March 20152021-02-14T12:41:04-05:00
203, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Boot Key Harbor

March 2, 2015|

As we prepared for our departure from Marathon, we did so with very mixed emotions. It took us a good while to get used to being in one place after we first cruised into Boot Key Harbor. We had been moving from one place to another just about every other day until we arrived there. But after being there for a while, we truly enjoyed the feeling of community among the other boaters and the small town of Marathon. It was also a great place to have friends from home join us for a while, exploring the Keys, and getting some relief from winter weather.

We will miss our mooring field neighbors, the numerous activities that are organized for the boaters, the church that we have been attending, and of course, the unbelievably beautiful weather of warm days, cool breezy nights, and no bugs. We got up this morning, March 2nd, and had a simple breakfast celebration of Stel’s birthday up on the bridge of Estrellita. It was a beautiful warm and sunny morning to enjoy some time looking over the harbor full of boats before we departed. We spent some time thanking God for the wonderful years that he has given my wife and then got into the dinghy for a final cruise through the neighborhood to say our goodbyes. I promised I would take her on a cruise for her birthday, and of course I always keep those special promises. We pulled out of the harbor early this afternoon and headed north along the Florida Bay side of the Keys. It will take us a few days to get to Miami and then we will follow the Intracoastal Waterway route that leads us up the eastern coast of Florida, into Georgia and then finally to our home near Charleston, SC.

It felt great to be underway again. As we spent the afternoon cruising through these clear turquoise waters, the joy and rhythm of this Loop adventure suddenly returned to us. We had really missed being on the move. It will take us about a month to travel the final 600 miles of the Great American Loop, which will put us home during the first week of April, Lord willing. In the meantime….happy birthday to my wonderful first mate!!!

803, 2015

Biscayne to Boca – A Journey of Contrasts

March 8, 2015|

As we were making our way to Miami, we were still a world away in the beautiful emerald waters of Biscayne National Park, which preserves Biscayne Bay and its offshore barrier reefs. 95% of the park is water and the shoreline is an extensive mangrove forest. Elliott Key is the largest island and is formed from a coral reef. The vast shallow water preserve has quite a history of pirates, shipwrecks, fishing, sailing and pineapple farming.

Two days and nights at anchor were spent at peaceful and secluded locations within the Park, where we experienced mild tropical weather, dramatic sunsets, dark star-filled evenings and more swimming than at any other time on our trip combined. I took advantage of the clear water to spend more time under the boat doing some cleaning of the bottom and running gear, which strangely enough, I find relaxing and fun. The absence of crowds and any development in the Park was quite a contrast to what we were about to encounter in the coming days.

As we cruised into Miami Harbor, auto-pilot was no longer an option. It was a busy place, to say the least!
Adding to the excitement, was an inter-collegiante sailing regatta taking place in the middle of the harbor with what appeared to be at least 200 small sailboats flying about, all of which had the right-of-way. We also passed Stiltsville, which is the remainder of an eclectic group of houses first built over the water by squatters between the 30’s and 60’s. The buildings have a very colorful past, hosting fishing, drinking, social clubs for Miamians and gambling during the prohibition years. Due to several hurricanes and natural decay from exposure, only 7 of the structures still exist and are being preserved as part of the national park’s heritage.

From Miami to Boca-Raton, we traveled up the Intracoastal Waterway. It was quite a contrast to our passage through the remote Biscayne Bay, but was beautiful and awesome in its own way. The waterway, bridges, homes, landscaping and yachts were more than the eye could take in. Only the photos that we have included below can begin to describe what we experienced when cruising through this part of the country!

1603, 2015

Boca Raton to Juno Beach

March 16, 2015|

As we made our way up this part of Florida’s east coast, we were overwhelmed by the homes, boats, pools, docks, and lush colorful landscaping that were developed and displayed in such a grand way on this stretch of the ICW. We had sunny clear weather as we slowly passed these sites and had a great time viewing and appreciating all the different architecture and materials used in the construction of all of it. Mile after mile, it was sometimes a bit much for the eye to behold. And wow, can you imagine the upkeep of these immaculate properties?? As each of those days came to an end, we remained thankful for our relatively small and simple home on the Estrellita.

We spent some long days negotiating our way through no-wake zones and bridge after low bridge interconnecting some of the wealthiest sections of Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. Stel spent some time snapping pictures of the grandeur. We have included a few of Stel’s photos, which is our best attempt at sharing our time in this impressive area.

2003, 2015

Cruising in the Rain…Still Fun!

March 20, 2015|

If the forecast calls for rain without the crazy wind and lightning, we will travel! We would much rather be moving to our next destination than sitting around in the boat in a marina waiting for the weather to improve. As you can see by the attached pictures, there are many other people who love to be active in the rainy outdoors. We were very impressed by the number of very young kids who were competing in an Optimist Sailing Regatta in the blustery, wet and open waterway of the ICW just south of Ft. Pierce.

When we arrived at the City Marina, we knew we had to re-provision. So, we googled the nearest Publix and took off by foot through what we discovered to be a somewhat threatening part of town. I humbly took the blame for poor planning and after a swift-paced 2 mile hike, we finally got our groceries and caught a cab back to the safety of Estrellita. After days like that, we just crawl into our aft cabin bed, watch a good movie on our laptop, and have a great night’s sleep. This life is good!

2603, 2015

The Niña, the Pinta and the Estrellita

March 26, 2015|

We have seen a lot of boats and met a lot of new people since we started the Great Loop last April. To tell you the truth, when you meet fellow cruisers, spend some time with them and then say goodbye, you wonder if you will ever see them again. We have discovered that the chances are extremely high, that regardless of where these people call home, possibly Kansas or Canada, you WILL see them again! It is one of the wonderful things about cruising. You either maintain contact with these fellow cruisers and make an effort to get together again, or because of our mutual love for the waterways that we travel, we will pass them, recognize their boat, and hail them on the radio with a greeting and discussion of our past times together. On the waterways approaching Vero Beach, we passed 2 acquaintances. One was s/v Windchaser who was our mooring neighbor in Marathon and the other was Tom Goodman and his wife Melesia, harbor hosts in Swansboro, NC who helped us in April of last year when we needed a ride to Best Buy for a new GPS equipped ipad for navigation. Later that same day we arrived at Vero Beach Marina and were docked next to the Nina and Pinta! Back in September of last year, we happened to be tied up about the same distance from them in Peoria, Illinois.

Whenever we meet a new cruiser, either on the docks of a marina or passing them in our dinghies, we will introduce ourselves, get to know each other a little bit and then go through the normal ritual of exchanging boat cards. Boats cards are much like business cards for serious cruisers who want to share their identity by personal names, boat name, port of call, phone number, email address and blog address. The card usually has a photo of the boat and sometimes photos of the captain and mate. Since we started the Loop, Stel and I have collected over 200 boat cards from people we have met. Stel has glued each card into a spiral bound notebook and then written notes about when and where we met, some personal information and then something about their cruising plans. When we sight their boat again, which is often first done through our binoculars, we will rush down to the cabin, grab our boat card book, and refresh our memories about who is aboard, where we first met them and how many grandchildren they have. They are often impressed by our great memories…ha ha!

We continue to work our way up the Florida coast, meeting new people along the way and experiencing sections of the beautiful Atlantic ICW that we have never seen before. As we see more and more marshland, meandering creeks feeding into the main channel and oysters on the muddy banks, it reminds us of home in South Carolina. We look forward to being in home waters, but with mixed emotions. What a trip this has been! Closing the Loop will be bittersweet!

3003, 2015

Last Few Days in the Sunshine State

March 30, 2015|

Both of my parents (Burke’s) were raised in the Jacksonville area, so we cruised into the big city with great anticipation about our plans to meet with some family and friends that we had not seen in a while. We had heard some great things about the Marina at Ortega Landing, which would require a 20 mile diversion down the St. Johns River. It was our plan to stay there and visit family and college friends for at least 4 days, so we made the decision to make the side trip and were glad that we did. It was beautiful, friendly and full of amenities. It was also a great place to rendezvous with loved ones. We have included pictures of most of the reunions, but blew it by not getting a picture of my cousin Robin and her husband, who took us out to dinner on the night of our arrival. Sorry guys!! We love you all and enjoyed our time together in Jax.

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