Misty Pearl on The Loop

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.


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We [have] it all, just like Bogie and Bacall

Today was everything Wednesday wasn’t, which meant saddle up and go time.  A bunch of our buddies showed up at 9 to help, so off we went.   But first, a moment to reflect.  Marathon was great.  Faro Blanco was great.

In part we’re sorry to leave but it’s time to move forward.  We’ve got a Loop to close in May.

The first scary bit was the current sweeping under the only part of Seven Mile Bridge we can get through. 

Misty Pearl’s draft is too much for the protected route, and unless we wanted to hook around the Southernmost Point in The Continental U.S.—which we didn’t—the only way out to the Atlantic is under the bridge.  Woo hoo.  No current after all.  Easy peasy.

Deep draft boats take the Hawk Channel, so we did.  The only song we know about hawks is that one in which John Denver had blood on his wings or some such thing.  No blood on Oscar.  Just a look of happytotravelness.  Or maybe it’s getmethefoffthisboatedness.

Mostly we enjoyed a straightforward calm and gorgeous day, making us feel pretty good about scrubbing the mission on Wednesday.

Various Keys rolled by on our port side, while not much was happening to starboard.  Except the Alligator Reef Light off in the distance.

A lot of boats wreck at Alligator Reef.  We’re not sure why since there’s a huge lighthouse in the middle of it, but the reef wasn’t in our path so we didn’t join them.

Wait, there’s one more thing we passed.  The Hen and Chickens sanctuary preservation area.

What the heck?  What are hens and chickens doing in the Atlantic Ocean?  And is the area actually preserving hens and chickens, or preserving hen and chicken sanctuaries?  At best it’s redundant and at worst it’s just stupid.  Furthermore, aren’t hens a subset of chickens, making the name of the sanctuary doubly stupid?   We looked it up.  Someone decided that the reefs—which are under water and thus not visible to most folks— somehow look like chicks and their mother.  Probably it was that fake State Farm agent in the bad commercials who tells LeBron James that the clouds look like his home being burglarized.  If we dive there on Sunday, we’ll investigate further.

Our goal today was  Pilothouse Marina in Key Largo.  Last night Mark (Hotai) stopped by to tell us about the horrors he and Chris experienced there several years ago.  Oh great.  Just great.  The one place we can get in is miserable.  We had no options, of course, but upon researching things we were heartened to discover that the joint is under new management.  Fingers crossed.

Pilothouse cozily is jammed in a cul-de-sac at the end of a very narrow and shallow canal.

Fortunately Dana’s tide analysis was accurate to both the minute and the inch.  We coasted in with no problem.  WiFi is fast.  New restrooms just off our slip.  We can handle that.  The fixed dock finger is too short, and we may sit on the bottom at low tide, but ain’t nothing to be done about those things so we might as well head over to the restaurant to wait for Mallory and Shannon to arrive.  Hey hey, the restaurant is pretty good.

At sunset, a manatee decided to drift by the garish green lights that someone thought would be a cool underwater feature.  We thought it made the water look like antifreeze, but Dana’s picture turned out.

Mallory and Shannon showed up.  The sunset was awesome.  We’re pretty happy to be us right now.

Except the AC just went out.  Grrrr.

She turned me into a newt*

“Though it’s only been a month or so, that old [boat’s] buggin’ us to go.  We gotta get away and get back on the road again.”**   In the predominant school of thought around here, leaving Marathon in mid-February is considered premature evacuation.  Folks either stay until April—which we can’t do unless we zoom up the east coast to D.C. faster than we’d like—or cross to the Bahamas and stay there for two months—which we can’t do because of Benny’s absurd and growing constellation of ailments that resist even the most expensive treatments.  Benny, Benny, Benny and the Vets.

Whatever.  “Where’s that duffle bag of [ours] it’s time to go.”  Yup, we obviously know some songs about leaving.   So last night we said our goodbyes.  We had a last meal by the pool at Lighthouse Grill, home of possibly the worst service ever but also home to a series of really cool singers.

We took some final evening photos of Misty Pearl in her slip,  beside that catamaran with the squeaky dinghy we several times wanted to cut loose in the cover of darkness but didn’t.

A final check of the weather suggested Hawk Channel might be a bit lumpy but otherwise it looked good for the 3-hour cruise to Duck Key.  We stopped by the marina on Duck Key yesterday before returning the rental truck.  (Twenty minutes by car, three hours by trawler.)  The approach is only five feet deep at low tide, which meant arriving at noon today would be about right.  Let’s leave at 8:30 just to be safe.

At 7:30 this morning, skies were gray.  Scattered showers forecasted.  But the wind wasn’t going to kick up until early afternoon.

Doug went through the pre-departure routine.  Everything but firing up the engine.  Dana walked the boys.   Then BOOM.  Thunder.  Lightning.  Rain.  Dana and Oscar scurried back in the downpour.  “Scott says no way we can travel today.  There’s going to be cloud-to-water lightning.  We’ll die.”  Sure enough, storms as far as the radar can see.  Where the hell did that come from?

Worst rain—by far—since we arrived.  Maybe Poseidon is angry that we’re leaving.   Maybe it’s just coincidence.  Doesn’t much matter, of course, cause we ain’t moving today.

Tomorrow the wind and waves look to be worse.  If there’s a positive spin to put on this, it’s that we’re now going to skip Duck Key and go straight to Key Largo on Friday to meet the girls, which is good mostly because we don’t know any songs involving ducks.***  About all we know of ducks is that they float, wood floats, and thus any woman with a wart and fake nose who weighs the same as a duck is a witch.*

Why even bother with a blog post about cruising that didn’t happen, some might ask.  It’s a complete waste of time to read it, some might say.  It’s like George Castanza’s idea for a TV show about nothing.  Basically we’re stuck on the boat because of the rain, however, so why not?



* Dana thinks anyone who gets and enjoys Monty Python references is just as dumb as anyone who inserts Monty Python references into a blog.  It’s a wonder we get along at all.

**  Doug’s first dog was named Boo, thanks to Lobo.

*** We did play Duck, Duck, Goose with the girls when they were little.  And we played a fowl drinking game called Fuzzy Duck at some point before the girls came along.


P.S.  It’s still raining.

Less Work, More NapsTM

For the first 4,300+ miles or so, the Loop was a lot of work.  Fun work.  Interesting work.  Enjoyable work.  Work we wouldn’t trade for any other kind of work.  Work we don’t want to stop.  But work nonetheless.

Marathon life kind of slows that all down.  No planning, no cruising, no docking, no worrying.   (Unless you’re the scalped woman who got her hair caught in a serpentine belt while the engine was running, which required the Coast Guard boat to go screaming out of the marina before we could get out a camera.  Marathon was pretty exciting for her,  but not in a good way.)  Hence no regular blog posts.

That’s not to say we haven’t had productive spurts or done stuff.   For example, Dana discovered the joys of Pickleball.

We now own Pickleball paddles, although so far only Dana has used hers because Doug’s lazy effort to carry an armload of stuff off the boat barefoot onto a rain-slicked dock without using the railing yielded Pickleball-inhibiting injuries.  But Dana has become quite proficient.

We’ve also managed to take care of a few of the niggling boat-related stuff we put off.  New anchor light, replace impellers, rebuild Racor primary fuel filters, seal the shower sump box, update charts, etc.   Which actually makes us feel a bit accomplished overall.  Oh, and that silly washing machine thing.

One of Dana’s requirements for a boat was a functional washer and dryer.  Misty Pearl came with a 15-year-old combo, with a drum so small that it’d be impossible to lose a sock because only one sock at a time fits in there to begin with.  BEFORE we owned the boat, they said the space was big enough for a real dryer and the space underneath was big enough for a real washer.   AFTER we closed, they said nothing would work.  So basically we’ve been lugging around 80 lbs of space-eating junk that neither washed nor dried effectively.  Then one day we saw Cindy (Journey) lugging a quite similar piece of, er, crap to a secret appliance burial ground.  So we took ours out and installed shelves.  There’s even room for Pickleballs (which turn out to be just plain old yellow wiffle balls.)  Niiiice.

Of course, filling the ugly open space with a nice wood box for the shelves seemed easy when we were unaware  that (1) the dude at The Home Depot would have sketchy skills on the saw and (2) the opening was neither square nor plumb.

The Home Depot in Marathon is good, however, for one thing.

That’s right, crab traps.  (Why there’s a lobster on the crab trap display is a mystery.)   Doug spent countless hours in The Home Depots throughout Arizona and never once saw a crab trap so this was a tad startling.

That about sums up our productivity since the last post.  But the weather’s quite conducive to sleeping.

Some guy trying to sound deep and philosophical once said that if you stay in one place long enough the whole world will pass you by.  Or something to that effect.  It might be true.  In the past couple of weeks alone, Shannon and Mallory left.  Shannon came and left.  Lewis and Terri came and left.

Charlie and Robin (The Lower Place) left for the Bahamas.  Hopefully we’ll catch them as we move north.

(Note the flaccid Mississippi State flag, which is just about right.)

Bella Blue  (Rex, Donna, and Gracie) arrived and invited us over.   We meet a super couple—Dean and Julie—who are about to start the Loop fron Islamorada.  Our old buddies Ron and Debbie (Bucket List) stopped by.

Band Wagon III and Wine Speed pulled in around the corner.  Our sister Selene—Change of Pace—is at a marina across the road, so we met up with Jeff and Terri a couple of times.

This list doesn’t even include all the wonderful folks who’ve been here with us all along, like Prime Meridian, Shell Belle, Hotai, and a bunch of others.

While Lewis and Terri were here we found the post-Irma remains of a small marina.

Hey, why don’t we buy it for cheap and fix it up?   Surely they can’t be asking much.  Oh well, the dude never returned Lew’s call, so screw them.  (Plus we later found the listing for $3.7 million, which was roughly $3.6 million more than we budgeted.)

Did we ever mention the sea grass plague at Faro Blanco?

The grass blows in.  The grass blows out.  Mostly the grass just blows.  But periodically a manatee—or is it a ginormous baked potato with a mouth?—drops by to munch on it.

One cool thing about yesterday was the release of Lady Bradley.   Lady Bradley is the loggerhead turtle we featured in our post about The Turtle Hospital.  Here she is upon arrival.

Apparently the treatment went well and sea turtles only need three flippers, so off she went, narrowly escaping the mob scene at Sombrero Beach in which a bunch of people trying to take pictures blocked our efforts to take pictures.  Mallory Square all over again.

The funniest part was when Marco Rubio showed up to “help” the release.  And by “help” we mean pretend that he’s interested in the effects of climate change on sea turtles so that he could get some good publicity.  The people who truly care about the effects of climate change on sea turtles appropriately let him know their opinions on hypocrisy and publicity stunts.  Rubio  probably didn’t care, of course, since today all the Miami papers dutifully reported that he was an important piece of the event.  Fake news.  We were there.

On the walk to Burdines and Castaway, there’s a stretch with sort-of-third-world-but-they’re-trying-bless-their-hearts vibe.   Even the biker cats look sideways at passersby.

We hope to get moving again this week.  Key Largo by Friday, when Mallory and Shannon come back to dive with us.  Our Phoenix friends Tom and Deb are visiting in a couple of weeks so we need to get up to Fort Lauderdale.

Here’s another iguana, just because.

There’s lots of fake news in South Florida

For better or worse, we took a third—and final for Doug—trip down to Key West, slowed only by a sworn peace officer who let Doug off with a warning.

Ahhh, the benefits of clean living.  Doug didn’t even have to flirt with the dude.  Or maybe he mistook us for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and is a big fan.  And yes, the mirror indeed could use a good scrub, but it’s a rental, so nah.

Anyway, this time we were determined to see the stuff that tourists are supposed to see.  Like The Southernmost Everything.  It all starts with the marker for the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.

The locals know a good marketing slogan when they see it, and thus we have the Southernmost Trolley Stop.

And the Southernmost Deli and Groceries.

And the Southernmost Point Guest House By the Beach.

And the Southernmost Lobster Shack, and Southernmost Victorian Inn, and Southernmost Surf Shop, and Southernmost blah blah blah.

The Southernmost Annoying Line For a Silly Attraction was queued up for that famous marker.

Yup.  We stood in it to get the touristy photo with the boys.

Unfortunately, the joke was on us and the other saps waiting around in the heat.  Because Doug is a professional skeptic, he looked on Google Earth.  THIS ISN’T EVEN THE SOUTHERNMOST POINT.  The actual Southernmost Point is at the adjacent naval facility behind a guarded gate, just past the huge Buckminsterfullerene.

Well that’s disappointing.  Next stop, Ernest Hemingway’s house.

Supposedly he wrote some famous books in this house, although after the whole “Southernmost” hoax we don’t much trust the folks around here.  The thing about the cats with 6 toes, however, turned out to be true.  They were everywhere.  Dana photographed lots of them.  This was her favorite.

Fort Zachary Taylor is another one of those vintage forts oozing with cool history that we’ve explored.  There probably weren’t as many Carnival cruise ships back in the day but otherwise it seemed pretty authentic.

Maybe the coolest thing about Fort ZT is the cell where the Union Army stashed Samuel Mudd and others after arresting them for their roles in Abraham Lincoln’s murder, before moving them to Fort Jefferson.  It’s small and humid, but hey, they had a window.

The park attendant later chastised us for using the fort parking lot as, well, a parking lot, but by then we had left the car and walked over to Mel Fisher’s Museum.  On the way we passed the Truman Little White House, where Harry wintered.  We already had reached our waiting-in-line limit, so we settled for pictures.  (Plus we’ve seen both of Franklin Roosevelt’s houses and figured this one couldn’t be much different.)

The most interesting thing was the presidential cornhole set up in the front yard.  We imagine Harry and Bess tossing a few bags, perhaps before retiring to the sitting room for some whiskey-pong.

Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter, most famous for finding the Atocha and then beating down all the money-grubbing government officials who tried to take the $500 million booty.  A bunch of that booty was on display.

Unfortunately the photo was an afterthought—like so many of our photos—and does a pretty poor job of showing the goods.

A final walk through the square that Key West named after our Punkin, and then back to Marathon.

By the way, we saw exactly zero signs proclaiming Key West as the “Grafton of the Southeast,” so maybe they don’t understand clever branding  as well as we thought.

Shannon drove down from Eckerd for an action-packed weekend.  First, she and Doug went diving at Sombrero reef, which is guarded by the Sombrero Light.

The ride out was about 45 minutes of pounding through 4-foot waves in a small center console dive boat, which apparently caused issues for a couple of folks while Doug and Shannon were underwater.  The good news is that all the involuntary chum was gone by the time they got back near the boat, but the fish still were hanging around hoping for more.

The next day Dana and Shannon ran the Key West half marathon.   Doug and the boys provided moral support from the boat and were suitably impressed and proud.

After Shannon left, things slowed back down.  Until the dock started buzzing with the rumor that a sailboat full of supermodels was on its way.  Well well.  That’s worth the hassle of keeping an eye open.  How fast can Lewis and Fred and Blomo and Jimmy and Doug’s other buddies get down here?

As if on cue, a 48-foot Jeanneau pulled in past us.  Hmmm.  The Kelsey Marie is a pretty boat and all, but how many supermodels can fit on a sailboat that size?  But in the parking lot we saw a big coach like the one George Strait used when he played Dusty in that Oscar-snubbed classic Pure Country, so maybe the rumors were valid.

Next morning, two guys moved the sailboat around to a dock about 50 feet away from Misty Pearl.

Then people started lugging equipment over to it.  Alright!  Now we’re on to something!  Wait just a hot second here.  What’s this?  Insert the sound of screeching brakes.  The first model is a guy?  Good thing Doug never called his friends.

Turns out the rumor was sorta kinda true.  Ralph Lauren was shooting some of those ads where the family dresses in the latest Polo outfits and sets sail on the ocean blue, with the wind caressing their hair as they expertly pilot a rather complicated vessel with staggering ease.

So this handsome devil must be the dad.  We’ll get some shots of him while mom and Junior are getting ready.  Ok, here they come.

Ahh yes.  Nothing like the bond between a model mother and her model child.

Damn.  What’s this?  A different dad?  That’ll make life on the seas a tad awkward.

How about some shots of dad #2 working the rigging in his natty sweater from the Spring Collection as he surveys the horizon, perhaps looking for land?*

How about we let the kid control the rudder by himself, with no parental supervision?

What are mom and dad doing down in the master berth anyway?

Of course, the ads probably won’t show all the people crowding around or the fact that the boat was secured to the dock the whole time, but we know the truth.  Heck, it probably wasn’t even a real family.  A real mom would’ve had the kid in school on a Wednesday morning.   More dads and moms hopped on and off but we lost interest because we had a sick dog and a replacement water heater installation and other things.  Then all the dads and the others packed up and left the marina.

Today we drove up to Miami to get Oscar’s toenails trimmed.  We forgot to do that, of course, mostly because we stopped at R.F. Orchids instead.

We both are reading a book called The Orchid Thief, which sort of is ponderous but the story of orchid intrigue is interesting.  R.F. Orchids was the victim of some dirty flower business so we wanted to check out the bromeliads and cattalyas and other orchids we could feel smart about based on our very recent and very rudimentary education.   The orchids were awesome, but we’ve hardly ever met a plant we can’t kill in a matter of weeks and since these particular plants can live a very long time with proper care, we didn’t buy one.

We also stopped at Knaus Berry Farm.   Doug hates amusement parks, but unlike Knotts Berry Farm this place actually is a market and bakery.  We got fresh produce and cinnamon rolls.  Then we did the other chores and ate at Chuy’s and then by the time we were heading home it was too late to go to PetSmart.  Sorry baby dog.



* Years ago the girls forgot about Father’s Day until Father’s Day and they rushed out to Walmart and found a t-shirt that said “Dad #1.”  Not “Number 1 Dad,” mind you, but instead simply something to distinguish Doug from all their other numbered dads.  Maybe they just wanted to be Ralph Lauren models.

Here’s the video we promised

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.