Monthly Archives: April 2016

Crossing our wake!

Yesterday at 10:10 am we entered the Barge Canal off the ICW and crossed our wake; completing the journey we started 373 days before.

Here is an update of our last two days on the Great Loop:

Tuesday (4/19) – Serenity Island – ICW, FL – When we bailed on going to the Bahamas and decided to take the slow road home, we had no real itinerary; we knew we would just keep heading north.  We thought we would want to spend more time in Vero Beach as we really like this area.  But something was calling us home so we made the decision to leave today and spend one more night on this great adventure, even though we could easily make it all the way home in 6 hours.

So we said goodbye to the VBYC and the staff at this wonderful club. They were super nice and the club has a comfortable ambiance, along with some pretty good food. We will likely stay here again sometime in the future, like next January when we plan to take the boat to Ft. Myers.

VBYC

VBYC

VBYC dining room

VBYC dining room

Before we got underway, Denise got in a quick run up the bridge and back, and snapped some pictures of the marina and surrounding park area. Here are some pictures to share:

VB Mooring field from bridge

VB Mooring field from bridge

Sunrise from the bridge

Sunrise from the bridge

ICW from bridge

ICW from bridge

MacWillilam park

MacWillilam park

Lagoon at MacWilliam park

Lagoon at MacWilliam park

We also had an opportunity to meet a Looper couple who came into the south docks of the City Marina on Monday night. Tom & Connie Rogers were on a Motorcat 30’ catamaran (“rPad”) that can be trailered and which they have taken through many parts of the eastern US, but have not done the entire loop. They are going to trailer the boat to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota later this summer and cruise the rivers which will enable them to complete their Loop adventure.  We exchanged boat cards and wished each other luck – then returned to the boat.

Loopers "rPad"

Loopers “rPad”

We watched others leave the City Marina and VBYC, and then we too untied the lines and headed north.

Here are some other pictures we took during our stay in Vero Beach:

VBYC "Guest"

VBYC “Guest”

Morning in the Vero Bch mooring field

Morning in the Vero Beach mooring field

"Divemaster" near us

“Divemaster” near us

South docks VB City Marina

South docks VB City Marina

City Marina fuel dock

City Marina fuel dock

It was a nice day to be on the water and we had a good time enjoying all the sights along the way. We had picked out two potential anchorages to stay at for our last night on the Loop. The first one was near the Sebastian Inlet and looked to be a good spot.  When we got up to it we found the holding good and liked its close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  But with the wind blowing out of the east, we did not see ourselves spending any time on the beach.  We also didn’t like how close it was to a public park and boat ramp, so we decided not to stay and headed north past Sebastian Inlet and past Grant Farm Island.

Sebastian Inlet State Rec Park

Sebastian Inlet State Rec Park – 1st anchorage

Grant Farm Island

Grant Farm Island

The second anchorage (Serenity Island) proved to be a terrific little spot and one we will most likely come back to if weather conditions are favorable. Just south of Melbourne City marina (where we have stayed in the past), there are a series of “spoil” mangrove islands that make for great anchorages.  One in particular got a great review on Active Captain so we headed to it.  We found one (sail) boat already in the anchorage, but was able to secure a spot a little closer to the shore and in front of them.  Shortly thereafter another sailboat came in and anchored north of us.  Serenity Island has a small sandbar to its south and offered great protection for winds out of the east, so we felt very comfortable here.

IO at Serenity Island

IO at Serenity Island

We launched the dinghy and went to explore the island, unexpectedly finding a ton of small shells including oyster and scallop shells. We collected a few to bring home and walked through some of the mangrove paths until it got too think for us to continue.  We then returned to the dinghy and took it all around the island.  We saw so many nests for osprey and herons it was amazing; this place was like a bird sanctuary.  We took some pictures but they just cannot convey the beauty and how very connected to nature we felt. It was awesome!

IO and dinghy at Serenity Island Anchorage

IO and dinghy at Serenity Island Anchorage

Fish cleaning table

Fish cleaning table

Southeast shore - Serenity Island

Southeast shore – Serenity Island

Exploring Serenity Island

Exploring Serenity Island

Making our way thru mangroves

Making our way thru mangroves

Birds near Serenity Island

Birds near Serenity Island

Osprey Nest on Serenity Island

Osprey nest on Serenity Island

Drying his wings

Drying his wings

We then cruised in the dinghy to the small sailboat that came in after us. Here we met “Noel” who was very friendly and talked us about the island. He was a local and had been coming here for 20+ years. He told us the island’s sandbar used to be much greater, but it has slowly eroded over time due to storms and large wakes from boaters.  He told us about his home-made dinghy and how his old sailboat was new to him and he was trying to get it in shape.

Noel's boat

Noel’s boat

We enjoyed our chats then moved on to the first sailboat in the anchorage, only they were not in their cockpit or appeared available for socializing. So we respected their privacy and returned to our boat in time for happy hour and to see a fourth boat pull into the anchorage. Then all of us (3 sailboats plus us) settled in for the night.  Mark fired up the bar-b-que and grilled some great steaks while Denise made rice and a salad. We then watched a terrific sunset. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day, and the last night for us on the Loop.

Mark serving up the steak

Mark serving up the steak

Sunset at Serenity Is anchorage

Sunset at Serenity Island anchorage

Denise - Serenity Island sunset

Denise – Serenity Island sunset

Moon rising over Serenity Island

Moon rising over Serenity Island

Wednesday (4/20) – Harbortown Marina – Merritt Island, FL – At an anchorage we have a tendency to go to bed early and last night was pretty much on par.  The downside is we wake up really early.  For Denise it was with the birds (literally) who started the cacophony in the wee hours and continued to get louder until the sun came up. The cool thing was when they all came down out of the casuarina (aka Australian pine) trees and went down to the water to feed.

Wading bird at sunrise

Wading bird at sunrise

Although the boat swung a little during the night, it was mostly due to the current as there was little wind. The water was very calm in the morning and if not for the birds we would have said peaceful.  Not wanting to disturb nature, Denise resisted turning on the generator so she could make coffee.  However, once Mark was up, the first sailboat pulled out, and the others were visible in their cockpit, she turned it on.  Enjoying that first cup was made even more enjoyable by watching the dolphins frolicking in the water nearby. It just doesn’t get any better than this!

Once we had finished breakfast we pulled up the anchor and headed north for our final day on the Loop. We passed by Melbourne City Marina and the Melbourne bridge – one that Denise has run over in a half marathon.

Passing Melbourne

Passing Melbourne

Melbourne Bridge

Melbourne Bridge

Dophins near Melbourne Bridge

Dolphins near Melbourne Bridge

We then cruised north in the ICW encountering several boaters along the way. Some were boats we had passed the day before, including a few sailboats. Eventually we came upon some Loopers on a Nordic Tug called “Lee Loo”.  We had seen and heard of this boat, but had never met them. We chatted for a bit on the VHF and wished them well on their journey; they are from Illinois and have a long way to go before they cross their wake.

"LeeLoo" - Loopers

“Lee Loo” – Loopers

Eventually we went passed the Eau Galle and Pineda Causeway bridges, and approached Cocoa Village. This is very familiar cruising grounds to us and we have had lots of great times in this area. As we headed under the SR 520 Bridge and past Cocoa Village Marina we took it all in as if it was the first time.

Workers on the SR520 bridge

Workers on the SR520 bridge

Birds can't read!

Birds can’t read!

Cocoa Village Marina

Cocoa Village Marina

As we approached the SR 528 (Beachline) Causeway we saw that our Looper friends on “Ocean Dancer” were just ahead of us. What a coincidence that we were in Michigan City, IN when they started their Loop adventure, and here they are when we are about to complete ours.  We talked for a moment on the VHF and as we passed them and offered our best wishes for their continued Loop experience.  We promised to keep in touch and look forward to seeing them next winter in FL.

"Ocean Dancer"

“Ocean Dancer”

And then we went under the bridge and made the familiar right turn into the barge canal and we crossed our wake!

Crossing our wake!

The chart plotter doesn’t lie – Crossing our wake!

But we still had an uneventful 30 minutes of no-wake cruising to get to Harbortown Marina (our home port). We passed a few other boaters, some people picnicking on the shore, and a sailboat.  Finally we turned into the marina, got some fuel, a pump-out, and headed into our slip.

Picnicers along barge canal

Picnickers along barge canal

Returning to the Barge Canal

Returning to the Barge Canal

Entering Harbortown

Entering Harbortown Marina

After we tied up, settled the boat, ate some lunch, and checked into the marina office, Denise published the last blog update while Mark cleaned the outside of the boat. Soon afterwards we met some of our new marina neighbors and then began the celebrations which included pictures, a champagne toast and now flying our Gold Looper burgee!

Flying the Gold Burgee

Flying the Gold Burgee

Crossing our wake celebration

Crossing our wake celebration

And so ends our 5000 mile adventure on America’s Great Loop!

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Stretching out the last little bit!

After so much planning and all the travels of the last year, it is hard to believe we are headed into the last leg of our Great Loop adventure. We cannot wrap our head around the fact that a year has gone by already…..time really does fly when you are having fun.

Here is the latest update of our activities:

Wednesday (4/13) – Stuart, FL – We left Mariner’s Cay Marina in Stuart as late as possible as we were working feverishly to get the last blog update published before we left.  It was a nice day to be on the water and we didn’t mind the 20-mile cruise north to Ft. Pierce.  There were lots of fishing boats out and although it was breezy, the wind was out of the South making the cruise north very comfortable.

Here are some pictures of our morning on the water:

City of Fredericksburg Paddle Wheel boat - 772-678-1176

“City of Fredericksburg” paddle wheel boat – comes to Stuart, FL every winter for dinner cruises – spends summer in Richmond, VA.

Island near St. Lucie Inlet

Island near St. Lucie Inlet

Homes north of Stuart

Homes north of Stuart

Since Palm Beach, Mark had been trying to coordinate delivery with a fuel truck at one of our last few stops, and we just weren’t able to pull it off. Eventually, the difference in price was not worth the hassle to get fuel this way. We pulled into the city marina in Fort Pierce and went right to the fuel dock.  With the boat US discount we actually were only a few cents off the price from the fuel truck, so it made sense to get the diesel here.  Plus, they gave us a free holding tank pump-out since we bought over 100 gallons of fuel!  This will be our last fill up until we get to our home port.

After we got the boat tied up and settled we checked into the marina office, and walked around the facilities a bit. It had been a long time since we last visited this marina and it has grown a lot. They have new docks to the east of the older section (where we were located), and they have put in a few small breakwaters off the ICW to minimize wake and currents in the marina.  To us these looked like the wingdams we saw along the Mississippi, but we were grateful as they did the job.

Breakwater/wingdams near Ft. Pierce City Marina

Breakwater – “wing dams” near Ft. Pierce City Marina

IO at Ft. Pierce City marina

IO at Ft. Pierce City marina

There is a park just south of the marina where they have a farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings; we were told Wednesdays was considerably smaller. We went to check it out and found it was kind of small; it only took us about 15 minutes to walk through the whole thing.  We didn’t really need anything or see anything to buy so we just went back to the boat.

Wed farmer's market

Wed farmer’s market

We had heard about the good food at a restaurant called “12A Buoy” located north of the marina, and started to walk to it for dinner. The path took us past the House of Seven Gables Tourist Information center and by a park along the Riverwalk where they were having a big festival. We decided to go investigate and we discovered there was “A Taste of St. Lucie” event being held.  For a $40 per person fee, you got unlimited food & drink provided by some of the local area restaurants, bakeries and bars. All was to benefit the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of St. Lucie (county).

Mark was a little reluctant, but Denise convinced him it would be fun and for a good cause, so we paid our money and went in. For the next 1.5 – 2 hours we went through each vendor and sampled their food.  Some were really good and some were just ok, but it was great fun.  There was Italian, Bar-B-Que, and even some fried chicken, which Mark loved. The beer truck was our stopping point for beverage and we split a Stella Artois (Denise’s favorite) to quench our thirst from all the spicy stuff.  The Lexus dealer had bottled water and we ended up with 4 or 5 of their minis to help out with that too.  The best part was the DJ they had hired, and once they started playing music Denise wanted to dance. Of course no one else was dancing, but once we started it, many others chimed in.  When it switched to rap music we knew it was time for us non-hip old folks to go back to the boat, so we waddled home fully stuffed.

Seven Gable House

Seven Gables House Welcome Center

Taste of St. Lucie sign

Taste of St. Lucie sign

At "Taste of St. Lucie"

At “Taste of St. Lucie”

Once back at the marina we met the people in the boat next to us, who were Loopers too. John & Paula Dennis (“Chapter III”) are from Prince Edward Island, Canada and were so interesting to talk with. They have traveled many miles and shared some information about the Maine coast and coming down the Northeastern part of the US.  Come to find out they know some of the Loopers we also knew, and we were surprised that our paths have not crossed before now.

When we finally got back to the boat, we noticed a text message from our Looper friends KelliRae and Bill (“Ocean Dancer”) who we met back in Michigan City, Indiana in August, and whom we shared a dock with in Stock Island (Key West) in January. They had pulled in and saw we were in the marina and wanted to let us know they were there too.  We agreed to make contact in the morning and then we went to bed.  It was late and we had a full day of adventure.

Thursday (4/14) – Ft. Pierce, FL – Today was a very fun day on our adventure.  Denise started the day with a run around the up-and-coming downtown area and took lots of pictures of some cool sculptures and art around town. She also ran by the Sunrise Theater – which we were told by a local has a great history and should be toured even if you don’t go there for any live performances.  I guess we will have to make it there on our next trip through Ft. Pierce.

Sunrise Theatre

Sunrise Theatre

Although there are many small businesses that have closed out of the downtown area, there are lots of other projects going on to attract visitors to this town, including an expansion of the Riverwalk area at least one new marina going in on the island side. Here are some of the pictures she took during her run:

Park bench in Ft. Pierce

Park bench in Ft. Pierce

Fort Pierce City Hall

Fort Pierce City Hall

Sculptures near City Hall

Sculptures near City Hall

Tree Sculpture near City Hall

Tree Sculpture near City Hall

Painting Manatee sculpture

Painting Manatee sculpture

Manatee sculpture

Manatee sculpture

Sculpture near city boat ramp

Sculpture near city boat ramp

After the breakfast we made contact with KelliRae and Bill, and invited them to spend the day with us on our plans (see below), but they had chores to do as they had just come back to the US from the Bahamas and needed to tend to that. We agreed to touch base for possible dinner together.

Then we took an Uber cab to the National Navy UDT-Seal Museum on the northern part of Hutchinson Island.

Entrance to museum

Entrance to museum

This is terrific museum that pays tribute to the Navy Seals who started out as underwater demolition teams (UDT) and were originally trained in Ft. Pierce during WWII.  Yes, there really was a Fort Pierce located on the North end of Hutchinson Island.  Anyway, the museum was really fascinating and had a lot of interactive displays. Not only was it informative, but it also did a great job of paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the defense of our country.

Medal of Honor Statue

Medal of Honor Statue

There are many artifacts and a large area outside that includes old boats and equipment they used to train on.  In addition, there is an obstacle course that you can try your luck at, and a memorial for those fallen in the line of duty, similar to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. It is a really terrific place and worth a couple hours drive from the Orlando area to see it. You can learn more about it here.  Here are some of our other pictures from here:

Navy Seal Ethos

Navy Seal Ethos

Seals who died - Painting

Seals who died – Painting

Explaination of painting

Explanation of painting

Capt Phillips actual lifeboat

Capt Phillips actual lifeboat

Denise in SEAL gear

Denise in SEAL gear

Beach obstacles used to train for DDAY

Beach obstacles used to train for DDAY

Seal Memorial

Seal Memorial

Original part of museum

Original part of museum

We returned back to the boat very late and still had not had lunch, so we ate a quick bite and then went on our next adventure. We had been talking boats with our new friends Joy & Steve Poole (“Meandering Joy”) when in Stuart, and they suggested we look at a “Krogen Express”. We confessed we didn’t know anything about them, and they shared that the owners of the company are located in Vero Beach.  We had heard of “Cady Krogen”, but always thought they were the same company.  But, it is not.  They suggested we take a look at that boat as it has some features that we might like in a future boat.

So Mark made contact with the company and we were advised that there is a new one in the marina near where we were. A few phone calls later and we had the broker come and pick us up at the marina, and we went to see the boat.  It is a beautiful and terrific boat that is in the same size range we would like should we choose a mostly full-time cruising lifestyle.  We liked a lot of its features, its design, and feel like it is a sturdy well-made boat.  However, it is way more money than we have to spend, and so we were just interested in learning about it at this time.  But if we were to win the lottery….well, then that might change our minds. In the meantime, we are very happy with Island Office and know we can afford to keep it running so we can go on more adventures.

After we returned from seeing the Krogen Express, we tried to coordinate dinner with KelliRae and Bill, but they were in the middle of a boat maintenance project. So we went off to eat at “12A Buoy” (the restaurant we were headed to last night before getting distracted) with plans to connect with them later in the evening. We had to walk down the Riverwalk and under the bridge that goes to Hutchinson Island to get to the restaurant; about a half mile away.  The place is known to get packed and has most of its eating outside. It was threatening to rain and we were hesitant to choose an outdoor table, but because we could get seated right away we opted for outside and had a terrific meal. The seafood was fresh and the options allowed for an affordable meal that was very satisfying and delicious.

"12A Buoy"

“12A Buoy”

"12A Buoy"

“12A Buoy”

Dinner at "12A Buoy"

Dinner at “12A Buoy”

Shortly after we returned to the boat, Bill & KelliRae came over and we talked for a long time; sharing their adventures in the Bahamas, and our future travel plans. After hearing their stories (and others who attempted travel in the Bahamas this year) we were feeling like we had made the right decision not to go there this trip.  It was just after 9:00 when they left our boat, just as the sky opened up and a heck of an electrical storm ensued. Fortunately they made it back to their boat safely and we tucked in for the night.

Here are some other pictures from the Ft. Pierce area:

City marina sign

City marina sign for our dock

North docks - Ft. Pierce

North docks – Ft. Pierce City Marina

AE Backus Museum

AE Backus Museum

Marina office & Facilities

Marina office & Facilities

Tiki Bar at Marina

Tiki Bar at Marina

FPYC

FPYC

Sailfish monument near marina

Sailfish monument near marina

PP Cobb Training Center

PP Cobb Training Center

Cobb's Landing

Cobb’s Landing

Painted electric box

Painted electric box

Friday (4/15) – Vero Beach, FL – Fearing the forecasted bad weather, we wanted to leave early and get under way while the sky was still blue and the sun shining.  We left Ft. Pierce before 9:00 a.m., and traveled the short 13 miles to Vero Beach.  It was so nice to be on the water when the weather was good, but we could see the clouds forming and by the time we tied up to the Vero Beach Yacht Club (VBYC) docks they were getting bigger and filling the sky.

After checking in and we did a quick walk through of the Vero Beach marina located right next door, to see if there were any other Loopers there. We saw some flags on boats, but did not know of them and they were not on their boats, so we returned back to the VBYC. Then, we decided to hit the grocery store before it rained.  The good thing about Vero Beach and is they have a bus system and you can pick one up at the city marina and be at a Publix in 10 minutes.

So we walked back to the city marina parking lot to wait for the bus. While waiting we ran into Mike & Fran Brown (“October Moon”) whom we met at Old Port Cove Marina in Palm Beach – but we didn’t have a boat card and couldn’t remember their names.  We ended up talking to them while waiting for the bus, on the bus, and into Publix.  After shopping we got to the bus stop and had a bit of wait for the next bus, but ended up talking with them and some other boaters, all who were at the city marina or on a mooring in the city marina.  We all got back safely to our boats when the thunder and lightning started and gave us quite a show.  Fortunately, most of the worst weather was south of us and we were spared the high winds.

We spent the rest of the evening reading and doing emails, until it was time for dinner. Denise made fajitas and we enjoyed having a good home cooked meal aboard our Island Office.

Here are some pictures from today:

Leaving Ft. Pierce City Marina

Leaving Ft. Pierce City Marina

Morning on ICW north of Ft. Pierce

Morning on ICW north of Ft. Pierce

Power Plant near Vero Beach

Power Plant near Vero Beach

Homes near Vero Beach

Homes near Vero Beach

Approaching Vero Beach marinas

Approaching Vero Beach marinas

VBYC

VBYC

VBYC - marina side

VBYC – marina side

It has been nearly 18 months since we were here in Vero Beach so yes, we technically crossed our wake in this boat today. But we are not going to officially celebrate until we return home to Harbortown marina in Merritt Island in a week or so.  We haven’t decided if we will go straight there from here, or if we will stop at anchorages along the way, or maybe make a quick trip up to New Smyrna Beach first.  Weather will be the key factor in our decision, along with tempering the desire to be home.

Saturday (4/16) – Vero Beach, FL – We woke up to a thunderstorm and rain that would subside for 15 minutes, only to be pouring again.  This prevented Denise from getting in a run and she ended up staying in her PJs for most of the morning – something she NEVER does.  Mark, slept in until 9:00 and loved it!

Fearing our activities for the day would be limited and that Sunday was also not looking great, we decided to get a rental car for the weekend. This way we could go adventuring a little further around Orchid Island (the ocean-side part of Vero Beach), and do some things we wanted to do that were not accessible via the bus system or walking.

After picking up the rental car we drove to the beach side to check out Quail Valley River Yacht Club, just south of where the VBYC and city marina are located. It was purchased by the Riomar Country Club (also on Orchid Island), and from what we could see from the guard gate it looked to be a beautiful place.  They are a members-only club but they do have a couple of slips for reciprocity transients if you are lucky enough to get in.  We had heard about this place from another Looper, but did not pursue it as we had reservations at VBYC. Although we were happy with our accommodations, we were still curious. The area surrounding the club is gated and we could not get close enough to see it,  Without an appointment we were not getting in, so we moved on; our curiosity had been satisfied.

Next we went to the beach downtown and stopped into a kitchen supply store that used to have cooking classes we thought we might take one while we are here. However, last week we learned that they no longer offer them, and in fact the store was closing and were having a huge clearance sale. We stopped in only to find the ridiculously overpriced items were still ridiculously overpriced even with a 60% discount. Probably why they closed – and the fact that the Williams-Sonoma outlet store was less than 15 minutes away.

Finding nothing to spend our money on, we left for more sightseeing. We drove around a few neighborhoods and some of the other sights along the beach area, including Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa – owned by singer Gloria Estefan (aka Miami Sound Machine) and her husband.

Costa d'Este

Costa d’Este

We then drove back to the mainland to go to the movies at the Indian River Mall – AMC Movie Theater. We saw “Miracles from Heaven” as we were surprised it was still in theaters.  We wanted to see this when it first came out but we were in Marathon and the lone movie theater didn’t show it. What a wonderful movie that all who question belief in a higher power need to see.

After the movie we went back to the beach side and had a delicious dinner at “Pomodoro Grill/ Trattoria Italiana”. The food was really good and our waitress was friendly enough. However, they were a bit disorganized and Mark’s dinner came out 10 minutes after Denise’s.  The good news is they had delicious garlic knots (better than Giovanni’s) but only give you one each when you sit down.  With a simple request, our waitress got us 2 more and Mark was in 7th heaven.

Pomodoro Grill - Trattoria

Pomodoro Grill – Trattoria

Chicken Picatta at Pomodoro Grill - Trattoria

Chicken Picatta at Pomodoro Grill – Trattoria

Sunday (4/17) – Vero Beach, FL – The benefit of a rental car was that we could get to church as the bus system does not run on Sunday.  We contemplated going on Saturday evening, but the movie got out too late for us to make the last mass.  So we ended up going to the 9:00 am mass, which afforded Denise the opportunity to run down and around the beach before we went to Church.  Here are a few pictures from her run:

Famous Ocean Grill

Famous Ocean Grill

Mulligan's

Mulligan’s

Sunrise - Orchid Island

Sunrise – Orchid Island

Humiston Park

Humiston Park

We attended Holy Cross Catholic, which is a good size parish and a beautiful church with balcony seating and a lively congregation.  Here are some pictures from it:

Holy Cross Catholic Church

Holy Cross Catholic Church

Holy Cross

Holy Cross

Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church

After church we went back to VBYC as they have a brunch that came highly recommended by a few other boaters we have met on the docks. We were not disappointed as they make omelets (or eggs benedict) to order and had fresh fruit, salad, and the usual bacon, sausage, potatoes, grits and pastries.  The food was good and the price ($12.95 per person) was very reasonable.  We were full and felt good about patronizing the club.

After brunch we used the rental car to drive to the Vero Beach outlet mall. We like this mall as it has a Williams-Sonoma Outlet store and we can sometimes find some great bargains.  Although this outlet mall has many of the same stores like the ones in the Orlando outlets, we like it better because the salespeople here are friendlier, much more customer service oriented, and we don’t feel like we are in a foreign country.  It is delightful shopping here, even though we hardly purchased anything.

After our adventures at the outlet mall, we drove back towards Orchid Island and went through more neighborhoods looking at houses. We drove north up towards Indian River Shores and an area known as John’s Island – a large development area that has a beach club, country club, home sites, townhomes and condominiums that span both the Atlantic Ocean and Intercostal waterway.  This gated community looks beautiful, but we both agreed we would not want to ever live in such a place. It is way too “sterile” and we don’t want the monthly maintenance and association fees.

We drove back to the VBYC in time for cocktails, dinner of leftovers from the freezer, and to see the sun set over Fritz Island to our west.

VBYC marina

VBYC marina

Sunset over Fritz Island

Sunset over Fritz Island

Monday (4/18) – Vero Beach, FL – The day started out calm with a little breezy, but very comfortable. It was nice that it wasn’t raining and that the wind had settled down a bit.  We spent most of the morning doing emails and writing for the next blog post.

After lunch we returned the rental car to Avis and had them bring us back to the marina; a short 5 minute ride.

Then we went on a dinghy adventure. We rode around the city mooring field and anchorage, around Bethel Creek, and to the Indian River waterway that runs along Live Oak Rd.  Here we saw nicely maintained older Florida homes mixed in with newer mansions. Another part of Florida that is being overdeveloped and homogenized.  We like the old homes that have been maintained or updated as they lend an air of authenticity to the area.  Here are some of the pictures we took:

Home along Bethel Creek

Home along Bethel Creek

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

Home off Live Oak Rd

During our dinghy ride we went over to see John & Paula (“Chapter III”) – whom we met in Ft. Pierce. They had come into the VB city marina and were on a mooring right near our boat.  We spoke with them for a while and made plans to have happy hour together on Island Office.

After we got back to the boat and did a few chores, we got cleaned up just in time for John & Paula to show up with a bottle of wine in hand. We spent a long time talking with them and getting to know them better. They have so many travel stories as they have boated all over the world and it was all so interesting to us. They did not leave until it was way late and we had missed the last bus for any dinner on the beach, but we didn’t care as we now have new Looper friends.  Fortunately we have plenty of food on the boat and so we ate the last of the leftover pizza for dinner and called it a (very fun) day!

John & Paula ("Chapter III")

John & Paula (“Chapter III”)

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Heading Home!

Well we have left the FL Keys and we are (finally) headed North on our final stretch of this Great Loop adventure. Very soon we will be home and some days it seems like we just left yesterday.

Here is the latest update of our activities:

Friday (4/1) – Card Sound, FL – We left Key Largo in the morning with a revised itinerary and a schedule which will have us spending the next few weeks making our way north.  It was bittersweet to leave Key Largo as we had a lot of fun and liked the neighborhood; plus the people we met here were so friendly.  However, we will not miss the blaring noise from Sharkey’s every night.

Leaving Key Largo

Leaving Key Largo

Our partner

Our partner

Leaving Port Largo entrance

Leaving Port Largo entrance

Key Largo homeowner

Key Largo homeowner

Houses at Ocean Reef Atlantic Side

Houses at Ocean Reef Atlantic Side

Angel Fish Creek Channel

Angel Fish Creek Channel

We had a nice day on the water, but our cruise was not long and in no time we were anchored in Card Sound, just off the northern shore of North Key Largo, east of Pumpkin Cay. As the wind was to blow out of the Southeast during the night we felt well protected. Our only concerns were passing boats which may wake us, or that the nuclear power plant (Turkey point) across the sound would melt-down while we were there. Obviously our chances were greatest with the passing boaters.

Power plant on Card Sound

Power plant on Card Sound

IO at anchor

IO at anchor

We made some lunch and then launched the dinghy and went for a ride. Our adventure took us through the canals and homes on North Key Largo which is part of Ocean Reef, a gated community that is very exclusive. The yacht club here requires you to have a member sponsor you in order to visit; reciprocity is allowed, but only with the sponsorship.  At $9 per foot per night and a 50’ boat minimum, it was not a place for us.  We did however enjoy riding around and looking at all the huge homes around the place. Here are a few shots from there:

Ocean Reef Houses

Ocean Reef Houses

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home

Ocean Reef home - Vineyard Vines

Ocean Reef home – Vineyard Vines boat

Jets leaving Ocean Reef

Jets leaving Ocean Reef

We left the canals and ventured out into the sound to the northern shore of Pumpkin Key where there was another boat at anchor. The waves and chop were a lot worse out here, and we spoke with the people on the boat and told them it was calmer where we were anchored.  Shortly after we returned to the boat, they decided to move near us where they stayed the rest of the night.  Shortly thereafter we were joined by two other boats who anchored near us as well.  Fortunately, there was lots of room and we never felt crowded.

Mark driving the dinghy

Mark driving the dinghy

Enjoying the dinghy ride

Enjoying the dinghy ride

Enjoying Card Sound

Enjoying Card Sound

That night we had great protection from the wind and we were treated to a spectacular sunset. We also found all boat traffic ceased as soon as it got dark so all was quiet and calm.  This ended up being one of our favorite nights at anchor on the Loop.

Locals come out for sunset

Locals come out for sunset

sunset over Card Sound

sunset over Card Sound

Sunset over Card Sound

Sunset over Card Sound

Saturday (4/2) – Miami, FL – The sunrises here are just as beautiful as the sunsets, but we were only here for one night.

Sunrise over anchorage

Sunrise over anchorage

We had been in communication with our friends on “Sassified” and “Endoxi”, who left Islamorada earlier in the morning.  Once they cleared the Card Sound Bridge they called us and we pulled up our anchor in time to rendezvous on the ICW with them.  Together the three of us cruised through Biscayne Bay and into Miami. We were barely able to see the “Stiltsville” houses off the coast of Key Biscayne as it was quite hazy with salt in the air, and the wind was really blowing strong now.

Rondezvous with Endoxi & Sassified

Rendezvous with Endoxi & Sassified

Stiltsville house

“Stiltsville” houses

As we entered the Dinner Key channel to make our way to the Coral Reef Yacht club in Coconut Grove, we found ourselves in the middle of lots of Optimist Prams whose young sailors were enjoying the blustery wind. There was nowhere for us to go as it is too shallow outside the channel and their tack forced them across us.  It was a harrowing few minutes, but Mark handled our boat well and we made it through without incident.  Likewise, he docked Island Office on the end of the dock with the help of the dockhands at the yacht club.  Meanwhile our friends continued on to Grove Isle where they had reservations in slips there.

Dinner Key Channel

Dinner Key Channel

Dinner Key Channel

Dinner Key Channel

Miami Skyline from Biscayne Bay

Miami Skyline from Biscayne Bay

 

That night for dinner we met Pam, Pete, and Sharri & Rodney at Monty’s (formerly known as Monty Trainer’s) in Coconut Grove. It was a short walk from all our boats and the closest restaurant.

Dinner at Monty's with Sassified & Endoxi

Dinner at Monty’s with Sassified & Endoxi

This is old stomping ground for Denise from when she lived and worked in Miami. Oh how it has changed. The place now has outdoor dining and a large bar in what was the old place, and indoor dining in a new building that now is where the old parking lot was.  It is no longer just a neighborhood handout that Jimmy Buffet used to spontaneously show up at, but rather a tourist mecca that (naturally) sells t-shirts, etc.  We still had a good dinner and enjoyed each other’s company, for what will probably be our last time together; they are moving north to continue their Loop adventure and we are taking a slow route until we get Island Office back home.

Old part of Monty's

Old part of Monty’s

New part of Monty's

New part of Monty’s

Sunday (4/3) – Miami, FL – We started off the day by going to another new church St. Hugh’s in Coconut Grove. As we expected rain and didn’t want to get wet along the way, we got an Uber taxi to take us there. But the weather cleared up while we were in church, so we walked the 1.2 miles back to the yacht club, passing shops, parks and restaurants “the Grove” is known for.   Here are some pictures of St. Hugh’s:

Church of St. Hugh

Church of St. Hugh

Church of St. Hugh

Church of St. Hugh

Courtyard at St. Hugh

Courtyard at St. Hugh

Also along the way we stopped by the Fresh Market that is right near the yacht club. We needed milk for breakfast, but not much else as we expect to do very little cooking on the boat going forward – there are just too many great places to stop and eat at along the way.

Fresh Market in the Grove

Fresh Market in the Grove

The rest of the day we enjoyed just hanging around the boat and the yacht club. We watched the sailing instructor go out with his young students in the Optimist Pram boats.

Kids in the marina

Kids in the marina

Leaving for their lesson in Biscayne BAy

Leaving for their lesson in Biscayne BAy

We also enjoyed the atmosphere and hanging out around the CRYC.For dinner that night we patronized their snack bar and had a fish sandwich (Denise) & hamburger (Mark).  It was beautiful weather and we enjoyed sitting out by the pool taking in all the sights.

CRYC Dinner

CRYC Dinner

Here are some pictures we took of the yacht club over the last few days:

Sign on dock

Sign on dock

CRYC Entrance from Bayshore

CRYC Entrance from Bayshore

CRYC entrance at night

CRYC entrance at night

CRYC at night

CRYC at night

Coral Reef Yacht Club

Coral Reef Yacht Club

CRYC pool

CRYC pool

CRYC pool bar

CRYC pool bar

CRYC Dining hall & porch

CRYC Dining hall & porch

CRYC entrance looking to gate

CRYC entrance looking to gate

Victory in Sails

Victory in Sails

Monday (4/4) – Miami Beach, FL – Denise was motivated this morning to run around the Grove where she had run so many years before. She headed south on Bayshore Drive past the high rises and down to Main Highway for an out-and-back run.  This two-lane road runs along several of the parks and has 4 schools all within a one-mile stretch.  Needless to say at 7:30 it was full of cars trying to drop off kids for school and was very congested; there were 4 separate police cars directing traffic.

Grove traffic for schools

Grove traffic for schools

Here are some pictures from our time in Coconut Grove:

Condo building in the Grove

Condo building in the Grove

Coconut Grove peacock statue

Coconut Grove peacock statue

Peacock statue in Coconut Grove

Peacock statue in Coconut Grove

Park Bench in Coconut Grove

Park Bench in Coconut Grove

Sculptures in Myers Park - Coconut Grove

Sculptures in Myers Park – Coconut Grove

Historic State Park in Coconut Grove

Historic State Park in Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove sign

Coconut Grove sign

Coconut Grove Playhouse

Coconut Grove Playhouse

Coconut Grove

Coconut Grove

Post Office

Post Office

Commercial shoot The Grove

Commercial shoot The Grove

CG Sailing School

CG Sailing School

After the run and breakfast, we moved the boat to Miami Beach as we wanted to see the place when it was not crazy with the Boat Show crowds like we usually see. Along the way we passed by Vizcaya and some great views of downtown Miami.  We chose to cruise the eastern side of the bay nearing Fisher Island and the Port of Miami.

Vizcaya from Biscayne Bay

Vizcaya from Biscayne Bay

Downtown Miami from Biscayne Bay

Downtown Miami from Biscayne Bay

Fisher Island fuel tanks

Fisher Island fuel tanks

Miami Beach Skyline at port entrance

Miami Beach Skyline at port entrance

We rounded the corner through Government Cut and into the Meloy Channel, and went under the MacArthur Causeway.  We passed between Miami Beach and Star Island, location of mansions and homes for some known celebrities (Gloria Estefan) and CEOs (Lennar Homes). We also passed the Flagler Memorial Island (what Mark and his dad would call Monument Island when they would fish the Biscayne Bay together.

Boat looking like it should be in a Bond film

Boat looking like it should be in a Bond film

Star Island home

Star Island home

Flagler Memorial Island

Flagler Memorial Island

This path was fun and worked great until we got to the East Venetian Causeway Bridge that was locked down for maintenance. As a result we had to head west towards downtown Miami taking us south of the Venetian Islands and north of Watson Island. Along the way we got to see some beautiful homes, the Miami Yacht club, and many boats at anchorages.

Jungle Island and Miami Yacht Club

Jungle Island and Miami Yacht Club

We then had to wait 20 minutes for the next opening of the Venetian West Bridge.  All of this added about an hour to our journey, but we didn’t care as we were on the water and enjoying a beautiful day with spectacular sights.

We arrived at Sunset Harbor Yacht Club and had two very good dockhands assisting us for the tied up. We were one of the smallest boats in this mecca of large private yachts, many with registry in the Cayman Islands or BVI’s.

Sunset Harbor Yacht Club

Sunset Harbor Yacht Club

Although named a yacht club, this marina is open to the public, but they are actively seeking equity club members. On the east side are two large condominium towers and on the west side is the Biscayne Bay.  The place is absolutely pristine and the staff is awesome. After getting the boat secured we went to the marina office to check in.  “Daniel” the dockmaster immediately recognized us by our names; Mark had spoken with him on the phone and everyone in the office was most helpful.

Daniel - Dockmaster at Sunset Harbor Yacht Club

Daniel – Dockmaster at Sunset Harbor Yacht Club

Right after checking in we were looking at the pool and realized we knew the man sitting in the chair watching his young son play in the water. “John” was the former NY Firefighter Mark had met at Great Kills Yacht Club in Staten Island, NY, where he is a member. He and his family left shortly after us to start their Great Loop adventure, and we were surprised we had not run into them before.  We stayed talking to him for quite a while about places we had been and experiences along the way.

John & JJ in pool at Sunset Harbor

John & JJ in pool at Sunset Harbor

The good thing about this marina is it is walking distance to Publix, Fresh Market and just blocks from Lincoln Road where we went for dinner. John had recommended a place to us (“SPRIES”) that has a pizza “happy hour” and is supposed to be great NY-style pizza. So we went there to check it out. We found it to be good and with a shared salad, made for an affordable night in an otherwise very expensive dining area.

Lincoln Road

Lincoln Road

Dinner at SPRIES

Dinner at SPRIES

Elaine's old workplace on Lincoln Rd

Elaine’s old workplace on Lincoln Rd

Sunset Harbor Yacht Club Marina is a high-rent marina with lots of big yachts, including “A2” which was on the dock behind and perpendicular to our boat.

A3 - Private yacht near us at SHYC

A3 – Private yacht near us at SHYC

It is also the most expensive place we have stayed on the Loop at $4 per foot + $15/day for electric, + tax. Needless to say we only stayed one night, although we can see how people would like to stay for months on end.  It is convenient, well-staffed and immaculate. It has a beautiful pool and patio area, and a first class workout facility that we (unfortunately) were not here long enough to take advantage of.

Here are some other pictures from our short Miami Beach stay:

Sunset from SHYC

Sunset from SHYC

Washing the boat - SHYC

Washing the boat – SHYC

IO at SHYC

IO at SHYC

Tuesday (4/5) – Coral Ridge Yacht Club – Ft. Lauderdale – Not wanting to leave, but realizing we had to (or it would be like another mortgage payment) we untied the dock lines and headed North.  It had been a very long time since we have taken this part of the ICW; usually we go outside in the ocean as the going is very slow.  There are numerous no-wake zones and lots of boat traffic.  But the wind was blowing hard out of the north today, so we knew going outside was not an option.  Plus, we really wanted to see the sights.

Leaving Miami Beach

Leaving Miami Beach & SHYC marina

All along the water on the beach side are several communities with large homes and boats. As you approach North Miami it turns into condominium city, with numerous large towers, and many more under construction. And yet there still is some of the older one and two-story complexes which are now in the shadows of the steel monoliths.  It is quite a sight to see.

Miami Beach Home

Miami Beach Home

Sculpture at Miami Beach home

Sculpture at Miami Beach home

Miami Beach houses

Miami Beach houses

MB house

MB house

MB house

MB house

We continued north through Hallandale, Dania, Hollywood, and eventually into the Ft. Lauderdale inlet known as Port Everglades. Here are some pictures from this part of the trip:

Haulover Inlet sandbar

Haulover Inlet sandbar

Haulover Inlet

Haulover Inlet

Condos on Sunny Isles

Condos on Sunny Isles

Cool art on Hollywood Beach

Cool art on Hollywood Beach

5 O'clock Somewhere Bar - Hollywood Bch

5 O’clock Somewhere Bar – Hollywood Bch

Archaelogy Vessel

Archaeology Vessel

Nova SE University Oceaographic Center

Nova SE University Oceaographic Center

Signage at Port Everglades entrance

Signage at Port Everglades entrance

Coming into Port Everglades we saw that the Princess Cruise ship the “Coral Princess” was in port.  In 2007 we had taken this very ship out of this very terminal on a 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal with Claire (Denise’s sister) and her family.

Coral Princess

Coral Princess

Of course one of the first landmarks in the area is the famous Pier 66 with its famous rotating restaurant and 360˚ view; now operating as a Hyatt hotel.

Pier 66

Pier 66

The other landmark to know you are in Ft. Lauderdale is the numerous HUGE yachts that are everywhere. It is amazing that so many exist in one place.  If that is not enough, there are the numerous homes that line the ICW, as well as the canal that feed into the ICW.  So much wealth in one spot on this large planet.

Private Yachts

Private Yachts

Private Yachts

Private Yachts

Private Yachts

Private Yachts

Ft. Lauderdale canals

Ft. Lauderdale canals

Ft Lauderdale home

Ft Lauderdale home

Ft. Lauderdale Mansion

Ft. Lauderdale Mansion

Here are some other pictures from the trip today:

Ft. Lauderdale Water Taxi

Ft. Lauderdale Water Taxi

Port Everglades Entrance

Port Everglades Entrance

BahiaMar

Bahia Mar marina

Sandbar to west of channel

Sandbar to west of channel

iguna on bridge fender

iguana on bridge fender

Old and new condos - Ft. Lauderdale beach

Old and new condos – Ft. Lauderdale beach

We docked successfully at the Coral Ridge Yacht club which is directly off the ICW just north of Sunrise Blvd in Ft. Lauderdale. If you know this town, you know that it is a pretty great location as the Galleria Mall is in walking distance, as is numerous high end dining spots. Additionally, it is a short walk to the famous Ft. Lauderdale beach where the boys (and girls) really are.

We were met at the dock by the dockmaster, Sharon who helped us tie up and then instructed us where to go for check in.

Dockmaster Sharon

Dockmaster Sharon

Dockmaster's office at CRYC

Dockmaster’s office at CRYC

After we got the boat securely tied for the forecasted wind, we were visited her office and checked in.  She then preceded to give us a tour of the yacht club and introduced us to the staff along the way.  All were very friendly and helpful and down to earth. We also got to meet the club cat, “Coral” who was equally hospitable and managed to get some affection from Denise.

"Coral" the CRYC cat

“Coral” the CRYC cat

As we had missed the opportunity for fine dining to celebrate Denise’s birthday in March, we splurged for dinner and went to the Capital Grill near the Galleria mall. It took us about 15 minutes to walk there and had a delicious steak and accompanying sides.  We were thankful for the walk back as it gave us some chance to exercise off our dinner.

Capital Grill

Capital Grill

Here are some pictures we took of the yacht club:

Front doors to CRYC

Front doors to CRYC

Pool at CRYC

Pool at CRYC

CRYC entrance at evening

CRYC entrance at evening

Inside CRYC

Inside CRYC

CRYC Pool bar

CRYC Pool bar

Wednesday (4/6) – Coral Ridge Yacht Club – Ft. Lauderdale – Denise spent nearly the whole day cataloging pictures taken in the last two weeks.  There was a lot to do as we have been so busy and we got behind a bit. In the meantime, Mark secured our marina accommodations for Palm Beach, Ft. Pierce and Vero Beach, and he identified anchoring locations in Hobe Sound and Stuart area.  He was also able to secure a home-port slip back into our old marina at Harbortown in Merritt Island, although not the same one. Before long we will have Island Office there and we can’t believe how fast a year has gone by.

That evening we decided to have dinner at the CRYC in their less formal dining area, the Wheelhouse. They had a reputation for good food and we always want to patronize the clubs when they are kind enough to let us stay on reciprocity.  Our food was really good and the service was superb.  We really liked the friendliness of this club, the amenities, and we wouldn’t mind staying here for a month or so next winter if they have space.

Boats across the marina at CRYC

Boats across the marina at CRYC

Thursday (4/7) – Delray Beach City Marina – Delray Beach – Today we were headed north, but not before Denise was able to get a run in along the Ft. Lauderdale beach area.  She ran along the esplanade and enjoyed seeing this beautiful beach and surrounding area.

Ft Lauderdale Beach

Ft Lauderdale Beach

State park near CRYC

State park near CRYC

Not wanting to leave, we procrastinated as late as possible, but finally got the boat underway and headed north, passing more beautiful homes through Ft. Lauderdale, Lighthouse Point, Hillsboro Beach and Boca Raton. When the homes were not big, the boats in front of them were, or in some cases both were huge. Here are some of the small shacks we saw along the way:

Ft. Lauderdale Home

Ft. Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home

Ft Lauderdale Home - Denise's favorite

Ft Lauderdale Home – Denise’s favorite

Ft. Lauderdale home with funny statues

Ft. Lauderdale home with funny statues

Hillsboro Beach Home

Hillsboro Beach Home

Lighthouse Point homes & boats

Lighthouse Point homes & boats

Hillsboro Beach Home

Hillsboro Beach Home

Hillsboro Beach home

Hillsboro Beach home

Hillsboro Beach house

Hillsboro Beach house

Hillsboro Beach Home

Hillsboro Beach Home

Boca Raton House and boat

Boca Raton House and boat

Boca Raton house

Boca Raton house

Boca Raton condos on the beach

Boca Raton condos on the beach

Boca Raton home

Boca Raton home

Thinking of sister "Claire" in Boca Raton

Thinking of sister “Claire” in Boca Raton

We arrived at the Delray Beach City marina and were pleasantly surprised. Although there were no dockhands or city employees to greet you, one of the seasonal live-aboard boaters came out to assist us with tying up and told us the info packet and restroom key were in the dock box. He also told us about the restrooms and laundry facilities at the south end of the marina, which had a free ice machine.  Everything was in great condition and the rate was really reasonable, plus it was in walking distance to Atlantic Blvd where all the restaurants were.

Welcom banners

Welcome banners

IO at Delray City marina

IO at Delray City marina

Marina Sign

Marina Sign

Marina restrooms, ice & laundry

Marina restrooms, ice & laundry

We had Mark’s new AMEX credit card waiting for us across the ICW at the Delray Beach Yacht Club, where we originally were going to stay. However, the marina facilities were under construction and there were no restrooms, laundry, office, etc. and the rate was double the city marina. So, when we got into the city marina we cancelled the yacht club reservation, but still had to retrieve the already delivered credit card.  While Mark washed the salt off the boat, Denise walked across the bridge to the yacht club and in no time was back to the boat.

Shortly thereafter Jason from Ocean Air showed up to fix our salon hatch shade. We had been trying to get him scheduled to meet us since the Miami Boat show in Feb., but his schedule and ours never seemed to coordinate until today.  He came in an in 90 minutes fixed the shade, replaced a handle on another shade and showed Mark a few things to help us maintain these going forward.

Just has he was leaving, we had more company. Denise has an old high school friend who is a captain on a privately-owned yacht that is kept in West Palm Beach. “Barry” and Denise had reconnected on Facebook a few years ago and they have communicated occasionally, mostly as they are politically aligned, but they also share a love of the water.  Barry and his wife Staci live in Delray Beach, so he came by the boat and they had a chance to talk about his job and to get caught up.  Our conversations lasted way longer than we expected and it was too late to go out for a bit to eat, so we opted for leftovers on the boat for dinner.

Friday (4/8) – Delray Beach City Marina – Delray Beach – We discovered early in the day that this was the weekend of “Delray Affair”, an annual arts festival located on Atlantic Blvd for which they shut down this main street through the town.

Delray Affair sign

Delray Affair sign

We decided to go check it out with the intention of spending a short time there.  However, we were so impressed and it was so much bigger than we expected. Additionally, half way through our exploring of the artists, Mark got a call from a client in Australia who had a critical systems issue so he had to stop and deal with it. He was on the phone for nearly an hour coordinating resources and trying to assist with the issue, all the while Denise found a few things to purchase.  Finally, the call was ended and we realized it was well past noon, we were hungry and we still had a third of the festival to see. Plus we had an errand we needed to do that would require us to walk another mile. So we opted for a quick bite to eat at “Doc’s All-American“, and pressed on through the rest of the festival. It was well after 2:00 before we got back to the boat.

Delray affair

Delray affair

Inflatable at Delray Affair

Inflatable at Delray Affair

Doc's All American

Doc’s All American

Grill cheese at Doc's

Grill cheese at Doc’s

Hamburger and fries at Doc's

Hamburger and fries at Doc’s

Mark got a little power-nap in and Denise did some emails before our old friends Irv & Marsha showed up to catch up. We met this couple in 1999 when we had our sailboat in the Bahamas and have stayed in touch ever since.

Irv & Marsh

Irv & Marsh

After some drinks aboard our boat and getting caught up on our lives, we went to dinner at Lemongrass, on Atlantic Avenue.  Our Asian dinner was good and afterwards Irv turned us on to ”Popbar”; an Italian gelato-on-a-stick place, It was good, but we both agreed a good bowl of ice cream would have been better for the same portion and calories.

Lemongrass restaurant

Lemongrass restaurant

Popbar

Popbar

After a walk around a bit we headed back to the boat when Irv suggested we come out to see their home. So we got in their car and drove about 15 minutes to their house.  They are pet-sitting Marsha’s daughter’s dog so Denise & Marsha took the dog on a much needed walk while Mark and Irv discussed boat things. Shortly thereafter they returned us back to our boat said our good-bye’s.  It had a very long day and it was late so we crashed right away.

Here are some other pictures from our stay in Delray Beach:

Marina Historic District marker

Marina Historic District marker

Christian Scientist church near marina

Christian Scientist church near marina – from Boca originally

 

Washing the lights

Washing the lights

Statue in Delray Beach

Statue in Delray Beach

House near marina

House near marina

House near marina

House near marina

Inn near the marina

Inn near the marina

Saturday (4/9) – Old Port Cove Marina, North Palm Beach – Wanting to see the sunrise on the beach, Denise was up and out the door early for a run.  She captured a few sights along the way:

Sunrise on the Atlantic - Delray Beach

Sunrise on the Atlantic – Delray Beach

Running path on Delray Beach

Running path on Delray Beach

The Delray Wreck historical marker

The Delray Wreck historical marker

Homes on Atlantic

Homes on Atlantic

Hibiscus and Ocean

Hibiscus and Ocean

Welcome Sign

Welcome Sign

Anchor Park

Anchor Park

Park sign

Park sign

Sand Bar restaurant

Sand Bar restaurant

We left Delray Beach marina at 9:05 to time the Atlantic Avenue bridge opening at 9:15, and wanting to get an early start.  The winds were forecasted to be strong and we knew we had to cross Lake Worth later in our travels, and didn’t want to face rough water when doing so.  We also had to consider the restricted bridge openings for two other bridges, one of which we discovered had a 15’ clearance and we didn’t need to wait for its opening.  We barely squeaked by, requiring 14.5 feet; it was close but prevented us from having to wait over 20 minutes and unnecessarily burn fuel.  We were grateful for our low clearance as we did not require any further openings.

We had originally made reservations at a different marina in the Lake Worth inlet area, but based on input from Barry & Irv, it was suggested we look at Old Port Cove marina in North Palm Beach. It is also where the boat that Barry captains is located. So, after their inputs and reading the reviews on Active Captain, we decided to switch if they could accommodate us. Mark made a phone call before we left the dock and we were in and made travel plans accordingly.

The cruise up the ICW once again took us past the lovely homes of Delray Beach, Palm Beach, and the downtown of West Palm Beach, including the “public docks”. Here are just a few pictures of what we saw:

Delray Beach home

Delray Beach home

Delray Beach Home

Delray Beach Home

Palm Beach Home

Palm Beach Home

Palm Beach Home

Palm Beach Home

Palm Beach Homes

Palm Beach Homes

Yachts at Palm Beach Docks

Yachts at Palm Beach Docks

Trump Tower - WPB

Trump Tower – WPB

Downtown WPB

Downtown WPB

Megayachts at WPB public docks

Megayachts at WPB public docks

"Limitless" - owned by Limited

“Limitless” – owned by Limited

Coming into the Lake Worth area, the boat traffic had picked up considerably, as had the wind which contributed to the choppy waters. We were glad we did not stay at the original marina as it was right off the ICW and we would have been very exposed to the chop. It would have been another “Grand Haven” experience and we were glad we had chosen differently.  We did however see a group of young sailors in an Optimist Pram regatta:

Optimist Pram regatta

Optimist Pram regatta

FP&L Eco Discovery Center

FP&L Eco Discovery Center

Fuel Tanks at FPL Discovery Center

Painted fuel tanks at FPL Discovery Center

To our east was Peanut Island, a county park which is in the middle of the inlet and attracts lots of weekend campers, boaters, kayakers, and paddle boarders (although not today as it was too windy). It also has hiking paths throughout and you can pick up water taxi to take you there from either Riviera Beach or West Palm Beach. You can learn more about the island here.

Peanut Island

Peanut Island

Peanut Island

Peanut Island

We continued North through Lake Worth until we came to the marina, located just to the right of where the ICW makes a left turn. It was tucked back into a cove and was well protected.  Around the place are several condominium towers, and the marina is home to some very large yachts.  The staff was at the dock ready to help us tie up, and they were incredibly friendly and courteous; it didn’t matter that we were probably the smallest boat in the place.

Condo near boat

Condo near boat

IO at Old Port Marina, N Palm Beach, FL

IO at Old Port Marina, N Palm Beach, FL

We checked in at the marina office, located just inside the entryway of the Sandpiper’s Cove Restaurant and bar, which also houses a small café and gift shop. Here we learned of their shuttle service and met “Ed” the driver.  We immediately arranged for a pickup in the morning to take us to the closes Catholic Church for 9:00 am mass.  All this was coordinated by terrific marina staff who also presented us with a bottle of wine; one of the many perks to staying at this first-class marina.

Mark immediately got to work at washing the boat as it was covered with salt while Denise opted for doing a few loads of laundry. In the process she checked out the adjoining fitness center and met “Greg”, a guy from Memphis who keeps his Hatteras sport fishing boat* in this marina and has for 17 years.  They chatted for a while before she headed back to the boat with the clothes all folded.

Copper Leader - Greg's boat

Copper Leader – Greg’s boat

In the afternoon Denise went for a walk along the docks and ran into Barry where they chatted for a bit until Barry had to go back to work as the owner’s family was onboard the yacht for the weekend. We made plans to try and get together either later that day or the next. We hung around our boat and met some of the other boaters on our pier, including Karen & Fred Sage from Newport News, VA on their Catalina 47 sailboat named “Southerly II”.  They were very friendly and really enjoyed talking with them. There were several other boats that came into slips near us, but we really did not have a chance to get to talk with anyone else, except the couple on “October Moon” – a sailboat in the slip next to ours, but whom we did not share boat cards with, and therefore cannot remember their names.

The marina is in a gated community that includes several high-rise condominium buildings, as well as the restaurant and several offices for yacht brokers. Nearby, but not close is PGA Blvd and A1A that has everything from a Publix, CVS, West Marine and other similar stores.  There is also a Duffy’s Sports Bar, Carrabbas, Bonefish Grill and other eateries, but we didn’t want to go to a chain for dinner.  Without a car we were limited so we chose to visit the Sandpiper restaurant at the marina; it was convenient and came with a good review.  Mark got a Cesar Salad with Salmon and Denise got a roasted beet and goat cheese with grilled shrimp.  The food was good and the service excellent so we too would recommend the restaurant.

Sunday (4/10) – Old Port Cove Marina, North Palm Beach – We got up in time to make our 8:30 am appointment with Ed, who shuttled us to “St. Paul of the Cross” for the 9:00 am mass. This is a lovely church and is one of the “Doors of Mercy” churches we have been to since the start of the “Year of Mercy” announced by Pope Francis.  The church was less than 3 miles from the marina, so we arrived quite early and had a chance to take a few pictures:

St Paul of The Cross

St Paul of The Cross

St Paul of The Cross

St Paul of The Cross

Doors of Mercy

Doors of Mercy

Font at St. Paul of the Cross

Font at St. Paul of the Cross

Alter - St. Paul of The Cross

Altar – St. Paul of The Cross

Stained Glass Stations of the Cross

Stained Glass Stations of the Cross

After mass we walked around the western area of the marina, including a section where there were several 100+ foot yachts and a bunch of other boats that were being offered by yacht brokers.

Mega Yachts in west docks

Mega Yachts in west docks

Condo buildings at Old Port Marina

Condo buildings at Old Port Marina

We had also been in communication with Barry who said we could come look at his owner’s yacht*.  It is an 85-foot Berger that is old (circa 1980’s) and in need of interior updating. But, it is a classic and he loves driving it.  We chatted with him and met Stan, the CIA-trained chef that is also full-time crew for this boat.  They talked of their jobs and the owners and we gained some amazing insight into how the “other half” lives.

Denise & Capt. Barry on the Berger

Denise & Capt. Barry on the Berger

The Berger boat

The Berger boat

Barry also told us about one of the mega-yachts* in the marina we had seen; that it was owned by the DeVos family (co-founder of Amway, and current owners of Orlando Magic, Amway Arena, and the RDV Center). It was an amazing morning and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

*Note: We are intentionally not sharing the names of these boats in order to protect the privacy of the owners.

In the afternoon we hung out at the boat and watched The Master’s Golf tournament, while working on this blog post and talking with friends and family. We had decided we were not up for a walk to go out for dinner, but had not taken anything out of the freezer for dinner. So we opted for a pizza and calzone from the marina restaurant’s “express” café. After a 40 minute wait, Mark went up to pick up our order and we ate a very late dinner. Unfortunately, Denise’s calzone was mostly pure dough and only a quarter of it contained any of the filling.  It was not very good and we would NOT recommend the café for dinner.

Here are some other pictures of the area:

Old Port Cove Marina facitilites

Old Port Cove Marina facilities

Old Port Cove Marina Capts Lounge

Old Port Cove Marina Capts Lounge

Laundry facitilty

Laundry facitilty

Monday (4/11) – Peck Lake, Hobe Sound – South of Stuart, FL – Knowing the Captain wanted to get an early start so we could meet a fuel truck at a private marina a few miles up the ICW, Denise got out for a run as the sky was just getting light.  She ran out of the gated complex and down US1 and back, taking in all the shopping center sights we had missed.  Shortly after returning, Barry came aboard for a pre-arranged tour of our boat and we enjoyed chatting again until it was time for us to go.

We hated to leave this very nice marina and the terrific staff. It is first-class all the way, with floating docks, moveable cleats, great facilities, and close to many amenities.  Since it is close to Lake Worth inlet, there is a high probability we will come back here.

We left the dock with the intention of stopping to meet the fuel truck and take on 100+ gallons of diesel. However, when we approached the area, the small dock was totally occupied by the sport fishing boat that was the primary buyer of the fuel, and there was no real place for us to tie up to.  Additionally, the fuel truck had broken down and was just arriving.  We would have to wait for the other boat to get their fuel, and as they were taking on a lot more than us, it was going to be at least a 45 minute wait. Oh if only we would have known…..we would not have left Old Port Marina so soon.

However, we decided the wait for fuel to save a few dollars was not worth it, and continued north on the ICW through the rest of Palm Beach county. Again we passed a few homes not quite as large as the ones further South, but these were still quite nice.

At one point we saw a Grand Banks coming towards us that had lowered the canopy on their fly bridge so they could get under more bridges without requiring an opening.  We had commented that they were smart to do this when they passed and we noticed the boat name: “Patriot” from Mobile, AL.  It was about then that we realized it was our Looper friends Chuck & Vicki Stapleton whom we met in Norfolk and whom we last saw in Mobile where they crossed their wake.  We chatted on the VHF for a bit and learned they are headed to the Bahamas if the weather holds for a good Gulf-Stream crossing in a day or so. Otherwise, we may see them up the east coast.  What a small world!

We cruised past more beautiful homes and into Jupiter, passing a Wyndham resort along the way – causing Denise to think of her running friend Susan M. who works for Wyndham.

Jupiter area home

Jupiter area home

Jupiter area home

Jupiter area home

Jupiter Home

Jupiter Home

Jupiter area homes

Jupiter area homes

Jupiter homes

Jupiter homes

Admiral's cove near Jupiter

Admiral’s cove near Jupiter

Jupiter Home

Jupiter Home

Osprey's home near Jupiter

Osprey’s home near Jupiter

Wyndham Harbourside

Wyndham Harbourside

Wyndham Harbourside

Wyndham Harbourside

Just beyond this point is Jupiter Island Park and then the ICW takes a turn east on the Loxahatchee River, and then turns north around the inlet. It was really windy, but clear and we had a chance to get some pictures of the Jupiter Lighthouse as we went by.

Jupiter Lighthouse

Jupiter Lighthouse

Jupiter Inlet

Jupiter Inlet

After the turn north we entered the Indian River and cruised past Jonathan Dickenson State Park to our west, and some very nice old-Florida homes to our East. Eventually we came to Peck Lake, which is part of the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, and our intended anchoring spot for the night. As we arrived early in the day, we had an opportunity to find a great spot that would buffer us from the East wind, and set anchor without issue.  There were already a few boats in the anchorage, but it is large and there was plenty of space for even more.

IO at Peck Lake

IO at Peck Lake

All morning long we had heard the calls by the Coast Guard who were in search of passengers from a vessel offshore from St. Lucie inlet that had ended up in the water. All mariners were requested to keep a sharp lookout and assist if possible. As there had also been numerous small craft weather alerts, we were concerned even though we were in the ICW and not offshore. Around mid-morning the “pan-pan” had been cancelled and shortly thereafter we heard on the news that the Coast Guard had rescued a mariner.

The eastern shore of the anchorage is a mangrove island that has a sandy path that leads directly to a beautiful beach on the Atlantic. In the afternoon when the winds died down, we launched the dinghy and cruised over to the island to explore.

Path to the beach

Path to the beach

Park welcome sign

Park welcome sign

First we met “Dan” who runs a local paddleboard business, mainly for guests at Loblolly– a marina/condo complex on the western shore of Peck Lake.  He gave us a brief history lesson of the area including the naming of Peck Lake, and then told us about the rescue earlier in the day.  The surviving mariner was rescued not but a few hundred yards from where we were standing, and he had witnessed the helicopter land on the beach.

Paddleboard rentals

Paddleboard rentals

Paddleboard "Dan"

Paddleboard “Dan”

We left Dan for a walk to the beach and found that it was mostly deserted. There were a few other people in the water, but for the most part it was like having our own private island.  We walked along the shore for about half a mile, picking up seashells when the still thunderous surf allowed.

Atlantic Ocean - towards St. Lucie Inlet

Atlantic Ocean – towards St. Lucie Inlet

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Soon we came upon a dead Portuguese Man-O-War, took pictures of it, and decided to turn around and head back.

Portuguese Man-O-War

Portuguese Man-O-War

We spotted some small jelly fish in the sand, and combined with the rough surf and cool water temperatures made us not want to venture into the water.  So we headed back to Peck Lake and the dinghy.

From there we cruised over to the Loblolly marina and see what else was there. Here we discovered several two-story condo buildings surrounding the marina that was full of high end boats.  Although not the mega yachts of Old Port, there was still plenty of wealth in this area and it was apparent by the types of boats, and their hailing ports.

By this time we were ready for our requisite happy hour, so we headed back to the boat for showers and a cool refreshment. While relaxing before dinner we saw a tug go by that reminded us of many we had seen along our Loop adventure. For some reason this just looked so out-of-place here in Peck Lake, but seeing it brought back a flood of happy memories. It was also about this time that we heard the whistle of a passing train; the first of several we would hear throughout the night.  It too brought back thoughts of the Hudson River and Erie Canal towns where the sound was a constant for so many days.

Passing tug at Peck Lake

Passing tug at Peck Lake

We watched a beautiful sunset and then prepared for dinner. We had taken leftovers out of the freezer, so all we had to do was crank up the generator and presto, we had a 15 minute microwaveable feast!

Peck Lake Anchorage

Peck Lake Anchorage

Peck Lake anchorage

Peck Lake anchorage

Sunset at Peck Lake

Sunset at Peck Lake

Tuesday (4/12) – Mariners Cay Marina – Stuart, FL – Today marks our 366th day on the Loop (one official Leap year), and it started like many before it; Denise was up early waiting on Mark to wake.  Just like many mornings at anchor, she wished he would hurry and wake up so she could turn on the generator and make a pot of coffee!  Finally he woke up and she disturbed what would otherwise have been a very peaceful anchorage.  During the night the wind had picked up and Mark had to let out more anchor chain, but this morning things were incredibly calm and we saw a terrific sunrise.

Sunrise on Peck Lake

Sunrise on Peck Lake

While enjoying the cup of coffee, Denise got caught up on the morning news and learned of the boating catastrophe that had played out the day before. Apparently the boat had been reported missing on Sunday as they had not reported in to family.  The boat was offshore and began taking on water; 4 people were aboard and all but one had perished, including a 9-year old boy and his father.  The only survivor was in a state of shock when rescued and taken to a nearby hospital.  There are a lot of details of the story that have mariners scratching their head, but mainly everyone wants to know why you would take a small boat offshore when such weather conditions exist.

We left the anchorage and headed the short distance to Stuart, passing several park areas along the way including the St. Lucie Inlet State Preserve, and the Twin Rivers Park.

We originally intended to anchor in an area known as Manatee Pocket. This is just off the ICW and the St. Lucie River where many mariners queue up to go through the Okeechobee waterway, and there are several marinas, homes with private docks, and a hotel resort (Pirate’s Cove).  It is quite congested and we found that both anchorage areas were pretty full. Having anchored out the night before, we decided to try and get into a marina.  As luck would have it Mariner’s Cay Marina had an available slip, so we pulled in and tied up before anyone knew we had arrived.

We immediately met Joy, the woman in the boat two slips down from us who claimed she did not even hear us come in. She and her husband Steve are on their Fleming 55’ (“Meandering Joy”) and are from Athens, GA.  We spoke with her briefly and learned that our Looper friends on “Patriot” had been in the slip between us the night before.  Again – small world.

After we got the boat settled and checked into the marina office, we ate lunch and Denise went to work on finishing this blog post while Mark washed the boat; it does get salty even when cruising in the ICW.

In the afternoon, a PDQ (motor catamaran) came into the slip next to ours and we recognized them from the Peck Lake anchorage. Bill and Fran on “Easy Riders” are from Ocean City, Maryland and are preparing their boat to be put up in storage for the summer at the Hinckley Yacht Services right here in Manatee Pocket. This seems so strange to most boaters that they would put their boats in the water during the summer, but it is not unusual for those wishing to not be on the water during hurricane season.

"Easy Riders"

“Easy Riders”

In the evening we were invited aboard Joy and Steve’s boat (“Meandering Joy”) for cocktails as they wanted to pick our brains about doing the Loop as they too would like to do it. We talked for a long time as they knew several people we have met on the Loop, including Kathy & Kenny on “No Zip Code”.  It was way past dinner when we got back to the boat, but Joy had put out some appetizers and we didn’t feel the need to eat more. Tomorrow we will leave and head to Ft. Pierce for two nights.

Meandering Joy

“Meandering Joy”

Here are a few pictures from our short stay at this marina:

IO at Mariners Cay Marina

IO at Mariners Cay Marina

Mariners Cay marina pool

Mariners Cay marina pool

Mariner's Cay marina

Mariner’s Cay marina

Stay tuned for more adventures!

Some comments about South Florida – from South Miami, Miami Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and north to Palm Beach, the amount of people who live in this very densely populated area scares us and is a real travesty to us natives. Overdevelopment has ruined a spectacular area and continues on without any resistance.  If there is ever a direct hit by an Andrew or Katrina-sized hurricane, no insurance company will be able to survive the loss.  Florida residents will be hit with huge homeowners’ insurance bills to bail them all out as there would be record losses.

And then there is the traffic, water, and infrastructure issues; too much and not enough now (respectively) and will only get worse. Don’t get us wrong, we are not against development per se. But it is the destruction of a single or two-story building and replacing it with a 20-story, 500 unit high rise that has us so baffled. And there are hundreds of these in this area, with more being built every day. The sad part is that there is no cry for people to stop building and it just continues on and on. Thank goodness for our state and local parks along the way, or we would not see anything but cement in this state that we call home.

Company in Key Largo!

It is easy to see how people can come to the FL Keys and find they are still here months later. We have been enjoying the relaxing and laid back atmosphere here, even while trying to do some work. It is so different than the rest of the Loop where we were moving every two or three days.  As with all of this trip, the weather has dictated what we can and can’t do.  These last few weeks we have been preparing for and/or entertaining guests, and made a quick trip home to take care of some client engagements.

Here is the latest activities of our Great Loop Adventure:

Friday (3/18) – Key Largo, FL – We slept in very late as we both were very restless all night. There was a lot of noise all night long coming from Sharkey’s, and in the early morning hours there were guys talking just outside our boat. Evidence of their presence was found in the morning as they left a strewn of cups and bottles along the wall next to the boat, which we picked up and put in the trash can 20 feet away.

Mark worked almost all day while Denise wrote and published the latest blog update. Later she found a local nail salon and got a pedicure.

For dinner we ventured to the Key Largo Fishery; sister restaurant to the Key’s Fisheries in Marathon. We got very lucky and timed it well as right after we ordered a bus load of young people showed up and all 40 of them overwhelmed the kitchen.  We were lucky our fish salad and sandwich came out just before they placed their order.  The food was good and it was nice to sit outside under the canopied deck and watch the boats in the harbor.

The Fisheries

The Fisheries

Dusk at The Fisheries

Dusk at The Fisheries

Dinner at The Fisheries

Dinner at The Fisheries

The Fisheries

Having fun at The Fisheries

In the evening, Mark began a project for a client that can only be done on the weekend; deleting old records from their database. He stayed up very late to do this so that he could as much done as possible.

Saturday (3/19) – Key Largo, FL – Denise managed to get in a 6-mile run through the neighborhood of Port Largo, despite the heat; it was 76˚ when she started at 7:00 am.  Summer has arrived!  Not only did she miss the cooler weather, she also misses her running buddies, especially with these longer runs.

Although we originally were going to blow up the paddleboard and take it out, we began first doing boat chores, and then one thing led to another and we had spent the whole day working on the boat. Denise de-rusted and polished all the stainless steel on the stern part of the boat including the dinghy davits and the hardware.  Mark cleaned lots of other areas, including all the grime that had accumulated on the power cords. However, after 2 pm he had to begin deleting records again, but he did not stay up as late as the night before.

Needless to say we were tired from lack of sleep and all the work on the boat.  So we opted for dinner on the boat and watching the movie “I’ll See You in My Dreams”, then crashed at a reasonable hour. Amazing the music and crowds from Sharkey’s didn’t seem to bother us.

Sunday (3/20) – Key Largo, FL – We started the day visiting one more new catholic church; St. Justin Martyr on the north part of Key Largo.

Justin the Martyr

St. Justin Martyr

Justin the Martyr fountain

St. Justin Martyr fountain

It was a simple church made with local materials and many of the stain-glass features are designed with the sea in mind.  We returned to the boat and hunkered down with reading and office type tasks. The wind had picked up and it was really blowing, making it difficult to do anything, and not good conditions for taking the paddleboard or dinghy out on the water.  Plus, Mark had to finish the deleting records project for the weekend.

In the afternoon, Pam and Elaine (Mark’s sister and mother) arrived. Pam is on spring break this week and Elaine wanted to go to Miami, so Pam agreed to drive her there and then down to visit with us for a few days. Along the way they stopped in their old neighborhood of Miami Shores and also to visit Ray’s gravesite (Mark’s dad).

Pam & Mark

Pam & Mark

Elaine

Elaine

We had a chance to visit with them for a while before we headed out to dinner at Skipper’s Dockside Grill.  We had to wait a little for a table this time, but once seated we enjoyed our meal.  The women all got some version of their fish tacos and Mark got a salad with a grilled fish topper. Of course it was way more food then we all could handle and we were stuffed from eating so much.

We attempted to watch the Live Fox TV Show “The Passion”, but were unable to stream it and ended up introducing Pam to the first few episodes of the NetFlix “House of Cards”. We have already watched the entire series and now have her hooked.

Monday (3/21) – Key Largo, FL – Again this morning we woke up to very high winds and overcast skies, and a little rain.  None of the dive boats were moving this morning, and we saw few fishing boats leave as it was just not great conditions.  Eventually, we did venture a dinghy ride with Pam, taking her through the canals around the Port Largo area and to see all the houses.  We also spotted numerous iguanas who had climbed out onto rocks or cement ledges to get warmed by the now partly sunny day.  The winds were still blowing and with it came a cool air that filled in and temperatures dropped for what will most likely be the last cool snap we will see.

In the afternoon we decided to venture to some of the local places in the car. We went to the Diver’s Direct store and a few other spots in Key Largo so Pam could find a few “souvenirs” for her adult children. We drove up to Islamorada and were going to venture further South, but just over the Snake Creek Bridge we got stuck in a major traffic jam and decided to head back to the boat for showers.

We had enjoyed our dinner with Pete & Pam so much at the Fish House Encore, we made reservations to take Pam and Elaine there for dinner. We wanted to go to the Bayside Grille for a glorious sunset, but the weather was not cooperating and because it turned cool we opted for indoor dining at Fish House Encore. We were not disappointed and had another terrific meal at this fine place.  However, tonight we were smart and chose ‘to-go’ boxes so we could have a second meal later in the week.

Tuesday (3/22) – Key Largo, FL – We woke up to news of another terrorist bombing; this one in Brussels where we spent some time in 2003 with some of Mark’s Co-workers at MAPICS.  Our hearts were heavy for the families who lost loved ones and for those who were injured by these evil people.

Denise managed to coax Pam into a 4-mile run just as the sun was coming up. It was cool and quite a difference from Saturdays swelter. Pam needed to start thinking about her summer training as she is running the Marine Corp Marathon in October and Denise enjoyed the companionship (naturally).

Denise & Pam - post run selfie

Denise & Pam – post run selfie

We ran through the Port Largo neighborhood and came across two women who were driving their “classic” golf cart. It was a funny sight and nothing like we had seen, including the high end (Cadillac) ones on Boca Grande.

Golf Cart - front

Golf Cart – front

Golf Cart - back

Golf Cart – back

Shortly after getting back the boat and getting breakfast, Pam and Elaine left to head back home. It was great to have them aboard and to see them.

After they left, Mark did some work for a client and Denise addressed scheduling and logistics information with the Deland client for work there 3/28 week. We also did a quick bit of laundry and did some reading as well.  The wind was still blowing and it was a bit cool still so we did not venture past he marina for the whole day.

Wednesday (3/23) – Key Largo, FL – It has been really nice having our own car with us as we can come and go as we please without much logistical planning like we had to do along the rest of our Loop adventure.  Today was one of those days we really appreciated this as we had a few errands to run, some of them were spontaneous.

For example we had been wanting to go to the West Marine store here, so we did. It is quite a large store and had has a lot of clothing, including a lot for women which we have only seen in one other WM store and that was in Pensacola. We also ran by Publix to pick up only 2 or 3 things; something we would have lived without had we not had our own car.

When we were back at the marina, Mark helped Tom (“Gambrinus“) with his Wi-Fi connections as he had been having trouble getting his internet going. As usual, Mark had him up and running in no time and he was grateful. He later reported that he also cleaned the corroded connections and got much better service as well.

For dinner we made delicious hamburgers and cooked them on the grill. Then, after watching the news we started to watch the movie “Trip”, a British film that was sometime funny, but also boring in parts. Mark gave up after about 30 minutes and went to bed, but Denise stayed up to see the end.  What a waste as it ended anti-climatically and then she couldn’t sleep.

It didn’t help that the outside temperature was too cool for the AC to be put on, and too hot for having the boat all closed up. Therefore we had the boat hatches open. Add to this that Sharkey’s musician du jour was louder than usual and it made for a tough night of sleeping.

Thursday (3/24) – Key Largo, FL – Again this morning the wind was blowing, but it had calmed down a bit. Unfortunately, during the night it rained and was threatening to rain again.  Mark had closed all the hatches, but now it was hot again so he turned on the AC.

We spent almost all day working on emails, planning on the Bahamas trip, and readying for our next round of company; Denise’s brother, cousin & family were headed south.

In the late afternoon our company showed up. Elizabeth (cousin) and her family were staying in the nearby Holiday Inn (part of the overall resort property) and Robert (brother) was staying on our boat.  After a short visit on our boat, we took everyone to Bayside Grill so they could witness a spectacular sunset as we had when our friends introduced us to this place.  We ate dinner upstairs while waiting for the sunset, then went out to the beach area and pier.  Unfortunately, it was too cloudy to see a green-flash-making sunset, but it was beautiful nonetheless and we enjoyed the time.

Daniel and Cousin Robert at Bayside Grille

Daniel and Cousin Robert at Bayside Grille

Friday (3/25) – Key Largo, FL – Our goal today was to have fun and try to secure a fishing boat for Robert to go out fishing with Daniel on one of the nearby reefs.  Most of the places nearby are fishing charters and were booked up, but we did some research and identified a few places to call in the upper Keys. Unfortunately, they were sold out as well, or the boats were too big/small for what was wanted.

In the morning Ken, Elizabeth and Daniel went on the Key Largo Princess II Glass bottom boat ride. The boat took them to a nearby reef to see the coral and fish. Although they reported it was a fun time, the lower level of the boat (where the glass bottom was) ended up being a bit warm and stuffy and they were glad for the upper deck and fresh air.

Key Largo Princess II passes by our Boat - Yaniglos family aboard

Key Largo Princess II passes by our Boat – Cousin and family aboard on the top deck on the way out to reef

Elizabeth, Daniel and Ken on Key Largo Princess II

Elizabeth, Daniel and Ken on Key Largo Princess II

In the afternoon, Denise went with Robert to Islamorada and secured a boat for tomorrow, while Ken & Daniel went swimming in the Holiday Inn pool. Elizabeth and Mark got their quiet time.

Later on we got the dinghy out and took Daniel for a ride in the canals around Port Largo. He was so excited when Mark showed him how to drive it and then allowed him to be the Captain and drive. He did a great job and was so proud. We have now hooked another relative on the joys of boating!

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Because of our different schedules throughout the day, we all were not hungry at the same time. Our company had a late lunch and were not up for dinner, so Mark and I went over to Sharkey’s for a quick bite to eat, and Ken & Elizabeth joined us a bit later.

Elizabeth & Ken at Sharkey's

Elizabeth & Ken at Sharkey’s

While we were dining, Robert & Daniel went fishing near the marina. Denise showed them a spot on the last street in Port Largo that has a small shoreline on the Atlantic and is adjacent to the mangroves.  They actually caught a few small fish; one of which they brought back for bragging rights and to be used for bait. It was a great way to end a busy and fun-filled day!

Daniel and bait fish

Daniel and bait fish

Saturday (3/26) – Key Largo, FL – Denise started the day with a run (probably the last) around the Port Largo area – and it was a HOT 78˚! She now will not complain too much about the warm and humid 72˚ mornings in Central FL.

Ken, Daniel and Robert had left early for their fishing trip out to one of the reefs while Mark slept in. Denise & Elizabeth got together for breakfast and spent most of the morning chatting and drinking coffee on the back of the boat.

It wasn’t long before we heard from the guys who had headed back in because it was so rough and seasickness had set in with some of the crew. By lunch time they all had returned to Island Office and we made sandwiches to stave off the nausea.

Robert was in need of a nap, so we left him aboard while the rest of us headed to the pool. It was a hot day and the frozen drinks at the Tiki bar were refreshing, not to mention the cool pool water. We spent most of the afternoon talking out by the pool and enjoying the day.  Mark was deep into his Tom Clancy book which weighed about as much as our new Ultra anchor….there is not getting it away from him now. Eventually Robert joined us to cool off and play in the pool with Daniel.

Daniel's shark squirting bathing suit

Daniel’s shark squirting bathing suit

Daniel flipping into the pool

Daniel flipping into the pool

Cousins Denise & Elizabeth

Cousins Denise & Elizabeth

Robert & Daniel

Robert & Daniel

We had decided to go to Snapper’s for dinner; Elizabeth had eaten there her first time in Key Largo many years ago, and wanted to return. We managed to secure a table for 6 on the outside deck; no small feat on a Saturday night during the busy time.  It was a good meal and we had fun, and of course had to purchase t-shirts from this Key Largo landmark.

Snapper's for dinner

Snapper’s for dinner

Robert, Ken & Elizabeth at Snapper's

Robert, Ken & Elizabeth at Snapper’s

We all agreed it had been a long and fun-filled day, but we needed to get some rest and so we retired early to our respective quarters.

Easter Sunday (3/27) – Key Largo, FL – Although not sunrise service, we all were up early and we returned to St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church for the 8:00 am service.

Easter - Robert, Mark, Denise, Elizabeth, Ken & Daniel

Easter Sunday at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church Robert, Mark, Denise, Elizabeth, Ken & Daniel

Although it was crowded, we were early enough to secure seats together for the mass.  The priest was familiar; we had seen him at the church in Marathon and he rotates between the FL Keys churches as needs arise during the peak (winter) season. Not a bad gig for a guy who otherwise lives in Chicago!

After church we went back to the boat and packed our car for the trip to drive home. Robert, Elizabeth, Ken & Daniel were also headed back to Winter Park, but would take the scenic route home, eventually arriving 3 hours after us. Mark had an early flight out to Ohio the next morning and we were anxious to get home.

Interlude: Monday through Wednesday (3/28 – 3/30)Home to Winter Park, FL – Denise & Mark went to client visits (Deland & Akron, OH, respectively).

Thursday (3/31) – Key Largo, FL – We left Winter Park to make the drive back to Key Largo in a rental car, leaving our own car at home. We will miss the convenience of having a car at our beckon call, but will adjust as we did for the rest of the Loop adventure.

Driving down to Key Largo we made the decision to not go to the Bahamas, but to take our time going home and enjoy the beautiful cruising grounds of Florida. There were many factors contributing to this decision, including a not great weather window over the next 7 -10 days, and we did not want to get stuck in Bimini or the Berry Islands for weeks. We also had a lot of work coming in from clients and were concerned about our telecom/internet access while enjoying the Bahamas. Also on the drive down we spoke with our friends on Endoxi & Sassified – whom we were going to travel with to Bimini.  We had learned that they had decided not to venture across the Gulf Stream, and that became the catalyst which reinforced our decision.

Interestingly, once we made this decision, we seemed to begin enjoying the adventure again. Without realizing it, we had both been stressing a little bit about this part of the adventure. We really wanted to go back to the Bahamas, and we were looking forward to cruising in this boat. However, we were receiving lots of little obstacles (“signs”) that we needed to rethink this plan.

Now that we changed our minds, we began planning for the last leg of our great loop adventure. While we were home we had ordered and received our Gold Looper flag, which we will proudly display when we arrive in Merritt Island sometime in early May.

Once we unloaded the car and returned the rental car back to Avis, we caught back up with Pam & Pete (”Endoxi”) and Sharri & Rodney (“Sassified”) for one last dinner in Key Largo. We made plans to head to Miami together on Saturday and shared respective marina locations.

Skipper's dinner with Sassified & Endoxi

Skipper’s dinner with Sassified & Endoxi

Sometime while attempting to pay for our meal, Mark’s AMEX credit card went missing.  We all recollected his placing it in the receipt binder for the waitress, but she returned without it.  As this part of the restaurant sits out over the docks and water, it is highly possible it fell through the separation of the floorboards and into the water.  In any case, it now means we (once again) will have to replace a credit card at a time when we will be moving every one or two days.

Tomorrow we will leave Key Largo and head to Miami, staying one night at an anchorage on Card Sound. Until then, the adventure continues!

Here are some other pictures from Marina Del Mar and surrounding area:

Mailbox post - Port Largo Home

Mailbox post – Port Largo Home

Ocean Divers next to Sharkey's

Ocean Divers next to Sharkey’s

Marina Del Mar

Marina Del Mar