Video Episode 3- The Intercostal (ICW) into New Orleans- Day 4 of our Travels

This next episode was day 4 of our travels and you can already see the relief in my eyes, as the boat captain.  I was a little more confident but still giddy like a kid (or Quagmire from Family Guy- giggidy giggidy).  We came through the dreaded city of Intercostal City, LA and into Houma.  It was nice in its own way but it was hot as the Sahara. We met some cool kids and had fun at the city marina, by our lonesome- but it was time to go.

The Intercostal was unremarkable until Morgan City, LA- where it got beautiful.  We saw bald eagles, bogs, swamps and tall trees.  The ICW came together with a river and it was big.  We mooted on towards New Orleans and I hoped, against hope, that we could get through the locks and make it to our marina by night-fall.  We did and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Up and down by 12-15 feet and through the Mississippi was something I will remember forever.  It had a 20 knot current and was over its banks by 50 feet on that day.  It was massive and scary but we made it down the lock to the marina, where we resided for 4 days.  We explored, rode the trolly cars and went to an alligator farm in Hammond.  It was still hot but we didn’t care and the French Quarter was much more tolerable with Onyx leading us.

This is a true account of our travels.

Miss Lone Star’s Crew Contracted Florida Key’s Disease!

Florida Keys Disease is real!

Florida Keys Disease is real!

We heard about Key’s Disease from several people since we arrived.  It is a general term that refers to many different things going wrong or attributes that one contracts after moving to the Florida Keys.  We were first warned by a boat broker who said a boat can get the disease after being moved here from fresh water.  Apparently, there are a lot of boats that get moved down here because it is the mecca of boating.  The owners don’t use them anymore.  These vessels fall into disrepair and get eaten up by the salt water while the owners goof off, drink beer and go diving.  Don’t let your boat get Keys Disease.

A dog can get Key’s Disease by misbehaving and not obeying commands because she doesn’t get the exploring time that she craves.  Onyx first started her bout with the illness by trying to make every dog on the dock love her.  She knocked Diesel the dog on our first night by playing too rough and she has made most of the small dogs run in fear of her from her smiling face. Continue reading

Gulf Shores, Alabama to Fort Walton Beach, Florida on the ICW

Guess which state I'm from Y'all!

Guess which state I’m from Y’all!

We checked the weather and it had improved since the night before so we left after breakfast at about 10A.  We departed through the bay and back towards the ICW.  Seas were choppy and about 1-2 feet in the beginning.  They rose in swells and there were times when they rose to 4-5 feet for a few minutes.  The problem was that I was running sideways for the most part, against the waves.  The bay is shallow out of the ICW course so I just had to take it like a man.  Aubrey and the kids went below.  I later learned that they all decided to take a nap for fear of sea sickness.

IMG_0261The boat rose and fell and I was really happy that she has a deep V and is a class A rated ship.  I was happy to have her big engines and I trotted along at an unhappy 15 knots with the bow high.  It was too rough to gain more speed and it doesn’t plane out until about 22 knots.  The waves became more manageable after about an hour and we finally got inland on the ICW, which was like cutting though butter at 25 knots.

IMG_0148Aubrey came up and we enjoyed the inland ICW in Alabama at Orange Beach and subsequent towns.  The pines rose from the water and there was such green in the underlying brush and grass.  We really love this area of the country and I am in awe of its beauty.  We even saw a bald eagle up close.  That was an amazing experience and Aubrey snapped off lots of shots as I doubled the boat back for a photo opportunity with the majestic bird.  She checked the pictures a bit later and found out that the lens fogged up when she brought it from the air-conditioned below deck to topside.  It was unfortunate but it was still a great thing to see up close.

IMG_0931We crossed into Florida at about 1P and the water immediately turned blue-green and it was really something to see against the white sands in the shallows.  Pensacola bay is beautiful.  We spied a Navy vessel at port and we went closer to take a look.  It was a cruise missile ship and it had a very interesting hull.  It was into port and being guarded by a Navy patrol boat.  They told us that there is a 500 yard no go zone around it as we got a bit too close.  Nice guys.  I apologized to force protection and they laughed and said, “don’t let the Coast Guard catch you” as they sped away.  It is really something seeing a ship of that size from a boat.  I’ve never done anything like it in my life.

We motored along in smooth waters through the ICW to Fort Walton Beach, where we sit now.  We docked at the Yacht basin and it isn’t a particularly nice dock but the gas was cheap (for Florida $3.75) and we didn’t hardly leave the boat because we were so tired.  We BBQ’s some steaks, baked potatoes and some squash-like substance that we bought at a roadside stand in Louisiana.  It was all very delicious.  I was happy to get into the AC tonight as it was the first time I felt it since early this morning.  My tan is really kicking at this point and my normally white (1000 spf) wife is getting coco brown.  The kids are doing great and they are sleeping now after a movie and full bellies.  I surely would wish I had their life if I were a kid again!

Tomorrow’s weather looks reasonably good with scattered thunderstorms and wind of 3-5 knots.  We will continue on to Apalachicola, FL in the morning (hopefully early)!

User Review: Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

We needed a way to charge all of our gear and we ordered the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 Solar Kit.  There is overwhelmingly large selection of systems on the market and it was confusing to me, being a first time user/buyer.  I found everything from a direct order from China to various other systems offered by suppliers.  Finally, I stumbled upon the company Goal Zero and looked on the website for more information.  I couldn’t be happier with this charging system, but I thought that it would be a different feeling once I received it.

Sherpa 100 Solar Kit

Sherpa 100 Solar Kit- a complete charging system!

It has a list price of $600 directly from Goal Zero and they are not listed on Amazon.  I searched EBay and found several units that were almost list price in new condition.  Luckily, I found a guy selling a new in the box unit for $480, shipping included.  It was a steal and I felt confident in the EBay guarantee so I bought it.

It arrived new in the box as described and it was smaller than I thought.  I opened it up and I didn’t need to consult a manual to hook it up.  So simple!  Plug the solar panel into the inverter, place in the sun.  It is just as easy to charge devices.  Plug them in and that’s it.  The Sherpa 100 has a separate plug adapter that allows for 110 plugs.  I chose this model because I need to charge a Macbook Pro.  Apparently, the Macbook Air could charge off of the smaller Sherpa 50 but the Pro needed a little more juice. 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

Portable Coffeemaker For Boats/ Cruisers…

In my house coffee is important.  So much so, it was one of my primary worries when we decided to cruise our boat full-time for a few years.  I was surprised that there is very little concise information on available options.  I decided to write a journal on my decision-making process that led me to purchase a Coleman Quickpot Propane Coffeemaker.

I think that me and the coffeemaker will get along just fine but I plan to fill it full of bullet holes and sink it in the Gulf of Mexico if it doesn’t work out.  I don’t want to think of the things I will do to this coffeemaker if it doesn’t uphold its end of the bargain!travel alert danger visit caribbean blog

There are a lot of choices for portable coffeemaker and this is what I found for boats:

Coleman Propane Coffeemaker

It better make good coffee or it will visit the bottom of the ocean!

Generator for 110 power.  As much as I love coffee, I couldn’t think about this option because it is expensive and noisy at 5A-6A, when I wake up and need that sweet caffeine!

Inverter to 110 plug-in.  I don’t have a large enough battery bank to make this a viable option.  Surprisingly, coffeemaker pull a lot of watts to run for about 15-18 minutes brewing time.  Most makers run from 900-1500 watts and that will kill a batter in no time.

12v plug coffeemaker.  I thought that this might be a good option until I read the reviews on these systems.  It seems that the smaller, 4 pot coffeemaker work well in this situation but I can drink 4 cups of coffee in the first 5 minutes of being awake!  Cuisinart makes a 10 cup model that is nice looking but it got horrible reviews.  I just can’t chance it!

Battery coffeemaker.  This option was a joke and I couldn’t bring myself to research further.

Propane coffeemaker.  This seems to be the best and most viable option for me.  I see that the 4 cup models are most frequently utilized but there are a few 10 cup models.  There are a few different brands but one maker is no longer in business.  I’ve owned a lot of Coleman camping gear in my past and it has never let me down.

Miss Lone Star Travels CaribbeanI like the advertised features of the coffeemaker I purchased.  It states that a small propane tank will last 4.5 hours on a full-burn, which equates to about 10 pots of coffee.  The brew time is a reasonable 18 minutes.  It looks and works like a normal coffeemaker, front load.  It is not a percolator.  I don’t care for percolated coffee unless it is the only option.

This devices weighs in at a shocking 10.4 lbs but I got a nifty nylon carry case and have a spot picked out for it next to our cooler on the deck of the boat.  It is three parts: pot, coffeemaker and case.  Most models come with a glass pot that wouldn’t last a few nights on a boat so I upgraded to a nice thermal metal one.  I hope it keeps the coffee warm long enough to enjoy the last cup.

Miss lone StarWatch out if you are trying to buy one on the Internet because you can get screwed from trusted sites like Amazon!  The list price for the package I got was almost $300 new.  A search of the normal Internet sites yielded a huge range of prices, shipping costs and delivery times.  In the end, I purchased each item individually from Amazon to save money.  It is a shame we have to get crafty to save money these days.  I paid $125 out the door with free shipping.  I will have an extra glass coffee pot that won’t go on the boat but can be donated.  If anyone is interested in just the pot and propane maker, Amazon beat out Target online by $6, $71.99.

I feel pretty good about my choice but the proof will be in the cup.  I’m not planning to use it until we are underway because I don’t think I can handle the rejection if it doesn’t work.  I will keep its box and send it back to Amazon (100% satisfaction guarantee) if it doesn’t work.  That is, if it makes it off the boat alive after a disappointing brew..

miss lone star robb hamic captain travel blog #travel #travelblogger caribbean

Captain of the Miss Lone Star

Stranded on Dry Land and Waiting to Set Off

Waiting sucks! We want to be free like a bird!

Waiting sucks! We want to be free like a bird!

Does anyone else hate waiting as much as me?  We are stranded on dry land and waiting to set course for Florida for the next two weeks.  We have a lot of things to accomplish and we are still waiting for a lot of work to be completed on the boat.  I’ve been contacted by a lot of people who’ve chosen to liveaboard their boats and faced the same frustrating “waiting game.”  In the meantime, we are biding our time wisely by accomplishing too many tasks to list.

We will accept our storage pod from 800PACKRAT tomorrow.  They are delivering a 16x8x8 pod that we will fill with everything we want to keep forever (in storage until we settle down).  I did extensive research on the moving and shipping (storage) option and we think that this is the best option for us.  I plan to take pictures and do a complete review of our experience for others later.  I found the 800PACKRAT option to be the cheapest by over $1000 with everything included.  As many of you know, it is not inexpensive to move and store a lot of contents.  Our shipping cost was $2500 from Austin to Miami, which included a door to door option.  This will save us some money when we settle down and the company will deliver and move the storage unit to our new home once we call them.  I like the idea of not having to pay twice to move it. Continue reading

Why I’m Taking My PADI IDC in the Florida Keys- Key Largo

It won’t be long and I will be starting my PADI Instructor Development Course (IDC) to teach scuba.  I chose Florida Keys Dive Center in Key Largo, Florida.  Tom Witmer is the Course Director who will lead the IDC and he has been a course director for about twenty years.   I’ve wanted to teach scuba since I first took my PADI Open Water certification class in Austin, TX.  It didn’t take me long to become a Divemaster because I trained really hard.  I enjoyed being a Divemaster but it is time to go further in my study of scuba.

scba padi diving cuba caribbean travel blog

I start the IDC in early August and I look forward to taking my instructor examination (IE) directly after.  The IDC taught by Florida Keys Dive Center is an intensive, boot-camp 10 day course.  I plan to start my Master Scuba Diver Trainer course directly thereafter and we decided to stay in Key Largo until December.

I did a lot of research on different IDC’s offered in Florida and I am happy with my decision.  There are a lot of options out there for people wanting to become instructors.  Many of the different schools have several options for IDC including all-inclusive, housing, meals, different types of advanced training or certifications, a certain number of dives allowed during training, etc.  Several of the schools offer internships that seemed to offer the student a way to pay for the non-PADI fees through a work exchange to pay for the education.  I’ve heard from a lot of instructors who chose this route for their education and others who stayed away from this practice.   Continue reading

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

User Review: REI Microfiber Towels

We will soon be living aboard our boat for a few years.  We’ve cleared out all of the old cotton towels from our boat, which was daunting.  I was surprised at the space 10 towels used!  Space is so important when you live aboard a boat and we decided to get rid of everything that didn’t make sense.  Our cotton towels got donated.

REI Microfiber Towel- Living Aboard A Boat

It feels as soft as it looks!

We spent a few weeks trying out microfiber towels made by various brands.  We purchased all of them from REI in Austin.  We were completely with the REI brand of microfiber towels and decided to buy a total of 10 for our boat.  We settled on 4 for outside, 2 for inside showers and 4 for drying dishes.

I am amazed at the size of the unfolded towel compared with the compact folded size.  My wife is a big fan of a big cotton towel but I prefer the feel of the microfiber.  It dried a person just as fast as a shammy used to dry a car.  We chose to replace the cotton ones because the microfiber dries so much faster.

Laundry time will be much easier because they take up almost no space.  We figure that we will re-use the towels many times and wash them about once per week.  The size will allow us to wash them in the sink on the boat or at the laundromat.  Many boaters hang towels on the outside of the boat to dry in the sun.  I remember the last trip to the lake.  It was windy and our towels blew into the water.  I retrieved them after a lot of effort but they didn’t dry until the next day with full sun.  Happily, we can wring out the microfiber towels. Continue reading