Beach Art

IMG_4890Bob is a guy who has to have a project. If he doesn’t have something to do, it is miserable for him and for me. So when the weather report showed a couple of cold and rainy weeks coming, I panicked. What is Bob going to do for two weeks? He is not an indoor-type of guy and he does not often sit down and read a book (where he and I differ, I devour books!)  The thought of two weeks holed up in the fifth wheel with Bob and his TV shows blaring was not making me happy. I worried about it as we went for our early morning walk. We were discussing ideas of things for him to do when we tripped over a piece of driftwood. Bob picked it up and looked at it. We both at the same time said: “Wow, that looks like a Dorado fish!” We laughed and he put it under his arm as we walked along, continuing to talk about what project Bob could do in cold weather. Bob looked at me and said that he thought one thing he could do is paint the driftwood. “Paint the driftwood?” I asked. “Yeah,” he said, “I think it would be neat.” So the next trip to Panama City we bought some acrylic paints and paint brushes. He came home and found some pictures of Dorado fish and went to work. It came out fabulous! So that’s how it started. Now whenever we walk we are looking for driftwood that looks like something other than a piece of wood. It has also led to “field trips” to search for wood. On cold and rainy days Bob gets out all his paints and he is happy for hours. And I’m happy! Here’s some of his driftwood art:

 “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster:


Wiley Rabbit:


Dog (or something, we’re not exactly sure!):




Mr. Fish:


Mr. Frog on a log (this is really tiny and his first “commissioned piece. Our friend found it on the beach and asked him to paint it for her!):


Silly Fish:


And my favorite: Alligator With An Attitude. We found this piece of driftwood on St. Vincent’s Island:

Alligator driftwood



Indian Pass, Florida

Indian Pass CampgroundIndian Pass Campground near Port St. Joe, Florida, is in an area also known as The Forgotten Coast. The Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce registered the name as a trademark in the early 1990’s. The reason is because compared to the rest of Florida, the coastline that stretches from Mexico Beach on the Gulf of Mexico to St. Marks on Aplachee Bay is relatively quiet and undeveloped. In between the boundaries lie Simmons Bayou, Cape San Blas, Indian Pass, and the quaint city of Apalachicola which lies on the banks of the Apalachicola River.  Continuing east is Eastpoint, St.George Island, Carrabelle, Lanark Village, St.James Island, St.Teresa Island and Alligator Point. St. Marks Lighthouse and nature preserve is the easternmost place on the Forgotten Coast. All these little towns and beaches are uncrowded and picturesque. The nearest major city is Tallahassee, about 90 miles northeast of Apalachicola, and Panama City (home of Tyndall Air Force Base) is about 60 miles to the northwest.

IMG_4119The first thing I was told when we found Indian Pass Campground five years ago was: “The only rules here are: there are NO rules!” That sounded pretty good to us so we stayed for a couple of months. And then we came back, year after year. And so have most of the others who are here. It is one of the few campgrounds where one can have a campfire on the beach, run their dogs without a leash (most Florida beaches don’t even allow dogs!), drive their golf cart or vehicle (with a permit) on the beach; or for that matter, camp right on the beach. I watch pelicans dive, dolphin play, egrets, herons, loons, ibis, while I sip my coffee in the morning or sip my wine in the evening. Every once in a while a Bald Eagle flies overhead. At night, the Night Heron leave their perches around the campground and head out for whatever they do in the dark. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Bob and BoatBob keeps busy fishing from the shore, checking his crab traps or heading out in his little “port-a-bote” to his favorite fishing hole. The Raw Bar is just up the road, so when we get a hankering for oysters, we head there. Or, we buy a bushel of oysters at 13-Mile directly from the oyster men and bring them back to the campsite and shuck them there. The “Shrimp Lady” comes through once a week with fresh shrimp that we buy from the back of her truck. Occasionally we head out to town (Port St. Joe or Apalachicola) for fresh veggies and to stock up on liquor; and every couple of weeks we head to Panama City to get our Walmart fix,  but other than that, we have no need to leave!

View from our campsite.

View from our campsite.

Changes in Latitudes

It has been a few years since we first set sail on La Roja and a lot has changed since then; but my suspicion is that if one’s sense of adventure and determination to overcome whatever obstacles get in the way are in tack, much of what I wrote in an article published in the popular sailing rag, “Lattitude 38, Changes in Latitudes” in October of 2000 will still ring true. The following is an excerpt from my E-Book: Dolphins Forever On Her Bow:

Article published in popular sailing rag, “Latitude 38, Changes in Latitudes” October 2000:

La Roja – Roberts 44

Bob and Marjorie Lambert

“We left our homeport of Anacapa Island Marina in Channel Islands Harbor in April of last year and have slowly been making our way south. We arrived in beautiful Costa Rica in June and plan on hanging out here through the end of hurricane season. As with most every other cruiser we’ve been privileged to meet, getting a copy of ‘Latitude 38’ ‘out here‘ is a real treat. And it’s even more fun to read now because so many of the contributors are folks we’ve met along the way. Anyway, we thought it was time for La Roja to add her tales.

Sea of Cortez

Sea of Cortez

Our agenda for the last 18 months has been to take it real slow and enjoy each place as we go. This has proven to be a magical formula. We spent last summer in the Sea of Cortez. The abundance of sea life along with the beauty and tranquility of the area was awesome. Almost every night we fed ourselves as though dining at a smorgasbord of the sea. We often had choices: triggerfish, grouper, mullet, yellowtail, Dorado, sierra, as well as many varieties of rock scallops. We often would discuss what we wanted for dinner before heading out so we could be selective in our kill, and we almost never came back empty handed.

We sailed – yes, sailed, which is what we try to do at every opportunity – as far north as Refugio above Bahia de Los Angeles. All along the way we enjoyed the friendliness and hospitality of the people. In Aqua Verde, we were invited to a ‘Quinceañera,’ which is a party for someone turning fifteen years old. In Santa Rosalia, we sat in the street watching the De La Hoya/Montoyo title fight on a television propped up on a fence. In Bahia de Los Angeles, we attended a pig roast. At Lemona we swam with whale sharks. At Refugio, we delighted in the sights and sounds of huge numbers of sea lions. And throughout the Sea we often sat mesmerized by the beautiful sunsets as manta rays and pelicans played in the background. We reluctantly took our leave in September, promising the locals – and ourselves – that we would return the next summer.

La Roja at anchor

La Roja at anchor

Once we made the crossing to the mainland, however, we found more magic! We spent the next seven months enjoying the beauty of mainland Mexico and the warmth of her people. We stopped at isolated anchorages where we were the only boat, and we also stayed at luxurious marinas where we were totally pampered. When we travelled by bus, we often found ourselves sitting next to chickens or buckets of fish while being serenaded by a guitar-playing singer. We attended many a street party, and marveled at the colorful parades with many simple but well-decorated floats depicting the Christ child – while the masked demons danced alongside. We were invited to local houses for meals, and marveled at the generosity of our hosts. We dined at wonderful restaurants, but also had food from street vendors that was equally delicious. At one cockfight we were the only gringos, and learned how to bet on the different games. We rode a Panga (a “Panga” is a type of modest-sized, open, outboard-powered, fishing boat) through the jungle to a crocodile farm; took local children and their parents sailing; rode in the back of pickup trucks; and laughed and danced at many a fiesta until the early hours of the morning. We were awakened by the music of bands playing on the beaches in small towns, practicing for yet another fiesta. We sat atop fences enjoying rodeos and cheered at many a local soccer game. When we finally left Mexico – after making our way through the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec (an area prone to heavy weather; hurricanes often form there) unscathed – we were filled with wonderful memories of incredible people and places – and again vowed to return soon.

When we lowered the Mexican flag and raised the Guatemalan flag, it was almost a year to the day that we had left the United States. Some of the boats leaving Mexican waters elected to head straight for Costa Rica and bypass the “forgotten middle.” In retrospect, we’re so glad that we decided to continue trekking slowly and thus stop at Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. They are not to be missed. In Guatemala, we took the bus from Bahia Naval to Guatemala City, which while very busy, has a number of historical buildings and museums. Our next stop was Antigua, which was like stepping back in time. We stayed there for three days and will visit again from the Caribbean side.

We add our voices to the cruiser chorus praising the loveliness of Barillas Marina in El Salvador, and the generosity of its owner, Juan Wright. There is only one word to describe our experience there: “Wow!” From even before we arrived, we were treated with love and respect. Somehow word had reached them that that we were experiencing engine trouble, so Ameritas, one of Juan Wright’s employees who speaks fluent English, worked on her day off just to be able to assist us! She did not relax until we were safely tied to one of their moorings. When we rode the dinghy over to meet her, she tearfully welcomed us. I know this will sound overly dramatic, but I feel that Ameritas exemplifies what all of humanity should strive for: unconditional love. She treats each and every cruiser that comes through with the same level of love, concern and graciousness. And she is just one of Juan Wright’s many employees who share that attitude.

Juan Wright's beautiful crater-lake home in El Salvador

Juan Wright’s beautiful crater-lake home in El Salvador

Our stay at Barillas Marina lasted a month. We were flown back and forth, along with Jeff and Ann from High Drama, to the capital of San Salvador in Juan Wright’s personal plane; stayed at his condo and were treated to an incredible dinner with five waiters anxiously waiting to fill every cup and plate; and were assigned a personal driver to chauffeur us around town. The driver, Hector, then took us to Juan’s beautiful crater-lake home high in the mountains, where we spent a week. We felt like royalty but protested to Hector that we couldn’t continue to accept all Juan’s generosity. “Do you want me to lose my job?” he responded.  So we sat back and enjoyed ourselves, as to do anything else would have been insulting. We later rode in a caravan through the jungle to watch a man call monkeys out of the trees; we attended a native’s 100th birthday party and were honored to be one of the first Americans the townspeople had ever seen. We also rode in a high speed Panga to a beautiful white sand island, where we basked in the sun and we were also thrilled to meet the President of El Salvador!

When we were finally able to pull ourselves away, we decided to bypass Nicaragua and head straight for Costa Rica. As we set out under perfect sailing conditions, we jokingly asked each other: ‘Wonder what the traffic is like on the 405 today?‘ Within hours the sailing conditions took a turn for the worse, as we had strong wind and current on the nose with occasional squalls. At times we were down to two knots and less. Two days of battling these conditions wore us out, so we consulted our charts and decided to pull into the “No Name” (that is the name assigned to it on the chart) anchorage in Nicaragua. We hadn’t heard great things about the anchorage, but figured it would at least give us a break. As luck would have it, adverse winds and current were so strong it took us nine hours of tacking to make the final 20 miles! By that time we both agreed that the 405 would have been preferable that day. We finally made it into “No Name” – and were delighted to find a calm and pristine anchorage. We sat on deck that night watching the thunder and lightning in the distance, sipping our boat drinks and repeating over and over again: “Aren’t we lucky not to be out there!” We ended up staying at “No Name” anchorage for three days. There were a few locals fishing, and they were very pleasant. Two teenage boys showed us how to hunt octopus, then gave us one; along with detailed instructions on how to prepare it for dinner.

San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua

After heading back out, we decided to stop at San Juan del Sur, the last anchorage in Nicaragua. It was a 20-mile sail to get there, and we had one of our most exhilarating sails to date! With 20-knot winds forward of the port beam and flat seas, we occasionally hit 8.5 knots. Along the way we played tag with the Passage 52 “High Drama,” (another cruising boat) and marveled at the beautiful coastline. We dropped anchor in San Juan del Sur in less than three hours.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the Port Captain turned out to be most helpful. He told us that if we stayed right in town, he would sign our Zarpes (A Zarpe is what the Spanish-speaking countries call an outbound clearance document, obtained from customs/immigration officials when you depart from a country or in some cases, from any port within a country) from El Salvador as a stopover, and not make us go through the entire check-in process. While the town of San Juan del Sur was charming with colonial architecture and very clean; the water was very rough out on the bay and lots of boats were on questionable moorings. In fact, we watched one sink. So we left after two nights. But we promised that we’d return – by land- as it’s easily accessible from Costa Rica.

We left Nicaragua on May 31, and while having a beautiful wing-on-wing sail, entered Costa Rica. What a jewel! We stayed in Bahia Elena for a week, enjoying the sounds of monkeys and parrots, and swimming in the beautiful water. Some fishermen came up to the boat and gave us eight lobster tails. When we asked them what they wanted in return, they said a jug of water. When we threw in some baseball caps, their smiles of delight lit up the anchorage – and our hearts. We were hooked!

Costa CangregjoWe’re now in Playa Panama, Bahia Culebra, anchored off of Hiram and China’s (Her family nicknamed her China because she looks Chinese. She does not know what her given name is!) “Costa Cangrejo” restaurant. Hiram and China operate a poor man’s version of Juan Wright’s Barillas Marina in El Salvador. Not only do they offer wonderful hospitality and fantastic food, but they also arrange different activities, such as horseback riding, trips to the river with catered food, canopy rides and so forth. They also make diesel and gas runs, and have water, showers and laundry facilities. The anchorage is so calm and protected that locals bring their boats here for shelter during “Papagayos.” (The Papagayo wind is a north to northeasterly extremely strong wind and can last up to several days.)  Each morning we’ve been entertained by dolphins, and dorado literally swim around our boats. We haven’t figured out how to catch them yet, but we will! It rains about 40 inches a year here, which is about a fifth as much as it does further south. China gives the cruisers Spanish lessons on Friday mornings for the price of “desayuno” (breakfast) and salsa lessons at night. They also have cable TV, so we get our news fix. There just doesn’t seem to be any reason to hurry along!

As they say in Costa Rica: Pura Vida! (Pure life.) Thank you for letting us share La Roja’s story.”

Bob on deck

Lake DeGray, Arkansas

Sunset at Lake DeGray

Sunset at Lake DeGray

I am going to give another “shout out” for Arkansas. LakeDeGray is a US Army Corps of Engineer project. There are six class A campgrounds with a total of 428 campsites. Corps camping also includes 2 class B campgrounds and a primitive camping area. DeGray Lake Resort State Park is located on the north shore and offers in addition to camping a newly renovated 96 room lodge and restaurant, an 18 hole golf course, tennis, and horseback riding. Arkansas Scenic Byway 7 is located along the eastern shore of the lake. Dedicated in April, 1994, the scenic byway runs for about 237 miles and has long been recognized as one of the most scenic drives in America.

Fishing pole in boatIt is a beautiful and a non-crowded lake. We had previously checked out most all the Corps campgrounds on a motorcycle ride, but found for our tastes the Alpine Ridge Campground to be our favorite. There are 49 campsites. Many are first-come-first-serve (non-reservable) and are on the water. The good news is that it is not that crowded so should you arrive on a weekday you more than likely would not have any problem getting an unreserved spot. You can reserve sites online, which is what we did and then switched to a water front site when we got there. Each site has privacy and lots of shade. If you have your senior pass (62+) the Core campsites are only $6 to $9/night, depending if you are on the water or not. (If you don’t have the Senior Pass it’s $12/$18.) They have electrical hookups. They do not have water hookups, but fresh water can be easily filled at the dump station on the way in. Water stations are situated throughout the campground for jug filling.

The lake has a shoreline of 247 miles and the reservoir covers 13,400 acres. The fishing is suppose to be great (although Bob and I did not even get a nibble, but that’s pretty normal). Their website touts that it offers “Arkansas’ finest fishing for hybrid stripped bass and great angling for walleye, crappie, bream and catfish.” During the warm months people water-ski, sail, snorkel, kayak, as well as just boat for pleasure. They even scuba dive on the lake. Even on a busy weekend you hardly see another boat. There are lots of fingers of shoreline as well as little islands where you can boat out to, unload you stuff and play for the day.

 If you ever get to Arkansas, you absolutely have to check this lake out!



Porta-Bote (or Fold-A-Boat)

Porta-bote in action

Porta-bote in action

The RV lifestyle is not going to work unless we can get out on the water. Problem is how to bring all the toys with you when hauling a fifth-wheel. We absolutely have to bring the Harley, and we absolutely have to have a boat. Bob is researching a swivel-trailer that hooks into the frame of the fifth-wheel so we can pull the motorcycle. But pulling a boat in addition to the Harley? Not going to work.

We remembered a funny little boat we saw a few years ago while we were camping in Florida. It is called a Porta-Bote, or Fold-A-Boat. It folds up flat and is the size of a surfboard. We watched the fellow unload and then unfold it. Within a very short time he had it ready to put in the water. We watched in disbelief as he pulled it to the water, put his motor on the mount and then head off down the water. The boat looked sturdy and was moving at an impressive pace. Wow, we thought. We need to check into that thing!

When the boat came back at the end of the day, Bob headed over and quizzed him as to what the heck it was. What a find. The fellow sang high praises. He said that it is made of high impact polypropylene which is an engineered resin originally developed for use in the aerospace field. It is so hard it is resistant to sharp rocks and/or collisions; impervious to sand, salt, and acid. He said it is virtually indestructible as well as being very light weight. He gave us the information we needed to do our research. We soon found that they don’t come on the resale market very often. We kept looking and were excited when we finally found one on Craig’s List last year. It belonged to a widow in Arkansas. She and her husband had only used it a couple of times before he passed away. It is 12’ foot long. (24” wide and 3” thick when folded).  Just what we had decided we wanted as the 8′ and the 10′ seemed to us to be a bit too small and the 14′ too long.

Indian Pass Sunset

Indian Pass Sunset

We took it with us last year to Indian Pass, Florida where we spent the winter. It worked perfectly. We were able to load it on the truck for transport when we had the motor home, but since buying the fifth-wheel we have been in a quandary wondering how the heck we were going to haul it.  The company sells RV mounts so one can put it on the side of the vehicle; or on the roof, but they are $329 (often on sale for $199). Bob was also reluctant to drill holes in the trailer, although if need be he would have done so. Some people load it on top, but even though it folds into the size of a surf board, we hated the idea of driving down the road, not being able to see it and wondering if it blew off or not. It is 12’ long, so we did not think we would be able to get it in the trailer, just because of angles. But…yeah! We were pleasantly surprised when we tried it as it fits easily and lays on the floor without being in the way at all. Problem solved.

Bob and Finnean fishing

Bob and Finnean fishing

It is a great little boat. Despite the flexible floor, it feels very sturdy. Even Finnean (our Westie) feels very safe and secure riding in it. We have a 6 hp motor on it, and although it works fine, we are thinking that a 9 hp would be better. It’s great for fishing. We are thinking about buying the bow ladder that the company sells so we can jump in when we want to go for a swim.

Unfolding it and getting it out on the water takes less than 20 minutes. Here’s how we do it:

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Arkansas? Where? What’s Arkansas? That’s what my friends from California ask. Even the Weather Channel tends to ignore Arkansas. All the states surrounding Arkansas have their names identified on the weather map; but Arkansas’ name is sadly missing. And then I am noticing that the travel blogs either miss Arkansas altogether or they make a brief stop in Little Rock (maybe because the Weather Channel notes it on their map?) I feel a calling! I have to educate everyone that will listen about this beautiful state; Hot Springs in particular.

When we first moved here, four years ago, I was told that Arkansas is the only state that has borders with five other states: Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, and Louisiana. I was told that Arkansas (being in the middle of course) was left undeveloped and natural (the state  logo is: The Natural State) so that the bordering states would have a place to come to for hunting, fishing, golfing, boating, and relaxing, which is why there is so little industry here. Whether that is true or not, I cannot tell you; but I do know that there are very few places in the United States where one can drive for hours and see only a handful of cars. You can get anywhere in the state without having to get on a major highway.

Lake Catherine

Lake Catherine

There are many beautiful and interesting places in Arkansas, one really can’t go wrong almost anywhere you visit. The beauty of Hot Springs is that there are so many wonderful state and federal campgrounds within a few miles of downtown: Gulpa Gorge Campground, Lake Catherine, Lake Ouachita (my favorite), Lake DeGray State Park, and Brady Mountain (Army Coors of Engineers). I am not big on private campgrounds, mainly because of the expense, but if you are interested in rock hunting, Coleman Crystal Ron’s Mine has a campground charging $12/night, or $300 a month. You can walk to the mine to hunt for crystals from your campsite!

Thermal waters

Thermal waters

Hot Springs itself is actually a national park. (Something not told to the tourist but important to know is that in the downtown area, one side of the street [the side with all the bath houses] is National Park, and the opposing side is city. The reason this is important to know is that if you are going to get a speeding ticket, make sure you are on the city side, as the National Park side’s fines are double.) A colloquial name for Hot Springs is “The Spa City.” Hot Springs gets its name from the naturally thermal spring waters found there. There are wonderful walking trails that take you up above the town by the thermal waters.

Bath House Row

Bath House Row

A must is to spend a day at one of the bath houses. Before doing so, take the tour at The National Park Bath House. They do a wonderful  as well as entertaining job of educating you on the history of the bath houses. My favorite spa is Quapaw Bath House, mainly because it is one of only two that use the actual waters from the springs. You can pop in just to sit in the shared thermal pool for only $18. The water has been Carbon-dated at 4,000 years old and is high in silica, calcium, magnesium, free carbon dioxide, bicarbonate and sulfate. It has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. Of course there are private baths and a whole range of spa packages.

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens

Garvan Woodland Gardens is just one of the must see’s. It is one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the Natural State. The botanical garden is on a 210 acre peninsula  and is the University of Arkansas. It doesn’t matter what time of the year one visits, it is spectacular as well as magical. Christmas time is especially sensational.

The downtown area has the Gangster Museum, a Wax Museum, the historical Arlington Hotel where Al Capone stayed, restaurants and shops. Our favorite spot is the Ohio Club, which is reported to be the hangout of Al Capone. It is just a fun, happening place!

As far as Hot Springs Village, CBS News aired an interview with the vice president from RealtyTrac regarding a recent study on: “The Top Cities for Boomers to Lead the Good Life.” Hot Springs Village was rated the number 3 place to retire in the United States. 

The criteria used was:

  1.  Places that have a high percentage of retirees already and that have established themselves as retirement hot spots.
  2.  Not only must they be good places to live, but must have markets with price appreciation and also a good rental investment, so that those who are not ready to retire now can buy a house, rent it out and make money in the interim.
Hot Springs Village

Hot Springs Village

And, Chicago’s: Golf Chicago TV had a segment on Hot Springs Village. The introduction was to stay tuned to hear about a little-known golf mecca in Arkansas (and the word Arkansas was said with a distinct “oh my gosh, Arkansas?” tone). They touted the nine golf courses, 13 lakes, and beautiful walking trails as a must see. (Have to watch the intro, then scroll forward to 17:48 to see the segment on the Village.)

 Hopefully I have whetted your interest in visiting Hot Springs. It really is a great spot to visit. (I don’t know why the Weather Channel doesn’t put it on their map???)


Bob’s Firefighter Tribute Harley

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

Arkansas has beautiful roads to ride. Doesn’t seem to matter what direction one goes: right or left, all roads lead to something wonderful with wide, tree-lined sweeping turns, fabulous scenic views and very little traffic. We had a Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide when we first moved from South Carolina to Arkansas. It was a great bike, but over long distances it wasn’t that comfortable for me and it did not have much storage.

Took delivery in February at the nearby market parking lot....snowed an hour after we got it home!

Took delivery in February at the nearby market parking lot….snowed an hour after we got it home!

We wanted to have a unique custom bike so Bob started looking for a Road Glide that he could personalize and make it a one of kind. He looked on the internet and found a 2009 Road Glide that had been totaled by the insurance company. The bike had approximately 600 miles on it, lots of extras and little damage. Because it had been totaled by the insurance company, we were able to purchase it for about 1/3 of the cost of a new one.

The bike was in Reno, Nevada. We paid a trucker $500 to deliver the bike to Arkansas. Bob repaired and replaced the damaged parts, put extended saddle bags on it and custom fenders, all of which we found either at motorcycle swap meets or on EBay. We had the bike custom painted by a local man in Hot Springs. Bob drew out the design and did most of the prep work. The whole project took about 6 months. We are extremely happy with the bike. It is definitely unique and gets a lot of attention wherever we go. Best of all, it honors the firefighters. (Bob is a retired Los Angeles City Firefighter). On one side of the tour pack it has the 9/11 Flag Raising; the other side has a picture of a horse-drawn steamer (original fire engine) engulfed in fire; on both saddle bags is a fire rescue helicopter (Bob worked helicopter); along with some Harley graphics. The painter was incredible. He surprised us and added the Fireman’s Prayer to the top of the tour pack. He was worried that we might not like it, but when he saw the tears in both of our eyes when we read it, as have many since, he knew he had made the right decision. It is beautiful.

Fireman’s Prayer

When I am called to duty, God,
wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life,
whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
before it is too late,
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert,
and hear the weakest shout,
quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling,
to give the best in me,
to guard my friend and neighbor,
and protect his property.
And if according to Your will
I must answer death’s call,
bless with Your protecting hand,
my family one and all.



Should We Go Fulltime or Not?

Port-A-Bote on shore

Port-A-Bote on shore

This year while in Florida the discussion of whether to live fulltime in the RV became pretty serious.  Between the fishing, sightseeing, beach walking, shelling, boating (we have a Porta-Bote [portable folding boat] that folds up to the size of a surfboard and works great), sunsets and sunrises, it is just darn relaxing and fun. The knowledge that we are not getting any younger and if we want to do this, we should get going is in the forefront of most discussions. Here’s just some of the debate that drives us both crazy:

Downside: The biggest problem for both of us is that we love Arkansas; Hot Springs Village in particular! We have lots of friends, a great church, Bob has a lucrative handyman business, nine beautiful and affordable golf courses to play within 10 to 15 minutes of the house, beautiful lakes to boat on (we have friends with boats so we don’t need one of our own anymore!), and fabulous motorcycling roads. How can we give all this up?

Upside:  We could rent out the house, buy a lot nearby and use it as a home base for four months during the year, so we would still maintain our friendships. If we rented the house out, we could use that as income in addition to our pensions. Financially, we would probably be much better off.

Downside:  I like to write and read. I need to have a spot that I can have my computer and files and privacy without the blaring noise of the television, which Bob loves to have going even when he is not watching the darn thing!

Upside:  Bob is usually always in motion and either fishing or doing a project outside, which leaves me plenty of time to write and read. We both love each other’s company and if we could combine golf with traveling, it would be fun.

Downside: We need a bigger coach. We need more slides. In fact, we need as many slides as we can get. And, we need more storage space. This coach, even though it is bigger than the 29 footer, does not have much storage. (Can’t even put my pots and pans away!) And, the few drawers it has are very narrow. We have made the decision that a fifth wheel is what we want if we do decide to go full time. So now we need a bigger truck too!

Upside:  We need a new truck anyway.  Our little pickup truck has 123,000 miles on it.

Downside:  Do I really want to do all my laundry in laundry mats???

Upside:  We will buy ALL new underwear and towels as I do not want to be folding “holey” underwear and ratty towels in front of other people. And, hard to admit, but I actually enjoy my laundry mat time. I put all the wash in at once, sit and read or go for coffee. Then I fold it while visiting with someone, and head back to the camp. Done for the week.

DownsideWe have great friends here, what if we end up in a situation where we don’t get along with the people? I love my peace and quiet, what if we end up in an RV park with annoying barking dogs?

Upside: That’s one of the easier ones; we can drive away.

Downside: We have a Harley motorcycle that we are not ready to give up yet. How in the world can we pull that and a fifth-wheel?

Upside:  Bob found a trailer design that actually hooks into the back of a fifth wheel and becomes a part of the trailer. It is a little pricey, so he is thinking of fabricating it himself. (Obviously that will lend itself to a blog on its own!)

Downside:  The cost of fuel. It does not seem to be getting any cheaper.

Upside:  After doing a lot of reading and talking to people, seems that when traveling fuel costs are averaging $125 to $175 a day. Most people say that the cost averages out if you stay in one spot for a month or so before moving on. I would want to do that anyway.

Questions:  Will we get bored after awhile? Should we stay in one spot for two or three months at a time?  Or should we move every month? Every couple of weeks? Should we join an RV Club and go from park to park? What mail service should we use?

Conversation ongoing…..input welcomed!!!


Remodeling La Roja

The following is an excerpt from Dolphins Forever On Her Bow describing Bob’s work on La Roja:

Chapter 6: The Work Begins

Once we got La Roja situated on blocks in the boatyard, it was time to get to work.

Stated in the inspection report, “additional trim ballast is noted within the bilge under the diesel engine.” The “additional trim ballast” was sixteen individual 60-pound led ingots. We did not feel comfortable with that much unsecured weight in the bilge. Bob’s thought was that if we could somehow get them out, that maybe he could instead relocate them to the bottom of the keel. That would place all of the weight securely at the bottom of the boat, which would not only serve to further stabilize her, it would be safer. He was not quite sure how he was going to achieve this, but we decided our top priority was to get them off the boat.

Bob covered in engine oil!

Bob covered in engine oil!

The first step was to muscle them out of the bilge, up the stairs and onto the deck. This proved to be not so easy. Bob was able through brute strength to carry each ingot one by one from under the engine to the target. However, the bilge had not been cleaned in many years (maybe even never) and was not only filthy with dust and dirt, but also thick, heavy oil that had leaked from the engine down into the dregs of the bilge. By the time Bob had managed to get all 16 ingots topsides, he was covered in oil. It was a mess.

Once the ingots were on the deck, the next problem was how to get them to the ground, which was about a 20-foot drop. We devised a pulley system. One by one we lowered each ingot. I was at the bottom and my job was to unload and send the pulley back up. Now I, too, became covered in oil. We eventually got all the ingots off the boat, cleaned them up and stacked them next to the boat. On to the next step: attaching them to the bottom of the keel.

After much discussion, Bob came up with a plan to attach the led ingots to the bottom of the boat. Before he began to implement his idea, he decided to drill a small hole at the bottom of the keel. As he was in the process of drilling, liquid began pouring out. He drilled a couple more holes and even more liquid came out. The liquid smelled like acetone, but did not burn the skin. When it hit the pavement, however, it turned orange. When he sprayed water to wash the liquid out of the yard, it became literally a sea of foam. We both began to panic. What the heck was going on? I ran and got the inspection report out as I remembered something said about the keel. Sure enough, there it was: “The keel is fitted with four columns of steel shot for ballast.” But that did not answer any questions. The orange foam was now threatening to seep through the entire boatyard. We began to worry if it was some kind of hazardous material. Luckily it was after hours and no one was around, but if we didn’t clean the mess up we definitely were in danger of not only heavy fines, but being evicted!

In a panic we put in an emergency call to the original builder, Lucas, who came immediately over to check it out. After much head scratching, he remembered that he had poured 50 gallons of resin, mixed with acetone, to fill all the spaces the steel shot had missed. Apparently it had not set up in 15 years. We decided that had to be the case. We let it finish draining, plugged all the holes we had drilled, and washed and scrubbed practically the entire boat yard to clean up any evidence. Unbelievable. Happy Hour was celebrated with gusto that evening.

We made the decision to revisit the “ingot project” at a later date and instead decided to tackle the head (boat talk for toilet) next. We rolled up our sleeves, prepared for hard work but did not anticipate any more disasters. Bob got right to work, the plan being to pull the head out along with all the plumbing. After removing the toilet, he placed the pipe wrench on the main pipe that was connected to a thru-hole. (For the novices, a thru-hole is a hole that goes from the outside of the boat to the inside and is located under water.)  As he began to twist the nut holding the pipe in place, we both looked on in horror as the pipe simply disintegrated in his hands. Bob’s face was white and he managed a whisper: “Oh my God! Had that pipe collapsed while this boat was in water, it would have sunk.” I did not need that explained to me as I could clearly look through the gaping hole that was left and see the boatyard below. Apparently we had an even bigger job ahead of us than originally planned. We decided right then and there that all the plumbing as well as all the electrical in the entire boat would be pulled out and replaced. We were determined that by the time we were done, Bob and I would know virtually every wire, plug, hose, valve and pipe on La Roja and its condition at all times.

Chapter 7: A Little Longer Than Planned

Bob staining mahogany.

Bob staining mahogany.

Our two months turned into nine. We completely gutted the inside. The original mahogany was in good shape so we were able to clean it up and reuse most of it. We modernized the settee by tearing out the square couch and then redesigning it into a horseshoe-shaped sofa. It was a little tricky to design cushions as we needed to follow the lean of the bulkhead, which was exceedingly angled. (After all, it is a boat!) We finally managed after many trials and errors to construct cushions out of thick foam. We took our completed creation along with material to a Mexican family we had met at a flea market who did upholstery and asked them to sew the covers.  When we came to pick up them up the mom had made three big oversized pillows for us as a gift. Those pillows were perfect and completed what was to be a very comfortable and very stylish settee.

We pulled out the antiquated sink and stove from the galley (boat talk for kitchen) and replaced it with a new Force-10 stove with oven and double sink, along with candy-red counter tops. (We had to have some red with the name La Roja!) Bob built a hanging closet for my clothes and pulled out the bunk beds in the main salon. He built in its place a small couch and an entertainment section for the television and stereo.

Designing the steps was a challenge!

Designing the steps was a challenge!

Replacing the original very steep and narrow stairway from the cabin to the deck proved to be a challenge. We began the project thinking it would be easy to design wider and angled steps. We quickly realized that creating the proper angles was not as simple as we believed. After several failed attempts, we took our project outside. We began with cardboard boxes, placing them on top of each other and piling them up to the proper height. The more we tried, the more frustrated we became. Before we knew it, we had at least 20 people from all over the boatyard gathering round with ideas. It quickly became a group project. With the help of the “group,” we finally designed mock steps and made sure they worked before tackling the finished product. The end result was great, but it was not easy!

End product!

End product!

We replaced the entire sole (boat talk for floor) with teak and holly.  We replaced all the thru-hulls and added a couple more. We cleaned up the engine and replaced worn parts.

We threw out the old toilet and bought an elegant new electric marine toilet. We also threw out the bathroom sink and replaced it with a beautiful porcelain sink and brass faucets. We even put smoky glass in the cabinets, which really made the head sparkle. However, no matter how great we made the head look, it was useless without a holding tank, which it did not have. We decided the only place we could possibly put a holding tank in was under the v-birth. We tore apart the v-berth and took measurements. We used large cardboard boxes to make a “dummy” tank. From that point we were able to build the tank out of plywood, which we then fiber glassed over. We added a deck vent and an overboard discharge pump system. When we were done, we had a first-class 50-gallon holding tank along with a fancy head!

Bob with the templates for the freezer boxes.

Bob with the templates for the freezer boxes.

A priority we set for ourselves is that we had to have ability to make ice cubes. I was fast learning that nothing seems impossible to Bob. We decided the best way to accomplish this was to build freezer boxes in the area next to the engine room. Bob ordered the refrigeration system through a supplier and I bought a book on refrigeration. We drew templates from heavy construction paper and laid it all out on plywood on the dock. We then proceeded by following the instructions step-by-step. In the end we had three huge engine-driven freezer boxes, one dedicated exclusively for ice. Now no matter where we ended up, at least we could have boat drinks!

La Roja's Logo

La Roja’s Logo

We buffed out the outside hull and re-stripped it in teal. One day I came home from work (I worked during the day while Bob worked on the boat) and he met me at the car as I drove up. He made me close my eyes and then he led me to La Roja. When I opened my eyes, I gazed for the first time at the logo we had designed in its finished place on the side of the boat. I was speechless. It looked perfect!

Bob surprised me!

Bob surprised me!

We installed a mahogany toe rail completely around the hull. We removed the mast, cleaned and painted it, replacing all worn lines and installed an insulated backstay for the SSB antennae. We installed all new electronics, radar, hydraulic auto pilot, navigation and sailing instruments, computer, 110-volt 2,500 watt Trace inverter.

Bob sprayed expandable foam between the ingots.

Bob sprayed expandable foam between the ingots.

We eventually got the courage to revisit the ingot project. We ended up redesigning the keel and added a thousand pounds of ballast to the bottom using our led ingots. Bob drilled into the keel (fingers crossed; no more seepage!) and then used epoxy to bond the ingots around the base. We filled all the empty spaces between ingots with expandable foam and then sanded the area to a smooth surface. The boat yard lifted the boat off the keel for us and placed it in a hoist.  Bob enclosed the entire bottom surface with a heavy fiberglass. When it was finished it looked like a production bulb keel.

We did most all of the work ourselves, but from time to time we hired professionals for jobs that needed more knowhow and talent than muscle.  We hired Keith, a professional stainless steel man, who did extensive stainless steel work, including a new bow sprit with double bow anchors, an aft pulpit with dingy davits and two seats, two solar panels and an outboard engine hoist. We hired a professional rigger, Dusty, who replaced all the standing rigging and safety lines. And we hired a professional to do extensive canvas work, including a new dodger which enclosed the entire cockpit.

We did a lot of work in nine months. No wonder she was smiling!

She turned out pretty fine!

She turned out pretty fine!

Sold the Sea Breeze

We sold the Sea Breeze on E-Bay. We were pleasantly surprised at the number of calls we got. In fact, in the last seconds there was a bidding war and we ended up selling her for $12,000. We had used it for two years and sold it for a profit. Felt pretty good about that.

Pulled out the old carpet and installed bamboo hardwood floors.

Pulled out the old carpet and installed bamboo hardwood floors.

Bob found the Scenic Cruiser sitting in a RV Repair lot in Hot Springs, Arkansas (where we now live.) It had been for sale for over a year. It was pretty obvious when we looked at it why there was not a lot of interest. It had a leak under the sink and the floor had rotted out. Plus, it had sat for quite a while and the moldy smell was overwhelming. I started to run, but Bob was interested. He is very much the “handyman” and replacing the floor was not a concern to him. He was concerned with the motor and electronics. When he pushed the button for the slide to go out, we both could not believe our eyes as it looked like a dance hall compared to our old motorhome. He spent a lot of time looking it over and decided he could replace the floor and fix whatever was causing the problem under the sink. The rest of it was just a matter of scrubbing as the diesel engine, generator, refrigerator, freezer and electronics all were in good shape. He made a low-ball offer and the owners took it.

Finished floor.

Finished floor.

We spent the next couple of months pulling out the old carpet, fixing the leak under the sink (turned out to be the charcoal filter under the sink that had leaked, causing black, mucky stuff to ooze out and ruin the floor), and installed hardwood bamboo floors throughout the entire coach. We took the handles off all the cabinets, cleaned them up and sprayed them black. Also redid the light fixtures. It looked pretty darn nice when we got done and did not cost much money, just labor on our part.

We spent two months living in our “new” coach on the beach in Florida. We loved it and we met a lot of people who were either living full time in their rigs or living for several months in it. We left for home continuing the talk about whether we should try going twenty-four/seven or not. Seemed like the thing to do when we were in Florida, but kept kicking around the pros and cons all year.

Camped on the beach in Florida.

Camped on the beach in Florida.

We are just now returning from our second winter in Florida. This time we spent three months. Again, we loved it and the idea of going full time is a constant conversation. But, even though the Scenic Cruiser is roomy “people-wise”, it has no storage space. If we are going to go full-time, or on extended trips again, I need more storage space