Thursday, February 24, 2011

Moons over Miami

After pulling out of Marathon we felt good getting some water under the keel.  Our first stop was shell key where we tied to a free mooring ball for a night. The view from the mooring was amazing and we waited with baited breath as the sun set hoping to see the ever illusive "Green Flash"  When you are a cruiser there is nothing better than a free safe stop and when you add a great view to it, it is cruisers gold.  The next morning we pushed on to Tarpon Basin where we ended up anchoring for 3 nights as we waited out the winds.  It was actually a great anchorage we had read on Active Captain that it was difficult to get good holding, so with Anna in the bow we took our time and scouted out a patch of sand with no grass and dropped the anchor.  That night as forecasted the winds howled but Blue held her ground and Anna and I enjoyed a day of reading, we joked that once again Blue has proven to be our cocoon of safety. We witnessed more than one boat drag and we felt bad for the crews having to scout out a new spot in the wind and rain.  The basin provided a free dingy dock in a park where you could throw out trash and get water.  About  mile down the road we walked to John Pennekamp state park.  Anna and I had planned to get a mooring ball there, but it offered no protection from a north east wind.  We had decided to change our plans so we were happy to walk around and check it out.  It provided the perfect day for us with a small aquarium, play park and all kinds of walking paths.  I think if we were to travel through again we would get a mooring ball there.  Finally the winds let up and we were Miami bound.  I have to say that we have been boating for over 9 months and this area of Florida has by far the worst boating etiquette. The jet skis and wakes were out of this world.  Luckily we only broke one item in a wake, to tell you the truth we should have known better and stowed things better before entering Miami harbor but still what is going on here?  Who are these people?  We arrived the day before the Miami Boat Show so that we could get into the first day and check all the good stuff out.  Being anchored between Miami and South Beach was amazing.  We got to see the city at night which coming from a small island is truly a thrill.  South Beach truly is the ultimate people watching stop.  We saw such a range of outfits and people that it became overwhelming.  We ate a belated Valentine dinner on Lincoln Avenue and just people watched.  Of course we took a stroll down memory lane and visited the hotel we had stayed at with the crew from GMI about 6 years ago.  The main attraction was the boat show.  It is just HUGE!!  Between the in water show, the brokerage show, strictly sail and the convention center there was an endless supply of products to check out.  The best part is just the energy of the show with boating enthusiasts from all over coming to talk and share what they know and hopefully buy what they need.  Believe it or not we left the show without a single purchase but we were tempted by many items.  Anna and I laughed thinking of what would happen if we had gone up to the financing booths.  Hi, I don't have a job, can you give me a loan?  The scary thing is four years ago it would have worked.  After two days of walking the booths and boats it was time for us to push on.  These 8 nights were our longest at anchor and we are very proud of what we have learned about conserving our resources.  Even though we are headed to a marina we figure we have enough food, water and holding tank space for 2 more nights.  Compared to the beginning of our trip we are really becoming boaters.  We even resorted to first rinsing our dishes in salt water then a soupy wash in fresh water.  None of this would have been possible without the purchase of our second Honda generator so that we can now run them in series and properly power up our batteries as well as run our hot water heater when we are at anchor.  Now we are off to our next stop, Ft Lauderdale here we come!

A beautiful evening at anchor in Tarpon Basin

Egrets at play in Pennekamp Park

This man made his own boat and was getting it ready for a sail to Mexico

This is Jewfish Creek a funny little areas with all kinds of boats. Notice the boat in the far right corner that is aground in the mangroves

More boats in Jewfish creek including this cute little house afloat

We heard this tiki hut in Jewfish Creek was a must stop but we were in a hurry to get to Miami so we skipped it.  I guess now we have an excuse to come back.

On of our friendly Pelicans playing under a bridge.  These birds really are everywhere

We passed this beautiful boat on our way into Miami.  This guy has a date with a beaver hair brush every year to keep that wood looking so nice.

Oh Wow!!!  Miami here we come. 

Of all the cities that we have seen from the water this is one of the more impressive

You never know what you are going to see on the waterways.  This is a moving bar A.K.A. Booze Cruise.

This is Government Cut where all the cruise ships come in and out.  We felt very small next to them

After anchoring off the Venetian Causeway we were treated to this view of Miami at Sunset

A stormy evening over Miami

We were anchored near this island with a great monument and a beach where you can hang out and swim.  If you anchor here we counted over 17 trash cans on the island so it is great boaters trash stop

Sunrise over Miami

This in water boat show was one part of the Miami Boat Show.  Of course I had to take this shot with the Nordic Tug for sale

Moon over the monument

Morgan, Ryann and Jaxon were lucky enough to be given these aliens at the Fusion booth at the show. 

Believe it or not Jack Daniels had a booth at the show and I could not resist the JD boat

Deadliest Catch star was on hand to take photos and was giving autographs.  Who wants and autograph from Russel, where is Sig?

This boat is incredibly fast

Who can resist the Gecko from Geico

Yamaha was well represented at the show.  The way these engines are going this could be life size in a few years.

A view left from the upper walkway of the Miami boat show in action

This is the view right which is less than a 1/6 of what you can see at this show

Mobey has found a new way to make sure we are going the right way.  He is now the captain of this vessel

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Month?

One month?  I just kept thinking what are we going to do for a month?  In over nine months of cruising we have never spent a month sitting in one place.  How would we deal with all this time off and how will it affect the rythum of our day to day activities.   No planning for the next stop?  No figuring out where to get water, take on fuel or get a pump out?  It all seemed so strange.  It seems like a vacation from the vacation.  As it turns out, you can use up a month pretty quickly.  Marathon took us a little while to get used to. Upon our arrival we felt a bit put off, but we quickly found out things happen differently down here and it becomes very contagious.  With the major route 1 running through the center, biking seemed quite dangerous, we had trouble seeing the beauty at first.  We had many conversations with our fellow boaters on the dock and were happy to hear that many of them stayed for several months and had been calling Marathon their winter destination for years.  Determined to keep an open mind Anna and I began a quest to find the charm and beauty in Marathon. It didn't take long, on about our third day in port, we met our first local Manatee. Many a morning started with a visits from Manatees including one occasion when a Mother and her Calf greeted us off the side of Blue. On our morning walks to Pidgeon Key we saw sting rays and sharks as well as one of the most spectacular views of the the Atlantic and Gulf I have ever seen.  One of the more interesting creatures that we ran into were the Man o'War jelly fish, I had heard of Man o'War but had never seen them.  While taking the boat out for a short cruise trying to keep the bottom from forming to much growth Anna kept saying she could not believe the number of crab pots out there.  I said their not crab pots they are plastic bags, well we were both wrong. As it turns out all the blobs that she was seeing were Man o' War.  What strange creatures they are.  With a big bubble above the water used as a sail a dark blue circle and evil tentacles you can not help but to be fascinated by this creature which is actually made up of more than one organism.  Luckily we escaped marathon without a sting, we have been told it is unbelievably painful.  I was shocked to find that the worst thing you can do if you get stung is wash it with fresh water.  Besides the wonderful creatures we had many special visitors throughout the month.  Anna's parents came for almost a week presenting us with a great opportunity to visit Key West and the Turtle Hospital in Marathon.  Both were things that we may not have done on our own so it was fantastic to have them in town. They stayed at a great hotel about a mile from the Marina which gave Anna and I a taste of the good life hanging at their resort pool.   We also got to explore many of the local restaurants from Burdine's to Keys Fisheries. Towards the end of their visit I thought I might have to take a break from fresh Mahi sandwiches........ NOT!. My god are they good.  Our good friends Bill and Carol Yancey also came to visit.  We had not seen them since Joe Wheeler when Bill got a rider on his farm insurance and allowed me to drive his Combine.  Seeing Bill brought back two wonderful memories, the memory of actually driving and the memory of Bills expressions as I started out.  I don't think he would be a great poker player I could see his concern in his eyes as I first pulled out.   They were kind enough to drive us up to Fort Lauderdale to Trawler Fest, a gathering and boat show for trawler enthusiasts.  The best part of the Fest was seeing that people were starting to purchase boats again.  It is a great relief to see people interested in investing again in this not so cheap hobby. My old Boss use to say it is hard to sell fun in hard times, it is the first thing to go in a bad economy.  It is no doubt that boating is expensive but it has also been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives so to think others are going to jump in and take a risk on a boat is a thrill.  Our final visit came from my brother H and my nephew Will.  This visit was Will's Christmas gift from my Mom and Dad and it included a scuba dive for Will and H.  Although their visit was short it included some special moments like our first trip to the Sombrero Beach.  Can you believe we were here for 3 weeks before we actually went to the beach?  We were sad to see them go but it was then time to begin planning for our next part of trip.  Heading North?  Yes the time has finally come for us to start our trip North.  After a few anchorages our first stop will be the Miami Boat Show.  I can not believe that a month has come to an end.   In the end Marathon was an excellent place to provision and meet and greet other cruisers especially with the 9 AM morning cruisers net on the vhf.   It is a very thoughtful time for us as we say goodbye to many of our boating friends who we may not see for some time as we are going  up the coast and they are going to be staying around Florida and moving much slower than us.  However one of the most important things we have learned in boating is that you never say good bye it is always will see you again soon.  I think we will see all our friends again as we our they cruise the waterways, the relationships and experiences we have shared have been great.    So with much mixed emotions we say good bye to our home for the past month.  On a beatiful thursday at noon we cut the lines and pushed off.  Once again we will be hooking up with the Parrent family as we head north, many an evening in marathon was spent laughing on the decks of Negotiator Craig, Danielle and the kids are to much fun.   We will miss our morning walks on the bridge as well as our time at the Sunset Grill but we are ready to write the next chapter in our book.  So North it is, "Anna, where did we put our mittens?"

Beautiful Sunsets from the dock at the Marina

Our mail and information headquarters for the month.

You will see these signs everywhere and they are important to read as these animals are truly unique.

Momma and Calf Manatee hanging out by our boat at the Marina.

Can not forget the traditional tourist photo when you are in Key West.

Great Old Coast Guard boat in Key West.  Believe it or not this ship is the most highly decoreated in the fleet, and is the only coast gurd ship to have sunk a German sub off key west in World War II.

Anna's parents walking about on an old Coast Guard boat in Key West.

This is a great museum in Key West.  We just wish we had know more of the history of Mel Fisher before going.

Although we did not ride the Conch train we heard from others that it is a great way to see the city.

A fun day in Key West

Sunset in Marathon with Anna's Parents

Nautical Flea Market!!!!

We went to this great nautical flea market in Big Pine Key with my parents.  They had great live music. 

For all you non believers it does get cold in Marathon.  Not as cold as New England though.

One night at Key's Fisheries we fed the fish swimming in the light off the side of the restaurant.

The Negotiator out on an attempted cruise to the Mooring Ball Sombrero Reef.  Unfortunately we both had to turn back because of high waves. 

I am Snorkel Man!  I can't get over how much Will has grown in the past year, soon I wont be wreseling with him anymore.

Our first day at the beach

Agent H and his catch of the day

Ryann showing off a beautiful starfish. 

My brother H asleep on the beach.  It was good to see him relax, his job doesn't give him much down time.

Bill and Mary on Harbour Reach.  They showed us their great boat that is truly cruiser comfy.  We were shocked to hear that their daughter that use to work for Mystic Seaport has been following our blog. 

Our fellow boaters stop by to wish us well as we cast off.

The night before we left Marathon we had a looper gathering combined with a Birthday for Jim.

Happy Valentine's Day!