Giving thanks…and pigging out!

11/23/18
Cocoa Village Marina
Cocoa FL
Posted by Bill

Well, we hope everyone had a great thanksgiving! I have always liked thanksgiving, getting together with friends and family, pigging out on great food, and none of the pressures of gift selecting, shopping and giving that Christmas brings. It is always a good time to reflect on the many blessings in your life, and I spent a lot of thought time on it this year. We are so blessed to have been given our lot in life, with great families, wonderful children and grandchildren, and the opportunity to make your own life with the freedoms this country offers. We have been given many opportunities in this life and we worked our butts off to achieve the lifestyle we have enjoyed. The many setbacks and challenges in life are also blessings in disguise, as they strengthen you and also lead you in different directions. We have certainly had our share of those too. There are so many people to thank along the way, especially parents and the people who sacrificed to give us the freedom and opportunity we have, but I especially thank God for all that has been given to me, especially all of the opportunities to earn the life I have. In cruising mode, we miss our family and friends back home very much this time of year. But, we have also been blessed with close friends that we travel with, and the cruising community. Our little flotilla had a great feast yesterday…each boat cooking different portions of our meal, and then getting together to eat and enjoy our friendships on Kurt and Sharon’s boat, Steel Away. Yes, we all have Lilliputian ovens and stoves but you can still cook one hell of a feast!
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Here is a shot of the marina. It is very nice and the people who work here are amazing! One of the best marina experiences we have had in our years of traveling.
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We were going to leave today, but a gale warning was posted for today, and we decided not to get our asses kicked and stay one more!

St Augustine and into Cocoa

11/21/18
Cocoa Village Marina
Cocoa FL
Position 28 21.468N, 080 43.545W
Posted by Bill

On the 17th, we rolled into St Augustine and took a mooring ball in the north field at position 29 53.700N, 081 18.553W. Thankfully, the winds died down below 15 knots and temps were in the low 80s…yay!!! We came into town on the day that the Christmas lights are first turned on and the downtown was packed with people and festivities. We had a great view of the lights along the waterfront from our boat:
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The next day we went to the grocery to get food for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a 2 mile walk, but a few of the group Ubered back with the big items. On the 19th we ended up anchoring just south of the Memorial Bridge in Daytona at position 29 12.467N, 081 00.402W.

On the 20th we anchored in the Titusville South-3 anchorage at position 28 37.166N, 080 47.675W. It was supposed to be calm but the wind blew up to 20 knots again. At least it has been warmer. We all took food over to Kurt and Sharon’s boat and had a feast. It was a good time. Here is Island Bound in front of a beautiful sunrise this morning:
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We tried to get into several different marinas to spend Thanksgiving, but the only one that had openings for us was Cocoa Village Marina. That made it a short day today which was good. Once again, winds were supposed to be light, but it blew up to 20 knots again! I am damned tired of dealing with the weather already and we have been gone less than a month! This is a nice marina, and we are set up to have Thanksgiving here, cooking on our boats. At least it is warm and sunny!!

We have been putting in long days and leaving early most of the way, and we are worn out. Gonna sleep in tomorrow!! Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Freezin’ our ass through Georgia

11/16/18
Jacksonville FL Free Dock
Position: 30 23.892N, 081 18.553W
Posted by Bill

On the 11th we anchored in Turners Creek, GA at position 32 00.856N, 080 59.366W. This was day one in the Georgia ICW and is one of our favorite anchorages along the way. The creek is very narrow and has a tricky entrance with a huge rock below the surface that must be avoided. The reward for making it in there is an anchorage with one of the best dive bars overlooking the boat. Cheap drinks, free popcorn and very strong pours…what else could you want? There is also a Publix grocery store, hardware store and several restaurants within a tenth of a mile of the anchorage. That set us up for traversing the 3 major shoal areas in the Georgia ICW, Hell Gate. The next day we went through Hell Gate at near high tide! Yay!!! We anchored at the Crescent River anchorage to set up for shoal area two…Little Mud River, and we were plagued by no-see-ums again…even worse than Mosquito Creek…sheesh! We timed the tide at Little Mud River just fine and then had a decision to make. Could we get through the third shoal area, Jekyll Creek and get anchored somewhere before dark, or should we lay up before Jekyll. The winds were unrelenting most of the day, and it was cold, and the next couple of days were bringing a frontal system with more rain and NE winds…come on man…we need a break. So we decided to divert to Brunswick GA and wait out the weather in Brunswick Landing Marina. We docked at position 31 09.055N, 081 29.993W. The marina is well protected, is close to a great bar, has free laundry, and free beer. Yes, you read that right…free beer…PBR on tap 24 by 7! We took a 2 day break from traveling and did boat work, laundry and beer drinking. It howled all the time we were there with bouts of rain. This also allowed us to wait for better winds to get through St Andrews Sound. You have to go into the ocean to get through this sound and with any kind of east wind component you get large rolling waves for more than an hour that have kicked our asses soundly! It looked like the 15th was light west winds, so we planned our departure accordingly. Of course, as soon as we left the marina the winds kicked up in the mid to high 20 knot range and temps were in the low 40s to boot! We got through Jekyll Creek with enough tide to keep from grounding, but as we started into the sound we were battered by the sea state. We made a decision to take an alternate route around the sound which had better protection from the seas, but it is not a well known route and it plagued by shallow waters. We had a rising tide, so Matt led the group through. It was the right decision. We pushed on and took a mooring ball in Fernandina Beach FL at position 30 40.227N, 081 28.129W. Winds still howling and cold as hell, but we finally made it to Florida!

On the 16th we had to wait for the tide to come up to transit yet another shoal area, so we left later than usual and targeted to stop at the free dock at Sister’s Creek by the St Johns River. We have never stayed there because it is always full when we passed by, or we were pushing to make St Augustine in one day. This time there was only one boat there so we lucked out. Here are a couple of pics:
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Freezin’ our ass through South Carolina

11/10/18
Broad Creek, Hilton Head SC
Position: 32 10.775N, 080 46.697W
Posted by Bill

We enjoyed Charleston as always and hit most of our usual places to eat and drink. There is a grocery ¼ mile from the marina, so we stopped and stocked up on a few things. Here is a picture of all of us at our slips with the Ravenel Bridge in the background:
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We left Charleston on the 7th and anchored in Mosquito Creek at position 32 33.422N, 080 27.050W. Mosquito Creek should be renamed No-see-um Creek. As soon as we got there we were attacked by swarms of the cussed things, all of us madly waving our arms as we dropped anchor. We went below and never came back up…it was nasty. On the way there, we went through a common shoal area called Watts Cut. We transited the cut a near low tide. The depth sounder showed 7 feet of water but we slowed to 3 MPH through the whole thing (for about 30 or 45 minutes). We were plowing through 2 feet of muck!

The next day we stopped in Beaufort SC and took a mooring ball at position 32 25.694N, 080 40.894W. We love stopping at Beaufort, and we had dinner at our favorite, the Old Bull Tavern, and breakfast the next day at Blackstones…also a favorite. We stayed 2 nights and went to leave early on the 10th. Everyone pulled away from the moorings except Larry. He was having trouble starting his boat. We circled for awhile and finally went and tied back up to the moorings, dropped the dinghies and went over to help Larry. We even called a couple of our buddies to tap their expertise. After failing to resolve the issue, Larry hired a mechanic who found the problem. We had planned to go to Turner Creek in Georgia, but it was now about noon, so we decided to stop at a new to us anchorage in the Hilton Head area. The wind was ripping in the mid to upper 20 knot range, so we picked Broad Creek for its protection. It was a great choice. Matt and Shirley tied to us and we enjoyed a nice anchorage.
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I think we waited too long to leave Southport as the weather has been horrible…cold, rain and wind. Matt and I don’t have side curtains in our cockpits and we are exposed to the weather and have been freezing our asses off!

We made it…one of our favorite stops

11/5/18
Charleston SC
Charleston Maritime Center
Position: 32 47.345N, 079 55.464W
Posted by Bill

The trip from Georgetown to Charleston requires special planning skills if you travel the ICW. First you have to go through McClellanville which has a nasty shoal stretch for about 3 miles…depths reported as low as 2 feet. Then there is a shoal stretch for a couple of miles along Isle of Palms, with depths reported at 3.5 feet. Then you have to get through the Ben Sawyer swing bridge, which has restricted openings on the weekends. Finally you need to arrive at any Charleston marina at slack tide (no current for you land lubbers). The ebb currents in Charleston rivers can run faster than 3.5 knots, which makes it impossible to dock a boat like ours. Our boat draws 5 feet, so we needed to time all of these factors in our passage making. We left Georgetown on the 3rd during an ebb tide. That meant we would have favorable current down Winyah Bay until we hit the ICW entrance. None of us had notes that told us if the current in the ICW would be favorable or unfavorable from the entrance to McClellanville and we figured it would best to err on the unfavorable side to calculate the timing into the shoals there. That meant we needed to be underway around 8 AM. We were, and the current was mostly favorable all the way to McClellanville (note to self…take better notes), so we took the last hour or two very slowly, arriving just after low tide. When we got to McClellanville there were already 4 boats aground through the shoal area, so we idled the boats for about an hour until we could get through. Because of the factors for the next day, we decided to get closer to Isle of Palms than originally planned and stopped at a new to us anchorage, Whiteside Creek. We anchored in position: 32 52.387N, 079 42.984W. It turned out to be a great anchorage and we all got together for dinner on Steel Away.

Whiteside Creek:
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We were about 10 miles from the shoals along Isle of Palms, and again not remembering what the currents would do, we took the worse scenario, forcing us to leave at sun up. We arrived at the shoals and the swing bridge much earlier than planned which made both of them uneventful, but now had to wait 3 hours for slack tide to get into the marina. We decided to anchor across the river from the Maritime Center just off Patriots Point and just wait for the slack tide. While anchored, several large container ships slid by us…damn they are intimidating when you are this close!

Early morning motoring:
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Big boys!:
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We got into our slips at 12:13 and hit the town of Charleston. If you follow the blog you know this is one of our favorite cities in the US and we always have a good time. We will be here a few days enjoying the city.

We broke our land based ties

11/1/18
Georgetown SC
Position: 33 21.958N, 079 17.405W
Posted by Bill

We departed on 10/30 and made a short run 35 statute miles to Calabash Creek at the Little River Inlet. We were a little late getting started as one of the boats had a starting issue. We all convened on the problem and eventually found a lose wire, and off we went. We anchored at position: 33 52.357N, 078 34.203W. It is a small anchorage and we discovered 2 boats there when we arrived. I proceeded to anchor next to a large Fleming, and immediately the guy comes out on deck and says “I have 60’ of anchor chain out. You shouldn’t anchor there because your too close to the channel, among other things.” For those of you that are not cruisers, it is good practice to discuss how much chain everyone around you has out because you will swing with current and wind and want to swing without hitting anyone around you, which is much more likely if one boat has a larger or smaller swing radius than the others. Now we have anchored in Calabash Creek several times and I have records of where we have anchored, so I am aware of the channel and what spots are safe. So I ask Mr Flemming “I am not in danger of swinging in the channel, but what ‘other things’ am I too close too?” He says “well…you are too close to me.” I am about 2 ½ boat lengths from this guy, and I am thinking about all of the anchorages in the Florida Keys and Bahamas where we have been right on top of other boats, which is very normal in crowded anchorages, and I’m thinking this guy must be new to this. I was going to ignore him and settle in where we were, but I thought…there is another spot over there that would be ok and I wouldn’t have this guy chewing on my ass all night, so we move. He suggested we go further up river, which I DID ignore. We thought about taking cocktails over to his boat and imposing happy hour along with an uncomfortable conversation, but hey, this is our first night…let’s just chill. We certainly could have talked about how you don’t come into an anchorage and take a spot that leaves multiple other spots unusable for someone else, which he did, and how the courteous thing to do is select a spot that allows as many boats as possible room to some in. He obviously didn’t want to share.

On the 31st, we picked up Kurt and Sharon on Steel Away, motored past the flood stricken area of Socastee (what a mess it still is…those poor people), through the Waccamaw River (one of my favorite stretches of the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway), and up Thoroughfare Creek to an anchorage called The Hill. We anchored in position: 33 30.905N, 079 0869W. As always, the anchorage was delightful. We all went ashore, let the dogs run, and took a dinghy ride through the canals until the sun set.

All of us at The Hill:
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Island Bound anchored at the Hill:
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We departed the next day and road the Waccamaw River to Georgetown. Along the way we awarded an Ass Captain Award to a boat called The Big W. We weren’t sure if the W stood for “wanker” or “weeney” or “wake”. If you are familiar with the blog, you know of the Ass Captain Award, inspired from the movie Office Space, where asshole behavior earned the label Ass Clown. We adapted it to cruising and boating asshole behavior…thus Ass Captain. This guy passed us with a huge wake, never calling on the radio to request a pass. The wake his us so bad that it rearranged the interior of our boat. Stuff went flying everywhere, even off of our secured “bar”. He must have done it to everyone ahead of us because we could hear people on the radio screaming at the asshole most of the day. We decided to stay another day here in Georgetown as there is heavy weather hitting tomorrow’s anchorage near Isle of Palms, and that anchorage is very exposed to bad weather. We will just chill and enjoy the shore line of Georgetown with bars and restaurants.

Wow, this is a lot more work than I remember

10/29/18
Southport NC
Posted by Bill

Well, we have been dirt dwellers for over a year now. We absolutely love our house and living in Southport NC. It is funny to see the drastic change from living aboard for 3 ½ years…we have fallen back into some of our old habits like watching way too much TV. We have gotten accustom to limitless running water, flushing toilets, a washer and dryer steps away, a professional kitchen with ample storage and counter space, limitless power, lightning fast internet connections, vehicle access to stores and restaurants, and especially (at least for me) our walk in shower…that thing is the bomb! The down side is, we have also spent very little time on the water and for the most part have been disconnected from nature. It was a weird transition moving everything off the boat and living on dirt again.

It has been more than 4 years since we moved everything on the boat, and we sure underestimated the level of effort to get everything back on board and stowed away. We started the process early, but we had 2 hurricanes to deal with which set us back several weeks. It has been stressful and we are exhausted, but we are ready to go. It’s funny, but we are asking ourselves “I thought we had a lot more stuff on the boat when we loaded it up 4 years ago…where is this all going to go?” Kudos to Tricia, as she is really good at finding room and organizing everything. Of course, we started our inventory spreadsheet from scratch, which is essential to finding something. The Island Packet sailboats like ours have a tremendous amount of storage scattered all over the boat and it is amazing how things get lost…even with an inventory list.

We are traveling again with Matt and Shirley on Sofia Jeanne, and our friends Larry and Dianna are coming along for the first time on At Ease. Our good friends Kurt and Sharon, formerly on Byrd Ketcher, purchased a Grand Banks trawler in Little River, SC, and they will join us as we pass them on our second day out. Tomorrow is departure day! We hope you will follow along.

Surviving Florence…and getting ready to go

9/30/18
Southport, NC
Posted by Bill

It looks like Florence has tampered with our departure plans. For those we have not spoken with, we decided to weather the storm here in Southport. No problems with the house or the boat…thank God, but it was a crazy couple of weeks for us.

We prepared early two weeks ahead of the storm getting bottled water and making lots of ice and food. A week before the storm we prepped the boat: all sails off, dodger off, bimini off, solar panels off, secured wind generator, doubled all lines and added fire house at chafe points, capped and taped dorade openings, taped all vents, taped electronics, taped lockers, and sealed the companion way hatch with duct tape. This took several days. We also removed our Engle portable refrigerator/freezer, 5 gallon water jugs, Honda generator, gasoline jugs, solar showers, and dinghy, and took it all to the house. At the house we secured everything on the outside or brought it in, took down the gas lantern, filled bath tubs with water for flushing toilets in case we lost water, filled 5 gallon jugs with water for drinking/cooking, bought 20 gallons of fuel in jugs for the generator, and made sure all of the flashlights had fresh batteries.

The storm hit Friday (9/14). Thankfully, it hit north of us at Wrightsville beach, and we got the better side of the storm. Areas north of there got the bad side. Unfortunately, the storm stalled to a crawl and punished us for 3 days. We lost power at 7:15 Saturday morning. Our neighbor has a whole house generator and offered room in one of his refrigerators and to plug an extension cord into an outside outlet. We powered the Engle, our internet modem, wifi router, and charging for all phones, computers, and tablets. Tricia had a great setup for our house refrigerator and freezer, using the ice blocks we made to keep them cold, and re-freezing them in the Engle. The internet went out with the power, but we could use our cellular connections for all but one day of the outage period. The public water mains were compromised and we lost water Sunday morning. The eye wall of the hurricane came through about a mile north of us on Saturday and we were getting gusts that shook the entire house and many more that shook the bed. Amazingly, they had power restored early Monday afternoon.

All roads out of Southport had bridges washed out or were flooded. We had plans to go to our niece’s wedding on 9/22 in Dayton Ohio, but weren’t sure we could get out in time. Tuesday, some friends on our dock came from Winston-Salem and told us how to get around all of the road closures, but the rivers were going to crest and cause more closures. We cleaned up all of the yard debris in our yard and in most of the neighbors yards around us, and decided to head out to get to the wedding. We left Wednesday morning, just as the water was restored, attended the wedding (congrats to Anna and Andrew…a fantastic wedding!), visited family and got back to Southport on the 28th, just as the water boiling alert was lifted. It still looks like a war zone in Southport, and there are several roads blocked due to sink holes developing from the large amounts of rain. We got more than 30″ of rain from the storm, had a meager storm surge of around 3 feet, and had winds over 100 MPH. I have never seen it rain like it did!

Hats off to the all of the authorities, governments at all levels, and especially the work crews. They did a fantastic job of getting utilities and roads back in order. I feel for the people who are still dealing with flooding…it looks awful.

Our experience as cruising sailors helped us be comfortable during this ordeal. Having a portable freezer, portable generator, water jugs, gas jugs and solar showers, really helped. Now we have to put everything back together and try to get ready to leave. Our original plan was to leave 10/15. We lost several weeks of prep time to the storm and wedding, and the ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) is shut down between Little River and Winyah Bay until 10/19, so we will not be able to leave as planned. We will re-evaluate in a week or so and keep you posted.

Some pics:

Island Bound ready for the storm:
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Flooding on West Street at the neighbors house:
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Our front yard:
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Welcome summer

6/11/18
Southport NC
Posted by Bill

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Well we are glad winter is over! We picked a hell of a year to skip traveling south in the boat…coldest winter in NC for over 10 years! We were glad to have our house to be in, instead of the boat. There were many days where the docks were frozen over, and lots of people had issues with their boats because of the deep freeze. There is typical no need for winterization of the boat here as long as you keep a small heater running, but that was tested big time this year. Thankfully, we did not have any issues with Island Bound.

We thought we would be able to use the boat some, especially after February, but we only made one trip to Wilmington for St Patricks day, and had a great time. Spring brought more than the usual amount of rain and record cool temps, so that affected our time at the boat. To top it off, the dredging of the marina was delayed a year. Because it has shoaled over, we cannot leave or come back to the dock unless we have mid tide or above. That has put a damper on boating for sure. They tell us they will dredge come this fall…fingers crossed.

So, we have spent most of our time on the house, and we needed to! Still haven’t hung any pictures, but the outside is pretty much done, and the inside still needs a couple of projects and some decorating. We have been able to have parties and overnight guests, so I guess that is what is important!! Life is so different going back to the house. Lots more room, real flushing toilets, really good internet access, a fantastic shower, but most of all we spend our time so differently. Lots of TV watching, unfortunately, and only a fraction of the time with nature as compared to our cruising lifestyle. It was a nice break but we are itching to get moving again.

The weather got back to normal in May for the most part, and we have been going to the boat daily to work on her, and just to sit and hang out on the water. Many of our happy hours are sitting in the cockpit or on the dock with other friends. Also, the seasonal happenings around town have kicked in, and there is almost always live music within walking distance. Actually, that is one of the best things about living in the historic district…we walk everywhere, and the boat is only 3 blocks away. We will go for days without driving, which is awesome.

Now we start to focus on getting the boat ready to head south. We are planning to leave mid-October and take our time. We really enjoy stopping and spending time at what have become our favorite places to hang for a few days. We have a reservation for a month in Key West again starting mid-December, but that is our only scheduled commitment. Let’s hope hurricane season doesn’t wipe out our cruising grounds this year!!! The Keys really took a beating last year, but most places have done a great job recovering.

If you are cruising south this fall, or doing a beach vacation nearby, come visit!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

12/30/17
Southport NC
Posted by Bill

We hope you all had a Merry Christmas! Here is what has been happening since the last post…..

Most of the time has been spent on house related stuff. We sold or donated most of our furniture when we sold our house in Powell OH (Columbus area), so we have been shopping for new furniture. Thankfully, we are only a couple of hours from Highpoint NC, the furniture capital of the east, and we were able to knock off a few things during a trip there. In addition, Tricia is making all of our curtains and blinds, so we needed to find fabric and all of the hardware items. Most of the searching was online but you really need to see the material to know if it is good for your application. Then there is the ongoing construction of the house, which we pitch in to help if we have the skills, and also all of the associated decision making. This all led up to Thanksgiving. Our oldest daughter Sarah, her husband Pete, and 4 of the grandkids, all came to Oak Island for the week of Thanksgiving. Oak Island is about a 10 minute drive from Southport and has lots of beach rentals, and since the house was not done, we rented one on the beach and had a magnificent time hanging out with them. In Columbus, we lived about 20 minutes from them and got to see them on a somewhat regular basis, but we have spent several weeks at the beach with them the last couple of years, and it amazes me that the quality of the time we spent is so much better than when we lived close by! We just wish it could be more often!!!!

By the first week in December, we were able to start to have some furnishings delivered. We had a bit of a cold snap the end of the first week, and Matt made the push to get enough done on the house that we could sleep and eat there, and get off the boat. The following week we got a permanent occupancy certificate and started moving stuff from the boat and storage unit. We did a little bit each day. Tricia was able to start making curtains, and we put up sheets where we needed privacy. The middle of December led into the holiday festivities and the remaining construction work that was needed on the house was put on hold until January. It was really strange living in the house for the first 3 weeks. We have been living aboard for 3 1/2 years and just having the space of a house had us freaking out. Then being able to cook in a real kitchen with professional appliances:
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And also having a decent sized bathroom, steps away! A refrigerator that is easy to get things in and out of…fast and reliable internet…the list goes on…all the things we take for granted in normal dirt dwelling. I have also found that I miss being at the marina and on the water. We have been so busy at the house and have not spent any time back at the boat. It will be nice when things slow a little and we can enjoy both the house and the boat.

We spent Christmas Eve with our friends Larry and Diane, and Christmas Day dinner with our friends Mark and Jane, and had a great time. Even so, we missed our families! There is a group getting together for New Years Eve, and I am sure a good time will be had by all!!! Next week is going to be very cold by Southport standards, and low temps will be in the upper 20s….brrrrr. We are glad to be in our house for that crap. By the end of January we hope to have all of the construction work completed, and all of our stuff moved in, and most of the curtains and blinds done!! Then the task begins to prepare for leaving next November. We are going to take everything out of the inside of the boat and give her a deep clean, then reinventory her for another trip south.

This blog was created to document the cruising lifestyle and keep our family and friends appraised of our shenanigans. I did some of the content about the house mostly for our family to see. Given that, I was not planning on taking more blog content on house related stuff, but I did create a gallery of photos on a cloud based service for our family to see some pictures. If anyone else is interested, drop me a comment or an email and I’ll be glad to share that with you.

Have a fabulous 2018!!