Hello…again!

The comeback is always stronger than the setback.

Wow. 2020. What a whirlwind this year has been, right?

When the world shut down in March, all the worries went up. Not so much because of the virus (I am so grateful to the man upstairs for our good health), but I worried about our jobs and finances in this extremely uncertain time. We wanted to build up our savings, so we worked as much as we could which put blogging on the back burner along with a lot of other plans. I know that so many have suffered immeasurable loss, and my heart truly goes out to those. Ross and I are extremely lucky for so many reasons.

In other news, lots of cool things are coming to the blog and the Youtube channel soon! We are so excited to share whats in the works for us. New posts coming soon!

Friends & Fish Dip

“Good friends are hard to find, harder to leave, and impossible to forget.”

G. Randolph

When we first moved to the Treasure Coast, I was so worried about being far away from the family and friends I relied on all the time.  I remember thinking to myself, what if I have car issues and Ross is at sea and my Daddy is 3 hours away?  Or what if I crave the comfort of my Mama’s kitchen where we just talked, had a snack, and watched my niece bounce around?  What if I need a little therapy from my best friend while I sip on an ice-cold beer in “the bucket” of her couch?  I was so unsure of how I’d handle these situations, and it was definitely a scary time for me.

There were many times when I just missed ‘home’, and to be honest, occasionally I still do.  But instead of focusing on all the things I missed, I started to focus on the life I was building with my sweet captain. Home will always be there, and family and friends are only a phone call away. We were very lucky to have my step-sister and brother-in-law close by, and we began making friends quicker than I imagined!  Nothing could ever take the place of the relationships we cherish back home, but the new additions to our “crew” are equally as important.

Ross is so much better at making friends than I am.  He’s kind of like a golden retriever that will just walk up to new people with a smile and a “how ya doin’?” Whereas I’m more of a chihuahua that needs time to figure out if I’m going to love you or if I’m going to keep my distance and growl if you get too close! All in all, we have met some AWESOME people here.  People who give us work when we need it, help on the boat when we need it, and people who love on us when we need it.

Just recently, our friend Bernie offered to smoke several fillets of mackerel we had in our deep freezer.  The fillets were in vacuumed sealed bags, thanks to another friend, Craig, who packaged them up for us.  Bernie did an excellent job smoking the variation of King, Cero, and Spanish mackerels.  We decided to use some of it to make homemade fish dip!  Here’s a video on how we managed to make fish dip for the first time ever:

I’m going to be honest; I didn’t expect the fish dip to turn out as good as it did. However, it was very tasty! The way the smokey flavors mixed with the onion, cream cheese, and mayonnaise…delicious!  We spread the dip on a buttery, flakey cracker, and topped it with our own homemade pickled jalapeños.  We couldn’t get enough of the dip! Using only two fillets of the smoked fish, it made way more than the two of us could handle.  We nearly filled a large mixing bowl! Restaurants sell this stuff for $10 or more for a scoop, and here we have a huge bowl of it!  We didn’t want any of it to go to waste and we really wanted to share our scrumptious dip , so we packaged it up and delivered it to a couple families who we knew would enjoy it. 

Here’s the recipe!

The way the fish was packaged before it went to the smoker really got me thinking.  It was still very fresh even being in our freezer for a while.  Ross has been mentioning for a long time that he wanted a vacuum sealer for the meat we buy in bulk and for the fish we catch.  I kept putting it off simply because our place is small and we don’t have a lot of room for storage.  I finally caved and bought this FoodSaver vacuum sealer:

Nothing will make you feel more like an adult than buying kitchen appliances! The FoodSaver was a great purchase and is something that will reduce waste and save us money in the long run.  I didn’t realize (DUH) that it came with 2 large rolls of plastic (so you can customize the bag size) and several loose vacuum seal bags that are ready to go, so I bought a package of Nutri-Lock vacuum sealer bags as well. Needless to say, everything is getting vacuum sealed! We broke in our new sealer by packaging all of the smoked fish so that we could freeze it and make more dip later!

While searching for the perfect vacuum sealer on Amazon, I came across a nifty little gadget that I just had to have:

It’s a Bag Sealer! Super easy to use, and the magnet on the back allows you to store it on the refrigerator which gives you easy access to sealing any bag you want to make air-tight. It takes 2 AA batteries (which come with it), and also has a blade installed for easy opening. Family and friends, don’t be surprised if you get one of these for Christmas!

A safety switch is pushed up to reveal the blade.
Putting our new bag sealer to work.

As always, we want to thank you for reading our blog and following along! We seem to get a few more subscribers after each post, so THANK YOU to those who keep up with us!

Hit SUBSCRIBE on the YouTube video we posted here and you’ll be notified when we post new videos.

Smoked Fish Dip Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

2 fillets of Smoked Mackerel

1 Sweet Onion

8 oz Cream Cheese

1 cup Mayonnaise

1/2 cup Sour Cream

Pinch of Old Bay

Black Pepper to Taste

DIRECTIONS

Bring Cream Cheese close to room temp.

Remove all skin/blood lines from fillets.

Finely chop fish and put into mixing bowl.

Finely chop onion and add to bowl.

Add cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, and seasonings to other ingredients and mix well.

Spread on cracker topped with pickled jalapeño and enjoy!

Tourists in Our Own Town

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

If you guys haven’t already guessed it yet, being on camera is a little awkward for me.  And by a little awkward, I mean VERY awkward!  I try not to get caught up in my own thoughts while recording, but it doesn’t always work that way.  I try to stay focused on the present, but then my brain takes over.  Other ideas pop into my head and my focus shifts, or I start thinking about how I look or sound and then worry about being judged.  Yikes! I am definitely a work in progress!

You know what else is a work in progress?  Our content creating and video making skills! Some people make it look so easy, but there is so much work that goes into recording and editing.  We are most definitely beginners, but I have to say…I am enjoying it so much!  I think I get just a smidge better each time.  We have been researching equipment and software, and at some point, in the far future we hope we’ll be able to create some awesome content. The ideas are there, we just gotta make it happen!

In some situations, the content is just there waiting for us to grab it.  In other situations, we must go out in search of it.  That’s what we did last weekend.  We got up last Saturday morning with no plans for the day, so we decided to go on a trip to some of our favorite spots on the Treasure Coast.  Well, that was our plan anyway.  First, we decided to head north to Fort Pierce, Florida and record at some of our favorite locations there.  We ended up staying there the entire day, so we decided we’d do an “episode” for each location instead. Be sure to check out the video at the end of this blog to see our day!

Our trip started from our home in Palm City.  We drove through Stuart to Jensen Beach so that we could get onto Indian River Drive (IRD).  IRD is a 20 mile stretch that goes from Fort Pierce to Stuart along the Treasure Coast, with a spectacular view of the Indian River Lagoon most of the way (occasionally multimillion-dollar homes block the view).  IRD has been named as one of Florida’s Scenic Highways. The lagoon it borders is home to over 4,000 species of plants and animals and has been considered by scientists as the most biologically diverse estuary in North America (I learned that on a 6th grade field trip I chaperoned)!

We took IRD north, which led us right through the heart of Downtown Fort Pierce.  Downtown Fort Pierce is truly a hidden gem, and a special place for Ross and I because it’s the first place we lived when we moved to the Treasure Coast.  There are several locally owned shops and restaurants which gives the area a unique atmosphere.  Our first stop was at our favorite restaurant in the area, the Taco Dive.  The Taco Dive is exactly what it’s named, a taco dive, and it’s “not your average hole in the hole in the wall” as they call it! Their menu is small but consists of all-things tacos.  They always have a fresh catch of the day, along with beers from local breweries.  On this trip, Ross had steak and swordfish tacos, while I had steak and chicken.  They’ve got a few locations on the Treasure Coast, from Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie.  We heard Stuart may be next to get a Taco Dive, so we’re super excited about that possibility!

After our delicious lunch, we went one street over to the Fort Pierce City Marina.  This is one of our favorite marinas on the Treasure Coast, and it’s currently getting quite the makeover.  A brand-new restaurant is being built and they’re getting a brand-new fuel dock.  The City Marina is filled with all types of boats and thousands of fish!  When we lived there, I used to drink my coffee every morning in the cockpit and watch the giant Jack Crevalles and snook feeding on mullet under the docks.  It was such an awesome way to start my day.  The City Marina hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday morning, rain or shine.  Vendors bring everything from fresh veggies, handmade soaps, homemade baked goods, beautiful artwork, and more.  They also have food trucks and live music.  It’s a popular event every weekend!

From the City Marina, we jumped on A1A and went over the south bridge which crosses the Indian River Lagoon to South Hutchinson Island.  We stopped at Jetty Park so we could check out the Fort Pierce Inlet.  Not only is the Fort Pierce inlet gorgeous with it’s bright teal waters, but its typically very calm and easy to navigate due to its depth and width.  The weather was gorgeous, so there were several people fishing along the rocks and swimming in a small cove that’s protected by the jetty.  The park has picnic tables and grills for people to use, as well as swings overlooking the inlet.  It’s such a cool little spot!  There are several bars and restaurants nearby, so we decided to have a beer at Square Grouper which sits right along the water near the inlet. 

Ross and Mandy, Fort Pierce Inlet, Feb 8th, 2020

The sun was starting to set so we got back on the road and began our journey south to our home in Palm City.  Before we crossed the county line between St. Lucie and Martin County, we stopped at one of my favorite spots along A1A.  I’m sure there is a name for this area, but I don’t know what it is.  It’s an area where Hutchinson Island gets very narrow on the river side, and you can pull off to the side of the road to put your toes in the water.  The water is always calm and it’s a phenomenal spot to catch a sunset, thankfully we got there just in time. 

We had such a beautiful day being tourists in the area we now call “home.”  Next time, we’ll stay in Martin County and go to all our favorite places here! 

Thank you for keeping up with our adventures!  Tell us what you think in the comments!

Check out our trip to Fort Pierce!

A ‘Super’ Sunday

“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

Vince Lombardi

You guys…football is over (insert sad emoji).  We love football season in the Tomney casa! This past season was especially exciting because our favorite teams had pretty good seasons: The Green Bay Packers and the Florida Gators.  I have become a Green Bay fan by marriage, and Ross now bleeds orange and blue thanks to his newfound love for my beloved Florida Gators.  Our house was temporarily divided on December 30th when Ross reverted back to a UVA fan during the Orange Bowl game when the Gators took on the Cavaliers.  I couldn’t blame him for supporting his Virginia team, and for the record he’s all “WAHOOWA” during basketball season!  Still haven’t figured out why we are Packers fans, because there is no connection to Green Bay or Wisconsin, but Ross has loved the franchise for a long time and as for me…well, Matt LaFleur is easy on the eyes. (insert winking emoji)

Even though our Packers didn’t make it to the Super Bowl, we were still excited to watch the big game.  Some friends of ours invited us to their house for a Super Bowl party.  We had a great time watching the game with them and eating so much good food!  Even though we weren’t too concerned about the outcome of the game, we pulled for the Chiefs and were happy that they pulled off the W!

Before we could partake in the Super Bowl festivities, the Ridge Runner required a little attention.  We had another group checking in later in the week, so we spent the first part of Super Bowl Sunday preparing for the guests.  Since we had already stripped the used linens, washed them, and returned them to the boat, all that was left to do was put it all back together.  While Ross warmed up the cold motors, I got to work in the cabin.  Check out this video to see how it all came together:

As we mentioned in the video, February is turning out to be an extremely busy month for us.  We have several guests scheduled through the end of the month, so the Ridge Runner will have to be flipped multiple times for their arrivals.  This is so exciting to me!  Knowing how much effort and perseverance went into getting here, I am so happy to see this vision come to life.  Since it will be booked on the weekends, this will require that I flip the boat on the weekdays after work.  It’ll be exhausting, but totally worth it!

Besides the bookings, Ross has so much going on other than the Ridge Runner.  He has taken on an extra job in yacht maintenance, giving him an opportunity to become familiar with several different boats and their motors.  Don’t feel sorry for him yet!  This week, he’ll be mating on a private yacht for an owner who wants to go fishing out of Fort Pierce.  I know that sometimes his work is very hard, but I just can’t help but think that he has the best job in the world!  I know I’d rather be working the cockpit of a 57’ foot Sportfish than sitting at my desk all day!

In addition to all of that, later this month Ross will be taking a class at Chapman’s School of Seamanship to upgrade his license.  Currently he holds a Master Inland/OUPV Offshore license.  At completion of this course, he will hold a 100 Gross Tonne Master Near Coastal, which will allow him to charter as many as 49 passengers up to 100 miles offshore.  This upgrade could present more opportunities for his career in the future.  I am so proud of him and all his efforts to improve his knowledge in this industry! 

We have more content coming soon, so hit subscribe to follow along! Have a question? Leave a reply! This is all a work in progress and we’re definitely learning as we go. Thanks for reading and watching!

Checkin’ Out

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

-Henry Ford

Now that she’s had a full engine rebuild and some cosmetic upgrades, the Ridge Runner is ready to go to work!  Last summer it was decided that since she looks and runs better, she needs a better slip to call home. We absolutely love our new marina and all the extras that come with it. 

Along with booking charters, we’ve also been booking guests.  AirBNB guests, that is! We had our first booking in October, which went so well the guests booked an extra night!  We’ve had several others since then, and each guest has loved their stay aboard the Blue Ridge Runner as she truly provides a unique experience while visiting us in Stuart, Florida.  The boat sleeps 5 people, has two heads, a full galley, and more!  Tied up in her slip at the marina, the Ridge Runner provides gorgeous views of the St. Lucie River and downtown Stuart. As a bonus, we offer discounted sunset cruises and fishing trips to our guests. 

Preparing the boat for a guest’s arrival is quite a process.  We make sure it’s in top-notch condition before they check in.  Ross spends most of his time washing, waxing, and buffing the outside of the boat.  He also maintains the teak in the cockpit and runs the motors as much as he can to keep them in good condition. My responsibilities are in the cabin.  I make sure each stateroom and both heads have clean linens, the galley is tidy, and the salon windows are shiny so guests get to see the gorgeous views of the marina. 

Last weekend we had guests from Pennsylvania who stayed 3 nights on board.  They were a party of 5 visiting family who live in the area.  We thought we might get a sunset cruise out of this booking, but unfortunately they wanted to bring more people than the Coast Guard allows us to take.  The Blue Ridge Runner’s certification falls under the Uninspected Passenger Vessel Act, which only allows up to 6 passengers while the boat is for-hire. 

After check-out, Ross and I went to inspect the boat for any damages or forgotten items.  Thankfully everything was left in perfect condition, so we got right to work.  While I collected the used linens, Ross fired up the engines and the generator.  It’s very important for a boat’s motors to run often.  Depending on what stroke the pistons are in at the time of shut down, one or two exhaust valves could be open.  This would allow for salt air to flow into the cylinder.  It flows back through the exhaust, through the turbo, then through the exhaust manifold, and finally into the cylinder. As the boat rocks back and forth, the salt air flows in and out.  This will cause major corrosion inside the motor, hence the importance of running them often.  Check out our video on Youtube to get a first hand look at what happens after check-out!

All in all, it was a great weekend for the Ridge Runner.  The guests had a fantastic time, and we found the boat they way we left her.  Hit subscribe to see what happens before our next guest checks in!

A New Beginning

April 6th, 2019 Photo by: Amanda Smith Photography

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

-Plato

Since moving to this area in March of 2016, our life has been centered around this big ol’ boat, the Blue Ridge Runner.  In fact, it was our home when we first moved here!  I can remember the faces of people from back home when I told them I was moving south to live on a boat.  Some were thrilled at the adventure of living aboard, others gave me the “that’s nice” smile.  You know the one I’m talking about if you speak fluent southern lady.  It’s the one you give when you have nothing nice to say and you’re thinking a whole bunch of ugly in your mind, but you can’t say it out loud.  That’s okay, Lord knows I’ve given more “that’s nice” smiles in my life than I can count.  The truth is, I had no idea what was going to happen.  All I knew is that wherever my Captain went, I was going there also. 

Living on the boat was fun, in fact I really enjoyed it.  The slight movement made by the water rocked me to sleep like a baby every night.  Getting used to living aboard was interesting.  Catching a catfish with a piece of lunch meat, watching the sunset every night from the tuna tower, and frying the shore power cord while making dinner are some of the exciting memories I have from the few months we were “live aboards”.  We won’t talk anymore about that last part!

The hard part of living aboard was having to leave the boat when a charter was booked, or when other people were staying on board.  My closet was basically in the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee for several weeks, and we spent a small fortune on hotel stays. Those days were so stressful and could’ve easily strained our brand-new relationship, but it did just the opposite of that.  We only grew stronger and closer than ever. 

We’ve had several ups and downs with the Ridge Runner.  From name changes, dishonest mechanics, and engine rebuilds, at times it felt like the downs seriously outweighed the ups.  Looking back now its safe to say that the downs were just part of the learning process.  Ross has met some great people along the way that have taught him so much about the industry that he loves.  He has become a better captain because of the opportunities these folks have given him.  We are forever grateful for these relationships, and as for the Ridge Runner…it’s only ups from here!

Post #1

Here goes nothin’…

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.”

— John A. Shedd

I’ve started a blog, you guys! After years of long-winded posts on Facebook, I finally took the advice of those who have told me, “you should start a blog!” So here I am. Typing in a little box, with literally no idea what I’m doing. I’ll give you the names of the ones you can blame later. For now, here’s a little bit about me:

Hey ya’ll! I’m Mandy. I’m a 30-something wife to the love of my life, Captain Ross. Together we live on Florida’s beautiful Treasure Coast, currently in Palm City. I have a super glamorous job at a local school district (yes, that was a joke), while Ross runs his marine service business. We are big fans of everything this area offers from beautiful beaches, to world-class fishing. Having said that, we’re also big fans on sitting on our behinds in our living room and binge watching entirely too many shows ((insert shrugging emoji)).

I can’t tell you what this blog is going to be about, but I can tell you that it will be as REAL as possible. Our life is far from perfect, but we chug along together and make the most of everything we’re handed…growing and learning with every opportunity along the way. You can expect a little from him, a little from me, and lot from our experiences together as we just try to “stay afloat.”

You & I

“All the boats I’ve missed, all the hell I’ve caused, all the lips I’ve kissed, all the love I’ve lost, I got kicked around, I’ve been black and blue, on my way to you. “

-Cody Johnson
Ross & Mandy Shenandoah, Virginia, December 2015

Now that you know a little about what our plan is here, I wanted to dive into the story of “us”…Captain Ross and his first mate, Mandy.

Ross is originally from a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Shenandoah, Virginia. From a young age, Ross has had an infatuation (or what I like to call an obsession) with boats and being on the water. He got his first boat when he was 13…a 12 foot plastic Jon boat powered by Ross, his best friend Ethan, and two paddles. I imagine there were many adventures had on the Shenandoah River aboard the vessel that created Ross’ passion for boating. A few years later, he bought a ’64 Glastron Tri-hull off of Craigslist for $175. “We went back in the woods for that thing,” he said as he was describing it to me. The Glastron, named “Four Winns”, had a Johnson 60 HP Sea Horse in the back. If you haven’t already guessed, this thing was not reliable. Chuck, Ross’ dad, went along for the ride as the Four Winns made her first splash in the river. Ross recalls his Dad requesting to begin their journey up river, as the dam wasn’t too far down stream. Four Winns is still around. She sits on a piece of property by the river, in an area ironically called “Ship Wreck.” The last time I saw her, she had a tree growing out of her hull.

In his twenties, Ross decided to get his CDL and become a truck driver. He got a job with Melton Truck Lines and began his career on the road. In two years, he got to see the entire lower 48 states! Life on the road is lonely, and eventually Ross grew tired of driving so he packed a bag and drove south to join his parents in Florida. There he took a course and obtained the credentials needed to become a boat captain.

This is where I come in…

I was born in raised in Ocala, a big town with a small town feel in north-central Florida. I always loved education…not so much the going to school part, but I did love to learn and I loved my teachers. When I was young, I forced my little sister to play school with me. I was the teacher, of course, and she was always my misbehaving student! In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to get a part time job coaching the girls JV soccer team at a local high school. I fell head-over-heels in love with coaching. I was far from the best, but I loved my girls, and my girls loved me. Eventually I got a job at the school so I could be closer to my team. Best decision I ever made! You don’t make much money in public school systems, but the relationships you build and the impacts you can make are far more valuable in my opinion.

I turned 30 in August of 2015. I was proud of my independent woman status, working three jobs to take care of myself. I “didn’t need a man” and damn sure wasn’t going to waste my time on anyone unworthy of my attention! My oh my, how the good Lord will humble you when you need it most.

In early November of that same year, I was bored and decided to do some “swiping” on a dating app. I never took swiping too serious, especially after I matched with a pizza that told me how cute I was. Then one day I matched with a cute boy with a beard. A couple days later I received a message from that boy. A few days after that, we had our first date. I left him the evening of our first date knowing without a doubt that I would marry him one day. You know how they say, “when you know, you know?” Well, it’s true. Ross and I have been inseparable ever since.

In our first two months together, we both knew that Ocala wasn’t where we wanted to be. Ross wasn’t happy with his job and he wanted to fulfill his dream of being a boat captain. I had always longed to leave Ocala and start something new, so I began applying for jobs in the Treasure Coast area after Ross got an opportunity to work on a charter boat in Fort Pierce, Fl. Hanging up my coaching whistle was the hardest part, but it had to be done. I got a job in Martin County very quickly, and before I knew it, I was packing everything up and moving south with my captain.

December 12th, 2017

On a random Tuesday night in December of 2017 while enjoying a slice of pizza in our favorite place in Stuart, Ross asked me to marry him. It was easy to say yes, especially since I knew this day would come since our first date. On April 6th, 2019 in front of our closest family and friends, we said I do. Stay tuned, as our story is just beginning!

April 6th, 2019 Photo by: Amanda Smith Photography