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Old 01-17-2018, 01:22 PM   #1
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On The Loop

Week one of the America’s Great Loop cruise is now in the books; literally in the books; log books, personal journals, and postings to our social media sites. A brief itinerary began with our leaving on Saturday the sixth and cruising out to Anclote Island for our first anchorage. It was a blustery night with two waves noisily pushing our stern. I do not sleep well when we are at anchor constantly checking our position and making sure we are not pulling our anchor and drifting silently into shallow water or someone else. When it is windy, our anchor has been known to become unanchored.
From Anclote Island, we motored to an anchorage just west of the Sunshine Skyway causeway and dropped the hook in 14 feet of water and spent a very peaceful night. I checked our position only five times! We used our dinghy to explore local marinas and find the “facilities”. We try to use other facilities when we can so that we do not have to pump our black water out of our 40-gallon tank as often.
After a leisurely morning, we cruised into the Vinoy Basin and tied up to a mooring ball. We love St. Pete city and its beachfront lifestyle. Jean and I dinghied onto the city dock and walked the downtown area, visited with family, and took in a movie. The St. Pete Municipal Marina service and facilities (Wi-Fi, showers, etc.) are clean and included in the price of the mooring ball.
We left the Vinoy Basin in fog with one-mile visibility heading south using the radar and chart-plotter to navigate from one day marker to the next. We could not see the Skyway bridge until we were a half-mile away and then only as we passed under it as it disappeared off the stern a half-mile out. From the Skyway, we cruised to Anna Marie Island and anchored in a small basin called Jewfish Key. Jean and I dinghied into a small restaurant and walked to the beach for a beautiful sunset. Fog settled in not long afterwards and blanketed the entire area. While we were firmly anchored, the fog can create the illusion of drifting and I was checking our position only seven times that night. The next morning Jean and dinghied over to the city dock and rode a trolley around the north part of Anna Maria Island and enjoyed a walk around Coquina Key Park. With winds forecasted to increase, we decided to head to Sarasota and tie up at Marina Jack’s.
The cruise to Sarasota was a breezy one with fog settling in from the north and chasing us into Marina Jack’s. We have tied up here before and knew that we would enjoy their service and facilities. Tying up at Marina Jack’s gives us an opportunity to refresh our batteries, fill our fresh water tanks (120 gals), wash the boat, and perform maintenance as needed. It is also a great joy when you can enjoy a hot shower instead of a quick sea shower.
We used an Uber for the first time in Sarasota as we needed a ride to a Friday morning Rotary Club meeting. Jean and are fortunate to be ambassadors for Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust, which provides cutting edge research for scientists finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. The Sarasota Sunrise club is a very energetic and a fun club to attend. Jean and I gave a quick overview of our loop trip and how Rotarians can help through the C.A.R.T. organization.
Sarasota is one of our favorite cities to walk and enjoy dining out.
Our intended destination out of Sarasota was going to be near Venice but throughout the day with a great stern wind (9 to 10 miles an hour), we decided to stretch out and cruise to Cabbage Key and tie up for a couple of days. And here we are. Bright sunshine, cool, and windy as all get out. White caps on the water.
Staying at Cabbage Key for a couple of days gives us a chance to catch up on household chores, writing, planning the next weeks journey, and some walk around exercise.
I want to share a few thoughts and insights on week one’s adventure. Economy stands out as being an integral part of cruising. Safety is always first with me and I tend to be conservative in my choices as far as the safety of crew and vessel go. When I speak of economy though, I mean economy in size, amount, duration, and speed. When you live in a house there is typically room for everything we accumulate, but on a boat space is at a premium. I have too many clothes, too many notebooks, too many shoes, too many everything. Jean and I are learning that any item onboard must perform at least double duty, if not triple duty. Speed and duration are also at play while we cruise and since this is a marathon and not a sprint I am learning to not get up and immediately start the engines and go with the intent of “getting to the next destination “as soon as possible. A hard lesson for me. I am learning to slow down and smell the salt air. It is the journey and not the destination. I will insert a caveat here: we will either stay or go dependent on weather. I read somewhere that a captain has a book of intentions mitigated by weather and mechanical and will act accordingly.
Size does matter and it matters very much. When room is unlimited, you can store things in out of the way places, not so on this boat. There simply is not enough room. Recalling the above thought on an item performing triple duty, smaller is also better. A rare thought for land lubbers.
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Old 01-17-2018, 01:51 PM   #2
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Use an app such as Anchor Lite and rest more soundly!
Also set it and leave the cell phone on board when you leave the boat on anchor to explore shore. It will text another phone (admirals perhaps?) if boat exceeds set parameter of distance from anchor set.
Have a Great Loop (pun intended)!!
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Old 01-17-2018, 02:08 PM   #3
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Good Luck...I will watch for future updates...Your statements ring a familiar tone with what I must do in the next 5 years of preparation for our loop adventure..(confessed pack rat)....envious as I sit here with snow falling...Wildbill
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:27 PM   #4
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Keep pictures coming!

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Old 01-17-2018, 03:57 PM   #5
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Thank you thank you thank you for making our mid-winter doldrums more tolerable! Looking forward to any & all posts. The more details the better! Safe travels! Subscribed!
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:08 PM   #6
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Thanks for sharing. I use AnchorAlert app on my phone at night, plug the phone into the charger on a 800 watt inverter in the berth. Keep up the posts and pictures.
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Old 01-18-2018, 12:12 PM   #7
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Thanks for the update! Keep us posted!

A few random thoughts: Why no hot fresh-water showers on board? Surely you can fill the water tanks pretty regularly on the loop. And if you're motoring, I hope you have a jacket water loop in your water heater. If not that would be very high on my upgrade list.

Others have mentioned anchor alarms. It's good to get familiar with them, but it's also good to be nervous. On one delivery we were anchored at the head of a small embayment, and didn't know the bottom was foul. No way to set a narrow enough radius to avoid trouble just a few yards on either side. When the wind picked up overnight, I got up several times to visually check our position. Good thing!

Finally, when using a smart phone or tablet app for an anchor alarm, keep it plugged in, but plug it into a 12V adapter. It seems such a waste to power an inverter up to 120VAC so you can supply 5VDC to a phone! Obviously no big deal if you're motoring every day, but for those times you're waiting on the hook for a few days, every hour without the genset running is another hour of peace and quiet.
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Old 01-20-2018, 11:45 AM   #8
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Week Two on the Loop

Cabbage Key Resort is a walk back into old time Florida. The old inn and the grounds take you back to a time when the rhythm of life was much slower. Jean and I tied up on Cabbage Key as a last-minute alternate due to losing light and the wind blowing 20 mph gusting to 25. Setting the anchor in Cayo Costa was proving impossible for us and becoming a dangerous position to be caught in with darkness fast approaching. Cabbage Key was close, and after a phone call we tied up 30 minutes later with the help of a young couple. In high winds, Makin Memories can be a handful for the two of us to tie up due to a significant amount of surface area she possesses. We stayed two days and enjoyed the peacefulness with long walks and reading. The food is outstanding, and every flat space is covered with signed dollar bills, some from famous people such as Randy Wayne Wright and Jimmy Buffet.
Leaving Cabbage Key, we cruised to Sanibel Island where we tied up at Sanibel Marina. Jean and I met up with family and enjoyed a unique dining out experience at the Bubble Room further out the island in Captiva. The Bubble Room is a fantastic blend of antique toys, mannequins, puppets, and clowns. It is a multi-level museum of old times serviced by a staff wearing boy scout uniforms. I was especially intrigued by a large model monocoque airplane hanging from the ceiling as you first walk in. The food was outstanding and definitely worth the trip.
Back at Sanibel Marina, we received our care package from home and said our goodbyes to family. Jean and I walked over to Grandma Dot's and shared a sinfully good piece of chocolate cake.
From Sanibel, we cruised to Fort Myers and began our journey along the Caloosahatchee River and The Okeechobee Waterway. The Caloosa Indians used the river as a highway to reach deeper into their hunting grounds and trade with other tribes. The river is beautiful with plenty of room for two way traffic, and Jean and I enjoyed the peaceful cruise to our first lock through experience at Franklin. Locking through at Franklin was a pleasure with the helpful lock attendants giving instruction and advice for the future locks to come. We were the only boat in the lock and were in and out in twenty minutes.
La Belle was our destination, and we tied up at the La Belle City Wharf for two nights. You can stay three nights in a row but then must vacate for at least eight days until you can come back for the next three. La Belle is an old city in the midst of renovation and fun to visit. Jean and I enjoyed the Bridge Street Coffee & Tea shop where we warmed up on coffee and tea and had dinner at the Forrey Grill, a great little family restaurant also on Bridge Street. The folks at the library were accommodating and helpful with places to see and visit. We stopped by the Harold P. Curtis Honey company and learned about the many different types of bees and the resulting honey that they sell.
From the LaBelle City Wharf, we made our way along the river to Moore Haven. They provide a city dock just before the Moore Haven Lock that one can tie up to with power and water and facilities a short walk away. Moore Haven is a small town struggling to remain relevant. Our inverter died, and after hours of speaking to installers and factory techs, we came to a place where we think it is an AC board that failed. The closest service dealer is in Ft. Lauderdale, so we will drop it off and have it back in working order next week...hopefully! More about the inverter later. The good part of this is we can still charge batteries while the engines are running and have power when connected to shore power, so all is not lost, just chilly lately. We learned that we could turn on the stove and it will warm up the cabin as quickly as a space heater does. The bonus was scrambled cheesy eggs for breakfast! We fueled in Clewiston at Roland Martins Marina (a must visit) and ready our selves for the trip across Lake Okeechobee, newly christened by us as the "Okee-cocoa Lake." The lake looked seriously like Hersey's chocolate milk; even the white caps were brown.
The crossing of the great chocolate milk lake was uneventful, and we entered the Port Mayaca Lock early afternoon. As the day wound down and we cruised along the waterway, we found parts that reminded us of the African Queen movie with Humphrey Bogart and elements that were reminiscent of the Heart of Darkness written by Joseph Conrad. It was both beautiful and silent. We are currently tied up at River Forest Yachting alongside an immaculate and well-kept mooring with power and water for a reasonable price. The facilities are close by and keep clean as well. The folks here are friendly and accommodating. As the third week of this adventure begins, I have a bilge pump to replace and then a few additional small repairs to make. We will head to the last of our Okeechobee Waterway locks today and then head south to even warmer climes.
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Old 01-20-2018, 01:39 PM   #9
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Thanks for the update! Keep us posted. We will be starting the Loop fall '19 from Columbus, MS on the TennTom.
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Old 01-24-2018, 10:37 AM   #10
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Had the " numbers guy" over last night. Our four year plan still looks good. Will be following along. Hope to cross paths someday.
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Old 01-24-2018, 08:41 PM   #11
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Looking forward to following the story! Cabbage Key is a favorite place and Roland Martin’s sure is a hoot!
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Old 01-30-2018, 09:03 AM   #12
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A Windy Week Three


It was an early morning departure for Makin Memories and her crew this Sunday from River Forest Yachting Service. River Forest is a quiet, clean, well-maintained place to moor before locking through St. Lucie. After a coffee and tea to wipe away the night’s sleep and with the preparation for departure routine completed, we were on our way to the last lock-through on the Okeechobee Waterway. The St. Lucie lock has a 13-foot drop from the Caloosahatchee to bring you back to sea level. The cruise across of the remaining Okeechobee Waterway was a quite one with wind and wind gusts steadily increasing. We made our way through the St. Lucie River and past Stuart, turning right and cruising through Hobe Sound. A beautiful stretch of the preserve on the ocean side and beautiful homes on the west side. Jean climbed out and up on the hard top and shot photos of the Jupiter lighthouse as we passed a very busy cross section of bridges, rivers, and boaters.

Our destination for the day was Palm Beach Gardens, and a marina stays for a couple of days while we dealt with the repair of our inverter. We rented a car and delivered our unit to a certified repair depot in Ft. Lauderdale was thinking that we could pick it up as we passed by on the way south but were pleasantly surprised that they had the necessary control board in stock and we brought the unit back with us the same day. A thank you to David Romero of eMarine Systems of Ft. Lauderdale and his great customer service. I would also like to thank Louie and Shane of Louie’s Marine Electrical, Holiday, Fl. (727-222-3932) for talking me through the systems test and reinstallation of the inverter. The two of them spent a lot of time on the phone over four days teaching me how to find a possible workaround till I could get the unit repaired.

Leaving Loggerhead Marina at Palm Beach Gardens, we cruised through Lake Worth and tied up at Lighthouse Point Marina at Lighthouse Point, Fl. (just outside Delray, Fl.), for the evening. The next day’s cruise was sunny, but still very breezy, as we passed Boca Raton, Hillsboro Inlet, Ft. Lauderdale, and the amazing Port Everglades where the harbor was full of cruise ships, mega yachts, tugs, barges, and container ships. We were able to clear most of the bridges without having them stop car traffic, but there were several that we had to wait alongside sailboats for the scheduled opening. The wind was a challenge to stay on point, sometimes waiting 25 minutes.

Jean and I found a city marina in North Miami (Pelican Harbor Marina) that has reasonable, and we could wait out the 20 to 25 mph winds, gusting to 30/35 mph for a few days. The facilities are commensurate with the rates and the location not bad. We could walk to several restaurants, and Uber’d to The Miami Seaquarium and Little Havana.

Week three was a windy one, and it looks like week four will be much of the same as we enter the upper keys.
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Old 01-30-2018, 11:28 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by MakinMemories View Post

Week three was a windy one, and it looks like week four will be much of the same as we enter the upper keys.
Exceptionally cold and windy January and into February. Our boating suffered on the East Coast, but in the Gulf now. Planned on Cancun but no windows when we wanted them so Gulf cruising instead.
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Old 01-30-2018, 01:09 PM   #14
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Have a great time on your loop. Keep the photos and travelogue going.
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