Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 12, 2010

It has been about a month since you last heard from us, and an eventful month at that! We left Atlanta on December 10 and drove to Niceville, Florida to visit Ginny's friend Stephen. He hates Florida, but at least he has a nice girlfriend there, in our opinion. His ultimate goal is to make it back to Hawaii and we wish him luck, and not just because we want to visit him there! During a cold storm we went for a long night walk on the Gulf beach. The sand was blinding white and crunchy the way cold snow is crunchy, so Steve kept subconciously thinking we were walking in snow!

We stopped in Panama City to show Thurston to her previous owner, and in Largo to see our friend Ron Hodinott. Then we sped southeast to Miami to meet with Bremerton friends Danny Stroberger and Betty Boop, who were on their way back from Haiti. We spent an amazing evening together at a Haitian "jazz club" jamming with their musical friends. Danny and Steve took a swim in the Atlantic before Danny and Betty had to catch their flight home.

Driving west back through the Everglades we saw many lazy gators enjoying the warm sun. But rainstorms began upon reaching the Gulf coast, keeping us holed up in the truck a couple days.

Now the good stuff. On December 19th we left our dear truck and trailer on the property of an acquaintance on Pine Island, near Fort Meyers. We launched our newly finished boat in shallow Pine Island Sound, sped on a beam reach across to Captiva Island, and spent our first night in a mangrove lagoon. Only fifty feet of mud separated us from a road in the middle of a swanky resort! With muck-covered legs and our hair full of sticks we must have looked a sight emerging from that primordial thicket! But no one seemed to notice us.

From that night on there has been no question whether the boating life suits us. It definitely does! We typically row or sail about fifteen miles (the days are so short this time of year) then anchor parallel to a sheltered beach. We place one anchor forward, one astern, and tie a line to something on the beach. To step ashore we just pull on this third line. Around Christmas time we spent four days at ritzy, condo-infested Marco Island due to high winds and the need for some minor boat refitting. Then we proceeded into the Ten Thousand Islands, which are the saltwater southwest edge of the Everglades.

For nearly two weeks we camped on uninhabited Panther Key. It has some beach around its edges but is mostly mangrove in the middle. We arrived several days early for a gathering of small sailboat enthusiasts organized by Ron Hodinott. We anchored in a tiny lagoon that drains out at low tide, leaving us aground. It was a good place to make further boat improvements, such as a rope-steering system so Ginny can steer while Steve rows. We set up the tent on the beach and had a campfire going when Ron and his friends got there. Unfortunately, their arrival coincided with a record low temperature and high winds. The water in the cockpit froze one night! The other boaters left; we stayed on, merely surviving. We scavenged old clothes and pillows from an abandoned campsite and wore everything we had. For two days we barely left the tent. We weren't prepared for "Arctic in the Everglades!" Thank you Jenna for the cashmere sweaters you gave Ginny!

Yesterday it warmed up a little so we sailed here to Everglades City, our last place for provisions before the Keys. We will skirt the Everglades National Park then probably sail to Marathon Key. This may take a week or so. We don't expect to see many people.

We hope you are all enjoying your central heating! We'll try to update the blog again in a week or two. There are about 50 new photos in our "current photo album" which is linked on the left.

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