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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: