Category Archives: Boating

Family

Family has always been a big part of my life.  Growing up in a small town, next door to my grandparents, whose eight of their nine children raised their families near by, allowed me to know my kin well.  My grandparent’s house was the gathering place for holidays, Sunday dinners, afternoon ice cream making and watermelon cuttings.  We were a close family, and I know growing up amist all that family defined who I am today.

I moved away from that familiarity forty-two years ago, but made at least several trips a year back.  My grandfather died the year that I married and my grandmother passed while my first child was very young.  After that it never did seem the same.  The big gatherings grew smaller and less frequent and no longer in my back yard.  My grandparent’s children remained very close, so I guess you could say the fault lies with my generation.  Some of us moved far away, others just a short distance away, and the town grew and grew.  It just isn’t the same small town, even though it is still considered small.  Our lives grew busier and busier, speeding along like a fast moving train.  Life seemed to be so slow back then, and I miss that.

My youngest son was here last week with his wife, two girls and our new grandson.  They live in California, far away from any of their family.  We get to see them several times a year, somethimes more.  Last year, we made a trip in the RV and spent six weeks in their area.  We plan to do the same this year.  Family is still important to me.

 

 

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California Fun, Part 2

After leaving Half Moon Bay we drove south to Monterey.  We drove on coastal Hwy 1, which is fairly RV friendly compared to the northern coast we had driven on a previous trip.  We chose an RV park (Carmel By The River) nestled against the mountains instead of one we could had stayed in right on the ocean.  Their advertisement said something about being lullabied to sleep with the sounds of a river and croaking frogs.  It sounded like a nice change from the ocean – Duh! California is in a severe drought.  The river was dried up and I never heard one frog, but John said he did.  Oh well, we went to sleep with the sound of silence.

Isn’t it always fun to go down roads with the uneasy feeling you shouldn’t be there.  The road that led to this campground was like that.  It narrow down to one lane and it would be impossible for another RV to get by if you met one.  There was no shoulder to pull over on, but there were a couple of pull outs so cars can get out of your way.  An RV would NOT fit in these pull outs.  Thank God we didn’t meet one going in or out.  There was a very steep hill we had to go down that ended at the campground.  On top of all that, there wasn’t good signage leading you in, which made you wonder if WAZE was taking you down the wrong road with no way in hell you could turn around.  Oh the joys of RVing.  All in all, the campground was nice.  The sites were not as spacious as we were hoping, but we did fit in.  The length was fine, but there are tall bushes between each site that just barely gave us enough room to put our slide out.

That afternoon, we took a nice drive down to Big Sur State Park.  Big Sur is the southern most boundary for the redwoods.  The southern redwoods are smaller and less numerous than the northern redwoods.  That is due to the warmer and drier air.  Also, scientists have learned from studying their growth rings that the coastal fog has decreased by 30% in the last 50 years.  The redwood’s survival is at risk.  There was plenty of coastal fog the day we drove to Big Sur.

The next day we drove into Monterey to go on a whale watching excursion.  The weather was as near perfect as it could get.  The winds were almost calm, which they said was very unusual for the bay.  We saw sea lions, seals, dolphins, orcas and humpback whales.  The humpbacks nor the orcas were close enough to us for great pictures.  The whales were feeding down deep, so they did not stay at the surface for long periods.  It was a bit of a disappointment in comparison to our whale watching excursion in Nova Scotia.

We had a late lunch on Fisherman Wharf, then explored around Monterey by car.  We liked Monterey.

Our next stop will be Joshua Tree Nation Park.  Stay tuned.

Oh, A Fishing We Will Go!

February was a great month in the Keys, in spite of having some cold weather.  I know, I know, it certainly wasn’t the cold everyone north of us was experiencing, but it was cold for the Keys.  We awakened one morning to forty-eight degrees and a couple of other mornings in the low fifties!  Good thing that didn’t last too many days or the drop in water temperature would start killing the fish.  That happened four or five years ago.  A lot of tropical fish died and a lot of manatees also.

John and I have become quite experienced in fishing in the Atlantic.  We were able to venture out in the ocean a dozen times during the month of February. We had some great catches of Hogfish and some poor catches.   We were lucky enough to have our friend Gary to give us a daily ocean report.  Gary goes in the Atlantic almost everyday and calls us to let us know how rough it is.  He left a few days ago to head back home.  Gary, come back!

We took our friend, Pam, fishing a couple of days.  Her husband had injured his finger, had to have stitches and couldn’t fish for a few days.  Pam turned out to be the “Hog Queen,” because she out fished John and me.  One day, John couldn’t catch a Hogfish for nothing, and Pam even traded places in the boat with him.  He still didn’t pull in any Hogfish and Pam caught one right away where he had been fishing.  John was sure catching all these pretty tropical fishes though.  There is one fish that John and I just hate to catch.  I think he is in the Boxfish family.  He doesn’t fight coming up, and it feels like you are reeling in a really big fish.  Nope, it is this triangle shape fish that has a very dense body.  We nicknamed him Sponge Bob.

A sunny day, mimosa, good friends and Snapper make for a fun day in the Gulf. It started out slow, but who cares when you are having fun.  After having no luck on the first couple of holes, I suggested we try a hole we had not fished on this winter.  Sometimes, I just know how to pick them and the girls ruled that day. Louise and I caught the most and the largest Snapper.  I think the guys had the most fun watching us.  After returning to Jolly Roger, the guys cleaned the fish and then we had a wonderful dinner of fresh fish.

On one of our great days on the Atlantic, where we limited out on Hogfish, I also caught four really nice Porgies.  They ranged from 16″ to 18 1/2″.  Porgies give you a good fight, and when you are fishing in 90′ of water, it can be a real struggle to bring up one that large.  It was really wearing out my arms.  When I hooked up another large Porgy, at least that’s what I though it was, I knew from the start I couldn’t handle it.  John took over for me, and he was struggling with it also.  When it reached the surface, it was a four-foot ell!  I had snagged it.  We didn’t even take it out of the water, got the hook out and down it went.  Good riddance.

It’s not just fishing though.  We do other fun things as well.  The campground hosted a Mardi Gras Parade.  It’s a short one, but is growing every year.

The campground hosts a cookout twice a month.  Here is one of the fish frys.  The fish is donated and cooked by some of the campers here.  Everyone brings a dish to share.  There is always a huge turnout and lots of great food.

This year a lady has been leading a wine and paint class.  She provides all the materials, paint and wine.  The cost is $15 and you can choose to paint a wine glass, lobster buoy, or the end of a palm frond.  The first two times, I painted a lobster buoy.  This week, I painted a palm frond.  I am no artist, but it was a lot of fun meeting new people and I thought my artwork didn’t turn out half bad.

John went to the nautical flea market on Islamorada, looking for a new rod and reel and other stuff.  He found one and was pretty pleased with it.  One day out in the Atlantic, I was having a miserable time.  John was catching fish, but I was just getting cleaned.  I wasn’t even feeling them bite most of the time.  After awhile, John suggested I try his new rod and reel.  It was shorter and lighter, and he thought I might be able to feel the fish bite better.  What a difference!  Not only could I feel them biting, I was catching them!  Some time later, I turned and said to John, thanks for the new rod and reel, you are not getting it back.

Some cool things happened while we were fishing in the Atlantic.  One day a pod of a dozen or more dolphins swam close by.  I had never seen that large of a pod before.  We’ve seen a lot of sea turtles, but one day a turtle kept hanging around near by.  All through the day, he would stick his head up and look at us, like he was telling us, hey, you guys need to move on, you are in my spot.  I can’t count how many days two jets buzzed us.  They would fly low, right over our boat and turn sideways.  It was the coolest thing and gave me such a rush.

March has been a time for lots of good byes.  Many of our friends  have already left.  We miss them, but we still have some friends here.  To date our total for Hogfish we brought back is 96, Mangrove Snappers – 67, Yellowtail Snapper – 31, Porgy – 44, Mutton Snapper – 1, Mackerel – 2 and Cero Mackerel – 1. That is the total of the ones we brought back.  We released many more.  Our freezer is full, we gave a lot of the fish away, and we’ve eaten lots of fish.  We bake, saute, grill, fry, and stew it.  I have tried some new recipes that have been pretty good.  The fish stew I made tonight was outstanding.  It sure was a lot of work though.  I made my own fish stock and even made a roux.

Fish Stew

Fish Stew

Next week, my brother, Mike, and his wife, Terri, will be here.  John and Mike will be going fishing and Terri and I will be doing fun things on the different Keys.  Then our time will be almost up.  We plan on being home the first week in April.  It will be sad to leave the Keys, but it will be great to get back on Tybee to see our friends.  Won’t be home for long though, we will be flying to California the second week of April!

One last picture.  Me and my 28″ Cero Mackerel.

Happy fishing y’all!

The Quest for Hogfish

John and I have done quite a bit of fishing since we arrived back at the Jolly Roger, December 29th.  This January has been no comparison to the January of 2014.  Last year the fishing was excellent on the bay side.  We were regularly getting our limit on Mangrove Snapper in the range of seventeen and eighteen inches.  Not so this year and I don’t know why.  The Snappers are plentiful, but we are lucky if we get one that is sixteen inches.  The majority are throw backs and the ones we have been keeping are twelve to thirteen inches.  John did have a nice surprise when he caught a fifteen inch Yellowtail Snapper!  That is rare on the bay side.  The water temperature is a little warmer this January, so I am thinking the bigger Mangroves have not moved into the bay yet.

Just recently, we have been seeing great catches coming in from the Atlantic.  We haven’t even tried fishing the Atlantic this year, but we sure got to thinking about it when we started seeing all the Hogfish at the cleaning station.  Just had to wait for a calm enough day.  I’m not fishing in the Atlantic when it is rough.  It is so hard to keep your balance in a rocking and rolling boat while holding a fishing rod.

Finally, calm winds were in the forecast for Sunday morning with them picking up a little in the afternoon.  We decided to get an early start to take advantage of the calmness and did manage to leave the dock by eight thirty.  As we left the dock, well prepare with rods, tackle, bait and ice, visions of Hogfish were swimming in my head.  Hogfish must be very plentiful this year.  I have never seen so many coming into the cleaning station.  In the past, John has caught a Hogfish here and there, but they have eluded me.  That was about to change.

Our boat ready for a fun day of fishing.

Our boat ready for a fun day of fishing.

It was a fairly smooth, six-mile ride out into the Atlantic.  We drifted a bit while fishing, waiting to find a good spot to anchor on.  The bites started immediately, but they were Porgies and Grouper, not the much sought after Hogfish.  Once we anchored, it wasn’t long before we started pulling in Hogfish.  I caught my first one ever and made John stop fishing for a photo opt.  He was only thirteen inches, but I was proud and he went in the cooler.  Then John caught a fifteen inch one, and I thought to myself, I need one like that.  Woo-hoo, was I ever excited when I pulled in my very own fifteen inch Hogfish!  No more keeping the shorter ones, we were going for the big boys.  We came back with eight Hogfish, just two short of our limit, and five of them were fifteen and sixteen inches.  The Porgies were plentiful and they are good eating as well, so we brought back a good many of them.  There is not a size or bag limit on Porgies.  John also caught five decent size Yellowtails.

My first Hogfish!

My first Hogfish!

As predicted, the winds did pick up after lunch.  By two o’clock, it had gotten quite choppy and the ride home would be into the wind.  The bites had greatly decrease along with the size of Hogfish, so it was time to pull anchor.  I really didn’t want to wait to see the Atlantic get any rougher.  Another friend of ours was fishing near by and he also pulled anchor.  His boat is a little bigger, so we road in behind him, letting his boat smooth out the water for us.  Otherwise, it would had been a bumpy ride for us.

John had a lot of fish cleaning ahead of him.  I don’t clean fish.  We put up several quarts of Hogfish in the freezer and cooked some for dinner as well.  So delicious!  It looks like the winds will be in our favor this week.  I’ll be dreaming of another fun fishing day and HOGFISH!

We went fishing in the Atlantic three more times.  Now I have to eat my previous words about not fishing in a rough ocean.  It looked to be calm enough on Monday, but once we passed under the Long Key Bridge I knew it might not be good.  Three miles out it really became rough and I had thoughts of heading back.  The going was slow the next three miles, but we made it out there and we decided to see how it would go.  It was a cloudy day, which made it on the cool side and there was a good chance of rain in the afternoon.  The boat was rocking and rolling, making it a challenge to walk around.  I pretty much stayed seated. It was real slow going on catching fish.  We moved around a lot trying to  find where the fish were, but to no prevail.  Once, the anchor became hung up and we spent at least thirty minutes trying to get it up.  At one point I was in fear of the boat sinking as the back of the boat was filling up with water.  John had the anchor rope tied to the transum then and was using the motor to pull the anchor up.  The anchor held and started pulling the boat backwards causing water to come over the transum.  I scrambled to the front of the boat with my phone ready to call my friend who was fishing near by.  John got it under control, worked more on releasing the anchor and was at the point of giving up and cutting it loose, when it finally released.  Whew!  Glad that was over.  We continued fishing, even through some light rain, catching only two Hogfish for the day.  Not such a good day of fishing.  The ride back wasn’t too good either.

 

The next day was super weather.  Calm winds and sunny skies!  It was a beautiful ride out in an almost flat Atlantic.  We caught three Hogfish fairly quickly, but after that, just about nothing was biting.  We couldn’t even give away our bait.  It was so frustrating.  Our friends did better than that, so now we are rethinking our gear.  They were using lighter line and maybe that is the problem. Some people in the campground swear by smearing peanut butter on your bait. The fish love it, they say.  I can understand that, I am a peanut butter addict. Just might have to try that.  I will let you know how it works.

Today the fishing was better, well, at least we were catching a lot of fish even if they were mostly Grunts and Porgies.  I did catch two keeper Hogfish.  The ocean waves were big today.  We rode the six miles out to our spot only to decide it was way too rough to be out there.  I suggested another Hogfish spot closer to shore thinking it would be somewhat better there.  That put us about three miles off shore.  The waves were still pretty big but they were goiong from the front of the boat to the back, which is better than them going from side to side.  I guess I felt more comfortable being closer to shore with the bigger waves.  John says I must be getting tough.  Oh, I did try the peanut butter today and can not say that I saw any improvement on bites.  They took my bait with or without peanut butter. Spreading it on sure made me hungry though.  One plus for sure, my hands smelled yummy.

A Month in the Florida Keys

John and I have been busy since we returned home from our trip out west and yes, I should have published this long ago.  We were not home long at all before I flew out to California to visit with our son, Kevin, and his family.  It was a wonderful visit and so great to be there for Eliza’s third birthday party!

On the way home, I made a stop in NC for a few days to see my family and to attend my great niece’s wedding reception.  It was so great to visit with all of my aunts – I have four, and to spend some quality time with my sister and two brothers.  I’ll have to think about doing that again the next time I fly out to California.

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My sister, brothers and their spouses.

Then, John and I went to Charleston the first week in November to attend his 40th reunion at the Citadel.  We saw a lot of old friends and reminisced about the fun times in Charleston and the hardships of attending a military college in the early 70’s.

Returning from Charleston, we spent a couple of days packing the RV and taking off for the Florida Keys for a month.  We love the Keys and spend a lot of time there, especially in the winter.  John and I just don’t like the cold weather or maybe we never did like the cold weather, but we seem to be more sensitive to it now.  And since winter arrived early this year, why not go down to the Keys where the promise of sunshine and warmer weather awaits us.

The Jolly Roger is our home away from home when we are in the Keys.  It’s located on Grassy Key, which is close to Marathon, on the Gulf side.  We settled into a harbour spot, which has delightful sunset views.  The campground was not crowded yet, but a few of our winter friends from Canada and northern states were there.  That all changed Thanksgiving week.  But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

A beautiful  Key sunset.

A beautiful Key sunset.

There was much to do after arriving.  John always spends a day getting the boat ready to go in the water, and we spent some time putting lights on our palm tree and also around our shade shelter.  We created a nice little area for enjoying sunsets and dinners with friends.

Enjoying an evening with friends at our site in Jolly Roger.

Enjoying an evening with friends at our site in Jolly Roger.

We spent what time we could fishing and lobstering, but the blustery winds kept us from doing it as much as we would have liked.  Even when we did fish, we were not tearing them up. We caught some nice size grouper, but not legal size. There were some decent size snapper we kept and we released a lot of small ones.  The sea gulls were a big nuisance.  They kept going for our bait as we cast and sometimes try to fly off with it.  We would have to jerk it out of their beak, only to have them come back and try again.  John had one to get tangled in his line, and we were able to get him in the boat and untangle him.  He flew away unharmed and without harming us.  It is not easy to untangle fishing line from a wiggling bird.

John really wanted to lobster more than he wanted to fish, I guess because of the poor fishing and the fact he does love being in the water.  The cooler temperature of the water this time of year is certainly not as inviting as the warm summer water, but with wet suit on, he dove many holes.  He did find lobsters, but they were not as plentiful as when the season opened in August.  Lobster season runs from August 5th thru the month of March.

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Snapper and Lobster

 

We had some Tybee friends come visit us.  The weather was not the greatest while they were there, lots of cloudy, windy days, some rain and cooler temperatures.  One day was beautiful and the winds were down too, so the Scarbroughs went boating with us.  We stayed inland, just taking in the sights and enjoying the day, and stopped at The Islander for lunch.  The Jarrells went fishing with us one day, and everyone caught fish, just nothing to brag about.  It was a lot of fun though.  All of us spent a day in Key West and did other fun stuff. We had a blast with them and wouldn’t you know it, the winds calmed down and the temperatures rose the day they left.

For the first time ever, we went out to eat Thanksgiving dinner.  We joined our friends Buddy and Dixie at the Sunset Grill where they had a Thanksgiving buffet set up.  Everything you expect to have for a Thanksgiving meal was present, plus dishes like lobster bisque, clams and crab balls.  The meal was good, although I was a little disappointed in it.  The best part was being there with Buddy and Dixie and the beautiful view of the seven mile bridge and the Atlantic Ocean.

Jolly Roger was very busy Thanksgiving week.  Lots of families with children and more boats in the harbour.  The winds were terrible that week and hardly anyone did any fishing.  I was hoping that a bunch of us would do Thanksgiving dinner there, but it seemed most everyone was going out to eat.  There were several RVs that were traveling together that were camped along the harbour next to us – a great bunch of friendly people from up north.  One fella did a lot of cooking on a pellet grill and shared with us.  That was some good cooking!  We shared our lobster with them and they were quite impressed with the southern lobster, and then we found out we had a mutual friend.  Well, it was the guy’s cousin, but we know him because he camps with us in January – small world.  That is what RVing is all about, meeting new people and sharing good times.  Well, also for seeing the world too, but the people sure make it more enjoyable.