So here’s a map of Misty Pearl’s stops, right down to our actual slips. We’ll keep it pinned to the top and hopefully fairly current. Pressing one of the little red balloon-looking thingys will load up our blog posts related to that spot.
With Shannon (who drove down from Eckerd to visit), and Dana and Benny—in order of appearance—playing themselves. (It’s mostly in 4K so may not look right on older devices. In other words, it’s your crappy computer not Doug’s crappy videography skills.)
As previously mentioned, a local dude named John Bartus wrote and sang The Islands of Marathon. He also moonlights as the Mayor.
Someplace in America, some poor slob wakes up to gray skies. Takes 30 minutes to layer up against the bitter cold and biting wind. Another 30 minutes to shovel snow off the driveway. Assuming the car starts, off for a miserable day at the office/factory/shop. Same thing every day until about May. Yup. Pretty much sucks to be that dude.
However, we also have it tough. We also wake up to the same scene from our porch everyday.
Plus, sometimes the wind blows. And the water isn’t always this smooth. And on a couple of days there were a few more clouds. And Doug misplaced his sunglasses and the sun seemed really really bright until Dana found them in the cupboard with the dog treats. And the other night the temperature dropped to 63. Nobody should cry for us though. We’re of hardy stock. We’ll manage through whatever hardships winter boat life in Marathon may throw our way.
We’ve also come to grips with the whole iguana thing. Iguanas are to Marathon what LCBOs are to Ontario: everyplace you look. We’ve come to know the family that lives in the tree at the marina entrance.
Dana is about to start naming them. Speaking of iguanas, we now know where the babies come from. Our finely-tuned deductive reasoning skills weren’t even necessary.
Our buddy Fred called it retiree porn.
Marathon also has chickens.
We literally crossed the road to get to this chicken. Then we both giggled.
A couple of days ago we tried Key West again, this time with Charlie and Robin (The Lower Place). Never made it to the museums and historical sites, but we did eat and walk around. Waaaaaay too many people in Key West. Our attempt at a sunset from the famous Mallory Square turned into a photo of other people watching the sunset from the famous Mallory Square.
No worries though. We’ll probably give it one more shot before we head east/north.
Doug figured out how to bypass the Marathon Airport drone restrictions—which he figures really are just suggestions anyway—and has been logging some flight time. We found a local dude who recorded a song about Marathon so we’ll put some footage to music at some point. Maybe next post.
The Turtle Hospital is just around the corner from Faro Blanco, and is way cool. They rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles from around the country.
Hey jackasses. Stop releasing balloons. Stop littering. Recycle your plastic bags or don’t use them. Anyway, we strongly urge anyone in Marathon to stop by the Turtle Hospital. The turtles need protection.
Know what doesn’t need protection? Pigeons. They’ve just shown up like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, but grosser. Much grosser. Faro Blanco should try out those contraptions we found at Queen’s Cove. Just a few tweaks might do the trick.
Also right around the corner—actually just across the road—lurks danger camouflaged as an innocent retail establishment.
That’s right. Those money-sucking bastards set up shop right where Doug has to pass daily. Mostly he’s resisted the siren calls, but that still means stopping by every few days just because (1) it’s a West Marine and (2) it’s only about 500 feet away. Anyway, we REALLY needed a handheld depth gauge, and fenders for Mini Pearl, and holding tank pods, and a new battery box for Mini Pearl, and some other stuff.
Some of the older neighborhoods around here kind of remind us of older neighborhoods around Phoenix. But then we see the weird stuff, like Dr. Seuss trees.
Okay the technical name for this probably isn’t Dr. Seuss Tree, but it should be.
Marathon also attracts some weird people. For example, this morning we heard a 60-something woman say she had never eaten a fresh blueberry. WHAT? She was talking to a dude who seemed to be her husband, so there wasn’t much reason to lie. But that’s insane and borderline unbelievable.
So Marathon has iguanas and chickens and odd foliage and a West Marine and odd people. What Marathon apparently doesn’t have is a building inspector. Basically every building around here looks like something Gilligan built. Without help from the Professor. Or even Dobie Gillis.
However, the seafood is fresh and delicious, and nothing has fallen on us yet.
One of many good things about lazing around Faro Blanco is we have time to discuss the future. The question we get asked most is “What are you going to do after the Loop?” Ok maybe that’s the second-most-asked question we get, right after “What the hell were you thinking when you sold your house and cars and moved on a boat?” Anyway, ideas are germinating. One intriguing option is the Downeast Circle.
We should cross our wake in D.C. right about the time Mallory graduates from Georgetown. From there we’d follow our same basic track up to the Erie Canal, stopping at places we skipped the first time. Then up to the St. Lawrence, but this time we’d take it all the way past Montréal and Quebec City to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Then around the tinier provinces and down the Atlantic coast back to New York in about September. For years Doug has been fascinated by the SS Mont-Blanc explosion in 1917. This would be a great opportunity to explore that piece of Halifax history.
Or maybe something else will start sounding better. Coronado? Greek Islands? Gila Bend? We have plenty more time to think about it.
Turns out about a week is all we need to settle in to Marathon life. Marathon is much more like Rocky Point than we expected—without the constant fear of being shot by drug dealers or kidnapped by federales, of course—which is good and bad. Anyway, we aren’t going anyplace for a while although we might not make it the full 2 months we had planned.
One thing Marathon has by the bushels is iguanas. Big stinking iguanas.
They aren’t climbing on Misty Pearl or attacking the boys just yet, but at least we know who to call if we get worried.
Marathon also has cool jellyfish.
We intended to scuba dive while the girls were here but the wind and waves refused to cooperate. Darn it.
New Year’s Eve we drove down to Key West.*
Apparently the billions of Asian tourists who crowded Banff and Jasper when were were in Alberta a few summers back all decided to meet us here as well. We didn’t even bother parking the rental car for the famed sunset at Mallory Square. If we go back, we’ll try to take more pictures.
The girls easily slid into the concept of Looper midnight, which meant we all were asleep well before real midnight. We missed the music, the silly hats, the fireworks, and the anchor drop, although the anchor still was hanging limply the next morning.
Sadly, the girls had to return to their respective colleges. That meant the end of family card games. And the end of hundreds of dog photos in the family text group. And the end of endless sibling conversations that’ll seem funny 20 years from now:
“Your stuff is oozing on my side.”
“No it isn’t. Plus, your underwear is on my side.”
“Yeah, but I loaned you my [insert random item of clothing] and you [never returned it or got it dirty or damaged it].”
“That’s a lie. I never borrowed that. Or I gave it back. Unlike you, who stole my hair tie.”
“I swear I’m going to punch you.”
Before they left, however, we visited the east side of the Everglades.
That meant more gators, including little tiny ones.
We might’ve been tempted to pick one up but (1) it’s highly illegal and (2) the protective mother was lurking nearby.
And she was a big mother.
Anyway, the park has a bunch of different looks. We caught some of them.
On Friday we took Mini Pearl out with the crews from Forever Friday and The Lower Place, gambling that getting to lunch here would be much easier than in Everglades City. The water under the 7-mile Bridge resembled the Columbia River Bar, but we successfully hurdled it on our way to Burdines.
The surprise at Burdines was the restroom made specially for Jo and Meg and Beth and Amy.
We followed up a delicious lunch with a leisurely cruise through the mangroves. That portion of the day was dampened only by Dana’s semi-well-founded belief that Mini Pearl might run out of gas. Forever Friday offered up some spare fuel but Doug timed things out perfectly so that we hit empty just as we pulled into someplace with a pump. That’s some good planning right there (aka he got lucky).
Saturday UPS delivered a big stack of Christmas cards that ordinarily would’ve reached us weeks ago. It’s always fun to get them, so thanks to everyone who tracked us down. We did a New Year’s card that hopefully will be out the door in the next week or so.
Mallory—who’s much more competent and artistic when it comes to videos and such than are we—hooked us up with her documentary of the 2 weeks she and Shannon were with us.
We miss them already but may bring them back down for a long weekend sometime soon. By then the echoes of squabbling should be gone, and we’ll need hundreds more dog photos on our phones.
* But Jimmy Buffett doesn’t live in Key West anymore. CAUTION: Explicit lyrics, courtesy of the great David Allen Coe, who fueded with the son of a son of a sailor over Divers Do it Deeper, one of DAC’s dumber songs.
We’d hoped to get to Marathon before the weekend, but the wind and waves refused to cooperate. Dana said Saturday looked good. Sunrise at 7 meant we could slip lines at about 6:45. No worries. Should get to Faro Blanco before dark.
Saturday morning the alarm popped at 5:45. Fog. Fog? FOG? WTF? We haven’t seen fog for what seems like months, and it picks this morning? That’s some BS right there.
The only thing thicker than the fog was the mosquito swarm. Apparently we were the only food source up before dawn. The word got around.
However, we had a 10-hour day and only about 10 hours of daylight. So off we went, noting that 9 months ago this fog—particularly coupled with the narrow and shallow and curvy channel—would’ve paralyzed us into complete submission. We might’ve stayed all winter.
But now, being the nearly-competent mariners that we’ve become, we made it out to the Gulf safely just about the time the fog dissipated. In time to see the flock of white pelicans on what might not be named Pelican Island but should be.
From there, we all enjoyed smooth boating, despite the clouds that suggested storms that never really arrived.
The straight line down to Marathon took us about 12 miles offshore. But in only about 15 feet of water. Perspective is a funny thing. 15 feet seems pretty shallow when miles offshore, but 15 feet on the Trent-Severn would’ve felt like the Marianas Trench. Also, we’re as close to Cuba as we are to Marco Island, our next to last stop before now. Crazy.
Our dear friend Janet suggested that we need to post photos of Misty Pearl’s interior. Here’s the cabin where we napped durng the cruise. Not at the same time, of course. Someone had to steer.
Maybe we’ll add photos as things are presentable. Anyway, we napped here. The girls napped on what Robin (Crossroads) named the fiberglass beach. All in all, a very nice cruising day.
When we pulled away from The Yards with Big Daddy waving us off over 7 months ago, reaching Marathon seemed like it would be a huge accomplishment. Now we’re here. And in fact, it feels like a huge accomplishment.
Faro Blanco probably will be our home until end of February. Unless we change our minds, which seems to happen with regularity.
That also probably means no blog posts for a while. The girls leave us this week, which is sad. And nobody wants a daily update about nothing remotely interesting. We’ll still keep some notes and take some pictures, of course, and sprinkle them in from time to time.
Unless we decide to cruise down to Stock Island this will be as far south as the Loop takes us. Which means we’ve hit all four primary compass points. Which doesn’t mean much, but it’s something.
Happy New Year everybody.
We saw 3 ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day, on Christmas Day. We saw 3 ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day in the morning.
Actually we saw way more than 3 ships as we left Marco Island.* On Christmas Day, in the morning. We also saw jet skiers. And tourists crowding the railing on tour boats. And charter fishermen. And parasailors.
That’s right, parasailors. On Christmas Day, in the morning. Don’t these people have homes?
In the song, by the way, the folks are sailing into the Little Town of Bethlehem. Of course Doug looked on Google Earth. Nope. The fully-booked inn and the stable and the manger and the hay all were surrounded by West Bank desert. And probably Israeli tanks. No navigable water whatsoever. We even looked at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, just in case. Still nope.
Maybe everybody just wanted to enjoy another beautiful day on the water.
And it was a beautiful day on the water as we approached the Cape Romano Shoals.
The Cape Romano Shoals might be called The Graveyard of The Gulf if (1) the folks around here were as overly-dramatic as those running the Great Lakes museum gift shops on which we’ve previously commented and (2) the water around here was more than about 10-feet deep. Mostly if you shipwrecked on these shoals it would just ruin your day as you sat waiting for help or high tide. Dana timed things out perfectly, of course, and we successfully worked around the skinny water on our way into the Ten Thousand Islands.
Anyway, a quick PSA regarding Everglades City. We’ll get to the cool stuff later, but this is a note for any of those same Loopers traveling behind us with nothing better to do than read our diary. The scary myths about getting here are just that: myths. Anyone who safely passed through Canal Lake in Ontario or made it in and out of the marina in Alton, Illinois, will have no difficulty at all. We made a time-lapse to prove it. (And to prove again that Doug worked out the kinks.)
The point is, it’s really easy to get here once one commits to going a few miles out of the way. And it’s worth going a few miles out of the way. Very much worth it. In fact, this may be our favorite stop so far, and we’ve been to some really cool places.
That said, Everglades City is to a city what Mini Pearl is to a Carnival cruise ship. But that’s part of the charm. Only 400 or so full time residents, but a decent-yet-not-overwhelming tourist trade. Mostly people come to see the Everglades.
Which brings us to airboats. Ever since seeing Gentle Ben and all of Opie Taylor’s family before he was Opie Taylor (and McCloud before he was McCloud) airboat-scooting through the Everglades on all sorts of implausible adventures, airboats have been on our list. Turns out there are two types of airboat tours. One is the kind that buzzes around Barron River by Everglades Isle where we’re docked.
It’s actually kind of funny, yet sad. As soon as someone spots a dorsal fin in the river, the airboatloads of folks who’ve never seen a dolphin scream in towards it. They did make a good subject for Doug’s first hyperlapse drone video though.
No offense to the airboat companies running these tours, but they suck. Because they don’t actually go into the Everglades.
The other kind of airboat tour starts several miles deep in the mangroves. We chose Captain Mitch.
This was one of the coolest things we’ve done. Not just in Everglades City, but on the entire Loop so far. The trip took us about 10 miles deep into the alligator and python infested glades, as called by the locals. No other boats to be seen. Or heard. Because these suckers are loud.
At one point the captain/guide spotted two alligators sleeping on a shallow bank. Or pretending to sleep on a bank in order to lure delicious Arizonans to a horribly painful encounter. Apparently forgetting that airboats have no brakes or reverse, the dude at the controls coasted in a bit faster and further than he wanted, planting us about 5 feet from the biggest one.
This after telling us that these monsters can leap 6 feet out of the water. We’re no mathematicians but that would seem to work out to an unacceptable 1-foot overlap into the being-eaten zone. He later admitted that it was an unintended close call. None of us were marinated or sauced, however, so we all survived.
The sign proclaims that Everglades City is the Fishing Mecca of the World.
Non-Muslims aren’t allowed within the Mecca city limits so we’re unsure what to make of this, but in the 80s Everglades City was more like the Mecca of weed. According to the documentary we watched on Amazon Prime, 80% of the adult male population of Everglades City and Chokoloskee were imprisoned for smuggling “square grouper,” using shallow water and secret hidey-holes to dodge The Man. The Man, of course, almost always wins.
On Thursday, Robin (The Lower Place) suggested a dinghy trip across Chokoloskee Bay to the Cuban restaurant. So she and Charlie piled in theirs, Mike and Mary (Forever Friday) piled in theirs, and we all climbed aboard Mini Pearl. We all figured about 30 minutes to go the 4 miles. We all figured wrong. The Bay was the color of tea, meaning we couldn’t see the bottom that Mike’s handheld depth gauge put at less than 2 feet in most places and less than 1 foot in some places. Which also meant idle speed with motors trimmed so the props barely touched the surface. Which meant an hour and a half. Which meant we were really hungry when we finally docked at Chokoloskee Island Park. And by “docked” we mean pulled up onto the mud flat amongst the ubiquitous pelicans. Remember when we spotted pelicans in Illinois or someplace and thought they were really cool and novel? They’re still pretty cool, but hardly novel.
The lunch, however, was delicious.
And by the time we left the tide was up a foot so we all planed back to the big boats.
Ok, now about Everglades Isles. This place mostly caters to million-dollar motor coach people, which we aren’t. But the docks are padded concrete and floating. With the good kind of 240-volt power that would have worked for Second Wave.** Wicked-fast WiFi. The grounds are immaculate. The clubhouse is better than most country clubs.
Private theater. Free laundry. Bar. With tender. Amazing bathrooms. Pool. Hot tub. Pretty much everything one might want. Plus an attached lighthouse that has a really neat-o staircase.
Basically any Loopers who pass this place by just because it’s out of the way or because someone at docktails said it’s too shallow are missing a real treat.
Mallory kayaked around until her phone jumped into the water. Dana and the girls took turns modeling for airboat tourists who were fascinated by the seat we dangled over the water.
We Mini-Pearled around again before prepping for the marathon to Marathon tomorrow.
* Note to those Loopers traveling behind us. Marco Island Marina has the softest toilet paper we’ve encountered to date. These things are important when you live on a boat. Marine TP generally is about 180-grit yet dissolves immediately upon seeing liquid approaching. This stuff was woven from the down of angel wings. Soft. Thick. Absorbent. Ohhhhh.
** RIP Second Wave, sold to the highest bidder. Congratulations to Karen. Condolences to Brent.