It has been so much fun seeing friends from home and sharing this incredible weather and our time in Marathon. We love hearing about all the snow we're getting at home from our visitors and from Sam, who calls us giddy describing the accumulation. He's loving all the snowmobiling he's doing and says that his new cologne is "Ode to Gasoline" since he's on his sled all the time!
Amos' arrived Sunday evening and we shared a cocktail on the boat and welcomed them to Faro Blanco, Marathon and then headed to Keys Fisheries so they could try some Stone Crab and other seafood.
On our way back to the boat, we hooked up with the Gail, Keith, Dave and Janet for a little improptu jam session. Amos' got a tour of Southern Style and Brad got to see the engine room. Fun to have both friends from home and friends on the dock to spend time with!
Monday we headed to Key West. Tom and I hadn't been to Key West yet this trip, so we were looking forward to seeing the sights. The last time we were in Key West was for our 20th wedding anniversary. Never would have believed then that we would be on a boat in the Keys enjoying our 31st wedding anniversary!
We wandered Duval Street and checked out shops, bars and all the people! The people watching is always great on Duval Street. Brad, the shy fella that he is, had a great time meeting people at every stop. We decided he and Leann need to move to the Keys in the winter so he can be a fishing guide and make millions in tips since he loves to fish and talk to people!
Here are a few shots from our time in Key West.......
Tuesday we went to Sombero Beach, toured the Turtle Hospital and had lunch at Burdines with the Amos'. Of course Brad chatted up a fisherman at the beach!
The Turtle Hospital was so cool! We learned a lot about the turtle population in the Keys and got tour the facility and see all kinds of turtles!!!
Of course we had to take them to Burdines for more seafood and FRENCH FRIES!!!
While we were at Burdines a friendly manatee appeared and entertained the diners
Toasting the sunset on the bow of BELLA with Brad, Leann and Brian. The cannon at Barnacle Barneys didn't fire that night, but there were a few conchs blown in the marina marking sunset.
Brad and Leann with the Faro Blanco Lighthouse in the background and the New moon shining right beside it. It was wonderful spending time with friends. Thanks Brad, Leanna and Brian for making the trip to Marathon!
You know how you think some weeks are going to be and then they turn out being completely different? That's how Week 3 in Marathon went for us....in a good way;) We thought it was going to be a pretty low key week and that we'd probably get alot of planning done for the next segment of the Loop. Well we got a little planning done, but there was fun to be had and we were happy to partake! Here's how it went.....
Monday, like usual we got our "chores" done on the boat and then had a delightful date with the Jeromes. They picked us up, we got a tour of their marina (Marlin Bay), just up the Key from us and then cocktails and dinner at Sunset Grill. The sunset, food and company that evening was great. Always enjoy spending time with Billie and Jerry.
Tuesday morning (this is the Chill'in part) I was heading up to do a little laundry and just as I got up in to the cockpit I spied a familiar face standing on the dock next to the boat. It was our neighbor from the Parkside 100 Bomb, Dan Swanberg. He and his wife, Julie are on a Cruisers Yacht in Wabasha called "Chill'in the Most". What a fun surprise! Dan came aboard and we visited and found out they were on vaca in FL for a couple weeks and were spending a few days in the Keys, so they thought they'd look us up.
We ended up meeting Swanbergs at Keys Fisheries later in the day for cocktails and dinner (there is a definite theme going here....we do a lot of cocktails and dinner on the Loop). It was great catching up and interesting how many people we have in common.
Dan and Julie at Keys Fisheries, above. Tom and I with Swanbergs, below.
Wednesday we awoke to a RAINY, WINDY day. Luckily, we were rescued from the rainy day by the Swanbergs and headed to Tarpon Creek Bar & Grill. It continued to rain so we decided to make an afternoon of it and did the Sunset, Barnacle Barney's, tried to do the Light House Grill and then ended up on BELLA for a personal. Perfect rainy day in the Keys!
Thursday was Valentine's. We took the dinghy out. We headed to Hawks Channel and then to the beach, Sister Creek and Boot Key. It was a beautiful day and we saw a pod of dolphins. There were atleast a dozen of them and they played all around us. So cool to watch!
We came back to the boat and watched a parasailer right outside the marina entrance.
Watched the beautiful sunset from the bow and then made dinner in. Since it was Valentine's we made our fav, Boursin Chicken, a recipe I got years ago from the Broadstreet. It took a little creativity to figure out the timing since I did it all in the electric skillet ( love that thing!), but we both thought it turned out great!
Friday it was windy again, so we pooled it in the afternoon. Friday night we were invited over to our friends, Keith and Gail's boat for a jam session (this is the Jamm'in part :0). They had friends, Dave and Janet down from New Bern, NC for the weekend. Dave is a fantastic guitartist and he accompanied Gail and I the whole evening. I had so much fun getting my ukulele out and jamm'in with these folks. Reminded my of home and jamm'in at Barber's Main Street house! Can't wait to do that again when we get home! Thanks Keith, Gail, Dave and Janet for an awesome night of music!
Saturday, after a good game of Pickle ball (no fighting this time ;) we headed to the Coral Head Music Festival in Marathon. We strapped our lawnchairs to our backs and pedaled our bikes to the concert about a mile down the way. They had a few bands but we were mostly interested in John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band (Jackyl was the headliner). They didn't disappoint. The people watching was brilliant!!! We had a fun day in the sun enjoying a little music.
Sunday, today, we woke to 77 degrees at 7 am. Yup, 77 degrees that early. Another beautiful day. Some folks in the marina hosted a Champagne Brunch at 10 am and it was amazing! So much good food and folks.
We are now awaiting the Amos'. Looking forward to spending a few days with Brad and Leann in the Keys.
Thanks for reading our week in review!
It's sunny, but windy this morning so while Tom is doing the breakfast dishes, I'm gonna blog. We've filled the last few days with both boat maintenance and checking out Marathon. Our bikes and legs have gotten a work out!
We found a pickle ball court and played on Wednesday. We haven't played since Green Turtle Bay in Kentucky. It got a little heated (it was 80 degrees and we were really sweating), we got a little competitive (we started swearing at each other) and we weren't playing by the same scoring system (the tennis players next to us on the courts started staring). Thankfully Griff called mid match to visit. We cooled down and no paddles were thrown ;)
Thursday was grocery day. We walked the few miles to Publix and cabbed back with our loot. Reprovisioning takes half the day and has become like a "date night". We both go to the store now which has never happen in our 31 year marriage. I always thought Tom was allergic to the grocery store. Funny.....he's not.
Friday we got an early start and headed out on our bikes to Crane Point Hammock, Museum and Nature Trail. Crane Point Hammock is 63 acres of tropical hardwood hammock in the heart of Marathon. Purchased by Francis and Mary Crane in 1949, they added flowering tropical plants and orchids to the hammock. Preserved from development in 1989 by the Florida Keys Land Trust, it is the largest tropical hammock in the Middle Keys. It has hiking trails, the Adderly House, Butterfly Garden, the Point and educational programs.
Crane Point is named for Francis and Mary Crane, a Massachusetts couple. At that time of purchase, approximately 600 people lived in the Middle Keys along with a profusion of mosquitoes. The Cranes built a causeway to Big Rachel Key where they built their home. The house was a very unique design for its time with walls of windows and large roof overhangs. It was the first modern house in the area.
After paying our admission in the Crane Point office, Tom recognized an old friend of ours from Rochester that we boated with back at BYC in LaCrosse. To our surprise and delight we crossed paths with Charlotte Quinn. She moved to Marathon 15 year ago and is now the CEO at Crane Point. It was fun catching up with her. It's such a small world.
Below are some photos from our time at Crane Point
Crane Point was very interesting and gave us a great overview of the area in Marathon, Middle Keys and the great effort that was put into conserving this portion of land for future generations to learn about and benefit from this native, tropical hammock.
After Crane Point we headed to Sombrero Beach. They were having a turtle release in the afternoon. There is a Turtle Hospital right down the road from the marina. We haven't visited it yet (waiting to do it with visiting friends, hint hint) and they announced that they would be releasing a batch of baby turtles into the ocean at Sombrero Beach. I guess even Marco Rubio (little Marco) was there. As you can see there was quite a crowd gathered.
Saturday we had a wonderful surprise! Our niece Sally and her husband, Ben from Minnesota came for a visit. Ben had been in Miami during the week for business and Sally flew down to join him for a couple of days of R and R. They have two little ones at home, Kip and Hattie that keep them very busy. Gramma Kris is at home watching them this weekend. They drove down from Miami for the day and we had a great time with them.
I told Tom the other day to limit my intake of Burdine french fries, but Ben is a fry fan so.....we went to Burdines for lunch and polished off another basket of fries! They are also IPA drinkers, so we tried a few local brews as well ;) Loved seeing them. Hopefully we'll see them again on the East coast later in the trip.
All the folks we met coming down the river system kept saying to us... "just wait until you get to the blue water, you'll love it!" Well they were right! It's absolutely beautiful here! It's only been a week but we are already getting into the layed back vibe of Marathon. Since arriving, the temps have been in the upper 70's and 80's. Needless to say, we are soaking up all the sunshine!
Faro Blanco is a really nice place with great amenities and staff. Their are quite a few fishing charter boats slipped here along with excursion boats and rentals, so there is alot of action on the docks.
A group folks we met at Legacy took us out on a dinghy pub crawl the first full day here. There were nine dinghies altogether. It was great getting the lay of the land and meeting other boaters. We went to Keys Fishies first, Barnacle Barneys next and then over to Boot Key to Burdines. We all ate and drank our way thru the day! We had our first lobster rueben sandwich and our first of many baskets of french fries at Burdines!
There is plenty to do and see in Marathon. This last weekend we attended the Pigeon Key Art Festival. Lots of talent on display for a good cause. The artists and booths varied from jewelry to some really avante garde work. Plus they had a concert in the huge bandshell that night.
Here's a little info on Pigeon Key for those of you interested in learning more about it: Pigeon Key is a small island containing the historic district of Pigeon Key, Florida. The 5-acre island is home to 8 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which remain from its earliest incarnation as a work camp for the Florida East Coast Railway. Today these buildings serve a variety of purposes, ranging from housing for educational groups to administrative offices for the non-profit Pigeon Key Foundation. The former Assistant Bridge Tender's House has been converted into a small museum featuring artifacts and images from Pigeon Key's colorful past. It is located off the old Seven Mile Bridge, at approximately mile marker 45, west of Knight's Key, (city of Marathon in the middle Florida Keys). The island was originally known as "Cayo Paloma" (literally translated as "Pigeon Key") on many old Spanish charts - said to have been named for large flocks of white-crowned pigeons which once roosted there. During the building of Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad Key West Extension between 1908 and 1912, there were at times as many as 400 workers housed on the island. While these workers built many bridges along the route through the lower keys, the Seven Mile Bridge, spanning the gap between Knight's Key and Little Duck Key remains the largest and most impressive component of what was once referred to as "the 8th Wonder of the World".
Sunday morning was sunny and calm, so we hopped in the dinghy and headed to Sombrero Beach, on the Atlantic side of Marathon. Our route took us under 7 Mile Bridge, thru Boot Key Harbor and down Sister Creek. The mooring field at Boot Key is HUGE! I've never seen so many boats moored. It pretty shallow in spots as well, so the bigger vessels really have to watch the markers manuering in and out of the mooring field. We were able to pull our dinghy up on to the beach and then took a walk. Lots of activity with families and tourists enjoying the sun and sand.
Wild life is abundant! Birds are everywhere and interesting to watch. We're going to have to get a bird book to figure out some of the species ( I never thought I'd be a bird watcher!). The pelicans in our marina are always up for a meal when the fishing charters come in. You'll see flocks of them in the East basin waiting for the fish scraps.
We also have lots of iguanas! I was at the pool one day and the fella below decided to come down the tree to visit me!
Monday was cleaning day on the boat. Both Tom and I were working away when we noticed we had a visitor on the dinghy. He stayed on the bench seat for hours then moved to the side to lap up water when Tom washed the swim platform. Tom finally had to ask him to leave.....
We invested in these cool bow chairs and am I ever glad we did! We LOVE watching the sunset every night from the bow of the boat since being moved to the T head on the C dock.
Here are a few photos of life on the dock.....
Our neighbor snapped this shot of us enjoying the sunset from the bow of BELLA. We are enjoying every minute of our time and feel very blessed to be here.
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.
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