Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Boat Parade in Bimini Basin, Cape Coral

I've always wanted to go to the Lighted boat parade in Chattanooga, but manage to miss it every year. With the temperatures below 40 degrees F the day after Thanksgiving (day of the parade), it was just too darn COLD to go outside! I know, I know, we are a bunch of wimps.

It's a different story in Florida, where holiday boat parades are legendary and the weather is so much warmer. Blessed with miles of coastlines as well as a warm climate, Florida is an excellent cruising ground for boaters.You can find holiday boat parades in just about any major city in the state. Some notable ones include St AugustineFort LauderdaleSt Petersburg and Key West.

One Christmas season found Mai Thai anchored in Bimini Basin, Cape Coral, near Fort Myers. Boater friends had told us about the anchorage, and it quickly became our favorite because of the protection and the convenience - grocery stores like Paesano's Italian Market and Publix, restaurants, laundromat (all within walking distance) and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico.

That particular Saturday, while waiting for some friends to come in, we noticed a lot of commotion at the park facing the anchorage. Boats of all sizes,decked out with Christmas lights, Santas, reindeers, elves and palm trees,  started creeping in and soon they surrounded us.  We were smack in the middle of a boat parade!

Dinghying guests to our boat
Paesano's Italian Market
I'll leave you with the video of our serendipitous boat parade experience at Bimini Basin. Bet it will get you into the holiday spirit, if you haven't already!

What's your favorite holiday activity?
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Monday, November 3, 2014

No treats, just tricks this Halloween Weekend

We always knew that no matter how nice the weather has been, come Halloween Mother Nature would point its magic wand and blast us with a cold spell, so no trick there. What we didn't know was that a few days before Halloween, TVA decided to shut down the Chickamauga Lock (for repairs or so they say. The TVA visitor center at Raccoon Mountain was closed for 2 years!).

Boaters from the other side of the lock (Irwin and Island Cove Marina) who had planned for months to cruise down here for the annual color cruise/Halloween party had to cancel. We were all looking forward to the big bash so needless to say, we were crestfallen.

On Friday evening, the temperature dipped to the low 40s. Rain started pelting with winds gusting to 20 mph. The marina was a ghost town.  But the party must go on. The six of us dock neighbors huddled around the fire on Steve's newly built table to keep warm. As we sat down to enjoy our Low Country Boil dinner, the winds kicked up a notch, gusting every so often. It was COLD. Brrrr. We hastily ate our dinner and retired to Cellar Door for coffee and dessert. High winds continued to rock our boats until the next morning.

Also happening last week the cable company Charter decided to change the way it does business. Every customer with an account with the company has to get a cable box to be able to watch TV. Those of us who don't and relied on the marina for cable - yeah, most of us boaters, RVers and cabin rentals - now have no TV. No treat or trick here. Not that we enjoy listening to news of ISIS and ebola over and over and over. Thank God for internet and Roku!

Hope you got more treats than tricks on your Halloween celebration!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hiking the River Gorge Trail at Raccoon Mountain

Fall is such a lovely time to be outdoors, and yesterday was the perfect day for a hike.
I had invited my ESL students to join us, and four came with their families. Our short easy hike on the River Gorge Trail was rewarded with a fabulous picnic lunch complete with soup and dessert! These people certainly know  how to pack a picnic and eat well.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cruising the gulf coast of Florida: Dog Island to Apalachicola, Florida

Fall is here. It's peak foliage season up in New England this weekend. Down in Southeastern Tennessee, it's been raining a lot. The cold spell lasted for several days, barely long enough for the leaves to change color. I'm not complaining. By Halloween, it'll be plenty cold. Then we'll have a decent foliage, and before we know it, the holidays will be upon us. For right now, we're enjoying the cool mornings and evenings, perfect for kayaking on the river.

I'm so excited to visit our boater friends Doug and Shelby in Carrabelle, Florida next weekend (an 8 hrs drive by car). We have fond memories of the area. We had cruised from Tarpon Springs to Dog Island (near Carrabelle) in 2006. While we didn't stop in Carrabelle, we had enjoyed exploring the laid-back town of Apalachicola, where seafood, especially oysters, are to die for. Just thinking about them is making my mouth water ...Almost all the Florida oysters are harvested in Apalachicola Bay. I may in for a rude awakening, as I just read that the oyster harvests have dropped sharply since 2010 and there is talk about shutting down the fishery.

Shrimp boat on the waterfront

The Gibson Inn
A cute store front

Dixie Theatre

Here is our trip's log:
Tied up at Scipio Creek Marina, Appalachicola, May 22, 2006
We were on a mission for oysters, and Apalachicola is the place. A short two hours run took us to Scipio Creek Marina, where we stopped to provision, do laundry and wash down the salty boat. We chose this small town for its old Florida feel, and its famous restaurant - Papa Joe's. We picked up the local paper and a column caught our eye - "If you ain't been to Papa Joe's, you ain't been to Apalach." How about that for raising one's expectations? 

 Luckily, we were not disappointed. The oysters were plump, succulent and on the salty side (as opposed to New England's which is sweet); even better, it was cheap at $5.95 a dozen. We had another 1/2 dozen baked with crabmeat, sherry and Monterey Jack cheese ($6.95). However, we think fresh oysters are best eaten raw. The captain ordered the seafood platter - fried shrimp, oyster, grouper, clam strips, crabcake and hush puppies - ($21.95). They were absolutely fabulous. The downtown has one blinking light, some nice shops, several restaurants, and century-old homes that have been restored to their former glory, but the waterfront needs work. Although most guidebooks rave about this place, we thought for a small town, people could've been friendlier.

It's been eight years since we last visited. Is it more developed now? I can't wait to find out.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A day in the life of a liveaboard, part 2

May is a month filled with celebrations - Cinco De Mayo, Mother's Day, birthdays, graduations, anniversary, and at the end of the month, Memorial Day. In the last seven days alone, we've had 4 potluck dinners/parties. Weather wise, the pollen was horrible this season. It was also unpredictable, swinging from spring one day to summer the next, followed by winter temperatures (low 50s) in between. Considering some places had wild fires (north San Diego), snow (Denver), tornadoes (the midwest) and flooding (mid-Atlantic), this is a minor inconvenience. We're happy and thankful the tornadoes did not make it across the Tennessee Valley.

Yesterday turned out to be such a gorgeous sunny spring day we grabbed the opportunity to take the boat out for a spin. And got several friends and a dog to come along for the ride.

a gorgeous sunny spring day at Lake Nickajack
Our adorable Simba enjoyed the ride

Beth's sister's RV at Marion County Park
view of the Marion Memorial Bridge from Marion County Park
When we returned to the marina, another delicious potluck dinner was awaiting us. Thank you Julie! After dinner, I fed the leftovers to the fish. I love watching the turtles. Several were around, and they even fought with the fish for the food!

Life is good on the river.

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

April showers bring May flowers

It must be spring.

Yesterday's rain brought fog to the marina this morning.
Cabins on the water
Here today, gone tomorrow. I saw these gorgeous cherry blossoms in a local neighborhood last week;  with the strong winds we've had, these fleeting beauties are probably gone.

I'm envious about my friend Evelyn's upcoming trip to Hokkaido, Japan, no doubt,  to see the magnificent cherry blossoms. I'm eager to see her pictures and hear about her trip. Hopefully, she'll find the time to write a guest post here ... This weekend is the last weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. If you like blues music and find yourself in my favorite city, St Pete, the Tampa Bay Blues Festival, is on this weekend at the Vinoy Basin in downtown.

Let's go out and celebrate spring before it's all over! Have a great weekend!

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Port of Call: Marco Island, Florida

The calendar says it's spring, but it sure feels like winter (frost warning last night and temperature was 37 degrees F this morning in Chattanooga). This winter has been the coldest and longest in our seven years here in Tennessee.

We're lucky to have family and friends living in Florida. Every winter, we dutifully make our pilgrimage south to visit with them (thanks for having us, folks!) We returned from such a trip about two weeks ago. While in Marco Island, our friends told us that their island was voted the number 1 Best island in the U.S. by TripAdvisor's 2014 Traveler's Choice. Like all lists, we don't know who these people are and how they go about rating and ranking them. Personally, we love Anna Maria Island, Nantucket and Hilton Head,  number 3, 8 and 9 on the list, respectively. Heard a lot of great things about Hawaiian islands, and there were several on the list. Anyway, the accolade was bittersweet for our friends because they hate to see more traffic on their beloved island.
Beaches of Marco Island
While we're not in love with Marco Island, we do love the beauty and the abundance of nature and wildlife in the area. I'll never forget the times we cruised there and anchored at Factory Bay. The entrance to Factory Bay is shallow in the middle (sailors beware!). We had to pull a sailboat off the sandbar as we were coming in to anchor here one February over ten years ago (I tell ya, time flies when you're having fun).
Looking at bridge to Marco Island from Factory Bay anchorage
Our friend's boat Island Time entering Factory Bay
Mai Thai anchored at Factory Bay

Captain took the dinghy over to meet our friends on Island Time.
On another cruise to Marco, we met up with our boater-turned-RV friend, who gave us a tour of Goodland (also very shallow) in his center cockpit, followed by an awesome lunch at Old Marco Lodge (free docking). When we returned to our boat, we found it swarmed with gnats, tiny black bugs that didn't bite, but was just gross. We spent the entire evening trying to kill them.
Dolphin sighting are common in the bay and around the canals
Hopefully, spring will be here soon, and we can get outside to do some hiking and boating.

What's your favorite U.S. island?

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