We’ve had mostly beautiful warm weather since we arrived in Charleston but the last two days have been really stormy. A tropical depression has been sitting off shore and just cranking wind and rain across the SE area since Thursday.
Thursday, we were downtown doing a driving history tour with our friends Drake and Wanda and strolling King Street. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon there were hardly any tourist to be found. The wind was starting to pick up but we enjoying having the sidewalks to ourselves. Our almost three week stop over here in Charleston has been great and the plan is to leave on Tuesday.
There are so many beautiful old homes in downtown Charleston and its fun to just wander the streets and look at them.
Despite the howling wind, we are mostly just relaxing on the boat today and I did two weeks worth of laundry this morning. Our friends are hosting us for Burger and Bourbon tonight!!!
After a day of rain storms, it was time to get out and explore some more. We spent the next two days exploring Sullivan’s Island, Mr. Pleasant and Fort Sumter.
We started the day off Friday with a nice lunch at the Maybank Public House then headed to Sullivan’s Island where we enjoyed a walk on the beach and checking out the ruins of Ft. Moultrie. South Carolina was the hot bed of the early civil war and we have really been enjoying relearning all our country’s early history.
On the way back we stopped by two great seafood places off Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. These places are quintessential low country seafood docks. The boats actually come into both these places daily which fresh shrimp and seafood.
Our friends Drake and Wanda have been spoiling us … Saturday, we started the morning at their place on the screened in porch, sipping mimosa’s and then brunching on Eggs Benedict. After a relaxing brunch, off to see more of Charleston we went.
First stop was the Angel Oak on James Island. This lowcountry treasure is a Southern Live Oak Tree which is thought to be the largest Live Oak Tree east of the Mississippi estimating to be 300 to 400 years old. This ginormous tree is 65 feet high with a circumference of over 25 feet, shading an area of 17,000 square feet. The oak derives its name from the estate of Justus Angel and his wife, Martha Waight Tucker Angel. Local folklore tells stories of ghosts of former enslaved people appearing as angels around the tree.
Next stop was a ferry ride across Charleston Bay to Fort Sumter where the first shots in the Civil War were fired. The National Park Service does an excellent job of getting people over to the fort and recreating the epic battles that were fought in Charleston Bay. The tour and museum at Fort Sumter are very well done.
The city of Charleston was strategic in both the revolutionary and civil wars. During the Revolutionary War, the 1780 siege of Charleston was a decisive success for the British during the War of the American Revolution as they shifted their strategy to focus on the southern theater. Capture of the city and its harbor gave them a vital base from which to conduct operations in their attempt to rally the support of American Loyalists and reconquer the southern states. Conversely, the loss of Charleston was a painful blow to the American cause, made even worse by the capture of over 2,500 Continentals and numerous vital weapons and supplies.
During the civil war, many Southern port cities had been closed off by the Union blockade, Charleston became an important center for blockade running. Repeated attempts by the Union Navy to take Charleston and/or batter its defenses into the ground proved fruitless, including the Stone Fleet.
We saw all kinds of boat traffic in busy Charleston Bay. While cotton and rice exporting are a thing of the past now, the South Charleston Port is a busy place and throughout the last three decades, automotive has become one of the largest commodity groups for the SCPA. Today, the SCPA contracts with three original equipment manufacturers: BMW, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Vans, who all call on the Columbus Street Terminal. BMW, however, is at the core of the state’s automotive sector and recently exported its 3 millionth car from the terminal.
We finished the day with “linner” (cause it ain’t quite lunch and it ain’t quite dinner) at the Charleston Harbor Fish House. The view of the city and bay from the open air dining room is beautiful. FYI, linner is a southernism I made up – HAHA!
Sunday was a sleep in day and in the afternoon a few projects on Escapade. Drake treated us to a fun evening at the Club Lounge at the scenic Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Ball Park located in downtown Charleston on the banks of the Ashley River. The Charleston RiverDogs are a Minor League Baseball team and a Class-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. The RiverDogs focus on family-oriented, fan-friendly entertainment and it was really great to see all the family’s there enjoying the game. The food and beverages in the lounge was surprising very good too… a grass fed hot dog and pimento cheese made it on my plate!!
Beaufort SC has all the charm of a fine southern lady and was a delightful three day stop for the crew on Escapade. We stayed at the Safe Harbor City Marina which was the perfect place to see all of the historical areas and stroll along the pretty waterfront.
The marina itself was adequate as far as facilities, the docks are a bit long in the tooth but the marina has all of the basic amenities such as a fuel dock, pump out, restrooms, showers, laundry area and a ships store. The staff are all great and the location is perfect, so no car is necessary to explore all the historical parts of town. We were also happy to be put on the end of the outer dock… it was a bit windy when we came in but Captain Wally did an excellent job of turning us in to the current and the wind pushed us right onto the dock. We also had the best view in the marina…PERFECT!!!
And explore we did… the highlight of our stay was a 2.5 hour walking tour with Janet. One of the friendliest and most knowledgeable guides I have ever toured with! Janet has a witty sense of humor and makes the history of Beaufort so much fun and so interesting. You can’t help but get caught up in her enthusiasm for Beaufort and it was perfect to do her tour on our first full day there. I had no idea what an important role that Beaufort played in the revolutionary and civil wars.
The area had been subject to numerous European explorations and several aborted attempts at colonization. Scottish immigrants founded the short-lived “Stuart Town” in 1684 and the British successfully founded the city of Beaufort in 1711, the second-oldest in South Carolina (behind Charleston). The city initially grew slowly, subject to numerous attacks from Native Americans before flourishing as a regional center for the Lowcountryplantation economy up through the Civil War. The community rebounded in the later half of the 20th century and is today recognized as one of the most livable small towns in the country.
Beaufort has retained much of its historic character through its renowned architecture and historic preservation efforts. We also toured the John Mark Verdier House , walked by the house where the Big Chill was filmed and just enjoyed strolling the oak lined streets and seeing all the beautiful antebellum houses. These beautiful homes are tucked into winding, historic streets framed by natural foliage and centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees. Beaufort is definitely a low country gem.
Beaufort is home to several beautiful antebellum homes that take you back in time to a different era in our history. Each of the popular spots are as unique as the owners who originally built them, and a few stand out as much as Tidalholm, perhaps Beaufort’s most popular historic home.
Tidalholm was built in 1853 by Edgar Fripp. The Fripp family owned a great deal of property in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Some of the Fripp plantations on St. Helena Island that were mentioned in records during the Civil War included Oliver Fripp’s plantation, Thomas Fripp’s plantation, Hamilton Fripp’s plantation and John Fripp’s plantation that was also named ‘Big House’.
Fripp reportedly built Tidalholm to use as his “summah” home when the heat and mosquitoes made life at his plantation home on St. Helena Island intolerable. Apparently, most notable plantation owners had summer homes in Beaufort. Before the Civil War broke out he sold the house to his brother, James Fripp.
In November 1861, Union Navy and Army troops invaded Port Royal and most of Beaufort County subsequently was occupied by Union forces. Owners and overseers fled area plantations in the wake of the oncoming Union troops, and thousands of slaves were then free. During the war, Tidalholm served as Union Hospital #7 dedicated to the treatment of officers of the occupying Union Army.
According to local lore, when James Fripp returned to Beaufort after the war he arrived just as the house was being sold for unpaid taxes by the U.S. Tax Commission, but Fripp was not able to bid on the house due to his current financial situation. Then, a Frenchman who had been living in the area and who was sympathetic to the plight of the South in the war, purchased the house and is said to have walked over to the former owner, presented him with the deed, kissed him on both of his cheeks and walked away. It’s said that the kind Frenchman returned to France before Mr. Fripp had a chance to repay him.
Over the years, the private residence was used as a summer retreat by Fripp and his family. It was also used as a guest house from the 1930s until 1974 with many artists, authors, professors, and statesmen staying there.
Hollywood came knocking in the late 1970s and Tidalholm went on to become the setting for the films The Big Chill and the Great Santini; which is why many of the locals here in the Beaufort area also refer to Tidalholm as ‘The Big Chill House’.
Beaufort has no shortage of great restaurants and cute shops to pop into. We had a great dinner at Saltus, and delicious lunches at Wren and the Low Country Produce Company.
We spent the evenings on the flybridge of Escapade with our friends Ken and Joyce, sipping wine, enjoying dinner, playing Five Crowns and catching up. We really appreciate our friends who are willing to travel to find us and stay onboard Escapade to share our adventure. I hope we didn’t get to many demerits for the hot water incident!!!
Of course, no stop is complete with out a few boat projects… the hot water heater thermostat went out but Captain Handy aka Wally found the part locally and rode his bike there to get it. Never a dull moment on a boat!
It was a nice, short cruise from Savannah Georgia to Hilton Head Island South Carolina. We got up early to arrive before the big wind that was forecasted. Best I can tell, a lot of looping is running from the next storm! Typically, we found that on the water the mornings and evening are the calmest from a wind perspective and afternoon is when the wind usually picks up. Also, there are typical wind patterns and then there are blows… us power boats hate blows.. nothing worse than getting caught out or trying to dock or anchor in strong winds.
Here is our Nebo log for the cruise from Savannah to Hilton Head Island.
As it turned out, we arrived early to Palmetto Bay Marina and then the wind started again…up to 40 mph gusts for almost three days. Good news is we had planned to stop here for a week – YAY. The marina itself is very nice, very quiet and not a lot of transient boaters. The docks are big and new, as are the restrooms and free laundry facility. They are Great Loop Sponsors, and the dockage rates are some of the most reasonable on the island so all that combined is why we decided to stay at Palmetto Bay Marina for the week.
One great aspect of slow looping is we can stay as long as we want and wait for nice weather to cruise. We had long time friends staying on the Hilton Head Island so it was great to spend time with them, relax on the beach and catch up. While the island is very bike-able, we decided to rent a car so that we could have the flexibility to explore more. The four of us had a fabulous dinner and celebrated our 31st anniversary together at Ombra Cucina Italiana.
Hilton Head Island has over 12 miles beautiful beach on the Atlantic Ocean, loads of golf courses and wonderful restaurants making it is a popular vacation destination. The island is named after Captain William Hilton, who in 1663 identified a headland near the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which mapmakers named “Hilton’s Headland.
The island has a rich history that started with seasonal occupation by Native Americans thousands of years ago and continued with European exploration and the Sea Island Cotton trade. It became an important base of operations for the Union blockade of the Southern ports during the Civil War. Once the island fell to Union troops, hundreds of ex-slaves flocked to Hilton Head, which is still home to many of their descendants, who are known as the Gullah (or Geechee). They have managed to hold onto much of their ethnic and cultural identity.
Hilton Head Island is considered a barrier island. A typical barrier island has a headland, a beach and surf zone, and a sand spit. The Island is lush and beautiful, with a dynamic beach system with offshore bars, pounding surf, and shifting beaches; as well as grassy dunes behind the beach, lush maritime forests with wetlands in the interiors, and salt or tidal marshes on the lee side, facing the mainland.
Besides hanging with friends, exploring and checking out the restaurant scene, we got caught up on some chores (free laundry), fixed an emergency vacuflush disaster (ohh, the joy of boat toilets) and we actually did do some general relaxing. I also found a great seafood market – Benny Hudsons. They had an Atlantic fish that I had never heard of – Wreckfish. Of course, I had to try it. DELICIOUS… it is a mild, flaky but firm whitefish. I fixed it with a herbed panko crust and a citrus beurre sauce.
Another highlight was that friends and fellow boaters from Anacortes WA, Ken and Joyce joined us on Saturday and will be cruising with us to Charleston. All in all, we really enjoyed our 7 night stop at Hilton Head Island… Off to Beaufort SC now.
It’s been two weeks since we set off on our great loop adventure from Hobe Sound Florida. We’ve travel about 336 nautical miles (NM) and motored about 44 hours at an average speed of 8 knots. Escapade is capable of going much, much faster but there are many parts of the Atlantic Inter Coastal Waterway (AICW) that require you to go slow (no wake zones) but honestly we have just been enjoying getting a feel for the boat and cruising along slow and enjoying the scenery. We have mostly been docking in marinas along the way but have had an opportunity twice to anchor out, which we love!! Cumberland Island was a highlight so far.. wild, unspoiled Georgia low country with no other boats in our anchorage. We toured historic Plum Mansion and rode our e-bikes all over the island, seeing loads of wild horses.
Our e-bikes were the perfect way to explore Cumberland Island. I was so excited to see the wild horses.
We always hope for uneventful cruises, meaning nothing breaks and the weather/wind is mild. For the most part the weather has been uneventful underway, a few sporty days but within our Go-No-Go parameters. A couple of exciting docking but they ended in no harm no foul, maybe just not the prettiest. We have had a couple of eventful days boat wise. Our second day out, there was a mechanical issue with our port engine and we motored part of the day on one engine. Turns out it was an easy fix, once we got on the dock (which wasn’t easy at all on one engine in the wind). Thankfully there were people waiting when we arrived to help us dock.
Part of the Great Loop experience is the people you meet along the way. Boaters in general are the nicest people…always ready to lend a hand getting you on the dock or troubleshooting a problem. Doesn’t matter what your politics or religion are, all that gets put aside (as it should) and the basic kindness of humans just shines through.
Our new friends Carol and Greg in Cocoa Florida, whom I met thru my Facebook site Escapade on the Loop were just the tonic we needed today when we arrived at Cocoa Village Marina. Not only did they help us get the boat into a slip on one engine, Greg took Wally to West Marine for a couple for parts he needed. Later that evening they drove us to dinner at their favorite Mexican place in town.
The Fur-bags Babies are also doing well on the boat… Sucia has decided she no longer needs to travel in a crate while the boat is underway and she is even joining us on the flybridge some days. Bentie has mastered his potty breaks while underway on the back swim step. He also loves hanging out with us on the flybridge or laying in the sun on the back deck when the boat isn’t moving.
We too are acclimating to cruising again and wow have we been tired some days. We knew the first few weeks might feel stressful as we get our boat mojo back and develop some routines. We quickly decided we don’t like motoring everyday and/or long cruise days back to back. Some times it’s necessary to get where you need to go or if weather is going to be dicey. It’s been great to have stops that are 3 to 7 days long and we are currently enjoying a one week stay in Savannah. My niece flew in from Portland Oregon and we have been having a blast exploring the city with her.
Savannah is a very walkable town and we have really been putting on the miles. We also did a trolly tour on our first day to get an overview of the city and understand the lay of the land. It was actually very well done with loads of history about the city. I think we have seen all 22 square in the city proper and every district. It truly is as beautiful and mysterious as I envisioned it to be. I love all the art within the city and the presence of the Savannah Collage of Art and Design has a profound influence on the vibe of Savannah.
I have this groovy app called Nebo which tracks our voyage … you can follow us any time you want to see where we are by clicking on the link below. Right now it will just show us as a white dot at Thunderbolt Marina near Savannah. When we are underway, you can see us cruising real time.
Planning a trip in a boat is very different than planning a road trip in the car or RV. Weather is one of the biggest factor that can change our plans, sometimes for days.
Go/No Go Plan…Hopefully all boaters have one. So what our Go/No Go Plan???
We look at weather forecast where we are currently at along with the forecast for our destination. Will there be rain, high wind gusts, are the tides and currents favorable? What is wind speed and from what direction? Do we feel comfortable with our experience, knowledge, and skill set to handle the boat if the conditions actually gets worse than the forecast? We also consider our guests comfort zones and the fur-bags too. Sucia and Bentley like calm seas too!
Wally and I make the go/no go decision together. If either of us have apprehension, even if just a gut feeling not wanting to go, we do not GO.
Our base line for wind is 15 knots plus of steady wind with wind gusts above that are generally a no go – especially in a boat we don’t have much foul weather experience in. Often marinas are tight and Escapade is a big boat to be docking in the wind. Wind and current opposing each other can cause wind waves that stack up tight. At large inlets, where water is entering and exiting the Inter Coastal Waterway (ICW), this can be very uncomfortable and sometimes down right dangerous. Tides affect the water depth and again here in the ICW, this is important to consider as the water is dang skinny (shallow). Yep, skinny is a boating term too! It’s easy enough to run aground on shoals on the ICW without all of the above factors working against you.
If we were planning to go offshore, this plan would be significantly more conservative as wind and wave height become significant factors and the danger level is much higher than cruising on the ICW.
Being retired should mean no schedule, right? It’s amazing how bad shite happens when you make a decision based on a schedule – most great boating stories revolve around how people have earned that one the hard way. Personally, we prefer a safe and pleasant day on the boat as opposed to a arse whooping by Mother Nature.
This is the forecast from the NOAA weather website for todays proposed destination – Vero Beach. We also look at the Windy and Windfinder apps and compare the three reports. UGH, not looking good for at least three days but we will look again tomorrow.
So… the boat is ready to go, fuel tanks are full, water tanks are full, the refrigerator/freezers are full but today but it is definitely a no-go day! Mother Nature casted the final vote, we are both a bit bummed but such is life on a boat. I thought I was going to be writing our FIRST Great Loop post today but c’est la vie, this is for another day.
an act or incident involving excitement, daring, or adventure.
We think it’s the perfect name for the boat as it really sums up our big adventure that we will be doing on the great loop.
So what is the great loop??? The Great Loop is a 6,000 nautical mile circumnavigation of the eastern U.S., and part of Canada. The route includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the New York State Canals, the Canadian Canals, the Great Lakes, the inland rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico. “Loopers” take on this adventure of a lifetime aboard their own boat, no cruise ships do this as it takes at least a year to complete. We are “slow” looping, breaking the loop up in segments based on the weather and best seasons to explore that area. We think we will be looping for 2-3 years. This year we will leave Florida in April and cruise as far as Chesapeake Bay. Ultimately, we will put Escapade away for the winter, under covered storage in Chesapeake VA.
So why not just do the loop in one year you may be wondering. We certainly could but want to have more time to really explore. If one does the loop in one year, you have to cruise thru certain areas with the season and you do this over the course of a year to stay ahead of the seasons, so you are constantly on the move. As an example, unless you want to be the Edmond Fitzgerald, you need to be off the Great Lakes by late fall. Cold, wet and windy with potentially life threatening storms make Lake Superior nowhere to be past fall.
SOOO, about Escapade… she is a 1998 Carver Voyager 530. Measuring 53 feet long, 16 feet wide and just over 19 ft tall, she’s a big girl. Our biggest boat and quite possibility our last boat. She has three staterooms, two full bathrooms and a spacious salon and galley, she is a pilothouse/flybridge model, meaning there is a fully equipped driving area inside the boat which also has a big semi-circular dining table. There is also an enclosed flybridge with a huge lounging/dining area and another driving station. I love the views from the flybridge and we spend a lot of time up there. It is the place of choice for happy hour.
I will post a video walk thru when we are done tearing things apart (and putting them back together!).
The other cool thing about Escapade is that she has a crane to lift our 11 ft Boston Whaler up and onto the stern flybridge of the boat. The whaler gives us the option of exploring nooks and cranny’s on the water where Escapade can’t go. It is also a way for us to get Bentley to shore if we are anchored out somewhere. We bought the whaler sight unseen from a couple in Sarasota Florida last summer. This size, year and model of whaler is the perfect fit weight wise for Escapade. When I found it online, we jumped on it. Basically, we did a video chat and inspection with the owners, who were great. They even towed it to their storage facility for us, where it sat thru Hurricane IAN – GULP!!! It all worked out and when we got back to Florida in October, we drove over to Sarasota and picked it up. Other than two flat tires on the trailer and the boat being dirty, it was in great shape. Thankfully Hurricane Ian dodged both boats which were on land in differnt parts of Florida. It’s a bit nerve wracking the first few times, lifting the whaler up and on to the boat but hopefully it will get more routine as we get used to doing it. Wally did maintenance the lift, replace the steel lift cable with synthetic and purchase all new rigging before our first attempt.
The whaler’s name is Hijinx and we are looking forward to some fun in it! Hijinx also got a through cleaning, new electronics and a bilge pump. Wally serviced the 25 hp motor and it runs like a top.
Okay, maybe she’s bigger than we needed but we plan to be living on this boat at least 6 months out of the year and will have friends and family join us as we cruise the great loop. She was also a bit older than we originally wanted but the trade off financially for new/smaller vs older/bigger will hopefully be worth it. I say hopefully, because she has needed a lot of upgrades. I mean thousands of dollars in upgrades…credit card limit increasing upgrades! We did have full marine hull and engine surveys (basically like a pre-purchase house inspection) so we did know what we were getting into. That said, boats are mysterious machines with complicated systems and it never fails that you start by fixing or upgrading one thing and BAM… you are into now elbow deep in two or three other fixes or upgrades that you didn’t budget for or even think needed to be done. BOAT = Break Our Another Thousand!!!
So bam it has been.. it was all the upgrades we wanted to do that have been keeping us busy since November. We have mostly done all this ourselves (well, mostly Captain Handy who I am fortunate to be married to). The galley “needed” all new appliances.. come on now, the old Sub Zero refrigerator was non-operational! The new smart oven replaced the old funky but functioning microwave, the induction cook top replaced the crappy but functioning electric cooktop and the GROSS and non-functioning trash compactor had to go. In its place went a pull out storage area. Woo-hoo, more storage is always appreciated on a boat! We also yarded out all of the stone age TV’s ..three of them, a VCR and a disk music player. The salon (living room in non-boater speak), is getting a new solid maple cabinet that will house the 43 inch smart TV on a remote lift and have more storage. We also replaced the mattresses in the master and guest staterooms (bedrooms) and converted the bunk bed stateroom to storage. The list goes on and on and these upgrades are creature comforts that will make life aboard Escapade even better.
Another huge upgrade was the new flybridge enclosure… the existing one was put on just before we bought the boat by the prior owner. It turned out to be the worst quality material and was the most janky looking piece of garbage. It was conveniently installed just days before we took ownership so there was no negotiating on any of that. The goal of a flybridge enclosure is to provide shade… it did that. It should also make it more comfortable to drive from the flybridge and it should keep the elements out. Big fail on that part, the first time it rained despite having a canvas top that technically did provide shade, it leaked like a sieve and we had to put on rain coats. Did I also mentioning its was a janky piece of junk that started falling apart after 6 month in the sun. UGH, so we had to get a new enclosure and despite the budget shattering price, we love the new enclosure and it doesn’t fail on any of the criteria now. We opted to go with white vinyl “staminode for the top and sides, which is more heat reflective than the black canvas top that was on it.
Happy Hour on the flybridge is a very happy time now!
Creature comforts are one thing but making sure all the systems are in good shape and operating properly is not only essential to using the boat but are also huge safety factors. With two 450 hp diesel engines, a 13 KW generator, a bow thruster, nine batteries with 3 separate chargers, a windlass system for anchoring and 4 air conditioners there have been plenty of things to maintenance and repair. A boat this size has miles of hoses that get old, brittle and and crack or break. Dozens of hose clamps that can rust out or break – it’s amazing how something as simple as a hose or hose clamp could potentially cause catastrophic damage on a boat. Shortly after we bought the boat we had a certified Cummins Engine Mechanic go through both engines and the generator. There are some thing’s that require writing a check and this one was worth every penny we paid. The four AC units also had a check up and got a clean bill of health from the AC Technician (that was a huge sigh of relief).
We’ve also been replacing old sink faucets, shower heads and checking all the places where water can and SHOULD drain out of the boat. There have been some interesting discoveries of places where water was COMING into the boat – OOPS. Plastic fittings get old and brittle, drains gets plugged – basically shit happens as a boat ages, hmm, kinda like me!
This is a grille on the exterior of the boat where rain water should have been draining out instead it was blocked with gross green plant debris and was backing up into the exterior pilothouse door well. So, we cleaned out all three drains and replace the old cracked grill. Great!!! Until the first time it rained hard… now the water from one of those drains was coming into the boat behind the electrical panel and onto the floor in the salon like a river – not good on so many levels. Turned out a fitting in the wall had broken and when we unplugged the drain it now had a place to go! ARRGH!!!
People always ask me how the pets like the boat… so far they have adjusted quite well to life on Escapade. There are lots of places for Sucia and Bentley to stretch out and nap or watch the world go by outside. The both also love the cockpit and having some sun time out there. Bentley’s other favorite place is the flybridge. There are interior steps from the pilot house to the flybridge so he can easily join us up there. Another great feature that sold us on this boat.
Granted we’ve only left the dock here in Hobe Sound once, LOL. It will be different for them when we start cruising again but it’s not their first rodeo on a boat. I guess I should tell them that we will be on the move again soon.
It’s hasn’t been all work and no play for the crew. We did take a one week trip around Christmas to see my cousins June and Matt in Kentucky. A couple of short trips to the west side of Florida to see friends and a fun weekend on a friends yacht in West Palm Beach. We also had our first guests onboard …yay for girlfriends!!! Locally there is so much to do in this area, farmers markets, art festivals, great water front restaurants, polo and beaches to walk on!
4 months have flown by as we’ve tackled all of these projects and we now have one month until we cast off the lines and cruise off into the sunset! We have a loose schedule and a long list of places we want to see and explore between Florida and the Chesapeake Bay.
It was an interesting year… 2022. So much has happened since I last posted over a year ago but for some reason, I have had a serious case of writers block and emotional fatigue. I started posts but could never seem to get the words right or finish anything.
There has definitely been some high and lows so perhaps I’ll just try to encapsulate the year somehow.
We spent most of 2022 traveling in our coach, Road House, leaving the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2021 bound for Florida. Our journey took us through Arizona to see my mother, who sadly ended her Alzheimer’s journey in October 2022. She was always on my mind and our weekly FaceTime calls facilitated by her caregivers kept us connected. I won’t lie to you and say I didn’t struggle with balancing our mobile lifestyle with with the desire to physically be closer to her. In the end, my fiercely independent mother passed suddenly, but peacefully and on her own terms.
After leaving Arizona, we spent a month on Mustang Island near Port Aransas Texas. What a beautiful area and it was great to be able to walk out our door and be just steps from the beach. Fellow RV friends met us there and we made our way to SW Florida together. After a relaxing but busy winter, we fired up the coach and started on the much awaited East Coast and Maritimes trip. In addition to traveling in 22 US states, we visited the Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia regions in Canada while traveling in the Road House. We also traveled to Spain and Portugal for our 30th anniversary in April 2022. It was a fantastic travel year indeed.
Below are three slideshows with some of my favorite 2022 travel pictures.
So, did I really have writers block or just no time to write?
I think it was the latter, maybe?.. Did I forget to mention we also bought another boat??? Yep, we seem to have completely lost our minds in 2022. Blame it on the pandemic, that’s my story and I am sticking to it.
We have long dreamed of cruising the America’s Great Loop and our new boat which we named “Escapade” is going to be our home afloat while we travel the great loop in 2023 and 2024. Seemed like the perfect name for this chapter of our life. It was either Escapade or Reckless Financial Endeavor – LOL!!!
Currently Escapade is in SE Florida, on a friends dock in Hobe Sound. Luckily she road out hurricane IAN without a blemish, safely on land at a hurricane facility which we took her to after we purchased her in spring 2022. IAN was absolutely devastating to so many people in the Florida… it was gut wrenching to watch it all unfold on the news and see how the aftermath destroyed so many peoples homes, business, lives and dreams.
Once we arrived back in SW Florida, we had the opportunity to volunteer for World Central Kitchen. It was just three weeks post hurricane and it was shocking to see the devastation. We spent a day on Pine Island, driving through devastated communities, delivering warm meals to people who were just trying to survive the day. If you’re not familiar with the amazing work WCK does… check out the link above. I’ve been a long time supporter of WCK and love the organization even more after volunteering.
We also had the joy of actually experiencing Hurricane Nicole shortly after arriving in Hobe Sound. It was very nerve wracking, especially after seeing the trail of destruction left by Ian. Luckily Nicole dodged us and was only a fierce tropical storm in our area and again we came out unscathed. So grateful.
We brought Escapade over to East Florida through Lake Okeechobee the end of October and have been consumed with doing much needed upgrades. Also, getting routine maintenance done on Road House, getting her ready for long term storage while getting used to living on a boat again. We will be staying in Hobe Sound Florida until April and I admit, it feels good not to be on the move for a while. That said, we are working our butts off getting Escapade ready to start the Great Loop, perhaps cruising as far as the Chesapeake Bay this year. More on that in the next post.
So there you go…2022…definitely interesting, a bit devastating and somewhat exhausting. I do feel the urge stirring to write again and hope you will stayed tuned for more adventures in 2023.
It’s a wrap on another summer on the boat and with the borders closed we couldn’t venture out of the San Juan Islands again this summer. That said we had a most excellent summer with loads of friends visiting. The parade of visitors started in June and didn’t end until September.
We did a lot of day cruises this summer and it was fun to show off the beautiful San Juans. Vendovi Island with its peaceful nature preserve was a hit with everyone we took there. The Beach House also hosted several friends for longer multi-day cruises. It was a blast having friends onboard and spending time together in some of our favorite gunk holes in the San Juans.
It was also fun to show off our charming small town Anacortes. Even as a land based destination, there is a ton to do in the area. Whale watching, hiking, biking, pickleball… we also took several trips up Chuckanut Drive, toured and lunched in Bellingham. I hope I sent everyone exhausted or at least tired of us!!
One highlight was taking a flight around the San Juan Islands with our friends John and Kristen. They flew their Piper Warrior – Valentina to Anacortes from Newport, Oregon to meet up with a gang of us from our winter playground in Palm Springs. John is a great pilot and we have flown with him and Kristen several times. Wally especially loves it as he has a tiny bit of experience flying so it is alot of fun when John lets him take over the controls.
We also had our first boat tow ever… our early season shake down cruise to Stuart Island turned into a break down cruise – Ugh, definitely not a highlight!!! We have two engines on the Beach House and could have motored back on one engine but the broken shaft was a huge liability and had it become disengaged from the boat, bad things could have happened. I gotta say being towed is uber boring as you can’t go very fast and a bit embarrassing but the Tow US folks from Friday Harbor did a great job getting us safely back to Anacortes. There were a few tense moments with our insurance company as they were not excited about a 35 mile water tow. Of course we broke down at the furthest most outer island. Luckily, it all worked out and they realized after some explaining that there was no where closer to tow us that could accommodate our size boat for repairs. We ended up moving back onto the Road House for two weeks while the boat was out of the water for repairs. Alls well that ends well and a few boat units were spent to get us back in the water!
The other big excitement that happened this summer was the fire in an abandon building next to our marina. This mysterious fire broke out at 1 am and engulfed the old, decrepit, rat infested building quickly. Bentley was our smoke alarm, he woke Wally up when he smelled the smoke and was insistent that Wally get up, even after being told to go back to bed. Some how I slept through the whole damn thing, but woke up to the over powering smell of smoke and charred wood. After jumping out of bed and looking around, Wally sleepily told me the building burned down. HUH…by the time I got up, the building was a smoldering pile. The fire department was there for over 10 hours making sure there were no hot spots remaining. Despite our close proximity, our marina wasn’t damaged. Had there been wind, our old wood structures would have been at great risk. Guess we can thank the arsonist for at least choosing a calm, windless night.
We also did a whole LOT of crabbing not far from our marina … our 13 ft Boston Whaler is a perfect crabbing machine. I think we tagged more than 160 crabs… NO, we didn’t eat all of them…YES, we shared them with friends and YES, I have frozen crab in the freezer. Many a crab feed ensued this summer… and there will be crab cakes this winter!!!
20 plus years of boating in the San Juans and beyond… we have enjoyed every minute of it too. Retirement has been interesting and nothing like we initially envisioned. Our ideas of what we want to do during these healthy years before we need walkers is becoming a keen reality. Nothing like turning 60 to make one introspective… But seriously, its a big world and with that in mind we have come to the reality that now is the time to close a few doors and open a few others…
Our travels in Road House the next 18 months mean a long hiatus from the Beach House. The Great Loop has long been a dream of ours as well. This year long, 6000 mile adventure called the The Great Loop is a system of waterways that encompasses the eastern portion of the United States and part of Canada. It is made up of both natural and man-made waterways, including the Atlantic and Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, the Rideau Canal, and the Mississippi and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. I have been a member of the America’s Great Loop Cruiser Association for years and we have been gleaning information from the website and forums. The big winter rendezvous is being held in Fort Meyer where we will be wintering so we re enrolled in the 3 day event and educational seminars. SO EXCITED…
Then, there’s the possibility that a house might be built eventually in Anacortes on the lot we bought last summer. Right now, it’s just a bare 1/3 acre lot with an amazing view of the San Juans.
So, the Beach House is under contract . Yep, we took all our personal items off the boat before we left Anacortes, put it all in storage and signed a purchase/sales agreement with a great couple we know from our marina.
It was an emotionally difficult decision as we love the Beach House and have had 6 great years cruising on her. We have kept a boat at Anchor Cove Marina for almost 20 years. It’s been our “Cheers”, it’s been our go to place to relax, it’s been the gateway to fabulous adventures and most of all its been the place we have made wonderful friendships. Closing up the Beach House and taking that last walk up the dock was sad. Sad as it was, change has been really, really good for us and as hard as this was we are both excited to open the door in the next chapter – no walkers for us yet!!!
Teton National Park is home to some of the most stunning alpine scenery in the United States plus its teeming with wildlife and offers hiking galore. This trifecta of goodness made it a standout on the Western States Tour for the crew on the Road House. That and how it gots it’s name makes me giggling like a third grader.
While the Shoshone people who are believed to have lived in and around the range for as long as 10,000 years called the range “Teewinot,” which translates to “many pinnacles”, it’s also believed by some that the voyagers native to France who stumbled upon this eye popping scenery saw something else when they discovered the range. “Les trois tétons” became the name for the mountains, and, it stuck. Some people argue that the Grand Tetons were named for the Teton Sioux Native Americans who lived in the area, and that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for how they got their name, however, that’s not what makes me giggle.
What I discovered is that “les trois tétons” translates from French to “the three teats” which led me to this story for how the Tetons got their name and got me giggling. The story goes like this: A group of French explorers came across the mountain range one day while trudging across the frozen tundra of western Wyoming. Naturally, they were experiencing quite the opposite of what life in France would have been like for them at the time and found themselves suffering a great deal in their efforts to explore the new world for previously untapped resources, possibilities, and opportunities. As they lurched across the wilderness day after day, covered in heavy furs and carrying heavy sacks full of provisions, with no place to lay their heads at night except the cold hard ground and no shelter except for their tents, they no doubt were thinking about the various comforts that they used to enjoy back home.
Comforts such as warm homes, filling and enjoyable meals, and the company of a woman had eluded them for a long time, and no doubt they were thinking quite a lot about those comforts and how much they missed them. So, when the mountain peaks that are now called the Tetons came into view, it’s only natural that their first thought was breasts. Thus the Tetons were christened by grizzled, worn out explorers from France whose first thought upon seeing the majesty of that beautiful mountain range was “Boobs!” The Grand Teton is the tallest of the three peaks and its name is literally translated from French to “the big tit.” Given this translation, one would conclude that the Grand Teton is the D cup of the formation, while the Middle Teton and the South Teton are the C cups – LOL!!! The French explorers who found the Teton mountain range have done a huge favor to all of us who enjoy third grade humor – Thanks Guys!!!
So for almost almost a week, we enjoyed the majestic boobs of Wyoming, saw loads of wildlife, hiked and of course had some great meals in Jackson. I scored a great camp site at the Gros Ventre Campground which is perfectly situated 12 miles from the town of Jackson and 11 miles from the south entrance to the park and the visitors center. Our site was spacious, had electricity and water and MOOSE. Well, not our own personal moose but every morning we had moose wandering through and behind our coach. Moose were not advertised as an amenity but they seem to be regulars at the campground. The sites at the Gros Ventre are huge, have a fire pit, picnic table and a ton of wood that the park staff thoughtfully piled up around the sites. We did our part to help clear the area with our ginormous fires at night. There was not a sewer hookup but there was a dump station right at the entrance/exit that we used before hitting the road again.
By the way, Gros Ventre translates from french to “big belly” – seriously! Yep, I am giggling as I get an image of what grizzled french explorers find attractive.
I love how easy and compact this NP is … it’s just 39 miles from the Moose Junction entrance to the top of the park. Hwy 191 actually runs through The Grand Teton National Park and is the connector to the south entrance of Yellowstone NP. Hypothetically, one can drive through the park on 191 and not pay an entrance fee. So if your short on time or just a cheapskate, that’s an option. Not one I’d recommend as there is so much more to see and do in the park along the scenic Teton Park Road.
We spent our first half day in the park getting the lay of the land by driving the loop. We packed a picnic lunch almost everyday as the lodges weren’t open yet making the food options inside the park limited. We did find an amazing wine shop inside the park on Teton Park Road. Dornan’s had a incredible selection of wines from all over the world.
Luckily for us Jackson Lake Lodge opened the day before we left so we were able to see the inside of this beautiful lodge and have lunch in the dining room. Breathtaking” does not begin to describe the view at Jackson Lake Lodge. The 60-foot floor to ceiling windows frame pristine Jackson Lake and the majestic Teton Range. For some, this view alone is the main reason to visit. I literally felt like I was looking out onto a vast savannah much like the ones I experienced in Botswana Africa. My pictures are not doing it justice.
If you are visiting the park but not traveling in an not RV, I would totally suggest you make the Jackson Lake Lodge your base camp in the park. It is actually quite large, with 385 rooms some of which are stunning suites, main lodge hotel rooms, and quaint cottages. The lodge also includes a variety of dining options, outdoor excursions, meeting space, retail shops, a swimming pool, and an exhibit featuring Native American artifacts and Western art. A complimentary guest shuttle is also available to Colter Bay, Jenny Lake, and the town of Jackson. Dang, I just sold myself, definitely have to come back again and stay in the Lodge!
So about all that wildlife…The highlight of our time in Grand Teton NP was seeing so many animals. Specifically, bear mama 399 and her four cubs. 399 is a legend in the park and is probably the most photographed bear ever! Our wonderful friends the Ellers, who we visited while we were staying in Sun Valley Idaho gave us so many tips about what to see and do as they lived near the Tetons for years. I would have likely not known about Bear 399 if they hadn’t told me a bit of her story. Generally passive in nature, 399 has raised her broods by roadsides in view of groups of curious humans, including some who have exercised poor judgment by moving closer to take photographs of her and her cubs. The theory is that she does this to protect her offspring from aggressive male grizzlies who have been know to kill clubs to bring the female back in estrus. 399 is so beloved and has a huge international fan club including the renown Biologist and chimp expert Jane Goodall AND 399 has her own Wikipedia page (click on the 399 link above to read all about her)! This 25 year old gal emerged out of hibernation this year with FOUR cubs and we we luckily enough to see her, fairly up close as well. Yep, that made me uneasy and we eventually retreated back to our car when she and the kiddos tried to cross the road. They caused quite a bear jam the day we saw her and the park rangers somehow magically appear out of nowhere to stop traffic and keep all the camera carrying idiots who insist on getting too close from getting mauled. We have never experienced a bear jam and I have to say that people can be such asshats. Early on when we saw her and the kiddos, there weren’t many people there yet but holy shite within 10 minutes literally hundreds of cars appeared and people swarmed the road. We were so disgusted by how stupid some people were and how they swarmed so close to the bears. When the cubs got frantic trying to follow Mom across the road we went back to our car and tried to leave. Those same idiots had parked in the middle of the road to get closer and blocked everyone else from leaving. ARGHHH, the poor rangers were literally yelling at people to stand back and give the bears some room … uh, I may have yelled at a stupid, fat guy chasing behind the bears with his giant camera in hand. I though 399 showed considerable restraint, that dude would have fed the whole family! Spoiler alert, the photo of her standing with all four cubs around her is not mine… I borrowed it from an article written about 399 by the Guardian which BTW, is worth reading!
While seeing 399 and her cubs was definitely one of the the wildlife viewing highlights, we also saw so many other critters…moose, elk, deer, bison, coyotes, fox, badger, marmot, mountain goats, eagles, ospreys, ducks, geese and loads of other birds. Another great tip from our friends was to check out the road behind the elk refuge for mountain goats. Bam, saw them up close as well as a coyote being followed by a badger. Now that was odd!
The elks had all migrated from their winter home at the refuge but we did see them at Elk Flats – go figure! We also met a really neat couple while we were hanging out photographing the goats, Phil and Hope and hope to meet up with them again when we are in Mesa AZ in October.
The park is also home to big herds of bison and again we got to see them up close just off Hwy 191 near the Triangle X Ranch. They were on both sides of the road and at one point a big group of them ran from one area to another, crossing the road right in front of where we had pulled over. Like many of the animals we saw, the bison were shedding their heavy winter coast and looked a bit scrappy. We sat for quite a while just observing them, rolling in the dust and grazing. There were also so many birds around the herd…some of the birds were on the bisons backs catching a free lunch of insects that they attract. The bison created their own small ”bison jam“ but people seemed more respectful and less crazy than at the ”bear jam”. I didn’t even have to yell at anyone nor did we get to see anyone get gored…that was a bit disappointing.
For some reason, we are both taken with moose. They are such unusually looking creatures and seem like gentle giants. Did you know that they can keep their head completely underwater, often for more than a minute at a time? So why do they need to stick their heads underwater?? Well, apparently the aquatic veggies give them minerals they need, which they store in the summer for the hard winter ahead. Of course we were thrilled to see a moose right off the Gros Ventre Road the first day we were driving to our campground. Double thrilled to see moose just behind our coach the next morning but the funniest moose sighting we call “moose in a hot tub”! We spotted this dude, soaking in the Kelly Warms Spring Creek just off the Gros Ventre Road past Kelly. We were headed out to check out the Upper and Lower Slide Lakes area and there he was. I loved how happy he looked, poor dude looks so scrappy but his smile looked so happy, that warm water must have felt great. Another unplanned sighting!
Moose are solitary creatures so the ones we did see were often alone with the exception of the two young ones we saw near our campground everyday. I felt so lucky to have seen so many of them. We watched a female in a creek off the Snake River by Jackson Lake Dam. She was munching on willow and seemed to care very little about the people staring at her. It was so cool to see her sticking her head under water and pulling up big mouthfuls of creek grass.
Everyday was an opportunity for a new adventure and to see more critters. As much as we enjoy hiking, we spent more time exploring and less time on the trails in the Tetons. Honestly, it probably why we did see so much wildlife. There is also a picture in the next slide show of a old, rare, black boxer too.
Our days were really full and there was at least one planned and sometimes an unplanned adventure everyday…We really enjoyed hiking the Jenny Lake trail from the boat ramp area to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. This is one of the most popular trails in the park as you get spectacular views of Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole from Inspiration Point, as well as a 100ft cascading waterfall. The hike was about 3.3 miles total, mostly flat. Once on the west side of the lake, the trail gently sloped up 200ft in elevation towards Hidden Falls which was all snow packed. This gorgeous 100ft cascade fed by snowmelt was in its glory. We then went further up the trail another 0.5 mile to Inspiration Point. What a view and luckily the trail up which is steep, narrow and has a drop off one side was clear of snow and ice. I get a bit wiggy on these kinds of trails, maybe the fear of dying, so I hugged the rock wall and probably swore a little bit which belive it or not is very calming! Another great reason to go early in the season is there weren’t too many people and the snow melt makes for some spectacular waterfalls and raging rivers. This is a great picnic lunch spot. We also saw Mr. Marmot sunning himself on a rock on this hike. He looks quite please to be basking in the warm sun! The trail is actually a 7 mile loop around the lake but we opted to take the scenic boat ride back across the lake after the hike and lunch which was the perfect way to end that adventure.
Another fun adventure we had with Bentie was the drive to Lower Slide Lake. This area is outside of the park in the Bridger Teton National Forest. Its was a gorgeous drive, much of which was on a well graded gravel road and the bonus was seeing the moose in the hot tub. From the Gros Ventre Campground, its about 10 miles one way to Lower Slide Lake which is as far as we went. This area has some fascinating geological history as the Upper and Lower Slide Lakes were created when the massive the Gros Ventre landslide occured in 1925 and dammed the Gros Ventre River River. This massive slide on Sheep Mountain, hurling down the slope at 50 mph, a mile-wide carried, 50,000,000 cubic yards of debris down the mountain and then another 300 feet up the opposite slope. From the view point and info center high above Lower Slide Lake, you can still see when the slide ravaged the mountain and all the debris it left behind. There is also a rustic campground at Lower Slide Lake if you are up for the long drive in on a gravel forest service road!
Since we’ve been to Jackson and Jackson Hole Ski Mountain before we choose to spend most of our time on this trip in the park exploring. That said, we did have a great lunch and a follow up dinner a few days later at Hatch Taqueria and Tequila’s in Jackson. The food and Hatcharita’s were sooo good… I was particularly drawn back for the Spicy Hatch made with Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila and may have had several. We also found a pickle ball court in Jackson – WHAT!!!
Being early in the season meant less tourist and no lines to get into the park. I am not sure the Grand Teton National Park is as popular was its sister park Yellowstone but I suspect it gets a fair amount of over flow from Yellowstone during the crazy summer months.
Speaking of tourists, the western vibe town of Jackson and the area around Jackson Hole can be crowded and crazy with people in the summer. Apparently, this is not a new phenomenon. Tourists started coming to Jackson Hole not long after the first cattle ranches were settled. Some of the ranchers supplemented their income by catering to “dudes,” eastern tenderfoots yearning to experience a little slice of the Old West in the shadow of the stunning Tetons. The tourists began to raise the first concerns about preserving the natural beauty of the region. The vast acres of Yellowstone Park, America’s first national park founded in 1872, were just north of Jackson Hole. Surely, they asked, the spectacular Grand Tetons deserved similar protection.
In 1916, Horace M. Albright, the director of the National Park Service, was the first to seriously suggest that the region be incorporated into Yellowstone. The ranchers and businesses catering to tourists, however, strongly resisted the suggestion that they be pushed off their lands to make a “museum” of the Old West for eastern tourists.
Finally, after more than a decade of political maneuvering, Grand Teton National Park was created in 1929. As a concession to the ranchers and tourist operators, the park only encompassed the mountains and a narrow strip at their base. Jackson Hole itself was excluded from the park and designated merely as a scenic preserve. Albright, though, had persuaded the wealthy John D. Rockefeller to begin buying up land in the Jackson Hole area for possible future incorporation into the park. This semisecret, private means of enlarging the park inspired further resentment among the residents, and some complained that it was a typical example of how “eastern money interests” were dictating the future of the West.
By the late 1940s, however, local opposition to the inclusion of the Rockefeller lands in the park had diminished, in part because of the growing economic importance of tourism. In 1949, Rockefeller donated his land holdings in Jackson Hole to the federal government that then incorporated them into the national park. Today, Grand Teton National Park encompasses 309,993 acres. Working ranches still exist in Jackson Hole, but the local economy is increasingly dependent on services provided to tourists and the wealthy owners of vacation homes.
A big thanks to the vision of Albright and help of Rockefeller, the hours they spend scheming to preserve and create The Grand Teton National Park for us to all enjoy now. There is a short little walking path near the grand Jackson Lake Lodge that leads to Lunch Tree Hill that is only a great place to have a picnic and enjoy the amazing views but very historically significant in Albright’s efforts to see this area preserved.
Honestly, we could have stayed a couple of weeks and not run out of things to see and do. Spring was arriving during our stay but the mountains still had loads of snow on them. This made the scenery absolutely stunning but this also made many of the back country hiking trails inaccessible. Coming in the spring also gave us an opportunity to see loads of wildlife and some youngins. I loved being in the Tetons in the Spring and would definitely come back again in the fall to see a different perspective and hike some of the back country trails. This has turned into a very long post but I have are a few more pictures of places we visited to share below. Next stop on the Western States tour is Cody Wyoming so stay tuned for part four!!!