So much for staying on top of blogging. Life, boat repairs and a trip to Disney got in the way. I’ll say again that I’ll now try to stay caught up. This may be long but most of you followed our Disney trip on Facebook so I’ll skirt over some of that.
Thursday October 27th we ended our trip on the rivers and entered Mobile Bay. While some are intimidated by big water and lots of boat traffic, that’s what we, and more importantly Ben, are used to from Chicago. Ben’s way more intimidated by skinny water with uncharted depths. Obviously. Anyway, we tied up at Grand Harbor marina and checked ourselves in for two nights. Much needed break after a full week of anchoring or quick marina stops, very long days, and a lot of stress with our wrecked up props. Mobile was a cultural experience for the girls. We rode in a huge pickup truck as our loaner to go get groceries, they did some interesting people watching, etc. Saturday morning we crossed the bay after a very stressful, very shallow path out of Dog River. Happy to have that behind us we pulled into the ICW and into Saunders Yachtworks in Gulf Shores, AL. Ben began racing around to pick up a rental car 40 miles away before they closed and the girls and I took a stroll down the road to Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s place, Lulu’s. They had a kids’ Halloweenfest going on and the girls got to trick or treat and then play in the sand there and run around. When Ben got back we had a nice dinner there and relaxed a bit.
Sunday morning we packed up the rental car and left the boat for the first time since Chicago. So strange! We headed two hours east to Santa Rosa Beach, FL where Ben’s aunt, uncle, two cousins and their families live. It was so great to be welcomed with open arms, a place to stay, cousins to play with for the girls, family to visit with for us, white sandy beaches and amazing Gulf waters.
Ben’s cousin Tommy and his wife Patty own one of the airstream food trucks in Seaside. They were in their final week of business as they have decided to close Song and move out of the area. So we were thrilled to be there in time to experience the food before they closed up shop! We headed that way Sunday night for dinner and had a fantastic meal and the girls had so much fun playing with second cousins Kato, Judah and baby Naali.
We had planned to stay a week with them while the boat was having lots of repairs done. Turns out both the prop and rudder were badly damaged. So much so that we needed a new rudder. By Monday morning it was apparent it was going to be two weeks of boat repairs instead of one. Ben can post about the specifics of all the repairs. But in the meantime he suggested we go to Disney World from Santa Rosa Beach. We had planned to take the kids when we are in St. Petersburg for a month. But since we had an extra week to spare we started searching for hotels and trying to navigate the maze that is Disney planning.
Backing up a bit, Monday was also Halloween! We are so happy it worked out to be with family for Halloween. Molly chose to be a black cat and Maddy a mermaid. We went to Seaside for Trick or Treating with the cousins. As they complained about the heat we quickly told them to stop and described our last three Halloweens dodging both rain and snow in Chicago and how you have to have costumes that can fit warm clothes underneath. It was awesome to run around in flip flops and costumes without being cold.
It was a change to do school off the boat. Was awesome to have a whole house to spread out in with the girls. And with the carrot to dangle of heading to the amazing white sand beach for the day as soon as school was done, it was easier to get it done! I’m not yet in love with the salt water as so many people tell me I will be. But the dolphins, the soft sand and the warm Gulf waters are my favorite. Below are pictures from Grayton Beach where a little lagoon forms off the Gulf. After some fierce wave jumping the girls settled in for some crab finding and fishing with Kato. And Molly got a turn with Naali on the beach.
Friday morning after a great visit with family we packed up once again and started the six hour road trip to Disney World! Most of you followed along on Facebook so I won’t rehash Disney here. I will say we were pleasantly surprised. The girls handled it so much better than we ever dreamed. We did Epcot Saturday for 13 hours with an 11 PM bedtime, Magic Kingdom Sunday for a similar 13 hours and 11 PM bedtime, Animal Kingdom Monday, Hollywood Studios Tuesday and Epcot again on Wednesday. There was not one single meltdown at a park by our kids. And they walked and walked and walked. Molly walked 23,000 steps the first day….close to 9 miles. One night after Animal Kingdom we went into Disney Springs to grab dinner and took the girls into the Disney Store. We’d been in plenty of stores and accumulated lots of souvenirs at the park but this was a parenting fail. It wasn’t so late but just too much for Maddy and she finally melted down. Good night’s sleep and a morning off to swim and chill the next day and she was fine.
We headed back to Santa Rosa Beach and our very gracious family to take us in yet again last Thursday. We got the word late Thursday that the boat would be ready Friday late in the day. Sad to pack up and leave family but the visit continued! We got back to the boat Friday just before sundown. I ran to the grocery store and Ben returned the rental car. We had a huge task of unpacking and organizing the mess we brought back with us.
Saturday morning we boated 24 miles to Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels Homecoming show. Ben’s aunt Janet, uncle Tom, cousins Tommy and Patty and their kids Kato and Naali drove to Pensacola. Ben anchored and then took the dinghy to shore to pick them up. We all spent the day on the boat watching the planes. Tom and Janet ended up spending the night on the boat with us. Sunday morning we boated to Sandestin. Ben’s other cousin Sarah along with Adrian and their son Judah met us there for lunch. This morning we left Sandestin and boated about 12 miles to the middle of the bay. Tom brought Tommy, Patty, Kato and Naali out to us on the water. We met, boat to boat and they joined us for the day. We are now in Panama City. Tom will drive here this afternoon to meet us for dinner and drive the others home. After two weeks of great visits and kid playmates we will set out just the four of us tomorrow. We head to Apalachicola and then to Carabelle to make our Gulf Crossing to Tarpon Springs. If the seas cooperate we will be in St. Petersburg by the end of the week and will stay for a month.
Seems like a whole separate blog post but want to mention that I’m sold on homeschooling. Everyone asks me about it. How it’s going. What program we use, etc. Many days and nights I worry that they aren’t learning grammar or proper ways to write a paper or how to diagram a sentence….but then I look around at the flexibility and experiences we’ve had. Like I said, separate blog post I’ll explore at some point. But since we’ve left Chicago the girls have learned about the Mississippi river, the St. Louis Arch and the gateway to the West, the rivers and locks and how they all connect and work, we’ve been to three Civil War national parks and learned about countless battles while getting to be there and experience it. We walked around Shiloh and Corinth and experienced so much history. We have experienced new culture in the south and learned about jellyfish and dolphins and manatees. Maddy spouted off facts about manatees she learned from a fellow looper. I asked where she learned that??? Amazed and what these little sponges soak up. Even Disney. We were so impressed at Epcot and how the learning continued. Maddy and I had just started an IB unit on Inventions before we left. The first ride we did at Epcot was all about the history of the earth and took us through a ride where she got to see at least half of the inventors and inventions we had just studied. We learned about agriculture and hydroponics at Epcot, got to design our own cars and take a test ride testing out our efficiency, handling, etc. We learned about animals and did a Wilderness Explorer program at Animal Kingdom. The list goes on. Back on the water now the learning continues. We went back to school today after a week off from the paper and pencil books but Ben would call us upstairs to watch the dolphins swimming in our wake and the jellyfish floating past the boat as we traveled. I can’t wait to see where else this adventure takes us and what else the girls learn. So even though I worry about writing papers and proper grammar I have to hope that the amazing other knowledge they are taking in will balance that out.