Miss Lone Star Travels to Florida through Alabama- Episode 5

We had been dreaming about blue water since we boarded our boat.  I had been predicting that maybe, the next day we would see it.  Aubrey and the kids started to doubt me!  We passed into Pensacola Bay Florida and we got our blue water!  We were so happy!   Our son started to finally catch fish and it changed his life.  Our daughter started to find large amounts of shells and she was beaming with pride.  Aubrey had a few dozen more critter captures and I finally had blue water to swim in!

Our Weekend Expeditions In The Florida Keys

Florida Keys Mini TripsIt is a bummer that we are living in one place until December but we are making the most of it by taking a lot of mini trips.  In the next day or so we plan to go anchor out at Hen’s and Chickens Reef and then I want to go north for a few miles to find another great spot.  I really want do dive some wrecks.

During the heat of the day, it can be busy with all of the snorkeling tours and dive boats but only between 12-4PM.  We love how deserted it feels after than when it is just us anchored.  We’ve decided that we really love to be on the hook and we want to do that a lot more.

If anyone has a suggestion about a favorite place to anchor please leave a comment!

I am really lucky to have a portable air compressor to fill my own scuba tanks on our boat.  I bought it from my friend in Austin who had re-built it.  It isn’t much to look at and it is 35 years old, but it does the job.  It fills a tank from 0-3000 psi in 30 minutes.

We plan to go out for 2-3 days, weather and food supplies permitting.  I think we learned a lot from our last expedition to Alligator Reef so I think we will be better prepared to enjoy ourselves.  We plan to take along, Brandon, a friend from our dock who is without his family for a few days.  He wants to do a lot of diving and has gone with some of the tour companies.  I prefer diving from our boat with fewer people.  I like staying down longer and not being restricted to going with a group of people.  I think it is diving at its best!

Many of the reefs and wrecks reside in Special Protected Areas (SPA) and there are a lot of restrictions on activities in these areas.  I learned that one can obtain a special fishing permit that allows you to take fish from these area, that is normally prohibited.  We saw a bunch of illegal fishing at Alligator Reef and noticed the boats coming in fast just to take a crack at some huge barracuda.  I thought it was wrong that these people were taking resources from the reef.  There used to be 551 fish species at that location but over-taking has depleted many of them, which is really sad.

Bianca is really hoping to get some beautiful new shells while doing her new favorite pastime with Dad, snorkeling.  I was so happy that she took to it so well!  I held her hand and we swam all along the reef and around the lighthouse.  I think she will remember seeing fish for the first time for the rest of her life.  Blake loves to swim around the boat and use Mom’s GoPro but he doesn’t venture so far.

Onyx probably wants me to dinghy over to the shore to give her a break at night and in the morning, which seems reasonable.  We wish that dogs would use the bathroom in the water.  The reefs are 3-4 miles off shore so that makes the trek inland more difficult.

Aubrey is really getting an aptitude for video and I think we will get of our best footage yet.  I am happy that she has the time to practice here before we head to Cuba and beyond.  We won’t want to miss any of that footage.  We are building so many great memories and I am so thankful that we have them documented so well with this journal, pictures and video.  We’ve noticed that the traffic to our blog has doubled since we started including video on a regular basis and we will keep it up.

If anyone has suggestions for us or if you want to see something send us a suggestion!

What Is It Like To Live In A Marina- Islamorada Florida?

Blake is aptly named

Blake is aptly named “The King of the Dock” and his fishing skills are known far and wide!

Aubrey and the kids were less than happy with my marina choice and I can attest to the fact that things often look a certain way on a website (or Google Satellite Maps) and turn out differently when you see them in person.  The Mangrove Marina wasn’t the place for us and we decided quickly that we needed to go.  I think the decision for me came when I took my morning walk to the bathroom in my jammy pants without a shirt.  I got heckled by the morning crew of mid 50-70 year old Florida Key men who hang out at the dock drinking coffee.  I’m pretty sure I got a cat call or two and I reasoned that if I felt uncomfortable with these guys then my wife must want to jump out of her skin.  We discussed it over coffee at a cute little place in Tavernier called Moka.  I definitely recommend this place for coffee! Continue reading

It Doesn’t Suck to be Stuck in Apalachicola Florida!

IMG_9843Apalachicola Florida is a really special place. It reminds me of what the US must’ve looked like in the 1930’s. We’ve walked and boated around the town and spent a lot of time with local people and visitors. I have yet to see any chain store, fast food restaurant or even a lit sign. We love it here.

Apalach, as the locals call it, sits at the feed of two rivers that come into the gulf behind breakers far out in the gulf. It is really know for it’s Oysters (Apalach Oysters) but they have been mostly gone since the BP oil spill. I was told that the chemical that was spread to stop the spill killed off the shells. The spill didn’t affect this area and it was spread out as a precaution. Apparently the oyster business is on the mend and this place will be thriving again in 6-7 years after re-growth occurs.

D94A8271I heard great things about this place but I really had no idea until I could set foot on dry land. The city is about 2200 people or so and the entire county of Franklin is only 3500, which covers some vacation areas where people claim residence but don’t really reside. It is a sleepy little place with warm and friendly people. Fishing and oysters is the biggest business here and apparently this is the world’s largest producer of oysters.

There are mainly stop signs in town and just a few blinking red lights. No high rises or anything over three stories exists here. There are laws for that here. There are lots of shops and the food is unreal. We’ve eaten out most nights and we are in awe of this place. Aubrey loved collard greens when she tried them for the first time. Food is inexpensive, as are most things here. Boat fuel is $3.80, which is a good Florida on the water price. We paid $60 for a slip here. The Water Street Hotel and Marina is the largest hotel in the area and it has about 50 rooms and 15 boat slips that are mostly vacant. There is a pool for the kids and they are making the most out of it.

Raccoons love our boat and they had a party the first night we arrived. I stored Onyx’s food on the deck in a plastic container. The coons made fast work of it and apparently four of them had a hay day as people watched from their screened in porches. Coons brought out about 20,000 sugar ants and I had to spend about three hours cleaning and spraying off the boat. Such is the life of a boat captain. Onyx has been posted topside each night to prevent further outbursts from the local coons. It has worked so far.

We have taken advantage of the amazing sunsets and walked around sight seeing and taking evening dinghy rides to capture post card quality photography. We found the bone yard of boats up the creek last night and Aubrey really out did herself.

The kids are catching fish like little otters and taking spare tome to explore, find crabs, grasshoppers and sit on time out. That happens a lot but they are trying to go coast to coast on timeouts at every fun place we visit. They are on course to reach their goal.

We planned to leave yesterday for Tampa on our next blue water crossing but weather and high seas prevented us from moving. You wouldn’t know that the seas are 5-8 feet in the gulf from our dock and the sun is out now with the temperature at about 90. The heat index is high.IMG_9811

We plan to lay over until the day after tomorrow and set our course for Tampa Bay. The journey will take us into open water and it is 156 miles. We’ve been averaging 25-27 knots cruising speed. I feel confident in Miss Lone Star and I pray for our safe journey.

InReach Explorer by Delorme- User Review

We were looking for an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) for the boat.  If something bad happens, we surely want the ability to contact search and rescue or the authorities.  There is a lot of information out their about EPRIB and much of it is negative, in terms of the different products available.  There seem to be a lot of people who’ve purchased ones that didn’t work.     I think it is the best product out there, definitely a good value for the money.

InReach Explorer by Delorme

It’s nice buying something that might save your life!

I bought the unit at REI for $379.  It is very small but sturdy.  It has a good warranty and it is apparently shock resistant, waterproof and only weighs 6.9 ounces.  It is powered by a lithium battery and recharged with a USB or USB to wall plug (provided).  I spent a lot of time talking to the salesperson about the unit and its features.  She owned one and that is always a good sign.  It has an awesome bluetooth feature and can be paired with your smart phone or tablet for ease of use.

Information for the InReach Explorer by Delome can we found on their website.  It is not available on Amazon or any discount store, for you bargain shoppers.  REI doesn’t offer a military discount. Continue reading

Bubba Blade Knife Review

Cleaning fish is our main priority and it is how we will eat many days on our boat.  I needed to find good knives that would work and last a long time.  I also didn’t want to break our budget in doing so.  I’m happy to say that I found a good solution in the Bubba Blade knife!

Bubba Blade Knife Review

My selection of Bubba Blade Knives!

We will be catching a lot of different fish aboard Miss Lone Star.  A knife is so important and can make your life very hard if you make the wrong choice.  I looked at all of the different products out there and chose this knife company because of its good reputation for ease of use and quality materials.  I found their website through a simple google search and I noticed that they had a lot of products.  It turns out that they are sold at Wal-Mart, Cabelas and through Amazon.  I never noticed them in these stores before my purchase. Continue reading

Sea Sucker Dive Tank and Rod Holder- Unbiased User Review

I just got my new Sea Sucker holders in the mail and I am stoked!  I am trying to keep our gear list minimal for our boat but these items were a necessity.  I had some very specific needs and I found this product by chance on the Internet.  I am so glad I did!

Sea Sucker Vacuum Pole Holders

My shipment of Sea Sucker vacuum holders is in!

Gear storage for a cruising boat is essential.  Everyone works with different spaces and configurations.  I was concerned that what I wanted, didn’t exist and lo and behold I found the amazing company called Sea Sucker!  I immediately bought two dive tank holders, heavy-duty trolling pole holder and horizontal fishing pole holders for the boat.

This company is known for its quality products that use a patented vacuum seal for the suction.

I had a need to store two scuba tanks on the boat but I have space limitations and strange angles.  I’ve seen a lot of products that require screws and I wasn’t thrilled about having to make holes in my boat just to support hardware.  Nobody wants dive tanks rolling around on the deck and sometimes we will encounter rough seas.  We needed something sturdy enough to handle rough conditions.  The dive tank holders are heavy and made with quality materials (made in the USA).  The 6′ suction cup holds 210 lb. (anything) and will be perfect for my tanks.  I can mount them next to each other or on different sides of the boat.  I can change locations easily.  Price: $90. Continue reading

How We Will Save A Lot of Money While Living Aboard Our Boat

Most people wouldn’t believe that you could save a bunch of money while simultaneously living on a boat in the Caribbean.  Living aboard your boat can save you a lot of money in the long run.  The liveaboard community has existed for decades in the U.S. and the world.  It has grown since the stock market crash in 2008 for many reasons.  Google thinks “Liveaboard” refers mainly to the type of people who live at one marina aboard their boats.  This is a popular option in Miami, Seattle, San Francisco and other large cities in the U.S.  For our purpose, liveaboard will mean traveling, cruising, staying at anchor and sometimes docking at a marina. Boat Sunset We have a unique situation, in that we could live in Austin or anywhere.  Currently we keep our boat at the lake in a slip that has a monthly cost of about $500.  People around here like to have a boat for occasional use on the weekend during the summer and boat ownership is seen as more of a status upgrade. Continue reading