Friday, January 30, 2009

A Kennebunkport Reunion - Southern Style!

We just got back to the boat in Stuart, FL where we left it for a night while we drove to Sebring to see our good friends from Kennebunkport, Francesca and John Spain (owners of Maine Art Gallery and The Gallery on Chase Hill - if you are ever in K'port, make it a point to stop in!!). Francesca and John just bought a magnificent house in Sebring and were gracious enough to let the Gypsies come hang by the pool for the day and crash for the night!!

Tammy here by the way...

Last post we had just left Daytona Beach - so how did we wind up in Sebring?? It's a funny story and one fairly typical of cruising life - things are just more complicated on a boat! We needed to be in Stuart on Sunday, December 14th since Doug and a friend of ours that we met along the journey are doing some work on the boat to upgrade the electrical system. So we made a long run on the 13th down to Vero Beach. Fairly uneventful run until the wind started to really pick up, of course right as we were heading into the port - thank you Mother Nature. We were planning on picking up a mooring ball for the night at the town dock and Doug had Google-Earthed the harbor which looked pretty empty - NOT!!! We headed into the harbor and were told by the habormaster that we would be rafting up to another 43 foot boat - OK that was going to be a challenge in the newly blowing 25 knot wind in a narrow little harbor with a gizillion other boats! Obviously Google Earth is not real-time!! So the Gypsies crew adapted to the new change of plans and redid our lines and fenders - we found the boat we were supposed to raft up to and there was even an old salt on board to help take our lines. Unfortunately as Colleen and I both quickly realized as he stood up, his fly was completely open for all the world to see. Just what we needed in a tight situation!! I must say though that Colleen and I held in our laughter until we had thanked him for his able assistance and gone below to have a beer! You really just can't make this stuff up - I'm telling you! If I could, maybe I'd give Carl Hiaassen a run for his money!

That night we were treated to a lighted Christmas boat parade throughout the harbor which was really very kewl and a moon that was so unbelievably huge it lit up the sky!
We read that it was the largest full moon of the year - no doubt but really, who figures that out?? We told our next door neighbor that we were getting up at the crack of dawn to head out and since our lines were tied to his boat, he offered to help us again in the morning. After the show we'd already seen, Colleen and I were a little afraid of what the morning would bring, but having no real choice we accepted his offer. Morning came around pretty quick (when you're getting up in the dark!) and our neighbor emerged in his pajamas - OK not great but at least everything was tucked away this time!

We headed out to execute on our plan - pick up Colleen's parents' car in Pompano so we could then drive to Sebring. Now this was no simple feat - there are no buses running from Stuart to Fort Lauderdale or Pompano. So we decided to drop Colleen off at Ft. Pierce, have her take a bus to Fort Lauderdale, have one of her parents' friends pick her up and drive her to Pompano so she could drive back and meet us in Stuart - only the Gypsies could come up with such a convoluted plan - but it worked!!! The one variable that made it all pretty challenging was the weather - of course Mother Nature didn't cooperate and we had gale force winds all day that kicked up such a nasty chop on the ICW that John commented on the white caps in his coffee mug!! The chop was so bad that we took spray all the way up on the flybridge - now that is impressive. Oh and did I mention the maximum flood current we had when we were trying to dock at the Ft. Pierce marina to let Colleen off the boat? That was a fun twist but Doug did an admirable job at the helm and got us tied up so Colleen didn't even have to jump!

Doug, John and I continued on our windy journey, making it through yet another Hell Gate (the third of the trip and they are never good!) and into the St. Lucie River. The slip we are staying at for the week is in one of those quintessential Florida housing developments with a canal out back for all the boats
- let me tell you how interesting that was to get our 49 foot boat through the twists and turns of the canal!!
But all is good - we were safely tied up by the time Colleen got back with the car. It being around 5:00 pm, we promptly got in the car and headed in to Duffy's Sports Bar and Grill in downtown Stuart to watch the Patriots annihilate the Raiders (OK it really wasn't much of a fight!).

The next morning we set out to see John and Francesca's new house - we wound up driving through cypress swamps, alligator alleys, cow and horse farms and we saw enough roadkill along the way to last me a lifetime! There's something about seeing a squashed armadillo alongside the road with the vultures circling to make you lose your appetite! The trip was well worth it - John and Francesca's new home is spectacular!! We hung out by the pool and jacuzzi for awhile
catching up on all the latest news and events since we left (believe it or not, over three months ago) and then we went to Highlands Hammock State Park, which is just a couple miles from their house.
We walked first through a cypress swamp
where we saw egrets, raccoons
and lots of enormous spiders, one of which scared the living you know what out of me since I wasn't expecting something that large, hairy and ugly at eye level as I came around a bend!! John, John and Colleen decided to try and feed it, while the rest of us decided to forge ahead, not in any way needing to see that miracle of nature! Next we headed to a trail that went through virgin Florida hammock - the flora was breathtaking and the huge spiders kept the boys entertained - what do they eat down here anyway to get that big and ugly?? We passed by lots of orange and grapefruit trees with our mouths watering
- Francesca had served us some of their own oranges for desert at lunch (they have an orange tree in their backyard - how kewl is that?).

Having gotten some exercise and feeling good about ourselves, we headed back to their house for a leisurely afternoon and evening around the pool and hottub with some coldies! The hospitality was unrivaled as John BBQ'd us a spectacular dinner on his new grill - we even had fresh mango and strawberry shortcake for desert!!! Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end (I'm convinced that's only so you can get excited about the next kewl thing) and we all turned in early since we had to be up at 5:30 the next morning to head back to Stuart. Francesca and John have to head back to Maine today for the holidays but they will be back to their new paradise in FL after Christmas and plan on staying until the beginning of May. Hopefully we can catch up with them again before we hop to the Bahamas! We all want more of their oranges! Just kidding - we had a wonderful visit and were honored to be their first guests. After us, who knows if they will want to have more.... It was great to see them in their new home which we know has been a dream of theirs - given what we are doing, we love to see people following their dreams - I know they will be as happy with their new "semi-retired snowbird" life as we are with our new life!

As I write, Doug and our friend Steve are down in the engine room working on the electrical system upgrade. We expect to be here for the rest of the week and want to get lots of provisioning and other work done so that we can take several days off around Christmas to go to Key West to visit our musician friend Scott Kirby! What better way to spend our first Christmas away than on a bender in Key West????

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