Palm Trees, Ocean Breeze.

We have finally made it to paradise! ūüĆī  The locks, the murky Mississippi River and my AT&T internet service are all things of the past!  We’re docked in Bimini at The Hilton Resort.  The marina is chic, the sun is shinning, the breeze is warm.   Life doesn’t suck. ūüėé


Our friend, Shawn, jumped on board earlier in the week while we were in Ft. Lauderdale.  The week in Lauderdale was mostly uneventful in the realm of blog worthy content. Errands (lots of stocking up on our favorite U.S. staples – protein bars, my vitamin stash, beauty products, soda water, etc.)  and routine maintenance to the boat (oil change, windshield wiper repair, washing and waxing).


On Friday morning the weather/wind was ideal for our short jump to Bimini.  We watched the inauguration while we were underway and before we knew it, the turquoise water was upon us.   Margaritas/vino/snacks subsequently ensued and then we started scheming for our Saturday afternoon activities.


The first official day in the in the Bahamas looked like this:

Blogging next from Nassau.  Fingers crossed for more wildlife encounters. (Except for sharks, of course.) ūüė¨ ūüź¨

…The Waiting Game…

Its 6:50 a.m. ¬†Tom nudges me, “the weather report”.

“Okay, yes, one sec.”

I open my eyes, reach for my phone and scroll through the plethora of emails (most of which are holiday “sales”). ¬†There is it, Eddy’s Weather Wag. ¬†I click on it anxiously and read it aloud – morning – after – morning.

Its been nine(!) days since the last weather window for crossing the gulf – and once again, it isn’t looking good.

I toss the phone back into the windowsil and doze back off, hardly noticing in the moment that the boat is rocking in what I would typically describe as “violently”, but somehow at 7am when you’re under the covers and in bed…its rhythmic and soothing.

Now that you’re armed with the above mental picture, we’ve been in Panama City for solid week and it looks like we’ll be settling in for another 6 days. ¬†The current predicted weather “window” is Monday, December 12th. ¬†FINGERS CROSSED!

So how have we been keeping busy?

There was an alligator farm…img_0051img_0061

Dinghy rides…which included a dolphin encounter!dolphins

An epic night at Flora-Bama. ¬†(I met Cam -who owns the Flora-Bama with her husband- while at a MOXIE class while we were docked at the Orange Beach Wharf. She casually mentioned that we should stop by – and i’m so glad that we did! ¬†Cam graciously invited us into her VIP booth with her family -giving us access to the best seats in the house and we had¬†so much fun!)

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A tour of the USS Alabama.battleship

And a short stop in Destin.

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Our *one* regret of the trip so far is that we didn’t make a run for New Orleans. ¬†Had we known we’d be sitting idle for two weeks, we would’ve made the trek but at the time…we didn’t think we had the time to spare. ¬†*sigh*

Bless Your Heart; Good ‘Ole Boy; Fixin’ To; Roger That…

Hey Y’all! We are blogging today from Alabama!  The southern drawl and jovial sayings are a REAL thing and it.is.THICK!  (I love it!)  Its been one of my favorite weeks on the water – the weather is gorgeous, the people are incredibly genuine and the gulf is proving to be more alluring than I could’ve expected.   To rewind a bit…last week we attended the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show.  Tom was like a kid in a candy store. ūüć≠  We did plenty of yacht lusting and spent some much needed time with friends (which we apparently enjoyed so much that we totally forgot to take any photos…ūüė≠).

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From there, we were back on the water making our way down the Tenn-Tom River.img_0014

The boating was uneventful…one winding river that allowed for full throttle cruising and lounging. 

And at our last stop before officially making it to the Gulf, I made a new friend! img_0024picmonkey-collage-2

“Lulu” worked her way into my heart and onto the boat in no time!  Saying goodbye made me yearn for having a pet on board…The sweet company was the best! ūüź∂

Annnnnd then…Our laaaast lock! (at least the last until we start heading up the east coast next next June) I’m wiggling in my chair as I type it! img_0018

So, with that, we are finally back into a more robust area – lattes, spin classes and salads are abundant and i’m loving every second of it!

More from Mobile, Alabama and the Gulf Shores in the coming days!

See you then!

P.S. – If you didn’t already see it, catch our interview with Power & MotorYacht Magazine by clicking here!

Small Town, U.S.A.

The week has been as slow as the Mississippi…full of muddy water and industry-ridden shores. mississippi-collageChicago already seems like eons ago and we are so (!) far removed from the luxuries we indulged in there. 

Getting back on the water from our two week respite was invigorating.  Re-reading my sentence makes me close my eyes and think of the morning we officially pulled away, heading down the Calumet.  Kind of like riding a bike.  Untying our lines, pulling up the fenders, pushing off from the dock and grabbing my Waterway Guide to check on the exact distance to the first lock.  Its truly become a routine, second nature, a way of life…and I think its safe to say, it suits *us*. 

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TODAY we’re putzing down the Mississippi River.  The days are long and slow going due to waterlogged stumps and branches along the way, but i’ve decided that it seems to fit the pace of life along the River.  Each small town port has its unique charm and attraction but the lasting impression from this portion of the Loop will definitely be the sincerity and the kindness of the people.

We were able to meet more blog followers in Peoria!  Steve and Julie were incredibly kind and FUN!  Even inviting us back to their marina for *docktails* and to meet their fellow boaters. 

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From Peoria we hit all of the obligatory stops – including, of course, St. Louis! ¬†The Arch, the Anheuser-Busch clydesdales and dinner at the legendary “Fast Eddie‚Äôs” didn‚Äôt disappoint.¬†

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budweiser-collageThe upcoming days will entail some 270 miles with no marina/fuel stops‚Ķ.so we‚Äôre gearing up for a few nights on the hook until we can make our way to Kentucky Lake/Nashville. ¬† The last¬†port before making the long haul,¬†Hoppies Marine Services, is managed by Fern (who Tom and I have dubbed the “Matriarch of the Mississippi”). ¬†She offered an afternoon dock talk regarding the river conditions and what to expect along the way. ¬†A tried and true staple of the Great Loop!¬† Credit: Captain Dawn’s Crazy Adventures. ¬†(Check out Dawn’s blog for a completely unique Mississippi River experience!)img_4076

Anticipated with Excitement; Remembered with Nostalgia.

It’s been three and a half (3.5) months on the water.  As I type it, it doesn’t even seem plausible.  Summer came and went.  Fall happened.  And in the blink of an eye, our time in the Great Lakes is officially over.  I’m blogging today from the Illinois River – 83 miles south of Chicago – and in the spirit of reflecting on the first quarter of our journey, Tom put together the below video chronicling our adventure and i’ve broken down our “most memorable’s” to date.

‚ô¶Best View:  Hike @ Killarney Provincial Park.    Just steps away from the dock at the Killarney Mountain Lodge is what can only be considered as one of the most tranquil places i’ve ever been.  The hike is conducive for people of all levels of experience and offers breathtaking views and…did I mention the tranquility?  We spent hours sitting on the shoreline watching the pristine water rush by and came back the next day for a more intense workout session.

‚ô¶Best Flavor:  Olive & Gourmando (Montreal)- Two.words. Almond Croissant. TO DIE FOR!  Seriously, it melts in your mouth with goodness.  Tom’s pick is Cibo Wine Bar (Toronto).  Boasting a lively atmosphere and easily the best Sunday brunch we’ve ever had. If you find yourself in Toronto, this is a must!

‚ô¶ Best Dive: As we excitedly made our way back into U.S. waters,  Drummond Island, MI took us by surprise in more ways than one. The water was some of the prettiest we’ve seen on the trip – but the shining start of this port was the vivacious Mexican restaurant know as Esther’s.   While they don’t serve margaritas (or any alcohol for that matter), the food more than made up for it!  (Skip the guac – but the mains are delicious – the best Mexican on the Great Loop to date!)   Its worth mentioning that Esther herself is in the kitchen, with a smile, making each and every dish with spice and heart.

‚ô¶A Must Do:  The Benjamin Islands (North Channel).   This group of islands is simply serene.  The anchorage has picturesque pink granite and sapphire blue water.  On shore, you’ll find great hiking, ideal camp fire sites, and perfect sunbathing rocks.  While I suspect during peak summer months the islands can get a little busy/touristy, we happened to have the islands all to ourselves as we arrived in September.  It was a “Where else would you rather be?” moment.

‚ô¶Take A Pass: Lake Topaz.  Just the name sounds dreamy, right?  It turns out that Lake Topaz is pretty far off the beaten path – with very little water depth – and isn’t as idealistically “topaz” as we had hoped.

‚ô¶ Wished We Could Have (but next time!):  We missed out on our opportunity to cruise down the Chicago River.  Baywash needed some routine maintenance which ultimately routed us down the Calumet instead. (woof)  The Calumet was smelly and unforgivably polluted and unsightly.

‚ô¶Beauty Break: (Take two!) As anyone who reads regularly knows, beauty maintenance is a r.e.a.l. struggle aboard Baywash.  The trustworthiness of anyone who is about to come into contact with your skin, hair, nails, etc. is a nerve-racking thing.  Chicago was the mecca of all things beauty!  A hydrafacial (w/Christal) and a painless Botox touchup (w/Amber) at the Med Spa at Northwestern Plastics left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated.  I also have to mention that AJ Palace at Thomas West Salon is a hair goddess.  If you’re a blonde in the Chicago area – this is your girl! AJ is a fellow blondie and as she put it, “it takes one to know one.”

‚ô¶The Essentials: I am such(!) a sucker for a *good* grocery store; I love to gather fresh ingredients to snack on while we’re underway.  On our way up the Trent-Severn Waterway, I stumbled upon a small, but well stocked, gourmet market just around the corner from the Lakefield Marina (Lakefield, Ontario – between locks 26 & 27).  The Market (yes, that’s its proper name) was abundantly stocked with organic produce, grass fed meats, aged cheese, raw nuts and even some healthy sweets! A gem of a grocery store!

‚ô¶Working Up A Sweat:  While docked at Mackinac Island, we strolled the fudge filled streets in dire need of some sweat-worthy exercise. We noticed a bounty of bike rental displays – but each inquiry about mountain biking left us with blank stares and pushy salesmen who just wanted us to hop on their beach cruisers…not exactly what Tom had in mind.  We were ultimately pointed in the direction of Mackinac Wheels – a true bike shop with knowledgable staff and some intense mountain bikes!  Unbeknownst to many of the other bike renters, there are over 70 miles of bonafide mountain biking trails throughout the island.  Paths include paved and off roading and offer something for every skill level – and there being absolutely no cars on the island – its truly a pedaler’s dream!

The Best Ships Are Friendships!

Remember “You’ve Got Mail” with Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan? ¬†It’s one of my favorites. Hearing from so many amazing people on the blog has been kind of like that. ¬†I LOVE hearing from each of you; answering questions; mulling over your suggestions and even meeting some of you along the way.

Shortly after arriving in Chicago, I received a short message from a girl named Amber. It simply stated¬†that she and her boyfriend had read the article in Power & MotorYacht and wanted to know if we needed anything while we were in the Chicago area. ¬†I eagerly showed Tom the message – noting¬†how incredibly thoughtful the message was aaaaand realizing this may be a GREAT avenue for inquiring about suggestions for all of the beauty maintenance I was hoping to catch up on while we’re here.

A few messages were exchanged and before we knew it, we were out to dinner with Amber & Kevin (and even some of their mutual friends); and then out for drinks; and then repeating the process over and over again.

amber-kevin-collageWe were treated like old friends and it was so(!) refreshing & fun to hangout with a crew again. ¬† As we’re making our departure plans from Chicago, i’m already sad just thinking about our “goodbye” but I’m *forcing* them to visit when we’re in warmer waters in the coming weeks/months.

My Mom also visited! ¬†The best thing ever when you’re feeling homesick. ¬†No matter how old a girl gets, sometimes she just needs a day with her Mom….Am I right? ¬†We shopped and sipped¬†ros√© ¬†like it was our job. ¬†I think it’s safe to say we both loved every second of it!

The rest of our time here¬†was¬†spent in our usual exploratory fashion. ¬†Food/Cocktails/Sight Seeing….in that order!

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Eataly…this place is GENIUS! ¬†Amazing food, wine and shopping all in a gorgeous and inviting setting.¬†Processed with Snapseed.

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We’re still hanging out at DuSable Harbor for the time being – its raining – and we need to have some work done to the boat tomorrow…but making our departure/next port plans in the next few days!

…off to happy hour!…

P.S. – Tom has UPDATED our Track Our Trip portion of the blog! ¬†It includes the exact route we’ve taken, miles traveled, gas consumed and costs incurred as compared with the income received from renting out our house in Baltimore.

Oh!  And another side note.  We just booked our flights to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November!  Anyone else going??

 

Lake Michigan: Always Fresh, Sometimes Frozen…

It is…Tuesday? ¬†That means I’m t.w.o. days late in sitting down to write my update on the trip. ¬†I’ve been in a “funk” lately. ¬† Not really into taking pictures of every.single.thing we do/eat…and even giving my *stellar* photographer resistance¬†each and every time the GoPro/Drone/Camera surfaces. ¬†Ever been there?

I’m becoming acutely aware of how much I relish being in a city, having a normal workout/eating routine and my girl time back¬†in Baltimore. ¬†Tom & I¬†encourage visitors but that’s proven to be more difficult than we anticipated.¬†img_0185Anyway(!), since I last wrote, we conquered Lake Michigan. (what?!) ¬†The week flew by….Ports of call included: ¬†Mackinac Island; Charlevoix; Frankfort; White Hall aaaaand¬†Chicago.¬†Mackinac Island was like stepping back in time – in a good way. ¬†The lack of motor vehicles, the plethora of horses and the constant lingering scent of fudge made the entire island feel like a scene from an old movie. ¬† After a little research, Tom discovered that the island entailed almost 60 miles of bike trails….so we decided to slip off the grid and ended up spending the majority of our time hiking and biking.

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From there, we were off to Charlevoix.  This stop was on our wish list from day one Рbut it turned out to be totally different than we expected Рin a perfect way.

While I had anticipated boutique shopping and top notch farmer’s markets, what we found was tranquility.¬†Processed with Snapseed.

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There, on the shore of Lake Michigan, we were completely alone on this gorgeous beach!  We walked, and talked and even did a little paddle boarding.  And the water!  So pristine.  Seriously, who needs the Caribbean when you have this? (shark free!) hehe

From Charlevoix, we were on a m.i.s.s.i.o.n to get to Chicago. There were two overnight stops due to the relentless rough lake conditions, but we pushed through bright and early each morning. ¬†Everyone¬†offering advice about our journey on the loop says to make sure we are OUT of Chicago by October. ¬† We didn’t want to play chicken with the lake, so we didn’t waste any time in getting to the bottom of the lake. ¬†AND, my Mom is coming to visit us this weekend. (yaaaass!)¬† So, with that, we’re here! In Chicago!

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We haven’t had a chance to get the lay of the land. ¬†I knew I needed to blog and we had some errands to run. ¬†But that means i’ll have PLENTY to talk about next week! ūüíĀūüŹľ

 

The Tans Will Fade but the Memories Will Last Forever

HAPPY SUNDAY! ¬†We are officially back on U.S. soil and I have to admit, it’s bittersweet. ¬†I’ve been longing for a few of my staple USA items! *Dunkin’ Donuts coffffeeee* ūüôą ‚ėēÔłŹ But we LOVED Canada AND as it turns out, we saved the best for last!

The North Channel is, without a doubt, the front runner for our favorite part of the Great Loop thus far.  It encompasses everything we love about being on the water.  The scenery is breathtaking; hiking trails are plentiful; the gunk holes allow for easy anchoring; and there are even some luxurious resort marinas along the way (Killarney Mountain Lodge)- which as you may have noticed is something I get pretty excited about.

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We drifted from Killarney (above) to Topaz Lake at Baie Fine (below).

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From there, we overnighted in Little Current – which turned out to be cute and quaint and all things “small town”. ¬†(The local grocery store even offered to drive me back to the dock when they overheard I was visiting by boat.) ūüĎłūüŹľ ¬† I picked apples while Tom did some boat maintenance (engine oil change) and then we were off to the Benjamin Islands!

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If you’re planning to do the Great Loop…or just happen to have the luxury of visiting the North Channel, put the Benjamin Islands on your “Must Do” list! ¬†The islands are simply serene and allow for an absurd amount of fun with easy dinghy access, perfect hiking conditions and ideal campfire¬†sites.

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DCIM100MEDIADJI_0155.JPGWe are blogging¬†today from Drummond Island (ūüáļūüáł ) and charting¬†our course for the coming week as we make our way to Chicago. I’m practically wiggling in my chair just thinking about getting to Chicago! ¬†We’re planning¬†to stay for a week or two and I.Cannot.Wait. to explore another new city!

Post Script: ¬†It’s chilly here today – we’re in sweatshirts – and it makes me nostalgic for summer already! ūüė≠

What’s Your P.S.R.?

Primitive. Survival. Rating. 

Wait. I guess my first update should be that we made it through the l.a.s.t. lock!  Phew! TWYF1884

Now that we can finally stop talking about locks…Have you ever watched Naked & Afraid? ¬†Its on the Discovery Channel and its one of our favs! ¬†Two people are dropped into the wilderness completely naked and expected to survive for 21 days using their “primitive survival skills”.

I’d have to say the Georgian Bay has been sort of like that! ¬†(I know, I know…now you have an interesting mental picture, but just bear with me here.)

We kept hearing that the Georgian Bay would be the crown jewel of our trip. Supposedly picturesque beyond belief. ¬†It certainly didn’t disappoint on that forefront but, where it really shines is in its remoteness. ¬† Island after island with no one to¬†interrupt whatever your day has in store. ¬†MIIC7853

We anchored at Spider Bay and then the Bustard Islands.  Fully stocked with grilling options and red wine, we decided to relish in the uniqueness of not only the beauty but the surreal opportunity of being completely alone.  UWJB0330

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The week consisted of a homemade bow drill…and the hours that go along with attempting to make fire without matches, a subsequent campfire (a la matches) ūüėČ, hiking, cliff jumping, sun bathing, fishing, skinny dipping and even two(!) encounters with black bears.¬†ONZP8262bustards collageIMG_3668Its been a refreshing experience, one I’ll never forget. ¬†I’m blogging today from Killarney – the gateway to the North Channel. ¬†Its still picturesque and remote, but with a little bit of luxury on the side…quaint dining options, a spa, and LOTS of vacationers! ¬†More details on our time here next week! ‚úĆūüŹľ

 

POWER & MOTORYACHT: Great Adventure!

Hiiiii! ¬†Very exciting news! ¬†At least “very exciting” by my standards. ūü§ď ¬†¬†We received this photo from Tom’s family a few days ago…*insert squeals*.

I practically started wiggling in my chair when I saw it.

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Power & MotorYacht interviewed us a few weeks ago and we have been so excited and anxious to see it in print! ¬†So here it is! ¬†I clearly couldn’t resist sharing with you!

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Up next:  Chronicles from the Georgian Bay!