Part 3…Boating day, Lake Harris and Dora Canal..

As water birds, Anhingas spread their wings to dry out their feathers and sit in this position until dry.

Yesterday afternoon, around 4:30 pm, Tom headed to the Orlando Airport, an hour’s drive, to pick up our friend Rich upon his return to Florida from Minneapolis. During the drive, Tom encountered a horrific traffic accident, but he left early enough to get there in time to pick up Rich. The accident was in the opposite lane on the freeway, but gawkers slowed traffic to a crawl.

An anhinga bird sitting atop a fallen branch.” A long-necked, long-tailed swimmer of southeastern swamps. Often seen perched on a snag above the water, with its wings half-spread to dry. It can vary its buoyancy in water, sometimes swimming with only head and neck above water (earning it the nickname ‘Snakebird’). Often solitary when feeding, it roosts in groups and nests in colonies. It looks rather like a cormorant when perched, but not in flight, when the long tail may be spread wide as the Anhinga soars high on outstretched wings. Anhingas are mostly silent, but around nesting colonies, they make various croaking and clicking sounds.”

On their return drive to our place, they were in the same lane as the accident and didn’t get here until a few minutes after 7:30. None of us had yet to eat dinner, and I had big New York strip steaks ready for the grill with rice, salad, and dessert.

Houses along the shore of the canal to Lake Harris.

Once they arrived, they grabbed an ice-cold beer I’d put in the freezer for them. Tom fired up the grill while I started the rice and tossed the salad.

Shortly after 8:30, we sat down to dinner. Rich had promised his mother-in-law, Donna (whom I visited on Friday), he’d spend the night at her house in Leesburg, so he didn’t stay overnight after all. After dinner, he was on the move, so I packed dessert for him and Donna.

An osprey sits on its nest atop a platform on an electric pole.

By 9:30 pm, we had the dishes done, the kitchen cleaned, and finally sat down to stream a new show on Netflix, “Citadel.” By 11:00 pm, we both headed off to bed, having a good night’s sleep.

We went for our usual walk this morning and returned to make breakfast while I started laundry. With our passports renewal applications sent yesterday by FedEx, our next big task was to book our flight and hotel to Edinburgh, Scotland, departing Orlando International Airport on July 28, arriving in Scotland on July 29, and staying three nights in a hotel, the best and closest we could find close to the cruise terminal in Leith.

It was fun to see this seaplane taking off from the lake.

The hotel we wanted, The Bay Hotel, across the bay from the cruise terminal, was showing only two rooms left. Plus, we couldn’t book our seats for the red-eye, non-stop flight. It took us over two hours to book both airfares and the hotel when the prices kept jumping around.

We were thrilled to find a non-stop flight, one of the few offered from Orlando, although only on certain days of the week. We got an excellent price for airfare and three nights in a hotel, July 29, July 30, and July 31. As a result, we’re leaving The Villages on July 28, not July 29, as initially planned.

An interesting home at the entrance to the Dora Canal.

Using the Expedia link on our home page, we saved hundreds of dollars on the combo price of air and hotel by booking both together. We paid only about $500 more for the three-night four-star hotel, including breakfast, about 20 minutes from the Port of Leith, a suburb of Edinburgh. It will all work out well.

One canal-front home had a garden filled with gnomes.

With that out of the way, we can relax over the next several weeks, continuing to enjoy our time in The Villages. After many house guests since we arrived, the next few weeks will be easy, even though our only means of transportation will be the golf cart from now on. But we don’t mind a bit.

Tourists in a group tour of the lake and canal in these unusual dual-motorized surfboards.

We have everything we need right now and will order next week’s groceries online at Kroger, as we’ve been doing in the past month since we arrived. Tomorrow morning, the house cleaner is coming for the monthly cleaning included in our rent. We’ll either leave in the golf cart or stay out of the way on the lanai.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 31, 2013:

Wow! Wow! Wow! Tom took this photo from the 124th-floor observation deck of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, with a total of 163 stories. For more photos Tom took at the top, please click here.

Part 2…Boating day, Lake Harris and Dora Canal…Note, please, two ten year ago photos…

A heron in the shadows in the canal.

Now that Memorial Day has passed, we’re continuing with photos from our boating day this past Saturday with new friends Linda and Burt and their friends Claudette and Jay.

We had a busy morning today, finishing the documents for our passport renewals that we dropped off at the local FedEx store since today is the last day we’ll have a car. No words can express the relief of having our passport renewal applications in the mail today. It was quite a task to complete all the paperwork.

An egret on a fallen log.

Fortunately, we’re using a company, CIBT,  that states they can get the new passports back to us in the mail within ten days of their receipt of the package we sent today. Here is the cost, per person, through this company for the fees to process the passports quickly:

SERVICE AND PROCESSING FEES (per person for expedited service)

Renew Passport
CIBTvisas Service Fees $499.00
Government Agency Fees $190.00
UPS Next Day Air $53.00
Inbound Shipping Label $57.00
Passport Replacement Coverage $43.00
Fees Summary $842.00

If we didn’t require expedited service, we could have applied directly to the US State Department for passport renewals, avoiding the $499.00 fee for each of us. This is the fourth passport we’ll have received during our over ten years of world travel: ten years, two years, and later four years, and now another ten-year passport.

Picnicking at Lake Harris County Park.

We applied for and received the shorter-term additional passports of two and four years to enable us to mail in a passport when we needed visas for various countries to have a valid passport in our possession while the other was in the mail. We never wanted to be in a foreign country without a passport in our possession while another was being processed. For now, we aren’t ordering second passports for this purpose unless we see a need that we don’t foresee in the near future.

Smiling alligator on a log.

Today, Tom will pick up our friend Karen’s husband, Rich, at the Orlando airport at 6:00 pm. Karen traveled to Seattle from Minneapolis after her son Jack’s wedding to be with a friend going through cancer treatment. That’s just the kind of friend she is!

It was exciting to see alligators which are overall smaller than crocodiles.

Tonight, Rich will have dinner with us and then spend the night. Tomorrow, he’ll drive back to their new home in Bradenton, and we’ll return to using the golf cart for all of our transportation. We’ll do fine with groceries delivered weekly from Kroger and two nights out per week for dinner. The closest village square is Brownwood Paddock Square which takes about 20 minutes to use the golf cart.

As it rolls into summer in Florida, which is in the Northern Hemisphere, it stays light a few minutes more each day until we reach the summer solstice on June 21. We plan to go to dinner early and return while it’s still light. For example, the sun sets tonight at 8:07 pm. This will work well for us. If we’re with people and don’t leave by 8:00 pm, we will be fine driving on the golf cart paths indicated on an app on my phone.

The pier at a restaurant, Hurricane Dockside Grill, is situated near Lake Harris.

Other than Rich coming tonight and a get-together with readers next week, we are ready to start contacting readers who contacted us to get together. If you haven’t contacted us for a get-together, please feel free to contact us soon. We are trying to meet all the readers who’ve reached out who live in The Villages or nearby. We’ve been very busy so far, but we’re enjoying all the social time.

A beautiful view as we maneuvered through the narrow Dora Canal.

Many people approach us and are very friendly and welcoming. It reminds us of Jabula, although nothing will compare to Dawn, Leon, and David welcoming us two nights a week and all the wonderful friends we’ve made in the bush. Plus, we’re having so much fun hanging out with locals at the outdoor bars at many good restaurants.

That’s it for today, folks. We’ll be back with more photos tomorrow!

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 30, 2013:

Umer, our driver, insisted we stop for a photo op in front of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque., also known as the White Mosque. For more photos, please click here

Not my most flattering photo. Tom looked great! We’re standing in front of the architectural scale model of the White Mosque. After we posed for this picture, a security guard rushed over, telling us we could not touch one another in the mosque. Of course, we complied. For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…Boating day, Lake Harris and Dora Canal…The differences between an alligator and a crocodile…

After years of spotting crocodiles, seeing alligators in the Dora Canal was exciting.

Boating with Burt and Linda and Linda’s friend Claudette and Burt’s neighbor Jay was exhilarating. No more than 10 minutes into the boat ride on Burt’s newer pontoon boat, we spotted numerous alligators, which were very exciting. It was easy to see the difference between alligators in Florida and crocodiles in Africa.

But, for those unfamiliar with both of these scary-looking and dangerous creatures, we thought it was important to share the differences.

A young alligator was resting on a log.

The differences are listed below between an alligator and a crocodile from this site:

“Although they may look similar at first glance, the most significant differences between alligators and crocodiles are their overall size, snouts, jaws, coloring, feet, and teeth. Take a quick look at how you can differentiate between the two reptiles. The comparison between the American alligator and the American crocodile shows the unique qualities of adults from each species.

Alligator Crocodile
Size 8.2 feet to 11.2 feet long
400lbs to 800lbs
10 feet to 20 feet long
300lbs to 2,000lbs
Snout U-shaped snout V-shaped snout
Jaws A wide upper jaw hides the
lower teeth and overlaps the
lower jaw
The upper and lower jaw are roughly
the same size, allowing the teeth to
Feet Webbed feet allow for better
Feet are not webbed but possess
a jagged fringe
Teeth Roughly 80 teeth 66 teeth
Colors Dark gray or black, with a cream underside Olive green or light brown with a mottled pattern

These differences make it easy to identify an alligator and a crocodile. As with many other creatures, the males are larger in both the alligator and the crocodile, but the crocodile is a much larger reptile overall.”

Linda and one of her two dogs, Havana and Luna, who joined us for the day.

After we boated past the first canal, where we spotted the alligators, we headed out to the open expanse of Lake Harris, as shown in the photo below.

Once we exited the canal closest to Burt’s home, we reached the vast expanse of Lake Harris. “Lake Harris Lake in Florida 4.5 60 Google reviews Lake Harris is a lake in Lake County, Florida, United States, 31 miles northwest of Orlando. It is part of the Upper Ocklawaha River Basin, a sub-watershed of the St. Johns River. It is one of seven lakes in the Harris Chain of Lakes or “Ocklawaha Chain of Lakes.” Wikipedia Area: 21.54 mi² Surface elevation: 62′ Fish: Northern pike, Largemouth bass, Channel catfish, Blue catfish, White perch.”

We always enjoyed boating, and when Tom and I met almost 32 years ago, we both had boats, and each of us had owned boats for years. It had been a long time since we’d been on a boat on a lake. The last time was on Lake Minnewashta in Minnesota with friends/neighbors Jamie and Doug in 2017. For that post, please click here.

Our captain, Burt who, joyfully hosted us for the day.

Being out on the water on a perfect weather day was ideal. Mother Nature was kind to us to provide a sunny day without high temperatures and a gentle breeze. We couldn’t have asked for more. Burt’s newer boat was comfortable. We each got a slight sunburn but not severe, and we felt no discomfort today.

Claudette and Jay chatted while comfortably seated on the back bench.

We stopped at a lovely Lake Harris park for a lunch picnic. We found a great picnic table sheltered from the sun, and all six of us took out the various items we shared. We brought homemade chicken salad and coleslaw. Claudette had a big package of croissants to share, and the four of them added the chicken salad to make sandwiches, except Tom and I, who went bun-less, as usual.

There’s my guy, Tom, wearing the hat we got on the Maharajas Express Train in India in 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit.

After lunch, we continued on the journey to see the famous and impressive Dora Canal. We had no idea how gorgeous it would be and we will share photos in the next few days. We took dozens of photos, many of which we still have to share.

Me, wearing my African hat.

A special thanks to new friends Linda and Burt for the beautiful day boating and for sharing your favorite spots with us in the exquisite chain of lakes in central Florida.

Be well.

This map illustrates the chain of lakes where we motor-boated in part yesterday, starting at Harrie Lake and heading to Lake Dora, including the famous Dora Canal.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 28, 2013:

Figuring a little warmth and sun might benefit us; we could only stay outside for 30 minutes in Dubai’s windless, scorching heat. For more photos, please click here.