Category Archives: Florida

Movin’ on…to more anchoring woes

2/10/17
Marathon FL, Boot Key Harbor
Position: 24 42.217N, 081 06.083W
Posted by Bill

We wrapped up our visit with Tricia’s sister and her husband and headed back to “reality”. Our visit was great. Great to hang out with them and some friends that visited from Ohio while we were there. We found a great place to get fresh seafood, and the girls prepared a feast of lobster tails, shrimp and tuna, with fettuccine alfredo:
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Man was it good! We also enjoyed a few “drink and drift” sunsets. This is something we picked up in the Bahamas. Participants would take their dinghies out into the harbor, tie them all in a big flotilla, and enjoy cocktails and appetizers while watching the sunset. Here in Buttonwood Sound we used our dinghy, kayaks and a row boat. We had some great sunsets:
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We stayed there almost 2 and ½ weeks, way longer than originally anticipated, and we needed to get back to Marathon as we were getting low on the wait list for a mooring ball. You have 2 hours to get to the marina office after they call, or the mooring is given to the next person, so you need to be close. The boat had been anchored out for close to 10 days in the same spot, and we visited it daily to charge batteries and open it up, but we were only there an hour a day. Around day 8, I started to notice a cormorant (sea bird) sitting on the bow, using the anchors as a personal toilet. Not too bad to clean up…but day 8 had 4 birds, and day 9 had 7 birds. Needless to say, the entire front half of the boat was an absolute mess, and smelled horrible. Before we departed on the 6th, we spend several hours cleaning the boat as best we could on anchor. Here is a picture of the bastards on day 8:
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We stopped at the anchorage where the Lorelai bar is on Islamorada, and spent the night. Lorelai’s was one of our favorite bars in the Keys, but they have cut back on happy hour drink portions and have no happy hour food specials anymore…damn! It still has a great view and live music, but we have that on the boat…including cheaper food and drink. Too bad. The next day we made it to Boot Key Harbor on Marathon. We were still number 12 on the waiting list, so we had to find a place to anchor. With over 50 boats on the waiting list, the anchorage area is jammed full of boats. Many are permanent residents, with dilapidated boats. The holding is not the best either, so it can be a crazy place to anchor. We found a good area with room for the boat to swing, put down 70 feet of chain and set the anchor well. I ask the guy next to us how much chain he has out, something you should do to make sure that neighboring boats swing evenly and anchor. It also lets you know if someone has too little anchor line out and they could possibly drag anchor and hit you. The guy says “I guess 60 feet”, so I am good. We are only expecting 10 knots or less of wind for the next 3 days, so I am not at all worried. The next day we dinghy to Burdines (restaurant) to get lunch, and in the middle of lunch the marina calls me. “A neighboring boat says you are dragging anchor…can you check it out?” The wind has just shifted from east to west, but there is less than 10 knots. You could almost hold on chain alone in that situation, not to mention the 60 pound anchor we have. We go back to the boat and sure enough, we are right on top of the boats next to us. We didn’t hit anything, so all is good, but the guy starts to lecture me about anchoring. I asked how much chain he had out (again…the same guy as the day before) and he says 6 to 1. That is “captain-ease” for 6 feet of chain for each foot of water depth. We are in 10 feet of water, so it should be 60 feet of chain. I didn’t like being next to this guy, so we moved further down the anchorage. After looking at the track we took while swinging at anchor, I realized that we did not drag at all, and merely swung on our 70 feet of chain when the wind shifted. If he had 60 feet, he would have swung too, and there would have been 150 feet between our boats. His boat had obviously been there so long, I don’t think he had a clue how much chain he had out. So, we pick this new spot and get a good set. We were expecting a front to move through with 25 knot winds, the typical Florida winter pattern. The anchorage is so crowded that I only put out 60 feet, because we don’t have room to swing with more than that. With winds in the mid to upper 20s, I put out at least 90 feet. As always, the high winds and major wind shifts occur in the middle of the night, and last night was no different. We shift from west winds to north and the speed picks up. At midnight, I go on deck to see how we are holding and we are ok, except the guy that was way in front of me with the west winds is now beside me, his boat still pointing west. All of the other boats are pointing north-east into the wind. We keep swinging closer and closer to the back of this guys boat, and I keep waiting for the wind to swing it away from us. At about 4 AM, a fender that is being used as a float for something in the water, pops out from under this guys boat, and the boat finally swings with the wind! We were as close as 15 feet to hitting him. I was watching all night, and if necessary, would start the engine and motor away from him until we could move our anchor. The wind is going to shift to the east, so I can see that this will place us in contact with this float. I don’t know what is under the water, and I know that it held the stern of his boat against 25 knot winds for 4 hours, so I know that I don’t want to get hung up in it! It is 6:30 AM, and I can see that we are also dragging ever so slowly…ugh! I get Tricia, and we pull the anchor up, move it forward so that we can avoid the float, and put out more anchor to keep from dragging. We successfully move and put out almost 90 feet of chain. We avoid the float, stop dragging, and as the wind shifts we see that the guy who we almost hit, has less chain out than the other boats. We swing about 30 feet in front of him in an east wind. If we had not moved, we would have swung into him. Ugh again!!!

Anchoring is almost an art. The benefits are worth the troubles, but in an anchorage like this, sometimes it can suck bad, for days at a time. We do have a nice view of the harbor from here though:
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We are getting spoiled

1/30/17
Buttonwood Sound, Key Largo FL
Position: 25 07.095 N 080 26.645 W
Posted by Bill

The Tuesday after the storm provided very settled weather, and the forecast for the week was pretty awesome, so we moved the boat just outside the west entrance to Tarpon Basin. There is a large area of 7-8 foot depth with mostly sand bottom, that has excellent protection from the north through east winds, moderate protection from south winds, and is exposed to the west. Winds were expected to be light, starting from the south, moving west, and then building at the end of the week to 25 knots out of the north. This provided a fantastic place to anchor. We can see the boat from the house we are in, and it is 5-10 minute dinghy ride between the two. As stated in the last post, we weren’t planning to stay in the house, but there is a small apartment type setup in the bottom floor that we could have all to ourselves. It gave us a place to be where we didn’t feel like we were imposing on Mark and Diane, and we got to hang out. With the boat in view and securely anchored, we took advantage. Unlimited water and power, a large bathroom with a fantastic shower, stores and restaurants within walking distance, and the use of a car!!! If you are a cruiser, you know what this means!!!! We have been getting spoiled. I have run out to the boat every day to run the generator, and there were a few days where the wind generator and solar panels have kept up. The winds picked up on Friday out of the north as forecasted, and a front came through yesterday bringing wind and rain, but the boat held fine. It was really nice to be inside a house and not stuck on the boat for 2 days.

While walking one day, I noticed this house with a trampoline on the outside corner of the 3rd story. I wonder who thought that was a good idea???
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Update: Blog is back…we are dealing with a nasty storm!

1/23/17
Tarpon Basin, Key Largo FL
Position: 25 07.249 N, 080 25.847 W
Posted by Bill

Well, the blog site is back up and running on new technology. I hope it improves the speed.

We had a hard “stop” on our slip in Key West. The key hosts a big sailing regatta (race, in case you are not a sailor) and all of the marinas in Key West are booked for at least a week. For us and Sofia Jeanne, we had to vacate our slip on the 15th of January. Kurt and Sharon on Byrd Ketcher had a reservation in Key West until the end of January, so they were staying for a bit longer. The winds were blowing out of the east up to 25 knots for about 10 days, creating a lumpy sea state, so we opted to move to the next key up the chain, Stock Island. There is a really nice marina there, but it is really expensive ($4 per foot per day, plus electricity). We tied up at position: 24 33.906 N, 081 44.24 W. It was a short 2 hour trip, which was a good thing, because the sea state was 3-5 foot waves with a 4 second wave period…aka…very uncomfortable. We have gotten to the place in our cruising that we don’t like to be in an uncomfortable sea state for very long, so we bit the bullet and paid to stay in Stock until it improved.
View from our slip in Key West:
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Some pictures coming out of Key West:
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There is not much to do on Stock Island, a direct contrast to Key West, but they have a shuttle that regularly goes to town or to the grocery store if you want. We did some grocery shopping, but after a month in Key West, we were ready for a break. There are two really good restaurants within walking distance of the marina, Hogfish Bar and Grill, and Roostica. We hit both while we were there. Hogfish is known for their seafood, and Roostica is known for their pizza and Italian food. We had never been to Roostica before, and the pizza was absolutely fantastic. The best travel day in the weather forecast was Thursday the 19th, and we took off and motored to Marathon.

Our plan after Key West was to hole up in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon on a mooring ball until we left for the Bahamas. This time of year there is a waiting list for mooring balls and we ended up being number 36 on the list, with an estimated fulfillment time of 3 weeks. We ended up anchoring in the Sister’s Creek entrance to Boot Key at position: 24 42.216 N, 081 06.190 W. The anchorage was packed full, but we found an area to drop the hook. I tried several times to get the anchor to set properly, to no avail. The night we arrived had very settled weather, so we decided to set on the anchor and try to reset it the next day. We enjoyed dinner and drinks on the boat together with Matt and Shirley on Sofia Jeanne. It was a good night. Two other things were factors in our planning for the near term…Tricia’s sister had rented a house on Buttonwood Sound in Key Largo, just southwest of Tarpon Basin, and we wanted to spend some time with them; and there was a major weather event coming for Sunday through Tuesday, one which we needed decent shelter from south and west winds up to 40 knots. We were nervous about our anchor not setting well in Boot Key and how crowded it was…both not good for a nasty storm, so the next day we headed for Key Largo.
We left on the 20th, and had 2 to 4 foot beam (hitting the side of the boat) seas half of the way there, and we were rolling badly. At one point something fell and hit the water knob on the sink in the aft bathroom and flooded the sink, soaking everything inside it. Thankfully, Tricia noticed it before it dumped a bunch of our fresh water into the bilge! We made it to Buttonwood Sound and anchored a couple hundred yards off of her sister’s house, at position: 25 06.362 N, 080 26.632 W. The house has a small lagoon with a protected dock, and we were able to dinghy right in and tie up. She and her husband had a cocktail waiting at the Tiki Hut beside the dock, and since we hadn’t had a decent shower in 2 days, we took a shower in quick order. It was awesome to have this big shower to ourselves, and one that was not a public or marina bathroom!!!! We hadn’t intended to stay at their house, but the weather was still calm, and our boat was securely anchored, and we enjoyed a night in a real bed!!! We lived close to her sister (Diane) and husband (Mark) when we lived in Ohio, and we were always good friends and doing fun stuff with them, so it was really good to see them. Here are a couple of pictures of the awesome house and property they rented:
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The wind was going to start to pick up the next day, so we moved the boat into neighboring Tarpon Basin in anticipation of the impending storm. Tarpon Basin has good protection from all compass directions, but has notoriously bad holding due to the amount of sea grass on the bottom. We had dragged anchor badly in 25 knot winds there several years ago, so my anxiety was up. Anticipating 35-40 knot winds from the south and west, we picked a spot close to the south and west edge of the basin and found a large patch of sand with no grass. We have 2 anchors, a Delta plow anchor and a Bruce anchor. The Bruce is better for the sea bed we had in the basin, so I used that, and we got a great set in the sand. Winds were 15-20 knots, but we had enough protection to go to the dinghy dock where Diane picked us up, and we spent the day at their house, returning that night to the boat. The anchor held great, so we joined them for breakfast the next day and then returned to the boat to get ready for the high winds and nasty storm front that was coming.

It hit us pretty much as projected. 15-25 knots Sunday evening, 25-35 knots Monday into Tuesday. The storm front moved through about 4:30 AM and the wind shifted to the west. Lots of rain, lightning and a tornado watch. It was probably the worst storm we have had at anchor. The anchor held great, even through the wind shift. Right now it is blowing into the mid-30s and there is 2-3 foot breaking waves in this protected basin. There are not many boats in here, maybe because of the known holding issues, but no one seemed to have a problem dragging anchor here during this weather event. We heard from Sofia Jeanne, who is still in Sister’s Creek, and they are doing fine. There were several incidents with boats dragging there, and also dinghies floating away from the mother vessel! Thankfully, not with them. Tomorrow we will be able to go ashore again and rejoin Diane and Mark, and then Wednesday when the winds shift, we can anchor off of their house again. Here is a sample of the sea state in Tarpon Basin:
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Here is a picture of our boat in the distance, anchored off of Mark and Diane’s house:
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The blog is moving…….and so are we!

1/13/17
Key West, FL

The high winds have been blowing all week, and we have to vacate our slip on Sunday. We won’t have a decent sea state until next Wednesday or Thursday, so we are moving to the east side of Key West in Stock Island to wait out the weather, and then move on to Marathon.

We are also moving the blog to a new technology platform, so we cannot update content until it is done, and it may take a week or so. Given that, we won’t be posting until that is complete. See you on the new platform!

Key West Update

1/8/17
Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

We have had a great stretch of weather, both for our trip south, and while we have been here in the Keys. There have only been a couple of bouts of rain, and 4 or 5 days of high winds since we left on November 1st. Yesterday, we got hit with the worst weather so far this cruising season. It looks like the entire country is feeling this one…temps under 10 degrees in Ohio, snow and ice in the Carolinas, and high winds and cold temps in the Keys. Some rain came through with the front yesterday, and the winds have been blowing over 30 knots, and we had a low of 57 degrees this morning…brrrrrr! I know our northern friends and family are playing violins right now, but let me tell you…we have lived pretty much in summer conditions year round for 3 years, and when it gets below 70, I get cold. It truly is all relative. Good thing is, we are tied to a slip and can get off the boat, and if necessary…turn on our heating system. Thank goodness it hasn’t come to that yet. We are getting rocked quite a bit here in the harbor, as the winds have produced some chop, but man…the people anchored out or in the mooring field here are really getting their asses kicked. Glad to be where we are. The Key West Mooring field is very exposed to winds and wakes, especially from the north, which is where the worst winds come from in the winter months. We know friends that are/have staying/stayed there for extended periods, and there have been several times that you can not get off the boat for several days because it is too rough to go ashore in the dinghy. When people ask about our life style, you often hear them make envious comments. We always tell them “it isn’t all sunsets and cocktails”, and this is a good example of the other side of living this way, so it is one of those things you have to endure.

We have been working a routine of running to the grocery store every few days by bike, taking walks through town, doing a little boat maintenance, hitting happy hours, and walking the bars and entertainment at night. Our traveling partners, Sofia Jeanne and Byrd Ketcher, have been having a series of friends visit them, pretty much one right after the other, and since everyone visiting is on vacation, we all end up going out almost every day. It is good because we have become good friends of their friends and it has really been great to see them and hang out with them. The bad thing is that our spending has skyrocketed (although not as bad as we anticipated), and the pace of partying has worn us out. Last night was the first night we took a break and just hung out on the boat watching Netflix. Well needed rest!!!

There is a big sailing race here in Key West in a few weeks and the marina is booked for that period of time, so we have a hard end date of January 16th that we have to vacate our slip. Being the weather fanatic that I am, I have been looking at forecasted contitions for our passage back to Marathon. Right now, there isn’t a great weather window for our escape, and I spent several hours yesterday looking at our options. The holding isn’t great in the anchorages here, and the mooring field and marinas are full. There is a marina about an hour from here up island that is a possibility, so we will continue to keep an eye on the situation. The boat is certainly capable of almost any weather condition, but we have found that we are not fond of traveling in seas where we get our asses kicked. The worst situation is wind on nose, keeping us from getting sails up to steady the boat, short wave periods – 6 seconds or less, and waves over 3 feet…especially beam seas (waves from the side of the boat). Our boat is susceptible to rolling, and beam seas are very uncomfortable. Right now the forecast is calling for 4-6 foot seas on the nose and winds in the high teens to low 20s on the nose, with wave periods around 5 seconds. We don’t really want to deal with that for 10 hours straight, if we don’t have to.

We are also starting to look at our Bahamas plan. Right now, we are planning to work our way back up the Keys, and target a crossing as soon as we can get a weather window after the first of February. We have family renting a house in Key Largo during that time period, so we want to visit with them for awhile on the way back up. We also have to plan a trip to Miami via land, to provision for the Bahamas. That usually involves renting a car for the day, and all of the logistics involved with that. Land based travel is a pain in the ass while cruising. You need to find a way to get wheels, and also a safe place to leave the boat while you are gone. If it is more than a day, you need to make sure you have adequate power to keep your food frozen/cold. Not easy in the Keys unless you find a slip somewhere, which is getting harder to do. We have noticed a significant increase in people cruising this year. Marinas, mooring fields and anchorages are staying full…much more so than when we started. It requires better planning and luck with the weather. We have met quite a few people that are on their first year of cruising, several that have never owned a boat before…WOW…talk about jumping in the deep end with not knowing how to swim!

Key West has been really fun, but we are ready for the seclusion and simple life of the Bahamas. We will miss the people watching…like this guy…who needs bars when you have a 12 pack and a park bench:
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Happy New Year!!

1/1/17
Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Happy New Year everyone! New Year’s Eve has for a long time been a holiday where we just party at home. We would usually get together with close friends and just hang out. This year was quite different. Since we don’t have to drive, and there is a crazy party going on all through Key West, we got in to the fray. The city closes off Duval Street and some adjacent streets that intersect, and the whole closed off area is jammed with people. On a normal day, Key West does not enforce the open container laws, so it makes for a crazy atmosphere on New Year’s Eve. There are at least 3 “ball drop” events around town that I know of. One is up Duval where the gay and lesbian bars are, and a transvestite rides a giant ladies shoe down. Another is along the docks at Key West Bight, where we are docked, where a pirate wench is lowered from a schooner mast. The third is at Sloppy Joe’s Bar on Duval, where a large, lit up conch shell, rides down and a large “2017” sign lights up at midnight. We (Byrd Ketcher, Sofia Jeanne, and friends Jack and Lori) chose Sloppy Joe’s. We snagged some seats in the back of Ricks, directly across from the conch drop. At about 10:00, things started to get crazy in the streets. They had a DJ standing on the roof at Sloppy Joe’s who was playing loud music and working the crowd up to the big event. People were throwing beads from balconies, and girls were flashing breasts (not as many as New Orleans). At midnight there were people shaking up bottles of champagne and spraying the crowd. The streets were so packed that you could barely move. I was glad we had a front row seat in Ricks, as we had somewhat of a buffer, and a bathroom (lol):
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It was a blast to celebrate with our good friends!!!

Leading up to the new year, we made a few runs to the grocery store on bikes, hung by the pool one day, and did our usual happy hour routine. The day after Christmas the crowds started to pick up in town, and it has been really busy. You quickly get tired of fighting the tourists, especially on Duval, but the people watching has been fantastic. Today there is a big pot luck on the dock, which should be fun.

Here is a picture of Darth Vader playing a banjo. We thought our grandson Wrigley would like this one!!
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Speaking of grandsons….our latest arrived on the 29th…Liam:15822858_10154049405906689_6814007917258463093_n
Congratulations to Eric and Jessica! This was the first grandchild that we were not there when they were born, which was a real bummer.

Have a great 2017 everyone!

Merry Christmas!!!

12/25/16
Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you are having a great one!

Last night we tried to go to Christmas Mass, but the church was packed full. We went to dinner early at a great Italian place called Mangia Mangia, where they make home made pasta and sauce. It was great!! Thanks Ted and Sandy for the recommendation. Afterwards we walked Duval Street to check out the people watching, which was equally enjoyable. Lots of people decked out in Christmas garb:
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We walked up to the 700-900 block, which is comprised mostly of the gay bars. There were dudes dressed up like women, singing Christmas carols. Hard to tell these are dudes! Matt and Grady posed with one:
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This one was singing “Walking round in womens underwear” to the tune of “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, and was very surprised when Tricia and I knew the words and joined him!!
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Today we called family, Facetimed with the kids and grandkids, then had a great Christmas feast on the dock with our friends, complete with turkey, stuffing, twice baked potato casserole, sweet potatoes, ham, cranberry sauce, gravy, 3 bean salad, green bean casserole, key lime pie, pumpkin pie, and chocolate martinis! It was really good!!! Who says you can’t have great food cooking on a boat!
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It was also 82 degrees and sunny!

We hope you and your family had a good one!

Surviving Key West

12/22/16
Key West, FL
Posted by Bill

I have to admit…as frugal as we are, staying here is worth the cost of the slip. There is so much to do within a short walk. We used the bikes (very nice bikes) that the marina provides and did a grocery run the other day, stopping at a really good taco stand on the way. Other than that bike ride, we have been walking multiple times per day and just exploring. Besides the bars, we have been checking out the houses in Old Town. The architecture is very similar to Southport NC, our new summer home, and since we are building a house next summer we wanted to get some ideas. There are many houses that look like this, and it is the same general plan we want to build:
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It also helps to have our builder (as well as one of our best friends) traveling with us and giving us guidance. It is amazing what a house in shambles will cost you here in Key West.

As I mentioned in the last post, the town is decorated for Christmas. Here are some pictures:
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In addition to the crazy people you see here, there are some interesting vehicles too:
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Kurt and Sharon (Byrd Ketcher), and Matt and Shirley (Sofia Jeanne) have been here for monthly stays several times in the past, and have helped us identify some of the good places to eat and drink. We contributed some of our favorites too. The other night we went to Turtle Kraals and watched the turtle races:
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The bar hands out tickets with a number that corresponds to a turtle. If your turtle wins, you pick a key from a board of almost 100 keys. If the key opens the lock on a treasure chest, you win at least $250. Several of us had the winning turtle number, but no one picked the right key, however…Tricia picked the key right next to the winner. Oh well! We really like going to Rick’s on Duval Street (the main drag through Key West, where most of the action is). There is a regular entertainer there called Adrian. Our travel partners know him very well. He has stayed at Matt and Shirley’s house when traveling. He plays dirty songs and picks on the crowd, and is hilarious! Great fun. Here is a picture of him that Shirley snapped:
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Kurt snapped this one of all of us at Rick’s last night:
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I’ll leave you with some random pictures of the marina, starting with our view from the end of our dock:
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The pool:
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And a view of the fish around the dock:
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Speaking of fish around the dock…there has been a very large bull shark visiting us almost every day when the fishing boats come in. People feed it and the tarpon. It is BIG! We won’t be swimming in the marina!

Key West

12/17/16
Key West, FL
Position: 24 33.749N, 081 47.998W
Posted by Bill

We wrapped up our visit in Marathon with a stop at Harbor Cay Club to visit with our friends there. Having stayed there for a couple of winters, we have made some good friends. It was good to catch up and we hope to see some of them in Key West while we are there. A few of the boats were not home, so we missed a couple of people unfortunately. Maybe we can catch them coming north in January.

On the 14th, we shoved off and cruised to Key West, the of the road if you are traveling by car in the Keys. There was a lot of sea grass floating around, especially in the first half of the trip, and several boats had to clear their raw water intakes a couple of times. Other than that, the trip was uneventful, and we pulled in to Conch Harbor Marina in Key West Bight in mid-afternoon. Here is what Key West looks like as you are coming up the channel:
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(Mallory Square where the sunset gathering is:)
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We have been to Key West several times via land, but this was our first time here in our boat. It is sssoooooo expensive to pay for slips here, and we are pretty frugal, so we never opted to do it. This year we decided to splurge and check it out for at least one time. Everyone says that Christmas and New Years is a blast here, so we opted to stay until the middle of January. The other reason we have not stayed here on our boat is because we thought we might need a liver transplant if we stayed longer than a week (the longest we stayed before this was 5 days, and it about killed us!) If you are not familiar with Key West, it is known for an endless chain of bars and “anything goes” behavior. There is live music everywhere you turn, and plenty of shops and stores with some unique stuff. One of the best things is the people watching. You can see pretty much anything here.

The marina we are in is gated, has pretty decent restrooms and showers, free laundry (yes, I said free), a nice pool right outside the gate, free bikes, and is right in the heart of the action in the most popular area of Key West called Old Town. The pool is part of a restaurant/bar called Dante’s. Right next door is Half Shell Raw Bar and Schooner Wharf Bar, so if you have been to those places you know where we are. I’ll post some pictures of the area in the next couple of posts.

The night we got here, there was a Christmas boat parade that we could watch from the end of our dock. It was very cool, but the pictures did not turn out too good. Here are a few:
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We jumped right in to the happy hour scene and have been having a great time the last couple of days. I’ll post more every couple of days. Everywhere you look, the town is decorated up for Christmas. It makes me think of my Mom. She loved Christmas, especially the lights and decorations. She would be loving this!!! Sure do miss her!

Man…I love the Keys

12/11/16
Marathon FL
Position: 24 42.524N, 081 05.221W
Posted by Bill

I guess that it has been awhile since I posted….I guess we’ve been pretty busy!

Byrd Ketcher and Sofia Jeanne caught back up with us in Marine Stadium and on the 5th we headed south in Biscayne Bay for the Florida Keys. The winds were brisk and the bay was pretty choppy, but for the first time in a long time, we actually got to sail and turn the motor off. We made good time to Tarpon Basin (Key Largo area) and anchored at position 25 07.222N, 080 25.726W. We went ashore and hit a great happy hour with stiff drinks and good food. It was great to be in the Keys again. For one, it is the land of happy hours. They are everywhere and offer great deals on food and drink. Most start around 11AM and go to 6PM, and you usually get a great view. This is where the water clears up and you start to be able to actually see the bottom. Nothing like the Bahamas, but it is still great. Life slows down when you get here. Fewer boats, less stressed out people, fewer Ass Captains (as in the Ass Captain award recipients).

We had a few days of great weather, but a winter front was forecasted to hit the Keys on Friday and last until Monday. Winter fronts are associated with strong (30+ knot winds) out of the north. The bad thing about the Keys is that they are not a lot of places to get protection from the north winds, so we planned to be in Marathon for the weather event. We picked up anchor the next day and moved south to an anchorage off Lorelei’s in Islamorada, our favorite bar in the keys. They have a great location, good live music every day, and a legendary happy hour. Our anchored position was 24 55.634N, 080 38.024W. We enjoyed our evening there very much.

The next day we moved on to Marathon. Every year we have stayed at a private Marina called Harbor Cay Club and have really enjoyed staying there except for the exposure to north winds, in which your boat gets slammed with incoming waves. They have also imposed a 2 month minimum stay, which is longer than we usually plan for because we are looking to get to the Bahamas ASAP after the first of the year. Marina slips are really scarce in Marathon unless you want to pay out the butt, so we opted to go for the Boot Key Harbor mooring field. The harbor is protected from winds of all directions. The city of Marathon manages 226 mooring balls, and there are a few places to anchor outside of the mooring field. The good thing is that it is reasonably priced and you can dinghy to Sombrero Beach and many bars and restaurants. It is also close walking distance to Home Depot, Publix, Liquor Stores, a movie theater, and many more restaurants. The bad thing is that it is usually full this time of year, and after the new year there is a long waiting list of people wanting to rent a mooring. You can’t make reservations and have to actually be in the harbor to have a mooring assigned. Also, you have to show up in person with a picture ID to get on the waiting list, which means you have to find a place to anchor and come ashore, first come first served. When we got to the harbor there was one mooring available and we had 3 boats, so that meant 2 would have to anchor. We were first in, had the longest boat and deepest draft (not as easy to find a place to anchor as them), and our friends told us to take the mooring and they anchored, hoping we would get 2 more moorings before the weather hit. Thursday was really nice and we took the dinghy to Sombrero Beach for the afternoon:
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Well, the winds came on early in the AM on Friday as predicted, but they were’t able to get a mooring until Friday afternoon. It was a little dicey for them because the anchorage was really tight and boats were swinging around like crazy in the wind, but they made it OK and finally got tied up on a mooring. The winds have been howling and our wind generator is making power like crazy!! We have been taking advantage of happy hours, and made stops to Home Depot and Publix. The other day we hooked up with Bob and Cat on Sea Lyon. If you remember, they have stayed at Harbor Cay Club every year and also traveled to the Bahamas with us last year. They are at Harbor Cay again, so we hooked up at a happy hour and caught up on what they have been doing. They were getting their asses kicked in the north winds, and it made me glad we picked Boot Key Harbor!

We earned another Ass Captain award the other day. We had made a run to shore in the dinghy, and when we got back to the boat we had some stuff to take aboard, which I handed to Tricia. Our usual routine is that Tricia climbs out and ties the dinghy up while I negotiate the dinghy along side the boat. Then I hand stuff up. After we got aboard, after a few minutes, someone knocks on our boat and yells “Island Bound?” We come up from down below and here is a guy holding our dinghy. Neither one of us tied it up or checked it (which we always do) because we were preoccupied with getting the crap on board the boat, and it just drifted away! Thank God the guy who found it was cool and brought it back to us. I was extremely embarrassed, but it does actually happen quite frequently, just not to us!

The mooring field is so big that they have 2 sets of dinghy docks:
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Here are a couple of pics of the mooring field:
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We have a few boat chores to do (pickle the water maker, jug some water from shore, buy a few boat parts), and plan to hit Sunday Fun Day at Sunset Grill, and then will move on to Key West. It looks like we have an excellent weather window Tuesday and Wednesday, so we are planning on taking advantage of it to have a smooth passage.

Not to piss off our friends and family up north, but the weather has been in the low 80s except for the latest weather event. The highs were in the mid 70s for the last couple of days…oh well! Signing off for now, leaving you with sunset pics from Tricia:
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