Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spring Cruise on Indigo Star

It was finally time for us to take our first big cruise on our 40 ft. trawler, Indigo Star!  We decided to do a circle around southern Florida by leaving Punta Gorda and going across Lake Okeechobee to the east coast of Florida and continuing south toward the Keys and up along the coast to Charlotte Harbor to home.  We figured we could enjoy the scenery and our reciprocal yacht club privileges (free night at any Florida Council of Yacht Clubs) at the different venues along the way.

We started off the day after Easter on Monday, April 17.  We had gorgeous cruising weather as we headed down Charlotte Harbor to the Intercoastal Waterway south to Fort Myers.  We stayed at our first yacht club, St Charles, and enjoyed a dip in their heated pool.  Bleu Kitty is along and he went for a walk down the dock on his leach, turning heads as he saunters by.  We met two couples on Catalina 350's who had come in from the Bahamas.  They mentioned that they saw our "old" sailboat, Eagles Wings, now called Chase.  Unbelievably, it is still "on the hard" in the back of Indian Town Marina! 

The next day we traveled down the beautiful Okeechobee Waterway to our first of four locks that we had to traverse, this one being the Franklin Lock.  Locking through is really not too hard.  You have to pull the boat into a chamber that fills slowly up with water.  This one raised us on the river a few feet.  After spending the night there, we traveled onto Moore Haven City Dock.  This is a little town in the center of the state that is surrounded by farmland.  We slept soundly there.  At 7 am, we were ready for the opening of the lock that took us to Lake Okeechobee, a huge lake that was easy for us to travel through.  It was very calm as we exited the lake, through the railroad bridge that caused us some consternation a few years ago.  At that time, we were coming back from the Abacos, Bahamas in our sailboat.  We had to wait a long time for Billy the Tipper.  Billy is a local guy who put about 9 water jugs on the side of Eagles Wings so that our mast (53-1/2 ft) would tip and get under this bridge.  (I believe at that time the railroad bridge was about 49 ft high.) 

We locked through our last lock that brought us to the St Lucie River.  This was our largest drop in elevation - almost 12 ft!   Richard misunderstood the lockmaster thinking that he was supposed to drop the line.  Oops!  the bow of the boat was almost turned around in the lock.  Fortunately, I (Joanne) hit the bow thruster and was able to straighten the boat out before we did any damage to our boat or to others.  We breathed a sigh of relief as we patted ourselves on the back that we made it to Stuart on the other side of the state!

We caught a mooring ball (boater language for tying up in the Sunset Bay Marina).  We then got our dinghy down and went a few hundred yards to the dinghy dock to then check in at the marina.  We pay $30 a night for using the facilities, which is reasonable for the East Coast.  Our friends, Marilyn & John were waiting for us at a pretty shaded outdoor porch area.  They had white wine and appetizers all ready for us.  We had a great time recounting our adventures on the water!

We enjoyed a great Italian diner with them at a local Stuart restaurant.  This is a great little town with a wonderful downtown area, full of cute shops, eating areas and of course, ice cream and gelato places!  Yum! 

Today we traveled a short distance (about an hour) to Harbour Ridge Yacht Club.  We are getting our "free night" of luxury here.  Everything is gorgeous in this club.  We enjoyed a great dip in their heated pool and will eat at their little bistro tonight.  Life is great on the water!  Note:  pictures will be added later.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Quick Trip to Houston

We turned my new car North up I75 and then West on I10 for a quick trip to Houston. We left Friday afternoon after a Friendship Force meeting and arrived Saturday evening at Betty and Richard's condo on Clear Lake.  Their renovated condo is on the A+++ side of beautiful.  After catching up with Betty & Richard we moved over to Sharon &Jerry's house  where we stayed for three nights.

Although Sharon is undergoing chemo for lung cancer she is quite feisty. They are in the beginning stage of purchasing a 5th wheel and a big pickup to pull it to some of the National Parks.

At Dickinson BBQ
We attended Palm Sunday Mass after which we cruised through our old neighborhood in Dickinson. Our old house is in fine condition and the wooded subdivision is as beautiful as always; it definitely counts as the "American Dream." 

We stopped at Dickinson Barbeque to pickup brisket sandwiches, coleslaw and potato salad for Joanne's long time friend, Barbara who has cancer. While Joanne and another friend, Lynn, visited with Barbara, I wandered through Fry's electronic store.

Then we followed Lynn through miles of bumper to bumper traffic to a very nice nursing home where her husband is staying.  He can't eat so he is tube fed. He was sitting in a wheel chair, the first time he was out of bed in a month. Although Lynn didn't think he would recognize us, he did. He even asked us about sailing.

Joanne with Maureen
Monday we visited an old New Lifer, Maureen, who proudly told us she is ninety-two. She resides in a top-of-the-line assisted care facility.  Thrilled to see us, she was in high spirits, very bright and positive.
Joanne wanted to wander around UTMB in Galveston so we drove down there and then drove up to Waterford Harbor.  Four boats were still there on Pier 18 just like when we left ~nine years ago. One is named "We're Here." Yes, it is still there!

The Original, a Mexican Restaurant in Galveston
Rose Garden at UTMB

Sharon & Jerry with Richard & Betty enjoying dinner

Top Water Grill has the best fried shrimp!
No trip to Houston could be complete without dinner at Topwater Grill.  Joanne & I both had the corn chowder and fried shrimp.  I don't eat a lot of fried food but Topwaters fried shrimp is the best anywhere by a long shot. Exception made. We also stopped at Hillman's Seafood on Dickinson Bayou for Texas gulf shrimp and crab meat to bring back with us.

Two days of driving, two days of more driving while visiting followed by two more days driving back seems to have been to much for me as I contracted a cold, at least I hope it is a cold and not the flu.

Paver at St Mary's in League City with our names and our Wedding Date

Our boating adventure is scheduled to begin Monday after Easter. I hope I will be up to it. Lots of work to get ready!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Charlie's 80th Birthday

Charlie Lives on Lido Just Up the Block from Us - Over One Hundred in Attendance

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pedal and Play in Paradise's Mystery Ride!

Richard, the Mystery Ride Creator!

Richard volunteered to create the Mystery Ride for this year's Pedal & Play in Paradise Bike Event in Punta Gorda.   This event is very popular - most years more than 500 people ride the routes as follows:

Joanne gets ready to check out the Mystery Ride

  • Casual Ride around town with the City Manager
  • 10 mile Mystery Ride
  • 15 mile Ride
  • 30 mile Ride
  • and 60 mile Ride!
For an entire year Richard developed the premise and videos were developed to entice people to participate in the exciting Mystery Ride.  Richard even collected prizes from local merchants.

See Event Video by Bruce Tompkins

See Mystery Ride - The Final Explantion

See Mystery Ride - Source of the Coded Message

So the Mystery Riders sought answers to questions provided by signs, murals and other objects as the peddled Punta Gorda's pathways. The answers created a cipher to decode the mysterious M's message,  The Fountain of Youth lies in the hearts of the people with the spirit to build a community of love and beauty.

Mystery Riders also received a free bottle of Fountain of Youth Spring Water!

On Saturday, March 25th, Richard rose at 5:30 am to put out the directional signs and supervise the fun.  He was not disappointed.  Over 100 riders enjoyed the adventure and he received lots of compliments about the event. 

Proceeds were donated to the Leukemia Foundation and to TEAM Punta Gorda, a wonderful grassroots organization that makes our town a better place to live!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Hiroshima Japanese Friendship Force Club Visit

It's been a busy couple of months here in beautiful Punta Gorgeous!

We belong to a great Travel Exchange club called Friendship Force of Southwest Florida.  Every year we welcome visitors from one of 360 world-wide clubs to our part of the world.  We show them the sights and get to know them over sharing of meals, conversations and the routines of our daily lives.  This connection helps makes the world a better place to live through friendships formed over barriers of nationality, language, religion or politics.  By connecting the world one friend at a time, we create a world of friends that becomes a world of peace!

Us with Kyoko and Takashi
This year we welcomed 17 ambassadors from Hiroshima, Japan.  Two of them, Kyoko and Takashi Shimasaki, stayed with us in our home from March 1 -6.  They are an energetic couple whose command of English was excellent.  We shared a whirlwind of activities with them - they were able to visit parks and great Florida destinations, e.g., Edison Historic Residence, Echo, sail on a catamaran on Charlotte Harbor, airboat ride and tour of the Everglades, and a Farewell Dinner overlooking the Peace River complete with Karoake, line dancing and clowning. 

You can also travel with Friendship Force (either with your club or with another) to many places in the world.  This June we will accompany our club to Stratford/St Mary's and Halburton, Ontario, Canada.  In the past, we have chronicled our journeys to Friendship Force clubs in Costa Rica, Belgium, north Germany, and Australia.   Want more info?   Check out our website or the international website at Friendship Force International.

Our two clubs pose for a picture of the 2017 Hiroshima Japan Journey here

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy New Year 2017

Indigo Star underway to Pelican Bay
We rang in the new year with our PGIslander Boat Club friends.  We took m/v, Indigo Star, to Pelican Bay near Cayo Costa.  Our friends rafted up their three catamarans for the "party platform."  The weather was perfect - unusually warm, for this time of year in the 70's.   People began arriving at the boats about 5:30 p.m., just before sunset.  Everyone provided wonderful appetizers and drinks. 

The New Year's Eve Party Platform - 3 catamarans

We surprised Richard for his 70th Birthday with a skit and songs about his life.  Here is the script for your reading enjoyment...

Richard looking good at age 70
On NEW YEAR'S EVE, Dec 31, 1946, Richard Christopher Collins was born in Dover, NJ, the first child of Arthur & Julia Jo Collins. As he lay in the hospital basinette, and the clock struck midnite, this is the first tune he heard:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?

Richard was a good baby, but his world was uprooted when his only sibling, younger brother, Bart, was born when Richard was 3 years old. His song was then:

          WE ARE FAMILY....

Richard's Dad was in the Air Force and his childhood was a series of moves.. all throughout the US and Guam. He loved moving around and Richard was often overheard humming:

      On the Road Again by Willie Nelson

          On the road again
          Goin' places that I've never been
          Seein' things that I may never see again,
          And I can't wait to get on the road again

  • To Long Island, NY in Levittown age 1-5
  • To Guam ages 6-7
  • To Orlando, FL age 8
  • To Amarillo, TX age 9
  • To Rantoul, Illinois, age 10
  • To Jacksonville, Arkansas, age 11
  • To Smyrna, Tennessee, age 12-14
  • To Abilene, Texas, age 15-22
He figured he attended about 12 different schools by the time he got to college.

Blowing out the big 70 candles on favorite carrot cake


Even so, he received a scholarship to McMurray College and graduated in 1969 with a BS in Chemistry.

Richard inherited his Mom's love of animals. As a teenager, he had cowboy boots, bought 2 horses (named SHAWNEE AND LACKAWANA), worked in a stable and for a vet. His song then was:
      I`m back in the saddle again
      Out where a friend is a friend...
After college, he wanted to leave home and get out of Abilene... so he enlisted in the Air Force. His song was then...

Gene, Sue and John getting ready to party

        US Air Force Song
           Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun  

Richard was stationed in the remote Azore Islands off the coast of Portugal. He enjoyed exploring the islands and here, he had his first opportunity to go sailing on a sailboat. It was love at first sight!

His song was then:

Sloop John B

So hoist up the John B's sail
See how the main sail sets
Call for the Captain ashore
Let me go home,

He wound up being transferred to Austin, TX where he finished his 4 years of service to Uncle Sam. He then attended Graduate school under the GI Bill. He received a Ph.D. From University of Texas ...and moved to Providence, RI for a 2 yr. postdoctoral fellowship at Brown University.

New Year's Day Brunch on the catamarans - YUM

While at UT, he learned the UT Football Fight Song:

Give 'em hell, give 'em hell! Make 'em eat shit.”

After 2 years in Rhode Island, he obtained his first professional position at Occidental Chemical Corporation. He relocated to Lake City, FL and was in the research lab there for many years and was awarded “Kiwanian of the Year.”

When he was 45, he took a transfer to the Houston, Texas area. It was here that he met Joanne, at a Methodist Church Singles Group. He called her for a date and soon it was

However, Joanne was not so sure about Richard since she was having a great time dating other guys. Time passed... Richard then decided to buy himself a 28 ft sailboat, named Sea Growth. After a few weeks, he asked her whether she would like to go on the sailboat with him. She canceled her date with another guy and went sailing with him and her girlfriends. During this time, she asked him if he would point the boat out of the sun. He piped up telling her “sure” that “if he could, he would move the sun and the moon for her!” It was that statement that turned her around and love bloomed. They were so happy together and their song was

What a Wonderful World

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

They were married on May 7, 1994 at St. Mary's Catholic Church. They bought a beautiful home in Dickinson, TX, a suburb of Houston. They were active in a wonderful group called New Life and a sailing clubs, expecially the Texas Mariners Cruising Association. During this period of Richard's life, Joanne's daughter, Michele, became a doctor and Richard was and continues to be a supportive step-dad. They owned 2 other sailboats – a 33 ft. Caliber and then a 35 ft. Catalina called Eagle's Wings. Every weekend, they were usually up at the marina going sailing or hanging out on the boat. 

Discovering a shell tree on Cayo Costa New Year's Day

Richard decided to retire in April 2007 at age 61. He persuaded Joanne to retire the year after. They could go sailing and have fun traveling! His song is summed up as....

Changes in Attitude, Changes in Latitudes

It's these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
Nothing remains quite the same
With all of our running and all of our cunning
If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane

Whoa ! Then, Richard's cousin, Connie had an exciting proposition. She arranged a house sitting gig in PG Isles, so Richard decided to sail Eagle's Wings here all the way from Houston. Before they knew it, they fell in love with Punta Gorgeous, sold their home in Texas, bought land and built a house in 2010 on Lido Drive. They joined the PGIslanders and other clubs, traveled extensively and have had a blast living here! One of the highlights of Richard's life was serving as Commodore of the PGIslander's.

Birthday FUN !

Richard's song for the PGIslanders is

Don't worry, be happy! - GET A FUN METER!!!

Just this summer, Richard & Joanne sold their sailboat, Eagle's Wings and bought a 40 ft trawler, INDIGO STAR! They are busy learning her operations, especially how to dock her!

Finally, we have come to this SPECIAL MOMENT IN TIME and you can hear him sing...NOW THAT I'M 70, IT IS A VERY GOOD YEAR!

Richard, we hope you can joyfully relate to the moments in your life and know that we have benefitted from knowing you through each experience for they have made you the wonderful husband, step-father, brother, cousin, uncle and friend that you are! So even though it is an oldie, it is appropriate that we end this with this song. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU....

Thursday, December 8, 2016

With Thanks at Christmas and for a Happy Year!

Christmas 2016

Hello, Friends & Family,

Merry Christmas from Joanne and Richard in Punta Gorda, Florida! We send you our best wishes for a love and peace-filled Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year.

This year were are so grateful for family, friends and wonderful trips. We recently spent Thanksgiving in Connecticut. My sister, Mary and brother-in-law, Alan, retired to Beacon Falls, CT to live closer to their daughter, Holly's family. They sold their home in Indiana and bought a beautiful new home. It was a memorable Thanksgiving because we took my Mom and our cat, Bleu Kitty, on Jet Blue airlines to visit them. Both did very well! Mom was turning 96 and she was blessed to celebrate her birthday, November 27th, on Holly & Andrew's new baby, Luciana (Lucy)'s Christening Day.  Lucy was baptized in her great great grandfather's 126 year-old Christening Gown.

We traveled with our Friendship Force Club on an exchange to Costa Rica in February. We enjoyed meeting the Costa Ricans and actually living in their homes for a week. They were so friendly and hospitable to us. We'll remember exciting white water rafting and zip lining, beautiful scenery and delicious food.

In August we went on an African Safari with Overseas Adventure Tours to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. It was a 3-week kaleidoscope of magnificent animals in the wild. Victoria Falls was awesome and we loved the view from Table Mountain in Cape Town.

After 5 months on the market, we sold our sailboat, Eagle's Wings, and bought a 40 ft trawler that we named Indigo Star. She is only 10 years old and in great shape. Her operation is quite different than a sailboat – we are busy learning how to successfully dock her.
You can keep up with us by clicking on our blog. We wish you “fair winds for the holidays and calm seas for the New Year.”

Bleu Kitty wishes you a Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Joanne & Richard