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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Closing the Loop in Fort Lauderdale

Hi All…. Ben here,

As you can see from my picture, I’m enjoying some dinghy rides again in my old hood in Fort Lauderdale, ducking the low bridges Jeff insists on going under when we go bar hopping on Las Olas Blvd.

Our trip here was rather uneventful unless you count the night at Marathon on Boot Key when the boat that was anchored in front of us burned to the ground…err…water… and sunk - leaving only this very expensive pelican perch peeking out of the harbor.

We slept through it – fire trucks and all. Guess we were just too hung over from all the partying with the Georgia Farabaugh crowd and our long day’s travel back from Key West with a storm on our tails.

Izzy and Jeff also had a nice visit with the friends we met in the Georgian Bay, John and Vicki and my pal Bruno, at their house in Big Pine Cay. Here’s a picture of them from last summer.
I was on watch dog duty that night on the Izzy R, but they came back smiling - and smelling like Pompano and wine, and Jeff was babbling about John’s cool flatfishing boat. We’re going to try to meet up with them again this summer going up to Maine.

We must have been passing through Miami when Izzy took this picture of this naked guy blowing a conch shell in front of the apartment building…looks like a Miami kind of thing.
Near that was a big rainbow colored apartment building that I’d like to visit someday. I heard Jeff say that they like “doggie style”,  so it should be fun.  They must have treats there.
When we got to the harbor entrance at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, I heard Izzy and Jeff whooping and hollering and giving each other high fives, saying “We crossed our wake!” I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a party is coming on.
Jeff wanted to stop and celebrate right there, but Izzy looked around and convinced him that we should wait until after we got out of the ship channel and tucked safely into 92 Hendricks Isle.
Hmmm...Hendricks Isle....that had a familiar ring to it…oh yea…that’s where we started this trip one year and two days ago on March 15, 2009.   This time we had an easier time docking there. No squiggly lines on the chart plotter from our backing up and going forward like Jeff did last time we arrived here.
Remember that fiasco? That was embarrassing.

Our neighbors in the houseboat and sailboat , John and Ian were still there, and greeted us. Felt like home all of a sudden. I looked for my friend Marley in the yard next door, but she must have moved. A quick walk in the old neighborhood assured me that geckos and cats were still around.

And then there was that same old issue with "disemBARKing" at high tide.
Easy does it, Jeff.  Don't let me fall in like last year.

Before long Jeff had splashed the dinghy from its perch up on the high deck, and off we went for a ride around the canals to the New River to see Hank and Ann at Cooley’s Marina.
As usual, the “5 o’clock somewhere” soon became “8 o’clock” somewhere and my belly was growling as we headed home in the dark on the dinghy. I had to hold the flashlight so Jeff wouldn’t run into the channel markers and low bridges.

The next night Ann and Hank came over to the "Izzy R" and celebrated the “Closing of the Loop” with us. I got to help eat some of the shrimp cocktail and the steak since I’m an official “looper”, too, but I wasn’t allowed to have any champagne. Just as well…it made them a little goofy.

We took the old white Looper flag off the bow of the boat and put on a brand new gold one. Hank helped us give our thanks to some guy named “Neptune” for our safe passages over the past year. I thought Neptune might come for dinner, but I guess he was a no-show.  More shrimp for me.

Our Fort Lauderdale week flew by. One day we had breakfast at the Floridian, sitting outside as people walked by and chatted with me and gave me scratches and pats, and an occasional piece of bacon.
We went over to the beach,
and saw the street lights with the hoods on them to keep the light off the beach for the nesting sea turtles.
Street lights with hoods don't make much sense to me.
 One night cousins BJ, Brian and Jimmy came over and went to dinner with Jeff and Izzy on Las Olas at Noodles Panini, and another night they partied with Fran and John at dinner at Coconuts near the beach. I was hoping to go to Coconuts too, since I heard that they let dogs sit out on the patio with their people.
The next day Jeff and Izzy surprised me with a dinghy ride there, and a beer in the afternoon sun. No pictures of this, because I'm under age and don't have a fake ID.

 Ahhhh…I love this Fort Lauderdale – dinghy rides, beaches, restaurants, and kickin’ back in the sun with a beer…this must be what they mean by “it’s a dog’s life!”

Well, we’re finished with the Great Circle Loop, but I don't think we're going back to Irvine.  They said they're still having too much fun, and aren't done with the adventure yet.  So they’ve decided to continue this boating life until they feel like stopping ... or probably until Jeff breaks something that he can't fix.  I didn't get a vote, but it looks like I'll be traveling along with them, and be the OWD (Official Watch Dog) for the boat.  Someone has to keep an eye on those two, or they're apt to get into REAL trouble.

They said the next adventure coming up is to someplace called the Bahamas, so stay tuned.   I don't know where it is, but I wasn't too happy about getting those shots to go there.  Then I got a real short haircut at the groomer.  How does it look?  I miss the full length mirror I had in Irvine. 
I guess I'll just relax here on the bow and think about the good times we had on the Loop this year. 
Wonder if they have geckos in the Bahamas....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Key West - Party down with Dick, Cathy, Laura and Steven!

Hi All...Ben here,
I was just laying here enjoying the sun in warm Marathon and thinking about all the good times I’ve had this past year on the “Izzy R, when who should show up but Izzy’s brother, Dick and Cathy, Steven and Laura. They had a ton of luggage, so I kept hoping one of those bags had my little friend Angel tucked away in it, but I guess she had to stay home to protect the house.

They traveled from Atlanta in their car to see us, so I think they must have been pretty tired, but they jumped right into vacation mode with us.

That night we all went to dinner at the crusty old Sombrero Marina Dockside Bar Grill to give our new guests a taste of the island burgers as well as the pace of life here in the Keys. They all got a kick out of the boat people and locals who were having fun and dancing to the live music. Time seems to have stood still for some of them back in the 60’s. Steven and Laura were the youngest ones there, by about 40 years, but they seemed to be entertained by all the sights anyway.

In the morning, the man in the funny rubber suit finished cutting more of the Florida State Line off our propellers.
We must have more than we need of that line by now.

 Jeff gave some to Dick since we already have enough.

Dick asked me to verify that it's authentic...it was. I could tell by the crabby smell.
Cathy and Laura were getting’ into island time on the fly bridge with their coffee,
while Jeff gave Steven some lessons on dinghy driving.
Jeff says the first rule to remember is that the dinghy is a big balloon. I think Jeff figured that out last year when he ran us over the oyster patch back in Beaufort and blamed it on me. Remember? You can read about that calamity in the January, 2009 blog.
Then we lifted the lines and headed further south down the Keys in the bright sunshine. Jeff and Steven rigged some fishing line to drag out the back of the boat, in hopes of providing the family with a fresh catch to put on the grill when we anchored out that night.
Jeff’s trolling technique seemed a little odd to Steven and Laura, but they humored him and helped set it up.  Not surprising to them, it didn’t seem to fool any fish into biting on their line, but they continued to try with different bait.
While Jeff was having fun trying to catch fish with Steven and Laura, he made Dick drive the boat, and he probably didn’t tell him about “Crazy Ivan.” Jeff blames Crazy Ivan when the auto pilot starts acting strange, taking us on a wild ride in circles unexpectedly – sometimes when Izzy turns on the microwave or the toaster oven.
Well, I don’t think he told Dick about that when he assigned him the driving duty while he fished. Here’s Dick trying to figure out the Crazy Ivan course through the shallow waters. By the look on Dick’s face I think he was wishing he were fishing instead.
Fortunately, Dick’s a smart guy and figured out Crazy Ivan, so we got to our Big Pine Cay anchorage site safely. Unfortunately, Jeff didn’t catch any fish.
I’ve noticed that Jeff also blames Crazy Ivan for his erratic driving when the auto pilot isn't even on…when he’s simply not paying attention. Jeff told me that Crazy Ivan was some imaginary Russian submarine captain from Red October. I’m just happy that he doesn’t call it “Crazy Ben.”
Laura caught a few rays in the cockpit since the fish cleaning spot was obviously not going to be used.

I guess Cathy really needed this vacation, because she was actually relaxed enough to take a nice nap through all this. She mustn’t read this blog regularly, or she’d be a little more nervous.

At Big Pine Key, Steven jumped into the clear blue water, swam around the boat, and checked that our anchor was set well. He said the water was pretty warm, but I decided not to join him today.

We splashed the dinghy from its rooftop perch and headed to shore to the Parrotdise Waterfront Bar and Grill - Home of Big Pecker Wine. Gotta have some!
Jeff bellied up to the bar, and said he wanted a Big Pecker.

Here are Dick, Cathy, Laura, Izzy and Jeff enjoying their Big Peckers
Laura had enough of the Big Pecker and ordered a Martini.
This is the dock to the Parrotdise Restaurant. There was a "No Fishing" sign...No Fishing? No kidding…no fish!

When we returned to the boat, Jeff  and Steven went out in the dinghy to try their luck at the fishing thing again.  They sure are persistant. 
Must not have caught anything, because Jeff put on his snorkel and jumped in when they got back. 
Looking for fish, Jeff?  He just doesn't quit.
More fishing opportunities the next day as Steven rigged up his fishing pole, and fished off the stern for another try at trolling on our way to Key West. There have to be fish here. My mother always told me there were plenty of fish in the sea, and she was pretty smart.
When he got a bite, he’d holler “fish on!” and Jeff would slow the boat down so Steven could bring in the big catch.

We had a few false alarms, but several times he really caught a fish! Here he is with a Spanish mackerel. He took it off the hook and put it back in the water so it could join his family again.

Cathy took a turn in the fighting chair too
I hope Jeff is taking fishing lessons from Steven.
Here he is releasing another fish he caught. He’s a nice guy. Speaking of being nice, here’s Laura putting sun screen on Steven so he won’t get burned. What a great sister!

She’s pretty nice to me too. I plopped myself right up next to her for some good neck scratching.

At our slip in the Galleon Marina in Key West, we were greeted by the resident Barracudas under our dock. They look well fed…must be some fish around here, eh Steven?

The next day Jeff decided to try his hand at a different kind of fishing…paying the guy on the docks that came in on the fishing boat! That worked well, and we had wonderful fresh Mahi Mahi that night on the BBQ!
Steven and Laura made friends with a college guy in the fancy fishing boat next to us. The boat belonged to his parents, but he and a bunch of his friends were there with their full time captain for Spring Break. The night we arrived, we saw them pull out of their slip for a sunset ride with a bunch of girls and guys sitting on the bow. I don’t know why Izzy didn’t get a picture of that cool boat, but I couldn’t find one in her camera. Anyway, he invited Steven and Laura to join them for some fun a few times while we were there. Here's Laura getting ready for a night out on the town with their new friends.

Jeff’s first quest was to find a Conch Republic Flag for our boat. The story goes that a long time ago, a bunch of people from Key West who had fallen on hard times, came up with a plan. They decided that Key West should secede from the union, and be renamed the Conch Republic. Then they declared war on us, but immediately surrendered, and requested foreign aide. All pretty funny, eh? Jeff liked the story.

This place has some new smells. There are lots of wild cats here that don’t much like me sniffing around the bushes where they hide and sleep all day. Izzy said that some of them have six toes. They're descendents of the cats of some guy named Hemingway who wrote stories and lived here a long time ago.

Then there are the smells of the beautiful chickens that meander around the streets. They’re afraid of me, so I don’t mind running into them on my walks. I’d kinda like to chase one if I could get off this leash.
Oh yea… then there’s this smell.

That’s a job I don’t want. Not even in Key West. That’s our boat in the background – freshly pumped, or “in the Green Zone” as we call it on the “Izzy R”.

Speaking of being in the “Green Zone”, one night when Jeff took me out for a walk to take care of my business, one of those six toed cats got at least twelve of them around my furry neck, and it wasn’t much fun for me. It was just hiding behind the most interesting of the pee bushes, and ambushed me as I was just about to get into the “green zone” myself. Luckily Jeff was able to chase him away on time…before I got really mad.

We walked down Duval Street where we could find most of the action…bars, stores and restaurants, all with music and lots of people – most of them carrying a cocktail of some kind. It was Spring Break for many of the Florida schools, so lots of hard bodies in bathing suits were wandering the streets in varying levels of sobriety, getting the desired attention. Matt and Aaron would have liked this place!

Every evening in Key West, hundreds of people gather along the shore at Mallory Square and celebrate the sundown. I don’t quite get it. Don’t they know it will come back up in the morning and set again every night? Oh well, any excuse for a party in Key West!

And party they do! There are lots of performers there too, doing everything from fire eating, to sword swallowing and break dancing.
We met up with our old friends Hank and Ann from “Queen Ann’s Revenge” at those sunset festivities, somewhere between the dancing monkey and the fire juggler.
That night we had a great dinner at Blue Heaven with them to catch up on their travels since we saw them last in Kentucky.

Izzy wanted to take a city tour on one of those corny Conch Trains, where we saw both the “Beginning of Route 1”, and the “End of Route 1” – all within about a mile of each other.
We visited the southern most point of the US, the Shell Warehouse, and the Conch Fritter stand all in a couple of hours while sitting in a little train, as if we were tourist kids on an amusement park ride.

Conch fritters were good!
This is a fine ride - Key West style. 
And here is another.  No back seat for me, though.

We had lunch at a funky waterside shack called Schooner Wharf and Bar where a guy named Michael McCloud sang funny island songs. Here’s Jeff making friends with his dog.

We sat up on the balcony in the sun and had another cool one while Steven and Laura went parasailing. We didn’t see them go up in the air, but it was fun waiting in the sun and listening to the music anyway.
On our way back we passed a big fence that was covered with some of the best of Key West philosophy

Like this one:

And this:
After our shopping and a few stops for a cool one,

we headed back to the boat for a good BBQ on board, with our great view of the boats in the harbor.

All too soon we had to say goodbye to Dick, Cathy, Laura and Steven. I’m guessing that Steven will be glad to be back in a real bed where his feet don’t hang off the end, and Laura will be glad to have some privacy for dressing and showering. But I think they both had a good time living the boat-life for a few days with us, and I hope they’ll come back and visit again.

Dick and Cathy are old hands at the boating stuff, so they’ll be back for sure. Maybe they’ll bring my pal Angel next time instead of all that luggage. If not, at least Jeff finagled an invitation to their house again for Thanksgiving this year, so I’ll get to see her then.

Till next time...I'll be napping here with my new friend "Squeak" the squirrel.  He doesn't run away from me like the squirrels in the park.