Wild Kingdom, or “You want a toe? We can get you a toe.”

First off all, this is getting creepy.  Oscar has been peeing on a rug that tied the room together, although we’ve now moved it outside for him.  The day after including a line from The Big Lebowski AND noting that “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” is the movie’s opening song, we step off the boat in Daytona Beach just down the dock from El Duderino (“if you’re not into the whole brevity thing”).

We’ve noted some extreme coincidences before, but if we run into a band of angry nihilists any time soon this will jump to the top.

Now back to boating.  Shortly after heading north out of Titusville Thursday morning, we angled a bit east through the Haulover Canal, which connects the Indian River to  Mosquito Lagoon.  Apparently, before someone dug the canal, Native Americans used to haul their canoes over the strip of land that blocked easy access to the ocean.  Hence the name.  None of that means much to us, but we had to get through it, dodging alligators along the way.

The Haulover Canal Bridge is significant to the country because it carries a road to the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility, which is pretty cool.  For us, however, this time through the bridge was significant mostly for its insignificance.  With Misty Pearl’s air draft we had to wait for an opening.  On Tumbleweed, we slid right on under.  Very nice.

In several prior posts we’ve lamented the lack of information after someone reports a maritime emergency.  Often we’ll be riveted by the radio traffic, but never find out what happened.  When Fishy Fishy’s Captain called in a man-overboard Mayday someplace off the coast near New Smyrna, however, we were able to follow the action until the Coast Guard officially reported that one of their boats had pulled Robert—38 years old and 5’11”—to safety.  To United States Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, Florida, thanks for the closure.  We also enjoyed saying “Fishy Fishy” out loud more than a few times.

At the southern edge of Daytona Beach, the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse stands 175 feet tall, and since 1887 has guided weary sailors to wet t-shirt contests and Jell-O shots. 

Obviously it needs to be renamed now that we know Ponce had to push John Cabot out of the way just to step on Florida’s shores.  Plus, what kind of a name is “Ponce” anyway?

Our Daytona Beach destination was Halifax Harbor.  As we turned into the channel, horrible flashbacks of our last visit to Halifax Harbor gripped us.  In fact, based on our experience, 100% of the time we enter Halifax Harbor we’re blinded by dense fog and nearly crushed by every manner of huge fast ships we can’t see.   Our panic subsided, of course, when we remembered that the fog was in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia, and we probably wouldn’t hit any on a June afternoon in Florida.  So we went on in.

A few things about our sixteen-hour Daytona Beach experience.  First up, Brownie the Town Dog.  The Waterway Guide says that Brownie’s grave and memorial are guarded by a topiary Brownie in a lush park and is a “must see” attraction.  Brownie apparently was a street dog that captured the hearts of enough locals to justify a grave, memorial, topiary replica, and park.  Since we’re Contributing Editors and all, we felt obliged to brave the 90° sauna to take a look.  WTF?  The park is a construction site, the grave is covered, the memorial statue is in a crate, and the topiary dog is nowhere to be seen.  What a huge disappointment.

The minor-league team is the Daytona Tortugas, which we think is a cool name.  The chocolate store has Christian books and a sign on the door telling anyone in a bikini that they can’t come inside.  The newly-opened hot dog place is pretty good.

The best part of Daytona, however, was getting to know Doug and Pat on Talisman.  They cruise at twenty knots so we can’t keep up, but they were docked at our marina when we reached St. Augustine, which gave us the chance to host them—as our first guests—last evening.

But before we hosted Doug and Pat, of course, we had to get to St. Augie.  The tricky part was at the Matanzas inlet, allegedly the shallowest stretch of the Florida ICW.

Last time through we tucked in behind Clark and Evelyn on Sunset Delight, close enough that we could stay in their wake but far enough back to avoid a collision if they happened to stop suddenly on a hidden shoal.  This time we were on our own, but never saw less than about nine feet under us.

What we did see, sort of, was a shark.

Which reminded us of the bear we photographed on the shoreline a few legs back.  Somewhere a little girl has learned a valuable lesson:  “I told you if you kept biting your brother I would put Miss Fuzzy in the rock pile.”

Yup, lots of wildlife along the ICW.  Dana bagged her first roseate spoonbill, which may be even more odd than a giant pink stuffed animal or a shark on a golf cart.

We spent a good deal of time doing touristy stuff last time, and memorialized much of it in our post.   So this time we mostly just did chores and stayed out of the rain, although Doug was able to work in a drone flight and two three-mile round trip hikes to Home Depot in sweltering heat.  Because it’s fundamentally impossible to get everything you need for a project on just one trip to Home Depot.  Even if you make a list.

To round out the animal theme of this post, here’s the marina cat.

Fraud Alert!

Not too much exciting about Stuart this time around, so we’ll jump straightaway to our Monday departure.   Seventeen- to twenty-knot winds, but otherwise absolutely gorgeous.

Know what else is gorgeous?  An aft-facing camera, that’s what.  Unless we were piloting Misty Pearl from the flybridge,  we had a pretty limited view of the sportfish boats zooming up from behind, waiting for the worst possible time to throw a huge wake at us.  Now at least we can see the bastards coming.

Dana and Oscar seem to prefer the pilothouse lounging area.  It’s worth pointing out that if they had been in position a few days ago, Doug probably wouldn’t have driven us into that drainage ditch.  So it’s probably fair to just go ahead and blame them.

One of the many things we forgot about since we last came through here is that inlets suck.  And blow.  No really, inlets suck and blow.  Inlets allow tidal water to come in (flood current) and go out (ebb current).  Depending on the direction and location of ICW travel, you either get sucked or blown.  Which sucks.  And blows.

Anyway, easy trip up to Vero Beach, where we met up with Steal Away—a Looping sailboat docked behind us in Clewiston, and Talisman—a Looping Targa 48 that lost its burgee to the sea a few hours earlier.  Nice folks.  Not much else happened.  We have no idea how Chris and Heather are doing, or whether the wedding they advertised on the restroom doors two years ago even took place.  But we wish them well.

We also wish well to River Runner.  Hopefully he doesn’t encounter any eight-inch waves.

Yesterday was another easy day up to Melbourne.  The only tricky bit was when we passed Green 65.  Someone recently posted a warning on the AGLCA forum about shoaling in the channel.  Yup, there was shoaling in the channel, but we snuck through.

It’s always fascinating to see neighborhoods on islands accessible only by boat.  Grant Farm Island, for example, is one of those.

Supposedly some rich dude was going to put a resort here, but didn’t.  Now it’s just a bunch of old people, because according to the article we read, young people move away when they discover sex.

The startling part of the day came after we docked at Melbourne.  Melbourne claims to be the birthplace of Florida because Ponce de Leon landed here.  Our last trip through here we commented on old Ponce and on St. Augustine’s liberal use of his name for marketing purposes.  But since then, to quote The Dude, “certain things have come to light.”*  Some map collectors and archeologist types have determined that Europeans had mapped some of Florida well before all that Fountain of Youth nonsense.  In fact, they have proffered evidence that John Cabot—whose eponymous trail gave Doug numerous opportunities to annoy Dana with stops to drone—was here first.  The de Leon stuff is a sham.  Yup, from Augustine (St.) to Zook (Ron), Florida is just a hotbed of liars and cheats.**   But we love Melbourne, which may have the best breakfast joint in the state.

This time, we zoomed right past Cocoa Beach without even a photo from the ICW.  Cocoa Beach is famous as the home of Major Tony Nelson and that magical scamp Jeannie (not to be confused with our Looper friends on Magic Jeanne).   On a tangentially related note, years ago Doug had a brush with greatness when he spent quality time in a Phoenix bar chatting with Major Roger Healy.  “Hi Bob” indeed.

Tonight we’re in Titusville.  Our first time here.  Our initial observation is that The Tuxedo Bomb at Pier 220 really is the bomb.   Doug’s seen way too many YouTube videos of birds attacking drones to take a chance, but the osprey guarding the marina from atop a sailboat mast took a break which allowed a very quick flight shortly before sunset.

Tonight, game two of the Women’s College World Series.  Tomorrow, Daytona Beach, where the statute of limitations should protect us from repercussions from any spring-break indiscretions that one or more of us may or may not have in his or her past.

On a final note, here are some pelicans.


* The Big Lebowski—one of the great art films of our time—opens with “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds” in the background.  Doug knows all the movie lines but failed to recall the soundtrack in time to reference it in our post introducing Tumbleweed.  Obviously quite mortifying for Doug.  Dana doesn’t really seem to care.

**Football season is around the corner.  Expect those liars and cheats in Gainesville to be near the top of the SEC East again, while the Volunteers—paragons of integrity and virtue—languish behind.  It’s not a coincidence people.

We probably almost made it to Swamp Witch Hattie’s shack*

Once upon a time in this blog we commented on Lauderdale’s bogus claim to be—or to once have been—a fort.  Fort Myers, on the other hand, is legit.  At least as legit as a base intended for use in the eradication of those pesky Seminoles can be.

Slightly more recently, Tom Edison was cruising around the coast of Florida and decided to buy some land for a winter retreat.  Then a lightbulb popped on in his head and he decided to invest time and energy into cultivating rubber trees to help the War effort.  Or maybe to help prevent unwanted teenage pregnancies.  Then he and his buddy Hank Ford set up some research facilities and built opulent homes in Fort Myers, which is why today there’s a Marina at Edison Ford.  We didn’t dock there though.

For our first cruise in Tumbleweed, we left the Marina at Rick and Mary’s House, anticipating a nice short shakedown ride.

Through the residential canal was no problem—unless the shrill alarm warning of dropping voltage constitutes a problem.  Either way, a quick call to Rick solved it.

We’ll figure out this boat at some point.

Before Dana could organize lines, a storm decided to hit us.

Apparently it hadn’t rained for months before we arrived, but now it’s a daily occurrence.   Just our luck.  Anyway, with the unexpected wind blowing the unexpected rain into us, we pulled into Legacy Harbour eight miles from where we started.

Fortunately, Legacy Harbour was just far enough to ensure that most everything still works and to set us up for Clewiston, but also just close enough that Chris the Boat Guy From Heaven could stop by to finish up some dinghy cradle repairs after the rain stopped.  Perfect.

Friday morning, we left Legacy at dawn.  Dawn is early no matter the time, but we have places to be.  Plus, it’s not quite as bad when you’re boating.

Until we started Looping we had no idea that the southern third of Florida is an island, just like we previously weren’t aware that Cape Cod is an island.  But they are.  Which comes in handy when one starts in Fort Myers and needs to get out of Florida quickly because boat insurance companies are unreasonably skittish about Florida hurricanes.

Mostly the first part of the Okeechobee waterway was an easy cruise along the Caloosahatchee River, with only a few locks and bridges but lots of cypress trees.

We only identified ourself as Misty Pearl once, which we think is pretty good.

Because the W.P. Franklin Lock—named for Walter P. aka “The Father of The Okeechobee”— was our first lock in Tumbleweed, we submit a commemorative photo:

Yes, we still haven’t figured out how we’re going to stow all our lines.

Anyway, after the last lock of the day we started passing dozens of eyeballs.

We’ve heard someplace that the distance between an alligator’s eyes and nose somehow allows a calculation of how big it is.  We don’t know the exact formula, but by our rudimentary math these guys were at least fifty feet long.  At least they’re not tree-climbers like their cousins at the Alabama River Cutoff.

Just as the the water became thick with eyeballs, Dana went below for something that probably was important.  Doug—at the helm—started jabbering on the phone about something that almost certainly wasn’t important.  This all occurred simultaneously with us reaching the exact spot where the canal makes a fairly sharp starboard turn.  We sailed right on past.  If there had been trees and such, of course, Doug likely would’ve seen them.  But someone had the temerity to place what looks like the continuation of the canal straight ahead.  So we kept going straight ahead.

Things started getting darker.  The walls of swampy trees started closing in.  The water started getting thinner.  WTF is going on?  Ohhhh, we missed the turn.  Turns out this little canal-looking-thingy isn’t a canal at all.  It’s an unmaintained, non-navigable drainage ditch.  The Waterway Guide warning (referencing the danger from the other direction) was a bit late:

Thank goodness Tumbleweed isn’t a twenty-knot boat.  At eight knots, we still managed to get about a half-mile deep before the foolishness of Dana going below became obvious.  Well what the hell do we do now?

Luckily, Doug’s years of clean living finally paid off.  We found a spot about fifty-five feet wide, somehow sloooowly spun our fifty-foot length around without hitting boulders or stumps or mud, and snuck back out hoping nobody had seen us.  It would’ve been quite the ignominious end to our boating life if Dana had been eaten by fifty-foot alligators while slogging through the swamp on foot seeking help, leaving Doug to explain to authorities why he bravely stayed back at the boat to take care of Oscar and the wine bottles until help arrived.  Getting careless at the end of a long day in unfamiliar waters is such a newbie mistake that we half expected to find Kim Russo on the dock at Roland Martin Marina waiting to repossess our gold burgees.

Speaking of Roland Martin—the bass fisherman—he may be a BassMaster Hall-of-Famer, but he’s no Bill Dance.  Nobody but nobody rocks the Power T like Bill Dance, although Doug still bought a shirt.

Speaking of Roland Martin—the marina—we loved the joint.  Well, we loved it after getting tied up safely.  Not so much before that.  It started when a ne’er-do-well boat that will remain nameless (Island Dreamer) beat us to the Moore Haven Lock by just enough to make us wait a cycle, which allowed her to claim the primo spot on the long dock that runs along a very narrow side-canal.  Although he didn’t point fingers, Sam blithely informed us that our spot was now way on down that long dock, past a bunch of other boats.  And since the water is low, there’s no place to turn around at the far end.  So we’d have to turn around at the front end and go in reverse down that narrow side-canal, past all those other boats, then wedge in in front of a sailboat.  “Oh,” he added in a tone that to us seemed unnecessarily cavalier, “Stay away from the rocks on the other side.  They extend out underwater and aren’t forgiving.”  Obviously neither Island Dreamer nor Sam cared a whit that (1) we don’t know this boat very well yet and (2) we were still reeling from our near-death visit to a part of Okeechobee that even Rick and Mary haven’t dared to see.  But the Tiki Bar was outstanding and Doug got the drone up and down before the downpour to photo-document things for posterity.

Up and out this morning after yet another unexpected shower.  Lake Okeechobee—supposedly the largest freshwater lake in the country not named Lake Michigan—was the proverbial piece of cake.

Once past the Port Mayaca Lock, it was smooth sailing.  No drama at all today.  Which of course made us think of our friends Jeff and Ann (and Fred and Zack and Enzo) on No Drama, cruising off the coast of Maine.

The highlight may have been passing  the place where we enjoyed dinner, drinks, and music with Jack and Jo of Trust Your Cape, Loopers related to Mallory’s college roommate.  Of course, we forgot to look for their house until it was too late, so maybe the highlight was just thinking about them.

We made it back to Sunset Bay in Stuart, finally put some stuff away, and ate a delicious dinner.   Crazy that we left Scottsdale barely a week ago, but we’re already ready to stop cruising for a day so we’ll stay here until at least Monday despite the fixed dock.


*For anyone over sixty who needs a nostalgia throwback or anyone under sixty who doesn’t get the post title, here’s a link the Jim Stafford classic:  Swamp Witch Hattie.

We’re back in the saddle again!

We “ended” the blog in October of 2019 with a lyrical quote from one of the last great singing cowboys, Chris LeDoux.  Thus it’s kind of symmetrical to start back up with a title taken from Gene Autry, another great singing cowboy.  In yet another variation on the theme, the original great singing cowboy—Roy Rogers—joined with The Sons Of The Pioneers to give us his signature song, the aptness of which will become obvious in a moment:

Anyway, here we are again, turning up like a bad penny.  Since October of 2019, a bunch of stuff has happened, not the least of which was the eruption of a still-present global pandemic.  Under other circumstances we’d complain about Covid’s impact on our boating life, but given the real suffering of others that’d be pretty poor form.  Kind of like when we complained about lobster trap floats.

We sold Misty Pearl last year because we couldn’t really use her, hunkered down in a bubble back in Scottsdale, and waited for some semblance of normalcy.  Mallory finished the AT, then got booted from in-person grad school classes.  Shannon’s campus shut down as well, so she graduated early.  Which meant lots of Catan and Survivor after the girls returned to self-quarantine at home with us.  Great times indeed.

Another good thing to come from the virus is Black Dog Bikinis.  The girls started making swimsuits and were successful enough to move to Oahu, form a corporation, and start running an environmentally-conscious custom reversible swimwear business full time.  We’re quite proud of their entrepreneurial spirit, and only a tad bit worried about their lack of a 401k plan.

The obvious question then is why the blog post, since the blog supposedly is about Doug and Dana and a boat yet the above has not much of anything to do with boating.  Well—thanks to modern science giving us vaccines—we bought another one. 

Through a series of serendipitous coincidences, we now own a North Pacific 49 we previously knew from our Loop as Exhale.   Rick and Mary had sold her to another couple who were unable to use her, so here we are.  The recent survey and sea trial were uneventful, unlike last time.

So like the great non-cowboy-singer Roger Alan Wade, we made it through the desert with our canteens full of dreams.  The highlight of the trip back across the country to Florida, of course, was lunch at Chuy’s in Lafayette.  

We’ve been busily setting up the boat in anticipation of tomorrow’s departure from Rick and Mary’s home/dock/boatyard—again at trawler/sloth speeds—heading east through the Okeechobee Waterway before turning towards cooler places to the north.

The current plan?  We’re generally going to do the Loop again, but probably over the course of several summers and falls, taking time to do side-trips and stops we skipped the first go-round.  We’ll try to hit hotspots like Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, and of course, Lenoir City.   Maybe probably The Bahamas.  Then we’ll ship over to Seattle in a few years for the Inside Passage.  We’ll return to Arizona for pickleball and such each year when October or November cold-fronts start rolling up on us.*

Oscar is older and perhaps not that excited about traveling again, but he’s still portable and lacks a credit score so his options are limited.

But back to the boat.  Early blog followers will recall that our fear of an angry Neptune convinced us not to rename Misty Pearl.  Meh.  Our new boat’s last owners named her Mimi’s Oasis, which obviously meant something important to them but means exactly nothing to us.  The only Mimi with whom we’re familiar runs an excruciatingly-mediocre cafe.  So our new summer home now is Tumbleweed, because the lowly-yet-intrepid tumbleweed is a desert dweller that blows around haphazardly, sort of like we do. 

The lettering is colored copper, because—as everyone knows—60% of the country’s copper comes from Arizona.  (Which is why copper is one of the “C”s for which Arizona is famous.  Duh.)   We used Times New Roman font because old attorney habits are hard to break.

During our involuntary sabbatical from boating, we started turning the blog into printed books so that we can refresh our memories of the fun times even after the Russians blow up the internet with an electromagnetic pulse bomb.  Which means that we have to start the blog up again now that we’re seriously boating again, so as to create material for more printed books and hopefully provide periodically-interesting tidbits for anyone desperate enough for entertainment to follow us.

Special thanks to the same Rick and Mary, who not only previously owned the boat now known as Tumbleweed but without whom none of this would’ve been possible.  Okay, technically it all would’ve been possible, but the value of their assistance and graciousness is immeasurable.  Okay, technically we probably could contrive some way to measure it, but we’re not going to bother because we already know the value is huge.  We can’t wait to meet up with them to thank them in person.  Okay, technically we can wait but the point is that we’re really looking forward to seeing them.

By the way, we love comments and feedback.  Unless you hate the blog, in which case keep your thoughts to yourself.  We also admit that for our first post in over a year, this one isn’t that great.  In fairness though, it’s been a hell of a day organizing, updating engine-room maintenance, and generally getting ready to move.  Plus when Doug wanted to get a drone picture it started raining.


* Yes, we’re now part of the snowbird migration that clogs up all the roads and parking lots for several months each year.