Rick Decatur openly when he, as a wannabee, introduced himself. I yelled, “Come on, Rick. Let’s go.” He was embarrassed. But for all of you that have this dream and want to do it I give you the same calling, “Come on (insert your name). Let’s go!” Many of these people are our now our closest friends.

Our GOLD BURGEE!
This life is not for everyone. But it is for us. To say that we have enjoyed this would be a gross understatement. It has been a wonderful experience. We did it! And nothing can ever take that away from us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Progress Report

There ain't any. And there won't be until Wednesday.

In the last post I said that the generator was acting up again. The heat ex-changer is shot which mean that the coolant bleeds out through the sea water intake and outflow which means that the generator overheats quickly and shuts down automatically. And since the majority of moorings at Vero Beach are in a mooring field, no generator means no electricity. They do have a few docks that can take our size boat but they are more expensive than here at Indiantown Marina. Also the new part has to be ordered and won't arrive until next Wednesday. So we are going to stay here at Indiantown Marina until next Wednesday when we will then cross our wake, finish our loop and head up to Vero Beach where we have dock space reserved. The repair will be done on Thursday and we will then set our sights on continuing north.

Oh well.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

It’s Great to Be Back on the Water

Monday April 15th, 2013

We pulled out of Regatta Pointe Marina in Palmetto, Florida under partly sunny skies (or was it partly cloudy skies?) at 8:00am and headed out of the Manatee River. Upon reaching the last channel markers at the river’s mouth we made a left turn for a short leg over open water to the opening of the ICW.

Going down the ICW on this leg we passed Longboat Key, Cortez, St. Armands and downtown Sarasota, all places we have come to be very familiar with from the land. We hadn’t been out in these waters save for the short trip on Sarasota Bay for a failed sea trial on Dunwurkin, the original boat we had considered to buy. After passing downtown Sarasota we continued past Siesta Key and wound around all of the shoals and mini-islands. And since we were in southern Florida we were once again in the land of drawbridges. Fortunately most of them were high enough we could scoot under without an opening. Of course the exception to this was the last bridge we had to pass which was a swing bridge at Blackburn Point. Fortunately it opened by request rather than on a timed schedule so the bridge tender had it open and waiting for us when we approached.

Our anchorage for the night was a lovely area called Blackburn Bay. We pulled off of the channel to the west into a nice, large area with plenty of depth and great hold. It was a tad breezy buy the hook held just fine and the breezes cooled the inside of the boat nicely, which was a good thing as it was a hair over 90 degrees. Gentle winds blew throughout the night gently swinging the boat around through almost all the points of the compass. The only downside of the day is that Lisa is still feeling pretty lousy but she is soldiering on.

Tuesday April 16, 2013

It was time to haul up the anchor at sunrise and head on down the channel. During the late afternoon at Blackburn Bay two other boats joined us at the anchorage. One of the boats, a trawler, Morning Star, got a thirty minute head start on us. We had communicated by radio and they had the same destination as us except they were going to go outside into the Gulf of Mexico instead of the ICW. We hadn’t really toyed with the idea much but as we approached Venice Inlet we decided to sort of poke our head out into the Gulf and see what it was like. To our pleasure it was pretty smooth. There was a ten knot wind from the east and gentle swells which made for some great boating. While eventually going out like this would only save us one mile in distance we are sure it saved us at least ninety minutes of time. It was great.

We saw Morning Star out in front of us a good distance off. We radioed them and let them know we were tailing them. They seemed pleased with that. Their boat, a Kaden Krogen Manatee, is a bit slower than ours so with about seven miles to go to reach the Charlotte Harbor entrance we caught up to them. As they were familiar with the area we followed them through the harbor. Charlotte Harbor is a very large harbor and over the radio the crew of Morning Star told us about how much they have always enjoyed boating there and that we would do well to return there someday and spend some time. Sounds good to us.


Admiral Lisa at the helm

On the Gulf of Mexico



Missouri

Colorado
Here’s an example of what can happen when you do not follow your first intuition. As we approached our anchorage at Ding Darling Park at Sanibel Island Morning Star continued on to some other destination. We pulled into the bay and decided for some reason that it could be too exposed for some of the higher winds coming from the east. The forecasts were fluctuating from hour to hour and it was hard to get a firm grip on what the night was going to be like. We left Ding Darling and went off on a search for an alternate location. Lisa went onto ActiveCaptain and found that there were other anchorages in the area but none of them were getting glowing reviews, so we went back to Ding Darling. We dropped the hook and got a good hold. But something was unsettled in my mind. While we were secure I didn’t like it. We decided to pull up anchor and head up to Legacy Harbor Marina for the night which added about 15 miles to our trip for the day. We were surprised that the weather on the Caloosahatchee River was abysmal. High winds and very choppy conditions dogged us the entire way up to the marina. After we arrived and got tied up the winds that were of such concern pretty much died away. We would probably have been fine at the anchorage. Oh well. At least our day on the river up to Moore Haven on Lake Okeechobee is now shortened by 15 miles. That’s a good thing. It was a long day and we didn’t last very long before falling asleep.

Another downer on the whole day was that we discovered that the generator is acting up again. We’ll get it looked at in Vero Beach.

And in the “that sucks” department, the Caloosahatchee River gods must have been angry. Our AGLCA white burgee with its flaws, frays and ragged condition was unceremoniously ripped from the boat at some point and flung into the drink somewhere. Fortunately we’ll have a nice new gold one to replace it with soon but it would still have been a great souvenir.

Wednesday April 17, 2013

We pulled out of Legacy Harbor to head up the Caloosahatchee River towards our next scheduled stop, the city dock at Moore Haven. We passed through two more locks in an otherwise routine day.
 
Moore Haven at night
Special mention should be made about the aforementioned city dock. Its really nice!: sturdy wood dock with rubber bumpers on the pilings and good electricity. You pay for your night’s stay at the city hall which is right across the street. But don’t fall victim to the lies that the city office workers spew. They are, I guess, dock masters at heart. They suffer from DMDD – Dock Master Distance Delusion. They made sure they told us that the supermarket and post office were “just a few minutes away” and “just a couple of blocks” from the riverfront. Baloney. I had to take a hike to drop some letters at the post office which was 11 blocks away, not “a couple”. To me that means two blocks away. You see dock masters have never personally walked any of the distances they tell us boaters about. When they say “just over the hill” they mean “somewhere over the Ozark Mountains”. When they say, “just a few minutes” they mean “45 minutes to an hour”. When they say, “a short distance” they mean four miles. Oh well. During my walk to the post office I did get to see the high school and the Glade County Rodeo grounds.

Thursday April 18th, 2013

The Moore Haven Lock which puts you into the rim canal of Lake Okeechobee is less than a half a mile from the dock. As it was Thursday there was no waiting. The rim canal skirts along the rim (thus the name) of the lake. At Clewiston we made the sharp left turn that first takes you through a swamp (the real deal here, folks) for a short distance until you are out on the lake itself. It is a very large lake and transiting it takes a couple of hours. At the end of the charted Route 1 is the Port Mayaca lock which had a lift of a whole whopping six inches. Whew! Upon leaving the lock we were in the St. Lucie Canal. We followed it for eight miles to our stop for the night, the Indian Town Marina. (Not a very PC name, is it?) It is a, shall we say, cozy marina but it has a huge facing dock – just the kind we like!

Cruising through a swamp on Lake Okeechobee

A cow! There is some kind of waterfowl standing underneath the cow. Cow = shade.
 And with this stop we are in position to make our last day on this Great Loop adventure. As soon as we leave here we will go through Port St. Lucie and Stuart where we will join up with the Atlantic ICW officially crossing our wake and closing our loop. Awesome! One little hitch though. A storm system is coming through tomorrow (April 19) and will not blow out of the area until late Saturday. There won’t be much rain but the winds will be significant. So much so we have to stay here in Indian Town. Sunday looks like our goboat day.

Can you believe it? One day left and we have to sit it out until conditions get right. ONE STINKING DAY! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

It’s GO BOAT Time Again or It’s Been A Pretty Amazing Week-and-a-Half


April 14, 2013 – Ok. So let’s get you caught up on everything since my last post. There is a lot to report.

The work to be done according to my task list has gone extremely well. As a matter of fact it has been one of my most successful doing-stuff-on-the-boat times that I have had on the trip. Remembering that I am not the handiest guy around, for me to pull off some of these tasks is quite an accomplishment. I will not bore you with the details other than to say that all of the cabin lights are shining brightly, the door to the head will no longer bang around when we are underway, the galley hatch will not leak when it rains anymore, the boat now has AC power to the fly bridge, the bench on the fly bridge will stay put, all the generator and engine stuff is mission-ready, the main VHF radio is fully functional with its new fourteen foot whip antennae, the dinghy is now upgraded with an inflatable collar and securely fastened to the transom of the boat and everything is stowed and ready to go. Phew! And on Wednesday, April 10th we took the day off to get married.

You read that right. We got married. It was a lovely day with some old and new friends in attendance. Everyone from C dock here at Regatta Pointe Marina was there. (C dock is the rowdy dock. Naturally.) Charlie Pendergrass, our boat broker buddy and an elder of his church, performed the service. Gordon Burgess, the owner of American Marine (and Charlie’s boss) was there taking lots of pictures with a look of utter amazement on his face. (He can now say that his company is truly “Full Service.” – Buy a boat, get hitched.)
Lisa, myself and Charlie on the sun deck of Why Knot tying the knot, so to speak.
Don't we look Florida-ish?
There was one very dangerous aspect to all this…as Lisa was still in Denver and St. Louis prior to the big day that meant all of the planning was left up to me. “HAHAHAHAHAHA”, I laughed maniacally. Everything went very smoothly but I have to say that as far as the cake went I kind of veered off onto a strange tangent. Actually careening out of control over the abyss of strangeness would be more like it. Judge for yourself.
That's right. It's a hula girl and a hockey player.
Mmmm. Cake!
Cheers!
It was a beautiful day.

So it’s now Sunday, April 14, 2013 and we are waiting to leave Palmetto to points south to finish our loop and start another. We would have liked to leave on Saturday the 13th but the weather wasn’t what we would like. It wasn’t terrible but by waiting two more days until Monday, April 15th we would have five or six days of uninterrupted favorable conditions. Also, Lisa is feeling a bit under the weather and she is taking the entire weekend to rest. As the captain I have ordered her to stand down and lay down on the futon for the weekend. This means hours of Doctor Who episodes. (For those who get this reference we are working our way through the Martha Jones season.)

As far as finishing our loop we could cross our wake next Friday the 19th of April which would be a hoot as the 19th is my birthday. Coolness abounds!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Back in Florida…At Least I Am

We are getting very close to getting back underway on our Great Loop adventure as I arrived back down in Florida on April 2nd, 2013. I have come on ahead to work on a task list of things that need to get done before we get back underway. Lisa is still back in Colorado…but not for long! She will be joining me in a few days.

While I was still in Colorado I spent a lot of time working on routes for the resumption of the cruise. We will be crossing our wake in Stewart, Florida. We are reeeeeeally looking forward to that. To be frank I have already plotted our routes almost to Savannah, GA.

To get back to Florida I first drove from Denver to St. Louis (with an overnight stop in Lawrence, Kansas) where I gathered up all my things, packed and got on board Southwest Airlines flight 236 that first went to Fort Lauderdale then backtracked to Tampa. The leg from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa was interesting in that the course took us towards Fort Meyers, Florida where I was able to get a bird’s eye view of some of the canal that we’ll be on to cut across the peninsula. Unfortunately I was not able to see Lake Okeechobee. Even coming into Tampa International Airport was fun in that the course took us over the Sarasota/Bradenton/Palmetto area from very high altitude and slightly to the east where I was able to see the entire bay including the Manatee River and Regatta Pointe Marina. We were too far away to actually eye-ball the boat at the marina.

Upon arriving back at the marina I was happy to see that the detailers were putting the finishing touches on Why Knot. And I must say she looks purdy! She shines very nicely now. Everything else on the boat was shipshape too. It was good to be back on-board. All I need is my crew and I’ll be all set.

Here is a recap on some info about our cruise thus far.
Our longest routes
The Crossing       172.5 miles
Hoppies (Kimmswick, MO) to Cape Girardeau, MO          106.2 miles
Buttermilk Sound (GA) to Isle of Hope Marina (Savannah, GA)   82.25
Heritage Harbor (Ottawa, IL) to Peoria, IL                              80.29 
   
Average Speed             6.8 smph average overall. Our average speed since leaving St. Louis on Election Day has been 7.38 smph. I ran her at higher rpms and speeds ever since we exited the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Fuel consumption - About 2.45 gph overall average. That’s about 3 statute miles per gallon. The most economical cruising environment has been Georgian Bay, North Channel and Lake Michigan, which makes sense as it was all open water without any stops or slowdowns on the routes. We could get to cruising speed and stay there for long periods. Least economical has been the Trent-Severn Waterway…basically anywhere with locks.

Can you tell I am getting back into go-boat mode?