20/01/2012/1:12 pm, Robbie's Boat Yard, Stock Island (suburb of Key West!)
I'd say we are in Key West but the truth is we are nearly in Key West. It's race week here and the place is jam packed. Steve worked his wiles to find us a cosy little spot at this working boatyard on Stock Island, just as you get to Key West. The people are friendly, the price is right. We're tucked out of wind and current and there is a shower. That's all we need for now! If you look to the right, you'll see Madcap tucked into her little spot in the busy yard.
We got in about 1100 hours this morning and we'll be here a few days - maybe 3 maybe longer as we look for a weather window. There is one right now but we need to do a few things before we leave.
Sorry there have been no postings since Fort Lauderdale. I never did get a wifi connection from the boat and I didn't want to cart my computer around. So scroll back and you'll find out what we've been up to.
I really need to figure out how to do remote postings on sailmail so you don't think we've disappeared entirely when I don't get wifi!!
19/01/2012/1:07 pm, Marathon, FL
We've been hearing about Marathon for years and years - the sailor's gathering spot in the Keys - where people come and never leave. Some folks have told us they love it here, and others were disappointed in it. We've had just brief glimpse of it, but I could see a bit of what they all were talking about.
The very best thing about the place was what happened here - and what the stories are about. We dinghied from our anchorage outside Boot Key Harbor to the bar at Dockside Marina, sat down and ordered beers. We were feeling pretty good about being here in this cool sailor's bar already, and then four folks came along to sit at the table next to us. With great gasps of surprise, we recognized Pat and Doug (Sanctuary) and Debbie and John (Troon) who had been our neighbours at Tiger Point Marina in the spring when we were all getting our boats ready. We were with Sandra and Steve who have had boats there in the past, so it was a Tiger Point reunion for sure. Once hugs were exchanged all around, we shoved tables together and amid bites of very good nachos and slurps of beer, we managed to talk all at once and with great animation about our trips and our plans. It seemed just the perfect "Marathon" experience.
We took a walk up the road a bit and back along the docks, returning to have dinner at the same bar. That part was a mistake. What was a wonderful experience earlier (except for some trouble the server had with the bill) turned into a sour one. We waited and waited for our orders to be taken, and then waited ages again for our meals to arrive. Mine came first - good fish and chips. I was just about finished when Steve and Sandi's arrived. They were pretty much done when Jim's was finally ready, and by then he asked for it to be packed for take out. When the server brought the bills, ours was wrong again. So my moral of this story is go for happy hour and forget about having dinner there. There was some pretty good music happening, but it didn't make up for the poor service.
Weatherwise, in typical win one/lose one fashion, coming down here on Wednesday was a boring old motoring trip. Once again we could take turns going forward to sit on the foredeck, but it just wasn't the same listening to the roar of the engine instead of the swish of waves. One thing though - that water is the same lovely aqua green that we loved in the Bahamas.
We anchored outside the entrance to Boot Key Harbor - just at the west end of the Key. There were no mooring balls available and we weren't sure enough of anchoring room and depths when we arrived, so we joined the 8 or 9 other boats outside. Once again, there was no wind to speak of so aside from the occasional wake of a passing boat, we rested well out there.
On Thursday morning, Jim and I took a little run around the harbour again to get gas for the dinghy, check out the Bayfields we spotted on our first trip in, find Patty and Steve (Indigo Falcon) who are also here, and see if we could get more of a sense of the community of Marathon. We had success on almost all fronts. (On our way in, we passed this solitary heron standing knee deep in water just a few feet outside the channel. I forgot to take pics all the rest of the time here!) Our first stop was at Marathon Marina for gas. With tanks filled, the next stop was at Blue Bay, a Bayfield 36 from Minnesota with Rick and Nancy on board. It was a delight to meet these two fellow B' 36 owners and we had a great time chatting with them about our sister ships and places we've been in them. As we moved down the harbour, we spotted B' 36 Calixta but no one was home. Next up was Indigo Falcon and we were lucky to find Patti and Steve aboard. With a bag of crisp green beans in hand (fresh from the farm yesterday - thanks Patti) we ventured on to Troon for one more visit with Debbie and John and to drop off a book we'd been given on Mr Rossborough - builder of Rossborough boats; we thought it really should live on a Rossborough trawler!
By then, the morning had pretty well slipped away so we gave up on any land exploration and contented ourselves with the knowledge that we really do have a feel for Marathon. It's a boater's community with boatyards, boaters and bars; it revolves around the harbour and has a little land and some stores behind it. That's enough for us for now!
A short motoring ride along the keys - always watching those fishing balls that are scattered over the surface - seemed like Maine except for the colour of the water -brought us to Newfound Harbor, in through a deep enough but narrow channel to a skinny little anchorage tucked behind the key. The sun emerged from the cloudy sky and we shed our jackets to enjoy a lovely still evening. Off to Key West in the morning!
18/01/2012/12:59 pm, Tavernier Key
We set off from Dinner Key at 7:15 on Tuesday morning after listening to the weather and confirming that the seas would be gentle. Once across the Bay, our route out Biscayne Channel took us past some fascinating houses on stilts.
I thought Stiltsville would be a collection of ramshackle houses on stilts along the shoreline, but this was not what I expected at all. Rather than clinging to the shore, they cling to the flats on their long spindly legs and appear to be far off in the water, and while they looked skeletal from a distance, several of the buildings topping the stilts were quite modern. According to my favourite resource book (Managing the Waterway by Mark and Diana Doyle) the community began as a cluster of fishing shacks, evolving to clubs, getaways and homes. Initially, a fisherman would find a spot and build a structure but as time went on land ownership became an issue and legal battles ensued. After enduring countless hurricanes and storms, it's a wonder they are there at all, and it appears there is now an effort to have them placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The skyline of Miami in the background seemed such a contrast to these imaginative buildings scattered across the water. Passing by them in the early morning light was even more special.
We enjoyed a fabulous sail down Hawk Channel to Tavernier Key where we spent a calm night. The wind (NE to E 10-15 kn) stayed abeam most of the day and sea was composed of gentle swells instead of the roller coaster we've endured on some other days. It was the kind of day we could take turns going forward to read or take naps on the foredeck; the kind of day we could have a real lunch instead of a granola bar. (Shrimp wraps made with leftovers from last night's dinner); the kind of day that simply makes us glad to be on the water. With all sails out, we averaged 5.8 to 6 knots most of the day - just fine for Madcap. We thought about stopping at Rodrigues Key where there is a little more protection, but we wanted to get farther along and we couldn't make Channel Five before dark, so this was the next choice. Because the wind dropped right off to 5 kn or less, it was a fine stopping place but it would be no good if the wind was blowing. We are seeing for ourselves that the Keys offer few secure anchorages for 6 ft draft boats.
The sky was full of stars and the evening stayed warm so we enjoyed dinner in the cockpit instead of huddling in the cabin in our sweaters and socks!