Surprising Cindy in Hilton Head, SC

There is nothing that makes us happier than to surprise Cindy with a visit from family. Julie and Tracy have teamed up with me on several occasions to drop in on us at a baseball game, our home, a cruise, our sailboat, and now on our RV. They drove all day on Friday in order to meet us on Saturday morning in Hilton Head. The shocked look on Cindy’s face as she opened the door to find them standing outside was priceless!

Surprise!

We arose in St. Augustine before sunrise on Saturday morning for an early start. We did so in order to coordinate our arrival with the girls in Hilton Head. Of course, Cindy was unaware of my ulterior motives, but she unquestioningly followed my wishes for an early departure. She was not so blissful when, three hours later, we checked into Hilton Head Harbor RV Park for several days. She thought we were only staying 2 days and was upset with me for not including her on the decision to stay longer. Of course, I couldn’t answer her questions of why, so I postponed my response until we were set up on our site. Fortunately, I was soon to be rescued by Julie and Tracy’s arrival. All was forgiven when Cindy realized why I had excluded her from my planning. 🙂

Beatitude II at our site.

View out our RV window.

We’ve had a blast since the girls’ arrival. On Saturday, we played a little tennis at the RV park courts before cleaning up to go down to Coligny Plaza for some trivia competition. Our team (“Team Beatitude”) won a couple of movie tickets, complete with soda and popcorn for winning one of the contests. The four of us make a pretty good team since we all have areas of knowledge different from the others. We returned to Beatitude II for filet on the grill. Mmmm!

One half of the doubles match.

The other half of the doubles match.

Mom and Daughter

3/4ths of the brainiacs at the trivia contest.

Grilling steak.

Waiting on steak.

The view from our RV campsite

And another

Sunday afternoon was beach day at Alder Lane beach. The water was wonderfully warm, yet refreshing, while the sun was soft and comfortable. We tossed a football in the water between being smashed by waves, and we played frisbee in the shallows on the beach. It was a perfect day. My Father’s Day was completed by one of the best seafood dinners I’ve ever had at Hudson’s on the docks. My Neptune’s Seafood Feast, consisting of scallops, grouper, deviled crab, shrimp, and oysters was amazing. It was great celebrating Father’s Day with at least some of my children. I was also blessed to receive video calls from Jeremy and Mariah.

On the beach access walkway.

Beach shot.

Cindy and I laying on our Mother’s and Father’s Day presents from Julie and Tracy.

Enjoying the refreshing ocean waters of Hilton Head.

Tracy and Julie

Football. Who threw it and who is catching it?

Julie on the beach.

Frisbee time.

Unforgettable Father’s Day dinner at Hudson’s on the Docks

Hilton Head wildlife

Yesterday, the fun continued with a zip-lining expedition. It was a blast riding cables up to 75′ above the ground at Zipline Hilton Head. We had a couple of great guides, Day and Gabe, who added to the fun. The ladies also took some time to do a little rock painting on the RV. Then, in the evening, Tracy grilled us some delicious chicken fajitas. Mmmmm, again!

Zip-Lining Crew

Tracy atop one of the platforms.

Trudging up the stairs to a higher platform.

Cindy and I making our way on one of the swinging bridges between zip-lines.

Great view from the top!

Our great guides, Gabe and Day

Ladies’ Rock Painting

Spectacular sunset

Julie and Tracy will be with us for another few days before returning to New Castle, Pennsylvania on Saturday. We look forward to more fun and games before their departure. We’ve also had their mostly sweet bulldog, Delilah, with us. I say “mostly” because she is super sweet to Julie, Tracy, and Cindy. Not so much with me. For the most part, her interaction with me consists of growling, snarling, and barking (on her part, of course). She acts like she’d like to tear the flesh from my bones. We had a few hours of love on Saturday evening. I fed her some of my filet mignon at dinner. The rest of the night she lavished kiss upon kiss upon my arms and legs and allowed me to pet her freely. The next morning, all reconciliation was forgotten. She was back to her “mostly-sweet” self. I don’t really mind and I’m not scared of her. Poor thing was a shelter dog which had been abused in her past life, who now has chronic kidney problems. Julie and Tracy adopted her and have given her a good life. I must remind her of some traumatic experience in her previous life, so, it’s all okay. Actually, today, we’ve had a sort of truce. She hasn’t acted aggressively toward me, and I’ve done all I can not to provoke her. 🙂

Lilah with her look-alike cow toy.

Sunset from Hilton Head RV Park.

Our First RV Destination: St. Augustine, Florida

Before leaving Central Florida, Cindy had breakfast with a friend, Betty, while I underwent some routine medical testing.

Our good friends and family (Our son, Jeremy’s wife’s mother, Heather, and her Aunt Sherry) visiting us from Orlando. Here, we are having dinner at Cracker Barrel.

Saying good-bye to company.

On the morning of June 15th, we hitched up our new home and drove 182 miles up I-4 through miles of crazy traffic and construction and then up I-95 to St. Augustine. We’ve adopted a general guideline when traveling that we will attempt to adhere to as much as possible called the 2:2:2 rule. The goal on travel days will be to drive less than 200 miles, arrive by 2 p.m., and stay at least 2 nights at each destination (We modified this rule from other RVers). Our first trip was a success, then, from the standpoint of adhering to our rule.

Making sure the tops of the slides are clean so that we can safely retract them prior to departure from Lazydays.

Putting away the sewer hose. No “RV” incidents with the sewer hose yet!

Cindy folding up the steps prior to departure.

Our living area with both slides retracted.

In fact, it was a success in (almost) all aspects. We had no problems hitching up the RV, although it did take several repetitions of backing up and moving forward to align the kingpin with the hitch. Maybe we’ll get better at this as time goes on, or maybe that’s just what it will take to hitch the RV. We had no problems negotiating the heavy traffic and construction zones, nor did we have any problems stopping for lunch and finding an appropriate place to park the rig. Setting up at the new RV park was also a much smoother process. We’ve now had three times to practice all of that.

Ready to hit the road.

Food stop! It’s a long way from the rear of the RV to the front of the truck!

Parked by one of the big boys. We’re about as tall though. The height of our RV is 13’3″.

Our only real problems of the trip were found when we opened the doors to the RV upon our arrival. The first was small, we had stacked some soda inside the door which had tumbled over and one can leaked slightly — not a big deal, but we’ll have to continue to improve preparing the interior for our travels down the road. The second was slightly more of a disaster. We have very nice roomy cabinets above the sofa at the rear of the RV. We had stacked books on the top shelf of these cabinets. Unfortunately, the shelf decided it didn’t want to support the books (which probably weighed more than a hundred pounds) and one side gave way, sending all the books spraying out the cabinet doors and into the living space. We first realized there was a problem when Cindy tried to extend the slide outs. The books were caught in between and wouldn’t let the slideouts fully extend. We cleaned up the mess the next morning and I made a trip down to Home Depot for some supplies to repair the shelf. No more books on the top shelf!

A mess in the living room. You can see the shelf to the right gave way, spilling our books onto the floor.

The shelf is repaired.

Our spot at Stagecoach RV park.

The evening of the first day in St. Augustine we drove into town and had dinner with a friend at Cellar 6, a lovely restaurant on Aviles Street in the heart of the downtown area. It was so nice to enjoy a great meal with Megan, the daughter of our good friends in Charleston, Justin and Shera. She recently moved from Charleston to Jacksonville, and was so nice as to drive down to St. Augustine to have dinner with us and stop by the RV for a few minutes afterward.

My love and I at Cellar 6 for dinner with Megan.

Megan and Cindy on Aviles Street in front of our dinner spot.


Today, our second day in St. Augustine we did a little sight-seeing. We’ve visited St. Augustine a couple of times before by car and once when we were making our way up the east coast in our sailing home. You can read about those adventures HERE and HERE. Even though we’ve seen most of the sights of St. Augustine, we still love it here. We decided to revisit a couple of places today, the Fountain of Youth and the San Sebastian Winery. I had remembered the Fountain of Youth as a kitschy, touristy place not hardly worth a second thought. Either they’ve changed the place or I didn’t see much of it before. There is still the kitsch, but there is also an archaeological site and historical demonstrations. It was nice. Our winery stop was also nice. Most of their wines are nothing to speak of, but their dessert wines are actually good. Today, we brought home a bottle of their Sherry.

Cindy at the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

We know this isn’t the “real” fountain of youth because we drank of it around 15 years ago. We’re old.

A cool, 1950’s technology educational display, a two-story spinning globe showing the routes Columbus took on his first two journeys to the New World.

The archaelogical site is behind us. St. Augustine is considered to be the oldest city in the U.S. The original settlement was on the property of the Fountain of Youth Park, slightly north of the modern town.

Cindy, doing archaeology. Sadly, she found no valuable artifacts.

Standing in front of a reconstruction of the original Catholic mission in the first settlement.

One of the several entertaining demonstrations at the Fountain of Youth Park. Here, a guide fires a crossbow.

At the winery.

Tomorrow, we head on up the road a little. We’ll leave early for our trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, just a little over 200 miles away.

Peacocks were all over the Fountain of Youth Park. Here is a beautiful white one.

And, a beautiful “normal” peacock.

Blogging Again: From Colon, Panama to Ft. Lauderdale, FL… and The Beginning of our New Land Adventures!

On April 9, we stopped blogging, instead posting shorter blurbs to Facebook. This reason for this was our boat was on the market, and we were instructed that closing our blog might make for a quicker and smoother sale. At this time, Beatitude is under contract. The closing will take place once we make a few requested repairs by the future owners. We are thrilled that Beatitude sold so quickly once we returned to the United States. What follows are abridgments of our Facebook posts over the past two months, along with eighty or so photos extracted from the two-hundred or so posted on Facebook. If you’ve read all my Facebook posts, then this will be a quick review (or, you could just ignore this). 🙂

Prior to leaving Panama on April 18th, we carried out various boat projects and repairs in anticipation of our departure. We replaced the two raw water cooling pumps on our twin Yanmar diesels. We also changed the oil and filters on both engines – and the Racor fuel filters on each. The electronics guys came to finish up work on the generator and electrical control panel. As of the 13th of April, rejoicing erupted on Beatitude! All lightning strike repairs had been completed, and all systems were working well! It was a long 5 1/2 months! Also, in that last week or two, we continued our jungle walks, enjoying the last few sights and sounds of Panamanian wildlife.

The first part of our passage from Colon, Panama to Grand Cayman Island — a 609 nautical mile, 4 1/2 day passage almost directly northward, was quite nice. It was certainly the longest passage of our five years of living and cruising aboard Beatitude. We were very happy to pull into Georgetown Harbour and clear into a new country. We only rested for two nights since we saw a good weather window for the next long leg of our trip back to the USA. The first night we were tied to a mooring in the Harbour, and the second night we were tied to the dock at the very comfortable Cayman Islands Yacht Club. The route from Grand Cayman to Key West took us around the western tip of Cuba, heading first toward the northwest, and then back toward the northeast.

On April 27, we pulled into Key West, FL, a journey of almost 1200 nautical miles from Central America, divided up into two legs. Just nine days prior, we were sitting in Colon, Panama, where we’d been “stuck” for nearly six months. For the first 36 hours of this passage from Grand Cayman, we motored through completely calm conditions. The only “difficult” leg of our passage was during the second night, when we had 4′ seas, 20 knot winds, and a malfunctioning autopilot. This occurred as we approached and rounded the southwestern tip of Cuba. Once we rounded the corner of Cuba, we enjoyed a brisk beam reach that continued, for the most part, all the way to Key West. When our progress was boosted by the Gulf Stream, we set a new speed record aboard Beatitude, 11.4 knots!

Once in Key West, we rented a car for the week and headed into the Customs and Border Protection Office to clear into the U.S. We really enjoyed our time in the southernmost city for the next few days. From shopping in Publix (yes, that it is one of our favorite things about returning to the U.S.), to diving the coral reefs and shipwrecks, to touring art galleries, to visiting the Truman White House, to dining in great restaurants like Blue Heaven, it was a great few days. On Sunday, we experienced another great part about being back in the U.S. — we could easily attend church! We enjoyed a very nice liturgy at St. Paul’s Episcopal church.

Our final passage aboard our beloved Beatitude started on May 4th. We motored 63 nautical miles to our first anchorage at Lower Matecumbie Key. We dropped anchor in 7 feet of calm Florida Keys water. The next day we left our protected anchorage and proceeded on the inside passage up the Florida Keys to Miami. Thankfully, we avoided some rather ominous-looking thunderstorms which were rolling across the area. After making our way through Biscayne Bay, we anchored in a spot with a beautiful view of the Miami skyline. The day was long: 67.5 nautical miles and 10 hours of passage-making. At 6:10 the next morning, we weighed anchor in our downtown Miami anchorage. After making our way out through Government Cut, we took a 90° turn to port and paralleled the Atlantic Coast of southern Florida. We knew we were no longer in the tropics, when we had to put on sweatshirts and cover up with a blanket at the helm station. Brrr! Just before 11:00 a.m., we entered the Port Everglades Channel, from there winding our way up the New River, fighting current and multiple draw bridge openings along the way. The journey up the river was quite beautiful, with multi-million dollar homes and massive yachts lining both banks. Finally, we arrived at the Lauderdale Marine Center, where we docked Beatitude, and where she awaited a new buyer.

Upon our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale, we wore ourselves out cleaning, discarding, and packing. On Sunday morning, we hungrily attended worship at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church. Afterwards we drove our rental car to Ft. Pierce where we picked up our new vehicle with which we would pull our new 5th wheel RV. She is a gorgeous beast: A 2017 Ram 3500 diesel with dual rear wheels. That afternoon, when we returned to Ft. Lauderdale, we visited the local U-Haul dealer to pick up a pull-behind trailer in order to transport our stuff to our waiting RV in Tampa.

After two or three solid days of packing boxes and discarding other items, the crew of Beatitude vacated the vessel. Tears welled up in our eyes as we closed the salon door for the last time, likely to never set sail in Beatitude again. It had been quite a ride. We bought our cruising home five years before. We moved aboard shortly after her purchase, and, for the first couple of years, sailed close to home on excursions that lasted from a few hours to a few days. When we had paid off all of our debts and the last of our children was off to college, we sailed away from the Gulf Coast of Florida for regions unknown, to us, at least. We didn’t know if we’d live aboard for a year or two, or ten, or even twenty. It turned out to be five years. We’ve always said that we would cruise on our sailboat until we were ready to do something else. Well, it was time to do something else! We had sailed over 10,000 nautical miles, venturing up the U.S. coast into New England before making our way southward through the Bahamas and the Caribbean. We were always open to the idea of crossing oceans and circumnavigating the world. It turned out that a circumnavigation of the Caribbean was just fine with us. What a great five years it had been! We wouldn’t trade this time for anything and have no regrets. What a dream-like adventure we’ve lived! We are so thankful and blessed!

After our labors of cleaning and moving out of Beatitude, we enjoyed a few days of relaxation with Cindy’s twin sister, Christy. She flew down from Ohio for some Florida sun and fun. We spent lots of time on the beach and by the pool. We ate way too much good food. We met with wonderful friends who either live in the area or are visiting. And, we attended a wonderful Verdi opera, The Masked Ball, at the Broward County Performing Arts Center.

On Monday, April 15, our new adventure officially began. After dropping off Christy at the airport, we drove the four hours to Camping World of Tampa, belongings in tow, to pick up our new Bighorn 3160el 5th wheel RV. We were so excited! After spending one night on our Bighorn at the dealership, we attempted to hitch the RV to our Ram pick-up for the first time, which proved quite tricky. It took me several attempt to line up the hitch with the kingpin properly. But, at last, we were ready to make the four-mile trek down I-4 to Lazydays RV resort. Our Ram tow-vehicle is awesome. It pulled the 15,000 RV with ease. When we checked into Lazydays, I explained that I was a newbie and could use an easy site to back into. They obliged. I report with glee that it was a first-attempt perfect success. Thank God! We hooked up the water, sewer, cable, and electricity, continued to unpack, and went shopping for new items which we needed to establish ourselves in our new home. Five years of living on the salt-water rendered much of our “stuff” unusable.

Aboard our new rolling home, we were relaxed and loving life. After five years of boat-life, we felt like we were living in five-star luxury. To have a full size refrigerator/freezer, a “real” oven, power recliners with massage, and a 52″ large screen TV (I could go on and on) is amazing! We were so excited about our upcoming adventures aboard our RV. We were blessed with multiple guests over the next few days: Louise and Betty, two of Cindy’s best friends from Lakeland; Mark Cole, CEO of the John Maxwell Company, and a life-long friend of mine from Georgia; the Hershberger family, long-time friends from Ohio; and my niece and her husband, Holly and Jason.

From May 24 to June 11, we left our new home behind. I flew to both Green Bay and Vero Beach for several shifts in the emergency department, while Cindy flew to Ohio. Unexpectedly, I was blessed to spend a week in Ohio visiting with family in between work assignments. In addition to relaxing with family, I fit in a couple of rounds of golf, attended an Akron Rubber Ducks AA baseball game, attended the Divine Liturgy at St. Elia Orthodox Church, and visited the excellent Cleveland Museum of Art with Cindy and her brother, Donnie. Our land-cruising adventures begin in earnest in a couple of days as we leave the Tampa area and begin our northward journey. Our plan, as of now, and which is always subject to change, is to make our way to upstate New York by September to visit our son and his family in their (by then) new residence in the Albany area. This would allow us to celebrate our grandson’s first birthday in person. We, of course, plan to have many adventures along the way!