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The Great Loop

West Palm to Ft. Pierce    Chart
(Lat: 27º 27'N Lon: 80º 19.339'W )

We had a good day today boating from West Palm to Ft. Pierce. We left around 8:30am and arrived around 1:10pm. The first part was slow because of heavy population areas, manatee zones, etc. It was a beautiful day and the homes, boats, etc, that we saw contiues to amaze us. When we got to the Indian River area we could speed up and that shortened the trip considerably. We pulled into the Ft. Pierce City Marina, fueled up (ouch $3.859/gal) and then put the boat in the slip, sprayed her down and then we got cleaned up for the afternoon. Ryan drove for a longer shift today and did a great job.
The parents of our oldest son's very good friend live near here and we called the father(Don) and he came over to see the boat. The mother wanted to come but they were having 12 for dinner so she was pretty well occupied. We had a drink and Ryan ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell which he talked his mom into eating one. It was her first and it took quite a bit of encouragement but she downed it just fine. We talked about our kids and then he had to head back to the house for the dinner. Jackie, Ryan and I ate at the other restaurant near the marina and had a great meal. After dinner we walked up town a few blocks and walked into a classic car show that was really nice. They blocked off a street, had beer stands and many classic cars. They had a different musical group at each end of the street.
West Palm Beach    Chart
(Lat: 26º 42.931'N Lon: 80º 2.942'W )

After the cold front came through last night, it was a chilly 48* this morning. Ryan arrived safely about 1am this morning and we showed him the boat and then hit the sack. We didn't leave Ft. Lauderdale until a little after 9am to give everyone a little more time after a short night. We went the inside route to West Palm as we wanted to see all the houses, boats, etc, on the way. It was slow going as most areas limited speed for wakes and we had about 5 bridges that we had to wait to open so we could proceed. I think this is the highest stretch of low bridges on the ICW in FL. Most are timed to open so by going the proper speed, once you get through the first bridge, by the time you get to the next bridge you only have to wait 5 or 10 minutes. Trip took a little over 5 hours. Jackie and Ryan took some good pictures along the way.
Once we secured the boat, we walked to the "City Place" which is a very nice shopping and restaurant area. We looked at the shops and then had a nice dinner at the Brewski Grill. After dinner we looked at more shops and then went to the movie "Vantage Point". It was a nice evening. We then rode the trolley back toward the boat and near the library they had a big town festt going on tonight, Vendors a band, closed streets, etc. People were all over and enjoying the evening. We were very impressed with Camatis District. The town has a free trolly service which made it easy for people to get around. Very nice first day to spend with Ryan. Tomorrow we are off the Ft. Pierce.
First picture is one of our favorite places in Ft. Lauderdale (Shooters), the next picture is the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse, next is a jet boat heading South as we headed North( it really was powered by a jet engine and sounded just like a jet plane.) The orange house was just a small sample of all the fabulous houses on the waterway and the last photo was the entrance to the Palm Harbor Marina that we are staying for the night.
Fort Lauderdale

Yesterday when we pulled into our slip we observed that the boat next to ours also had an AGLCA flag. Later in the afternoon we introduced ourselves to each other they are Ken and Peggy Watton and their dog Cider. Their boat name is Ciderella and they are about half way through the loop as they left this summer from Kingsville, Ontario on Lake Erie. They invited us to go out to dinner together and then back to their boat for a nightcap. It was a very nice evening. Their pictures are below.
We used today as a day of rest and preparation for continuing North tomorrow. Our son Ryan is flying into Ft. Lauderdale airport late tonight and then will spend the next 5 days or so travelling with us up the ICW and then he will fly out of Jacksonville. We made slip reservations for the next 4 days, West Palm, Fort Pierce, Cocoa, Daytona. In fact we found out we got one of the last slips in Daytona as that is Bikers Week which we will enjoy since we ride. Looking forward to the trip and having Ryan with us. We also walked along the beach and took the city bus to a Publix grocery store and back.
A cold front passed through this morning and temperature tomorrow morning is going to be about 35* less than yesterday. It was overcast and chilly all day so we really didn't go anywhere to take pictures. Really enjoyed the downtime for rest, planning and restocking.
Miami To Fort Lauderdale    Chart
(Lat: 26º 6.949'N Lon: 80º 6.434'W )

We had a pleasant day driving up the ICW to Ft. Lauderdale. We chose the inside route so we could see the sights and skylines of Miami, Miami Beach, Hollywood and the southern part of Ft. Lauderdale. It was a sunny day when we started and since speed is restricted on most of the route Jackie was able to sit on the sun pad on the forward deck of the boat for almost the entire trip. There she could work on her tan and also take pictures. She also had the chart book and binoclars with her so if I had a question she could double check our route. We only had 2 bridges that had to open for us to get through and the first one we waited about 10 minutes while we arrived right on schedule for the second bridge so we had no wait there. We saw a sea plane take off in Miami Harbour, frieghters, cruise ship, large yachts, unbelieveable houses, beautiful skylines, etc. The trip to 3 hours and 15 minutes. As we started to get near Ft. Lauderdale the skies started to cloud up and you can see that in some of the pictures. By the time we got to the Swimming Hall of Fame Marina the wind was blowing pretty briskly. We docked in strong winds but the slip was nice and wide and we had no issues. We secured the boat and walked to the Dock Masters office to check in and the skies turned very black and it just poured rain for about 2 hours. The streets and parking lots were flooded and so we stayed in the dock office until it let up some and then went to get a bite to eat at Coconuts Rest. next to the office. After eating we were gong to walk along the beach but the sky still looked threatening so we can back to the boat. We will be here tomorrow also so we should have plenty of time to walk around this evening and tomorrow. Here is just a sampling of Jackie's pictures.
Coconut Grove/Miami    Chart
(Lat: 25º 43.554'N Lon: 80º 13.946'W )

We had very good sea conditions and sunshine again today as we travelled from Key Largo to Miami. We went the Atlantic side Hawks Channel route vs. the Florida Bay ICW route. Seas were about 1ft and views were great. We docked at Dinner Key Marina which is in the Coconut Grove area of Miami. The marina is city owned and huge (580 slips) and surrounded by 2 other marinas. The Miami City Bldg is also on the marina grounds. We walked all around Coconut Grove and looked at the many stores and restaurants. It is nice and like any commercial area it has some vacant stores but also signs of new stores opening. On our way in Biscayne Channel, Jackie took some great pictures of the channel lighthouse, Miami, Miami Beach, some houses on pilings out in the channel, etc. While we walked around she also took several shots of Coconut Grove, the municpal building, a historic marked telling about Dinner Key and also of the large marina.
Marathon To Key Largo    Chart
(Lat: 25º 5.224'N Lon: 80º 26.429'W )

We left Marathon a little after 8 am and arrived at Key Largo at 10:30 pm. Trip was about 55nm. It was sunny,very warm with high humidity and the air was very still so we had great visibility and Hawks Channel was very calm. The water is such a pretty shade of blue green and very clear. There were some lobster pots in the Channel but not as many as the Florida Bay and with good visibilty they were not an issue.
To get to our marina, The Pilot House Marina, we had to drive the boat up a very narrow channel which opens up to a small round basin called Lake Largo. It is a very calm docking area and we are very close to restaurants and stores. We sprayed the boat down quickly and then had a light lunch. We will rest a while and try to get a marina reservation for tomorrow night in the Coconut Grove area.
We walked to Walgreens and passed a little produce tent so we purchased some grapefruit and tomatoes. We also purchased some supplies from Walgreens. We had boat at one of 3 restaurants very near the marina and had a very nice and reasonably priced meal. We sat on the water and looked out at the boats and sunset. Jackie took some pictures of the view from the restaurant, sunset from our boat and a lobster vessel leaving for work. She has some great pictures in her camera of the narrow channel and little lighthouse.

We had a nice day of rest in Marathon and got to visit with friends, Ken and Susan Wiggins, who have a place here as well as where we live in Carolina Beach.
Jackie and I spent most of the morning catching up on chores and also planning our trip tomorrow to Key Largo. It is the busy season in the Keys and we had a little trouble finding a slip to stop at there. We also plotted the next leg from Key Largo to Miami and are still looking for a boat slip there. We are hoping to get in the Coconut Grove area.
Late morning Ken and Susan came by and toured our boat and then we went with them to lunch at the Islander Grill located on the Gulf. It is a very popular place so it was jammed but we had a nice lunch and didn't have to wait too long. They then took us to their very lovely house in Duck Key and then to an open house of a very nice upscale development and marina just being built on the Gulf side. Very nice but very pricey. It was fun to see. Next, they took to the grocery store so we could stock up on some supplies. We had a really nice time and really appreciate their hospitality.
We got back to the boat just in time to see a beautiful sunset. Jackie was able to capture it in a few pictures. The other picture is of Ken and Susan. All in all a very nice day.
Naples to Marathon    Chart
(Lat: 24º 42.287'N Lon: 81º 6.737'W )

We left Naples at 7am and took drove the boat via the Gulf to Marathon. The seas were calm, 2 ft waves or less for the whole trip and the sun was shining brightly. For the first hour or so we were able to use Auto Pilot but after that the crab pots were so numerous that we had to go to manual steering. If you have been on a boat in the Turkey Point area of the Chesapeake in crab season, that pretty well describes the whole Gulf and FL Bay for our trip. It was almost like they had reviewed our route and put all the pots there. Adm. Jackie is a great spotter and we zipped through at about 25mph. In addition to the crab/lobster pots we did see a number of dolphin and even a sea turtle.
Our trip took 5 hours and when we arrived we fueled up, $3.43/gal+tax so better than Naples and then put the boat in the slip. We always take some time to spray the boat down to get the salt water off and then wipe down the stainless, windows, etc. Doesn't take to long for the two of us to to that. We are going to get out bikes out and explore the area tonight and tomorrow we are meeting friends from NC who live here. Sunday we will head north to either Biscayne Bay or maybe even Miami depending on the weather and sea conditions.

We spent the morning going over our charts and setting our course for Marathon tomorrow. Seas are expected to be 2' or less so hopefully we will have a great trip. People tell us we will be dodging crab pots the whole trip.
I also did some suggested trouble shooting and maintenance for our C 120 Raymarine plotter. Hopefully tomorrow the gremlin will remain asleep and it will work for the entire trip.
We met Gold Loopers Dick and Brenda Karston and asked them some questions about where to stay in Marathon. We also got advice on the trip to Marathon from people at the yacht club party at Pelican Isle last night. Local knowledge is always helpful. We also met loopers Becky and Chuck Wilson at the Pelican Isle Marina and had a nice talk with them.
This afternoon we got out our bikes and road for several hours around the Naples area. We went to the other West Marine on Davis Blvd. as we found out from their other store north of Naples that they had the reverse Y giving us the ability to use 30 amp connectors to our 50 if the marina doesn't have 50 amp. We also bought the 110 plug that we can use where needed in the Great Lakes and Canada if they don't have 30 amp service. The temperature climbed into the mid 80's so our ride back loaded down with the cords and also some groceries got a little warm. Nice problem to have in Feb.
First picture shows Jackie at the marina entrance and our two foldable port runner bikes. They work great and we used them quite a bit when we were in drove our SUV to Key West for Christmas and while we were staying on our boat in Sarasota. The other two pictures are of pelicans. The first one let Jackie walk right up next to it and posed for the pictures. The others were waiting for the fisherment to clean their fish after they returned from their charters.
We plan a first light start tomorrow departure for Marathon. Hopefully the seas will be as forecasted and we will have a good day. We did chart as a precaution bail out routes to Marco Island, Everglades City and Shark River if we run into bad conditions. Hopefully we will not have to use them.
Ft. Meyers Beach To Naples    Chart
(Lat: 26º 7.952'N Lon: 81º 47.559'W )

We left a little after 8am and headed outside to the Gulf for the trip to Naples. The wind was still from the E/NE and the seas were 2-3 ft. The boat handled well and we started on AutoPilot until we ran into a sea full of crab pots, so we went back to manual steering as we made our way through the pots. It was cool and overcast most of the way but the sun came out after we docked at Naples City Docks. We fueled up and had sticker shock of $3.94/gal and no cash or asscociation discounts. This was by far the highest price for fuel, almost $.60 more than any place else we stopped.
We cleaned the boat and got cleaned up as friends Dave and Phylis Andrews, from our Du Pont days, live in the area and we took us to their yacht club,Pelican Isle Yacht Club, for Happy Hour and dinner. It is a great yacht club and the people are great. They are looking for new members. Dave is also drove us to West Marina so we could get some things we needed.
As we got back to our marina we had a great view of the lunar eclipse so it made a great ending to a wonderful evening.
Tomorrow we will get out our bikes and explore.
The electronics worked ok today so the gremlin was sleeping but our electrician called to share some other things I can try tomorrow to make the power connections better and hopefully keep the gremlin asleep. One good thing about problems is you sure learn a lot more about your boat than you might normally know as you take things apart and put them back together trouble shooting. The picture is Jackie and me in front of the Naples dock office after just paying $3.94 a gallon, ouch.
Boca Grande to Ft. Meyers Beach    Chart
(Lat: 26º 27.454'N Lon: 81º 57.405'W )

We had a fairly short trip in fairly open waters of the bays so we made good time. The bays were choppy on our port stern as there were fairly strong winds but we had no big issues. We missed our first and shorter turn off the ICW to Ft. Meyers Beach and were concerned we had gone to far and would have to turn around but a Boat US Captain drove by and we talked to him and he directed us to the second channel. It added about 25 minutes to our trip but taught us a good lesson that we have to do a better study prep of the charts the night before we head out. When we went to dock it was very windy with a cross slip wind to our port side and a 2kt current pushing us to the dock. Add to that the dock was only 16' wide and our boat is 14'3" wide plus there were boats in the slips on each side of us, needless to say the pucker factor was pretty high and it wasn't pretty but we made it in ok. We should have known it would be a challenge when the dock master asked if we wanted to go in bow first vs. stern first as some boats don't even attempt to go stern in with those conditions. We are getting minds and docking skills back into cruising shape as we know we are going to have a lot more challenges on our adventure. Tomorrow it is on to Naples and I have already throughly reviewed those charts so we will be better prepared than today. We also seem to have a gremlin hiding in our factory installed C120 chart plotter. Sometime is works very well and others is cuts on and off. Fortunately we added a C80 for redundancy and that is what we used today. I have talked to our electrician and I did some checking of connections, etc. It seems ok now but this has happened before. He is checking with the experts at Raymarine and will call me with any other info so stay tuned.
Pictures include the Big M Casino Boat that leaves from our Marina, the Moss Marina, the pier in Ft. Meyers Beach and a sunset at Fort Myers Beach. While we were eating dinner looking over the ocean the dolphins were feeding along the surf for our entertainment.
Sarasota To Boca Grande    Chart
(Lat: 26º 44.857'N Lon: 82º 15.35'W )

Today we officially started the Loop. The weather was very overcast with poor visibility and high winds. A cold front was just off the coast and moving our way so we went via the ICW vs. the Gulf which had 4-6' waves. Visibility was very poor for the first 2 hours but then it cleared up and the sun came out. Jackie took some pictures of our leaving Marina Jacks and then some others on the way. Trip took 4 hours since we were traveling inside but there was a lot to see. When we entered the Gasparilla Bay we found ourselves in the middle of a school of about 20 dolphins. We tried to get some pictures but they are tough to catch while you are navigating. We did get pictures showing the Venice Water tower, a man fishing, pelicans, Boca Grande Marina and our leaving Marina Jacks.
Once at Boca we docked the boat in high crossing winds which is always interesting and we met another couple doing the Loop, John and Marsha Marshall and they had the same type and make or boat as we have so we talked about our boats and experiences in boating which we had dinner together. We plan to stop and see them in August when we are near Macinac Island in Michigan.
Boca Grande is a nice stop and next winter we plan to stay longer but since we need to move the boat back to NC we only stopped for one day and we are off to Ft. Meyers Beach.
Sarasota Goodbye

We really enjoyed our time at Sarasota and Marina Jacks. It is a wonderful marina and location and there were exellent people available to help us get our boat the way we wanted it for the Loop. We felt very much a part of the Marina Jacks family and the town has many of the great of larger communities but with a smaller town feel. We look forward to starting the Loop but a little sad about leaving Sarasota. Some of the Marina Jacks Staff are pictured below. First Keith, Sam (DockMaster) and Bill. Then Bill and Ed ducking down just as Jackie took the picture. Then some scenes around the marina and last person shown is Andy (Asst. Dock Master). There were many more people but these were the ones we intereacted with the most.
Service Friends Tribute

I have mentioned before the great and caring service friends. We bascially went over every working system on the boat and serviced, modified or repaired where needed. We also added a considerable amount of electronic aids including Sat. TV, Sirius Weather, Sonar Depth System, Wifi antenna, ampifier, repeater, redundant chartplotter/GPS. We found all the people very responsive, competitive, good to work with, helpful with advice on what we wanted or needed to do. We have pictures of some of them and not others but we want to recognize all of them. Pictured are Bill and Jeremy for electronics, Jamie for H/V and Ron for detailing. Not shown but much appreciated are Capt Rick for waste system and HV, Bill for engine room maintenance and restoration, Dave and Ramon from Cummins and Ralph for decals. If you are in the Sarasota area and would like to contact any of these professionals for service work please call or email me and I will give you their info.
Sarasota to St. Pete and Return    Chart
(Lat: 27º 46.631'N Lon: 82º 37.707'W )

We went with 11 other boats from Marina Jacks to St. Pete at the Vinoy Marina and Resort. This was the first Getaway that Marina Jacks as they are establishing a social club and plan on future trips and activities. The first night we had Docktails and a cookout. Sat morning we had donuts, juice and coffee on the dock and the rest of the day was free to explore the town. That evening we had another dock side happy hour and then went to a restaraunt in town. Sunday we had a light breakfast on the dock and people either stayed and explored and returned to Sarasota. Coming back, the Tampa Bay had 3 ft waves from the NE which we were able to keep on our stern. Once we left the Bay for the ICW is was relatively calm.
While there on Sat we met with a friend I went to Canfield High School with in Ohio. They toured our boat and then we walked to their loft and had lunch. We spend the afternoon together with our wives and had a very nice time. First picture was taken by fellow boater (Jack) looking from the docks to St. Pete in twilight. Second is of Docktails Party and last is my high school friend Jim and wife Rachel. Nauti Dreams performed very well on the trip.
Sarasota    Chart
(Lat: 27º 20.014'N Lon: 82º 32.822'W )

We spent this week continuing to work on the boat. We added Sat TV, DSM(sonar sounder),C80 Raymarine chartplotter for redundancy of C120 has a problem and also to run and display the DSM data, Sirius Weather Satelitte and software and worked on some glitches of C120 and VHF so they are working ok. We pulled the boat to install the DSM transducer and we added the wifi repeater/amplyfier system to make be able to receive cell phone and air card signals farther away and stronger than without the amplyfier/repeater. We had all 4 AC units cleaned and the pans coated with a composition to prevent rust, we replaced all batteries, hose clamps and cleaned and detailed the engine room. We had the guest state room vacu flush head ball valve and seal replaced and finally the engines and generator serviced including oil, zincs, oil and fuel filters, tranmission fluids, etc. We have had great cooperation by the service people in the Sarasota area and found the prices competitive to NC where live. Picture is of boat on lift for installation of transducer.
(Lat: 27º 20.014'N Lon: 82º 32.822'W )

In between getting work done on the boat as descrided in the next entry, we walked and road bikes, visited Motes Aquarium and the Ringling Brothers Museum. Sarasota is such a beautiful area we really enjoyed our bike rides along the water and Motes Aquarium was very nice. We really liked the displays and the large tanks with the turtles, two Manatees and dolphins.
The absolutley unbelievable scale circus exhibit and the mansion were our favortie parts of the Ringling Museum. Pictures of Aquarium and Ringling Mansion.