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!

Suwannee River to Clearwater, Florida Didn’t Sink The Boat

Clearwater Florida

If you believe it, you can achieve it.

We awoke early and saw a beautiful sunrise and a quiet bayou on Suwannee River.  We fired up the normal pot of coffee that we make each day on our propane coffeemaker.  I hate the darned thing by the way and I can’t wait until it wears out in 5 years or I can sell it to another cruiser.  I wish we got a much smaller press, because we rarely drink more than a cup or two per morning.  I rinsed down the boat one last time and Aubrey set off with the kids to find new creatures that were interested in capture.  Bianca stayed in timeout while I fueled the boat because she stole her brother’s stick and taunted him with it.  Once she got locked down he promptly restore the stick and made the following announcement:

I am the fairy godmother and this stick will help you to be better- poof!

11231319_1066927279991817_2316755752511007350_nIt didn’t work but we had to get out of there while the tide was still high!  We went out on the North end of the town through the naturally “deep” river (4-8 ft.) and out 3 miles through something the Army Corp of Engineers dredged a couple decades ago.  My sonar read 2.4 feet several times but I never saw sand kick up in the prop wash or felt the dreaded bump of a sandy shoal. Continue reading

Gulf of Mexico Crossing- Carrabelle to Clearwater, Florida?

Choose your fate, fool!

Choose your fate, fool!

It is only 160 miles and it is a straight shot.  Seems logical, but seafaring is rarely easy, logical and it never goes as planned.  Weather was great inside the barrier islands and it didn’t seem like it would be that rough.  We stayed between the markers and had a good course setting.  It was to be a long day but we had done some that were almost as long.  {key the evil and scary music}

Miss Lone Star is a Class A rated ocean gong vessel with a deep V hull and two huge ass engines with velvet drives.  She is a tough old girl and she zipped through the waves as they cut across our bow, just a little less than sideways at a Southeasterly direction.  The problem is: we were also heading SE.  It made for a miserable ride.  I tried slowing down to almost nothing and that sucked.  I put the boat into idle ago check on the crew and I opened the cabin door to observe the original Cuban boat people.  Everybody was laying on the floor, including the dog.  It was really hot and the generator wasn’t running.  I asked Aubrey if she was having a happy day and she gurgled something that sounded mean and scary.

We were traveling at around 1 knot and we were now getting hit with at least 5 foot breakers across our bow.  Life sucked and it wasn’t getting better because I had no idea what the solution was.  I continued on my SE course.  I couldn’t solve the generator problem because I didn’t want to get thrown off the boat.  It was beautiful and sunny, by the way.  It was so pretty that it made me mad.

I went a few miles farther and checked in on the crew.  They were hating me at an increasing rate.

I slowed still and opened the engine hatch to start the generator set manually.  It fired up and I figured all of the problems down below were solved.  I had been battering the hell out of the Gulf for an hour and a half and I figured it would be getting better any minute and it didn’t.  It didn’t get worse, which was good.  Sea sickness has never bothered me.

Aubrey opened the cabin door and I thought she would be bringing me a sandwich or something and she puked all over the deck.  The waves were smacking the boat so hard, I couldn’t even give her a hug.  There was no way I could take my hands off the wheel. I changed course immediately to do in the direction of the waves running a NE course.  We had gone about 50 miles into the Gulf and I had to throw in the towel and change course or face my deadly wife. Continue reading

Apalachicola to Carrabelle Florida (Gulf Crossing Fail)

Carrabelle Florida

Aubrey steals a turtle from a child who had just stole it from a person’s yard. She then tries to hide it on our boat.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you planned. Today was one of those days. We left at a good time but the fuel took almost an hour to pump into our tanks. The seas were reported at 1-3 outside of the barrier islands in the gulf and we planned to make the crossing of 160 miles.

We made it along the ICW inside the barrier islands and I knew something wasn’t right. The waves were 2-3 with some occasional 4’s coming into the boat. I am still too much of a rookie to recognize a lot of weather patterns but I had a bad feeling so we dicked inside Carrabelle Florida.

We filled up at the C-Quarter Marina and I almost wrecked the boat coming in at low tide. It went out hard and the marina sits in a river that pulls a 5 knot cross current. You have to be fully committed to park your boat and I was. Luckily, we made it in OK and decided to stay after I consulted with the woman who ran the marina. The low-pressure system that had been hammering the Gulf for weeks was still lingering and the winds were kicking up larger seas than forecasted. It was sensible to just chalk up our 25 miles as a day, do some fishing and call it a day.

Carrabelle is a cute little island village. The people congregate around the shady part of this marina to watch the boaters wreck their boats. Seriously, that is what 8-10 men aged 40-80 do everyday. They sit around drinking beer and critique people. They don’t get up to help or do anything but commentate on the calamites as they occur. They occasionally award bonus points or issue loud heckles. They told me that I didn’t do that bad of a job as I went in to buy gas upon arrival. I couldn’t believe my ears because the boat almost got really screwed up and they didn’t even yell out a warning about the cross current. I told the salty old men to fuck off and we settled in for the night. No apologies were ever issued on either side but that’s OK.

Meet the 10 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

Meet the 9 year old Huck Fin crime wave!

We met several of the kids who came down to the marina and I can say that they will be in prison soon. Holy cow! We were getting the boat squared away and two little rug rats came up holding a land tortoise that weighed about 40 lbs. Aubrey’s dream is to get one of these things and apparently they live to be 100 or something. Anyway these two little boys aged around 9 came up with red faces saying they’d been pepper sprayed holding a tortious. Weird. Apparently, an older boy maced these little fools and one of the boys maced himself around the crouch area with a can that he tried to pull out for defense. Good thing we weren’t in South Central, it would be Mac 10’s.

Aubrey liberated the turtle from the boys after I got them to admit that they stole it from some man’s driveway. They wouldn’t take us back to the scene of the crime and later recanted the admission saying that they’d been carrying it around and feeding it for weeks at their house. Aubrey found out it was an indigenous species to Carrabelle called the Gopher Tortoise and it is now endangered because people love to make turtle soup.   Those stupid old men told her to throw it back in the water. She politely explained that it was a land dweller, like them and it couldn’t swim. They said that it belonged in the water and was better off there. She adopted it off to another man who said he would feed it and keep it in his back yard. He was an enemy of the other old men and they ridiculed him for taking it. I’m thinking that the turtle had a 50/50 chance of ending up as soup, but we tried to save it. Aubrey tried to hide it on the boat and we got into a fight over it. Adopting it to the old man was plan B for her, but it’s pretty hard to hard to hide a turtle of that size on our boat!

Huck Fin and his crew came back and forth throughout the day, usually wearing different stolen items that he jacked from who knows where. I saw him on different bikes, skateboards and other transportation. He asked for $1 for him and his friend to get some drinks while he was wearing some pink beats he likely stole from a little girl. I told him to drink salt water.

On the plus side, the old men who were out heckling boaters loved our kids.  Bianca went into the store to buy some gum with some boat cleaning money she earned and came back with a $30 fishing pole.  We thought she stole it, naturally.  Or worse yet, charged it to our slip.  Aubrey went to investigate and apparently the old men bought it for her because she was so cute and well spoken.  They warned us to leave before she married off to one of the crappy kids who frequented the marina.

Blake also made it out like a bandit after he lost his trusty fishing pole to a crab.  A nice old man built him one from used parts around the marina and it worked good as new.  He was truly grateful and I was happy that the old men weren’t was scary as they seemed.

We ended the night quietly fishing and a large Ford trucked pulled up. It was loaded down with nine rednecks that were coming down to the otherwise peaceful and nice dock. You guessed it; Hick Fin was in tow, sporting a huge dip in his lip. He informed us that his jaw would eventually fall off when the tobacco did its job. He brought his older kin to meet us and check out our stuff. Seriously.

Nice boat. Nice fishing poles. Nice wife. Nice guns, why do you have so many guns? Aw, shit Sir. Have a nice night. It was real nice to meet ya.  You won’t be seeing us again.

For the record, Onyx didn’t like them and she sat on the dock so they wouldn’t walk by. We told them that she hated kids and warned them that she had a real bad temper.

Kliebert’s is the Absolute Best Alligator Farm in New Orleans!

Aubrey definitely wrestled a few gators!

Aubrey definitely wrestled a few gators!

All of you know how addicted my lovely wife Aubrey is to catching animals so we had to find the absolute best alligator farm in New Orleans to indulge her. We did just that and found a place outside of New Orleans called Kliebert’s in Hammond, LA.  We are so glad we made the drive because the experience was made our entire trip, even if we don’t do anything else.Kliebert's Alligator Farm New Orleans

The marina hof so many animals that you would never expect to see at an alligator farm.  The farm is the longest running in Louisiana and possibly the USA.  It is nice and clean and all of the people are so friendly.  The cost is so low, something like $48 for 4 of us after my military discount.  It was worth five times as much as that, easily.  Hammond Alligator Farm

The Marina had a loaner truck that we borrowed to make the 1 hour drive to Hammond, LA.  We stopped in town and ate the best Po Boy catfish sandwiches we will likely ever eat.  We ate at Noon and I am still full at 10P, probably because I ordered an additional one after the first was so good!  We made it to the farm just in time for the tour.New Orleans Gator Experience

Harvey Kliebert founded Kliebert’s Alligator Farm in 1957 and it is now run by his Grandson, T Mike.  We took the tour and that was really cool but it was the extra (many hours extra) time that T Mike spent with us that made the visit so worth while.  Aubrey got her fill  T Mike is a regular on Swamp People and several other shows.  This is his life and he loves it.

We saw big gators, small gators, nutria, crocodiles, snakes, alligator turtles, fox, macaw, chickens and all sorts of farm animals.  Bianca made light work of catching her own chicken when the tour started and kept it throughout (including in the shop at the end).  Blake rode and kissed a few gators and played with T Mike’s puppy.  Aubrey held EVERYTHING!  The trip was for her and she took full advantage of it.  We saw “Crush” a 1200 lb 15 foot gator and watched him eat.  That was cool!

I got to hold and learn about all of the animals and I loved every minute of it.  Aubrey and I liked it so much that we will likely be back in September for an alligator hunt with T Mike for her birthday.  I’ve got an idea for a gator skin seat cover for my Harley and I know just the guy to help me get it!  I can’t say enough about the warm hospitality of T Mike and all of the people.  We felt like family and we spent something like 5 hours there.  I barely got Aubrey to leave but she got in the truck just as we were pulling away.  She must love me..New Orleans Baby AlligatorsNew Orleans AlligatorsD94A7984T Mike Kliebert AlligatorAubrey HamicRobb Hamic

Republic of Texas (ROT) Bike Rally 2015

The Republic of Texas ROT Rally is one of the largest motorcycle rally’s in the United States and we were lucky that it was right here in Austin Texas!  We went out to the Travis County Expo Center for a couple days of debauchery while the kids were with Grandma.  This was definitely not a kid’s type of event.  We had a blast, nevertheless and we got to go on a long biker parade through Austin.

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

We’ve lived in Austin for a number of years and I’ve always wanted to go.  It was perfect timing and I waxed up the Harley for the weekend.  We drove out on Friday and were part of the parade, which ended on Congress St., downtown.  It was really cool to drive with 40k other motorcycles on a route through the city.  People were out in full-force and it was a fun event.  Sadly, Aubrey lost her helmet on the ride when she was trying to get the prefect shot from behind me.  Oh well.

We went back on Saturday to check out the festivities.  I know my wife loves me because she handled the whole thing in stride.  We walked around to check out all of the exhibits and passed too many fat naked chicks walking around to count.  Police directed traffic inside the Expo bounds but there was a strange absence of law enforcement inside.  The smell of weed was ripe and there were all sorts of interesting people to look at.  She was looking at a redneck duck, chained to a pool when a guy approached and asked if she wanted some beads?  She had the foresight to ask what she had to do for the beads, thank goodness.  He replied simply, “show me your boobs.”  I guess that is what people do at biker rallies, but not my wife.

Republic of Texas ROT Rally 2015

Motorboating Big Marv

We drive through the RV village that was filled with probably 20k people.  We saw blow up hot tubs with luke-warm water filled with disorderly plump females.  The upscale RV area had a hot tub pulled by a trailer, which seemed to be a popular place to hang out.  It was nice to only be driving by, let me tell you.

The weekend finished up with Lynyrd Skynyrd in concert on the grass.  The opening act was better than the main but it was all still worth seeing.  My hat’s off to Aubrey in overcoming her fear of riding on a bike and putting in a few hundred miles of road time.

Despite all of the interesting people, everybody was nice and it was a fun Austin thing to do.  If we were staying here we would definitely go back. Continue reading

Caribbean Travel Blog- Q&A With WikiAnswers

I was interviewed by Wikianswers and Answers.com about our choice to live aboard our boat and cruise the Caribbean for years in search of a new home.  It was a great interview and I decided to publish it to my Caribbean Travel Blog to allow our readers to better understand why we made our choice and what it is like to live aboard our boat.  Enjoy!Caribbean Travel Blog

Q&A with Robb Hamic on Answers.com.

Robb, you live on your boat, the Miss Lone Star, with your wife and two children. Can you tell us what life is like living on a boat?

Living on a boat with the whole family is interesting each day! The live-aboard lifestyle is fun, relaxing, hectic and chaotic all at the same time. Living in a small space with a dog and two kids can be challenging but we make the most of it. We don’t have to remind ourselves that we are living the dream everyday but our pesky kids try to give us the business, when they get the chance. We are always busy until there is nothing to do. We take the time to share some of life’s greatest moments with each other and we have grown much closer as a family aboard our boat.

What influenced your decision to live on a boat?

I had the dream of living in the Caribbean since I was a kid. I dreamed of sailing the open sea and diving for pirate gold at the bottom of the ocean. I would catch lobsters with my bare hands someday! It was a kid dream that never died, in reality. We ultimately came to the radical decision of living on our boat because of a number of factors. School violence in the US is prevalent and early childhood education is spotty in schools. We thought we could do better but why do it from a home in a suburban neighborhood? We felt guilty for having a big house, multiple cars and too much stuff that we didn’t use. It made a lot of sense to keep only what we used daily or wanted forever. We actually save a ton of money living on a boat in the Caribbean compared to our everyday life in Austin, Texas. We are creating memories that are unreachable for many people and we felt the positives outweighed the unknown. Continue reading

6 Ways To Keep Romance Afloat

I am so happy and thankful that I married my beautiful wife!  I guess it would be stupid for me to say otherwise, right?  Living on a boat, we are a couple who has everyday issues multiplied by tight quarters, stressful situations and endless blue seas.  I think it is important for people to value both the challenges and opportunities that exist in a relationship.  It is easy to let the romance slide after marriage but it is good for the whole family when the couple keeps it afloat!

Keep the Kids Out of it!IMG_0448

Many married couples have pesky kids that get in the way of romance.  We can’t do anything about the fact that we have kids but it is important to keep them out of the love life.  It is also crucial to keep romance and love active in the marriage.  I have many friends who allow kids and especially, kids schedules to over-shadow their entire existence as couples.  Put those little suckers to bed early and spend time with your love!

Take and Make Time if You Aren’t a Zombie

Aubrey and I keep things strait with our love-life and we make it a priority.  We make time for each other every single day.  I take time to listen to her and I make time to listen to her.  I think a lot of men may listen but not taking the time to hear is a huge problem.  I want her to realize that she is my main priority everyday.  I love that she makes me a main priority in her life.  Tension could sink a boat or at least make it miserable between ports. Continue reading

Travel Investigation and Other Tips For The Best Experience

Travler SafetyIf you want to travel, you must wear many different “hats.”  Good research is required regardless of where you travel if you hope to have the best time and stay out of trouble.  We all know many people who failed to properly research a trip that ended up with less than an optimal experience.  It is my goal in writing this article, to give people some insight on how to properly investigate your travel plans.My AdviceI am an investigator by nature and I accumulated a lot of experience as a Sheriff’s Detective and private investigator for twenty years.  I think we all have a tendency to view life through our own lens and I look at travel through the lens of an investigator.  Travel is a big investment and it is wise to guide yourself to the best possible experience through a complete investigation of your destination.  I decided to walk my readers through part of my own process, because I feel that I have been very successful in my travels.  I’ve listed a couple of my tips below.

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Travel is often dictated by a person’s desire to visit a particular location.  Sometimes people have business that takes them to a  destination and they hope to make the best out of the trip by seeing the sights.  I think that it is natural to want to get the most out of time spent in a place by seeing all that it has to offer.  People are often motivated by visiting landmarks or historical sites, while others are driven by their hobbies even before they leave.  I always wanted to take great photography as I spent time in a foreign land.  Social media has driven a new kind of sharing when it comes to documenting your travels.

I spent about a month visiting Israel in 2010 and I think I got the most out of my visit.  I was staying in Netanya, Israel and studying with the Grand Master of Krav Maga, which is a big passion of mine.  I knew that my course time would be about two weeks but I figured that I should see as much of this beautiful nation as I could before going home.  I booked the airfare and arrived in Tel Aviv with my bags.  After clearing customs, I rented my own car.  I always rent a car when I plan to be in a foreign place for any amount of time because it give me the flexibility to do what I want and not wait for a tour or another person to get up and go.  I also have a strange habit of not using a map for no good reason other than the fact that I am a guy.  Netanya was about an hour’s drive from the airport and I love the roads in Israel.  They are better than most American cities and the signs are printed in English, Hebrew and Arabic.  It makes getting around the country very easy.

Continue reading