We have been enjoying our time along the FL West Coast and we are now in Key West. Our travels have been fun and we have been incredibly busy with moving the boat often and spending time with visiting family.
Here is our latest on our adventures:
Tuesday, (1/5/2016) – Ft Myers, FL – Today was a work day for us, and a day to get the water system fitting repaired so it would not leak when using our water pump. Mark had been in touch with the Supervisor at Dog River Marina in Mobile who installed the coupling, and they agreed to pay to have someone come fix it.
We spent most of the morning working and getting some things in order for the New Year, as well as several client conference calls. Just before noon Craig from VIP Marine Services (the company Dog River Marina was contacting) was on the docks and Mark flagged him down. He came in to assess the situation and said he needed to go get some parts and lunch, then would be back around 1:00. He came back as promised and in 20 minutes had the whole thing fixed, with the plastic fitting replaced by a brass one so it would not crack again. We were very pleased with this repairman and would recommend him to anyone, and we were also happy that Dog River marine stood by their word that they guaranteed their work.
In the afternoon Tim and Karen (“TiKa”) met us with their car and took us to Costco for a few item. After that we went to their house for hamburgers on the grill and an evening of great company and conversation. Afterwards they let us take their SUV so we could use it in the morning for a few errands, so we drove back to the marina.
Wednesday, (1/6/2016) – Ft Myers, FL – This morning Denise was able to go for a nice run along the waterfront of the Caloosahatchee River and through downtown Ft. Myers. Along the way she encountered a group of students attending the city’s firefighter and police college who were also out for their one-a-week 3-mile run. All of these students were young and she was surprised to see some of them struggle to get in the 3 miles. She ran through Centennial Park and around the Ft. Myers Yacht Basin before heading back to the boat. Here are some pictures from her run:
After breakfast we used the SUV to go to Publix (even though it was in walking distance to the marina) and then Mark used it to go get a much needed haircut. In the meantime Denise went and got a much-needed pedicure from a terrific salon right near the marina. We spent the rest of the day working around the boat on various things, including cataloging pictures and publishing the latest blog update.
In the evening we joined Tim & Karen for dinner at a Bonefish Grill that was less than 5 miles from the marina but took us 25 minutes to get there due to traffic. After dinner Tim took us back to the marina and we said our Good-Byes. We so miss traveling with them and we are grateful for their warm hospitality while we were in Ft. Myers.
Thursday, (1/7) – Ft. Myers, FL – it was really foggy this morning, and there was a bit of mist in the air, but it burned off by noon. We spent the morning working on the boat doing work for clients, conference calls and getting some pictures cataloged.
After lunch we walked the .75 miles to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, a national register historic site that was the winter homes for Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. We toured the outside of the homes, Edison’s Laboratory, and the museum. But we were most impressed with the grounds, and all the different types of foliage around the estates. They grounds were spectacularly beautiful and had an awesome view of the Caloosahatchee River. There was also a building that housed two antique Ford cars (Model A and a Model T). What was also very intriguing to us was how close friends these two men were; close enough to live side-by-side and share a carriage house for their cars. You can read more about this place here.
Here are some pictures from our visit:
We walked back to the boat and decided to eat our way through some of the pizza we had in the freezer. It was a quiet night for us and we just wanted some no-socializing down time. Mark read a book (“13 Hours”) and Denise got caught up on some emails and watched a little TV.
We really liked this area and especially liked Legacy Harbor Marina. They are in a great location and in a very protective harbor. We would like to come back here again, and since it is right near the entrance to the Okeechobee Waterway, it is highly probable that we will.
Pictures from the marina:
Friday, (1/8) – Naples, FL – We got up in the morning to a very wet Ft. Myers; it had rained off and on all night and it was still sprinkling. We had previously found some water on the floor near the guest stateroom but this morning it was really bad, indicating that we have a leak somewhere. We have not been able to find out where it is coming from and Back Cove has suggested several areas to test, which we will do if it ever stops raining.
Eventually it cleared up enough for Denise to get in a quick run past the Edison & Ford estates and down McGregor Boulevard and back. After a quick shower and prepping of the boat, we left Legacy Harbor and headed back out into the Caloosahatchee River and towards the Gulf of Mexico.
There is no inside (or GICW) route from Fr. Myers to Naples, so we had to go out into the Gulf. The wind was on our nose and the seas that were forecasted to be 1 -2 feet were more like 2 -3 feet. It was not fun, but it was only 22 miles and took us a little more than an hour to make the passage. As we got closer to Naples the seas died down a little more, although they did get a bit choppy by the time we entered the harbor. We had to then go North about 20 more minutes to get to the fuel stop (Coastal Marine Fuel) where they have the best price in SW Florida for diesel ($2.24 /gallon).
Our original plan was to anchor out here one night, but when we saw our Looper friend’s boats (“Endoxi” & “Sassified”), we changed our minds and sought out a marina slip where they were at Old Naples Seaport Yacht Association (aka marina). Fortunately, they put us in the slip right across the dock from them; how convenient. Shortly after arriving Pete & Rodney showed up (Pam and Sharri were still out shopping) and the guys made arrangements for docktails on “Sassified” for 5:30.
Once we settled the boat and got all checked in, we went for a walk to the famous 5th Avenue in downtown Naples. We walked past the numerous restaurants and viewed lots of pretty art in the windows of the numerous galleries. There were also lots of shops to go into, but we resisted most of them and only “shopped” in a few. Our total take was a new purse for Denise that cost $20 – probably the cheapest thing in all of Naples.
We got back to the boat in time to make some drinks and take an appetizer for the gathering with our friends. We had so much fun talking and enjoying each other’s company that before we realized it we had missed dinner and snacked on all the appetizers. It was after 8:30 when we finally called it a night and went back to our respective boats.
Here are some pictures from today:
Saturday, (1/9) – Naples, FL – Today was decision day as we had been watching the weather for the next week and trying to determine when we would make the big passage to Key West. We have to be there no later than Saturday 1/16 as Denise will be participating in a Half Marathon along with several family members and friends. We studied the weather and wave forecasts for the next 5 days and decided that we could stay in Naples one more day, if we allowed for some contingency routing (go to Marathon first, then back down to Key West/Stock Island on the inside route). This provided us with more options and still allowed for shorter and (hopefully) not too treacherous days on the Gulf of Mexico between Everglades City and the Keys. It would also allow us to more easily attend church as the one in Naples was close to the marina; the one in Marco Island would have required a cab ride or long bike ride.
Once we confirmed the marina would let us stay, we set out to enjoy the rest of the area and all the Naples had to offer. We rode our bikes to the Farmer’s Market that is held on 3rd Street every Saturday, and purchased some fresh tangerines and a few other items. We then continued our bike ride to the Naples pier where we walked all the way to the end and took some pictures.
After the pier stop we continued the bike ride through some old but very nice neighborhoods where we saw some unbelievable homes, and then eventually rode back to the marina.
We also took advantage of the free washer and did a few quick loads of laundry; something we have learned to take advantage of even if a small load is all that is warranted. Because of the leak in our boat we had lots of dirty towels and this gave us the opportunity to get them cleaned.
Two slips from us in the marina was a Sabre that had a canopy over their back cockpit area that we were admiring. We met and talked with Sven & Kathy (“Flykt”) and discussed the various options they considered. We have been looking for something to protect our back cockpit and provide some shade when we want to sit outside on sunny days. They let us take pictures of their boat and canopy and then we gave them a tour of our Island Office.
Later in the afternoon we attended the 4 pm mass at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, which was about a mile from the marina. We chose to walk as the rain was threatening and we didn’t want to get caught in it on our bikes; it is easier to walk and hold an umbrella in conditions like this. This also allowed us to get in lots of walking exercise and burn a few calories. After mass we walked back to the boat and ate a quiet dinner onboard.
Other pictures from Naples:
Sunday, (1/10) – Marco Island, FL – We left Naples just before 11:00 am and cruised the 14 miles to the Esplanade marina in Marco Island, taking the inside route instead of going into the Gulf of Mexico. As the weather was overcast and quite windy we did not want to deal with 3’ waves and chop of the Gulf, so we chose the more protected inside route. On a sunny day this would have slowed us down a lot, but because of the weather we only encountered a few small fishing boats off the channel in the mangroves, and as we passed through Rookery Bay our wake attracted a few jet skiers.
We arrived at Esplanade and were tied up to the dock by 12:30. This is a marina located up Smokehouse Bay and it is quite protected from the currents of the Marco River and Gulf breezes. It also protected on the south side by two very large condominium buildings, and there is a Winn Dixie across the street and a Publix about 3/4 of a mile away.
Just outside the entrance to the complex is the bridge that can take you west to the beach if you are so inclined, but because we are Floridians the weather is too cool and we did not go. We did however walk to Publix to get a few items and then decided to take advantage of the free washer at this marina, and finish the last few items we did not get to wash in Naples.
Because it was Sunday, there was a limited number of restaurants open around us and the few that were required a walk back to the area near Publix. Due to the cold and damp weather we did not want to walk all the way back. So, for dinner we opted to go to CJ’s, which was located in the complex of the marina and was open. It had mixed reviews on YELP (our go-to restaurant finder) so we didn’t expect a lot, but we were pleasantly surprised. The food was good and we had good service, so we were happy.
We also studied the weather and confirmed that Tuesday would be the best day for us to go to Key West, so we would still be able to get to Everglades City, but only if we did not stay any longer in Marco Island. Therefore we made plans to leave the next day.
Monday, (1/11) – Everglades City, FL – In the morning, Mark contacted the local TowBoatUS representative who confirmed what we thought; there is an inside route from Marco Island to the 10,000 islands and the entrance to the Everglades. We could take that route to avoid going out into the Gulf, and all the way around a huge shoal area south of Marco Island that would lengthen our trip. So we left the marina just before noon to allow us to transit the areas with the shallowest water on a rising tide and found no problems all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way we passed a few interesting sights, including the Old Marco Lodge & Crab house on Goodland Bay – which has been around since 1869.
Shortly after that we went through the Coon Key Pass and entered the Gulf of Mexico. Here we found seas of less than 1 foot, and we were happy that we had taken the inside route. We continued for another 30 minutes cruising along the coast of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife area. We then turned left and headed east through the Indian Key Pass. Here we followed the channel through the mangroves and small islands that took us into Everglades City.
Here are some other pictures from today:
By 2:30 we had parked the boat on the dock wall at the Rod & Gun Club, a landmark fishing lodge that has been around since 1884.
Denise went for a long walk while Mark attended to several client needs and conference calls. While not really a ‘downtown’ area, she did go to a souvenir shop to buy postcards and inquire about airboat rides in the Everglades. Not that we were interested in going; we just wanted to know what the going rate was ($38/hr per person). Here are some of the pictures from the Everglades City area:
In the afternoon our boat was periodically rocked by all the passing commercial fisherman and crabbers returning with their daily catch. This is still very much “old Florida” and the commercial fishing business is very big here – along with the eco-tourism of the Everglades.
After sunset and the conference calls were over, we went to dinner at the restaurant at the Rod & Gun Club. We were one of only three other tables of guests. We were told that in 2 weeks the season will be in full swing, but we could see that the employees were concerned that the bad weather had been keeping fisherman away. This place is well known in fishing circles and everyone had told us we had to come here. We are glad we did as this was quite an adventure and great way to break up the cruise from Marco Island down to the Keys.
Other pictures from this area:
Tuesday, (1/12) – Key West, FL– Figuring we would have a long day on the water, we chose to leave Everglades City as soon as it was light. This was easy as we woke early due to the rocking of the passing fishing boats now leaving at 5:00 am to go set their crab traps or to fish for the day. It didn’t matter that the wind was up and it was raining – they have to make their living.
We quickly made it out into the Gulf of Mexico and entered the Florida Bay where the average depth is 15 – 20 feet. The water was a pretty green and normally would be crystal clear, but for the waves brought on by the 25 kt North wind. We were very fortunate it was behind us and we were not uncomfortable at all. We plotted a course to head to Marathon with the plan to head there, then cross under the US1 Bridge and head West through Hawk’s Channel into Key West. This was a longer route, but would protect us from the north wind.
However we were having a good day and the wind wasn’t as bad as predicted, so we made the decision to head directly to Key West, staying on the northern side of the Keys and in the FL Bay. This ended up saving us lots of time and we were glad we did this. The waves did build a bit and it got a little rougher as we neared the Key West Harbor entrance, but it was still tolerable. The most stressful part was the (literally) thousands of crab pots we had to negotiate around. It is stone crab season and all the traps are out! It took lots of concentration and we had to pay attention making sure we did not foul our prop on any of the pots.
We entered the North West channel and made our way through the Key West Harbor as a Carnival Cruise ship was preparing to leave port.
We negotiated around it, through the harbor, and then took the Fleming Key Cut to the North side of Key West. From there we had to navigate through a mooring field that had no less than 200 boats on moorings. It was quite a challenge as the wind was blowing really strong and was on our nose at this point, and we were trying to eyeball the channel marks to take us around Sigsbee Park and into the narrow channel into Sunset Marina on Stock Island.
The marina does not communicate on the VHF and we had been trying to reach the dock master via phone since arriving in Key West area, only to get an “out of service” message. Although we had our dock assignment from prior communication, we did not know the layout of this marina and wanted some assistance. The wind was really blowing which made docking a significant challenge. Fortunately, fellow Loopers Bill & KelliRae (“Ocean Dancer”) whom we had been in touch with, saw us coming in and helped us get to the correct slip and tie up. We really appreciated their efforts and it was good to see a friendly face. Come to find out the marina had lost all telecommunications with the high winds and in fact it was out for all of Stock Island. Later in the afternoon it was eventually restored.
Once we had settled the boat and checked in we took a walk around the marina area to see the sights. It was a well-protected location and we were happy with our accommodations as the wind was really blowing.
We stuck around the boat for the rest of the day and ate a quiet dinner on board.
Wednesday, (1/13) – Key West, FL – Denise started the day with a 4 mile run on Stock Island. Her route included crossing over the Overseas Highway (US1) to the South side of the Island and to the Stock Island Village Marina where most of the Loopers stay but where we were not able to get a slip. She found fellow Loopers John & Jan (“Mitzvah”) whom we met in Green Turtle Bay, Kentucky and talked with them for a little bit before heading back to the marina.
While she was gone, Mark investigated some possible areas for our boat leak, which was getting worse every day. He was pretty sure that the leak was coming from where the fiberglass cabin top and decking are seamed together, as the caulking there is cracked and chipping away. We had checked all other portholes and hatches and there just was no evidence of water entering from them. So we resolved to get some blue painters tape and put it over the area to see if this would prevent further leaking.
The rest of the day was a workday on the boat, and a day to resolve computer technical issues for Denise, which literally took all day. Since it was mostly a rainy and windy day we did not venture out much, staying close to the boat and marina.
Thursday, (1/14) – Key West, FL – The rain continued all night and into the day, giving us a bit of cabin fever. In the morning Denise started to read the book Mark had finished (“13 hours”), while Mark started to do some work. Then he got the idea to get a rental car so we could get off the boat and do our errands instead of waiting for our family to arrive on Friday. This would allow us to go get some blue tape and get a temporary repair on the leak as soon as possible.
So we took a cab to the Key West airport to get the rental car, then went to Home Depot to buy the blue painters tape.
We then drove to the Cummins dealer (Key West Engine Service) to pick up the spare generator impeller Mark had ordered when we were in Sarasota. After that we went to the West Marine which had been holding a new water softener we had ordered, as well as a leash for Denise’s new SUP. Finally, we went to Publix and to get a few things needed for the weekend.
Not wanting to go back to the boat just yet, we opted for a late lunch at the Hurricane Hole, a restaurant on Stock Island. The food was good, but the service was very slow and the place had hardly anyone in it. It had come with good reviews, so we figured our timing was off and just enjoyed being off the boat for a while.
After lunch we drove to the rental house where the family would be staying for the weekend to scope out the surrounding water. It is only 2 miles away and on a canal that leads out to the FL Bay. We had hoped to be able to take the dinghy there, but the weather does not look favorable for us to do that.
Later in the afternoon, Mark was able to get the water softener installed and we also put blue tape on the seam where we believe the leak was. We had discussed going to the movies in the evening, but the rain came and we just didn’t feel like venturing out. Denise was heavy into her book and Mark had work for clients he was trying to get done. However, since we had the rental car we decided to get a to-go dinner from Outback Steakhouse which was located near the Publix and Home Depot on Key West, a short 4 miles from the boat. After that it was back to reading and relaxing for the rest of the evening.
Friday (1/15) – Key West, FL – The rain continued in the morning but fortunately we had no leaking water. It looked like we had identified the source, so Mark made some phone calls and found a local person who could do a permanent repair for us. Jorg (George) is from Germany and is a certified master boat builder. He came by and gave us an estimate, and we scheduled him to do the repair work beginning on Monday. Denise spent the rest of the morning finishing her book while Mark did some work for clients and then returned the rental car back to the airport
In the afternoon the family started to arrive. Coming to Key West for the Half Marathon were the following: Denise’s Sister Claire, her husband John, son Johnny & his girlfriend Scarlett – all from Tallahassee; Sister Susan and her husband Steve – from Orlando; Sue and Steve’s three daughters – Jessica, Jaci, & Jeanette – from Tallahassee, Thomasville, Ga, and Tampa, respectively. These three gals got a weekend pass as they left leaving their young children in the charge of their husbands for the weekend. Staying nearby at a hotel on Key West was friends Vicki and Liz – from Orlando, who were part of this contingency of folks all planning to walk the half marathon on Sunday.
We spent the afternoon with the family at the rental house hanging out and just chatting and planning for the next few day’s activities. We were also able to take advantage of the washer and dryer in the rental house and get some laundry done.
In the evening we all went to dinner at Blue Heaven. This is a restaurant in Key West that we have eaten at before, and because we were such a large group we were able to get a “reservation”, even though they usually don’t take them. It also helped that the rain had kept most people away as the majority of this restaurant is outside underneath a large banyan tree. Fortunately, the rain had stopped right before we called and we were able to get in at a decent time. We had a lot of fun talking and enjoying each other’s company at this good old Key West standby.
Saturday (1/16) – Key West, FL – in the morning Denise spent time with the family at the rental house and making plans for the rest of the day; Mark washed the boat as it was finally sunny and clear enough to do so. Eventually, we regrouped and all went into downtown Key West to pick up our race packets and attend the expo. It was very windy, but at least it had stopped raining and afforded us time to walk around a bit.
Of course we forgot to get a picture of the rental house!
Because of the race on Sunday we went to the 6:00 pm mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. However because of our large group and how crowded it was, all 13 of us had to spread out across three different pews. Coincidentally, the principal of the school associated with the church was at the same mass and spotted Claire, John & Johnny. He used to teach at John Paull II (Catholic High School in Tallahassee) and moved to Key West a few years ago as his wife is from here. What a small world!
We left the church just as the rain drops started coming and made our way back to the rental house on Stock Island. A carbo-loading spaghetti dinner had been planned and all pitched in to help get it cooked and served – buffet style, of course. We took pictures, watched some football on TV, then we headed back to the boat for the night.
It rained most of the night and the wind howled but we stayed dry in the boat. Apparently we have found the source of our leak and the temporary repair was holding.
Sunday (1/17) – Key West, FL – It was an early wake-up to coordinate the pickup, drop off and rendezvous with everyone for the start of the race. As we arrived near the start we got word the race had been delayed for one hour due to a tornado warning and pending rain. So we opted to go to Harpoon Harry’s for coffee and protection from the elements which we were glad we did; within 20 minutes it started to pour. After about 45minutes, it calmed down to a drizzle and stopped completely just before the start of the race.
And after that, there was no more rain for the rest of the day. But the winds picked up and were ferocious. Our whole group finished the 13.1 miles and we were all in a celebratory mood, but only after battling the 35 kt headwinds during the last half of the race. It was brutal!
Afterwards we all hung out at the race after-party for a while and then made our way back to the rental house for lunch.
We headed back to the boat for showers before regrouping with the gang again in the afternoon. In the late afternoon everyone went down to Mallory Square to watch the sunset, but it was non-existent due to the cloud cover. We watched a few of the entertainers, and Johnny participated in one of the shows, but because of the wind and cool temperatures we did not stay long once the sun went down.
We had dinner at Two Friends Café located not far from Mallory Square. We enjoyed a great time there celebrating our accomplishment and enjoying each other’s company. We stayed as late as our tired bodies would let us, and then we made our way back to the rental house. There we said our goodbye’s to family and returned to the boat for the night.
Other sights from today in Key West:
Monday (1/18) – Key West, FL – Today all the family left the rental house and headed back to their homes in Tallahassee, Tampa, Orlando and Thomasville. Denise was sad to see them leave and was even sadder when Mark too left for the airport; he had to go to Ohio to visit a client.
Denise spent the rest of the day beginning the task of cataloging the pictures taken over the last two weeks. It was a big job and she barely made a dent before the day was over.
Tuesday (1/19) – Key West, FL – Again today the wind was howling in the morning and Denise spent the entire day cataloging pictures until she was caught up. She took a brief time out to talk with Nicholas (local live aboard) whose daughter Kassidy also ran the Half Marathon, and she spent some time talking with Bill & KelliRae (“Ocean Dancer”). She also worked on an update to the blog posting and in the evening participated in web conference for a professional association she is involved with.
Also during the day, Jorg showed up and started the repair work. This involves taking all the old caulking out of the seam, which is a tedious task. It has to be done carefully so as not to scratch the fiberglass gel coat. He got about half way done the boat before he had to leave for the day, but will be back to finish tomorrow.
Wednesday (1/20) – Key West, FL – Finally today, the sun came out and the wind seemed to die down a little bit. The temperature was still cool for Key West, but was very pleasant for a change.
Shortly after 10 am, Jorg showed up with his helper Ken, and the two of them went to work on removing the rest of the old caulking. After that they had to clean and then prepare the area for the new sealant to be applied. The actual installation of the new sealant was the easiest and fastest part and by 4:30 pm the job was done. The boat looked better, our leak was repaired, and our bank account was now lower.
While this was going on Denise was able to get in a short run around the Key West Golf Course and the marina, and worked on this blog update. She also participated in a webcast on leadership that was delivered by one of her colleagues and she went up to balcony on the 2nd story of the facilities building to capture the best sunset we have seen yet in Key West.
The marina here is very friendly and there are lots of live-aboards as well as transients and locals.
Here is a little bit about this area on Stock Island:
The marina is bordered by four 3-story condo buildings to Southeast, the Monroe County Juvenile Justice Center (and Jail) to the Southwest and West, a large landfill behind the condos, and the Florida Bay to the North. Across the street and up the road is an elementary school, a Community College, the County hospital and the Key West Golf Course, which is open to the public. Also nearby are two naval air stations and we continuously hear the jets or helicopters taking off and landing, or just running their jets. We also hear the never ending sounds of ambulances going to the hospital making for a sometimes a noisy place.
In the marina there is a marina office that also serves as a mini convenience store and bait shop. There is also a two-story building adjacent to the marina office building that houses the bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities, as well as a multipurpose room which is under some type of renovation. The balcony off of this building provides a spectacular view to the West, where we can see the cruise ships in port in the Key West Harbor and offers a terrific spot to view sunsets.
There are several commercial fishing charters that are based here and they make use of the fish cleaning stations on the docks when they come in with their catches.
This gets a lot of attention by the resident tarpon and pelicans who anxiously await for something to be thrown to them. We have watched the tarpon literally come out of the water to take the fish scraps out of someone’s hand, while the pelicans try to get in on the action as well. This makes for a fun thrill when there is nothing else to do in Key West!
Stay tuned for more of our adventure!