Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sarasota, FL

We stayed on the boat at Marina Jack's for the first 10 days due to our condominium association's decision to hire out having all the water pipes refit and our water was turned off. It's ironic, the only month we stay in our condo, the association is having it worked on for most of our visit. Luckily, we're self sufficient with John Henry! The marina is in the middle of downtown Sarasota. Wilma and Sara go for walks from the Marina around and over the Ringling Bridge and back several times a week (about 3 miles).
Wilma spent the first week on the boat washing, waxing and polishing the John Henry. Every locker, container, nook and cranny has been clean, caulked and organized from the boat deck all the way up to the top of the fly bridge.
John Henry sparkles in the Sarasota Sun. Our dock at Marina Jack is very short and the lower hull couldn't be cleaned. We have arranged to move the boat to a floating dock in the marina during the first week of June so Wilma can get the hull washed, waxed and polished.
For Memorial Day, our grandchildren and their mother came for the weekend. We went to Oscar Scherer State Park for the afternoon. There was a nice selection of Shark's Teeth on display in the Information Center.
Above, Wilma, Toni, Emma and Amber along the Lester Finley Trail in Oscar Scherer State Park. Next time, we're going to bring our fishing poles and bathing suits. We didn't realize there is so much to do there.
Toni, Amber, Emma and Wink pose at the Lester Finley Trail Head.
After we moved over to the condo, Wilma and Sara continue their walking down Midnight Pass Road 4-5 times a week. Wilma still wears her pedometer that Lisa Bradshaw gave her in the Bahamas. Wilma tries to get 10,000 steps a day. It's not as easy in the USA to walk that many steps. We have too many conveniences - such as cars. The weather in Florida is so hot that it's hard to stay outside. Life is just too busy in America. Maybe with the gas prices the way they are, many of us will turn to bikes and more walking. The only problem with that plan is it takes more time than working people can manage.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shell Key to Sarasota, FL

Before our story continues, please accept my apologies for the delay in this posting. My hard drive decided to crash and it took a while to get it repaired.

From Shell Key, we decided to head to Marathon to pick up more deisel. We picked up 384 gallons in our starboard tank just for good measure and to balance out the boat. While getting diesel at the Marina, Wilma's credit card took a dive and was un-retrievable. Wilma had to call the credit card company and tell them it was lost.

It was early with lots of daylight left so we decided to head for one of our favorite places - Everglade City. After a while, we decided that we could not make it all the way to our destination before dark. We anchored at Cape Sabel south of Shark River. It was wide open and protected from the southeast winds. We anchored in 7 feet of water. The next day, we completed our journey to Everglade City.
John Henry docked in front of the Rod and Gun Club at high tide with about a 3 knot current.
Everglade City is one of our favorite places to visit in Florida. Wilma went to the museum, but it was closed. Double click on the pictures you would like to magnify. Warning: You may have to pull the blog back up to continue.
This old home is a true representation of "Old Florida Living". This house belonged to a family whose last name is Noble. We think that they are related to Wink's family, but can't confirm because the owner passed away last year. The home is up for sale now.
This bank is so neat looking that if it weren't for all the paperwork, I'd open an account up just for the pleasure of it. Wink and Wilma are really trying to get off the grid so I'll just have to admire it from a distance.
Everglade City, Florida - City Hall
Everglade City - local church (Wilma love the red door).
Four miles away is Chucaluskee (the spelling may not be correct). Wink's relatives also use to live in this area. Next trip, we're going to visit the cemetery. We fished several times, but the fish weren't biting.
Sara the sea dog is snuggling Wilma after a great day in the grass. From Everglade City we traveled north to Fort Meyers Beach. We anchored in our usual spot east of the Sanibel Bridge. The night was calm and beautiful. The next morning we decided that the seas were calm and that we would go into the Gulf and head to Pelican Bay next to Cayo Costa State Park.
As we were entering Boca Grande Cut, Wink slowed down and asked Wilma if she would please shorten up the harness to the skiff. Just as Wilma got the skiff within 20 feet of the swim platform, Wink had to pick up speed due to wind and other boaters present. Wilma informed Wink that the skiff was too heavy once he picked up speed and Wink acknowledged and said it would have to wait.
As we entered the bay for anchoring, Wink decided that we would proceed with the anchoring. Everything was going well until Wilma started backing to confirm that the anchor was holding. We heard a grinding noise and suddenly, Wink knew what it was. We went out to the Cockpit and saw the skiff slowly drifting away. Wink grabbed his flippers and put the keys to the skiff between his teeth and jumped in. He reached the skiff without any difficulty and Wilma brought him his mask so he could inspect the props.
Wink inspected both props and found harness line in each one. After we were certain that the props were clear and the skiff was retrieved, we tested the engines to confirm that there was no damage. All is well and we know that the skiff must be tied up between 6-8 feet to avoid cutting the harness lines.
Wink has gotten very good at splicing harness lines. The first set took him hours and this set took about one hour. We have a set of snubber lines very similar to these that we also use as a mooring harness. We discovered that if you have room to extend the harness longer, the boats sway less. The shorter the harness, the more dancing the boat does on a mooring.
It's easy to dingy ashore. Cayo Costa State Park is only $1 per person for the visit. There is about a mile walk to the beach or you can ride the trolly. This area is great for shelling.
Wink and Wilma decides to walk for the exercise. Wilma does some beach combing while Wink shares his fishing knowledge with some tourist. One of the tourist was swimming and a manatee came up and touched him. Wilma grabbed her camera and tried hard to get a great picture.
Surprise, this is a great picture, but the truth is that I borrowed it, it's not mine. It's not even of the manatee that I was trying to capture on film. But I did get something.
The tourist is in the front and that little spot above his hand is the manatee. That the best that I could get.

Wink enjoyed his walk and takes in the scenery of Old Florida. The Osprey below seemed to enjoy the hot day.
Ocassionally, I get a good photo of wildlife - a great sea gull. We saw lots of mackerel on our trip, but they were not interested in biting. The best way to see fish is to look for birds.
Wink and Wilma went out trolling trying to catch a fish for dinner. We saw a neat looking boat, which reminded us of Salty Dawg (A Prilgrim). We motored over and spoke with Art and Irm on a Pilgrim. They had actually been on Salty Dawg before the Pat's bought it. They seem like great people.
Just as we pulled up to their boat, Wilma got a strike and yeah it's a sea trout. Wilma quickly measures it to see if it's keepable. It was perfect, about 3 lbs.
Sea Trout - 4:00 pm - 17" and about 3 lbs. Caught by Wilma Thornton
Sea Trout - 7:00 pm - Cleaned by Wink Thornton, Cooked by Wilma Thornton
Served with Corn on the Cob and Grits.
As we depart through Boca Grande Pass, this scene never seems to end. It was there when we entered and it's there anytime you go through. I know they must go home at night to sleep, but that's only a theory. Boca Grande Pass is the world's most popular Tarpon fishing. This photo is only a small sampling of the boats that tend to live in the pass.
As we head north, we pass our condo buildings on the south end of Siesta Key in Sarasota. Our building is the one on the right with our sister building on the left. Between the two, there are 120 units. Our unit is on the top floor. It's not directly on the beach, but it has water on three sides. It's just off the ICW and near Turtle Beach. It's up for sale. Wish us luck.
Just as we're passing the condo, we get a phone call from Joe and Punk Pica., owners of Carolyn Ann, a N37 by Great Harbour. They had crossed the Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola and are almost to Sarasota and wanted to get together for a visit. We told them we would meet them at Marina Jack's. There is an ancorage right outside of the marina that they could stay.
As we approached the entrance to New Pass, we spoke with Joe Pica and they said that they were almost to the anchorage so they would do a float by and do a photo swap of the boats. Here is a picture of Joe and Punk on Carolyn Ann taking a picture of John Henry as we float by. We went out to dinner in the evening and had a great reunion. Joe and Punk continued on their journey south the next day. Wilma plans to have their blog linked within a few days. All blog links are located on the right side of the blog about 3 sets down.
Jjohn Henry is docked at Marina Jack which is just right of this building in Sarasota. This is a very pretty view to enjoy as we clean up the boat.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

An Interesting Morning on the Water

This morning we decided to make our way towards Everglades City, so we started engines at 0650 and prepared to get underway. Everything was working fine as we disconnected from the mooring balls, and started to head out into the channel.

Just minutes after we departed, the port engine gave us a oil alarm, we looked at it quickly and shut it down, not realizing it was already shut down. We continued for a few minutes on one engine, trying to decide what the problem was, then the starboard engine shut down. We were OK, as we were drifting in 8 feet of water, but the wind was decidedly pushing us. Since both engines failed, we knew it had to be fuel, but just what fuel problem we didn’t realize at this point.

We made an instant decision to get back to the mooring ball, which was about 1.5 miles away, up wind. Wink got in the skiff, and we harnessed John Henry up, and pulled him to the mooring ball.

Amazingly, the skiff running at 2400 rpm (about half speed), pulled John Henry at 3.2 knots upwind. It’s nice to know we can do this if we ever get into trouble again. The only hitch, is someone needs to “Drive/Steer” John Henry, when the winds blowing. In this case, Wilma applied rudder and short bursts of the bow thruster to keep John Henry going in the right direction. In about 30 minutes or less we were back at the mooring ball, and hooked up.

The fuel issue could only have been one thing, once we though of it, and that was the “TANK WAS EMPTY”. We had been calculating our fuel consumption and estimating our remaining fuel in the center tank and we felt we had about 200 gallons left. WRONG. This was based on the center tank being 1000 gallons and our usage being 4 gallon an hour of running time. My best guess is that the tank is something less than 1000 gallons (maybe 800+) and we might be using fuel at a faster rate then predicted.

In any event, we pumped 370 gallons of fuel from the starboard fuel tank into the center tank, and all is well. We are now on our way, but we have decided to go to Marathon Key to fill up the starboard fuel tank, just to be safe and to level the boat, since we now have a decidedly port list. We’ll be able to calculate the exact tank capacity and usage once we fill up. Since Wink wanted to just dump some water to help level out the boat, Wilma decided on a deep bubble bath. There's no point in just dumping good water overboard and we happen to have a hugh tub.
After a relaxing bubble bath, we spotted this great Bird Rest Area at Bowlegs Cut. All the birds had their own stand. A better picture below.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Good Bye Abaco - See you in the winter!

Wink and Wilma are back in the USA. This is a long posting, but then we'll be back up to date.
West Palm Beach, FL is only 54.1 Nautical Miles from West End, Bahama's.
Feel free to Save Picture As for the charts so you can download them to your computer. They may help you with some of the Navigation should you not be familiar with the Abaco's.
On April 19th, Wink and Wilma met up with Semper-Fi (the charter couple had borrowed the skiff for a few days). John Henry met them at the end of Don't Rock (the west side of the Whale Cay).
After we retrieved the skiff, John Henry and Salty Dawg enter THE WHALE on the east side. It was a smooth crossing with 2-4 ft swells. Surf pounded Whale Key from the east.
John Henry and Salty Dawg anchored at Manjack Cay not only because it was beautiful, but because they have free WiFi for cruisers. Both crews anchored and boarded Wink's Water Taxi service and went to Green Turtle Cay for exploring, gas, and a coke. Unfortunately, Green Turtle resturaunt was closed and the staff at both the gas pump and the resturant were not very friendly. We did run into Whimsy and crew as we were getting ready to leave and suggested that they join us at our anchorage. When we returned to the anchorage, Roving Seas with Jan and Brian were anchored right between us.
While having heavy h'orderves on board Roving Seas, Wink swears that he will walk with all three crews to the beach on the other side of Manjack Cay.
Wink and crews walk the 3-4 mile hike to the other side of the island.
There are little arrows that point the way. Wilma and Brian on the left, Jan, Pat and Wink on the right and Patty behind the camera.
Wink made a statement, "We use to be Captains of Industry, now we're Captains of Ships - playing in the sand". Wink finding sea shells at Manjack Cay.
Meanwhile, Wilma enjoys Beach Combing and the water. Nice drift wood here.
Pat, Brian and Wink do a little show and tell. They became fast friends.
One of the other boaters met us on shore and invited us to a full moon party being hosted by the owners of the island. What great island owners, apparently they were previous cruisers and really enjoy their company. The moon was beautiful, but the commoradery and food was awesome.
As the weather was completely perfect on Sunday, the three crews decided that it would be too hectic to catch the weather window for Monday/Tuesday to cross the Gulf Stream. We were all too willing to stay just one more week in the Bahamas.
Monday, the three crews picked up anchors and moved to Powell Cay. After John Henry and Salty Dawg dropped anchor at Powell Cay, Wilma, Pat and Patty boarded Roving Seas and headed for Coopers Town. Roving Seas needed Diesel and rest of us just wanted to tour. Wink stayed with Sara and also worked on a few chores. Besides, we needed Wink to be the Taxi driver to and from Roving Seas.
Everyone enjoyed Coopers Town. It's mostly a native town with has not been exploited. We walked the shores and collected conch shells, giant snail shell (?) that's not their real name of course, and sea glass. We had a light lunch beside the ocean with our meals to go from M&M's resturant who were official closed for remodel, but had hot meals available.
Tuesday, all the crews worked on cleaning their treasures. Wilma discovers utilizing her sand collection that the sand at Treasure Cay is the softest and the finest while the sand at Spanish Cay is more corse but amply soft.
Roving Seas made reservations for dinner at Spanish Cay. Our friend Richard is the chef there and we surprised him with a visit. On the way there, we took the long way around, but on the way back with high tide, we cut through the middle in the dark. Scarry, but Brian did a great job.
The next day, we all decided to head over to Great Sale Cay and anchor there out of the wind. It was still windy when we arrived and anchored. Everyone was tired after that long day and decided that if the winds persisted, we'd move the next day to the other west side of the land.
We all raised anchor about 10 am to move to the west side of Great Sale Cay and somewhere in the middle of all the moving, we just decided to head toward Mangrove Cay and see where we were with the day when we got there.
It's amazing, three boats - three captains - three admirals (the women) all unanamously decided to continue on to the Lacayan Waterway and anchor there. John Henry being the shallowest draft boat intered the waterway and discovered that it would be too tight for the other two boats to enter at that time so everyone anchored and we would approach the entrance on the next day at mid-tide to continue inside.
The Lacayan Waterway - above
Wink, Wilma and Pat all boarded the skiff and headed inside the canal to make sure of the channel. We also spoke with persons of local knowledge to determine that we be careful at the 4th piling and steer to port as there are rocks in the water.
The enterance by all boats went well. Here are a few pictures of the waterway. John Henry is the tallest boat and was able to take pictures beyond the waterway which possibly none of the other boats could see.
Beyond the canal are many waterways which are marsh looking and very shallow.
John Henry anchored in the first anchorage passed the only bridge across the waterway. Roving Seas and Salty Dawg are rafted together to our starboard.

Roving Seas (Brian and Jan) above hailed a Marina via VHF and the marina called us a Taxi and we were picked up just east of the bridge we were anchored next to. Neville the Taxi Driver was convinced by the crews to give us a tour of Freeport and then allow us to go shopping for 4 hours and then return to pick us up and take us back to our boats. Once again, Wink remained with Sara the sea dog, he played security guard for the boats and he was our water taxi again from the boats to the wall near the road. He deserves something special.
Patty shopping at Freeport, Bahamas.
Wilma liked the beads, but only bought a few hemitite necklaces.

Salty Dawg and Roving Seas convinced the taxi driver to stop and they bought Wink a Chocolate Cake which he has been craving for weeks. He has been a great water taxi guy and they wanted him to know they appreciated him.
Sara the sea dog has been great on this trip. She has a good life. On Sunday morning, all boats got up early and we left the Lacayan Waterway at before day break. Salty Dawg and Roving Seas are headed north to Lake Worth, FL. John Henry headed south west toward Bimini.
The ride going northwest toward Lake Worth was relatively smooth. The waters heading south east were bumby to say the least. The weather was suppose to be 2-4 with rolling seas. It really was 4-6 ft with head seas only a second or two apart. Sara ran and hide. She didn't like it at all. Wink didn't like it at all. Wilma didn't like it at all. Wink and Wilma looked at each other and made a simultanious decision to head north after only 20 minutes.

John Henry hailed Salty Dawg and Roving Seas and offered his Water Taxi Services and they were immediately accepted. They slowed down a little and we speed up a little and within an hour, the group was all happy and enjoying each others company again.
This tanker was drifting around doing not much waiting for their turn at the refinery. Salty Dawg and John Henry passed to the stern, while Roving Seas went forward.
We had a very comfortable crossing. John Henry and crew cleared customs via telephone using the Local Boaters Option. It was a breeze.
Wink transporting Roving Seas on the second trip of Groceries. The first trip was for John Henry and Salty Dawg. He did a great job in 25 knot winds and seas about 1-2 ft.
All three boats anchored south of Peanut Island. On Saturday, all crews did shopping, shopping and more shopping. Wink was again our taxi driver from the boats to shore and again back to the boats. He again stayed behind and watched Sara and all the boats. However, he was extremely surprised when he came to fetch us back to our boats and realized that he was going to have to make two trips. Yes, there was that much shopping.

John Henry hosted the final party to say Good-Bye to the two crews. Yes, it's true, we're heading south in the morning.
Pat at peace with Wink.
Patty treating Sara to a gentle rub.
Brian and Jan inspiring us all to be all we can be.

Wilma enjoys socializing and hates to see it slow down. Ya'll come back and see us now, ya'll here.

Monday morning, we say goodbye and Wilma finally gets the picture she's wanted for months of the stern of Salty Dawg. Having Pat and Pat in the picture is a plus.
We left Lake Worth, FL and went about 3-5 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean and turned south. The weather was great. 5-10 mph winds, just a ripple on the water and no problems for the day. We entered Miami's Biscayne Bay through Government Cut with excellent conditions. As we rounded the corner heading for the bridge near our chosen achorage, this big fellow blowing the conch horn seems fitting as if to say, "Time to take a break".
After the bridge, we anchored in front this yacht club and had a good night. (below)
The next morning, we aweighed anchor and went further south to Key Largo, FL
Our plow dragged within a couple of hours and we had to reset the anchor. There is alot of grass here so we now decided to deploy the Danforth Anchor. We've never used it. It hold, Yeah!
We met a couple of nice guys Vincent and Trick (sail boaters) who came over for happy hour. We took this sunset picture while they were visiting with us.
This morning, we arise early to aweighed anchor with no wind as Wink is concerned with the Chain Stripper. He was right, the chain jammed and the chair stripper bent in half. Remember, we've never used this anchor. Wink determines that the chain stripper is on backward. Luckily he has a spare (the last one). After a completed repair, we aweighed anchor and headed even further south, we passed Jew Fish Bridge nestled away in a mangrove pawned area with the nicest bridge tending operator we've ever came across. She gave this little port a feeling at all are welcome and that she personally is the gatekeeper to happiness. (Ya'll should go there).
It's official - we have finally entered the Florida Keys at 0945 this morning (May 1)
As we continue south (yes that's the way we like to go - south). The bunches of Mangroves line our waterway and lots of birds can be seen. We have had long stretches of shallow areas(but not for a Great Harbour by Mirage). The water is beginning to look a lot like the Bahamas. It's getting clearer and greener.
As we read along in the Skipper Bob travel guide, we determine that the free mooring balls mentioned at Statue Mile 1161.7 sounds like a good idea. We have strong winds and our boat pole is frozen tight not allowing full extension so Wilma goes in with the skiff and connects the bridle to the pennant of the mooring ball. Wink brings in the big boat and Wilma throws him a line and he connects the first side of the bridle. Then Wilma boards John Henry and heads to the bow where she catches the line and attaches the second bridle when Wink gives her slack on the line. We hold our breath that we're not too heavy for the mooring, but all seems well after an hour.
Wilma has spent the entire afternoon working on this update to the blog and Wink has had a nap. Stay tune for more adventures. Our internet connections on the west coast of Florida are pretty good. Wilma promises to update often and make them shorter to read.