April Fool

April Fool
Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

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

Advertisements

Back Again: A Story of Determination and Inspiration

Back Again: A Story of Determination and Inspiration

Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

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

Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

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
Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

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.

IMG_0797

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

Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

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.

Image

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.

Image

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.

First Day Hike

January 1, 2014

Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

Image

Our family has a tradition to visit a Florida State Park on New Year’s Day for a family hike and we always pack a picnic lunch.  We have done this for four years now and we all enjoy seeing the vast lands of Florida.  Some of the State Parks have guided tours with the ranger, you can check with their events calendar.

Our day started out to be a dreary, cloudy and rainy day but our family likes adventures so we took on the challenge.  To kick it up a notch we brought the dogs.  We had two parks in mind and chose one that had more walking trails as we decided to go kayaking at the other park later on in the month.

So we sprang into action, at least me and my husband but the girls decided to leisurely get ready.  I took care of packing our picnic lunch while my husband got the car ready.  I have a mini-van and we all know how much stuff a family mini-van can carry at all times.

As we drove to the park the day continued to be cold and have that light drizzle, it reminded me of the late fall days in Chicago while growing up.  We arrived at Colt Creek State Park, in Lakeland, FL and once we got to the park to our surprise it is an unattended ranger station.  We have a Florida State Park pass which is a great investment for a family, we just referenced our pass# on the tag and deposited it in the slot.  The cost for the year pass is $120.00 for up to eight people in a group, there are some restrictions with Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachee Springs, but still worth the cost, Florida State Park Annual Pass.

The park has a lot to offer, there is a boat ramp for access to Mac Lake where they only allow, canoe/kayak or electric trolling motor boats. If you like to camp there are two sites available one is a youth site or a second site can be used for primitive camping.  The park offers 12 miles of hiking or horseback riding trails, bring your own horse, sorry we don’t have one of those.  We chose a small trail for our hike as the day wasn’t really suited for the 12 mile hike, we’ll have to come back for that one.  If you like to Geocache the ranger has a list but we chose to use the app we have on our phone.  We found a small cache that had many things.  Unfortunately, my husband chose to take the Australian Shepherd into the brush and came out not only with the find but the sticky burrs all over the dog.  A quick trim with a leather man cleaned up all the sticky things.  Throughout the park you’ll find a few picnic pavilions, one made a great spot for our picnic lunch.
Image

The rain continued so there wasn’t much more for us to do.  We packed everything up and decided to leave for the day.  It was a short trip at the park but was another great day with the family.  Looking forward to the next visit.

Velodyne’s Martini 1.5

Check out new Aqua Lifestyle site

Velodyne’s Concept Boat The Martini 1.5

Velodyne Marine's Martini 1.5 ready for sea trials at the Miami International Boat Show

Velodyne Marine’s Martini 1.5 ready for sea trials at the Miami International Boat Show

This year’s Miami International Boat show was chock full of new products and innovations but some stood out more than others. California-based Velodyne had a boat that stood out from the crowd not only for its looks but also for the amazing new technology it utilizes.

A concept craft designed to smooth the ride while underway through any kind of seas this vessel is designed to provide a perfectly stable and level ride no matter what the conditions, even in seas up to 5 feet. Riding along at 30 plus knots out of Miami’s Government Cut inlet, this new technology proved to be able to do just that. As you can see from the link below, the deck and the horizon remain perfectly level even while running through wake and wave.

http://youtu.be/rjs0oNCwPD4         http://youtu.be/_Z0r0uZfF9M

The system developed by David Hall an innovative mechanical engineer who loves boating but suffered from seasickness, is a completely proactive system that uses compressed air within four rams and a system of servos to monitor the position of the pontoons and armatures and adjust as necessary. This system proves to be faster than already existing reactive systems and is truly unique. It’s a ride that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated but will prove to be a technology that can eliminate seasickness and provide a safe and enjoyable ride in the future. The Martini name came from the possibility of having a Martini aboard and not spilling a drop while underway because of the unbelievably smooth ride. There has already been interest in the use of this technology in ferries as well as other commercial and private applications.

Martini's computer controlled active stabilizers.

Martini’s computer controlled active stabilizers.

I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about this technology in the near future. Stay tuned for some upcoming articles from this author.

We will also be covering another technology found on the Martini 1.5. More on that to come soon…