Observations from Mt Vernon

Let us begin by saying, “WOW”. As amateur history buffs, what took us so long to get here?

In 2008, we skipped Mt Vernon, but took in Monticello. These farms and homes are as different as the men who owned them. Where Monticello is beautiful and a mixture of styles with Jefferson’s own inventions and constant state of remodel throughout, Mt Vernon is elegant and maybe a little understated. While there are luxurious elements, expensive paint, fabrics and furniture, the rooms are relatively small and simply decorated. Washington believed in using good quality items, whether for his home or his appearance. He inherited the home from his half brother’s widow, Anne Washington. Initially the home was a typical eighteenth century 2 up, 2 down design. By the time all the renovations were complete, Mt Vernon boasted a ball room called “The New Room”, 2 parlors and 9 guest rooms. The only one of these guest rooms known for sure to have hosted someone of significance is the Lafeyette room. It is known only due to Lafeyette’s correspondence, in which he mentions his accommodations. It goes without saying, that many other important people stayed with the Washington family, but there is no record in which room anyone in particular stayed.

The farm is expansive. At one point, he owned 8000 acres. He was known as the best horseman of his age. The stables and farmyard at Mt Vernon reflect the pride he took in his animals. His 2 favorite horses were a grey called Blueskin and a chestnut called Nelson. Blueskin especially was known to be “bombproof”. They were heavy and stout horses that could easily carry Washington’s 6ft 2-inch frame. These 2 horses went to war with him and came home with him.

We took the regular tour of the home, which begins every 5 minutes. There are so many people, that this is necessary. There is an option for an in depth tour, given once a day and includes all rooms from the attic to the cellar. It’s $60 and although more than I’d normally pay for a house tour, was really tempted to do it this time. The tour we took was very rushed. Literally 5 minutes per room, maybe a question answered but probably not, generic information given then herded into the next room. I looked longingly into the stairway to the 3rd floor….both of them. I have questions. I want to feel the presence of the Washingtons. I want to hear the stories. I want to see the room that Martha retreated to on the 3rd floor after her husband passed away in their shared bed chamber.

Something that the Mt Vernon’s Ladies Association, owners of the estate, do well, is acknowledge and honor the enslaved who lived there. Their names are spoken and remembered. There is also a memorial to tribute them, near the tombs of the Washingtons. Graveyards and graves are also noted and marked. The enslaved butler, Frank Wills was the one who, when guests presented themselves, would determine if they were worthy of a visit with the family. He had that power. Also, of note is that Washington emancipated his slaves upon his death. There is considerable debate on why he waited until that time, but it was unusual to do it at all. In the end he followed his conscience.

OK- so I am enamored with Mt Vernon. I could go on for ages. I’ll leave it here and strongly recommend that if anyone has the opportunity to visit Mt Vernon, do it. You won’t be sorry. The general admission for the grounds is $28, there is a discount for military, first responders and medical personnel. The tour of the house is $6 more (I think).

One last thing I’ll mention is that if you are arriving by boat, it’s a unique situation. We had purchased our tickets online. We dingy’d to the wharf dock. There was not a dockmaster on site. There was no one monitoring our coming and going. We first went through the farmyard and I approached a worker there, asking if I needed to show our tickets anywhere. She said we did not, only when we went into the house. So, when it was time for the house, we got in line. No one looked at our tickets. When purchasing, I had also added the guidebook to my cart. I asked a worker on the front lawn where I would go to pick that up. She said I should have gotten in when coming in through the main entrance….. and therein lies the problem. So, we made our way backwards through the “do not enter” signs and got the guidebook. We then realized there was a museum we had missed by not coming in the usual way. We went back to the boat, had lunch and returned to the museum. We were there until closing and faced our next problem. The guests were being ushered out….through the exit to the parking lot. So, we asked a guard to let us out the door that would allow us to backtrack to the wharf. “No, we can’t do that, ” said in utter confusion. Apparently, our situation is unique, or the staff we were dealing with didn’t know it was possible to arrive by boat. The end result is we were escorted and driven to the wharf by armed guards and made sure we went to our boat. However, I’m still not convinced they ever checked the wharf again after that. I would have loved to sneak back into the mansion…. yes, I know, I’m sure I would have invited a lot more attention than that of an armed escort off the property.

Until next time,

Slainte’

Yorktown

Have you ever listened to someone tell a story and felt you were there? Have you been somewhere, a museum or exhibit and there were reenactors that were so good that you believed they were the character they are portraying in real life? I’ve had 2 of these experiences. Megan was living in Virginia Beach at the time, so we had reason to visit Virginia on more than one occasion. The first was in Colonial Williamsburg in 2007. We were in the Capitol and the reenactor was a woman. She was in period clothing, obviously and was very convincing in her part. There were many of us in the group, 30-40 at least and all ages. She proceeded around the room and telling us the story of the colonials gathering in this room to discuss and plan for the impending declaration for independence. She (I wish I knew her name) would stand behind individuals in the group and whisper in their ear what was said and that person would say it out loud. The entire group was quiet and respectful, it seemed we all understood the significance of what was being said and decided. Somehow, that short tour and her presentation has stuck with me and will forever.

The second time was a year later, at the Yorktown Battlefield. Mike, Sean, Megan and I were there for a tour. The guide this time was a national park ranger, and again I wish I could remember her name. She was in ranger garb, not dressed as a reenactor. We toured the battlefield, learning about various companies and what was happening at each, as well as what was going on “in town”. This included where Lord Cornwallis had his headquarters and where when things got tough, he hid in a *cave* or something like it. The exact area isn’t known, although there is a cave where the townspeople took shelter along the waterfront. Right. At one point at the edge of a field, the guide is telling us about the last night before the last battle. It was to be a full moon, thereby enough light for each side to see what the other was up to. Cornwallis’s men had thought to make a run across the York River to Glouster Point. A storm came up and foiled that plan. The guide proceeds to tell us how this was like a Weather Channel segment of “When Weather Changed History”. Not only was there no way for the British to make a run for the other side of the river, but the storm made it possible for the Americans and French to dig their fortifications and take redoubts 9 and 10 without notice. She was so animated in the telling, I had goosebumps! Again, I will never forget.

So, here we are back in the area. We aren’t making it back to Williamsburg, but for sure taking a better look at Yorktown. Anyone who has followed us for a minute knows we love history. More precisely we like all the old stuff. Old houses. Old buildings in general. Old tools and implements. Old boats. Old furniture and kitchen gadgets. How people used to live and their stories, especially.

While Colonial Williamsburg is a living history (town) museum, Yorktown is a presently lived in town. While Mike walked dogs (King can’t be trusted alone for very long, yet) Matthew and I attended the morning worship service at Grace Church. This church was established in 1697 and has had an active congregation since then. We thought it would be fun to visit, and it was. We met a lovely couple, Betsy and her husband (I really need to get better at name retention). They asked us the usual “where are you from” questions and we talked about dogs and hunting and living on a boat and the ever present “how did you get here from South Dakota?” I told them my story about Williamsburg and the battlefield, and they introduced me to a retired NPS ranger. She was very kind and said she was already retired in 2008 but loved to hear how the presentation had affected me.

We walked all over the small town and visited the American Revolution Museum and the Watermans Museum. On The Hill Gallery features local artists, we spent a bit of time there and made a purchase. It’s just the kind of place we like to shop. There are many little beaches and because it was a weekend, they were packed. The Ben and Jerry’s is a hit as well as a couple of other restaurants and a pub. We didn’t go into any of the other shops this time, but there were a few….. Mike dissuaded me from going into the bookstore. It

We took about a gazillion pictures, so here are many of them. The Schooner Alliance was here in 2008. We took a sunset cruise on it one night back then, so it was fun to see it sailing in the river where we were anchored.

Here’s a short glimpse of our sail out of Yorktown. Sailing with winds of 12-18 knots and making 5-6 knots. We just moved a little north to a new anchorage for better protection from storms blowing in. We will be gradually making our way to Washington DC by June 7th. Mike has 4 shifts scheduled in the ER in Pierre, so we thought that seemed like a good place to spend a few days at a marina and explore some more before he leaves and while he is away.

Slainte’

Long Time No Write

Well, hello there!

Where to begin….. Maybe with a statement of commitment to write more. The commitment is to myself, mind you. I kid you not, I think about writing *something* everyday. It is a sort of mind exercise, that I value. Sometimes I write in my journal. I write notes during my devotions and Bible study, have taken notes and journaled during my knee replacement recovery (more on that later).

Right. So, maybe a brief 2021 summary? When last I wrote, we were beginning 2021 with hopes and dreams and learning to navigate life at what was still a time of the ongoing pandemic. Last year was a decent one for us. Our sailing and cruising plans took a 180 degree turn, but it was GOOD!

We initially sailed down to St Marys, GA. We like the boat yard there and Mike has everything he needs there to take care of our old girl. We did some bigger projects, toured around and ended up going back to SD for a few months in the spring.

Then in June we decided to head north. We thought at first that we would sail the Chesapeake, then decided to keep going for Maine. Boy, are we happy we did that! That is territory that we will go back to. We had visited before, by land 11 years earlier and always wanted to go back. I think that’s the thing with Maine. Each visit leaves you longing for more time there.

The small fishing villages, islands that feel like they have been lost in time, ruins and national and state parks, hikes and trails, even the more “touristy” areas leave their mark. We found areas run by research partys where we learned about scallops and how they are harvested, another an Audubon camp on a nature preserve. Islands without habitation, beautiful rocky bays and beaches.

And then there’s the food. Lobstah, lobstah, lobstah! I am allergic to shellfish, but Mike and Matthew enjoyed it. Actually, Matthew isn’t the biggest fish of any kind fan, but he tried it. I discovered I can tolerate mollusks, while in Maine. So- scallops! I had my first scallops in Booth Bay, with an epipen in hand. Thank the Good Lord I didn’t need it, because I would have had a hard time not finishing my meal. YUM!

Then, there’s the people and history. We took so many walks and visited with many locals. We bought art and other crafts and just marveled at the trusting and friendly natured people we met. Truly incredible.

We had friends from SD visit towards the end of August. Rick and Dr Rachel Edelin are from Rapid City. We have known Rick for years in his life as a Pfizer rep. He and Mike had talked sailing (and any other outdoor activity) as we were planning our exodus. Mike had mutual patients with Dr Edelin, so knew her in more of a professional manner. None of us really knew how their visit would go, they were the first other than family to stay with us on board. I believe we were all pleasantly surprised with how well it went. We shared meals, hiked, kayaked, paddle boarded and talked til we were blue in the face. It was such an enjoyable time and we were blessed to have them.

We had several mishaps, as is always the case. Our centerboard decided to let itself down….twice. The first time we opted to haul out where we were to make sure we were good to continue. That was a mistake….the haul out was near disastrous as the boat was dropped unevenly in the sling. We got scraped up and lost our grill. The second time was as we were leaving NYC, we knew what it was and opted to keep going despite the horrible banging it was making. We tied it up in Hampton VA and kept going. We also had some “deck love” in NYC at the most rocky dock, ever. But, NYC was amazing, so we aren’t going to dwell on the scuffs. We developed a diesel tank leak in our midship tank. That was a near disaster for a minute. Then a water tank leak presented itself. Then, there was the BIGGIE. Our hull had shown delamination from our first haulout in 2019 and it was time to fix it. This, I think will be an entirely separate post. Mike has documented it well, so I thinking we will talk about it then. I feel like there were a few other more minor issues, but they escape me at present.

We also spent a few days in Montauk, NY, Onset, MA, Province Town, Cape Cod and Newport, RI. All places we would like to visit again. We missed Nantucket and Martha’s Vinyard and several other places. They are on the list, however.

For our last leg, from Myrtle Beach, SC to St Marys, GA our grandson Luc joined us for the first time on board. He had a really good time, and we look forward to having him again this year!

So- What’s in store for this year? Well, Mike has been working on the hull and other projects since we hauled out in November. He has been home for about 6 weeks since then. St Marys is his home away from home, for sure. What he has gotten done, on his own is quite astounding. He has repaired a 12-foot section of the hull. Stripped and prepped the entire boat for painting, among other, smaller projects. I went down for a week in January, then again in February when he was driving home. Once home, he built a new gorgeous wood helm seat (aka Erin’s booster seat) and a swim platform and dog step that will be mounted to the stern. While he was gone, I worked and prepared for my knee replacement surgery. It was put off once when I got covid 2 weeks before surgery was scheduled. So, I worked a little longer. Surgery was March 22 and I have been working hard at recovery since. Physical therapy is going well and I’m going to be given my walking (sailing) papers in a week or so. Mike has also picked up some shifts in the ED in Pierre, where he had worked for 8 years, pre-Voyager. They are, of course, happy to have him back here and there.

We plan to splash the end of May. We will initially go to St Augustine. We really like the town and are hoping Meg, Jon and Luc are able to visit while we are there. Mike will fly to SD to work a few shifts. When he gets back, we will head north. The Chesapeake is our destination for now. We have plans to be in Washington DC in July when Mike has to fly for work again. Other than that, nothing definite is on the dance card. Meg and Jon are expecting their second baby the end of August. So, we will be planning and deciding on whether to be back south before then or for me to fly home to be there when the baby comes. Stay tuned on that decision.

Until next time- Slainte’ Mhath

2021 Sailing Season… We’re Back!

Woohoo! Who else is excited to see 2021?

2020 was an odd and difficult year for many of us. While we are sure to have gotten off rather lightly, we still experienced some hardship. I struggled to find inspiration to write after we left the Bahamas. We have all been challenged to learn how to navigate the new normal and while we aren’t especially social people, we were challenged none the less.

Once we came back to the states and travelling up the East Coast, we got a feel for how social distancing worked and how to navigate it. We then secured Voyager for the hurricane season in New Bern North Carolina and drove back to South Dakota. The Hot Springs, SD hospital where Mike had worked in 2019 had been calling to see if he would come back, since March. So, he let them know he was finally on his way back and would be available shortly. The further west we drove, the more relaxed the restrictions seemed to be. I was overwhelmed when I stopped for ice in Rapid City as we were arriving home and I had to go to three locations to find it. Every store was packed and there were very few masks. Once home, we pretty much stayed there. There were a few trips to get groceries, and we had our small “bubble” of people. Our kids live on the same property. My parents have been pretty isolated, my brothers family, as well, so we felt comfortable with them. Lynn and the boys are very cautious because she is a solo provider at her vet clinic. These were the people we spent the summer with. We hiked, rode mt bikes, went canoeing, kayaking, had campfires and threw axes in the yard. I will never complain about the family time we had an abundance of this year!

In August our niece Helena went to New Bern with us and we sailed out to Ocracoke, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, for a week. This is where Blackbird’s pirate ship sank. This was a great time! There are golf carts to rent and historical places to visit. Pamlico Sound is a fantastic place to sail. Matthew and Helena played and explored on their own, as well. We tried all the ice cream and several places to eat. We would recommend a visit to Ocracoke to anyone, it was splendid!

As I mentioned earlier, Mike went right back to work. We were also still remodeling our barndominium. Matthew and I volunteered with Meals on Wheels and had a wonderful time delivering meals in Sturgis. So, time at home was full. I went back to work as well, in September. I am now recruiting for Lux Travel Nurse and took an 8 week assignment at Bennett County Hospital in Martin, SD. I hadn’t worked in a hospital setting in a few years and while initially nervous, found my footing and enjoyed the heck out of it. This is my favorite kind of nursing- small hospital- frontier medicine setting- never knowing what is coming in and relying on your skill and experience to get the job done. This facility has some amazing providers, ancillary and nursing staff. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with them again.

After spending Christmas at home and wrapping up our jobs, we headed back to Voyager December 26th. We stopped in Joplin, Missouri the first night and had a brief window visit with my Mamaw the next morning. I hope by the time we head back, we can have a real visit with hugs! Mike has received his first dose of covid vaccine and she will receive hers soon. Matthew actually got the virus in November and I hope to receive the vaccine soon, as well. I pray this will enable the visit to happen!

Right- so back to Voyager. The good and sturdy ship was mostly ready for us when we arrived. The sails needed to be put up, as well as the bimini, solar panels and cockpit enclosure. Organization of the cabin seemed a little more of a challenge, for some reason and took a little longer than expected. We arrived in New Bern at 0600 Monday the 28th. And despite what needed done, we were able to throw off the dock lines and headed out of the marina the evening of the 31st. We spent the first night on anchor just the other side of the bridge in New Bern. This was New Years Eve and we managed to stay up til midnight playing games and laughing together. Boy, were we happy to see 2021 in!

We have since made our way to Wrightsville Beach, NC. We anchored in the northern end of Adams Creek, then 2 nights in Moorehead City. Today, after the rain ends, we plan to go to shore for the first time in 5 days. We spent yesterday offshore, coming in just in time for the glorious sunset. We are very near the beach, now, so will take the dogs, and ourselves, for a good long walk. Matthew and I have been craving Chick fil-A, so we may order door dash.

We did have a change in crew. Our sweet boy, Falcon passed away in October from a gastric volvulus. He died suddenly despite Lynn spending hours trying to save him. We have been heartbroken as he left a huge 100# hole in our lives. In November Mike got us a German Shorthair Pointer puppy who Matthew named King Adora. Mike calls him Freckles, so now, he needs to grow into a rather large name, King Freckles Adora! He is super sweet and smart and we are loving his company. King is adjusting to the boat remarkable well and we have gotten creative in how to exercise a puppy on a 42 foot boat. He is obsessed with balls and playing fetch and doesn’t care how short the distance is we have to throw the ball, he will do it 100 times. He has also found the highest place to sit and overlook his kingdom and does this several times daily.

Katniss is still with us and acts much older than her 8 years. She has self sabotaged, getting into things she shouldn’t, had a scary bout with pancreatitis this fall, hunted hard and is now looking forward to several months of R&R.

I think that brings everyone up to date on the important stuff. We don’t have definite plans for this season. We have toyed with staying in Florida through March, then heading back to SD until July. I have wanted to sail out to the Dry Tortugas and Ft Jefferson for a long time and we could do that. We could then sail up to Maine for the end of summer and early fall. Right now, this is what we are leaning towards. Plans are written in the sand and change with the tide, however. As always, we are at Gods mercy and will go where and when he directs.

I will try to be better at the blog. Inspiration was lacking for the last several months and I’m now feeling it, again. If you have the inclination to pray for us, please do. The virus is still very much out there and will affect all our choices. As lockdowns and restrictions continue to happen we want to remain safe, keep others safe, not add to the burden of the healthcare system and be compliant. We most likely won’t be leaving the country as a result. As always, the future is unknown.

Back at It

Hello Faithful Followers!

So sorry it’s been so long, but we are back!  /) /) /)

While we were on land, I fell off the blogging wagon.  We got busy with building and diy projects, then we both went back to work for a few months to refill the kitty somewhat.  Mike made several trips to Voyager to get some projects done, so we wouldn’t all be sitting in the yard waiting to launch, while he worked.  We still were there 2 weeks, but that wasn’t so bad.  Mikes brother Nick and niece Sophia came for a few days.  That was fun as we hadn’t visited with them in a very long time.  We explored a little, Nick helped with the boat and Sophia and Matthew played chess, PS4 and piano together.  It was a great visit!

SV Voyager is currently sitting on a mooring ball at St Augustine.  We love it here, this city is just very interesting and pretty.  So, that said, we aren’t in a huge hurry to push on.  Mike is getting a few things repaired that we found along the trip the last 2 days.  You know what “BOAT” stands for, right?  Bring Out Another Thousand!  He found our stuffing box (keeps water from coming in around the propeller shaft) was leaking substantially.   He called a friend back at the boat yard who gave him a few ideas on repairs and that’s what he has done today.  It is fixed and we can be on our way tomorrow.  Another project Mike decided to tackle today is installing a wireless control for the windless.  The controls at the bow gave out last year, so Mike has had to give hand signals from the bow for me to operate the windless from the pedestal.  He is now installing/connecting the AIS cable.  AIS (automatic identification system) allows other vessels to “see” us on their navigation systems.  This makes for safer passages and also gives such information as boat name, whether is under sail or power, speed,  heading, etc.  When haling another boat we see on the horizon, it’s handy to know who and what we are calling.  We may need to do this in order to make corrections in our heading to avoid collision, etc.

Tonight we are going to do a haunted history tour of St Augustine on one of the trolleys.  We love history, so it should be fun.  The dogs and I have taken several walks and investigated some historic parts of town, the National Cemetery and some narrow alleys that quite frankly felt colonial.

When Mike used a Lyft yesterday he felt compelled to give the driver a history lesson, as she had only recently moved here.  He was able to give her a complete history on Henry Flagler’s  contribution to the city and the state of Florida.    He was quite an upstanding guy and influential with his prestige and money earned from being the brains behind Standard Oil.

Mike made several short video clips while doing boat repairs.  I call them “Mike’s hacks”.  I think I’m going to put them together for a short YouTube video.  That will be coming soon- stay tuned.

So, anyhoo- we are once again on the water and gradually heading south.  We have some friends we met in Green Turtle last year we are hoping to meet up with as they are also in St Augustine, presently.  There are a couple other friends we met in Miami that we hope to see there in a few days.  Overall, this is an exciting time as we begin our sailing season for 2020-

Slainte’

Back to Land Life….For Now

Right.   We have been home for 3 weeks.  This should have been an easy transition, right?  Nope.

We were/are so happy to see our family and friends.  We have missed them so much!  We have had lunch dates and play dates.   Mom and Dad came up for a birthday party we held for Megan and Luc (because we missed their birthdays) and we met them for a picnic on Fathers Day. We have seen the “big kids” and our grandson, Lucian almost daily.  All of this does our hearts so good.  Missing them was the hardest parts of being away.

So, what are we doing?  We are settled back into our camper.  Mike, has several wood working projects going and we are continuing our “sell everything so we can keep sailing” project.  Anyone need any horse halters???  How about some automatic horse waterers?  A car?  A truck?  Maybe some home furnishings…..?  There are repairs to be made.  The barn, windows, sucker rod fencing that needs welded, etc.  It’s the basic upkeep of owning a place.  I’ve made some new curtains for our room in the camper and I’m helping Sean around his place and we are re-established at church.  We have VBS coming up, which is always a fun week.  The boys (our former foster kids) will be staying with us for a few days this week, as well.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how the Lord has used us this past year.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that where I was the most miserable, He was using us the most.  For example, selling our practice.  I went through a bit of a depression while this process was happening.   But, the new owner is realizing her dream of being her own boss.  Another example, the hardest, was when we let the foster kids go.  We, in all honesty, would have kept them forever.  We asked about getting them passports and taking them (knowing that was very unlikely).  My heart was torn and then Lynn said she had prayed about it and wanted to pursue getting licensed and potentially adopting them.  This, although so hard to deal with at the time, has been ideal.  Lynn has blossomed into genuine mom material.  She and the boys have been blessed beyond measure and to see the positive changes in the boys,  because of what she can offer them has been completely worth it!

When we left, we had been in our camper for 6 months and although tight, was not uncomfortable.   We missed the hardest and longest winter in recent history (not that we are complaining about that) but it would have been terribly uncomfortable if we were continuing to live in the camper.  Then there was the boat yard.  Six weeks that WAS a little uncomfortable.  We ended up with a much more sound boat than we started out with AND more importantly, ended up spending the next 3 months with a family, the Sivori’s, who will be life long friends.  The Lord saw fit to put us within 4 miles of each other when starting out when we were all expecting to be on completely different schedules when we met in Brunswick 2 months before.  Add all this to personalities that compliment each other, boys that are the same age and what I think was especially important, was that we were all taking off into unknown waters (literally) and had each other for support, back up, friendship and companionship.   I’m not sure I would be so “boatsick” of it wasn’t for meeting these wonderful people!

So~ I miss waking up to the bluest and clearest water on earth, wondering what the days adventure will be.  I miss looking out and seeing a random pod of dolphins, or a ray, or sea stars and other fish.  I miss the gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) rolling of the boat when I go to bed.  I miss Matthew having his own room, hopefully this is remedied soon.  But, I’m happy to have my dog, Cookie to wake up to and my big kids and grandson very nearby.  My closest friends that I can call and suggest lunch, or a movie, or a sip and paint class.  I can see my parents within a few hours drive.  I’m happy to sit with my church family on Sundays and being able to participate and teach my crafts class for VBS again this year and celebrate the Fourth this week in the church parking lot.  This is why we came home and why we will be hear for a few more months.

SV Ventolines
Missing this crew like crazy!

Voyager
Voyager and her crew 2019

Well, I’m off to do some yardwork and sort some things for donation.

In the meantime, if you haven’t watched our YouTube videos check them out.  If you would like better video quality and a few glimpses of us, check out Sailing Ventolines YouTube channel.  Links to both:

The Preys Project/ SV Voyager

Sailing Ventolines:

Slainte’

Florida

Right- On May 14th we crossed back to the US of A.  This started out as a somewhat rolly ride, but cleared relatively quickly into a pleasant 8ish hour sail.  We began the crossing at Cat Island, Bimini.

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We entered Miami through Government Cut and anchored off Fisher Island.  This was basically a wide and barely deep enough spot in a bay across from where they load cargo ships.  We checked in to the US on the app in this location and then went around the corner to Virginia Key.  This was a pretty anchorage in front of a long beach, but it was very populated.  The beach was busy and there was a lot of boat traffic.   There was commotion at night as well as traffic from the nearby road.  After setting the anchor, we took Meg and went looking for a place to eat, American Food!  Jennifer found Salt and we headed to the U of Miami nearby.  There was a dock there, but a guard for the school said we couldn’t tie up there.  There was another short boardwalk that they suggested we use, so we did so.  The food there was terrific and we met the head of security.  Evidently he had seen us pull up and had contacted the guard on duty that there were 2 families looking for a place to tie up.  He said they get some people that aren’t there for the restaurant or any good thing and they run them off.  He was afraid we might be run off.  We received great service and had an exceptional time here.  We were feeling pretty good about being on American soil, again.

We were able to take the dogs to shore, although we chose to do so after dark when the beach had cleared out.  We had to row from the swim buoy’s also, so it just was better this way.  There was an ice cream truck and food tent as well, serving Latin food.  The Sivori’s and Matthew and I shared a Lyft to Target the next day.  Matthew was soooo happy to see a “real” store again!  He bought several gifts for family, in anticipation of going home in a few days.

From Miami we went south to Elliot Key.  This was a short trip, about 3 hours.  We spent one night here.  When we anchored and went to bed, there were four boats, including us.  When we awoke, there was approximately 500 boats.  We headed further south the next day towards Key Largo.  We anchored one night at North Key Largo, near Turkey Point.  We took a quick ride on Meg through the mangroves, it was nice to be off the boat for awhile.  Then onto the Anchorage Resort marina the 20th.   We had a bridge to go under that was immediately adjacent to the marina, extremely shallow depths (the only place we touched bottom, the whole trip) and a bit of a current.  It took 2 attempts to get into our slip, but it was reasonable smooth, anyway.   Do you know what the best benefit of a marina is???  AIR CONDITIONING!  Unlimited power means our AC runs nonsop!  We had a full day there before we headed to Tampa and enjoyed the pool and our first meal from McDonalds since December!

We stayed in a motel the night of the 21st after driving our rental car to Tampa (5 hour drive) and Matthew and I were at the airport at 0500.  We shed some tears, but had a good flight.  He slept most of the way.  When we deplaned, dad was sitting at the gate.  I ran Matthew over to the exit doors and tearfully hugged and waved goodbye to him.  Jamie had brought Helena and that was a great diversion for him.

Dad, Mike and I drove back to Key Largo that night.  We stopped first along the way to pick up some folding bikes Mike had found and bought on Facebook.  Then we found a sushi restaurant that was amazing!  I think I ate my weight in sushi!  We got home at 11pm.

Thursday, we ran around Key Largo a bit and went to marine thrift stores and gift shops.  We met Brad and Shelby from SV Falkor, which was in the slip to our port side (left as you look forward).  They are a young couple and she had just turned 28 the day before.  They have 3 rescue dogs on board, so we were all immediate friends!  They live aboard their Spindrift 43 pilot house sailboat in Miami.  She is a beautiful and unique boat.  When we went to town, we gave them a ride as we still had our rental car.  It was fun!  For giving them a ride, they blessed us with a colorful tiki that now sits below our dodger.  Jennifer had given me an ankle bracelet that day and dad had brought me a tshirt from Mom.  I was feeling pretty special.  Jennifer had recently given me a necklace of hers with a Walt Whitman quote:

“Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find”

We agreed that as she already had this necklace when she began her trip, it was just one more piece of evidence that we were meant to travel together and become life long friends.  I will always cherish this necklace!

That night, Jennifer, Wyatt, Shelby and I stayed up until midnight painting the wood that Jennifer and I had collected in our travels.  The guys talked and we were creative.  I love the pieces we made and the time spent together!

We were off to Elliot Key the next day.  We hoped that because of some weather coming in we would be in a less busy sight.  Not so…. So, the next night we went back south to Card Sound.  We anchored off some mangrove creeks.  We had drinks and played cards on Falkor that night.  Dad was worn out and stayed home.  We had taken a dinghy ride through the mangroves for a few hours and enjoyed the change in scenery.  The temperatures were gradually becoming warmer and we especially appreciate a breeze when at anchor.  That morning we had seen dolphins playing between the 3 boats.  Shelby and Brad had also seen a couple of nurse sharks, but we missed those.  Shelby coined us the Pirate Brigade!  I loved having the 3 boats and new friends nearby.  We all played around one more day, then on Monday headed back to Miami.  Falkor went to their home port and we dropped the hook back at Virginia Key.  After everyone settled we met up for a farewell meal at  Whiskey Joes across the road.  We dinghy’d over then after Brad and Shelby took me to the grocery store for a few last minute provisions.  What a sweet couple they are!  More new life long friends!  What could be better?

The next morning we headed north for West Palm.  As we headed out of Government Cut, the waves were bottlenecking into the channel.  We estimate the waves to have been about 6 foot and very close together.  Voyager plowed through them, burying her bow in the water several times.  It was a relief to turn north once out, and get out of that!  We were able to catch the edge of the Gulf Stream and made decent time.  We were making high 9’s (9+knots) and were happy with that.  We anchored near the Palm Beach Sailing Club where we had been in March, so we could take the dogs to the dog park.  The next morning we were headed north again after fueling up at the Riveria Marina fuel dock.

We weren’t sure if we would pull an overnighter or not when we left, but we did, indeed.  The gulf stream kept us at around 11knots and we were screaming along!  Typically, if only under sail with 12 or more knots we can expect around 7 knots of speed, so this was amazing.  We arrived at the Conch House Marina in St Augustine at about 4 pm on May 30th.  There was a brisk current and the wind, which had been minimal all day picked up as we approached.  The marina was somewhat narrow between docks and I had trouble lining up to the slip we were directed to go into.  As I started in, the wind and current took Voyager back.  I then narrowly missing a few other boats, swung around, doing a 360 and we pulled in to a slip across from where we were supposed to be.  It was embarrassing and humiliating and I was so glad no one got the footage (that I know of).  The dock hands were great and made light of the whole thing.  Mike said he thought the Lord was keeping us humble as we were feeling like we had this whole sailing thing down.  He’s probably right.  I tend to get a little too big for my britches and this brought me down a notch.

We weren’t sure how long we would stay, but planned on leaving Saturday if Rocky was able to haul us out on Sunday.  Well, turns out St Augustine is a pretty great place to explore!  Mike and I finally tried out our new bikes, riding to the Sailors Exchange (we had driven there from St Mary’s in Feburary).   This is a marine style thrift store that has absolutely anything you can imagine for a boat. We then got a Lyft to Mojo’s BBQ and had a late lunch with Ventolines Crew.  Oh.  My.  Word.  This place is amazing.  The food was delicious.  We split the “whole hog” between the 3 of us and still had food left over.  And the price was reasonable.  We walked around a little after.  Dad sat and enjoyed a beer while Mike and I walked around the outside of the fort, Castillo de San Marcos.  We really had no idea of the history of this great town and were fascinated!  So, we spent an extra day and took the trolley on the tour and were able to see a few more points of interest.  The architecture of the Flagler College, formerly the Ponce De Leon hotel is gorgeous.  We missed the guided tour, but will do it the next time we are in town.  We also saw a bit of the Governor’s House and then the Lightener Museum.  This is unlike any museum we have been to.  Apparently, Lightener, from Chicago, would buy up estates after the stock market crash in the 30’s.  This led to his being the owner of an especially eclectic collection of “stuff”.  He bought the Alcaraz Hotel for $150,000 to house his collection.  When this was a hotel, it was unique in that it had the largest indoor swimming pool of the time and this pool had 2 upper, balcony style levels, including a ballroom where Henry Flagler would have orchestra’s play while swimmers enjoyed the pool.  There was also a steam room and various bathing apparatus for his clienteles every whim and well being.  The architecture here is also lovely.  This was the second hotel built by Henry Flagler after bringing his wife to St Augustine for a healthier environment and finding transportation and accommodation lacking. Henry Flagler, if you aren’t aware, was the partner of John D. Rockefeller in the creation of Standard Oil.   Rockefeller had stated that Flagler was the one with the ideas.  Well, he saw a need in St Augustine and not only built a railroad from Jacksonville to Miami, but a hospital, churches, the 2 resort style hotels and several other beneficial businesses.   He bought a 3rd hotel, the Casa Monica from a friend who had built it, then realized it wasn’t going to turn a profit.  Flagler was there, checkbook in hand thereby owning the 3 largest resort hotels all within one block of each other.  He was quite a man!  This is an era of wealthy living that will never be repeated.  It was grand and high end and sparkly and excessive in a way I don’t think we have seen since and won’t see again.  We truly enjoyed our time in St. Augustine and plan to return and spend more time, there.

 

Tonight, as I write, we sit on the hook in the St. Mary’s river.  We will be hauled out at the boat yard, tomorrow morning.  We had a decent motor sail up from St Augustine today with very little wind and almost no height to the sea state.  When we said good bye to Jeff, Jennifer and Wyatt this morning, it was a surreal farewell.  There were many tears shed and I tear up now thinking about having left them.  We had literally been side by side for 3 months.  Besides my mom and brothers, I rarely talk to anyone every day, but that’s how close we have become to this family.  Mike and Jeff have hashed out sailboat issues, speculated on the weather and routes.  Jennifer and I have folded each others laundry and shared midnight Facebook and YouTube finds.  This is a relationship that took us off guard and completely sucked us in!  We have related to each other many times how we are so sure God put us together.  We needed each other for this journey and were happy to oblige.  The timing, our personalities, our gifts and talents, our children’s ages, all these attributes meshed so well, there is no other explanation.  I’m so glad we followed through and went where we were led.

My next post will likely be from South Dakota.  We have projects there to wrap up.  We may try and make a few dollars for the next season, but mostly we will be enjoying our family.  Matthew has never been away from us this long and we really aren’t sure we will do this again.  We miss him madly!  Megan turned 31 today and we will have a party for her after we get back.

If you haven’t checked out our couple of YouTube videos, do that.  They aren’t great, but you can see what we’ve been doing, rather than read about it, if you choose.

Slainte’

Alabaster Bay

When we left Hatchet Bay, we were headed for Governors Harbour.  We decided en route, due to the slightly uncomfortable sea state, that we would cut the passage short and anchor in Alabaster Bay.  This ended up being a great choice!  This bay is gorgeous!  The beach is miles long and the beach combing fruitful.  There were 2 other boats when we came in and the catamaran was gone the next day.

We were able to easily get the dogs to shore, watching when the other boaters had their dogs ashore.  There was also some ruins to explore on the beach and plenty of trees for hanging our hammocks.  A US Navy base was a mile and a half down the road and we walked there to explore.  There are old barracks, gas station, brig, store, absolutely everything that a small base would require.  And it was abandoned.  It turns out that this base played a major role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The base was formed to “listen” to submarines off shore in the Atlantic.  It was initially an experimental sight, that ended up being exactly what worked to divert catastrophe.

Jeff and Jennifer rented a car for 2 days.  While they had the car, we were able to explore both ends of Eleuthera.  The first day with the car, we went to Governors Harbour and explored the Ruins of Club Med.  What a place this must have been!  A lot of the buildings are gone, but the pools (with resident ducks), daycare, tennis courts, basketball courts and courtyard  remain.  Every time we tour one of these ruins, it leads to investigation of the site.  I’m always left wondering how these places can just be walked away from.  There were documents here, plans for the future, financial logs, etc.  And they are left, to mold and blow away in the next wind.

After Club Med, we ate lunch at Buccaneers and ventured further south and found church ruins at Bannerman Town and Lighthouse Beach.  This, my friends, is the most beautiful, secluded beach I’ve ever laid eyes on!!  Now, before you hop in your Chrysler and head out there, be forewarned that the road is questionable.  It’s a good thing the Savori’s rented a Jeep, that’s all I’m saying.

Day 2 of the car rental took us north.  We ate at an absolutely amazing restaurant along the way that had the best local cuisine.  It was called Island Something or other and was in Bluff, along the main road.  I had Curry chicken and it was delicious!  There are only a few items on the menu, but they are made to perfection.  Matthew had wings.  When I asked if she had BBQ sauce for them (when he ordered) she said no, but offered to make some~ and she did.  It was sooo good!  Also, when here, don’t trust the bathroom lock…..

We stopped at the Queens Bath just before the Glass Window Bridge.  This is something special.  There are several small pools and caves that fill with water depending on the sea state and tides.  The water varies in temperature and depth per pool.

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We continued up the road to Preacher’s Cave, stopping first at the Sapphire Blue Hole.  This is a salt water pool that is approximately 60 feet deep.  “Blue holes are typically found on shallow carbonate platforms, exemplified by the Bahama Banks…..” (Wikipedia).  It is a sinkhole originating from a limestone cave.  Regardless of how it’s formed, these holes are beautiful and fun.  When we stopped, there was another family there.  Two sons and the mom had made the 30 foot leap into the pool.  We didn’t really talk about jumping, but before we knew it, Matthew had taken off his flip flops and handed his dad his shirt and was preparing to jump.  Mike just had time to turn on his phone and record it!

 

 

 

After the blue hole, we went on to Preachers Cave.  This, readers, is historically very cool. It seems that this is where the first descendants of Eleuthera came, although, not on purpose.  They shipwrecked in 1684 on the Devils Backbone.  This is an especially shallow area to the north and east of the island.  They sought shelter in the cave and this is where the first church service was held on the island.  There is a cemetery, it is unmarked and we were unable to find it.  This cave is pretty large and has several alternate entrances to the grassy knoll above.

After the cave we wondered down a few other narrow roads and found some mangoes.

 

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That night we made hot dogs on the beach.  It was our last night on Alabaster and we were a little sad.  This also marked our turn around point and from here on we are headed back to the states.

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The next leg was making a turn towards New Providence.  This is where Nassau is, the Capitol.  We had no desire to go here (we have been vacationing there every year since 2005) while cruising.  It was, however, on the way.  We anchored at Rose Island.  The sea was bumpy and the anchor kept up the rolling.  When we were nearing Rose Island, Mike caught a fish, that when he pulled it in, had been partially eaten in the process.  We hadn’t had anything like this happen and were a little weirded out….  Also along the way, I had tea in my favorite cup from Lynn and read a little.  I was seasick for part of the day and the tea was comforting.

We sit, now at Hog Cay.  Yesterday we explored Bird Cay and the fascinating story behind it.  This was owned by Francis Frances, who was a descendant of the Rockefeller family (Standard Oil).  He bought the house from his sister, Joe Carstair (now that’s an interesting story- look her up.  There is a book called The Queen of Whale Cay, which I intend to read about her.  Anyhoo- Frances and his wife built a mansion and essentially a compound here and made it their winter home.  Google Bird Cay and see the stories.  It is pretty cool.  The house could be made beautiful again with repairs (a lot of repairs) as it’s not completely ruined.  The bones still look good, to me 🙂  I didn’t get many pictures, mostly video and I haven’t gone through them, yet.  Stay tuned!

This brings me to my next point.  YouTube.  We have posted a few videos.  Let me tell you something…. if you enjoy a YouTube channel or two, appreciate the work that is involved.  It is time consuming editing a video!  It is also HARD!  So, that said, go visit our sight.  And be kind- it’s the beginning and it can only get better.  I look at comments on other channels and wander where people get the idea they are invited to criticize….  How about say something nice, or not at all..  Ok, enough.  Yes, I’m fearful of criticism.  There, I said it.  I’ll continue posting videos either way, as this is a good way for us to save them and show our families.  So there.  Enjoy:

Here’s the link for the latest episode.

My next post will likely be from Florida.  We either have 3 days to go, or straight through any of those days depending on the weather.  Pray for safe travel, if you are so inclined.  I will be flying Matthew to Sioux Falls and bringing my dad back in a week or so.  My brother, Jamie, is calling this the prisoner exchange.  Matthew likens it more to a hostage situation as he is very excited to be going home.  Dad will make the last leg with us.  I’ll be happy to see him, then anxious to get home to my big kids and grandson and the rest of the family.

Until then~ Slainte’