Feb 202022

The winds calmed so we decided to take advantage of the seas. We headed out on “Otter” to Boot Key where the anchorage and mooring balls have to be seen to believe. They go on throughout the entire bay. Every available space is taken up. It would be a sailors dream to pass through here to see all the different styles of sailboats. Masts are everywhere.

We stop into City of Marathon Marina where we find Cheri Baby, Alcyone, Dark Side and Weeble & Wobble. We’ve met them at various stops along the loop and now find ourselves together in Marathon a few miles apart.

After passing through Boot Key anchorage we head up to Sister’s Creek to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on this journey. Sombrero Beach and Reef is here. The reef is about 2 miles offshore with mooring balls to use so that your anchor is not used on the protected coral. We will be bringing family there when these winds finally calm down. The beach is small compared to most beaches we have seen in Florida and very busy. There is a dingy area to bring your dingy to.

We also decided to snorkel on the way home. We had heard that lobster were plenty by a shipwreck and shoal about 3 miles off our marina. As we get there it is getting windy yet again. Not in the forecast but Scott jumps in to take a look. Seagrass and sand is all that he sees. Except for the 6 foot shark that is feeding on the very shallow area after Scott gets back into “Otter”. The fog is rolling in and the wind is picking up as we head back to the mother ship for docktails.

Feb 182022

Our posts will be about our excursions and daily comings and goings while we stay here in Marathon for 5 weeks. Scott’s sister and hubs are coming into town and long time friends later on in the month.

As we get acclamated to the new life of not moving around we find ourselves tired and relaxed. The thing about doing the loop is that it is a great endeavour but it is work. Planning routes, stays, groceries, even fuel and pump out stops and not knowing the areea make the task quite cumbersome. Research of things to do, where to visit also play into the equation. Not always is a marina available so always having a 2nd back up plan is needed. Having a break for this time is well appreciated.

Pickleball. Yes, pickleball. We have found at least 2 places to play. One is right across the street from the marina and the other is an Uber ride. Uber charges double the fees here in the Keys so keep that in mind if traveling here. We have found a post office close to the place to Uber to but the winds have kept us from using that ability. We have only been once. The closest one is about a 3.0 level or lower. Key Colony the Uber ride one, is 3.5+ ability. It’s still fun to have the option to play everyday if we wish.

Valentine’s Day was a big surprise for me. Scott picked up some teak chairs and had them delivered just in time for a bevy on the back deck. We had been talking about replacing our weather beaten aluminum chairs for some time. Love the new look.

We had another visitor from our marina back in Ontario. PattiJo and Doug visited us for a couple days as they trailer south for the winter. They like to stop at State Parks and enjoy the hikes, trails and wildlife. They came down to Marathon on their way just to see us. We are so happy to see them.

While they are here the winds were fairly strong still. We decided on dinner the first night while they set up their camp for the day and made their way down here from their Long Key campsite. Great tales of both our trips as we spent the evening chatting and remininscing.

We planned to bike to Pigeon Key together the next day, stop for a lunch and play pickleball. Pigeon Key is a small island containing the historic district of Pigeon Key, Florida. The 5-acre (2.0-hectare) island is home to 8 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which remain from its earliest incarnation as a work camp for the Florida East Coast Railway. Today these buildings serve a variety of purposes, ranging from housing for educational groups to administrative offices for the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation.  The new 7 mile bridge links the south of the Keys to Marathon. The original 7 mile bridge was due to be demolished once the new one was built however instead of demolishing it sections were taken out so that the land portions could be used as pedestrian and cycle paths to Pigeon Key. We wondered around Pidgeon Key for about an hour and then started back. By now we are craving lunch but the amazing views we see on the bridge take our breath away and it takes us awhile to get to lunch. We decide on authentic tacos from a taco truck. Amazing tacos at La Palapa. If you love Mexican food this place has the best tacos around.

It was then biking to pickleball to begin the first lesson for PJ and Doug. It is always a blast teaching this sport to new folks. Hopefully we will be seeing them on the courts this summer. Thank you so much Patti Jo and Doug for visiting us and enjoying the sights of Marathon. Will we see you on the water next Fall?

Feb 122022

We did enjoy our stay at the anchorage, and hoped to be here a few more days, but the winds are coming in. We added a couple extra nights to our reservation in Marathon so that we can get in early before the 30 knt winds start. Leaving the jetty into Marco Island left us with flat seas and a beautiful day for a cruise of 80+ miles. Scott decided to go on plane at about 18 knts for a few hours because we have heard that the crap and lobster pots are abundant getting to the keys. We are only off shore by over 3 or so miles and follow the landscape all the way on the Gulf. About 20 miles from Marathon we slow down as we start seeing a lot of crap pots. Those bowling ball size styrofoam floats marking the pot are hard to see. One clip of those and we could be in for a tow.

Scott slows to a consistent 8 knts and we both watch out the window for the next 3 hours dogging pots like a frogger game. There are thousands of them in these waters and it does take at least 2 watching. With the temps warming to a nice 80 degrees and calm seas we really don’t mind the trek. It was a nice cruise all the way to our slip.

Arriving in Marathon we tie up and enjoy the sun as we sit on the back deck. We are on vacation now with no significant moving for 5 weeks. We decided to stay in The Keys as a winter over, comfortable stay because we have never been here before. The temps are usually consistent in the 80s and lots of Loopers like to stay long to take advantage of a cheaper rate than a daily transient price.

We are at Marlin Bay Marina & Resort. They rent condos and apartments to tourists, mainly from Miami, a heated pool and hot tub. The grounds are well maintained and the staff is very courteous. Pump outs at every slip, once a week, and views of the gorgeous waters of the Gulf.

Feb 112022

We are happy to have had 2 days in Naples. We enjoyed the stay but are really happy to leave. We enjoy the laid back style of life without our every whim met. That is Naples. Beautiful with an Italian flair, stunning homes, shopping til you drop at any designer you may choose to visit. For us we long for the relaxed atmosphere with birds, dolphins, nature. We are heading to Marco Island to a recommended anchorage.

As we meander through the jetty at Naples the Gulf meets us with flat, open water. With only 16 miles to go it is still a welcome sight. Flat waters, calm winds and boats everywhere. We will only be off the coastline by about 4 miles all the way to Marco Island. The waters are a turquoise blue and dolphins play but didn’t visit us today. We are running about 8 knts.

The jetty to Marco Island is busy with boats. Lots of sizes and types. The island was a brainstorm by a couple of brothers decades ago. They saw the vision of water passages with homes lining the passage, some inland homes, marinas. Their dream is shown in the landscape of the amount of the water passages, homes, restaurants, etc.

The island is a staging for boats like us waiting to head to the keys. Smokehouse Anchorage is lined with large homes, apt, condos. The waterway into the anchorage is a well marked channel with mostly 10 ft depths. The current can rush at the entrance to the channel at low tide and high tide. Watch for the standing waves if you encounter a westerly wind content. There is plenty of room for boats but I’m sure there are times when this anchorage is very full. It is so protected that many consider this a hurricane hole to hold out. The temps today finally reached over 80 degrees and the nights dropped to 57.

Scott has seen an ingress of water into the pod oil. He changed the port side, or left side, while in Clearwater. He changed the starboard side, or right side while on anchorage. A haulout is in our future to replace the seals on the drives. Boat maintenance in exotic places. We drop “Otter” and head to the grocery store to pick up provisions. The store has built a dock specifically for this purpose. The Winn Dixie is not far away. On our way we meet up with another boat that we have met a few times along the route. Indigo is anchored not far from us. We pop over on the way to groceries and decide to have docktails and share stories. It was such a beautiful night as we chatted on the patio before heading back to the boat for dinner. We are off to Marathon in the morning crossing our fingers that the weather maintains the calm seas for our 100 mile journey.

Feb 092022

The winds were coming from the north at around 10 knts. We had following seas all the way to Naples. We did go on the outside, meaning the Gulf, and not the GIWW because it is just too shallow for us. We have a slip at the Yacht Club and Scott is not happy with the depths he is reading on the charts. As we pull up to the Port of Naples the entire area is shallow. Maybe 7 – 8 ft in the channel. There are lots of large boats here though. We need to get settled to get the through hull cleared. The slip concerns Scott as we are at mid tide and it is only 1.5 feet under our props. Tide still has a foot to go lower before low tide which will be in the early morning hours. Guess the Captain will be up checking again tonight. As we are contemplating a trip to the hardware store to get some fitting for the hose to hook up a diver is right next to us. Scott asks if he would look at the grass ingress from under the boat. The fellow says, as he comes up with a wad of seagrass, “Where were you, Pine Island?”. This stuff is always at Pine Island. That would have been nice to know. We try to move slips and the DockMaster says a boat of 5 ft is usually in our slip. We are just over 4. Scott does note that a lot of silt is freely flowing however that doesn’t sit great when we have no where to go. Everyone is booked solid here in Naples.

The yacht club is a nice facility but no one is around. We are not allowed to use the facility so have nothing to say about the amenitites. It’s a quiet space within walking distance to downtown of about a mile. The main road is filled with restaurants, bars, and shops of all merchandise. Lots of art and streets are lines with palm trees which have lights on every one of them. It is a romantic place at night.

For us, we are here for the pickleball. There is a place with 64 outdoor courts where the US Open plays. Naples has made itself the pickleball capital of the world. This is not the only place to play. We head out there and play decent games. The courts are divided into level of play but we quickly realize that the majority of folks are in the wrong level. We have some good and some easy games. The courts are about 4 miles from the marina so we did Uber a ride.

The weather is sunny but chilly in the 70’s and on the water. We aren’t complaining too much but this is definitely not what we signed up for in South Florida.

Feb 072022

We leave behind our wonderful friends aboard Corkscrew. We will miss them and know our props will be together again as they stay in Ft Myers and head back to Nashville for the summer. Next year we hope to see them on the water when we stay somewhere for several months instead of traveling.

We are only traveling a few miles down the Cal River toward Pine Island to anchor for a couple nights. We want to test out the new bridle as the winds are expected at 20 knts and see if our current anchor can handle it. As the wind is predicted to come during daylight we feel this is a great opportunity before we start to head south toward Marco Island where we will be anchoring until we can cross to either Shark River, for a night’s stay, or directly head to Marathon, in the keys. It is all weather dependent but knowing our anchoring can handle a storm makes one sleep better at night.

We anchor just off St. James City on Pine Island in 13 ft of water. When we arrive there are 7 other sailboats setting up for the storm too. We feel confident in this large area with a north or easternly wind, which are the predicted directions. The cooler temps are returning, in the high 60s, and with the winds, it’s chilly but we have a pretty sunset, a glass of warm and full bellies. Tomorrow the storms roll in.

Just as I was making dinner with the generator running, it quit. Scott went and did his usual check. It is overheating. Clogged with seagrass. He tried to clear it but it is stuck. Now he really wants to get the hookah system so he can dive at times like this and take care of whatever the bottom of our girl needs. It won’t be clear until we can get it out. Heading to Naples to a marina to hopefully spray water down the throughull. We shut down everything we can until we leave tomorrow.