Life is Simple; Just Add Water

The past few weeks have been insanely indulgent – yet more simplistic than I had imagined this part of our journey would be…


Every part of the trip until now has been somewhat scheduled and full of information and options (i.e. what marina has the most amenities; where to get the cheapest fuel; closest grocery store; best dining options; etc.)  NOT the case in the Exumas!  Most islands have one marina; one restaurant; one “convenience store”; no wifi…you get the idea.  So while its not always luxurious…its relaxing.


Tom even caught dinner a time or two…so we’ve been testing all sorts of lobster recipes! 

So what else?  The PIGS!  I’ve been practically counting the daaaays to get my hands on these little guys.  Turns out, they aren’t so little!  😯



We saved scrap fruits and veggies for a few days prior to our visit, but in hindsight, we didn’t even need the bait.  They’re happy to see you regardless.  I’m secretly hoping that we’ll be able to stop back by on our return trip and that maybe someone will have had baby piglets! 😬

Up next: George Town.  And another friend hoping on board for a few days! See you next week! (wifi permitting!)

Time Well Wasted

The weeks are flyyyyying by!  We left Bimini and made our way to Atlantis – where (obviously) frozen concoctions and water slides ensued.

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After a 4 day childlike binger, we decided to make our way to the Exumas!  We provisioned accordingly in Nassau and untied the lines.  The weather was perfect and the cruising was uneventful…but when we arrived at Highbourne Cay, Tom noticed that something was awry in our engine room. A belt had completely disintegrated while we were underway.

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Thankfully, Tom and Shawn were able to diagnose the problem and get a new belt ordered/overnighted to the nearest airport…so it was ultimately a small hiccup.

Highbourne Cay could only be described as majestic.  The water (if possible) was even prettier than we encountered in Bimini and the Highbourne Cay Marina staff have thought of EVERYTHING you could possibly want in an island retreat.  We hiked; we biked; I got a workout in; Tom napped…and the guys even found time to snorkel and tinker around with their water toys.

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Needless to say, we are having a fantastic time.  (All those locks and days of whining have finally paid off!) 😎

Palm Trees, Ocean Breeze.

We have finally made it to paradise! 🌴  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. 😎


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.) 😬 🐬

…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*

From Music Row to Charm City…and back to the Loop!

Did you miss us?!  It’s been three weeks – sorry for leaving you hanging!  We hopped off the boat for a short rendezvous in Nashville, a week-long respite back in Baltimore aaaand made a quick appearance at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.

We got back to the boat yesterday (currently docked on Kentucky Lake @ Green Turtle Bay)…and the long haul down the Mississippi is a faint memory.  We did Nashville in our true-to-form fashion…with our tastebuds.  Up first:  Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.  Ridiculousness. And then I ate kale the rest of the week to make up for it! 😂  (kidding, sort of.)hattie-bs-collagekale-collage

We browsed Music Row, checked out the Cumberland River and went to the movies (twice).  Its also worth mentioning that it was our first night in a “real” bed since June – and while the Hutton Hotel was beautifully appointed, we actually missed sleeping on the boat!

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After 4 days in Nashville, we were off to Baltimore!  Being back in the house was surreal. Tom and I both dove head first into the two luxuries we’ve missed most since we left house in June.  For me…baking.  For Tom…Xbox Live.  🤓 lemon-pie-collage

We hosted dinner at the house with friends (which allowed for even more baking opportunity), Tom caught up on Canton Car Wash matters, we VOTED! 🐘 🗳 🇺🇸 and before we knew it, we were off to the boat show. (More on that next week).

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We are currently glued to the Election Day media storm, cleaning the boat, catching up on laundry, fueling up…and looking forward to make our way to the Gulf!

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’s” didn’t disappoint. 

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budweiser-collageThe upcoming days will entail some 270 miles with no marina/fuel stops….so we’re 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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

♦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.”

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!

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 rosé  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 – but it turned out to be totally different than we expected – in 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! 💁🏼

 

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* 🙈 ☕️ 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.) 👸🏼   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 (🇺🇸 ) 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! 😭