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Ladies on the Loop

A collection of 35 short stories offering guidance, humor, and reflection from women who have traveled America’s Great Loop.

Gypsies Palace Great Loop Track
Our track of the Great Loop in 2017

In 2017 Steve and I achieved an amazing accomplishment of completing the Great Loop on Gypsies Palace. Approximately 150 boats every year cross their wake by making an entire trip around the Great Loop. A friend and fellow Looper, Susan Costa, came up with the idea of gathering stories from women who have traveled the Great Loop. 35 women, including myself, volunteered to write a chapter in this e book. The stories are amazing and cover a wide range of topics. I am so proud to be part of this project.

Below is the part of the Chapter that I wrote called Cat Tales, Dog Tales and Docktails. At the end of my chapter I will provide a copy of the book and hope it will inspire others to accomplish their dream.

Cat Tales, Dog Tails & Docktails By Debbie Russell On Gypsies Palace. 47 Ft. Leopard Power Cat / 50 FT. Endeavour Power Cat Gold Looper 2017

Cat Tales

Most people spend a lot of time in the Planning Mode to do the Great Loop.  We went backwards – we decided to live aboard full time on a boat and go “All In” without even hearing about the Great Loop.  We sold our house and bought this big (47 feet long) and wide (25 feet wide) power catamaran.  We didn’t even talk about where we would go, but it would be somewhere fun.  Our first task was to move our “stuff” onboard and make some modifications to cruise.  One day I opened Passage Maker Magazine and there was this big ad for the Great Loop from this organization AGLCA.  I joined it without telling my husband and began to read up on the Loop.  It was fascinating. I couldn’t keep it a secret for long because I was getting so excited about all of the places along the Loop that we would see.  Very soon I was a daily Forum reader and found much of the information was overwhelming.  How could we ever do this?  We bought the boat in October and by December my head was filled with Looper Lingo, including a Rendezvous that was taking place that Spring!   My heart sank when I learned that we were too late to attend, but we would be on a wait list. I hoped that someone would cancel.  It turned out that Kim Russo emailed me in February saying that we were in!  Now we had to figure out how to get there in time! 

Leaving on the Loop on Gypsies Palace
Leaving on the Loop on Gypsies Palace

I also wondered about our big and wide Catamaran.  Could we really take it on the Loop?  We didn’t have anyone to ask (no one had big catamarans then) so I started researching any restrictions on the Loop for width and height.  Gypsies Palace is certainly a “Wide Body”.  When she is coming at you all you see is width.  I learned that we could not fit in the Trent Severn Waterway, but we could use the Welland Canal and go through Lake Erie to get to Canada.  Great!  One obstacle solved.

The second restriction is height.  We had to fit under the Chicago Railroad Bridge of 19.7 ft.  I cannot tell you how many times that we measured our air draft!  We could fit if we took the satellite dish down and that would put us to 18.5 feet.  But, this part of the trip was going to be a worry for me.   What if we got there and had to turn around?   What about getting under bridges in tight situations?  The one thing I didn’t want to do is to be the one to go look at our roof and say, “Yeah, we can make it…..I think…..”  So, what my husband did is that he created a pole that I could stand on the bow of our boat that would equal the height of our boat.  If the pole touched the bridge we couldn’t make it.  I will say that this really helped us on the Erie Canal because we were close for one of them!  But, we never touched.  Another worry got put away.

It is normal for so many random questions and thoughts to pop into your head as you prepare for the Loop and to live aboard.  First of all, you think you need to have way more stuff than you need from your house.   I was guilty of this and so was my husband.  I think I took all of my cleaning products from the house, tons of toilet paper (now a great idea after Covid-19!) and clothing that I never wore.  For some reason, I thought I would be wearing cute resort wear for warm climates.  The reality is that we had the coldest summer ever in 2017 and I had to BUY warm clothes.  The marinas that we docked at were not “resorts” so those clothes just went along for the ride.  That was a shame because it became apparent that if I bought something along the way, something had to go to make room for it. 

A catamaran provides all kinds of space, including under the floor.  It is much like a sailboat in that respect.  I had stuff put away everywhere on the boat.  Our biggest joke is that “I know it is here……it is somewhere on the boat”.  We also had a giant hatch on the bow of the boat.  We called it the “Man Cave”.  I swear, our entire garage from the house was down there!  You will become very creative with whatever storage space you have.  

Another challenge that I had about living aboard our boat was the dreaded Changing the Sheets on the Bed.  When we were boat shopping a “must have” on my list was a walk around bed.  Well, of course, that didn’t happen.  All of the beds on the cat were in the hulls which meant I had to climb up on the bed to make it.  Oh boy, I learned to never change the sheets when I was tired because I got quite a workout trying to tuck things in and get the bottom sheet on correctly.  There were times when I would just lay there exhausted on the bed.  Can you imagine trying to make the bed from the top down?  And, when company came more of the same gyrations multiplied.   Having guests stay just one night really messed me up.  I had to remake the bed again!  After a month I gave in and had custom bottom sheets made for the mattresses.  Why I didn’t do that sooner, I don’t know, but it sure made that task easier. 

Dog Tails

I would guess that 60% of boats cruise with their pets.  On the Loop I saw big and small dogs that adapted quite well to this lifestyle.   Jazzy is our miniature Schnauzer.  Before we left on the Loop we tried to get him to swim in the pool with very little success.  He was a “sinker” not a good paddler.   He would just splash around and make very little progress so I knew he would not willingly want to go swimming. 

Looper Dogs leaving on the Loop
Looper Dogs Jazzy & Mozzy

One thing unique about us is that we left for the Loop with our neighbor’s dog to dog sit.  Can you imagine?  Our good friends owned a company that involved traveling a lot and that year they were going to be gone a lot.   We were their normal dog sitters and offered to take Mozzy with us.  He is a Shi-Poo and a good dog buddy for Jazzy.  We left Boca Raton with him and they flew to Annapolis to take him back.  However, they flew to Buffalo with him to give him back to us.  He stayed until we got back to Florida –  almost the entire Loop – a Looper Trooper!

Mozzy also managed a trip with us to the Bahamas where he staged “The Great Escape”.  We were docked in Bimini for several days on nice floating docks.  We had gotten lazy with the dogs in getting them on and off the boat.  Our swim platform was so close they could step on and off.  I had just walked the dogs and sat down when my phone rang.  It was Mozzy’s Mom.  She asked me if I knew where Mozzy was.  Of course, I knew where he was as I frantically looked around.  I couldn’t find him.  But, I thought it was strange for her to call me and ask me this question.  Then she said that she had gotten a phone call from someone saying that he had her dog!!  What??  Then I looked out and there was Mozzy walking along with some guy and his dog!   He simply decided he should go off on his own since he had mastered the art of getting off the boat by himself.   My friend got the call from his dog tag.  I was so embarrassed!   Needless to say, the dogs have been untrained from that little trick. 

Jazzy on grass mat
Jazzy sunning

Before we left on the Loop we bought a fake grass mat for the bow of the boat and started reading about how to train your dog to go on the boat.  It is all about will power – ours vs. theirs.  I started taking Jazzy out on the bow of the boat and he just liked sitting and sunning on the mat.  However, Mozzy somehow picked up on the idea and started using it right away.  And, sometimes, Jazzy followed suit.  I have to admit that I wasn’t strict about it and mostly would walk them in the morning and early evening.  This never is a problem until you want to anchor out and not drop the dinghy for shore leave.

This issue came to a head in the Bahamas.  We were at anchor and the wind was blowing.  There was no getting off the boat with the dinghy.   My husband said it was time for Jazzy to learn to go on the boat.  We waited 24 hours and only Mozzy went.  Another day comes along with multiple trips to the bow even on a leash and still no results, but the wind was still blowing.  He finally peed after 48 hours.  We kept waiting and got up to 54 hours when I told my husband, “I need to get off this boat!”  Seas had calmed down and the dinghy was dropped for shore leave with the dogs.  It didn’t take one minute for Jazzy to do his business.  So, now we know he can hold it if we can’t get to shore.   He won – definitely it was more stressful for me than him.

We had some fun with this subject when we were in Little Current in the North Channel.  This is a stop where a lot of Loopers congregate.  We were hosting Docktails on our boat and talking about this very subject.  Several of the Loopers with dogs were having training problems with their dogs not going on board.  I had them bring their dogs over and their mats.  We put their mats under ours because every dog that came on our boat christened our mat.  They were so surprised that their dogs gave our mat a sniff and lifted their leg.  It was one after another.  We were officially known as “Gypsies Pee Palace” after that and Steve was called “Pee Daddy”!

One Eye Dog, Mozzy & Jazzy
Abby, Mozzy & Jazzy

These two Best Dog Friends are a lot of fun to have around.  However, when the One Eye Dog, Abby, comes over it is chasing and happiness all around.  She is a little Maltese and officially is the Admiral and in charge when it comes to these two.  It is pure joy to watch the three of them play on a beach.  Sand is flying, dogs are chasing and Abby is jumping in the surf.   If you have a dog on the Loop you will encounter places where your dog does not need to be on a leash especially a beach.  It will warm your heart to watch them play. 

One last thing on Dog Tails, if your dog needs grooming do try to learn to do it yourself.  My husband watched tons of You Tube Videos on how to cut a Schnauzer and he even got good at doing Mozzy.  Groomers are far and few between in your travels, along with good hair stylists.  Don’t get me going there……..There was a time when I did look like a boy after a Groupon haircut and didn’t need another cut for 4 months!   Oh, and I got a $15 hair cut in a converted gas station.  Enough said!! 

Docktails

Everyone’s favorite subject, right?   Studying the Forum before leaving on the Loop, it seemed to be all about Docktails.  I couldn’t wait to experience it!  It seemed perfect – BYOD and BYOA – Bring Your Own Drink & Bring Your Own Appetizer.  We departed from Boca Raton, FL and at every stop I would search out a Looper flag.  It was crazy, but on every stop it was the same thing – No Loopers.  Then when we would see Loopers they would be away from their boat or I never saw any Docktails.  It wasn’t until Southport, NC that someone finally suggested that we have Docktails.  I have spoken with some other Loopers, too, and this happened with them.  What I finally realized is that I can “Call Docktails” and set the party!   So, up and down the docks I would go inviting everyone to Docktails on Gypsies Palace.

We were the perfect Docktail boat with a super large cockpit in the back.  One time I estimated that we had 25 people on our boat with room for more!   In Chicago we even took our boat off the dock for a sunset cruise. We had so many people that we needed to count life preservers.  It was one of those special moments to remember looking at Navy Pier and the lights of the city.

Rocktails in the Benjamins during the Loop
Rocktails in the Benjamin Islands, CA

Docktails are named that because it is frequently done along the dock where everyone brings a chair and some people bring tables.  Herb Seaton, Harbor Host extraordinaire, likes to call them “Porchtails” when he hosts them on his boat.  One of the more interesting places we have had them was in the Benjamin Islands in North Channel on the rocks.  We called those “Rocktails”.   Those Rocktails stood out because the next morning our Looper friend became seriously ill.  We had four boats traveling together at that time and luckily one couple were paramedics.  It was a total group effect of getting Beth from Lab Partners back to Little Current on One Eye Dog.  It turned out that she passed a kidney stone, but it scared all of us.   Looping is all about helping others in need and this was one of those times. 

When hosting Docktails the best part is that there is nothing that you have to do except maybe supply plates and napkins.  I was amazed at the array of appetizers that people would create.  Sometimes it would be simple like cheese and crackers and other times we would have grilled sausage or a baked dip.   There is no need to stress about what you bring because it all about sharing stories and making friends.  There is magic in Docktails.  So much Magic in that you may meet your Buddy Boat.

Gold Loopers
Larry, April & Abby

We met our Buddy Boat in Cape May, NJ, the One Eye Dog.  We “dated” for a bit by meeting up at common places along the way.  However, by the Pig Roast at Shady Harbor we were a traveling twosome.  Talk about a coincidence.  Remember that I said that a couple had cancelled for the Rendezvous and we got to go?   It was One Eye Dog!  We were meant to meet!  Somewhere along your Loop you will find another compatible couple and boat and make plans together for stops along the way.  Buddy Boats don’t have to be together 100% of the time.  In fact, our two boats frequently go in different directions, but we always have a mutual plan to meet up again to travel.  Everyone says that they meet lifelong friends during the Great Loop and that is what makes the Journey so special. 

The subject of docktails could not be closed without the Tale of Little Beers. Little Beers has become the un-official drink of the Great Loop, mostly due to the enthusiastic promoting by Gypsies Palace and One Eye Dog starting in 2017.

My husband had been communicating with someone who had been to Donovan’s Shady Harbor Marina, and they told him that he had to go to the bar and ask for a Little Beer. He would not tell him what it was. So, April, Larry, Steve and I sat down at the bar and ordered Little Beers. We watched the bartender make it and took our first shot. We loved it – we needed another! And, we needed to know how to make it.

On our next stop, we found a liquor store and bought a bottle of Licor 43 plus a container of heavy cream. We created the “Legend of the Official Loop Drink” as we shared Little Beers in many docktail groups. And, we always toasted, “To the Loop!”

Little Beers - To the Loop!
Little Beers – “To the Loop”!

Docktails can be taken to a whole new level by involving a group brunch.   We were coming down the Rivers and got to Bobby’s Fish Camp way too early.  We were with a few other boats and decided that we needed Bloody Mary’s and Brunch.  We took an old camping idea of Omelets in a Bag.  Everyone writes their name on a small Ziplock bag and cracks two eggs in it.   Then everyone pitches in for the filling ingredients – diced ham, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, cheese are all laid out and everyone takes their bag and puts a little of this and a little of that in it.  Then they mush it all together.   All of the bags are dropped in a big pot of boiling water for 15 minutes.  After that it simply slips out of the bag onto a plate as a perfect omelet.   We have done this numerous times and all guests onboard love it.  Of course, it is accentuated with a perfect Bloody Mary.  We now had Brunchtails! 

Gypsies in the Palace
Gypsies in the Palace

One final tale is how Gypsies Palace got her name.  Steve and I are card carrying members of the Ft. Lauderdale Parrothead Club.  We knew that the boat name had to involve a Jimmy Buffett song.   One of the local members suggested the name from a Buffett song called, “Gypsies in the Palace”.  The story goes that Jimmy was in Aspen talking to Glenn Frey of the Eagles about Jimmy’s upcoming tour.  Jimmy needed someone to watch his house and Glenn recommended some guys he knew.  Well, the song is about all the partying that went on in the house while Jimmy was on tour.  We loved the song and the story behind it.   Our party box is onboard and our playlist is set to Margaritaville.  You can follow us at www.coastaljourneys.com

To read the full version of Ladies on the Loop you can download the attached file:

You may also find this on Amazon Kindle for $1.99 or free for Kindle Unlimited. Ladies on the Loop.

Ladies on the Loop: A collection of 35 short stories offering guidance, humor, and reflection from women who have traveled America’s Great Loop. by Susan Costa

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a very entertaining and informative book for anyone looking to live on a boat. Read how these women have gone from novices to pros. There are plenty of tips and insights about traveling with your partner on a boat. The stories are funny and they also show how each person has grown as a result of this experience. I highly recommend that the Captain of the boat spends time reading this book. It is a joy to have been asked to submit my chapter, but I am so proud of these women. It is a life changing experience!

Debbie Russell
Gypsies Palace



View all my reviews

Dockview from Gypsies Palace

IN THE SHELTER WITH GYPSIES IN THE PALACE

Gypsies Palace
Gypsies Palace In Shelter

Our blog has been “in shelter” these days as we are tied up in a marina and not doing much of anything, like most of you.  It is a little hard to be excited about writing about every day life on board when nearly every day is like the other day…..not very news worthy.   But, then again, you may be curious if you are not on a boat and may be wondering how life is doing for Gypsies Palace. 

We were very lucky to have made arrangements at the Eidson Ford Marina in Ft. Myers for mid March, just as things were going downhill.  This marina is where we have spent most of our winter stay and has been so nice to us.   We came in initially for a week, then 2 weeks, then a month and then another month.  It is a small marina where we are able to sit, get our pump outs at the slip and receive our numerous Amazon orders.  We are able to walk to Publix and occasionally get take out from the local restaurants.  Additionally, the restaurant at the marina sold us fish. We bought snapper, grouper, mussels and even chicken.  That is a nice unexpected perk. 

It was very fortunate for us and our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog that we didn’t have to worry about travel plans because at this point we had none!

Some boaters were not so lucky.  Many marinas were no longer taking transients or worse, made them leave.  The Florida Keys took the matter seriously and asked many boats to leave if they had not made long term arrangements.  Canada completely shut down.  The Bahamas took extreme measures due to their limited medical care so boats either had to leave or stay in place and follow strict regulations.  Certain states were closed to boating completely.  It was hit or miss, but luckily we are a tight community with shared information, particularly from the Waterway Guide and Facebook.  We kept saying everyday that we were very lucky with our decisions.

Gypsies Palace at Cayo Costa
Gypsies Palace at Anchor

But, let me back up and give you a glimpse of our week before the big Dock Tie Up.  It may take your mind back to paradise.   On the way to Ft. Myers we were excited about spending a week at anchor at a very beautiful spot by Boca Grande, called Cayo Costa State Park.  This anchorage can accommodate a large number of boats and is very protected from winds.  It is located by Captiva Island and Cabbage Cay.  There is a state park with walking trails and access to the Gulf.  It is nine miles of untouched beaches accessible only by boat.  It is the perfect place for swimming, kayaking, shelling, bird watching, fishing and long walks along the Gulf. 

We were met by our Buddy Boat, One Eye Dog and we rafted together for several days.  During this time we took our kayaks and dinghy around to explore Manatee Cove and fun places within the anchorage.  By the time we were ready to leave we started hearing about Covid-19 and Social Distancing.  We had been rafted together during our stay so the four of us became a “family” to weather out the In Shelter order on our boats.

It was eerie going back to the marina, which formerly was full of activity and people.  The boaters that were there remained on their boats and we had very little contact with anyone outside of One Eye Dog.  So, there we sat – all Fit to be Tied Up at the dock.  Our fuel tanks were full since we bought fuel with the reduced fuel prices, but nowhere to go!  What did we do to occupy our time with No Docktails!  No Loopers! 

The guys got busy with projects.  The most frequent complaint from the Captain is that there is never any time to work on things because we are always moving.  Well, Steve got his wish and he completed over 21 projects.  The BBQ got rebuilt, the engine room got painted – some were more exciting for me than others.  We got new upholstery upstairs and down.  The biggest project was upgrading of the solar and inverter system on the boat.  This also involved adding batteries and controllers for the panels.  We look forward to testing this out at our next anchorage.  The Galley got TLC with wet sanding and polishing the Corian counter.  Plus, lighting was added under the cabinets.  Thank goodness West Marine was open and Amazon delivered. 

While the guys were slaving away the girls improved our cooking skills.  What was fun is that Steve started catching blue crab at the marina and nearly every day we had a feast of crab cakes, crab bisque or crab enchiladas.  Steve perfected his skills at catching and cleaning them.  Who knew we would be eating daily crab in Ft. Myers!

This In Shelter time was also a great time to start getting fit.  Fortunately, I had a willing partner with April from One Eye Dog.  She signed up for Weight Watchers to shed some pounds.  As a former Jazzerciser, I was delighted to find Jazzercise On Demand and Live Classes that we could use for our exercise program.   We added a half an hour of yoga stretches combined with power walking.  We have never been so fit!   April and I also went kayaking in the river to add to everything else.   It has been fun.

Our other activity has been puzzles.  I can see on Facebook that there has been quite the puzzle frenzy going on.  We were able to borrow puzzles from friends of ours at another marina.  Like everyone else cleaning and sleeping in has also become part of the routine. 

Jazzy is over the Puzzles

Our plan has been to depart after Memorial Day and head north towards the Chesapeake  with no schedule or real destination – just leave Florida for Hurricane Season.  However, as we are reading posts on Facebook we came to the realization that the majority of the boaters have the same plan.  They cannot go up into Canada right now so they will be waiting it out along with everyone else trying to go other places. 

The best part of living on a boat is your ability to adapt and change plans.  We have decided that this would be a great summer to head back up the rivers to Tennessee and Kentucky.  When we did the Great Loop we were unable to take the time to explore the lakes and rivers of this area.  There are numerous anchorages and interesting places to go.  We will head up to Chattanooga and Knoxville and also explore the Little Tennessee River.  Our Looper friends have been sending us all kinds of suggestions of things to see and places to go.  We think that we can avoid much of the crowds that will be in the Chesapeake and New York areas.  We will also go up the Cumberland River to Nashville and beyond. 

One more thing is that Steve sold a 48 ft. Endeavour that is just like ours! They never come up for sale – there are only 10 in existence. It just so happened that one original owner decided that it was time to sell. We found the most deserving couple who are going to love their boat. It was listed and sold in 18 days!

Endeavour 48
Endeavour 48 at Survey

Tomorrow we cast our lines and will head up the Gulf Coast with no particular schedule or destination other than “north”.  It is a rare even for us that we have that luxury.   We have been blessed with beautiful sunsets sitting at the dock – not a bad place to shelter in place.

Sunset on Tampa Bay

Cruising Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Sunset
Sunset on Tampa Bay

This year Gypsies Palace decided that it would be fun to spend a month cruising Tampa Bay.  Most Loopers and boaters stick with the normal route of going north and south on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Cruising Tampa Bay requires an extra 27 miles to go all the way to Tampa and most cruisers find this out of the way.  We planned on doing a whole “tour” cruising Tampa Bay from Apollo Beach and finally ending up at St. Pete Beach. 

However, in order to get there we had our very first engine problem in over a year and a half.  When we went to leave Ft. Myers Steve could not get the throttle to work on the port side.  We were unable to leave and he spent several days troubleshooting.  We managed to limp at idle speed into Sarasota where we discovered that it was not a Cummins issue, but a Twin Disc Transmission issue.  I will say Twin Disc went out of their way to get us help.  The repairman showed up on a Saturday at 5:30 in the morning!   It turned out that it was a wire that was disconnected.  Easy fix, but of course, the bill was time and a half plus travel! 

Gypsies Palace and Fish E Business
Gypsies Palace and Fish E Business

Our first stop cruising Tampa Bay was Apollo Beach.  The reason we chose this is that we have a sister boat called Fish E Business docked there and they had a dock for us behind their house.  They had also completed the Great Loop in their 50 Endeavour and we wanted to hear about their journey.  I took a picture of both our Endeavours at their dock.  They also hosted a Looper Gathering with over 55 people in attendance that had either completed the Loop or were planning it.

Things to do in Downtown Tampa

Tampa Downtown
View from Gypsies Palace of Downtown Tampa

It was an easy hop to Tampa from there to Marjorie Park Marina, a city owned facility on Davis Island.  We stayed there and used our dinghy to explore downtown Tampa, which is thriving.  We were constantly entertained by the boats that passed us – a Pirate Ship Tour Boat, water taxis and sculling/ rowing crews  from the local university.  Plus, we had an awesome view of the city at night.  They light up their bridges with different colors.

Tampa Pirate Ship
It’s a Pirate Town!

Downtown Tampa has a 2.4-mile Riverwalk that is really interesting and people take full advantage of it.  We ate at Sparkman Wharf, a new district of restaurants that are made from containers on ships.  It reminded me of permanent food trucks.  At the other end there is an entire building of food court type businesses called Armature Works.  It has been drawing the locals.  Our favorite is a restaurant called Ulele, named after a Florida Indian Princess.  They have their own brewery and make their own ice cream.  We had both!  We also took the free trolley to Ybor City, the Cuban district.  Naturally, we ate at the Columbia Restaurant, which is the original in Florida.  The food was awesome!

Parrothead Fun at Music on the Bay

Our main goal for cruising Tampa Bay was to bring Gypsies Palace to Music on the Bay.  This is a 4-day Trop Rock Event takes place at Whiskey Joe’s on the Courtney Campbell Causeway in Tampa.  We had been 6 years ago and thought it might be possible to anchor in the small bay by the restaurant.  Luckily, we have a shallow draft that allowed us to get back in there.  We bought a 4-day music pass and enjoyed band after band.   Music on the Bay has been the #1 Trop Rock Event in the country for at least 5 years.  Perfect for us Parrotheads!  What was unexpected was that a big Cold Front coincided with the event with temperatures in the 40’s at night!  We had to run our generator to keep warm, but the beach had numerous fire pits to generate warmth.  That was a new definition of Trop Rock Chillin’! We had so much fun that we are certain to come back next year. 

St. Pete – Food and Culture

Our final stop cruising Tampa Bay was St. Petersburg at the Harborage Marina.  Boaters love St. Pete for its walkability to restaurants and things to do.  While we were there, I went to the Dali Museum with girlfriends.  I highly recommend this attraction.  I learned so much from the docent that gave the tour.  We sampled several restaurants and got to go to Mazzaros, probably the best Italian market that I have ever been to.  We savored Italian foods for days!

Mazzaro's
Entering Mazzaro’s

The month went by quickly and we finally ended up at another Looper friend’s dock in St. Pete Beach.  Now that is quite a fun beach community, too.  We really feel that the Gulf Coast has so much to offer to boaters.   We have really enjoyed our time Cruising Tampa Bay and hope that you might try it, too.

Capt. Steve / Yacht Broker sells a Power Cat

Oh, and during all of this, Steve sold a boat!   We met a great couple that loved our Endeavour, but finding one is near impossible since there are only 10 and no one wants to sell.  We found a 55 Malcom Tennant with a great layout that was just finishing the Loop.  It was the closest we could get to ours!   So, it was not all play and no work!! 

Jazzy

Dogs On A Cat

Dogs on Board

One of the most frequent questions that we get about living on a boat is “How is it with the dogs”?  It might surprise you that in our travels we would estimate that maybe 65% of the full time cruisers have one or two dogs onboard.  Even more amazing is that many of the dogs are fairly large – Labs, Goldens, Huskies, Bull Dogs and many Doodles.  We have seen a wide variety.  For most people it is the pet that they had on land so they simply took the dog with them.  The Dog House is now the Boat House and some adapt better than others, but overall everyone is happy for the companionship of their best friend. 

Dogs on Perimeter Patrol
Perimeter Patrol

Our dog, Jazzy, is an eight year old Schnauzer, who is in his 4th year of living on a boat.  Dogs are able to adapt pretty easily to the lifestyle.  Dogs love to be close to their people and we actually spend more time with him on the boat.    When Steve and I were working we often left Jazzy alone for 8 hours or more.  This never happens on a boat.  We may go out for dinner, but often the restaurant is pet friendly and he goes, too.  While we are in a marina he loves to be out on the exterior of the boat and patrol the perimeter.  He doesn’t jump off or on the boat unless told.  If I leave the boat to take out the trash he will wait patiently and watch for me to return.  There is always something interesting going on in a marina and he gets lots of attention.

When we are underway he sleeps, much like he does when riding in a car.  He doesn’t like a rough ride, but neither do I.  When the wave action gets too much he honkers down on the couch next to the pillows.  I try to sit next to him and we all grit our teeth until we get to smoother water.  I know that some dogs do get seasick, but he has been okay on the boat and not been sick.  He does the mental block out with sleeping.

Jazzy naptime
Naptime!

His favorite time is after we dock at the marina.  He knows that I have to go up to the office and check in and this is his time to explore.  Oh, he also knows that many marina offices stock up dog treats so he can’t wait to go.  He constantly is meeting new people and lots of dogs.  It would be difficult to travel with a dog that didn’t like other dogs or greeting people.  Fortunately, Jazzy is up for all of that.  I call it “Doggie Speed Dating”.   He can’t wait to get to the dog, but once he has had his sniff he is looking for a new dog.   He also looks forward to Docktails when people come to our boat.  If they have dogs, they are invited, too, so it all is one big social event. 

Dogs on Bord

Jazzy is fortunate that we often travel with his BFF, Mozzy (which is short for Maserati cuz he’s fast).  Mozzy is a five year old Shi-Poo who has adapted to Boat Life better than Jazzy.  They place “chase” up and down the hall, on the dock and especially on any beach.  Steve had to put up dog netting along the side of the boat because they would run back and forth “body checking” each other.  I would strongly recommend the netting for dogs living aboard if your sides are low.  We ordered the material online and Steve installed it himself.  We sometimes add more dogs as Gypsies Palace and become the dock kennel when owners leave the boat.  Abby from One Eye Dog loves to come on board and get the boys all chasing her ball.  We really do have so much fun with these dogs!

Some places come with Perks.  Recently, we stopped in Titusville, FL.  Next to the marina is a Dog Park.  Life could not be better than a Dog Park.  Well, maybe a beach is a great time, too, especially without a leash.  No one is happier than to see dogs enjoying themselves on a beach.  Jazzy likes the sand, whereas, Mozzy and Abby splash around in the water.

Dog in Dinghy
Happy Dinghy Ride

The dinghy is another reason for tail wagging.  Both Jazzy and Mozzy love to ride in the dinghy.  They readily jump in and out and cannot wait for Steve to get it ready for them.  They know the dinghy means “relief” and great spots to explore.   The dogs also love to ride in the kayaks.  Who knew?

The question that you all want to know is what do the dogs do when they have to go to the bathroom?  Are they trained to go on the boat?  Ideally, we all want the dogs to be boat trained on a pad before casting lines for the cruising lifestyle.   Sadly, that doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes not ever. 

When we left the dock 4 years ago Jazzy was not trained to go on a pad or the grass mat that we bought for the bow of the boat.  The one good thing that we did was to only take him out 2 times a day while we lived in the house.   He was used to a morning walk and one about 5:30.    He was good at holding it.  That really helped on the boat because we could walk him in a marina before we left and once when we docked.  That was no problem.  However, we put the grass mat on the bow and would take him up there in the morning and evening.  He thought it was great to stretch out and nap! 

Oddly enough, little Mozzy was a perfect boat dog.  When he is onboard he uses the mat regularly.  At first, Jazzy would follow suit, but then it got to be not interesting to go after Mozzy.  Jazzy basically ignored the mat unless a new dog came over to christen it.  He can’t stand not to leave pee mail!  He hasn’t fooled us.   He knows what that mat is for.  He simply chooses not to use it. 

Jazzy on the mat
Jazzy using the Mat

Marina life is pretty easy with dogs, but the problem arises when you want to anchor or take a mooring ball.  Then the most important equipment on the boat is a dinghy!   It also helps if the dingy is easy to operate because there could be multiple shore trips if the dog is unable to go on the boat.  Fortunately, our dinghy is on a lift that makes using it a breeze.   In searching for an anchorage we typically look for somewhere that we can land the dinghy.  It could be a beach or an actual dinghy dock.  Crowd sourcing on the internet has certainly helped us locate the right places.

Ideally, we would not have to drop the dinghy every time that we anchor if Jazzy would just go on the boat.  So, how do you train your dog?  We have read various methods and it all comes down to will power – can we stand to out last him and not give in?  Everyone says that your dog will eventually go if you continue to take him to the spot and out wait him.  When it he finally goes, he is rewarded.  Simple, but painful for the dog owners!  Steve decided to put this to the test while we were in the Exumas last year.  We were at anchor in some fairly strong winds and it was too rough to put the dinghy down.  We had both dogs on board.   We stayed on board 24 hours.  Mozzy used the mat, Jazzy wasn’t interested.  The next day the winds were still up and Steve decided to prove a point to Jazzy that he was going to out-last him.  Hours and hours went by and we went to bed.  Now we were into the 3rd day and Jazzy had only managed one pee even though we even took him out on a leash and walked him around.  At 54 hours I gave in and wanted off the boat!   Everyone went in the dinghy to shore and Jazzy immediately relieved himself.  So, the point is, he can hold it.  If we do not want to take the dinghy down, we don’t.   Frequently, we take it down to shore when we anchor, but not in the morning since we know he can hold it and he knows what the mat is for.   If we ever had a puppy we would teach him to go on command as that is also part of the boat training with the pad. 

The great thing about dogs on a cat is that the bow of the boat is so nice for them.  They have room to move around.  Speaking of cats, we have seen some cats on a boat.   Some are on leashes and some jump off and on at will.  It can be done as I have seen people that have made it work. 

Another issue is finding a groomer while moving from place to place. Many dogs do not need grooming, but Jazzy does. Quite awhile ago Steve decided to do it himself by watching You Tube videos. He even learned how to groom Mozzy! It has been definitely worth it.

Dog Grooming on a boat

We love having Jazzy with us and we think he loves boat life, too!  He has lots of friends, including Abby, the One Eye Dog, to play with as we cruise the waterways. 

Gypsies Palace

Meet Gypsies Palace – An Endeavour 50 Power Catamaran

Since we are starting over with our Coastal Journeys blog I thought it would be a perfect time to provide a more detailed look at Gypsies Palace and why we selected her.  The majority of our 1st blog was on a Leopard 47 Power Catamaran with a 25 foot beam.  Gypsies Palace now is an Endeavour 50 Power Catamaran with an 18 foot beam.  As you can tell, we love Power Cats! 

Gypsies Palace – Endeavour 50 Power Catamaran

We often get the question when people look at Gypsies Palace – “Isn’t she top heavy?”  I admit the boat does look that way, but she is not.   The boat is 52,000 lbs. and extremely stable in the water and wind.  This Endeavour appears to be tall, but she is only 19 feet to the top of our running light so we fit under many bridges. 

Gypsies Palace is an American made boat manufactured by Endeavour Corp., who has been making sailboats and catamarans for over 30 years in Clearwater, FL.  This is not a mass produced boat.  Only 11 Endeavour 50’s have been built with the last boat being splashed in 2019.  Endeavour also makes a 40 foot model that is very similar to the layout on our boat.  However, their most popular model is their Endeavour 44 Power Catamaran, which is also a great Looping boat. 

Bob & Alice Vincent from Endeavour Corp.

We truly did love our Leopard 47 Power Cat, but after two years cruising on it we decided that it just did not provide enough living space in bad weather.  The exterior cockpit was gorgeous, but frankly, we experienced more cold weather, rain, wind and bugs that made sitting outside unpleasant.  The interior salon was just too small for our needs. 

Why Did We Select the Endeavour 50?

  1.  Space – Gypsies Palace has nearly 850 square feet of living space.  There is plenty of room to entertain guests with a salon downstairs and a large Sky Lounge upstairs.  The feeling of openness with windows 360 degrees that can be opened up for cross ventilation.  That is a rarity in trawlers.  People find that a catamaran feels more open which is important when cruising long term.   Steve is 6’2’’ and is able to stand easily throughout the boat.
  2. Galley – It is a pleasure to cook on Gypsies Palace with an island bar much like you would have in a condo.  There is a dishwasher, propane stove, convection microwave, ice maker, 2 refrigerators, freezer and wine cooler.  There are deep pull out drawers and plenty of cabinets for storage.  Additionally, there is shelving behind one of the couches to store extra supplies.  Creating a dinner on board is just like cooking at home!  
  3. Master Bedroom – Again, plenty of space including a complete walk around bed that can be either king size or queen. 
  4. Master Head and Shower – It is mostly the shower we love.  It is down in one of the hulls and provides so much room!  There is plenty of room for toiletries, too.
  5. Comfort While Underway – We can easily carry on a normal conversation.  The helm / Sky Lounge has 360 degree visibility with windows (with screens) that we can open.  This is particularly nice when traveling the area with the biting files.  We are protected!   The staircase is inside so no one has to go outside in bad weather while underway.  The enclosed helm is also really nice on cold and rainy mornings.  We are dry and comfortable. 
  6. Stability and Maneuverability –  A catamaran provides greater stability and it is easy to control.  Our 18 foot beam allows us to fit in many marina slips. 
  7. Hull Design – Our props are protected in a tunnel drive.  Our hulls are actually flat and we could beach the boat and float off at high tide if we wanted to.  Our draft is 3.5 feet and even if we “touch” we can back off easily and continue on without any damage.  It is also harder for us to grab a crab pot!
  8. Economical – We typically travel at 10 mph and we burn 10 gallons per hour of diesel fuel.  We can also carry 1,000 gallons of fuel.  We have 2 Cummins QSB 6.7 engines at 425 horsepower each.  We can pump the speed up to 18 mph, but the fuel burn is considerably more.  It is go to know that we can do this faster speed if we need to outrun a storm. 
  9. Exterior Design – While we do not have a large outside seating cockpit area we do have 2 outside patios   The bow of the boat has an upper patio plus some cushioned seating below.  We also have a sliding door to an upstairs back patio with chairs if we want to face that direction.  The sides of the boat allow easy access to cleats and fenders.  The boat is smartly designed with 2 stepping areas on the stern which allow for low or high tides.  Additionally, we have a mid ship ladder for exiting on high fixed docks.
  10. Quality of Workmanship – Both the interior and exterior of the Endeavour is well thought out with beautiful woodwork and craftmanship.

So, how long are we going to do this?  

“WE’RE GOING TO ROCK IT, TIL WE CAN’T DOCK IT!”

Endeavour Owners

Coastal Journeys Re-Launch

Welcome to the Re-Launch of Coastal Journeys. You might ask, “Why is there a Re-Launch of our Coastal Journeys Blog?” The reason is that we forgot to renew our Domain with Go Daddy and failed to renew our blog theme. Blame it on the Bahamas and too much fun! We were enjoying the Exumas and did not pay attention to the email notices that were sent. The end result is that the original blog was not backed up so it was lost – our fault again. So, a new Coastal Journeys has to be created.

Our first Coastal Journeys blog was all about our adventure on the Great Loop in 2017. We had quite a time on a true Bucket List Journey that provided numerous memories and life long friends. We are now Gold Loopers having completed the Loop and are looking for new Coastal Journeys.

Gold Looper Flag
Gold Looper flag at sunset
Baltimore Harbor
Baltimore Harbor

For the past two summers we have enjoyed exploring the Chesapeake. We are continually finding new anchorages and new towns that are a delight. This year we went back to the Hudson River. It was every bit as beautiful as we remembered our Loop. We find that as we are now seasoned cruisers we spend many more nights at anchor.

This summer we also checked off a Bucket List for us which was anchoring behind the Statue of Liberty. It is a magical experience that did not disappoint. At night she held her lighted torch high against the backdrop of the New York City lights. We were delightfully surprised that the sun rose behind the Statue and we were able to capture that moment.

Statue of Liberty Anchorage

We also dipped our hulls into Long Island Sound where we took a mooring ball in Port Washington for a few days. The Long Island Railroad stops there and it is an easy trip into New York City. We always try to catch a Broadway Play and this year it was “Bat Out of Hell”. It was exhilarating and we loved it!

Coastal Journeys will feature our travel destinations plus also tales of everyday life as we cruise. We hope you enjoy being “virtual cruisers” with Gypsies Palace.

Deb & Jazzy on the bow of Gypsies Palace

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