Bender's Cruising Chronicles #5 February 2009

Doesn't this look like so much fun!!!
Goodmorning, Everyone!
It's almost impossible to believe that another month has passed and it's time to document again and that we're only a couple of days short of beginning our 4th month of being cruising live-aboards. We're so often asked, "how is it?" and we answer that it's better than we ever dreamed. This is not said with a Pollyanna Attitude because it does have its moments. As I said last month, this is not a Royal Caribbean cruise that we're on. Laundry, meals, provisioning, cleaning, maintenance, etc., still needs to be done and it takes a bit more time and effort than when on land. That said, it's still better than we'd ever hoped it would be and didn't want you to have the mistakened notion that we're kicked back in a lounge chair, feet propped up, and perpetually sipping a fruity drink topped by a paper umbrella! Assuming that I was no different than everyone else who's gainfully employed, before retirement I couldn't wait till Friday and sometimes those work weeks were eternal. Then while waiting for Bill to finish his 30 years with Michelin, I impatiently yearned for Fridays which were never in a hurry to appear on the calendar. Now, we don't want Fridays to come because that just means our life's zipping past us too quickly but that's exactly what's happening. Hopefully, for you who are still eagerly anticipating retirement, our rapidly fleeting days are also happening for you.
To set the record straight about the photo of the home under construction in last month's blog--if you clicked on the photo it said "Custom Home for the Bender Family". Eventhough we think we'd like to live in Vero...not yet and most assuredly not in a 12,000 square foot house!!!! We just happened upon that construction, Bender isn't a common name, and we just thought it'd be kind of a dumb funny---but some folks took us seriously!
Our last blog installment was sent from Vero Beach. nick-named "Velcro Beach" because when folks go there, they just can't leave. After almost 4 weeks we pried ourselves away. Untying our mooring line and watching it disappear in our wake was bitter-sweet. We just loved Vero and all the great people we met and the cultural offerings of the city. We went to the theatre several times because it was a stone's throw away and so accessible---as were festivals, art shows, and other opportunities that peaked our interests. After the sights we've seen, I'd have really regretted not expanding my world by moving on just because we'd met some fun people in Vero and I was comfy in "my rut". We're certain that our cruising friends who precede us on this adventure are saying, "you ain't seen nuthin' yet!"
Somehow and sometime during the past 3 months, Bill has dropped 27 pounds and it happened overnight. He wasn't even trying. Seems terribly unfair, doesn't it---but he does look great!
As we approached Ft. Pierce, the water turned from the dark waterway color to an almost translucent turquoise. The coastline is so beautifully interspersed with white sandy beaches. We watched a dolphin herd a school of fish between the shore and a shoal and then he chased them with his dorsal fin cutting a swath through the water. What fun it was to watch that and it made me just laugh out loud!!! Soon after that I heard a snort and looked down to see a mammoth dolphin about 10’ long riding our wake. I loved it and he was gone as quickly as he arrived but put on a lovely show in the meantime.
Ft. Pierce has the most wonderful farmer's market, different than any we've ever visited before, and quite a treat. Another treat was their Mardi Gras parade netting us a huge collection of beads...however no big ones!!!! :-)
Bill is quite relieved to've completed the celestial navigation piece of one of the U.S. Power Squadron courses. That called for a big celebration!
We stopped in Stuart for a few days. We've been there several times before but never by boat. It's one of our favorite places. I went into the dock office asking to see a map. We were going to ride our bikes to a dive shop to get "outfitted". The harbormaster handed me a key and said, "Here! Please take my car." Well, folks! He was loaning us his 2 seater convertible sports car and he didn't know us from Adam!!! And it was a good thing because we'd have never gotten all that stuff home on bicycles!!! Another serendipity---for me at least---while Bill was napping I got out my brand new shiny rod and reel that I got in Daytona, tied a lure onto it and not having a clue as to what I was doing; hurled it over the side of the boat and in a heart beat something had it. I'm shreiking, "Bill!!! I've caught a fish!!!!!" which was the end of his nap. Long story short, it was a huge and very ugly catfish and that was OK because I wasn't particular about what I caught. I just wanted to catch a fish...and I did...the first one ever in my very long life!!!
In several of our anchorages, but Palm Beach in particular, we anchored in front of jillion dollar houses, each having a trillion dollar boat at their dock---and we're enjoying the same exquisite view for which they're paying megabucks.
On Valentine's night, we went to Stuart's historic Lyric Theatre for a wonderful Dixieland Jazz performance. What an incredible evening...and topped off by a dish of ultra rich chocolate ice cream laced with huge ribbons of peanut butter!!!
We've really enjoyed attending church each Sunday in different cities. It's proved to be quite an interesting ecumenical experience!!! We look forward to worshipping in various denominational churches.
We're in Ft. Lauderdale as we conclude the 3rd month of our retirement adventures. While in Palm Beach, our windlass gave up the ghost and Bill was having to manually deploy and retreive the anchor which called on every muscle fiber in his body. We're downtown Lauderdale and a couple miles from the beach while we await the repair of our windlass. No complaints! This is not tough duty here. Sunday afternoon we rode our bikes to the beach and what a visual overload that was!!! The beachside bars were teaming with humanity as were the beaches. What a mob scene of every age, size, color, level of fitness, and degrees of undress!!! We didn't know where to look first---or not look at all!!! We finished the day sitting on the deck of an Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway cafe enjoying a reggaee group and watching an unchoreographed, disorganized dither of boaters winding up their weekend aboard everything from small skiffs to megayachts. We deemed it a good day to not be negotiating the waterway.
We have visited each of these cities in years past, either by car or plane, to which this cruise is taking us but they just do not look the same by water. I've mentioned my "amazement" by this to other cruisers and the stock reply from each of them is, "they never do." It was by oceans, rivers, creeks and streams that our country was discovered and how very much we're loving rediscovering it the very same way.
In light of the economic state of our nation, we're witnessing vast incongruencies. "Hard times" are in evidence everywhere by empty store fronts in what used to be posh retail establishments; for sale signs by the dozens in up-scale neighborhoods; vacated buildings of high dollar yacht brokers with only the faded shadow of where their signs once were; broken dreams seen in the remains of abandoned construction of grand homes---but the flip side of this is the excessive opulence of palatial residences; Rolls and Bentley's zipping around town with their tops down; boats of all sizes guzzling fuel as they race up and down the waterway; eating establishments slammed with customers~~sights that would never lead one to believe that the economy is depressed. There's a 150 + foot boat in our marina named Never Enough. Isn't that a sad commentary!
We concluded this month with an evening out with a great couple that we met in Charleston a couple years ago who are living aboard in Ft. Lauderdale. We had a fantastic time with them...and it's all about the people you bond with along the way. So long for February. Spring for you guys in colder climes is just around the corner. We think of each of you often and ask that you please stay in touch.
Fondly,
Bill, Laura, and still Bailey Dawg
M/V Kindred Spirit III
docked in Ft. Lauderdale, FL

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