We don't anchor out often. Marinas offer chances to get off the boat and explore a new place. But this anchorage was beautiful. Quiet and protected from the wind. We dropped the anchor and watched the birds swimming close to shore. Before we knew it they were standing...in the same place. That's what happens when the tide goes out. Ha. The sunrise the next morning was breathtaking.
Did you notice the Scout sock? We put the sock over the burgee (flag) at night or the sound of it flapping in the wind drives us crazy. It's small boat, we don't need crazy.
Windmill Yacht Club, Hilton Head
The entrance to this yacht club is a small lock. After our experience with big locks this one was just plain fun. And the marina was full of expensive boats. Big, expensive boats. We weren't intimidated at all...cuz Nellie May is so cute. We had lots of people walk by and tell us so.
We went to dinner at the Clubhouse. Since we weren't dressed up (?) they put us in the bar area. Still pretty fancy, and the buffet dinner was fantastic.
Beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina
We loved this place. The marina is right downtown with good showers and laundry facilities, and there were many restaurants within walking distance. The city has a wonderful waterside park with porch swings that whisper "sit...swing...stay awhile and just watch the boats go by," so we did!
The best part was the carriage ride/tour around the historic district to see all the antebellum homes.
Charleston, South Carolina
We spent a week in Charleston at the Charleston Harbor Marina. It is the fancy marina with 2 pools and a hot tub. The sun was out for 2 days and then it rained and cooled off. So instead of sunbathing we played tourist in Charleston. We took the water taxi across the bay to downtown Charleston. We started our "tourist" afternoon with a horse-drawn tour. Then we walked back to the museums we wanted to explore. There was so much to see!
Even though we are a small boat there are times when we have to have a bridge open for us as we travel on the ICW. This is what it looks like when a railroad swing bridge opens to let us through.
It never gets old to see this happen.
Southport, North Carolina
We love Southport. This is where the movie Safe Haven (Nicolas Sparks novel) was filmed. We watched the movie and then took a golf cart tour of the filming locations. It sounds hokey but our guide was a fountain of information about the filming because he was one of the local "extras".
The Maritime Museum was great, including the submarine periscope.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Remember "Beautiful Beaufort, South Carolina"? Beaufort, North Carolina is pronounce Bow-fert. The locals will correct you if you get it wrong...
I am all about the showers at marinas. This time I saw something I have never seen before. This is what it looks like when you take your dog into the shower with you. Not quite sure what to think about that...
Lamb's Marina in Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Think Mayberry...that is the feel in Lamb's Marina. We had just crossed the Albemarle Sound and were looking for a place to rest and wait out the huge wind storm that was predicted. This little marina was off the river and very quiet, and everyone we met there was a true character. We were the only transient boat. And we got lots of comments ---"how the heck did you get here from South Dakota?"
Mr. Bill, the habormaster, drove us the 10 miles into Elizabeth City to Lowes for some parts. Then he shopped with us. A truly nice guy.
Meeting local people is one of the hightlights of this trip for us.
The Great Dismal Swamp
The Great Dismal Swamp sounds creepy, right? It was gorgeous. It's hard to describe the quiet on this stretch of water. The reflections were almost hypnotizing.
It is a State Park with a free dock. We tied up and went to the visitor center for information and map of the area. Then we took a hike through the swamp on the elevated dock walkway. It has been cold enough there that the bugs aren't out yet. When it warms up I think they could carry you away. I'm serious.
AGLCA Spring Rendezvous
Twice a year the America's Great Loop Cruising Association hosts a conference for people who are either planning to do the Loop, on the Loop right now or have finished the Loop. This conference hosted over 300 people for 4 days of classes, meals and fun activities. The above picture shows the nearly empty marina before all the Loopers showed up.
Your name tag told people if you were in the Planning stage, In Progress, or Completed the Loop. As you can imagine, the Planners out numbered the rest of us. And they were full of questions! We gave tours of Nellie May two afternoons. So many people were interested in how we live on our 25 foot Ranger Tug. It was fun to show her off and share the excitement.
Tim and I started this adventure 8 months ago. We have over 3,800 miles under our keel. It was fun to share what we have learned with the Planners, and it was really fun to reconnect with other In Progress Loopers that we met along our trip but haven't seen for months.
Old friends, new friends and time off the boat. It was good.
We spent 11 days at the St. Augustine Municipal Marina, March 8 thru the 18.
Can you see our little Nellie May?
The big red boat in this photo is our neighbor, a 31 foot Ranger Tug. If you look closely we are on the other side of it. Our 25 foot boat looked like a little sister next to the bigger boat. It was fun to meet Amy and Steve and get a tour of their boat. Then we gave them a tour of our boat. It didn't take very long...
St. Augustine Marina has floating docks which is great because the tide changes are about 4-5 feet. The marina had great showers!
Castillo de San Marcos (fort)
One of the highlights of the St. Augustine area is the fort, Castillo De San Marcos. It was completed in 1695 and served continuously for 205 years under the flags of five different countries. It was the focus of many combat actions, mostly between the Spanish and English, including a siege by Sir Francis Drake, who burned the town. The fort is constructed of cocquina stone, which is comprised of lithified sand and shells. The stone is rather soft and instead of breaking apart when hit by cannon balls, would absorb the impact with little damage.
The tour of the fort included a demonstration where the cannon was fired (no cannon ball) out over the bay.
It is the oldest fort in the US and is a real blast from the past.
St. Patrick Parade ( a week early...)
Saturday, March 10, there was a St. Paddy's Day parade downtown St. Augustine. We enjoyed watching a marching band, a bagpipe band, many pirates, horses and a few motorcycles. And lots of green! ARG, matey.
A fun day at the Celtic Festival
We spent Sunday afternoon at the Celtic Festival. The sun finally came out which made the afternoon delightful. We had a ringside seat for a multitude of Celtic games. Local folk competed in the cabor toss (throwing a phone pole) to launching a burlap bag of straw over a bar to throwing rocks like a shot-put. Interesting bunch of guys in skirts (kilts??). Food booths offered everything from haggis (yuk) to "meat-on-a-stick" to funnel cakes. And beverages of every kind. If you get my drift...
Tim went sailing!
Tim is a sailor at heart. He was one happy guy during his 2 hour sailboat tour on the Freedom moored at the marina. No, he didn't get to drive the boat. Yes, he really wanted the wind to blow harder. A bonus of the tour was they went under the bridge so it had to open for them, twice.
I was on the dock to greet him when the tour was over.
I think I did some laundry and read a book while he was gone. We were both happy.
The lighthouse on St. Augustine
When we are in a marina that is right in the middle of the action we do lots of walking. We walk to restaurants, grocery stores and museums. This time we walked to the Lighthouse. It was a looooong walk. We debated on calling an Uber to get back to the marina. Instead we decided to NOT climb all the way to the top of the lighthouse and save our legs for the walk back.
This lighthouse had 2 different museums on the grounds with loads of history and photos of the lighthouse over the years. Since we are from the midwest all the history of the coastal area is new to us and very interesting. I love the photos of the women in their big dresses and hats taken on the very same porch where I was standing that day.
Kind of gives me goosebumps.
Marilyn Monroe’s dress
It's my fault.
I heard the original Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum was located downtown St. Augustine. I was intrigued. I put it on the schedule. We went.
Oh my goodness. I have never seen so many weird things in my life. And most of it was creepy. And then we saw Marilyn Monroe's dress.
The museum had just purchased the dress she wore when she sang Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. It was in a glass case and had a full time docent/guard at the exhibit. The guard said they purchased the dress for 5 million dollars. That explained the security.
Tim thought it was pretty cool.
Flagler College was beautiful
This is a photo of the ceiling of the entryway to the main hall at Flagler College. The building was the former Ponce Hotel. It was gorgeous.
We spent February back home in South Dakota. No we aren’t crazy. Tim had some work to do the business ($$$ yeah!) and I got the taxes done. The month went really fast visiting family and friends when the weather cooperated. Well, truthfully, I got to visit people...Tim only came out of this office in the basement for nourishment.
I took this photo as we left Sioux Falls. I love to see the farmsteads with their shelter belts covered in snow. I guess you need to grow up in the Midwest to appreciate the winter landscape.
Back to Florida
We returned to Melbourne, Florida, stocked the refrigerator and headed north. We tucked into Manatee Cove Marina for one night with Pam and Ray Monfore before heading back on the Great Loop.
We stayed a few nights at Titusville and were fortunate to see another launch. This is why they call this section of Florida the Space Coast.
VIP treatment at the movies
Going to the movies is a real treat for us. Titusville had a cool, old multiplex showing 6 different films. We took an Uber ride to the theater and got in line for tickets. The young man behind the counter asked if we wanted the VIP treatment. Of course Tim said yes. Then we asked what that meant! The young man said, “A smaller theater with bigger seats.” Sounds good.
Goodness! We were the only people in the theater and we had real, honest-to-goodness recliners. It was heaven. And we could talk during the whole movie.
Sometimes it is the little things that make a place special.
New Smyrna Beach
We stayed a few nights at New Smyrna Beach City Marina. A nice marina with floating docks. Floating docks are great because we don't have to deal with tides. We could walk 2 blocks and be in the historic part of downtown New Smyrna.. The street had delightful coffee shops and a few bars. And one bar had a quirky sense of humor.
Bob Ross wasn't home
If you don't know who Bob Ross is I suggest you google him. He had a painting show on PBS on Saturday afternoons. When the kids were little we knew we could count on them falling asleep on the couch if they watched Bob Ross. He had a smooth, soothing voice that would make anyone start to doze.
When we found out he was from New Smyrna Beach and they had a museum with his art we knew we had to go there.
They were closed! No mention of it on their website. Dang.
Next door was a Beauty Parlor so I got a haircut so the trip wasn't a total waste.
Nellie May at New Smyrna Beach
Just in case you forgot what the boat looks like...
Pancakes are messy on a boat
Cooking on the boat doesn’t happen very often because there are so many enticing restaurants close to the marinas. But we found ourselves at Marineland Marina and there wasn't a restaurant within walking distance. So pancakes were on the menu. Pancakes from a mix. It just seems wrong...
Where have we been?
This is the map shows our travels to date.
We arrived in St. Augustine last week. The next newsletter will be all about our adventures in St. Augustine. It will include the Celtic parade and Celtic Festival. Woot, woot!
We spent one night at Telemar Bay Marina. We tied up, hooked up the electric cord and got out computers to do book work and such. Pretty boring stuff.
Then we got 2 surprises. First there was lots of splashing right next to the boat. That's usually not a good thing, but this time it was dolphins frolicking in the slip next to us. Our own private Sea World entertainment. Computer work can wait!
Then sculling boats came out of the marina one after the other. We learned this a favorite sport in the area and teams will go out to practice on the ICW every day. Some teams are local but a team from Canada was in the area that week so we could hear the coxswain shouting instructions in French. You don't see that every day!
Manatee Cove Marina at Patrick Air Force Base
We stayed at the Manatee Cove Marina at Patrick Air Force Base for the last 2 weeks of January. Our friends from Yankton, SD (Ray and Pam Monfore) sponsored us. This marina is for veterans. It was awesome. Pam and Ray have a new 27 ft Ranger Tug so it was fun to be in the slip right next to them. The photo shows Tim and Ray doing their "Vanna White" impression.
Since the marina is inside the gates of the Air Force Base we passed through security each time we went shopping or touristing. I felt very safe with our service men and women guarding the gates.
On January 19 we had the great fortune to see a rocket launch while sitting on our dock. The rocket went up from the NASA launch facility at the Kennedy Space Center. We could see the actual launch and then see when the second stage boosters fall away from the main rocket.
Manatees are so cool..
Pam took us to the local spot where manatees gather to stay warm when the temperatures drop. The air temperature was about 40 degrees the day we saw these big guys. They are huge. And they have "cow" noses.
The ones in this photo are about 8 foot long and hundreds of pounds. They move slow. I caught a shot of this guy rolling over. See all the log-like things in the background? More manatees.
Staying warm together
Baby and mama manatee
Traveling back to SD for Feb.
We flew home to South Dakota for February. Crazy, right? The boat is out of the water, in storage at Anchorage Yacht Basin in Melbourne Florida while we are gone.
Tim has spreadsheet work to do for the business and I am in charge of getting taxes done. But, best of all, it is great to see friends and family. We have met some wonderful characters on this trip (you know who you are...) but it feels good to return to our little town and have the checker at the grocery store exclaim, "What are you doing here? I thought you were on a boat trip!" Friendly harassment? Old friends can do that.
Tim's brother, Dan, picked us up at the Sioux Falls airport with winter coats, hats and mittens for us. It's been 2 weeks and we are starting to get used to below zero temperatures again. Scraping my vehicle windshield? I still don't like that part of winter.
Where have we been?
This is the map shows our January travels.
You never know what you will see on the Inter-coastal Waterway (ICW) in Florida. Tourists on a pirate ship bundled in coats and blankets. I bet they didn't expect this cold weather in Florida!
Evidence of the power of hurricanes.
We were continually amazed at the number of wrecked and abandoned boats. Some were washed up on shore, some were sunk with only the mast above water and some were run aground on sandbars. A true testament to the power of the ocean.
Hello 'Tween-waters Resort!
We took a side trip to a resort called 'Tween Waters on Captiva Island. I could have stayed there until spring. The sun finally came out so lounging by the pool felt wonderful. The Gulf was a short walk across the road so we spent time walking the beach. It was glorious. The resort had a pool and 2 hot tubs. Did I mention the sun finally came out?
Traffic jam on the water by Fort Meyers, Florida
We could not believe the boat traffic coming out of Fort Meyers, Florida. We learned a lesson...get off the water before the weekend or deal with all the local boaters who are in a hurry to get started on weekend fun.
Getting ready to cross Lake O
Lake Okeechobee is the 2nd largest lake in the continental United States. We planned to cross it on Jan 11 but high winds forced us to duck into Roland Martin Marina and hope for better weather. The next day was perfect. We usually cruise at 7mph but that day Tim put the hammer down and we crossed the 25 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I was very, very glad to have that stretch of open water behind us.
Fort Pierce City Marina
We arrived in Fort Pierce City Marina ready to get off the boat and explore the city. The marina is downtown which makes it fun to walk to coffee shops, restaurants and shopping. The bench wasn't very comfortable but it was pretty.
Two layers of coats and a hat. In Florida, in January. But it's still warmer than South Dakota!
Carrabelle is a nice little town right on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. We planned to stay there 2 nights and then make the “jump” across the big water to continue our trip down the west coast of Florida.
We left the The Moorings Marina, headed out into the Gulf and ran into seas 3 times bigger than predicted. Captain Tim made the sane choice to return to the marina and wait for better weather.
2 weeks later...
We crossed the Gulf...our way.
We contacted a boat dealer who used to sell Ranger Tugs. He had a trailer made for Ranger Tugs and a driver who delivered boats up and down the coast. Done and done!
Hello Tarpon Springs!
Our boat delivery guy, Arthur, dropped us in the water at Anclote River City Park and we headed for the Greek fishing town of Tarpon Springs a few short miles away. We got a slip at the Tarpon City Marina for 3 days. The Marina is right downtown so we had the chance to walk the boardwalk, eat Greek food and pastries.
It felt really good to be on the move again.
Traveling with a buddy is a good idea.
We traveled with our Buddy Boat friends, Tim and Ramie, to Tarpon Springs. They have a Ranger 29 and trailered it the day before we trailered our boat.
We were together for the 2 weeks we spent in Carabelle which made the time go by a little faster for everyone. We did puzzles, played pool and learned how to play Mexican Train during those 2 weeks. And ate a lot of meals together in the Captains Lounge.
We celebrated Christmas with a potluck dinner at a neighboring marina. They host this dinner every year for anyone stuck in Carabelle due to weather, people who live on their boat and anyone who would like to be included. We brought pies from the grocery store which made us very popular. Good people, good food, and a Christmas Day we will remember.
We all rejoiced when we got to Tarpon Springs. First thing we did is go downtown for Greek food. ..and adult beverages may have been consumed...
Up close and personal with manatees
The day after we arrived at Tarpon Springs the weather finally turned "Florida". It was warm and sunny. It felt great to shed coats and hats. Florida is supposed to be warm, not 40 degrees. the locals kept telling us this cold snap was really unusual...lucky us.
Our friends invited us to join them on their dinghy to cruise down the river to the local park and see if we could see the manatees that live there.
We did see manatees but I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to get a photo. They are big. They have noses like cows. The only thing that you can see at first is their nose when they come up for air. Then they do a slow dive and flip their tail. It was a hoot. If you want to see what they actually look like I suggest you Google "manatees".
I'm so glad we enjoyed the day doing something fun because that was our last sunny day...back to winter coats and hats.
The next day...
You can't see it but I have 4 layers of clothes on under that coat. And a hat. And a scarf.
This is at Clearwater Beach. White sand. No people.
But it's still warmer than South Dakota, right?????
Port St. Joe, Florida
We arrived in Port St Joe, Florida, on Dec 4 and stayed until Dec 14. We intended to stay 2 nights. We were forced to wait for a good weather window to get to Apalachicola , 3 hours away. Tim had to practice patience...hourly.
And it rained. Almost every day. And cold. The locals kept telling us this was unusually cold for this time of year. But the cute, downtown district was a short walk from the marina so we had our choice of restaurants and a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
And they had great shower facilities.
Saturday night the city of 4,000 put on a Christmas parade with floats, little Shriner cars and the high school marching band. We collected all the candy that landed by us and gave it to the little kids on either side. Although Tim did keep all the Dots.
Only in Florida would you see a boat covered in lights in the parade. It was delightful.
Tides are awesome. Tim has perfected the art of tying the boat to a fixed dock to compensate for tides.
Because the docks are fixed (not floating) the boat goes up and down with the tide.
That means sometimes I can step off the boat onto the dock and sometimes I have to crawl up on the dock or get a boost. It is still weird to wake up to the dock at eye level. In this photo you can see the boat is about 3 feet below the dock.
This is the cutest little town!
We stayed one night in the marina there and walked downtown for shopping and dinner.
We are now traveling (buddy boat) with Miss Norma, a Ranger 29 tugboat. The owners are delightful. And it’s fun to travel with another Ranger Tug.
I am writing this post from Carrabelle, Florida. The sun final came out and we traded our jackets for shorts.
We might be here awhile.
The next leg of the journey takes us out into the Gulf of Mexico. Yikes. Tim is watching 5 different weather forecasts and consulting with other Loopers on a weather window that would give us 7-10 hours of acceptable wind/wave conditions in the ocean.
We are at the Moorings Marina with our buddy boat, Miss Norma. We are having fun exploring the little town of Carrabelle. The marina has free breakfast every morning, good showers, and a captain's lounge with a big TV, tables and chairs and couches.
If we have to wait somewhere this is an OK place to be.
We don’t always stay in a marina.
Some nights we find a safe place to get off the river and “drop the hook” to anchor out for the night. The benefit is that it is very, very quiet and it’s free.
The downside is there is no electricity, showers or restaurants. Sometimes we don’t have a choice because the distance between marinas is too far to motor in daylight.
This photo is our morning view leaving the Sumpter Landing anchorage. The fog was beautiful and gone with the sun.
We have stayed at some wonderful marinas on the river system.
And some sketchy ones, too.
I judge a marina but the showers. First, do they have showers? Is there just one shower for men and women? Is it clean? Do I wear my shower sandals or my rain boots in the shower?
Marinas will advertise showers, laundry facilities, restaurants or a courtesy car for transient cruisers to borrow. More than one washer/dryer is huge. A restaurant on the marina site is really nice.
And courtesy cars are very interesting. We borrowed one truck that we were sure wouldn’t make it the 4 miles to the grocery store.
Docks- floating or fixed
Floating docks mean we don’t have to worry about tides.
The tide raises the dock as it raises the boat. Otherwise Tim has to arrange the lines attached to a fixed dock to compensate for up to a 3 foot drop in water level. And crawling up on the dock from the boat at low tide is hilarious.
We are definitely not in South Dakota!
National Naval Aviation Museum
We spent a whole day touring the National Naval Aviation Museum while we were at the Palafox Marina in Pensacola, Florida.
We watched a movie on D-day while were there:
You can see the trailer here: https://youtu.be/nwwDIvvV-NM
Eating our way around the Loop
The best marinas are attached to the town. Walking 2 blocks to restaurants, shopping and haircuts is a treat.
Panama City Marina was right in town.
The Wharf was in Orange Beach and there was a 12-screen movie theater!
Right now, we are in Port St. Joe which is on the edge of town. They have a restaurant in the marina but we can walk downtown where we have a choice of 10 or 12 local little restaurants.
Yes, I don’t cook on the boat as much as I thought I would!
Sweetie, honey or ma'am.
I have been called all 3 in the most musical southern drawl by everyone from grocery store clerks to the dock hands at marinas. It sounds wonderful.
And as soon as I start talking I have seen heads pop up and look at me.
I guess I’m the one with an accent around here.
You are from WHERE?
On the back of our boat you can see our boat’s name and our home port. Nellie May, Lake Madison, South Dakota. That has been the start of some fun conversations.
-Is South Dakota by Canada? (no, that’s North Dakota)
-How the heck did you get on the river system from there? (we put the boat on a trailer for 600 miles before we put her in the river)
-Aren’t you cold? Tim gets that a lot when he is wearing a t-shirt and shorts while the locals are in parkas.
How big is your boat?
How big is that boat?
What they really mean is how SMALL is that boat?
We have the smallest boat doing the Loop.
Most of the boats are yachts at least 40-50 feet. They have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. And a full kitchen with an oven.
Our boat is 25 foot and more like camping than cruising. But it has a bathroom with a door so I’m a happy girl.
Where are you going?
Where are you going? We say near Chicago and get some really strange looks.
Then they tell us we are headed in the wrong direction.
So, we explain The Great Loop. Start near Chicago, spend a year on the rivers and end back where we started.
Which usually leads to the next comment---
-You must really like each other.
We have traveled 1803 river miles over the last 2 1/2 months.
We tell them, so far-so good.
What is a lock?
A lock is like a huge bathtub with huge gates on each end. It is a device used for raising and lowering boats, ships and other watercraft between stretches of water of different levels on river and canal waterways.
We have gone through 30 locks in the 1735 miles we have traveled so far. By the time we finish the Loop we will gone through over 100 locks.
Each lock has a lockmaster. “Locking through” starts with Tim calling the lockmaster on the VHF radio telling them the name of our boat, whether we are upbound or down bound on the river and requesting a lock through. Since we are in the South we have to listen very carefully to the instructions because the lockmasters all seem to have a very Southern drawl. And it’s sort of a no-no to say “WHAT?”
Lockmasters run the show
The lockmaster will tell us how long the wait will be, which side he’d like us to tie to in the lock and to please wear your PFD while in the lock. These guys have been great. And they all call Tim “Captain”. As in, “Come right on in Cap when you see the green light and tie to either side. Let me know when you are secure.”
They open the gates, we idle in at no-wake speed, pick a floating bollard (a big hook thing that goes up and down with the water) and I lasso it with my trusty line. (You have lines on boats, not ropes…) We radio we are secure, they close the gates and then we either go up or down as they equalize to the level of the water on the other side of the lock.
When this is complete we stay tied to the bollard until the gates open, the lockmaster blows a loud blast on his locomotive-sounding horn. Then we cast off, motor out of the lock, call the lock master to tell him we are clear of the lock, thank him for his service and wish him a good day. This whole process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to hours.
Click here to see a short video
At Wilson Lock we waited 8 hours before we were allowed to enter the lock at 3AM. It wasn’t any fun at all. Commercial shipping has priority.
We got this!
The Wilson Lock has a drop/lift of 90 feet. All we could think of was the gates in Jurassic Park.
Many of the locks have a drop/lift of 30 feet or so.
Some of the locks were terrifying because they were so old they didn’t have anything to tie to. Lock 53 on the Ohio River was in such bad shape we used both of our boat hooks to grab a busted, rotten ladder on side of the wall.
And one lock wasn’t even operating. The gates were open and we motored through. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. It was like a tunnel with rapids. We were doing fine until the big boat ahead of us slowed down. Then we were dealing his huge wake AND his wake reflecting off the sides of the cement lock.
Since I couldn’t help at all I just covered my eyes.
We got through and I didn’t cry or throw up.
I called it a winner.
Tim and I started our Great Loop Adventure on 9-11-2017 in Ottowa, Illinois. We put the boat on a trailer and drove 9 hours from our home in South Dakota to Heritage Harbor Marina in Ottowa to put her in the water. Tim's brother, Dan, drove the truck and trailer back to our house. Thanks Dan!