Sunday, January 28, 2018

Marathon to Key West, FL

Total Miles Traveled 1713

I believe this cruising season has been effected by weather more than our previous years, especially with the wind.  We spent 6 days in Marathon waiting on the strong northeast winds to decrease and the seas to calm down to our comfort level.  Although we were stuck there, we were in a mooring field with great protection and spent the entire time with our good friends Randy and Sherri, visiting the city and meeting new friends.

On Friday January 19th we had a one day weather window to make the 45 mile cruise on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys to Stock Island.  We had a 10-12 mph wind and 2-2 ½ foot waves on the stern so we had a good ride and averaged 8.5 to 9 mph…..almost had boat hair at that speed.  When we arrived at the marina we were greeted by our friends George and Meg from “Veridian”, they have been here since December.  We traveled with them from Columbus, MS to Panama City before they continued south while we held up to visit family and friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We were also greeted by this manatee, just a few slips down from ours.

During our first week here, we had visitors from Indiana:   Merrill, Jan, and Tim, and we spent a couple of days visiting Key West.  We really had a great visit and wish they could have stayed a little longer.  

Hurricane Irma hit the Keys hard but amazingly enough; they have really bounced back since landfall at Cudjoe Key September 10th.   Some of the damage still present on the break wall in the waterfront district.

There are several loopers staying in the area and one of them has organized a volunteer group to help with the cleanup efforts.   We volunteered to help last Thursday on US 1 with 14 other volunteers and during the two hour period, we filled 72, 55 gallon garbage bags with debris.  Some of the bags were not filled to the top due to the weight of broken glass.

Friends that we met before entering Canada in 2016 also have arrived at our marina, Mark and Jody on “GypSea”.  We’ve had a great time with them and George and Meg exploring Key West.

Stopped for lunch at Bo’s

This is musician Jimmy Buffett’s personal recording studio located at the waterfront.  We haven’t seen any activity yet while passing by.   Notice the security cameras around the building?  

Several charter fishing boats display their fresh catch along the waterfront.

The Blue Heaven Restaurant is a cool place to have a meal, cold drink and the occasional live entertainment.

This safe is in their courtyard, looks like it’s been here awhile.

Cruise ship at Mallory Square

This is a cool mural painting on this antique shop.

We have made it to Turtle Kraals once so far.  This is the home of a turtle race, they have four box turtles and line them up at the starting line, everyone is given a number 1-4.  The winning turtle has a number painted on it and if your number wins, you get in line with other winners and select a key from a wooden board.  After everyone has a key, you line up again and see if your key opens the lock on the treasure chest.  If all the selected keys do not open the lock, the pot increases $50 for the next race.  The races are three times a week and the pot can grow to $500. 

A winner opened the treasure chest lock, the race before us so the pot was $50.  My best mate had the winning turtle, but her key would not open the lock….. it didn't matter how hard she tried.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gulfport to Marathon, Fl

Total Miles Traveled 1668

We returned to the boat December 29th after a great visit with our family during Christmas at Cocoa Florida and took advantage of the rental car for an additional day to stock up on provisions and catch up on laundry.  After returning the car Saturday morning December 30th we cruised 35 miles to an anchorage near downtown Sarasota.

Pretty Cool Statue…….not sure….it may be called “get a room”.

On New Year’s Eve we weighed anchor at day break, another cold front was approaching and we planned to be anchored in one of our favorite anchorages before the wind picked up.   We passed through this swing bridge after leaving Little Sarasota Bay, and then continued through Venice, Fl. 

For some unknown reason, we saw several hundred fish floating in the waterway as we passed through Venice and continued toward Lemon Bay, hundreds of birds were circling taking advantage of an easy meal.  Don't Look Up !!

As we entered the cut between Lemon Bay and Gasparilla Sound, two ferries’ crossed in front of us at navigational aid R8.

We crossed Charlotte Harbor and arrived at Punta Blanca Island.  As we rounded the tip of the island, we saw a trawler that had run aground and Tow Boat US was in the process of pulling them to deeper water.  There is a very narrow channel of deep water that skirts the shoreline and out of that channel it is very shallow.  We reduced speed and proceeded to our anchorage.  After setting the hook a sailboat arrived and anchored behind us.

The captain of the sailboat came over in his dinghy and introduced himself; they were loopers on “Green Heart Adventure” a 44 foot sailboat from Michigan.  They are a family of six and the children are ages 5-12.

Just before sunset we had a full moon behind our anchorage.

Fortunately we were able to pick up several TV stations and watched the countdown to 2018, Happy New Year!

We were held up here for 4 days with 20-30 mph winds blowing in from the north and temperatures dipping into the low 40’s at night.  (Below zero back home in Indiana so we’re not complaining).

Finally on January 4th we had a small weather window to make it to Ft Myers.  We figured if we left at daybreak we could make it before the winds increased in the afternoon.  It was our only chance as several days of strong winds were predicted for the next few days.  I had the distance calculated correctly but didn’t plan on the slow, no wake Manatee zones, so we didn’t arrive at the Marina at Edison Ford until a half hour or so after the winds picked up.  As we came into the marina we had to make a 90 degree turn to starboard, travel about 200 ft and make a 180 degree turn to port with the wind blowing on our beam and a marina full of boats.  Luckily I was able to hug a piling while my best mate launched a line to the dock hand to secure us to a cleat…Whew.

We had a great visit with our looper friends Kevin and Jill from “Chasing 80” and met several other loopers at Ft Myers as well.  We spent four days at Ft Myers waiting for the wind to settle down enough to make the jump along the Gulf coast to our anchorage at Naples on Monday, January 8th

Another early start to the day January 9th as we headed to Everglades City.

Passing Marco Island

We were about 5 miles from our waypoint to make a turn toward Everglades City when we noticed fog and clouds on the horizon. By the time we made our turn we were in the fog with visibility about a quarter mile.  We could look directly above us and see blue sky, but 360 degrees around us was fog.

As we approached land and the river channel the fog lifted providing a clear view to our stop at the historic Rod and Gun Club. 

We visited our friends Merrill and Jan from back home during our stay; we’re looking forward to seeing them again latter this winter.

With approximately 100 miles of coastal waters to Marathon, we had one planned anchorage at Little Shark River January 12th  before the final stretch.  We had less than 2 foot waves all the way to the anchorage but it started raining just as we arrived, an hour later we had clear skies.

On Saturday January 13 we approached the seven mile bridge on our way to the City Marina at Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida.

This area was hit hard by hurricane Irma and the clean up before our arrival was amazing.  The harbor had about 220 boats on the mooring balls before the hurricane, and after only 56 boats were still attached.  As of December, 98% of the displaced boats have been recovered.

This is the mooring field layout, we are on M6.

We attempted to stay here when we did the loop in 2015; there were 216 mooring balls all taken and 50 boats on a waiting list to get in.  We were lucky to find a slip at a marina for a few days before continuing on to Stock Island and Key West that year. 

Friends that we met in 2013 at Green Turtle Bay when we were wanabe loopers are on a mooring ball here.  Randy and Sherri on “Priorities” started their loop in 2013 from Michigan.   We met them here in 2016 while on our loop, and also ran into them last year in the Bahamas.  They have been in Boot Key Harbor since Thanksgiving and have been showing us the area during our stay. 

Dinghy Dock at the City Marina

Community Garden at the City Marina

Boot Key Harbor is a boating community.  Every morning at 9 a.m. everyone listens to Cruisers Net  by tuning their VHF radio to channel 68.  The programs moderator starts with a brief weather update, followed by the following topics:  New arrivals, departures, announcements, comments, questions, need assistance, buy, sell, trade, giveaway, trivia, and final business.  If you want to participate in any of the topics, you announce your boat name, the moderator acknowledges you, and then it’s your turn to talk.  The program is very well organized and informative.

The wind has been a major concern for us the last several weeks.  We get a break for a couple of days, then another front blows through.  It looks like we may get a window to continue down the Keys to Stock Island  Friday the 19th. We will spend the remainder of January and February at Stock Island Village Marina. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Steinhatchee, FL to Gulfport, FL

Total Miles Traveled 1344

We finally had a break in the weather and left Steinhatchee at daylight December 15th, crossing the open waters of the Gulf and traveling about 60 miles to our anchorage at Cedar Key.

We have always planned to stay at Cedar Key for two days so we could explore the town.  There is a small marina for fishing boats, and the only access to it is through a low fixed bridge, so the only option for us is to anchor and dinghy into town.  Its 70 miles of open Gulf waters to Tarpon Springs and we only have one day of good weather to get there so we continued on to Tarpon Springs December 16th.  Hopefully on our return in the spring we’ll have a few days to explore.

After a short break at Tarpon Springs, we continued to an anchorage near Clearwater Beach, Fl December 19th

We took the dinghy to Frenchy’s restaurant for lunch and then walked to the beach and pier.

After returning to the boat we tried our luck fishing…….and guess who caught the only fish.

We continued south to another anchorage December 20th at Redington Shores, then continued to Gulfport, Fl December 22nd.  When looking through the Corey Causeway Bridge to Boca Ciega Bay, we were a little disappointed to see fog, luckily as we continued on to Gulfport the fog lifted.

This will be the last blog of 2017, we will leave the boat here at the Gulfport Marina and drive our rental car to Cocoa, Florida for Christmas with family.

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!