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Day 207 - Fort Myers Beach, Florida
21:39 hrs - December 24th, 2007
Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

After 207 days and almost 2,000 nautical miles on our home sweet home Dream Time we sailed into Fort Myers Beach in Florida something almost impossible to imagine 6 months ago in New York when we moved onto the boat. It was a sunny 80 degrees and we were met by a marina welcoming committee, and it marked the end of the grand first leg of our journey, and the beginning of an entirely new set of adventures.  Sailing down the east coast of America while having been great fun, was all within US water so everything was relatively easy, my biggest challenge was simply adjusting to life on the boat.  It was surprisingly difficult at first but when I learned how to let go more, and let it all just be different, things became much easier and having now been on the boat full time for 6 months we now have a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t.  We are in the process of stripping the boat back down, and only putting back exactly what we need for the next part of the journey.  We are also doing the last major projects that we were waiting to get to Florida to do, like add 2 new solar panels, a water maker and an SSB.  It will all take a few weeks to get done but when we’re finished we will be much more self sufficient and really ready for the next phase of our journey.  We have learned more, met more people and experienced more in the last 6 months than either of us expected or imagined and it has been a truly great first leg, but now we are both ready to see what lies ahead, I can only guess at what it might all be like.  Most of the places we’re going now will be new to both of us, certainly from a sailing perspective, and I have almost no idea what to expect other than to know that 98% of it will probably be outstanding, and the other 2%, I probably won’t like much, but hey, that’s not a bad ratio!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Dream Time: Wiring complete, ready for installation of two 85 watt solar panels. iCOM 802 SSB radio ordered, measurements taken for installation of Spectra Ventura 150 watermaker, major Yanmar repair kit ordered, new B&G autopilot RAM ordered with repair kit, set-up of Iridium Sat' phone with XGate and WeatherNet, bullkheads stripped and painted, new canvas dodger, bimini, sunshade, cockpit cushions, new fridge gasket ordered and air-intake for compressor, charts and crusing books ordered for western Caribbean.






           

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Day 195 - Key West, Florida
18:48 hrs - December 12th, 2007
Key West

Well we are now at the southernmost point of the US and it’s starting to feel very Caribbean, the water has changed into the pastel turquoises and blues that I remember from postcards, and the temperature is a much more agreeable 80 degrees.  The sailing here is glorious too with warm accommodating winds and pristine dolphin filled seas, perfect. We have been in Key West for a few days now before we head up to Fort Myers, where we will spend Christmas and attend to our final boat projects before heading out of US waters. Key West really delivers on all its Jimmy Buffett, Margeritaville promises, there is every kind of frozen drink known to man administering varying degrees of hangover, and every bar seems to have a Jimmy Buffett like entertainer of sorts singing loudly to attract passing thirsty visitors. But Key West also accommodates a large number of army, air force and navy folks too, probably a nice posting if you are in the military. The locals graciously tolerate the seemingly never ending stream of visitors from air land and sea, and get to enjoy everything here year round as their reward.

We rented a couple of bikes and rolled around the whole conveniently flat island so we didn’t miss anything, and it was lovely. I am still surprised by the number of people and life stories we have encountered as we sail along, but what is beginning to dawn on me is that its not that we are finding these fascinating people because we are sailing, its because we are engaging with the people we do meet more fully, and every one has a story to tell, and everyone’s story is epic. Some adventurous some tragic and sometimes quietly magnificent and noble, but always surprising when you find yourself in a position to give someone enough time to tell it. In Key West we met the beautiful Italian wife of an Army Combat Diving instructor, a young dreadlocked sailor who had just spent a week in hospital after he almost drowned trying to recover his dingy in a storm, an English lady who lives in Key west on a tiny pink houseboat who still enthusiastically goes camping in Australia despite her 70 plus years, and the indomitable Fred Cabanas who started flying when he was 16.

We agreed to let Fred take us up in his S2C Pitts Biplane at up to 215mph with organ squashing G forces doing torque rolls, knife-edge spins, double hammerheads, snap rolls and other tumbling maneuvers including the rather interesting stall and fall backwards trick!  Neville and I of course took him up on his offer something neither of us will soon forget, but one of the sweetest moments of that day was the heart swelling pride Fred radiated when he told us that on Saturday his daughter Lt. Kelly Gander, a Navy Pilot on the USS Enterprise, is coming home after her 2nd tour of duty in the Persian Gulf.  With his daredevil flying life and his irrepressible personality he is a bit of a legend around here, but with all that he is also simply a parent who is going to get his daughter back safe and sound from a war, and that makes him a fortunate and happy man, and that is a lovely thing to witness. 




           

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Day 191 - Key West, Florida
21:40 hrs - December 8th, 2007
Bird of Paradise

Today, whilst running in 15-20 knots of 80 degree wind, skimming across the surface of crystal clear turquoise water and listening to Jimmy Buffetts' "Christmas in the Caribbean" on the radio, Catherine and I exchanged smiles, you see we've made it to the southern most tip of north America - Key West! Sorry for the late blog, it's been "my turn" to update the site, but I must confess, I've lacked the motivation to fire-up the old Toughbook and fill you in on our progress. I've been a little distracted. You see for the last week we've been cruising the Keys, day sailing down the Hawk Channel. I've been busy, well, at least in a cruising kind of way. Between splicing rope to make ratlines so we can get a better perspective to navigate around coral heads, diving to check the anchor has set (not really out of necessity, the water is so clear I just like to do it) and trawling every lure in my arsenal trying desperately to catch lunch, I haven't had much "free-time" on my hands. We did, however, manage to spend a few hours ashore this afternoon - a quick reconnaissance mission so we'll be ready for tomorrow. We were warned by locals to lock our dinghy, steer clear of the Emma Street neighborhood (Key Wests crime central) and whatever we do, don't hurt the chickens, "If you even spray them with a hose," one local warned, "you'll get locked-up in jail!" Hundreds, perhaps thousands of chickens wander the streets of Key West, it seems they are descendants of the pioneering chickens that first came to the islands back in the 1800s with the original settlers. We plan on renting bikes tomorrow to investigate the matter further.

Dream Time: Installed speaker in cockpit for 12 volt radio. Ordered two 85 watt solar panels that we'll install above bimini. Replaced Seagull water filter. Attached water activated strobe light to MOB pole.