Our Own Private Champage Cruise

sunset cruise in Ft. Lauderdale

Weeks before my parents arrived, I received an email from my mom asking if we would be interested in taking a sunset cruise during our time in Fort Lauderdale. I was ecstatic to hear this, but also a little surprised as it can be hard to get my parents out for boat rides sometimes.  Especially ones that lead to the ocean. Maybe it was because they knew we could book it the day of, making sure to watch weather conditions; maybe it was because they knew a company that caters to tourist probably wouldn’t go out in some of the conditions Matt and I have been forced to endure; or maybe it was because they must have known how much we’re missing our time on the water and wanted to give us a little piece of that back.  Because my parents are awesome like that.

For awhile during our vacation it looked like we may not actually be able to get out on this excursion that I’d now been looking forward to for weeks.  When we first arrived to Fort Lauderdale the winds were extremely strong, the seas were high enough to be bouncy, and even if the cruises were still running the ride would most likely be very uncomfortable.  Once the winds died down the rain started up, and every day was a guess of when the showers would be in and for how long.  This was not the November we were expecting in Florida, and it seemed we were stuck in summer-like weather patterns.

It took until almost our last day before leaving for us to make this happen.  The morning and afternoon had all been off and on rain showers, although the evening looked promising. Visiting in the mid afternoon, just to get a feel for the area so we didn’t rush ourselves later, we purchased tickets and took a look at the boat.  This part of the day was still sunny and they’d just come in from taking a group snorkeling and swimming the reefs just outside the inlet.  Who knew those even existed in Fort Lauderdale? The office mentioned they go out rain or shine, and if we showed up to go, they would take us.

The late afternoon was quite questionable, but my favorite site of Passage Weather showed that precipitation would be gone, waves would be non existent, and winds would be very little.  That sounded just fine to me.  I didn’t need a thrill ride of a sunset tour, I just needed a good sunset and a full glass of champagne.  And if the clouds indeed clear up, I’d be promised 2 out of 2. Luckily the universe did take a little pity on me and the clouds did part just in time for our departure from the condo.

Arriving at the Spirit of Fort Lauderdale, we found another surprise.  We were the only ones to sign up for that evenings cruise.  We had the whole catamaran to ourselves! I was hoping that meant each person on board each received their own bottle of champagne, but that request was quickly smashed down.  (It’s ok, there was still Dos XX in the fridge for when I got back…)  We had Captain Mike and Jason on duty that night, and as soon as they finished with the required safety speech, the dock lines where thrown off and we had the music pumping out of the speakers to whatever station we wanted.  Since we had full run of the place.

The crew members quickly became our talking buddies, and we turned the cruise into a big hangout session instead of us by ourselves and them by themselves. Gliding down the ICW and closer to the inlet the sun was already dipping and the sky was radiating different colors of yellow and pink. As we passed by mega yachts and mega mansions, Mike and Jason were able to give us the history or some background on a lot of these boats and homes

my family at a sunset cruise

ICW Ft. Lauderdale

waterfront house in Ft. Lauderdale

One of the best parts of the trip for me, how lame is this, was coming up to the 17th St. Causeway and not having to lift a finger to get under it.  No hailing the bridge tender, no controlling the boat so I could time our approach just perfectly, and no watching for oncoming traffic to avoid.  I was able to just sit back and watch the waterfront restaurants begin to light up their decks, or finally get a good look at all these ridiculously large yachts we were passing by.

On the other side of the bridge we found ourselves right upon the inlet to the Atlantic and it was time to raise the sails.  Another thing I did not have to lift a finger for.  By this time the sun was fully down and we were surrounded by a soft pink lighting behind us, and a deepening blue as we made our way out into open waters.  A slight chop was coming through, and I joined my parents on the trampoline up by the bow, and rode the small waves like a ride until a few began splashing up underneath us and trying to soak our pants.

going under 17th St. bridge

dad under bridge

raising the mainsail

sunset cruise Fort Lauderdale

Spirit of Fort Lauderdale

It turned out that the little wind I had been watching earlier turned out to be much too small to fill our sails. Getting out into open water, we sailed close hauled for a bit as we slightly bobbed around in the small swells.  The sail that didn’t want to stay full was smacking back and forth a bit, and very much reminded me of our sail from Miami to Bermuda.

Once the sky began to turn black, the consensus on board was that without much sailing happening there wasn’t a lot of reason to stay out in the Atlantic just to run up the clock.  There could still be touring done inside the canals.  Turning the boat around we had a slightly more comfortable and half a knot faster sail back inside the waterway. As soon as we were inside and the sails were lowered it was time for the champagne to come out.

Giving a big toast between ourselves and to our crew, we had a fantastic run for the last little bit of our cruise.  With my full glass of champagne, we all stood out on deck and watched the bright lights of the city shining down on us.  As a special treat, and since we had a little extra time, we made a run down a side canal to take a look at a few of the waterfront homes and took a little shock in realizing that most people did not put blinds into their living rooms or kitchens.  And I have to say, a few of the meals I was able to see prepared looked really delicious.

Before we knew it we were sliding back into our slip at the marina and it was time to trade in our sailing hat for a land based one.  Cruisers living on dirt once again.  It was a great experience to get there once again, and if anything it’s going to give me more drive to work even harder on our boat to get here back out as soon as possible.  But of course this night would not have been as special without my wonderful parents, for taking us on this cruise and enjoying their company while we were out.  We were also blessed with a fantastic crew that made the experience incredibly enjoyable and made it feel as if we were out on the water with any number of new cruising friends we make along the way.  The perfect way to wrap up another fantastic visit from my family.

Ft. Lauderdale inlet

17th St. bridge at night

champagne cruise Spirit of Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale canals

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The Hidden Gem that is Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

The condo we’re staying at with my parents in Fort Lauderdale happens to be about one block from the Bonnet House.  While brainstorming up things to do with our time there, it obviously came up as a contender.  It’s supposed to be a beautiful house full of history, and lavish grounds to wander. I’m sure many visitors have spent long afternoons there doing just this.  We were almost some of them.  Until I took a look at their website and found that tours cost $20/person.  Even if you only wanted to walk the grounds you had to hand over $10.  A quick tram ride could get you through for $2.

As soon as we saw these prices though, Matt and I did not want to participate in any of it.  Not that my parents couldn’t or didn’t want to hand over this money for us all to have an afternoon out, they were more than happy to have this as a possibility for ‘Things to Do’ during our time here.  The thing was…I knew of a much better place for us to spend an afternoon.  One that happened to be completely free.

Last May when Matt and I had about a month to kill in Miami waiting on specific paperwork for the cat before we could make our Atlantic crossing to Europe, we spent a lot of time with our cruising friends Alfredo and Ana Bianca, and family of theirs that lived on Key Biscayne. One afternoon while visiting, where we had a little more time on our hands than they did, they sent us off on a pair of bicycles to check out a nice local beach called Crandon Park. With the exception of having a house to tour (and based on the photos, I’m not sure it would have been my style), these grounds were much more appealing.

Here is one thing I can not understand about this park.  Every time we have summer here; summer; winter; weekday; weekend; it is always empty.  A complete ghost town, which is surprising considering how beautiful it is. As we parked our car in the vacant lot, we walked the sidewalk leading up to the beach, making sure to stop for just a moment to take in one of my favorite perks of this park.  Situated on the south side of the beach is a bird sanctuary, with it’s own trails and sitting areas, this area used to be one of the leading zoos in the country back in the 1960′s.  Having previously hosted over 1,000 animals of over 380 species, it’s open air animal exhibits now sit empty, and the birds which currently reside there are allowed to roam free.

Such is the case of the ostentation of peacocks we found lining the fence as we arrived.  Very accustomed to visitors and handouts of food, they are not shy of people and it’s quite easy to get a close up view of them.  Saving a more thorough stroll of those grounds for just a little later, we instead made our way to the palm trees and shoreline. Passing by shaded picnic areas and charcoal grills, we left the pavement and slid off our shoes as we entered the warm mid day sand.

One thing Matt and I agreed of why we love this beach so much is that other than it’s magnificent turquoise colored waters and tall sprouting palm trees, for some reason it looks as if it would fit much better into the coast of North Carolina than Southern Florida. With the exception of a few high rises at the very far end of the beach, the area appears very secluded and not at all flashy.  Although I do love a good afternoon of people watching and viewing all the vibrantly colored life guard stations on South Beach…this area just seems cleaner and more uniform.  But in a good way.

The light yellow lifeguard stands pop out perfectly from the vivid waters behind them and the palm trees lining each side. It’s a quiet area, very peaceful.  Just a short drive from the major metropolis of Miami, yet you still have the sense of solitude.  At low tide there are shallow pools to wade in, and any time is perfect for diving into a novel without surrounding distractions.  I don’t know, I can’t describe it. Just a little slice of perfection in Southern Florida that we never seem to get enough time to spend in.

Such was the case this afternoon as we had no suits on us for swimming or umbrellas to shade us from the sweltering sun. We did make a quick run of the sanctuary where most of the birds seemed to be hiding on this particular day, but the iguanas were have the run of the grounds. Once we realized that we were approaching late afternoon we did make our way up to bustling South Beach to find a nice outdoor cafe for some lunch and people watching. Since we couldn’t make the most of Crandon Park, it did seem only the logical thing to do.

peacocks at Crandon Park

picnic area, Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

my parents at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica at Crandon Park

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

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Off to the Coast!

Fort Lauderdale Beach

It’s vacation time again!  Just five weeks after returning from a week long escape in Stuart with Matt’s family, my parents have just flown in to take us away for a week to Fort Lauderdale. The rents are back for the second time this year and we couldn’t be happier to see them! And I’m sorry, but I do have to take a quick second and poke a little fun at them, as when I called them by this slang term in a post during their previous visit, they had no idea what it meant.  Funny.  I thought I was dating myself by using it.

Anyway….they arrived at the marina on Thanksgiving, but unfortunately a few hours later than all the festivities being held here that day.  We did manage to save them a few plates of turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, and even the keg hadn’t been tapped yet so there was still free cold beer to enjoy with our late lunch/early dinner. Having them stay at the only hotel Indiantown has to offer, we all met back up the next morning for breakfast and drove out to see my grandparents in Sebring.

Hopping back in the rental car after a nice afternoon and lunch spent with them (no way we were going to chance the van breaking down driving across the state), we set off for Fort Lauderdale and only had to make one stop at a questionable gas station in Clewston before pulling into our hotel just after the sun set. A little bit different than when we had all taken off to Fort Lauderdale in April, this time we were only a block from the beach, staying in a high rise with the Atlantic on one side and the ICW on the other. It was a balmy yet very windy night, although it was not stop us from taking a stroll down Beach Blvd.  Even in the dark and across the street we could see giant waves crashing against the shore, and before we even left I knew it would be necessary to change from my dress into jeans.  Not because of dropping temperatures, but because if I hadn’t I would have ended up with it over in my head. Trust me, it was doing a good job of trying in the parking lot upon our arrival.

Since I had underestimated the size of the city blocks here (or had only read street names with bridges), I had vastly misjudged our distance from Sunrise down to Las Olas Blvd, where all the happening bars and restaurants were, so instead of making it down there to possibly grab a drink we turned around and took the back roads back to the hotel where we were slightly blocked from the strong east winds. Not to let that hold us back from enjoying that beer together, we got in the car once more to do a little necessary grocery shopping at the Publix up the road and stocked ourselves up on some Dos XX and limes to get us through the next few days.  Ending the night in front of the tv, we were all exhausted after our recent traveling over the past few days, barley keeping our eyes open through an interesting reenactment of the Donner party.  You may joke, but I honestly would have been in bed an hour earlier if we hadn’t been watching it.

In the morning we took our sweet time getting ready, with really no place to be.  Sitting over coffee and each person person playing on their computer or tablet for bit (I may be a little ashamed to admit that I’ve been spending a bit too much time with our Instagram account lately, getting it going) we did force ourselves out for a daylight walk before lunch, walking across the draw bridge to watch the sailboats going south, and then out to the beach to stick our toes in the water.

Jessica and parents

Jessica & parents

Matt at draw bridge

sail boats under draw bridge

Fort Lauderdale

day at beach

We’ve been spending a few days just relaxing around the condo, getting the use of a full kitchen again, and even running some errands around town.  It’s never a bad day when your parents want to take you shopping at Bed Bath & Beyond to help you stock up your galley with gadgets and provide you with new bath towels since the ones you have are six years old.  Ick.  We also took an afternoon to go to the movie theater and see the newest Hunger Games.  We even ended up at one of those fancy movie theaters where they serve food and drinks during the show.  A literal dinner & a movie date.  We skipped on the food, but most of us did partake in an adult beverage.  Watching a movie on the big screen with an ice cold Sam Adams in my hand?  A pretty cool way to spend an afternoon.

Speaking of going out for a beer, we also somewhat ran into some cruising friends here!  For the past two years we’ve been talking to and trying to meet up with Rebecca and Brian of Summertime Rolls.  There’s even been more than one occasion where we’ve missed each other by only a day or to.  Us getting to the Bahamas a day or two after they left; or them arriving to the Virgin Islands only a few days after we left. When they had seen on our Facebook page that we were in Ft. Lauderdale they let us know they happened to be just up the road!

Finding an Irish Pub one block up from us that had a very good happy hour, the four of us finally met and spent a good few hours talking about our past few years sailing.  Not only have we cruised so many of the same grounds, but our social circles consist of basically all the same people, so the conversations were endless. Definitely a bit of fun and unexpected serendipity thrown into our schedule.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of our time here holds for us.

drinks w. Summertime Rolls

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A Saturday Sail with s/v Selah

If there was one thing that kept me going during those torturous days of sanding and other painfully dull jobs that I had been complaining about not to long ago, it’s that our friends Bo and Allison had promised us a day out on their boat as soon as they arrived back to Stuart after finishing up jobs and other odd and end things. Back on Daze Off while my arm were growing numb and dust kept seeping into the corners of my mask, I could usually keep myself happy in my head with daydreams about a fresh breeze blowing through my hair while having a good conversation with my friends, and most importantly, a cold cocktail in my hands.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with these guys, but the promise of booze makes any outing infinitely better.

There were a few times that plans were made and then cancelled due to last minute things with work and family, but eventually they made it down to Florida, as as soon as their boat had it’s owners back for a few days to get it in ship shape, we were on our way. All of the 90 degree weather that had been bothering us for so much of the month had now decided to replace itself with off and on showers for the past few days, but we were not going to let that keep us from getting out on the water and having a good time. Walking down the dock in my new rain jacket and a set of Keds that had not yet been broken in and were tearing at the flesh of my heels, I quickly kicked them off and made myself at home as soon as we stepped aboard their 42 ft Brewer, Selah.

There were of course hugs to go around, as well as a tour of their boat to see how the layout differentiated from all the other Brewers we seem to have been spending time on in the last year.  They showed us their new fridge and freezer with pull out drawers as we stood there drooling over it, since we had found something very similar we almost purchased, only it wouldn’t fit in our space.  Time for 5-foot-itis to set in already. A few more spaces to tour, and we were ready to get this party underway.  Before we could head out to the open waters of the St. Lucie River though, we needed to swing by and pick up a few other boaters in the mooring yard.

New friends to Bo and Allison, Cameron and Dani are another set of young cruisers that are looking into the lifestyle of setting off into the sunset, and are currently living in Florida while trying out a new boat for them (long story).  We quickly rafted up to their 41′ Morgan with painted blue handrails and took a moment to tour it as well as play with their adorable cat and dog. Soon the 6 of us were piled on to Selah and were off again.  During the ride we had a nice presentation of fresh veggies and dip places in front of us, and after I returned to the cockpit after a quick trip below, I found a mimosa waiting for me as well.  Even with threatening clouds in the background, this day was off to a great start.

The sails may not have been attached to the boat yet, and no one felt like catching a bridge opening to get to a wider bay of water, so we just moved ourselves a mile up the river and dropped anchor off the side of the channel.  A better way to spend the day anyway, so this way no one had to watch out for other boats or shoaling, and we were able to just sit in the cockpit and enjoy each others company.

Bo

Jessica in Vineyard Vines

Bo grilling burgers

After having a fun little photoshoot on deck where I was able to show off some of the new gear we just received from Vineyard Vines, the grill was fired up and lunch was turning into a fancy affair with burgers made from grass fed beef and placed on a buttered bun. The mimosas had been finished off and we were moving on to ice cold beers as all of us talked about our sailing experiences in Florida and how thankfully this whole boat realized how overrated Marathon is. I told myself I would never bring it up again after our quick visit there, but yes, it is a floating trailer park.

As Bo and Allison get ready to depart for the Bahamas, we gave them our ‘not to miss’ list of places that we really liked while we were there, and they promised to make a list for us of their favorite places in the Abacos.  An area we have yet to hit in that island group. Dani and Cam are planning on sitting tight in Florida for just a little longer while they cruise while having the ability to work from their computers.  Lucky bastards.  Just joking, they’re a great couple and we may have been just a teensy bit jealous that they still have a paycheck coming in.  It does suck to watch your bank account dwindle down, and rebuilding a boat does not help.

We were lucky that the storms appeared to be passing all around us, but never over us.  And although we could have stayed out all night, (Which was my original hope.  Slumber party!) Matt and I had to get back to Indiantown for a Saturday BBQ they put on and we had signed ourselves up for as well as promised our presence to a few people.  While we were busy trying to get all our friends to come back with us, they were busy trying to get us to stay for the rest of the night.  With the promise of cold beer and a Hot’n'Ready pizza, it was a tough coin to flip.

Indiantown eventually won out, with only two of us attendees, and so it was time to drop Cam and Dani back off at their boat and bring Selah to her slip. We didn’t have the sun or even any sails for our day out, but it was exactly what we needed. I will say that I’m disappointed that this is the only time we’ll be able to get out and do this again because everyone but us will be moving on, although maybe that just means we’ll have to hunt Bo and Allison down somewhere in the Bahamas or Caribbean when we’re ready for a good long break from boat work.

Cam and Allison

Matt in Vineyard Vines

Jessica on St. Lucie River

rain on St. Lucie River

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Update on the Stray Cats of Indiantown Marina

Wednesday October 28, 2015

Cairo, calico cat

In case you’ve been curious about what has become of the stray cats of the marina that we’ve kind of been looking after…well, they’re still here!  And we’re still looking after them.

We’ve actually developed a bit of a routine with these three cats lately and it always starts with them waiting at the bottom of our stairs for us every morning.  I run to the van and unlock their container of food, where they follow me right to the door and wind between my ankles as Georgie watches curiously on her leash a few feet away.  Even shy and timid Bandit will come right up to me when it’s time for food, but still goes running five feet away when I reach out my hand to see if she’ll sniff it.  Then us three (me, Matt & Georgie) head off to breakfast at the patio while the cats eat theirs under the boat, and they’re always gone by the time we return 30 minutes later.

Into the late morning and early afternoon they’re still off hiding wherever they go to get their privacy.  Maybe they’re cat napping after getting up at sunrise and waiting for us to come down and feed them, but they should know our schedule now and be well aware of the fact that we like to sleep in.  No rising before 8:30 am. Just after lunch we might see a little movement from them, but not all the time.  It’s strange though because either we see absolutely no sign or they’re boarding our boat and looking for new places to settle in.  I get extremely giddy about this, but Matt thinks they’re becoming just a little too comfortable. I suppose I shouldn’t let myself get too attached since I know they’ll be out of our lives in about 6 months.

In the late afternoon just a few hours before sunset they become super active.  At least the kittens are.  Lynx kind of lays back and watches and Cairo and Bandit play around.  They love to bat at pebbles and pounce on pieces of grass.  They also wrestle with each other which is one of the most adorable things I’ve ever seen.  Partially because Bandit makes this face while she’s trying to bite her sister, and somehow becomes even uglier than she already is.  Not in the way that it’s so ugly it’s cute like her normal face, but a This is going to haunt my dreams kind of ugly.  Poor thing.  It’s what makes me want her the most of the three.

On the subject of finding homes for these kitties, I have had a few inquires, but the prospects were unfortunately not close enough to come get them.  Anywhere from a 2 hour drive but no access to a car, to being half way around the world.  One day though, we’ll find something that works out.  The big issue now is trying to make sure no more litters of kitties come around that need adopting.

I’ve called the local humane society and found out that for $40 per cat I can get a spay, microchip and vaccinations.  Not a bad price!, really.  The only issue is catching the cats to bring them in for an appointment.  I doubt Lynx would be an issue as she is incredibly affectionate and often seeks me out each afternoon for scratching her chin and rubbing her belly.  I can’t *guarantee* that I’d be able to get her on any given day though, and the appointments are non-refundable.  Catching the other 2? Fuggedaboutit.  Bandit won’t come anywhere near me and Cairo will sometimes fall into a dead sleep nap under our boat, but that is the only time I’ve been able to touch her.  (But I did give her a belly rub the one time she did and it was fantastic!)

I did hear from the Humane Society that Animal Control sometimes goes around once a month to trap stray cats and spay them.  They’re next on my list to call, but I just keep hoping there’s no reason for them to come back and ‘take care’ of these cats later for any reason.  Like getting AC involved will somehow end up in their demise.

So that is where we are at now.  Still trying to get them spayed and still trying to find them homes.  I did just hear from someone that the office hear might have a cat trap.  So if I can learn how to set up the trap, get one of the kittens in there, and have this miraculously happen on a day I have an appointment at the Humane Society, we’ll be all set.  At least in preventing new litters.  Anyone have some tips for me?

cats in cockpit

Lynx nursing Cairo

manx cat, Bandit

Cairo

Lynx and Bandit

Lynx sleeping

Guess what we just found out the other day?  The litter that Lynx had back in September that she seemed to have abandoned after 2 days so we assumed they were dead?  Well, they’re not.  4 healthy and adorable kittens are now roaming around with their big sisters.  Only one manx of the bunch, a spitting image of it’s mother.  Click on the link below to see them playing in their safe haven behind our boat.

kittens

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Bathtub Reef Beach

Saturday October 17, 2015

Bathtub Reef

There must be something about the water that keeps drawing us back in.  I have to remind myself of this every time (previously) that I’d had it up to my neck with cruising and living on a boat and would long for nothing more than an apartment in the high rise of a big city with my feet firmly planted on the ground.  Yet the water always drags me back and anytime I’m away for too long I find myself needing to dip my toes in and stare off into the horizon.

Which is likely why we found ourselves with Matt’s family spending another whole day at the shore as part of a vacation for all of us.  Luckily they must have the same draw to the water as we do and is probably why Matt and I were so lucky to grow up by the shores of Lake Michigan. So when yesterday came and there was the question of ‘What do we do with our day?’, all of us were ready to hit the beach.

Packing a cooler and all of Travis’ fishing gear since he had been getting a lot of good tips on shoreline fishing, we made our way to the Jensen Beach area to lay out our towels and relax in the sun.  Once again we were nearly the only people on this slice of sand.  It could have been nice and relaxing, but most of us had forgotten to bring any other forms of entertainment such as books, magazines, or music; and people watching was out as well.  Cracking open a pre-lunch beer, Matt and I split it while watching Travis’ fishing pole clunk down into the sand every time he tried walking away from it.  It was pretty soon agreed, we needed to go back to Bathtub Reef Beach.

Jensen Beach

Jensen Beach 2

After visiting a local diner for lunch while still carrying around salt in our hair and sand on our legs, we traveled back out to Hutchinson Island and turned into the now familiar drive at the Marriott to follow the road to our destination. Just as before, we pulled into the parking lot to find it nearly full.  There would be plenty of people watching here today.

Now don’t laugh at me when I say this, but none of us had been ready to do anything more than wade into the water until we got to this protected little tub. There have been a multitude of shark attacks in the area lately and we at least wanted to make it a little harder for them if they wanted to target us.  Not only having to get past the reef and into the tub, but now choosing our ankles among many instead of few.  Without now being the only option of human food around though, we were ready to go crazy in the water.

Walking out to the reef to do a little fishing we were awed to see schools of hundreds of fish riding each cresting wave toward us.  We were sure there would be fresh snapper on the grill that night until the lifeguard blew the whistle at us and said we needed to move further down the beach and away from people.  A possible blessing in disguise.

Down the point and around a corner were all these beautiful rocks that ran along the waters edge.  Grabbing our soft cooler and all the fishing gear we walked over the thousands of seashells strewn in front of us and took shelter in front of one of these large boulders.  Submerged under high tide, we were able to sneak in once it had fallen and situated ourselves on the still wet and worn away edges along the water.  With the waves crashing up and only just touching our toes, it was an excellent little spot to loose yourself to the day.  The perfect way to spend vacation time.  Away from the city, away from the high rises, but instead just sitting at the waters edge. With the water lapping at my toes as I stared off into the horizon.

Fishing at Bathtub Reef beach

Bathtub Reef Beach

Bathtub Reef Beach

(Above photos courtesy of Matt’s mom)

Bathtub Reef Beach Florida

Bathtub Reef Beach Stuart

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Our Vacation to Stuart

Wednesday October 14, 2015

Boardwalk of Stuart Florida

This week we’re very excited and very lucky, because Matt’s family is visiting us from Michigan.  Since we had never made it back there this past summer, although we totally should have, they came down to us instead.  A perfect little treat and also a much needed break away from boat work.  Having rented a two bedroom house for all of us to occupy in Stuart, just so we could go back to the boat and do some work during their visit if we wanted, we quickly realized that the boat was the last thing we wanted to see and packed our bags for the full week assuming there would be no reason to come back.

Giving them the grand tour of Daze Off (get your own personalized video tour here) we then had lunch at what is quickly becoming my favorite restaurant in Indiantown, and told them that after grabbing a few last minute thing from the boat we’d forgotten, that we’d meet them in Stuart.  All seemed well and good as we turned east on 76 with a week full of carefree fun on our minds.  Our Kia had other plans for us.

I’m not sure if it’s just deciding to test Matt and his statement of “We can just ditch this cheap van on the side of the road if it gives us too many problems”, and wanted to see how many times it could break down on us before he stayed true to his word. Just two minutes down the road the temperature levels were spiking and there was smoke pouring out of our hood.  Quickly pulling over we tightened a few hose clamps from where we’d just finished replacing the alternator and called it good.  We’d inspect it more once we arrived in Stuart.  All we had to do was get there first.

Our Kia was not so optimistic.  Another five minutes down the road the temperature levels were through the roof and just as I was looking for a side street to pull over on the engine cut out on me.  I had just enough acceleration left to use the manual steering and brakes to pull us into the driveway of a local Thoroughbred Park.  Putting a message in to Matt’s brother Travis over FB since we didn’t have anyone’s # (hey, we work through emails) we let them know they’d have to come back for us, and then went about calling a tow truck to get the van back to the marina.  First calling a guy and then cancelling because we didn’t know if he was covered by our roadside assistance, we got in touch with our insurance company who told us the closest truck was still 90 minutes away.

This is how the timeline went for the rest of the day.

4:30  Placed message to Matt’s family and called initial tow truck.

4:45 Cancel first tow truck and call insurance company

5:00 Matt’s family shows up and we begin to wait.

5:30  Insurance company calls and tells us tow truck driver has cancelled on them and they need to find us a new one.

6:00 Receive a call from insurance company.  They have found a new driver, although he is 90 minutes away.

6:30 Those two beers I had at lunch are really getting at me.  Talk Matt’s stepdad into driving me back to the marina so I can pee and also grab my camera battery charger which I’d left behind.  Also make a stop at Circle K for beer.  We’ll be needing it soon enough.

7:15 Get back to the broken down Kia with no sign of the tow truck showing up.

8:00 Get an automated call from our insurance company stating our help should have arrived by now.  Has it?

8:30 I’ve had enough of this s%*t.  We’re getting eaten alive and so the 5 of us sit smooshed in Matt’s family’s Cadillac along with all their luggage.  Just as I’m putting in a call to our insurance company I get a call from the tow truck driver stating he’s five minutes away.  Finally.

8:45 Tow truck arrives and puts the Kia on his bed.  We follow him back to the marina where he drops it off next to the boat.  We lock her up and don’t look back as we pile back in the Cadillac.  This can wait until our vacation is over.

10:00 Arrive at the Walmart in Stuart.  We’re all famished and need food stat.  Grabbing a few of the reduced price rotisserie chickens, some sides, and more beer.

11:00 Pull into the very cute rental home and claim our bedroom.  Luggage is tossed on the floor and I dive into a much needed beer.  We flip on the tv and drown our troubles in alcohol and greasy food.  Welcome to vacation.

Kia broken down

checking under hood

waiting for tow

Kia getting towed

The next day ended up being much better.  I think the universe felt bad for how our vacation began and wanted to make up for it.

For anyone who has visited the Stuart Florida area, you’ll know that it has a ton to offer and will probably be surprised that in the 7 months we’ve been living in Indiantown, we’ve never been off US-1 on our visits in.  I know.  Shame on us.  There *was* that one time I wanted to seek out a beach when Matt let me off on my own to run errands for an afternoon, but then the meet up for a Craig’s List purchased in a neighboring town was moved up about an hour and I ran out of time.  Because if I had actually made it out to the shore that day you can be damn sure I would have dragged Matt back out with me at some point.

Getting in the Cadillac in the late morning just for a drive to see what was around, sans a fishing pole jutting out next to my head this time, we kept following the signs for Beaches until we crossed a few bridges and found ourselves on Hutchinson Island. Picking one of the random and numerous signs with an umbrella and an arrow on it, we pulled into a mostly empty parking lot and followed the sandy trail out to the water.  Wow.  It was breathtaking.  I had no idea these colors of water existed on Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Since this was only supposed to be an exploration day we had not brought our swim suits, towels, or really any essentials for a day at the beach.  So instead Travis hiked his shorts up Steve Urkel style to wade in the water while I ran to and fro across the sand yelling “This is sooooo gorgeous!!!”.  Really though, you can’t blame me.  Wouldn’t you be doing the same thing if you’d just spent the past five weeks working daily on a boat and then being greeted with a view like this?

trail to Hutchinson Island Beach

Hutchinson Island Beach, FL

Jessica & Travis, Hutchinson Island Beach

Travis & Matt at Hutchinson Island Beach

Since we had let ourselves fully enjoy our morning with about three cups of coffee and lounging, just this one stop had already put us past lunch time.  Matt’s mom having read wonderful things about the downtown Stuart area and it’s restaurants, we made our way there to see if we could rustle up some grub.  It turn out that yes, there are in fact a lot of nice restaurants to choose from.  You’ll just pay out of your a$$ to eat there.  If it were dinner we probably wouldn’t have minded the splurge but all we were looking for was to make our stomachs stop growling and we didn’t want to pay $12 a burger to do so.

The good new was, just as we were about to jump back in the car and make our way out to a Burger King or McDonalds, we found a really nice pizza joint with some great prices.  Sold by the slice the servings were huge and we added some garlic knots on top for the perfect lunch.  It was so big that half of us couldn’t even finish our one slice and may have groaned that we’re ‘never eating again’.

downtown Stuart Florida

Boardwalk, Stuart Florida

Our day of investigating what Stuart had to offer was long from over though.  Wanting to check out another beach we made a quick pit stop back at the rental house for all our beach gear since it was on the way.  Then it was back over the bridges and over the ICW until we were on Hutchinson Island once more.  This time on our way to Bathtub Reef Beach though.

Something I had actually researched before and found highly reviewed on Trip Advisor, I had originally brushed it aside because the photos were horrible and it did not look like anything special.  If only I had done a Google search in addition.  Fortunately Matt’s mom had also taken a look and probably had seen more to it than I had a my first glance.  She mentioned it was a place she wanted to take a look at and we’re so happy she did.

The beach itself was not as secluded as our little area closer to Jensen Beach, but the reef part was perfect.  It left a few sandbars and other areas that went as deep as 6 ft before shoaling again near the reef a few hundred feet out from shore.  Basically it was a big protected swimming pool.  Except for the jellyfish we were sharing the water with that day, but we just kept a close eye out for them. Oh yes, and one shark feeding on a school of fish that caused the lifeguard to blow his whistle and order everyone out of the water.  Luckily we had already gotten our swimming in for the day by that point.

For the rest of the afternoon we sat on our towels soaking up the sun or walking the shore line and hunting shells.  We found that if you walked further north up the beach you could find secluded areas in front of the private homes and also some beautiful rock formations along the water.  Even though it was only the beginning of our trip we all knew we’d be back here at least one more time.  It was a little slice of heaven that’s been hiding right under our eyes this whole time we’ve living here.  How could we not know about it?

Oh, and did I mention they let you bring alcohol on the beach? Now we know where we’ll be bringing all of our cruising friends for a day at the beach once they get down to Florida.

Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

Jessica on Bathtub Reef Beach, Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida

 

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Siesta Beach – The Best in the US

Thursday September 4, 2015

Siesta Beach Siesta Key

There was no way we could visit Siesta Key with out visiting it’s beach.  The #1 beach in the USA in 2011 actually.  Even on our overcast skies and windy day walks on there we could see why.  Going with the sun beating down on us the next day though upped it’s beauty even more.

The house we’re staying at made it super easy to get to the beach with everything you needed.  Deciding against stocking the giant cooler that was sitting in the closet, we did fill up the plastic beach wagon with an umbrella, beach mats, and some swim noodles.  There was an option for lounge chairs but we left those behind as well. Walking the two blocks to the shore entrance we passed by a few of the town’s cute little shops and restaurants as well as the Daiquiri Deck across the street.  A place I am still trying to drag Matt to so I can sample one of it’s 25 different kinds of daiquiris.  Things would be so much easier if I were married to someone that liked to drink.

We were both quite agreed about a day of sand, sun, and sea though, so it was a good thing we were headed to a beach that was just rated on Trip Advisor as 2015′s Most Beautiful Beach in the US. (Also ranked #1 in 2011 by Dr. Beach). After having spent 8 hours a day, 6-7 days a week for the past month sitting in our hot and sticky boat yard in Indiantown we were so desperate to feel a sea breeze across our faces again that we would have taken almost anything with a water view, but luckily fate dropped this gorgeous beach in our laps instead.

The remnants of Hurricane Erika were kicking up some large waves rolling into the shore, something I could not wait to dive into, but it also meant she was giving us a hell of a time trying to anchor our beach umbrella.  There were a few cases of it almost turning into a Benni Hill chase scene with the umbrella constantly trying to outsmart our moves as the wind took it from one direction to another, but eventually we found a position that work and threw our mats under it’s shade.

A little bit of our time was spent doing a little people watching from under our newly established cover.  It’s so rare now that we see anyone new in our days, it seems like the gawking police are called if a transient boat ever makes it way into the marina, so this non thrilling pasttime of ours suddenly turned into an Olympic event of being able to spot the smallest trace of moment on the sand and zeroing in on it with hawk-like intensity.  Once we got over the initial amazement of ‘Wow, when did all the women in the US begin wearing Brazilian or thong bikinis?’ it was time to try out the water.

Due to the recent number of shark attacks on humans this summer we were a little hesitant to wade into the water since these waves were kicking up enough sand that we couldn’t see anything through it.  Was that a stick that just bumped into my ankle or am I about to become the turf part of a shark’s surf n’ turf lunch?  Getting over my initial fear I jumped into the next wave that rolled past me and just had to remind myself that I’ve had a good run so far.  If a shark were about to take me out?  Well…what a way to go.

The water was sitting at a heated 87° and although I hadn’t been looking for anything ‘refreshing’ this was the perfect wave pool for me to play around in.  I had so much fun jumping in and out of the waves that when I tired myself out I went back to shore to grab my water noodle so I could hang out in it and let the waves to all the work of pushing me around.  After seeing that I was still in one piece after all this time, Matt joined me for a bit of wave surfing and we forgot all about that hunk of metal back in Indiantown as we enjoyed this perfect afternoon.

When I was too tired for even the noodle to keep me afloat any longer we both made our way back to shore and passed out on beach, breath heavy and utterly exhausted in the best way.  With our heads only able to rest on our arms for support we watched all the shore birds prance through the perfectly white sand that the beach is famous for.  I contemplated coming back later with a few pails and a shovel to make sandcastles but my brain was nearly on off mode and it was just a fleeting idea that left as soon as it had come.

Trying to rally for a second round in the water, we instead began to show our age as the comfort of a bed and an afternoon nap were calling just a little louder.  The extended swimming and sandcastles would have to wait for another day.  With just enough energy we packed our belongings back up and headed back to the house.

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Matt at Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Siesta Beach Siesta Key Florida

Jessica at Siesta Beach

 In true ‘me’ form, I crawled into bed completely spent but could not fall asleep.  Tossing and turning for 20 minutes I decided my time might be better spent by the pool with a good book and a cold beer.  Pulling out the Heady Topper I was gifted for my birthday and my World Beer Tour out of the fridge, I sprawled out on one of the lounge chairs in our private pool area.

After being so stubborn about not taking a vacation or any time away from boat work for so many months, I have no idea why we didn’t pull ourselves away sooner.  This week has been so relaxing and exactly what we needed to regroup ourselves for what will be many more months of boat work to come.  Thank you again so much Bill and Lindsay for the stay at Sunnyside Properties, there’s not a better place we could have gone to get away from it all.

Jessica by pool

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Picturesque Siesta Beach

Wednesday September 2, 2015

Trail head Siesta Beach

Although Matt and I did take our 3 mile walk around Siesta Beach yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t enough for me.  Not enough beach time, and not nearly enough camera time.  Mostly because, due to my own oversight, I had stuffed my camera in my purse next to an ice cold can of Pepsi, so when I broke it out to snap a few photos the lens was completely fogged up and I was able to shoot a whole lotta nadda.  Plus, there are only so many times I can say to Matt, “Hold up a second, I want to get a photo”.

That’s why when all of our daily activity had tuckered Matt out and he needed a nap in the afternoon, I decided to take the five minute walk back with my camera, and no cold sodas to ruin my shots this time.  The day was still overcast and gusty with large waves rolling into the shore.  Normally this beach looks to be quite calm (from all the photos I researched online) with almost Bahamian pristine waters, but hurricane Erika was doing her best to stir them up a little.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes love this kind of weather though.  With all the sun and heat we’ve been enduring back at the boat yard it was nice to get a little shade and a fresh breeze.  Plus I was just hoping that the sky would grow black at any moment and I could watch a thunderstorm roll in over the water.  No such luck though.  What I did end up with was a wonderful 20 minute stroll through the sand, and five minutes of waiting for one of my flip flops to wash up back to me on shore after I neglected to keep an eye on them from waves as I strolled down one of the sandbars barefoot.  And since I’m on my last pair of Havaianas, that would have been a real shame.

Trail to Siesta Beach

homes on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key

big waves on Siesta Beach

sand bar on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

overcast skies on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

birds on Siesta Beach

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Vacation Time at Siesta Key

Monday August 31, 2015

villa Sunnyside Properties Siesta Key
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it needs to be repeated again.  I have the best blog followers ever.  You guys rule!, and because of you I’ve been having an amazing birthday week in Florida.

If you remember back to a few weeks before my birthday, I put a post up about my World Beer Tour and mentioned I was trying to grow my US portion if anyone wanted to send a bottle for my birthday.  It didn’t take long to start getting some amazing brews as well as gift cards with suggestions in the mail, and I was busy typing up thank you letters to those who had sent me something special to try. Getting an email back from one of the people who’d sent me three pairs of enticing drinks to try, they offered Matt and I even more than just beer and the best birthday present anyone could ask for (although I am reminded by my friend Ana Bianca that we did get a romantic couples massage for my birthday two years ago in Antigua).

Long story short, we found they owned a few condos through Sunnyside Properties on Siesta Key, just next to Sarasota, and since it was the low season, would we fancy a week stay in one of their available units as long as no one rented it last minute?  Ummmm…heck yes!!  Browsing through their 1, 2, & 3 bedroom units, we had originally chosen the 2 bedroom that sits right on the Gulf down on Turtle Beach, but it did happen to fill up with renters last minute so we settled on a 3 bedroom at Seaside Villa, only two blocks from Siesta Beach.  Like settling would really be the word for it. Instead of going for the 1 bedroom at the same location we asked for the multiple bedroom because we assumed someone would be able to join us between local friends or family members that had been talking about coming down for a visit.  Sadly everyone was booked up and we had to take on this huge villa ourselves.  With it’s large kitchen and jacuzzi in the master suite.  Such a shame we had to end up here….

Siesta Key condo front

Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Properties.

kitchen in villa, Siesta Key

After leaving Indiantown late yesterday morning during a torrential downpour, some kind of side effect from Hurricane Erika I’m sure, we arrived at the property around 3 in the afternoon, having made sure to hit up a Publix on our way to stock ourselves up on a few days of food. As well as a 6 pk of Lagunitas IPA, a World Tour beer gift that did not take us more than 20 minutes to break into once we arrived.

Matt drinking beer

Since it was later in the afternoon and we had not had a real day off of work since our friends Scott and Kim came to visit us, we were happy to just lounge around the villa our first day there.  A little tv watching and some time by the pool, which I totally would have been in had we wandered down there just a little earlier.  And yes, that is my computer in front of me, but I only had an hour before it was time to start dinner and that is in no way enough time to get into a really good book. At least I made the effort to put my swim suit on in the hopes of catching a few afternoon rays.

Jessica with wine

Matt watching tv

pool at Sunnyside Villa Siesta Key

Jessica on computer

For dinner our first night there I at last had access to a full kitchen again and used it accordingly.  Is it sad that part of the reason I wanted this villa was just so I could use it’s expansive kitchen space?  Don’t hate.  I’ve been cooking solely grilled meals for the past two and a half months now.  Having multiple burners at my disposal I whipped up one of mine and Matt’s favorite pastas which has chicken, bacon, broccoli, and onions in a garlic alfredo sauce.  So bad for you, but oh so tasty.  Then our first night was ended with a few glasses of wine, a soak in the jacuzzi, and a marathon of shows on the History Channel, watched comfortably from our bed.

cooking dinner

 Late this morning we walked the entire length of Siesta Beach, about a mile and a half down and then back up. Not something we were planning to do, but once we passed the main beach access we couldn’t find an exit to the main road and didn’t come up to one again until we were literally at the end of the beach and it dead ended into private property.  It seemed like everything was condos and private property and only had beach access for it’s guests.

We had wanted to take a nice stroll through town on our way back to get a feel for the island, but should have realized immediately that if condos were lining the beach front, that’s all that would be lining the road on the other side of them.  Plus, duh, we drove down that road the day before.  At least it was a good work out and a chance to wade our feet in the refreshing salt water for half the walk.  Looming thunderclouds kept us from coming back with all our gear after lunch, but it turns out the rain never came.

Tonight I also did an interview for a morning radio show in Sydney.  It’s on 96.1 The Edge with Mike E + Emma, and they spent about five minutes asking general questions about what made us leave our 9-5 life behind as well as the places we’ve visited.  Then before I knew it the interview was over and I was left with a dial tone on the other end of the line.  I have no idea when it’s supposed to air, but if I get any kind of link to it I’ll make sure to share it with you.

So, yup.  That’s been about it for us so far.  A little bit of beach time and a lot of relaxing on the couch.  I know that may be a little detrimental to actually visiting a new place, but we’ve definitely earned ourselves a little downtime.  Plus with a few more days here there’s still plenty of time left to explore.

And it has to be said again, Thank You SO MUCH Bill and Lindsay for this wonderful gift.  Your kindness goes further than you know, and we needed this break from the boat desperately before it did end up in a heap of ashes due to our frustration.  Your gift could not have come at a better time and we only wish we had some kind of way to repay you.

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