CHAPTER 29     NOV 2010 to AUGUST 2011





Nov 2010 After leaving Mobile AL, we entered the Gulf of Mexico, and started across the FL Panhandle.  Stopped in several interesting towns: Panama City, Port St Joe, Apalachicola (famous for its excellent oysters), Carabelle and Steinhatchee.   These small towns are “old Florida” - very friendly and very southern.  The Panhandle calls itself the “Forgotten Coast” because early FL tourist brochures neglected to include the Panhandle.

On Thanksgiving day, we crossed the Gulf of Mexico and arrived in Tarpon Springs on the west coast of FL only to find no one around, nothing open, and we couldn’t fit into the slip that was reserved for us - the only slip left!  We had no choice but to leave with no Thanksgiving dinner ☹.  We arrived in Caladesi State Park just before dark, delighted to find several looper friends!  Later that night, we had a memorable Thanksgiving dinner of hot dogs and beans!

We spent December 2010 and January 2011 in St Petersburg FL.  It was wonderful spending the holidays with family and friends.  Although we love the traveling, it was nice to stay put for a while after months and months filled with daily changes.  At every new marina, there’s a new security gate and/or restroom code to remember, and lots of different courtesy cars to remember where you park in lots of different Walmart parking lots throughout the heartland and the south!  All rested up, we set out to rendezvous with friends Darwin & Jean, in Cayo Costa Florida where we “crossed our wake” for the second time, concluding Loop #2 and earning the AGLCA platinum burgee!  Of course, we celebrated with champagne!
(Note: In AGLCA (Americas Great Loop Cruisers Association) you start off with a white burgee. Upon completing the loop you earn a gold burgee, then advance to a platinum burgee after finishing two or more loops. The Loop (aka the Great Circle) is five to six thousand miles of navigable waterways throughout the eastern half of the United States and Canada.)

It took about a week to cruise to Marathon in the Florida Keys where we spent February and March 2011.  It’s our 4th year here, and it’s like coming home.  Lots of friends already here, and more friends and relatives came to visit.  Lots of casual happy hours, sunshine, gentle breezes, good food, and easy to fall into the lazy routine of “Keys disease” ☺.  We biked everywhere, but also rented a car every week or two to drive around the other Keys, and of course, visit Key West.

During April & May 2011, we cruised up the Atlantic ICW.  Then spent June & July at our home port marina in Old Saybrook CT taking care of boat projects, catching up with friends and family, and taking an occasional cruise up the CT River to Hamburg Cove. I also had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. 

By August, I was able to travel again, so we headed across Long Island Sound, up the Hudson River (it’s easy to see why the Hudson Highlands inspired the Hudson River School of landscape painting), to the Erie Canal in upstate NY, traveling from Waterford to Buffalo/Tonawanda, 341 miles and 35 locks.  We had an enjoyable month cruising through the charming small towns, visiting museums, shops and many delightful restaurants, then turned around and cruised back to Waterford again.  Just before arriving in Waterford, we were at the bottom of 35 foot Lock #5 when a horrendous thunderstorm hit.  The lock gates opened but we told the lockmaster we weren’t coming out until the storm ended!  Rainwater was coming down the cement lock walls like a raging river, and lightening struck just above us with the loudest boom I ever heard!  In a half hour, it was all over and we came out of the lock☺.  The following week as we were cruising down the Hudson River, an earthquake in Maryland was felt all the way up here.  Then a few days later Hurricane Irene struck while we were in Kingston NY just off the Hudson River.  The wind and rain weren’t too bad, but the current was rushing through at over 5 knots, with everything from trees, trash, unmanned boats, even a refrigerator and scores of pumpkins from a farmers field went sailing by!  The docks were taking such a beating we feared they wouldn’t hold, so we waded through water almost waist deep in the parking lot to seek safety in the fire station across the street.  By 5pm it was all over and we came back to find the docks in even worse shape.  The water was above the desk in the marina office, and the pool was filled with muddy flood water.  A local boater invited us to spend the night at his house, the kindness of strangers was most welcome!  All of this happened in one week!

We’ve now traveled 20,000 miles aboard SUMMERTIME at 7 mph!