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Tag: nannie

Nila Girl’s “Gourmet” Galley #2

Pizza on Pavana

A spoonful of inspiration.

Pizza made with a mahi Banff harvested baked in Pavana’s oven,  served with a salad on the side.

It seems that of all the foods we crave while adventuring on Nila Girl, which are many, pizza is at the top of the list.  It’s hard to find descent pizza in the Bahamas and if you do, it’s not likely to be worth the pretty penny you would spend on it.  Ren and I crave Antonio’s Commentatore pie from back home.  Lots of sauce, garlic, eggplant, basil and two cheeses perfectly melted on top with just the right amount of cheese grease drip when you fold a slice in half.  We miss ordering out a Commentatore and drinking one beer each while we wait for the pizza to be ready for pick up.  We pick up the pie and eat it with lots of crushed red pepper while taking in a movie projected on a king sized sheet in our old living room.  Next year, we’re bringing the projector with us on our cruise.

As Banff of Pavana, Ren and I perused the grocery aisles in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, we brainstormed about the night’s supper.  Within minutes, and almost jokingly, Ren sighed, “Pizza would be good.”  I groaned and immediately started pouting, knowing that this wasn’t an option until Banff, a beacon of light on our grim pizza situation, said, “Alright, let’s do the pizza thing.”  Banff already had the whole wheat flour and yeast needed to make the dough, which was really the only limiting factor.  Pavana was also adequately overstocked with everything we would need for the top of the pizza or anything else your culinary heart desired.  In short, Pavana was like a floating grocery store, but not Food Lion.  Pavana was a Whole Foods or Fresh Market, complete with organic selections and vegan options.  I think I spent a total of $40 shopping at ‘Groceries a la Pavana’.  Anyway, Banff already had pizza sauce, soy cheese, jalapenos and mahi to be grilled and added to the top.  Nila Girl isn’t exactly shabbily stocked herself.  She was to contribute fresh parmesan, straight off the block (thanks to a little Italian ancestry) and a nice big salad with all the fixings.  We picked up some mushrooms to add to the top, payed out and met Oreo at the grocery store sliding doors where he was keeping a close eye on the golf cart we rented. 

Eager to get back to the boat and start the dough, we finished our uneventful self-guided golf cart tour of Spanish Wells and hopped back into Banff’s dinghy to head back to the strong ships…

Digression:

Spanish Wells was uneventful if you consider I stayed up half the night researching the small island and it’s history of inbreeding.  It is safe to say that I became momentarily obsessed with the history of Spanish Wells, which includes Anglo-Saxon settlers, racial pride, and a long line of inbreeding.  I searched the internet for pictures of the people and family trees with branches intertwining like the trunk of a ficus.  Needless to say, I was disappointed when we got there.  First, the long history of inbreeding was not readily apparent in the people.  They looked normal, just with a backwoods sense of style.  Second, the place reminded me of my hometown of Richlands, NC but Richlands about 30 years ago.  Industrious people with a big red streak in a mostly white town.  Nothing unusual about Spanish Wells if you are already from the rural south.

We needed to shower, feed Oreo and pack our “supper time bag” (a waterproof bag made of recycled sailcloth by Ella Vicker’s Recycled Sailcloth Collection, perfect for keeping food items dry on the wet floor of a dinghy) for Pavana.  Snapping photos of the locals while heading out of the harbor area, I spotted something strikingly red floating in the water.  so red, it reminded me of that scene from the book, The Giver, where the young giver gets his first glimpse of color in an otherwise black and white world.  The color he saw was red and the imagery was powerful.  We approached the bobbing red objects with caution until…holy geez!  The floating red balls were bright ripe tomatoes with the occasional red bell pepper sprinkled in.  Apparently a box of fresh tomatoes and peppers had fallen off the dock right into the dinghy’s path, and nobody was claiming them.  Guess what goes surprisingly great on pizza…yep!  Tomatoes and red bell peppers.

Banff weaved in and out of the crimson gates as Ren and I stretched to retrieve very piece of valuable food we could.  Trust me, if retrieving floating food with a dinghy was an olympic sport, we would be representing Team USA.  A local, who was working on his boat engine nearby (I told you they were industrious people), noticed us scrambling and joined in on the aqua-harvest.  He relinquished his bounty to us poor sailors and we greedily grabbed the goodies.  Besides being on a budget, we were Team USA of the Aqua-Harvest event, not him.  He should check himself!  Ah but the pizza was looking better and better.  We wiped the drool from our mouths with our sleeves and continued on to the boats.

The four of us, Oreo was always welcomed on Pavana, met back up on Banff’s boat around 6:30 or 7:00, all freshly showered and hungry.  Banff had already let the dough rise and it was time for the art to begin.   Ren saddled up on the settee with a cold Budweiser and watched the magic happen.  Oreo sat right between my feet and waited for me to drop some magic on the floor.  Banff worked on shaping the whole wheat dough and grilling the fish while I threw together the salad and prepped the toppings for the pizza.  Cucumbers, chopped spinach, grated parmesan, tomatoes, squash, zucchini and some basil colorfully lit up the stainless steel mixing bowl the salad was contained in.  For a dressing, I mixed together olive oil and pear infused balsamic vinaigrette.  Banff opted for Amy’s Goddess dressing (a noble choice).  When the pizza dough was sculpted, Banff added jarred tomato sauce and swirled in spoonfuls of my Nannie’s homemade pesto, which I will be bringing a lot more of for our next cruise.  Pesto is good for a lot more than just pizza and pasta, folks.  The base of the pizza was painted perfectly with the sauces before flaked bits of lightly seasoned, grilled mahi were sprinkled in.  The already radiant pizza required some more green so chopped spinach and jalapenos were thrown on top.  The tomatoes and red bel peppers we found were sliced and delicately arranged on the bed of spinach, offsetting the green.  A few sliced mushrooms, the yellow soy cheese and white parmesan…voila!  The beauty of the meshing pizza ingredients made the raw colors palatable.

Banff popped our canvas into the oven and the three of us started giggling in anticipation.  Oreo did not giggle.  In fact, he was pretty pissed that I had prepared my share of the meal without dropping a single slice of anything.  Don’t worry, he always gets his share of, well, everything that we cook.  So that we didn’t start gnawing our fingers off, we passed the pizza cooking time in the most painless way possible.  Ren and I cracked open a couple of beers and the crew settled in for two episodes of the hilarious TV series, 30 Rock.  The laughter was the only thing strong enough to distract our appetites.  Of course, we checked on the pizza no less than four times while watching.  The hardest ten minutes of the evening came when the pizza was taken out of the oven and placed on the counter to cool.  Who’s idea was it to let food cool anyway?  We stared at the pie and suffered through the last ten minutes of our second episode.

Finally, the moment arrived.  The pizza was judiciously served in even amounts to prevent WWIII.  Since I am an athlete in training, i got a fair share of the pie too, despite being of the fairer sex.  The salad was dispersed, a mere afterthought lying next to the pizza.  A fluffy side dish to keep our slices comfortable before we devoured them.  We ate, savoring every bite, while watching a third episode of 30 Rock.  If you haven’t seen the show yet, you’re walking backwards.  We shared a solitary tear when supper was finished and the dishes were licked clean.  Banff took Nila Girl’s crew back to our boat and we said our goodbyes.  You see, homemade pizza was the perfect last supper to share with our new friend on Pavana.  We parted ways with a good taste left in our mouths, already eager for our next encounter with Banff.

Mahi Pizza (Pavana Style)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients:

1 grilled Mahi steak, lightly seasoned

1 cup cheddar or cheese substitute

1/2 cup parmesan (NO substitutes)

1/2 cup canned pizza sauce

1/4 cup pesto

Our Pizza Toppings:

spinach

tomatoes

jalapenos

red bell peppers

mushrooms

*Get creative with your toppings.  Include on your pizza anything that is on the verge of spoiling.  This avoids food waste and makes the pizza interesting.

Dough:

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup seawater

1 tblsp powdered yeast

1 tblsp sugar (we use agave nectar)

4 cups unbleached flour or wheat flour

Combine yeast warm water sugar and seawater and let stand 5 minutes.  Mix in flour and let stand until dough doubles in volume.  When dough has doubled, punch down and knead.  Let rise again by 50%.  Punch and knead again.  Take out 1/3 of the dough for the pizza crust.  Bake the rest as bread!

Mix “pizza herbs” into the dough (basil, parsley, etc). Spread the dough out on the cooking surface (foil works well on the boat).  Cover the dough with pizza sauce and add half the cheese. Let the toppings begin.  Add your toppings and cover with the remaining cheese to hold it all together.

Bake at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Let the  pizza cool on a cooling rack for at least 10  minutes before cutting.

Enjoy!

NOTE: I never measure amounts when I cook and guessed all the ratios in the recipe above.

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Acquiring Crew-Part 2

“It is surprising how many great men and women a small house will contain”

-Thoreau

Nina stayed at the house with us for three days.  As Nila Girl’s leave date approached we were not eager to leave our new friend behind quite yet.  We were sharing experiences; she introduced us to the movie, Taxi Driver…which disturbed our sleep, we showed her the value of a home cooked lobster supper.  She engaged me in really fulfilling breakfast conversation, we took her diving.  It was a symbiotic relationship that needed more time to develop.  Against our initial gut-reaction, which was to haul away and leave a trail of tears behind us, we invited Nina to crew along from Green Turtle Cay, Abacos to Harbour Island, Eleuthera.  It would be two full days of sailing.  We warned her that she may get sick, the weather could get rough, we didn’t have facilities to urinate in, etc.  Without batting an eye, I told you she has a pure sense of adventure, she agreed not to complain about the aforementioned shortcomings and spent the rest of the day canceling and re-booking flights, and I mean the entire day.

A hint of apprehension came while Ren and I were loading Nila Girl up with the personal effects we had brought to Doc’s house.  Laundry, food items, toiletries, etc. filled the bottom of our dinghy.  After we offloaded our belongings we started carting Nina’s stuff over, and kept carting, and kept carting.  With the hard bottomed rolling duffle she had it was apparent that when she booked her vacation she was not anticipating a stay on a sailboat.  And if she was, she had no idea how to pack for it.  This, however, was not her fault but I admit, I panicked a little when the walls of our 10’ beam boat began to collapse in around me as more stuff came piling in.  It wasn’t just the sheer volume of extra things we were taking on that caused the trepidation but the idea of letting a near stranger into our intimate little nest.  The boat is small and Ren, Oreo and I are already exposed to too much in our tight little space.  For example, I can smell and hear Ren pooing while I’m cooking breakfast just 10’ away.  When Oreo got sick from eating sand, he barfed up the fish skin he ate just 4’ from our pillows.  We woke, not to the sound of him barfing, but to the smell of rank fish.  A lot of love and trust make living in this constricted space possible.  I was concerned about how well Nina would fit in to this, and not necessarily with her comfort level but with mine.  A strange girl peeing off the side of the boat just seconds from my husband.  Things could get weird pretty quick if the situation wasn’t handled tactfully.  Ren left me alone on Nila Girl to unpack and organize our things and Nina’s many bags.  I sat alone on the settee for a moment as he ran the dinghy back to the dock to retrieve Oreo and our new crew member.  As I sat, I though to myself, “Well hell, there’s no turning back now.  The sooner I get all of this stuff put into a proper place, the sooner I can regain a sense of control,” which, unfortunately, my character needs.

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Nina Sernacker, Nila Girl’s new crew. Stay tuned for more info on this author’s new book.

With about two minutes to spare before everyone arrived, I found a place for everything and threatened the rest of the crew when they did arrive that everything should STAY in its place.  After the threat, Nina explained to us that her family was incredibly apprehensive about her decision to board a boat of strangers and set sail.  Turns out we weren’t the only nervous cast of characters in the play.  Over Skype, the captain and I had to reassure, as best as we could, Nina’s Mom and sister that our intentions were not to lure her in to a death trap, knowingly.  We had never murdered anyone on the high seas, yet.  And our pirate lifestyles were limited to Ren’s beard, the pour of rum into our coffee (pirate breakfast), and the occasional pillage.  In turn, our family had to be convinced that Nina wasn’t a “friendship scammer”.  Picking us out of the crowded harbor to gather intel about our boat and relay the valuable information to her counterparts who would ambush us at sea.  If this were true of Nina’s intentions, it would make her both the worst friendship scammer and best actress in history.  The worst scammer because of all the boats in the White Sound anchorage, all but us clearly had enough resources to ensure the most basic comforts while sailing.  Comforts such as a head that you can urinate in, or a shower even.  These comforts must have been lost on Nina because she choose Nila Girl.  A boat where she was required to pee in a bottle (also sharing the apparatus that funnels the pee into the bottle with me) or pee overboard in front of the whole world.  She was required to shower out of a bucket, outside in the cockpit (which she opted to refuse during her time aboard).  She would be the best actress in history because not even Martin Scorsese could script the laundry list of questions and concerns that Nina poured on us.  She responded to our directions and plans with the utmost concern, verging on panic at times.  None of her questions were of the type that would be helpful in conveying usable information to scamming counterparts.  She had no clue about our direction, coordinates, firearm situation, communications, nothing!  These simple facts alone were enough to convince us that she was crew material, not a really bad scammer.  A bed was made for Nina on the starboard side settee, the beautiful, yellow curtain/door for the v-berth was pulled shut (thanks Nannie!) and we closed our eyes, excited about the leisurely sail we had ahead of us the next morning and slightly nervous in anticipation of how our new situation was going to shake down.

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Ashley and Nina bonding in the settee.

We began a nice two day sail over to Harbour Island, Eleuthera at about mid-day the next morning.  We were waiting to depart for high tide so we could traverse a particularly shallow part of the path.  Before our departure we had time to treat ourselves to another breakfast at the Green Turtle Club.  Breakfast is definitely my favorite meal of the day.  It also happens to be the most affordable meal to eat out (win, win, win).  We ate, stowed our gear, pulled the anchor and were off.  The wind was nice, the company was stellar and the sunset later was magic. 

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Nothing like a little yoga to keep the muscles loose under sail.

Along the way, Nina and I enjoyed stretching on the bow of Nila Girl while Ren took pictures.  We listened to good music the whole way ending in blue grass, which Nina loves, surprising us since she lives in NYC.  Nina and I practiced our amateur psychology as we discussed our families, work, fears, passions, blah, blah, blah.  I’m sure Ren and Oreo were wondering when the chickens would stop squawking…which would be never….muhahaha.  I took full advantage of having a female companion on board.  You know, another female, who would actually answer your questions in a timely manner after you ask them.  Another female who would patiently listen to your rendition of the night’s dream before sharing hers.  Having Nina on board for conversation was a luxury.  Ren, eager to make Harbour Island, suggested that we sail through the night.  I was not as eager to subject our new crew to that kind of treatment, meaning, an overnight sail.  He shortly rescinded his threat of a night passage when his stomach began to growl and he realized his chances of a descent meal were greatly reduced if we were not at anchor.  Also, the path was a treacherous one at night.  We would be able to navigate more safely during the day, with the sun overhead.  We dropped our hook in  a desolate and protected place called Lynyard Cay.

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Nina, throwing the peace sign, happy as a lark under sail.

Leaving Lynyard early the next morning, Ren and I let Nina sleep in as we prepped ourselves and Nila Girl for the ocean crossing making Harbour Island would require.  Letting her sleep seemed like the descent thing to do but proved to be a mistake.  Having your breakfast down, things stowed, coffee or tea made and morning constitutional expelled before letting the ocean push you around all day is key to having the most pleasant day of sailing possible, despite the conditions.  It is not prudent to wait for Mother Ocean to kick you in the face before attempting to cook breakfast, and you wouldn’t want to miss breakfast!  Once the motion of the ocean begins, the time spent below deck, in the cabin, must be limited, otherwise you run the risk of being punched in the gut by the nausea of seasickness.  This is precisely the ill fate that awaited our newest crew.  It was our fault for treating her like a passenger, not a crew member, by letting her sleep.  Melville warned against sailing as a passenger as opposed to crew in chapter one of Moby Dick, which I know because Nina read this aloud to us while sailing.

She spent the sick day lying about the cockpit, swallowing bits of vomit just to keep it all down.  Ren assured her that she was earning her sea legs by hanging tough through the sickness.  Landfall at Harbour Island couldn’t have come soon enough for Nina.  When it did, an elated smile washed over our three faces.  We entered the precarious inlet and were rewarded with the flat calm  waters of the harbor.  The shallow harbor floor was littered with huge starfish, nestled in stark white sand.  The captain picked out a quiet spot to anchor Nila Girl where we saw Puff anchored just behind us.  Puff is a mini-pirate ship looking sailboat belonging to our friends Brian and Jeanette Pucella, who are also from NC.  Needless to say we dropped the hook, met up with the sea-weary Brian and high tailed it to land with our libations, avoiding the additional cost of buying drinks at the resort bar where we tied up the dinghies.  We drank and decompressed while Oreo enjoyed peeing on every manicured grain of sand at the resort.  He ran through the neat Zen garden of a beach, peeing and dragging his feet through the little sand rows.  We didn’t even try to stop him.  He deserved the moment.  When we finally limped back to the boat, we made a gorgeous and substantial supper and swallowed the meal and the day down.  All apprehensions relieved through a successful trip, drinks and food.

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Christmas in The Keys

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Sweet Christmas card made by our buddy, Caleb Jimenez.

Pictured left is a homemade Christmas card made by freedive student, Caleb Jimenez.  He even included the perfect number of weights on the bottom of the weight belt (silver squares at bottom of card).  Thanks Caleb!

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Merry Christmas Ren!

To preface this entry you must know that, until today, we have been docked in Big Pine Key at a friend’s house since December 14th.  Our longest dockage yet.  A great pair of family friends, Mr. Duncan and Mrs. Lee Dawkins gave us permission to dock at their home.  While there, for a week and a half we had access to their scooters, home, everything!  It was a wonderful reprieve from the boat, especially for Oreo who really relishes his “pee on everything” time.  Which doesn’t come often enough while traveling.  We will never be able to adequately thank the Dawkins for their hospitality.

The first Christmas ever spent away from my family was…you guessed it…this year, on Big Pine Key.  Well, I suppose the word family encompasses more than my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and brother these days.  Now that I have a husband, Oreo and in-laws there’s plenty of family to go around.  Tnis doesn’t absolve my nostalgia for missing the Futrals badly.  I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried.  Christmas in the Keys includes warm weather (no white Christmas this year) and no shopping (a plus on a fixed income).  Instead, Ren and I spent a good bit of time hunting the elusive, barely legal lobster in the bays surrounding Big Pine Key.  After exhausting all of our lobster hunting resources, we managed to surface with two lobsters the entire week and a half we were in the Keys.  Needless to say, the overflowing lobster Christmas Eve dinner I had planned was lobsterless.  This could’ve been a problem (until we realized it didn’t matter at all) since the entire menu I had planned really depended on lobster as the centerpiece.  What is it they say about eggs and one basket? 

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Christmas wouldn’t be the same without our travel friendly Charlie Brown tree.

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Good bud, Kolt Johnson and Ren during a Christmas visit.

We didn’t spend the holiday completely alone, the three of us.  The “Big Chapmans” came down for a four day excursion.  The “Big Chapmans” consist of my father-in-law and his wife.  Mr. Frank and Mrs. Paula added the family element to our tropical Christmas.  Despite the slow paced Key-sey (everything is a bit tackier in the Keys, read: Keys-ey) holiday, ours was not without a little bit of obligatory family tension.  All tension was dissolved the first night with a bit of rum, some Will Farrell re-runs and X-Factor (the popular Fox talent show).  Our buddy Kolt Johnson and his family also came down to Big Pine in search of the Christmas lobster.  Kolt has been abroad for several years now and catching up with him is becoming increasingly more difficult.  It was really great to have the opportunity to spend quality time with him.  We even got to go hunting together, which is what spurred the friendship to begin with.  Mr. Ken Johnson, Kolt’s Dad, took us all out hunting in his boat one afternoon.  We also had the chance to have a few “family” meals together.  The only thing missing was our other buddy, Bruce.  Bruce, Kolt, Ren and I have become pretty good buds over the years.  What makes better family than friends? 

It was a bit harder than usual to get into the Christmas spirit with the common Keys theme of kissing dolphins (ugh), tropical fish and pastel colored everything.  Sent with the in-laws by Mom was a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  We set the perfectly sad little tree up on the kitchen island and surrounded it with Christmas cards from family and friends.  Both of our mothers sent boxes of cookies with Mr. Frank and Mrs. Paula.  We received the cookies four days before Christmas and have managed to eat all but about five.  We have to save the last five because if we eat those, all of our worst thoughts about our lack of self-control will become reality.  We will have proved ourselves to be the gluttonous pigs we always thought we were.  Those five cookies will sit and get stale before they are ever chucked down the gullet.  We have to maintain control out here.  WE CAN’T LOSE CONTROL!  Sorry for yelling.  Also arriving with the Big Chapmans were bits and pieces of our lives left behind in our haste to get on the road…ahem…water, back in November.  Evolve Freediving t-shirts (for sale, email [email protected]), a few pieces of exercise equipment (made for me by Don Kimball, thanks Don!), two fresh blocks of parmesan cheese (my mother has Italian roots),  Italian bread, our mail, etc.  These were all welcome Christmas presents until last night when we had to load all of our new treasures into the boat.  Which we did, complaining the entire time.

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The “Big Chapmans” down for a visit!

To set the mood Christmas Eve, none other than Bing Crosby would do.  My favorite Christmas music memories are of Bing’s low voice echoing down my childhood home’s hallway as I raced to the steps near the kitchen with my brother, Corey, to peer across into the living room where our always grand Christmas tree shone bright with multi colored lights.  I was always grateful, and still am, at my Mom’s ability to avoid the themed Christmas tree.  No all white light trees or mauve bows on our tree.  It was every man for himself as we littered our trees with lights and  ornaments of every kind.  No comparison to the Charlie Brown tree of this year but the small tree proved to be enough for us and is nestled in one of our boat lockers waiting for next year.  Since there was no lobster on the menu, Mrs. Paula and I supplemented with collard greens sent by Ren’s Mom and Mudder (Grandmother), angel hair pasta with anchovie sauce (don’t worry Mr. Frank, no anchovies in your pasta) and eggplant and squash pate with crackers.  It was different from the usual hoopla of a huge Christmas Eve supper but DAMN, it would do.  It wasn’t half bad either.  We finished up the meal with chocolate roll sent by my Nannie.  I’ll go ahead and tell you, you’ve never had anything like it.  A little “It’s a Wonderful Life” and that was a wrap. 

The Big Chapmans left Christmas morning before we checked under the tree to see if Santa came to Big Pine Key.  We said our goodbyes, sent them off, then checked  the tree.  Santa came!  He left, tackily in a brown bag, a Spanish-English dictionary, a piece of dark chocolate with sea salt and a bar of Dr. Bronner’s “magical” peppermint soap.  Ren was happy since he really wanted the dictionary and loves Dr. Bronners and chocolate with sea salt.  Santa takes notes and always surprises!  The day was spent outfitting the boat for our next adventure.  We  cleaned and organized the boat for the next leg of the race, down to Key West.  Actually, this is being written en route to Key West.  We are exactly, hold on a second….”Ren!  Ren!  How far are we from Key West?  Huh?  What?   Ok, Ok!….Ren says we are 12 miles to our entrance.  Not too shabby.  We left Big Pine Key last night to catch the high tide.  We did not want  a repeat performance of our arrival into Big Pine, where we spent about 5 hours ran aground,  waiting for the tide to shift in our favor.  We safely exited the channel from the Dawkins’ into the bay at about 9:00 pm last night.  We camped in the bay and left at 7:00 am this morning (Captain’s orders) to continue on to Key West. 

First thing is first when we get there, dunk Oreo in the water…he’s hot, poor guy.  Second thing is second, or first maybe, dunk Ashley in the water…she’s hot, poor girl.