me & Ana Bianca

Celebrating Birthdays with our Miami Family

Sunday June 1, 2014

kids with bubble gun

So there was no avoiding taking the bus today. Not that we really mind, it’s not like we have a bustling schedule where we need to be anywhere as-fast-as-possible, but we’re always singled out for the crazy people to talk to. There must be some sort of kindness in our face that the rest of public transportees in Miami lack. These people have chosen wisely though, because we are always too polite to abruptly end the conversation and let them go off on whatever tangent they’ve pulled out for the day. Don’t worry though, the two hour ride between riding, transfers and walking to get ourselves to Key Biscayne was totally worth it. Today was Vance’s birthday, and we wanted to make sure we were there to celebrate.

Walking in the door right at two o’clock when it started and finding only Ivonne, Vance, and Vance’s daughter Jenny getting everything set up, they laughed and told us no one mentioned ‘Cuban time’ to us. By arriving on time we had arrived too early. Which was fine because it gave us a chance to help set up and take a small load off their hands. Before we knew it, all the other guests began to show up and we were situated at a table with Ana Bianca and Alfredo, stuffing our faces full of veggies and dip and washing them back with cold Yuenglings. We let them know of our new plan to wait for a good 4-5 day window of south winds and finally get out of dodge. It turns out they’re planning on taking I-65 down to the Virgin Islands instead of the thorny path, and a buddy boat alliance was formed since we both needed to make the same 500 miles east out of Miami. (We later found out though that they can go through the NW Channel of the Bahamas while we want to be above it, so the buddy boat plan didn’t work out)

When the air conditioning indoors became too much for Ana Bianca and I to bear since we’re not used to living our lives with it anymore, we moved outside to one of the shaded tables where we watched Jenny prep the grill and layer it with what looked like the most mouthwatering cuts of chicken I’d ever seen. Luckily I was able to snag the recipe of the marinade from her and will be trying it out on Serendipity sometime soon. Things got even better that when the chicken had finished cooking I didn’t even need to remove myself from the pool to get a few pieces, it was handed right over to me. Trust me, it did not disappoint. Jenny, you are my new grill master. (Sorry Justin, I’ve supposedly heard that you’re also a grill master, but I honestly didn’t see you do much of anything in that area today. The title remains with Jenny).

pool at Toti's

Jenny at grill

Ana Bianca at pool

Alfredo & Gracie

Shortly after, we made our way back inside.  There’s just no pleasing us girls, and soon we were craving our air conditioning again.  Plus all the delicious snacks that lay inside.  Going for seconds of shrimp cocktail and bacon jam (no, not together), I almost filled myself up to the point that when the cake came out and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Vance, I was tempted to pass on the carrot cake being placed in front of me.  A good rallying took me to accept it, and good thing I did because it was so delicious.  And after that I even had to snatch one of the last chocolate chip cookies before they ran out.  This party was full of food overload, but god do I miss those days where I just get to stuff my face.  They don’t happen too often on the boat, usually because that would mean sweating in a hot galley to prepare anything.  Yes, even the cold items.

birthday cake

me & Ana Bianca

kids blowing bubbles

While all the children, a whole gang of them under the age of 5, took their afternoon naps, us adults entertained ourselves out on the patio with glasses of Mt. Gay rum in our hands.  When the kids woke back up later in the evening though, the party got it’s second wind.  No longer content to only entertain among themselves, a collaboration between the children and adults began where some of the adults (mostly me) began acting like children and participating in their games.  There were races around the room on top of boogie boards, dancing to Disney’s ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, and Vance even joined in the childish games with me by whizzing the kids around the room in his motorized chair.  Of course no one could keep us kids away from playing with one of the family member’s labradoodle, Millie, and when we settled down just a little while later we were treated to one of the young boy’s a capella versions of a Disney song while standing on a table who proceeded to dive/crowd surf his way on to Matt’s lap directly after. Because of the current and and ongoing global situation, spending birthdays on these locations might still not be allowed. That’s why most would opt to celebrate on their own houses and backyards instead. As for the kids, their parents chose the best children’s outdoor playhouses which can be placed on their backyards so the kids can still have some fun and get their mind off the ongoing negativity.

Even though we were the first ones to arrive this morning, we were the last ones to shut the party down just shy after midnight.  Good thing Ana Bianca and Alfredo were willing to drive us back to the dinghy because I don’t even want to imagine the kind of bus people we might have encountered on the way back.  We’re starting to become a little sad that our departure date for the Med has been delayed, but as long as it has, we’re just so glad we now have a ‘second family’ in Miami to be able to spend our extra time with.

Matt with champagne

Ana Bianca, Milly & Jenny

Gracie and Millie

Matt holding the crowd surfer

Alfredo, Jessica, Ana Bianca, & Matt

Just Can’t Keep us Apart

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Crandall Park

It took us about two weeks of sitting here in Miami, but we were eventually able to pin our friends Ana Bianca and Alfredo down for an evening of hanging out. Both our groups have been pretty busy lately, and trying to find a day that we both didn’t have something going on (ok, maybe we’ve had a little more leisure time than them) did take awhile, but we finally planned on an night of hanging out in Key Biscayne with Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and brother-in-law Vance. Two more people that we’ve grown very fond of in our past visit to Key Biscayne, so we were very excited.

Spending my morning searching bus routes and times from Miami Beach over to the southerly island, as soon as I found out that Alfredo had to run into MB for something anyway, we jumped on the chance for a free and quick ride. Not that we couldn’t have taken the bus there, but….between transfers it would have been close to two hours. Plus this ride had air conditioning and someone much better to talk to than the passenger who wants to regale you with their release from prison. That just happened that day. (Two times this has happened to me!)

When we got to Ivonne and Vance’s place we found Ana Bianca waiting for us and ready to show off what all of their recent hard work had been going toward. If you’ve ever heard me joke on this website or our Facebook page about ‘Ana Bianca…saving the oceans!!’ (think of that in a Trey Parker/Matt Stone sing-song kind of way), it’s because she is! Between her experience as a photojournalist and his experience as a director of photography, these are making a documentary series of segments about our oceans in peril. Having already filmed a few of those segments while working their way up the coast of Central America from where we originally met them in Guatemala, this week was the big launch of their new website Element Zero, and they’ve been pouring all of their time and energy into it. We were given a quick tour of the new site where we spied the trailers we had already viewed on their Facebook page, as well as the awesome layout and beautiful photographs they’ve loaded.

They’re work for the day wasn’t quite over yet though, and since our bus wouldn’t have dropped us off there until 4, we’d just hopped a ride because it was available, we wanted to get out of their way for a few more hours so they could finish up their work. Having two bikes at our disposal though, man do we miss those, we were given recommendations of a few beaches and parks to explore and one tasty sandwich shop to grab lunch. Off we went into the bright Florida sunshine, ready to get some food before traveling the island. Hopping over to Oasis and brushing up on my Spanish, we had a mouth watering sandwich while chugging down an ice cold Coke before hitting the open road again.

Matt filling bike tires

Oasis, Key Biscayne, Florida

Word on the street, or out of Alfredo’s mouth, is that Crandon Park has the best beach in Key Biscayne, and since we obviously don’t see those enough, that’s the first place we headed to.  Honestly though, two weeks in the boat stuck in a large channel will leave you craving beaches again.  The parking lot was completely empty as we cycled in, a far departure from the crowds that must have been here the previous day celebrating the holiday weekend.  Waving back and forth on our bikes as we followed the asphalt drive we noticed a sign for a peacock sanctuary to our right and promised ourselves to check it out on our way back.  Suddenly a ruffle of feathers and a loud squawk off to my side let me know that these large birds were not confined only to their sanctuary.  Wanting to be as adult as I could, I refrained from chasing him down to see if he’d arrange his full plumage for me.  Or maybe it was because I thought the tables would turn and it would be him who would chase me down in the end.  So I settled for stepping off my bike and snapping a few photos while he idly eyed my can of Coke.  By the way he slowly advanced on me, I’m pretty sure he wanted me to share.

peacock, Crandon Park

As if seeing a peacock directly upon our arrival wasn’t enough, we locked the bikes up and walked into a scene that looked as if it was taken directly from the coasts of North Carolina with a few palm trees thrown in.  This place was stunning.  We walked out to the Atlantic and waded in the shallow pools of bath water before hiking further up the beach and peeked at a sandcastle contest that was going on between a large group of children.

When we decided it was finally time to make our way back we did still pop into the bird sanctuary which is a lush area of grass, trees, and ponds that’s just as alluring as the beach.  Plus the wildlife (to us) was just an added bonus on top of that.  Iguanas skittered across the path as we listened to more peacocks call and parade next to us on the lawn.  Our big goal was to spot an alligator in the ponds, of which the signs warned us there were, but was unproductive as there were none.  Or they were very very sneaky.  And I wouldn’t put it past us to miss any kind of wildlife that’s right in front of our face.  It may have happened like one or two (or fifty) times in our past. We actually couldn’t even identify half of the birds we did end up stumbling across there.  I mean, what is the thing that looks like a mix between a duck and a goose?*

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

beach umbrellas at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica selfie

low tide Crandon Park

lifeguard station Crandon Park

birds at Crandon Park

Once we were back at the apartment we enjoyed a refreshing beer and a little more website looky-loo before tearing ourselves away for a ride in the family’s golf cart, dubbed the Love Bug, for a ride up to the grocery store to stock up on items for dinner that night.  There were items to put on the grill, some chips to snack on, and best of all, a case of Red Stripe.  For cheaper than we bought it in Jamaica!  I’ll have to keep my eye on those sales more often.

Just like the last time we were here with Luki and Elmari, our group took over the area surrounding the pool although the afternoon clouds probably would have driven everyone else away anyway.  What can I say?, except we fell right back into our old dinner club routine and conversations picked up right where we had left them off two months ago.  Except this time instead of talks about our crossing to Europe we were slowly trying to be talked into following Ana Bianca and Alfredo on s/v Kajaya to Aruba and back up the Western Caribbean.  Extremely tempting based on the weather reports we’ve been seeing, and Alfredo’s testimony that today’s weather is typical for February or March, but not late May.  As I said, it was very tempting, but we’re still hoping to stick with our original plan of an Atlantic crossing.  Let me just go write those plans in the sand real quick, I think it’s low tide right now.

As usual, the night passed by way too quickly and before we knew it we were being chauffeured back to Serendipity.  We’re hoping this won’t be good-bye between the four of us, but I have a feeling it won’t.  And it’s not because we’re now planning on hightailing it south instead of east.  Nope, this family is always having get togethers, and the next one happens to be Sunday for Vance’s birthday.  Somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that we won’t be leaving on time and we’ll being seeing these faces once more.

Alfredo grilling

Ana Bianca's selfie

Alfredo, Jessica, Ana Bianca, & Matt

*Not the birds shown in the photo.  I never got a picture of the things I want to keep referring to as a mongoose.   Even though they are completely different things.



sunset over Miami

Random Images from our Anchorage

Sunday May 25, 2014

sunset over Miami

I wish I could tell you that more exciting things were happening here on the ‘Dip, but honestly, there hasn’t been much for us to do. Most of our projects are reliant on getting our order from Defender, something that was supposed to come yesterday, but still hadn’t arrived when we went to the Post Office to claim it.  So we sit here stagnant.  Stalled.

We try to keep ourselves busy in the afternoon with little cleaning projects and even took Georgie next door to Monument Island on Friday.  I didn’t realize what a hermit she has turned into since we’ve adopted her.  Going from being in a shelter with over 200 cats and a dozen assistants, she was extremely overwhelmed by all the weekend boaters that decided to turn this into a party island and I think was actually excited to get back into the dinghy after less than five minutes ashore.

Let’s hope that our package comes in on Tuesday so I’ll have something new to report on, but until then, enjoy some random images of our anchorage.  We really haven’t ventured past it in the last few days.

Monument Island at night

Our first night in Miami, anchored east of Monument Island.

Georgie in her litter box

Georgie couldn’t wait to get back in her litter box after I washed it out.

Belle Island, Miami Beach

Storms rolling in behind Belle Island.

rain over Miami

Monument Island, Miami Beach

sunset over Miami

Georgie on Beach

Just a quick walk for the kitty.

Star Island, Miami

Passing by Star Island.  Not all that great.

Matt driving dinghy

sunset over Miami Beach

waves b&w

I am FREAKING Out Here People!

Tuesday May 20, 2014

waves b&w

Do you know what I was doing this morning at 4 am? I was lying awake in bed, thinking off all the terrible things that could happen to us as we cross the Atlantic in a few weeks. Here’s another fun question for you. Do you know how many boats were abandoned just last week while taking the same route that we are? Two!! That’s right. Two boats with a larger number and more experienced crew than the two of us had to leave their boats behind while making the same trip we’re about to do. I am FREAKING out here people! Granted, both of those boats appeared to be passing through a very nasty low pressure system a few hundred miles east of the United States around the 40th degree latitude, but all I could think of through the whole night was ‘That could be us!’. One of the two crews was picked up by the USCG, but the other crew, as I currently write this, are still missing; their boat believed to be abandoned in the Northern Atlantic.* Pardon my French, but that is some scary shit!

For the weeks and month leading up to our departure from Miami and across the Atlantic to the Azores and then through Gibraltar, I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself as much as possible. Prepare for the monotony of being at sea for 30 straight days, and prepare for the onset of at least 2-3 fairly rough storms during our crossing. In my mind, and according to most of the books I’m reading, the worst part of these storms usually pass you in a few hours and all you’re left with after is maybe a day or two of overcast skies with some rain and the drudgery of waiting for the seas to settle back to their original state. The weather systems that we’ve been tracking for the past few weeks though to get a feel for what’s going on out on these waters, is showing a completely different story.

I will admit to you now that we have never once listened to a Chris Parker forecast. We have taken his information while cruising with friends that do get up at the ungodly hour of 6 am to listen, but personally we’ve always been fans of Passage Weather and have used that to prepare for any passage we’ve taken. This does require internet, of which we will not have once we leave on our crossing, but at that point we’ll be relying on downloading forecasts from our SSB twice daily, something that should give us a four day outlook that will be very similar to what we’ve always viewed on Passage Weather. While keeping an eye on it at the moment though, these are the kind of images that we keep seeing pop up.

front over Bermuda

front over Azores

You can see where I’ve labeled Bermuda and the Azores, and our approximate intended route (terrible job with the paint brush, I know). You can also see all that yellow and orange showing up in areas close to where we’ll be, and that’s very, very bad. If you follow the wind indicator at the bottom, you’ll see that yellow represents winds of 30-35 knots, and orange represents 35-40 knots. That would be bad enough on it’s own, but I may have mentioned to you before of our learning of reading Passage Weather, and have pretty much found it to be true. Always expect 5-10 knots higher than it shows. If it’s reading 30-35 knots, expect 35-45. If it’s reading 35-40, well, you’re S.O.L. It’s why we never go anywhere when a forecast is reading over 20 knots. Even though we always travel in weather that shows 15-20, we experience at least 30 knots sometime during the trip. Every.Single.Time.

So you can imagine why these images are getting under my skin. They never end. There might be two days of calm in those areas before another front develops. This is not normal, not for this late in the season, and it has me terrified that nothing will change before our intended June 1st departure date.

So as I laid there wide awake, waiting for the sun to come up, my mind was filled with alternative routes. I was thinking to myself, ‘You know, since we were about to take on a 30 day passage anyway, we could make it to Panama in 10-12. And you know who’s in Panama? Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip. That would be so fun!!’. I actually lulled myself to sleep with false promises that we would stick to the Caribbean where we would never be more than 200 miles from some form of land.

Reality did set in this morning though as I realized the light of a few very important things. 1. We don’t have to go if everything is showing the same in a week and a half. Have those fronts not showed any sign of leaving, we will wait for them to do so. Or, hightail it to Panama. 2. Based on years and years of data, they should be changing any day now. The Bermuda/Azores high should be settling in, and things should start to look much calmer on those waters. And 3. Downloading a 96 hour forecast twice a day should keep us on top of any fronts that could arise. If we see anything that looks like it’s coming up, we have no problem backtracking or adding extra miles to avoid it. We are going to be very cautious cruisers on this trip, and that is fine by me. I would much rather arrive even a week later than anticipated if it means we’re not surfing down 20 ft waves in 40 knot winds. Ever.

preferred weather

Now this is the kind of weather I’m looking for!


* On Friday May 23rd, the USCG found the hull of this second boat, the Cheeki Rafiki, but with no sign of the crew.  The life raft was still on board and never inflated.

Chapman on weather

Brushing up on Chapman’s

Sunday May 18, 2014

Chapman Piloting & Seamanship

I think it’s about time I became reacquainted with an old friend of mine, Chapman’s Guide to Piloting & Seamanship  A 900 page manual on everything boats and boat related. The how’s, why’s, navigation, weather, safety, ect. Chapman’s and I were supposed to become well acquainted back in 2010 when Matt had purchased the most recent volume for me and plopped it in my lap stating “Read this”. Right…this is exactly how I wanted to spend my summer. I did try though, really. There was actual effort put into covering the essential chapters, the ones that were going to teach me how to sail and read weather patterns. The only problem was I didn’t fully understand the information at the time, and therefore didn’t retain much of any of it. What I did retain was actual on the water sailing where I’d try and pay attention to what Matt was doing and figure it in to what I had previously read. Even that wasn’t…great.

Although I do now know all the lines on the boat, where they run to and from, and what purpose they serve…I’m clueless when it comes to sail trim. I have read the little annecdote on how to read tell tales numerous times, and every single time I get it backward in my mind which has me trimming the sails the wrong way, and the official sail trimmer of the boat getting upset that I still haven’t learned how to do it after five years on the water and almost two years cruising. Understandably as well. I know I would be very frustrated if it was the other way around. No more excuses though, it’s time, and I need to learn what I’m doing. There’s 3,000 miles of ocean coming up in front of us shortly and we can’t afford mistakes out there. Plus I can’t rely on Matt to always be there to fix everything for me. I need to be able to do it on my own.

During our days with bad weather in the Bahamas, especially the areas like Lee Stocking island where we were never even able to get off the boat, I’ve set myself down with as many sailing how-to videos as possible. Penny Whiting’s ‘Learn to Sail’ and ‘Annapolis Book of Seamanship’. I know, these are as basic as it gets and a lot of the information I do already know, but, it just gives me that extra visual so when I do pick up Chapman’s again, it might come a little easier to me. I can put an image in my mind of what they’re trying to describe. So with enough watching and reading over and over again, I might finally learn how to trim a sail to look like an airplane wing, or find out where I want the draft.  And then how to get it there.. Funny thing is, I feel much more prepared to handle sails in storm conditions than just cruising along. I think those tactics have been engrained in me long ago. But, if I can finally figure out how to get the sail back in perfect shape after it starts flogging without Matt having to yell out “Ease the main!!!”, then I will consider it a successful payoff.

Chapman's Seamanship

Chapman on sailing

Chapman on weather

 *Example: While sailing from Warderick Wells to Bimini, Matt asked me to move the main over as we set ourselves on a downwind course. I stared back at him with a blank face. ‘So I … walk it over to the other side?’ (No, I was supposed to trim the main to the center, and then the wind would catch it as I eased it out to the other side) To be fair, I had just woken up and also hadn’t eaten in 14 hours, so my mind wasn’t quite all there yet, but still. I know how to do that move when fully awake and full, I should know how to do it while sleep deprived and starving.



sunset on Lake Sylvia

Last Sunset in Florida?

Friday April 5, 2014

sunset on Lake Sylvia

This morning we were Bahama bound. At least, we thought we were. It’s not like this is our first rodeo, so we thought we had done everything necessary to get ourselves going. We had a good weather window, the diesel was topped off, provisions for the next 4-6 weeks had been tucked away (I know you can still buy food in the Bahamas, but come on, at those prices?), and we had just found a killer sale at Publix on their soda for 2-for-1. Yes, we were ready to head back to those crystal clear waters and white sand beaches.

A few unsuccessful naps had been attempted in the afternoon and evening, but by 1 am we were awake and finishing the last minute preps to get underway. Everything that was susceptible to gravity was put away and Georgie was wrangled, quite easily this time, into her harness. The engine was purring and all we had to do was get the anchor up and get on our way. Then curse words started flying back at me from the bow, spoken quietly enough though as not to wake our sleeping neighbors. Our bow navigation light that we had just replaced in Cozumel was now corroded and no longer working. We no longer had running lights for this trip. Kind of an important thing when you’re jumping across these shipping lanes in the middle of the night.

We talked about our options. Back in Cozumel when we had run into this issue, it wasn’t until we were coming into the harbor just after dark when we realized they were out. I was sent to the bow for the last 30 minutes with two headlamps in my hands, a red one to point to port and a green one to point to starboard. I was pretty sure that I could not, would not, stand at the bow for the next six hours doing the same thing this time around. Then we tried tying them to the cleats, but we knew that would probably only get us as far as the entrance to the Gulf Stream before they washed off. Do we chance it? Even then, we still wouldn’t be able to do any night sailing once we got to the Bahamas.

I hate to say this, but at 1:30 am, my bed was calling to me louder than the Bahamas. Why chance today what you can properly do tomorrow. So it was decided that after we woke up we’d make a run to West Marine or Boat Owner’s Warehouse and purchase and install a new one. This time a fully encased one that hopefully won’t let in salt water and corrode. It’s getting a little tiring replacing that thing every 4-6 months.

The funny thing to the whole situation though was Georgie’s reaction. Even though we’d called off the passage and were not even moving, the fact that the engine was running and she had her harness on was enough to get her into super-affectionate passage mode. Where, once we start traveling, she becomes your shadow. Follows you up and down the companionway and sits as high on your chest as possible when you’re resting. She didn’t get the memo that she was safe for the night. Poor thing was still all over us as we sat in the salon below, pouring over the West Marine catalog and the next day’s forecast. Pick me up. Don’t let me go. Love me, love me, love me. There’s Pavlov’s Theory on dogs, but I think we’ve just come up with Johnson’s Theory on cats. Make them think that they’re going on passage and they turn into a cuddly anxious mess. I think I might turn to this whenever I feel lonely and need some of her headbutt affection.

sunset on Lake Sylvia

wishing paper

The Wishing Paper

Tuesday April 1, 2014


Now that we no longer have anything keeping us in Florida besides waiting on the next weather window, it was time to orchestrate one last get together with our Fort Lauderdale friends. Since Melody and Chris have a nice little set up where their boat is located, complete with a grill, a pool, and great views, they invited to have us all over tonight to grill up some burgers and dogs and begin the process of our sad good-byes.

It was bittersweet even as we arrived, the excitement of seeing my friends mixed with the last time that we would see them.  And happening upon the awesome set up that Chris and Melody truly do have, my thoughts kind of edges toward ‘Do we really have to go to the Bahamas?  Can’t we just stay here and hang out with our friends?’.  I can see why so many people get down here and stay much longer than they intended.  If you get in to the right areas, Ft. Lauderdale is a pretty awesome place.

The grill was fired up just after we got there, and laughing a little, we found out that we’d brought the same exact potato salad and Gordon and Jessica did to share.  The fridge was starting to look like the deli aisle at Publix, but if that item is as good as they claim it is, I’m sure it will be cleared out by the rest of the night.  I also played a game of rotating drinks with Chris where I promised him one of my huge 24 oz cans of Foster for one of his Yuenglings.  I blame the Skelton Crew for getting me hooked on those, but honestly, I think the addiction started in Annapolis.

The burgers that Chris grilled up ended up being to die for, and I’m not just saying that because I was completely starved after spending all afternoon running around town trying to get a cab that would take us to the vet to get Georgie’s rabies titer test for the EU, and then walking half way back to the boat because they would speed by as soon as they saw we had a cat in our arms.  Nope, even if I wan’t on the verge of being malnourished, these still would have been some of the best burgers ever.  Mix that with steak, awesome cheese, even better friends, and a breathtaking sunset….sigh.  I wish this night could last forever.

Gordon, Jessica, Matt

Melody & Jessica G

Chris on the grill

Matt getting food

A surprise later that evening that we weren’t expecting, or maybe Melody knew it was coming, was that Chris had procured a bottle of champagne to celebrate that after two and a half years, Melody had gotten her braces off. Not even bothering to try and find glasses for everyone at the table, we took turns hoisting it in the air and sipping it straight from the bottle as a victory for metal free teeth everywhere.

Melody drinking champagne

Jessica J drinking champagne

Jessica G drinking champagne

Before anyone could leave for the night, Jessica announced that she had a treat for us and that she needed five volunteers to gather at the bar for an activity. Was this going to be anything like the time I volunteered for the game of musical chairs back in Guatemala where I was forced to take a shot of rum for each round that I stayed in? Cause I’m not sure if I want to play that again right now. Or…maybe I do? Either way I didn’t have to worry about shots of alcohol being forced on me, and should have taken the hint when ten year old Gia lined up next to me at the bar.

This was something much more family friendly, and actually very sweet and cute and something that could only have been thought up by Jessica. The five of us were given a sheet of very thin tissue paper placed on a card depicting a cherry blossom tree, and made me think for a moment that we might be participating in an origami folding contest. Squashing that impression, we were each then handed a pencil and told to write down a wish on the piece of paper. No one else would see the wish, and you were supposed to make it something you deeply desired. After each wish had been printed, we were instructed to crumble up the sheet of paper while fixating on that wish. Once that was done we smoothed the sheet back out.

Now it was time for the interesting and fun part. Once your wish was smoothed back out, you shaped the paper into a cylinder and stood it upright on your cherry blossom cut out. Then a flame was taken to the piece of paper, and if at the end your piece floated into the air, it meant your wish would come true. A few of us took to holding the bottom parts of the cylinder as the flame crept down, just to keep it from blowing away in the wind, but a good percentage of us watched our wished sail into the night sky, sure that luck would be on our side. For a few other unfortunate people, their wish flopped down and burned to a crisp on top of their cherry blossom. As for Matt, his piece lifted off the ground at the last second and floated right into Jessica’s eye. We’re still trying to figure out what that means for him.

Then, it was time to start our good-byes.  In the shortish-longish time that we’ve been here in Fort Lauderdale, this group has wound their way into the fabric that is our lives, and we are so thankful that we had the chance to get to know them, even if it was only momentarily. Bonds like these can’t be broken very easily and I have no doubt that no matter where we all end up in life, we’ll always be able to count on each other for anything from laughs to support, and most likely, boat advice.

Boat friends are always a hard thing to let go, but as we’ve learned, saying goodbye for now doesn’t necessarily mean forever.  Just like I had no doubt that we would make to to Ft. Lauderdale to see them in the first place, I have no doubt that our paths will cross once more somewhere in this world.

Melody w/ the guys

wishing paper

dog races

Putting my Money on Goodbye Shea

Friday March 21, 2014

Mardi Gras race track

Let’s see, what have we been up to the past few days?  Trying to show Chris and Jack as many sides of Florida as we could, we went on the long drive down to Key West and back.  It was a fun day, but I think we were all a little disappointed in the drive.  I’m sure through movies we were all led to believe that the whole drive would be one long bridge with water views the entire way.  Instead it was only the last 30 miles of the 130 trip (each way), but we still had a good time wandering around and eating Key Lime Pie there, so no complaints.

This morning we all took it easy, sleeping in, and getting a late start to the day.  Chris and Jack came to pick us up from the Hyatt and we showed them a little tour of the area that we find our way to about every other day for shore and internet access.  Not having a good way to show them Lake Sylvia and Serendipity since it’s tucked in behind gated communities and McMansions, we took them up a few flights of the tower that is Hyatt Regency for a better view.  Stepping in front of the elevators there was a buffet of guests with their luggage and it looked like we’d have to wait 20 minutes just for our ride up.  To the stairs it was!  Most of our crew stayed down on the 6th floor where you could just start to see out to the lake, while I hiked up to floor 13.  My legs are going to be killing me tomorrow, but the view was totally worth it.

view of ICW

View of the ICW from the 17th St. Causeway.

Pier 66 Ft. Lauderdale

View of the Pier 66 Marina where we land the dinghy.

Hyatt Regency pool

The pools at the hotel, which Matt apparently has such a hard time lounging by.

view of Lake Slyvia

The cute little lake/pond where we’re anchored.

Then it was time for the real entertainment for the night.  We were headed to the race tracks to watch the dogs run.  We also later visited, to get the dogs a few toy for their entertainment. If you’ve been following us from the beginning, you’ll know that we used to have a greyhound ourselves.  She was the perfect dog and we loved her terribly, she even used to spend many weekends on Serendipity with us.  Then one spring day, and completely out of nowhere, we found out she was intensely sick and full of cancer.  We had only five days from the time she first starting showing any kind of symptoms until we had to let her go.  It was very hard and very sad for us, she was my first dog and for a time I thought I would never be able to own a pet again to have to go through that kind of pain.  Let’s hope Georgie is around for a good long while then.

Anyway, having adopted our dog, we wanted to know more about her racing past.  We got her at a young age, just two and a half, after she was kicked out of the racing circuit after having broken one of her toes at the beginning of a race, and still running the whole thing.  Afterward, the toe had to come off and she was no longer fit to race.  The things we knew about her and her previous life was that her racing name was Goodbye Shea, and that she had never won a race, but did come in second and third a lot.  As far as everything else that went on at a race track though, we had no idea.  We’d always been intrigued but had never found a track near us before.  Now that there was one just a few miles south of where we were staying, we needed to find out what kind of secret life our dog led before she came into our lives.

None of us had any idea of what to expect, and after being pointed in the direction of the track once we entered the casino it was attached to, we read more here about this place and found seats up front and prepared for the next race to start. Â We had scored two pamphlets that showed each race for the evening and what dogs were running. Â Deciding that none of us actually wanted to put any money down, we each just picked a name before each race to have something to cheer for. Â When the race was getting ready to start, the dogs were led out on to the track by handlers, and paraded around while being announced before trotting over to the starting cages.

dogs racing at Mardi Gras

Matt reading list of dogs

walking the dogs, pre-race

All it took was one look at these dogs to make my heart break.  Not because I was worried about what they were being forced to do, but because in that second, every memory of my beloved Mazzii came rushing back to me.  Tears began to well up in my eyes as I tried to restrain myself from running out on the track and grabbing each dog to come back and start a new life on the boat with us.

dogs running at Mardi Gras

Through the night though, my sadness turned into excitement as we all became really engaged in the races. We lost count of the hours at it passed from 5:00 to 6:00 and then 7:00, and none of us were ready to leave.  Watching these hounds as they sprinted laps became all consuming, and soon we were hooting and hollering and jumping out of our seats at the end of every race.  Without any cemented plans for the next few days, we all agreed that should nothing else come up, we could easily find ourselves back here.  Hell, Matt and I might even get bus passes down after Chris and Jack, and their car, leave in a few days.  It was addicting!

Finally at 8:30 our stomachs betrayed us and sent us out in search of food.  Yes there were hot dogs at the tracks, but we finally agreed that we had enough of a racing fix to force ourselves away for the evening.  I’m so glad that we took a chance to come out and actually see what it was all about.  My Maserati may have just been a distant memory in my mind until now, but going out to discover her roots, and even just see her fellow furry racers, put her right back at the top of my heart.  Don’t be surprised if you ever see a greyhound sailing on Serendipity again, I think the want and the need has just turned itself back on.

dog races

dog races


South Beach at Night

Wednesday March 19, 2014

South Beach at night - Colony Hotel

So you know that place that we said we’d never visit, but ended up going to?  Yeah, we went back.  As much as I hate to admit it, Miami beach kind of has a hold on me.  Maybe it’s because we’re so used to seeing the same expanse of deserted beach that it’s nice to find a place with something different going on?  I’m not quite sure yet, but it was calling my name again, and with a car at our disposal and two extra tourist looking for something to occupy their time, I kind of slid it in as a suggestion of things to to.

With one catch.  Last time Matt and I were here I had wanted to stay late enough to watch all the neon signs adorning the buildings of Ocean Drive light up, but we stayed nowhere near late enough to watch that happen.  As our watch was hitting 3:30 in the afternoon, we were passed out on a park bench trying to think of ways to fill up the next four hours until it got dark.  Although there are always things to do here, we were just too tired to actually motivate ourselves to do any of them, so I resigned myself to remembering South Beach at night from scenes I had watched in Nip Tuck.  Until the opportunity to go back popped up once more.

Forcing ourselves to not even arrive until three in the afternoon this time, we did the beach walk, the people watching, and even appetizers and happy hour on the strip.  Then, better than I could have even imagined, we watched the sky go dark and the strip light up.  There’s no denying it now.  This place really has a hold on me.

South Beach at Night - Majestic

South Beach at Night - Park Central Hotel

South Beach at night - Avalon

South Beach at night - Beacon Hotel

South Beach at night - Johnny Rockets

South Beach at Night - Colony Hotel

South Beach at night

South Beach at night - Boulevard Hotel

South Beach at night - Pelican

South Beach at night - Waldorf

South Beach at night

South Beach at night - Breakwater

South Beach at night - Starlite Hotel

Matt conducting electricity

Photo Caption Day: Museum of Discovery and Science

Tuesday March 18, 2014

Matt conducting electricity

Of course Chris and Jack’s first day in Florida would come complete with clouds and the threat of rain.  The sunshine state?  Not feeling so sunny today.  After some running around town yesterday and showing them how the bus system works when you actually choose to use it (long story where their car rental facility was quite far from the airport) we spent the evening researching indoor activities we could do today.

Through separate searches but at the top of the list for both groups, was the Museum of Discovery and Science.  Geared more toward kids than adults, we weren’t going to let our elderly and childless status stop us from having fun and exploring all the exhibits featuring sections on aviation, weather systems, and the human body.  Throw in an IMAX movie about the South Pacific and a simulator on an Everglades airboat, and we were having such a good time that they had to kick us out the door at closing time.

Matt with flight simulator

Matt:  “If you can sail a boat, you can fly a plane”.  Ok, maybe he didn’t say that.

Jessica with flight simulator

Con-cen-trate!  There are lives at stake here!

Jessica w/ foam airplane wings

Don’t ever trust me to fly a plane, I have my wings on backwards.

Crystal with foam airplane wings

“I can feel the wind in my hair!!”

Matt w/ foam airplane wings

I don’t know.  I think the blue skies and clouds really make it feel real.

Jack with flight simulator

If I understand these instructions correctly, first you put your right leg in, then you take your right leg out.

Matt at flight simulator 2

I can do this in my sleep.  It doesn’t even take two hands.

afraid of falling

Afraid of heights?  Let us show you what it feels like to fall backwards.

Jack surfing

True blue surfer?  Maybe not.  That’s ok, the rest of us weren’t either.

Matt & Jessica in ambulance

“Think anyone realizes we’re not registered to do this?”

Jack & elephant

“Just scratch him behind his heel, he’ll purr like a kitten.”

Jessica in shark's mouth

I know how I got in here, I’m just not sure how to get out..