Sunday, January 24, 2010

Discovering The Home of Our Hearts

To think that this is the last entry on the amazing sojourn that Chip and I experienced on The Great Circle Loop is probably the biggest reason why it has taken me so long to sit down and write it out and publish it....How does one sum up 31 months and nearly 7,000 miles in one last blog post? I was worried as each day passed that I might somehow lose the emotional energy that those last few days on the loop were charged with...We got home about 3 weeks ago, and quite honestly, we haven't stopped long enough to really put all of our thoughts down on paper...but, the emotions haven't quieted themselves down at all...in fact, it is possible, the joy of the experience has only since intensified with every retelling of a story from our wonderful adventure...and so, please allow me these last few words about our trip which took us to places we never thought we would ever see, and worlds within ourselves that we didn't know existed...
~We are not the same people we were when this journey began---that is one thing for sure I can tell you will happen if you ever decide to jump off the ledge in life where you look out onto a horizon with a longing in your soul to see more of our beautiful planet, But beware...once you have touched the other side, there is no coming back to where you began---of course, I mean that totally in a metaphoric way...We are so happy to be home, but it is truly the home of our hearts that we discovered on ithaka...and man, what a beautiful place it is...
~Some say what we did took a lot of courage...I never thought of it as courageous...You see, I've knelt beside the well at the home of Helen Keller where as a small child she came to understand her first word, water...and while gazing all around me I saw the blue sky, the flowers in the gardens, the magnolia trees that were planted before she was ever born--I listened to the birds sing--knowing that she never experienced the simple gift of gazing into her mother's eyes, yet went on to publicly speak around the world and inspire people everywhere--Our journey pales in comparison when you think and try to imagine her world of dark silence...
~I have walked through the halls of the shrine of the multitudes who at Ellis Island 16 million immigrants crossed over the threshold of America having risked everything in pursuit of a dream---sailed across a great ocean with all their worldly possessions wrapped in a blanket---How could our journey in a comfortable trawler ever compare, how could it ever be described as brave and ambitious when we think of our ancestors and their vision of the Statue of Liberty as they arrived in their new home...
~My best memories you ask? --There are too many to have a favorite. I sang the national anthem in the city where it was written as I watched my Yankees play the Orioles in Camden Yard...and sat in the stands at Doubleday field where our national pastime began....We visited West Point, and Annapolis...and countless forts and battlefields from both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War...Shiloh, Fort Sumter, Fort Stanwix, Williamsburg, Yorktown. --Countless churches and cemeteries...lighthouses and landmarks...galleries and studios...locks and a chute and lakes and gorges...even a carp barrier...farmer's markets, even fond memories of Super Wal-marts (fellow loopers will understand)...We've been through tropical storms and micro bursts, 8' seas, fog and rain...but mostly sunny days. --We've hiked across Cumberland Island as feral horses ran right beside us and biked around Jekell Island where we visited mansions from yesteryear......we picked wild blueberries & fished in the north channel where granite islands were pink and mauve...cruised up the Hudson River past countryside so breathtakingly beautiful we no longer need wonder how the great River Valley artists were so inspired...We touched the doorknob to the office where FDR gave his fireside chats...We've seen the changing leaves along the Tennessee River as ancient mountains rose up along side us...we walked in sand drifts as white as snow in the Florida panhandle...took the dinghy to hidden treasures, up quiet rivers and around the bends...and cruised through water along Lake Michigan that rivals the Caribbean in its clear blue color...I've left a thousand things out!
~Most of all, life is all about the relationships we create and hold dear, and the loop is no different...So, here's to those that met us along the way (in order of appearance)--Jack & Holly...our friend Leigh...Fern of course, she met us twice! ~and Aunt Dot & Uncle George...my brother Joey and my dear friend Fred...Frank & Denise and their family...Uncle Bill...Gil & Pam...Art & Sharon, Brandy, David & Leonardo, Chino & Yvonne...Carol, Uncle Joe, Tim & Betty, Ed & Marcia...and we cannot forget the new friends we made along the way...Milt & Fran...Guy and Peggy...James and Renny...and countless other loopers who, when any of us saw that AGLCA burgee flying, we knew we'd soon be making another new friend! ~and then there are those who also became family...like Bill & Eileen on the BlueMax and Bud, Muriel & Shelly on Sunshine...
~Yes, it is about the journey--not the destination, but for what it is worth...the destination, as it turns out, is not a place afterall, but rather a feeling inside of us at the depth of our being, a new way of seeing the oneness of our planet and the lovely connectedness of it all.
...and we can't wait to do it all again!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

We're Home

On January 4th, 2010 at 4:32 pm, the Ithaka crossed her wake in Gordon Pass, Naples Florida,
officially closing the circle on one of the greatest adventures of a lifetime. It took us nearly 3 years overall to cruise the 6,777 miles.
Everyone is asking us..."What has been the best part of the loop?" There is no 'best part', but rather hundreds and thousands of wonderful experiences all coming together to become one unbelievable adventure that we can't wait to do again!


*Photo of my very happy captain as we crossed our wake!






"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by those you did. So, throw off those bowlines...away from safe harbors...Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain
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Monday, January 4, 2010

Borrowed Words

I have enjoyed keeping this blog...I love words. A lot of time and thought goes into each post. ~and, I am sure later today as Chip and I cross our wake, an emotion will take my pen in hand and right words will indeed come to me. But, for now I would like to borrow some words from John Steinbeck, an excerpt from "Travels with Charley."



"When I was very young and the urge to be somewhere else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hairs on my neck and set my feet tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of hooves on pavement bring an ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of the stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don't improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear my disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.
When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. And at last he must implement his journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal. I set it down only so newcomers to bumdom, like teenagers in new hatched sin, will not think that they invented it.
Once a journey is designed and put into practice, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has a personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person unto itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Life's Little Speed Bumps


It was a sleepless night in St. Pete Beach; bad waves, wind & current...Chip had one eye open all night and stayed on the couch, checking the lines throughout the night...I didn't drift off till after 3 am when the wind finally settled down. We headed out before the sun came up, with the magnificent Skyway Bridge in the distance. We knew it was low tide; but all the charts, electronics, visual aides and local knowledge could not have foreseen the events of the day as they were about to enfold. As we approached Tampa Bay, right in the middle of the channel our depth gauge went from 5' below the keel to NO READING. Luckily Chip was at idle speed, slowly maneuvering through the skinny water with sandbars along side us all the way. I could have reached out to touch some of the shore birds wading in the mud. The bow bumped first which popped the stern up slightly or else the damage would have probably been much worse...After a call to our mechanic in Naples, we made the decision to get to the closest marina to have Ithaka checked. We crept across Tampa Bay at 3 knots because of the vibration above 1000 rpms...think unbalanced washing machine on the spin cycle times a thousand. Throughout the 3 1/2 hour bay crossing we listened over the radio to several other boaters in distress who had gone aground during this unusually low tide.


The folks at Bradenton Beach marina couldn't have been nicer. Chip had a spare prop on board. He always says he has a spare for everything except his first mate! Had he not been prepared we might have been spending a few days on Anna Maria Island--which, by the way, turned out to be a good stop in spite of the reason that got us there. While the mechanics worked on the prop, I spotted a steeple off in the distance so I went for a walk. A sweet little clapboard sided church was unlocked...I went inside to say a prayer to find a dozen or so church ladies taking down their Christmas decorations, playing music and enjoying fellowship. They were all so happy to have a visitor! They told me all about the history of the church and the story behind all the beautiful stained glass windows. I sat in awe of the holy spirit, that feeling you get when you cannot put something into words. Just think of something that brings you so much joy you cry. That is how I felt. I knew at that moment that everything is always in perfect order and God knew we needed one more gentle reminder, a "speed bump" so to speak. I heard Him whisper, "Slow down, enjoy the journey."


Once we got the Ithaka back in the water we determined we would not be getting to Englewood before dark, so we called a marina in Venice and set out to enjoy the rest of the cold but clear afternoon. We counted our blessings and reminisced about all the adventures, both planned and unexpected, that we've experienced along this journey. Once docked at The Crow's Nest Marina, we called our dear friends Ed and Marcia who live nearby. They came down and picked us up and brought us back to their loving, warm, wonderful home for a delicious dinner which included a champagne toast in celebration of our nearly completed loop and their 15 year anniversary!


Last night we slept like babies as Ithaka gently rocked us---and it was the first time in many days that we did not set the alarm. We are now 100 miles from home so we will stop tonight somewhere between Captiva and Sanibel...Probably our last night on Ithaka on The Great Circle Loop. We expect to be crossing our wake tomorrow afternoon at Gordon Pass at high tide...
"Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God." ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010!


Happy New Year from the cast and crew of the good ship Ithaka!


Tarpon Springs is one of those places that needs to be seen once, but when you leave you say to yourself, "Ok...been there, got the t-shirt." (although we didn't buy any t-shirts!) ha ha! -You can see it all in a day, two at the most...and most of it is pretty touristy. It was interesting to learn that it is the sponge capital of the world. The gulf waters north of Tampa Bay is one of the few areas in the world where the species of natural sponges suitable for commercial use are found. The local industry began in the late 1800's. Initially they retrieved sponges by gigging or hooking them. Diving for sponges was introduced in 1905 when the first Greek immigrant came to the west coast of Florida. As we walked along the docks we overheard Greek spoken as often as English. The restaurants were very good. I love Greek food! Our favorites were Hellas and Mykonos. Please, have you ever had fried cheese? Opa! ~We stayed at the city docks, which were pretty dilapidated to tell you the truth, but within walking distance to everything you'd want to see. (photo is of the Anclote River cruising into Tarpon Springs).


The two best things to happen to us in Tarpon Springs however, had nothing to do with sponges or fried cheese! We had two wonderful visits! First, early in the day, our friend Carol came to see us. Carol's husband is Chip's longtime friend Dave, who passed in August. We are dedicating the 4th and final leg of our journey to Dave's memory. Carol lives in Largo, not far from where we docked and she and her daughter Stacey, who was visiting for the holidays, came by to spend some time with us on New Year's Eve day. It was great seeing her...there were lots of tears and lots of reminiscing. Later in the day, my Uncle Joe, my dad's 'baby' brother, joined us for New Year's Eve dinner! What a treat for us to spend such quality time with such special people in our lives. A great way to start the new year and the new decade! Happy 2010!


Today we pulled out early; the sun was barely popping up over the horizon. We maneuvered our way past all the sponge boats and tour boats and made our way out into the intracoastal waterway. Tonight we are taking cover from the 25-30 knot winds in Tierra Verde near St. Pete Beach. It's pretty bouncy out there! When we cruised past the Bellaire Beach bridge around noon we called Grandma Helen and she waved to us from her window as I blew her kisses...I promised her we'd be back with mom in February. Tonight we are meeting up with Chip's cousin Tim and his bride Betty. They're on their way to get us now...We went 30 days without seeing more people than we could count on our fingers, but as we approach the end of the loop we are filling our days and nights with a lot of fun & happy people! All part of this wonderful journey home.
"A journey is best measured in friends, rather than in miles." Unknown to me

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Lovely Cruise Up the Steinhatchee River


We made the trip from Carrabelle to Steinhatchee (stein rhymes with bean) on Sunday. Happily, it was uneventful...fear of unruly waves, crab pots and low depths dispelled...From the marker at East Pass to the waypoint in Deadman's Bay, 62 nm, Chip keyed in the coordinates and our autopilot did the rest. Eight hours later we were 'right on the money'! The crab pots didn't appear until we were just a few miles from the channel. We approached at high tide and never had less than 7' below the keel. We ended up spending an extra day in Steinhatchee, a combination of less than ideal traveling weather plus the fact that it was a Monday and we were working on office business--we thought it best to stay where we knew we had reliable cell and internet service. We caught up with all work related emails, updates and correspondences as well as laundry and housekeeping...I even made homemade soup...then late in the afternoon we went for a ride in the dinghy all the way the Steinhatchee River~past all the fishing cabins and vacation cottages...up up up the river to a quiet sanctuary where moss hung from ancient trees and palms gently curved away from the winds. We saw an Opossum, that I know we startled, as well as the usual array of feathered friends. The stillness of the water gave us a wonderful opportunity to photograph the shadows and reflections around us. The sky was bluer in the water! (click on photo for enlargement) Sunlight peeped through the cypress, and danced on the leaves...and the nearly full moon smiled down on us all the while. It was a peaceful communion, lost somewhere between heaven and earth...to be a part of such tranquility was a luxury.

On Tuesday; an early alarm, one last check of tides and weather and we set course for the Cross Florida Barge Canal. At low tide the Steinhatchee inlet is not as forgiving, so stay right down the middle. Even so, we never had less than 1.5' below the keel...anyone drafting up to 5' would be fine in any tide...there were a lot larger boats up the river than ours. We had another long day ahead out on the gulf...alot more crab pots on this leg. We made it to the barge canal to anchor before dark...possibly our last anchorage of the loop. We have had some of our most enjoyable evenings at anchor. Tuesday was no exception. Steaks on the grill, a good movie, dolphins jumping around the boat, a beautiful sunset.


We are spending the last day of 2009 in Tarpon Springs. We arrived last night. The city docks are terrible, but the location cannot be beat...right on the main street downtown, walking distance to all the Greek restaurants! Entering Anclote River, it didn't take us long to know, "We're back in civilization"! Crazy boaters darted all around us, bouncing Ithaka about more than any seas had in the last few days! More on Tarpon Springs in my next post...trust me, there are a lot of surprises on the way!
*to see the movie about the Steinhatchee cruise, please log onto our YOUTUBE channel.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas week on Ithaka


I apologize for losing track of the days...soon I'll be home and on a rigid schedule and I'll be booking my appointments right down to the minute...But for now, when someone asks me what day it is, I've been saying, 'it's Christmas week'...and, What time is it?...Uhhh...'Sometime between sunrise and sunset'...


...After 9 days in Mobile, then Gulf Shores Alabama, we were glad to FINALLY get to our home state...Hello Florida! ~The dolphins greeted us and the air felt clean and clear and crisp...the sky was brighter and we knew, we were that much closer to home.


We were quick in and quick out of Pensacola Beach, but it was awesome to take my shoes off and walk in the white sand...crunch crunch...and amazing to lay in the sand and make sand angels! Really pretty beaches! The smell of salt air was very therapeutic. We stayed at Beach Marina on Little Sabine Bay. It was close to the Intracoastal, walking distance to the beach, and had a little grocery store upstairs with a very good wine selection.


From Pensacola we headed to Destin...watched and listened to the jets from the nearby airforce base break the sound barrier...fascinating! In Destin we stayed at Harborwalk Marina, a new facility...minimal assistance with docking and lines, but steps to a few restaurants and a few new shops and galleries (reminded me of The Escalade on Marco Island). It is off-season in the panhandle so nothing is crowded, however shortly after dark the docks were crawling with revelers out to see the annual Destin Christmas Boat Parade. I don't know how we plan (we actually don't plan anything) these things, but the boat parade just happened to be the night we were in town and it just so happened to pass right in front of Ithaka's bow...Yup, front row seats to all the lights, singing and fun! We loved it! Chip however was fast to remind me that Naples' Boat Parade is much better! Again, Destin was a one night stand and we were on to our next stop...


Between Destin and Panama City (which by the way was the prettiest day on the water so far) we transversed through an area referred to as "The Grand Canyon" of Florida...The dunes along the 'ditch' were beautiful...different shades of beige and grey and tan and white...layers upon layers of sand. We saw eagles and osprey...the entire day was a smorgasbord for the eyes! We couldn't help but to just be grateful for all our blessings. Onto Panama City, and as we rounded the bend into Bay Pointe Marina in the Grand Lagoon, God gave us a breathtaking sunset, one for the record book! It was a really nice marina, too--very accommodating staff...We treated ourselves to massages at the spa on site...Much needed and a wonderful gift to each other! The rate at the marina is $430 per month including electric, water and cable...we can see why it was filled to capacity...and for a moment thought about how simple life could be...Once we docked, a couple from a boat the next dock over, recognizing our looper burgee, came over and offered us the use of their car to re-provision...This is just what 'loopers' do. Anyway, we stayed for two nights.


Over to Apalachicola on the 23rd--we were expecting bad weather on Thursday and Friday, so at last we knew: This is where we will be spending Christmas! So...we bought a turkey and all the trimmings and decided to make it a feast; if only for ourselves!


Apalach, that's what the locals call it, turned out to be one of my most favorite small towns on the loop! I'd rate it right up there with Oriental North Carolina, Catskill New York, Leland Michigan and Columbus Mississippi...It reminded me of Goodland Florida times ten...no, times one hundred! A real Old Florida fishing village with lots of local color and flair! Bed and Breakfasts, galleries, nautical antique shops...great photo opportunities! We met Richard Bickel, a photojournalist who at first glance reminded me of Clyde Butcher. His work is mostly in black and white also, but after studying it, I dare say, it is even more poetic than Butcher...Among his followers he is collected by Bill Gates. Richard came to Appalachicola on a photo assignment and then made it his home. He is one of many talented artists that have made this sleepy village their home...We ate lots of oysters and shrimp....unbelievably delicious! We highly recommend Boss' Oyster Bar and That Place In Apalach (mouthwatering gumbo)...Papa Joe's was closed, but we heard it is also very good. We stayed at Scipio Creek Marina...nothing to write home about, but it might just have been the fact that we pulled in late on the 23rd....they were ready to close up shop for the holiday. It was about 8-10 blocks from town, which we walked frequently (including the walk on Christmas morning when we spotted the eagle pictured-click on him to enlarge)...Scipio Creek is a looper sponsor, so we wanted to honor that. Plus, it was snuggled in as far up the creek as we could safely dock, so we were very protected from the wind that whipped through on Christmas Eve...After a candle light service at St. Patrick's (which at one time was the only Catholic church in western Florida) we experienced higher than normal tides...waded back to the boat...35 knot winds...and a boat breaking lose in the marina late in the night heading right for Ithaka! That owner will never know the good Samaritan who saved his boat on Christmas Eve!


Christmas day the cabin was filled with good smells, a turkey in the oven and homemade breads...good sounds, Christmas carols played all day...and lots of love, we opened presents (luckily neither of us took the 'no presents' promise to heart)...We talked to mom a few times as well as the kids and even got to Skype the grandkids! It turned out to be a very special day, one we will never forget...a most profound part of our journey "home"...


Next stop was Carrabelle...Once docked, Tony, the fellow who runs The Moorings Marina, stopped by our boat and helped us chart our course from there to where we are tonight: Steinhatchee...I was really happy he told my captain that he did not recommend a crossing of the gulf all the way to Tarpon Springs this time of year...Now we will hop-scotch our way down the west coast...still unsure of an exact date when we will be home...


*There are too many photos from this week to post, so I hope you will check out our videos on YOUTUBE!


Friday, December 25, 2009

The Reason for the Season

Some lessons learned on board Ithaka this Christmas Season:

  • Let Go and Let God...detach from the outcome....release worry. Be trusting.
  • Enjoy the Journey...we'll get home when we get home. There isn't anything we can do about the weather or anything else that can delay our homecoming. Be joyful.
  • Be Content Where you Are...all along we have referred to this as "discovering Ithaka"...the home of our hearts, rather than focusing on the physical place on Jewel Box Avenue in Naples. Be Loving.

Leaving schedules and agendas behind, especially at this time of year has allowed us to connect with the true essence of Christmas in a way that we never have before. It may not be the Christmases that we had when we were children...nor is it the Christmases we had when we had little children of our own. Those memories are tucked away safely in our hearts to be remembered always. Of course, it won't be easy to not see our loved ones, especially the grandchildren today, but we know we will be home soon.

~Instead something magical happened on Ithaka this holiday season...Being alone turned into a wonderful gift...and hopefully we will be bringing it home to share with everyone we love. We didn't have the usual holiday distractions. Instead we have celebrated the real reason for the season...and it is Light! Some people celebrate the Winter Solstice; a quiet, abiding faith that in our planet's stillest moment a change occurs: the days begin to get longer, a promise of more light on earth's darkest day...a metaphor for what is true and perfect. Some people celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of lights! Lighting the 8 candles, signifying the trust and knowing that we will always have enough. Thankful that we will never run out of what we need to light the way...and, Some of us celebrate the birth of Christ...once again knowing it was the guiding light of a star that announced his birth to the world and led the magi to his manger...it was an angel's bright light than shone from the heavens and appeared to the shepherds letting them know of our saviour's birth...the light of the world!

In the coming year, we are going to try to be the best we can be...the best spouses, the best parents, the best Mimi and Papa...the best siblings, cousins, neighbors, co-workers, real estate agents and Friends. We are going to try each day to be and share the light...to keep the reason for the season alive in our hearts all year.

So, whether you are someone we know & love or someone who happened upon our blog by chance; whether you are sharing Christmas dinner with loved ones today, or feeding the hungry at a shelter, whether you are working to serve others as a nurse, a policeman, a waitress...or a soldier far away from home...Or maybe, just maybe you are a sailor on a boat on a journey, discovering the home in your heart like us...May the love and Light that Jesus taught shine in your hearts this Christmas Day and everyday throughout the coming year...

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have Mistletoe will Travel

The Captain's Best Mate takes no chances and brings her own mistletoe along for the Christmas season!




P.S. We posted a couple of silly YOUTUBES tonight, too! Merry Christmas-Eve blog followers.
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Our Last Photo of our AGLCA Burgee

Sometime late yesterday afternoon we lost our "looper burgee". This is the last picture taken of it. Along the entire loop I have always tried to get shots, wherever we were traveling, with the burgee in the foreground of the photograph. We flew her proudly for the past 6000+ miles and we are both disappointed that we won't be able to frame it as we had wanted to do. Throughout this experience, it has been the AGLCA burgee that we have looked for when pulling into a marina...like looking for a common thread...seeing one flying on another's boat immediately created a bond...loopers are a crazy family and this is our crest!

We already bought the gold burgee, which denotes the completion of the loop, back at the rendezvous in October.
We are days away from completing the circle and we will fly our new burgee once we cross our wake in Gordon Pass.


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

What a Feeling!



If you know me, then you know...I don't hide my emotions very well...happiness wells up inside of me like bubbles in a champagne flute! Today is no exception...I am bursting! I'm high on sunshine and as giddy as a child on Christmas morning! I've been smiling all day! We weren't but 4 miles from the Florida 'border' when out of nowhere a momma dolphin and her baby leaped beside the boat (click on pix)...A welcome home straight from heaven!






I went outside to snap a few pictures and was thinking to myself:
'Is it me, or does everything all of a sudden just look prettier'? --Look, I know it's been raining and grey, but honestly, it really did feel as though we crawled through the looking glass when we cruised over the state line. I stepped back into the cabin and Chip turned to me and said, "Is it just me, or does everything just look prettier?"





Ahhhh...15 states...over 6000+ miles...and the white sands of Florida, the dolphins jumping, the sunshine streaming into the cabin...our home state welcomed us back with a wonderful warm embrace...it's good to be on our way home. What a feeling!

* Don't forget to check out our latest video clips and additional photographs set to music on YOUTUBE!

Florida...Here We Come!


The sun is shining and we will FINALLY be sleeping in Florida tonight!


~After 5 days in Mobile...and 4 more days here in Gulf Shores; we are finally heading out this morning, under a sky of blue. "I know I have a pair of sunglasses around here somewhere"! It's chilly outside, but the sun is expected to shine for the next few days.


Ithaka is homeward bound.


Friday, December 18, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Well, we thought we were making forward progress by taking the chance of crossing Mobile Bay in the fog, but here we sit at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores Alabama for three days waiting on a computer chip for our chart plotter! Seems UPS has tried to deliver it a few times, but no one's been around the marina office to accept the delivery which needs to be signed for and the drivers do not have phones on the truck so it's not like they can call us so that we could just walk the 50 yards up to the marina office to accept our package...a bit of a dilemma! When we asked the gal at the UPS office this morning to give us a general time frame for delivery she said anytime between 9 AM and 7 PM. We are in a clearly marked slip...the driver would simply have to walk down to the docks rather than to the main office (exactly halfway in either direction from the parking lot) but asking them to "re-route" to another address (aka the slip we're in) is not policy. So...here we are, making the very best of it...Sitting still that is...enjoying each other's company...relishing the solitude...reading...facebooking...skyping...journaling...finishing my real estate continuing education...cooking...listening to music...watching movies...We walked the 3 mile round trip to the grocery store yesterday to pick up a few things...felt good to 'move around' a little...Hoping to someday be back in Florida, just not today.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Florida...Almost!


After checking 3 weather sites before turning in on Monday night we thought we'd be at Dog River Marina for at least a few more days. It rained all night...but, at 7 am my captain had the coffee going and was checking "wunderground" and all at once I heard him say, "Let's go for it"! ~Now, for those of you who know my captain, you know he is a cautious captain...So, when he says it's clear to go I do not question his judgement. In less than 15 minutes we were underway! We followed the channel markers (which seemed to be a lot further apart than they actually are) and stayed just outside the shipping channel hugging the reds...at marker 58 we set our course to bearing 145, our speed to 8 knots and headed through the fog into the direction of Bon Secour Bay...It was foggier out in the bay than it was inside the river. I sat outside (in the rain) on the bow with my radio and kept an eye out for floating trees and such....there's a lot of debris in the delta. Chip had the radar going and spotted several large freighters and barges before they were visible by sight. We could hear fog horns all around us. We got glimpses of ol' Mr. Sunshine throughout the 2 hour trip across the bay. The radar also assured us that we were in the weather window as heavy rain was on our tail, but we were confidant we'd beat out the nastiest and get to our destination with time to spare. ~As we backed into our slip in Homeport Marina it started to pour! What timing!


Safely snuggled in at Homeport Marina in Orange Beach Alabama, we walked over to Jimmy's crazy sista's place for dinner last night...Lulu Buffet makes a great margarita! Rumor has it big brother makes a surprise appearance every now and then, but no such luck for us last night. Today the sun is shining...in fact, when Chip went out to do some exterior housekeeping on Ithaka he couldn't find his sunglasses...they were buried under the rain gear and goulashes (is that how you spell that?)! Anyway, the wind is really blowing for now so we're going to sit tight and hopefully head out tomorrow when we will find ourselves back in our homestate of Florida...at last!
"Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been before, perhaps even more homesick than for familiar ground." ~ Judith Thurman

Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Youtube?

Just made a video out of some of our photos from the past few days in Mobile on YOUTUBE! Check it out!

Thicker Than Pea Soup


Well, we cruised into Mobile Bay, under sunny skies last Thursday, and have been sitting in the fog ever since! Originally we had planned to stay a couple of days...primarily selected Dog River Marina over the one in Fairhope on the eastern shore as we needed some minor repairs, which they took care of promptly. Once we realized we'd be stuck here for a few days we decided to rent a car rather than be constrained with the 2 hour limit on the marina's courtesy car. I "mapquested" a few of the local attractions and we were off!


We went to Battleship Memorial Park and walked the decks of the USS Alabama. The Alabama is one of America's most decorated battleships. It was interesting to be so up close and personal on such a ship as this and imagine how the 2,500 men lived on board. We also went into the USS Drum submarine, very tight quarters...inside the Aircraft Pavilion we met one of the volunteers who went to great lengths to explain the history of all the planes and jets on display. I actually got to sit inside what was once Airforce One's helicopter (1972-1993) which was decommissioned after the first President Bush left office and became a rescue chopper in Colorado before flying to Mobile just recently to become part of this impressive exhibit. We both highly recommend visiting this site when in the Mobile area.


We also went to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, downtown Mobile. Chip & I both agreed that it was one of the most beautiful churches we have ever visited. It was the first Catholic Church in the state of Alabama...the cornerstone was laid in 1835; although mass has been celebrated in Mobile since the 1730's. -and, The archbishop lives right across the street!


The downtown area is very reminiscent of New Orleans, with ornate wrought iron balconies, lots of brick, and lovely town squares. The locals are proud to tell you that Mardi Gras actually began in Mobile! They took a hard hit after Katrina, but there is a lot of potential, and I could tell the town fathers are interested in appealing to tourists with new restaurants and galleries and other urban amenities popping up all over. We noticed that Carnival Cruise lines had a terminal here now, too!


Because of the weather we decided to drive to Fairhope, which would have been our next marina stop, rather than cruise there. We'll just by-pass it and carry onto Orange Beach once this fog lifts. Fairhope is a sweet little town, sits atop a bluff overlooking the bay. It is very prosperous with lots of quaint shoppes, Bed and Breakfasts, antiques, charming homes, museums, parks, beautiful flowers everywhere...Next time we do the loop we will make this our stop after the rivers. We could have easily spent a couple of days meandering in and out of all the wonderful stores.


Last night we went to the Bellingrath Home and Gardens where we were treated to an unbelievable light show. Owned by the Bellingraths, former owners of the Coca Cola Company, the home is situated on over 65 acres and is located on Mobile Bay about 12 miles from the gulf. When Mr. Bellingrath passed away in 1955 he left his home to the Foundation that still maintains it today. There were over 900 Christmas light displays, comprising of over 3 million lights. Never in my life have I ever seen such anything more extraordinary...honestly, it rivaled Disneyworld! I told Chip, I want to come back next year with the grandbabies!


Now, we sit here awaiting a break in the weather so that we can move on...Four days in fog, thicker than pea soup, has set us back. But, we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Also, we are all caught up on laundry & grocery shopping...plotted our course from here to Tarpon Springs, mailed all our Christmas cards, put up a tree and lights on the boat, swabbed the decks...Guess we'll get where we're going when we get there...
"The true voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes." ~ Marcel Proust

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just an Observation

Today's observation goes like this:

When I am in Naples Florida in the middle of August and it is 98 degrees outside, it takes me but a few moments to cool off when I'm hot...Whether it is from a dip in the pool or the gulf, a sip of a refreshing iced tea, or by simply walking into an air-condioned building or driving in an air condioned car....
On the other hand, when I am in Mobile Alabama in December, and it is damp, grey and cold (it was 41 degrees today) I am cold to the bone and I cannot warm up no matter what I do...
I'm ready for some sunshine!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Smell Salt Air!


We took off early again on Wednesday morning and within 10 minutes we were entering the last lock of our trip--I couldn't help but recall how nervous I was at the Virginia Cut, our first lock, over 2 years ago. More than 140 locks later, the old adage, "Every expert was once a beginner", rang true as Chip overshot the bollard and I had to lasso the line and work harder than usual to pull Ithaka in and secure her...


While cruising along the Waterway we've seen our fair share of wildlife...we witnessed a young buck swimming across the river, just his head and antlers above the water's surface, we had to look through the binoculars to figure out what it was! We've continued to see beautiful birds, never a shortage of egrets and herons, and seeing an eagle perched on a lonesome tree top or an osprey soaring high above us is always a thrill. It was fun to see wild turkeys and wild hogs scurrying along the river's edge...and of course, the playful otters and busy beavers a treat as well.

Wednesday night we stayed at a very well protected anchorage at mile 41.5 of the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Rivers called David Lake. We set the anchor within minutes of complete darkness--it was a long day, nearly 9 hours. We highly recommend this as a great stop between Bobby's Fish Camp and the Dog River Marina in Mobile. The anchorage is about 3.5 miles past the junction with the Alabama River on the descending starboard side. The entrance is narrow (not as narrow as Bashi Creek) and we had 17' below the keel. The lake itself was big enough to accommodate 25 boats...but it was just us and the Alabama stars.

Thursday (today) we were underway by 6:15 AM and were rewarded with another breathtaking sunrise. This last leg of the river cuts through the Mobile River Delta, 2nd only to the Mississippi Delta in size, it measures approximately 45 miles long by 16 miles wide. The Mobile River is the southern most river on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. We are getting close now, I can smell salt air! Ithaka hasn't been in salt water since July 2007!!! WOW!

I must add, our cell phone and internet coverage has been much better than we expected...Thank you Verizon! *I'll be posting more photos and Youtube videos once we get settled in at Dog River!

For more info about this area Click HERE.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More News on the Waterway


On Sunday we traveled past one of the more sublimely beautiful scenes on The Waterway, The White Cliffs of Epes...After cruising through the Florida Keys, up the Hudson River, island hopping in The North Channel and meandering along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, the landscapes from Chicago to Mobile are pretty forgettable. Don't get me wrong, we've seen some lovely sights along this section of the blue highway, but it won't be the visual highlight of the loop. I did a bit of research to see if I could find out more about these majestic 200' cliffs that go on no more than a half-mile. Thanks to the river guidebook, I was ready with camera in hand at mile 249! I couldn't find out much online, but our own conclusion is it is some kind of geological anomaly. Several more miles down river another row of cliffs, much higher, but not as starkly white...less dramatic....but over 400', dotted the shoreline...Again, not much on google other than the blog entries of fellow loopers who made their way through this neck of the woods before us.


At mile 225 we found ourselves exactly half-way between the Tennessee River and Mobile Bay! Then at mile 217, another milestone, we passed the mouth of the Black Warrior River. We put the Tenn-Tom charts away and opened the Black River-Tombigbee Waterway charts...our last chartbook of the river system on The Great Circle Loop...I can almost smell salt in the air!


At the Demopolis Lock we waited over an hour while a northbound tug with 18 barges in tow came through. I still can't get over how they squeeze them in there! It was raining and cold, but I still went topdeck to get some neat pictures of the water cascading over the rocks and dam on the other side. For at least 6 miles past the lock the sides of the waterway became a beautiful smooth rockface wall, shaped by years of water rushing along the banks...here it is easy to mark the differences between the man-made channels that connect the God-made rivers that are bringing us south...


We are glad to have an electronic chart plotter, as many of the buoys are down due to the latest tropical storm, Ida, that made its way right up the path of the rivers just a month ago.


Monday was another long day...we arrived at Bashi Creek, mile 145, with just enough daylight to get both the stern and bow anchors set. When Chip turned into the creek I gave him one of those looks that said, 'you've got to be kidding me'! --From the bow I mouthed to him, "what is our depth?", he replied with both hands up, full-fingered...Hmmmm, 10 feet, interesting. Keep in mind, the width of this creek is less than 40'...you do the math.


~Well, we had no cell phones or internet service (we are in the middle of nowhere)...But, I had a delicious dinner cooking by 6:30...the wine cork was popped and we settled in...We are keeping the movie selection varied. So far this week we've watched Raging Bull, Blazing Saddles and Running with Scissors (thank goodness for $5 movies at Walmart, right?) Tuesday morning (today), it's raining again...We only went 26 miles and decided to stop at Bobby's Fish Camp...a bit of a let down...not at all what we expected after all the hype...It is not quite 5 PM central time and it's already dark outside...Tomorrow we will try to make it all the way to the Alabama River cut-off and anchor again. The last of the waterway locks (known as the dirty dozen) in Coffeeville is only a few miles from here...it also officially marks the very last lock of our entire trip! I haven't counted them all, but I'd guess we've locked through over 140 times...and I can start looking for alligators soon!

Monday, December 7, 2009

There's Ice On Ithaka!


We left Pirates Marina Cove on Saturday morning--got a late start because we were concerned about cell and Internet reception. We are in the middle of negotiating a few sales contracts and we needed to stay "connected"...We anchored at mile 270 at Sumter Landing. A very peaceful and quiet anchorage...but I suppose they are all going to be peaceful and quiet until we get back to warmer waters...not too many crazy loopers are this far back. I think we are pulling up the rear for sure. It's good that Ithaka is red, because she is the caboose!
It was 23 degrees in the morning when I went out to get the anchor up, and there was frost on the deck (click on photo) and icicles hanging from the windshield's eyebrow! Last night we stayed at The Demopolis Marina. We drank martinis and ate a hearty meal and turned in early...there are now 3 blankets on our bed!!! Brrrrrrrr...
We charted our course, and are hoping to be in salt water again in a few days! Looks like we will be anchoring again at least 2 more nights this week before we get to Mobile Bay on Thursday or Friday. There might be 'ice on Ithaka', but at least we know we are heading in the right direction...Take me home Captain...this Florida baby needs some warm sunshine!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

On The "Road" Again


The Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers are connected by a series of channels, locks and lakes known as the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Completed in 1985, more dirt was moved to construct the Tenn-Tom than was moved to build the Panama Canal! Author Fred Myers says, "At no other time in history has man moved so much to get what he wanted."


The Tenn-Tom officially runs from The Tennessee River, 234 miles south to Demopolis, Alabama. Technically, the segment of the waterway from Demopolis south, another 217 miles to Mobile, is the Black Warrior-Tombigbee waterway. Most boaters just call the entire 451 miles The "Waterway". Surprisingly, there are very few cities along the waterway, and you can travel for days without a marina stop or cell service, so planning ahead is very important.


The river system from The Tennessee River to Mobile Alabama via the Mississippi River is 1,278 miles vs. 451 miles, a savings of more than 800 miles! It is hard to believe without actually looking at a map, but 17 states are impacted by The Waterway. The existing river system in the United States can connect Sioux City Iowa to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania to Tulsa Oklahoma without ever getting your hull dry! I am totally fascinated by this.


Chip and I will be spending the next week or so maneuvering our way south on the waterway as we head to Mobile. Last night we stayed at a funky little marina called Pirates Marina Cove. We used their courtesy van and drove to the Tom Bevill Visitor Center which is just up the road. The center is housed in a replica 1830 Greek Revival home similar to those that were built in The Tombigbee River Valley. The U.S. Snagboat Montgomery, circa 1926, is on display at the visitors center. Retired from service in 1982, this restored stern wheeler steamboat is a National Historic Landmark.


~And so, we are on the road again, both the Blue Highway, as well as the back roads of America thanks to the courtesy vans we get to borrow along the way...

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Beginning of The End


Today begins the last leg of the journey: Discovering Ithaka. We arrived last night and found all things on board to be just as we left them save a few dust bunnies on the inside and clusters of hyacinth floating around the boat on the outside due to a month of sitting still. We shove off shortly, leading Columbus Marina, which could not have been more accommodating and friendly...the manager, known as "T", is a wonderful guy...We told him we would be back! We are heading to Pickensville, Alabama...the first lock of the day is just around the bend. I am not looking forward to locking through as the temperature is in the 30's! Brrrrrrr! We will have intermittent cell and aircard service over the next week, so I will blog when I can...

We have about 900 miles to go to get home. At 90 miles a day, we could be home in less than 2 weeks. But of course, we are trying to "discover ithaka" so you know that won't happen! Thanks to you all for following along... Each of you are with us in spirit as we set out on this amazing adventure.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Leg III ~ Part 2 ??


Well, we certainly hit the ground running, as we fully expected. Home since early Thursday morning, we haven't stopped! The time we spent with my mom on Ithaka was great. We traveled from Rogersville Alabama to Columbus Mississippi. Once settled in Columbus we rented a car and took the opportunity to see a few sites. Aberdeen is a quaint little town situated right along the Tenn-Tom Waterway. It's actually where we had planned to stop prior to losing a day to weather, so we decided to drive back up the river to check it out. We stumbled upon a sweet Catholic Church, St. Francis. Of course, mom was thrilled and we never expected it to be unlocked, but it was! We went inside to say some prayers and light a candle. In speaking with the lady who runs the Catholic mission in Aberdeen, that the Catholic population in Mississippi is about 2%. She was also very happy that we took the time to visit their church so she gave us a tour of the hall and rectory. She celebrates the mass there most Sundays because the priest who services the area travels to several small Catholic churches and usually is only there in Aberdeen about once each month. She also told us that they have no young families and no children in their parish family.


We also went to Columbus Mississippi where we were greeted by a very informed volunteer at the welcome center which is housed in the home where Tennessee Williams was born. The main street corners throughout Columbus are beautifully decorated by members of their garden club. Both Aberdeen and Columbus boast well preserved period homes, some of which are Antebellum. We visited the cemetery in both communities, but what really fascinated us about the one in Columbus is the story about the very first Memorial Day. Originally called Decorations Day, it was after the civil war that the wives of both the Union and Confederate soldiers joined together to decorate their husbands graves. This was a true act of unity and friendship, hence the cemetery is called Friendship Cemetery.


Also worth mentioning is the fabulous dinner that we enjoyed in Columbus at a restaurant called J. Broussard's...we highly recommend this one and put it right up on the top of the list of the best 5 restaurants where we've eaten along the loop!


We went to Waverly Plantation (click on photo inset) in West Point Mississippi and hope everyone visiting this area would take the time to find this hidden gem. Built in 1852, it was left vacant for 50 years after the remaining family of Col. Young, who built the home for his wife and 10 children moved out. Then in 1962, the present owner purchased the house from 12 of Col. Young's great grandchildren. He and his wife raised their 4 children there. Today Mr. Snow lives in the home which is filled with wonderful treasures. His wife passed away in 1991. He opens his doors and allows the dozen or so visitors a day to touch a part of the past.


Back home in Naples now and already counting the days till we get back on board Ithaka for the 4th and last leg of this amazing adventure (Chip likes to call it Leg III part 2)...till then remember, "It is not about the destination...it is all about the journey." --We hope you are enjoying yours.
**To view additional pictures of Aberdeen and Columbus please check out our YOUTUBE videos!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cruising with Fern

Today is a bittersweet day...we're a little bit sad because it is our last cruising day of Leg III of the "Discovering Ithaka" adventure. We are currently docked at Columbus Marina, mile 335 on the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Leaving Ithaka behind one last time while we head back to Naples....don't worry Ithaka, next time you're bringing us all the way home! ~And, it's a happy time, too, because I am counting the minutes to when I get to wrap my arms around my Marvelous Munchkins! I miss my grandbabies most of all...plus all my loved ones of course! But, I cannot forget to mention missing long hot showers (long being the operative word), a king size bed and my waterpik!

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After losing a day to bad weather on Friday, we stepped it up today and continued onto Columbus rather than stopping at Aberdeen as previously planned. The next couple of days will be spent organizing, packing, doing a bit of site seeing and trying to eat what's left in the fridge. Last night we had fun at the Halloween Party hosted by the owners of Midway Marina in Fulton. Then this morning, thanks to "falling back" our clocks gained an hour and we were underway before 6:30 AM. We saw another spectacular sunrise...there was a mist rising on the river with silhouettes of the cypress trees standing along the shore...hundreds of American Coots were swimming in the slough as we departed the marina's entry and headed back into the flow of the Tenn-Tom Waterway. Mom has really enjoyed cruising and many times through-out each day she has said, "this is such a beautiful world." Today, on two occasions, we saw an otter swim across the river, although once it may have been a beaver...a huge bald eagle perched in the tallest tree...countless blue herons, of course the coots at sunrise...we've kept a watchful eye out for deer as we were told we might see them along the banks, but no luck yet...then as we approached the marina, the White Pelicans greeted us in the channel. It may very well have been one of the flocks heading south that we saw when we left Grafton over a month ago.

I'm enjoying posting our videos on YOUTUBE and creating movies with music from our photographs...It's a great way to share since I am a possessed shutterbug! I'm sure I'll add a few more posts on the blog before hanging up my writer's pen for awhile. I know I can speak for my captain when I say what a wonderful time we have had cruising with Fern. She is a joy to be around and an inspiration to everyone who knows her. Thank you mom for being here.






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Friday, October 30, 2009

The Fall Rendezvous


We arrived last Thursday night at Joe Wheeler State Park and Marina just in time for 'dock'tails...with this group, it's always 5 o'clock somewhere! --On Friday we got caught up on cleaning and boat work plus made a run to get groceries thanks to the graciousness of another Mainship owner, SeaMoore! Carlton and Becky won't be starting their loop until next October...we told them they bought the perfect boat for looping! Well, 3 loads of laundry later at the Rogersville launderette, then onto a pool party Friday night hosted by the boats from the Florida Keys! A very funny gave of darts, Key West Style, that I will definitely have to remember for the next fun pool party at home...a conch blowing contest...and a 'Pin the label on the Bud girl' competition. Yours truly came in first place, thank you very much, and won a really neat Conch Republic flag! (see picture inset) Of course everyone else was trying to get the label on the boobs or butt...I aimed for the Bud bottle of course...Sheesh, where else would the "LABEL" go?


Our neighbor on the dock, "Bombay Lady" has parents who live on the beach in Naples! We enjoyed meeting them and talking about all the great restaurants we love back home...Imagine being at a state park in Alabama and docking directly next to a boat with close family in Naples? It is a small world!


The Rendezvous started on Sunday--over 200 boaters were registered! The seminars were fabulous...really informative and interesting...the food was great, every meal...and, of course, all the loopers were fun-loving, warm friendly people...some who have already completed their loop, others like us still looping...and quite a few in attendance who don't even own a boat yet, but they have a dream, and that's how we all got started! Speaking of dreams: we bought our charts and cruising guides for the Bahamas...that's next on the bucket list! It really is amazing when you get together with a group like this and realize how few people actually circumnavigate the entire eastern United States in a year...We are so blessed. For a view of the week's activities, please click here to see the videos I posted on YOUTUBE!


Mom arrived on Tuesday...we are so lucky to have her on board. We told here she's the only crew allowed to stay for more than three nights! She loves that we make her feel so special! She's here for the last week of this leg of the trip. We have reservations to fly home from Columbus Mississippi next week...today we are hunkered down at Grand Harbor marina, right at the beginning of The Tenn-Tom Waterway--there's a storm expected to blow through pretty hard so it's a good thing we had a weather day provided for in our cruise plan...


Yesterday's trip through the locks provided us with some excitement...we locked through on the Wheeler Lock with 11 other loopers. A few had to actually raft together because there weren't enough bollards to go around! Then, because of the water levels, our drop in the Wilson Lock was over 90'! It was cold, and pouring down rain, but it was great, and having mom on board made it even more fun!

We have enjoyed the month spent on the Tennessee River; from Kentucky Lake to Chattanooga, it has been one of our most favorite part of the entire loop! ~and, as always, Life is Good on Ithaka!

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's All About the People You Meet

~Along life's path...it truly is all about the people you meet along the way...and The "loop" is no exception to this. Since leaving from our homeport in Naples, we have met and made friendships to last a lifetime...

Speaking of lifetime friendships; when I lived in Galveston Texas, many many moons ago, I met Chino and Yvonne (click on photo). We became fast friends. I sang at their wedding! Over the years we never lost touch...we watched each other's children grow up in photographs sent in with Christmas cards and caught up in person when Yvonne came to Naples occasionally on business. We calculated that it had been nearly 30 years since I last saw Chino and over 19 years since Yvonne and I last saw each other. I don't think we have talked on the phone once in all those years. But, when they arrived here in Joe Wheeler State Park on Saturday (they live close-by near Huntsville) for a visit that we planned almost a year ago, it was like no time had gone by between us...The years melted away and we picked right up where we left off.

...and so, when we read other loopers' boat blogs, and talk to folks out on the docks...when we attend a rendezvous and run into cruisers we haven't seen since the Chesapeake in 2007, or get a call from the ones we maneuvered through the Georgian Bay with in 2008...when loopers reminisce about what was the best part of their journey and always start by saying, "it's all about the people you meet along the way", they couldn't be more right...
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

One Particular Harbor

"The sons and daughters of trees older than Earth itself---whose veins run into the Mother's veins-
The ancient seed planted before the ice,
Continuously fed by the mist on this river...
and it feels like home
as Mother Earth embraces me."
We woke up this morning and soon realized that today would be our last day of solitude on this leg of the journey...Don't get me wrong, we've met a lot of really nice people...but, our busy calendar back at home is already filling up, and we are not even there yet! We'll be at Joe Wheeler State Park tomorrow; the site of the Looper Rendezvous where we will be reacquainted with folks we've met along the way and also meet lots of new friends, too...
In the meantime, we are at a beautiful anchorage so we decided to stay an extra day...It is one of those places that inspires poetry...that once you've been there you will always remember it without hesitation. Chip and I will look at each other years from now when reminiscing about this adventure and one of us will say, "There was that 'one particular harbor'...", and the other will know, it is here at Goat Island off Lake Guntersville on the Tennessee River.
*(click on link above to see videos and photos of this magical place)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shrimp and What?

We spent another quiet couple of days on the hook after leaving Chattanooga...We really like Little Cedar Mountain and highly recommend it! (see photo inset). It has gotten very chilly for us "Florida babies" the past few days and I am very grateful for the space heater that Chip bought while he was up visiting Gil! Definitely one of the best purchases on this leg of the trip! Makes the cabin nice and toasty!

We are back at Goose Pond Marina, pulled in late yesterday. We've been hearing all about the restaurant here and their house specialty, so we went out for dinner and I tried the "Shrimp and Grits" (When in Rome)...I must say, that it was wonderful! The Docks Restaurant was lively, the service was tops, and the food was delicious! Save room for the home made desserts!

We went to church this morning with a few of the other folks who are staying at the marina...as it turned out, a Catholic Mass at St. Jude's with a very inspiring priest...We left feeling very blessed. Later today we will be borrowing the courtesy car and making a grocery run...my mom will be joining us in another week or so to spend the last few days of this leg with us before we head back to Naples together for a month of catching up with business, friends, and of course GRANDCHILDREN!

As always, life is good on Ithaka.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Wonderful Visit


Our trip through the ancient gorge wasn't as dramatic as it could have been had we not spent most of the day dodging rain drops---the clouds hung over the mountain tops while a gentle mist rose like steam...Most of the view was blocked by fog, but something about that fog just added to the magic. There were over a dozen turns in the 30 mile course that is 'nick-named' the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee River...We are just hoping for some sunshine on the return trip down stream...


Mimi & Papa were thrilled to get a call that David, Brandy and Leonardo were on their way to Chattanooga. It's about a 3 1/2 hour drive from their home in Western North Carolina and we had been trying to coordinate this for the past week or so--It's hard to give specific dates when you're trying to meet people because you just never know when you are going to be held up with weather and locks and other things like that which can come up along the way...But, we were docked by 4 PM and they arrived just in time for dinner! We "skyped" Uncle Rock and Leo was soooo excited to SEE his cousins! Afterwards the four of us played Scattergories...It's really pretty funny when a 4 year old is helping the rest of us come up with answers! "Pssst, Leo, can you think of a tool that starts with 'F' ?" ...and he quickly replies, "How about 'File'?" Geez, why didn't I think of that? Anyway, we all slept great, with happy smiles...and Leonardo thought it was really cool that he was the first grandchild ever to sleep on Ithaka!


This morning I made my 'world famous chocolate chip pancakes' then we headed out to the Tennessee Aquarium, which is walking distance from where Ithaka is docked! We had a fantastic day exploring the rivers and oceans...the exhibits were so well done. We saw a 3-D movie which was narrated by Jim Carey--Leonardo got to pet a sting ray, a sturgeon, a rat snake and an opossum! It was a wonderful day which will be a highlight of the trip for us! I think you can tell by the photo inset how happy 'Mimi' is!
It was hard saying good-bye tonight after such a short visit...A Wonderful visit! I have posted video and a photo collage on YOUTUBE!
From Grand Harbor to Chattanooga is about 500 miles round trip...It's what Chip & I call a "deek" (only longer than usual)...We have seen a lot of beautiful sites along the way, but none as beautiful as our grandson's face...The deek was worth it, just for that alone!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What Time Zone Is It Anyway?


We've had a wonderful few days traveling along the rivers and lakes from Florence Alabama back up into Tennessee...We should be in Chattanooga tonight, which I know will keep us busy, so I thought I had better post something. Our reception hasn't been the best, and I don't even know for sure what time zone I'm in at the minute!


Here's a bit of a recap of some of what we have seen and done these past few days...


Late Friday afternoon we heard a loud siren going off...at first thought we suspected there was a fire department nearby...then, the manager of the marina came knocking on our boat and directed us to take cover...Nine of us huddled in the ladies room and waited out the storm until the threat of passing tornadoes ended. That was our excitement for the day!


On Saturday morning we cruised through some beautiful landscape, even tho' it was another dreary day...we made the short run to Joe Wheeler State Park. We confirmed our reservations for later in the month when we make our way back for a one week stay during The Great Circle Route rendezvous...we expect another 40 or so "loopers" will gather for a few days of sharing stories and seminars--more on that later.


We headed out early on Sunday and once again conducted our own 'church service' on board Ithaka--both of us wondered how anyone could ever doubt the existence of the divine as we took in all the peace surrounding us and thanked God for our blessings...Also, on Sunday, we passed the mid-point on the Tennessee River...and we cruised by the Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Flight Center. It was right there that America's Space Program was launched in 1960. Most of the day we cruised through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. We are becoming quite the 'bird watchers' lately. We bought The Audubon Society's Sibley Guide to Birds which we keep right next to the charts. I swear, I think we refer to it almost as often!


In addition to it being Columbus Day, Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving--We had gotten off to a slow start due to the normal Monday morning influx of real estate activity, calls and emails...It was grey throughout the day, rained nearly the entire trip so we stayed in the cabin rather than navigating from the flybridge. It was nice for a change to be able to nest a bit while underway...Chip told me stories about what Thanksgiving was like when he was a kid. He and his Dad would get up really early and go duck hunting. As it turned out, that night we stayed at Goose Pond Marina, which just so happens to be the name of the pond where he and his dad used to hunt together...In fact the Indians in the area later changed the name from Goose Pond to Doc's Pond and we have a photo of it in our cabin in North Carolina! Just as we turned into the embayment the sun started to peep through the clouds....The lily pads were as big as garbage can lids....There were ducks and Canada geese everywhere...It was as if his dad had sent him a message, 'I am here'. It was a lovely spot, and we will definitely stop there again on our way back.


Last night we anchored at mile 426.9, at Little Cedar Mountain. Possible one of the prettiest anchorages on the entire river system...and in my top 5 of all anchorages to date! We have rain again today...I am glad we will be coming back through again after spending a few days in Chattanooga because the beauty is breathtaking, even in the haze. In fact, at times I actually think the clouds rising from the mountains like steam just adds to the mysticism of this area.


As always, life is good on Ithaka...

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Human Spirit


"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."

~ Helen Keller



We are in a town along the Tennessee River called Florence Alabama. The river has dipped into Alabama and will curve northward back into Tennessee east of here near Chattanooga. There's a lot to see in Florence, so we hopped into the marina's courtesy van with map in hand to do a little exploring.


We found the Rosenbaum House; the only home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the entire state. It has been called the purest form of Wright's Usonian design ever built. He also designed much of the interior furnishings. I love the geometrics of his designs and I thought this home in particular was stunning, but I was surprised that it didn't have a view of the river.


We also located the birthplace of W.C Handy, the 'Father of the Blues'...Today, the simple log cabin is a museum and has a large collection of his memorabilia including his piano. As a boy, they say, he used the notes of the bird's songs to create tunes. I was smitten with the metal art sculpture in the yard depicting a blues quartet.


Perhaps one of the most inspiring visits to a home or museum that we've had along the trip was our tour today of the home where America's First Lady of Courage was born. Located on a beautifully landscaped and tree-filled 640 acre tract of land in Tuscumbia, right over the river from Florence, sits Ivy Green, the home where Helen Keller lived. Having survived the Civil War, the home is perfectly maintained right down to the tiniest details including some of her childhood toys and dresses on display. The most moving experience of our visit was to actually see the 'the pump' (click on photo inset) where Helen first understood the correlation between letters, words and things. Her recognition, at 7 years of age, that w-a-t-e-r meant something cool and wet flowing over her hand...It is impossible to even begin to imagine what that moment must have felt like. But, from that moment on her learning never faded...within six months she knew over 600 words...by 10 she mastered braille...by 16 she spoke well enough to attend prep school. She went on to graduate cum laude from Radcliffe College. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, never left her side and became known as 'The Miracle Worker'. Also the name of a play by William Gibson, and later made into a movie which won Academy Awards for both Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft. I suggest everyone, at the very least, see the movie. There are countless books written about Helen Keller. Her life's story is worth reading about, a story of unmeasurable courage...a true testament to the human spirit.
--Once she wrote, "They took away what should have been my eyes, but I remembered Milton's Paradise. They took away what should have been my ears, Beethoven came and wiped away my tears. They took away what should have been my tongue, but I had talked to God when I was young. He would not let them take away my soul---Possessing that, I still posses the whole."

What more can I say?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Right Place, Right Time

We decided to stay the extra day at Grand Harbor before continuing up the Tennessee River. Going to Chattanooga is a "side trip", and not part of the actual loop.

We had a few very nice things happen to us yesterday. For starters, we were the 'welcoming committee' for Salvage Crew as they passed by the dock at Grand Harbor, just moments after crossing their wake, after nearly 12 months away from their home port...It was very exciting to witness the end of such a memorable journey first hand...Of all the folks they met along the way, how ever did we get to be so lucky to be right at Grand Harbor to share in their joy? We went to dinner with them last night to celebrate. They are retired real estate agents from Birmingham...I am sure our paths will cross again.
Also yesterday, we stopped to chat with a sweet couple docked close by who seemed to have an extraordinary wealth of information about the area--all of a sudden, Chip recognized their boat, Liberty Belle, from the cover of one of their books! Imagine our delight when we realized we were chatting with Fred and Joan Myers! They welcomed us to sit down and proceeded to give us additional tips on marinas and anchorages from Chattanooga to Mobile! Fred has been a professional writer and photographer for about 50 years. Florence Alabama is their home port. He has written all the Cruise Guides that we are using to assist us in navigating the river systems!
We certainly are always finding ourselves in just the right place at just the right time!

Next stop Florence, Alabama!

(Chip took that picture of me piloting Ithaka on our way to Florence through Pickwick Lake).


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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

5000 Miles!


We left Birdsong Marina on Monday morning after 6 days...and no other "looper" boats in sight. It's my guess that most transients pass up Birdsong because of its proximity to Pebble Isle, which is much more "looper friendly". Plus the fact that the trip up Birdsong Creek is a bit windy and off the beaten path. We really had a pretty good stay there...the owner, Bob, actually gave us the keys to his pick up truck and it was ours the entire time...we were just down the road from a Super Walmart and any other convenience...We also drove over to Pebble Isle one night for dinner and it was fabulous...


The highlight of the day for us on Monday was going over 5,000 nautical miles on our trip log (see picture attached) since leaving home in May 2007! That night we anchored behind the larger of two islands named "Double Islands" at mile 148. We grilled steaks for dinner and watched a bald eagle perched on a tree not far from where we sat. We didn't have cell or Internet service, so we turned in early and watched a couple of movies.


On Tuesday we did 67 miles plus a lock...it was a long day and we dodged a bad weather system. By the time we got to Grand Harbor Marina we were ready for hot showers, a glass of wine and a nice dinner...Today we are just sitting tight...catching up on 'snail' mail, paying bills, writing postcards, charting out the next few days, a few boat maintenence and housekeeping items and enjoying the beautiful sunshine. There are 2 other looper boats here and they, too, are going to the rendezvous at Joe Wheeler State Park later in the month...


Life is good on Ithaka.