Thursday, 28 January 2016

Fort Myers to Marathon, Florida Keys

We had planned on staying in Fort Myers until Jan 12th.  When we checked the weather for the upcoming weeks we saw there were very few days with winds under 15 knots.  We decided we would leave Fort Myers on Jan7th and head for the Florida Keys, specifically, Marathon Florida.

When we told our friends Kay and Charlie on Plane to Sea that we were leaving they arranged a final dinner.  We met at a bar called Ugly's.  Love the name and their slogan.....where everybody gets prettier.
We left Ugly's and walked up the Street to a restaurant on the ocean. The sunset from our table was beautiful.
The meal looked pretty too!
After dinner we paused on the steps of the restaurant for a group photo and said good bye to our friends........for now.
We planned on getting started at first light but there was fog.  We haven't seen any fog since the Mississippi River.   We waited out the fog until around 9am then head out.  Said goodbye to Moss Marina.  That place was really starting to feel like home.

There is no ICW (inter costal waterway) from here to Marathon so weather is important.  We only travelled about 40 miles the first day to Marco Island.  We anchored in the bay of  Marco Island.  The weather forecast for the following day looked favourable so we head further South early the next morning.  We poked our head out to the ocean and then quickly decided to turn back.  The waves were 4 to 6 feet and it would have made for a very uncomfortable ride.  We were still about 90 miles from Marathon which is too far to do in one day so we were hoping we still had a 2 day window. 

The next day was much better.  The seas were flat calm and it made for a very easy ride to Shark River.  We left Marco Island at first light.....also low tide.  You can see how low the water level is just outside the channel as we left Marco Island.  Any errors here and you are on bottom until the tide rises.
We met a couple of other Loopers along the way.  They were travelling slightly faster than us so they caught up with us and chatted with us on the radio.  They were also heading for Shark River but then as they proceeded they decided to speed up a bit and go all the way to Marathon.  We held our course and stayed with our plan for Shark River. 
As we approached Shark River the crab pots were plentiful.  They were easy to spot in the calm waters so no worries of getting caught up in them. 
Dolphins were playing in our wake and jumping beside our boat.   If you look closely you'll see there are two.


The wildlife in the Shark River was abundant.  Many birds flew by just above the water looking for dinner just below the surface.  There were dolphins playing all around the boat and also stingrays jumping.  The stingrays were too quick to get a picture.
 Dexter head for his favourite spot on the dinghy to watch the dolphins and bark at them as they came up for air.

Once again we watched the most beautiful sunset and then the bugs picked us up and carried us inside.
The shores here are all mangroves so there was no where for Dexter to get to shore.  We left the anchorage with out letting Dexter off the boat.
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The seas were calm again today so I put Dexter on a leash and took him for a walk......to the bow of the boat.  You can see by my face I was a little surprised it worked!!....if you've gotta go, you've gotta go..... relief for the poor little guy!
We approached the Florida Keys by noon.  There is a bridge in the Keys called the 7 miles bridge because it's 7 miles.  The bridge is the entrance to Marathon.  This is a very busy spot for boaters.  There are not enough spots in Marinas for all of the boats that frequent here so they have hundreds of mooring balls.  The mooring ball gives you all the amenities that you would have at the Marina only at a much cheaper rate.  There is a boaters lounge, washrooms, showers, laundry etc.  Most stay on a ball for a month which costs $300.  You get a pass for your dinghy to go to shore and also a pass to leave your bike at the bike racks if you have a bike.  You can not reserve a ball, it's first come first serve.





We radioed the Marathon City Marina as we arrived and they informed us there were no mooring balls available.  We weren't really surprised as we had heard they fill up quickly in Jan and Feb.  We put our names on a waiting list and found a beautiful anchorage.   You can still use all the facilities on shore when you are at anchor, just as if you were at a mooring ball for $220 monthly.



There are docks for dinghies if you want to go to shore.  We also brought our bikes to shore to make
our grocery runs easier. 


   The day after we arrived the wind picked up.  So glad we decided leave Fort Myers when we did.  We would not have had a window for possibly the next 2 weeks. 

Monday was my birthday.  We always miss our family but even more so on special occasions.  Steve made my birthday very special.  I didn't want to go out for dinner but I did want steak and seafood.  We took a walk up to Marathon and found a seafood market right on the ocean front.  We purchased shrimp and lobster for two for $19.00.  We went back to the boat and had an excellent dinner and we even danced.  It was a fun evening...party for 2!

The weather in the Keys, so far, has been disappointing.  We have been here now for 5 days.  It has been in the high 60s with rain and wind almost everyday.  When I told Sarah about our weather she had little sympathy.  I guess our friends and family at home are getting hammered with cold temperatures and lots of snow. 

We have been taking Dexter for his off leash walks almost daily.  We found a park with signs that I'm sure mean no drinking in Spanish but when I saw the sign I said to Steve....."LOOK....the US doesn't want him either."
We took the dinghy just around the corner from our anchorage where we found a beach where we could let Dexter run. Since the weather wasn't great there was hardly anyone around.  Not sure if this will be as good a spot once the weather changes. 


Today is Friday, Jan 15th.  Last night there was little to no sleep.  The winds where we are anchored picked up and were gusting to 35 - 40mph.  Usually when we anchor we put out an anchor off the bow and the boat swings in the direction of the wind.  Since this is a narrow anchorage and there are many boats here there is little room to swing so the boats here tie to the mangrove trees behind us.    Many people like to have both ends of their boat secured but you are actually less secure with your bow and stern tied.  When the winds pick up there is more tension on your anchors because the boat is taking all the wind on the side rather than letting the wind hit you directly on the bow where there is less boat to hit the wind. 


It was 12am and I was lying in bed listening to the waves hit the side of the boat.  I woke up and looked out the back and saw that our stern lines had moved considerably. There was no sleeping so I pulled out my book and read until 5am.  Steve popped his head out a few times and then we decided to put out a second anchor off the bow at about 2am.   Steve put the anchor in the dinghy and I fed him the line until he dropped it then I pulled in the slack.  Just a little extra security in the event of what if.  Steve went back to bed but I decided to read a bit more.

Back to bed just as the sun was coming up.....my second all nighter of this adventure.....way more fun when I was 18!

 This shot was taken the next morning.  The previous day this line was directly behind our boat tied to the mangroves.  Many of these boats were adjusting their lines in the morning.   The line is hard to see but it is to the far left.

 We both slept until about 10am...and so did Dexter.  We put on the Marine forecast and there were tornado warnings north of us closer to Miami and special marine warnings for Marathon cautioning strong thunderstorms capable of producing very strong winds.  We had planned on getting some groceries and doing some laundry today.  There is no bread or milk but there are lots of canned goods, eggs, frozen chicken.....we won't starve.  We are staying on the boat today. 

We had some leftover spaghetti so I decided it was  spaghetti omelette for lunch....and it was delicious!
We reset our stern lines to make them more directly behind our boat.  You can also see we were starting to see some debris from all of the heavy rain. 

Not much else to do but clean.  So we both tackled every corner of the boat.  Steve always says there is nothing sexier than a woman cleaning a boat.  I say there is nothing sexier than a man cleaning a toilet. 

As expected the rain and winds came.  Glad to be on the boat.  Did it ever rain.  It rained so hard the visibility was dramatically reduced.  We could hardly see the boats that were anchored right beside us.


The next morning was a beautiful morning!  Sunshine at last!! 

 We went to shore and stocked up on groceries. When we arrived at the dinghy dock there were 2 Manatee there.  These are a protected species so you have to be very careful not to hit them with your motor.  They are like barrels and travel very close to the surface.

Steve  bought some bait while we were shopping so he could get in some fishing.  When I saw that I said..."hey isn't that calamari?"...Steve said no it's bait, don't even think about it!
 He managed to catch a few fish but just small stuff, nothing to make a meal.
On our way back to the boat we discovered a small shack on the water.  It's actually a restaurant called Hillbilly Harbour.  We didn't go in just circled around.
The platform is where you would tie your dinghy and go inside.
The following day was very windy again so we decided to stay put on the boat.  The flag was sideways all day long.
The boat beside us arrived the day after we arrived.  Almost as soon as they arrived they left.  There has been no one on board this boat and it broke loose from the Mangroves.  We reported it to the City and a friend of the owner came out and thanked us and then secured the boat.  He gave us his card in the event it happened again. 

Key West is about 50 miles from here.  50 miles in the wrong direction.  The boat is as far South as it will be during this adventure now.  We didn't want to be all this way and miss Key West so we decided to take a ROAD TRIP!  Our friend Charlie from "Plane to Sea" once said to me...."isn't it funny that when we were younger we wanted our best friend to own a boat.....now we want our best friend to own a car."  Well we don't have any friends here with a car so we went to Enterprise and rented a car for the day......$39.00!

Crossing the 7 mile bridge on the way to Key West.  It will take us about an hour to get there.


 We arrived in Key West and found wild hens and roosters.  All I could think of was a joke......and the answer is.....to get to the other side.


They were not a all timid. 

 Not sure what this vehicle is all about......covered in barnacles.  
We walked out to the pier.  The water was a beautiful blue colour and it was a gorgeous day. 
 We were told not to miss the Hog's Breath Saloon where a Hog's Breath is better than no Breath!

 April and Ken visited here when they went to Marathon for a wedding.  April said at the time there were many birds that flew very close.  She called it an attack.  So glad that didn't happen to us.

 As we left Key West we drove by the Southern most point of the United States.  It's 90 miles to Cuba across the ocean, from here.  There was a huge line up if you wanted to have your picture taken by this structure. We chose to take the picture with random people posing. 
Today is January 28th.  We have been in Marathon, Florida since January 10th.  We have had some great weather days and some pretty crappy weather days.  There have been many tornadoes touch down North of us.  We are ready to head North but will wait for a weather window.  We think there may be an opening early next week when we will head toward Miami and Fort Lauderdale....until then...we remain...."One Bay at a Time."