Kicking it up in Key Largo!

We moved the boat to Key Largo on March 1st to give us time in another part of the Keys.  This was our second choice location as we wanted to stay in Tavernier, but found the accommodations not as desirable as originally expected.

So, here is the latest of our adventures:

Tuesday (3/1) – Key Largo, FL – We left Marathon and headed north on the Gulf of Mexico into the FL Bay.  Here it is very shallow outside the channel, and there were several parts of it that were quite narrow. However, it is truly a spectacular place and a beautiful gift from our Creator.

Narrow Channel on FL Bay

Narrow Channel on FL Bay

Negotiating the FL Bay

Negotiating the FL Bay

Birds hanging out in FL Bay

Birds hanging out in FL Bay

We continued along this route until we reached Snake Creek.  Here we entered a rather narrow (read shoaling) channel and passed some beautiful homes and the Coast Guard Station.

Entrance to Snake Creek

Entrance to Snake Creek

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

Snake Creek Home

USCG Station Snake Creek

USCG Station Snake Creek

We also saw some other amusing sights here:

Dink towing jet ski

Dink towing jet ski

Caboose in backyard on Snake Creek

Caboose in backyard on Snake Creek

Home on Snake Creek

Home on Snake Creek

We crossed under the (US1) bridge to the Atlantic Ocean side of the Keys and entered into Hawk’s Channel for the rest of the journey north.  It was a beautiful day to be on the water with sunny clear skies and calm seas.

US1 Bridge over Snake Creek

US1 Bridge over Snake Creek

Parasailing in Hawk's Channel

Parasailing in Hawk’s Channel

Cruising along the Atlantic side, we passed Plantation Key, Tavernier, and eventually Rodriquez Key – hoping to spot our friend Rodney’s house. Unfortunately, we were too far from shore to distinguish his place from the others.

Eventually we came to the markers for our turn out of Hawk’s Channel and make our way through the Port Largo Canal where the Marina Del Mar Resort (our marina) was located.

Entering Port Largo Canal

Entering Port Largo Canal

There was a long canal heading north with a blind left turn to the west that is known as “Crash Corner”.  This is mainly due to the large amount of commercial traffic (dive, sport fishing and sightseeing boats) that goes through here a bit fast, and they hog the narrow channel causing smaller craft to move out of the way. Unfortunately, there are boats tied up on both sides of the canal and there is nowhere to go.

Shortly after entering this canal, we ran into Pam & Pete (“Endoxi”) and Shari & Rodney (“Sassified”) who were out in their “Tavernier-resident” boat; a 25’ center console they use when they are down here every winter. (“Sassified” is currently sitting in a marina in Tavernier until they resume their Loop in April).

Rodney's boat - Port Largo Canal

Rodney’s boat – Port Largo Canal

It was fun to have them be our Key Largo “welcoming committee”.  Once we docked in the slip they came up beside us and we talked for a bit, making plans to have drinks and dinner together that night.

We had put the boat in the previously assigned slip, which is a side-tie along the wall with the canal on our other (Port) side.

IO at Marina Del Mar

IO at Marina Del Mar

This is literally the eastern-most slip and is the furthest from any of the resort facilities. Once we got the boat settled, we checked into the marina and attempted to get our “infrastructure” connected to the marina services.  Here we discovered the cable connection (for TV) for our slip did not work.  We also were unable to connect to the resort Wi-Fi, because we are so far from the office, and they do not have a repeater that would take the signal to this end of their marina.  This was a major issue for us on our Island Office, especially considering we are planning on being here for a whole month.  This place is way too expensive for this to not be available.  Dockmaster Brian said he would see what he can do to get us what we need, but it would probably be in the morning before we had resolution.

We took showers and then met up with Pam, Pete, Shari & Rodney at Bayside Grill; a bar/restaurant on the Florida Bay side about 2 miles from our marina.

Bayside Grille

Bayside Grille

Bayside Grille

Bayside Grille

Bayside Grill

Bayside Grill

Here we had a few beers with them and witnessed a gorgeous sunset at a very fun and popular place, for which they are regulars.

Sunset at Bayside Grill

Sunset at Bayside Grill

Afterwards, we all drove to Skipper’s Dockside restaurant which is located in our resort complex.  We had a great dinner and enjoyed their great company.  We also made plans to get together to go over charts of the Bahamas when we get back from our short trip home next week.

When we returned back from dinner, we were greeted to live entertainment courtesy of “Sharkey’s”; a restaurant and bar located less than 500 feet from the bow of our boat. It is a lively place and the music is an every night occurrence, which has us even less comfortable with this place for a long stay.  Fortunately, tonight, the music ended around 10 pm and we were able to get to sleep without issue. It kind of helped that we kept the hatches closed as the night air was still cool.

Sharkey's

Sharkey’s

Wednesday (3/2) – Key Largo, FL – Denise started the day with a run in around the neighborhood surrounding the resort.  It is mostly residential unless you head out towards US1, then it becomes very commercial.  She opted to stay around the houses, even though it meant running up and down several streets just to get in the mileage.  There is a park nearby the marina, but she was uncertain as to how to enter as there is fence all around it, so it will have to be another adventure on another day.

In the morning, Mark met with the assistant dockmaster (Captain Joe) to see if we could get better service on the internet and the cable. We also asked if there was another possible slip in the marina, and he agreed to check into it all for us. Dockmaster Brian was off for the day.

After a short period of time he returned with bad news. There was no getting the cable tv hooked up and there is nothing he can do about the Wi-Fi signal.  He had also investigated the possibility of another slip, but reported that they were all reserved for by other incoming boaters.  While waiting on this news, Denise had walked the entire marina to investigate the potentially open slips on the other side of the water near the Marriott Courtyard. However the Wi-Fi signal was not any better there, so it was just as well that we didn’t have the option to move the boat.

In the afternoon we met Tom who is on the boat (“Gambrinus”) right behind us along the dock wall.

Tom - "Gambrinus"

Tom – “Gambrinus”

He is from Chicago but has been coming down here for the last 10 years, leaving his 36 foot sailboat in Charleston during the summer months. He gave us the low down on this resort and their lack of caring attitude about fixing things.  Although the grounds are pretty and the old buildings and pool are well maintained, the docks are another story.  However, he says it is still the best place in the area, especially considering the fees include access to the three pools, fitness center, free breakfasts, and has a good restaurant onsite.

Once again we started to seek out other marinas in the area, but none of which had as good a review on Active Captain as this one. One we considered was the Pilot House Marina, located just south of us.  We had run into a Looper who was walking the docks in our marina, and he had his boat there.  He said it was a great place, with plenty of protection and a good restaurant onsite as well, and we should consider it.

So after dinner because it was dark, we drove to check out that marina. It didn’t take us long to realize that if we moved, we would not be gaining anything except Wi-Fi and cable TV access. Like Marina Del Mar, the restaurant has nightly entertainment and it too blares through the marina. However, we thought it was much louder than what we currently experience.  Additionally, the marina facilities and the neighborhood was not near as nice as where we currently are, and Denise didn’t feel it was as comfortable an area for early morning runs.

One of the other things we had to consider was what else is there to do in the area. We have family coming to join us later in the month and we wanted to make sure they had things to do in the area. The Marina Del Mar has a lot to offer with three pools, closeness to local attractions and other activities (dive boats, fishing boats, glass bottom boat charters, and the original “African Queen”), not to mention all within walking distance of our boat.

So we returned to our boat with the Sharkey’s “entertainer of the night” serenading the patrons and keeping us up to nearly 11:00 pm. We decided we liked this place better and would live with the music.  We also decided that we would up the Hotspot plan for the month and use it for our internet access.  We would live with the no cable issue, using the Hotspot for those must-see shows.  Since we were going home on Sunday for the week, it wasn’t that bad after all, and better than all the other choices we had checked out.

Thursday (3/3) – Key Largo, FL – We had set aside today for us to both get some work done. Denise had a lot to do to prep for a workshop she would be delivering in Jacksonville on Tuesday (the main reason for going home on Sunday), and Mark needed to work directly on the database for a client. However, shortly after breakfast Mark suggested that he wash the boat to get the salt off of it, put on the new anchor, and then we should just head home a few days earlier than planned.  We know we have good internet at home and we both had a lot of work to do and needed to stay focused – there were just too many distractions here (go figure).

So Mark washed the boat, then we installed the new anchor.

Installing new anchor

Installing new anchor

We then packed up the car with things to take home, (like all our cool weather clothes), readied the boat for our absence, and solicited Tom to keep an eye on it until we returned. We made the 4.5 hour drive back to Winter Park, missing all the traffic in Miami and hitting plenty of it in Orlando – the one thing we don’t miss when on the boat.

Interlude: Friday (3/4) – Monday (3/14) – Home in Winter Park, FL to work with clients, celebrate Denise’s birthday, and to visit with family and friends.

Monday (3/14) – Key Largo – We left Winter Park much later than planned, causing us to arrive in Key Largo just in time for dinner. One of the reasons for the delay was that Mark had sold our old anchor and the buyer was in Pompano Beach. In order to save money on shipping and because we were headed right by the buyer’s office, we agreed to deliver the anchor directly to him.  It worked ok, but caused us to hit a lot more traffic in South Miami but we were happy to have sold and delivered the old anchor.

Once we unpacked the car and stowed our gear on the boat, we walked the 500 feet to check out the food at “Sharkey’s”. We found the food to be good and reasonably priced, not to mention terribly convenient. It was our waiter who suggested and provided the internet passwords to a few Wi-Fi connections we were getting in the restaurant; some were from neighboring locations. We had previously picked them up on the boat, but had been unable to connect as we didn’t know their passwords.

Once back on the boat we were able to successfully log into the Key West Inn Wi-Fi and got a very strong signal. Bingo! We were in business and now able to work, as well as stream the (mostly news) shows we wanted to watch. A lack of cable TV was not so important now.

The Key West Inn is located just to our North, across the canal from us. The rooms overlook a Jet Ski Rental business, as well as several side-tie slips with boats in them.

Key West Inn and Jet Ski Rental

Key West Inn and Jet Ski Rental

Further up the canal towards the main part of the resort is one of several dive boat charters in the area, as well as all the other tourist boats for hire. All day long we get to watch them come and go with their paying customers, usually starting around 6:00 am. The dive and fishing boats usually go out on ½ day adventures, which means we get to see them come and go several times.

Fishing boat leaving marina and heading past our boat

Fishing boat leaving marina – heading past our boat

There is also a big two-level glass-bottom boat that ferries people out to see the reefs without them having to get into the water.  This is clearly the biggest boat and takes up the majority of the canal when it comes through; kicking up a good wake in the process.

Glass Bottom Boat leaving

Glass Bottom Boat leaving

Lastly is the “African Queen” – yes the original used in the movie “Key Largo” with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn.  Although smaller than our boat, it comes so close to us we could reach out and touch it if we wanted to.

African Queen near our boat

African Queen near our boat

All of this is truly a circus and gives us something to watch and laugh about.

Tuesday (3/15) – Key Largo – This was a work day on our Island Office.  Denise spent the whole day getting the last blog updated and posted, while Mark worked with clients. All this while listening to iHeart radio and eventually watching election results.  It was nice to have a good Wi-Fi connection, finally.

Because we wanted to stay focused on our work and get it all done so we could play tomorrow, we opted for a quick dinner on board. We ate the last of the leftover Dion’s fried chicken we had in the freezer, and paired it up with some steamed broccoli and rice. When all our work was done, we went for a walk around the neighborhood and through the MDM complex.  Here are some pictures from our walk around the establishments near our boat:

Sign at Sharkey's

Sign at Sharkey’s

African Queen rental

African Queen rental

NOAA "dockmaster"

NOAA “dockmaster”

Sign outside of Sharkey's

Sign outside of Sharkey’s

Finally, we went back to the boat and retired while listening to a rocker banging on his guitar at Sharkey’s until almost midnight!

Wednesday (3/16) – Key Largo – Today was a very fun day in Key Largo.   After sleeping in until almost 7:00 am (very late for her), Denise went for a run around YMCA Park and the neighborhood near the marina known as Port Largo. She was already missing companionship of her running buddies from Winter Park and can’t wait to be able to run with them again soon.

After breakfast we did a few tasks aboard the boat, got caught up on emails, and then readied the dinghy for our morning adventure. We took off in it going up and down all the canals near Port Largo, taking in all the big and beautiful homes as well as some of the older (not-to-beautiful) homes.  It took us well over an hour just to do this area alone.

Homes in Port Largo canal

Homes in Port Largo canal

Home on Atl side - Port Largo Canal

Home on Atlantic Ocean side – Port Largo Canal

House on point at Port Largo entrance

House on point at Port Largo entrance

Then we left our area and went out into Hawk’s Channel to a series of canals south of us. There was only a slight wind so it wasn’t too choppy for the dinghy ride. We only had to slow down when a big boat passed us. There we cruised around other homes which were not as nice as Port Largo, but had some unusual architecture nonetheless.

House shaped like a boat

House shaped like a boat

Glass Bottom boat small

Small glass bottom boat

We also cruised to Pilot House Marina, now getting a chance to see it from the water and in daylight. As was true the night we drove there, we were not impressed and finally felt like we did make the better choice for our Key Largo stay. We also went by the Key Largo Fisheries – sister fish processing and restaurant to Keys Fisheries in Marathon.  We have been told they have a great lobster BLT here and we may just have to check it out before leaving the area.

Pilot House Marina fuel dock

Pilot House Marina fuel dock

Key Largo Fisheries

Key Largo Fisheries

We returned back to the boat in time for a late lunch and connected with Pete & Pam (“Endoxi”). We made plans to get together with them for dinner and for a review of our Bahamas plans.

After lunch we spent some time talking with Tom (“Gambrinus”) and meeting Canadians Tom & Julie Gates (“Outreach”) who spend all winter aboard their McGreggor 26’ sailboat here in Key Largo. Like in Marathon, there is a contingency of folks who come here every year to flee the cold weather of the north. Sounds like a great retirement plan!

We also did a little work; Mark helping a client with their system and Denise scheduling a series of (on-going) workshops for delivery in Deland, FL right after Easter. So, we will be going back home on 3/27 for Mark to fly to Ohio for a client, and Denise to go to Deland.  Hey, it is paying for our marina fees and we feel very lucky we have been able to juggle the client needs with our Great Loop adventure.

In the evening, Pam & Pete came and picked us up and took us to dinner at Fish House Encore.

Fish House Encore

Fish House Encore

Mark & Pete - Fish House

Mark & Pete – Fish House

Wall at Fish House Encore

Wall at Fish House Encore

The food was very good and patio dining outside under trees and lights made for a nice atmosphere. We were sorry that Shari & Rodney (“Sassified”) were unavailable to join us, but they had company in town and were already committed. After dinner we came back to the boat and went over charts and information we had on the Bahamas. We discussed our plans and we are hopeful we will be able to all make the Gulf Stream crossing together.

Of course we had background music courtesy of Sharkey’s, but for the first time it didn’t bother us. Either we are getting immune to it or it was quieter than usual as we both fell fast asleep by 10 pm!

Thursday (3/17) – Key Largo – Happy St. Patrick’s Day! – Another beautiful weather day in Key Largo and we stayed around the marina for most of the day working on this blog post and handling a few scheduling issues for work.  We also took care of a few travel items for the home-office that required attention by the end of the month, and we addressed a few client issues.

At one point Denise walked up to the resort office, and upon returning to the boat discovered a 3 foot iguana had decided to hitch a ride. There he sat on the front of the boat, and Mark (who was sitting in the boat facing forward) did not even see him.

Visiting Iguana

Visiting Iguana

So, together we managed to chase him off the boat. He jumped into the water and swam across the canal and climbed up on the shore near the Jet Ski rental place.  We watched as he made his way across the concrete pier and climbed up the stairs to the rental office.

Iguana on stairs

Iguana on stairs

There were 3 women who were trying on life vests for a Jet Ski rental and he climbed up right near them.

Gals renting Jet Skis

Gals renting Jet Skis – see iguana tail on top of stairs – they still hadn’t seen it yet.

Denise yelled to them that they “had company” and they finally saw the iguana. Their reaction was priceless! We were only sorry that we could not have caught a picture of it to share as it provided us with entertainment and laughter for about 15 minutes.  We never saw them get on the Jet Skis and think they got scared off.  Meanwhile, the iguana kept going towards a shed where he climbed up the chain link fence and disappeared on the roof.

Iguan climbs fence to roof

Iguana climbs fence to roof

Later in the afternoon we went to Publix to stock our boat for the Bahamas, taking advantage of the sale items. Mark was happy to see the “Family Size” of the Frito Scoops he loves on a BOGO, so he grabbed a bunch and pledged to get more before the week was out.  We have had difficulty finding this size in the Keys, even at the Wal-Marts in south Florida.  We also picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner and headed back to the boat.

In the evening we had Tom (“Gambrinus”) aboard our boat for drinks, and to get to know him a little better. He has some great information about places up and down the east coast where he has personally anchored and shared some of it with us.

Cocktails aboard IO

Cocktails aboard IO

After he left, Denise cooked some asparagus and made a salad and we enjoyed the lemon rotisserie chicken.  It was a delicious meal!

That is all for now. Stay tuned for more adventures!

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