Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday through Sunday, December 9-11, 2011

Friday morning Joe and I both worked at cleaning boat windows.  So much salt has built up on the outside of the windows just from being in this salt water environment, that it was getting hard to see out.  Joe hooked up the fresh water hose and gathered a bucket and squeegee and paper towels and rags and proceeded to clean all of them.  He also hosed down the rest of the boat exterior and cleaned off the many bug spots that we acquired on our trip here.   I worked cleaning windows inside and through our combined efforts we have a great view again!
While I went for groceries in the afternoon, Joe took an hour long bike ride through Dunedin and on the Pinellas County trail.  After I got home, he made blue cheese hamburgers--they were so good.

After dinner, Joe noticed something happening on the street in front of the boat.  We went outside and saw the Dunedin High School Scottish Highlander band (their motto is "Real Bands Wear Kilts!") with their bagpipers and traditional dancers playing and clogging and all heading towards the Bon Appetite restaurant across the street.
When they got there they performed for 15 or 20 minutes outside the restaurant, then turned around and headed back towards town, still playing and clogging.  Dunedin was settled by Scottish immigrants and proudly maintains its heritage.

On Saturday I went shopping with my sister-in-law, Flora, in Tampa.  It is so cool to see poinsettias growing in the ground here; I took this photo in the parking lot of a Tampa shopping mall.  In 1973-74 Joe was in the Army and was assigned to one of four missile batteries around Homestead Air Force Base, so he and Kris and I lived in government housing near the base.  Many people had poinsettias cascading from the roof down the side of their house and I always loved that.  I haven't seen that around Dunedin, but Flora mentioned that she wants to plant some around their house.

While I was gone, Joe put up the little Christmas tree that Bill and Eileen lent to us.  It's so adorable...

...but it tends to fall over, so I had to bungee it to the TV set in back of it!

After setting up the tree, Joe rode the bike and stopped in at our favorite fishmonger where he bought grouper cheeks for our dinner; they're the Florida equivalent of Minnesota's walleye cheeks, but bigger.
At 4 pm we met Bill and Eileen to watch the annual Dunedin Christmas parade through the historic part of town.  I totally forgot to bring the camera and my phone was dead so I couldn't take any photos which is too bad because it was a nice parade that lasted about 90 minutes.  There were five or six different bagpipe units in the parade as well as the usual local politicians, military units, dancing schools, and fire trucks.  Near the end of the parade was a pirate ship float with pirates throwing Mardi Gras beads; Eileen and I each got some.  Of course, the grand finale was Santa, who was in a wagon pulled by two draft horses and he naturally got the biggest cheers.
While the temperature was in the 60s during the parade, there was a bit of a wind and the air was damp and chilly.  So after the parade we decided to stop at a local bar where--lucky for us--they were handing out free hot spiced wine that warmed us up nicely.  We had a couple of rounds of drinks, then left to have dinner.  On our way out of the bar, they had finished up the hot spiced wine and were then handing out spiked eggnog that was really good.  We all walked back to the marina and Bill and Eileen headed home to eat.  I made big salads and Joe sauteed the grouper cheeks which were absolutely succulent.

Today, Sunday, John and Flora and Bill and Eileen all came over around 1 pm for dinner and a cruise.  I was so delighted when John and Flora brought in four poinsettias as a boatwarming gift!  We may not have Christmas lights up, but it's looking pretty festive in Paradise.

John made lasagna, Eileen made a salad, and I made bread.  Everything was outstanding and after we ate, we cruised down to Clearwater. 

The sky was cloudy and though it was windy, we had the wind at our back so sitting on the bow was nice and warm.

Bill and Eileen
 John and Flora
 Cap'n Joe at the wheel
 Me and Eileen
When we headed back, we saw this small boat get stopped by the Coast Guard.  We couldn't tell what, if anything, they had done wrong, but it looked kind of serious.

After we got back to our slip, I put together the cannoli that I made this morning and we enjoyed that as a final treat before our guests departed.  We had such fun that we're planning to do it again next Sunday!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Monday through Thursday, December 5-8, 2011

Last Thursday we arrived (exhausted) in Dunedin, and the past week has made every bit of the trip worthwhile.  On all of the last seven days we've had warm sunshine and mostly blue skies--in fact Monday and Tuesday were what I like to call '"Chamber of Commerce days"--the kind of days that give Florida its nickname "the Sunshine State".  The temperatures were in the high 70s and low 80s and there wasn't a cloud to be seen.

We got into the marina on Monday and discovered that, while the brackets for the ramp to get in and out of Paradise are about 42 feet from the bow, the finger pier leading out to our boat only extends 35 feet.  A big problem!  So while Joe was able to get off the boat by walking on one of the ropes that ties Paradise to a piling, that's obviously not something I, nor most or our guests, can do.  So I was stuck on the boat until we figured out a solution to this problem.  The owners of the excursion boat (m/v Parrot-Dise) on our port side offered to help Joe back Paradise in so that the ramp would be in a usable place.  Unfortunately, that would leave us unable to use the dinghy if we want to go out to one of the islands near here.  Using a step ladder was discussed, but that sounded wobbly and dangerous.  Finally, Joe figured out that he could move the brackets that hold the ramp and install them at a point closer to the bow so the ramp will work.  Problem solved.  Oh...yeah...except that now anyone boarding or leaving Paradise has to climb over the railing before entering or exiting, and Joe has to tie up the ramp when it's not being used because otherwise the rising and falling of the tide causes the ramp to get caught between Paradise and the finger pier.  We never knew that life on a boat was going to be so COMPLICATED!
These are some night scenes of other boats in the marina, the white-linen-tablecloth restuarant right in front of us, and a small bar overlooking the water.  There's also a fish market here next to the bar, but it's not as good as the one 6 blocks away that we found on Sunday.

Some of you have asked how my leg is doing.  Since we've been in Dunedin we've gone shopping several times and I've walked from way back in the parking lots (the handicap spaces are always taken because of all the senior citizens in Florida!) and around Sam's Club, Costco, Walmart, and other stores and it's really helping to build up my muscles.  Around the boat I use just one crutch, when we're out I use two crutches but I can feel that I'm getting stronger every day.
I'm due for a six-month followup to my 7/1/11 surgery, so I spent several hours on the internet and the phone on Monday trying to find an orthopaedic surgeon who would see me here.  I was turned down by a couple of them and directed to a place in Tampa where I hope they'll accept me.  All I need is a couple of x-rays and someone to look at them and say that I'm progressing appropriately but none of the doctors' offices I first talked to will see me because I had surgery elsewhere.  With luck, I'll be able to see someone within a few weeks. 

On Tuesday, Joe brought the folding bicycles down from the flybridge and I rode one for the very first time; I think it was the first time in more than a year that I've been on any bike at all.  It gave me a wonderful sense of freedom after being in a wheelchair and using crutches for the last seven months.  It was also a bit scary because after all that time I'm pretty wobbly and afraid of falling.  I rode several times around the marina parking lot to build my confidence and try to get a feel for the bike, then Joe and I rode a for few blocks until my muscles started to cry "Uncle"! 
Later we went to Bill and Eileen's and Eileen made chicken in filo dough for dinner--OMG it was good.  After dinner Joe joined Bill and my other brother, John, at their weekly poker game; Joe got wiped out, John came out even, and Bill cleaned up.

The weather was great yesterday until mid-afternoon when clouds started gathering and the wind picked up.  The wind grew stronger as the day wore on and eventually reached 30-35 mph.  There were white caps on the ICW and big swells were coming into the marina making all the boats here roll and strain against their lines.  Waves out on the Gulf must have been huge.  It seemed like Mother Nature was having a hissy-fit! 
We didn't mind the rolling so much until Paradise started banging into the pilings on the starboard side with the wind so strong that we couldn't push or pull Paradise over to get fenders between the pilings and the side of the boat.  Also, the tide was going down and if we couldn't get fenders in place to keep the boat away there was the very real danger that two of the pilings could get wedged underneath the railings and then push up on them as the tide continued to fall--possibly ripping them right off the boat.
I suggested we open all the windows and doors so that Paradise would offer slightly less resistance to the wind; we tried it and it worked just well enough so that we were able to get the fenders where they needed to be.  WHEW!  Our hearts finally stopped pounding and we calmed down when we saw that our efforts were successful.  Late in the evening the wind died down and we were able to sleep.

This morning it was only in the 50s, but it was gorgeous outside, so we didn't mind the cool temps, although we were accused by one of our marina neighbors of bringing the cold with us, and Brother Bill called to ask if the ice-breaker boat had gotten through to us yet!
Today was a work day for both of us on Paradise--laundry and boatkeeping for me, boat maintenance for Joe.  Joe finished early enough to make an excellent dinner with crab, rice, and lots of peppers, onions, and garlic.
While he cooked, I captured this final shot of the day looking out from our slip in the marina to the ICW.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Friday to Sunday, December 2-4, 2011

We had beautiful weather all weekend, sunshine and blue skies, mid to high 70s during the day and 60s at night.  On Friday, Joe and I took the dinghy into the marina and Bill picked us up, then he and Eileen took us to one of their favorite restaurants for lunch.  We stopped for a few necessities, then headed to a quiet waterfront bar where we had happy hour.

The view when we headed back out to Paradise in the dinghy.

On Saturday morning, we discovered that a fresh water hose had gotten disconnected (probably jostled loose during our crossing) and 300+ gallons of water had been emptied into the bilge and pumped out into the ICW, leaving us with no fresh water.  So we took Paradise to the municipal marina in Clearwater to fill our tanks.  When we came back to Dunedin, we decided to anchor on the east side of the channel, closer to the marina, so that we'd have a good spot to watch the annual Christmas boat parade.
For dinner, I made a black rye bread recipe from Beard on Bread and we had it with the oysters that we bought in Apalachicola--OMG everything was so good!  We bought the last pint of fresh oysters in the store that day we were in Apalachicola; someone else had come in earlier and bought a dozen pints--that must have been some party they were throwing.  I sure wish we could have gotten more because we've never had fresh shucked oysters that good.

We had front row seats for the boat parade and it was a good one.  There were probably 30 boats that started out at Marker 1 marina then cruised past us to the Dunedin marina where there was live music and a Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Our inexpensive camera couldn't capture how pretty they all looked, but you can get an idea.

On Sunday morning, this sailboat cruised on by.  I'll bet it has an interesting history.

Around noon we dinghied into the marina and Bill picked us up.  He and Eileen went out for brunch and let us use his car to do some running around.  We discovered a seafood store we'd never seen before and bought grouper and smoked fish spread--our two favorite things to eat when we're here. 
When we got back to Paradise, we discovered a sailing school circling it with students that looked to be 7 or 8 years old on up to maybe 14 or 15.  The boats were not much bigger than a bathtub and the kids were all adorable.  Three or four power boats held the instructors who shouted instructions to the student sailors. 
We immediately set up happy hour on the aft deck to watch them and enjoyed our excellent fish spread with crackers and Coronas.  I think I died and went to heaven!

I started dinner as the sun went down; I made chopped salad and mashed garlic potatoes and Joe sauteed grouper and made a quick lemon pan sauce.  We decided that it was probably the best and freshest grouper we've ever had. 

Tomorrow, we'll move into the Dunedin marina for a month.  Then we'll be able to start using our folding bicycles to get around.  The marina is located just two blocks from historic downtown Dunedin, three blocks from the beautiful Pinellas County bike trail that runs all the way from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, and about eight blocks from the Dunedin public library. I can't wait to get out and spend time exploring the places we haven't seen in two years.