We started the month of February with a very quick trip home. During our visit we enjoyed spending time with Denise’s Aunt Judy who was visiting from New Hampshire, and celebrating the Catholic confirmation with Zachary Medei and his family. Additionally, Denise really enjoyed getting 3 days of running with her buddies in Winter Park.
We returned to the boat on Friday, 2/5 and have spent the entire month in Marathon. This has been very different than the rest of our Loop adventure as most of the time we have moved the boat every day or two – with a few exceptions for a week stay. In fact, we found more of our normal routine schedule took over and before you know it, a month had flown by.
So, here is the latest of our adventures from Marathon:
Saturday (1/30) – Marathon, FL – As usual, Denise woke up way before dawn, but today it was because of the noise coming from outside. Eventually, she got up and ventured out to see where the blaring boom-box noise was coming from. Come to find out it is from the fishing boats who were in line at the boat ramp near the yacht club. They were all in queue which extended down the street and out onto US1, all in attempt to get their boats in the water, then grab one of the very limited parking spots for their vehicle and trailer. By 5:00 am the lot was full and they were on their way to fish, but everyone on boats in MYC marina were awake.
Queuing up at city boat ramp
Boat ramp queue
Mark got Bob (Port Captain) to take him to the airport to get our rental car, and we got it packed and hit the road for a quick trip home.
(Interlude – trip home to Winter Park)
Friday (2/5) – Marathon, FL– We left Winter Park in the morning and drove down the keys before the traffic got too bad. We stopped in Islamorada to check out the marina where we planned to stay in March. Our friends Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) were already there, and Shari & Rodney had “Sassified” docked but they had moved to their house. We visited with Pete & Pam for a while, then we all went over to see Sharri & Rod’s beautiful home which overlooks the Atlantic. We visited with them for a little bit longer, then had to leave as we did not want to get to Marathon when it was dark. The weekend traffic was building on US1 and we still had 40 miles to go.
Shari & Rodney’s Tavernier House
Shari & Rodney’s Tavernier backyard
Since we will be staying in Marathon for a month, then moving to Islamorada for another 4 weeks, we decided to drive our own car (SUV) to the keys. One of the benefits of this is that we can leave things in the back of the SUV until we need it, like a cooler and a whole flat of bottled water. Of course when we go to the Bahamas we will not have this luxury, but for now we are happy to not have to worry about where to store these things on our boat.
When we arrived back at the Marathon Yacht Club (MYC) we were advised by neighbors on the sailboat next to ours that they had to adjust some of our lines while we were gone as the wind started to blow the day before. It is like we are a magnet for the wind as it kicked back up when we got back to Marathon and of course it was out of the North where (once again) the marina has its greatest exposure.
After we got the car unpacked, we went over to the Key’s Fisheries located just a few blocks from the marina. Here we got some dinner and then checked out their stone crab claw prices in their market. Denise had gotten some at Whole Foods while home and discovered that Key Fisheries was their source. The prices, remarkably were the same price, but Whole Foods is not fresh off the boat.
Entrance at Keys Fisheries
MYC was having their usual Friday night Bar-b-que and we ran into Bill Mellman at the grill. He and Jann (“Ivory Lady) were dining at the club that night, so we stopped and chatted with him while he cooked their dinner. We agreed to get together later this week or sometime soon.
The wind was really blowing and the chop in the marina was unbelievable. As the water slapped the hull of the boat it made a lot of noise and made it difficult to sleep. Plus, since the bow faces north and we sleep in the bow, it is louder and more uncomfortable in these conditions. We both were up and down all night long, trying to get comfortable despite the noise. Either that or we just missed the comforts of our dirt home bed.
Saturday (2/6) – Marathon, FL –Unfortunate for the fishing guys this week, it rained most of the day and was really windy so we didn’t have the early morning music issues from the previous weekend. Eventually, the rain cleared up, but it still remained a bit windy. We spent most of the day just hanging around the boat and MYC. Mark rested a bit as he was still under the weather with either a cold or allergies. Denise spent the afternoon working on the information to submit her maintenance points for her Supply Chain Certification and got that task completed.
In the afternoon we watched Dori, Bob’s dog go after an iguana that had been sitting on the dock trying to warm up with the now very sunny day.
MYC neighbor iguana
Dori the iguana attacker
Bob with Dori
Later we went to Publix to get some food for the week, and then on the way home we went to the Keys Fisheries Market and got some fresh grouper for dinner; Denise had a new recipe she wanted to try out.
But now we had a dilemma. The recipe called to broil the fish and our oven doesn’t really have a broiler; it is a convection microwave. However, it does have grilling capabilities. So we improvised and made it using the grill feature. It took about 10 minutes longer to cook, but it was good and fresh so it tasted great. We now know that if we want fish cooked this way, we should either grill it on the outside grill, or wait until we get back home to put it under the broiler.
Sunday (2/7), Marathon, FL – It is Super Bowl Sunday and we felt like they had played the game on our boat. The whole night the wind continued to howl and it continued to rain off and on. When we woke in the morning it was cloudy and overcast, but not as cool as was expected. However, it did start to rain just as we headed out to attend mass at San Pablo Catholic Church, located about 4 miles from the marina. We were grateful we had our car and did not have to worry about getting transportation to go to church in these conditions.
San Pablo Catholic Church
Sign for rosary garden at San Pablo
After church we went out to breakfast (something we rarely do) at “The Stuffed Pig”. This is a small restaurant around the corner from the marina that only serves breakfast and lunch. It has an outdoor eating area as well as the small dining room, but the inclement weather had it closed so everyone had to wait on indoor seating. Fortunately, we only had a 15 minute wait. The food was good and the place was lively with a lot of fun treasures all over the walls. We had an opportunity to talk with the hostess who come to find out was a former Eastern airline flight attendant. Mark’s mom worked for Eastern before she retired so we had something to discuss with this woman.
Breakfast at The Stuffed Pig
The Stuff Pig
After breakfast we attempted to get a newspaper; specifically the Sunday edition of the Miami Herald. Who would have thought it would be such an adventure. We went to no less than 10 places only to be told they were sold out. Publix, Walgreens, Tom Thumb (7-11 like store), gas stations, and every newspaper box in front of every store. The combination of the upcoming Miami Boat Show, Coconut Grove Art Festival, and Super Bowl Sunday must have made it a hot commodity. Either that or they have really terrible supply chain forecasting and need to hire us to improve their business. It was unbelievable that they would have sold out by 10:30 in the morning.
Afterwards we came back to the boat and hung out for a while, talking with Bob (MYC Port Captain) who owns the Island Packet Catamaran across the dock from us, as well as other boaters around us.
Later in the afternoon, the clouds finally dissipated but the wind was still blowing out of the north and bouncing our boat around the slip. So to get off the boat we went to the Pigeon Key Art Festival which was held in the Marathon City Park located 1/2 mile up the road from MYC. We walked to the event and through the 70 or so artists who displayed varying mediums, mostly all with a beach or Keys theme to their products. Even the jewelry had nautical or sea life motifs.
Pigeon Key Art Festival Sign
Pigeon Key Art Festival
When we got back from the festival, Mark wanted to rest for a while still trying to get rid of the running nose and congestion. Denise read. We ate a dinner of bar-b-que chicken that Denise had prepared in the crock pot, then watched the Super Bowl and all its entertaining commercials.
Monday (2/8), Marathon, FL – We spent the day working around the boat and getting to know some of our boat neighbors in the marina. It is a small group as there are less than 25 slips and many are filled with boats from the clubs members. In the evening, the live-aboard and transients in the marina held a Pot luck dinner; something they do every Monday during the season as the yacht club is closed on Mondays. It gave us a good time to meet people who we would be spending a lot of time with in the next month. We brought some smoked salmon and capers, as Mark’s request, and it was well liked by all. Afterwards we watched Downton Abbey on demand as we had missed Sunday’s episode due to the Super Bowl.
IO at MYC
Tuesday (2/9), Marathon, FL – Today was a day of adventures. We had to go to Key West for a 10:30 appointment with ICE (Immigration and Customs enforcement) to get our Small Vessel Reporting System cards. This will enable us to re-enter the US after the Bahamas with (hopefully) no issues. The cost is free, but they must see us in person. So we drove the 45 miles to the address they told us to report at (Federal Courthouse in downtown Key West), only to learn that they only show up there periodically. We were redirected to the ICE office at the KW airport. Fortunately, they were laid back (it is the Keys) and even though we were slightly late they were very accommodating. They also let us park in the spot for official cars right near their door, which was a nice bonus. Our business was conducted in no time and we were in an out of there in 30 minutes. We then ventured to a few stores to pick up a couple items and headed back North (or is it East) on US1 towards Marathon.
We had made arrangements to see a long-time friend of Denise’s (Mary) from her days in Miami. She now lives in Big Pine Key which is about half-way between Key West and Marathon. However, it was too early to drive straight there as she had a lunch appointment.
So we decided to stop for lunch at a place we had heard about on Cudjoe Key called the “Square Grouper”. We found this spot to be a lot of fun as the whole theme of the restaurant is based on the marijuana bales that wash ashore in the keys – known affectionately as square groupers. There is a large aquarium in the middle of the restaurant containing a fake example, and there are sayings all throughout the restaurant and menu that reinforce this play on words (e.g. “this is my favorite joint”). But the best part of this restaurant is the food. It is really fresh and tasty and they have an excellent wine selection. It also helps that the service is fast and friendly and we really enjoyed ourselves.
Square Grouper Entrance
Lunch at Square Grouper
Square Grouper inside
After lunch we drove to visit Mary on Big Pine Key. Mary is a widow and a retired Miami firefighter. She and Denise used to run and swim together when both were single. Although we correspond periodically, we had last seen her (and her husband Mike) when we had our sailboat “High Flight” in Miami Beach in 1999. It was great to visit and get caught up. Plus, Mary gave us some suggestions on things to do and see while we are in Marathon, and we made tentative plans to get together sometime again before we leave.
After that we made the drive back to the MYC, arriving in time for to finish up the days business and have a quiet night watching TV on the boat.
Wednesday (2/10), Marathon, FL – Today was an office work day on the boat. Both of us had work to do and conference calls that were tricky to pull off without one of us having to leave the boat. We also had a few boat chores to do and spent time talking to our dock mates in the marina.
Thursday (2/11), Miami, FL – Today was the day we were reminded why we no longer live in South Florida. Denise got up early and got a run in the morning before we made the drive to Miami Beach to attend the International Boat Show. The traffic was terrible and it took over 3 hours for us to get there.
We went directly to Yachts Miami Beach (show) located on Collins Ave near the Fontainebleau hotel, and ended up spending the entire day here. While not the biggest boats, most of these are 45’ and up and many are previously owned – being offered by brokers – as well as new boat manufacturers. We spent the morning and most of the early afternoon looking at all the boats we wanted to see including Flemings, Grand Banks, Hatteras, and of course Sabre. Yes, Mark has one-foot-itis! We also found the vendor for the anchor we wanted to buy before going to the Bahamas, and completed that purchase. BOAT – Bring On Another Thousand!
As this was the area commonly known as the “brokerage” show, there were a lot of “previously owned” yachts on display. One was a boat we had seen before…in Key West at anchor. Yes, “Shalimar” had been on its way to this very show when we saw it in KW. Small world.
Shalimar at MB Boat Show
Eventually, we connected with Tim and Karen (“TiKa”) who were there to look for a new boat. We enjoyed sharing a drink with them and getting caught up, then went and saw a boat they were looking at buying; a 70’ Ocean Yacht. It was beautiful and although it was a model year 2011, it was in beautiful shape and looked new.
Later went to dinner with them at Don Shula’s Steakhouse, not far from their hotel. We had eaten here before, and while the steak was delicious, their service was really bad and we were very disappointed. It is clear this place is not as good as it used to be. As we were leaving the restaurant we ran into Looper friends Mary and Brad (“Dollinger”), whom we last saw in Green Turtle Bay, but met one of our first weeks on the Loop in North Carolina. What a small world!
After dinner, Tim and Karen took us back to our parked car and we made our way out of Miami Beach and to our hotel near the airport – fighting traffic nearly the entire way.
Friday (2/12), Miami, FL – In the morning we left the hotel and drove to the parking garage at Bayside in downtown Miami. We wanted the option of taking a water taxi or a bus to Virginia Key – the primary venue for the International Boat Show that used to be at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Due to traffic and limited parking access on Virginia Key we thought this would make it easier to get out of Miami at the end of the day.
Once at the show, we went immediately to Marlow Yachts as we had a previously scheduled appointment. They were showing their new 53-footer, but it was the 49’ that really intrigued Denise. Unfortunately, this model has only been available for a year and there are no used ones in the marketplace yet – and a brand new one does not fit our budget. We also went by and saw the Sabre 48’ and couldn’t believe how the 1’ difference between the two boats was so different – the Marlow won hands down!
Marlow 49 – Miami Boat Show
We also visited with several vendors to get answers about equipment we have on our boat. The refrigeration people were incredibly helpful as were the Ocean Air people who volunteered to come to the Keys and install the replacement parts on our hatch shade. However, we must first take the whole ensemble apart to get at that information.
We were done with the show by about 4:00, but had to wait almost an hour to get a water taxi to take us back to Bayside and the car. As it was a spectacular day, and with the traffic as bad as it is we did not even consider taking the shuttle bus. It was worth the wait as we had an enjoyable 20 minutes on the Biscayne Bay of Miami – taking in the ever-changing skyline along the way.
Biscayne Bay – Miami Boat Sho
Water Taxi – Miami Boat show
We arrived back at Bayside shortly after 5:00 pm and decided to eat an early dinner before leaving the area. Our intention was to let traffic die down before heading south to the Keys. So we grabbed some food at Chili’s Restaurant and then headed back to Marathon. Of course we fought bumper-to-bumper traffic just about the whole way, finally breaking just west of Key Largo. We arrived at the boat exhausted and went right to bed.
Saturday (2/13), Marathon, FL – Because of the boat show, our list of “action items” was long, and Mark got right to work on some of them in the morning. We were tired from our whirlwind trip to Miami, but managed to get a few of the easier chores done in the morning.
After lunch Mark started a project to replace the locking mechanism on our freezer, while Denise did all the prep work for our dinner. This “simple” project took over 3 hours because to get to the freezer mechanism we had to remove a piece of starboard that is above the unit. To further complicate this, the freezer is located in the small storage area underneath the helm seats, and is not easy for Mark to maneuver. So working with Denise who could crawl up into the smaller space, and handing her the tools (while providing the usual spousal instruction) we removed everything, swapped out the broken lock, and then put it all back together.
After all that, we were ready for happy hour and the enchilada dinner Denise had prepared.
Sunday (2/14), Marathon, FL – Today was a day of adventuring and entertainment. Denise started the day with a run through Marathon. After breakfast and showers we drove south to Big Pine Key and attended a new church (St. Peter’s) for their 11:00 mass.
7- Mile Bridge
St Peter’s Catholic Church – Big Pine Key
We chose to go to this church as we were headed back to Key West to see a movie playing at the Regal Movie Theatre there. But also because we wanted to go see about the Key Deer located on Big Pine Key (more about that later).
However, after mass we were hungry and wanted something to eat. Many of the restaurants in this area are closed on Sunday, so we went having any luck finding a place to eat as we drove west. Eventually, we turned around and headed back to the Square Grouper. Normally they are also closed on Sunday, but because of Valentine’s Day they were open, and they were packed. Instead of wasting time waiting on a table, we opted for the bar and had another delicious meal. Mark had a fish sandwich and Denise had their grilled fish tacos which were excellent! The people next to us got the homemade tater tots – really just fried mashed potatoes – that also looked really good.
From there we headed back to Big Pine Key to see the Key Deer. These deer are unique in that they are very small in stature and live only in the FL Keys; mostly on this key where there is a National Park Refuge for them. We drove out to the refuge, and stopped at a place called Blue Hole; a lookout over a body of water that was originally a limestone quarry. Here we were greeted by an alligator, a turtle and lots of birds. But, we didn’t see any Key Deer.
Blue Hole observation – Big Pine Key
Natl Key Deer Refuge Facts
Turtle in Blue Hole – BPK
We then went to the Visitor Center (which we had passed by mistake) and got some information about the area and the Wildlife Refuge. Here they reinforced what everyone had told us; the deer are all over the place and we should see them all about – which of course we had not. And then as we left the parking lot to go explore more of the wildlife area, there stood a deer in the middle of the road. The speed limit is 25 mph in this area, so we immediately stopped and he walked behind us and down the intersecting road before we could get a picture.
From here we drove to Key West in time to hit the 4:00 showing of “Deadpool”. Truly this was one of the funniest movies we have seen in a long time. It is definitely a hard R-Rated adult movie and is NOT for those easily offended by foul language and nudity. It does have a “super hero” theme and is probably why the idiots next to us brought their not-yet-middle-school-aged son thinking it would be ok. Obviously, they didn’t heed all the press in advance as the mother would not have had to cover her son’s eyes through several parts of the movie. On the other hand, we laughed a lot and want to see it again as there were missed parts from the fast action and constant one-liners.
After the movie we headed back to Marathon up the two-lane Overseas Highway. There was lots of traffic in both directions, which makes for scary driving in some places. At one point we even called the (Monroe County) Sherriff on a car we were following that was weaving across the center line and then back into the bike lane. Eventually, they turned off on Little Torch Key as if they were going home. We never did see the Sheriff catch up to them, even when we saw him turn in several cars behind us at one point. They must have known where they were headed and opted to watch them get home safely.
We arrived back to the boat in Marathon in time to watch this week’s episode of Downton Abbey and call it a very fun day!
Monday (2/15), Marathon, FL – In the morning we made a trip to Publix to get the food for the evening pot luck, which Denise later prepared and put in the crock pot. After lunch Mark worked on addressing some client needs while Denise went on a mini shopping spree to the Dollar Store. She was on a mission to get some decorative toothpicks for the meatballs that we made for the MYC Monday night Pot Luck dinner. The transients and live-a-boards really use this time to take over the grill and patio area of the club since it is closed on Mondays, and we enjoy the socialization and getting to know our dock neighbors.
One of the boats near us is called “Stowaway” and is owned by Greg & Lisa. We met them the first week we came to MYC, but they left after a few days. They have some guests who are boat-sitting for them while away, so we had a chance to get to know Jeff & Carol. Jeff plays the guitar (acoustical 6-string) and brings it to the pot luck dinners for entertainment. Last week they had company aboard and we were introduced to Tim & (another) Carol, which totally confused us. It is difficult to remember everyone’s names when you meet a bunch of people at once, as we did when we first showed up at MYC. To make it more complicated, we had gone home, come back, then went to Miami for the boat show. So today when we saw Jeff & Carol by themselves, we were really confused. Fortunately, they clarified things for us and we just laughed about how mixed up we had been. What is even funnier is that there is another boat on our dock (“Maxine”) where the wife’s name is also Carol – his name is Dan.
Of course all of this would be easier to understand if everyone had boat cards. However, not everyone does, and those that do forget to bring them.
Tuesday (2/16), Marathon, FL – In the morning it was cloudy and very breezy. We watched a storm blow in off the Gulf of Mexico towards the yacht club and really kick up some wind.
Storm incoming over MYC
But in within 90 minutes it had passed and it turned out to be a beautiful day. Even the resident iguana liked it:
Iguana in mangrove
Once the weather cleared, we went for a bike ride to the Marathon Municipal Marina (also known as Boot Key Harbor). It is ½ mile from our marina, but on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Key. We wanted to visit there as they offer a goody bag for all cruisers who stay in Marathon, consisting of coupon books, boating supplier books and ads, and a really nice cooler bag. We had tried to get into this place but were unable as they were very full for the season.
Boot Key Harbor has 237 mooring balls and all were full, with another 50 people on the waiting list – all at local anchorages. This is drastically different then when we had High Flight here in 1995 and there were maybe 50 mooring balls then. But, it is a nice facility with a huge cruiser’s pavilion that includes picnic tables with internet Wi-Fi, TV cubicles, and a large book exchange a very friendly welcome by the receptionist. The area also includes many shower facilities, a huge dinghy-dock area, washer/dryer facilities and an entire pavilion where you can work on your boat/dinghy equipped with lockers for your tools or work-in-progress items. Since it is a harbor with almost 360˚ protection it offers mariners great protection and is a well-known in sailing/cruising circles.
City Marina sign
Boot Key Harbor
Boot Key Harbor
City Marina Cruisers lounge
City Marina Cruisers lounge
City Marina Dinghy Dock
From there we rode to and throughout the Marathon Community Park which is right up the road, and where the art festival was. Here are some photos of the place:
Marathon Community Park
Marathon Community Park Ballfields
Marathon Community Park Excercise Course
In the afternoon we took the boat out on a cruise, and it felt great to be moving again. We had been asked to help Jeff & Carol (resident guests on “Stowaway”) to assist Carol with the scattering of her sister Diane’s ashes. Diane was in her 20’s when she was in a car accident that left her with debilitating injuries. Although she lived a full life for 50 more years, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last spring. She succumbed to the cancer in October and Carol had promised to honor her wish to be buried at sea like their parents. Unfortunately, a third sister was not able to be present, but Carol had her blessing to proceed.
It was a perfect day to go out and be on the water as the winds had died down and the waves were mostly flat. It was sunny and warm, but not hot. So we left MYC and cruised under the 7-mile bridge to the Atlantic side and headed 3 miles out. Once we found the appropriate spot Jeff emptied the bag of ashes overboard while Carol read a poem and dropped a rose bouquet into the ocean. It was really a unique event and we felt honored to be able to help them with this task.
Carol “Stowaway” with Lilly
Jeff releasing the ashes and Carol flower Petals
A tribute to Diane
In the evening the four of us went to dinner at Sunset Grille – a restaurant that overlooks the 7-mile bridge and gave us a spectacular sunset. This place had been suggested to us as a “must see” place to go to and we understand why. It is the quintessential Tiki Bar & Restaurant. There is dining on an indoor verandah, or outside near the swimming pool under umbrella tables. There are docks where small boats can boat-in, tie up, and get a bite to eat. It is a fun place with nightly entertainment; we had a solo- guitarist. The food was pretty good and we had a lot of fun getting to know Jeff & Carol better.
Sunset Grille Pool and Tiki Dining
Jeff & Carol (“Stowaway” guests)
Sunset over 7 mile bridge
Dinner at Sunset Grille
Wednesday (2/17), Marathon, FL – Time has been flying and we have can’t believe our stay at MYC is half over. After Denise went for a run in the morning we spent part of the day putting together a rough plan for the Bahamas portion of our adventure. We wanted to do this in order to decide which guide books we would need and get them on order. We picked up a discount coupon at the boat show and we wanted to take advantage of it. Our plan is to leave Key Largo in April and cross to either Cat Cay or Bimini to clear customs. We intend to spend all of April and part of May there, then return to the USA either at Ft. Lauderdale or Lake Worth (Palm Beach) before heading up the east coast and, eventually home.
After lunch we went on an adventure to explore a few areas. First we drove to Sombrero Beach, just a few miles from MYC. Denise has been running down towards this area, but never went past the Marathon High School which is along the way. So we drove down to the beach area and around all the homes that are built near this area.
Afterwards, we headed to Islamorada where Denise wanted to pick up a birthday gift for her brother at Bud N Mary’s marina. This is a well-known place that people come to go out fishing from one of their many charters. While there, some of the boats were coming in with coolers full of fish. You could tell they had a good day by the number of pelicans that hung out behind their boats. You could also see the resident tarpon in the water also hoping to get a bit of the leftovers after cleaning.
Bud N’& Mary’s
Pelican awaiting scraps – Bud N’ Mary’s
Tarpon at Bud N’ Mary’s
Another reason for our trip today was to explore Hawk’s Cay where we may stop and get fuel on our way to Key Largo. The entrance to the marina and fuel dock there looks tricky so we want to be sure we can get in. So after the errand, we drove back to Duck Key and the resort known as Hawk’s Cay. It is really nice and they are rebuilding the on-site restaurant at the marina, which burned last year.
Hawk’s Cay Marina
While we were there walking the docks, we saw an incoming boat; a Fleming 55. Come to find out it was “Otter”; a Looper boat we had met on the Western Rivers this fall and had seen several other places as well. They are now Gold Loopers; completing their loop in Key West in January. We spoke to them briefly as they were having issues docking and we needed to let them be. It really is a small group of people who do this “Looping” thing!
Hawk’s Cay – Otter coming in
After exploring the resort and homes around Hawk’s Cay, we headed back to MYC and arrived in time for dinner. Not wanting to cook and having a plethora of places we wanted to try, we decided to venture to the local bar-b-que place called “Porky’s”. It is right on US1 and not far from our marina, but we decided to drive there anyway. They have nightly entertainment and the guitarist was playing when we arrived. He was ok, and the food was good, but not great. We were glad we went, but won’t make a huge effort to go back. We both agreed that this is probably a great place to go when you are with a large group of people (like Loopers).
Dinner at Porky’s
Thursday (2/18), Marathon, FL – in the morning we attempted to go to the Turtle Hospital. But delayed our departure from the marina so much that when we got there they were booked up for the morning tours. As Mark had a conference call scheduled for the afternoon, we were unable to make it today. So we reserved from tomorrow morning and left.
Not wanting to end our very short bike ride, we rode down to Faro Blanco marina again to see if any of our Looper friends were back on their boats. This time we did find Tom and Julie Van Hale (“Sum Escape”) on their boat; we missed them on our last trip there. We spent some time visiting them and getting caught up and disusing future travel plans in the Bahamas. We also got to see a pair of manatee in the water by their boat, and meet a few other non-looper transients in the marina.
Julie & Tom (“Sum Escape”)
Manatee at Faro Blanco
And it was here that we learned about one of the funniest coincidences of our Loop: we learned that the previous owner of “Sum Escape” was the same people who own “Otter” – the Fleming 55 we had seen at Hawk’s Cay marina. Small world!
In the afternoon while Mark was on his conference call, Denise used the car to go do a few errands and came back to make one of Mark’s favorite dinners; Fajitas. Yes, we have been on a Mexican food kick lately.
Friday (2/19), Marathon, FL – We started the day with our adventure at the Turtle Hospital. What a great experience this was. The hospital rescues, rehabs and releases (when it can) sea turtles from the FL waters. It was formerly an old hotel that initially used the salt water swimming pool for their rescue tank. Now the rooms are used to house the volunteers and scientists who work to study and rehab these creatures, and they have added a surgery area, recovery room, and several pools for the turtles to rehab in.
Sea Turtle Hospital
Turtle Hospital Ambulance
During our one-hour tour we attended a movie where we learned about the 5 popular sea turtles they deal with including; the green turtle, the leatherback, the loggerhead the Hawksbill and the Kemp Ridley. Then we got to see all the turtles in their various states of rehab, as well as the large tank (original swimming pool) that now houses their permanent residents; turtles that for whatever reason are unable to be returned back to the wild. You can learn more about this place here.
Here are some pictures from our adventure:
Turtle Hospital Tour
Turtle Hospital Pool
Turtle getting shot
Original pool at Turtle Hospital
After our tour we rode back to MYC, but not before taking a side adventure around the grounds of Tranquility Bay; a beautiful resort we had passed several times. Denise loves the architecture and grounds and it is close to many things in Marathon. It looks like it would be it would be a great place to stay in this part off the Keys if you don’t have a boat. You can learn more about it here.
Tranquility Bay Resort
Tranquility Bay Resort
Tranquility Bay Beach
In the afternoon, Denise spent a lot of time writing this blog while Mark did some work for a client, but not before going to get a haircut and getting in a little afternoon siesta. It was a cool and very windy day, so we were rocking a bit in the boat, once again.
For dinner we walked over to Key Fisheries for a second dinner there, mainly because it was so convenient and because we wanted to try out their famous lobster Rueben sandwich. Although it was tasty, Denise didn’t feel the price was worth it, given the small amount of lobster in the sandwich. They also were offering Stone Crab claws at $1.50 each in the 2nd story bar, but it was so crowded and we could not get a seat. There was a standing bar near the door, but the cold wind made this too uncomfortable so we opted to just eat downstairs in the restaurant.
Saturday (2/20), Marathon, FL – Denise was up early and managed to get in a run before the day got underway. It was very windy again today and we spent most of the day doing boat chores.
In the afternoon we went back to San Pablo Catholic in Marathon for the 4:00 mass. Here we ran into Peggy & Tom Perrotto, MYC members who are from Rhode Island. Their boat (“Tom Follery”) is not in the marina this year, but usually they stay aboard in the marina. Therefore they have been participating in the Monday evening potluck dinner so we have gotten to know them a little better. Seeing a familiar face in church made us feel like we actually belonged to the community. It was the first time in our Loop adventure that we actually went to the same church more than once.
On the way back home we stopped off at a Pizza Hut and picked up pizza for dinner and took it back to the boat. We had not had any in a few weeks and we looked forward to having this meal.
Sunday (2/21), Marathon, FL – This was a mostly uneventful morning for us. We ventured to Publix in the morning to pick up some groceries, and then we hung around the boat talking with some of the people in the marina and around the yacht club.
One of the people we met in our marina was a young (26 year old) guy who was 4th generation native from Pensacola, and was doing the Loop. “Forrest” was single-handling his own boat (“Pura Vida”), a 1987 Hatteras which he purchased in the fall in Nashville, then had friends help him with the trip through parts of the Cumberland, Tennessee and Tenn-Tom waterway. Mark helped him dock when he came into the Yacht Club under very windy conditions.
In the afternoon, we attended the Sunset Celebration – a gathering of Loopers at Banana Bay Resort & Marina about 1 mile north of MYC. The event was well coordinated by Pat & George Hospodar (“Reflection”), and was assisted by other Loopers staying at that marina. Although not an AGLCA planned event, there were two sponsors who provided beer, wine and soda and sponsored the music; a local band (“Four Sheets to the Wind”) that is well known throughout the keys and who were pretty good. Everyone brought a dish to share – so it was like one big pot luck dinner – Looper style.
AGLCA Sunset Festivities
AGLCA Sunset Festivities
“Four Sheets to the Wind” – Band on AGLCA
There were over 130 Loopers, many we knew and had not seen since our days along the western rivers. We sat with Shari & Rodney (“Sassified”) and Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) who drove down from Tavernier for the event. Also present were Ev & Clark (“SeaMoss”) who took some great pictures for us. It was a lot of fun and we enjoyed talking with others about their Loop adventures. We left shortly after capturing these great sunset pictures.
Ev & Clark at “Sea Moss”
Sunset over Bay – AGLCA party
AGLCA party – sky looking east
Moon rising in the east
Monday (2/22), Marathon, FL – Wednesday, (2/24) – Mark had to go visit a client in Ohio this week, so in the morning Denise drove him to Key West airport and drove all the way back. Two almost-non-stop hours in the car. If it wasn’t for the beautiful scenery of the FL Keys along the way, she would have probably gone bonkers!
In the afternoon Denise worked on the blog, and made a chicken dish for the usual Monday night marina stay-aboard pot luck. Jeff and Carol (“Stowaway”) had gone out of town for the weekend, but returned in the nick of time, so we again were serenaded by his wonderful guitar talents after dinner.
Jeff (“Stowaway”) entertains
MYC Monday Potluck
MYC Pot Luck
Joan & Don (“Mezamariah”)
Dan & Carol
Jim (“Time Out”)
On Tuesday afternoon (2/23) another Back Cove showed up in the marina. “Jolie” was is a 34’ older model, but their owners Lou & Tina are young at heart. They came by and visited Denise for while right before dinner and they had a chance to talk about their respective boats and compare notes. They liked a lot of the things we had done for storage on Island Office, and we liked the canvas shade they have for their cockpit. We are still trying to find the perfect solution for our boat.
“Jolie” at MYC
Lou & Tina – “Jolie”
The rest of the time while Mark was gone Denise spent time putting together the presentation slides for a workshop she will be delivering in Jacksonville on March 8th – one of the main reasons we are headed home to Winter Park the week of 3/6. It is a big job and material from 2009 required updating, not to mention getting her mind on work instead of Loop activities. She stayed close to the boat, socializing with those in the marina, and managing to get in a run as well.
She did spend some time getting to know Forrest (“Pura Vida”) a little bit better, as well as Port Captain Bob, boater Steve, and some of the others at the club. You know Denise, she will talk to anybody!
Thursday, (2/25) – Finally today, our new anchor showed up. Denise was concerned that the 35 lb. package might be too heavy for her to lift, and had lined up a few guys on the dock to assist with getting it to the boat in Mark’s absence. Fortunately, it arrived with minimal packaging and was so lightweight that the MYC office staff was able to bring it down to the boat when it arrived.
New anchor arrives
Inside the boat was a mess and Denise was set on making it sparkle for Mark’s return in the evening. All day long she scrubbed, dusted and vacuumed, polished and cleaned everything possible. It never ceases to amaze us how such a small space gets so dirty and can take nearly a whole day to clean, but that is life on a floating home. Still not getting everything done that she wanted, she left to make the hour drive back to Key West airport to pick up Mark.
On the way home the decided to stop for dinner once again at The Square Grouper on Cudjoe Key. The 45 minute wait (they don’t take reservations) was very worth the wait as once again we had a terrific meal. We will surely miss this place, and highly recommend it to everyone.
Square Grouper dinner
Friday (2/26), Marathon, FL –We had an errand to run at the Home Depot, so we used that as the impetus to get us off the boat and go explore parts of Marathon we had not yet seen, by way of car. We took Sombrero Blvd out towards the Sombrero Marina and the Boot Key anchorage. We parked the car and walked the docks that parallel the road and went looking for any Loopers who might be there. We also walked down to “Docksides”, a pub/restaurant at the marina that we had visited in 1995 when we were on High Flight. Although we don’t remember the restaurant, we certainly remember the bar area. We had sat there one day awaiting weather and trying to decide if we would leave the next day to head north, or stay another day. Fast forward 20 years and we are having the very same discussions now with this boat. Too funny!
Sombrero Marina & Dockside Bar
Today we said goodbye to our new friends Jeff & Carol (guests on “Stowaway”) and their Maltese dog Lilly – as they were headed north to Disney, then on to their home in Annapolis. We really enjoyed getting to know them and being entertained by Jeff’s great guitar playing. We hope to be able to connect with them one day if we get back to Annapolis.
Since it is Lent and we are trying to be good Catholics, we needed to find a place to have fish for dinner. MYC was having a special Pirate-themed Mystery Dinner at the club, but the food they were serving was going to be a pulled-pork entrée. Even though they offered to make us a complementary fish dish, we opted not to spend $29++ per person for that, and decided to try a restaurant we had not yet experienced. “Barracuda” was located not but a half mile from the marina and had glowing reviews on YELP and by other friends. They only serve dinner, open their doors at 5:50 and do not take reservations. But this place has now become our new favorite restaurant in the Keys – with Square Grouper a close second. It has a limited menu, but all of the ingredients are very fresh and delicious. While the entrees are somewhat pricey, Denise brought most of the pasta from her “Scallop with Pesto Pasta” dinner home for lunch the next day. Mark had ordered “Escargot with Marsala Mushrooms” and “Mussels” from their appetizer menu and these were large enough portions to make a meal – thus making it affordable. It really was a delicious meal and we were glad we chose this place.
Saturday (2/27), Marathon, FL – From the drive down Sombrero Blvd yesterday, Denise found a new place to run and one she could use to get in a little longer distance. The scenery was better and she didn’t have to deal with cars like she did when running the whole way on the Overseas Highway. Although she didn’t run as far as she liked, she welcomed the change in course.
This morning we also welcomed back to MYC Greg & Lisa, the owners of “Stowaway”, who were returning from Ohio where they had to conduct some workshops for their business. We look forward to hopefully getting to know them a little bit before we leave MYC on Monday.
Later in the morning we walked to the Marathon community park to check out the Nautical Flea Market. It was sunny with a slight wind, making for a beautiful day to be outside. MYC had a big booth with items donated by members, then they sell as a fundraiser for one of their educational programs. There were other organizations there as well and we walked around to each one. Fortunately for our cruising fund, there was nothing we needed. We did take a few minutes to briefly visit with Bill & Jann Mellman (“Ivory Lady”) and George & Pat Hospodar (“Reflection”) who were manning the MYC tent.
Nautical Flea Market
Nautical Flea Market
Four Sheets to the Wind” perform at Bandshell
As we were leaving the park we ran into Ev & Clark (“Sea Moss”) and started talking about going to the Bahamas. They were curious as to our boat and our Bahamas plans so we invited them back to MYC and spent another 45 minutes talking with them and reviewing our charts for places to go. It was fun to share this with someone who has never been and we hope to be able to meet up with them while there; it would be fun to anchor out together.
In the afternoon we went to church for the 4:00 mass at San Pablo’s for our last time. And as a special treat for Mark, on the way back to the boat we went to “Dions” and got their fried chicken for dinner. “Dion’s Quick Mart” is the WaWa of the FL Keys. We learned about this chain of gas station-serving fried chicken dinners from an article in the “Free Press” – the local Keys weekly newspaper. The owner is the daughter of the founder who started the business 65+ years ago. She took over the business when her father died and has been running it ever since. During that time it grew to multiple locations throughout the Keys, all serving their famous chicken. Recently she sold the family business to another company who promises to keep the 150 employees and the locations. You can learn more about Dion’s here. We liked our chicken and now felt like we had experienced life like a true Keys local.
Sunday (2/28), Marathon, FL – Again it looked like it was going to be a beautiful day; sunny and a slight breeze with warm temperatures (finally). A perfect day for a bike ride. So we headed out to the old 7-mile bridge and to Pigeon Key. We have been wanting to go there, but the weather or schedules had not allowed for it, and today was the last day we could. It is 2 miles to get there, 2 miles out on the bridge to Pigeon Key, which you cannot get to from the bridge now as the ramp is in need of repairs and is closed. If you want to visit there you have to take the water ferry from the Visitors Center on the mainland.
Bike Ride to Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key from Old Bridge
North side of Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key overlooking FL Bay
After a short rest and an opportunity to take some awesome pictures, we rode the 2 miles back to the base of the bridge. Only now we were facing a hard east head wind the whole way; it was exhausting on our small (20 inch) wheeled bikes.
We stopped in at the Pigeon Key Visitors Center and Gift Shop at the base of the bridge to inquire about the water ferry and tours of the island. Here we learned that the ferry only leaves 3 times at day (10am, 12pm, and 2pm) and we were between departures and didn’t want to wait over an hour for the next one. The cost is $12+ per person round trip. You can learn more about Pigeon Key here.
But we were not done with our biking adventure. We rode near the PK Visitors Center, Sunset Grill restaurant, and then up the street to Burdines Marina and the area around it. We then still had to ride the 2 miles back to MYC, again facing the wind. When we got back to the boat we were exhausted, but happy from our fun adventure.
In the late afternoon we decided to patronize the MYC for their Sunday dining event. The idea is you bring a side dish to share (we brought a bean salad) and the club provides hot dogs, with cocktails at half price. We sat at a table with some veteran club members and learned that the food at Friday night’s Pirate Mystery dinner was not that great and that we had not missed much. We were grateful for not spending the money there, but enjoying a better meal at Barracuda’s.
Monday (2/29), Marathon, FL – This will be our last full day in Marathon, so Denise started it with a run down the Overseas Highway one last time.
Then we went on quite an adventure. We had to move our car to the marina in Key Largo where we will be keeping the boat in March. So we headed north on the Overseas Highway (US1), but along the way made an impromptu stop in Islamorada at the World Wide Sportsman (Bass Outdoor). We wanted to see what it had to offer. Other than Hemingway’s boat (“Pilar”), and the fish stripes in the parking lot, this place looked no different than the one in Orlando. In fact, it was considerably smaller than the Pyramid in Memphis, TN that had us awestruck. After a stop at the restroom, we got back in the car and finished the trip to Marina Del Mar in Key Largo.
Wide World of Sportsman at Islamorada
Hemingway’s boat at WW Sportsman – Islamorada
Parking lot stipes at Wide World of Sportsman – Islamorada
Once at the marina, we checked in with the dockmaster to get a pass to leave the car in the parking lot. Then, to get back to Marathon, we caught the Metro Dade express bus. What an adventure this was. We rode along with the locals who use it to commute to go to work in the Keys. Some of the people will commute up to 2 hours each way as the housing in the Keys is so outrageous they cannot afford to live where they work. It was very interesting to talk with the people, including the woman in front of us who commutes to work at the K-Mart in Marathon – which is also the end of this bus line and where we got off.
Bus back to Marathon
We still had to walk the 1+ mile back to MYC. However, it was way past lunch so we stopped along the way to get delicious sandwiches and a cold drink at the Marathon Deli. We had discovered this place early in our stay and we were happy to have stopped and patronize this local deli/wine-liquor store.
In the evening we had our last pot luck at MYC, and it was a big crowd. There were a few new transients, and all the others from past weeks. This included Forrest (“Pura Vida”), who had taken his boat to Hawk’s Cay (20 minutes away), but Steve went and got him so he could participate in the dinner. The food was really good as many different dishes were brought. Denise made shredded bar-b-que chicken in the slow cooker and it must have been well-liked as there were few leftovers for us. Everyone was complementary and there was only a little bit left to take back and put in our freezer for a “leftover” night. We also said our “Good-Byes” to everyone as tomorrow we leave for Key Largo for the month of March.
Here are some other pictures of things in Marathon:
The Yacht Club:
MYC from parking lot
Marathon Boat Ramp near MYC
MYC from marina
Wildlife around the place:
Iguana in marina
Ducks at MYC
The school across the street from MYC:
Stanley Switlik School
Stanley Switlik School
A local coffee shop:
Keys News & Coffee Shop
Coffee shop sign
And all the buildings with murals that are everywhere:
Murals on building
Mural on buildings
Mural on building
Mural at K-Mart
FL Keys Steak & Lobster House
Stay tuned for more!