Friday, September 29, 2017

A Summer Land Trip - What's Next?

We finally arrived back at Punta Gorda and boarded Wrinkles on September 19th. We had a great three month trip visiting 12 states and so many friends. After flying from Punta Gorda to Wisconsin we visited family and friends while staying at Mike's mom's home. We drove down to Columbus, Ohio (along with Matt and Kelley) to visit our oldest son John and his girlfriend Brittnie. After returning to Wisconsin we watched our youngest son marry an amazing young lady. Welcome to the family Kelley.

While in Wisconsin we purchased a used Toyota Corolla to zip around and visit friends. Our trusty little Toyota was going to get quite a workout over the next few weeks. We roughed out a plan to visit friends and family as we slowly made our way back to Wrinkles. The plan included St. Louis to visit our sailing friends Bret and Theresa. From there we would head over to Illinois to see our good friends Steve and Sarah. From Illinois we planned to follow Route 66 all the way to Oklahoma City to visit our daughter Tina. After that we would head eastward to Calico Rock, Arkansas where Kim and Roy (Mike's sister and brother-in-law) live. Next some more miles eastward to stay with Karen and Peter (Brenda's sister and brother-in-law) in Huntsville, Alabama. Finally we planned on spending two days driving down to Punta Gorda. As you all know, plans do change.

We loved visiting each of our family and friends along the way. We shared great times and experienced some really awesome events. We were sad to leave our last stop and head out toward Florida, but it was time to move along. We were keeping a close eye on Hurricane Irma as the forecast was showing she could be passing within a few hundred miles of Punta Gorda. After driving 550 miles we stopped at a motel in Ocala, Florida for the night. The weather reports were consistently showing that Irma was turning ever westward with a potential direct landfall near Punta Gorda. We stayed a couple nights in Ocala to watch Irma's path before deciding whether or not to proceed.

We received a call from our marina telling us we would not be allowed to stay aboard Wrinkles during the hurricane. We made the hard decision to turn back north to stay away from Irma's path. We headed up to Huntsville, Alabama to wait and worry. Thank you so much to Karen and Peter for housing us sailing freeloaders.

Once Irma had finished pounding Florida we allowed a few days for the cleanup crews to do their work and for the fuel supply to be restored. It was hard not to rush out to see Wrinkles, but the crews don't need all of us evacuees getting in their way. Finally we headed south again and made our way to Wrinkles. She had taken the storm without getting even a scratch. We were very lucky!

So after nearly 5500 miles of driving we boarded Wrinkles. It was a funny feeling for us though. We were glad to see Wrinkles, but the sense of excitement we thought we should be experiencing wasn't there. We are not sure how to describe or explain how we did feel. Maybe it was because we knew our plan to spend the winter sailing down to the Keys was probably not going to be possible with the Keys being smashed by Irma. Maybe we are winding down in our desire to continue cruising. Maybe.....we just need to relax here in beautiful Punta Gorda and see what everything looks like in a month or two. We'll see.

 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Back To Wrinkles - Try Number Two

Huntsville Botanical Gardens

Several days ago we drove to within 3 hours of being back on Wrinkles before Hurricane Irma decided to move westward toward Punta Gorda. We turned around and retraced our route to Brenda's sister's house in Alabama and dumped our stuff in their spare bedroom again. Yes, we are officially freeloaders.

Karen and Peter welcomed us back and have treated us to wonderful food and companionship while we watched the Weather Channel non-stop for days. In between Brenda joined them for a fantastic dinner event at Katie's house. Karen and several of her friends take cooking to another level and enjoy getting together to produce amazing meals. Brenda loved every minute of the event. (Mike was still nursing a cold and decided not to infect everyone in attendance.) We have also toured the lovely Huntsville Botanical Gardens. The grounds, buildings and art are truly gorgeous.

The Chefs
View from Katie's patio.
Butterfly House at Huntsville Botanical Gardens

Now that Irma has passed and the traffic, gas supply, electricity and motel availability have all settled back to close to normal we are going to head back down. We plan on leaving Monday morning and driving to Ocala, FL for the night. Then we will finish the last 3 hours down to Punta Gorda which will leave enough daylight hours to get Wrinkles back in shape to sleep aboard.

It will be good to see Wrinkles and our friends again.

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

All Is Well With Wrinkles

Wrinkles in her slip this morning.

Wrinkles and Punta Gorda in general dodged Irma's wrath pretty well intact. Luckily Irma turned a bit to the east and spared our area from severe damage. There was plenty of rain and some damage to the trees and buildings, but nothing compared to Naples just south of us. Our thoughts are with those people who were severely affected by Irma. The idea of losing your home to a storm is heartbreaking.

It was wonderful to hear from our friends all over Florida that they and their families were all unharmed. We've also received soothing pictures and assurances from good friends that have checked in on Wrinkles. It is good to know we have a home to go back to.

 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Irma Takes Aim

Well, this sucks. It appears Irma has set her course north with Punta Gorda dead center in her path. So that means Wrinkles will be right in the eye of this mean storm. Just three days ago it looked like Punta Gorda would be on the far west edge of the storm, but Irma decided to shift west. The forecast is for an 8-10 foot surge near Wrinkles. All we can do now is wait, watch and hope. Our thoughts go out to all those people who have their homes and businesses in Irma's path. If you were brave or crazy enough to remain in Florida, we hope you found a safe spot.

Good luck everyone.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Irma

We were just 3 hours away from Wrinkles when we had to decide whether or not to turn back north. Our good friends Don and Gail have been keeping an eye on Wrinkles in our absence which gives us peace of mind. We left Wrinkles in storm mode with all her canvas off and securely tied in with double lines. She is as prepped as she can be. The marina also called to let us know we wouldn't be allowed to stay aboard Wrinkles during this storm event. That settled our decision and we headed back north to Huntsville, AL.

We drove the 550 miles to Brenda's sister's house where we will nervously watch the weather coverage. We have lots of friends in Irma's path and we hope they all find a safe harbor. Go away Irma, we don't like you!

Be safe dear friends.

 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Road Trip Is Winding Down

Fishin' with Mario at Domask's Cabin

We have driven from Madison (Wisconsin) to Columbus (Ohio), Lake St. Louis (Missouri), New Baden (Illinois), Oklahoma City (Oklahoma) Calico Rock (Arkansas), Huntsville (Alabama) and are currently in Ocala (Florida). Whew! That was a lot of driving. We have about 3 hours of driving left to get back to Wrinkles in Punta Gorda, but as everyone knows Hurricane Irma is headed in that direction as well. We are at a surprisingly nice, yet inexpensive Howard Johnson's motel watching the weather news as we decide whether or not to stay here in central Florida to ride out the storm.

"Hayride" at Mike's sister's home in Calico Rock
Sharing a drink with Tina at Bricktown

We will watch the weather reports this morning and then decide what to do next. We may just spend one more night here to get a better idea of where Irma plans to go.

Don and Gail - Batten down the hatches and be safe!

 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Whirlwind Trip Back To Wisconsin

Wedding Venue at Rehearsal

We flew north to Wisconsin to attend our youngest son's wedding in Door County. We decided to make it a fairly long trip to make sure we had time to visit friends and family. The time has flown by as we fished, golfed, hiked, danced, played games, boated, and ate. Oh boy did we eat!

Karen, Kelley and Mom
Libby sharing the back seat with Mike
Mike carved the wedding toppers.

The wedding was amazing with great friends and family to share it with. We think Matt and Kelley got exactly the wedding they were dreaming about. Informal, untraditional and plenty of fun for people of all ages. We love our new daughter (daughter-in-law just doesn't sound right) and we couldn't be happier for Matt. Thank you to all our wonderful friends who pitched in and helped us make the entire event so perfect.

Jim, John, Mike and Matt sharing a Drambuie.

It has been awesome getting back together with our Wisconsin friends and feeling like nothing has changed. They are still the same old goofy bunch of characters that we fit in with so well. We have loved getting to spend time with each and every one of you.

Mike and Mario fishing at Domask's Cabin
Mario and Phil
Mike, Phil, Mario

We hope to visit a few more much missed friends during our trip back to Punta Gorda in the next few days. Wrinkles must be missing us as well. We are ready to be back "home".

 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Happy Day

My youngest son Matt will be marrying Kelley in Door County, Wisconsin in just a few hours. I truly couldn't be happier with Matt's choice of brides. Kelley is sweet, bubbly, energetic and adorable. I am so excited that she will soon be my second daughter.

I am very proud of the successful young man that Matt has become. I take great pride every time someone tells me he is "just plain a nice person." I don't think there is a higher compliment some one can pay a person. I love you son and wish you and Kelley all the happiness and love that Brenda and I have shared in our marriage.

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Secure in Fishermen's Village Marina

Mike, Brenda, Don and Gail

Wrinkles and Island Tyme arrived safely in Punta Gorda after a fantastic and rewarding journey together. The exclusive "My Little Pig Yacht Club" members posed for the above photo to commemorate the end of the trip. Island Tyme is now tied up in her slip behind her owner's condo while Wrinkles is tucked away in a slip at Fishermen's Village Marina.

Wrinkles

Don and Gail will be checking on Wrinkles as Mike and Brenda travel to Wisconsin for their youngest son's wedding. It makes it much easier to leave Wrinkles knowing she will be lovingly looked after.

We will be posting our thoughts on the cruise including; highlights, favorite stops, provisioning, boat equipment, budgeting, phone service and more in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Coming Full Circle

Wrinkles in her slip

On our last night in Pelican Bay we were greeted with the sight of "Scout" motoring in and dropping their anchor next door to us. We met Beth and Stan in Boot Key Harbor last winter. We truly enjoyed their company and were excited to have run into them again. After securing their catamaran they dinghied over for sundowners and getting caught up on each other's travels. You meet the nicest people out there cruising.

"Scout"

 

Leaving Pelican Bay

Mike blew the conch and Don played Amazing Grace as the sun set on our last night of this trip. It was touching as always, but a bit (no, a lot) sad. We have been sailing side by side with Don and Gail now for 3 months and it has made our trip so much more pleasurable. They have become some of our dearest friends since we met them in February of 2016. We can't picture our Bahamas trip without them and their great senses of humor. Thank you two for helping us create so many fantastic memories.

As we awoke, a nice 7 knot breeze was blowing in our rigging. Oh boy, we get to sail today. The weather had finally cleared with blue skies and puffy white clouds. Sweet! Mike popped his head outside and the companionway to see the real live sunshine. But wait he thought, the wind is from the northeast. Guess what direction we needed to sail today. That's right, directly into the w

ind again. Mike and Don found this new wind direction funny enough that they started working on some new lyrics for a sailing song. They are going to call it "Yanmar Winds". Stay tuned, we'll post the silly ditty when we finish it up.

We saw this a lot on this trip

We motored across Charlotte Harbor toward our slip in Fishermen's Village. Eventually Island Tyme veered east toward their slip behind their condo. It was difficult to see that boat going in a different direction than Wrinkles. Every trip has to come to a close sooner or later. Even if we never sail with Don and Gail again we will always be keeping in contact with them. Yes Tina, mom was crying.

We approached Fishermen's Village knowing the boat traffic was going to be a zoo. Saturday is National Marina Day which means free slips for about 30 boats for the weekend. We saw a line of 5 boats heading into the channel leading to the marina. The captain's were all hailing the dockmaster for their slip numbers and asking for help catching their lines. The dockmaster tried his best to keep the boats organized, but two more boats came flying in and butted into the line and really messed things up. All of the captains were trying to talk on their radios at the same time which just added to the confusion.We waited for a break in the conversations and hailed the dockmaster to tell him that were would just hang out away from the madness and that he could call us when he was ready for us.

Eventually everyone got into their slips and then we were told to motor in. We slowly made our way in and executed a perfect docking without any drama. Hard to believe it went so smoothly with so many people watching from their boats and on the docks. Wrinkles had come full circle on her trip. We left Fishermen's Village nearly nine months ago sailing the Florida Keys, Bahamas and then back through the Keys before returning up the west coast of Florida to Punta Gorda. Well done Wrinkles. You performed amazingly well and kept us safe and comfortable throughout our travels.

 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sanibel to Charlotte Harbor

Near Captiva Pass

When we awoke at our Ding Darling anchorage the weather looked ominous. Dark ugly skies just as forecasted. The wind was relatively light and the radar images showed most of the ugly stuff north and south of our course, so we decided to move to Pelican Bay in Charlotte Harbor. As Mike was raising the anchor the Coast Guard issued a small craft warning for nearly the entire western coast of Florida. Brenda wanted to immediately cancel our move today, but after checking the radar one more time she hesitantly agreed to go.

Oh boy!

We watched the radar closely and kept tabs on where we could safely anchor along the way should a storm cell come directly toward us. We motorsailed the 18 miles in 3.5 hours never getting more than some light rain. Those big ugly black clouds tracked almost parallel to our course the entire way. We entered Pelican Bay (one of our favorite anchorages) and set the anchor in 7 feet of water. Half an hour later the skies opened up and dumped water on us. Good timing!

Pelican Bay

Brenda was relieved to be safely anchored and a bit proud of herself for "putting on her big girl panties" today. Mike was pretty proud of her as well. We used our judgement and felt the sail would be safe and result in a more secure anchorage to wait out what looked to be a three day thunderstorm roaring across the Gulf Of Mexico.

As soon as the weather breaks we will finish the last leg of this trip. We have four hours of sailing to get Wrinkles into her slip at Fishermen's Village in Punta Gorda. It was time to get a good book out and listen to the storm's pass over us.

 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Naples to J. N. "Ding" Darling (Sanibel)

Sanibel Causeway Bridge

After spending the night anchored among all the multi-million dollar homes in Naples we headed out the channel for our final day in the Gulf of Mexico. We had 30 miles to cover to our anticipated anchorage near Sanibel. The national wildlife refuge in Pine Island Sound is named after the cartoonist Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling. He won two Pulitzer Prizes and signed his work "D'ing" which is where the nickname "Ding" apparently came from. He also started the federal duck stamp program and was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation.

Last leg of the Gulf of Mexico

Once we left the Gulf of Mexico and headed inland on the GIWW we ran headlong into a strong current. Wrinkles was giving everything she had and we were only doing 3.1 knots. We motored under the Sanibel Causeway Bridge which was our last bridge of this trip. Once boaters turn west they encounter what is referred to as "The Miserable Mile" section of the inland waterway. This stretch is quite narrow and the water is very thin which gives us very little wiggle room as we pass boats headed the other direction. Every weekend warrior who can rent, buy, borrow or steal a watercraft does so and brings them to this stretch of water to wreak havoc. Untrained drivers with absolutely no knowledge of Colregs or sense of responsibility go crazy cutting in front of each other while the megaboats merrily throw the biggest wake they can to show how impressive they are. Near collisions are just part of the experience. We unfortunately ended up doing this stretch of water in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. Good planning Captain!

Island Tyme headed under the bridge

After some close calls and some frayed nerves we made it past "The Miserable Mile" and resumed merrily sailing along. As we neared our anchorage at "Ding" Darling Mike was frustrated to find that his Garmin BlueChart chip had a dead spot which went right through the approach and anchorage area. Nothing but a gray background color to sail by. This is not what you want when you are navigating shallow waters and picking out a suitable spot to drop your anchor. Fortunately Brenda loves her paper charts and as usual was keeping track of our progress on the chart. She used the chart and the compass to guide Wrinkles in and drop the anchor. A good lesson for beginner sailors out there.

 

The weather forecast didn't look good for the next several days. A larger thunderstorm system was catching up to us as it traveled northeast out over the Gulf. We would have to wait until the next morning to see if we could move again.