Palm Coast to Jekyll Island by Car—and Back

May 6, 2021

We packed our bags and our bikes for the week end.

Formulating a quick game plan, we packed our bags (literally bags, as we have no boat space to store luggage), loaded our folding bikes in a rental car, and headed north for the week end. The method to our madness was that this might save a day or two as we cruise, with Jekyll Island checked off our list. 

We found a casual vibe, pristine and sparsely-populated beaches, miles and miles of paved bike trails, and the largest “cottages” one might imagine. Its history is predictable, that of European “discoverers,” pushing out the indigenous people, of privileged and elite settling a beautiful landscape in an attractive climate, made possible only with the brawn of indentured and enslaved people. Island history claims that Jekyll Island has been a vacation grounds for 3500 years on which tens of thousand of Native Americans hunted, fished, and gathered shellfish. First seen by French in 1562, and then settled by the British, its strategic military importance was recognized. It was, however, the American movers and shakers who bought the island in 1886 and formed the Jekyll Island Club, which captured our imagination. Said to be “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world,” despite members’ claim that Jekyll Island life was simple and carefree, it offered winter and spring camaraderie and diversion  for people like William Rockefeller, J.P.Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer (of The NY Times—who kept adding onto his cottage as consolation to his wife who hated the island), William K. Vanderbilt, Marshall Field, and Richard Teller Crane, Jr. (of elevator and plumbing fixture fame—building the most lavish cottage on the island, with 20 rooms and 17 bathrooms). Too involved to fully flesh out here, I will briefly insert that the financial gurus of this elite club, along with other political and banking powers-that-be, secreted away in 1910 for ten days on Jekyll Island, formulating the basis for the Federal Reserve; the meeting which, when reported to the public three years later was referred to as “a hunting trip.”  The Club era eventually came to an end as a result of World War II, and in 1947 the island was sold to the State of Georgia for use as a State Park, opening opportunities for recreation and pleasure along the Georgia Coast to everyone. 

The Jekyl Island Club House still hosts guests—no membership required.

The island shows two personalities today. A modern Beach Village offers many public accesses to sandy shoreline bordered by dune grasses and scrubby cabbage palms, a convention center and tall hotels, and the requisite T-shirt shops. We were more charmed by the quieter, Historic Village. Simple, private residences, largely of the 50s ranch-styled vintage, line much of the road-way and camouflage discreet public beach accesses. The historic “cottages” are, disappointingly, not open to public tours, but rather, currently offer exclusive lodging and host events, such as weddings. Cycling amidst miles of grand Spanish Moss-draped Live Oaks was absolutely magical, and I imagined whispered secrets through the mossy beards of centuries-old sages and wizards. Moss-hung “picture frames” overlooking grassy fens and out to St. Simons Sound invited us to stop and gaze at the beauty, grateful for these protected spots, an invocation of silence. 

Wizened moss-draped Live Oaks whisper secrets of the ages.
Beyond the grassy marshland lies St. Simon Sound.

We returned to Palm Coast only to learn that our ordered steering part arrived a day early! Having received excellent coaching from the marine shop, Steve had it installed in no time at all. A forecast for heavy thunderstorms cautions us to hold off cruising until Friday, making our stay in Palm Coast Marina a full week! In the meantime, we have discovered water in the forward bilge compartment, verifying, once again, the definition of cruising: “the act of fixing of one’s boat in exotic places.

See the shiny part in the lower left corner? 👏👏👏

Remembering How to Make Lemonade

May 1, 2021

The adventure began as we were returning to the ICW from our anchorage at “Cement Plant,” a spot, thankfully,  more charming than its name! The channel was narrow and shallow, lined with lovely homes overlooking private piers. Suddenly I realized that we were headed toward one of those piers, despite my turning the wheel hard over to the opposite side. I’m chagrined to admit that we were glancing off the pier before I remembered that two engines gives us control through the gearshift. The glance was light—thankfully!—and subsequently we were able to find an appropriate spot to drop anchor and phone for assistance. Steve knew almost immediately what had happened: the joint piece which connects the rudder post to the hydraulic steering mechanism had finally rusted through. He had been watching it, cleaning it, lubricating it, and making a mental note to have someone look at it. But in the year away and our delight at readying to cruise again, that minor detail escaped the list of priorities. (Of course, I was no help, either, as I tease that when he learns to make shrimp and grits, I will learn to change the oil.) An hour and a half later, the welcome sight of the tiny-but-mighty red TowBoatUS appeared. A young Captain Avera threw us a bridle and off we went, chatting by radio to formulate the game plan. St. Augustine, nearly 35 miles north, by our research was the next port which had available dockage and a boat yard, but as we passed the town of Palm Coast, the captain asked if we wanted to stop there, St. Augustine being a 9-hour tow. We told him we had called, but the marina was full. A few minutes later he radioed back: Palm Coast had two double slips which we could come into. When we expressed surprise, he laughed, “You didn’t whine hard enough.”

To prepare for entering the marina, Red Pearl was put “on the hip,” pulling her against the towing vessel tight and snug with the cushion of big round fenders. It was here at close proximity that I saw that this tiny boat sported only two 130 hp motors. (Our slow boat has two 240s). Under power of the tow, we inched toward the marina. A boat with two woman absorbed in conversation “waked” us, sending a tall boat like ours rocking and rolling precariously, and the captain left the helm just long enough to throw up his hands and yell after them. At the entrance of the marina, a second attempt was required to get into position, and I heard an engine restart, then again. By now, we definitely “were the show”—everyone within shouting distance had come to water’s edge to watch. The towboat cleared the bow pulpits of sailboats at the entrance with just inches to spare. With our longer and taller boat causing lack of visibility, Steve, instructed by the captain, advised him by radio when to start those blind turns. A piling which separated the double slip, required release of our connection to the tow before we were actually in the slip, and three knowledgeable dock hands hauled us in. It was not until we were secure that Capt. Avera told us that he had lost an engine and had ushered us into the marina with only 130hp. He departed with the encouraging reminder that this 5-mile tow would have cost $1100 but for our annual membership with TowBoatUS. Lucky for us!….?

Red Pearl in tow
Putting Red Pearl on the hip
Safe and Sound!

By 5:15 on a Friday afternoon, we had discovered that ALL marine mechanics in the area are currently scheduling into July, and no one would touch this job, even for Loopers. And so, Steve located the part at a marine shop and we quickly Ubered to pick it up before closing, only to discover that it didn’t. quite. match. The part will be ordered Monday morning—fingers crossed it’s as easy to install as they say!

As we wait for said part, we’ve rented a car and will spend the week end on Jekyll Island, 2 hours north, which was on our list of stops. Funny— we thought the isinglass our most pressing issue. Whatever—this lemonade will be delicious!

Let’s Try This Loop Thing ….Again

April 30, 2021

In our 13 months away from Red Pearl due to COVID-19, a lot of life happened:

  • We met our first grandson, Wesley Brooks Nelson Hollenberg, already 14 months now, who charms with a sweet sense of humor and verbal commentary on everything. 
  • We watched waaaay too much TV—both news and pablum for entertainment during lockdown. 
  • We gardened with Steve’s father in his weakened condition during treatment for Lymphoma. When he passed in October, our final goodbyes were necessarily strangely distanced; the family gathering, masked and void of hugs and shared meals. We postponed the languorous sharing of memories for a safer time. 
  • We moved!
  • Steve and I both had hips replaced; I had the distinct displeasure of hipx2, requiring revision because of two dislocations. 
  • Steve’s mom fell and broke her hip the night we left Goshen to return to Red Pearl, and Steve and his sisters continue to partner with her in figuring out how best to meet her physical and social needs, as she navigates this new life without her life’s companion. 

But I digress—this blog is about our Loop experience. 

Celebrating return to Florida seafood at a Fort Myers crab house.
The new dinghy motor will make anchoring much more fun.

Away for over a year, we returned to Red Pearl on April 4, finding her looking fit, thanks to the care of Captain Eric Ravenschlag at Legacy Harbour Marina in Fort Myers. Freshly waxed, and contents thoroughly sorted, cleaned, replaced—and a valiant attempt made at reclaiming her from the spiders—we are cruising again. Cutting through Florida from west to east again on the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee, we enjoyed mostly serene and bucolic scenery, a few locks, some cows and alligators, and revisiting the small towns of Clewiston and Stuart. Lingering in quaint Stuart for boat maintenance, we enjoyed some great restaurants, walked the boardwalk, and lived among some truly beautiful yachts for a few days. 

Heading north on the Intracoastal Waterway, we returned to Indian River Harbor, a good spot for reconnecting with Steve’s cousins, Song and Judy Koh and their daughter Michaela, and had a delightful dinner together on the flybridge. High winds convinced us to stay an extra day. Further north, we lingered in New Smyrna Beach, welcomed exuberantly by harbor host Rick Swanson, who rescheduled his daily kite boarding to show us the artsy town, the scenic Ponce de Leon Inlet

and lighthouse, the drivable beach, and the wild, protected area of Turtle Mound at Canaveral National Seashore in his unapologetically sandy Avalon. Steve and I then explored town via bike—and, Steve thinks, every last boutique on Flagler Ave.—and walked the beach, people watching and dodging big jelly fish which had washed ashore. Dinner with Rick and his wife Dianne at Riverwalk Terrace was delightful, despite an attack of no-see-ums. Five weeks into his volunteer post as harbor host, Dianne says they have dinner with Loopers about twice a week. (Think, “Dinner with strangers twice a week!”) This was the first time we felt the urge to stay an extra day “just because” and had the expansiveness to heed that urge—a skill which true Loopers hone. 

New Smyrna Beach

Despite Red Pearl’s natty red hull which attracts long gazes from passers by, the constant generation of urgent and not-so-urgent repairs continues. Most pressing is the flybridge enclosure, the “second story” of the boat and our preferred helm from which to cruise. Having recovered from our initial delight at finding a hippy canvas craftsman in Fort Myers who quickly replaced a rotting zipper in one of the curtains (the flexible vinyl windows, also called “isinglass”), we realize now that the entire enclosure has adopted a schedule of abdication. Steve and I are determined to negotiate a way to address this on our terms without sitting for weeks for yet another repair. Despite a new zipper, the determination of the enclosure pressed further as we crossed Lake Okeechobee, requiring us to find a second canvas craftsman in Stuart to replace two more windows. But, alas! Just a few days later, abdication morphed into outright insurrection, with two more zippers ripping out with a third seriously threatening action. We do have options, however, so stay tuned!… Another taunting issue has been the generator, whose control board coding saga was finally resolved in Fort Myers. Nevertheless, its refusal to start at our first anchorage resulted in a cold supper and a lack of morning Joe. A new battery was just the ticket.

I envision blooming redbuds and crabapples back home, and I miss the satisfaction of potting up planters of flowers and spreading aromatic cedar mulch; but we also relish spring in Florida, which makes living outdoors so delightful. Things feel different than a year ago in Florida. Despite what lawmakers decree, masks are required to enter nearly any establishment, and people comply. After sitting at home, absorbing the stream of media reports of how politicized and divided we are, it feels good to be out and about, experiencing the voluntary shared concern for one another that a simple mask exhibits.

Beached jellyfish

Plan ZZ…

March 24, 2020

How a week changed our charted course—and that of the whole country’s! Sadly, Steve and I did not return to Red Pearl after our two weeks away. A day before our flight back to Florida, we decided that COVID-19 poses a threat which simply precludes any right to reason through a way in which we can “safely” proceed to do what we want to do. While we might be even better able to keep “social distance” on the boat, there still was no truly isolated way to get down there. And as we watched spring break beach partiers, I was less inclined to want to be in Florida, anyway.  Further, as the disease spreads and businesses shutter, it simply is an insecure time to be away from home. So, once again, here we sit in our condo in Goshen, Indiana, the small space which we purchased simply to store our stuff and from which to launch as we travel and visit our aging parents. We have spent way too much time here. How ironic.

As of today, Red Pearl has been tucked in at Legacy Marina in Fort Myers, FL. Captain Pat Davis and a friend of his drove to Key West the last day that services were open. At this time, most marinas are closed, allowing visiting yachts to stay only long enough to purchase fuel. At the marina office, Pat picked up the key and a few Amazon packages awaiting us, returned the laundry card-with- a-chip, and then enjoyed a delightful overnight cruise under a moonless, brilliantly-star-studded sky. At Fort Myers, he cleaned out the fridge (!) and left Red Pearl clean and looking loved. Hopefully the generator will be repaired during this interim, but even if not, dockage fees are 1/3 those in Key West. 

Our dream of cruising the Chesapeake now having been foiled a third summer, perhaps there will be a window in which we can safely return and enjoy some Florida Gulf coastal cruising this summer. 

What an amazing sociological experiment we all are a part of! Do be well, friends. 

Final Week in Paradise

March 3, 2020

Our final days in Key West were marked by looking forward and making preparations for leaving Key West. Here are highlights:

The laundry

As Mike and Brenda cleaned and moved off their boat, evening bid euchre and Pinochle, Key Lime Pie, and little beers, for the most part, continued. We celebrated one evening with happy hour at Santiago’s Bodega and then watched the sun set over Mallory Square amidst a throng of tourists. Not particularly charmed by having to stand on tiptoe to watch the sun drop below the horizon, we did find the street performers on the square to be in top form. This guy’s gutsy art was enhanced by his awesome sense of humor.



After their closing on Thursday good-byes were bittersweet. We celebrate how perfect  timing has been for their adventure and for the sale of their boat, and we anticipate keeping up with these lovely folk. We took photos for them the next morning of that pretty blue boat zooming off for Miami to facilitate a party lifestyle for her single owner.

Our rhythm, though not really changed, felt different with Velsignet gone. Steve and I hopped on our bikes and made an exciting day of errands—Verizon store, Auto Zone, Home Depot, UPS. Each led us further toward town until we were hungry and decided to have happy hour at one of our favorite spots, Off the Hook. And then we were SO close to downtown, where a favorite dress shop was calling…. 

We played single-deck euchre and shared Key Lime Pie with our dock mates and Gold Loopers Rick and Monica on Best Mate. Lovely folks.

We celebrated Sunday with a bike ride to brunch at Louie’s Backyard, an iconic restaurant on the most beautiful beach in Key West. A hoity toity spot where the folks from the Astoria dine in their swimsuits, we found white table cloths and bike helmet hair totally congruent. 


We have been watching the weather for a couple of weeks now. High winds have clocked and are from the north, making a cruise north to Fort Myers imprudent at this time. We have hoped to have our generator repaired and to purchase a new dinghy engine there, but that will have to wait.  We finally decided to rent a car and drive to Fort Myers, leaving Red Pearl in Key West for another two weeks, and are off to meet our grandson Wesley and to give his exhausted parents some respite. I will then venture into New York City for some girls’ time with our daughters. 


Week Three in Paradise

Feb. 25, 2020

While weather guessers back home warned of snowy, sleety conditions, temperatures soared into the high 80s in Key West this week. These were some highlights: 

Our flybridge grill is repaired and functional and, thanks to a fine fiberglass craftsman, it is now “better-than-old.” The last bit is to find replacement grates for an out-of-production unit at a less-than-extortionist cost.

Our week was shaped by Bev and Joel Eikenberry’s arrival on Friday. While it’s always a challenge to clear space for overnight guests aboard Red Pearl, it was delightful to spend mornings with friends from home on the flybridge over coffee during animated discussions covering many topics.We introduced Bev and Joel to Hogfish Bar and Grill, which we have frequented during our stay here. They serve the best fish and chips ever. 

Having seen the highlights already, Steve and I visited second-tier tourist attractions in Old Town while Bev and Joel visited our favorites. We viewed the entire island from atop the lighthouse which functioned from 1848 until its decommissioning in 1969. We were amazed by the stunningly beautiful Fresnel glass lenses, designed for superb light refraction; but we puzzled as to how these massive glass and brass cylinders rotated before the advent of electric power, in order to create the flashing signals which differentiated them from other, steady light sources. *

The view from the lighthouse included the Hemingway house and, of course, the ocean.

Gorgeous Fresnel lenses, 5th and 1st order.

The four of us shared afternoon drinks at Moon Dog Cafe and delicious tapas for dinner at Santiago’s Bodega.  

We rented a car and drove up to Marathon Key, exploring the Sea Turtle Hospital in which veterinarians and volunteers work to protect and rescue these magnificent creatures and educate the public. After a delightful but windy lunch on the deck at Burdine’s, we ventured on to the Dolphin Research Center, where injured wild dolphins, too, are rehabilitated. These athletic and intelligent guys crave human interaction, and it was fun to see them both cooperate and also exercise their own will with their trainers and to witness their sense of humor. Males and females travel separately in the wild and here, too  are separated here, but there is a corner of the system of pools in which the males hang out, eaves dropping and chatting with the girls in the nearby pool. At sunset, we returned to Key West just in time to watch the sun set over Smathers Beach. 

* After stumping the young docent with our question, a Google search revealed that clock works rotated the heavy glass Fresnel lenses, creating unique flashing coastal warning signals to seamen.

Week Two in Paradise

February 15

Our second week in paradise was marked with finding an island rhythm. The touristy highlights having been hit, we are beginning to slow down. These were the highlights:

The laundry

Days lost to reading, crosswords, and conversation around the pool.

Boaty punch-list tasks, like polishing isinglass, removing rust, passing our Vessel Safety Inspection, and messing with the outboard motor again to finally determine that we need to buy a new one for the dinghy.  

A very handy guy, Mike cleaned the carburetor of our outboard and confirmed our previous findings. 👎

A solo escape for a haircut in Old Key West by a Hoosier stylist. We had an in-depth conversation about her girlhood experiences showing livestock at the fair! 

Docktails with our dock neighbors from Evansville on Best Mate. 

Two bike rides to Smathers Beach, one without and one with bike locks 🙄 

Discovery of the nearby Cuban French bakery, which specializes in croissants—and toooo many tempting restaurants! It’s Steve’s and Mike’s mission to rate the Key Lime Pie at every one of them.


A Valentine’s Day dinghy flotilla “around the corner” to Hurricane Hole for lunch. After an unusually big lunch, we nixed our dinner reservation and enjoyed eclectic dining on leftovers, steamed mussels, and wild rice and edamame salad on Mike and Brenda’s aft deck. The girls whopped the boys at Bid Euchre AND Pinochle! 

Here are photos of the dinghy flotilla:


Today we eagerly await news of our grandbaby’s arrival!….

Week One in Paradise

Feb. 9, 2020

No drama = Bliss. It was a boring week of exploring in the sunshine and seamless contentment. 

With delightful cruises oceanside down the chain of keys, we arrived in Key West a day ahead of schedule. Some of our first looping friends, Mike and Brenda Finkenbinder on Velsignet, had arrived the day prior, and it is so much fun to be with them again. Right away they invited us for lunch on their flybridge, and we have been going back and forth all week. Afternoon exploring, early dinners followed by cards are the routine, but not the rule. Here are some of the sights we loved.

Red Pearl is entering the marina

The Laundry Room

A Super Bowl Party

Emphasis on “Party,” the TV setup and arrangements complements of Mike and Brenda in the marina Captains’ Lounge. Twelve of us gathered, docktails style.

The Hemingway House

Hemingway lived here from 1931-39 and owned it until his death in 1961. The 1851 house sits on a beautifully-landscaped, one-acre property on which 59 cats, all decendents of Hemingways’ 6- and 7-toed cats, still rule. The house is simple but lovely, and features beautiful chandeliers and the first bathroom in Key West with running water. Hemingway’s cozy writing studio here is where he wrote The Green Hills of Africa and To Have or to Have Not. The docents enjoy regaling guests with stories of this renowned, colorful and accident-prone author, who struggled with bi-polar disorder his whole life. They particularly enjoy telling the story of the extravagant $20,000 in-ground pool which his second wife had built during the Great Depression. To make room for it, she tore down Hemingway’s boxing gym. She had always wanted a pool, but through it, she got revenge for his galavanting around Europe with another woman. This story and others are a striking backdrop as one views his hallowed writing studio lofted above the carriage house. Of course, the myriad of cats lend their unique zen. 


Cats Rule.


The Butterfly Conservatory

Beautiful and calming. A sacred experience.


The Truman “Little White House”

Another walk through a snippet of history. The house was built in 1890 as the first officer’s quarters on the submarine base naval station. It was redesigned as a single-family residence in 1911, and Pres. Taft was the first president to visit. Thomas Edison resided here for 6 months during WW I while developing 41 underwater weapons. Truman’s struggle with depression was abated in the warm climate and away from the microscope and hostilities of Washington D.C., and he spent 175 of his presidential days here—more than any other president—as commander in chief of the naval base and in meetings with his cabinet. Continuity of his many accomplishments was prioritized here, but Truman enjoyed plenty of light-hearted camaraderie as well, including evenings around the custom-made poker table. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Carter also spent working vacations here, while the Clintons retreated here for a weekend following their attendance at the Trumps’ Miami wedding in 2005. 


Rum, Gin, and Vodka Tasting on Site here at the Perry Hotel

A distillation tour is always an interesting chemistry lesson, but the taste is not one I am work to develop anytime soon. 


The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Full disclosure: Brenda and I shopped while the guys took in the museum. This tells the sensational story of Mel Fisher, who as an Indiana boy was riveted by Stevenson’s Treasure Island. He went to Purdue, came to Key West as a treasure hunter, and subsequently learned of a treasure-filled Spanish ship which wrecked 50 miles off the shore of Key West in 1622. After a 16-year search, and many losses and set-backs, Mel discovered the ship in 1985 with its $500M worth of treasure. The Spanish wanted it back. Florida wanted tax revenue. Others held claim for various and sundry reasons.  But after a 4-year legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that the treasure go entirely to Mel—and his lawyers! There are still artifacts—mostly silver coins—available for purchase today. Here we are, hearing more stories at a local jeweler which features sale of some of the last of these treasures. 


Your Boat’s on Fire

Jan. 31

Yes. It was.

We had arrived in Key Largo and had just finished washing the brine from the boat and were beginning to think about an early dinner. The smell of something hot arose, but of course, it wouldn’t be coming from OUR boat…. Then we heard the calls from people eating at the nearby waterside restaurant: “Your boat’s on fire!” From OUR flybridge, smoke was pouring from the electric grill. Steve grabbed the fire extinguisher from the galley, and I flipped off the switch on the main electric panel. Fire leapt up as Steve opened the grill, and it was quenched in a moment. 

The cause?… two people who knew that there was a double switch system and, each, for reasons of their own,  switched one switch, not knowing that the other person had flipped the other. Despite the mess, the inconvenience of yet another repair,  we are counting our blessings. There will be no photos. 🥵

Arrived: Key West.