Making memories in Marathon!

We have moved from Key West to Marathon and have plans to stay here through the month of February. Many people have told us that is not enough time to see everything in this community. After only a few days here we are starting to understand what they mean as there is quite a bit to do and see.

Here is our latest on our adventures:

Thursday (1/21) – Key West, FL – Today was boat maintenance day for Denise while she awaited Mark’s return from his business trip.  Everything inside the boat was vacuumed, washed, & polished so it would be nice for his homecoming.  She got the last blog update finished and published, and took some pictures around the marina.  She also started and spent most of the day reading the book “13 Hours”; a great insight into what happened at Benghazi, Libya from the perspective of the contractors hired to protect the CIA staff. The story is compelling and she got most of the book read.

Later in the evening Mark returned safely from his trip and we discussed our plans to leave Saturday to head to Marathon. The weather was not looking good and was going to turn bad all weekend so we discussed the possibility of staying a few more days.

Friday (1/22) – Key West, FL – As forecasted, today was an awful weather day in Key West.  The wind was howling from the North at 35 knots with gusts to 40 knots and the stern of our boat took the brunt of it.  It got covered with the salt that blew in off the Gulf and made it difficult to get on and off the boat without getting a bit dirty. Even though there was a breakwater/dock at the entrance to the marina there were 2 foot breaking waves over it, and all the boats in the marina were rocking.  It also began raining and continued off and on throughout the day. Needless to say we were not going to take the SUP out into the Gulf and cruise around like we wanted to. In fact, we really were not going anywhere for a few days as it was going to continue to blow. So, we rescheduled our departure with the marina, and postponed our Marathon arrival until Monday or possibly Tuesday. We stayed close to the boat in the morning so Mark could get some work done and Denise could finish her book.

In the afternoon we rented a car so we could get off the boat.

Our rental car

Our rental car

We used it to go to the movies and see “13 hours”. We had been in communication with our friends on “Endoxi” and “Sassified” who were now in one of the downtown marinas. They took a cab to meet us and see a movie as well.  Afterwards, we all crammed into our rental car for dinner at Salute! This restaurant is owned by the same people who own Blue Heaven and has an outdoor patio that is covered with isinglass windows.  Because the weather was so bad we were able to get seated right away on their enclosed patio. We can see that this would have been a fun place to visit for lunch during a sunny day as there is an outdoor bar and is set up for beach volleyball. This could be a great people-watching spot that we will need to come back to again someday. Together with Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) and Sharri & Rodney (“Sassified”) we had a delicious meal.

Dinner at Salute with Endoxi & Sassified

Dinner at Salute with Endoxi & Sassified

Saturday (1/23) – Key West, FL– Again the weather was not so great so we went adventuring in the rental car. First we headed out to downtown Key West and to see the impact of the wind on the water. There were a few brave tourists out on the streets, but not many. We went to Mallory Square where there was no one around; something we have never seen before. Here are some pictures of the Key West Harbor area:

High winds in KW Harbor

High winds in KW Harbor

KW Harbor - 40 kt day

KW Harbor – 40 kt day

Mallory Square

Mallory Square

Then we headed to the FL Keys Eco Discovery Center and realized we had made a great discovery of our own.  This center located in the Truman Annex compound offers a plethora of learning about the Florida Keys ecosystems and what is being done to make them sustainable. There are several big aquariums and numerous interactive exhibits, as well as a 20 minute video.  The best part of this center is that is it FREE!  We were so glad we went there as they are closed on Sunday and Monday, and we would have missed it if we did not see it today.  You can learn more about this really cool place here.

Eco Discovery Center

Eco Discovery Center

Sea Urchins at Eco Discovery Center

Sea Urchins at Eco Discovery Center

Lionfish at Eco Discovery Center

Lionfish at Eco Discovery Center

We got back to the boat for a very late lunch and to get out of the weather for a while. Later we went to the 6:00 pm mass at Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea for a second week in a row – the first time in our entire Loop adventure that we have visited the same church more than once.  Afterwards we went back to the boat for dinner and a quieter night then the one before as the wind was finally dying down.

Sunday (1/24) – Key West, FL– Denise went for a run and although the rain stopped and the wind was still blowing a bit.  She ran to and down the promenade on the Gulf side of Key West and saw many more boats out on the water than in the past few days, taking advantage of better weather.

Bike & Pedestrian path

Promenade – Bike & Pedestrian path

We had been watching a sailboat that had been at anchor in the Gulf about a mile away from us. During the high winds over the last few days it dragged closer and closer until this morning it was pushed up onto a shoal just outside the marina.  Others in our marina claimed they saw people aboard the boat and that the Coast Guard and FL Wildlife Commission (FWC) had both been out to see it, but we had not witnessed any activity.  Clearly this boat will require a tow off of the shoal and hopefully for them they will not get cited for any reef damage as the fines for this can be costly.

Sailboat on shoal

Sailboat on shoal

Today we took the rental car and drove east to explore some of the other lower Keys neither of us have ever been to. We traveled through the Saddlebunch Keys, Sugarloaf Keys, and eventually to Cudjoe Key. Although much smaller than Key West, they all have some residential areas and we found many houses for sale that intrigued us, but not enough to get us to make a purchase. The exception of course was Boca Chica which exclusively houses the Naval Air Station.

We did see some very interesting sights along the way, including a radar balloon that was on Cudjoe Key, but was so high up in the air we could see it from our marina on Stock Island.

Radar blimp - Cudjoe Key

Radar blimp – Cudjoe Key

We also saw houses that still had Christmas decorations on display, ala Florida style:

Christmas in Sugarloaf Key

Christmas in Sugarloaf Key

When we returned to the marina, the wind had further calmed down and we got to (finally) cook some steaks on our grill for dinner.

Monday (1/25) – Marathon, FL– Finally a good weather day, so we decided we would take advantage of it and head to Marathon.  We returned the rental car back to the airport and then left the Sunset Marina.  Our trip route took us back through the mooring field, the Fleming Cut and Key West Harbor where we noticed the big yacht “Shalimar” was still at anchor.

"Shalimar" in KW anchorage

“Shalimar” in KW anchorage

"Shalimar's" dinghy and play toy

“Shalimar’s” dinghy and play toy

From there we headed south to the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys, and then headed east entering Hawk’s Channel for our 55 mile cruise to Marathon. The waves were mostly flat, but the wind was on our nose and the water was a little choppy. It was a little bouncy but quite tolerable.

We cruised past Boca Chica Key and all the Keys we had driven to yesterday.

NAS KW on Boca Chica

NAS KW on Boca Chica

Eventually we came up to Little Torch Key where we stopped to fill up on diesel fuel at one of the more affordable places in the Keys.  The entrance to the channel to get to Little Torch Key took us past Little Palm Island Resort (on Munson Island) – a five-star exclusive resort that is frequently written about in travel magazines like Coastal Living and Conde Nast.  It is extremely expensive (starts at $900/night) and is not inclusive, with everything having a 7.5% sales tax and 20% gratuity.  You can go there just to eat dinner at the resort and they will send a boat launch to the mainland to pick you up if you don’t have your own boat. They do have a dock and allow overnight stays there with access to the beach and resort amenities, but it is very exposed to wind and waves, and very expensive – the discounted price is $600/night and well beyond our Looping budget!

Palm Island Resort

Palm Island Resort

After fueling we made our way back out to Hawk’s Channel and continued our trip east past Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park and Key, and the Seven Mile Bridge which we went under to get back on the Gulf side of the Keys.

"Time Out" near Little Torch Key

“Time Out” near Little Torch Key

7 Mile Bridge

7 Mile Bridge – or at least part of it

We pulled into the Marathon Yacht Club and tied up to our assigned slip without incident. Although not a 5-star resort like Little Palm Island, the MYC is a very nice place with friendly people. Unfortunately for us, the dining room is closed on Mondays so we ventured up the road to have dinner at Takara a Thai restaurant. The food was ok (not bad, but not great), but with only one waiter the service was really slow. We don’t think we will go back as there are many other places to eat at that are within walking distance of the marina.

Takara Thai Restaurant

Takara Thai Restaurant

Tuesday (1/26) – Marathon, FL– In the morning we ran into Jann Mellman (“Ivory Lady”) who we expected to see at the club as her husband Bill is a past Commodore and they had suggested we stay here.  They recently completed their Loop and are now Gold Loopers and have their boat in a neighboring marina (Faro Blanco). Jann invited Denise to the ladies fashion show at the club on Thursday and made plans to sit at the same table.

Today was a work-day and very low-key. Mark came down with a bad cold and used the afternoon to take a 2 hour nap to try and feel better. Denise used the time to download pictures and start on the next blog update. She also spent time doing a load of laundry and communicating with friends and family members.

The weather was fairly nice, although it was still windy. Fortunately, it was out of the South and mostly blocked by the land behind us so we were quite comfortable. But it was hot and for the first time in weeks Denise put on shorts instead of jeans.

The MYC has been around since 1951 and has recently added the swimming pool. The marina has 22 slips, two of which are taken up by a single large Marlow yacht near us. The dining room and bar area occupy most of the area in the building, with club offices, marina restrooms and a laundry facility completing the rest of the facilities.  The main entrance shares the parking lot with the local boat ramp, and the parking lot is across from an elementary school. So there is lots of activity going on all day long. As members of MTOA we were granted reciprocity dockage which includes use of the club facilities and participation in activities while we are here.  Since we will be staying through February we are looking forward to this as they have a lot going on.  Here are some pictures of the marina and club:

MYC Sign from water

MYC Sign from water

MYC Pool

MYC Pool

MYC from marina

MYC from marina

Marathon Boat Ramp near MYC

Marathon Boat Ramp near MYC

MYC from parking lot

MYC from parking lot

Entrance to MYC

Entrance to MYC

MYC Marina

MYC Marina

Wednesday (1/27) – Marathon, FL– Denise went for a morning run, down the bike path that runs along the “Overseas Highway” (US 1) to the 7-mile Bridge and back.  Along the way she passed a new Marriott Courtyard under construction and right next door, the Faro Blanco marina where several of our Looper friends were docked. She also ran past a large section of mangroves that border the bike path with the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Hiding out in these bushes are numerous homeless people and she was thankful she had waited until later in the morning to run as this would have spooked her if it was still dark (as it is until 7:00 am).

She also ran past a well-known restaurant and bar called “Porky’s”, that looks exactly like the kind of bar you would expect in the FL Keys. Later we learned that this place has really good food, so we have marked it as a “must see” place to get dinner one night.

Porky's

Porky’s

Mark was still fighting a cold but looked like he had turned the corner and was on the road to recovery. He did some work in the morning and then in the afternoon we took a bike ride along the route Denise ran earlier.  We stopped in at Faro Blanco marina to see Looper friends we knew were there including Sonny & Phyllis (“Corkscrew”).  We talked for them for a while and looked for others on “Sum Escape” and “Chasing 80”, but they were not on their boats. We also saw Lila and Allen (“Blue Haven”) whom we met at IVY on the Illinois River, and again in Ft. Myers, but did not get a chance to speak to them. Eventually we got around to “Ivory Lady” and spent time talking with Jann & Bill about our boating adventures.  We missed Willy & Caryn (“Next Chapter”) as they had their boat hauled for maintenance, but would be back in the water their sometime next week.

Noticing the approaching rainstorm, Mark indicated we needed to get back on our bikes and head back to the marina. So we made a quick exit and peddled back to the MYC, arriving just in time as the raindrops started to fall. Because of this we nixed our plans to grill out chicken shishkabobs and instead made chicken fajitas.

Off and on all night long it rained and we were grateful that we had made the repairs to the boat when at Sunset Marina. We have yet to see any water on the floor and felt a sense of relief that this problem was now behind us.

Later in the evening Mark was reading the local (weekly) newspaper (the Free Press) and learned that on Thursday (tomorrow) Monroe County would be conducting a census of all the homeless population in the FL Keys.  Denise suggested they look in the mangroves along the Overseas Highway if they want an accurate number.

Thursday (1/28) – Marathon, FL– We woke up to more rain and a dreary looking overcast sky.  This is what the El Nino conditions brings to the FL Keys.  It was hot and humid and we once again had the air conditioning running.

Mark had scheduled a day full of conference calls and barely came up for air all day.

Denise attended the fashion show luncheon at the MYC. She was invited by Jann Mellman (“Ivory Lady”) who also was one of the “models”, along with a few other women from the club.

Jann and others in Fashion Show

Jann and others in Fashion Show

The women’s auxiliary puts on the show as a fundraiser for their education programs. Also present at the luncheon was Looper friends Pat Hospodor (“Reflections”) and Caryn Bain (“Next Chapter”), and she met several other women who planning to go on the Loop in the near future.

Fashion Show brochure

Fashion Show brochure

After the luncheon Denise spent a bit of time talking with Caryn about things to do and see in the Marathon area and it is clear that we came to stay at the right place.  We may even run out of time to see it all before we move east at the end of February.

In the afternoon it was still drizzling off and on, and the breeze started to pick up. By early evening it was really blowing again and was just miserable out. Our original plan to walk somewhere for dinner was nixed as we didn’t feel like getting soaked.  We debated about eating at the club, but knew we would be participating in the cookout tomorrow night so we nixed that option as well.  Finally, we opted for a pasta dinner on board our Island Office and an evening of debate watching until we couldn’t take it anymore and went to bed.

All night long the boat rocked a lot as the North wind was strong and the entrance to the marina faces the Gulf (north). Still it was not nearly as bad as the 4 days we spent in Grand Haven, Michigan getting blown around our slip.

Friday (1/29) – Marathon, FL– The wind was still blowing strong in the morning, only now the temperature was dropping; 65 degrees in the Keys is still cool, even for January.  The good news is that it meant the weather front was passing and eventually the wind would die down, but not until much later in the day.

We spent the morning on the boat working and writing this blog, and when we had enough rocking opted for a bike ride. We rode north on the bike path along Overseas Highway (US1) to scope out a new development about ¼ mile away called “Marlin Bay Yacht Club”.  There are new homes and a new marina in a gated community that is in the first of five phases of development. It is very nice, but clearly is going to be an exclusive and expensive place.

Marlin Bay Yacht Club

Marlin Bay Yacht Club

The funny thing is it is right next to the Florida Keys Fisheries processing facility, and across the street is a trailer park with a bunch of double-wide trailers.  Only in the Keys!

Fl Keys Fisheries processing plant

Florida Keys Fisheries processing plant

We continued our bike ride up to Banana Bay Resort & Marina where we heard several other Loopers were docked. We saw Cindy & Randy (“I think I can….”) on their Ranger Tug. We had met them at the Spring Rendezvous in Norfolk and again in Deltaville, but had not seen them since. We congratulated them on their Gold Looper Status as they recently crossed their wake.  We rode around the marina to see other Looper boats we recognized including “Sea to Sea” and “Reflection“, but they were not on their boats. So we left Banana Bay, but we will be back here as there is a big Looper event being planned for here on 2/21 and we have already sent in our reservations.

We then headed further east to the next traffic light, which was also where the Walgreens and Publix were located. We used the crosswalk to make our way to the other side of US1 and then rode all the way back to the marina, stopping briefly to check out the prices at Marathon Liquor & Deli. We discovered that it was a really cool store with a great wine selection and lots of deli items, including Boar’s Head products that are cheaper than Publix.  We will be coming back here too, but not for alcohol; it is still cheaper at Costco than here.

Finally we returned back to the boat for lunch. The skies were now sunny, but the wind was still blowing pretty hard.  We hung around reading and working on this blog post for most of the afternoon.

In the evening we attended the usual Friday night cookout dinner at MYC. We provided the meat (a steak) and then used their grills by the pool to cook it. They provided a buffet of salads & fixings, potatoes, rice, and green beans, and an ice cream dessert bar – all for $15. You can choose not to bring your own protein and then order from the club, but the cost then is $26.  Either way we got a great meal and had a chance to meet some other club members. They also provide entertainment and each week it is different; tonight it was a family who played folksy country music (NOT Mark’s favorite).  But they had the cutest little boy who was 5 years old and played the mandolin and had quite a good voice.  It was casual and everyone was very friendly and welcoming.  We had fun and we are glad we did this.

MYC Pool at sunset

MYC Pool at sunset

Mark at MYC Cooking dinner

Mark at MYC Cooking dinner

Grim & Doerfel Trio with son

Grim & Doerfel Trio with son

We then came back to the boat to pack. We leave tomorrow for a quick trip home in order to see Denise’s Aunt who is in visiting, and for a special event with our friends the Medei’s. We will be back on the boat Thursday and the adventures will continue then.

Here are some of our wildlife pictures from the week:

Egret in Sunset Marina

Egret in Sunset Marina

Turtle in MYC marina

Sea Turtle in MYC marina

Stay tuned for more

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