Well in spite of my intentions to report on our adventures in a more timely way this past winter, it is already late May, and I’m only now getting around to updating everyone. I could use the excuse that we did little of interest during the past four months, but that wouldn’t be a true statement. So this blog update should be just that – an update of what we’ve been up to.
Rather than merely provide a chronological report, I’ll attempt to organize this into categories. I’ll begin by reporting on our stay at a dock at the marina we reported on in the last update. We stayed for three months and found lots to be said for the convenience of dock life. Water was easy as pulling a hose to fill our tank. We could step off and walk to our car or to the shower or laundry. No dinghy rides were necessary. However, we missed being somewhat alone on a mooring without thinking about who might be walking by the boat. We thought kayaking here might be a nice change, but found it to offer less interesting spots to visit and we had to be careful to stay out of the way of small fishing boats and jet skis. We were open to more wave action at times which required us to purchase a couple of really large fenders, and even then we had to remain alert on windy, bouncy nights.
In mid March we hauled the boat to renew the bottom paint and decided that was a good time to return to a mooring in Boot Key Harbor. The spot we’d had for the previous four winters was not available, but we did manage to get one very close by with similar views. We’ve enjoyed some great kayaking and I’ve also enjoyed a bit of dinghy sailing in the Harbor. Having spent the last two+ months on this mooring, we can still say that we made a good decision.
Our typical peaceful evening view.
As I had mentioned in the last update, we returned to Tai Chi class after returning in December. Sandra was approached by another student to teach her and a couple of friends how to design and create pine needle baskets. In time others wanted to join as well. This resulted in several passionate followers who will pick this up again when all return in the fall.
One of her most recent projects
We enjoyed a couple of family visits so far this year. My sister Mary Jo and her family came down for a brief visit, so there son Toby could spend time in the water with dolphins where I volunteer – Dolphin Research Center. He had a great experience.
Toby “shaking hands” with a dolphin
Soon afterwards our daughter Samantha and family came down for a week. Although they have come nearly every winter we’ve been here, each time is special in a new way. This is in part because our three grandsons are a bit older with each visit. This one might be called the snorkeling visit. All three boys really enjoyed snorkeling in Key West and Bahia Honda. Additionally, Chris went into a pool to feed lots of tropical fish as well as a shark at a new facility in Marathon.
Chris in the pool where he got to feed a shark
Sam and our three grandsons feeding parrot fish
Our other daughter Jenn and her dog will be joining us early next month as we hope to sail to the Dry Tortuga’s, an island group about 70 miles west of Key West. Included is an old fort, lots of good snorkeling we hear in clear water. It’s run by the National Park Service.
Our Tai Chi instructor and his wife, now good friends of ours, are planning a trip to the Amazon next fall. They’ve done this before several times and described the area as one of the most beautiful in the world. They suggested that we consider joining them and, after some careful consideration, we decided to do so. By October, we will be in our fiftieth year of marriage, so this is how we’ve decided to celebrate! We’ll spend ten days on a 100 foot boat cruising the Rio Negro out of Manaus, Brazil. We are really quite excited.
After returning to the mooring, we were back to using the dinghy for daily transportation. Sandra doesn’t wish to deal with the outboard, having troubles starting it and dealing with the choke as well as its temperamental nature. After some exploring, we bought an electric motor and sold the gas outboard. This unit, a German model, is much lighter, starts with a push of a button, and allows us to get gasoline off the boat. She finds it easy to operate as do I. We are happy with the change. Of course this addition does put more pressure on our limited charging capacity which was already strained. Bottom line, we’ll be adding solar panels in the fall.
Speaking of adding or making changes, our main ripped, and sail makers told us that it had outlived it’s useful life. We figured that we’d have to buy a new one. Most of our traveling at that point in our trip south would have to be with the engine. We had decided to hold off till after the new year, but hadn’t gotten around to it by the time we arrived at the mooring field. The day after we arrived another Beneteau just like ours arrived next to us. We got together and learned that they had the original main in storage, since they had a new one made soon afterward buying the boat. They happily sold it to us really cheap. A great benefit to us who had recently had the Bimini replaced and bought the outboard soon after.
As I mentioned earlier, my nephew Toby went to the Dolphin Research Center to spend time with the dolphins. Of course, I spend time there every week. This year I got certified to assist with giving them water. It turns out that dolphins in the wild get all their water from the fish they eat by breaking down the fat. But just like with humans, dolphins maintain better health with extra water. So most of the adult dolphins get from 2 to 6 liters of extra water each day. Generally I now assist with this process for at least one and as many as ten dolphins each day that I volunteered. Next fall upon my return, I hope to become a docent. This will have me walking around and talking to visitors about what goes on there. I’ll have to do some studying to become more knowledgeable, but I look forward to that.
Now having volunteered once each week for three seasons, I qualified for a chance to meet with a dolphin and get a tow around the lagoon. Since I had already done much of what was included in this encounter, I gave it to Sandra. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It may have been the final incentive to convince her to volunteer next season as well.
Sandra got a ride around the lagoon thanks to Louie, a dolphin saved from the aftermath of the BP oil spill and now doing very well.
Now that it’s almost June, we’re beginning to get more summer like weather. That means more heat and humidity than we are used to during the season you probably call winter. Our fans are spinning most of the time and we get into the water multiple times each day. But the water temp is already into the mid 80s, it’s help is limited. After Jenn’s visit and our trip to the Dry Tortugas, we’ll begin our northern trek – mostly by car, since we plan to leave the boat in Vero Beach again. But more on all that in another blog post.