One last sunset in Key Largo, after a fun weekend in St. Petersburg with some of Shannon’s friends and their parents. One last Pilothouse pelican photo.
Travel for Monday looked to be on the acceptable side of the edge, but just barely. So we took off about as early as the tide would allow. Here’s the trip in less than two minutes.
Mostly it was just stomach-churning ups and downs. The spray over the pilothouse drove us off the flybridge pretty quickly. If it’s always like this on the approach to Miami, we’re glad we don’t run cocaine for Tony Montana’s cartel, because we’d quickly have to quit and then face the less unpleasant consequences.
But we made it to Miami. Crockett and Tubbs. Open collars and gold chains. Beautiful people. Elian Gonzalez (but only for a hot minute). The scene of that fatal shooting that sent Raylan Givins back to Kentucky. Spanish that Mallory and Shannon might not recognize despite 12+ years studying the Arizona parochial school version.
If there was any remaining question about whether we’re in Kansas, Toto, the locals using VHF channel 16 answered it in the negative. “Where’d you get your license? Reciprocal headings are port to port fuckface.” Stay classy Miami.
Time to start dodging cruise ships again and Atlantic Ocean seagulls again.
At Pilothouse, MistyPearl was one of the big boats. At Sunset Harbour, she’s one of the smallest. We figure there’s close to a billion-dollars worth of boats in here. Many of these big suckers have a crew in logowear out cleaning and polishing and making us look lazy. The joke’s on them, however, since their boats can’t do the Loop.
The marina is part of a private yacht club, but when members are away they’ll rent slips to transients like us. Private club means great facilities. Miami Beach hip lighting. Very swanky.
We initially planned to go on up to Fort Lauderdale today. It was a bit stormy, however, and after yesterday we decided to take a break. Maybe we’ll leave Thursday and meet Deb and Tom on Friday. Or maybe we’ll stay until Friday and then they can cruise up with us. Friday looks to be a great day to travel.
Although we don’t drink Bombay Gin, the sun indeed was setting on us when we reached Miami Beach so here’s what appears to be a 70s version of the 80s REK classic bluegrass ballad that kind of addresses the ups and downs of the local drug trade, among other things, but Sherry wins in the end.
Mallory and Shannon visited for the long weekend, primarily to see their brothers and to go diving. Within the family unit, we own two GoPros, perfect for underwater photography. We’ll get some great video of the girls playing amongst the sharks and rays and fish and coral and submerged statues of Jesus to post on the blog. Nope. One camera was left in a Washington, D.C. apartment. The other one safely was in a St. Petersburg dorm room. We don’t assign blame in this family, of course, but it’s ok to say who’s not to blame. That’d be mom and dad. Fortunately we had some old video from when the girls were little.
We also played pickleball. Lots of pickleball. Every day some pickleball. We’re not pros yet, but we’re getting to the point where we aren’t always beaten soundly by the 70-year-old ladies.
On Monday the girls returned to their schools, leaving us at Pilothouse Marina without the numbers we need for cards what with the boys lacking opposable thumbs and all.
Not many liveaboards here, which differs significantly from Faro Blanco. It’s probably because the fixed finger piers are life-threateningly short and narrow.
We’d feel a bit lonely, except for, you know, pickleball. Fortunately the local courts are just a short walk from our short finger pier.
Pilothouse is a pretty small marina, and MistyPearl is one of the larger vessels here.
There’s nothing bad about being the big boat in a small pond, except when the exit is shallow. Very shallow, and very narrow.
We hit the high tide just fine coming in, and can leave on a high tide with relative confidence. Unfortunately, high tide isn’t always at a convenient time. For example, we hope to leave on the 25th. The first high tide on the 25th is roughly at 1:20 a.m. We ain’t leaving at 1:20 a.m. The next high tide is at about 1:30 p.m. But the sun sets in Miami—our next stop—at 6:20. Call it five hours of cruising time. To go 50 nautical miles. At 7.5 knots. Hmmmm. Something doesn’t add up favorably for the good guys. MistyPearl isn’t going to go much faster, and we can’t do much about the tide or the sun.
Right now we think we’ll have to gamble and leave at 11:30. JuneMoon is the sailboat that shares that toothpick-sized finger dock with us. John has been working on her from time to time. He once took an underwater scooter down the canal to find the submerged rocks. Hopefully before we leave he’ll be around to mark them on a chart for us.
The bad news is that it’s been hot. The good news is that Bob from SALT Services came up and confirmed that the AC problem was related to his tech overcharging the system. So now we won’t be sleeping in sweat puddles any more.
This weekend we’ll join other parents at Eckerd. Lunch at Chuy’s in Homestead on the way, but no pickleball for a few days.
Today was everything Wednesday wasn’t from the perspective of enjoyable boating, 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 on this extended stop. 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, although from a distance it doesn’t look too dicey. MistyPearl’s draft is too much for the protected inside 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. Either way he’s dang handsome.
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 land fowl 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 burgled. 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.
“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 MistyPearl 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 recognizes and enjoys Monty Python references is almost 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.
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. MistyPearl 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 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 remains a mystery.) Doug spent countless hours in dozens of 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 been 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. Hopefully they’ll come again.
Charlie and Robin (TheLowerPlace) left for the Bahamas. Hopefully we’ll catch them as we move north.
(Note the flaccid Mississippi State flag, which is just about right.)
BellaBlue (Rex, Donna, and Gracie) arrived and invited us over. We meet a super couple—Dean and Julie—who are about to start the Loop from Islamorada. Our old buddies Ron and Debbie (BucketList) stopped by.
BandWagonIII and WineSpeed pulled in around the corner. Our sister Selene—ChangeofPace—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 PrimeMeridian, ShellBelle, 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, although maybe they’re just sad because they only have 5 toes.
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.