Sunday, December 6, 2015

Port of Call: Apalachicola, Florida

We had called on Apalachicola almost ten years ago, when we cruised from the Tampa Bay to Mobile Bay. This sleepy coastal town charmed us with its historic antebellum homes, unique shops   and restaurants. Not to mention its prized oysters! We're thankful to have friends in the area and happy the town still retains its old Florida feel.
Fishing is the religion of Apalachicola, as you can see from its Christmas decor
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, some antebellum homes were opened for tours. We visited the Raney House and the Orman House, and learned that Apalachicola was an important and busy port in the mid-1800s, shipping cotton to textile mills in Europe and New England. Fishing and tourism have since replaced the cotton trade. Sadly, the BP oil spill in 2010 decimated the oyster industry. All the oysters now come from nearby Louisiana. They were still very good and reasonably priced, at $9.99 a dozen at Papa Joe's, which moved to its downtown location last year.

Raney House all decked up for the holidays
Front door of the Raney House

a symbol of Southern hospitality
a silk Chinese gown hanging in the bedroom of the Orman House
Apalachicola's annual Christmas celebration was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Families and tourists awaited at the city dock for Santa to arrive on a shrimp boat. The festivities included dancing performances, luminaries lining the streets all over town, and carolers serenading diners at various restaurants. We were lucky to be eating at the Seafood Grill when they came by.
Luminaries lining the streeet

Have a great holiday, y'all!

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Serendipity ... at Foster Falls

Lately, we've been discovering hiking trails closer to our marina. Several weeks ago, we hiked Foster Falls in Sequatchie, a mere 30 minutes drive away. Our timing was serendipitous, as we got to see some pretty fall colors.
Fall colors at the entrance to Foster Falls Recreation Area
Foster Falls, a 60-foot waterfall

With temperature dropping to freezing this weekend, we seized the opportunity to hike Foster Falls area again. We had wanted to hike a different trail, but couldn't find it, so back to Foster Falls we went.

Serendipity was with us again. An empty parking spot (this place is packed with hikers, campers and climbers!) awaited us. As soon as we got out of the car, we heard the falls roaring in the background. With gusto. The recent rainstorm was responsible for the huge volume of water rushing down the 60-foot falls. We felt a rush of adrenaline, and eagerly hiked down the rocky path to the foot of the falls. Most of the leaves were gone. We sat and watch the water rushing down the rocky cliffs, and let it mesmerize us for a little while.
Foster Falls, after the rain
Suspension Bridge

Picnic area
Entrance to campsite
Stay warm and Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Port of Call: Newport, Rhode Island

Hope y'all had a happy Fourth of July!

Chattanooga's Fourth of July Pops on the River concert on the waterfront is quite decent. However. the heavy rain this morning and the weather forecast of 100% chance of thunderstorm might have steered people (us included) away from the celebration. It was just as well 'cos our marina usually has a good fireworks display. It's the one thing it does well. Did we luck out on the weather! It was bright and dry from the afternoon to evening. All the usual suspects gathered around to watch the fireworks. An hour later, it rained.

Having previously lived in Boston, we've had many unforgettable Fourth of July celebrations in the New England area. Several years ago, I wrote an article about a fourth of July experience for the now shuttered Associated Content website. Here's the article, complete with pictures and videos:

One of my most memorable fourth of July celebration is of the time when a bunch of us boaters (okay, seven gas-guzzling powerboats. This was 1999, when fuel prices were quite normal) decided to cruise to Newport, Rhode Island to see the fireworks. This same group had gone to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for the celebration the year before, and had such a good time that they decided to make it an annual event. We chose Newport because it is the yachting capital, and most of us hadn’t cruised that area before.
Newport Waterfront
When we cast off from our marina in Marina Bay, it was so foggy we could hardly see the boat in front of us. Thank God for radar! Fortunately, the fog lifted as the morning wore on. We arrived at our first stop, Kingman Marine, without incident. After we docked and cleaned up, we got together to discuss our plans for the next day, July 4th. We learned that the weather was going to deteriorate later in the night, with strong winds of 20 to 25 knots, not a good day to be out on the water. We decided to play by ear and wait. Next day, the winds were blowing so hard that even Newport had to postpone the fireworks! We stayed put and spent the day biking around the marina and trading boating stories with our friends.
Biking at Kingman Marine
The weather calmed down the following day. We took off for our final destination - Newport Harbor Marina. Located next to Bowens Wharf, the marina is a stone’s throw to all the action of Newport - unique gift shops, galleries, restaurants, eateries and bars along and off the waterfront. A church with a white steeple, a familiar sight in New England, is a mere two blocks away from the marina. Newport is a hot spot for college kids, much to our surprise. The streets were congested with these young people and loud music wafted from their cars. Two hours wait for a table at restaurants seemed to be the norm. We didn't mind. We were on island time, and it was 5 o'clock somewhere.
Bowens Wharf
It's party time! Sitting on the dock next to the old Mai Thai
One day, we went biking on the famous Cliff's walk, a public walking path that hugs the ocean and the cottages, er, mansions of the gilded age. What a magnificent view of the ocean!
The Breakers (taken in April 2011)
Cliff Walk
After three days of partying, we split with our friends and left Newport for some serious R&R. We had taken up on our sailboater friends’ invitation to join them at Hadley Harbor, near Woods Hole. As we approached the entrance, we radioed Joe, and he came out on his dinghy to lead us in to the anchorage. His boat Tokalon was on a mooring.
Joie de Vie, Tokalon, Mai Thai at Hadley Harbor
We tied up to her starboard side. On the port side was his friends Adrien and Nina's sailboat Joie de Vie. Joe introduced us to his dad and seven-year old granddaughter Jessica.

Dinghying around Hadley Harbor
Later, we rode the dinghy to a beach for a swim and searched for quahogs (called hard-shell clams in other parts of the United States). The water was amazingly warm. After exploring the various islands, we returned with at least a dozen of our prized quahogs. Joe had found a couple dozens earlier, so he proceeded to shuck them. Eaten raw, these shellfish make delectable appetizers. You cannot get them any fresher than this. Life indeed is good.
tied up at Vineyard Haven, Martha's Vineyard
After appetizers and cocktails, we swam and canoed around the boat for a little while before sitting down to a delicious dinner - more quahogs, steamed this time, shrimp, kielbasa, among others. We topped off the evening with a boat ride across the sound to Vineyard Haven for ice cream. And Jessica thought we were kidding!

Alas, we missed the fireworks, but this is one Independence Day celebration we will never forget.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Riverbend Music Festival: a First Experience


Since a boater friend introduced us to the CMA Festival in Nashville, we've been going to it almost every June. Yes, we love it that much, and we're not even country music fans! But this year, thanks to our boat neighbor Glenda, we stayed in Chattanooga and went to the 9-day Riverbend Music Festival. So how did we like Riverbend?
Coke Stage
TN Aquarium in the background
You name it, we fry it
Riverbend opened with a bang, with an electrifying performance by 3 Doors Down on Friday, followed by the talented entertainer Martina McBride on Saturday. Both concerts were awesome, and we had a mighty great time. 
On Monday, it was the Bessie Smith Strut. It sounded like a huge block party complete with blues music and southern food, like fried chicken and barbecue, all things we love, so we had to go. Not knowing that the Riverbend tickets were no good here (entrance fee was $10 a person, and nowhere was this advertised), and you couldn't bring your water with you.  The rain made the decision for us. We couldn't envision ourselves eating barbecue with one hand and carrying an umbrella with another, squished amongst the crowd. We left and drove downtown to get our share of barbecue at Sticky Fingers, in a comfortable setting, watching the rain come down. On the way home, the rain quit, and we stopped to take this picture of the Tennessee River at the boat ramp across from Sullivans Bait and Tackle (Daymark 439.5)
Tranquility after the rain
We later learned that Bessie Smith was a legendary blues performer in the 1920s, and that HBO had just released the film Bessie (played by Queen Latifah) last month. Smith was a native of Chattanooga.
Last day of Riverbend, around sunset
This past Saturday was the last day of the Riverbend Music Festival. We were disappointed with the rock band Stone Temple Pilot. The music was way too loud for our taste, and judging from the audience's reaction, they weren't thrilled either. We thought we could escape the heat by coming to town around sunset (temperatures were in the low 90s), but it was still hot and muggy. We did not bring our chairs this time, so we wandered around to find a good vantage point for the fireworks later. 
Looking at the boats on the waterfront from the left side of the Coke Stage
Looking at the waterfront from above Ross Landing 
We walked all the way down to where the boats were docked and up the stairs to find 8TRK playing 70s and 80s music at the TVFCU stage underneath a bridge. This was a cozy stage with tables and seats, and with a few fans blowing, the air was a tad cooler. The music was better too.

Artsy tables at the TVFCU Stage
The grand finale was the fireworks. We watched them outside the festival gate, from the TN Aquarium grounds.

In conclusion, Riverbend was a fun experience. But if we have to choose between Riverbend and the CMA Festival in Nashville (they both happen on the same weekend in June), we would choose the latter. Nashville is a bigger city with lots more live music venues and restaurants. Also, many concerts set up on outdoor stages are free.

What's your favorite music festival?

Updated: 5/30/20

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Monday, May 18, 2015

A day in the life of a liveaboard, part 3

There is never a dull moment living on the river. One moment you're feeding the ducks, next you're witnessing a fire.
A fifth wheel was engulfed in flames
Around 9 am, we did our customary walk up the hill with our neighbor friend Debbie. A quarter of the way up, we looked down at the campground part of the marina, and wonder when the swimming pool will be fixed. Then hubby commented on the nice tent that an RVer had put up.

Back on the boat, I spent some time inspecting my little garden. The geese saw me and a flock immediately swam over with their goslings. I understood what they wanted and went in to get some bread. And my camera. These geese are fiercely territorial, not only protecting their young, but also protecting their space.

The sound of a siren abruptly broke the peace and quiet. A fire truck came rambling through the marina and headed for the north side where the campground is located. Debbie said a camper had caught on fire. I grabbed my camera and went to check it out. Sorry, I'm not a reporter, so I don't have the whole story. All I know is that no one was inside, and no one was hurt. Thank God!
camper on fire

And how was your day?

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