Stuart Shore Excursion

With all the work in preparing for life aboard the boat wrapping up, it was time for a real shore excursion and some sight seeing.  Most locals all suggested the House of Refuge as the must see spot in Stuart, so our adventurers set out on bike to see what the fuss was all about.

The first stop was about a mile down the road to take in the Atlantic Ocean.  The water was clear and the sand was brown.

Looking out to sea. This area is called the Treasure Coast due to the number of shipwrecks back in the sailing ship days
” Looking out to sea.
This area is called the Treasure Coast due to the number of shipwrecks back in the sailing ship days

After a short break and a little shelling, they left the beach and headed down to the House of Refuge.The couple was greeted by a little ole man who took the time to give a verbal history of the House of Refuge.  He said the House was built back in 1876 as one of ten such houses to help ship wrecked sailors.  According to him, there were only 200 people registered to Florida in the 1870 census.  So when a ship wreck happened there was little assistance for any survivors.

The concept was to build the houses about ten miles apart, have someone live in the house, and walk the beach 5 miles up and down the beach looking for sailors.

The House of Refuge
The House of Refuge

The Gilbert Bar House of Refuge is the only house left.

The man also mentioned that they closed at 1600, so he cautioned not to linger to long in the porch rocking chairs.  Seems some stay there all day.  Hmmmmmmmm

Rocking the day away in the cool sea breeze
Rocking the day away in the cool sea breeze

Inside the house revealed a small space, with even smaller rooms.

Kitchen
Kitchen
Dining Room
Dining Room
Living Area
. Living Area

Check out their website, if you would like to learn more about the House of Refuge.  Or check out the web cam of the Atlantic from the House.

http://houseofrefugefl.org

No excursion would be complete without a little geocaching, and there just so happens to be a cache only 300 ft from the House.  This was an easy grab.

Claudia returning log to the cache.
Claudia returning log to the cache.

Time to head back and stop to provision the boat.  As with most things with the boat, no task is as easy as it looks.  A stop at Publix’s to get enough food for the next several days seems easy enough.  However, when they went to leave the store, the wind was blowing about 25 mph and a sprinkle had started.

They made a decision to sit out the storm under the pavilion.  Thirty minutes latter the storm subsided so they started the last half mile back to the boat.  Check the radar just to be sure, all looks clear, and then when barely out of the parking lot, the storm lets loose round two.  Our bicyclists make a detour to shelter at a gas station and wait another 20 minutes for the weather to clear.

Packed up for the ride to the boat.
Packed up for the ride to the boat.
One soaked crew member
One soaked crew member

Finally, the weather really clears and they safely return to the boat.

On a better note, the AC is fixed, so on Thursday, July 9th the last day of on board training will take place as the boat heads to Vero Beach for anchoring and mooring training for the crew.

I survived

The fourth started innocent enough, a short little bike ride (5.2 miles) to pick up a few needed items to make life aboard the boat a little better.

Celebrating the 4th in Stuart, Fl. This flag once flew in Iraq. Thanks Mike.
Celebrating the 4th in Stuart, Fl. This flag once flew in Iraq. Thanks Mike.

This biking adventure started at about 0930 while it was still cool, but did not end until after 1430 after a few added detours, 90 degree weather, with 87 percent humidity.  Total distance 15 miles.

First stop – Our bikers set out to get the ‘would be skipper’s, phone fixed.  Seems it was dropped, broke, and basically dysfunctional since May 28th.  The repair shop was over a mile long bridge with a 100 foot elevation gain at the center.  The mate got a little help to make it over the bridge as the ‘would be skipper’ rode beside her with his hand on her back and pushed them both up and over.  Coasting down the other side of the bridge brought them to the repair shop.  Good News – The shop performed surgery and brought the phone back to life.  Bad News – bunch of specialty shops in this area that need to be shopped down by the mate.  More Good News – shops closed due to Holiday.

Second Stop – rain delay, had to pull in to another shopping center because of showers.  They found a closed restaurant with outdoor furniture to wait out the storm.  This gave the mate a chance to make a call to Judith Nix to see how she was doing.

Third Stop – top of next big bridge, another 100 foot, mile long bridge.  Needed to take a rest stop at the top of the bridge.  Boy, does it heat up fast here in Florida, or what.

Fourth Stop – West Marine, bought a grill for the boat, but now the ‘would be skipper’ has a flat front tire

Fifth Stop – 5 Guys Burger and Fries, you have to have a burger on the fourth, and if you have to have a burger………..they do not get much better than this.

Sixth Stop – half mile in wrong direction to get air for tire

Side stop. Like the verbiage on the sign
Side stop. Like the verbiage on the sign

Seventh Stop – two miles in the wrong direction to go to Walmart to get patch kit for tire.

Eighth Stop – back at the bottom of the two bridges, rest up before tackling the first bridge.

Ninth Stop – top of first bridge

Tenth Stop – top of second bridge, mate informed ‘would be skipper’ to get to the boat and make sure the AC is working so it is cool when she gets there

Eleventh Stop – back home on the boat, where the mate was heard saying “I survived” as she was sitting down to rest and cool off.

After relaxing a bit, the two set off for a swim at the pool and some pool side reading and napping.

The fireworks were set to start at 2100 hundred so our crew headed back up the first bridge to get a birds eye view of the show.

The Stuart show was upstaged by a river front homeowner who also started shooting his fireworks at 2100.  The amateur show went for 20 minutes and the reflection in the water was spectacular.  Amazing what you can do when you pass the hat in a multi million dollar housing addition.

From the perch on the bridge, one could see fireworks in 360 degrees. Very impressive!

After things slowed down, our couple hiked back to the boat to turn in after a long day.

Time to bring this day to a close
Time to bring this day to a close

Hopefully the AC install will complete early in the week and the boat can set off to Vero Beach.

Sea Trials

With our live aboard crew safely tucked away on their boat, expectations were high for the the three days of scheduled training.  Unfortunately, what our crew learned is they had more work to do before they were ready to go anywhere.

Lane spent several evenings after work getting AC to function.
Lane spent several evenings after work getting AC to function.

Captain Chris and Alyse showed up on Tuesday, June 23 to start the learning process.  The Captains spent a day and a half with our crew teaching basics and fundamental skills needed to safely navigate the U.S. Waterways.  However, they also discovered a few items that needed to be corrected before the grand adventure.

To assist with the needed repairs, Captain Chris contacted Captain Geoff Gow.  Geoff arrived onboard Wednesday, June 24 and went to work correcting the issues.  He provided lessons in marine maintenance to our new owners as they worked to get the vessel in the best shape possible for the upcoming adventure.

I heard the ‘would be skipper’ say something about the steep learning curve being steeper than the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  He went on to described that the canyon was so steep that he could touch the canyon wall with his hand while standing.  Sounds like climbing a 2000 foot ladder.

With the repairs complete, it was time to turn the book knowledge to actual hands on training.  The first passage would be from Sweetwater Landing to Roland Martin Marina near Clewiston, a trip of about 70 miles.

The passage is on the 140 mile long Okeechobee Waterway.  Traveling east, there are three locks that raise you from sea level to Lake Okeechobee level.  Then two locks that lower you back to sea level.

Okeechobee Waterway
Okeechobee Waterway

Saturday morning started by some more training by Captain Geoff and then the first maneuver of leaving the slip.  Claudia did well handling the lines and getting the gear stowed.

Goodbye Sweetwater Landing
Goodbye Sweetwater Landing

The next test was negotiating the W.P. Franklin Lock.  Luckily our new boater’s were the only ones locking thru.  With the assistance and constant coaching from Captain Geoff ( port ahead, starboard aft, both neutral, port ahead, etc, etc, etc.) the ‘would be skipper’ managed to position the boat next to the lock wall where Claudia was able to grab a line and secure the vessel.  All with no boat damage, imagine that.

Our deck hand prepping for first lock......looks more like primping or posing
Our deck hand prepping for first lock……looks more like primping or posing

The lock master closed the gate flooded the lock and the boat floated up about three feet.  With the gate open, more constant coaching from the Captain, Still Waters II safely exited the lock with her crew in tow.

Water rushing in the lock to raise us
Water rushing in the lock to raise us

The crew then managed the Ortonia lock and then finally the Moore Haven lock.  By the third lock this crew actually looks like they know what they are doing. During the approach to the marina, a huge storm blew in. High winds and a down pour so bad you could hardly see out the front of the boat.  Did you order this Captain Geoff for our viewing entertainment?

Claudia handling lines as we lock. Notice the water level change on lock wall
Claudia handling lines as we lock. Notice the water level change on lock wall

Luckily the rain let up just as the boat approached the marina.  The crew was welcomed by a very enthusiastic bunch along the pier cheering the arrival of Still Waters II.  Our ‘would be skipper’ maneuvered the vessel into her spot along the pier and Claudia with a little help from Geoff got her safely tied up.

Day one is complete and by the looks of the crew, they look pretty spent as well.  Who needs a gym membership when you can lug lines, fenders, and other material all day.

Advertised as most popular stop on the waterway. They rocked on late into the nite. So tired, sleep anyway.
Advertised as most popular stop on the waterway. They rocked on late into the nite. So tired, sleep anyway.

Day two will be a 50 mile run to Stuart, Fl and entail crossing the 25 mile wide Lake Okeechobee, two more locks, and then into the St Lucie River, a U Turn onto the the actual Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, and finally arrival at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina.

Lake Okeechobee, can you find the top of a sunk shrimp boat?
Lake Okeechobee, can you find the top of a sunk shrimp boat?

The day turned out to be similar to the day before except when they entered the St Lucie River and the water went from being > 10 feet to less than 6.  Did I mention that the vessel has a draft of 3 ft 9 in.  That is not much water under the vessel, and gave our ‘would be skipper’ more than a few moments of sphincter muscle constriction while floating past places less than 5 feet deep.

But hand it to Capatain Geoff, because he took this time to pass on a little tip of wisdom……..if you hit something, just keep in mind the thumb rule of $1K for each knot of speed for the repairs.  Just go slow.

I think I overheard a thank you in there somewhere from the ‘would be skipper’, but he looked pretty focused as he was negotiating the vessel thru the shallow water.

As they were making their final run towards the Marina the wind really began to kick up again.  At the final approach to the Marina, our ‘would be skipper’ handed the helm back over to Captain Geoff who graciously accepted the challenge of backing the boat in slip 16.

Pics from the flybridge
Pics from the flybridge

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The crew will be in Stuart to complete final maintenance checks and install a new AC system onboard. That will take them past the July 4th weekend, so it looks like it is time to relax and sight see Stauart, Fl.

Honey, Who Shrank the Boat

Eric here reporting on our adventurers.  They finally left the safety of their Texas surrondings and headed to Florida.  They left on Monday, June 15th about 1400.  Something about loading the Jed Clampet mobile, dropping some more stuff off at storage, and running several errands to wrap up business before leaving.  Also a goodbye lunch at Claudia’s favorite Tex Mex in Alvarado.  Probably be awhile before they get some more good Tex Mex.

The Clampet mobile rides again
The Clampet mobile rides again
More stuff
More stuff

They had an uneventful drive to Vicksburg and called it a day.  That night they decided to head to Atlanta on Tuesday to sale Claudia’s car.  She accused the ‘would be skipper’ of diverting to Atlanta so he could partake of a 5 Guys Burger at his favorite spot.

They arrived in Atlanta in the late afternoon, just in time for going home traffic.  What a mess that was.  So yes, they did go to 5 Guys and have a burger over in Smyrna.  While there, they conducted business and made an appointment with Progressive Remarketing to sell the car on Wednesday.  Tuesday evening saw repacking as they moved stuff from Claudia’s car into the truck. Bit of a tight fit, but there was a place for all the stuff.

Wednesday morning they met Brian Carswell (interesting last name for a guy in the car buy/sell business) in Roswell and negotiated a good deal to sell both the car and the truck.  They left the car on the spot, and they will drop off the truck in Ft Myers just before casting off on their adventure.

It was lunch time, so a trip to Fudruckers on the way out of town for an elk burger was the next order of business.  He made some comment that between restraunts not selling elk burgers back home and his son, he had not had an elk burger in almost 2 years, and that must be too long.  Seems he took his son out to eat in the spring.  The son asked his dad what to get.  The dad said elk burger, so the son ordered The elk burger.  Yes, THE elk burger.  When the dad ordered an elk burger he was informed the boy had just taken the last one.  The joys of parenthood.

The Fudruckers stop with the 1/2 pound burger must of hit the spot, because the couple drove ten hours and got to Ft Myers just before mid nite.  Thursday morning found our couple trying to figure out how to move the boat from Owl Creek Boat Works to a marina so the couple could move aboard.

Once again, when a need arises, someone steps in and fills the need.  This time it started back in May while our couple was attending a seminar in Norfolk.  There was a couple (Jim and Carol Fidler) who had completed the loop aboard Fiddlesticks and hailed from Arlington, Texas.  The couples crossed paths the last day of the seminar.  Jim and Carol introduced our couple to Cathy and Glen Mayer.  In the course of conversation our couple learned that Cathy and Glen have a son ( Brandon) who just happens to own a marina in Ft Myers.  They scribbled his phone number down and tucked it away for future use.

Well the future is now.  A call to Brandon was the answer.  He agreed to drive the boat from Owl Creek to Sweetwater Landing (basically across the river) since our ‘would be skipper’ has no business driving this boat yet.

Owner of Sweetwater Landing
Owner of Sweetwater Landing

Unfortunately, the little motor across the river had more excitement than was anticipated. Only a few hundred yards from Owl Creek the port engine started coughing then died.  Brandon tried to restart the engine but it would not start.  Wow.  This is not a good way to start!  They limped into the marina and tied up out on the transient dock.

Brandon mentioned that there was a guy who lived in the marina who just happened to work on Cat diesels and just happened to be down on his boat.  In a few minutes Mike showed up, asked a few questions and started troubleshooting the port engine.  He found the fuel suction line closed which explained the coughing before death of engine.  He opened the valve and the engine came back to life.

Brandon showed back up and piloted the boat into berth 18 at Sweetwater Landing.  Sweet indeed!

Tying up at berth 18
Tying up at berth 18

Claudia had driven the truck around to the berth to make it easier to move aboard the boat.  After tying the boat up, Claudia walked around the boat for the first time since sea trials back in February.  She stepped out on the sundeck, looked at all the stuff in the truck, and muttered the phrase, “honey, who shrank the boat?”

Claudia aboard in berth 18
Claudia aboard in berth 18

Claudia is working quickly to unpack and nest on the boat.  Company is coming on Tuesday to teach our newbies how to operate the beast.  After three days of training, the hope is to have enough confidence and skill to actually maneuver the boat without incident.

Berth 18
Berth 18

Our ‘would be skipper’ tells some pretty funny stories about people launching boats.  Seems in his younger days his dad always camped near the boat ramps during summer vacations.  His dad believed watching rookies launch their new boats was the best show in town.  Our ‘would be skipper’ does not want to be THE SHOW at any marinas.

Time to buy a Boat

After years of looking at boats on line, it was finally time to get serious and find a boat.  As with most things in life, when you are ready, the right person just seems to show up out of no where.  So it was with Curtis Stokes. But I am getting ahead of the story, so let me back up a little bit. Our wannabe boaters decided to go to an AGLCA one day seminar in Charlotte, North Carolina to learn more about looping.  The seminar was in November 2014, and well worth the time, if for nothing else, for meeting Curtis Stokes.

Dreaming - That will be us someday
Dreaming – That will be us someday

Our couple narrowed their list down to about ten boats and were ready to go shopping.  February was selected to be the time to go look, and a road trip was planned to go see boats in Mobile, Destin, Jacksonville, and Ft Myers. By the time the boat buying couple got to Ft Myers, they had seen several nice boats, but none that shouted out, buy me, I am the one.  However, both boats that were viewed in Ft Myers quickly rose to the top of the list. In fact, they cast off the last two boats to look at because they knew it was one of these two. The boat of choice was one of the two boats in Ft Myers, but which one,………..decisions, decisions, decisions. Both boats had positives and negatives, but no matter how you sliced it, they just kept coming out equal.  It was  almost down to a flip of a coin.  However, while driving home and still trying to decide, our couple was listening to a sermon message they had missed since they were on the road. During the message, PK (Pastor Kevin from 12 Stone Church) was talking about being still and listening for God’s direction.  At that time the ‘would be skipper’ recalled a sign that our couple had in their kitchen that says …….Be still and know that I am God.  The ‘would be skipper’ announced that they would be buying the boat named Still Waters II.  He explained why to his bride, she was in agreement, and the call was made to Curtis to make the offer. Offer accepted! That was easy!

Claudia and Curtis during survey
Claudia and Curtis during survey

Another trip to Ft Myers for the survey and sea trials…………..And on March 30th our happy couple became the third owners of Still Waters II.

Texas Hold’em

You may have heard, seen, or actually played a card game called Texas Hold’em. In the game there comes a point at which one player pushes all the chips to the center and announces ‘ I am all in’. Then the fun begins. Basically, the player has bet the farm that they are holding the winning hand.

Well, that is what our crew has been up to in 2014 – 2015, they have pushed all the chips to the center of the table and announced they are all in on doing the loop.

Now mind you, this is not required to do the Loop. Some folks (probably the sane ones) keep their home and do the Loop in sections during the summer boating season. Others rent their home and do the loop in 1 to 2 years. In fact there are many ways to do the Loop, and the best way is your way.

But our crew went ‘all in’, meaning they sold their home, had an estate sale to rid themselves of their stuff, and are now making the plans to buy a boat. Rather than enlarge the cruising kitty, sale of properties went into a future housing kitty as our boating couple will look for a home as they cruise the loop.

But back to our story. The crew sold the Percifield property in short order in 2014. The property was about 7.5 acres with 700 foot lake front on a small 100 acre lake. The new owners plan to build a house on the property and we wish them well.

View from front porch at lake
View from front porch at lake

So now it is time to finish the renovations on the home on Lake Alvarado. This is a 1.75 acre lot with 300 feet of lake front that the wife calls her promised land. The crew had begun adding on to the house in the summer of 2011 when they decided to move to Atlanta. The room above the new garage was still unfinished in the summer of 2014.

The plan was to finish the room and put the house up for sale, but as with most plans, this plan was about to get derailed in August of 2014.

Front porch at the lake
Front porch at the lake

A weekend of fun on the water was in full swing with the crew’s kids and grandkids at the lake when the granddaughter announced that there was a strange man in the yard. The ‘would be skipper’ went out to see what this man was up to when he announced that he was looking for a house in the area that was supposed to be for sale. He also commented on the great view of the lake. Our ‘would be skipper’ pointed out and gave directions to the neighbor’s house when low and behold the wife announced from the porch, “our house is for sale.” (In reality, I think she said “will be” for sale).

Fun on the lake
Fun on the lake

The man said his wife was in their boat around the cove and asked if he could get his wife and look at the house. In a few minutes, he arrived by boat and they got the grand tour of the house.

To keep a long story short, Randy and Kristie bought the property ‘as is’ with the room unfinished. Change of possession took place in November.  Hope the new owners of the ‘Promise Land’ have as much fun there as the wannabe boaters.

With the sale of the house in progress, the next step was to conduct an estate sell to unload the stuff accumulated over a lifetime of living on land. The crew had a saying, “if it won’t fit on the boat, then it is for sale.” Mind you, they do not have a boat yet…………only in America can you fill your house and attic with stuff, then move the cars out of the garage so we can store more stuff, and then rent storage space for more stuff. You just gotta love this country of stuff gatherers.

Kinda reminds me of a joke about the guy who died with a suitcase of gold. When the angel came down to escort him to heaven the man argued that he had to take the suitcase with him. After several back and forths, the angel relented and let the guy take his suitcase full of gold with him to heaven. As they were approaching the checkpoint desk, Peter gave the angel a look of ‘why does he have a suitcase?’ The angel commented that the guy just would not leave the suitcase behind. Peter directed the guy to open the suitcase to see what was so important. The guy opened the case with a big smile and his chest out. He was really proud of himself for amassing so much gold. Peter looked at the gold and commented, “it is only asphalt, why do you want to bring asphalt to heaven?”

With the sale of the house and stuff, it was now time to find and buy a boat.

A Timely Call

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.     Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

From the time that our adventurous couple learned of the Loop back in 2011 till July 2013, loads of water passed under the bridge of life. And with the passage of time, there had been plenty of change, with more on the horizon.

Both parents of the ‘would be skipper’ had passed on to the other side of life to Heaven, first the mother in 2011 followed by the father in 2012.

And if that was not enough, after 26 years of work at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, the ‘would be skipper’ changed jobs in 2011 and went to work at INPO in Atlanta. While in Atlanta, the adventurous couple decided that the Loop was definitely something they would do and they began making tentative plans on how to unload their land possessions and buy a boat.

Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant
Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant

The original plan was to work in Atlanta for several years and return to Texas to retire, so they had not sold their house back in Texas. Instead, they had renters in their house at the lake. In addition, they had 2 other properties that they would need to sell.

INPO Building in North Atlanta
INPO Building in North Atlanta

So by July of 2013, they had formed a plan to return to Texas to help facilitate the sell of their 3 properties. Unfortunately, they had not figured out how to actually get back to Texas with a paying job.

Then the unexpected happened. At the end of July, a phone call came in from an old friend with a job offer to return to Comanche Peak. Interesting timing! The offer was for a two year contract with CBI. The start date would be September 23, 2013 and the countdown was on for the new job, selling properties, and buying a boat.

The next 2 years would be interesting, interesting indeed.

Planting the Dream

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Back in 2011, the ‘would be skipper’ was working at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.  As part of his professional development, he decided to participate in an INPO review visit at the Clinton Power Station in Illinois.  

While on this trip, the ‘would be skipper’ met one Al Darelius who had just purchased a trawler.  Like a grandparent showing pictures of their grandkids, Al was busy showing pictures of his new boat and talking about something called America’s Great Loop.  Al also discussed the America’s Great Loop Cruising Association (AGLCA) that provides information to people planning and cruising the loop.

After returning home, the ‘would be skipper’ shared the ‘Loop’ with his bride and they decided that this sounded like something to add to their ever growing bucket list.

The ‘would be skipper’ is a big reader, so he ordered a couple of books to research this adventure further:

1- Honey, Let’s Get a Boat by Ron and Eva Stob

2- Changing Course by Paul and Sheryl Shard

After reading the books and researching the Great Loop on the web:

1 – Captain John’s America’s Great Loop,   http://www.captainjohn.org

2 – America’s Grat Loop Cruisers’ Association, http://greatloop.org

the couple was hooked and they knew this was something they would have to pursue.

Now that the dream was planted, the happy couple needs to figure out how to cut the anchor from this land existence and navigate to full time livaboards.  They set a goal to be on the water in 2015, but with no real plan on how to get there from here.   Hhhmmmm

Hello Fellow Adventurers!

Eric the Red here, I will be facilitating this blog that will chronicle the travels of Still Waters II.

Unlike Ernest Shackleton who had to post the following want add for crew in 1914 aboard the Endurance:

“MEN WANTED: FOR HAZARDOUS JOURNEY. SMALL WAGES, BITTER COLD, LONG MONTHS OF COMPLETE DARKNESS, CONSTANT DANGER, SAFE RETURN DOUBTFUL. HONOUR AND RECOGNITION IN CASE OF SUCCESS.

SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON”

Our crew is looking for like minded adventurers to join them as virtual crew members on their journey around America’s Great Loop.

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