April Fool

April Fool
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This guy didn't check his tide tables either. Looks like he's got to wait a while.

This guy didn’t check his tide tables either. Looks like he’s got to wait a while.

After being pranked by my girls several times on April Fools Day I am glad it is over, happily none the worst for wear and can let my guard down a bit. However it doesn’t have to be April 1st for me to made the fool as a trip to Weedon Island Preserve on Tampa Bay made painfully clear. Thanks to insufficient tide levels I was shown to be a poor planner and ill-equipped for the spur of the moment canoe trip. The hard-earned lesson of the day was to check and double-check the tide tables and plan appropriately, even for local spur of he moment trips.

Had we been in our kayaks there would have been enough water for all of us to get through the marked trail easily and efficiently but not so in our deeper drafting canoe with the family loaded aboard. Because I did not do my homework before launching I was left stranded in very skinny water (read an inch or two) and had to pull my kids in the canoe through mudflats and oyster bars for what seemed an eternity, all with an ominous lighting storm fast approaching. Not what I call a relaxing day on the water.

The problem started with my mindset that it was a local water trail that was a short distance from our home and that it would be a simple afternoon paddle – wrong. I figured that with my young daughters and wife aboard we could paddle together in the canoe on out first visit to this trail. A quick look at the Preserves information page online and a scan of a couple of trail reviews and I felt I was prepared to set out on an afternoon adventure. Well that’s what we got – but not exactly the way we expected. One of the reviews stated that the trail can be “difficult to navigate at low tide but was doable at everything higher than mid tide.” I checked the tides online and figured that it was close to high tide and we would have enough time to get through before the tide dropped to a mid level. I neglected to consider a kayaker wrote the review with a better draft than a fully loaded canoe and that the tide chart station I looked at was a different area from where the preserve was. I also neglected to notice spring tide conditions (higher and lower levels than normal). These were mistakes that a seasoned licensed captain who used to skipper large cooperate and private yachts should not have made. I was an April fool.

What I got out of all of this (not including the shredded flip flops and feet from all the oyster bars) is that even for short half-day trips I should plan properly and pay closer attention to tide levels. I should have recognized from the tide tables that the tides were deeper than normal at high tide and shallower than normal at low tide. Had I researched properly I would have seen that I was not going to be able to make it through the whole trail and could have planned another route, trip, or taken kayaks instead. It was a lesson this fool will not soon forget and my girls remind one me of every now

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Wooden Boats Gather In Central Florida – Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival

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March is the month to be in Central Florida if you like wooden boats. Major events on back-to-back weekends attract more wooden boats to the area than you will see anywhere else over the same time period. So get your sunscreen and hat and head to the shores of Lake Dora in Tavares, Florida.

Sunnyland Boat Festival

Wooden boats of all ages for all ages can be seen up close at Lake Dora

Wooden boats of all ages for all ages can be seen up close at Lake Dora

In the printed edition of All At Sea Southeast there is an article I wrote describing a vintage and classic boat cruise that ends up at the Sunnyland Boat Festival. The cruise itself is an event worth participating in (article can be read here) but if you can’t do the cruise you really should attend the festival if wooden boats stir you or you would like to show the family something other than plastic and fiberglass crafts.

Hundreds of boats on the water and on land can be enjoyed. No drooling please.

Hundreds of boats on the water and on land can be enjoyed. No drooling please.

March 28th marks the official start of the Sunnyland Boat Festival on Lake Dora at Wooten Park in Tavares, Florida. Put on by the Sunnyland chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society this festival is one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. The show is a three-day event with plenty of wooden boats of all types in the water and on land. Classic and vintage boats from all over the United States and Canada converge on Lake Dora for this festival. Last year there were over 300 participants with boats from 25 states, from Canada and even Europe. The show is not just beautifully restored and built wooden boats. There is an area for privately owned boats that are for sale (so bring your check book) as well as a vendor section with all kinds of classic and antique boat parts, along with dealers displaying fully and professionally restored boats for sale. Restored outboards of all kinds can also be viewed and purchased and on Saturday there is a nautical flea market. Classic and vintage vessels are in the water at the docks and others can be viewed up close as they sit on their trailers on the lawn lakeside. Kids can be seen racing their tiny outboard SCAMP wooden boats in demonstration heats on the lake. There is an amazing playground for the younger ones and exceptional shopping in nearby Mount Dora. Of course there is food available at the festival or at nearby bars and restaurants, all within walking distance of the show. A steam train will be running along the lake’s edge that spectators can ride augmenting all the wooden boats sitting nearby. Organizers even claim that leashed and well-behaved pets are welcome. There are social events for participants all three days and on Friday and Saturday evenings. Once you have taken in all the sights you can set up a lawn or beach chair in the park and just relax watching all the wooden beauties running around on Lake Dora. You might even see a seaplane or two taking off and landing on the lake (sightseeing flights can be purchased at the nearby seaplane base). The park is a perfect setting for viewing all the beautiful craft and the weather is typically perfect.

Can you see the family cruising around in one of these?

Can you see the family cruising around in one of these?

Dates: March 28th to 30th, 2014

Location: 123 South Joanna Ave, Tavares, FL 32778

28.48.043N, 81.43.655W

Cost: Adults $5, Children $3

There is lots to do and see for the whole family at the Sunnyland Boat Festival.

There is lots to do and see for the whole family at the Sunnyland Boat Festival.

The Importance of Sun Protection and Sunscreen

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The importance of sun protection can not be overstated.

The importance of sun protection can not be overstated.

When we get things ready for an outdoor adventure we always seem to forget  how much sun protection do we need?  When do we re-apply? What if I just wear a long sleeve shirt and pants, shouldn’t that be enough?

Skin cancer isn’t something that everyone thinks about, but sun protection should be the first thing we pack.  Because of losing a friend and family members to Melanoma at very young ages I still don’t feel like we protect ourselves enough.

Sunscreen is a good protector against the sun’s harmful rays but to understand what we are protecting against let me answer some questions.  There are two kinds of Ultraviolet radiation (UV).  Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes lasting skin damage, skin aging and can cause skin cancer.  Ultraviolet B (UVB) can cause sunburns, skin damage and can also cause skin cancer.

Many manufacturers such as Columbia have stylish clothes made of specialized material that provides good Sun Protection

Many manufacturers such as Colombia have stylish clothes made of specialized material that provides good Sun Protection

There is a standard measurement for SPF or Sun Protection Factor – the ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin.  Always read the bottles to ensure the contents protect from both UVA and UVB.  How to measure the application would be to determine how long it takes for your body to turn red after being in the sun, let’s say after 20 minutes this begins to happen.  Using an SPF 15 should protect you 15x longer, or five hours.  You also have to consider how much to apply, so if the bottle is 4oz that means you will need about 1/4 of the bottle to get that rating each time you use it all over.  Always remember that water and sweating will decrease your ability to stay protected, so you need to re-apply.

Hook & Tackle's sun protection fabric is available in many verities.

Hook & Tackle’s sun protection fabric is available in many varieties.

Protective clothing can increase the protection from the sun.  The standard measurement of protection for fabric is UPF, or Ultraviolet Protection Factor.  To understand the rating let’s say a garment is UPF of 50 this would mean that the fabric only allows 1/50th of the UV radiation to pass through the garment.  The advantage is that it doesn’t wash off and you don’t need to remember to re-apply.  Some things to remember when picking out clothing:  A tight weave is better than loose weave (if you can see through it, UV can get through it), polyester is better than cotton, and dark colors are better than light colors.

Many manufacturers understand that people want the protection and also want to look stylish.  In previous years the clothing seemed to be geared to men who fish, which meant loose-fitting, frumpy clothing.  Now you can find many companies that have stylish clothes for everyone in the family.  As we are an active family with all different shapes, sizes and tastes it has been difficult to find something for everyone but I have now found sites with stylish clothing for everyone.  Below you’ll find a list of the sites.

There are more options of stylish sun protective clothing  today for men and women than ever before.

There are more options of stylish sun protective clothing today for men and women than ever before.

For added protection you should always wear a hat and sunglasses.  The hat should be of a light color material on the outside to reflect and a dark color on the brim to reflect the rays away from your face.  A three-inch brim would give you the most protection.

Sometimes buying a whole new wardrobe for sun protection isn’t feasible.  There are options.  You can treat your clothing with a sun protective laundry detergent.  It’s easy to use.  You add the sun protective detergent with your regular laundry detergent and you wash in skin protection for up to 20 future washings.

Make sure you take care of everyone while having fun in the sun.

UVSKINZ

EXOFFICIO

COLUMBIA

Sun Guard Detergent

Back Again: A Story of Determination and Inspiration

Back Again: A Story of Determination and Inspiration

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Some articles I write really make an impression on me and can inspire me in different ways. The story of Ron Jung and his determination to restore his 1938 40-foot Chris Craft was just such an article and I believe should inspire readers to follow through on their dreams. All At Sea Southeast recently published my story on Ron and his boat appropriately named Back Again, also the title of the article, which you can read here (and view other photographs of the yacht).

The Foredeck of Back Again  right after being launched after a 26 year restoration. Photo by Glenn Hayes

The Foredeck of Back Again right after being launched after a 26 year restoration. Photo by Glenn Hayes

I met Ron while he was in the last stages of completing his renovation of Back Again and learned of the length of time it took him to get it done, a whopping 26 years. Chatting with him further I came to find out that he had many trials and tribulations along the way that would have caused many of us to give up on the project and move on to something else, but not Ron. He stuck to his dream of completing the job and cruising on his classic craft. Today he enjoys spending time aboard his vessel after cruising the eastern seaboard and the Bahamas.

The cabin door to the master cabin. Just one example of beautiful inlays and detail work aboard Back Again. Photo by Glenn Hayes

The cabin door to the master cabin. Just one example of beautiful inlays and detail work aboard Back Again. Photo by Glenn Hayes

He is currently berthed in a marina in Key West. It was there that I had a chance to catch up with him and learn of his travels after his project was complete and plans for future travels to new waters. Back Again was in great shape and looked ready for more adventures.

Back Again just before being launched after her 26 year renovation. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Back Again just before being launched after her 26 year renovation. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Despite bouts with cancer and its brutal treatment regimen, losing a son (who worked with him on the restoration), several moves, uncooperative weather, injury to his hand and countless other setbacks, Ron took his time and never gave up. He promised his son that he would finish Back Again and did whatever it took to get it done.

Back Again heads out after being launched after a 26 year renovation. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Back Again heads out after being launched after a 26 year renovation. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Ron is a true gentleman and an inspiration to anyone who looks to excuses to give up on a project or dream. Ron is living proof that if you set your mind to completing the tasks, no matter what gets in the way, good times will prevail.

Happy days, Ron, and thanks for the inspiration. May you now have nothing but fair winds and following seas.

Stilt Home Paradise

Stilt Home Paradise

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I recently wrote an article for All At Sea Southeast on Florida stilt homes entitled Visions Of Florida Stilt Homes. They are quite a sight out on the water away from land standing in the shallow Florida waters. An escape to paradise for a lucky few, they are a slowly disappearing part of Florida’s unique history.

One of the stilt homes off Florida's Gulf Coast. Photo by Glenn Hayes

One of the stilt homes off Florida’s Gulf Coast. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Having spent the better part of my boating life plying the waters around Miami and the Keys I got to see stilt homes off Key Biscayne go through a few incarnations and dwindle in quantity after Hurricane Andrew and other storms. Fishing their pilings I have caught some nice Snook and Sheepshead and even hooked my first bonefish within sight of them. I even got to attend some parties and functions on some of the stilt houses at various times and enjoyed an invitation to stay overnight once, choosing to sleep on the roof enjoying the exceptionally bright stars that night.

Florida Stilt Home. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Florida Stilt Home. Photo by Glenn Hayes

For the story mentioned above I got to interview the owner of one of the nine stilt homes that remain just off the entrance to the Cotee River on Florida’s central Gulf Coast. While interviewing Sims Henry, he talked about how his daughter was growing up spending time out there having learned to throw a cast net and other activities that I am sure she will remember forever. What a wonderful experience it must be for a child to have access to the ultimate tree house on the water.

Stilt home stretching north along "Gulf Blvd." Photo by Glenn Hayes

Stilt home stretching north along “Gulf Blvd.” Photo by Glenn Hayes

I was able to capture some nice images of the stilt homes off Pasco County for the story. I set out early on a Saturday morning in my kayak and paddled out to the stilt homes to capture them with a rising sun. Loading my camera gear in the kayak and paddling out I was in a hurry to get there and capture images in the first light of the day. It was a windless morning and the water was like glass. It would be perfect conditions. All I needed was the right light. Just as I got to the first of the nine stilt homes I realized I had left my cell phone in the bed of my pickup. Being that it was parked in an area known for vagrants and a sketchy crowd I had to paddle back to the truck at full speed hoping no one had seen it laying in the bed of the truck. After retrieving the phone it was a sprint to get back to the stilt homes before the sun got too bright and harsh. I got to the closest house just as the light started to intensify but still had a glow to it. I got the camera out and started shooting, positioning my kayak at different angles to the house trying to get the best reflections. I was quite pleased with what I saw on the camera screen but didn’t have too much time to look through them. I had to paddle on to shoot other homes and cover the full stretch of houses in the best light possible.

Sunrise on a stilt home in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Glenn Hayes

Sunrise on a stilt home in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo by Glenn Hayes

I ended up with some images I was quite happy with that were decent right out of the camera without any tweaking. It was an early morning and a hard paddle but worth the effort and a fun article that brought back lots of good memories for me and made some new ones.

Morning breaks on "Gulf Blvd."

Morning breaks on “Gulf Blvd.” Photo by Glenn Hayes

Family Florida Keys Adventure

Outdoor Journey
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If you have ever been to the Florida Keys you know that it is filled with great places, fun adventures and friendly people.  Our trip to Keys West was going to be different because it would be a family vacation with the girls.  So we would see the Florida Keys as a family, which was very different than when we were single.

Glenn and I discussed our plans and tried to figure out exactly the places we wanted to go. Many things were listed.   We quickly came to realize that at least two weeks would be needed in order to see and do everything we wanted.  So we shortened the list and were happy with the final outcome.

Since we were driving to Key West we knew there were a few things we wanted to see and do while on the drive from Central Florida.  Our path would take us pass Card Sound Bridge (State Road 905).  Glenn fished that area frequently as a teenager in his John-boat with friends.  Many fishing stories were being told but the girls weren’t as excited about the bridge crossing into the keys as Glenn was.  So the journey continued.

First stop Florida Bay Outfitters.  If you love to paddle this is a neat store that has many interesting paddle related things.  If you plan it right, you can take a paddle into Florida Bay’s backwaters right off their launch.  We did a paddle there many years ago (before kids) when we lived in South Florida.  We were on a tandem so I got to relax a lot and look around while Glenn paddled (LOL).  Years later Glenn went to one of their demo days with a friend and our friend won a canoe.  The demo days at Florida Bay Outfitters are very informative and many vendors are there with their equipment to test and compare.  We inherited that canoe when our friends moved away and have had many adventures with it since.  One in particular one was a trip we did at Weedon Island Preserve but that one will have to be for another day.

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We stopped at Bass Pro Shops, Islamorada, FL.  The store has a replica of Hemingway’s fishing boat Pilar that you can climb around in.  As we climbed aboard the boat and thought about the time that Hemingway actually fished from the boat and wrote his stories.  We all agreed that the technology on the boats now sure do make it more comfortable to fish and boat.

A replica of Hemmingway's Pilar in Outdoor World in Islamorada.

A replica of Hemmingway’s Pilar in Outdoor World in Islamorada.

Next stop Robbie’s of Islamorada.  If you have never been to Robbie’s’ it is a must see.  Glenn wrote about it for All At Sea,  check out his story.  So we paid our entrance and bought some buckets of fish to feed the tarpon.  First up, the girls. Trying to convince the girls to stick their hand out over the dock and let this 150 lb prehistoric fish jump out and grab the fish took a few words.  Check out the video and some pics of the action at Robbie’s.

Feeding the Tarpon at Robbies.

Feeding the Tarpon at Robbies.

We were done with our stops so now it was straight to Key West.  There is something for everyone in Key West.  The first things you will notice when you arrive on the island are the chickens, lots and lots of chickens.  They are quite amusing and beautiful.  You will fall in love with these chickens.  The negotiations going on in the car to have a chicken come home with us was entertaining.  Many tourists stop to take pictures of them as we did.

Roosters rule Key West

Roosters rule Key West

Key West is small enough to walk around in some parts but you can rent bikes or moped rentals, there’s also a jolly trolley that you can jump on and off throughout the island or just ride around town.  We decided to drive to the Southernmost Point of the United States and took the touristy picture there.  This is the buoy that marks the Southernmost Point in the continental US.  It’s located at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street.  As the buoy says it’s only 90 miles to Cuba.  From that corner in Key West, Cuba is closer than the nearest Walmart. Doubt Cuba has as much stuff as Walmart though.  We went early in the morning and it’s a good thing we did.  While waiting in line people seemed to have finished their breakfast and come out of their hotels to line up.   The line was quickly down the block by the time we took our picture.  So my recommendation go early, maybe first thing as the sun rises, if you can get your kids to move fast enough and your husband.

The southernmost point in the US and only 90 miles from Cuba.

The southernmost point in the US and only 90 miles from Cuba.

One of the best value family passes is the Florida State Parks passWe buy this pass every year and since we own one, we were able to visit Fort Zachary Historic State Park.  It was drizzling that day so there weren’t many people.  We did a self-guided tour at the Fort that was built in the mid – 1800’s.  The fort played an important role in the Civil War and Spanish American War.  We didn’t get to enjoy everything the park had to offer, like the snorkeling and swimming.

Cannons had a limited view.

Cannons had a limited view.

Another must see and do is Mallory Square at sunset.  This has changed a great deal in 20 years but it’s still fun.  The square comes alive with street performers and many local artists come out to sell their pieces.  We walked around had a drink and waited for the sun to dip into the water.  Once it did the spectacular colors that radiated from the horizon reminded me of how blessed we are to enjoy this.  Humans can do many things and destroy things also, but there are always certain things in life that no human can change, that is the sun will rise in the East and the sun will set in the West.

A Key West sunset.

A Key West sunset.

Glenn and I have always loved to kayak.  We’ve kayaked in many places around Florida.  We even kayaked on a glacial lake in Alaska, which was very cold but amazing nonetheless.  Of course as a paddling family we wanted to SUP on our trip in the Keys.  We were invited to join a friend at the naval beach in Boca Chica, Florida.  This is a quick 20 minute drive out of Key West.  Any drive in the Keys is beautiful and scenic.  We entered the facility, parked and unpacked the 40 million things that a family packs when going to the beach.  We grabbed some boards and headed for the water.  The girls loved seeing the oyster beds, corals and fish.  One even tried some yoga poses which didn’t quite work out the way she wanted as she landed in the water.  Any day on the water is a great one even if you take an unexpected dip.

Supping in the crystal clear waters of Key West

Supping in the crystal clear waters of Key West

The simple fact is that we could have easily spent two weeks in the Keys and not done all there is to do there. It is a great destination for singles, couples and families who love the water, great scenery and experiences like no other. The Keys really do have it all

The Start of The Overseas Highway.

The Start of The Overseas Highway in Key West.

Manatees Shut Down Waterway Due To Cold

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It seems that this week just about every part of the nation has felt the brutal cold that has brought travel to a standstill. The cold weather has even been felt here in Florida. It seems that everyone and everything is feeling the chill. Not only have schools and offices been closed but also a river in West Central Florida. It hasn’t iced over but has become clogged with manatees.

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Manatees crowd into the discharge waters of a TECO power plant in Tampa to escape the cold Gulf waters.

Authorities have closed off access to the Three Sisters spring area of the Crystal River in West Central Florida for the next couple of days to all water traffic, including swimmers and even kayaks, as a result of a large migration of manatees seeking refuge in the constant 72-degree temperature of the spring’s waters. Billing itself as the Manatee Capital of Florida, the upper portions of the Crystal River attract manatees as water temperatures drop in the Gulf. It is not uncommon to find manatees in the river enjoying the clear and warm waters. What is uncommon is to see over three hundred packed into the warm headwaters of the river, as has occurred during this cold spell. As the cold continues the number has been increasing.

According to the Tampa Bay Times an aerial survey of the manatees is slated for Wednesday to determine the number of manatees in the area.

Manatees typically seek out the warmer waters of springs and power plant cooling outlets on both coasts of Florida when winter temperatures dip below comfortable levels, providing an opportune time to view these mammals in their habitat. Although on-water access will be limited in Crystal River viewing the manatees from land is still possible. One such land-based viewing location is the Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Area in Apollo Beach. When temperatures of the Gulf waters drop below 68 degrees the warm waters of the power plant’s cooling system draw manatees from miles around. Before this week’s cold snap there were well over 100 manatees bustling each other in the high 70-degree waters. As temperatures continue to drop the numbers will certainly grow.

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A mother and baby manatee enjoy the warm waters of a power plant discharge canal while getting a cleaning from fish during a recent cold spell in Florida.

If you are traveling by boat in any waterways around Florida there is a need to be abundantly cautious, as manatees are in search of warmer water and increasingly populate canals, springs and warmer protected waters.