02/12/2013, anchored near No Name Key
Hard to describe but shouldn't be missed. Lots of history, neat old Florida houses surrounded with lush gardens. Touristy to the nth degree, but that has its good and bad points. 278 restaurants in a town the size of Orangeville. Most of them good, but not cheap. The "historic" harborside walk, a long meandering boardwalk along the northern island edge, the water side has all the boats (I love boats) , and tarpon feedings and thousands of pelicans waiting for their evening treat. The land side is all bars and restaurants and stores selling souvenir crap. Audobon house with original Audobon prints, the sculpture garden, a garden with 50 or more busts of famous figures from Key West past. Can you imagine that Key West was once the largest and richest city in Florida?
Then there is Mallory square where you go to celebrate the sunset. Looks out to the west, nothing further out except the Dry Tortugas. Great tropical sunsets, you know, the one minute variety. Buskers everywhere, magic acts, and tumbling acts and jugglers, and craft booths and popcorn and animal acts and OMG, you don't know where to look. And then you come back the next evening and Mallory square has a new building on its north side, taking up the entire square and blocking the sunset, a monster cruise ship. And those thousands of tourists visiting Key West have become 3,000 more and the streets are thronged with shoppers and sightseers from the cruise ship.
Quite the place. We stayed at Conch Harbour Marina, a fancy (i.e. expensive) marina. Great pool but we never could enjoy it, filled with bikini clad youth all having a loud and drunken good time. Key West is generally filled with half naked youth having a loud and drunken time. Power and water included, great showers, good laundry, free bikes, lots of permanent live aboards, all friendly. We liked it there. Surprisingly quiet at night.
The first day we rode out to Stock Island to the West Marine there and got yet another oil change pump, our third version. This one is the best, worked wonderfully well. On the way back we shopped at Publix. In the evening we visited Mallory square and went out for dinner at Grunt's, an excellent seafood restaurant. Ate outside watching the show. Some guy bicycles past, his bicycle has a light display taller than him, and he has an air horn that makes sure he is noticed.
Day 2, I took a snorkel trip. $35 for a 45 min (each way boat ride) on a huge stable, covered cat with a head, free beer and two snorkel sites. Nice people, great service, great boat but the snorkeling was pathetic. I felt sorry for them, but I guess I have been spoiled in the Bahamas. Poor visibility and not much to see anyway. Tom changed the oil while I was out. In the afternoon we rode around the town and visited the Audobon house and the sculpture garden. For dinner we went out to Brasilena, a Brazilian steak house, our favorite. This was the best we have been to, outside of Brazil, but way expensive.
Tuesday morning, I cleaned the boat, outside, and we left by 9AM. Went outside heading for Marathon, but way too rough and poor wind. We turned around and took the inside, northern route. Great wind for a change, we sailed without the engine most of the day. FIVE!! Crab pots on the rudders, good grief, Tom was not happy! Thank God we were not motoring, one crab pot on the prop takes hours to remove. The sheer number of crab pots is overwhelming. Tom calculated they are literally in the millions. How do the crabs survive?
02/09/2013, Key West Florida
Everglades City to Key West
Three day trip, good weather, recalcitrant winds. Upwind the first two days, downwind the last but a wind of 2 knots. We did manage to sail the third day for a few hours until the wind switched around and died off. Engine performing perfectly. Sails in good shape. Wish we had a spinnaker, not for the first time. It makes sailing downwind, especially in light wind possible. Crab pots everywhere, especially day 2, as far as you can see, more crab pots. Such a pain if you pick them up on your prop, even on the rudder they can hobble or even disable you. Tom is exhausted at the end of the day from concentrating for 7 hours straight.
We anchored out next to a long deserted beach on East Cape, bit jumpy overnight, and a mud bottom. We dragged anchor but did not end up aground thank goodness. No internet, cell phone or radio out there. Peaceful though and amazing stars. Nice to let the dogs run free. Sammy got covered in some kind of Velcro seed we had not seen before. I think it will take us months to get them all out. He is happy though.
We have booked into a fancy marina in Key West. Looking forward to the pool and doing all the Key West things.
02/05/2013, Rod and Gun Club, Everglades City, Florida
What a lovely place, this is definitely us. A small town, despite the grand name, set on the edge of the Big Cypress National Preserve, between it and the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, both of which are part of the Everglades protected area. It is out of the way, sleepy and old fashioned. We are staying at the Rod and Gun club, an historic old hunting and fishing club with a famous past, just dripping atmosphere. Numerous presidents and celebrities have stayed here, back in the day. Quiet, with not much happening now, although apparently the Seafood festival next weekend is a major event with country music, lots of seafood and crowds of visitors.
This morning we went on a kayak tour through the Everglades swamp. Wow! I was one kayak length away from 13 ft alligators, gorgeous birds everywhere, see pics at www.picasaweb.google.com/bcaldoc.. Absolute magic for 4 hours. We were escorted by Justin Shurr of Shurr Adventures a friendly and knowledgeable guide. Back to the boat for lunch and a relaxing afternoon by the very attractive pool. Strolling the neighbourhood with the dogs.
We have decided to stay an extra day, dinner tonight at the Gun club, and bicycling tomorrow. We will explore the town and maybe go over the causeway to Chokoloskee. Graham and Marie cannot make it after all, but this place is great. We will have to entice them down next year.
02/04/2013, Rod and Gun Club, Everglade City, Florida
A gorgeous day to sail and sail we did, from Naples down to Everglade City. We were able to put up the sails and the engine is working perfectly. Water system woes fixed as well. Finally getting this boat in shape, and getting ourselves into vacation mode. We have tied up at the Rod and Gun Club, a famous old Florida hotel. Beautiful old hunting lodge style. Friendly people.
Tomorrow we plan to take a kayak tour of the Everglades. Our friends Marie and Graham will hopefully be able to join us soon.
02/02/2013, Naples City Dock, Naples Florida
Our trip down from Fort Myers on Thursday was a big success. Enough wind to sail with the engine off for a while. Divine peace. The engine performed beautifully, not a hitch. Maybe we fixed it!!
Spent yesterday lazing around the boat catching up on reading and crocheting. In the afternoon we got out the bikes and rode around downtown, took a walk on the beach. Sunny and beautiful, too many people though, not enough birds. People watching is fun though. Saw some sights, including a man in his 70's in a neon green thong bikini. Could have done without that. A couple of large young Muslim women in complete head to toe robes and scarves etc. frolicking in the ocean, closely, that is 2-3 feet away attended by their large father in a tiny bikini bottom.
I have managed to complete 6 baby hats and 4 pairs of booties which I mailed off to my daughter. Half hour line up at the post office. Friendly though, like the large majority of Americans.
Renting a car today, shopping on the agenda and dinner out with friends.
01/30/2013, Legacy Harbour Marina, Fort Myers, FL
Tom got in two golf games while we were here, one yesterday in Naples with Don, while Jan and I visited the Naples Botannical Gardens. They are having a ZimSculpt exhibition. Scattered throught the gardens, which are gorgeous on their own, are hundreds of sculptures from Zimbabwe. Amazing work, and the sculptures are perfectly placed to complement the gardens. Well worth the walk through. Pics at www.picasaweb.google.com/bcaldoc
Three full days were spent replacing the fuel delivery system on the boat. We have new lines, a new fuel selector valve, and a new Raycor housing. Multiple trips back and forth to Napa and West Marine. (Strip mall land, the downside of the conveniences of Florida). Several hitches along the way, who knew three way valves come in multiple configurations? But we are hopeful that we have solved the problem. Time will tell.
Had a great meal here at Joe's Crab Shack. A chain, we only went because they had a location right on the marina. Lots of fresh perfectly cooked crab and lobster. Excellent key lime pie. Rough and ready atmosphere and décor, bins for your shells, bibs for your mess. Good wine as always in Florida. Dinner out with friends yesterday at The Bonefish Grill in Naples. Again, good wine and excellent food. Considerably more upscale.
Missing the Bahamas, the clear beautiful turquoise water. The wonderful white sand beaches. The deserted islands and abundant marine wildlife.