We were able to welcome 2007 in one of our favorite places. The Naval Station in Mayport had twice been our home in the service and we arrived in time to take a New Years Eve walk on the beach. After a good meal we were soundly tucked in when the big apple fell. Up the next morning and, after another walk down to the jetties, we found a spot near Tampa to take in the bowl games and rest up. George Freed, a high school classmate of us both, arrived in Tampa on the morning of 2 January and kept us company on the long trip back to Key West. We had not seen George in some 45 years and his memory proved superior to ours, combined. The trip back to Boca Chica passed quickly as we relived the late 50s.
The next two days we did all the touristy things in Key West, including Hogs Breath Saloon, some fine dining and Mallory Square. Next, we put George to work as he and Bill sailed north on an "overnighter" to Sarasota while Jean ferried the truck up the Keys and across Alligator Alley. She was on the pier when we arrived late on Saturday, 6 January. Sarasota had been a stop on previous visits to the west coast and Marina Jacks location near the city center made for easy walking to all needs. The three of us celebrated Bill's introduction to Medicare on 8 January at a dinner theater and show. On Wednesday, George and Jean left by plane from Tampa; he returning to Houston and she to Manchester, NH to take in star performances by grandsons, Alex and Paul, in the high school musical. Bill took the opportunity to dig into some of the more disruptive maintenance projects, including replacement of all boat batteries.
We had a month to spend in Sarasota where the preparations and load out for the Bahamas would take place. The first three weeks were warm and sunny; partially offsetting the loss of both bikes to some crooks with a really big bolt cutter. Fortunately, with a complete police report, our insurance covered the losses. We will probably forgo our biking routine until after we return to the Chesapeake in May.
The dilemma of what to do with the truck was solved as we arranged a rendezvous in Jacksonville with Bill's sister Mary and her new Hyundai. With her help we located a nice storage place for the truck and a return lift to Sarasota. While in Jax we had a great meal with our two real estate experts, Jim and Randee Euliss. Over a little bit of wine they critiqued our condo contract for the place in Solomons. The trip back to Sarasota took us around the area of north-central Florida that had just been ravished by tornados.
Mary was a big help in Sarasota and quickly fell into the Starbucks routine with Jean. Her talents with computers were put to good use as the Mac got a full update for the first time in three years and Jean learned all sorts of new skills with the wireless computer. Mary helped us get underway mid-day on 7 February. The morning was filled with FEDEXed condo contracts, refueling and last minute shopping. As this section ends, we are taking an overnight journey to the upper Keys where we will step off for Bimini in the middle Bahamas.