Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Keeping In Touch While Cruising - Alternatives to the Post Card

Many people have asked me the best way to keep in touch while on a cruise. While the post card works well, today electronic means are better. You can download  a 5MB PDF copy of the presentation I gave at the Ft Lauderdale PassageMaker TrawlerFest in January 2011 by clicking Keeping In Touch.

Posted on 03/29/2011 9:56 PM by Bob Duthie
Thursday, 17 March 2011
Florida Loop 2011

The Florida Loop covers an almost 8 week loop around Florida in Jan-Mar 2011. The Florida portion begins at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernadina then heads south to Miami and Marathon in the Keys.  In the interior we covered Lake Okechobee and Orlando. We took the Tamiami Trail across Florida and headed north finish the Florida portion of the loop at Grayton Beach.

Click here to start this trip at the begining

Posted on 03/17/2011 2:13 AM by Bob Duthie
Thursday, 17 March 2011
March 16, 2011 Florida Loop Wrap
  • 53 days total
  • 3,320 miles total
  • 181 gal diesel
  • 17.96  avg mpg
  • $593 fuel cost
  • $3.28 avg cost/gal
  • $3.10 $3.90 price range per gal  
  • $0.182 avg diesel cost per mile
  • Filled up with propane once
  • Generator was only used for a couple of hours
Posted on 03/17/2011 1:55 AM by Bob Duthie
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Mar 15, Day 53, Tuesday, Hanceville, AL to Nashville TN

We arrived at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman just after it opened at 9:00AM. We had the whole place to ourselves. Our guide was a Calico cat that led us around the entire property. The Grotto is built into a steep gully and located at a Benedictine Abby and school just east of Cullman on US278. It is only a few miles from I-65. Brother Joseph Zoettl created some 125 miniature replicas of religious structures both old and modern. B. Joseph also had a sense of humour (see dog).  It was an enjoyable tour and got the day off to a good start. We were home at noon and began the task of unpacking, cleaning, and going through 2 months of mail. I'll make one more post with a map of our trip and some statistics in the next few days. This summer we head for Alaska.

Posted on 03/16/2011 2:00 AM by Bob Duthie
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Mar 14, Day 52, Monday, Grayton Beach SP to Hanceville, AL

We said goodbye to the beaches of Florida and drove 307 miles today to an RV Park near Hanceville, AL. All the way north we were tracking a vast storm moving east and found this RV Park just 11 minutes before the rain hit with a vengance. From Grayton Beach to Montgomery we were on 2 lane roads that go through small Alabama farming towns such as Florala, Opp, and Brantley. Each has a set of classic Alabama farmers' town homes. In the last century the farm owners lived in towns and the workers lived on the land. Tomorrow we will visit the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman and then finish the 158 mile drive to home in Nashville.

Posted on 03/15/2011 1:59 AM by Bob Duthie
Monday, 14 March 2011
Mar 13, Day 51, Sunday, Grayton Beach SP

I had some competition at the slide show last night with a very active poker game going on the picnic table. However, I did get some nice comments such as "It left me feeling I want to know more."  Today we slept in with the time change and missed breakfast. We missed lunch as there wasn't supposed to be one. I did go for a bike ride into the town of Grayton Beach and checked on restaurants. Tonight 8 of us ate at Pandora Steak House. We had a great time and good food. The roast beef special was amazing at $14.95. We also had the fried strawberries for desert. I should have had my camera for that one, it was really good.

Posted on 03/14/2011 3:06 AM by Bob Duthie
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Mar 12, Day 50, Saturday, Grayton Beach SP

We had another beautiful weather day with another pancake breakfast and a huge fish fry at lunch with entertainment.  Jeff and Susie, Great Loop friends, that now have a 2011 View came over in the afternoon and watched pictures of the Salton Sea area. Both of us rode over (at different times) on the folding bike to the beach.

The yellow flag shows the surf level and the blue flag warns of dangerous sea creatures. Tonight I will be showing our Newfoundland photos to a small audience around a campfire.

Posted on 03/13/2011 12:20 AM by Bob Duthie
Saturday, 12 March 2011
Mar 11, Day 49, Friday, Grayton Beach SP

The View/Navion Rally is now in full motion. We had breakfast pancakes, then a session on touring Alaska, followed by pot luck lunch and then the Coach Crawl. The Crawl lets everyone tour other rigs at specified times. It was a great learning session to see the modifications people have made. Our unit was open from 3:30-5:00PM. Tonight we had dinner with Jeff and Marla, folks we met at last year's rally and met in Fort Lauderdale.

Posted on 03/12/2011 4:16 AM by Bob Duthie
Friday, 11 March 2011
Mar 10, Day 48, Thursday, St Joseph Peninsula to Grayton Beach SP

St Joseph Peninsula Beach

This morning Mavis was up early to go shelling after the big storm but pickings were pretty poor. The sand was blowing, the surf was up, and I measured the wind peaking at 24.3 mph with my wind gage. Grayton Beach State Park is the location of our annual View/Navion Rally. There about 48 View/Navions attending. We had a meet and greet at 4:00PM and tonight had a slide show at 7:00PM by a View owner that took his rig to Europe for 24 months over a 4 year period. He toured just about every country in Europe plus Russia, Turkey and Morocco.. Thankfully he didn't show all 50,000 of his photos in chronological order but rather had short sequences covering many countries showing the differences in road signs, markets, roads, and RV Parks. It was very cleverly organized. Unfortunately with the temperature at 54 degrees and dropping he lost muct of the audience by 8:45pm.  We will be here until Monday when we head for home in Nashville.

Posted on 03/11/2011 3:33 AM by Bob Duthie
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Mar 9, Day 47, Wednesday, St Joseph Peninsula State Park
The weather today was terrible. Winds on the Gulf were reported at 60 Knots. While it wasn't that bad here it was a day to stay inside. Internet service and power went off late in the day when the thunderstorms started. The storm went on for a good 6 hours.
Posted on 03/10/2011 4:57 PM by Bob Duthie
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Mar 8, Day 46, Tuesday, Carrabelle to St Joseph Peninsula State Park

We stopped at the Moorings Marina at Carrabelle for breakfast. 

Beach at St Josephs

This is the place we stayed at in 2003 before crossing the Gulf in the M/V Katy Leigh. There was one looper there from Peoria waiting for a good weather day to cross. The road to Apalachicola runs along the water.

At Apalachicola we walked around and visited the old sponge warehouse with the Venezellos mounted behind. 

Since 2003 it has suffered a lot of rot damage as the two photos show. The property is for sale. St Joseph Peninsula SP is a very beautiful remote place on the Gulf. There is 9 miles of untouched beach on the Gulf side and another 9 miles of water on the St Joseph Bay side. We timed our arrival right and got a perfect site for 2 nights with no reservation; a site which is just behind the dunes. It is a very relaxing place to be with temperatures in the high 60s. The only downside is the no-see-ums which like me but stay away from Mavis. Tonight we cooked steak on the miracle Grill-it we bought at the Miami boat show. The demonstration lady forgot to mention the spatter it leaves on the stove, walls, floor, and cook. We have only one bar on the cell phone so Internet service is pretty slow. I'll add the photos later.

Posted on 03/09/2011 2:34 AM by Bob Duthie
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Mar 7, Day 45, Monday, Cedar Key to Carrabelle, FL

Steinhatchee River at the Gulf

The main event today was to be Steinhatchee the other port used by Great Loopers that try to follow the coast. It turns out that Steinhatchee is almost the opposite of Cedar Key with friendly marinas and sheltered water on the river with the same name as the town. There is no downtown with antique and art shops like Cedar Key but there are some restaurants that looked OK. Rather than spend the rest of the day there we decided to head for the Big Bend Scenic Byway to Carrabelle, the departure port for Great Loopers crossing the Gulf. It was 187 miles to the Ho-Hum RV Park on Carrabelle Beach. 

The 2 lane roads were almost new and there was very little traffic as this is one of the least inhabited areas in the state. Lumber seemed to be the only industry. I was told that March is the busy season here for RVs. Lots of snowbirds that apparently don't mind the cold are present. The temperatures are in the 60's now; nothing to brag about. However, spring has arrived with the red buds, dogwoods, and Bartlett pear trees in bloom.

Posted on 03/08/2011 2:55 AM by Bob Duthie
Monday, 7 March 2011
Mar 6, Day 44, Tarpon Springs to Cedar Key, FL

Restaurants on the PierCedar Key Archipelago

We drove 122 miles to Cedar Key. This is old Florida at its best; mangrove covered keys, interesting architecture, neat restaurants, and the Gulf. This is Key West on a small scale. What is missing is cruise ships (shallow water) and anywhere for cruising boaters to dock. The chart shows Cedar Cove marina but it was wrecked in the last hurricane. There are a few boaters there but most of the docks are gone. I got the scoop from one of the boaters. The marina went bankrupt and the bank won't pay to fix the docks. They are waiting for someone to buy the marina, but buyers won't touch it without the docks being repaired. At low tide the water depth is zero with the boats all sitting in quicksand. The locals apparently don't think boaters will help bring tourists. I had Tony's 2X World Champion Clam Chowder for lunch. It was really good and a little spicy. Aquaculture of clams is the main industry here now besides tourism.  Our campsite, Rainbow Country RV Park,  is about 9 miles east of Cedar Key and is  a good example of an old Florida RV Camp.  We look out at a camper that has been here a long time with his pigeons in the cage on the left and lots of other stuff.

Posted on 03/07/2011 1:25 AM by Bob Duthie
Sunday, 6 March 2011
Mar 5, Day 43, Bradenton to Tarpon Springs

Tampa Bay Skyway

Doc cooked another great breakfast with scrambled eggs covered with cheese and toasted English muffins. We said goodbye and headed across the Skyway Bridge to the new Dali Museum in St Petersburg. The museum has only been open for a couple of months. We had seen the old museum 3 years ago but there is so much more to see now. The Rainy Rolls is homage to Dali's Rainy Taxi. Where cars are supposed to keep the rain off its passengers in this vehicle things are reversed with the rain inside, thus the diver in front and mermaid in back. We continued on to Tarpon Springs where the main street was covered with tables and chairs and there was lots of Greek music. We stopped at the Greek bakery and loaded up with large chunks of baklava.  Tomorrow we head for Cedar Key one of the stops some cruisers use on the Great Loop.


Posted on 03/06/2011 12:49 AM by Bob Duthie
Saturday, 5 March 2011
Mar 4, Day 43, Bradenton, FL


Doc learned how to cook in the military and does all the cooking at home. We have had several great meals by Doc and ate out once at a sea food place known only to the locals called Captain Brian's.  It was very good and highly recommended. Later we went to Linger Lodge and reviewed the Road Kill Menu. This place is an RV Park and Restaurant started in 1945 so it is very old Florida. The restaurant is full of stuffed fish, snakes, animals and alligators. There are some hybrids as well such as Jackalopes, Alaskan Fur Fish, and a Turkey Rattler. Linger Lodge is just east of I-75 on 7205 85th St. Court East, Bradenton.

Eileen is a great fan of Goodwill stores and in Bradenton-Sarasota there are many including some specialty stores. One sells only artwork, another books, still another cars and boats. We went by all of these but spent most of our time at the 17th St store. I was impressed with the appliances there that never really made it. 

A Black and Decker electric jar opener and the Curse Free TV were two good examples. Both sold for less than $10. I personally bought the Black & Decker laser level for hanging pictures and curtain rods. 

Tonight we had snacks and sat under the lanai listening to an alligator making its mating call in the pond.

Posted on 03/05/2011 3:23 AM by Bob Duthie
Friday, 4 March 2011
Mar 3, Day 42, Punta Gorda to Bradenton, FL

Checking into Oscar Scherer State Park we found there were no sites available. It seems there is a big art show in Sarasota so everything is booked. We called our boating & RV friends Doc & Eileen in Bradenton and they said to come on over.  Our timing was good as they are heading to Europe in a week or so. Since we were already in the park it seemed like a good idea to take a hike through the woods (see photos). We walked one mile walk through the scrubby flatwoods. These woods are the home of the imperiled Florida scrub jay, a species found only in Florida. The flatwoods were beautiful, but we didn't hear or see any jays. Oscar Scherer was the inventor of a process for dying leather in 1872. He must have done very well as he acquired 450 acres of flatwoods near Sarasota. The land was donated to the state by his daughter in 1955.

Posted on 03/04/2011 3:06 AM by Bob Duthie
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Mar 2, Day 41, Punta Gorda

Park Home at Gulf View RV Park

I always enjoy reading the rules for RV Parks. Gulf View is one of the tidiest and cleanest parks yet. But with many permanent "park homes" as they are called owners just can't resist. The rules say "No . . . excessive clutter will be permitted on sites . . . and residents wishing to enhance their sites . . . need management approval." Check the photo and see if you think the rules are being followed.  Park homes like this are for sale; 408 sq ft at $21,900 + $387.50 per month. The Port Charlotte Rotary Club meets Wednesdays at noon at South Port Square. We kept looking for a shopping mall until we found it was an assisted living center. The speaker was the sales director for the facility. South Port Square is a very impressive facility and markets itself as a continuing care retirement community. About ½ the audience was snowbirds including 4 Rotarians from Canada. Driving back we stopped at Muscle Car City, the museum of GM muscle cars. 

There were at least 40 Corvettes from just about every year. A 2010 model had a sticker price of $122,250.  Over in a corner was a Boss Hoss Cycle, Inc. motorcycle made in Dyersburg, TN. It has a Corvette V8 engine providing 355 to 425 HP. Just what every rider needs in a motorcycle. Tomorrow we head north to Oscar Scherer State Park near Venice, FL.

Posted on 03/03/2011 2:51 AM by Bob Duthie
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Mar 1, Day 40, Burnt Store, Fl to Punta Gordon

It's false advertising. The lady at the front desk just laughed when I said I wanted a site with the Gulf View. However, the RV Park does have access to the Alligator Creek which leads to Charlotte Harbor which goes to the Gulf. As soon as we got to our site we we got lots of visitors. Barbara and Jim on R/V Golden Lily not to be confused with M/V Golden Lily, their 42 Nordic Tug. They are loopers and are now enjoying the RV life in the winter and boat in the summer. Golden Lily is their golden retriever. Then a man that just bought a unit beside us came over. A little later a couple drove in and wanted to see a View up close. They are planning to trade in their 5th Wheel Trailer and buy a View/Navion. Storage seemed to be their #1 concern and our model has more than all the others. Hans and Ria picked us up and we went to Fishermen's Village a combination long wharf with shops and a marina. Jim (we met at Key Biscayne) was aboard his 36 ft Monk trawler. He had just installed a new shore power plug and socket from SmartPlug which has a lot of advantages. Many boat fires are caused by these devices which corrode and overheat when a lot of current passes through. The SmartPlug is shaped so it is easy to install without turning, and has squeeze clips  which hold it in place. It also has a temperature sensitive circuit breaker which shuts off the current it overheating occurs. The device replaces the inlet on the boat and female plug on the shore power cord.

Posted on 03/02/2011 2:01 AM by Bob Duthie
Tuesday, 1 March 2011
Feb 28, Day 39, Burnt Store, Fl

It was another relaxing day walking around the property and watching the manatees surfacing in the canals. Today I saw a tail but it was too fast to photograph. In the afternoon I stretched out in the boat and read while listening to music. Until Mavis came over with cell phone in hand for a conference call I had forgotten about. This evening we met a lady who with her husband had operated a carnival for 30 years. We learned the difference between carnivals and circuses. Comment if this is something you want to know. Tomorrow we head north to Punta Gorda to an RV Park called Gulf View. Since it appear to be miles from the gulf it will be interesting to see how it got its name.

Posted on 03/01/2011 3:56 AM by Bob Duthie
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