Welcome to the blog of Fred and Julaine as we chronicle our adventures traveling the "Great Loop" on Boreas, our Carver 405.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Days 234 through 236 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 25-27, 2012

We have spent the past three days getting ready for our departure from Key Largo and the continuation of our Loop.  Preparation has included installing the rest of the items we picked up at the boat show.  All the blue courtesy lights are now installed and they look awesome.  Fred has also installed the new vacuum gages on the fuel filters.  He started the engines to make sure everything looked good, but the true test will be once we are actually running with the RPMs up a bit.

We have also been doing a lot of planning.  Fred has had the charts and guidebooks out trying to put together a high level, long-term plan as well as a more detailed plan for the next few weeks.  We are going to travel with Frank and Carrie from Once Around for awhile so we’ve spent time with them pouring over options and talking about where we might want to spend time.  We’ve also spent time talking with our dock mates, Linda and Glenn.  They have traveled up and down the east coast from their home in New Jersey to Florida a number of times and they had great suggestions on their favorite anchorages and marinas.

We have been doing the more basic preparation stuff as well – laundry, shopping, bills, etc.  We are watching the weather and will depart when conditions look right.
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

We found this awesome looking jellyfish swimming around near the back of Boreas.
It was not very large, only about four inches across.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 233 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 24, 2012

We were working on installing more of our boat show purchases when John from Brandy IV invited us to go snorkeling out to Rodriguez Key.  This island is quite close to shore which made it a good choice as we would be taking John’s dinghy to get there.  The waves in Hawk Channel were around a foot tall, so our ride was wet and wild, but we were all laughing and having a great time as the wind and water kept us from getting too hot.  We searched around for a good place to drop anchor – all we could see was lots of seagrass and you are not suppose to anchor in seagrass.  John though there were a couple of wrecks we could check out, but there were other boats anchored around them and we couldn’t find any sand (which is the preferred anchor spot).  We did finally find a small patch of sand and Fred threw the anchor in.  We began getting into our gear and Fred hit the water first.  He got just a few feet away from the dinghy and popped his head up to tell us we had found a wreck.

Upon further examination we decided it was not so much a wreck as perhaps hurricane debris.  There were definitely parts of a boat, but also parts of a trailer.  We speculate that perhaps the boat was strapped on the trailer and the hurricane lifted both the boat and the trailer and floated them out to sea!  The neat thing was that the boat debris made lots of places for fish and lobster to hide, so there was a lot to see.  John lifted up one piece of the boat and found a small shark underneath.  In another spot we found six or seven small lobster.  John was sad that he didn’t have his lobster net with him, but we think all the lobsters we saw were too small to keep.  Lobsters in the ocean are very beautiful – these were kind of sand colored with different colored markings on their backs – and they can swim extremely fast when they want to!

In the early evening we had John and Rita from Brandy IV and Frank and Carrie from Once Around over for drinks and snacks as a send off to John and Rita who are leaving Key Largo tomorrow.  They are getting themselves staged to make the crossing over to the Bahamas – there are a number of Loopers gathering in Fort Lauderdale waiting for the next good travel window to head to Nassau.   We are planning to begin our trek north around March 1.

             Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 232 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 23, 2012

We spent today taking it easy, catching up on paperwork and installing some of the things we bought at the Miami Boat Show.  In addition to purchasing some LED replacement bulbs for inside Boreas, we also bought some new LED courtesy lights for the outside stairs and helm station.  Fred got two of the four lights installed today – the other two will be a bit more of a challenge because the wiring is hidden behind immovable walls, but I’m sure he’ll figure it out.  The two that got installed look great; the new lights are blue and they really make the boat look great.

Fred also installed a set of stabilizer fins on the dinghy motor.  At the boat show we talked to the Caribe representative about the fact that we can’t get the boat to plane with our eight horse motor.  He suggested stabilizer fins might be just what we needed.  We were able to find them at a great price at the show.  With the new fins installed we headed out to Hawk Channel to test them out.  Although the boat seemed to run steadier and flatter, we still weren’t able to get up on plane.  We may try again when the water is a bit smoother, but we aren’t holding our breath.
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

We took the camera on our dinghy test ride and captured some more iguana pictures.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 231 – airboat trip in the Florida Everglades - February 22, 2012

Our friends Frank and Carrie from Once Around arrived at Marina Del Mar two days ago.  Back when we were in Naples and Marco Island together we discussed airboat rides in the Everglades.  We convinced Frank and Carrie that they would have more fun if they did their airboat ride from this side of the Everglades where the trip would be more in the sawgrass and less in the mangroves.

They took our suggestion and today was airboat tour day.  Frank and Carrie reserved a private tour of the Everglades for themselves and their son Leo who is visiting for a few days and they invited us to join them.  The tour was awesome.  We saw lots of interesting birds and lots of alligators.  Flying along through the sawgrass in an airboat is a truly exhilarating experience.  It almost makes you forget you are in a boat on the water – it feels (and looks) like you are traveling through a wheat field.  What a great way to spend a few hours.

            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Tricolored Heron

looking out over the sawgrass

it is hard to imagine an airboat goes through this, but it does

another part of our airboat tour - cruising down a fire lane

the flower in the lily pads

White Ibis in the top of a tree

the White Ibis decide to fly as we get closer

one of the many alligators we saw

an alligator swimming across the fire lane

an alligator sunning himself

more flowering plants in the Everglades

Pond Apple trees - they are just beginning to get their leaves back - they
will produce fruit this summer ready for picking in the late summer

Common Moorhen

Glossy Ibis

a path onto a research island in the Everglades

Days 229 and 230 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 20-21, 2012

After two busy days at the boat show sandwiched around a snorkeling trip, we have spent the past couple of days relaxing.  We used the car and did some serious re-provisioning.  I caught up on my reading (and worked on the blog) while Fred puttered around the boat.   
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Day 228 – trip to Miami Boat Show - February 19, 2012

We got Heather to the Miami Airport with only a minor detour.  After stopping at the gas station and filling the car, we discovered that the entire dashboard on the car was out – no lights, no air conditioning, no radio.  As we headed to the airport (we were on a time schedule after all), Fred and John decided it was a blown fuse but were unable to find the correct one at a gas station near the airport.  So we said goodbye to Heather and then went to Enterprise Car Rental to see if they could change the fuse.  Of course that would be too easy – so they gave us a new car instead.  Then we were off to the boat show.

We revisited the Cruising Solutions booth where we had purchased the LED replacement light bulbs.  We were very happy with what we had purchased and wanted to pick up a few more bulbs.  That accomplished we returned to the convention center to check out some displays we missed and check out some of the boats there.  We toured a 43 foot Cruisers, a 45 foot Sea Ray and a 44 foot Meridian.  Although the electronics on those boats are more “fun” (read newer) than what we have, Boreas has a far better layout than any of those boats.

In the late afternoon we headed to the in-water Yacht Brokerage Show where all the mega yachts can be found.  We toured a Beneteau Swift Trawler, a couple of Grand Banks trawlers (an Aleutian and a Heritage) and a Krogen Express.  Both of the Grand Banks as well as the Krogen Express were beautiful yachts, but slightly out of our price range at over $1 million each.

We very much enjoyed our trip to the Miami Boat Show, but we also realized that all in all we are very happy with the boat we already own.
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

a shark hanging out under the dock next to Brandy IV

another shot of the shark

Day 227 – snorkel trip to White Bank Dry Rocks - February 18, 2012

Although we had planned to rest and relax after our long day at the Miami Boat Show, the weather was as good as we have seen for a snorkel trip so we gathered our snorkel gear, invited John and Rita along and headed out to the reef.  We weren’t sure exactly where we wanted to snorkel, but just as we were leaving our channel, we passed one of the snorkel boats that moors in our basin.  John grabbed the radio and gave them a quick call to find out where they had been that morning and how the conditions were.  The answer was White Bank Dry Rocks and the conditions were great – so we plotted a course to that location.

After grabbing a mooring ball and getting Boreas secured, we gave Heather some quick tips on snorkeling as she has never done it before.  John and Rita hopped in the water and headed for the coral just a few yards from the boat.  We suited Heather up in my gear and she and Fred headed off as well.  Heather did a great job.  She was a bit nervous and didn’t stay in the water too long, but she got to see some beautiful coral, fans and fish.  She did report that she also drank quite a bit of saltwater. When Heather and Rita were done snorkeling, Fred, John and I went out.  Heather had brought a waterproof camera and asked that I take some pictures for her.
            Miles: 10.1      Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

fan coral

interesting coral

one small fish and some cool looking coral

fish and coral

more from the underwater camera

John and Rita making their way back to the boat

Fred - checking things out above the water

Fred making his way back to the boat

Day 226 – trip to Miami Boat Show - February 17, 2012

The Miami Boat Show opened yesterday.  The show consists of booths at the Miami Convention Center as well as three in water venues.  We are planning to spend two days exploring everything it has to offer and we asked Heather if she was interested in going.  If she decided not to go, we would attend on Sunday (after we delivered Heather to the Miami Airport) and Monday, but if she was interested, we’d go Friday and Sunday.  She was interested, so we loaded up the rental car (with the three of us plus John and Rita) and headed to Miami.

The show was great.  We spent most of today going through the Miami Convention Center.  I think Fred managed to visit every vendor who has a part in our boat.  We checked out the Garmin electronics display – if money was no object, we’d install a whole new Garmin system on Boreas.  We also bought some new headsets, deck shoes for Fred, the charts we need to get us all the way to Canada and a number of LED light bulbs to try.  Heather had a great time and got herself some new sandals and great pair of sunglasses.  We will return to the boat show on Sunday after we drop Heather off at the airport.  

             Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Day 225 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 16, 2012

We decided that today was a good day for shopping and exploring.  Heather has some gifts she would like to pick-up and I have some shops I have seen, but that we haven’t been in yet.  Rita and John had the car yesterday and found some additional spots they suggested we check out.  Although we didn’t shop for too long (just a few hours) we did well and Heather managed to get most of the things she was looking for.  
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

a display of the fish caught on one of the fishing boats that
calls Marina Del Mar home

looking across at the Marina Del Mar Hotel
from the back of Boreas

Day 224 – cruise in Hawk Channel - February 15, 2012

We have been looking for a good opportunity to go snorkeling on the reef that is about four miles off shore across Hawk Channel. First there was too much rain, and then too much wind, but today looked promising.  We headed out around 10:00am to check things out.  While it was a beautiful day for a cruise, the waves were still a bit too big for it to be comfortable on a mooring ball at the snorkel site.  Hopefully the winds will die down some over the next few days and we will have another chance to go snorkeling.   
            Miles: 12.7      Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

the beautiful blue of the Hawk Channel

the changing colors of the Hawk Channel show different depths and
diffent bottom types - seagrass, coral and sand 

looking back at homes in Key Largo

Day 222 and 223 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 13-14, 2012

Heather’s luggage has arrived!  She received a call this morning before 8:00am from the delivery person who actually had her suitcase in his van.  He delivered it shortly after his call.  Although she had a few things from her carry-on luggage, Heather was happy to have all her “stuff” back in her possession.
We had another interesting aquatic visitor today.  We saw a very large ray trying to hide in the sand in the slip next to Brandy IV.  He was probably three feet across with a very long tail.  He kept trying to hide in the sand, but you could always see his tail and his eyes.

We took a dinghy ride in the afternoon in the canals near the marina.  Glenn our dock neighbor asked us if we’d seen the iguanas yet and when we said no, he gave us directions on where to look for them.  We found them sunning on the rock seawall near a beautiful home.  Once we knew what to look for, we realized we had passed them numerous times before, but didn’t see them because they blended in so well to the rocks.

We picked up a rental car this afternoon which we will keep for the next week.  This gives us transportation while Heather is here (for shopping and exploring the area) and for going to the Miami Boat Show which starts this weekend.

            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

the ray

an iguana - we didn't take the camera with us on our
dinghy ride, but both Fred and Heather had their
phones with them, so we got a few pictures

the iguana hanging out on the rocks

a green iguana on a red dock - his belly was bright
green and he looked awesome - too bad we only had
a camera phone

Day 221 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 12, 2012

We spent today relaxing with Heather on the boat.  Heather’s luggage did not arrive before noon as she had been told by her airline, and a few phone calls later turned up the fact that her airline didn’t actually know where her luggage was.  With a thorough explanation from Heather of her flights and her transfer from one airline to another (and a bit of computer work by the agent she had on the phone) her luggage was finally located.  She then received an automated phone call around 5:00pm letting her know her luggage would be delivered somewhere in the next two to six hours.  We all finally went to bed at 11:00pm and still no luggage.  
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Day 220 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 11, 2012

No rain today!  The weather was sunny and mild and is forecast to get even better as we get into next week.  I do have to say that the best part about all the rain is that we have absolutely no salt on the boat right now.  It is wonderful to have such a clean, unsalty boat – no matter how hard we try, washing just doesn’t remove salt as well as five straight days of rain does.

We have been anxiously awaiting our first manatee sighting and today it finally happened.  We first saw the manatee across the channel where he was being fed fresh water by one of the boaters.  The animal protection groups worry that feeding them fresh water (or lettuce which they seem to like) makes them too dependent on humans, so they prefer you not do it, although only “harassment” is illegal.  According to a pamphlet we received about manatees, feeding them and giving them water can be considered harassment, so it is best to keep the hose put away.  We were hoping for a closer look and a few pictures, so we launched the dinghy with Fred and John in it.  Their plan was to float around the basin using only the oars and hope the manatee would come for a visit.  He did and John got some awesome underwater shots with his diving camera.  We also got some good pictures from up above.  We hope to see more of these animals before we leave the warm Florida waters.

Heather, our niece, arrived this evening after a few changes to her flight schedule.  Unfortunately her luggage didn’t arrive with her, so she filed a lost luggage request and we are hoping her checked bag arrives tomorrow morning.
            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

an underwater shot of the manatee - John just put his camera underwater
and snapped the shutter, hoping for the best

a little bit closer underwater picture

the manatee is lying on his back and looks like he is sucking on or
chewing on his flipper - you are seeing his nose and his two flippers

another shot of the manatee on is back, playing with his flippers

Day 219 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 10, 2012

It rained again most of the day today.  The good news is that the long range forecast after today is for lots of sun and great temperatures.  This is extra good because our niece Heather arrives tomorrow evening and we know she is looking for awesome Florida weather while she is here.

We had a small Looper get together this evening.  Ron and Jan from Jolly Tolly (who we met at Green Turtle Bay in September when they completed their Loop) are just one canal south from us and they invited the Loopers here at Marina Del Mar to come over for shrimp dinner.  Everyone brought a dish to go along with the fresh shrimp that Ron and Jan provided.  We enjoyed sharing Loop stories and learning about places we might want to stop as we work our way up the east coast of Florida.  Thanks to Jan we also learned about pre-mixed margaritas from Jose Cuervo (which we now have in our refrigerator).  Thanks Jan for a great beverage suggestion!

            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 218 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 9, 2012

More rain today.  We are now on day four of not having really seen the sun.  The good thing is that the temperatures are still warm with highs in the upper 70’s, so we are not cold and miserable.  The bad thing(s) are no snorkeling, no spending time by the pool, no exploring Key Largo on our bikes…

We are sure hoping this weather pattern clears soon and brings us back the Florida weather we know and love.

            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

the pelicans decided to hang out with Brandy IV today - usually
this dock is where Mac hangs out

a pelican on the dock at Marina Del Mar

based on his coloring, we believe this is a juvenile pelican

Day 217 – at Marina Del Mar, Key Largo, FL - February 8, 2012

Today is day three of overcast skies with intermittent rain showers.  The good thing is that the wind is much diminished from the past few days.  We are anxious to check out places to snorkel, so in between showers we hopped in the dinghy and headed toward Largo Sound and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the first undersea park in the U.S. and encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles.  The parks upland areas offer visitors a unique view of mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks, but it is the coral reefs and their marine life that attract the most visitors.

With the dinghy loaded with the camera and our snorkel equipment we headed out of our channel toward what we believe is the entrance to the park.  We immediately encounter floating signs directing us around a “non-motor” area.  The detour around the “non-motor” area took us quite far off shore, but the wind and waves are calm, so we continue.  We finally make it into South Sound Creek, but realize that with the added detour we don’t have enough fuel to make it all the way to Largo Sound and then into the main part of the park.  So we take some pictures and then head back to Boreas.  We calculated that we traveled over seven miles in the dinghy.  That’s a pretty long trip for a nine foot long dinghy that doesn’t get up on plane.

Based on the boats we saw entering the park, I’m sure we could take Boreas.  However, not knowing what kind of water depths we will encounter once we get into the park is a bit unsettling.  Our charts don’t give us much information on this area.  We are exploring other options on how to experience this park in the best and safest manner.

            Miles: 0           Bridges: 0        Locks: 0

the marvelous mangrove trees in South Sound Creek

mangrove roots

more mangrove trees