Friday, July 27, 2012

DISASTER VACATION - Part 2 - The Storm

by Robin

Where were we??  Link to Part 1, if you missed it.

Oh yes, we were done with sandwiches & ice pops at the marina and looking forward to a peaceful night fishing at the Crystal River Reef.

At this point, we're all still smiles.


We get past the no wake zone and head 25 knots east through the river to the port opening.  Now, I did see all these clouds over land but had no reason to fear anything.  As you can see, those thunderheads in the background were pointing south.   Wind was going north to south.  That was the plan. 


As we head east, everyone passes the little party island to the south.  Many people tie boats up there, hop out and cool off in the shallows for the hottest parts of the day.  I'm sure many take grills and have the best memories of how they 'played' Survivor for a couple hours in the sand & sun.


Right after you pass the party island, look north and you will see the powerplant.  It seems like such an ugly hunk of concrete.  I had no idea at this time how its beautiful orange glow would give me comfort through the night.  No idea.  As long as its distant lights stayed in the same general area and the same approximate distance, I could put my head back down to suffer out the rocking-induced nausea another hour.


And then there was an amazing sunset to the West.  The thunderhead clouds hovering over land were lacking over the water.  The Gulf had upper-level whispy clouds, meaning no rain.  At this point, we were finally 17 miles west of Crystal River port, over the Reef.  I had plenty of time to anchor up, find the mound of rubble under water covered up in fish, according to our fish finder. 

I was busy transforming the cuddy from storage unit into a bedroom suite for 3 (Jack had planned on sleeping on the deck (cockpit) on a bean bag.).  As I played interior decorator with sheets, towels & pillows, Jack dropped a line over the side.  He was instantly bowed over with something huge from the sea.  Excitement filled the air as visions of sugar-plum fish danced in our heads.  But, the excitement was short-lived and Jack's pole popped back straight.  He reeled up and his hook was bit in half!!  Wow, what was that?  Jack thinks it was a shark.

It was about this time that I felt nausea set in.  Our 2 ft waves or less felt more intense the longer I stayed in the cuddy, hence the name "Cuddy of Death."  But, I convinced myself I could remedy it by fishing.  I held a pole in my hand about 1.5 minutes before Jack noticed the rest of the crew looking green and took a vote of who wanted to go back in.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one fighting a little nausea.  The vote was 3 to one.  So, we pulled anchor.


While pulling the anchor, we heard such awful news over the radio.  It was a back-n-forth relay between the Coast Guard and some man who was thinking he was having a heart attack.  Good golly!!  Not ANOTHER heart-attack person.  What are the odds that two people would have heart-attacks the same day, out of the same port?  We did not hear how that concluded because we were soon underway and the drama that was unfolding was drowned out by the hum of our Mercury.  Out attention was more focused now on what was building over land.  Still no fear at this point because the wind was taking it South.  Right?  Right?? 


We started towards the Port for less than 1.5 miles and Jack stopped the boat.  It was useless.  There was frequent lightening right at the port entrance (left side of picture).  In ten minutes time, we could see the south end of the front bowing outward and I think that was the first time I remembered panicking.  It confirmed that the winds had shifted eastward and we were going to confront our biggest fears. A solid line of thunderstorms coming straight for us. There was also lightening in this section of clouds (below), too.  It was less severe than the lightening to the north, though.


Pretty much, by this time, we were so confused and had run in most every direction.  We couldn't go north, south, east or west. The sun would be gone in no time.  The storm was coming at us at 25 knots NE.  We called the Coast Guard and let them know of our location and asked them about the weather.  They seemed a bit put-off that we asked for a weather report but hey, they're the ones with the radar screen and knew if there was any break in the storm cells.  Afterall, pilots get navigational help from air traffic control when they hit bad weather.  Here's a good lesson learned...  the CG is not the ATC.  The CG told us they could not suggest which direction we should go in.  I could barely get that sunk in when my 12 yo screams out, "We're gonna die!!"   Now that, I could not let sink in.  There was no time to entertain that fear.  Partly out of necessity and partly out of selfishness, we had him go down below and start praying.  I am so glad that my Father in heaven did not treat his fears like I did.  We asked him days later what he prayed forwhile he was down there and he cannot remember.  I'm certain of one thing, it must have been that he wouldn't die and God answered that. 

After speaking with the CG, I believe Jack radioed his coworker who was on his boat with his wife fishing deeper seas.  They had some nice red groupers already in the box when they heard our call.  For just a moment, I forgot our urgency and found comfort in knowing we were not in this alone.  J and B were going to head west as fast as they could and then cut north into the port, through the storm, lightening & all. We were hoping to have contact with them later in the night.  But, we never heard from them again.


As the sun disappeared over the horizon, it set the western skies were set aglow from the top of the storm to the heavens.  It was magnificient.  The only thing that kept coming to mind was the phrase, "Purple majesty".  It was majestic.  The entire sky, not 25-50-75%, but 100%  was a canvas and it was captivating.  Even mesmerizing.  It came close to lulling me into a sense of peacefulness. But then, a lightening struck (never once captured on digital- sheesh) would snap me back into reality.   I set this beautiful Scripture onto the last photo I would take of the clouds that night. 


From that point on, we began running for what seemed like our lives.  The kids were in the cuddy with the dogs.  Lightening came closer and closer.  I shot this video while we were running full speed.  Forgive the annoying buzz of the engine competing with my shaky voice.  When I viewed it on my bloggie & the tv, I could actually see lightening strikes twice on the left side, but I don't think the HD quality translated very well in the upload. The light you see in the back is our navigation light. Sometimes you can see those clouds to the south and at the end, you can see the last seconds of light with the sunset. 

As I was closing my entry, Jack stops the boat and we discuss strategy again.  A blast of very cold air hit us smack in the faces. We began running again.  Jack could no longer see out any of his windows. I became his eyes as the sprinkles turned into sheets of rain. It was that sinking feeling that we could no longer outrun something so powerful & fast. The best we could hope for was that we were between the worst of lightening cells and the one still to come, headed our way, was the lesser of three evils.

The boys handed me my huge life-jacket and I went quickly about my business.  An hour before, I was untangling a couple hundred feet of rope via Jack's request.  He even said something about it being so important, it could save our lives one day, and now, every bit of that was going to be our lifeline.  I dropped anchor.

And the anchor held.

Two dogs, two boys and one very wet mom stayed in the 'Cuddy of Death', rocking side-to-side, as Jack broke 4 glow sticks and shook them.  He tied two to our bow and two to our nav light over the engine area before joining us down below.

Wait, I do remember one really cool thing before I went below.  The glow sticks had attracted a bait school around the boat.  I thought I may have seen a couple shimmers of bio-illuminescence.  My nerdy science side was so fascinated with trying to see flashes that it spooked me then to see some fish sky-rocket out of the water and fly about 20 feet across the water. Ok.  I'll mind my own business and head for the cuddy.  Eventually, Jack joined us there.

We were sardines awaiting torment in our home away from home.  Jack asked me to pray.  I could hardly get a word out.  My voice quivered.  My thoughts were unable to connect words together coherently.  I remember asking for a hedge of protection around our boat.  I remembered that Jesus slept through the storm that came up over the Sea of Galilee. The disciples did not have faith, waking the Lord from His sleep.  " 'Peace, be still.' he spoke."  I repeated those three words a few times.  His power was so incredible that three simple words made the winds and seas obey Him.  I begged for that kind of faith.  If ever there was a time in my life I needed to muster up the faith that created such power to make the weather behave, it was NOW.  There was no doubt that I believed God to be Creator of this world and all that it held.  There was no doubt that I believed He had that much power; afterall, He spoke everything into existance.  I had to trust in that.  That same power was inside of us when we trusted Him with our lives years ago. Now, He was asking me if I believed all that beyond being vocal in the church pew.  Was I ready to trust in His power with my entire family's life, for real?

We did our best to lie still, moving the battery-powered fan from time to time. You could hear the rain pounding the boat.  From time to time, we saw lightening flash the sky from our tiny window slats.  I counted three times, but I am sure that was not accurate since I did my best to lie still, closing my eyes.  The 'Cuddy of Death' rocked back and forth for some time. 

And the anchor held.

I do not know how long it took for the storm to pass, but Jack was first out of the cuddy to have a look around.  I'm sure it wasn't but minutes later and we had our first casualty of nausea.  Our eldest ran out to vomit.  He came back, drained but a much happier camper.  Our youngest did his best to hold out but even he succumb to nausea and vomiting.  I was very proud that he made it out to the ocean and not spilling it in the cuddy.  A few weeks ago, he had a tummy virus and didn't make it to the bathroom. 

For me, I did my best to ignore my surroundings.  I was going to fight it with every ounce of my being.  I tried deep breathing.  Breathing through nostrils.  Fight that nausea, Robin!! But, then Jack asked me a question.  I do not remember what it was, but only that attempting to use my stomach muscles created some convulsion of stomach muscles that could not be stopped.  I sat up and began heaving.  I flew up two steps and heaved again.  But, gross as this was, I did my duty and kept my mouth shut until I reached the gunnell and then released it overboard.

Oh my Lord, how much more can we take of this?  I could not go back into the cuddy.  I needed fresh air. I needed this rocking to stop.  That's when it dawned on me that I had stars overhead.  To the north and south, there was still lightening & thundering, but we... we were in the clear.  God had answered prayer. 

(I did not take this picture, but it was the closest thing to what we saw that night.  I'd never seen so many stars in my life. And I saw hazey glow like this too. )

Lightening had stayed aloft in the clouds and never once struck to the ground.  Being the tallest thing on the water, I was certain it spelled doom in my worst nightmares.  But, God had put the hedge of protection around us.  The lightening and clouds HAD obeyed Him.

We were free.  Free!  I was ready to head to the port and put all this behind me as I drifted off to sleep in ANY hotel room.  Shoot, I would have been grateful to sleep in the passenger seat of my suburban for all I cared.  Whatever.  I didn't care. Who was I to be picky when I was feeling so grateful?  We survived a front with lightening and now we could go home. 

But, Jack was very opposed to all this excitement about navigated in the dark, in 2-3 ft wind waves and not having proper knowledge of the area.  He insisted that we stay put until morning light.  Oh noooo, my nauseated stomach could not agree with him.  I had a moment of panic.  I wanted to go.  I wanted off this ride.  If I could have, I would have walked right across the water until I reached dry land.  It was 11:30 pm and waiting six hours of daylight was too much to ask for.  The sea-sickness was like kryptonite to me.  I couldn't pick my head up.  My muscles turn to jello. 

How was I going to make it six more hours? Was that the last of the storms?

To be continued......

Thursday, July 26, 2012

DISASTER VACATION - Scalloping portion

by Robin

I've known I needed to write this out but it has taken me days to get past my own nightmares before I could face reliving it through the penned word.  I do not know how many posts it will take to get through my story but I will keep it all linked together for your sake.  We will get through this together, only your heart rate will probably minimally increase and mine will need medication.  LOL. 

Attending a friend's funeral this morning has put things in perspective.  We did survive.  It was an amazing story that can only be credited to God.  I cannot begin to understand why God chose to let us live and yet hours before, took my friend home to be with the Him in heaven.  I don't believe it was because we were more deserving.  I can only think that God has given me another opportunity to share our testimony to His goodness to us through the storm.

Many people face storms in life, literal ly& figuratively.  We have all watched tragedies in our lives or the lives of others around us.  Some people stay stuck in storms.  Some receiving victory on the other side of the storm.  And some folks even end up on tv shows called, "When Vacations Go Wrong" or "Amazing Disaster Videos" when they are caught on video. We had a little bit of all those elements.

Like every other fishing trip, I document our adventures with photos & video.  It's fun.  And sometimes, it tells a very good moral story. 

Here is our story.

We had been planning our trip to Crystal River for a week.  We were taking our boat with us and the plan was to scallop, fish and eventually snorkel the springs.  We booked a room for Sunday night, but Saturday night, we opted to fish under the stars & crescent moon at some reef; and the dream was to come home with all the wonderful bottom-feeding species we could stuff in the cooler. 

We set out at 8 am from our hometown, an hour late, as usual, and had a  pleasant drive across the peninsula of Florida.  It was fairly uneventful except for being the 2nd people to arrive upon a vehicular accident.  Jack swung the entire rig around and stopped to give help.  By then, a couple had pulled him out of his smoking truck and another retired fire fighter was holding his head steady.  Jack is a trained ex-EMT.  There wasn't much to do but offer comfort & a voice of calmness.  The boys and I stared from our windows until the other lady came over to speak with us.  She had seen the truck drift left, over-correct right, then do a 180 degree turn & roll before landing on some cow pasture wires.  It was sad, for sure, but I suppose it could have been worse.  When she left, we prayed for the young man.  Our prayers were interrupted by the sounds of sirens and State Troopers pulling up.  We continued on our way in no time. 

We were at Pete's Pier by 11.  It was completely packed, including the overflow lot.  We put the boat into the water and I did my best to find ANYWHERE to park our rig. I kid you not when I say it was probably close to .5 mile from the dock.  As I am walking back to the marina, two cop cars fly past me.  Then, a fire truck.  What in the world?  Please Lord, don't let anything  happene to my family while I was gone away for a few minutes!!  A shooting was the only thing that kept coming to my mind, since it was the day after the Colorado shootings.  I could only imagine that somebody's temper flared and something happened. My imagination ran wild.

When I arrived, I could see all smiles from my family and my fears were relieved.  Sadly, there was news that a man was having a heart attack while boating and was being rushed in.  Again, I prayed as we idled into the deeper channel.  I closely examined boat after boat, assessing which one it may be with the victim inside.  Jack went quite a distance before we saw a FWC boat drawing everyone's attention with sirens and speeding towards Pete's.  I never did see the man, but hopefully, he was resting on the side walkways until he could get the medical attention he needed.

Being new to scalloping, we took our time motoring through the shallow water and picking our little place to lay claim for scallops galore!  It was time to set anchor and break out the dive bag.  I am most proud that our youngest couldn't wait to put on his flippers and mask, jumping feet first into the bay.  Second in the water was my eldest and he found 'gold' first.   It was a beautiful thing.


I couldn't wait to put on my mask & fins either!  But first, I had some very hot dogs that needed cooling down.  One-by-one, I dunked them in and put them back on deck.  They seemed to enjoy that.  While they are not water dogs, they are family dogs and seem to enjoy doing whatever we are doing at the time.  I cannot skip over their part in the story because they suffered along with us and yet, were a big comfort to me through the night. 


At our first location, our eldest found 2 scallops and I found one.  Disappointed but not discouraged.  We were told they were out deep, but maybe that was wrong.  Afterall, it was hard to spot them from the surface of the water and then dive down to pick them up. 


It seems easy until you try to factor in the current and losing eye-contact with your prize.  Many times, we dove down only to realize we had found some undesireable piece of coral or half a scallop that somebody has left behind.  Swimming upcurrent seemed impossible after the first 5 minutes of kicking. 


I'm not saying you couldn't get up-current at all, but even with me walking all week in preparation of this vacation, I could barely make it past the bow of the boat.  Jack was so smart to throw out about 30 ft of rope attached to the buoy ball.  If we could swim over to it, we were good.  Then, it was a matter of pulling ourselves up to the boat and taking the fins off, handing them up to Daddy. 

Speaking of Jack, he tried diving down but his joy was stopped in its tracks thanks to a sinus infection.  The pressure at 6 ft of water was too much for him to enjoy scalloping, but we were still blessed to have his help through all this topside. We kept him busy with fins coming on & off.  It was also important that somebody kept constant watch with counting heads & bubbles. While we considered visibility to be good, it was still hard to see much more than 10-15 feet around you.  I may have missed it if a child drifted too far from safety.  Many boats were coming and going to the grounds.  Yep, Daddy was watching for our safety.


It wasn't long after I took this picture and Jack called us back to the boat to look for new, shallower waters.  I had to agree.  Three scallops was not what I had envisioned for our 'bounty' from the sea.

Here is the video we took of us moving from one spot to another. Don't worry about not being able to understand all the words.  It's not important. I can't remember what we were talking about anyhow.  The cool thing is to see the change of bottom as we motored along.  The dark colors are the grassy patches and the light parts are sandy bottom.  The goal is to find good grassy bottom since that is where scallops like to hide.

From here, we hopped back in the water again only shaving a foot off from our first dive depths.  I was looking at him.


And he was looking at me.


We were both wondering where all the scallops were.  I found only one more scallop at this location bringing our total to four. So, we picked up and headed to a third location.  Again, I set anchor (or so I thought) and everyone went overboard.  By then, my youngest was a pro.  He decided to drop down back first into the water.  That was a decision that he soon regretted because he got a little scrape down his hind-quarters from it.  It's not the same from an offshore boat with tall sides as it is with those little rubber boats you see on tv. 

I only searched for a little while.  I was certain that we were not holding position so I swam hard up to the anchor.  Sure enough, we were all moving with the current, including the anchor.  I popped up to notify Jack.  He said to flip it over.  Easier said than done.  My first grab, I cut my finger on a tiny sharp projectile on the edge of the anchor.  The 2nd try, I was able to turn it over and get it hooked into the sand.

Inspite of almost nothing to show for our vigorous efforts, it still felt like a victory when little man came up with his first (and only) scallop for the day.  There was no joy in my two scallops until both my kids felt the same victory.  Afterall, this was suppose to a family event and the kids were suppose to bring home wonderful memories that would follow them way into adulthood.  We were going to make this better than our trip in 2009 where we hit rocks with our propeller and the seas were too rough to gather scallops. 


Determination could not change fate, though.  Five. Five was all we were blessed with.  And because we know the disciple Paul told us to be content with little or much, we would be happy regardless of the number.  Nobody complained about the lack of scallops.

We entertained ourselves with bi-valve humor.  Here is our 30 sec video of them snapping shut.

The dogs found the smell fascinating.  Tiki isn't sure if he should kill it or eat it.

I'm certain that Captain thought he should kill it. He is very protective of his family. He may be small like a chihuahua but he has the heart of a German Shepherd.


I do not know if any of you have had the priviledge of seeing a bay scallop upclose & personal.  I often jokingly claim that my eldest is a wonderful hand model.  He's modeled vegetables, bugs, turtles and now scallops for me.  The black part is considered the organs of the scallop.  That all gets cleaned out.  Then, you are left with the white muscle.  When cleaning scallops, separate the muscle from the white side of the scallop first.  Then, clean the black guts.  Finally, spoon or knife out the scallop from the black side of the shell.  For whatever reason, the muscle is attached better to the black (or red) side.  I guess that would also mean that every scallop has a top & bottom only I'm too ignorant to know which side is which.


After our third place of searching for scallops, we decided to head back in to Twin Rivers Marina to get some fresh ice for the night.  As we pulled up to their docks, we saw a storm developing off to the NE of us.  A single little dark cloud with rain.  It soon picked up intensity and became a single cloud with lightening.  It stayed distant to us, but we opted to check radar at the Marina.  It was clearly going north to south.  Yeah.  NOTHING else was on screen.  While we were not threatened in the least bit, we decided to eat dinner while tied up.  Our tummy tanks were full.  We were rehydrated.  Garbage was eliminated and the dogs were peed & pooped.  The little nuisance cloud was far away and we were off to find the Crystal River Reef for a night of awesome fishing.  How I wish I knew what I know now in hindsight.  I would have paid any amount of money for a hotel room instead of being at sea that night.

To be continued.... (Part 2, The Storm.)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


by Robin

Lists, lists, lists..... I finish shopping for one list and by the next day, I have another list to do.  My goodness, there is so much to pack for our boating adventure!!

Friday, I'm doing my food & battery shopping for the trip.  When Jack comes home, we load everything up.  Today, I ran errands in the morning and packed all the snorkel/dive gear in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, I still have one eye on all the radar & prediction weather maps. We should have excellent weather Saturday but our rain chances go up on Sun & Monday.  We may have to cancel our offshore fishing trip but do a second day of scalloping instead.  Or whatever.  Ya never know!

One thing is for sure, all 4 of us are totally excited about our underwater adventures. 


Oh my..... back to my lists..... do I have enough glow sticks and D batteries??  Sunblock.  Do NOT forget sunblock. Or the fishing licenses.  And regulations I printed out.  Sigh.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


by Robin

This past Sunday, Jack and I were on a date, eating a nice meal at the port when the "head boats" came in with people & their haul.  We're always up for seeing what they've hauled in, especially since so many species are restricted. 

Well, the first boat unloaded and they were so proud to put up the cobia first.  He is nice.  They were saying 40 lbs but when I walked up to him, my guess was closer to 25-30 lbs.  He looks thick from this angle but he simply didn't have the shoulders to be in the upper-class.  We've caught cobia at both weights and I'm calling bologna on 40 lbs.  But, that wasn't my issue.  Look at all the sharks!!

Look.  Look.  I mean, let this really sink in.


No, really, let this SINK IN.....  I did my best to count tail fins.  I had 26. AND there was ANOTHER tub of sharks on the ground that they couldn't even fit onto the table with possibly another dozen in there. 

You do the math.  Take roughly 35 sharks out of the ocean, possibly 4 days a week with good weather and a boat with plenty of people.. 140 a week.  Then, there are daily night shark fishing trips also out of the port which take... say another 140 a week. (These are rough guesses, not actual numbers.) 280.  Say, this migration of sharks lasts a good month. We're up to 1120 sharks. And for good measure, let's say that another boat or two are doing the same thing. Conservatively, we could be killing 2240 sharks during the summer months out of Port Canaveral.  This is ridiculous slaughter of a top predator in the ocean. 

The sister boat to the one photographed above went to a different location and picked up a decent catch of mangrove snappers for their clients. And I see only 3 sharks laying on the table.  Not only do the snappers eat BETTER than shark, but most all of the shark meat above will be tainted with high uric acid because none of these sharks were gutted righted after being caught.  (Google it, if you don't believe me) Sharks urinate through their skin and the acid is trapped in there in death if you do not remove the organs right away.


Anyhow, the anger of seeing all these sharks killed (I'm even wondering if they had 1 shark per person or more....) was only compounded by the fact that these head boats are forced to find something for their clients to take home with them.  If they were able to take home a single snapper, they would evenly distributed what was taken from the ocean.  But instead, shutting down one or several species at once, ends up putting too much pressure on the remaining open species.  On Sunday, it was OPEN SEASON for shark, it appears.   I don't call this fisheries management one bit!!   It feels about as haphazard as the government trying to fix healthcare without considering what the doctors' recommend. 

It was posted recently on the SAFMC FB wall that they were considering online discussions & comments rather than face-to-face public comment sessions.  We need to sit together & discuss this stuff.  I am seeing a species annhilated while another is in over-abundance and NOBODY IS LISTENING. 

If somebody is reading this and you care about this issue, please comment.  I feel like I'm alone in my anger about the overfishing of sharks. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012


by Robin

Jack said something very interesting this weekend.  Fishermen become near-professional weathermen.  It's true.  We watch patterns.  We know good websites to watch.  We watch more than temperatures.  We also watch wind speeds, wind direction, waves, moisture in the atmosphere and trends.

I am encouraged that the chances of rain & thunderstorms is trending down to 10% for the weekend off the west coast of Florida.  I think there may be a good chance of us being able to fish offshore there and spending the night out there safely.  Then, we'd come back in the next couple of days for scalloping & diving the springs.  Praying for good weather.

Speaking of praying, it's time to pray about sleeping on the boat.  Many folks think I'm fearless because I fish offshore.  That's easy.  My fear begins when it gets dark and I'm still on water. When Jack said we'd spend one night on the water (probably buddy boating w/ coworkers out there), the kids laughed at the face I made.  Each detail made my face contort in stranger and stranger configurations.  They laughed at it, but when I got behind closed doors, Jack said that if I have fear, I need to not show it and stand courageous.  I told him, with a straight face, "I have no courage.  Really, I don't!!"   I really don't like to hear the little water noises or when bait fish splash around the boat and I'm floating in the dark.  It's probably some primal fear coming out in me, like the one that makes me cry on roller coaster rides.  I'm a cautioned calculated risk taker.  I have no idea where I'm going to muster courage up to enjoy a night offshore on the boat.  

I will continue to read God's comforting words and pray about this.  I'm looking for that sense of peace.  I know Jack would never put us in jeopardy no more than Father God would.

On the upside to this, we should be blessed with really nice fishing overnight.  The bite gets very good in the evening & nights with a decent moon for light.  And, again, we may be out there with another boat, which is great. Once we get through that first day, I'll be a happy clam (pun intended) with possibly getting to snorkel around for scallops in the Crystal River area.  And then our last day, we intend on free diving (or snorkeling depending on which child we're talking about) the Three Sister Springs, just inland on Crystal River.  Beautiful area.

God bless & Happy Fishing,

PS: The photos are from 2009, when we swam in Three Sisters Springs out of Crystal River.  We hope to do this one of the days we're over in the Gulf.

Monday, July 16, 2012


by Robin

Well, the Gulf of Mexico/ Middle Grounds trip was cancelled due to potential thunderstorms, but we have something else in the works.  I just booked a room at Crystal River for this weekend. 

Our boat is going on vacation with us!!  We did this in 2009.

Our unsuccessful scallop trip.

Swimming Three Sisters Springs at Crystal River.

It's time to do it again.  Having one child about to dual-enroll in college has woken us up to the fact that we don't have many family vacations left before they leave home.  In 2009, we were forced into 4 wks of  furloughs with Jack's company.  Three of those weeks, we spread out over three months.  Each time, we picked a different place in Florida to visit.  Crystal River was one of those places.  I'm so glad we had those furloughs because they gave us such great memories.

Blessings & Happy Fishing,

Thursday, July 12, 2012


We're watching the weather in the Gulf of Mexico for Jack's potential Middle Grounds trip.  Not sure how the rain or thunderstorms will play out but at least the winds & waves look very doable.

Station 42036 - W. TAMPA 106NM West Northwest of Tampa, FL






The summer is a wonderful time for fishermen to do moonlit fishing.  The Mangrove & Mutton snapper are voracious eaters in the summer months.  If Jack fishes the Gulf of Mexico, I think that means he can also keep Red Snapper for a little while longer. Yeah! 

Happy Fishing Everyone. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Jack got an invitation to fish with his friend & coworker out in the Gulf of Mexico.  The plan is to head out to the 30 - 35 mile point and stop for some night fishing & rest.  Then, if the weather holds, head to the Middle Grounds to finish fishing the next day.  Then, they would have a long haul back in and 3 hr drive back home. 

There is a lot to pray & consider with such a great opportunity.  The Middle Grounds are a full 85 miles from shore.  There is no help once you get out that far.  Jack would have to feel very confident about his friend's boat & engines (which I believe he does). 

See, it is approx 80 miles due west of Tarpon Springs, FL. (just north of Tampa)


I've linked you up a nice article from Florida Sportsman Article on Middle Grounds.

Also, below I have linked for you a nice video of some great fish being caught in the Middle Grounds.

So, keep an eye on the blog over the next few days.  I will give more details as we learn them.

Happy Fishing.

Sunday, July 08, 2012


This is actually our 2nd time to Sea World this year but the first time, I did not bring my camera.  I didn't regret it but I also wasn't going to leave it home every trip.  I wanted to capture some sea life pictures for the blog this week.


This one reminds me of the surreal underwater paintings that were popular a few years back.  This is the real deal.  My photo.

I just love this one.  He's smiling at the trainers waiting for his fish.


Right before the trainers & people-who-paid-extra-to-"feed"-the-dolphins came out, the dolphins would pop their heads up to see if they had arrived.


Sweet son moment.  I waited for this place at the wall for a long time.  Eventually, it paid off with him being able to touch a dolphin.  Of course, the trainers are paid to discourage anybody non-payers from touching the dolphins.  "They Bite."  Ummm...... maybe.  But, probably not as bad as your Shamu did last year, right? We'll take our chances ma'am.


Sea World has thought of everything to force you into buying their "feeding the dolphin" experience tickets.  A couple years ago, anybody could go along the wall & pet the dolphins.  Also, the little tricks were signaled from the far side and the dolphins performed wherever they wanted.  NOW, they make sure the non-payers are on the end with the lesser trained dolphins.  No tricks for us, except for a "sit on the wall" move.  Folks at the far end get to see all the jumps.  Good for me, I can take a decent picture. HA!


At least petting sting rays is still free with the price of admission.  You can buy shrimp, but if you wiggle your thumb like one, the sting rays will visit you anyhow.  They will even vacuum onto your hand.  My son was bit but there are not teeth.  It's more like a hard gumming. Funny, really.


Here's a tip if you're a Floridian and have the Fun Card passes for the rest of the year (or Annual passes).  Buy the $20 preferred parking.  Take a cooler full of your own  better-tasting, non-overpriced food, non-allergenic food, plenty of water bottles and some chairs.  When you get ready to eat, avoid the long lines, $50 (minimum) for a family of 4, and run to the car.  It wasn't even inconvenient to hit the parking lot.  It was shorter than running to the far side of the park for a restaurant.  We relaxed & enjoyed our food (mine, vegan).  We returned with more water bottles, saving MORE money.  I think it is something like $3.50 for water.  The water fountains are unfiltered sulfer water, purposely unfiltered to make you want to buy their overpriced drinks. 

Well we managed to avoid as many touristy $$-makers as possible.  We spent $30 the whole day.  NOW, that is doable in a bad economy.