Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Twas the day after Christmas.....

.......and I'm missing Serenity.

I've often criticized people who place great emphasis on inanimate objects - I've become one of those people!  While I certainly don't place Serenity above family, friends and pets, she does have an unusually deep meaning to me.

This outpouring of feeling was sparked by a gift from a very thoughtful and dear friend when we did our Secret Santa exchange last week.  She had gotten me a very soft and luxurious throw - not just any throw, but one in a deep navy (one of Serenity's "colors") AND with Serenity embroidered in a corner in beautiful script.

So why have I waited a week to tell you about these feelings?  Like just about everyone on this planet, I had too much to accomplish in way too little time......soooo, this is my first opportunity to get back to normal.  Luckily as I write this, our trip to Stuart is not too far in the distant future.  In fact, my Lands End tote (with the name For Us embroidered on it) is sitting by my chair, waiting to receive the throw.  It gives me great pleasure to toss things into that tote 'cause it means we're Serenity-bound shortly.  With the way the weather looks (and sounds) right now, I'm glad Serenity is where it's warm and where she doesn't have cold, blustery wind tugging at her lines.

I know my blogs are all about this incredible boat we love, but I couldn't resist including a few pictures of our beloved Tucker who is old enough to help us remember what Christmas is all about.  We celebrated at our daughter's beautiful home so that Tucker could be with his toys - part 1 of the present extravaganza opening was at our house Christmas Eve.  We've gone overboard (no pun intended) since Christina was Tucker's age, so why stop now?  How can you resist this angel?
Watching a child discover the magic of Christmas is one of life's highlights, don't you agree?
Imagine how incredible it must be to find a tree growing in your nana's living room, of all places!
My sister sent him a yellow Tonka dump truck complete with this yellow hardhat.  It was hard to separate Tucker from his hardhat - when he wasn't pushing his truck around, he was wearing his hat!

This gift being unwrapped by Tucker won the approval of all the adults who have become loyal viewers of Jake and the Neverland Pirates on the Disney Junior network - it was Bucky, the friendly ship of Jake and his mates.  Once opened, all the adults in the room were prompted to sing the refrain we've heard countless times.  We all had a good laugh at each other.

I hope you haven't minded this digression from my usual fare, but with a grandson this adorable, I just had to show him off!

Enjoy the remainder of the holiday season.  As the end of 2012 approaches and the dawn of 2013 waits in the wings, I wish you all a new year filled with peace, good health, pure joy and the love of family and friends.  Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Post Serenity Delivery Trip

It's been a week since we're back in NY without Serenity and it feels mighty empty here.  I visited the marina to drop off a Christmas basket and saw all the boats in their shrink wrap.  It's a decidedly different look at this time of the year, sort of ghostly.

Like any good parent, I'm happy Serenity is where it's warm and sunny.  My friend visited her today to take some photos for us and I could see that the sky was a brilliant blue with ample sunshine to keep our girl warm and happy.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all Serenity's followers and my blog readers a wonderful Christmas and happy, healthy New Year.

Tom and I are heading back to Serenity in January to spend a week aboard.  I promise you some fun reading about our adventures (and there are sure to be some).  Until then, be well and enjoy the holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Serenity is Home for the Winter!

Somehow amid all the fun and adventure, Monday arrived - our last full day aboard Serenity.  Let me tell you, Stuart knew we had arrived and dished up the most glorious day for us to enjoy.  Brilliant sunshine, warm temperatures, a soft breeze - who in the world could ask for more from an early December day?  Those of us from the northeast are on our knees giving thanks, that's for sure.

To prepare for our departure from Serenity the next day, we wanted to be sure all the boat "doctors" checked her out after her long trip.  A succession of 3 different types of service folks came aboard and conferred with the captain and I.  We now have a caretaker, who will visit her 2x a week and perform a whole checklist of things; a cleaning team who will keep both her inside and outside pristine; and a mechanical wizard who will make sure all her systems are always in a "go" condition.  Luckily, we are surrounded by other Krogens - many owners I've already met.  They will keep a sharp eye on our little girl.

We left the boat to get lunch with Laura, a beloved friend from Kadey Krogen Yachts.  Though I had been there the night before, we decided to eat al fresco at Sailor's Return again.  Can you blame us?  Check out the view from the restaurant overlooking the marina......
 Looks like the tropical paradise it is!

On the way back, the marina sign came into view.  Holy cow,  I've been waiting many months to finally see this sign up close and personal!
After lunch, the crew and Laura assembled in Serenity's salon for a group photo.  The sun was shining very brightly into the boat, so the faces are a bit hard to see.  Believe me when I say that everyone was smiling!
We still had a little time before the cocktail hour, so Laura and I jumped in her car for a trip to Michael's.  All the boats at the dock were decked out for Christmas with lights, Christmas flags, Santas hailing from flybridges, trees in salons, etc.  How could any respectable mom leave her baby girl without some trappings of the season?  She'd be laughed right off of B dock.  Off we zoomed only to be met with the most pathetic assortment of Christmas decorations.  The shelves looked like the day after Christmas - right after a doorbuster sale!  Not to be daunted, Laura and I scoured the store and finally came up with a Christmas wreath - sort of a Charley Brown type of wreath - but it would do.  We threw in a couple of big red bows and we were in business.  Not exactly the queen of the forest, but still in the game.  The red bows are on the handholds.  It's the thought that counts, right?

Back to the marina we sped.  Typical of the marina lifestyle there, I returned to find 3 other people on Serenity having cocktails.  Granted, Mike invited them aboard since Tom didn't know them, but I had met them at the Rendezvous.  This wonderful lifestyle is the gift those with Krogens give themselves whenever possible.  As I look on from the cheap seats, it's a lifestyle to which I aspire one day.  How can you beat spending your days in paradise aboard a beautiful boat in the company of like-minded people who by the way, feel the same way about their boats?  It doesn't get better my friends.

Way too quickly, it was 10 am Tuesday morning (December 4th) and Laura had arrived to take us to the airport for our flight home.  As we headed towards the car, I couldn't resist constantly turning my head for final glimpses of Serenity.  Though it was soooo hard to leave her, I know at least she'll be warm and in the company of her "sisters".  Sure beats shivering in her winter pjs the way she did last year.  On the way to the airport, I checked the calendar.  Tom and I have identified a week in January when we'll go back to Stuart to be with Serenity.

The countdown has already begun.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stuart and Sunset Bay Marina - Here We Come!

Another glorious day on the menu for us today!   Who would have known that I would be celebrating my birthday aboard Serenity en route to Florida?  We left our lovely anchorage at 7 am and headed for our final destination in Stuart at Sunset Bay Marina.

There was a palpable air of excitement aboard today.  We all were very aware that today would be the end of this journey and that by mid-afternoon, we would be docked in Serenity's winter home.  Even the porpoises who accompanied us knew something was special about today.  To cap off this feeling, a helicopter flew over us, taking pictures.  We learned from Mike that this was the famous photography service where an aerial photo is taken of one's boat.  They send you the photos and if you like any or all, you can purchase them and return those unwanted.  We were no sooner tied up than I was online ordering the photos!
We motored on, passing what by now was "typical ICW" scenery - beautiful homes, uninhabited islands and marshland...

Thanks to Mike's unending patience, I was able to log quite a bit of time in the helm seat.  Believe me, it's not as easy as it appears.  The ICW is very narrow in spots and quite unforgiving when it comes to water depth.  The very center of the channel is fine, but wander too far right or left and one can easily run aground.  This narrow margin for error requires the navigator to keep the boat dead center in between the red and green markers.  Since the wind and current have their own agendas, they are literally a force to contend with.  It took me at least the first 15-20 minutes of each stint at the helm to keep the boat on course instead of zigzagging wildly from side to side.  I knew the captain had his eye on our wake, so my zigging would be readily apparent.  He did try his best to be patient, especially since it was my birthday.

We passed the elegant Vero Beach where there is a jewelry store so exclusive that one must be invited in.  Needless to say, we blew right past Vero Beach.  I did get glimpses of palatial homes with lawns coming right down to the water and huge boats at their personal docks.  The marina there is so small, that if you arrive once the slips and moorings are taken, you need to raft up to the later arriving boats.  Hard to see between the bridge's pilings, but the boats are rafted towards the left of the bridge's mid-span.  You have to trust me on this one.

Before long, the Fort Pierce inlet came into view.  This is the inlet where Serenity entered the ocean on her way home in April, 2011.  By using our binoculars, we were able to catch sight of the ocean.

We continued along the Indian River

....which I must admit looked pretty much like all the other water we were in.  The Indian River carried us past Four Fish Marina in Jensen Beach where Serenity's initial commissioning was done.  This is the marina where we first laid eyes on our girl when she was out of the water waiting for her bottom to be painted.

Pretty soon we passed the St. Lucie inlet (which looks like the Fort Pierce inlet if you ask me), but it was one inlet closer to Stuart - that's why it merits a mention here.  LOL.  Apparently, each inlet has its own unique characteristics.  Though they may look similar at first blush, they are identified by their underwater topography.  Many inlets are not very nice places to be and present unseen dangers to the novice and/or unwary boater.

By now it was early afternoon and Mike informed us that we were on our final approach to Stuart
and Sunset Bay Marina.  We called the marina on the radio but no one answered.  Not a very warm welcome I thought.  I called on my cell phone and someone picked up immediately.  Apparently 4 boats were getting ready to dock at the same time and things were a bit hectic.  Before long, we passed under the final bridge announcing our arrival in Stuart!

No need to rush since the bridge tender of the Roosevelt Bridge had other plans for us.  Though she cheerfully agreed to open the bridge, she decided to wait for another boat that was quite some distance behind us.  To make matters worse, several boats were on the other side waiting to go through too.  The tender was chatting with everyone about how cute the dolphins were and what a pretty day it was while we were drifting ever closer to the closed bridge.  We were all very tense until the bridge began to (very slowly) rise.  We radioed to one of the boats on the other side to ask if we could go through first due to our precarious position.  Luckily for us, this boater had manners - we passed through without incident, not counting clenched teeth and tight neck muscles.  We've arrived in Stuart!

...and Sunset Bay Marina was dead ahead.  We were guided to slip B21

where we negotiated docking next to a mighty big boat.  Many friendly and willing hands were waiting to greet us and help us with our lines, including familiar faces from the Krogen Rendezvous in October.  Lucky for us, one of the couples I met is right across the dock from us, very convenient when cocktail time rolls around.

After navigating nearly 1,500 miles and 3 weeks, Serenity was safely resting in her winter home...

...and already the darling of B dock!

Once we were settled, we celebrated with a bottle of champagne - nothing less for Serenity.  After showers and putting the boat back together, we headed to the marina's restaurant, one of our area favorites - Sailor's Return.  What an apt name!  There we celebrated my birthday with great food, a beautiful sunset and good company.  Welcome scenery after so much water!   There is something so special about having dinner outside in December!

What a spectacular end to an even more spectacular day!  Spending my birthday aboard Serenity was the greatest gift I ever could have received.  Thank you Serenity, Tom and Mike!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

At Sea (the ICW) All Day - December 1st

There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of the bow thrusters grinding away in one's ears to know you're at sea (well actually, on the way to the sea).  No need for an alarm clock these days.  The sun was still making its way skyward when Serenity's lines were cast off and we were headed southbound, destination Melbourne area.  We had a very long day ahead of us, hence the early departure.  We were underway so long that we saw several complete changes in the weather - bright sun to overcast skies, driving rain, brisk winds, whitecaps, glorious sun, flat water, winds gusting to 20 knots, dead calm, etc.  As I write this, the seas are calm, but the wind is still blowing at 15 knots.  We're watching the football game after feasting on a fabulous dinner, so who cares about the wind?

We had an amusing situation at Haulover Canal Bridge, near the Kennedy Space Center this morning.  Amusing now, infuriating then.  We asked the bridge tender (a droll sounding woman) for a "lift".  She argued that her bridge clearance was 27 feet and the way she could see it, our boat "didn't need all that there clearance".  She added insult to injury by asking for our name, hailing port and ship's documentation number.  This was all going on while we were practically at a standstill, with other boats coming up behind us.  We finally (strained though politely) asked her to open the bridge since the "owner" would be pretty upset if we dinged up his communications dome.  She finally caved and opened the dammed bridge.  Too bad we had such a frustrating experience since the area was really scenic.
The infamous bridge finally opens for us....
Underway again, we chuckled about the woman's state of mind and wondered why anyone whose job it is to raise bridges gets into a snit when asked to do so.  Just open the stupid bridge for heaven's sake we chorused more than once.

Since today was one of leisure (for those not running the boat), we kind of hung out and chatted.  I got my Christmas cards written, addressed and stamped, finished the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle, arranged for various people to come by the boat on Monday and booked our return flight home on Tuesday.  Hold your hats, but I made the "crew" breakfast AND lunch as well as an afternoon snack.  Don't know what gets into me on this boat, but I did have enough wits to let the captain know that this activity was short lived and found ONLY on Serenity.  Just in case he was getting any ideas about this domestic streak in me.

Even I have to admit that the ICW is a rather boring, water-filled ditch.  Looks like the power company decided to add some character to the waterway by installing their power cables right smack in the middle of the channel.  Since there is very little water on either side of the marked channel, going around these babies was quite tense and annoying.  Must be a PITA when it's time to make repairs or handle a complaint!  LOL

Once around the cables, I no sooner got into the helm chair when we abruptly ran out of water (as they say).  The depth sounder was recording less than 2 feet under the keel causing the captain to change 50 shades of gray.  Needless to say, I was practically lifted out of the chair by a rather pale captain.  The rest of the trip was uneventful until we were getting ready to transit a fixed bridge (50 ft. clearance so no need to open).  Another boat was on our starboard side coming up quickly.  Since we both couldn't go under the center span of the bridge at the same time, one of us had to yield to the other.  As the boat came alongside, the operator motioned that his radio was not working and off he went.  We resisted the urge to offer him a salute, but instead maintained our boating manners.  Very difficult.  As we found out later while approaching another bridge, his radio worked just fine, he was just being a wise guy.  Probably from Long Island and one of our neighbors at that!

We decided to forgo the insanity of an early morning departure from the marina and anchor out instead.  We picked a spot about 8 miles south of Melbourne where there was plenty of room and plenty of water (well over 7 feet under the keel).  Those kinds of numbers keep the captain in a good mood.
We dropped the "hook" just after 4, tidied up the boat and headed to the back porch for cocktails and snacks.  What perfect timing!

The crew can finally relax with some good wine, cheese and other tasty tidbits.

Not only were we in time for sunset, but were treated to a beautiful rainbow as well.  It was as if nature was welcoming Serenity's decision to join her.
Sunset was no less spectacular!

What a way to end a perfect day!
Every day aboard Serenity ends like this (even if it happens to be cloudy).  For those of you who have lusted after waterfront property, there is absolutely NOTHING like 'on the water" property.  We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow, but at the end of tomorrow's trip, we'll be pulling into slip B21 at Sunset Bay Marina, Serenity's home away from home for the winter - and our winter getaway!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 30 St. Augustine to New Smyrna Beach

Another sunny day, even milder than yesterday smiled on Serenity and her crew.  Leaving a mooring ball is infinitely easier than leaving the dock - no lines, power cable or hose to contend with (and no fighting).  Much more civilized and serene, that's for sure.  Gave us time to appreciate another beautiful sunrise.
If one picture is worth a thousand words, what are 2 beautiful pictures worth?
As soon as the coffee was made, we were en route for today's destination, New Smyrna Beach.  Some dolphins stopped by to play in our bow wake, but were gone before I could snap a picture.  Hopefully tomorrow we 'll see more who might have time to play a while longer.

Before long, we encountered our first bridge of the day, Knox Bridge.  The nicest lady bridge tender gave us a "lift" and wished us happy holidays.  We responded Merry Christmas and she sounded relieved to wish us the same.
As the day progressed, the line of boats needing a "lift" increased until we were like a little parade going through, each waiting for the others to catch up and chatting on the radio about "skinny" (shallow) water.

The day passed peacefully.  Though there is not a whole lot to see, some of the scenery is definitely defined as "waterway" specific....'s not too exciting, but lovely to look at as we glided by...
...and very different from Long Island Sound scenery...
Shortly after 3, (and a lovely on board lunch), we arrived at our destination for the day - New Smyrna Beach Marina.   We unwittingly walked into their marine rush hour.  No less than 5 boats followed us in to their assigned slips.          
Not only is this the marina where we stayed when bringing For Us home from FL to NY in 2010, but we were in the very same slip (the captain remembered this).   Actually I should have remembered (I eventually did) because we were directly opposite Bird Island, where yes, birds came and went in large, low flying groups.
I emphasize low flying since as you know, birds terrify me and being so close to these dive bombing creatures gave me a sort of clutched feeling.  After our chores (which involved filling the water tanks, connecting us to shore power, hosing off the boat and shutting down the engine), we decided to settle in with wine and evening snacks.  Not so fast!  The captain wanted Mike and I to put the bimini top over the flybridge up before we go too comfortable.  OMG, I never laughed so hard in my life.  I only regret that there wasn't a film crew nearby to film Mike and I installing the bimini this afternoon.  Picture us standing on the flybridge in the freshening breeze, the canvas flapping, the metal supports collapsing while trying to hold everything in place.  We eventually had to crawl onto the house, where Mike lay on his back with his arms up in the air trying to force the zipper ends together so I could zip the canvas on.  The things we said, taken out of context, would make a great script for a porn flick.   We're still laughing just thinking about it.  I'm sure our marina neighbors were very entertained.  We congratulated ourselves that we didn't attempt this yesterday while on the mooring ball in much breezier weather.

All that work made us hungry, so acting on a tip from a Krogenite who has a condo in New Smyrna Beach, we took a ride in a electric golf cart to dinner at the Spanish River Grill.  Despite being located in a strip shopping center, we had a delicious dinner.  The car ride was entertaining - it's an expanded golf cart with sides that zip onto the frame.  The canvas has plastic "porthole" cut outs.  You climb in, sit very close to the person next to you and hold on for dear life.  I took a picture of the silly thing, but not sure you can decipher it too well...

Crazier than the car is that it's free.  Yup, as in zilch, nada, zip.   The car runs from 10 in the morning until 2 am and will take you anywhere - on demand no less.  The drivers rely on tips and are actually volunteers for some sort of thing.  I wonder if this is a Southern thing.....

After a long day, we headed back to the boat and were delighted to be treated to 2 wondrous sights - a rising full moon (hard to see, but I still had to share)...

...and boats decorated for Christmas...
Some boats had blinking lights, santas and snowmen aboard, greeting all who passed by...
In this place of sunshine and palm trees, it's hard to believe Christmas is less than a month away!  The shops are decorated to the hilt, but somehow, the warm weather belies the season at hand.  I'm going to try to get a couple of bows and a plastic wreath for Serenity to wear before we leave early next week.  I hope everyone had as wonderful day as I did.  Back tomorrow with more of our ICW adventures.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Intracostal Waterway - Southbound

This morning dawned the exact opposite of the day before - bright, warm and sunny.  I was so thrilled to be aboard, that I offered to make breakfast.  Good thing no one was around to see me peering at the controls on the stove.  Even I smiled at my stupidity!  Before long, I was in control of the situation and had a rather impressive breakfast going.

Even more impressive was the setting for that breakfast...
I set the table in the Pilot House to take full advantage of the scenery and to allow the "captains" to enjoy breakfast without leaving their post.

Our trip was pleasant and uneventful.  In the spirit of the ICW, there are always things to look at - like this huge (and rather ugly) car carrier.
Of course there are the numerous bridges to be navigated.  Some open on demand, others at specified times.  Sister Creek Bridge at the mouth of the St. John's River near Jacksonville opens on demand...
The bridge tender was very accommodating and pleasant.  Gave us plenty of time to transit the opening before blowing the warning horn indicating the bridge was ready to close.
We cruised along between 7 and 8.2 knots, depending on what the current felt like giving us.  We didn't care - our music was playing, the sun was shining, lunch was delicious and we were in no hurry to get anywhere quickly.  We just sat back and enjoyed the view...
The picture above is a part of the ICW  between Jacksonville (Fernandina Beach) and St. Augustine.
It wasn't long before another bridge loomed ahead - the Bridge of Lions.  This was a bridge with scheduled openings - every half hour.   We had about 15 minutes to cover the distance ahead of us to make the 1 pm opening.  The most gorgeous sailing vessel I had ever seen was ahead of us.  Tom radioed to let him know we would be right on his tail going under the bridge.  Serenity had to sprint to keep up, but she did a good job.  Good thing, cause as we went under the bridge, lots of traffic was lined up on either side, waiting for us to go through.
Our mooring for the rest of the day and night was waiting just on the other side of this bridge.  I was quite excited about this new adventure.  Serenity had never grabbed onto a mooring ball before.  Luckily Mike was with us to show us the proper way to approach and secure the boat to one of these floating "anchors".  Not that easy it turned out.  Following Mike's hand signals, the captain did a fabulous job to getting right over the mooring ball on the first attempt.  Mike picked up the pennant (which by the way requires quite a bit of brawn) and got us secured to mooring ball number 22.
Once attached to the mooring ball, we surveyed our new domain.  What a beautiful sight to feast our eyes on...
We were just settling in when the launch driver stopped by to ask if we were planning to go into town.  You bet we chorused!  After quickly gathering our belongings, we jumped into the launch and off to town we went.  As we sped away from Serenity, I couldn't resist taking this picture of her looking so pretty in the afternoon sun....

In less than 15 minutes we were checking in and off to an adventure in the city of St. Augustine.  It really is a beautiful city.  A portion of the city is designated as a pedestrian only area, while the other parts are surrounded by palm trees and quaint brick-lined streets with wonderful shops in the background.  From the marina... was a short walk into town.

More of town...
There is even a village green complete with a decorated Christmas tree and Christmas "gifts" already delivered by Santa and under the tree.
You can't go to St. Augustine and not visit the country's oldest church.  This church was built in 1565 and truly a work of art to behold.

Before long, it was time to make the last launch at 5:30.  We walked to the marina to get in line, when this amazing sight caught our eye.  Someone had placed a mark on one of the pilings showing just how high the storm surge rose.
Sure glad we weren't there then!

The launch was filled to capacity, so off we went at 5:30.  We dropped off 2 couples at their sailboats before heading to Serenity.  There she stood in the early evening light, anchor light shining, ensign waving in the soft early evening breeze and all her lights glowing in a welcome home light.  Before settling in for the evening, we took time to enjoy an evening cocktail while enjoying the most beautiful sight...
Another beautiful day comes to a close aboard the fair Serenity.  Tomorrow we'll be on our way at sunrise, to enjoy another idyllic day of cruising and soaking up the beautiful sights.